Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Project 52: Shot 29

A Goodbye (July 12, 2016)

If you read this blog post from February, you know that I put Moochie down earlier this year. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in Point Loma. So when we were in the San Diego area earlier this summer, I wanted to go take some photos of his final resting place and try to get some closure. 

Things didn't start out well. We drove down to some cliffs where the water and waves were crashing and splashing on the rocks. While I love the ocean and admit that this was a spectacular display of its force and power, this was NOT the peaceful resting place that I had envisioned for Moochie. As we moved higher, the sound of the crashing waves diminished but it was replaced by a pretty forceful wind. Again, NOT the image of peace and serenity that I was looking for. 

I actually began to get a little upset at the idea of Moochie--the cat who was fascinated with water until my ex-husband and I tried to give him a bath--being there. It wasn't until we drove a little higher up and climbed two hills that I was finally able to get my shot and find the peace I was looking for. 

What I like about this shot is that you can see the water, but not the waves. I also love the hill and trees. This shot is a little more like what Randy showed me the day we put Moochie down when I asked him what Point Loma was like. Seeing those photos made me feel better about having Moochie's ashes scattered there and taking this shot made me feel the same way.

Project 52: Shots 27 and 28

Tell the Story of a Landscape. Now Put a Person in It. How does the Story Change? (July 3, 2016) 


Earlier this summer, the boyfriend and I got in the car and headed for Mt. Baldy. I figured it would be the perfect place to take this set of shots, but I wasn't pleased with any of my landscapes until we pulled off the road and walked (read: slid) down into what I imagine used to be a river or a creek. What I love about the initial "landscape" is that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel created by trees. Once I added the person, the story becomes one of emerging into the light. 

My other attempts at this shot didn't have what I felt were impressive landscapes and then having Randy so close in the foreground lessened the impact  even more. I'm pleased with this final product because the landscape is still telling the story and adding the person doesn't silence or mute it.

Let the Shadows Tell the Story (July 3, 2016)

I have been trying to find shadows that tell a story since May. What I like about these shadows is that they show how the power of light. No matter how tall these trees are, light will always filter through their leaves and illuminate the river or creek that I believe was once here.   

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lego Gone Girly

When I was a little girl, I had--what I believe--was an impressive collection of the Lego Castle system. The bricks were gray and black in--what I imagine--was an attempt to make them look realistic. I LOVED spending an afternoon going through the entire process of building one or more sets. Looking back now, it is possible that I exhibited some OCDish tendencies early on: I would never build a castle until I had first sorted all the bricks. The joy of following the directions to ultimately build the structure was second to the elation I felt after successfully sorting all the bricks into nice, neat, little piles.

In addition to my Castle Lego collection,  I also had a giant blue case that had a random assortment of bricks and people. Basically, I kept all my non-castle Lego sets in there. It was just a hodge-podge mess of green base plates and red, yellow, green, blue, and white bricks. And flowers. (Those Lego flowers really added a little je ne sais quoi to my creations.) 

I have to admit that the first time I saw Lego being marketed to girls, I bristled a little. I didn't need Lego bricks in "girly" colors. Then I saw this:

Initially, I was outraged. Decades of gender-coding have resulted in this Frozen Lego set. Does everything have to be gender-coded? If kids won't play with something because of its color, then there is something wrong with that. And yes, I interpret that as an indicator that we are failing as a society. 

Maybe I'm guilty of it too. For a while I was maintaining two gym bags: A pink one that had my pink and purple gym clothes and a blue one that had my black and blue gym clothes. Each one had Nike tennis shoes that would match everything in the respective bag. In my defense, I never thought of them as my girl and boy bags though. It was just always convenient to work out of one bag each week while washing the clothes in the other. The different-colored bags to match the clothes . . . well, there is a saying that goes "Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world." I say give that girl a matching bag!

