Going to the Light
A 365-day Photo Journal

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 61: Instant Abstracts

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This morning I visited a site that was posted by @petapixel on Twitter. The site showed off examples of a photographic technique that I had never heard of...camera tossing. The basic idea is to set your camera for a longer exposure and toss the camera in the air as you release the shutter. The key to success is to make sure that when you toss the camera you also catch it before it crashes to the earth.

I shot about 20 of these before leaving for work and this was my favorite. I pointed the camera at a shelf full of Pez dispensers and did my toss. The rich colors really popped when exposed this way. Here's another from pointing at our sliding glass door. Anyway, if you like abstract art and you don't have time to paint...toss that camera.

Camera info: 24-70mm lens at 70mm. 0.8 sec at f/3.5. ISO 100.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day 60: A long way to Tulsa

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Monday's are hard to fit anything into my schedule...like taking a photo. Anyway, I taught class tonight in Del City and on my way home I left the interstate for a quick tour of Bricktown. I've always loved the building Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse resides in and decided to do a long-exposure to capture some car light trails. The only problem is that at 10:00 on a Monday night, there isn't much traffic and so I had to wait around for a few cars to actually pass by.

While I was waiting, I got to have a nice conversation with a homeless gentleman whose 95 year-old father passed away this morning up in Tulsa. Apparently he chose to grieve by tossing a few back as he was quite lit by the time he made it to me. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this photo. It cost me $20 for a bus ticket to Tulsa...or perhaps more grieving if he didn't actually make it to the bus station. God bless his soul.

Camera info: Tripod mounted camera. 24-70mm lens at 34mm. 3.2 seconds at f/10. ISO 100.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 59: Busy

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We have this plant in our back yard that flowers once a year for about 1 week. During that time its tiniest of flowers is a busy spot for local bees and other nectar hunting insects. This guy was kind enough to remain still for about 1 second...just enough time for this capture. 90mm macro lens with a ring flash. 1/60 sec at f/16. ISO 100

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 58: What the ant sees

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Our neighborhood has had an abundance of mushrooms for the last week. I found this one in the yard today as I was cutting the grass and since the underside of a mushroom is much more interesting (to me anyway), I decided for a low angle shot.

Camera info: 24-70mm lens at 70mm. Off-camera flash below the subject. 1/200 sec at f/4.5. ISO 100.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 57: Rock-n-Roll Dreams

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My daughter's friend Brayden was at our house this evening and any time someone walks thru our front door these days they have to agree to pose for my blog. Brayden was wearing a shirt that says "Bethany Rocks" and I immediately had the idea to make her a rock star. And because this is the night of Bethany's homecoming, it had to be purple.

Camera info: I put an off-camera flash with purple gel on a light stand and put it slightly behind and high above the subject. I took the shot from the floor hoping to get a "front row at a blues club" look. 24-70mm lens at 45mm. 1/200 sec at f/4.5. ISO 100. I used a couple of different smoke brushes in Photoshop to paint in the smoke effect.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 56: A future so bright

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Today's photo is a shameless plug for my real job. I work as a professor in the Professional Studies Department at Southern Nazarene University. Our business is about providing adult learners the opportunity to finish a bachelors degree by attending class at night and by providing a means to go to school while maintaining the responsibilities of work and family life.

Our students are typically with us less than 2 years. But during that time they have all their classes with the same group of people and they become really close to each other and form friendships that last beyond their days at SNU. About a month ago, I was contacted and asked to meet this evening to photograph Group 53 of our Family Studies & Gerontology program. Aimee, today's subject, is the group leader and she was a joy to work with.

As we were waiting for other students to arrive, I really enjoyed seeing the ones who had already gathered interact with each other as not just classmates but true friends. And since I had a camera in my hand, I took the opportunity to snap a few candids. Today's photo was one of these and to me it captures one of the greatest things about my job...getting to experience the contagious optimism of our students as they near the completion of a long time goal.

