Exposing Myself

I did something a little wild and crazy last Saturday night.  I was browsing through some old websites that I had bookmarked and ended up on jpgmag.com.  It’s a quarterly photo magazine (primarily distributed digitally) that gets its content from photos that members upload and vote on.  The photos are grouped into themes for publication but you can also upload any photos you want to share and get feedback from other members.  People can vote yeah or nay on your photo, comment on them and/or mark them as a favorite.  People can also add you as a contact.  Members are primarily advanced amateurs, but there are some professionals.

I have a deep seated fear of exposing my photography to other photographers.  It’s great to hear my handful of blog readers say nice things about my work, along with my family and friends.  It’s a whole ‘nother thing to open myself up for criticism from talented and serious fellow photographers.  What if they think I suck?  Not that anyone would come out and say that, but if nobody bothers to give you a yeah or make a comment, it’s pretty obvious they don’t like your work.  I’m hyper critical as it is, I don’t need to hear the giant sucking silence of others to feed my self doubt.

I can only upload 10 photos per day without paying for a membership and I started pretty late on Saturday, so I only did four that night.  (It’s not that easy when you are trying to find images that fit specific themes)  By Sunday morning, the first two photos I uploaded had each garnered three views and one comment.  One had received three yeah votes and the other had received one.  (Both photos have been featured in prior blog posts – on 8/16/10 and 1/31/11, if you want to check them out)  And two people had added me to their contacts.  To be fair, they both had thousands of contacts and likely just add new site members to their contacts to keep their numbers high.  But I accepted anyway.

I uploaded my full quota of 10 photos on Sunday.  I managed to get 8 done before we left to watch the Super Bowl at my brother’s house.  By the time we returned, four of those had received feedback.  One received “props,” two were designated favorites by other members and one had both received props and been marked as a favorite.  I was positively giddy.  As of this morning, three more people have added me to their contacts and one of the two photos I added last night had received props.  Now my euphoria can barely be contained.  It’s making me a little dizzy.  I am anxious to add my quota of 10 more photos today.

So for today’s photo I am posting the one that received both a prop and a favorite designation.  It’s one of my favorites and a classic example of timing being everything.  It’s also one that I wouldn’t have taken with film, because I would have burned through a whole roll trying to get the right moment.  This is Spray Point in Melbourne, Australia.

It’s Super

Well Super Bowl XLV is over.  I can’t say I’m thrilled with the results.  It’s not that I really care about the Steelers over the Packers, but I’m ticked the Packers even made it.  My husband is a Bears fan (Chicago born) so I was rooting with him for the Bears until their sad loss to the Packers.  So I was more against the Packers than for the Steelers.  Plus, Chip Ganassi is from Pittsburgh and it would have been nice for his team to win.  Of course if they had been playing against the Bears, I would have been cursing them and their mothers.

I’ve never been a big sports fan.  I loved hockey in high school, but mostly because I had a crush on a guy who played junior varsity.  It is a fun sport to watch, but the amount of fighting allowed at the professional level has ruined it for me.  I’d rather watch college hockey because it’s played more like a sport and less like a street brawl.

The only sport I am really passionate about is Indy car racing.  In addition to the over-the-top adrenaline thrill it gives me, it’s also been photographically inspiring.  I have taken thousands of photos during race weekends.  I am very aware that the drivers and crew are constantly subjected to professional photographers getting (literally) in their faces, so I try to be very respectful about shooting from a distance and making myself as invisible as possible.  It means giving up a lot of great shots, but sometimes I get rewarded with an extraordinary image that no professional would take.  This is my all-time favorite racing photo and I think one of the best photos I have ever taken of any subject.

Grounded

While my friend from Chicago was visiting last week, she did have one sightseeing request.  It was a little unusual and not something I would be likely to do of my own accord.  But I look at every new experience as a potential photo op and this was no exception.  She wanted to tour a boneyard.  Yes, it’s kind of a cemetery, but not for human remains.  It’s a big military base in Tucson that houses hundreds of aircraft.  Some are just temporarily mothballed but many are cannibalized for parts.  The base makes a significant amount of money selling discontinued military aircraft to friendly nations and subsequently supplying them with parts.  The official name of the facility is AMARC, or the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center.  But it’s usually just called The Boneyard.

The Boneyard tours leave from the Pima Air and Space Museum.  There are only four tours a day and it’s a first come first served system for getting tickets.  Since it’s a two hour drive from Phoenix, it wasn’t really feasible to arrive in time for one of the two early tours.  Our plan was to get there about an hour before the 1:30 tour.  For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was some pretty heavy traffic on the interstate (could you people at least drive the speed limit if you are in the left lane?!?), we arrived around 12:45.  About 30 seconds after they sold the last tickets for the 1:30 tour.  I’m not exaggerating.  The three people who bought them were still at the counter when we went in.

This kind of thing frustrates me.  If they had sold the tickets 20 minutes earlier, I would have thought nothing of it.  But to miss it by that little….  So, we were the first ones on the list for the 3:00 bus.  My friend also purchased tickets for a 1:30 tram tour of the air and space museum.  This left us about 40 minutes to get something to eat in the cafe.  Having last eaten at 9:00, my stomach was starting to complain.  Loudly.  Of course there was a huge line for the cafe and everything was made to order so that left us with about 10 minutes to inhale lunch and still make the tram tour.  All of the tours are given by ex-military personnel with encyclopedic knowledge who love the sound of their own voices.  I’m sure it’s fascinating to an airplane buff, but I just wanted to take photos of the cool planes.  So I mostly hung out the side and snapped photos, while cursing myself for only having a 50mm lens.

