Past and Present
It often feels to me as though Jason has been in my life forever, but from time to time I'm reminded of just how short a time it's been. His baby years are already starting to fade in my memory, yet it's only been two years since his first Christmas.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (with Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode and TTL flash mode (-1 EV). Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/500, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: slight curves adjustment; polarize brush over the ornament; burned over Jason's head and shirt.
Thoughts for improvement: I could do without some of the stuff in the background, though the round highlights in the bokeh are nice. Otherwise I really like this shot.
That's Mommy and That's Daddy
Jason is fascinated by photographs of people he knows, especially ones of me, Juliette, or himself. Just this morning he was shouting excitedly about the background image on Juliette's laptop, which is a picture of him that we took at Legoland. When we were decorating the tree on Saturday, it was very important to him that I know that one of the ornaments had a picture of Mommy and Daddy.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (with Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode and TTL flash mode (-1 EV). Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/500, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped out elements below and to the left; slight curves adjustment; polarize brush over the tabletop and central ornament.
Thoughts for improvement: The composition is a little cluttered and I'd like for the wood grain in the table to come out a bit more, but I like the little bit of storytelling here.
We got our Christmas tree on Saturday morning and decorated it in the afternoon. Jason was an enthusiastic participant, though his sense of Christmas tree aesthetics doesn't yet include concepts like spreading the ornaments around the entire tree. (Juliette had to do a bit of redistribution after Jason went to bed.)
This little guy is one of my favorites of our ornament collection. He looks so jolly, out for a little Christmas stroll. Right on, I say.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/30, ISO 800. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped out a bunch of stuff to the right and above; slight curves adjustment.
Thoughts for improvement: I went back and forth between this shot and another that had a slightly different angle. I decided on this one because the angle was better on the subject, but the bokeh in the other one was much nicer, with nice, round highlights. In this one, the background looks a little muddy. The focus is also a little soft on the subject.
Glass Must Be Full
"Glass must be full." I don't know what that is supposed to mean in the context of a gas pump, but taken--probably completely incorrectly--as an optimistic directive it's kind of nice. Especially considering the grayness and cold temperature of the day.
But this is an accidental interpretation, one that I didn't notice until I came back to the image several days later, and that I'm now forcing onto it. Really, I just liked the texture of the paint on the gas pump and hoped I could find an interesting angle. I wonder how often the meaning we find in art is like that--accidental, forced. Often? If so, what does that mean?
OK, now I'm really wandering. I'll stop.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/8, shutter 1/30, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curve for highlight recovery and contrast.
Thoughts for improvement: Couple of things here. First, the sky is very uninteresting. This is in part because by metering for the pump, the sky was overexposed, and although I was able to bring it back down because I shot in RAW format, it's still very flat. It's also in part because it was a cold, gray day, and the sky was actually boring. The other thing is that this would probably have been better with a wide-angle lens--18 mm or shorter, most likely.
Next to the center where Juliette's sister-in-law, Colleen, works is a small farm, and she included that in our tour. Jason was very interested in the goats and sheep, and at one point as we were walking past a little pond he announced that he saw a duck. (I didn't see one, but his eyes are sharper than mine.) On our way back out, we walked by this old tractor garage and the red gas pump next to it caught my eye. As I lifted the camera to my eye, Colleen mentioned that her daughter had taken the exact same shot for a photography class project. I guess that means I'm not terribly original, but I'm OK with that.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/250 sec, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped and straightened; curve for contrast; burned over the roof in the background.
Thoughts for improvement: As with yesterday, I'm pretty happy with this one. I like the contrast of the red gas pump with the wood of the garage. I like the way the square window works in the composition. I like the textures in the wood panels, the red paint, and the grass. I think I like pretty much everything about this picture.
The day after Thanksgiving, Juliette's sister-in-law, Colleen, took a bunch of us on a tour of the place where she works. She's a science educator, and she works at this neat center where kids can learn about different aspects of the natural world. Needless to say, Jason had a blast.
