Week 8: Panorama Landscape

It seems as if this year will be a year of apologies.  Sorry!  I’ve been a little bogged down doing school work, and regular work, so I have let this blog and challenge not get off to the best of starts this year.  Luckily for me, I’m on spring break right now (wooo!), so I’m hoping to do a lot of catching up, since I have so many photos to show you!

So, I’m skipping week 7 for now, since that’s a planned shoot for this week, and we’re moving on to week 8 and others, since I have photos ready!

When I saw that this week was panoramas, I was a little nervous.  I had never done them before, but have always wanted to learn.  I also have always had in my head that they’re really difficult to do, since the only software that I’ve used in the past has been horrible and not very user friendly.  I took photos, and they just would not stitch together.  Needless to say, I was pass-due to learn this technique, and I was happy to do so.

While thinking of where to go and what I would do to learn this, our digital photo class planned a little outing since the weather finally started to get nice (and by nice, I mean not 2+ feet of snow and/or freezing temps.).  We decided that the class would venture out to a little park in the city to take some photos there.  As the professor was introducing our agenda the morning of, he started passing out sheets and talking about what type of landscape photos he wanted us to focus on: panoramic.

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Symbiosis, it’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?  So is serendipity.  I swear, when he said that we were going out to work on panoramic shots, I about jumped out of my chair.  I was so excited not only to have the chance to do it, but to have him teach me the right way, instead of stumbling through it on my own.  So with some short instruction and helpful hints given, off we went, into the big, “wide” open world.

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It was a fun experience, and I have to say, I love my school.  I mean, really.  What other kind of school actually has class outside, taking photos around a park on a nice sunny day?  None that I can think of.  I’m glad that this is the kind of “work” I signed up for.

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Getting back into the classroom, I was in shock yet again.  Did you have any idea how easy it is to do panoramas in Lightroom and Photoshop!?!?  Yeah.  I had no idea, and I feel a little silly for how much I built this process up in my mind.  With just a few clicks and options selected, bam!  You’re photos are put together for you.  Unless you’re like me, who in a couple instances, things didn’t want to match up.  But even then, it’s completely possible to stitch them together yourself.  Great learning experience over all.  If you’re curious on how to do it, it’s quite simple:  Shoot from left to right, right to left, up to down, whatever, select which direction you’re going in and stay in a straight line.  Take your photos sequentially, with about 30-50% overlap.  Import them to Lightroom.  Select all your photos for one panorama and go to Photo/Photo Merge/Panorama, and there you have it.  A little wizard comes up, you pick a few options, and if you’ve shot right, you’re done.  If you want to go to Photoshop, do the same thing but go to Photo/Edit In/Merge to Panorama in Photoshop.  Technology is amazing.

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So as you can see, I did plenty of the traditional horizontal type panorama shots.  What I really found fun were the vertical ones.  When my professor was explaining things, I got this great idea to do something revolutionary!  I’ll shoot vertical panoramas!  Oh, wait, you’re showing us a million examples of this.  Ok, that’s cool, I’m still excited to do it!  So I tried a bunch of those, and I think I like them better than the horizontal ones people are used to seeing.  You can check them out for yourself; which one do you like better?  There were still some that didn’t quite work, but I’m learning, and have even been practicing since then.  So I’ll post an update with some new panoramas in a little bit, particularly, when I get my “special” images done.  I borrowed an awesome camera to do some even more awesome panoramic shots.  I’m so excited!  You just wait and see 🙂

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Water

Well, I’m happy to announce that two more of my photographs have been accepted into another group exhibition!  The theme of the exhibit is “Water”, as I’m sure you figured out.  This exhibit runs in conjunction with the Green Man Festival in Old Greenbelt, and is located at the New Deal Cafe.  I’ve never actually ate there, but after many friends telling me about their artsy habits, and after dropping off my artwork and smelling all the good things, I’ll be sure to check it out, particularly this weekend, when the reception is.  So if you’re in the area, try to stop by!

I submitted a variety of images, four in total, and at the last-minute, so I’m happy to have had two of my images selected for the show.  The first one is “Bubbling Surf”, which is from my most favorite beach location, Ocean City, MD.  The second is a revisited black and white image from my trip to the Iguazu falls in Argentina, which I’ve titled “After the Rain”.  These are some of my favorite beach/water images, so I’m happy to show them off a little 🙂 Take a look at the photos below, and maybe I’ll see you this weekend!

