Monday, April 29, 2013

Tyranny of the Bullseye Strikes Again


ParadiseBuffet_1394, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Composition-wise, I was initially trained to avoid what some like to call "tyranny of the bullseye." Allow me to explain.

It's very easy, sometimes even too easy, to put something, akin to a "target" in the middle of the frame, and call that a "composition." Yes, technically, that is a composition but, the reality is, it's more like a bullseye. As artists, as we learn to compose, and even refine our compositional style, we learn actually what I like to call "the value of real estate," that is, to put things all around the frame. You've got a large frame there, my fellow shooters, so it behooves you to use it wisely, and use all of it. avoiding that bullseye, if you can, since it doesn't always make for the best of images. This is a nice technique: avoid the bullseye! Use your corners and edges! Shoot the whole frame! As much as I hate rules and the like, even I must admit, these type of rules can really work for you. You can go pretty far with a halfway decent, one step above crap camera, and lots of nice yummy corners and edges, really, trust me on that one, you can. (Heck, I know, for the first half of my career, I did!)

So now that we've established, corners, edges, all good. One giant "splat" in the center, eh, not so much, right? There you have a simple rule of composition: avoid "tyranny of the bullseye" and work that real estate. Camera manufacturers, now they don't actually help much here with this. They love to sell us these nice focusing screens with nice bright bullseyes in them. Oh the horror! Still though, if you can somehow manage to avoid that bullseye, if you can work the corners, edges, real estate, that's where the money shot is, right? Right?

Eh, not so fast. I mean, yes, generally, "right" but, lately it seems, for me especially, I'm going back to the middle. When I say "back to the middle" I'm not going center of interest, one item in the bullseye, back to the tyranny, no, that's not exactly it either. I mean, the center of interest shots (think big giant sunflower in the middle of the frame here) do sometimes work too, right? Instead, I've taking to working the corners, the edges, the nice "yummy" real estate and then, once that is all said and done, going *back in* and putting something (anything!) back to the center. Bullseye: check! I hate to say it, but I've been doing it. And, I must admit, I've been doing it a lot. (You can see it here, in this shot, the walk/don't walk sign is my "bullseye" item, although the frame has been filled as well. It's not a "sunflower" type shot, but it's also far from empty in the middle too.)

Now, I started doing this a while ago. Must be a few years at least. I think my first foray into it was (composition-wise anyway) my series called the "Read Leaf Diaries." Those were all shot on a diagonal, with an item put back into the center of interest (aka, the "bullseye.") Seriously, that started it all. But, that's not where it stopped. No, I've continued it and now, I'd have to admit, I do it a lot. It's become...almost....and you know how I absolutely *hate* to use this word but.....a signature of mine (OK, so there it is. I said it.) Yes, I really have done this as part of my "look" if you will.

As much as I hate to say it, I must admit too, that I'm not alone. No, a few folks have started to copy me, to follow me down this path of "back to the middle" if you will. I even had one guy copying me outright (shooting the same subjects, attempting to put the same "bullseye" items in the same locations!) Now, as you might imagine (or maybe you can't?) this did not work out all too well for him. He got lucky once or twice (even made it into a show with one of his copy type shots) but eventually had to give up and go another route. It just wasn't working for him. He couldn't pull it off, as it were. (It just didn't look "right" in oh so many ways, trust me on that one.) This back to the middle, take out the bullseye and then put it back in, type stuff really doesn't work for all that many people.

Now, the reason he couldn't pull it off, and I can is not because I'm some great revolutionary photographer (I'm not) and not because I have years of experience on him (I do, but that's not the real reason why.) No, the reason I am able to pull this off is because it's a natural extension of my compositional style. It grew organically (for me anyway) out of the ways I like to shoot. To put it bluntly: I didn't copy anybody to get this look, no, it's mine all mine. For me anyway, it sort of fell out in the wash and so, because it's "organic" because it's a natural extension of the way I like to shoot, it's easy for me to do (and, likewise, not so easy for somebody trying to copy it.)

To me, that's what makes it special too. It's different. I'm sure not everybody likes it. Heck, I'd be surprised if a lot of other people even tried to copy it. It's just not all that common or interesting or *whatever* but, you know, it's me, and, to me anyway, that's all that counts. It's just part of the way I tend to see the world. And, it grew from my experiences, both in the field and the studio. It came from the way I shoot, from what I like to shoot, from my spirit, if you will, so that's why I think I like it. Maybe "like" here is even a strong word. That's why I've grown to accept it. It's just *there.* it's a part of me that gets laid out along with other elements in many of the shots I take.

