Week 16: Portrait – Movement

Ah, finally, I can breathe.  Did you miss me?  Just as I thought I was going to be able to stay on top of things, finals struck with an iron fist, and things got crazy.  I’m happy to say, however, that I survived, and I’m happy with all of the finals I completed.  Now, I’m just anxiously awaiting my grades…for what seems like an eternity.  But I’m free!

Even with falling behind, I’m happy to say that again, I’ve wound up making something for class that completely fits in with this challenge.  Is that cheating?  I’m gonna go with no 🙂

So for my Alternative Photography class, I’ve been making work that’s about nature the whole semester (don’t worry, I’ll share it with you soon).  As a final project, I really wanted to print larger than the typical 8 1/2″ x 11″ negatives that we’ve been printing, but I knew I had to do something great to make a single print final worthy.  So instead of just taking some photos of flowers or birds, or whatever I’ve been working with, I decided to photograph “mother nature”.  I like how inspired I’ve been feeling these last few weeks.  Cheesy sounding, I know, but it’s been great letting the ideas flow.  So I had this picture in my mind of how I wanted to photograph “her”, and off I went.

Another perk experienced for these finals — I had tons of models!  It was amazing.  Between the three classes, I had eight, one of which, Brittany, I used for this project.  We went to my favorite little stream that I’ve used on a few other occasions, and dressed in white, with curly hair, and the sun setting, it was everything I wanted….almost.

We started shooting, and something just wasn’t quite right.  We tried different angles, and played with the light, but it just wasn’t what I was thinking.  The rocks were killing our feet this time, so we decided that we should just pack up — I had enough to work with, although it wasn’t perfect.  For some reason, she stayed in the water while I got out, and when I turned around to see why she was still standing in the same place, it was perfect – -the sun was setting nearly directly behind her, the air was glowing in that yellow light, and I knew that was it!  So she splashed in the water, again, as she had been before, and after a few composites of splashes, I had this: exactly what I was thinking.

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I would have loved to be finished at this point, to be honest, but I had a lot more work to do.  At least I’m excited about this process, regardless of how busy and crazy finals are.  Originally, I wanted to do a duo-tone, combining cyanotype with Van Dyke, but, nothing is ever easy with me! After a couple of test prints at school, I couldn’t get the first step, cyanotype, to work, so I decided to take everything home, and do it the old fashioned way; with sunlight.

Did I mention the other struggle of printing this image?  Large.  When dealing with 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets of transparencies, that means you’re going to have to piece a bunch together to get a big image.  In this case, I ended up working with 9 negatives to create this one image, lined up, side by side, over and over again, trying to make this as seamless as possible. Luckily, with the help of my boss at the framing shop, I was able to get a large piece of glass and foam core to make things a little easier, but it was still a difficult task.  So on the one sunny day we had last week, outside I ran, trying as quickly as I could to get this complicated negative all lined up.

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baking in the sunshine 🙂

A successful batch of three prints done and on to the next phase.  Since my original idea of duo-tone wasn’t possible at home, I decided to go with another method; toning.  After seeing the prints, I really didn’t want to tone them, because some of the blues and highlights turned out so great, but I thought I should since that’s what I told my professor I was doing.   I’ve done some work with tea toning in the past, but he suggested trying coffee, so I thought what better time to try something new.  After having tried both now, I have to say, I should have stuck with something I tried before, because this coffee method took forever.  However, it did give me the look that I was going for, well, for the most part.  In case you’re wondering how it all works, honestly, there’s a million different methods and toners you can use.  In this case, I went with instant coffee in warm/hot-ish water.  After a pre-soak, I left the print in the coffee bath for about an hour.  After it wasn’t reaching the tone I wanted, I decided to bleach the print, using actual bleach diluted in water.  This isn’t the preferred method of bleaching, because it eats through the paper if you leave it for too long, but it’s what I had, and it works if you keep an eye on it.  So after that was lightened,  I put the print in another coffee bath for about an hour, and there you have it.

