Going to the Light
A 365-day Photo Journal

Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 31: ...only a mother...

Be sure to click the larger version for this one.

Disclaimer: No grasshoppers were physically harmed in the making of today's photo. Psychological damage is unknown.

A face that only a mother could love, certainly describes this fellow. I found him in the back yard while watering the flowers and decided he was ready for a close-up. This is basically the same setup as the flower 2 days ago except I used f/16 to try and get even more depth of field. You can see that even at f/16 it's very shallow when positioning the lens so close. When I caught this guy, I kept him in a clear glass that I could focus thru. By the way...manual focus is a must with this setup. When I got the focus I wanted, I slowly lifted the glass and quickly took the photo then covered him back up with the glass. Another thing I do is use a remote shutter release to eliminate all vibration. Here's a link that shows the setup (please note that the grasshopper had already been released unharmed).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 30: A quick getaway

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Lori and I have had a stressful start to the school year and so we decided to do a quick getaway to Florida for the weekend. Here's the sunset we enjoyed last night. Jealous?!?!?

Seriously...we love Florida...we would go there for almost any reason...and we have seen some great sunsets there...but c'mon...we require a full year's planning for any trip, as well as a full year of saving our pennies.

No folks...this is beautiful Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City. Thanks to T.R. Ryan for reminding me of how great Oklahoma sunsets are. And last night we had a great one. The clouds were painted perfectly in the sky and the climate matched the scenery. What's up with that? I didn't even break a sweat and it's August...in Oklahoma?!?!?

For my photo buddies, you'll notice the sun is still above the horizon. If you leave the camera on auto, you're going to get a lovely sky full of shades of bright white. For today's shot, I used aperture priority with the aperture set on f/8.0. I then used the exposure compensation and dialed it down a full stop. Other info: handheld 24-70mm lens at 63mm, ISO 100, 1/400 sec shutter speed.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Day 29: It's in the details

Be sure to click the larger version for this one.

Today's photo is an example of a photo genre known as macro-photography. It's really strange to me to call it macro because it really looks more like viewing something under a microscope. Anyway, today it's all about the camera setup. I used a 90mm macro lens and was able to manually focus the subject with the lens just 4 inches away. I employed two off-camera flashes on either side of the subject and had the camera mounted on a tripod. I set the camera for manual and used a 1/125 sec shutter speed with an aperture of f/11. You have to use a small aperture with macro photography due to minimal depth of field caused by being so close to the subject. Here's a link that shows the setup as well as how tiny the flower was that I shot.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 28: Riding into the sunset

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Today ends 6 days of Elton John song photos. Again, if you are the first to post a comment with the song title and original album it appeared on, you win a free t-shirt. Please remember that if you've already won you are not eligible to win again.

As I began writing this post I realized that day 28, the 28th of August is a special day for me. It's my dad's birthday. If he were still with us, he would be 75 today. Although accidental, there is something very fitting about today's photo as a tribute to my dad. I had intended to do something else for the last day of the Elton photos, but as I'm still not feeling all that great, I went for something simple. But now I'm glad I did.

My dad was a huge fan of the western. He had all of Zane Grey's books and I can't tell you how many hours of John Wayne movies he and I watched together. It was one of the few things that we did together. Dad was never into sports, so we never went to a game together. We had polar opposite tastes on most things not the least of which was Elton John. I still remember him shaking his head when I showed him my new Elton John black-light poster.

But we never missed the opportunity to watch a good western on TV. I think "The Cowboys" was our favorite. We both avoided eye contact at the end when our hero dies. So this one's for dad and for all "the roundups and rustlers and home on the range".

Now that this one's been won I wanted to post this great Taupin lyric:

Roy Rogers

Sometimes you dream, sometimes it seems
There's nothing there at all
You just seem older than yesterday
And you're waiting for tomorrow to call
You draw to the curtain and one thing's for certain
You're cozy in your little room
The carpet's all paid for, God bless the TV
Let's go shoot a hole in the moon

And Roy Rogers is riding tonight
Returning to our silver screens
Comic book characters never grow old
Evergreen heroes whose stories were told
Oh the great sequin cowboy who sings of the plains
Of roundups and rustlers and home on the range
Turn on the T.V., shut out the lights
Roy Rogers is riding tonight

Nine o'clock mornings, five o'clock evenings
I'd liven the pace if I could
Oh I'd rather have ham in my sandwich than cheese
But complaining wouldn't do any good
Lay back in my armchair, close eyes and think clear
I can hear hoofbeats ahead
Roy and Trigger have just hit the hilltop
While the wife and the kids are in bed

And Roy Rogers is riding tonight
Returning to our silver screens
Comic book characters never grow old
Evergreen heroes whose stories were told
Oh the great sequin cowboy who sings of the plains
Of roundups and rustlers and home on the range
Turn on the T.V., shut out the lights
Roy Rogers is riding tonight

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 27: Jenna gets the assist

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Today continues 6 days of Elton John song photos. Again, if you are the first to post a comment with the song title and original album it appeared on, you win a free t-shirt. Please remember that if you've already won you are not eligible to win again. Today's should be very easy.

