Signature (otp196)

When I took my first photo class ten years ago I had a 2.1 megapixel Nikon point and shoot. Even then it was out of date. However my professor, told me if I was willing to learn he was ready to teach whatever gear I had. With the low pixel count, and without the DOF control of an SLR … heck it had nothing better than just basic exposure compensation … it was a slow start for that class as I battled the limitations of the gear.

Like OTP, the class was a series of weekly assignments. After a couple months I finally found my groove. Everything came together when I realized that my best work came from getting an extreme angle (usually low), getting (very) close and getting a lot of shots. Maybe it was a glorified version of spray and pray but it led to some nice photos.

Qi Ma (Yang)
Qi Ma (Yang)

With this assignment I decided to revisit this #signature process, this time using my more hot new gear (the good old Nikon D40) and my contemporary subject (the toddler!) … and like Frank White’s photo class I’m turning in my contact sheets and a couple extra selects for your reviewing pleasure.

Contact 1
Contact 1
Contact 2
Contact 2
Contact 3
Contact 3
Contact 4
Contact 4

160127-d40-2126

160128-d40-2185

Postscript: While going through the photos, I was reminded of an even earlier class – my first architecture studio which also had a weekly drawing assignment. Like the photo class I also spent the first half of the semester flailing about but everything came together the midterm assignment “coat, desk, chair”. And surprise, it came together just as it did ten years later in that photo class … by getting low, getting close, and getting a lot of shots till I hit the final.

Coat Desk Chair
Coat Desk Chair

cdc rough 3.06

cdc thumb det 3.06

My Town (otp93)

I’ve been slowly going through the archives of OTP assignments so here’s one from OTP 93. My Town.

I think Las Vegas is seen as a tourist city, but really its a sunbelt suburbia with two dense entertainment districts. So to address the assignment I pulled off the side of the road on my morning commute and took this very straightforward shot with a little desert in the foreground, some casinos in the background and a whole lot of asphalt in the middle.

Russell and Decatur
Russell and Decatur

The thing is, there’s a lot of desert that development has hopped over in the mad expansion. So I turned around and shot this little micro-landscape.

Desert and Subdivision
Desert and Subdivision

And with the morning sun I tried to make the O’Reilly Autoparts seem somewhat dramatic.

O'Reilly Autoparts
O’Reilly Autoparts

And for the other part of my Las Vegas life, I’ve worked in Downtown my whole tenure here. So here’s a snapshot of a truly lousy park job by your’s truly while getting an espresso in the morning.

18b Arts District
18b Arts District

Best of 2014 (and 2015)

OTP assignment 142( from early 2015) was to pick out the best photo from 2014.

So, I went through my old selects and came up with 14 primes and finally settled on one that I’ve always quite liked – mom and baby and natural light in the kitchen.

Best of 2014
Best of 2014

However, there was one image with the baby at the bedstand that I hadn’t thought of in a while and I really liked.

Almost Best of 2014
Almost Best of 2014

While I was at it, I decided to go ahead and pick out a favorite from 2015 (which after all was more appropriate to the assignment since relative to the date it was given). Due to the recentness of this year and possible due to the sheer quantity of photos since jumping back into the hobby in mid year, I had a much harder time culling the herd. I had 39 primes, and settled on another mom and baby, though in a park and with quite unnatural light.

Best of 2015
Best of 2015

This time I had two “alternates” that I had to share, both Henri Cartier Bresson-esque decisive moments.

Almost Best of 2015
Almost Best of 2015

Though I really liked crushing the blacks on this one too.

Almost Best of 2015
Almost Best of 2015

It was an interesting exercise to go through the archives and pick out one photo to claim as “best”. What the hell does “best” mean?

Well one thing for sure, its not about sharpness. As I’ve learned over the past few months, this exercise reiterated the fact that I really don’t mind blur all that much either – either in the form of BOKEH! or just blur in the form of good old annoying blur. I’ll take a little blur over missing an expression or the right composition any day. Same with Noise.

However, I do need to play more with capturing the right lighting. My focus on capturing moments means I shoot at all times, which is nice, but I’ve learned that most of my favorites tend to have some interesting light and so its most likely worth pushing harder on playing with light.

As for gear I found it interesting that even though I have this handy iphone always on my person, in the end, when it comes down to “best” its hard to get away from the dynamic range, DOF control, and sheer workability of a raw file from an SLR – even an ancient crop sensor like my D40. Even though I’ve gotten much better at the whole iphone thing, of the 53 “prime images” only 13 were from my phone/ipad.

I also realized that for me, a great photo combines encapsulates a moment that means something to me. While the artistic ideal might be to capture a moment in a way that speaks universally, I’ve learned to just accept the fact its impossible to separate my memory of that time from the objective abstract judgement of the photo. My work is essentially glorified snapshots – which is sounds derisive but after reading David Duchemin and CJ Chilvers I’ve realized that this is what I’ve always been trying to capture all this time in the hobby so I might as well embrace it. I’ve always been interested in daily life and I’m learning to accept that my own daily life is indeed a proper subject…maybe in ten years I’ll be able to sort through these shots in a detached fashion, but for now I’ll catch and share my life as it flutters by.