That Lego catalog sat on my dining room table for a while and I just kept thinking about it every time I saw it. The more I thought about it though, the more I began to soften and see it differently. I love pink and purple. I didn't as a little girl, but if the woman I am today were a little girl, she would love to have so many colors to choose from in her giant Lego brick. Yes, kids today get to store their Lego bricks in awesome, giant, Lego-shaped boxes. They are so lucky--not just because of their cute, clever storage options, but because they have more colors to choose from when building. As a classroom teacher, I always wanted my kids to have as many options as possible when it came to building their futures. Sadly, I know there is no correlation between the number of Lego color options available and future success. I know that many kids with big dreams today will grow up and still face limited options as they enter adulthood tomorrow. I also know this is especially true for some girls and that breaks my heart.

Today I applaud Lego for what they are doing. "Girls" is now a category on the Lego website. Maybe some cynics out there will see it as a way to increase sales. If pink and purple bricks thrown into the mix, get more girls playing with Lego sets and building, then I'm for it. Why shouldn't a girl have to build her dream house before she plays house? Why should she have to rely on someone (notice I didn't say "man") to give it to her? If building a hair salon inspires a girl to want to run her own business someday, I'm for it. And the White House comes up under the Girls category too. 


If the Frozen set above is the gateway to future building, then I'm for it. Build on, girls. Build on.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Project 52: Shot 26

A Sad Moment You Want to Remember (June 29, 2016)

My grandmother passed away on December 31st, 2015. Those of you who know me well know the role she played in my life and the impact she had on it. We buried her at the beginning of the year and when I started this project, I knew right away that I wanted this shot to somehow be about Mami Tere. I also knew it would probably be my most difficult one--not technically, but emotionally. I haven't been back to her grave since the day we buried her, but I knew I would have to go if I wanted this shot.

I wanted this picture to match the emotion of the moment we buried her, and in my head, I imagined using flowers to create something beautiful and artistic. I chose a small bouquet of roses because Mami Tere would take me to offer flowers to the Virgin Mary when I was a little girl. Unfortunately, one of the first things I noticed when I got to the cemetery is that it didn't look the way I remembered it: the dreariness of that cloudy, winter morning had been replaced by the brightness of a sunny, summer afternoon. As a result, my photos were too bright and too green. My memories of that day are dark and gray so I knew this was going to require some work in Lightroom. My cousin, Alan, had passed along some tips--and I tried them--but I still wasn't getting the effect I wanted. What I wanted was a black and white shot with only the flowers in color. So I Googled it and after watching two videos, this is what I was able to come up with. 

I'm happy with this shot. I feel the black and white captures the sadness of the original moment, and the color represents the love and positive memories that are left behind when someone passes. (Patrick Swayze's words from Ghost in this scene have always brought me comfort regarding that.) There is a good chance I will look back at this shot six months from now and shudder at how bad it is based on my future knowledge and skills, but as I look back at my photos so far, I think it's a good first: my first time knowing how I wanted a shot to ultimately look and being able to achieve that as opposed to just clicking various presets until I find one that makes me say "I think that looks good. I'll do that."

You may or may not have noticed the number of this shot: 26. I'm halfway done with my challenge!

And in case you're wondering where I got the flowers . . . I went to the Urban Florist on Mountain, and I wouldn't include a link if I wasn't happy with their service. =)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thoughts and Shots: June 28, 2016

Yesterday, I went to the La Brea Tar Pits and despite the fact that I took my camera, I only took 11 shots. I am still really self-conscious about taking out my camera and shooting. I think I need to grow a pair of balls the size of this Columbian mammoth:
I love this shot. It was the first one I took and I consider it my best one of the day. I like the shape of the tusks and how I managed to shoot through them. It's what I was attempting to do in my Shoot Through Something shot for my Project 52.

