Friday, March 27, 2009

Last Shoot

This will be brief because, well, I don't have much to say about last week's shoot-- our last official shoot for the class. The assignment was to shoot either (1) "Secrets of the Night", or (2) Energy. Combine shooting at night with my hatred of flash, throw in the fact that I've yet to purchase a tripod and you get a bunch of blurry photos. In some cases, blur can be artistic. I'm not sure I got there. I shot most of these at the Circus last weekend, and a few on a stroll through Old Town. First shot is the class favorite for this batch.

So, that's that. I'm sort of sad to have run out of assignments. I can, of course, take pictures whenever I want to. But you look at things differently when you are looking to meet a goal. This class may not have given me the mastery of our camera that I had hoped for, but it did challenge my creativity, which was on a dusty shelf in my mind for 4 years.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Name that Pup

As nearly everyone knows, we will be welcoming a new Lewis of the canine variety over Easter weekend-- a male chocolate lab pup. We are picking him up from my grandpa's (Beaver Creek Kennels of Champion, Ohio) during our holiday visit, which is FAST approaching. (This is partly why we've been trying to enjoy our time out on the town as much as possible these days!)

The problem is that we cannot decide on a name for him! We have ideas, but I thought I would put it out there and see if anyone else has a good suggestion. We are thinking Rugby, Finnegan, or Otter. What do you think??

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Date Night Under the Big Top & Sunny Brunch at a Bistro

On Saturday night, Bret and I spent a lovely date night in Chinatown. I had spontaneously picked up tickets for the Circus at Verizon Center while downtown on Friday morning, and we decided to make a night of it. We started at Proof for appetizers and a glass of wine. We had the bresaola, roasted beet salad, veal sweetbreads and mixed olives. It was a perfectly delicious start to the night. Oddly enough, I thought the olives were the best part. We eat a LOT of olives and the citrus twist to the marinade here was refreshing and just a little something different.

After a quick bite at Proof, we waded through the PETA protesters (Note: I have it on good authority from inside the Circus personnel that the elephants are not abused in any way, and in fact are revered as the core of the Circus brand image. See this for more.) and small children to get to the Circus. We actually had a great time! Neither of us had been since we were kids, and it was something different to do. Having just read Water For Elephants, and filed it in my list of FAVORITE books ever, I think I got an extra layer of enjoyment. We also enjoyed trying to capture the movement and sparkle of the performances by experimenting with the camera, but you'll have to wait for more pictures until I put out this week's Photography blog.

After the Circus, we wandered around and followed our grumbling tummies to Matchbox, where we split a buffalo mozza and basil pizza. Nice atmosphere, but definitely not our favorite wood-fired pizza in the area.

Sunday afternoon, we came out of church to an absolutely gorgeous day in the District. I mean PERFECT-- sunny, cloudless skies, and just enough chill in the air to remind you that it's Spring. We headed over to Eastern Market and found ourselves sitting on the patio at Montmartre, watching passers-by, basking in the sunshine, drinking coffee and finding it difficult to decide which of the delicious-looking menu items to order. Since we were in Paris precisely a year before, we lingered a little more than usual, reminiscing and wishing we could teleport back. I had the croque monsieur (which I loved, except for the mustard vinaegrette, which was not my favorite even in Paris) and Bret had the endive and apple salad and pate. I suspect we will return for dinner in the not-so-distant future.

Topping off the general happiness of the weekend, we had the Whitneys in town from Denver. While they were here to visit Mark's dad, we were glad to be able to steal them away a few times and catch up with the goings-on in Denver.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Week 6: A Big Ol' Mess

I suppose I will begin this week's photography update by saying that I am an idiot. Or, rather, that I felt like one when I realized last Saturday night that I had LEFT our camera at the Arts Center after class on Thursday. And by "I felt like an idiot," I mean I broke out into a cold sweat and started to alternate between praying for our camera's safe return and asking for forgiveness for being SO concerned about a camera (there was quite a bit of melodrama, folks). LUCKILY, I called and someone HAPPENED, by the grace of God, to be in the office to answer the phone at 8:30 pm on a Saturday, assuring me that, Yes, My camera was safely locked in the Director's office and I could come pick it up on Monday morning. My peace of mind was partially restored, but I did suffer from not being able to shoot anything over the weekend. (A small price to pay for my carelessness.)