So, there you have it. It's back to the tyranny of the bullseye for me. Tyrants aren't always bad. Heck, they say Mussolini made the trains run on time, right? All that tyranny has got to be good for something. Tyranny or not, I'm putting stuff back in the center when I feel like it. It's just part of who I am, part of the way in which I see things. I'm not going to change any of that, nope, not going to happen.

Bullseye, check. Corners, edges, real estate, check. Why can't a girl like me have it all, eh?

Until next time...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2013


LilyPadsAndKoi_7633, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Happy Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2013! Yes, I know it's a mouthful, but I really enjoyed myself today. I took my camera, grabbed my body cap, and headed on over to my local water gardens and nursery, just before they closed today, to sneak in some pinhole shots. Oh, I have to say it was some kind of fun too. I love pinhole stuff, although you just never know what the heck you're going to get. (And, believe me, I got some wild, crazy, useless type stuff too. That's all part of the fun!)

The good folks who organize the Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day have a website up, where you can get more information about pinhole type work, including view a gallery of the images from this year. You can find out more about Pinhole Photography Day here if you are so-inclined.

For myself, it's been so nice and lovely, with a real spring this year in Austin. Although the wildflowers have been a bit of a bust (and getting mowed down, quite literally, all over town these days. What's up with that?) I decided today I would get out in it a little bit and head over to the water gardens to turn myself into a pinhead for a day. I can't say I absolute love the work, but the process of shooting pinhole really helps the creative process.

I was talking with somebody the other day about this. I declared that pinhole photography is a bit to photographers what playing scales and arpeggios are to somebody learning to play a musical instrument. You maybe don't want to "perform" a scale but playing them over and over again gives you a certain kind of practice. Playing lots of scales will make you play better solos and add a special kind of "umph" into your day-to-day playing. It's called "practice" I'd guess for good reason. Just as scales are to those learning that musical instrument, so too are pinholes for the photographer. They teach us certain things about light, about shadows, about tonal ranges and tonal changes. It's something sort of low level that, maybe if you aren't a photographer yourself, you might not quite understand. (Then again, I don't know. Maybe I'm just talking out my ass again. You know, I can do that a lot too, right?)

Well, love it, hate it, wonder what it's all about, or something in-between, today is the day we set aside to admire it and practice it. So, my good Snowflakes, that's what Queen Flake was up to today. Shooting pinholes by the ponds.

And how was your week?

Until next time...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Trip of Words


FremontEast_0668, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
There's something about Las Vegas, at least, for me, this last trip. It was the trip of words. Allow me to explain.

Sometime, during the start of it maybe, I starting shooting words. Text, text, text. Vanna White be damned, it's like I was hunting vowels. I just kept looking for words, text, lettering of any kind. At one point, I even stopped shooting pictures and just starting shooting text. I swear, I don't know what got into my head, but there you have it. Words?!? Lots and lots of words.

I've found, over the course of being a photographer for a while, to learn to trust my instincts. If "my feet" want to shoot words than, by golly, words it is! I'll make something of it afterwards, heck, I always do. But, really, man, what's up with all of the words? Words, words, words, everywhere I looked, I kept finding words. And, of course, the more you look, the more you find, the more words you find the more you think you can only find words and it's like this downward spiral of the lexicon. Descent into word madness, really that is.

I guess maybe Vegas has a lot of signs. Lots of sign action going on there. And, signs, well, they usually have words, don't they, or at least maybe lots of letters in them, right? Seems kind of obvious, maybe even a bit too much, but somehow, something deep inside me kept on going for the words, the letters, the text. It was like I was text crazy. Now that I'm back home? Eh, not so much. But, in Vegas, man? Oh were there words there. Lots and lots of words. Here a word, there a word, everywhere a word, a letter, a sign. It was crazy.

Maybe I've wanted to shoot words for a long time and didn't know how to incorporate them into my routine shooting? Maybe I just felt I wasn't writing enough and shooting too much? Heck, I don't know what was the cause of it, but I do know the result. Lots of lots of words. I'm now processing images and finding words I didn't even realized I'd shot when I was out there. I'm all like, "What? You mean there's a word in that too?!?" Geesh. (But, there you have it. The trip of words.)

