Thursday, November 15, 2012

Photog class: Final assignment

Last Thursday, our photography class met for the last time.  We had the choice of turning in one of three assignments: "Pet's view" (shots taken from the point of view of your pet), "abstract body part" (I know, right? That could get a little freaky), and "rural landscape."  I decided to skip the pet assignment (because who needs to be tortured with one more shot of the Fluffs?) and go with the other two.

I decided to try the landscape assignment even though landscapes are one of my least favorite subjects.  When a landscape is so gorgeous that I want to take a picture, I always take the shot knowing that it will never even come remotely close to the real scene itself.  For me, the point of photography is that the final, edited shot looks even better than the way your mind's eye remembers the subject--the photograph should do the work of remembering for you (and do the remembering better than you).  Most of the time, my landscape shots don't even come close to reality mostly because I don't have the right equipment to shoot them.  (4x5 cameras are best--apparently, 35mm and digital can't touch this format.  This site has me pretty interested in it.)

So anyway, out I went to find a landscape on Election Day morning.  My initial results were pretty boring, but I hadn't had my hopes up to begin with.

This is a public trail (the name of which I forget--Birmingham Trail? Brandywine Trail?) on Birmingham Road between Meetinghouse Road and Wylie Road.

ugh, so much about this is awful.  So flat. I honestly hate it.

The only one of these I sorta like is the tree.  My camera didn't pick up most of the color or detail that was present in person.  Apparently, this is why a 4x5 camera is best for this subject: Every little shadow, leaf, and blade of grass gets picked up by this large format rather than just blending into a flat greenish brown.

I ended up using these two for my final submission:

Most times, I think the sky is always a little more interesting than the ground.  I messed around with the contrast to get the silhouettes of the trees, etc., just right against the sky.

In addition to the landscape shots, I turned in two "abstract body part" shots.  Here, your final result should make observers go, "Huh? hmmmm ... oh I see it!" like those weird portraits Picasso did.  I knew who I wanted to use as a model right away.  Here's the first shot:

*hint* this shot was taken vertically, and then I rotated it to make it appear horizontal.

When this went up on the screen in class, I didn't say anything.  After a really long pause, the teacher said, "And ...?"  So I told her to flip to the next one.

Another long pause, and then everyone went, "OHHH!"  I used Erin's twins as my subject. The idea came to me after seeing this portrait of Hillary Clinton (the highlighted silhouette) in a recent issue of Marie Claire magazine.  Clinton is clearly in a huge, darkened space (maybe a convention hall) and the photographer moved to hide one light source in the distance with Clinton's head.  (You could almost say that this is a "solar eclipse" effect.)

I tried to do the same thing using Erin's twin-carrying torso as my subject.  We took the shots in her basement and made the space as dark as possible. Since it was a very small, tightly enclosed space (unlike a convention hall) the light source (just an unshaded 60W bulb) bounced off the walls and really brightened everything (unlike the Hillary portrait).  But the effect is still pretty cool.  I added a lomo-ish filter in Picasa to heighten the shadows/highlights.  Here's what it looks like without the filter:

It was hard to get these super crisp and clear because we were working with three second shutter speeds, and Erin had to hold her breath and not sway even the tiniest bit on her feet. (It's virtually impossible to hold perfectly still if you're not a corpse.)  So even the best shots had some reflection of movement.

Erin and I are very bestest friends, so I could say things during the shoot like, "Wow, Erin! These pictures are looking like photos out of my college astronomy textbook!"  Rather than punch me in the face, she simply responded with something like, "I don't know how I feel about comparing my stomach with a large, orbiting planet."  And then she laughed.

My photo teacher said, "HOLD UP! What if you took the first picture of her stomach in the black T shirt and placed it in front of the sky from your landscape shot?? That would be SO COOL!!"  Again, not sure if Erin would like having her 23-ish week stomach compared to a large, rolling hill against a fall sky, but that would be really cool.  I only have Picasa (not Photo Shop), so I don't think I have the technology to try it.

I'm really sad my class is over--it makes me miss my high school classes that much more. I cannot believe that for three years I had 50 minutes every day to just do photography with state of the art equipment.  I was really grateful for the opportunity back then, but I'm even more grateful for it now.  It's no secret that public education in this country went to crap about 25-30 years ago, so I can't even believe that I had the opportunity to first learn about this subject as a teenager in a (albeit, very privileged/elite) public school.  Yes, quitting the orchestra in 1998 to make room for Photo I in my sophomore year schedule was probably one of the best decisions that I've made during this lifetime.  I knew that I was interested in learning photography, but I had no idea back then how much happiness it would bring me over time.  Good call, Clueless 14-Year-Old Me! I guess you did know something.


Laurie said...

Erin, you are brave :). Love that tummy!!

Linda C said...

Who doesn't love a tummy full of babies?! So happy you took photo classes but I really missed hearing you play violin.