I love the strange color that I got from this whole coffee/bleaching process, but I’m also glad that I left a few of the prints alone.  Here’s both of them, so you can tell me, which do you prefer?  I’m still undecided.  Enjoy 🙂

 

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Week 15: Rebirth

Can you believe it?!  I’m all caught up on this challenge!  Who’d a thunk that while amidst the planning of finals and and completing projects that this would be the time I caught up, but here I am.  And I couldn’t be happier to be caught up with a different theme or photo.

Rebirth.  It can mean so many different things in so many different contexts.  It’s a word that has had a particular significance to me over the past two years, so I’m always happy to do some work surrounding this theme.  And even better, it coincided with a project that I was competing for class.  You know I love it when I can hit two birds with one stone!

The project that we had for class surrounded the idea of “constructed reality”, or tableau photography — creating a scene, world, scenario which does not occur naturally, but in a strange way, could possibly happen.  Playing with the border between truth and fiction.  That’s the best explanation I can give for this, because honestly, I had a terrible time thinking of something to do for this project.  The examples my professor gave the class were vast, which was equally helpful and harmful.  Just as I thought I was getting a grasp on what he was asking for, a whole other group of artists would come up which were completely different, and I would be thrown off again.  Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciate the broad overview of example artists he shows us — they have amazing work.  Some of my favorites, which you should go check out, were Duane Michaels, David Hockney, and (this one’s a little creepy) Joel-Peter Witkin.  Three very different styles, three very different conceptual minds, and three equally awesome artists.  So, in wanting to emulate all of them, and not sure how one single idea could encompass that and the parameters of the assignment, I was stuck.

The night before I had to bring in “progress”, I still had nothing.  All day during my classes I was trying to think of something to do for the next day.  I had a bunch of ideas, but nothing feasible this short notice.  Ah, the blight of wanting models in my photographs.  So I dug a little deeper, and this idea came to me, finally.  It was actually something that I had thought of during one of my film photography classes, but for some reason, filed it away in my “will probably never happen” group of photography ideas.  I’m really glad I decided to drudge it up and give it a try.

This whole idea started when I first returned back to school, and was debating leaving my old job and finding something that would actually make me happy.  I wish I could say it was at one of my hardest times, and that things got better from there, but I’m just now starting the incline again.  Even then, however, I would dream about how great life could be, and what it would feel like to let all the stress and drama of my then current life behind.  Flowers and nature have always seemed like a great avenue for me to express a lot of complex ideas, and this project made good use of that.  In correlation with this feeling of wanting a new life, and now revisiting it from a perspective of “rebirth”, along with having gone through some major changes, I wanted to be able to express both the pain and beauty in changes simultaneously.

Although it may be a little unsettling to look at, I really am in love with the result I achieved.  I needed something visceral, raw, an essentially disgusting, to really describe how difficult things have been.  On the other hand, I was dreaming of a new, beautiful life, and since then, have made large strides to work towards it, and wanted an element which would exemplify that sentiment as well.  I chose to place the wound (which was incredibly, surprisingly, easy to make) on my wrist.  I think location is meaningful in itself, as many associate this type of wound with self-harm, and in a sense, living the life I was living was doing exactly that, killing me.  The flower that I chose, Star of Bethlehem, though possessing religious connotations which I didn’t not directly relate to this project, represents all of the things that I imagine this new life, or rebirth, will bring.  Hope, for a better life.  Forgiveness, to myself for not doing this sooner.  Honesty, to stay true to myself.  Innocence and Purity, for all the good, new things, untainted by my previous life.

