Photo Coleslaw

Archive for October 2009

In San Miguel, Mexico

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Down in San Miguel for the month working with the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.  It’s a vibrant city, easy to find picturesque scenes.  The inherent challenge for me in cities like this, is to find my own voice.  To stray away from the town center, the postcard pictures and the expected.  cartoon

Had my first experience with this a few nights ago.  Went to the Casino Bar with some friends to play some pool.  The Casino has a back room where the local men gather to play dominoes.  I approached them slowly, hanging out in the doorway and discussing dominoe strategy in broken Spanish.  Didn’t break out the camera for at least an hour, until after I had already played a game with them.    By then they were somewhat amused and comfortable with my presence.  Those are the moments I seek when traveling, when the photography is secondary to the encounter.

dominoes-1dominoes-2

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Written by Spelman

10/25/2009 at 2:46 pm

Best $12 Bucks I've Spent

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About a year ago I went into the local used camera store.  Specifically with the intention of picking up a  non-working camera.  For just $12 bucks I was the proud owner of a twin lens Argus 40.   Broken and mechanically about as useful as a paperweight… until the addition of a tube and some gaff tape.

Through the Viewfinder CameraThe idea being that the ground glass is the only component that really matters.  A digital camera with a macro lens is used to take a picture down the tube.  It deliberately looks like a copy of a copy.  Called Through the Viewfinder (TTV) photography, it’s quite popular with the Flickr community.  And those folks might just be on to something.

Because lets face it… even though you have a Lamborghini in the garage, sometimes you just want to take out the VW Bug.  Feel the imperfections of the road.  Crank down the window by the handle, not just push a plastic button.  Rejoice in simplicity.   Savor a little bit being out of focus.  Give serendipity the opportunity to stop by and say hello.Volkswagon Bug

Written by Spelman

10/15/2009 at 10:25 pm

Best $12 Bucks I’ve Spent

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About a year ago I went into the local used camera store.  Specifically with the intention of picking up a  non-working camera.  For just $12 bucks I was the proud owner of a twin lens Argus 40.   Broken and mechanically about as useful as a paperweight… until the addition of a tube and some gaff tape.

Through the Viewfinder CameraThe idea being that the ground glass is the only component that really matters.  A digital camera with a macro lens is used to take a picture down the tube.  It deliberately looks like a copy of a copy.  Called Through the Viewfinder (TTV) photography, it’s quite popular with the Flickr community.  And those folks might just be on to something.

Because lets face it… even though you have a Lamborghini in the garage, sometimes you just want to take out the VW Bug.  Feel the imperfections of the road.  Crank down the window by the handle, not just push a plastic button.  Rejoice in simplicity.   Savor a little bit being out of focus.  Give serendipity the opportunity to stop by and say hello.Volkswagon Bug

Written by Spelman

10/15/2009 at 10:25 pm

On Assignment in Santa Fe

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Just finished up a great week working with Ralph Lee Hopkins in National Geographic’s On Assignment in Santa Fe class.  Ralph’s been working on an important long-term project documenting the perils facing the Baja Coast of Mexico.  Check out his work here… Ralph Lee Hopkins.

The class can pretty much be summed up by the word “moxie” (having energy, pep and determination).  Up before dawn and fearless in their pursuit of finding the perfect f-stop, they produced some first-rate work.

I put on the ol’ tilt shift lens at one of our locations and had a great time making a few snaps of the dearest cowboy I know, Thomas Wingate of Eaves Ranch.

tilt shift

Written by Spelman

10/11/2009 at 7:17 pm

Photographic Crutches or The Evils Lurking in Your Back Pocket…

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The last post explored developing a photographic style – this one is about identifying photographic crutches.  On the surface the two may actually be difficult to differentiate between.   Both are identifiable as a thread of consistency within a portfolio.  The key difference is that photographic style originates from a place of originality and photographic crutches come from an over-reliance on a technical tool.

Every photographer has technical tricks in their back pocket.  A certain way of lighting a subject, posing a model or composing a frame that is comfortable and works.  Sort of like your throwing on your favorite movie and easing back to watch the expectedly entertaining.   You know Cary Grant is going to be solid and he never disappoints.  When a trick starts to turn crutch is when it hampers an original and new photograph from being made.

The first step is to become aware of crutches.  This requires becoming in tune with your own work on a deeper level.   Going beyond judging them on a “good” versus “bad” level and reaching an objective level of evaluating the “whys” and “why nots” of their success.

Because we’re all friends here, I’m going to share my latest crutch.  I identified it by making a Lightroom Smart Collection isolating all of my pictures keyworded “portrait” having at least 2 stars, and shot within the last 6 months.  Lightroom conveniently gathered all of my recently made portraits into a collection for me, from there it’s just a matter of really examining the images.

portraits at 1.4 aperture

I adore shooting people up close with a 1.4 aperture.  Keeping their eyes close, sharp and telling.   Letting the rest of the face fall softly out of focus.  Except I found a multitude of shots in the past months all using this same technique.  And while I like all of the portraits in this blog, I wonder, how many times did I not explore a fresh and original image in exchange for a picture that was familiar and safe?   Just like the favorite movie that gets replayed one to many times and loses it verve, wide open and oh-so-close is taking a hiatus from my back pocket.

Written by Spelman

10/05/2009 at 10:19 pm