The first thing we did was take a walk along a path around the property, where Colleen showed us (mostly Jason) different plants and animal signs. The pond in the photo above apparently has frogs in it in the spring and summer. When we visited it was the end of November, though, and very cold, and there were no frogs to be found. Jason didn't mind. Actually, neither did I.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/160 sec, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: crop to 4x5; curve for exposure and contrast.
Thoughts for improvement: I'm pretty happy with the way this one turned out. I like the ripples in the water from where the previous night's rain was dripping off the trees. I like the reflection, and the color of the needles in the water. The only thing might be to exclude more from the photo, maybe by cropping even tighter around the area where the ripples are.
This Thanksgiving, it seemed like every time I turned around, I saw Jason putting on the clown nose his aunt gave him. He just loved it. If I make my guess, he's going to flip out at the chance to play a red-nosed reindeer in the family performance of "The Night Before Christmas."
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/60 sec, ISO 1600. Post-processing in Aperture 3: white balance correction; curve to increase exposure; slightly desaturated yellows and greens.
Thoughts for improvement: This is obviously a grab shot and I put little to no thought into the composition. So from a purely visually aesthetic perspective, it's not a great image. As a capture of a moment, though, I love it. I love the excitement and furtiveness about his body language, and the way he's kind of tucked in between the shoes and handbags. About the only thing I wish I'd done differently is that I wish I'd thought to put the flash on my camera, as that would have let me shoot at a lower ISO, producing less "grain."
This year we had Thanksgiving at Juliette's brother's house in Massachusetts, and among the many things that delighted Jason during his week-long trip to the East Coast were his aunt and uncle's napkin rings. There was a pig, a giraffe, a lioness, several kinds of insect, and--as you can see--a zebra. Juliette asked me if I staged this shot, but as far as I remember this is how I found it.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/60 sec, ISO 800. Post-processing in Aperture 3: white balance temperature 2500K, tint -3; curve for highlight recovery and contrast.
Thoughts for improvement: It was a little difficult to balance the light color properly--aside from the candlelight, there was also an incandescent overhead light and a compact flourescent floor lamp in the room. In a more controlled environment I'd have made sure that all the lighting had the same color. I like the candles and highlights in the bokeh, but the background does feel a little cluttered--possibly it might have been better to move the rear plate out of the shot and put some more candles in its place. It also might have been good to stop down a bit in order to get some of the salad on the foreground plate more in focus, but given how poorly the D40 does at ISO 1600, I was a bit constrained in terms of exposure.
On Saturday I went on my first real portrait shoot. Some friends agreed to help me practice my technique by letting me do some family portraits of them. Juliette and Jason came along as well, since we figured we could get in our Christmas card shots in at the same time.
Leading up to the shoot I was a nervous wreck, even though I was working with friends in a very low-pressure situation. Once we actually got there, though, and started shooting, it was actually kind of fun. I think I learned a lot, too. For example, the next time I do a beach shoot, I'll either do it in the morning or bring a fill light. I also won't try to cram in two shoots into the same session.
Anyway, the kids had fun, as you can see. And hopefully my friends will find a few keepers out of the set.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/4000, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: yellow filter BW preset; curve for contrast; burned the highlights in both kids' faces; added edge sharpening.
Thoughts for improvement: A fill light on the left would have been a good idea, although the shadows in the current version do look kind of dramatic. I also wish I had framed the shot just a little bit lower, to add a sliver more space below Jason's foot.
Lavese Las Manos
One of the things I'm enjoying most about photography is how easy it's become for me to find beauty in the ordinary. Just walking down the street, seeing the sunlight, plants, even the sound of traffic, it makes me happy to be alive and able to experience it. You wouldn't think that the bathroom of an AM/PM would be a very apt place to be looking for beauty. Maybe it's not; maybe I'm just strange. This photo makes me happy, though.
Technical info: Shot with an iPhone 3G. Post-processing in Photoshop CS5: automatic lens correction; curve for tone and contrast; burned over the highlight on the top right of the dispenser; increased red and yellow saturation.
Thoughts for improvement: The lines on the wall aren't very straight, which is partially due to them actually not being straight and partially due to the fact that I was holding the camera slightly askew from the plane of the wall. It's very difficult to gauge that when you're hand-holding the camera, though, especially with one as flat as an iPhone.