I love it, and I’m even more excited to keep working on this type of imagery.  I’ll be extending this work for my final, so maybe you’ll see a little more of this soon, ya know, if this doesn’t gross you out too much 😉

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Week 14: Zoomed In Landscape

So I decided to take a different approach to a favorite subject of mine for this week’s theme — the beach!  That’s right!  I’m still holding on to the last of the “vacation photos” to work out some of these themes.  To be fair, I did take these photos while I was there with the intention to use them for this challenge, it’s just taken me longer than I would have liked to get to them.

Instead of taking the typical rolling landscape, or seascape rather, photos of the beach, I tried to look at different aspects which would usually go unnoticed.  While I do walk around in a day dream a lot of the time while on the beach, I also pay attention to the details.  For some reason, I don’t usually capture them.  I have to say, I do make a serious effort sometimes when out and about to just enjoy where I am, so I intentionally try to not get caught up in taking photos of everything.  Maybe that’s why these details have gone “uncaptured” for so long.  This particular visit, I just couldn’t pass it up.

It started with me wanting to capture a vertical oriented, bird’s eye view type photo of a wave washing up on shore.  I worked on it for a while, trying to get just the right angle.  After getting that, since the camera was already out, the day dream phase of that walk on the beach was over, and I started paying closer attention to some things I had noticed earlier.

In Daytona, the beach is surprisingly flat.  Maybe that’s because I’m so used to the Ocean City beaches, which due to erosion, have to be rebuilt each year and have a much steeper drop off.  So when I’m walking on this amazingly flat beach, I’m always captivated by how far you can walk out in the water and have it still be below your knees,  as well as all of the interesting things going on on the beach.  There are a lot more shells and sea critters, and like this trip when it’s a little rainy, there are a lot more interesting shapes in the sand.  I’m not quite sure what caused all of these patterns, but as I was walking and enjoying the view, I was also taking mental notes of interesting patterns to return to on the way back.  I mean, ok, it’s the waves and the crabs doing this, obviously, but I over think things.  I try to figure out just how the water could have done whatever it is that I’m looking at.  I should probably just enjoy it, and not over analyze.

So, the crabs, bubbles, and gentle waves were causing all kinds of patterns and abstract looking “compositions”.  Instead of just focusing on the sea and wider landscape, I decided to zoom in on the little details.  I kept the same methodology as my wave picture, and shot nearly everything by looking directly down and zooming in as much as possible.  I have to say, this is one case where I wish I was taller.  Even though I’m trying to get close up details, I’m a little short, so it’s hard to get a good focus and fight the urge to hunch over.  It was fun looking at things from this view, and I saw plenty of interesting patterns along the way.  I did have to run off the beach before I was quite finished, since a storm was quickly approaching, so I think I’ll keep working on this, and different views of the beach, on my next visit.  Let’s hope that’ll be sooner than later 🙂

Week 13: High Key Portrait

Don’t you just love when you get to do something that you like, and it just kind of falls in your lap?  I do, and you know I don’t need anymore complications with how crazy this year and all this school work has been.  I’m happy to report, that’s what happened with this week’s theme.

You may say, “but Rachel, how is this easy?  It involves people!”  Yes, dears, it does, which was my original hesitation when I saw what I had to do.  It’s alway disappointing to have so many ideas floating around in my head, and no one to participate in them.  But, with my successful environmental portrait the other week, I decided to start taking my camera with me whenever I can, or at least a little more often.  So even though I though that brunch at my aunt’s house would be uneventful in the photography department, I was wrong.

My poor family.  Always subject to help with my photo projects weather they’re willing or not.  They just see me with he camera or setting up something crazy, and I think, have this feeling deep down that it’s just a matter of time before I ask them to do something.  I gotta say, I kept my cool this time.  Quiet little camera bag sitting under a chair off to the side of the Easter morning/afternoon brunch festivities.  No pictures (well, other than cell phone ones) of the food, and the egg dying, and the regular craziness that we do when we’re together.  My parents left…nothing…my brother left…still nothing.  Just waiting.  Besides, I already knew who my target was…