Monday morning, with our camera safely returned to my possession, and the standard gray gloominess of DC overhead, I set out to work on this week's assignment. We had two options: (1) Emulation of a famous photographer, or (2) a Self-Portrait. I tried a little of both and was not happy with either.

In fact, I would consider my attempts at Emulation a complete failure, in part because I could not decide who to emulate. I appreciate so many photographers, particularly for photographs that I myself cannot take. I certainly do not have a steady supply of celebrities and other important folks to take photos a la Annie Leibovitz or Richard Avedon, nor am I currently surrounded by the striking natural beauty found in Ansel Adams' work (too bad I didn't take this class in Colorado!). I wandered into the National Gallery of Art, since what I do have is unrestricted access to the awesomeness that is the Smithsonian Institute. Their photography galleries are currently taken up by a full exhibition of Robert Frank's work, most notably "The Americans." He is one of those photographers who has the ability to take extraordinary photos of ordinary people and things. Which is something that I have a steady supply of. So I tried a few shots of "ordinary D.C." while strolling the Mall:

For my "selfies," I came upon the perfect tool in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, and this was the result-- and also my "best shot" of the week:

The picture below was MY favorite shot, but is way too soft, focus-wise, due to my hatred of flash and the low lighting in the gallery, and didn't fall into either prong of the assignment. Once I have a tripod (or someone's back to use as one), I plan to reshoot this one.

And so I find myself preparing for the last shoot of the class. I have my assignment, and permission to complete disregard the assignment if necessary to take "great pictures." Next week we bring in the results of our last shoot, plus all of our "best" pictures from the previous weeks, and hope to find among them two pictures to be matted and framed in time for our last class on April 2nd-- an Exhibition and Celebration at our Instructor's residence.

This weekend should provide lots of opportunities to shoot- we have gorgeous (but still chilly) weather in the forecast, our friends the Whitneys in town, and tickets to the Circus tomorrow night!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Cherry Blossoms Are Coming!

It's hard to imagine that the cherry blossoms are expected to be in full bloom in 12 days. As of this (chilly) afternoon, there are a precious few trees that hint of the beauty to come:

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Photographers are hunters..."

This week's photo assignment was even more of a challenge, as it should have been with only a few shoots left. We were told to shoot a person, place or thing in our own way. To pre-visualize what story we want the picture to tell. I went out on Tuesday downright grumpy about my lack of ideas or inspiration, not even sure where I wanted to go to find something...

Side story: In a small but notable advancement, I have started taking the bus to get downtown during the day. This sounds ridiculous, but I've been sort of avoiding it out of a fear that I would get lost and end up having to take a cab home from somewhere in Maryland. I can manage the metro...I looooove the metro. Worst case you miss your stop, get off and go back in the other direction. But who knows where the wrong bus will take you or how long it will take the right bus to come along and save you. Right? OK, well maybe it's just me. At any rate, the 7A and 7F stop is one block from our apartment and goes straight to the Pentagon terminal, where I can get on my beloved metro. Baby steps, folks. So that's what I did to begin my photographic safari on Tuesday. Grumpily. With gloomy grey weather to match. (God, how I want Spring to come!)

Back to photography... When I arrived at the Pentagon, I decided that my first stop on my search for inspiration would be the recently completed Pentagon Memorial. Which is all the things a 9/11 memorial should be....quiet (even with the proximity of 395), eerie, reflective, symbolic... This is where I took the shots I am posting for this week.

