Week 34: Birds of a Feather | 2017 Project 52

Birds of a feather… this week was a tricky theme. When I did some research online, all that came up was birds. I’m not good at nature photography so I didn’t even want to try to photograph birds. I wanted to think outside the box. And started making a list of things I was doing that week I should tote my camera to in case inspiration struck.

Company meeting. Check.

Dinner with friends and their look-a-like sons. Check.

Parents dinner. Check.

Eclipse on Monday. Check check check.

birds of a feather

Settings: f/4.0, 1/125 sec, 35mm, ISO 2000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

A group of us from the office walked across the street to the top of a park garage. We figured there would be less obstructions from buildings and fewer people — we were right. Several of had glasses to pass around. I actually brought Mike’s welding mask with me and viewing the eclipse from it was completely different. It was sharper than using the glasses. And green. But being up there with all those people who all wanted to see this once-in-a-lifetime cosmic event happen right at our doorstep… totally fit the theme.

I walked around and took several different frames, but I kept coming back to this one of my teammates. It’s a bit tighter than I’ve been shooting lately, but I really like the layering they naturally created. And you can see more people behind them also looking up into the sky. The light… it got dim, not completely dark but dim in a way that was weird. In Louisville we had 96% coverage, but it was still bright like an overcast day. But still odd to experience midday.

Spending time outside looking up at the sky, watching the moon meet the sun… some say it was underwhelming… but it just makes me question how small we all actually are in the grand scheme of things.


Week 35: Shoot From the Hip
due 08.30.17

“Shoot from the hip” has several meanings, from gunslingers who literally shoot their gun from their hip to “react suddenly or without careful consideration of one’s words or actions.” But it’s also a popular photography technique, especially for street photographers.

If you’re not familiar with the phrase, it basically means leaving your camera at your hip and taking shots without using the viewfinder. Sounds tricky, yes? But in a good way. Because having the camera lower than normal, forcing a new perspective… and creating images that may surprise you. A few things to note before you try shooting from the hip…

1. Set your exposure in advance. Pick an ISO that works in your environment, even if the light is changing, and consider a shutter speed that’s fast enough. It will save you the headache of over or underexposing. Maybe even consider setting your camera to Aperture Preferred so that it will compute your shutter speed for you.

2. Close your aperture down. It’s recommended to use a f/8.0 or higher. Since you won’t be focusing with your eyes, but more with your hands, it’s good to stop down and make sure you have more of your scene in focus.

3. Use autofocus. I always use autofocus, but this is technique really requires it. So even if it’s not usually your jam, at least try.

4. Keep your camera at your hip and your eyes up exploring. Seriously, wear your camera strap around your neck and keep the camera body at your hip. When a scene catches your eye, turn your body toward it, aiming your lens while it fires. DO NOT look through the viewfinder. This exercise is meant to try something new and see if you can explore without your focused eye.

There are more links below to explain shooting from the hip in more detail, but I urge you to explore. There are days when walking back to my car after work, I hang my camera around my neck and end up with such interesting photos. Don’t worry about being perfect — just pick the photo that speaks to your heart the most. And if you’re on social media, hashtag your photo with #shootfromthehip.

How to Shoot From the Hip
Shoot From the Hip Tutorial
Shooting From the Hip in Street Photography
Street Photography: Shooting From the Hip

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Week 33: Leading Lines | 2017 Project 52

I felt like this theme was made for me this week. I had plans to visit with my niece and do some senior photos (SENIOR PHOTOS?!?! WAHHHH!!!) and I knew we’d find some areas near her home that would offer up some nice leading lines.

When it comes to portraits, leading lines are great composition for making the image more interesting so even if this wasn’t our prompt, there would have been several lines leading to my Emily. I just got lucky. And this wasn’t planned, I promised. It’s just how the cookie crumbled.

We had a few different ones to choose from and this is my “leading lines” choice:

Settings: f/2.8, 1/4000 sec, 50mm, ISO 1000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF50mm f/1.2L USM

This kid. Gah. She’s my brother’s oldest and made me an aunt. Which if you aren’t an aunt, I’m here to tell you it’s the best thing ever. Ever ever. But being an aunt to Emily was the easiest. And I can’t believe she’s 17 (WAHHHH!!!) and already a senior in high school. I picture her as my little red-haired midget with a tiny voice yelling up the stairs “Aunt Book-uh-nay! Come pay wit me!” (Brooke Renee is a mouthful for the littles.) But here she is.

