Friday, March 6, 2015

February Photo Project, Part 5--Photo Faves

I saved the best for last. Leave a comment on which is/are your favorite. I'd love to hear.

Rain on an orchid blossom

Heavy with blossoms


Baby buds at sunrise

Popcorn at sundown

The light hit our rosebush just right one afternoon. I learned how much aperture to use to get just the right amount of focus for the shots I wanted. That soft buttery light haloed the white roses.

These may be my favorites from the whole project. A tree in our yard has been slowing dying over the past few years from a bore infestation. These photos are of the sap on the bark. (These were taken on the same rare foggy morning I talked about yesterday. It filtered the light in a way that made the sap look like gems along the trunk of the ailing tree.)

Spring is reaching an end here in Arizona. A few trees are lagging behind the curve, but mostly it's over. Our short spring will inevitably rush to summer and linger there way too long.

I'm so glad I took the time behind the lens to capture some of its beauty. I learned many lessons about composition, light, editing, and storytelling. Most importantly, I learned that I have so much to learn about photography--gaining the skills to capture more than a few lucky shots.

I have a new project underway for March, and I can't wait to see what I learn this time around.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

February Photo Project, Part 4--Stories

I've read about photographers doing daily themed photo shoots and how they learned so much . . . blah, blah, blah. Guess what? They were right. Not every photo was spectacular, but I learned a lot in one month.
I wanted some of my photos to tell the story of spring. Some were almost a time lapse of how it progressed, while others I hoped would tell a story all on their own.

All of these weren't very successful at telling the story I wanted to tell. It's never over 80% humidity in AZ if it's not raining, but it was one day in February. Swinging is difficult to photograph, and although the bird of paradise is beautiful, you can't see the spider or its webs unless you look for them.
Here are a few that I thought worked.

This one was taken the same morning as the 80% humidity photo. We actually had FOG in Mesa that morning.
Another valuable lesson I learned from shooting photos all month was that time away gives you a more objective eye on the photo. Sometimes I would get them on the computer screen and cringe at what I saw and delete, delete, DELETE! Then, when I went back through to compile and edit them, I found that they weren't as bad as I thought they were (or vice versa). This chicken photo is one I like more as time goes on because it preserves the quiet of that morning and I remember how it felt to sit in the fog for a few minutes.

One afternoon, Hyrum threw open the front door: "Mom! There's a balloon in our neighborhood!"
 I couldn't decide which shot and processing I like better.
This photo tells an idyllic childhood story--spring on the grass with your siblings, swinging and watching the world go by. It's not completely in focus, and the shot isn't everything I'd hoped it would be when I took it, but I think it still conveys what I was trying to express.

The more I look at it, the more I like the one with both kids in it. Which would you choose?

Lessons learned on story photos:

  • Take time away from them to be a more objective judge
  • Stories may be difficult to capture, but you may get a shot that you like better than what you'd planned (the ring from the swing set)
  • Pull back and enjoy the moment, see how it feels, then start shooting

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

February Photo Project, Part 3--Light

I decided at the beginning of the month that I would take at least one photo every day to record the birth of spring. I think I missed three days all month, and when I would go to bed, I would be sad that I had missed my opportunity.

What I learned most from this monthlong photography project was about how light affects the mood and the quality of a photo.

February afternoon light is magical and fleeting--pixie dust must be made during this hour every day. Everything the light touches goldens and becomes more beautiful. Sometimes I was able to translate that in the photo, and other times, I was unsuccessful (like in the upper left photo). I still don't fully understand why, but I'm working on it.
Some subjects bring their own light--like the upper right photo--but its uniqueness didn't work in the photo. The photo that didn't work of the tree above was much better when taken from a different angle with different lighting (top left, below). Placement of light in front of or behind the subject also made a difference.

I love the silhouette picture above. That elm tree just began to sprout its leaves and is currently covered with teenage green peach fuzz. The new leaves catch the afternoon light. My shot couldn't capture that moment very well.

But silhouetted against a stormy spring sky? Yeah. That works.
And the best light of the day? Sunset. Arizona has the most consistently beautiful and vivid sunsets of anywhere I've ever been.

It's so much easier to capture great light on still subjects. I hope I can adapt what I've learned from plants and apply it to the people in my life.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

February Photo Project, Part 2--Depth of Field

One of the most important things I learned as a photographer over the course of this month is that I've got a ton to learn, and taking a bad photo teaches you more than taking a dozen pretty good ones can.

