Windows For the Soul - Photography

A wish come true

I had been waiting for the opportunity to take a night shot of a stork on its nest, but as I did not want to use a very long exposure, lest the stork decided to move, I knew I had to do it just after dusk, when there is still some light on the sky, a souvenir of the sun that has just disappeared. When I could finally have a chance to be there at the time of the day that I wanted, I was lucky enough to have no rain for a change. Once there, I had the stork standing, I could see it enough to know it would not take such a long exposure nor cranking up the ISO so I knew my wish had come true. I saw this shinny spot in the sky and immediately decided where I wanted to place it in the shot. It took me some to and froing, circling the nest, choosing the right height for the tripod, a couple of trial shots with different ISO values and...well, that was a nice way to finish my day.

Night photo of a stork on its nest
Nikon D7000, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 400, 1,6sec, f/22, Tripod.

A photographer's dull life - Part II

There are many photos that I see on the web that really make me envy the photographers who took them. I envy their talent, their skills and the opportunities they have to be there, on whichever magnificent beach, desert, mountain, jungle, river, and so on, where they captured their fantastic photos. It is a healthy form of envy, though, one that I try to turn into learning, one that keeps me dreaming about the day that I will (or would, by now...) have their opportunities, their talent and their skills. On Nature Photo Blog I find many photos that are truly inspiring and this photo by Luciano Gaudenzio is one of the countless examples I could choose in that blog. This is also one of those photos that makes me question whether someone who spends most of his day in front of his computer can expect to ever have a proper portfolio, as I did in my post “A photographer's dull life - Part I” on the blog page. I guess, however, that someone who will ever have a chance to have this kind of opportunities will always be someone who will do something about it, rather than whining on his blog over his dull life.

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Link: Wild Dolomites by Luciano Gaudenzio.

A photographer's dull life - Part I

If you want to build a portfolio that does not embarrass you, just how much of a handicap is it having a dull life? How much of the result is made by the object alone and how much does it depend on the photographer? I keep asking myself these questions whenever I come across portfolios of photographers, pros and amateurs, showcasing their photos of stunning landscapes and dramatic wildlife shots. How can someone who spends most of his day in front of his computer expect to ever have a proper portfolio? I suppose it really depends on the photographic path, so to speak, that one wants to choose. But the fact is that, at least for me (but I suspect the same happens with the majority of “photo viewers”...), the photographs that tend to capture greater attention are not photos that someone who spends most of his time in daily dull routines could take. I know that these are “no excuses” (hence the name of one of the categories of posts here) that may justify the lack of use of one’s gear, but I suppose it is beyond contention that it is harder to find a crowd-pleaser on a commuter’s route than on a photography trip to, say, the Patagonia or some snowy mountain destination. And with this argument I am by no means taking the merits from photos like the one I mention in my post “A photographer's dull life - Part II”, on the “Photography on the web” page of this site, but I believe it is not really unfair saying that the subject of the photo can be a winner almost by itself. Of course, an incompetent photographer can always manage to mess up the great work of mother nature. I mean...been there, done that.
Still, I would dare say that it is harder to find consensual interest in a photo of an ordinary detail or episode of life, than it is to gather general applause with photos of cuddly baby seals, of a colourful exotic bird or of a jaw-dropping landscape.
Having said that, assuming there is some truth in this, there is little appreciation that a photographer can expect to receive from a photo of a most ordinary detail that any other person would have the hardest time trying to see some interest in. Yet, how often do we take a picture that for some reason we like, but always end up having to explain why we like it and what we saw that caught our attention. It happens to me all the time and I can only see this as a sign that I should never give up my day job. This photo is an example of that. There I was, waiting for my train. In front of me was this clock on the wall. Stopped, broken and with the logo of our public railways company. I liked the symbolic nature of the shot of a broken clock of a broke company (kept by tax-payers’ money) and the geometry in the clock’s framing on the wall. Of course, I should not expect anyone to see it like me, but as long as I am happy with it, it’s ok. Obviously, tough, the path to a career as a photographer is not paved with photos like this one. Maybe I should bear this in mind in future posts.

Broken train station clock
Nikon D90, Nikon 55-200 mm f/4.0-5.6 @200mm, ISO 200, 1/80, f/8.0.

The Lady and the Papparazzo

There she was, one second she was moving around as if she was looking for someone, the next she stood still, as if she was waiting. Briefly, though, because she never stood still long enough to give the paparazzo (me) time to compose the shot properly. The light was natural, no strobes, reflectors or any other devices to compensate for the less than perfect light (in the shade, actually) of a late afternoon of the early spring. No macro lens, just my poor man’s Nikon 18-55 kit lens and no tripod to compensate for my usually rather shaky hands for low shutter speed. With a regular white plastic bag I improvised a reflector to slightly brighten up my subject. Disturbed by our presence (mine and the bag’s) the ladybug stopped and seemed to look over her shoulder as if she was saying something like “get lost, will you?!” Well, I know the result could be better, but it could also be worse... I hope.

Ladybug being harassed by a papparazzo

Nikon D90, Nikon 15-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR @55mm, ISO 200, 1/60, f/5.6.

Mushroom effects

This is one of my pet-projects. On an old log, or on what is left of it, in my parents’ backyard I have been following the life of these mushrooms (Trametes Versicolor, aka Turkey Tail Mushroom) for a couple of years now. Every week, before my usual sunday lunch, I check on them. Their exotic aspect does not suggest that they could be of any interest, at least from a gastronomic point-of-view. However, they are actually commonly consumed, for example as tea, they have been used in traditional medicine (e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine) and they even seem to have promising qualities in the treatment of cancer. They also provide an interesting photography subject, at least for the photography enthusiast with no better subject available at the moment. In this shot, the speedlight and the underexposure highlighted the white rims of the mushrooms, concealing (albeit not totally as I would have preferred) the grass on the ground in the corners of the photo.

Trametes Versicolor from above perspective
Nikon D7000, Nikon 50mm f/1.8, ISO 200, 1.3sec, f/22, Tripod, SB-28 off-camera.

Links for examples of sites with information on this type of mushroom: Wild Brunch Mushrooms and American Cancer Society.

The story of the future starts on day 1

A new year is always time for important resolutions, those of a fundamental importance that always end up being neglected after the first few weeks or even days. Today I found this suggestion for an app in a post in fstoppers.com and I though this could be a funny project to carry out throughout 2014 and decided to give it a shot. I am talking about the app “1 second every day” developed by Cesar Kuriyama in 2012.
It is curious that I read this post today, early in the morning (well, I did have a late start of the day...), when just a couple hours before, whilst tumbling around on my bed trying to find the will to get up, I was looking back into the past for long gone episodes of my life, reviewing them visually and regretting the lack of photographs of those moments. Yes, this app would have been quite useful back then. We often have photos of decisive moments such as births, weddings, parties, graduations, etc. However, the memories I am talking about are of the seemingly trifle moments, episodes, routines, places and people, all of them, though, a part of who we are. A long-lasting project, with a motive such as the one behind this app but over a longer period of time, would be an interesting one to pursue, even though the idea of retaining such visuals memories reminds me of Patrick Süskind’s (The Perfume) Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and his obsessive quest to trap scent. We’ll see... but I suspect that it is just a New Year’s resolution like many others before.

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Links: stoppers.com and 1 second every day