Emily’s smart. Beautiful. Creative. Humble. Lovable. Hard-working. Imaginative. Just the thought of this girl makes me smile. I look forward to learning more about what she has planned for the future, what new ways she wants to push herself and grow. And I really want to go on a photo walk with her and our cameras; she’s quite the photographer at school and helps with the yearbook… and may have even won a little award earlier this spring for her work.

I love my Emily to the moon and back two times over. And all the lines that lead to her. ♥


Week 34: Birds of a Feather
due 08.23.17

They say “birds of a feather flock together”… or do they?

This week’s theme has a lot of exploration and can be interpreted however the photographer likes. But consider the phrase birds of a feather… does an image come to mind? Do you picture actual birds? Or several things or people who are similar? Or do you think of the opposite, a subject that sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to the ordinary?

Really think about the phrase. Do some online searches for other words that come to mind — find inspiration from others on Flickr. Write down your ideas and try a few of them out. Carry your camera with you, push through any fears you may have and shoot with your heart. Anything goes.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

The Oldham County Fair

The county fair has been a tradition of ours since we moved to Oldham County. We meet up with friends from college, their kiddos in tow, and enjoy what it all has to offer. The rides. The fried food. The petty zoos. The cotton candy. The kettle corn. And usually end the night with some kind of vehicular competition.

With the kids getting taller, rides are more fun — some are more brave than others… some act tough at first and then melt when realization sets in… but it’s still fun. ;) We had a smaller group this year (why people take summer vacations is beyond me), but we still enjoyed spending time together. I think only one of us had ever attended a tractor pull before, so that was new. (Nothing out-does the series of events that unfolded prior to the demolition derby in 2015… that day will live down in infamy. You can read more about that here.)

I had my camera in hopes of catching some fun shots of the kids, the group and all the colors a fair has to offer. I wasn’t even close to take the number of images I took last year (I was in full documentary approach workshop mode and was determined to have a perfect photo essay to share with my classmates) and I do believe my 50mm lens limited me a bit, but I did walk away with some favorites this year.

Note to self: the 35mm is your favorite. Don’t change it up thinking it’ll be a good idea. Just take the 35mm.

But these people are my tribe. This county fair is my jam. And these photos make me smile.

Oldham County Fair

Week 32: One Love | 2017 Project 52

When I started thinking about our “one love” theme and letting my heart lead me this week, I decided two things: 1) I was going to shoot everything that made me squint into thought and 2) I was keeping my 50mm lens on my camera.

When I got my first camera, I carried it with me everywhere. To work, to dinners with friends, to people’s houses, to parties and events — I took SO MANY PICTURES and gave no effs what anyone thought about it. And while I look back on a lot of those pictures and can see things I would do differently now, I’m glad I did this. It forced me to get comfortable with the idea of trying and failing, with finding my way around the camera, to developing a style of my own. And now I can see how far I’ve come as a photographer.

Now, why the 50mm? For the past year my 35mm has been glued to my camera, but my first 50mm — a nifty little 50mm f/1.8 from Canon — was where I had my “a-has!” years ago. I remember the first picture I took with it that made me pause. It was of my dog Chase, we were in our backyard and she’s looking back at me — I may have gone on to over-edit the photo, but with this shot I finally began to understand how my camera and light worked together. Paired with my cropped sensor camera, the 50mm was actually more of a zoom to about 75mm, so there was a lot to figure out. Like, stepping back some. But the pieces began to come together and I got smarter.

This week I’ve photographed my evening walk to my car, a waffle experiment, some beautiful heirloom tomatoes a coworker grew in her garden, Mike cooking dinner, and our tribe at the Oldham County Fair. You know where I’m going with this week’s photo, don’t you?

 

Settings: f/4.0, 1/320 sec, 50mm, ISO 100
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF50mm f/1.2L USM

Just like old times — and just like last year — I toted my big ass camera all over the Oldham County Fairgrounds. My friends have grown to be comfortable in front of my camera and with their kids growing so fast (and kids being so fun to photograph), this is an easy choice to make. I look like an idiot with my hands full of a camera instead of corn dogs and straps slung across my body every which way, but it makes me happy. My only regret this year was that I had left that 50mm lens on the camera — the 35mm would have been so much better for this setting — but that was rule this week. I made it work as much as I could.