Camera info: 70-200mm lens at 110mm. 1/500 sec at f/3.5. ISO 100.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 55: This old horse

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I was on my way tonight to photograph some fresh bales of hay I'd seen earlier in the day when I saw a field of horses that were really majestic looking as the setting sun cast them with long shadows. As I approached the fence to take some photos, about six young looking equine came trotting my way. I assume they were expecting a treat of some sort. As I patted their foreheads and measured the sunlight, I noticed today's subject standing alone and at a distance. He/she moved much slower than the others and didn't seem to notice my presence. That's the horse I want to focus my camera on. I must be honest, despite having cared for horses in my youth, I really know nothing about them. I'm assuming this is an older horse and I apologize to the horse gods if I'm wrong in my assumption. But these days, it's the old horse I can relate to.

I think you can learn a lot from an old horse. Move slow and don't feel like every new thing that comes along requires your attention. Always have your friends near by, but never underestimate the value of a quiet moment alone. There's plenty of what you need to go around so share your pasture and don't feel like you have to fight for what's yours. And don't miss a good sunset by being stuck in the barn.

Camera info: 70-200mm lens at 200mm. 1/400 sec at f/2.8. Exposure compensation dialed down 1 1/3 stops. Saturation boosted in post.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 54: Going wide

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I spent my lunch hour at the Lake admiring the sky as it changed from gray to blue. I had my widest lens with me which I rarely use. But recently I've been challenged to go wide (thanks Darren) and this was the perfect day for it.

Camera info: 17-35mm lens at 17mm. 1/640 sec at f/9. ISO 100

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 53: Skyline Pigeons

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Skyline Pigeon - Lyric by Bernie Taupin

Turn me loose from your hands
Let me fly to distant lands
Over green fields, trees and mountains
Flowers and forest fountains
Home along the lanes of the skyway

For this dark and lonely room
Projects a shadow cast in gloom
And my eyes are mirrors
Of the world outside
Thinking of the way
That the wind can turn the tide
And these shadows turn
From purple into grey

For just a Skyline Pigeon
Dreaming of the open
Waiting for the day
He can spread his wings
And fly away again
Fly away skyline pigeon fly
Towards the dreams
You've left so very far behind

Just let me wake up in the morning
To the smell of new mown hay
To laugh and cry, to live and die
In the brightness of my day
I want to hear the pealing bells
Of distant churches sing
But most of all please free me
From this aching metal ring
And open out this cage towards the sun

Camera info: 70-200mm lens at 145mm. 1/160 sec at f/3.2. ISO 100.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 52: Too fast

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I called my nephew Josh on Sunday afternoon to ask him if he'd pose for my blog. We set up a time for me to pick him up and when I arrived, I asked his sister Katie to come and assist. Katie was a great help because it was windier than I had thought. Anyway, we took about 15 minutes to set up...shot for 10 minutes...and packed up in about 5. It was a quick shot that stretched my skills but didn't require a lot of modifications.

But then I got home and started looking thru my shots. They made me feel awful. Not because I didn't capture what I set out to...but because I'm looking at my 16-year old nephew and realizing how fast time is moving and how I can't do anything about it.

Josh is an amazing young man. He's smart, funny, loves life and has truly great character. He takes everything in stride and he causes no one any grief. I'm really proud to have him as a nephew and I'm looking forward to seeing all he becomes. But man...just slow down already. It was just yesterday that he was two and I took him to the toy store to get his first Hot Wheels set. I remember chasing him all over that store...back when I could actually chase down a 2-year old.

Here's a photo of the setup. And here's another from the shoot.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 51: SUN flowers

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After starting to think that I might need to call my insurance agent to add flood insurance to our policy, we finally got a bit of sun on Saturday. I was actually on my way to capture some mushrooms that had invaded a neighborhood lawn when I happened to see the setting sun lighting up this patch of wild sunflowers. It was as cheery as the sun itself.

