Structured photo challenges are a great way to focus a photographer’s creativity towards specific subjects or assignments. Last years’ Project 52 with a local photography group was my first foray into this year-long event, and I did not want it to be my last! In fact, I considered to undergo a project 365 this year, but my semester of student teaching kept me indoors and working almost all day, every day. But I could manage one photograph a week, of course. After all, there are weekends to enjoy! As such, this is the first of four quarters of my most recent project 52 that will span most of 2014. These photographs span from early November to just a few days ago, and since I am not sharing an entire year, I can elaborate on each photograph’s theme and backstory a bit more.
So let’s kick it off with week one. All photographs captured with the Sony NEX-7. Click on each photograph for a larger 2000×1333 size:
The first topic for my project was typical for the season, asking for an autumn photograph right when most of the foliage in Kentucky was at peak color. Oak trees have a particularly warm color when they begin to change, and when they are backlit by an equally-warm sunset, the overall aesthetic is pretty cozy. The f/2.8 aperture helps blur out the rest of the sky and treeline in the background just enough to give the subject leaves the necessary “pop”.
At Transylvania University, we host an annual event called “Pumpkin Mania” that is ripe with photographic opportunity (see last years’ coverage here). Unfortunately, student teaching and its associated assignments kept me from getting out during the festivities this year. I did manage, after the pumpkins were taken down, to get a side shot of one of the many decorations around the Old Morrison building that may have had a bit too much cotton spider webbing.
Sometimes it’s the simple themes that force one to think outside-the-box. There are so many wheels in life that it can be hard to make a creative photograph of one (fellow photographers in my group sought out old vintage and rusty carriage wheels laying against barns, which I did enjoy viewing). Waiting for the right light on a particular subject, however, can bring about dynamic results.
There are so many photographs of the moon on the internet that it is easy to think everyone who has a camera is capable of making a high-detail moon shot. That is actually pretty true: provided you have about a 200mm+ lens, a tripod, and manual exposure control, most cameras today have enough megapixels to crop out a nice picture of our lonely satellite. Figuring out exactly where to place said satellite in a composition, however, provides new opportunities for better photographs.
Written about in my most recent My Mind’s Eye post, pulling out shadows and backing down highlights to create near-HDR photographs from a single image with post-processing programs is always amazing to try.
Timed right around Thanksgiving, this topic was chock-full of photographs of family and the common turkey dinner many share in this time. Of course I am always thankful for family, friends, and the like, but I am equally thankful for the natural mysteries in the world that help create such unique photographs for us to capture.
Walking around immediately after a small ice storm, I came across a tree that had only one leaf left from Fall, still holding on and frozen from the ice. By completely centering the leaf, selectively de-saturating the surroundings in gradations, and shooting at f/1.4, the eye is naturally drawn to the center and then around the frame to look for a non-existent reference point of familiar color. A photo I look forward to printing large, very soon.
Interesting to see this theme far away from Halloween, but it does encourage the mind to come up with various interpretations. “Represent a personal fear in a photograph? Photograph something that is afraid? Something more abstract?” I decided to go with something more towards the last question. During this week I photographed a swimming invitational, and it was also the first time I got to use my new Nikon 200mm f/2 AI-s ED for sports photography (a first impressions of this lens will be coming soon). The pictured swimmer shows no fear in his technique, taking huge breaths mere inches from the water. I, on the other hand, had to get dangerously close to the pool’s edge with my (non-weathersealed) gear to capture these perspectives. Every time the swimmers came to me for a turn, I was definitely afraid of the splashes ruining my gear. Thankfully, quick reflexes towards large splashes saved the day!
Getting into winter, the effects of Arctic bands began to manifest themselves in Kentucky. However, at this time in mid-December, there was not much snow on the ground for any good winter landscapes. At the same time, I had a bit of time to experiment with off-camera flash with a new adapter for my NEX-7. For this photograph, I placed the glass on a black coat, and positioned a Nikon SB-800 directly behind it, zoomed in to 105mm. This selectively lit only the glass, and makes it seem lit from the inside. A lot of fun, and I hope to further this technique with light modifiers for portraiture.
Come Christmas morning, the tradition of baking fresh Cinnamon rolls has been in my family for as long as I can remember. Though other additions have come and gone—Sweet Hawaiian Roll ham sandwiches, fruit salads, and biscuits and gravy—the warm, savory taste of cinnamon and sugar icing are a guilty pleasure to enjoy each year!
Timed for the beginning of the new year, many photographers in my group posted photographs of local fireworks shows, a type of photography I love! Unfortunately, there were no shows around us during our trip to Florida to see my sister get married. Her bouquet for her new lifelong relationship made for a great photograph with the beautiful bride softly blurred in the background.
Whenever I am out near any body of water, I always imagine how it would look if it were perfectly still, enough to perfectly reflect the sky like a glass mirror. Due to wind, this rarely happens, and any resemblance of a reflection is skewed by ripples. Every now and then, this stillness does occur, and I get the chance to create dreamy scenes of the world above. With a little decrease in clarity, the small ripples still present in this photograph blend together very softly for much of the image.
What may be turn out to be my best photograph of 2014, I captured this scene after some trial-and-error during a strong snow flurry. Wanting to relax after a stressing day, I drove out to the many horse farms in outer-Lexington, Kentucky. There wasn’t enough snow on the ground for any wide shots with my Touit 32mm, as the shape and color of the dead grass showed through too much. Towards the above last farm, however, the snow picked up and I slapped my Nikon 200mm f/2 on to my camera. But that day I forgot my monopod! Seeing a group of horses trot one-by-one across a field, I hopped out of my car and ran to the fence to get a support. Missing focus and framing on many (holding a 5+ lb lens steady while focusing in 20 mph wind through heavy snow is a feat), I finally got the stride and placement on one of the last horses exactly where I wanted. The snow and large aperture help completely blur out the background to show only a faint barn and tree, while the sharp horse in front is still partially obscured by the blowing snow. Getting a personal-record maximum pulse of 95.4 on 500px and almost 2500 views on my Facebook page, I’d say this will be one photograph to add front-and-center to my portfolio. Just like the “Last Leaf” photograph above, this is another one I hope to print soon, and BIG!
And that, everyone, concludes the first quarter of my Project 52 this year! Capturing these photographs already gives me hope for what is still to come in the rest of my project, and I look forward to sharing more of them with you all here in a few months! Thanks for dropping by!