There are two things I remember about my previous trip to the Tar Pits during elementary school: 1) how hard it would be to pull myself out of tar and 2) these mammoths outside:
My original shot of this iconic scene felt too trite initially.  I tried to make my own statement with the editing by cropping out the male. I learned that males wouldn't even spend time with the herd except when mating. That really resonated with me so I decided to have the focal points be the female trapped in the tar and her baby. Take a closer look at her baby. (Click on the photo to make it bigger. Go ahead. I'll wait.) Look at that anguish as he (or she!) calls out. Now look at the male again. Look at how the imminent danger doesn't really seem to register with him. That's why I cropped most of his ass out.

The day was hazy so I wasn't able to capture as much blue sky as I would have liked in this shot:
Now, I know you're not supposed to have your subjects centered because it makes your picture less interesting, BUT I'm pretty sure you're allowed to break that rule occasionally. Plus when I was editing, I found a crop overlay that was a more narrow version of the rule of thirds. The trees lined up fairly perfectly so I think it works. 

I feel like I'm starting to get a little better at editing in Lightroom. One of the things I'm having a hard time with though is making more than one version of a photo. For example, take my first shot in this post: I edited it, exported it, and shared it on Facebook. Then I decided I wanted it in black and white for my staircase photo display. You can't really make "copies" of photos in Lr (or maybe you can and I just don't know how) so I ended up looking at the history of my edits and going back to before I applied the filter. I then applied a black and white filter and exported it again. Is this the right way to do this? I don't know. Should I stop worrying about the "right way" to do things? Probably.

I guess it helps to think of my photos in Lightroom as drafts, perpetual rough drafts that are only final when I export them. And even then, they can always be reworked and exported again. I guess it's like writing. When I think of it that way, it starts to make sense.

[Update: I just learned how to make a photo black and white in Lightroom without any filters. I don't know if doing that first would have had any kind of an impact on the mammoth shot or my Dynamic Black and White shot though. Oh well. The more I learn, the less I know, right?] 

Project 52: Shots 24-25

Details (June 25, 2016)

My boyfriend and I recently took his son to the Santa Monica pier. We had tickets to see Finding Dory at the El Capit├ín later that evening, but riding the Expo Line to Santa Monica was a game time decision. Apparently, we were not the only ones who had that idea on this day.

I took this shot from one end of the pier and I'm pleased with how it came out. I used the golden spiral crop overlay when I was editing it which I don't get to use very often so I was excited. I realize there is a lot going on, but I think that's the point.

Dynamic Black and White (June 25, 2016) 

I have been trying to get this shot for a while now. I don't know why it's been so hard. Maybe because it required me to imagine the shot in black and white while taking it in color. Or maybe because it's supposed to be dynamic, but I tend to think of photos as static moments that are frozen in time. Looking back now, maybe dynamic and static aren't mutually exclusive when it comes to photography. 

Seeing the waves crashing along the posts of the pier and the white spray against the darkness of the area underneath made me think this would translate well into black and white. I had some shots without the people and rides but I used this one because I felt they added context to the shot and made it more dynamic. Plus when I was editing it, I used an overlay that had a bunch of triangles and both the waves on the bottom left and rides on the top right lined up where they were supposed to according to the guide.

This is one of the first shots where my finished product is relatively close to what I was imagining in my head before even taking it. 

Project 52: Shot 23

A Treasure (June 12, 2016)

This photo was taken in the desert. People who don't know my girlfriends and me very well think "we're going to the desert" means we're going camping in the middle of a desolate, barren wasteland. Nope. To us, a desert trip means relaxation, food, and shopping.

These trips always begin with charcuterie upon arrival. The treasure in this shot is not the collection of cheese and processed meats you see before you. It is my friendships with the women who consume the aforementioned cheese and meats. The women who let me drive and keep me laughing the whole time. The women who let me indulge my need to eat every three hours. The women who know every store along Highway 111. I have known these women for over a decade now and I plan on keeping them around when I retire. I'm thankful that this photo project allowed me to capture them in this way.

Yes. We love cheese and processed meats.