This one, for example. I wanted to show how much fun they were having on the swings, but I just couldn't capture the shot. I tried a smaller aperture, faster/slower shutter speed, but nothing worked. Too much movement. Too unpredictable.
This one is a little better, but I wanted to have Evie in focus--not the ring--and I couldn't do it.
Here are a few shots of spring blossoms. I had always thought that the widest aperture would yield the best bokeh effects and guide the eye effectively. I discovered that 1.8 often leaves much of what you're shooting out of focus and it's difficult to get a good shot. A few of these are like that--especially the one on the bottom left.

 The ash tree--recently revealed from my allergy test to be the source of most of my misery.

These two photos demonstrate depth of field. In the one on the bottom, I didn't use a small enough aperture to get all the leaves (and the cursed pollen balls) in focus. The one on the top has the cursed pollen ball and the sidewalk both in focus.
This photo was an accident. I don't know how many shots I took of this leaf--maybe ten?

I was trying to focus on the elephant ear philodendron, but the leaf is uneven and has a huge depth of field. as I adjusted the aperture for the afternoon light, I had to go much deeper than I initially thought, but I was able to get the leaf in focus and the rocks still out of focus.
I don't know why I like this shot--maybe because ti is a summary of spring in AZ--lots of planting and digging and maintaining. This hole was dug to find a broken sprinkler pipe.
Before this month, I would have focused on one of the two shovels, but I was able to get them both and tell a more complete story. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

February Photo Project, Part 1--Progress

This year, we were gifted the most beautiful spring I can remember. Today is March 2nd, and it's the first time ever I can say that Arizona spring is coming "in like a lion." Growing up in Idaho, that meant bitter cold and drifting snow. Today in AZ the wind is ripping the petals from the orchid trees and the rain is rippling the surface of the pool. Wind never blows here. I'm sitting in my office listening to it howl, and I'm taken back to my childhood bedroom--lying in bed and hearing the pine trees whistle and the windows rattle as the wind tore across the valley, always from the west.

I love spring in AZ. (I don't love sneezing all month.)

I decided at the beginning of the month that I would take at least one photo every day to record the birth of spring. I think I missed three days all month, and when I would go to bed, I would be sad that I had missed my opportunity.

I've read about photographers doing daily themed photo shoots and how they learned so much . . . blah, blah, blah. Guess what? They were right. Not every photo was spectacular, but I learned a lot in one month.

My favorite part of this project was documenting how spring marches forward so quickly.

It seemed that each day these canna leaves unfurled a little bit more. See the boys playing football? Kids catch spring fever around here. They are outside every second--shoeless and in shorts--enjoying the weather without needing to splash in the pool.
The rose bushes in our back yard transformed from thorny skeletons to the first green buds of flowers. That all happened in a month? So amazing. 
 My neighbor's flowering pear tree is one of my personal spring traditions. I look at it every morning when I wake up, and when it is covered in white, the light in my bedroom changes. It went from popping with flowers to covered in leaves.
Nothing is more spectacular in the spring than the two orchid trees in our front yard. They are so messy--magenta petals blanket the grass and fill the gutters daily--but they are worth every bit of mess.

A concrete pot just blew over on my patio. Now the rain is running from the gutters.

Welcome, Spring.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Heart Beat

February has been a month of turmoil for me.

So many decisions.

So, so many decisions.

Cabin design, allergies, graduation. 
Is it really time to reserve my robes?

Sick kids, busy kids, confused kids. 
Is this the best choice for them?

Housework, schoolwork, future work. 
Is there something more for me out there?

My heart has been full of busyness, yet it has lacked gratitude and focus. I don't know exactly where the paths are leading right now, and that disquiet makes me uncomfortable.

Patience. Persistence. Perseverance.

One day at a time.
One decision at a time.

In my heart, I will know what I need to do.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Now That's Something You Don't See Every Day

Do you see what I see?
Do you see it?

Can't tell what it is? Let's get closer.
My yoga studio is around the corner from the Arizona Museum of Natural History. This dinosaur has been moved off display, and all the dismembered pieces are on the back porch of the building. I don't know why I think this is so funny, but every time I drive by, I laugh out loud.

It looks like a scene out of Night at the Museum, and the pieces each come together at night and reassemble before he stomps down the street terrorizing the night scene in Mesa, AZ.

That's why you haven't heard about it. There is not night scene in Mesa, AZ.

Let's keep this guy our little secret.