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina

Remember how I said that I had (tragically) lost my pictures from the trip I took to Argentina?  Well, surprise!  After doing some serious searching, digging through all kinds of old stuff, and finally finding my stash of old photos, I found them!  Hooray!!!  So as an ode to the assumed long-lost photos, and in line with the photography challenge this week of “architecture”, I’m taking you on a little journey through Argentina, and some of the wonderful places that I saw during my visit.

Not everyone knows that I’m half spanish, and that my grandparents on my mother’s side both grew up in Argentina.  My grandmother came over by responding to an ad she saw in the newspaper to teach spanish to a family and their children who lived here in the states, and my grandfather came over with the Argentine Embassy, or as a stow away, or to visit New York….He was an infamous story-teller, as well as an elaborate and imaginative exaggerator, which was wonderful, yet unfortunate in this situation, because we all have different accounts as to how he actually got here!  I’m going to stick with the story he told me; it was the last one we got, and unprovoked, so I’m thinking it was true 🙂  Lela & Lelo — when I was a child, I wasn’t able to say “abuela” and “abuelo”, so their unique names were born.  Lela grew up in La Plata, which is about 30-45 minutes away from the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, where Lelo grew up.  They came over separately, one to Connecticut, and the other to New York.  Some years later their paths crossed, ended up in the DC area, and the rest is history.  Small world!

My grandmother often goes back to Argentina during the winter to escape the cold that is here during those months.  One year my bother, his friend, and my aunt were lucky enough to go with her, and meet several members of our Argentine family with whom we’ve only spoken to briefly, and usually via translator (aka my mother), on the phone.  It was one of the best experiences in my life, and I’m so happy to have been able to experience it with at least one of my grandparents.

We began our trip, and spent most of our time with one of my grandmother’s nieces, who lives just a short ride from downtown Buenos Aires.  We took walks around the city, saw places that my grandmother loved to visit near Florida Street, and experienced what the city had to offer.  It was a beautiful mix of the old, intricate, and antique buildings, strong with Italian influence, nestled on small streets between current day sky scraper-type buildings.  I was much more partial to the older buildings, and was amazed at the detail and skill that it must have taken to create their intricacies.  The streets buzzed with entertainers, artists, performers, locals and tourists alike, and there were what seemed like an infinite amount of things to see and shops to visit.  Over several visits to the down town area, we got to explore the busy city, see La Casa Rosada (which you won’t see here, since it was under construction while I was there and couldn’t get a good pic), and the Floralis Genérica, which was designed to open during the day and close as night.

Among all of the things that I could have seen while in Buenos Aires, my favorite thing, as well as some of my favorite pictures from the trip, were from a cemetery that we visited.  Imagine that.  At least it was a notable cemetery to visit; La Recoleta Cemetery, which contains the tombs of several famous people (like Eva Perón), presidents, and several other notable individuals.  It definitely didn’t have the feel of a cemetery, as it was filled with mausoleums, vaults, buildings and sculptures, and not any actual grave sites.  It seems that at one point it wasn’t as closely cared for as it was when I visited; several of the tomes were damaged and appeared that people have broken into them.  Though it’s incredibly disrespectful, I have to say it gave the location and my images another element of interest, and allowed me to peek into a few of them (a little creepy, I know, I couldn’t help it).  I suppose that not all of these qualify as “architectural photography”, but they’re my favorites, and there are a few that qualify in there.

Another quick stop in Buenos Aires was the town of El Tigre, which lies on Paraná Delta (river).  A charming little town with shops, bakeries, a huge market, and a ferris wheel and rides near the dock where you can ride around the river in a little tour boat.  If you’re ever there, you have to get some pastellitos — wish I could remember which bakery we got them from, because they were amazing!  But getting back to architecture, again, I don’t have a lot of classic examples.  The river was lined with picturesque cottages and dock-style homes, as well as some larger structures, such as the rowing club mansion and museums.