I seriously considered not doing a photo today. I am lay in the bed and do nothing sick. But my daughter was wonderful and when I told her my vision for the shot, she pulled everything together so that all I had to do was turn on the camera, press the shutter and then post it to here. Thank you wonderful daughter of mine.

Camera info: off-camera flash at 45 degrees left of subject. 24-70mm lens, 1/250 sec at f/3.2. ISO 100.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 26: The iPod killed a part of my soul

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Today continues 6 days of Elton John song photos. Again, if you are the first to post a comment with the song title and original album it appeared on, you win a free t-shirt. Please remember that if you've already won you are not eligible to win again.

As I've looked thru the Elton John catalog this week, looking for photo ideas, I've been struck with nostalgic thoughts as I remembered different albums and the events of my life for which these albums were the soundtrack. It also dawned on me that I don't listen to music the way I did in the past. Today, I create playlists of mp3s that serve as background noise and little more. But in the past, I listened to whole albums and experienced them as living works of art.

I remember the early days of my music collecting when I was incredibly discriminating based on the lack of coin in my pocket. New Elton John albums were automatic buys, but anyone else had to really push my buttons to get me to fork over my hard earned cash. Later I was able to be more free in my selections. But still, I rarely purchased more than one album at a time.

When I did finally decide that a recording was worth the investment, I would devour it. It would be the only thing on my turntable, 8-track player or cd player. (I never bought cassettes...they sounded horrible) I would listen to it over and over with lyric sheets in hand. I'd look at who wrote the song and who played lead guitar. I'd have imaginary fights with the record promoter who blew it with his selection of songs to release as singles. I'd try to imagine what events caused the lyricist to pen the words and I'd try to feel what every note was intended to evoke. Those albums were important and remain an important part of who I am.

I wonder if those college students moving into the dorm across the street from where I'm writing this have anything like that relationship with the music they purchase online. Do they ever buy whole albums? Do they ever find a gem that was never played on the radio but still had the power to affirm all those strange feelings they have every day? Do they ever notice a thread that connects one song to the next or appreciate how the artist picked the perfect order for the songs to be played back? And how must those same artists feel knowing that Apple gave these fresh from the mall, oily-faced lemmings the option to randomly shuffle those songs with the press of a single button?

I know my relationship to new music has certainly changed. I still have a great appreciation for rare talent, but I rarely get past the few songs that get picked for general release. I don't care anymore about who's in a band or who wrote the songs. When I hear a song I like, I download that one tune and make it a part of my "current faves" playlist. Even when I get the latest Elton album, I quickly decide my favorite tracks and discard the others to digital purgatory.

Change is the essence of progress...but I think it reeks of sacrifice as well.
Camera info: off-camera flash directly above subject. 24-70mm lens, 1/125 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 25: Elton John Part 3

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Today you have another chance to win a t-shirt. The first person to comment to this posting with the correct Elton John song represented by today's photo along with the original album in which it appeared wins.

The song represented by this photo was performed in the first Elton John concert I attended. I believe it was the last tour that Dee Murray, Elton's bass player, performed in. Davey Johnstone was not on this tour, but Nigel was on drums, Richie Zito was the lead guitarist and in addition to Elton, James Newton-Howard played keyboards. It was a tight band to say the least. What I remember about this song is that they sang the chorus acapella and it was amazing.

Camera info: I used a single off-camera flash high and to the right of the subject with no light modifiers. Camera was on a tripod using a 135mm lens, 1/125 sec at f/2.0, ISO 100. I used a string of LED Christmas lights in the background.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 24: Elton John part 2

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Today I decided to continue on with the theme of the songs of Elton John. Today, however, I'm making it a contest. The first person to comment on this posting with the correct Elton John song represented by today's photo, along with the original album title it appeared on, wins a free t-shirt (photo). In fact, I have a few more songs/photos in mind, so I'm probably going to continue this for the next few days. So come back for another chance to win. You might want to leave your e-mail in your response so I can contact you if you win. Also, you are only eligible to win one time.

The song represented by today's photo actually brings back a rather bad memory for me. Because my father was in the Air Force and we moved almost every year, we only got to see my grandparents about once a year. I always loved these week long trips, but there was one year that didn't go so well. My mom and dad got in a big fight with my grandmother and as a result we ended up packing up to go home a day early. As we packed the car I vividly remember my sister singing this song. I remember telling her to shut up, but only because the song fit so well with what we were all feeling.

Camera info: 24-70mm lens, 1/25 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800, lit with an led book light.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 23: "...the sound of a switchblade..."

