Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Surprising Blast of Color

I was issued a "throw down" challenge this morning related to my "last leaf" post.  So, I looked around a bit this afternoon for another straggler, or maybe a leaf pressed into the mud from the drizzle once that started.  I didn't have much success, so I'm conceding victory to my challenger, but I did find one spot with lots of leaves remaining and lots of color.  Here is what resulted:

And, continuing the tradition established yesterday, here's today's photo of Ziva resting.  Isn't her tail impressively bushy?  Doesn't she look harmlessly sedate?  Hah!  That can change in a millisecond!


Saturday, November 22, 2014


A normal, sensible man would replace an electric shaver cutter and screen assembly before this level of erosion could take place.  The major gaps were noticed when it took revenge for its neglect by biting the face that feeds it.  Because any little thing can be the subject of a macro photo, I went to the trouble of positioning two off-camera flash units and tried some shots.  That is, after continuing to use the more or less intact side of the shaver for a few more days while waiting for replacement parts to arrive in the mail.

And with no particular connection to anything except her continuing insinuation into life and the heart, here is a pic of Ziva from yesterday.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Last Leaf, Five Views

I was already going to call this series of photos "the last leaf" - because that's exactly what it was for this particular group of trees - when I was informed that there's an O. Henry short story by that name. It is one that I hadn't read, but I have now, and it seems very apropos.  I can only hope that some of the poignancy of the story is mirrored in the photographs.

In typical fashion, I was "captured" by the sight of this hanger-on as soon as I spotted it, but had to explore positions and angles to try to find the effect I was imagining.

I knew right away that I wanted to feature the contrasting blues and yellows in the background.

Generally, when photographing a relatively flat subject (though this leaf was actually quite curled in its dry afterlife) and wishing to separate it from its background, a good strategy is to align the plane of the subject with the camera sensor and open the lens wide for a shallow depth of field.  This can render the subject sharp and the rest of the scene blurred.  However...

...after working the scene for a while, I decided that potentially the most powerful aspect of the subject was the kind of dancing character that appeared when the leaf was viewed from a bit of an angle.  The gradual softening of focus from the nearest part of the leaf to the furthest also adds a sense of motion that I like.  So, my final take: Last Dancing Leaf.

[all photos, Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8 L IS macro]


Daily Dozen - your Ziva fix

Actually, although I titled this post your Ziva fix, I'm the one who is addicted to photos of the little imp.  Addicted to capturing them, when I can manage to not be petting her, playing with her, feeding her, communicating.

Note the transition from cute little puppy dog to fearsome predator, and back to harmless, playful pup, all within a span of ten minutes (which felt like one minute to me).


Dog on a platter

Here are three iPhone shots of Ziva, two sleeping in a comfy place, looking a bit like a dog on a platter.

And here I caught her emerging from an exploration under a chair, where she had been completely hidden, but fortunately not completely inaudible.  As I write  this, Ziva is creating her own musical compositions with a chew toy, a rubber pig that emits lower pitched sounds than most of the "squeaky" toys on the market.  Ziva has figured out how to get a range of pitches, volumes, rhythms and timbres by using her feet, her muzzle, and her teeth.  At some point I'll have to do a video with sound of one of her performances.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Head-Up Display

For about half a century, jet fighter pilots have had head-up displays (projected on the windscreen or mounted in a helmet), so that critical information could be viewed without shifting their vision down toward an instrument panel.  A couple of decades later, similar systems began to appear in some commercial aircraft.  Then a few cars began to offer similar features (possibly as much to make them seem like jet planes as to make them safer to drive).

I don't have that kind of high tech feature in my car, but when I got in it today, this rainy afternoon, I was confronted with an artistic display that almost seemed to be projected on the windshield.  Before cranking the engine and running the wipers, I had to get out my iPhone to do this photo.  I think it would have been a misdemeanor, if not a felony moving violation, to drive off without the shot!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

One way, three elements

One way to view a carpet of leaves:

We used to be told that there is a rule of photographic composition (as if there could be any such thing as a rule!) that there must be one subject.  Each picture should have one clearly perceptible object that is most important.  Well, it's a very good guideline that can be helpful in many situations.  "What are you hoping to show with this photo?  What do you want to draw the viewer's eye to?  What can you keep out of the field of view to avoid distracting from what really matters?"

