Plano Camera Club Print Competition

Occasionally I get asked to judge photo contests for one of the camera clubs in the area. This time it’s for the Plano Camera Club and the category is “open”, meaning any subject matter can be submitted. This is also a print competition so instead of judging images on a screen I get to handle actual photograph, which is always fun. It’s really interesting to look at the range of photos made by beginners through “master” level photographers. The photo is from the studio where I had the prints laid out for review.

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Multnomah Falls, Oregon

I just got back from a week in Oregon and had a chance to download just a few of the photos so far.  This is a quick B&W conversion from Multnomah Falls, on the scenic highway that runs through the Columbia River Valley just outside of Portland.  The processing is a little heavy across the top but I think this will turn into a real keeper with a little more (or less!) work. Shot with a 16-35mm lens, D600, f11, 1 second, 3 stop (very wet:) neutral density filter.

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Behind the Scenes of the Klyde-O-Scope

When Peter nonchalantly mentioned that he had an idea to create a giant kaleidoscope to bring to Klyde Warren Park, I could barely contain my excitement. A giant kaleidoscope???  What would that even look like? How would it work? The concept  captured my imagination and I had to make him follow through with it.

One trip to Home Depot, two mirrored doors and a pile of wood later, the Klyde-O-Scope was born.

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Search Everything, an amazing Windows utility

I use Windows. There, I said it. I’ve built my own machines for years and currently manage six Windows 7 systems at work and home. So I’m always interested in utilities that make work easier and faster. One the very best I’ve found is Search Everything. It is free, fast, uses very few resources and will find a file on your computer in a fraction of a second. I use it several times a day and it’s much more efficient than the built in Windows search. In fact, I think Microsoft should build this in to their OS from now on.

It is malware-free and doesn’t bother you with popups. It doesn’t cost anything but donations are encouraged (by the author and by me!). Download from Voidtools here.

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SMU Historical Aerial Photos

I recently discovered that Southern Methodist University here in Dallas (SMU) has a nice online collection of historical photographs. Included is a group of photos titles “Miscellaneous Aerial Views of Dallas, 1930s-1940s”. They are a fascinating look at our city in earlier decades. The one below is titled “Mid-Town Business District” from 1935 and has call outs for the major buildings.

You can find the SMU photo collection here. The site is well worth spending some time on!

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Falls In Oregon

We’re at the end of a week-long family trip to Oregon. Man, is it gorgeous out here! Today we took a drive on old scenic highway 30 near Portland and I stopped along the way to shoot some new shutter speed examples for the DSLR classes. First photo is just below Bridal Veil falls. The second is at Multnomah Falls, the third is a very wet neutral density filter on a 16-35mm lens. It’s a 3 stop ND filter which allowed me to slow the shutter down in order to get some decent shots of water in motion.

 

Good gloves for cold weather shooting

I’m in Oregon for a week and today we’re in Cannon Beach. This is Haystack Rock at low tide on a cold morning. I’m wearing my favorite shooting glove combo, fingerless wool combined with liners sporting fingertip pads for smartphone touch screens.

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The Next Step: Working with Sam Abell

It’s been six months since the Sam Abell: Next Step workshop, but I can still hear Sam’s voice in my head repeating his mantra, “compose and wait.” I am the studio manager at DCP and I had the unique opportunity to learn from Sam both as a photography student and as a coordinator and I couldn’t be more thankful for the experience.

I have a suspicion that over the years Sam’s practice of composing and waiting has created a meditative energy around him. He lives in a flow and I could not help but be part of it while working with him. Even during the height of the stress of organizing the workshop, Sam stayed calm and kept me focused and grounded on the task at hand.

As we gathered in the studio on the first day, Sam steadily dissected each participant’s portfolio. He studied each photograph, meticulously pointing out what he liked about the image and what he might have done differently. It was eye-opening to hear how he would have composed the scene by slightly shifting to the right, or lining up with the window to give the subject more space and dignity. This was the whole concept of The Next Step. Refine. Take what you see and then edit out all of the unnecessary clutter. Then wait for the action.

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Over the next few days we took his lessons to heart. On our second day of shooting, we met on Jefferson Street in Oak Cliff and Sam challenged us to get behind the scenes. Our assignment was to shoot from the insider’s perspective. He meant this literally. Instead of shooting from the sidewalk, he wanted us to talk our way into one of the shops and get permission to photograph the inside of the stores. I was nervous. I glanced at the other participants and wondered if they felt the same anxiety. I then saw Jean, one of our quieter participants, take off across the street to an eye glass shop and knew that there was no reason to worry.

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The afternoon flew by and as the sun set the remaining photographers gathered on the sidewalk and exchanged stories. To my surprise, everyone had experienced success. Most shopkeepers had no problem opening their doors and letting us shoot. We had made an impression on Jefferson street and by the end of the day our group had become well known.

The week passed by quickly and I had the pleasure of watching Sam shoot several times. What I admired the most about him was his ability to connect to his subject almost instantly. He could walk up to a complete stranger and with one quick eye glance have their permission to take a photograph. I watched him pull up a chair next to the glass wall at a restaurant in Klyde Warren Park. He pressed his camera onto the glass and nodded to the waitstaff who were at a table inside rolling silverware. They obliged and after a few minutes forgot that he was taking photographs. After about 20 minutes, Sam stepped down off the chair and moved on. He mentioned repeatedly during the workshop that he did not get the shot he wanted.

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I later learned during his lecture at The Perot that this was a common occurrence for Sam. As we sat in the darkened theatre and listened to him recount how he took each image, I realized that his career was haunted by moments like the restaurant. For every truly amazing photograph he showed, there was an equally imperfect counterpart. Throughout the lecture, Sam shared his inner thoughts on each photograph revealing a life of determination, frustration and a passion for perfection.
Since the workshop, I have had the pleasure to stay in touch with many of the attendees. Earlier in the summer a few of us met up in downtown Fort Worth and put to use all of the skills Sam had taught us earlier this year.

I spent most of my time hopping from scene to scene, waiting for a few minutes and then moving on with an air of an exasperation, frustrated that what I hoped to capture hadn’t happened in the short time span I had allotted myself. This is why Sam is a master. He is a master of patience.

As I passed by a fountain I was intrigued by a little boy repeatedly running back and forth trying to chase the waterfall. Behind the fountain, a couple sat across from one another looking slightly bored – the perfect juxtaposition of childhood and adulthood. I raised my camera and patiently waited for the elements to align. Sam’s voice was in my head, “Compose. Wait.” Click.

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At the crossroads of patience and truth

Sunday Sun Prints at Klyde Warren Park

Today, I headed to Klyde Warren Park to have our monthly Sunday Sun Prints event. The fall breeze was a nice foil to the bright sun and the park teamed with life. I placed my bucket of water along with various objects on the table and invited kids to come and make a print of their own.

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Sun prints, also known as cynotypes, are an old photographic printing process that was created in 1842 by Sir Herschel Williams. Originally it was intended for reproducing scientific notes and architectural plans (hence the term blueprints). It works by treating the paper with ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide and then exposing the paper to UV light. Whatever objects you place on the paper will be transposed onto it after being exposed to the sun and rinsed in water. The effect is a beautiful Prussian blue print that holds an artistic life of its own.

The kids’ reactions to the prints were priceless. Amazed, they would watch them float in water as their images began to appear. Looking up at me they would ask, “How does it work?”

“Magic,” I’d reply.

I try to make it out to KWP once a month to make sun prints. Check our Community Events calendar for the  next scheduled date!

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