Week 43: Negative Space

I have to say, I’ve been pretty stumped when thinking of photos for this theme.  Negative Space.  It’s something that I thought I had a good understanding on, but the more I thought of it, the more I think I understood it well from a design perspective, and not necessarily a photography perspective.  Not that I’m sure it matters, or that there are even necessarily multiple perspectives, but I’ve just been having a hard time.

When I think of “negative space” I think of the interesting element of the image being the black space or shadow in the image, not an actual object or person.  But go ahead, google this term, and you’ll see a plethora of examples, particularly when you search more specifically for photography.  There are colors, and textures, and interesting objects, and all of these things that I thought you couldn’t have when working with an image focused on negative space.  There are maybe two examples I have stumbled across where I’m thinking to myself “ok, now that’s definitely negative space!”  I’ve also stumbled across a whole section that was labeled as “bad”, so I guess I was a little relieved when all of the images which I thought were confusingly labeled as negative space were in that section, but still, confused.

So I did a little more searching, and a little more looking, and a lot more doubting, and in the end, I’ve simply decided to share these images with you.

I just finished up editing some photos that I recently took as a collaborative project between my “studio lighting” class, and a class in the Fibers Department at MICA.  Each of us in the class were given a “fibers partner”with whom we had to work, and create images featuring a garment which they created.  We had to discuss visions, ideas, set-ups, everything, and create interesting images while keeping the “client’s” intentions in mind.  An interesting exercise, but nerve-racking at the thought of being paired with someone who is vastly different in style.  I truly had the luck of the draw with this group project — things haven’t always worked out that way this semester.  Happily, I was able to work with someone I already knew, and whose work I knew I liked.

As she told me a little more about her work, I became more interested.  I also became even more at ease with this whole process because she was very open to letting me have control over the entire photographic process.  That has its pros and cons, because when doing things like this I really do like to try to achieve a certain look based of off what the person I’m photographing is looking for.  Either way, we were essentially along the same lines — nothing looking like magazine fashion photography, simple black background, and she was open to my idea of playing with some dramatic lighting.

It’s because of that lighting that I’m talking to you about these images!  Well, I most likely would have shared them in one way or another because I’m really happy about how they turned out.  But because of my plight in thinking of something for this negative space theme, I started looking for more examples, and stumbled across some portrait “negative space” work.  Honestly, it reminded me a lot of the Low-Key theme I did a couple of weeks ago, which makes me wonder if I’m misinterpreting something else.  Either way, I’m happy to use these images for this week, because I could see how they would fit in.

So, dramatic lighting.  We did one set up with a low intensity softbox, and then another with a spotlight style snoot.  The softbox (with a gold reflector, which is my new favorite photo tool) really made her glow against the black background.  I think it gave for some interesting tensions between her and a ground/background which is really indistinguishable.  The snoot gave a whole other look.  It darkened some of her features so much in some images that it really gave the portraits a more abstracted feel, which I was happy to see.  So after a fun experience with a cross-departmental group project, and a good critique, here are my dark and dreamy images.  Enjoy!

 

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Low-Key Me

I have to say, I was a little apprehensive about doing this week’s task.  Not because I wasn’t looking forward to, or was intimidated by the idea of low-key, but because I knew I had some catching up to do.  Yes, the fact that I’ve skipped a couple of topics is in the forefront of my mind each time I begin working on a new week.  This week, I’m happy to report,  I’ve included the subject of one week’s task in the low-key realm: me!  Remember a couple weeks ago when I was supposed to do a few self-portraits and I didn’t?  Well here we have it, ladies and gentlemen, me in low-key.

I love taking pictures of people, but with this love comes a few problems.  For starters, I don’t have a lot of handy volunteers, as you know, so finding models for my somewhat strange ideas is a little difficult at times.  The other three weeks which need catching up on all have models in my mind; one could do without, though I’d rather have them, and the other two would fall into the strange category, so I’ll just keep searching.

