2011 Weekly Photo Challenge – I did it!

52 random subjects.

52 photos.

52 weeks.

I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully met the challenge to photograph a pre-defined subject, once a week over the course of a year!

Challenge is indeed the proper term for this project.  Some weeks it was difficult to fit time into my schedule for photography.  Some subjects left me scratching my head wondering what in the world I’d photograph.

It was the commitment to this project that gave me the extra push to find the time, and think creatively, for something interesting (or at least satisfactory) to photograph.  The motivation in our flicker group really helped me along too – what an awesome bunch of photographers!  Thanks a million to Brooke (aka shutterboo) for broadening my horizons and introducing me to this project.

So what’s next for me in 2012?  I’ll be taking a break from blogging and photo challenges to start.  Instead, I registered for a Photoshop class at a local art school.  The geek in me is excited to finally learn the software package, while the creative in me can’t wait to see how it will complement my photography.

Thank you everyone for your kind comments and motivation throughout this past year.  I wish you a happy 2012, full of many photo-worthy moments!

Boots with the Fur [WPC #52 – black & white]

1/60  f1.8  50mm  ISO400  A

I photographed a couple of different subjects showcasing “black & white” this week, but I liked these photos of my new winter boots the best.  Maybe because I’m loving these boots.

1/40  f1.8  50mm  ISO400  A

I was hoping to shoot them outside with some snow … but since it’s currently raining here, I headed into my foyer.  The natural light coming in from the open front door and window above makes it difficult to tell it’s actually a dark, bleary day.  I may have found a new favorite place to take photos in my house.

1/40  f1.8  50mm  ISO400  A

And with this 52nd photo, that completes the 2011 weekly photo challenge!  More on that in a bit …

Photos of a Foodie – a Kitchen Photo Shoot

Earlier this month, my friend Michelle (aka The Brown Eyed Baker) asked if I’d mind shooting a few photos of her baking in the kitchen.  An afternoon spent hanging out in the comforts of home, laughing and talking over the delicious aroma of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve tasted?  No problem!

I brought along my f1.8 50mm lens.  This pulled a tighter frame in some shots, but I needed that extra aperture since, after playing with many different angles, I determined my favorite backdrop to be the kitchen windows (perhaps due to my recent Giada kick?).  So my main source of light was usually behind my subject’s face.  As you’ll see though, Michelle photographs beautifully no matter where she is.  And equally impressive is her multitasking skills, as she was able to whip up a delicious treat, carry on a conversation, and look good while doing so!

I’ll share a few of my favorites below.  And just to throw this out there Michelle, if we missed something and you need a reshoot, I’m game.  You could maybe make your brownies … or cupcakes …  chocolate candies …  Do you see where my sweet tooth is going with this?  😉

1/320  f1.8  5omm  ISO800  A

1/160  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  A

1/320  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  A

1/500  f1.8  50mm  ISO800 A

1/60  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  A

1/100  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  A

1/250  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  A

1/125  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  A

A Bench on the Lake [WPC #51 – stillness]

1/80  f8  18mm  ISO200  A

I share with you my photo for this week’s photo challenge of “stillness”:  a quiet bench on a pier overlooking the calm lake water on a cool winter’s day.  My choice in the antique coloring makes it difficult to determine whether the photo was taken many years ago or recently (rest assured it’s the latter!).  I’m sure though that anytime someone visited this bench in the park, it served as an excellent spot to still the mind.

Holiday Exhibits at the Carnegie Museum of History [WPC #50 – pink]

This past weekend Tom and I decided to pop into our local museum to see their holiday tree display: six 20-foot Colorado spruce trees lining the Hall of Architecture, each adorned with handcrafted ornaments that celebrate art, culture, and science.

1/13 f3.5 18mm ISO400 A

1/25 f3.5 18mm ISO800 A

1/30 f3.5 18mm ISO800 A

Also on display was a rather impressive Nativity set, Neapolitan presepio. Handcrafted by artisans between 1700 and 1830, it depicted the Nativity as seen through the eyes of Neapolitan artisans and collectors. There were many people admiring the beauty of this display, making it difficult to capture a good picture of the entire set. So I zoomed in on the most important part.

1/15 f5.6 55mm ISO800 A

Mindful of my weekly photo challenge assignment to photograph something “pink”, we then ventured towards the Hall of Minerals and Gems. I found many gorgeous pink gemstones, though a challenge in and of itself was to capture a proper photograph among the displays of glass cases and spotlights. I pressed my lens against the display glass to minimize glare and bumped my ISO up high. Below is the result of my efforts, and my choice pink photo.

1/320 f5 36mm ISO1600 A

The Snowflake Festival [WPC #49 – fantasy]

A farm near my house held a Snowflake Festival this past weekend. Amongst Amish donuts, carriage rides, ice carving, and food samplings, the festival promised a visit from a special guest. This most likely meant Santa Claus, though Tom Cruise and his family were spotted at this very farm a few weeks ago (while in town filming a movie). Either would’ve worked for me, so off I went in search of a photo op to fulfill the “fantasy” photo challenge this week.

That special guest? Santa Claus, of course.  A magical fantasy for children and their Christmas wish-lists everywhere.