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I became an Elton John fan by accident. I remember the summer in between my 8th and 9th grade years when I was on my way to church camp and riding with one of the high school guys from my church. His name was Billy Nichols and at the time, I thought he was the coolest person on the planet. I still remember him popping in an 8-track and turning up the speakers as he sang along to this chorus, "Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday night's alright...." He emphatically beat on the steering wheel in perfect time and because I wanted to be a sophisticated man of the world I asked him, "who's that?" "It's Elton John, silly". Well I immediately realized that I must have been living in the dark ages and despite not having a clue I said, "Oh yeah!!"

Well less than a week after the next school year started, I was walking down the hall with Tim Henry, the bad boy of our 9th grade class. Tim dated the most beautiful girl at our school, Sandy Davis. Now I was never a ladies man, but I knew if you wanted to hang out with the girl, you better be friends with her boyfriend. So my mission was to make Tim my friend. And as we walked down the hall that day, the friendship was sealed. You see Tim asked me who my favorite rock star was. Well the only name that came to mind was the one I learned that summer and so I blurted out, "Elton John". "Cooooool" was all Tim had to say and all he needed to say. I was instantly accepted. And instantly I became an Elton John fan. That afternoon I went home and cashed out my allowance and bought my first "Elton John" album, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road".

Over the years I've bought every 8-track/Album/CD released by Elton at least once. I've seen him in concert 4 times and if we had had a son and my wife would have let me, he would have been named Elton Hercules Smith.

Today's photo is one I did specifically for a collection that my good friend Darren (who really is the coolest guy on the planet) has on his facebook. Darren started this great idea a few months back where he posts a theme and has his friends send in photos representing that theme. He asked me to help him get the latest theme started, "Elton John Songs".

The song represented in this photo is "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting". It was my first EJ song and remains one of my favorites.

Camera info: 85mm lens shot at 1/200 sec at f2.0, ISO 100.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 22: Magic in the Mundane

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Friday night, my daughter (who hates shopping) and I sat in the car waiting for mommy as she checked out J.C. Penny's. We were coming back from seeing Disney's Christmas Carol Train down in Bricktown. So of course I had my camera. As we sat waiting in the parking lot of the mall and bored to tears, inspiration arrived in the form of today's photo.

By the way...if you have kids, the train attraction runs thru Saturday and is really pretty cool. At the end they actually have a little theatre set up and are showing a few select scenes from the movie in 3D. It looks amazing. The attraction is free, but you'll probably have to pay for parking.

Camera info: 50mm lens, 1/125th sec at f/2.0, ISO 100.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 21: Flower

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It's a flower. It's pink. I think it's pretty.

Camera info: Another off-camera flash shot. Flash set to auto and shot into reflective umbrella at left of subject. I used a clip to attach the flower stem to the end of the umbrella. 70-200mm lens at 120mm. 1/200 sec (to darken background), f/11 (to increase depth of field). ISO 100.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 20: Exposed

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"The exotic is easy. The common is hard.Many photographers travel great distances to better their craft. Upon returning home, their peers marvel at the spoils of the adventure: distinctive portraits, dramatic landscapes, and shots of intriguing food, flora and fauna. The moment you point your lens at an exotic subject, the journey to creating an interesting photograph is half-finished. The second-half is often completed by technology rather than intention. If you really want to hone yourself as a photographer, then point your lens at the people, places and things around you everyday. When you can routinely craft an image that captures a new way of seeing the common, then you are truly growing as a photographer."

camera info: off camera flash shot into collapsed umbrella at left of subject. 50mm lens, 1/200 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 19: I wish I was as calm as she

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My 11 year old daughter starts the 7th grade tomorrow and I'm...well...terrified. It's not because I remember my 7th grade year, but because I can't remember. I do remember that the year before 7th grade was great and I remember 8th grade was pretty okay. But whatever happened that year at Lincoln Jr. High in Abilene, Texas just puts my stomach in knots to this day. I kinda remember the building and I remember Crystal Vanmeter, this blonde beauty that was my steady for a whole week. But other than that, the only thing that comes to mind is constantly being in a state of fear and dread.

Okay...so before you call DHS and turn me in for traumatizing my daughter before she walks in the school doors Thursday, I must tell you I am much more optimistic for the year ahead for dear Jenna. She's been at the same school since 1st grade and she has a close group of friends to help her thru the times to come. But I'm still nervous. She's still so young. Can she really handle all the new pressures that come at this time in life? Or probably...yep, this is it...I'm afraid that pretty soon here she's not going to find me as indespensible as she does today.

I hate getting old.

camera info: off-camera flash shot into reflective umbrella at subject left. Flash set to ttl mode (automatic). 24-70mm lens, 1/80th sec at f/4.0. ISO 100.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 18: Playing with the Light

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Today's photo is an example of when you have something in your mind and the finished product turns out better than your vision. In my mind, I saw this as the vase in sillouette with just red around the edge. But the light actually wrapped around it and made it almost glow. The vase is actually opaque with shards of mother of pearl in a mosaic pattern. I took this in a mostly dark room with the flash set up directly behind the vase. So I'm guessing that the light bounced off the mother of pearl tiles and bounce all over the room resulting in the front side being lit as well.