However, those are not the shots I submitted as my best for this assignment. From the Pentagon, I meandered (by this I mean that I got on the metro with no idea where I felt like getting off) to Dupont Circle in hopes of finding inspiration in the mix of people who wander through and around one of D.C.'s quirkiest neighborhoods. I sat on a bench by the fountain and started shooting the fountain in the grey depressing gloom of the afternoon, including some high school cool kids who were hanging out smoking and laughing along the dry fountain's edge.

Side story #2: We have an ongoing discussion in our class on how to shoot people as a street photographer. Do you ask permission? Does permission compromise the shots? It just feels a little weird, particularly as an amateur, to be taking pictures of random folks... who wants to be creepy?

So I took a few shots of these kids, thinking I was being sneaky, until a rather creepy homeless person brought attention to my long lens shooting. At this point, I reviewed my initial shots, realized that this might be the gold mine I was looking for, and bravely approached the uber cool 17 year olds to get permission to shoot some more. Permission granted, I took a veritable photo shoot of their seeming after-school ritual of hanging out and socializing with passers-by and the regular homeless crowd that passes their days on the Circle.

So at the end of the day, I was pretty happy with my photos, as well as with the fact that I took shots of people! Who I don't even know! And the pictures were interesting! Unfortunately for you folks, I don't feel comfortable posting the pictures here, particularly because I don't know those kids and didn't get permission to post their faces on my blog... (And being private school kids in D.C., they are no doubt the spawn of attorneys and politicians who might take issue with unauthorized publishing of their children's faces on even such an insignificant blog.)

And in yet a third accomplishment this week, I have started to figure out how to use Photoshop in such a way that it actually has advantages over Picasa.

Without further ado, here are shots from the Pentagon Memorial, in no particular order since my "best" shot of this week is being withheld:

In a completely unrelated note, why won't Blogger keep spaces where I want them and STOP adding them where I don't??? Infuriating.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Happiness, in Pictures

I am not interested in shooting new things - I am interested to see things new.
- Ernst Haas

This week's assignment was: "shoot what makes you happy." Leaving class last week, I thought this would be the easiest thing ever. After all, we were headed the very next morning to Ohio to see family and puppies! As it turns out, I, along with my peers in class, found it very difficult to shoot pictures of the people/places/things that make me happy, and have the pictures themselves make me happy from a photographic standpoint. After all, it is fairly difficult to tangibly capture "what makes you happy." So I struggled all the way through today to find shots that achieved their stated purpose, and the results are below (as always, with the voted class favorite first). Of course, these photos are by no means inclusive of all the things that make me happy. :)

As you can see, I played with editting colors and dimensions a little more to make the pictures I would submit this week (in Picasa, because Elements and I do not yet see eye-to-eye). Note: I have decided that for all intents and purposes, I hate using flash. I am really struggling with letting go of Auto-Focus, though, and on top of that, verrrrry unsure about how to approach the assignment for next week. But the class is halfway over and I insist on coming out of this class with all of my goals met. So, onward! Let's see where this week takes me...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pattern & Angle

Last Week's assignment: Pattern & Angle. Pattern is self-explanatory, but I tend to confuse Angle with "Perspective." At any rate, my five submissions are below, with the class pick for my "portfolio" first. All pictures were taken on a solo expedition around Capitol Hill.

I unfortunately missed part of last Thursday's class, thanks to an hour and a half of my life lost at the Apple Store Genius Bar. I lost allllll of my contacts from my phone in the midst of a software update. Makes me miss my 1st cell phone; with all of its lack of technology, it made phone calls, didn't drop them, and kept my contacts safe until I chose to delete or change them. :Sigh:

And MOST IMPORTANTLY, I have my husband back! Bret survived the Bar Exam! Woo hoo! I am looking forward to having someone to cook with again, and adventure with on weekends. This weekend we ventured to Ohio for a long weekend with family. It's been two years since we were there and it was great to see everyone, including lots of Puppiiiiieeesss! (More on that later....)