Monday, January 28, 2013

Fog Train

The fog rolled in a couple days ago, so I headed out with my Pentax K-30 DSLR in hand. Not to get caught up in equipment discussions, but the K-30 is an excellent camera for such occasions. First, the camera is a fairly small and lightweight DSLR--one does not want to be lugging around bulky equipment when out walking. Second, the image quality from the K-30 is great, right up there with full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark II. Third, the weather-sealing on the K-30 allows it to go into situations you'd be afraid to take non-weather-sealed cameras.

I made my way towards the railroad tracks that cut through town. A train signal turned green as I approached it. Hiding in the fog was a freight train waiting for its turn to go. Because it was nearing sundown, the good light was disappearing, so after the train passed I headed home.
Go Into The Unknown - Tehachapi, California
Signal Stand and Moving Train - Tehachapi, California

Saturday, January 26, 2013

California Mountain Forest

I took a quick drive today to the forested mountains just south of Tehachapi, California. I hiked around a little with my Pentax K-30 DSLR in hand.
Tree Dream - Tehachapi, California
This is an attempt at an impressionist image. I like to create abstract photographs from time-to-time because they often get the strongest responses--positive and negative.
Misty Pines - Tehachapi, California
Grandfather Tree - Tehachapi, California
Three Tree Trunks - Tehachapi, California

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Two Night Horses Photograph

I wanted to capture one last image of the diorama before placing it into the trash. This time I wanted to try a night scene.
Two Night Horses
To create a night sky, I pocked a whole bunch of tiny holes into black construction paper. It was important to have more holes at the top and fewer holes at the bottom. I placed two lamps behind the paper and diffused the light using clear tupperware and white paper towels. I used one overhead light to act as "moonlight" and the set white balance to Tungsten to keep the hue cool.

To view the previous photographs of this diorama, click here and here. You'll notice that each image has a significantly different feel. This is a good study in how light effects the mood of a photograph. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nikon D5200 Is The Best APS-C DSLR

Just a little over one month ago the good folks at DxOMark tested the Pentax K-5 IIs, and it received the highest grades of any digital camera with an APS-C sized sensor. Now DxOMark has tested the new Nikon D5200 DSLR and it takes top honors.

The Nikon D5200 has a 24 megapixel APS-C sized sensor, but it is not made by Sony like everyone thought. It is actually made by Toshiba, and includes some innovations that allow significantly better performance at high ISO.

DxOMark ranks the D5200 as the 10th best digital camera out there, one spot below the medium-format Phase One P40 Plus and one spot above the medium-format Pentax 645D. That is good company to be around! Certainly if one wants full-frame image quality but doesn't wish to spend full-frame money, the D5200 is an excellent choice. In fact, every Canon full-frame DSLR ranks below the D5200!

With a $900 MSRP (with a kit lens), the D5200 should be strongly considered by pretty much anyone in the market for a new DSLR.

Wildfire Deer

A follow up to yesterdays Four Horses post:
Wildfire Deer
I didn't want the diorama to go to waste, so I added a few more trees, replaced the horses with a deer, and changed the lighting. The lamp was moved directly behind the diorama and I placed an orange-colored plastic bowl over the light bulb to give a fire effect.

Wildfire Deer is thematically much more dark than Four Horses, even though the scenes are nearly the same. It's amazing how the lighting and implication can alter the mood so drastically.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Four Horses Photograph

This is a photograph that I created earlier today:
Four Horses
By created, I mean created. I built a small diorama and photographed it. I was inspired by photographer Matthew Albanese's "Strange World" series (click the link and check it out).

I built the diorama with the above image in mind. Before I even starting out I saw in my mind Four Horses (at least pretty close to it). I then built the diorama so that I could capture the photograph that I wanted. That's called photographic vision.

Let's back this up a minute. The only reasons for one to spend the time and money building a diorama for the sake of photography is because it would be impractical to find and capture a similar scene or the scene does not exist.

The scene in Four Horses exists somewhere, and maybe even not far from where I live. But the scene isn't practical to photograph because it isn't the right season (it is winter right now, and the scene looks like late spring). That is the reason for this project.

The diorama itself is simple. The body of it is the lid to a small styrofoam cooler. I painted the top of it dark green and sprinkled some model train vegetation products on top of that. I glued a "tall grass" product to the front edge and "planted" some trees on the styrofoam behind the top.

Those products cost about $20, but the trees are reusable and I have tons of the vegetation and grass material left over for a future project. The horses were $10 for five.

I wanted the appearance of a gentle slope up and perhaps a steeper downward slope on the other side. I angled the diorama slightly to give the appearance of the upward slope and the trees planted on the back of the diorama completed the effect.
The Diorama
I wanted the feeling of a low summer sun, so I used an incandescent light (which is "warm") and placed it just to the left of the diorama and ever-so-slightly higher than the trees. I used another light (but placed further away and much higher than the tree line) to keep the shadows from being too deep. The "sky" (which has a yellowish cast from the incandescent light) is a white bed sheet.

I used a Pentax K-30 DSLR to photograph the diorama. Really, I could have used any camera. I set the aperture to f9 for depth-of-field and diffraction considerations. ISO was set at 400. The camera was handheld at 1/13. White balance was set to daylight (so the scene would stay "warm").

