“Shadow Me”

Shot with Canon EOS Rebel XT. Processed with Aperture.

Why I Took This Shot

My wife and I enjoy spending time on North Carolina’s Outer Banks–specifically, Ocracoke Island–and we have vacationed there during spring, summer, and winter. This very special place is not like the rest of the OBX because life moves slower here. Part of the reason is that the island is only accessible by one of the three ferries that service it. From Swan Quarter to the west and Cedar Island to the southwest, the crossing is in excess of two hours. From Hatteras to the north, the trip across the inlet takes about 45 minutes. Basically, it takes some commitment to get there and many (dare I say, most?) of the tourists are perfectly willing to head to the crowded beaches of the more popular islands to the north, leaving the 14-mile long Ocracoke deserted by comparison.

And to be honest, I’m fine with that.  Those wanting crowds and nightlife and excitement can find those things in Hatteras, Rodanthe, Avon, Nags Head, and Kill Devil Hills. I come to Ocracoke island to rest and let the stress and strain of my life evaporate in the quiet salt air breezes. Sure there are others on the island with me and the loud music from The Jolly Roger over on Silver Lake harbor intrudes from time to time, but I can find peace on this narrow spit of land between Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. This is this only place I know of in North Carolina where it is possible to find a beach and not see another soul for a mile in either direction. This is one of the very few places I know where you can watch wild island ponies graze (albeit, in a very large enclosure for their safety).

Ocracoke is where I can go to find solitude and to re-center my being, my soul. This particular image was made early one morning while I was looking out over the salt marsh near the pony pens. I had found a bit of that solitude (it being December 31, 2008, helped a lot with that) out in the chilled air when I noticed my shadow self alone on the marsh grass and I decided to mark the occasion with this image.

How I Took This Shot

Since the shape of the shadow changed (and not for the better) when I raised the camera to  my eye, I had to compose the image in the viewfinder with the camera positioned at mid-chest height. Once I got the focus and composition set the way I wanted, I stood upright while keeping the camera steady. I captured four or five images because the breeze was moving the grass and I wanted a choice when I got back to the cottage. This image had the least evidence of the wind.

I printed this image and had it framed. It hangs in the den near the iMac I use for photo editing. It reminds me of how important it is to have a mental and spiritual quiet center…and also where mine is. This image is one of my favorites because looking at it allows me to regain my quiet center when the stress builds up.




Sidetracked again…

So what do you do when you set a goal for yourself and other things start happening that eat up your time?

I’m not talking about flippant things–real, down-to-earth, really gotta happen things. Projects at work, year end reviews, budgets to submit, mountains to move, and so-help-me babies to deliver (OK, I’m exaggerating about the baby, but there really was a mountain of bovine scat that was moved!) in order to keep the paycheck coming in. I don’t know what you do, but I reassess my priorities and take care of my responsibilities. Let’s face it, being an adult sometimes stinks and you have to do what you HAVE to do in order to keep body and soul together (not to mention bill collectors off your back) all while maintaining your sanity.

That’s what happened with my 2012 project as well as the blog. With all the additional workload (which, by the way, still has not completely let up) and the pressure I was putting on myself to keep the project up to date, I was really stressed out and nothing was fun any more. Photography has always been one of my refuges because I enjoy it and it is not a job. When I made it a job, it quit being fun and that was when I knew I had to put an end to the project.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. I will still post images here from time to time and I will likely also do the occasional write up when something creative catches my eye, but I will not put myself under the stress of a strict and demanding schedule. There is much to be learned from such discipline, but unless you are a professional photographer it still needs to be fun.

ImageNow, that being said…I want to announce here that I am expanding my blogging presence. Vita Photographica is my blog about living the photographic life. The Charred Tree is my blog that focuses primarily on writing but will occasionally present sketches or other artistic projects (although, usually in conjunction with a story, scene, or vignette). Some of the stories are stand-alone while others are part of a longer/larger story told in a serial format. The plan is to post a story at least once each week and more often when time and inspiration allow. Just as on this blog comments and critiques are always welcome, so let me know if you think about the stories. And if you enjoy what you read on my blog, please tell a friend.



“Stem” (2012 19/366)

Shot and processed with Camera+.

Why I Took This Shot

The path that lead me to this shot started off with trying to capture the wonderful color of the pinot noir my wife and I had with dinner. While I will eventually set up the shot I had in mind for that, on this evening I chose not to set up additional lights and the lights available simply were not bright enough to bring out the color enough that the iPhone could capture the color my eyes were seeing. But all was not lost because while taking test shots of the wine I noticed the lovely way the crystal refracted the light and made the whole kitchen visible in just a tiny area. This became the new subject!

How I Took This Shot

This session started off with all of the kitchen lights on. While that gave more light, it also produced a lot more reflections on the subject (the glass). My kitchen is a sage green color and I did not find that it added any interest in the test shots so I decided to make the image monochrome. I experimented with different lights in the room being on before settling on just using the light over the sink. This provided more contrast for the image which is a must for the type of monochrome images I like to produce. When composing the image, I placed the iPhone very close in order to increase the relative size of the refracted image of the kitchen in the image and capture as much detail as possible. I also made sure to keep the stem a straight vertical in the image so I would not have to rotate the image any.