If you happen to be reading this blog and want to expand your own creativity, I want to recommend a purchase for you. Assuming you have an external flash for your DSLR camera, do your self a favor and get the flash off the camera. Light coming from the same angle as your lens is rarely flattering. And while you can sometimes bounce the light and get better results, an off-camera flash gives you dozens of more options. Included in this is the ability to use the flash outdoors to counter the effects of backlighting. I purchased a $25 triggering set off Ebay that allows you to put your flash anywhere and trigger it from the camera. Just let me know if you need more info on this.

For this shot, I put the vase on the table and used a black jacket pinned up behind the table as the backdrop. The flash (with red gel) was put between the coat and the vase pointed at the vase. 85mm lens, 1/200 sec at f/3.5, ISO 100.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 17: It must be Sunday

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To say I have a major man-crush on Tiger Woods is kinda like saying I might need to lose some weight and exercise. There's probably nothing I enjoy more on a Sunday afternoon than watching Tiger compete in (and usually win) another golf tournament. Well this Sunday I fear I may have jinxed my hero when I decided to somehow feature him as my photo of the day. At the time I took today's photo, he was leading. About 30 seconds after clicking the shutter, Y. E. Chang holed a 40 footer from off the green to take the lead. It was the first time ever in a major that Tiger relinquished a lead on the final day of the tournament. Sorry TW, but congratulations to Y.E. Chang who became the first Asian to ever win a major golf event.

This was a tricky photo to take. To properly expose the hat would cause the TV to be blown out. I set up a flash on a light stand and put it about 4 feet to the left of the hat. I set the tripod mounted camera on manual and used a shutter speed of 1/10 a second and an aperture of 5.0. I actually clamped down the aperture because I wanted the image on the TV to still be recognizable. ISO 100 and the flash was set to manual and shot at 1/128th power.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 16: Another Saturday Night...

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Another Saturday Night - Cat Stevens

Another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody
I've got some money 'cause I just got paid
Now, how I wish I had someone to talk to
I'm in an awful way

I got in town a month ago
I seen a lot of girls since then
If I could meet 'em I could get 'em
But as yet I haven't met 'em
That's how I'm in the state I'm in

Oh,Another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody
I've got some money 'cause I just got paid
Now, how I wish I had someone to talk to
I'm in an awful way

Another fella told me
He had a sister who looked just fine
Instead of bein' my deliv'rance
She had a strange resemblance
To a cat named Frankenstein

Ooh, la, Another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody
I've got some money 'cause I just got paid
Now, how I wish I had someone to talk to
I'm in an awful way

It's hard on a fella
When he don't know his way around
If I don't find me a honey
To help me spend my money
I'm gonna have to blow this town

Oh, no Another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody
I've got some money 'cause I just got paid
Now, how I wish I had someone to talk to
I'm in an awful way

camera info: Off camera flash at subject left with purple gel. 24-70mm lens at 63mm. Manual mode 1/125 sec at f3.5. ISO 100. I used an aged-photo preset in Lightroom to give this a less saturated look.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 15: Homecoming

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Today's photo reflects just a small part of what my wife discovered on one of her evening jogs this week. In our neighborhood there is a block long cul-de-sac in which you will find the scene in this photo. But what you don't see is that every house on that block has flags, balloons and signs welcoming home a local hero. It is a story that I suppose is being repeated across our country and it is indeed a welcome sight. It is another reminder for me personally that all around me people are experiencing things that I'm typically oblivious too.

I speak from personal experience when I say that I'm glad that we are welcoming home our veterans and honoring the sacrifice that they and their families make so that they may serve. My father had no such homecoming 41 years ago upon returning from Viet Nam. I remember as a 5 year old being woke up in the middle of the night by my mother, telling me that we had to go to the airport to pick up my dad who I hadn't seen for an entire year. My dad was told 40 hours earlier that he was on his way home and when he arrived in Savannah, Georgia, there wasn't even a car to pick him up.

I never heard my dad complain about not being recognized for his sacrifice. I really don't think it ever crossed his mind. But I know if he was still here today, he'd go out of his way to welcome home his fellow veterans. Regardless of your ideology, it's just the right thing to do.

Photo info: Shot with camera in AV mode at f5.6. Duplicated layer in Photoshop. Converted duplicate to BW and tweaked levels. Used a layer mask to reveal selective color.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day 14: Pointing to the heavens

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It's been over 20 years since I played a round of golf at Cedar Valley in Guthrie, Oklahoma. But for 2 summers, my friends who actually could play the game would let me tag along every Sunday afternoon as I tried in vane to find my swing. I loved trying to play golf, but probably more than the game, I enjoyed the 45 minute car ride each way on route to the golf course. It was filled with a lot of laughter, sharing great music and just enjoying the fact that most stressful thing I'd have to do that day is hit an approach across a lake on the 1st hole of the Augusta course.