Now, don't get me wrong. Words are not all that bad. Heck, I'd have to say I actually like some of them. Words, letters, signs, text, it's all fun stuff. Maybe not what I expected to shoot, but fun stuff to shoot anyway. I'm glad I did it. And, who knows? Maybe I'll get to do it again some day. Graphical. Words. Vegas. That was it, man, that was it for me. Seriously.

Now, at some point in the not too distant future, I'll be hitting you with some of these words and maybe you'll be surprised. Then again, maybe not. Hey, at least I have given you fair enough warning, right? Words....go figure! And now, here they come to you too.

Until next time...

(This one shot at night, just after dusk, Fremont Street East District, with the Canon 50mm lens, 1.6 second exposure at f/16. A bit of car/light trail and some blue in the sky, don't you think?)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bringing It All Back Home Again


Marilyn Mural, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
I'm back from the road. Was a great trip, had a lot of fun, shot a bit, got to see some stuff. Great food. All of that. Been bunchloads of tired since I got back so haven't had a chance to do much of anything. Not even unpacked just yet, although I have started that a bit. The laundry pile, why, I can hear it calling my name already.

This shot was taken during the First Friday art walk, which I attended. It is a mural of Elvis and Marilyn along the side of an art center in the downtown arts district. Fun place that was! Phew! I loved the First Friday events, although I can't say I got tons of images. It was kind of hard to shoot but oh so much fun to attend.

Have yet to touch the Compact Flash pile from the road either. I keep saying, "yeah, tomorrow, man, tomorrow" but, as you all well and know, tomorrow never really comes, does it? I started the upload process on the road, so I've got the hard drive setup, just haven't uploaded all of the cards, nor have I unpacked the laptop, the card reader, the wiring, and all of the stuff I need, pulling it out of the carry-on and back into a portable/walk-around bag I can take with me again. Once I do that, I promise, I'll have some uploads from the "real" camera for you. (I promise.) Until then, it's probably iPhone stuff and a few odds and ends (I really did go to Vegas to take pictures, you'll just have to trust me until I can get everything uploaded and all.)

Thinking about notes on the road, unpacking, and the like, I really do have to get better at this. Especially since I'm going to be traveling a bit more in the weeks (months?) to come. I need to get this entire process down to where it is more efficient. I've been taking too long to pack, waiting until the last minute, and then never unpacking. Note to self: need to fix this, so travel doesn't "hurt" so much.

I'll have a top 10 list as soon as I unpack the Flash memory pile and get to it. I've got some stuff to say but, for now anyway, just recovering from travels, trying to sleep off jet lag, and wondering when that pile of laundry is going to get itself done.

Until next time...

Friday, April 05, 2013

Notes From the Road - Las Vegas - Of Elvis, Art Crimes, and Mobsters


Elvis and Friend, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
In between shooting a ton, I thought it might be nice to check in and let y'all know how the trip is going. So far, it's been fantastic. Lots of good shooting, though I'm pretty much tired and my back is aching a lot. Still, lots of good shooting. Did I mention lots of good shooting? Yeah, though so.

Came back to the room to get some Tylenol and rest up a bit for more shooting tonight. Been doing a lot of stuff, a lot of different stuff, eating a lot of good food, and working it while I'm here.

This morning shot the Mob Museum. It was fun, but I have to say I did something different. They had all of these text (actually sayings) on the walls, so I shot basically all text. Text, text, text. I guess, in the land of the gangsters and Tommy Guns, I found a typewriter. Still very good film noir-ish stuff with lots of fun things in between. It was a great shoot.

Yesterday, the Boneyard, Man, what can I say? Yesterday was one of those days we like *live* for as photographers. We started at the Boneyard, which is actually kind of hard to shoot. Nothing tricky about the subject, but they sort of hassle you about taking pictures in general. You're not supposed to be a "pro" there, and they keep reminding you it's "snapshots only." Well, needless to say, I'm one of those people, I can't pretend to take snapshots. Two or three frames into it the security guard was already yapping at me. "Ahem. This is a tour *not* a photo shoot!" Yeah, so OK, I can't just take a tour, so like shoot me, OK? (Ha Ha! You can't just shoot me because, well, that would make it a photo shoot as well!)

After that, we hit up antique alley. Oh man, what an experience. Bunches of stuff, the kind of "junque" I just love to shoot. We ducked down some alleyway when I happened upon this couch sitting out in the middle of nowhere. It was a round lounge style couch. You'll have to take my word for it, as I was not able to get any shots off. Just as I was about to shoot it, some guy came out and waved his hand-motioned for me not to take a picture. All well and good, I mean, who doesn't like a round couch, and who would not want a shot of that just sitting outside, but I've learned that respect is more important so I let the shot go.