Camera info: 35mm lens. 1/1000 sec at f/1.8. ISO 100.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 50: Friday Night Lights

Day 50 and picking just one was too hard. So here's a series of 5. High School Football...a Friday night fall ritual...a chance for heros to be born. The first was shot with a 35mm lens. The rest were shot with a 70-200mm. ISO 3200, f/3.2, shutter speeds between 1/160 and 1/640.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 49: Deliciously Refreshing Part 2

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As I indicated in my Day 2 post, we have no shortage of Coke bottles in our house. So I decided to try my original idea and take it up a notch. Rather than explain the setup I decided a picture is worth...oh maybe about 600 words.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 48: I saw her standing there

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The cover of The Beatles debut American album Meet The Beatles has one of the most iconic photos of the fab four. Today's photo is my attempt to copy the technique. I simply used an off-camera flash with no modifier mounted on a light stand to the left and slightly behind the subject. The room was not dark nor was it brightly lit. But by using a high shutter speed, half her face and the background were rendered dark.

Camera info: 85mm lens. 1/200 sec at f/13. ISO 100

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 47: Creepy Crawlies

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Well I've already seen that the Halloween stores are open and the haunted house signs are up...so why not start the season off early.

Now you may recall that I posted a grasshopper photo in which I stated that the subject was not harmed in the making of the photo. Well with this particular creature I can only say that he received a 1-day repreive from instant death. You see, last night my wife and I were talking in our family room when she jumped up and shouted "Oh my goodness" (or something close to that anyway). Crawling right under my feet was today's subject. Now Lori prepared to instantly pounce and snuff the life of this poor arachnid. But I think much to her suprise I shouted back at her, "No...don't kill it".

It was then that I realized how this blog has warped my mind. Instead of the sane response my wife displayed, I thought of nothing but making this my next model. Well trooper that my wife is, she grabbed a piece of paper and collected the specimen and then went and got a glass so that I could capture it. I then waited til today in hopes that it would tire enough to stay still when I removed the glass to snap its picture.

In the meantime I decided to do a little research on this poor fellow. We were both surprised by him (and research confirms it's a he) and his large hairy nature. Also, it seemed to me that he was sporting too many legs. In fact it was by Googling 10-legged spider that I was able to identify him. Meet the brown trapdoor spider. It's a close relative to the turantula and can live to be 20 years old. And what appears like 2 extra limbs up front are actually just additional appendages for pulling food into its mouth. One other tidbit (a rather important one) is that the trapdoor spider is not venomous.

Camera info: Tripod mounted. 90mm lens with lens mounted ring flash. 1/60th sec at f/16. ISO 100.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 46: Tribute

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I can't say that I am a Patrick Swayze fan. I saw most of his movies. I was entertained by most of them. I liked many of the characters he played. But I never felt any great connection to him. Still, he's another in a list (that seems to be growing at a fast pace) of iconic figures who pass before their time.

My favorite Swayze film was a lesser known cold-war story called Red Dawn. I think I liked it because it stirred in me certain survivalist urges. Patrick's performance was typical. He always played his characters just a little over-the-top that hurt just a little bit the suspense of disbelief. But you couldn't help rooting for him. He was kinda like that guy you always hung out with that took things a little too seriously but that would never let you down in a tough spot.

Today's photo is inspired by the movie Ghost. Every time I see this movie I cringe a bit at the less than skillful acting, directing and storyline. Still, I can't take my eyes off the screen. I wonder how many people would count it among their guiltiest of pleasures.

My dear wife who has refused to pose for any of my blog photos, consented to be my ghost for this shot. It's a very simple setup. I put the camera on a tripod and set it up for a 2.5 sec exposure at f/11. As I released the shutter, I had her stand up and walk out of the frame. The long-exposure rendered everything else still while making her appear ghostly. I used a Photoshop filter to give it a bit of an aged photo look.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 45: A good day to be a duck

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Camera info: Near 100% crop. Handheld 70-200mm lens at 170mm. 1/30 sec at f/3.2. ISO 100.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 44: The Line Between Good & Evil

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Another lesson I learned much too late in life is that nobody is as good as you think them to be and nobody is as bad.