On that drive each week, we passed this church that was so unusual in design that the Art Vandelay in me would gaze in awe as we passed by. My friends called it the teepee church, but I always had the thought that I could never worship in a place that constantly reminded me of one of Madonna's C-cups. But still I always wondered what it looked like on the inside and what was the story behind its construction.

Yesterday as I was thinking about what to shoot, I noticed the sky was once again a nice shade of blue with great cloud formations. I knew I wanted to shoot something with a skyline and for some reason this church came to mind. I drove up Macarthur to NW 178th to revisit the teepee church. When I arrived I was a bit disappointed. First the name of the church was different. It's now the home to the Church at Edmond. Seriously...it's not Church of Edmond or Church in Edmond, it is really called Church at Edmond. Secondly, I noticed the disrepair of this eclectic structure. Wow...another great landmark sitting in decay. There's still a church right there, but it's in a steel siding building with a tin roof. I wonder how the parishoners must feel to come there each week and see the church building that was.

Well back at home I began researching and discovered that this was built by the Hopewell Baptist Church, a congregation that still exists in Edmond. The architect was Bruce Goff and the church was built in the 1940s for $20,000. It has not been occupied since 1989...the year after I last passed it on the way to Guthrie. The building itself has been recently added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 2003 an effort (the Hopewell Heritage Foundation) was begun to raise money to restore it at an estimated cost of $2 million. If you're ever headed to Guthrie, skip I-35 and take the time to see one of Oklahoma's most unique structures.

Photo info: I shot this with a 24-70mm lens with a polarizer filter to darken the blues in the sky. 1/320th sec at F8.0.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 13: Blue Moves

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This one's for Mighty Mouse.

What do you do when you need a subject for your next photo idea? You enlist the help of your daughter's friend who happens to be playing at your house today. Meet Katie, one of the easiest to direct models I've ever photographed. By the way, if you or a friend would like to be immortalized on these pages, just drop me an e-mail and we'll make it happen.

Camera info: Set to manual. ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f4.0. off-camera flash 1/16 power behind and to the right of subject with a blue gel taped over the front (I used a cut piece of a report cover for this). off-camera flash 1/8 power to subject left shot into collapsed reflective umbrella.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 12: City Dwellers

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I've already mentioned how I've discovered with this project that I am lacking when it comes to the doing. Just 12 days in and I'm discovering the beauty that exists all around...that has always existed all around, and that I have just been too lazy to get out and enjoy. In the first 12 days, I've seen 3 sunsets, rediscovered Lake Hefner, found a wonderful coffee shop, discovered 2 OKC neighborhoods I didn't know existed and discovered that people close to me are experiencing life in ways, good and bad, I never dreamed of.

Today's photo has a lot of problems from a technical point of view. But for me it represents doing. This is part of a herd of deer that can be seen every evening as the sun is setting, between Macarthur and Portland on Hefner blvd. I've passed them a hundred times and always said to myself, "I should really stop someday and take a closer look." Last night I went on top of the Hefner dam and just watched them for a half hour. It cost me nothing and required very little effort and yet it made all the things that caused me stress during a busy day just a little less important.

Photo info: 300mm lens, 1/25th of a second at f/18, ISO 800. Handheld with IS.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 11: One light, one special daughter

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I've been watching a DVD lately put out by Zack Arias, an Atlanta photogapher who has made a career out of producing fantastic photos using a single source of artificial light...the one light technique. I decided last night to try out some of what I've been learning. And fortunately for me, my daughter was having fun playing dress up with a bunch of hats that were headed for the thrift store from Stephanie Steen.

Here are the settings: 135mm lens at f5.6 and 1/30 sec shutter speed, ISO 800 (totally unnecessary...I forgot to lower it before shooting). I set up an off camera flash on a light stand at 3 o'clock from the subject slightly above eye level and shot into a reflective umbrella. By setting the light source at a right angle from the subject, I was able to light the subject and leave the background mostly dark.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 10: HB to HB

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Yesterday we had dinner with my wife's family to celebrate the 10th birthday of my neice Halee Beth (HB). I asked her mother to write up the wonderful story of Halee's coming into this world.

Halee’s Story
by Melissa Morgan

Ten years ago this week on August 12th, 1999 Halee Beth was born. She was 5lbs 5oz and we were told that she most likely would not survive the night. We were devastated, Halee was our third child we had been through this before but it was nothing like this! Three days before she was born I had started to feel really tired, very drained. I had been getting our other two children ready to go back to school, shopping etc; I just thought I was really tired from being on the go & the horrible heat in August. The kids started school that morning and after I dropped them off I felt just horrible, I went home and went back to bed the rest of the morning. I started feeling flushed and my stomach felt like dead weight very heavy. If I had not had two children before I might not have realized this was not right. I called the doctor and he said to come in, so I picked up the kids from school and just took Katie & Josh with me. I figured no big deal they would just hook me up to the monitor check her heart rate and send me home, just another worried expectant mother, but that was not the case! They hooked me up to the monitor and she would not move for them either, they then checked her heart rate. It was slow and not improving as they monitored it was even going down. My doctor was out of town and the doctor on call sent me over to check into the hospital. So there I was with two children & Dean was working on the other side of town at least 45 minutes away, & my parents were by chance on vacation in Colorado. Halee was not due for another 6 weeks.