My grandmother is always so funny when I take her picture, and today was no exception.  After everything was pretty much over, she, my aunt, and I went out to the backyard and started looking around at whats popping up back there.  As they started on tidying up the yard, I started snapping a few pictures of the greenery.  Then I asked to take her picture.  “Aye!  Not pictures again!  What do I have to do this time!?”  She was yelling, but she was joking.  Secretly, she has fun working on things with me, even if it is a little annoying.  I think I scarred her for life with a project last semester — it was a long exposure, and she had to hold her hand very still while moving her body away.  Needless to say, we did that just about a million times, and saying she was happy it was over would be an understatement.  For everyone’s benefit, I kept it nice and simple this time.  She was happy to hear that she just had to stand there.  Once my aunt saw, however, she started teasing her.  Of course, since I wanted to go for the serious/neutral face, she had to make my grandmother laugh.  It all worked out in the end, and just for my aunt’s goofing off, I took some photos of her as well.  I’m glad I got the shot that I wanted of my grandmother, but I’m also glad I got the silly ones of the two of them together.

And did I even mention the other part of this?  High key.  You guys get it.  You’ve seen it all before last year when I did this.  I was happy to revisit it, and to try it with people.  Glad they’re always willing to put up with my “crazy photography projects”. 🙂  Enjoy

Week 12: Seasonal

So I’m pulling another theme from my alternate list this week, because, ya know, I wanna 🙂  You know I love the chance to talk about all things spring and summer, and since the alternate list has this week’s theme as “seasonal”, I’m all about it!

Going to Florida always gets me a little out of whack weather wise, but I’m happy to report that things have warmed up around here.  We may be looking at a cold front for the rest of the month, allegedly, but I’ll take a cooler spring over two feet of snow any day.  Even with the chillier than normal temperatures, it’s been warm enough for the world to blossom, and I’ve been happy to enjoy it and capture some springy moments.

First, let me start with a little ode to the cherry blossoms…

They’re always some of my favorites.  I wish they would last a little longer, but with the first windy day, they’re gone.  I’m happy to have had a sunny day off where I got to wander around a little and snap some photos.  It was actually one of those windy days while I was photographing these, so it was a little difficult to capture a clear image.  Luckily, I did, and I was also lucky enough to snap a few of the baby bumble bees which were fluttering around the blossoms and fighting the wind.  Poor little things — they would be there one second, happily bouncing from flower to flower, and then woosh!  A huge gust of wind would come, and they’d be gone.  They’re tough though — they made it back 🙂

As for some of the other flavors of spring, you always get the same first visitors; daffodils, hyacinths, and the cute little “weed” flowers, you know, from the weeds that grow in the grass….not that…I’m not talking about that!  But while I was on vacation a couple weeks ago, and at the Bok Tower Gardens, I took advantage of the garden part of that visit, and took pictures of the gorgeous things they had in bloom there. It was really a fun place to see, and you should check it out if you’re in the area.  According to their website, something is always in bloom, and I wouldn’t doubt it; the weather there is perfect for year-round blooms.  While I was there, I’m pretty sure I was fortunate enough to make it during one of their peak bloom season, and among other things, was able to enjoy their Japanese Magnolias, Camellias, and Nun’s Orchids.  It was a beautiful walk, and smelled amazing!  Even as we were a few minutes away and driving up to the gardens, you could smells the flowers.  So while I’m dreaming of warmer weather on this chilly spring night, enjoy these photos of the little promises that warmer weather is right around the corner!

 

Week 11: Landscape Reflection

I’ve been excited to post this one!  Reflections are always a fun thing to work with, and this time, I found the perfect place to photograph.

The last few times that I’ve gone to Florida, I’ve been searching for interesting little day trips to take.  I like where I go to visit, but I know there’s so much to see in Florida that is not Disney, and I want to soak all of that in, or as much as I can, anyways.  One place that I had been eyeing up was Bok Tower Gardens.  From what I could tell from quickly browsing their website a million times, they have an awesome garden and tower, with a perfect reflecting pool for this theme.  So I decided to read a little more in to it during my most recent trip, and I finally decided to go check it out.

