Free Art Friday Fredericksburg

Free Art Friday Fredericksburg (FAFFVA) will be, starting January 6th, a monthly event happening on the first friday of each month. I can’t say that I am the mastermind behind this one because I’m not. In an email I saw a link to FAFDC (Washington, DC) and I was intrigued so I had to investigate. Salvadore Delvesco was inspired by FAFALT (Atlanta, GA) to start FAFDC. I liked the concept so much I sent a message to a friend of mine, Sue Henderson, an artist from Fredericksburg, asking if we should start a FAF in the ‘Burg. Being the impatient person that I am, I could wait for a reply, and thinking about it for, oh 5 minutes, I decided to go ahead a get one started! Within a few minutes of creating a FAFFVA Facebook page another artist friend of mind, Terri Creasy, liked the page.

Here are the rules as posted by Kenn Twofour the person behind FAFALT:

MAKE STUFF!
Free Art Friday is an art scavenger hunt that happens on the first Friday of every month.Participants make art and place it around town for others to find and take home.
We really encourage you to make art not just take art!
Life is more fun when you are playing the game and not just watching the game!
Here is the basic info:
1. Make art.
2. The art should be weatherproof. It’s going to be outside.
3. No web address on the front of the pieces. Don’t be tacky.
4. Hang your art around town for people to find.
5. Post a photo and clues to the location of the art on Facebook and Twitter.

So with all that in mind I invite anyone in the Fredericksburg area to participate in Free Art Friday Fredericksburg. I will be posting more information on Facebook so like the page and Follow what’s going on at @FAFFVA on Twitter!

Upgrading to a Point and Shoot

Once most photographers upgrade to a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) they never look back at point and shoot cameras. I have a Digital Point and Shoot camera from many years ago, a Nikon Coolpix 5000. I don’t use that camera much anymore. The Coolpix 5000 was the first digital camera I owned that really got me working with images from a digital camera. Within a couple of years of purchasing that camera I bought a Nikon D100. After the D100 I upgraded to the D70 and then to the D2x. Having used the DLSRs for several years I thought I’d never go back to a digital point and shoot camera again. Well, I was wrong. I started looking at digital point and shoot cameras because of the Beginning Photography Class I teach for Digital Photo Academy. I was looking for a camera that would give me all of the manual setting of a DSLR that would be compact and easy to carry around. As Jay Maisel says “Always carry a camera” and I do. Toting a DSLR, and three lenses around, can get a bit heavy after a long day of running here and there but as Jay also says “It’s hard to take a photo if you don’t have a camera.”
Hand of the Artist
As far as cameras go, especially digital cameras, I’m not much of a “techie” guy. I look at some of the specs and try to figure out if the camera will do what I want it to do. Reading the spec sheet is usually not as successful as I’d like it to be. Take a look at the specs on a digital camera and you will know what I mean. I like to hold the camera, see how it feels in my hands, look at where all the dials and buttons are and then make a decision. I know there are several websites where you can go to get a review of a camera. I have personally not found them to be of much use though I know others swear by them and won’t buy a camera that gets panned. I’m not one that puts much stock in reviews. Its been my experience, with the film industry anyway, that when a film gets a not so good rating I generally like it and the ones that get rave reviews have me wondering “Why did I bother?” Sometimes I just don’t get it. So for me, a review is a very small factor in choosing a new camera.
Morning in the Yard
I looked at several point and shoot cameras online and most did not seem to have the features that I was looking for. I made a list of a few possibilities and then I went to a store to take a look at the cameras on my list to compare them with one another. Well none of the ones on my list had all of the features I was looking for. I looked around the display a bit more and I saw the Nikon Coolpix P7000. It looked pretty good so I did a bit more research and then made a decision. I settled on the P700 because it had all the features I wanted in a compact design that would be easy to carry around all the time. When I got home I was just like a kid at Christmas. I could not wait for the battery to fully charge!
C&O Canal Georgetown
While the battery was charging I flipped through the manual reading the information that I felt I needed to know about the camera. Yes, in that sense, reading the manual, I am a bit different from some people. I do read the manual and I carry it around with me. Have you ever been out making photos and then wanted to try something but could not remember how to find that option in the menus? That’s the reason I carry the manual with me until I feel I know the camera well enough not to. The more I read the more excited I got to start using the camera. Once the battery was charged I went about getting the camera set up as I wanted it to be. I tried some of the options that the camera offered to see if I liked them and wanted to use them on a regular basis. Once the setup was done I was ready to go and play!
Lane Ends
I have been using that camera almost exclusively since I got it. Some friends of mine (Tom, Edwige, you know I’m talking about you guys!) give me a hard time about shooting with my “little camera” but I don’t mind. I just look at them, grin and say “I have a 28-200mm camera and lens that ways under a pound!” If you are looking for a new camera don’t automatically reject buying a point and shoot. You may find that it gives you a new way of creating images in a compact and light weight design that is easy to carry all the time. All the images above are from my “little camera”.