Photographs Of Flowers

My passion is not photographing flowers; however, when I see the vibrant and delicate life around me, it is difficult not to be enchanted. Sometime I cannot help myself.

These photographs were captured over the last two years using six different digital cameras, including a cell phone. They are in no particular order. My photography has improved significantly over that time--I bet you can tell which are the older photographs and which are the newer.

Sometimes it is good to look back. It is good to see the progress that you've made. It is encouraging to see how far you've come over time.

It is also good to group like photographs together. I organize my digital files by date more often than by category, so these photographs were all over the place. Seeing them together helps me to see not only what I have, but where I can go in the future with flower photography.
Dandelion Sunset - Stallion Springs, California
Gathering Pollen - Tehachapi, California
African Daisy - Anaheim, California
Prickly Pear Blossom - Goodyear, Arizona
Fire Flower - Stallion Springs, California
California Poppy - Stallion Springs, California
Wet Flower - Tehachapi, California
Bee Yellow - Keene, California
Two Red Roses - Tehachapi, California
Sunflower - Tehachapi, California
Wet White Pedals - San Diego, California
Morning Hibiscus - San Diego, California
Small Flower - Goodyear, Arizona
Saguaro Blossom Bees - Goodyear, Arizona
Blue And Yellow Flower - Tehachapi, California
White Flower Flames - Surprise, Arizona
Flower Garden - Tehachapi, California
Wildflowers #1 - Kendall, California
Buds And Blossom - Palmdale, California
Pink Pedals - Palmdale, California
Warm Flowers - Tehachapi, California
Closed Poppy - Tehachapi, California
Daisy - Anaheim, California
Pink Flower - Anaheim, California
Yellow Daisy - Anaheim, California
Blossom Beginning - Anaheim, California
Pink Flowers - Anaheim, California
Bee On Orange Blossom - Surprise, Arizona
Red Flower Beginning To Blossom - Goodyear, Arizona
Little Red Flowers - Surprise, Arizona
Purple Flower In The Grass - Tehachapi, California
Yellow Flower - Bakersfield, California
Life And Death - Morro Bay, California
Dry Red Rose - Tehachapi, California
Stargazer Curves - Tehachapi, California
White Rose - Tehachapi, California
Flower About To Bloom - Scottsdale, Arizona
Thistle Flower - Cane Brake, California

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Strange World Photography (Matthew Albanese)

Check out this video from Yahoo's The Weekly Flickr video series. Photographer Matthew Albanese is a great example of someone with vision creating art. Notice how equipment isn't really mentioned, because equipment isn't important--the final image is what matters.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What Is Art? Are You A Creator?

What is art?

This is an impossible question to fully answer because there are plenty of grey areas and varying opinions. It is not a complete answer that I hope to give, but a more generic response. I do think there is value in the answer.
Wood Tear - Tehachapi, California
Art is creating. It is making something tangible out of the intangible. Because art is creating, it must also be creative. Imagination is a prerequisite to creating art. The more inspired and vivid the imagination, the more creative the art will be. You must have vision in order to create art.

Many people call themselves photographers but do not create art. For many years I was one of those photographers. I did not understand vision. I did not understand art. I did not know how to create a great photograph.
Seven Old Trees - Mountain Mesa, California
I did know how to operate a camera. I knew how develop film and use an enlarger. I knew about different chemicals and papers, and how long the paper should be in the different chemical baths. But I did not know what truly mattered.

If I captured a great photograph, it was merely by chance. I could not orchestrate a great image. I was documenting, but not interpreting. I was not creating. I did not make art.
Summer Mow - Tehachapi, California
I did not begin to make art until I moved beyond documenting. I had to begin seeing in my mind what I want in a photograph (and understand why) before I could go about creating anything.

At some point I began to have ideas. I began to envision what photographs I wanted, and then set out to create them. This is not an easy task, but it is essential. Without seeing first, one cannot create anything of meaning.
Faith In The Sand - San Diego, California
A great photograph has meaning. Art is not capturing a pretty picture, but conveying a thought or emotion. If an image is meaningless, then it is worthless.

A good exercise is to explain the meaning of your images. While you can do this by yourself, it can be helpful to have an unbiased person listen to your explanations and provide feedback.
Wheat Grass - Tehachapi, California
When you explain your images, you should convey the meaning of your photographs. Talk about the "why" and avoid the technical data (nobody cares about that anyway). If you cannot explain the image, the image will never be able to explain itself, either.

Photography is a from of non-verbal communication. Photographs say something. What do your photographs say? If you are not actively inserting the message when composing the image, it may say something like "I'm boring" or "don't waste time looking at me" or "I'm all over the place" or some other message that you never intended. As much as you can, you want to control the message that your photographs convey.
Cinder Blocks - Victorville, California
Photographs should be to-the-point. The viewer should know what your image is all about with a quick look. A common mistake is to include too much or to not have a single message. Remove all distractions from the message when composing your photographs. Your message (whatever it may be) must be easy to grasp, because if it doesn't jump out to the viewer right away, he or she will likely skip right past it and onto the next thing the eyes catch.

Be a creator of art. Use your imagination and have a vision. Push yourself to place a voice in your images.