We also visited the Caminito, which translates to “little walkway”.  El Caminito is located in La Boca, which is another little neighborhood in Buenos Aires.  From thriving little town along a railroad to an actual landfill, the Caminito has gone through quite a few transformations.  There are still some remnants giving evidence that this area was once a landfill, but thanks to artist Benito Quinquela Martín, the area has been revitalised over the more recent past, and is now a vibrant tourist attraction.  The brightly colored buildings are truly unique, and make for a lovely adventure on a warm summer day.

Last but not least on  my list of Argentina Architecture are the waterfalls of Iguazú.  Waterfalls and Architecture? Why, yes!  Though this isn’t your typical architecture, the catwalks were really something which I found interesting, I mean, besides the breath-taking views of the falls.  But sorry, no falls for you today, we’re talking architecture, so maybe another time.  Just incase you were wondering, Iguazú is NOT located in Buenos Aires, since its seems like every place which I’ve talked about has been.  Trust me, we visited other places, La Plata, Mar de Plata, and so on — I didn’t spend three weeks in another country just looking around one area!  Located on northeastern tip of Argentina in the Misiones province, the Falls at Iguazú boarder Brazil, and are accessible through the city of Puerto Iguazú on the Argentine side.  Before visiting, I was excited to see the sights and check out the falls.  After visiting, I was amazed, and learned quite a few interesting facts about the location.  Did you know that the falls can actually dry up??  These massive falls which span for miles have actually been know to dry up a few times since their discovery, and did so most recently in 2006.  Did you also know that Iguazú is considered one of the natural seven wonders of the world?  Iguazú is the 5th largest waterfall in the world by width, spanning 8800 feet, and the 13th largest by volume, with an average discharge of 61,660 cubic feet per second according to the World Waterfall Database.  And did you know that the catwalks and viewing platforms that teeter over the edge of the falls, including the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), the largest of the 275 falls, were listed as one of the World’s 8 scariest viewing platforms by National Geographic?  I didn’t know that at the time, but in retrospect, I can see how they could be considered some of the scariest!  If you have a fear of heights and want to check out these falls, you may not want to check out these images, particularly the ones of the destroyed catwalks right near the viewing platform for la Garganta del Diablo fall.  It’s been replaced, so I’m sure everything will be just fine….until another flood.

So, did you enjoy the journey?  I sure did!  Hope I get another chance to visit even more places with my family sometime soon!  Oh, and incase you were wondering, yes, I know these are old, and yes I know the point of the 52 week challenge is to get out there and take pictures every week.  Don’t worry, I did!  These were just too good not to share, especially after I have been missing them for so long 🙂

Bubbles

So this week was fun, but a bit of a challenge.  “Mirrored images”, to be interpreted however I chose, so I went with reflections; a literal interpretation of a mirror type image.  I wanted to do something different — I had a lot of ideas, but it seemed to me that they were relatively frequently done.  First I thought of doing a reflection from the surface of this little lake outside of my house.  Then I thought of taking pictures of my own reflection in the mirror, but with my face doing something/looking in a different direction than the reflection.  Then I thought about all of this glass I had saved from a broken table for future photo projects, and I came up with this…

Not too bad, and I like the images themselves, but the glass didn’t have the reflective quality that I thought it would.  My table actually has the strongest reflection, though I do like the one piece of glass which is reflecting the stem of the rose.  After messing with that, and moving pieces of glass to a million different positions on my table, adding water, and not getting any results, I had to move on.  So I started thinking about pictures that I have done in the past.  there were two that I had taken fairly recently that kept coming to mind:

One was a picture from Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, MD, and another was from J.D. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.  Both of them included water…just can’t seem to get away from that when thinking of reflections!  So I started thinking of water, different elements of it, and finally it came to me — bubbles!  So, even though the bubbles that I was going to make aren’t like anything that comes from water, like the foam of the ocean, that’s where my inspiration came from.

So off I went to seek the help of some more unwilling photo assistants (I’m always bugging someone for pictures 🙂 ).  Out in the back yard with my “assistants”, just around sun set, I had them alternating in blowing bubbles for me.  It was a lot of fun, but chasing bubbles around through my lens on a windy day was difficult to say the least!  I’m happy with the shots that I got, however, and I’m glad that we did it later in the day.  Some of the bubbles have that natural oily effect, but others reflect the evening light rather nicely, and the background has a natural dark, yet warm, effect.  Wish I could have gotten more shots with multiple bubbles to make things a little more interesting, but I guess that’s a project for another, less windy day.  Check it out!