We checked into the hospital and immediately they hooked me up to every machine possible and started an IV. There was no change and her heart rate continued to drop. Dean finally got to the hospital and the doctor talked to both of us. They wanted to take the baby right away by emergency c-section, and there was no time to waste. They had checked me into the hospital around 5:30pm and by 9:00pm Halee was born. They said if I had not come in when I did she would have been dead by morning. She was not crying when they pulled her out she was completely grey and not making much movement at all. They took her and began working on her right away in the room; before they wheeled her off she was making some crying sounds. It all seems like such a blur now. Everything was happening very fast. Luckily our doctor only worked out of Presbyterian and they had a wonderful NICU. There were two nurses that we already knew from college, sisters of one of my dear friends. Kay was on the floor that night and she would come and give me up dates and would check on us, but no one would tell me what exactly was going on with Halee. Finally the doctor came in to talk to us; he said that things were very serious the baby had lost a lot of blood through the umbilical cord and her hemoglobin count was a 5. I did not even know what a normal count was but later we learned that they had NEVER delivered a baby alive with that low of a count EVER!!!! We asked the doctor when we could see her; he looked puzzled and said we are not even sure she will make it through the night. I was not able to walk or sit up yet from the c-section, but they let Dean into to see Halee. She had wires hooked up all over her and an IV coming from her head. The nurses took a picture of her for him to bring me so I could see her. It was all very unreal like it was happening to someone else and I was watching this story unfold on a movie screen. The next morning I woke up in the room and I was alone, (Dean had gone to breakfast while I was sleeping) I heard a baby crying from the next room, and it hit me that we might go home without our little girl. I remember praying right then Lord do not give me more than I can handle.

God was so faithful to us and answered my prayer. Every day the doctor would give us very little hope, “she is a very sick girl” he would say. They had to do two complete blood transfusions that first night. The other thing was I have AB negative blood & Halee is the only one of my children to have the same blood type AB negative. If her blood had not been negative then when her blood was mixing with my blood as it was hemorrhaging out it could have killed both of us. There were many blessings along the way thought the whole ordeal. Halee had a very special nurse Ann who was working the night Halee was born. They had warned the NICU that a very sick baby was coming that night and Ann began to pray for Halee even before she was born.

Each day the doctor would tell us we just don’t know she is very sick, and then she would surprise them all by making giant strides that day. Everyday Halee would get stronger; I finally got to hold her when she was 5 days old, and when she was 9 days old I finally got to feed her. She was so weak that it took too much energy for her to eat on her own so they were feeding her through a tube, but she finally got off the breathing machine, then the feeding tube was taken out and she got to have a bottle. It was all very exciting each day a new and wonderful step closer to getting to go home. Halee was 14 days old when we finally got to take her home. She was 4 lbs 12 oz, but she was such a fighter. They called her a little spit fire in the nursery; she had such a strong will to live. That strong will still serves her well in life…though at times it does drive us a little crazy.

Halee’s story is still told by the nurses at the NICU. Two of the nurses are now teachers at a Nursing School and I ran into one of them the other day. She told me that she tells Halee’s story every year to new nurses, and they still use Halee’s fetal monitor strip to train new nurses in the NICU unit on the worst case scenario. One other blessing is that we didn’t have to pay a penny for the hospital stay. What our insurance didn’t cover the hospital wrote off. It was a teaching hospital and they considered Halee’s case a learning opportunity.

This week Halee Beth turns 10, I can hardly believe it! I cannot imagine my life without her, she has been such a blessing to our family. She is a completely healthy and happy 10 year old with no effects of her birth…except her exceptionally strong will!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day 9: My best friend

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When I was 14 years old, my family moved to Oklahoma. Now moving was nothing new to me. I can in fact say that Oklahoma is the 14th state to which I've called home. But when you're 14 you have enough insecurities to cope with without being thrust into a new school, church and community at large. And arriving in Oklahoma, my parents enrolled me at Putnam City High School...a school with over 3000 students in grades 10-12. This followed my freshman year at a school in Pennsylvania that had 500 students in grades K-12.

As was our custom when we arrived at a new locale, we also found a Nazarene church to attend and just the teen group was roughly the size of the largest Nazarene church we had attended previously. But the teens at the church were welcoming and I felt like at least at church I might be okay.

Well soon after we arrived, Putnam City had orientation day for sophomores. My parents dropped me off at the door and I felt like I was entering a building roughly the size of the Atlanta airport and soon found it was just that hard to navigate. After what seemed like hours I found myself perched on the sidewalk outside the school in the hot summer sun looking at my schedule, with my mouth hanging open and just shaking my head from side to side. I was surrounded by a sea of people and yet I felt totally alone.