It really was a beautiful garden, and a deceptively quick walk to the tower.  The weather was beautiful, and I was up for a long walk, but appreciated the extra time I had to browse around the gardens since it didn’t take forever to get to the tower.  So many things were in full bloom, so I was able to get plenty of great flower pictures, which you know I love.  The tower, I’m happy to report, did not disappoint.  It was much taller than I expected, and a beautiful pink coral color, with tons of intricate details.

We encountered a sweet older woman while we were there who gave us a great little history of the tower.  The builder, Edward Bok, immigrated from the Netherlands when he was a child.  His goal was to achieve the “American Dream”, as she put it, and with hard work, he did just that.  He became an incredibly successful publisher and author, and in retirement, moved to Florida.  The tower and gardens were a sort of passion project for him, and in it’s completion, he gave it to the American people as a gift.  How endearing, as was our sweet story teller.  He refused to disclose how much he spent on the tower and gardens because he wanted to keep the notion of it being a gift in tact.  I love hearing stories like this, of people overcoming the odds to achieve the “American Dream”; it always makes me think of my grandparents.

It was great hearing the story from her, and I kept that in mind as we were walking the gardens and admiring the tower.  It’s really quite impressive when you think of it.  It was all completed in the 1920’s.  Imagine how incredibly difficult it must have been to create something like this.  Within the singing tower, there is a large carillon, like an organ/bell tower, as she explained.  The bells had to be brought over from England via boat, with the largest weighing about 12 tons.  I really can’t even fathom how they moved it!

I’m glad that I decided to finally check this place out.  If you’re ever in the central Florida area, I suggest you do the same.  It will be a nice afternoon, and don’t worry, the gardens provide plenty of shade from the hot Florida sun.  Enjoy!

 

 

Week 10: Environmental Portrait

I love it when I get a chance to do something a little different.  As you know, I’m always having problems finding models for my projects, so when I saw that this week’s theme was “environmental portrait”, i.e. taking a picture of someone in their environment, I was a little worried.  It took me a while to think of the idea, but I decided to go out and trying something today!

I usually have off on Mondays, so that’s my big “catch up” day for projects, school work, and whatever else I have going on.  Today, however, was a beautiful day, so the motivation to work on things in doors was just non-existence.  Instead, I went out and got breakfast, drove around a bit, got a coffee, took some photos outside for another week’s theme and just kinda hung out.  Then I thought, well geeze, I’m really putting off this portrait one, so I better get to it.

I know I’ve mentioned before that I play the guitar.  Not as much as I’d like to, but I still play it once in a while, and I will always love it.  Ever since I’ve started, I’ve gone to the same little shop for everything.  Atomic Music — they’re basically amazing.  So in my goofing off today, I wandered into the store and did something I never do: took pictures of people, with their permission!  Well…kind of….

I started talking to one of the guys who worked there, Mark, and he was super cool about the whole thing.  I told him that I was working on a project, and when you say that, people automatically assume it is for school.  He told me to take my time, and enjoy myself, which I did.  I wandered around the aisles browsing all the guitars and amps, and listening to people testing out things, which is always a fun part of going there.  After I was done checking out the “environment”, and one guy who wasn’t paying attention to my camera, I went back to Mark and we started chatting.  Come to find out, his wife is a 3rd generation gradate of MICA.  Yay!  We talked a bit about what she and her artistic family had done, things that were going on around Baltimore, and a festival happening this week that I didn’t even know about.  I asked if I could snap a pic of him, and he was happy to do so.  Double yay!  I’m always so nervous thinking about asking people for their portrait, and I have no idea why.  It’s not a big deal to me to be told “no”, but for some reason I’ve always been apprehensive about it.  So check it out, and enjoy my favorite music spot, and the portrait.