I started taking an art class this summer. It's Drawing 1101 at the University of Minnesota and it's a prerequisite for many art degrees. Since I've been thinking about getting a BFA in photography, I thought I should start somewhere, especially since most of the classes I took when I was in college were in engineering. I still have an interest in engineering, but I'm already a pretty good photograper, so that was the direction I decided to go.
I've learned a few things at this class that I didn't expect to. One is that I can actually draw. I knew I was okay at drafting and representing mechanical and angular shapes, but I didn't expect to discover that I could draw organic shapes as well. Faces are still tough though. The second thing that I learned came completely out of the blue, during an assignment on perspective. It turns out that many "photoshopped" composite photos don't have a consistent vanising point. One more thing to use for spotting the hacks.
So I had to do some "research" and I thought I'd share what I discovered.
So far, I've found that Maxim, FHM, Blender, Zoo and others all seem to have pretty badly designed, bandwidth-intensive websites. I'm guessing that they'd rather you bought the magazine at newsstands or just got a subscription. Maxim seemed to have the most obvious but least irritating problem. When paging through the Girls of Maxim, there are links to the right for "previous girl" and "next girl". As I was paging through the photos in one set, the same girl showed up as both the previous and next girl depending on what photo I was on. I don't think it's cookie related because I'm pretty sure I allowed cookies. On the other hand, it's not like I felt I needed to view their galleries in any particular order, so it was pretty easy to get over that one.
Here's what I've found for style and quality of images so far. All the magazines seem based on getting sexy shots of girls and the quality of those shots isn't really the important part.
Maxim seemed to have the best quality photographs overall along with the best sets and props. Some of the more striking ones being taken with a dual-edgelight set up which is kind of an obvious aproach, but very effective. Their lighting, pose and composition were varied and interesting. They seemed to genuinely want to make good photos that happened to be of hot women in lurid positions and settings.
FHM had the least content. The composition seemed reliable and the poses varied in quality depending on the model in question. The lighting tended to be pretty simple and uninspired, usually a basic beauty light setup. One thing that they had plenty of though, was nipples. Lots of nipples. Generally sitting on huge bags of silicon.
Blender had the standard band promo photos from the record label. It's hard to identify a style there since all the photographs were taken by different people. It felt like trying to define what style defines comic books. Since there is no "Blender style" I'll have to move on from that one.
Zoo, was linked from either Maxim or FHM. I forget which. Again, they tended to have a wide variety of photographs where the important part was that there be a bare-breasted woman in them. Art was generally sacrificed to content, but sometimes they had some real stunners. I couldn't really define a style, but I'll keep trying...
Another thing that I noticed about all these magazines is that they were not above phoning it in and using promotional shots instead of taking their own and that they shared quite a bit among them. I was never on Stuff's website, but I saw several Stuff watermarks.
Anyway, I'll post some stuff from that shoot when it happens and we can all decide if I hit it on the head or not.
Some marriages come with children, ours comes with toys. Hmm, that doesn't sound right. Anyway, I finally picked up my new EOS 5D to be my primary camera. I'll still keep the 10D around for the long telephotos since it has more pixels per inch on its smaller sensor. I'll do some comparison shots at some point.
Those who have actually listened to me on the subject of digital photography know that the magnification factor of the 10D has been bugging me for years. I have a very nice 17mm lens that functions as a 28mm lens on the 10D. When I put it on the 5D however, I was tickled pink to have my 17mm lens back. If you're not familiar with how that works, go look up digital focal length conversion factors. This article is okay, but it doesn't mention the effects perspective like this one does.
I'll still be using my EOS 3 since I have a lot of film left in my fridge. I just bought a changing bag so I can develop my own film at home. It saves a couple bucks and it's a fun and toxic thing to do in your basement
Yesterday's Strobist meetup went great! We had 9 of 10 photographers and 5 of 7 models show. We all got some great shots and we learned a lot about working with models. We ran the gammut again with models and photographers experience levels so we all got some new experiences. We also had a wide variety of equipment from Alien Bee ringlights to discontinued speedlights. All in all, it was a great time.
I did get reminded that I should always leave my equipment out until I'm really ready to leave. After about 5 hours of shooting, I decided to pack up and just watch what other folks were doing and I missed a couple of opportunities for behind-the-scenes shots. Oh well, that would have ruined the mystique anyway, right?
Well, tomorrow is another strobist meetup. We've got a big group this time and are actually having to turn away both photographers and models. I'm not too happy about that, but it's winter and we have to do what we have to do. Summer time should be a bit better for the big meetups so it's a little odd for me, but that's two reasons I'm looking forward to summer.
