Thursday, October 29, 2009

Painting with light: Hide and seek

Here's the latest submission for my Advanced Techniques class. The assignment was "Painting With Light." The concept we eventually came up with that this ghost was playing the children's game hide-and-go-seek with herself.

The dance went a little something like this: "Click." I started with the camera zoomed at about 35mm on the figure in the center. Meg strobed the creepy girl (Caitlyn) in the bushes at the beginning of the exposure, then I covered the lens and zoomed out the lens to 24mm as she moved to the right side of the frame. I uncovered the lens, and Andrew started painting the tower, using a spotlight with an orange gel. Meg strobed Caitlyn again about half-way through the exposure, and I used a flash light to paint the foliage around the tower. "Unclick."

We kept getting delayed by rain, and the whole project took two different nights of going out to the park to shoot. Monday night, we thought we got something usable, but once we looked at it on the computer, we realized that there were too many problems with it to submit. We went out again on Wednesday night, and eventually our concept morphed into the below image. This picture took about 15 takes, each time tweaking little elements to get it just right.

You definitely can't get this kind of thing without great team members.

Here are a couple of outtakes from different concepts we tried.

This one didn't work for a number of reasons. There are all sorts of rogue light spots that showed up to the right of Meg. Jake's shoulder is a little too ghosted, but I'm not ghosted enough in my perch in the tree. Some of the bushes are a little too hot, as are Meg and Jake's faces, and the strobe created profile shadows against the silo in the back. Good thing we decided to re-shoot.

The original idea was sort of a modern twist fairy tales. I think it was a good idea, and Jake was definitely a great sport with the fangs, but the scene was lit unremarkably.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Advanced Techniques: Single Flash

Here are two selects and one outtake from my single flash assignment from Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism. Struggled quite a bit with this assignment, trying to figure out proper exposures while using the flash. I’m not very comfortable with my ability to control the settings or the intensity on the flash-end of the camera, which left me trying to figure things out by trial and error on the camera-side of things according to the histogram.

I thought this one had some potential. I like the way the flash cast a huge shadow of the dancing student on the side of the building, but unfortunately there were too many other problems with it (low exposure, busy composition, etc.) to use it as a select.

CAPTION: (Oct. 21, 2009) A student dances outside Schurz Hall. Residence Life organized a barbecue and a dance party to celebrate MU's Homecoming Week.

COMMENT: (Oct. 21, 2009) Austin Huff, 23, blows out the candles on his birthday cake, which read, "Happy Birthday Regis!" Huff, a member of MU's student comedy troupe Comedy Wars, rewarded the crowd with his famous, dead-on Regis Philbin impression.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

War in Peace Park

I was driving by Peace Park on Saturday when I noticed, ironically, a full-on melee between men and women dressed in medieval-style armor. They were going to town on each other with weapons made out of Rattan, a bamboo-like material used for furniture. But unlike bamboo, Rattan is solid, and it packs a punch. These lords and ladies were real bruisers.

Turns out the gathering was part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval reenactment group founded back in the 1960s. It's an international organization, and the United States is split up into kingdoms – most of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and part of Arkansas make up the kingdom of Calontir. In fact, Columbia has its own group, the Shire of Standing Stones.

Turns out my fencing coach was even there. Makes me excited to get back into the sport. Here are 12 images from the brawl.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How I fought the law...and lost

At least now I can check "represent myself in court" off my list. This morning I had to appear before the honorable Robert Aulgur, one of Columbia's three municipal judges, in regard to the time I broke the law back in September.

Ooh, this should be juicy: What did I do? I'm riding my Schwinn on campus, and I run a stop sign. That's when I hear the puny "tweet, tweet" of the police whistle. I brake, prop my bike against a parking meter and watch as Officer Roberts, a short, skinny, self-important-looking man, ceremoniously dismounts his own mountain bike.

He's telling me that what I just did was dangerous, and that in the last bicycle accident he responded to, they had to scrape the girl of the road, so I'd better watch out or I might end up like her. He says he's going to have to write me a ticket, can he please see my license, and I consider the possible repercussions of telling him I don't have one – "Gee, officer, I didn't realize you had to have a driver's license to ride a bike..." – but I think better of it and hand it over.