I used Camera+ both to take the image as well as to process it. Processing consisted of cropping and adjusting the scene setting. I converted the image to black and white using the “Ansel” setting while editing.

“Ramen” (2012 18/366)

Shot and processed with Camera+.

Why I Took This Shot

Food photography isn’t really my strong point which is why periodically I make myself photograph food. Is that the definition of being a masochist? Perhaps, but getting out of one’s comfort zone is where one learns.

For this particular image, I was eating my mean and the colors and sheen of the sauce on the noodles caught my eye. I really like the winding lines of the noodles as well.

How I Took This Shot

Taking this image was simple. Since the sheen on the noodles is really what I was capturing, I did not modify the lights or move anything at all. I chose the position and angle of the iPhone and composed the image around the chopsticks. I did not worry about the high ISO for this image because the subject is the sheen of light on the noodles and getting more light onto the subject would change that. This image is an example that in the eternal battle of compromises we sometimes have to accept some of the “bad” in order to reach our goal and capture what we see.

I used Camera+ both to take the image as well as to process it to its final state. Processing consisted of cropping and adjusting the scene setting. I also increased the saturation slightly.

Playing Catch-up

Well, work has happened again (in the forms of an unexpected business trip, short-term projects, and writing performance evaluations) and I’ve fallen behind on my project. The images are up to date, but my write-ups are not yet ready to be posted and I will be posting them a few at a time each day until I get caught up again.

In the meantime, here is a sneak peek at some the images to date. Full-sized images will be up when I post the write up for the image. Enjoy!











“E Pluribus Unum” (2012 17/366)

Shot and processed with Camera+ using iPhone 4S and auxiliary macro lens.

Why I Took This Shot

The penny is by far the most common coin in the United States (approximately 60-65%% of all coins are one cent pieces according to the various figures discoverable using a quick internet search) and yet so often we don’t take the time to really look at it–the words marking the coin, the image of the memorial, the wonderful colors! While shooting coins with the macro lens on the iPhone, the colors of this particular penny caught my eye. The light from the desk lamp is very warm and it plays well with the copper and patina on the coin.

How I Took This Shot

An advantage of having such a small subject and relying on a steady artificial light is that you have the opportunity to “play around” with what will work and what won’t and you get to see it pretty much in real time. For this image, I wanted highlights from the lamp on the corner of the image of the memorial depicted on the reverse side of the coin. Having a specular highlight like the one on this one provides one extreme for contrast. The side lighting created some very nice shadows from the relief of the coin’s images and lettering for the other extreme. I propped the coin up on a pad of post-it notes to get the angle right for both the highlights and the shadows. I chose to focus on the motto “E Pluribus Unum” and to position it at an angle to make a more dynamic image (horizontal would have been boring).

I used Camera+ both to take the image as well as to process it to its final state. Processing consisted of cropping, adjusting the scene setting, and increasing the saturation and contrast slightly.

“Battered Liberty” (2012 16/366)

Shot and processed with Camera+ using iPhone 4S and auxiliary macro lens.

NOTE: This post contains some of my personal political and philosophical beliefs which may offend some readers as they do not align with the current historical education curriculum or the ‘history’ promulgated by the government. If this post offends, please feel free to just skip it or write it off as my being curmudgeonly.

Why I Took This Shot

During the day while working at my desk, I sometimes will take something–anything–out of my desk and play around with photographing it using the available light from the windows and the desk lamp. From among the paper clips, doodads, and change I took out some pennies and a dime to shoot. For this image I chose the penny that looked to have seen the roughest time during its existence–it shows not only wear but has some quartz crystals (sand) forced into the face of the coin. This makes a good contrast against the word ‘Liberty’.

I chose to use the penny for this image for philosophical and political reasons. Despite the practical deification of Abraham Lincoln, the historical record contains much to indicate that the motivation and reasons behind his actions were far from honorable. His actions and decisions were in opposition to the Constitution he swore to defend. I chose the penny for this image because the word ‘Liberty’ is behind the bust of Lincoln as if he has turned his back on the whole concept represented by the word.

How I Took This Shot

There was very little light available from the windows that afternoon so I used the desk lamp for illumination to get the side-lighting I wanted. I intentionally positioned the profile looking downward and looking out of frame to represent shame and dishonor. This also places ‘Liberty’ as a strong leading line into the image from the left.  The focal point was placed to highlight the damage to the coin as that is the subject of the image.

“Self Portrait in Blue” (2012 15/366)

Shot with Hipstamatic (Buckhorst H1 lens, AO BW film, no flash). Processed with Snapseed.