My next, and undoubtedly biggest, issue with photographing people is that I’m incredibly shy.  When I have a model, it’s always someone I know, so I should be comfortable, right?  Wrong.  It takes me a while to get into a groove, and I’m completely uncomfortable directing them.  I’m sure in this case I would do much better with someone I didn’t know.  I would feel comfortable in being much more direct, and I don’t have to hear from them how stupid I sounded afterwards, right? 🙂  It’s just like any other job; I’m completely professional and can handle everything on a day-to-day, until a family member visits me at work, and then I’m a total doof.

Hiring a model for all these projects is a little out of the question at the moment, so I’ll have to suck it up.  Which brings me to the people who I don’t know and do have at my disposal.  Street photography.  Ahh, yes.  I love it so much, but have I ever done it?  That’s a big n-o.  It’s not like I’m uncomfortable being in public and shooting pictures; I’d actually walk around all day taking pictures of things and looking like the complete “tourist”, which I know is a big deterrent for a lot of people.  But as soon as I think about pointing that camera at the random interesting stranger walking around, I can’t bring myself to do it.  It’s something I need to work on, I know, especially since I have this nagging feeling that I need to just get out there and do it.  I don’t think I’ll be satisfied until my portfolio contains a good amount of street photography shots.

To get back on topic, the point of this is to say that while I wanted to photograph someone for the low-key project, I was out of volunteers, except for myself.  While completing all of what seemed like a million self-portrait projects in my drawing class, my professor often told us that “you are your best model”, if for no other reason than simply because of availability.  I often scoffed, internally, at this.  It’s not that she was invalid in saying this; she’s absolutely right!  I, on the other hand, hate taking pictures of myself, hate being in pictures, hate drawing myself, and the list goes on.  So as I mentioned before, I wasn’t enthused about the self-portrait project, but knew I just had to do it to stay on track.

So after being selfied-out from taking my school ID badge picture earlier in the day, I decided to not let a good hair day go to waste.  After it got dark, I got my low-key set up together, which consisted of my camera, tripod, mini hand-held flashlight, Nikon WMU, and cell phone.  Now, this is quite the cumbersome set up, but it gets the job done.  Once you get the hang of getting your camera settings correct for a low-light setting, then using your phone to preview and take pictures while posing, holding for the long exposure, and moving the light around, you can get some decent shots.  My arms were pretty tired from holding things up for a while, and I was semi-blinded from shining the light in my eyes a million times, but it’s all for the sake of art.  Glad no one caught me, because I must have looked crazy all contorted and trying to do this.  Oh, and one more thing about me not liking pictures of myself: I never smile.  Unless it’s a group photo where I’m instructed to “smiilllleeeee!”, it’s not going to happen.  Even MICA didn’t get a smile for the ID picture, sorry guys.  Also (ok, so it’s two more things), I also like to shoot more abstracted views of myself.  You’ll see; it’s me, not smiling, and semi-cut off in a lot of these!

Originally, I thought that I would go all black and white with these images, but after seeing the final results, and actually loving them without any edits, I decided to leave the majority of them in color.  I do love how the black and white images give a slightly warmer feeling to the composition, which I was pleasantly surprised by.  The color images are fun because of my crazy hair color; I love it when the light hits it and it’s a really intense color, which is what you’ll see here.  I may have hit the highlights a little high in some of these, but I think I’ve captured the essence of low-key.  The difference between black and white and color also plays a part on this;  not only do the black and white photos appear warmer in my opinion, but they also make those highlights look more toned down, even though I didn’t do anything different to those images than I did with the color images.  I say, as far as successfully completing this project, the black and white images win, but I love the pops of the color images!  Either way, enjoy, and let me know what you think!  Black and white, or color?