I once wrote a letter to a hero of mine, Tony Campolo. I was applauding him for standing by a recently disgraced friend for whom he was offering spiritual guidance. To my surprise I received a letter back from him and one of the lines of his letter that has stuck with me was, "Remember Jim, the line between good and evil runs through the middle of every person." Thinking about that line tonight inspired me to write something.

The Line Between Good & Evil

On pedestal high we place our saints
and know of them only good.
We polish their halos and dust their crowns
carefully ignoring the cracks as we should.

We hang on every word, each deed
and follow them without question.
We sing their songs and raise their flag
while faithfully defending the bastion.

In places low and with legion looming
we see our enemies emerge.
With fist-clenched canon and sharpened tongue
we seek their thoughts be purged.

We guard our children, we build our walls
and keep them at a distance.
We're sure that heaven's true reward
is saved for the resistance.

But what we fail to notice,
but see I think we must.
Is that the line between good and evil
runs through the middle of each of us.

Camera info: Subjects were lined up on a piece of glass atop a black piece of mat board. They were lit with a table lamp. 85mm lens on tripod mounted camera. 1/80 sec at f/1.4. ISO 100.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 43: ...for your thoughts

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In my top 5 favorite movies of all time is the classic Casablanca. The movie has more quotable lines than any other I know of. One of those lines comes when Ilsa says to Rick, "A franc for your thoughts." Rick replies, "In America they'd bring only a penny, and, huh, I guess that's about all they're worth."

It saddens me to think that the thoughts that seem to carry the most weight these days are those that are spoken the loudest and with a spirit that undermines true dialogue. I wonder what would happen if all thought was truly valued, and weighed, and given a chance to really be understood. I think a lesson I learned way too late in life is that being right is over-rated. Opening yourself to opposing viewpoints is much more valueable in the long run. And that's my 2 cents for the day...oops...I guess I still owe you one.

Camera info: 90mm macro lens, lens mounted ring flash, 1/60 sec, f/16.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day 42: My favorite lens

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In photography circles there are huge debates regarding the importance of equipment vs. skill of the photographer. Those on the photographer skill side argue that some of the greatest photographs in history were taken with some of the most rudimentary equipment. Those on the equipment side argue that while that may be true, those same photographers used the best equipment available to them at the time. I believe that I lean more to the photographer skill side, but my father, a very poor man, always taught me that you should own the best tools you can afford.

Well the best piece of photography equipment I own is in the form of a lens. It's the Canon EF 85mm f1.2L lens. For my Canon brothers and sisters, there are actually 2 models of this lens: the original and a Mark II version. They are both considered equally good in terms of image quality, but the Mark II version was released to correct the slow focusing of the original model. When the Mark II was released, the original version started showing up at almost half its original price...which is how I came to be able to afford one.

What I find amazing about this lens is that even at f1.2 it's incredibly sharp. An example of this is my Day 35 photo. It also provides silky smooth bokeh, great contrast and rich colors. Be sure to click on the photo above for the full-size version.

Goofy is my subject today. He's our loveable Shi-tzu who has been a part of our family for a little over 2 years. I shot using an off camera flash thru an umbrella. 1/60 sec at f/2.5. ISO 100. I shot at f/2.5 to try and keep both his nose and eyes in focus.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Day 41: Writing with Light

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Today's photo was about having fun and learning something new. When I was in high school, I worked at the Warr Acres Library and I remember looking through photography books and finding this photographer (I apologize that I don't know his name) who made these incredible light paintings by keeping the shutter open on the camera and basically drawing in the air with a light source. As I recall, he used fire. Anyway, that was back in the days when they used this thing called film and when you took a photo you had to wait until it was developed to see how it turned out. Because of this limitation I was never daring enough to try this techinique.