When the kids get on rides, I take a few frames when they circle around to us. And I usually get a few nice ones that are keepers. But this photo of Tanner… be still my heart. His smile is one of pure almost-four-year-old joy, he is having the time of his life in that little airplane and he’s actually looking at me. (He’s quite shy and usually refuses a picture. I got a lot of the back of his head this night.) As soon as I got this photo, I swear I felt my heart swell.

THAT is the reason why I carry my camera. To clarify, it’s not about the subject; it’s about how it makes me feel once I’ve got “the shot.” This week’s picture could had easily been of a tomato or a flower or a self-portrait or of more rust – it just happened to be of Tanner. But that feeling, that split-second of joy and pride at once, when I can walk away and be satisfied to not take another picture all night… THAT is my one love.


Week 33: Leading Lines
due 08.16.17

We’ve composed with lines a few times already this year with curves and framing, but this week we’re making it simple: leading lines. Leading lines are a composition that allows you to guide the viewer’s eyes through your image to the subject, but they can be as simple or complicated as you want. Find lines in nature or man-made settings, have them stretch all the way through your frame or layer them in the foreground of your image. Just remember you are guiding the viewer’s eye, so consider where your line begins and ends, and how you frame the entire story.

You can find lines all around you, so find something that inspires you. I’ve included some links this week too in case you needed more guidance.

How to Use Leading Lines for Better Compositions
Jim Zuckerman on Composition of Leading Lines
How to Use Leading Lines to Create More Powerful iPhone Photos (applies to all photography!)

Bonus Challenge: Composition can help a photograph tell a better story in documentary photography. When learning more about leading lines in my workshop last year, we were told, “Don’t just look with your eyes, look through your viewfinder as well. Having limitations of the frame can make ‘seeing’ the lines much easier.” I challenge you to “size up” your lines through your viewfinder and really consider if it’s a strong composition before you press the shutter button.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Bake | On The Menu

Y’all. I made a killer dinner last week. Like, so good I shared it with friends at work because 1) I made a heaping ton of it and 2) I knew Mike wouldn’t eat it. And I want to make it again. I’ve dreamed about it. I’ve talked about it nonstop. I love me some Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Bake.

cajun shrimp and quinoa bake

This is not my recipe — I found it while searching for a fun casserole recipe because what screams “I need a casserole!” more than 98° temps outside? But I was in the mood and when I saw it, I knew it was the one. So this whole experiment is thanks to This Gal Cooks.

I had never cooked quinoa before. I’ve eaten it plenty of times… have had some really badly done quinoa too, so I was afraid I’d eff it up. But I followed the directions and thanks to the gentle reminder of my friend Tricia, I treated it like I do my rice: cooked it in chicken broth. The quinoa was good enough to alone. Actually, several bites were taken while the rest of this was cooking. I will be cooking with it more often, mark my words.

But this dish has the right balance of… everything. With the quinoa and juicy shrimp, fresh tomatoes and garlic, and a bit of kick with a jalapeño and cajun spices… my goodness, I just want to put my face into again!

The only thing I didn’t follow the recipe on was the cheese. I didn’t have fontina cheese. So I improvised with whatever brick of white cheese we had in the fridge — and I didn’t use much at all. I also forgot to salt and pepper… but there’s so much flavor with the cajun seasoning that it covered up that little mishap. But even still, this gets five out of five stars from this gal.

If you’d like to get the recipe for this Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Bake, you’ll have to visit This Gal Cooks‘ blog — but she has a handy-dandy printable recipe at the bottom of the page. If you like, be sure to leave her a comment and rate her recipe too! (I did. Bloggy love is a real thing, people. Especially when it feeds me.)

And take my advice: Add some chicken or vegetable stock to the quinoa water to add even more flavor. If you don’t have chicken stock, chicken base or dissolving bouillon cubes in water does the trick too. Oh, and don’t skimp and get frozen shrimp. Nah… bad plan. Pony up for the fresh ones. It’s worth it, I promise.