1/60 f3.2 50mm ISO1600 S

Shooting around a nighttime festival was an interesting challenge in itself. I chose shutter priority and set the shutter speed for the lowest I felt I could not show camera shake (1/60). I also bumped the ISO up higher than I’ve ever used. There is some noise in the photos, but it’s the trade-off I suppose for being able to actually capture photos in this environment.

1/60 f1.8 50mm ISO1600 EV2 S

1/60 f1.8 50mm ISO1600 S

1/60 f2.2 50mm ISO1600 S

Another trade-off was my decision to immediately devour the Amish donut rather than photograph it. Once the gooey goodness of that donut touched my fingers, there was no going near my camera. But trust me, it was worth it. Tom Cruise, you really missed out.

Bath Time for Barkley the Bulldog [WPC #48 – sadness]

This week I took a subject (“sadness”) that I wasn’t really looking forward to photographing and turned it into a jumping off point for a series of photos.  I ended up having fun with the assignment, and now have documented one of those small, routine-type of moments in my life.

I’m referring to bath time.  For my bulldog.

Bath evenings usually start out fun enough – this particular one we were on the floor playing ball.  But then I said Can I ask you something?

1/60  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  M

He seemed intrigued.   Until the dreaded question came.  Do you want to get a bath?

1/60  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  M

His honest-to-goodness reaction to the question.  There’s my sadness!

Bless his little heart, he begrudgingly obliged and slinked upstairs to meet us in the bathroom.

1/80  f1.8  50mm  ISO400  M

Just get it over with, his look conveyed the entire time.

1/80  f1.8  50mm  ISO400  M

After a good shampoo and rinse, the challenge then is to lift him out of the tub and simultaneously wrap a towel around him, before “the shake”.  This particular night I was successful.

1/50  f1.8  50mm  ISO800 M

This is the point the sadness turned into joy and invigoration.  We opened the bathroom door and he couldn’t escape fast enough – freedom!

1/200  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  M

The next move is always a belly-flop onto his futon to further dry off … and maybe make more laundry for me.  This night was no exception.

1/40  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  M

Maybe his celebration has nothing to do with trying to dry off, but more so with that look in his eyes.  Invigorated.  Elated.  Relieved.  He survived another awful bath!

1/50  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  M

While shooting all of these photos, I wanted to be mindful of my shutter speed (moving subject) but also allow enough light in (indoors, evening time).  So I shot in Manual mode entirely.  This was the first time I didn’t tiptoe back to Aperture or Shutter priority.  Once I learned to pay attention to the light meter on my viewfinder, I started getting the hang of adjusting the settings quickly on the fly.

Which is a good thing.  Because how else do you capture a thrashing, belly-flopping bulldog late in the evening?

1/50  f1.8  50mm  ISO800  M

The Colors of Pittsburgh [WPC #47 – black]

 1/125  f1.8  50mm  ISO400  A

Tasked to take a photo of the color “black” this week I took my camera to work in hopes of finding an inspiring subject.  My lens landed on this miniature Steelers football helmet that rests atop a coworker’s cabinet.   While post-processing I decided to bump up the saturation, which transformed the background bokeh into a golden hue.  That gave the photo an extra pop, as black paired with gold is a color combination taken very seriously in Pittsburgh.

How to Photograph a Rhinoceros [WPC #46 – silhouette]

1/2000  f6.3  164mm  ISO100  EV-3  A

I read various tips on how to create a silhoutte photo.  The most popular one being to set your subject up in front of direct light (ideally, sun) and expose for the brightest part of the photo.  I found this technique to be a challenge while taking photos at the zoo over the weekend.  It was a bright sunny day, around the noon hour.  I had my telephoto lens which made it near impossible to get the sun and my subject in the frame together (this may have worked with a wide angled lens though).

So I instead experimented with another technique – exposure compensation.  I dialed down to -3 or -2, and shot at different angles.  My chosen photo above is a partial silhouette.  You can see some details in the rhinoceros foot and ears, but I think it adds some interest.

For comparison’s sake, here’s a version of that photo without the exposure compensation adjusted.

1/320  f6.3  175mm  ISO100  A

Perhaps it’s not the rhino’s best side that I photographed (poor guy!), but I think this is a good example of when a silhoutte can make for a more appealing photograph.

Zoo Animals in Telephoto Lens Closer than They Appear

1/125  f4.2  62mm  ISO100  A

Wanting to take advantage of the sunny weather – and use some free passes – Tom and I visited the Pittsburgh Zoo over the weekend.  It’s located in the outskirts of the city, so at certain spots you see this interesting contrast of city and wildlife.

1/320  f6.3  98mm  ISO100  A

But a majority of the animals don’t get to enjoy the city scenery, and have a much more typical view for a zoo.

1/1000  f4  55mm  ISO100  EV-2  A

This was the first zoo visit for my 55-200mm lens .  With a telephoto lens, getting great photos of the animals is almost effortless.  And a ton of fun.  Here are some favorites from the excursion.

1/320  f6.3  200mm  ISO100

1/250  f6.3  92mm  ISO100  A

1/400  f6.3  200mm  ISO100  A

1/160  f6.3  190mm  ISO100  A

1/320  f5.6  200mm  ISO100  A

1/400  f5.6  200mm  ISO100  A