Was rewarded for my troubles as a few steps down the block, we found this sort of "graffiti central" style shack. Now, I'm not typically one to shoot the street art even though I like it but this stuff was the bomb in every which way. As we're shooting, it dawns upon me that, why I can smell me some fresh paint and I hear this "Sssssh" sound. Sounds like a spray can. Then, out of nowhere (well, technically out of back down the alleyway) rides in this guy on a motorcycle wearing a face mask, looking a bit like an armed bandit. Just when I'm thinking, "Oh great, I wandered my way into a gang bangers lair" I turn the corner to see two graffiti artists doing this stuff. And, get this, good Karma comes around (thanks, Mr. You-Can't-Shoot-My-Couch!) because they LET US SHOOT THEM. Yes, it's true, we got all of these shots of masked men painting graffiti, and believe me when I say, it was FANTASTIC graffiti. Turns out one of the artists is world famous too. He gave us his "street name" and we promised to send him some shots fresh off the sensor and all. Can't wait to hook up with these guys as that was a fantastic shoot. Yeowza! Score one for the photogs and this was *after* shooting the Boneyard (a place I've wanted to shoot for years now.) I guess photographic dreams really can come true because that's what yesterday was all about (for me anyway.)

If that were not enough, Vegas treating us good and all, we walked a bit ways more down the alley and happened upon this fun group of what looked like ravers. They had this sort of "dead cow" which was actually a giant sculpture of a cow but, get this, it was TIPPED OVER. They offered to "straighten up their cow" for us (Ha! When does *that* happen?) but we declined, saying we prefer our cow "freshly tipped." Got some great shooting in with them, and come to find out the cow's name was Wayne Mooton. I mean, who would not like a tipped over cow named Wayne Mooton? Gotta love Vegas.

In between, we did some neon lights (been a lot of hunting neon this trip) and the mob museum this morning was a treat. Lots of really good food, although I keep eating tons. Been walking and shooting a lot (well, walking as much as I can and shooting the same way.)

This one from a mural right near the famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign which I also shot. Got a couple of Fake Elvii and a few Frank Sinatra's in as well. I mean, who doesn't shoot that kind of stuff, right?

Oh, and, down by the old antique area we saw this incredibly long line, people queued up waiting to get into....a pawn shop? Turns out they film some kind of show here called "Pawn Stars" and we saw the guy from the show out from giving a talk. We opted not to stand in line and shot the Vintage Vegas boutique instead. What fun so far.

Tonight we're headed to an art fair outdoor thing and tomorrow brings our first real day of shooting on the strip. Stuff like the fountains of Bellagio and the like. Long shutter, water type of stuff. Should be fun. Oh, and the Dale glassworks, which I'm itching to see.

More notes from the road, I promise, as time permits.

Until next time...

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Some Neon

Went out last night and unearthed some screaming neon signage. Vegas is great for this kind of stuff.

Today promises a trip to the Boneyard aka Neon Museum, followed by the search for funk in Antique Alley. Fun stuff that.

This is one of those trips where we keep shooting. No time for uploads. Maybe later. Pics will follow, I promise. Got a few from the iPhone I can share to tide you over.

Until next time...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Packing, Packing, Packing, No Actually Stuffing


008-InsideTheTiltAWhirl, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Well, it's the day before my trip and I'm all packed and ready to go, right? HA! (Actually, in this instance, double HA! might be more appropriate. Even, dare I say it aloud, triple HA!) Oh darn! Lots to do, lots to do. Lots of packing, I mean stuffing to be done here, folks.

To make matters worse, Austin is under this drippy rain-like weather event that is just killing me. My allergies are crying louder than you could imagine. My back hurts. It's damp and dreary. Ugh! I've got like ten million things to do and like twenty minutes to do them in. Wish me luck, right? Needless to say, it's going to be a long night.

If all of this were not enough, I actually could not sleep last night. I just couldn't fall asleep. I kept tossing and turning and flipping around. Fighting Chase for the last little bit of covers and then throwing them all off in a fit of "I'm too hot now!" madness that just seemed to never end. It's been a long day and it's only morning already. Somebody, please shoot me now before it gets any worse.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. Once I get into that blue van and start the long journey to the airport and to my final destination, somehow, like magic, all of my cares just seem to melt away. I think that's the single most enjoyable thing I love about flying-somebody else has to drive. I can just sit in the back and relax. Sure, I'm cramped in there like a sardine and, heck, since we're being honest, the food really does suck back there but, hey, somebody else is driving and I can just fall over, pull out a pillow, take a nap, read a book, listen to some tunes, or just think for a while. Clears the mind, really that does. It's like a free version of therapy.

