I have started a new job, one that I’m genuinely happy to be endeavoring on. Of course, this means changes to my routine, and every routine change prompts me to think about what is important in my life. Because I have so many interests, I have to figure out how much time I’m going to devote to them, although these choices aren’t usually consciously made. That’s…a problem, actually.
Photography is one of my interests, but it’s not the only one. I tend to take on very demanding goals when I pursue a hobby, and taking pictures is full of those types of goals. So is writing. So is running. Lately, photography is where I’ve made the most headway. On the one hand, this is a good thing in light of next year’s plans. On the other hand, this headway is coming at the cost of slacking in my other interests.
I entered Adoramapix’s Your Best Shot 2015 contest and (surprisingly) got into the Top 100 with a shot that I didn’t hold in super high regard. In previous years, I’ve made my initial selections and then asked for feedback from people on my Facebook friends list. This time around, I hard some major difficult in whittling it down to less than 10 photos. I called upon a couple of photo-happy friends to narrow down a 30 photo list before I presented the selections to people on Facebook. They listed their top ten picks, and I grabbed the photo names that appeared on both lists. The results surprised me.
In previous years, I’ve gone with close-ups of flowers or machines in bright sunlight. These subjects have become my wheelhouses, if you will. What I found safe and appealing, though, was not unanimously liked by my photographer friends. Though close ups were still dominant in the selections, the lighting and subjects all vastly differed from each other. In that mix was an ultralow light shot I snagged in the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum in January 2014. I still need to blog about that visit, but the point is one of those shots appeared on both lists. It was also near the top, to boot. I ended up selecting six photos to share on Facebook for more general feedback. While three of them were well liked, that railroad museum shot quickly became a favorite. Even though the ISO was jacked so high that noise was a bit of a problem, I decided to go with the feedback and enter that photo.
What you see there is my entry, and that photo has gotten further than anything I’ve entered in a photo competition (and a national one, to boot). For me, it was a huge risk. I had no choice but to edit it to reduce the noise, but I made sure I spent no more than ten minutes making noise reduction/color corrections. While I didn’t get any further, it showed me I have reached a major point in my photography evolution. I have shown I can hold my own in photography competitions (even with a lower end DSLR and a kit lens). There is still plenty to learn, but I now see that I just might have a chance to make something of all the photography work I’ve done throughout the years.
At this point, the question becomes what do I do in terms of going further with photography and entering competitions? Do I want to try to diversify my subjects to get further in competition? Diversification in subjects is going to mean practicing people photography more frequently. I’m kind of doing this with sports photography so my Olympics photos look at least halfway decent. At its core, though, art (and photography) centers on triggering emotional responses, which is easier to do on a large scale with photos of people. As someone who is autistic, that is incredibly challenging. Hiking through ice caves with 50 pounds of gear sounds blissful compared to photographing other people. Portraits are not necessarily a strong point for me, and I’m not sure how much I can bring myself to practice that, anyhow. Street photography is more suited to my spontaneous approach to photography, but not having a solid grasp on the legal implications makes that a bit tough to swallow at the moment.
My instinct is to improve from a technical standpoint. This means seeking out more challenging lighting situations, such as nights, sunrises/sunsets, action in low light, and lots of other scenarios. It also means more gear grappling. I’ll probably need to bring my tripod around more as well as invest in a a remote shutter release device. I’ve already started pricing out the latter, but getting in the habit of juggling the former is going to take time. I’m not used to it. On top of that, figuring out how well that all works with an older Tamron lens is going to be an annoyance for the ages. I will most likely have to break down and buy at least one new Nikon lens to resolve the autofocus compatibility issues I’m having. Right now, my reflexes are not quick enough to execute manual focus on action shots (although I have been trying my hand at that lately with somewhat mixed results).
I have goals, and I know what needs work. That’s about the easiest part of determining what to do abot photography in the short and semi-long term. The question is what I ought to be doing with a schedule that is getting increasingly intense. I am motivated to bring my mile time down, and the training needed will be longer and more intense in the next few months. Work is also going to be a very long learning process (although it feels strangely okay right now). With writing, I have a novel project planned since I don’t have a full novel to my name. That’s about the only thing I haven’t done writing-wise. It looks like photography may have to kick back a little bit in 2015. That almost makes sense considering how much time I devoted to it last year and will be devoting to it next year. I just hope I can maintain the skills I have.
So what else did I photograph during this particular sojourn to Florida? Plenty. I admit much of it was for a special Mars and Darwin book I plan to give to my parents this year, but there were still moments worthy of sharing here.
(As a matter of fact, that is my husband being silly at a playground. Why do you ask? :-))
We explored new places this time around, including DuPuis Nature Preserve in western Martin County. I drove by the place many times in my late teens and early 20s but never actually visited. I finally got there on our last full day in the wang. I also took my husband to the Port Mayaca Cemetery to show him the mass grave for the victims of the 1928 hurricane. I had been there a few times before and was kind of surprised at the changes I saw with the place. It was my husband’s first time there, though, so I set aside my surprise to show him around. By that point, though, I’d already been handed a couple other surprises.