I identify myself as a hardcore Minnesotan. I was born here, I've always lived here, and I love the cold and snow we get every year. It's nine degrees below zero outside right now and I'm just starting to think it feels like winter again. On the other hand, with the limited daylight hours and the icy trails, it's not so good for bycicling lately. I've had to hang out in the third floor bedroom where I've set up my bike on a trainer and my iBook on an end table. It's not the same as biking 35 miles from home before walking to work, but I am catching up on The Batman.
Last Sunday, we had a Strobist meet-up in Northeast Minneapolis. We got a studio from 08:00 to 18:00 and lined up 8 models from ModelMayhem, four in the morning and four in the evening. All of them canceled due to snow. Fortunately one of our fellow Strobists has a son who is in the theater industry and knew some people who knew some people. We got four new models and had quite a time.
Early in the morning, before any models showed up. I was screwing around in the studio. It's much larger than my home studio and the wall color is much more neutral. They also have a great table for product shots and it was a simple matter to set up some empty Coke cans and fire away. Using my new 100mm macro lens I was able to get some really tight depth of field shots. I also tried this technique with a dirty coffee pot, three plastic-tipped darts and a black-and-red vase that was sitting on top of a cupboard.
Before lunch (from Pizza Lucé!), I worked with two of the other strobists with support from the rest of the group and went over some of the lighting exercises from Lighting 102, including the most important one, balancing flash with ambient light. I only said f/stop when I meant shutter-speed a few times, honest.
Once the models showed up I learned:
- How tough it is to work in a stairwell.
- More experienced models are easier to work with.
- AI-Servo mode doesn't always focus where you think it should.
Last Saturday, I took some portraits for Steve Mueske. I haven't done much in the way of portraiture, but I'm working on it. Between what I've learned at Strobist and what I already know, I managed to produce some pretty good shots. It was fun experimenting with light and color and Steve was a good sport when I said things like "Let me try this nose-enhancing wide-angle lens for one".
He also showed me to this really cool location at an abandoned munitions plant on the University of Minnesota's Rosemount Research facility. There were rows of these huge concrete structures that must have been either mounts for heavy equipment or blast protection for/from explosives. I'm definitely going to head back there sometime for more pictures and there's a lot more land and ruins to explore.
I heard from a guy at my local coffee shop yesterday that some local groups go down there to do war re-enactment. I suppose all the open land and interesting ruins could be good for that. I think I had my fill of re-enactments in my 11 years at the Rennaissance festival though.
I'm really loving this strobist thing.
This weekend I tried out the first assignment in the Lighting 102 series: Cooking Light. The assignment was to take any reasonably shiny kitchen utensil and take pictures of it while paying particular attention to controlling the specular highlight. That's the direct reflection from the light source. In this case, I used a microplane grater and tried out a couple different specular highlight options. This is my favorite of the group because of its abstract nature. The light is coming from a 540EZ strobe on the right, bounced off of a cardboard box behind the grater.
I'm thinking about doing a basic photography class for some friends and possibly running it as a seminar at some of the local Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions in town. I know general photography isn't really a SciFi thing, but it seems like something the general public needs to have now that digital photography has come to the masses. Since more people are able to take and share photos without thinking about it, the overall quality of published imagery has really gone down. Besides, I think there are enough hungry minds at these conventions that the technical side will really appeal. So anyway, if I do it as a seminar, the title will be "How to Take Pictures that Don't Suck".
I am an avid reader of Gizmodo: the Gadget Blog because of my obsession with gadgets. They recently had an article about the lighting boot camp that David over at Strobist was about to have. His intent was to share his and others' knowledge of off-camera flash photography. Since most of my photography has been outdoor and nature photography, I've never had the opportunity to really learn how to use a flash, much less an off-camera flash. Of course, I signed up at Flickr right away so I could participate. I've learned more about flash photography in the last month than I could have imagined. If you've ever wanted to take pictures where you control the light or if you already think you're hot stuff in that department, check out the site and I guarantee you'll learn at least one thing.
As I have no doubt mentioned. Grand Marais was a really nice little town. I think it would have more appeal to a mariner since most of the town is a marina (by area). There's a point that sticks out into the lake which is where I took the picture of my self from two posts earlier, and the land forms the start of a natural harbor in the other direction. On the way out to the lighthouse before I left for Thunder Bay I took a series of panoramas.
The breakwater has a really interesting interface between concrete and stone.
Here's an overview of the whole thing taken from right up next to the water.
And the last two are an overview of the area and one from right next to the cute little lighthouse
New Pictures 8: Sarah Jones
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
04/18/2013—02/02/2014 - Free
31 Years: Gifts from Martin Weinstein
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
11/02/2013—08/31/2014 - Free
New Pictures 9: Rinko Kawauchi
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
02/20/2014—08/10/2014 - Free
Finland: Designed Environments
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
05/10/2014—08/17/2014 - Free