Well tonight when I was seeking inspiration, I remembered this and decided I should try it. I setup the camera on a tripod and manually focused to a spot where I would be standing. I then set the camera to f/16 and used a shutter speed of 15 seconds. I turned off all the lights and used an LED flashlight as my light source. I then clicked the shutter and quickly went to the other end of the room, pointed the flashlight back at the camera and wrote in the air. After several attempts trying to spellout LightSmith, I decided I neither had enough time or room and opted to just spell out light. Now I must admit that I'm not skilled enough to write backwards. So I wrote as I normally would and flipped the image in Photoshop.

If you have a camera where you can manually adjust the shutter speed, I recommend giving this a try. It is great fun and I'm looking forward to creating more diverse "Light Paintings" in the future. Here's a link I found regarding the technique.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day 40: Excuse me while I kiss the sky

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As I was going back to work from lunch yesterday, I noticed the sky was full of clouds of both the fluffy white, and ominous dark varieties. It's funny, but prior to starting this project, I probably wouldn't have given it much thought. I happened to be near Wiley Post Airport and knew that from the west side, I would have an unobstructed view of the sky. I only had my 35mm lens with me which really wasn't as wide as I would have liked, but I still liked the result.

Camera info: Polarizer filter used. 35mm lens, 1/500 sec at f/11. ISO 100.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 39: It's her day

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Twelve years ago today my life drastically changed. I became a father. And even though I was 35 years old, I wasn't ready. I thought I knew what to expect. I thought it was just the next stage in life and everything would go on as it had before...only with an extra passenger in the car and a few more groceries to purchase. And it was at this moment in time that I came to realize why the women in my life often look at me like I'm the dumbest creature to ever roam the planet.

It took me about a year to figure out that being a father was the greatest calling of my life. My wife would tell you that I was nothing short of a selfish little boy before I finally woke up to realize that every sacrifice made for my child pays off beyond measure. Every bit of effort is rewarded many times over.

Now I must be honest and admit that my wife bares much more than her share of the parenting task. She is the best mother I know and I will never be able to balance the scale of doing for our daughter. And more than me she understands that choosing child over self is the right and only thing to do.

I love being a dad. And I love the young lady my daughter is becoming. I'm trying hard at this point in this post to pull back from the superlatives that grace the pages of most mommy and daddy blogs. I mean how many of those have you read where they go on and on about how great their children are and how no one has ever had a child as wonderful as theirs. I hate those blogs...I hate them because they make it impossible for me, the father of the best child ever, to state so in my blog. So, I'm not going to do that. I'm simply going to wrap this up and say Happy Birthday dear Jenna...I love you more than you will ever know.

Camera info: Taken outdoors with remote flash shot thru umbrella high and to the subject left. The sun was behind the subject. Flash was used to compensate for backlighting. You can see that when used this way, it can mimic natural light. 85mm lens shot at 1/60 sec at f/4.5, ISO 100. I used a Photoshop filter to create selective focus in my post work.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Day 38: The fruits of her labor

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Happy Labor Day! Hopefully you have as exciting plans as we do for the day. We're having six 12-year old girls at our house...all day!!!! Jenna is turning 12 tomorrow and so she's hosting her birthday party today.

Today's photo consists of the fruits of Jenna's labor in preparing for her party. For some reason, Jenna doesn't like cake. So cookies became her dessert of choice for today's festivities. She and her mother decided that they should start this project at 10pm and they finished around 1am. Anyway, the cookies taste as good as they look.

Camera info: I used a 50mm lens with the camera mounted on a tripod. I learned recently that food looks best when lit from behind. I actually had my off-camera flash set up behind and to the left of the cookies. I set up a reflector directly opposite the flash to provide some fill and reduce the harshness of the shadows. 1/200 sec, f/11, ISO 800.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Day 37: Where did the magic go?

