Self-Portraits

I’ve done a few self-portraits in my time. Mostly because I had to, not because I wanted to. I have done them because it was assignment for a class or because I need one for self promotion. I guess the thing I like less than doing a self-portrait is sitting for one with another photographer pressing the shutter. I don’t like my self-portraits even after I’ve put the effort into making one. I’m not sure why I don’t like any of them, I just don’t. Maybe it’s because I don’t like how I look in them (or how I look in any photos for that matter, I think I look dorky) or I tried to hard to look like something I’m not. Not dorky! Anyway, this week, the assignment for the 104 Weekly Photo Projects is to make a self-portrait. I didn’t make that the project for the week for no real reason. I did it because I need to do another self-portrait. I figured if I had to suffer then everyone should suffer with me! Nice guy right? Anyway, I’m not sure what I’ll do but I will do another post about it and describe what I was trying to achieve. The self-portrait has become a bit of a social media thing these days. Most everyone seems to have some sort of “selfie” on Facebook. I hope what I do rises above the typical selfie but you never know. Maybe I really do need a selfie for my Facebook page!

When the Fog Lifts and Other Conundrums

Have you ever planned a photo outing for a certain day and been disappointed by bad weather? Sure you have, we’ve all had that happen. What about having a day when the weather is less than stellar but still very nice for photos? Mind you, I don’t often hope for bad weather but when summer thunderstorms or a morning fog is predicted, I look forward to those days more than perfect weather.

For me, perfect weather conditions get boring. That’s right, boring! Give me an angry sky every now and then. Big dark clouds with lots of detail to photograph. Not the gray skies we usually get with bad weather. I’ll take some lightening or fog whenever it’s offered as well! I miss a good thunderhead rolling in just before sunset. Angry dark clouds with lightening out over the Gulf of Mexico. Once while I was in Key West, I went to the top of the building that I was staying in to photograph a thunderstorm rolling in. Great stuff!

The thing that gets me down more than anything else is when the “bad” weather lifts just before I can photograph it! OK, having a nice day go downhill fast because of bad weather is a bummer too. When the unusual weather turns nice that is really crushing. Spring is hopefully on it’s way and with it some interesting weather. Currently there is snow on the ground outside. It’s not much above freezing temperature wise, so I’m looking forward to spring showers.

Please, give me some weather I want to photograph, when I have time to photograph it! You probably already know the frustration of driving to a meeting, you have no time to spare and you see something that is begging to be photographed! Why do the photo gods taunt me! I carry a cameras with me all the time. So why is it that I get to watch very cool, interesting weather unfold right before me when I can’t photograph it?

So I will appreciate it, when I do photograph it!

Color or Shades of Gray?

Many times when I’m out making images I come across something that just begs for me to really take notice. Not that I’m not taking notice of most everything around me all the time, but I love those moments when something really stands out. That happened yesterday, at the National Building Museum in Washington DC, in a stairwell. If you visit the museum be sure to go up to the third floor so you don’t miss a very enjoyable view of the Great Hall. You will also want to see the stairwell.

Green Coaster
Stairwell, National Building Museum
US Capitol at Dawn
Stairwell, National Building Museum

From my time studying Architectural History, I remember that the architect Mies van der Rohe said that “God is in the details” when talking about the idea of “Less is more.” I have often thought that is an interesting point of view. With the advent of smoked glass skyscrapers less really did become more and the details became more important that ever but I’m getting way off track!

I took notice of the ceiling of the stairwell when I was walking around on the third floor. The light coming in through the large windows that face north bathing the vaulted ceiling and all its warn tones in an almost magical light. When I got home and started looking at the images from the day this one immediately stood out. After processing the image, one question came to mind “How would this look in black and white?” I remember when I was shooting film and had only one camera, I whished for the day when it was easy to go from color to black and white or to have two cameras, one for black and white and the other for color. Now we can make one image and process that images so we have both.

Once we have both we are left with an important choice, which one should we show? Sometimes it’s a no brainer, one obviously looks better than the other, problem solved. Unfortunately that is not the case in this instance so I have chosen to show them both.  Sometimes not being able to make a decision is a good thing!

I Need To Take More Showers

I need to take more showers. Well, not because I’m stinky or anything, but because I get some of my best ideas for images when I’m in the shower. After many, many years of taking showers the process has become a bit automatic. Start at my head end at my feet and hit all the bits in between. It’s a bit like breathing, I don’t have to think about it most of the time. Because I don’t have to think about what I’m doing, my mind shifts in neutral. This is where the ideas start because my mind never stays in neutral for very long.

Thoughts wonder in and out of my mind. A color, a place or an object and my mind builds an image around that starting point. I may get an image that I have been having trouble visualizing. I may get something completely new. I may get something that needs to be refined. Whatever I get I mull it over to see if there is a final image that I would like to make. Mind you, quite often my mind is off thinking about everything else that I need to do that day and no images come to mind at all. The days that ideas do come always feel a bit magical.

When I get out of the shower I write down and sketch a fairly detailed description of the image or images I came up with. I have been keeping notebooks of image ideas for many years. I have some notebooks that go back to the early 80’s. Some of the ideas I have already used for creating images and other ones I haven’t used yet. A few of the ideas I have gone back to a few times to put a new twist on them. I think every photographer should have a notebook of image idea in one form or another. All of mind are proper notebooks because I like flipping through the pages and seeing my ideas from the past. Quite often in reviewing ideas I find interesting combinations of ideas that become new images.

Take more showers, keep notebooks do whatever works for you to get and keep more image ideas. Then you can use those ideas at those times when you want to create an image but you are completely blocked.

Oh, to have a second monitor

When you are working in Photoshop or any other app that has a bunch of pallets do you wish for more screen space than you currently have? Reading books about Photoshop I am often envious of the dual displays many people use. I did have an iMac that I connected to a second display. That computer is now in the basement. I use it while I’m shooting with the camera tethered to the computer. It’s an older iMac that does not meet the requirements for the latest OS X. I miss the extra screen space that a second monitor gives.

I guess I should say that I did miss that extra screen area. This morning I read the “Tech Connection” column by Marc Saltzman in February’s Costco Connect magazine. The headline read “Tricking out your new tablet.” My wife pointed it out to me. The fourth item caught my eye, “Use it as a second monitor.” Now there is an idea! I know you might be thinking people have been doing that for a while now and you would be right. I wondered if that was possible but everything I could find online said it was not possible. Be careful what you search for online! If you don’t ask the right question you may never find the answers you need. There is an app for that!

It’s called Air Display. Who knew? Anyway, it seems that I am a bit behind the times, this has been out for a while. Air Display is from Avatron Software, Inc. and is available in both iPad and Android flavors for $9.99. Well worth the price! You install the app and when you run it for the first time it walks you through downloading the Air Display Host app for your PC or Mac. Once that is installed restart your computer and you are ready to go. In just a couple of clicks I was up and running with a second monitor! Now when I’m using Photoshop I can have the computer’s monitor filled with the image that I’m working on and have all my palettes on my tablet. You will see in the app reviews many comments about the lag time moving the cursor around on the tablet. I find the lag time to be a minor irritation but having extra monitor real estate for $10, I can live with it!

Desktop with Galaxy Note 10.1 as second monitor.
Desktop with Galaxy Note 10.1 as second monitor.
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