"Hey, aren't you Jim the guy I met at church last week?" I looked up with probably a dazed look on my face and in front of me was someone I knew...Rick Martin. And from that moment on I knew it was going to be okay.

My friendship with Rick continues to be one of the greatest blessings of my life. It started when I needed it most and it has continued thru all of life's experiences that made us who we are today. I've come to believe that the best thing you can say about a friend is that he knows everything about you and likes you anyway. That has characterized my friendship with Rick since the earliest days of our relationship.

Last night, a large group of friends met to thank Rick for his service as our Sunday School teacher for the last 15 years. Rick has decided to take a break from teaching and so we honored him for his compassion, his humility, his wisdom and his acceptance of us in spite of our weaknesses. I know every person who was there feels a special bond to Rick. But to me...well...he's my best friend.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Day 8: To not think

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"One does not think during creative work, any more than one thinks when driving a car. But one has a background of years - learning, unlearning, success, failure, dreaming, thinking, experience, all this - then the moment of creation, the focusing of all into the moment."
EDWARD WESTON[1886 – 1958]
American artist photographer

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day 7: A real coffee cup

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I've been taking my daughter to drama classes this week at the Lyric in the Plaza District of NW Oklahoma City. Yesterday morning I found a new treasure in the guise of Coffy's Cafe a little coffee shop located at 1739 NW 16th street. It's quaint, eclectic, full of character...my kind of place. Denise served me a wonderful French pressed coffee and to my delight she brought a real coffee cup. Now don't get me wrong. I've drunk the corporate kool-aide and ingested many a cup of joe in the paper cup with the patented sleeve cup wraps. But yesterday something broke thru that corrugated haze when lips touched glass...a vessel that the gods intended for their most holy of nectars.

Now the tragedy of this story is that I was the only one in the place. Not tragic because in the absence of other customers I was able to have nice chat with my barista, Denise. But because I don't want it to be added to the multitude of places that I grow to love and then have to drive by and say, "remember that place we used to go to". Suddenly I'm craving some My Pii pizza or a carefully crafted insult at Molly Murphy's.

So my fellow OKC brothers and sisters, it's time to do yourself a favor and visit this place. And by the way, it's cheap too. $2 for French pressed coffee with a real press and a real coffee cup...get out of here!!! Tell Denise that Jim (the guy that always has his camera with him) sent you.

Here's a quote I read today that has application far beyond photography:

"86. Embrace stress as the opposite of apathy. A violinist once pointed out that tension is absolutely necessary for him to make beautiful music. If his bow is too tight, it will snap. If his bow is too loose, the strings will wail rather than sing. The key, he said, is to have the right amount of tension. Likewise, as a photographer, I’m always tense at the beginning of a shoot. Rather than get more stressed because I’m stressed, I’ve come to embrace the tension as a signal that I really care about what I’m doing. Consider your stress to be an indication that you are focused on the outcome of your efforts. If you start an important shoot and don’t feel some stress, then you really have something to worry about."
from Lessons I didn't learn in photo school

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day 6: I stole somebody's soul today

This is Eugene - A citizen of Oklahoma City

I stole somebody's soul today

It shouldn't matter, but it does.
Fortune shown unexpectedly after all.
Strangers before and after remain.
Thirst quenched at no cost to me.
It shouldn't matter, but it does.

In my mind all day he'll be.
Not as a friend, not as anything.
Can we be? without a soul?
Is something alive beyond its breathing?
Tomorrow I'll probably not care.

I felt the strings of the cosmos move.
Surely you felt it as well.
No. You didn't. Or maybe you did.
Maybe I'm just that numb.
It shouldn't matter, but it does.

And tomorrow I'll probably not care.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Day 5: "...and nothing else."

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I hate to admit that when I took this photo yesterday, I didn't even notice the Picasso quote. Nevertheless, it's a great quote. It also reminded me of the classic funny I first saw written on a bathroom wall:

"To be is to do." --Aristotle
"To do is to be." --Socrates
"Do be do be do." --Sinatra

My favorite verse in the Bible was written by the Apostle Paul as he was warning the Galations about getting hung up on rules and tradition. He wrote, "The only thing that matters is faith, expressing itself as love." (Galations 5:6) Faith is all important, but notice that he doesn't stop with just believing...faith is expressed by what we do.

I'm finding that I'm seriously neglectful of the doing. I started this project with this very thing in mind. But what's interesting is that 5 days in and I'm realizing how I really had no idea how neglectful I have become.

I Googled the Picasso quote from the photo and here's some more of what dear Pablo had to say:

"The important thing is to do, and nothing else; be what it may. But then, what do you do when the picture is finished? Have you ever seen a finished picture? A picture or anything else? Woe unto you the day it is said that you are finished! To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow: the most unfortunate one for the painter as well as for the picture." --Pablo Picasso as recorded by his lifelong friend Jamie Sabarté.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day 4: Grab a great sky whenever you can

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I was passing by this place yesterday and noticed the sky was littered with just the right amount of clouds and a great shade of blue. I've always loved this sign and I quickly parked to capture it. Of course if you notice, the sun is in the background and no matter how I set up my camera, there was no way to expose properly for both the sign and the sky. If I exposed for the sign, the sky would render completely white. If I expose for the sky, the sign would be in dark shadows. How do I get that goodness in the camera? Well the answer is a tripod and a bit of Photoshop magic.