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Sooner Magic...the stuff of legends and unfortunately the stuff of history. Do you remember...all those 4th quarter miracles that the faithful understood as God himself smiling on the boys in crimson and cream? The end arounds, the impossible interceptions, the punt returns, the kicks that were just long enough...we just expected it to happen again and again. Maybe we started to take the magic for granted. And maybe like Job our faith is being tested.

Keep the faith my brothers and sisters. There is still nothing better than Saturday. So who's buying next week's pay-per-view? I'll bring the pizza and wings.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 36: Proof of Life

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Today was a day without inspiration. So I settled for another macro shot. I took this with no artificial light. It's a 25 second exposure at f/16...obviously tripod mounted. I originally shot it with artificial lighting, but it rendered very flat. I needed shadows for this one.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 35: Sartorial Eloquence

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I had intended today's photo to end the collection of Elton John songs. It was going to be the one that nobody got but me. But as I was in no condition to leave the house last week, I had to wait until last night to take this photo.

This is my friend Jana. I knew from the beginning of this project that I wanted her to model for me and my hope is that she will consent to do so again in this coming year. I knew she would be great for this because she knows how to communicate so well both with words and without.

I met Jana when we were in a play together and later I had the pleasure of working with her for a few years at SNU. But for several years we lost touch and it wasn't until last Summer that we reconnected online. Her friendship has been one of the best things about my whole Facebook experience. I think of her and her husband Phil as being examples of the very best of what generation-x has to offer. I told a mutual friend this morning that when I grow up I want to be like Jana.

Photo setup: This was obviously taken at night and if you're familiar with Bethany, the location is on the sidewalk in front of Clark's Bakery. I setup a flash on a light stand and shot it into a shoot-thru umbrella high and to the left of the subject. I clamped another flash with a red gel on a chair to the right and behind the subject. The camera was set to shutter priority and I used an 85mm f1.2 lens at f1.2, 1/200 sec, ISO 100. Here's a full-length version of the photo.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 34: Your Ultimate Drink Stop

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Anybody want a cherry limeade? What's your favorite Sonic drink? Mine is a strawberry-vanilla-Diet Coke...yummy. My wife's friend Lynda taught me that one.

"It's about reacting to what you see, hopefully without preconception. You can find pictures anywhere. It's simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what's around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy."

--Elliott Erwitt, American photographer

Camera info: handheld 70-200mm lens with IS, 1/40 sec at f/3.2, ISO 100

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 33: Hidden Oklahoma Series Part 1

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Last week I was back in the Plaza District to pick up my daughter from practice and came upon a store I knew I would have to visit. So last night, I planned on arriving early to the theatre so I could check it out. Introducing Bad Granny's Bazaar, a wonderful collection of "vintage, retro, modern hip, indie arts and crafts, and other curious goods..."

As if the art surrounding the portal wasn't enough, the moment I entered Bad Granny's I was hooked. If you've ever been to our house, you know of our love for retro styling and collectables. Granny's has plenty of both. The hardest part was walking around the store with a heavy camera in my hand. How am I supposed to fondle the merchandise with my hands full? I spoke with the proprietor, Diana Harris and it sounds like her vision is of an ever changing world of fun. I'm looking forward to going back and seeing how it evolves.

If you love this kind of place as much as I, make your way to 1759 NW 16th in Oklahoma City. Granny's is open 11-7, Tuesday thru Saturday. They also feature live music at times in the back room and they have a great collection of local art throughout the store.

Camera info: Handheld 24-70mm lens, 1/40 sec at f/4.5, ISO 100.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 32: Contrast

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Today's photo represents contrast. There is the contrast I created by desaturating the background to make the foreground stand out. But there is also the contrast of the subject matter...the proud warrior against the seedy storefront. Contrast guides the eye.

"...light cannot be known in the absence of darkness."