DUCKIES AND HORSIES

While I am between jobs, I have started to participate in a few photography challenges on Facebook.  They are kind of fun and definitely stimulate my creativity.  They remind me somewhat of assignments that I used to hand out when I taught photography.  For example:  photograph yellow.  Shoot the assignment.  Think outside the box.

Before I continue on with the blog, take a look at this photo.  What do you see?  No sharing answers or looking at your neighbor’s paper.  Or texting the answer.

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Last week’s challenge was to submit a picture of the sunset.  Letting my procrastination tendency run wild, I finally went out to shoot the sunset on Friday the 13th.  By the time I got to my “secret sunset location”, I was too late. (photographers’ always seem to have a “secret location”.  I don’t have one, but it sounds cool to say it),  The sun had gone below the horizon.  That sucker sinks fast.!  The results were pretty dismal. This is one of the semi-best of a poor sampling.

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On Saturday, I made myself leave an hour earlier,  I returned to my double secret sunset site,   There was also an extremely interesting cloud formation that I felt might give me the opportunity to get some above average sunset images.

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As the above image shows, I got there in plenty of time.  I was able to take advantage of the cloud formation with the bright sun shining through.

While scuttling around the park trying to get several shots from different vantage points, there were  a couple of song lyrics running through my head.  “Waiting for the Sun” is an all too obvious lyric from the  Doors song of the same name. The other lyric was from Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore.”

“Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow.”

Yes, I am aware it is talking about “the sunrise”, but I am granting myself a little  artistic license in this case.

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I also took the opportunity to experiment a bit.  I had hoped to get the sunset reflected in the water, but as it turned out, the best sunset shots were on the other side of the canal and the bridge was not close to where I was shooting, meaning I couldn’t easily travel back and forth.  I chose to stay on the side that gave me the best view of the sunset.

I came away very satisfied with the overall quality of my sunset series.  I was able to track and photograph the sun as it dropped down under the cloud cover to its’ descent below the horizon, creating all those wonderful colors that make up our outstanding Arizona sunsets.

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As the original plan of shooting the reflection off of the water was not an option for me, I came up with the  idea of photographing the reflection of the sunset off of the windows of a nearby office, just to add a little touch of creativity to the session.

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I am pleased with my sunset session.  I do not normally shoot landscape photographs, so this was a bit out of my comfort zone.  I am glad I took the challenge.  I will share more of my favorite images from this session on my Facebook gallery.

NOW LET’S TAKE OUR ATTENTION BACK TO THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPH.   HAVE YOU FIGURED IT OUT?

Charles Schulz, the creator of the comic strip Peanuts was a genius.  I loved Peanuts growing up and I bought every book of Peanuts compilations that I could.  One of my favorites strips had Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus laying on a hill gazing at the clouds.  Lucy remarks that shapes could be seen in the clouds.  She asks Linus what he sees.  Linus replies that he sees the map of the Caribbean, a famous sculptor, and the stoning of Stephen.  When Lucy asks Charlie Brown what he sees, he replies, ” I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsie, but I changed my mind.”

My friends and I began using the term “duckies and horsies” as a catch phrase for things that are relatively unimportant or frivolous compared to other life events going on in the universe.

And with that HUGE hint, I hope you saw the same thing I did… a duck!

While waiting for the sun to go down, I did amuse myself by taking several photographs of the many ducks that inhabit the park.

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Now this may seem like “duckies and horsies” to you, but I thought it pretty cool of Mother Nature to arrange having a “cloud duck” for me to photograph as well as the live ones.

In the interest of full disclosure, my friends and I always use the term “duckies and piggies” for the last 40 some odd years.  I was surprised when I looked up the strip today that the it actually said “ducky and horsie.”

Finally, in the context of larger events, I am sending my prayers and good wishes to the Navy Yard victims and the Colorado flood victims.

To see the actual comic strip by Shulz, click here.

“Waiting for the Sun” words by Jim Morrison/music by the Doors.  Copyright Doors Music Company

Battle of Evermore Writer(s):   James Patrick, Robert Plant.  Copyright: Flames Of Albion Music Inc

THEY MIGHT BE CLIENTS

About a month ago when I was getting a haircut from Vonn, the young lady responsible for making me look as terrific as I do, she informed me that she was putting together a Client Appreciation Day.  She envisioned her gift to her clients as a time in a park where the client would come and bring the family or significant other and get a 15 minute mini “on location photo shoot” by her friend and professional photographer Jana.  This event was free of charge and each customer participating was to receive for free 2 high quality, high resolution prints of his or her choice.  Vonn asked me if I would be interested and that I had a choice: getting my photograph taken or helping out with the photography.  Since I already know what I look like, I jumped at the chance to come out and help with taking pictures.