Why I Took This Shot

When 2012 started, I made a commitment to myself to not only keep this blog up to date but to also read some other blogs out there. I mostly focus on photography (no pun intended) blogs but also branch out into whatever might interest me at the time. One of the photography blogs I found and follow is Patrick Gervais’s blog Going Mobile Photography. This blog features of photo of the week and Patrick gives an excellent insight into the background and/or profile of the image and photographer behind it. For 2012 Patrick has decided to issue a monthly challenge. I have been looking forward to Patrick’s announcement of the first of these challenges ever since I found his blog a couple of weeks ago and “Self-Portrait” is the challenge for January.

My first reaction was “Oh, Dear God In Heaven….” Like most photographers, there is a part of me (a rather large part in my case) that chooses to be a photographer as much to be behind the camera rather than in front of it. Only on rare occasions do I like the results of photos where I am somewhere in the field of view. One of the main reasons is that I have never liked my appearance and I have never managed to master the talent to smile believably–I just can’t seem to get the smile to move up from my upper lip and into the eyes (probably because I’m so self-conscious of my appearance…there’s a vicious cycle hidden in there somewhere).

But, it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy. So I did it anyway. I had fun playing around with different options (Hipstamatic + Salvador 84 lens x Self-Portrait = VERY freaky images!) and managed to come up with something that is not only usable, but something I actually kind of like.

How I Took This Shot

I took the series of shots that resulted in this image at night in my den with all the lights turned out. The only lighting source for this image was the glow of my iMac (with the brightness turned up higher than what I usually use). I used my black backdrop cloth to eliminate any reflective or light colored objects that might have otherwise appeared in the background. I experimented with a variety of lenses and films in Hipstamatic before settling on the Buckhorst H1 lens and AO BW (black and white) film.

The image was taken by my looking directly at the iMac while holding the iPhone a bit away from my face to the left and tripping the shutter. It took several attempts before I began to get a feel for framing the image blindly. The initial shots were composed level but I altered the composition to include a tilt because the level composition was much less dynamic. I finally settled on approximately 45-degree tilt for the composition as the results seemed the most pleasing.

Processing in Snapseed was used to add a “grunge” filter that included a blur and texture effect as well as changing the black and white to blue tones which I found to be much more interesting.

“Sunset Over A Venetian Cat” (2012 14/366)

Shot with Hipstamatic (Salvador 84 lens, DreamCanvas film, no flash). Some color level adjustment done in Aperture. Cat shadow on Roman shade.

Why I Took This Shot

This photo continues the previous day’s fascination and study of shadows as well as experimenting with the new lenses and films available in Hipstamatic. The winter time is a very good time of year to pay attention to shadows. Because the sun crosses the sky at such a low angle, there are side-lit shadows for most of the daylight hours. On this particular day, my cat (Jiji) was sitting in one of her preferred locations–the window sill in my office–although she was in an ill temper because I had failed to raise the shade for her before leaving that morning. The sun was falling lower in the sky as the late afternoon wore on and the shadow from my neighbor’s house was rising across the window and blind. I took this image because I really liked the way Jiji’s silhouette seemed to peek over the shadowed horizon on the blind.

How I Took This Shot

I was using the Hipstamatic app again for this shot and experimenting with the Salvador 84 lens and the DreamCanvas film options within that app. Both of these effects are part of one of the recent in-app option paks called “RetroPak One” (which also includes the Melodie Lens and the Tejas Lens). The Salvador 84 lens provides a random surreal effect through a combination of double-exposure, mirroring, offset imaging, and fading. It is a really fun and cool lens despite the fact that you really have no control over how the processes will be stacked–you just know that it will be interesting. The DreamCanvas film gives the image a broad edge that you might expect to see on a painting as well as a canvas texture. The lens and film combined result in some of the most interesting images I’ve produced with Hipstamatic.

The session that resulted in this image included many shots (I estimate between 20 and 30) because Jiji was moving around behind the blind, the sun/the shadow was moving, and the effects from the Salvador 84 lens are randomized. Once the session was over (due mostly to Jiji’s growing tired of looking out the window and vacating the room), I reviewed the images on the phone. All had some interest, but this one caught my eye immediately because it made me think of a Monet painting I have always loved, San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk, because of the impression of the cat’s silhouette being a skyline being reflected in the water.

After import into Aperture, I adjusted the color levels slightly to improve the blue color of the “sky”.

“Shadows On Curtain” (2012 13/366)

Shot with Hipstamatic (James M lens, AO DLX film, no flash). Shadows on shower curtain.

Why I Took This Shot

The title of this year’s project is “Exploring Light and Shadow” and this image is one example that demonstrates the basic idea behind that title. The shadow of the shower tubing is made even more sinuous by the back-and-forth draping of the curtains. Shadows have always drawn my attention.

How I Took This Shot

I used the Hipstamatic app for this image and chose the AO DLX film because it is a monochrome film effect. The shadows on the white shower curtain combined with the chromed pipe to make a very high contrast image. The absence of color in the subject made choosing a black and white film for this shot a no-brainer and I am very happy with the results. I composed the image on an angle in order to avoid a straight vertical line with the chrome water pipe.