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26 February 2003 — Field Trips (6)

Our photography class met for two field trips during the past ten days. These trips gave me a chance to make photographs outside my normal stomping grounds. The images I created are uneven at best, but I'm generally pleased with my progress. I'm learning to shoot more film, to take the time to be creative when composing an image, and to watch for the unexpected.

Mac and I arrived early for our Sunday-morning field trip to the east bank of the Willamette River. We'd hoped to shoot some shots at sunrise, but the overcast skies spoiled our plans. Though I didn't produce many images I liked, I learned a lot.

Here are three of the photos I took that Sunday. The first is a semi-distorted wide-angle shot of Mac and Warren, our instructor. The middle image is from a series that I made of a warehouse. The final image shows Portland -- and the Hawthorne Bridge -- at dawn.

[Mac and Warren]  [A geometric warehouse]  [Downtown Portland at dawn]

The Thursday evening field trip to downtown Portland was much more exciting. I had't done much night photography before, and I was worried that the yellowness of the lighting would ruin my photographs. Most of my photos were of objects in store windows, though, and the light wasn't much of an issue. The photolab was able to correct for any yellowness that occurred.

Two of the images that I like best from this trip are of open areas. The first is the courtyard at Trinity Episcopal Church in northwest Portland, the second is brickwork in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

[Trinity Episcopal Church courtyard at dusk]  [Light on the bricks at Pioneer Courthouse Square]

The most exciting part of Thursday's field trip was the opportunity to shoot human forms. Note that I say 'human forms' and not humans. We stopped in front of a shop window filled with mannequins. I lingered much longer than the rest of the class and was left behind (as Mac has learned, it takes me a l-o-n-g time to compose an image). I didn't care. I'm pleased with the results:

[Mannequin with pearl necklace]  [Mannequin with hot pink feather boa]  [Mannequin against green wall]

After viewing the images of the mannequins, I decided to try my hand with real, living human beings. Kris and I had dinner with Cari and Chris (and Kaden and Emma) on Saturday, and the children obliged me and my camera.

I learned a valuable lesson: if your composition is good, if you're getting close, if you're using lots of film -- none of it matters if the quality of the light is poor.

Because it was dark and I wasn't using tungsten balanced film, I decided to use my camera's flash. As these photos indicate, this was a bad move:

[Emma Bacon-Flick]  [Emma Bacon-Flick]  [Kaden Christopher Flick]  [Kaden Christopher Flick]  [Kaden Christopher Flick]

I would have been better served by making due with the room's incandescent light.

As my relationship with Canby's Quickstop Photo develops, they're learning as much as I am. They ran some tests for me using the various color filters in their processing equipment, and Tom (the fellow who helps me) found the results were instructive for him, too.

Tom told me that most photolabs aren't able to make prints from the entire negative frame; in landscape view, some information at the top and bottom of the frame is lost while making the print. I have two photographs that I'd like except that they're clipped at the top. A check of the negatives revealed that the framing of these photos does allow for a margin in the image. I challenged Tom to produce prints for me that didn't feature clipped ends, and though it was difficult (and expensive), he succeeded. The old images are on the left, the new images are on the right:

[Original image]  [Little white flowers]

[Original image]  [Simon climbs a ladder]

I feel my photography skills have improved during the past six weeks, but the amount of knowledge still to be acquired seems daunting. Still, I'm enjoying myself, and feel challenged, and that's all that matters, right?

This is probably the lamest metafilter post ever. Metafilter used to be a great site, but it's become a gigantic warblog. And not a good one. I'm not ready to stop reading it yet, but I'm damn close.

On this day at foldedspace.org

2005Seventeen   I've been lukewarm about 'Lost' until now. The most recent episode, though, was simply outstanding.

2004Two Boors   Two semi-fictional character sketches. These are based on real people, though the details are not wholly factual.

2002Insomnia   It's late on Tuesday and I can't get to sleep. This happens from time to time, generally after I've had too much caffeine or after I've napped during the day. Neither of those happened today, so I'm not sure why I can't fall asleep.

On 26 February 2003 (01:48 AM), Jace said:

I have been keeping up with the tales from your photography classes and all I have to say today is WOW. These are some of the best photos I've seen from you. The last one of the cat is just wonderful. How did you ever manage to get that pose? And his color really goes well with the siding. It's just fabulous. The others are equally good. The composition is just perfect each time. Who cares how long it takes when you can get results like these?


On 26 February 2003 (01:50 AM), Jace said:

P.S What film do you find yourself using most often?

On 26 February 2003 (08:45 AM), J.D. said:

Thanks for the kind words, Jace. I feel that my work is improving as I gain experience, but there's still a lot to learn before I'm producing the kind of images you do. Still, it's fun to try!

The last one of the cat is just wonderful. How did you ever manage to get that pose?


That photograph was actually taken last spring, but the photolab only recently printed it to my satisfaction. One morning, the five shop cats were climbing a ladder outside my office and making quite a ruckus. I grabbed my camera and climbed to the roof and snapped shots of them going up and down. Silly cats. The shot in question is pure luck. I was waiting for it, of course, but it's handheld (I didn't have a tripod back then), and the cat is in motion. I was lucky to have the framing work so precisely. And with such a small depth-of-field, I was lucky to get the cat's eyes in focus.

What film do you find yourself using most often?

I'm mostly using Fuji Superia films, but that's only because it's readily available in a small town like Canby (and I don't want to use Kodak MAX). I've been experimenting with many different films, looking for one that I like, one which can give me consistent results.

Of the current photos:

  • the first image is on Kodak High Definition 400, a relatively new film
  • the second and third images are on Fuji Superia 400
  • the five night images are all on Kodak Portra 400 VC, a portrait film (designed to give natural skin tones) that is meant to produce vibrant colors
  • the photos of the children are on Fuji Superia 400
  • the photo of the flowers is on Fuji Superia 400
  • I have no idea what film was used for the cat photo -- I didn't record that information until I started taking this class.
I seem to prefer warm colors and tones. Though I've used a lot of Fuji film, it tends to produce cooler colors in the final images. As a result, I'm going to try Kodak films for a while. I'd love to be able to afford more of their Portra film, but it's three times as expensive as the regular stuff.

On 26 February 2003 (09:24 AM), joelah said:

Yeah, that cat shot is great (probably somewhat due to that "human interest" element), but I like the shot of the warehouse- a bit of a departure with its cooler colors and... I'm not sure of the term I want, but it doesn't rely on a coy angle.

On 26 February 2003 (03:33 PM), Virginia said:

The cat; One more step and he'll make it to the top. J. D.; A few more steps and he'll not be far behind. Like the cat, keep reaching for the top and you'll make it. When are you going to give me photo lessons? I've been tempted to try Kodak again. Somehow even though I've done good with Fuji, I think Kodak might render a little more zip. I shoot mainly slide film and for that I shoot Fuji Velvia, 50 ASA.

On 26 February 2003 (05:45 PM), J.D. said:

Completed upgrade to Movable Type 2.63 -- testing installation.

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