As I was not the lead photographer, meaning that my images were not going to be the ones that would be viewed and selected for printing by the clients, I knew I would have more freedom in how and what I shot.  This was a great chance to get some great practice done in a real situation but without the normal pressures of shooting lead.  I would be able to go for the shots I like to do best, the candid shots, the “non-posed” images which capture the emotionality of any given moment.

I also used the day as an opportunity to rent a lens I had been wanting to try, the 85 mm 1.2 by Canon.  It is a prime lens that has a great reputation for excellent portrait results and tack sharp images.

The morning was to be a styled shoot.  Basically that means  instead of just showing up and getting a picture or two taken, there would be a theme to the session complete with props.  The theme for the morning was “picnic”.  Vonn provided a plethora of props for the session as well as encouraging her clients to bring props of their own.  Although I have heard about them and seen images from them, this was my first ever involvement with a styled shoot.  Vonn ran the whole morning like a movie director putting all the pieces together for a film masterpiece.  She helped with the posing, moved the props, moved us to various locations around the park and was pretty much a dynamo of energy and creativity all morning long.

I also enjoyed observing another photographer at work.  One can learn much by watching how other people perform their work.  That is why colleges and universities put students with a mentor teacher so they can observe the professional in a classroom situation.  Thankfully, Jana didn’t charge tuition.  I was able that morning to observe how she posed her subjects, how she interacted with them, made them feel relaxed during the shoot. When we had a break between clients I was able to ask Jana any question that came to my mind during the previous session.

I saw my main purpose of the morning as that of a “behind the scenes” shooter.  I was documenting the documentary, so to speak.  Sort of a B roll shooter in film jargon.  I ended up taking photographs of the props, the scenery, the posing,  the young ladies at work, the unguarded moments of the clients, and the ducks.  No self respecting park is without a duck population.  And no matter what the session, I am always capturing an image or three of the ducks.

Here are images of some of the props used on Vonn’s first ever CLIENT APPRECIATION DAY.

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Some of the clients that came that day were couples.  For one of her props of the day, Vonn made this little “love” sign.

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Of course what is a  picnic without a picnic basket?  Just ask Yogi and Boo Boo.

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If kids are coming, balloons are a MUST!

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Vonn did something special for the last family of the day.  It was the dad’s birthday. Vonn secretly brought party hats, cupcakes and a birthday sign she had made.  She had the dad and mom off by themselves while behind their backs the two daughters and grandma put on the hats and got out the cakes.  Much like a “first look” shot at a wedding, the dad was asked to turn around and as he turned, Jana photographed his reaction to his mini surprise party.  Great fun.

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The complete picnic staging area.  The pillows are hand made by Vonn.  Attempting a little humor I asked Vonn “in what demented universe do people bring books to a picnic?”  I was informed by the two young women that bringing books to picnics was quite normal and not “demented”.  At that point I figured out two things: 1. it has been way, way too long since I have been on a picnic, and 2. I am never as funny as I think I am.

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All that morning, being in the park on a great day with  a nice little breeze and pleasant, lovely people all around, the song “Saturday Afternoon” by the Jefferson Airplane, with its lyrics about “incense and balloons”, kept replaying itself in my head.  (listening to the song now as I write this little post).  Brought back many pleasant memories.

Now about those ducks…one of my objectives for renting the 85 mm was to see if it truly performed as advertised.  Would it delivery those tack sharp details that turn a good image into a great one. I was not disappointed.  This lens may have jumped passed a new refrigerator and big screen TV on my must purchase list.

Just look at this pre-crop and post-crop result.

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If the enlarged duck has any soft detail, it is because of depth of field, not because of the lens.  I am pretty sure that when I saw how sharp these images turned out when I zoomed in, I got up and fist pumped and said “YES!” a few times, frightening cats and wife all at the same time.

I can live with an ice chest and a 19″ TV.

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Jana “capturing the moment” with Vonn looking on.

I am very appreciative that Jana gave permission for me to work beside her during this shoot.  It was essentially her gig, and she didn’t have to do that.  I am glad she did. I learned much from talking with her and watching how she interacted with the subjects during the session.

Jana did earn a degree of sympathy from me, however.  On the odd occasion that she asked me a question, I went “full teaching mode” on her, starting from the invention of photography to the current state of Adobe and Photoshop.  Old habits are hard to break.  My motto?  “Why say in 5 words what I can rant on for 4,000.”  Now she knows what my poor students had to sit through.

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Vonn doing it all; giving instructions, encouraging her clients and carrying the props.   Thanks you for inviting me to tag along and take pictures on your special client day.

For samples of this shoot and more of Jana’s images go here.

For your hair styling needs, Vonn’s page is here.

Title of this blog is a play on “They Might Be Giants” which can either be the name of a movie or the name of an American alternative rock band.

“Saturday Afternoon” by JA is linked here.