Oct. 15, court day, rolls around. I check in with the bailiff, a jolly-seeming fellow not preoccupied by legalese. The back of his blue officer's uniform presses into his neck, creating rolls that spill over his collar. His mustache says, "I'm in a position of authority, (but I'm a nice guy)."

I sit in the courtroom for about an hour, listening to a very enlightening Court 101 talk from the judge, and the sentences of the other law-breakers that come before me – mostly noise complaints and two very unfortunate young ladies who can never set foot in the mall again. This isn't the first time the late placement of my name in the alphabet has made me wait.

My turn. No, I don't need to consult with a lawyer; yes, your Honor, I'm guilty. Then he gives me the opportunity to talk about the case. I tell the judge that while I was standing with Roberts, I watched cyclist after cyclist blow through the very same stop sign (my former roommate actually ended up getting a ticket of his own exactly 10 minutes after mine). When I'm stopped on my bike at a stop sign, drivers will regularly wave me on even if they have the right of way. All of this indicates to me that there's a widespread ignorance of cycling laws, and that the solution is not fines and fees, but education. I ask to be placed under supervision to complete a bicycle safety class through PedNet.

The judge tells me he'd rather use his supervisory resources in places that mattered, such as DWI incidents. "Besides, I don't think you need an educational course to teach you how to stop at a stop sign," he says, dryly. "Forty-seven dollars at the violations window. Thank you."

I want to say, "Of course now I know that biking through stop signs is illegal, But what about other issues, like when is it appropriate to ride on sidewalks? Or what are the rules regarding lights and riding at night?" Simply fining people isn't a solution.

It may seem like a simple ruling, but I think there's something wrong. Each defendant who came before the bench with a motorized vehicle violation was given the opportunity to take a driver's improvement course, but when I suggested that I take biker's ed class, I was flatly denied. I understand the logic of not wasting resources, but along with all the good PedNet and GetAbout Columbia are doing, I'd like to see city government taking a more serious approach to safe bicycle commuting as an important alternative to driving.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Metal & Glass

(Oct. 11, 2009) An empty wine glass shatters. Conceptually, this photo could be used as the advertising foundation for a number of different products, from glassware to wine or fine liquor. It’s simple, and it’s classic. Example: "Absolut Vodka. We blow the competition out of the water."

I’m a big proponent of simplicity, and I think that idea worked with this picture. I can see how some colored liquid inside the glass as it shattered might have been a nice addition, but my technical skills prohibited me from nabbing a non-simulated picture of the glass actually breaking. I shot at f/16 and 1/250s with an ISO of 100. I had a 200mm lens on the camera, which after the 1.6x crop made it closer to 360 and compressed the image nicely. I like the way the reflection of the stem looks like it’s bending. I just realized, after printing my critique, that my white balance was set to Auto. Womp, womp.

A giant thanks to my partner, August Kryger, for all his help. Check out his half of the assignment, metal.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Maggie Steber for National Geographic

Now I can cross being photographed by National Geographic off my list. Maggie Steber took pictures of me early this morning while I was sleep-guarding the equipment room at MPW. She's working on a project for National Geographic about sleep, so that was fun. Maybe I'll make it in the magazine. Heh. Thursday's already off to a great start.

Maggie and her editing partner, John Isaac, are heading Team B at MPW, and I actually got the chance to interview them for a little blurb in Wednesday's Rangefinder. Seriously, I've never met a nicer pair of journalists. They care so much about the success of the students under their tutelage, and they believe so genuinely in the mission of the workshop. John especially exudes passion about photojournalism; he quoted "The Little Prince" (“The essentials in life are not visible to the eye; only with the heart one can see clearly"). Then he gave me his card and told me to look him up if I'm ever in New York (which might actually be during Spring Break – NYC '010!)

But they're firm, too – not afraid to bust their students' chops if they're not performing at their potential. I guess that's why they're such good editors.

Wednesday's Rangefinder is now available.