Around the Garden

Spending more time outdoors this summer is something that I’ve really been trying to do.  I haven’t been super successful, if I’m honest, but at least I’ve gotten out there and tried a few new things.  Babysitting a house which has been under construction for the last two weeks doesn’t really help in this goal, but it’s what I’ve been up to lately.  Luckily for me, my aunt’s house backs up to practically a forest, and my grandmother likes to spend a lot of time outdoors while we’re there, you know, just hanging out in the garden and tidying things up.  She’s forever busy.  I decided to take my camera along for a couple of days to see what I could capture.  It rained, and rained again, and things were busy, so I didn’t get to get out there as much as I wanted.

While inside a few of those days, I had spotted a few adorable bright yellow finches.  Knowing that we weren’t going to be there for much longer, I decided to pop the big lens on and just sit out on the deck for a while, waiting for them to return.  Of course, they didn’t — just my luck.  The bird feeders were empty by then, and my grandmother and I couldn’t find the food, so perhaps it wasn’t completely my luck.  Never the less, the birds were a no-show, and I was picture-less, so I decided to wander around the yard for a bit to see what I could find.

I came into quite a few little surprises, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain about my luck 🙂 .  Flowers which my aunt described as “daisies”, and dead, were still very much alive and actually more orchid like while attracting some interesting little fly-type bugs.  I’m thinking they’re called Gilt Edge Toad Lilies, after doing a little research (these are also the pics that I mentioned in my post about low-key, which were a surprise as a final result, and gave me a little insight of how I should handle the background for those images).  Another part of the garden was filled with bumblebees buzzing around these tiny purple flowers while clinging on to huge chunks of pollen.  While I was just about to go in after my second trip to the garden, since it rained once more, and I was just checking out how things were looking while wet, I spotted the infamous garden visitor; La Tortuga.

My aunt mentioned that she had spotted a turtle one day, but with water nowhere near by, and some pretty thick brush just outside of her fence, we were all a little skeptical.  We kept our eyes open, however, even venturing over to the neighbor’s yard, who said she had spotted it too.  No turtle in sight.  We all assumed it had just moved on, and we would never find it, saying “la tortuga” in that eye-squinted, slowed down whispery type voice every time we mentioned it, like it had bested us.  To my surprise, I turn to walk back inside after snapping a few last shots, and there she was!  Snuggled up by the fence, with her little face tucked under a small plant.  So cute.  I called my grandmother back outside, and we reveled in our small victory.  So as the summer winds down, enjoy a few of these summer creatures and flowers.  Hopefully this won’t be the last I see of these things this year!

Week 32: Low-Key

When I did my posts on high-key a little earlier this year, I immediately checked the list to see if low-key was going to be included later on.  It was, and it’s finally here!  You know I had some challenges working through that week, since light and happy are not things that I typically do, unless you’re talking about nature, which is pretty, and exudes the light and happiness.  Working in the opposite manner is a welcomed change.  Though, I do feel I work better when I have a more specific task like this at hand, as in, a method of shooting rather than a grab bag of a theme.  High-key wasn’t all that bad in the end.

Anyways, low-key! Yay!  Working with shadows, darkness, limited lighting, and just hints of an object or person.  All of these things sound fun to me.  I touched on this a little during my silhouette week, and have been waiting for this to come around.  Though I would love to revisit the type of images I did in that shoot with some proper lighting, I feel like it would be cheating this challenge if I did such a similar theme.  I was thrilled with the final images of that week, having completed both the silhouette challenge, and then being able to play around a little, but will have to save that second attempt for another time.  Time to get working on some ideas!  I’ll be at the beach soon, so you know the odds of something low-key coming from that are pretty unlikely.