On the other hand...(you knew there would be a contrary thought, of course) sometimes the point of an image is a pattern, a symmetry or a break from symmetry, or even a competition between two elements.  Or three.

I think, so far, that what I tried this afternoon works pretty well.  I was drawn to the pattern of fallen red leaves that were interspersed with green/blue-green ivy.  A clump of green tree leaves sticking up from the "carpet" seemed like a suitable subject, but one that needed to remain integrated with the pattern, and not completely dominate the scene.  I decided also to include the sun, which was very near the local horizon created by the hill.  So, I set things up as you see, and to me, it keeps my eyes moving about between the competing elements of leaves and sun, and following the lines in the pattern on the ground.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Three Falling Leaves

Okay, photo-sleuths, here's an easy puzzle for you:
How was this image accomplished?  There was no use of Photoshop or any other image editing program to add, subtract, or move elements.  So was it just an amazingly well timed catch?

[Canon 5D Mk III, 35 mm, f/2, 1/30 sec, ISO 640]


Eight minutes for photography

When people learn that I'm a professional symphony violinist, they often ask "how much do you practice?"  This can mean "how often does your orchestra rehearse", "how long do rehearsals last", or "how many hours a day do you (as an individual) practice?"  The answers vary a lot, and rather than address them here and now, I'm going to suggest that a serious pursuit of photography can also benefit from a routine that includes practice.

Practicing instrumental music involves some physical training, and in the case of the violin, a certain amount of maintenance of strength and limberness in many groups of muscles and tendons.  However, the most important part of it is mental, the continued development of control over what the body does, the "internalization" of things that begin as awareness and conscious decisions, but become automatic, ready to be utilized in the pursuit of musical art.

So, does that sound like something that would apply to wielding a camera?  To some degree, it does, perhaps in two ways.  First is the practice of physical control over the device, knowing how to set things a certain way without stopping to think, and knowing where the controls are well enough to make many adjustments without looking away from the subject.

Second is in the practice of seeing things with imagination and clarity.  This is something that we can develop by using our eyes and our minds in the study of art, whether paintings in a museum, sculpture in a park, architecture in a city, or the natural beauty of a tree (or a bird, a person, etc.!) - essentially, trying to see more in what surrounds us.

Obviously, one can practice seeing under many circumstances while technically engaged in another job or activity.  However, for me it is really helpful to actually have a camera in my hands at least a few times a week, if not every day.  Sometimes the available time is truly minimal, like yesterday, when I glanced at a clock and decided I could spare maybe ten minutes to play with the last of the autumn leaves in the yard.  Checking the image exif that night, I found a span of 8 minutes from the first photo to the last.  Not much practice, but when I was done, I felt refreshed, confident again that I was keeping myself sharp.  I even like a few of the shots that resulted.

Ziva watched the whole thing from inside.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Six Faces of Leaves

Here are six views of the autumn leaves in one area, within a few minutes.  As I've done before, I'll point out how much the changing sunlight can dramatically alter an image.  But first, I want to drop in one iPhone shot from a little earlier in the day.  Walking through the woods with Ziva, I found these mushrooms almost hidden in the leaves by the side of the path.

That's one type of photo where a phone can do a very creditable job.  On the other hand, the images that follow would have had no interest for me if I'd shot them with a phone or other small format camera.  What I used was a Canon DSLR with a 300 mm lens, which meant I could isolate elements I wanted to feature, and effectively create complementary backgrounds out of things that could have been distracting.  The camera also could handle the wide range of bright and dark tones so that I could play with them and make the designs work.

Note how one group of leaves was struck by a sunbeam and stood out in the next photo.

A moment later, the light path had shifted and that beam was blocked by something in the canopy.  With an adjustment of the composition, the changed lighting gave me another picture that I liked.

After concentrating on the sunlit scenes above, I did a shot of a grouping near my eye level.