During this trip, we discovered a park in Sewell’s Point that I had no idea even existed; stoppedd by Bayside Marketplace only to find it way more crowded than I expected; and tiptoed around at least a dozen Portuguese Man O Wars. These new adventures provided contrast to revisiting some of our old haunts. We probably won’t return for at least two more years, and that’s a trip I expect to have a lot of new adventures. Until then, enjoy these slices from South Florida.
In between juggling job applications and restructuring my finances, I have made some headway in organizing my trove of photos. I’ve mostly posted to Facebook, but I did select the photos I wanted to share from my visit to the Stone Arch Bridge Festival. As always, I’m there for the cars. The selection was rather small this year, but what was lacking in variety was more than compensated in great detail work and lighting that gave me a little bit of experimenting leeway.
The previous day had been terrible weather-wise. I was out in it for the Green Line opening and leaving a rock concert later that evening. Thus, when Sunday rolled around, I was a tad apprehensive. The wind was strong, but eventually so was the sun. The sun made all the colors really pop and provided me with sparkling reflections that reclaim the dignity Edward Cullen stole from the quality of sparkling. Even so, as the afternoon progressed, I found myself doing something unexpected: going black and white. I know. What’s up with that? As I walked between the two areas where they set up the vintage cars (and really old Harley), I was thinking about the fact that I have had my camera for several months but have never tried shooting in black and white. So I decided to go for it at the festival. It’s not a typical setup: black and white photography in strong sunlight. Since when have I been known for being typical? 😀 I rather like the combination because the detail is retained even when depth of field is reduced. I might try it more often but probably not anytime soon. After all, between the Fourth of July, the All Star events, and the Aquatennial, I have a lot of things to shoot that call for color.
While I still consider myself an explorer of the photography craft, I admit that I am finding certain aspects that I favor. Perhaps the most obvious is my preference for color photography. I shoot in black and white and understand its appeal. However, the power of color cannot be denied. I first realized this when viewing Craig Blalock’s photography (not hard to come by since he and I live/work in Minnesota) and saw him photograph Lake Superior in a manner I called darkly light. There was a glow to the picture, but the colors were still very dark. I found this aesthetic particularly pleasing and feel it would not have been nearly as evocative in black and white. However, the work of Hugo Jaeger really made me realize the potential of color. Life.com has all of his photographs from his time as Hitler’s photography. The 50th birthday collection and the mythmaking machine collection are so startling because they are in color. The atmosphere becomes more enveloping because the reds can be seen in more vivid tones (especially compared to the deep grays red shades take on in black and white photography). I also feel color is much more suitable for aesthetics that veer more toward the realistic end of the spectrum (where I prefer to spend my time). Allow me to show a couple pictures of Julius (my older cat).
Yes, a good amount of his fur is white, but he is a red cat in outside appearance and “purr”sonality (ba-dum CHING!). While I can catch his expressions pretty well in black and white, he looks much more vibrant and like the kitten he thinks he is when photographed in color. Color also works better for defining lines in a subject, something I noticed when looking for this black and white photo (as many of them turned out softer than I would have liked). In the same vein, color also makes it much easier to see when the lines get too soft. With black and white, it involves more scrutinizing to find those differences. Maybe I like color better because it’s less forgiving and motivates me to fix potential problems in my photography. Or maybe my natural harshness finds its way into my photos, making me crave more realistic portrayals. Regardless, I adore color photography and have enough confidence to say it’s one aspect of my personal style that I can acknowledge has shown itself throughout the years.
Since I already posted some more Duluth pictures, I figured I’d share a few more with you. These are from trips I took in the summer of 2009 and the spring of 2010, and they mark the shift in equipment from my Fuji to Cameron (my Nikon). Compared to my Fuji pictures, the depiction of color is more neutral in white balance and veers a fair amount away from the blue that I saw predominating my pictures before. Even though I have a tendency to visit the same spots in Duluth, it never gets old. As I take more trips to the city, I find it slightly easier to photograph (in that I can focus on photography rather than the urge to write until my hand falls off). I’m not sure when I’ll visit this year, but I know I will. I make it a point to visit Duluth at least once a year. It truly is my happy place.
Minnesota’s autumn colors were not exactly out in full force for a while. September was rather dry and crispy, so leaves blew off before they had a chance to turn. On top of that, the leaves that stuck around didn’t turn right away. I still saw lots of green leaves two thirds of the way through October. These were taken during the first weekend of November, a month past the state’s peak time. The rain just kept the strongest ones up there, so it gave me a chance to catch some of the most vibrant parts of autumn.
I chose the tenth anniversary as a day to live. So I went to Duluth in an effort to avoid memorial ceremonies and media coverage of the day’s events. It was a surreal day in the lakeside city, as the mercury soared past 80 (which in itself is quite warm for Duluth). Aside from the 86 degree highs, the sky was cloudless by the lake, which, as always, made everything super bright. I was a little better prepared to handle the light and was able to get some great shots of the Aerial Lift Bridge and other sights along the Lake Superior shoreline. It was definitely a day to be out and enjoying life, something that people did in droves that day. I’ve been to Duluth a few times, but this is easily my favorite time. In fact, I’m inclined to say it was the best day of my life.