I got out my tripod and framed my subject in the viewfinder. Next I took 2 photos without moving the camera. The first one I exposed for the sign. As I expected, the sky was totally white. The second one I exposed for the sky. And again as expected, the sign was almost black.

Back at home in Photoshop, I opened both photos and dragged one on top of the other to create a single photo with two layers. The blown out sky was on the top layer and the perfect sky was on the bottom layer. I worked with the top layer and just erased the blown out sky but left the well exposed sign intact. Finally I merged the two layers and this was the result. This technique is called HDR (High Dynamic Range) for those interested in researching.

As a side note, when I finally win the lottery, I plan on walking into this place and writing them a check to make it mine. Photoart Studios is actually a really neat concept. It's a working studio that they also rent out to people needing a studio or just for meetings or other gatherings. I haven't had the nerve to call about pricing, but I like the idea a lot.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 3: Nightime falls on Gotham City

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In hues of blue and black, nightime falls on the city,
and dim light exposes dark things, cold and gritty.
We close our eyes to lessen the fear
that comes from seeing what shadows hold so near.
So sleep dear metropolis.
Sleep deep and dream.
I'll keep watch in cracks of gray.
I'll not sleep 'til dawns first beam.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Day 2: Deliciously Refreshing

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I have been reading a book by Michael Freeman called The Photographer's Eye. The challenge of the author is to break out of your typical way of seeing things and force yourself to see them in a way you normally would ignore. No doubt that's a lesson that extends well beyond photography. So when I set out to photograph something today, I decided to use an exercise I had read somewhere else that suggested photographing some ordinary object using a variety of angles, compositions, lighting, and camera settings. Well in our house, we have an abundance of the ordinary Coke bottle.

I have to be honest and say that this was a frustrating exercise for me. I've seen other wonderful results from this kind of exercise. But nothing I was producing made me want to waste a byte of disk space to save. I was about to give up and get in the car and find something else to shoot. (Pretty good huh? Day 2 and I'm already frustrated) My latest attempts had involved popping a remote flash through a softbox from various angles and distances. I then had a thought that I wished there was a way to put the flash under the bottle. I had already tried putting the flash behind it, to both sides and on top.

Well I was at the kitchen table doing this particular setup and I remembered my wife putting a clear glass bowl in the cabinet the day before. So I put the flash under the upside-down bowl and put the Coke bottle on top. Then after shooting a couple of frames I realized that the light under the bowl was going everywhere while I wanted it to be confined to the bottle. So I took a piece of black scrapbook paper and cut a hole in it the size of the bottom of the bottle. I put the paper on top of the bowl and then I took a black sweatshirt and put it around the rest of the bowl. I put the bottle back on top and after taking one shot and changing my aperture, I got this on the second try. Whew...frustration instantly gone.

The photo was actually taken in a normally lit room. By shooting at ISO 100 and stopping down the aperture and using a fairly high shutter speed, the room was rendered dark.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Day 1: A Birthday and an Anniversary

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About 3 years ago I started following a photographer online who took on the challenge of taking and posting a new photo every day. Since then, I've run across several others but it wasn't until about a month ago that I thought about doing it myself. My inspiration came from Dustin Diaz, a programmer for Google who started his project earlier this year. His journey is simply amazing. My hope is that by the end of my 365 days that I'll have at least one photo that could have made his cut.

So this is a journey...it's a birthday of sorts. I'm starting off without any destination programmed into the GPS. I hope I hear a voice every once in a while that points me in a good direction. But more than anything I just want to challenge myself to get moving.

I had a friend ask me the other day what each day will consist of. Am I going to journal my life? Am I going to give technical details of how the photo was taken? Am I just going to post photos and nothing else? Well...yes...no...we'll see. I'm just going to get going with a simple goal in mind: Every day I'm going to take and post a new photo.

When I decided on August 1 as my start date, I knew there was something about that date I should remember. It quickly returned to me. It was August 1st just 1 year ago that I sat outside at my niece's wedding. Now please...who has an outdoor wedding in August, in Oklahoma? But the fact that it was 100 degrees did nothing to diminish the occasion and just gave everyone there a special glow that lasted through the evening. Anyway...once I realized that today was their anniversary, I knew I wanted to start my blog with Nela and Chad.

We met last night at the old metal bridge to the north of Lake Overholser as the sun was going down. I popped a flash thru an umbrella to light the foreground and used a fast shutter speed to clamp down on some of the ambient light. This is a new lighting technique for me and Chad and Nela were very patient with me.

Happy Birthday to this blog and Happy Anniversary to Nela and Chad.