Looking through previous images, it seems like low-key is something I never do.  I’ve always admired them, but I guess I’ve felt like I don’t have the studio or equipment to capture a successful image.  Unlike the high-key week, where I was able to find plenty of images which would fit into that theme, I really couldn’t find anything for this week.  Other than reposting a few images from week 12, I stumbled across a few listing photos from my Etsy shop which fit the bill.  It makes me wonder about my photography a little.  I sometimes have trouble with exposure; not paying attention to which area of the frame my meters are focusing on, and exposing for the incorrect spot.  After reading up on low-key techniques a little today, and actually snapping a low-ish-key shot unintentionally (I’ll share it with you soon!), some things are starting to make a little more sense, and I’ll have to try to keep them in mind with future shooting.

In reference to the Etsy pics: one works because I always shoot things on a dark background, and the other works just like how this happenstance photograph that I got today works; sometimes I get lucky.  With the first picture you have a great example of my issues with exposure.  I like a black background, and I also like shooting my listings in natural light, which can cause some pretty big exposure conflicts.  I’ve figured out how I like to shoot things now, but with earlier listings, I have a lot of mess up shots.  With a little editing, my mistakes, and the fact that the necklace shown is shiny and reflective, it gives that low-key feel.  The second photograph of the butterfly is my lucky one.  While visiting a friend in Florida she wanted to take me to the zoo; she said there were some amazing things there that I was going to love, but she wouldn’t tell me what they were.  I packed my camera, and off we went.  Once we walked around for a while, we entered the butterfly garden — I had never been to one, and had been dying to check one out, especially since I got my new camera.  So, on with the bigger lens to catch some close up pictures…..or so I thought.  These butterflies could move, or at least my lens thought so.  Working in manual, all the way zoomed in, and still feeling out the functions of this camera made for a difficult butterfly experience.  Plus camera shake….so much camera shake.  I’m sure you would laugh if you saw just how many blurry butterfly pictures I have from that day.  Eventually, I figured some things out enough to get a few successful shots, but it was tough!  In working so hard to catch a butterfly in frame, I was only working on what would expose them best and I ended up with another semi-low-key photo.  Now, I have edited to accentuate the low-key aspects of this picture, but you get the idea, and I didn’t have a lot to work with!  So enjoy my two semi-low-key photos, and wish me luck!

Of the Shadows

I suppose I’m eating my words at this moment.  I know I said I wouldn’t be doing the typical, over-done type silhouette, but once I put it out there, I wasn’t able to get it out of my mind.  On the other hand, after looking through my photos this week for other silhouette photos, it seems like “over-done” in my collection would be nature, beach, trees, etc.  I’m going to twist that in to saying that doing the classic back-lit figure silhouette isn’t over done…in my case 🙂  Either way, I’m much happier this week in doing photos focused on dark elements as opposed to light elements.  I prefer the darker, mysterious, “hidden aspect” type photo to the lighter and transparent one.

These shots were a little challenging, but I’m happy with the final results.  Getting enough lighting set up when you only have living room/side table lamps to work with was probably the greatest difficulty.  You would think in photos where you don’t need to see anything but a blacked out figure as your subject you wouldn’t need that much light, but I was quickly corrected.  Happily, we added much more lighting, which gave some nice little details on the figure for some of the images, which I actually enjoy more than the true silhouette images.  Editing the photos were a close second in things of difficulties with this shoot.  We were both exhausted, and wanted to make quick work of this shoot (though, nothing is ever “quick”, per sey, when working on my projects), so we were a little careless when thinking out what was going on in the background.  Having a full backdrop, and being prepared with proper lighting are definitely two things on my list before attempting a shoot like this again, though I would love to give it another try.  Thanks to my friend for practically rearranging her whole house to do this, as well as for being my awesome model!  I’m happy to say that these photos have a little twist on the assignment of “silhouettes”.  Though some are true silhouettes, with the figure completely blacked out, others were completed with more of a touch of “low-key”, wich is something I’ve been wanting to experiment with.  Once I get the lighting and set up in order for future shoots, I’ll have to see if I can twist my friend’s arm to do another shoot with me.  Until then, enjoy our first collaborative effort of silhouetted figures.