My beautiful 100mm and 70-200mm lenses were languishing in the car.  Why?  Because The Boneyard is part of a military base and you are not allowed to have large bags or lenses longer than six inches on the tour.  Since I didn’t know whether I’d have time to run back to the car before our 3:00 tour, I thought I’d make do with just the 50mm.  Turns out you’re not allowed off the bus during the tour, so the few photos I did take were terrible anyway.  By the time we returned to the museum, the front door was closed and I had to sneak through the gift shop to try and take a few photos on foot.  Of course I didn’t have time to get a bigger lens out of the car, so I made do with the 50mm.  I’m not thrilled with the results.  It makes me want to go back and try it again.


Gorgeous Little Monster

So, having featured a number of photos of Jaxson, I feel it’s only fair to give some equal time to his big sister Sedona.  She is also gorgeous, just a lot more difficult to photograph, especially as she’s gotten older.  I have good photos from her first three birthdays, but none from her fourth.  This is my all time favorite photo of her, it’s from her third birthday.  She looks better pouting than smiling.

More Babies

Yesterday I wrote about my experience photographing Jaxson with a macro lens.  There are a few more photos from that shoot that I really love.  One was taken in very dim light at a very high ISO.  The color was terrible and there was some digital noise in the image.  Instead of trying to “fix” the image, I converted it to black and white and played up the “grainy” look, giving it the feel of a very old film photograph.  The other is a detail shot of his perfect little hand on his chubby little knee that would not have been possible without the macro capability.

Up Close and Personal

I’ve mentioned a few times how much I love my new 100mm macro lens.  One of the many great uses I’ve found for it is photographing babies.  100mm is a great length for portraits in general, but the close focusing capability allows you to really zoom in on the details in a baby’s face.  Now, of course I don’t go around taking photos of random babies, as that would be incredibly creepy.  So the only subject I’ve tested this out on is our goddaughter Sedona’s little brother, Jaxson.  Jaxson is the rarest of all creatures, an exceptionally beautiful baby who also has an exceptionally good natured disposition.  So he is literally a joy to photograph.  Unlike his sister, aka the spawn of Satan.

I took a number of photos of him soon after he was born and again when he was about a month old.  They were good, but I didn’t think they were exceptional.  So I tried again when he was about three months old with my (then) brand new 100mm lens.  I was wowed with the results.

Abstraction

As I mentioned  previously, my car photos started getting more abstract.  Maybe it’s because I can only take so many photos of hubcaps, headlights and hood ornaments before I start feeling like the most boring photographer on the planet.  Here are two of the better abstract ones.  And if you are scratching your head over the one on the left, don’t feel bad.  It’s actually a vintage biplane.

Badge of Honor

I loved the hood ornaments on many of the cars.  So I took photos of a lot of different types.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t really happy with how any of them turned out.  I’m not sure if it was the shallow depth of field or the low light level, but none of them really worked for me.  One of the many tricky aspects of photographing cars is that they are shiny.  Really, really shiny.  Which means I got lots of photos with an unflattering reflection of me squatting down and holding a camera in front of my face.  I tried to pick angles where the reflections were minimized or of something more interesting than me, but since I couldn’t move the cars around (they really frown on that) my options were limited.

Looks Like a Car

I started out with a wide angle zoom (16-35mm) at the Barrett-Jackson auction and took about four photos before realizing that I wasn’t going to get anything usable with it.  So I switched to a 100mm macro.  This is rapidly becoming one of my favorite lenses.  Even if you aren’t trying to get a true macro effect, it’s a great focal length to get close without physically getting close and with the image stabilization, I can get pretty sharp photos at 1/30 second shutter speed.  I took a number of photos that are recognizable as details on a car.  Then I started getting even closer and the images became more abstract, some to the point where you would be hard pressed to recognize it as part of a car.  Here are two that fall into the former category.  I love the big tail fins, they look like rockets.

Shiny Things

Our next photo op came during a visit to the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale.  For those of you who are not gear heads, Barrett-Jackson is an auction company that specializes in collector vehicles.  Mostly cars, but occasionally other unusual vehicles like vintage airplanes.  If you like to ogle beautifully restored vintage cars, the Barrett-Jackson auction is the place to go.  Prices are not for the fainthearted.  Including the cost of admission, which was $30/person last Thursday (it goes up on Friday and Saturday).  We had lunch at the Tommy Bahama restaurant in Kierland beforehand, just to prep us for the impending sticker shock.

I have seen coverage of the Barrett-Jackson auction on TV, but that doesn’t prepare you for the real thing.  It’s huge.  Really, really huge.  We walked around for two and a half hours and probably saw less than half the cars.  The other big surprise was the bizarre collection of merchandise being offered for sale.  Oh sure, there was the obvious stuff like model cars, car related art work, vintage gas pumps and neon garage signs.  But there was also a bewildering array of completely unrelated merchandise like jewelry, clothing, patio furniture, massage chairs and mattresses.  I guess when you get a large group of people with money in a confined space, you just try and sell them anything you can.

I didn’t photograph any whole cars, because that would be boring.  But I did take a lot of shots of bits and pieces of cars.  The cars become like abstract sculpture when you look at them that way.  This is new territory for me and I can’t say I was entirely successful, but I did get a few interesting images.