Cyanotypes!

The sun is shining away on this windy winter day, and you know what that means?  Cyanotypes!  I’ve been waiting for a day like this, and I’m happy to say that I’ve made good use of it.

Cyanotypes are probably some of my favorite things to do.  I don’t have the accessibility to a darkroom at the moment, as well as don’t have the space for it, so it lets me feel like I’m still doing some “film” development, kinda.  I was introduced to this process during the last photography class I took at school.  I was auditing the class, since they didn’t offer Photography III, and the professor gave me some pretty interesting projects, one of which was alternative processes.  I started off doing botanicals, and using some old book pages she had, and fell in love with it!

If you don’t know what cyanotypes are, you should look in to it!  Wikipedia does a good job of explaining it, but I’ll give you the quick and dirty on my process.  Cyanotype is a contact photographic process, which creates really lovely blue images.  To begin, you mix an equal part of two chemicals: ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide.  Yeah, cyanide.  Don’t worry though, it’s not going to kill you.  Though it is mildly toxic, I’ve never had any problems with it, and to be honest, I’m not particularly careful with it when using it — I’ve gotten it on my hands and constantly have my hands in the wash, and I’m still here!  I use a great kit from Photographers’ Formulary, where you don’t have to do any actually mixing of chemicals, and just combine “solution a” with “solution b”.  So easy.

Once you mix the chemicals, while in a darkened room treat your surface to make it photosensitive.  I personally use watercolor paper, and have had some great results.  It has great durability, and holds on to the emulsion well once you’ve completed your print.  One of my other favorite things to use are book pages, but they are much more fragile, so be careful.  You can use pretty much anything, as long as it is able to absorb the chemical solution — various papers, cloth, untreated canvases — so be creative!  Allow the treated surface to dry completely, I recommend even leaving it over night in a dark environment, and then you’re ready!  Your dried surface is going to be a light, almost lime green color when you treat it, but no worries, it will turn blue at the end!

Like I said earlier, it’s a contact printing process, so you could do either one of two things.  You can create your own negative, or for smaller prints, contact sheet style printing, or using medium format film, you can use actual negatives, and press it along with the paper between glass.  To make it simple, I just take apart a picture frame, using the back and the glass, and then secure the pieces together with paperclips or binder clips.  You want to make sure you have a good contact on your negative, otherwise you’ll end up with a fogged image, and lose a lot of your details.  I use Inkpress Media Transparency Film to create 8 1/2x 11″ negatives, and have had great results….when I follow the directions and print on the right side of the transparency!  They’re a little pricy, but super convenient in that I can just use my inkjet printer to make whatever negative I like!  Make sure you prep your image before printing as well.  Having strong contrast and clarity, as well as making a positive of your image through a photo editing program will ensure you get a good print.  The other thing you can do it treat your surface like a photogram, and place an object directly on top of your paper to create an image.  I still use glass when using objects, since I use flowers, leaves, etc., and in doing so, I’ve noticed you get a better outcome.

Exposure times will vary since, well, the weather is never the same from one day to another, and the sun’s position in the sky will move as you’re making your print.  I prefer to wait for a nice, clear sunny day, which keeps my exposure times anywhere from the 12-15 minute range.  You can gauge your exposure times by looking at your surface while in the light.  It will change from a light green, to a dark green, almost blackish tone.  Once you’ve reached your desired exposure, just rinse the print in cold running water.  I like to fully submerge my prints and gently agitate them prior to actually rising them.  The emulsion is delicate, so if you rinse too quickly, you’re going to wash your print away 😦 — so sad, I’ve totally done it.  You’ll see your print develop right before your eyes, changing from that weird dark greenish hue to an intense tone of blue with white highlights.  Rinse your print completely, so you don’t see any blue residue dripping from your paper and the water runs clear, and you’re finished!  Just lay it flat to dry and voila, you’re a cyanotype expert.

So there you have it!  I really love this process, and am thankful that I had a professor who thought outside the box and introduced me to this.  Check out my final prints below.  I made a couple of extras, so I may try my hand at toning them to change the color.  Stay tuned!