Daydreamer

I have always been a daydreamer and that, contrary to popular belief, can be a very useful skill. You see, to me, being a daydreamer is as much a part of my life as anything else I do. I love daydreaming and quite often a daydream leads to an idea for an image. Would I have gotten that idea without daydreaming? Maybe so, maybe not, but I know that without daydreaming the idea would not have evolved into what is now in my mind waiting for me to create an image. Getting bored is good for me in many ways too. When I get bored I start to daydream and I can dream up all sorts of images. Case in point is the image below. I got bored one day and I had been thinking about doing an image of a flaming match. Well, after thinking about it for a while, I went into the basement and started playing with matches!

Match bursting into flame

While playing with matches in the basement usually does not turn out well, for me it did. I created an image that I liked and I learned a lot about how matches burn. Yes, I know, how matches burn is useless information to most people but it helped in creating this image. It took some trial and error to get the match to burn so that all the red did not turn to ash right away. I’m not sure how many matches I went through but it was a few. This image eventually was used on the cover of a book. Not too bad for a day when I got bored and started to daydream!

Feeling out of practice.

Yesterday I had a shoot with a model, Alison, that I had never worked with before. She is a great model and she has a great location to shoot at with far to many possibilities for great shots than you can shoot in one day. I realized yesterday that I am more out of practice than I thought when it comes to lighting. So what am I to do? Get back to the basics and practice.

Photography in general and lighting in particular is something you continually need to practice. Where will the shadows be? How to get rid of unwanted shadows? How to control light spill into places that I don’t want light? These were some of the problems that I was plagued with yesterday. At times it seemed that every time I moved a light I made things worse. The more I tried to get things the way I wanted them to be the worse it got. Yep, I’m out of practice!

When I started out years ago I kept a notebook with me to record everything I did when I took a photo. It could be several days or weeks before I got the film back so I took notes so I would learn what worked and what did not. With the instant feedback of a digital camera you can see what is not working right away. I found myself looking at lighting that I didn’t like.

Its time to get the cameras and lighting equipment out, practice, take notes and and relearn things that I have not been using for a while. If you have ever had images that you have made or taken that you don’t like then you know how frustrating this can be. I’m not saying that every image you create should be a work of art, but it should be something you learn from if it is less than successful.

Practice is the key to successful lighting. Start with one light and work from there. Take notes on power settings, distance to subject and any light modifiers you are using. Study the results and learn from them. As Albert Einstein said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Yeah, it felt like I was going insane yesterday. We did get some nice images but how many more could I have gotten if I was on the top of my game when it comes to lighting? Who knows. Was it just an off day? Maybe, but all the same I’ll get out and practice.

Smoke, Nothing but Smoke

I have seen other photographer’s images of smoke and I thought, “I can do that.” But I wanted to do something different, something I hadn’t seen before but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or how I wanted to do it. Well, to make a short story even shorter, this stayed in the back of my mind until I got around to going into the basement and playing with some ideas. I set up some incense in my little basement “studio” and started to fool around with how to light the smoke from the incense. The first few I did, I proved to myself that I could do the same sort of images that I have seen of smoke in the past. So far, so good and besides, I was having fun.

But something was wrong, I didn’t just want to create images like those I have already seen. Other photographers had been there, done that. I wanted to do something different, I’m difficult that way. My Mom once told me I try to be different just because I want to be. Well, I guess that’s true. So I started to play around with the positioning of the flash units that I was using. I started to get something a little different but I was still not completely happy with the images I was making. So, as I usually do, if I’m not happy with what I’m getting, I go and complicate things. Yeah, the KISS method of creating predictable results went straight out the window but hey, I was having fun!

I pulled out a smoke machine that I bought a few years ago for Halloween. You know the ones, a small black machines that go on sale after Halloween for about $15. It creates some nice smoke in a controlled space but is absolutely useless for really cool large-scale smoke. After letting the smoke machine heat up I began to play around with the amount of smoke and the position of the three speedlights. After a little more experimenting I started to get some stuff that I really liked! This one is my favorite image from that set.

Take a good look at the smoke in the background. What do you see? For some reason I seem to get faces in the background smoke of the images that I make like this. I did a similar set a couple of weeks later with a different camera and I can still see faces in the smoke, I like that! By the way this is just about how the image came out of the camera. I only made minor adjustments when processing the images from that day. OK, let’s get back on track…

What I’m trying to say with this post is that keeping it simple is safe and you can get predictable results. Don’t get me wrong, predictable results are how most photographers make their money. There are times though, when you want to get something a bit different from what you have seen. Try making things a bit complicated, and that just might do it for you!

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