Of course, we're expecting this totally *great* round of thunderstorms to land in good ole' ATX the moment I'm supposed to take off tomorrow. But, hey, nothing's going to stop me now. I'm determined to enjoy myself come hell, high water, or both. Besides, what's packing really, but stuffing a few changes of clothing into a suitcase. Heck, I did the hard part already. I somehow managed to pull the suitcase down from the closet and actually open it last night. Yeah! Go me! Now all I gotta do is get the camera crap packed up, stuff a couple of shirts and the like into the big blue bag and, *wham* I'm off! What's not to love about this, right?

Actually, this entire online travel this is really the way to go. Usually, I find myself surprised about how much they can do with online apps, but not with travel-related items. No, anything travel related and I'm already thinking, "Why don't they already have an app for this?!?" To give you an example, I'm supposed to check-in 24 hours before my flight. All well and good. So, I go to the mobile app and I sort of kind of check in. It checks me in and gives me a seat assignment but still tells me I have to go to some webpage and print out my boarding pass. Print out my boarding pass? What the heck? I want to just zap it into my phone and then zap it at the nice lady standing in front of the sky way tomorrow morning. What is this printing crap I have to do now? Gosh, I feel so Amish! Might as well make me use a stone tablet and a chisel already! So, yes, online, web-based, mobile phone-based, oh how I wish all of these things would get here already. Please, great Gods of the Internets, make it so!

Anything to make my life easier, right? Because, like, that suitcase ain't getting any lighter, that's for sure.

Until next time...

PS In case it were not totally obvious, this might be my last post for a while. I'm hitting the road, Jack, so I hope you like this shot (it might be up for a couple of days.) I will try to contact from Vegas but can't make any promises as schedules on the road do tend to get more than a little bit crazy. I've got mobile blogging turned on so don't be surprised to see pop-up posts from all over the town, if I can manage it as well. See you on the other side, Snowflakes!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Blessed Saint Mary of the April Fool


009-GhostlyFigure, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
Today is April Fool's Day. It's also the day right after Easter Sunday. Something struck me as quite funny (actually "odd" would be a better word) about these two events happening so close together this year.

I take things too seriously. Seriously, I do. Serious, serious, serious. That's me, all the time, always being so darned serious. Like the sky really is going to fall, the world is going to come to an end, or heck, I really just should be doing it this way kind of serious. Ugh! I'm always taking things so seriously. I'm always running things over in my head, thinking about how I need to do this or do that or what comes next or how to leverage this into that or how to get this or how I really need that. I do so much of this, that, sometimes anyway, it feels like I forget to have fun.

I think God intended for us to have fun. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the power of the Easter Sunday. Not making fun of or trying to belittle the Resurrection in any way shape or form. Trust me, I know that's *serious* stuff. About as serious as serious stuff can get actually.

But God also made April Fool's Day, and He did it for a reason. We're supposed to be serious creatures, yes, when the time calls for it. But, I think on some level anyway, we're supposed to have some fun too. I mean, if you aren't enjoying it, it you aren't have fun on some level, then maybe you're not really doing it right. See what I mean? The cosmos, the great power in the sky, whatever you believe it, surely it wanted you to have some fun too, didn't it? I mean, that's why everybody smile in photographs-we actually really do look better that way. It's how we were designed. To smile. To laugh. To enjoy the world and all its glory. Seriously, we were.

So, this year anyway, I'm going to take a clue, take a hint, pick up on that theme and run with it. I'm going to Vegas, yes. I'm going to try to shoot some serious night photography, shoot the Boneyard in all it's glory, heck, shoot the town up. Indeed. But, somewhere in there, somewhere between the folds of getting the tripod setup, using the timer in dark, climbing around the dead neon signs wondering when (if?) I had my last tetanus shot, I'm going to try to have some fun too. Heck, even if I have to force myself, I'm going to have some fun. Fun, fun, fun. Me. This is me having some fun. Seriously. I deserve it. (Don't I?)

Seriously. Fun. I'm going to give it a try this time. Don't you think it's long overdue?

Until next time...