Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Month of FotoFactory Projects...

I had my first 'Class' for the 3 year photography program at the FotoFactory on October 3rd. Originally we were supposed to begin on September 19th....but the course requires a minimum of 9 students and we only had 6. While 5 'Possible' students are trying to get their finances together, The director of the school decided to start the course with a month of projects. So that's what I've been busy with.
On the 3rd of October we were given an ''Assignment book' which included 6 assignments that need to be completed and presented on November 7th...our next meeting.

The Assignments:

PP-01 A tour of Amsterdam where specific photos need to be taken at certain points
PP-03 Make a reconstruction of a photo in the assignment book
PP-04 Present a 'Photo Project' which will take place over the next 6 months
PP-05 Make a portrait of yourself that is recognizable, bring in 13x 18 print
PP-06 A photo Diary. Take one photo every day for 3 weeks, expressing an emotion or feeling

Bring contact sheets of ALL photos taken between October 3 and 7th, as well as all photo prints which have been developed. Projects need to be presented professionally.

Phew! Enough to keep me busy on evenings and weekends.

And these are my results...

PP-01 A tour of Amsterdam where specific photos need to be taken at certain points

You can see the photos here, but an overview of the assignment:
  • Begin at Central Station and take 5 photos contrasting the construction with the old buildings,
  • Walk to the Zeedijk and take 5 photos of the chinese influence in the area
  • Have lunch in a chinese restaurant and take a photo before and after of your meal
  • Take photos of 3 people eating in the restaurant, trying to capture the atmosphere
  • Ask how your meal was made and try to get the recipe
  • Walk along the Warmoesstraat and take pictures of conspciuous things
  • Go to the Stock Exchange and take a portrait of a worker there, then ask the Euro dollar exchange rate
  • Walk along the kalverstraat and take pictures of 3 trends
  • Go to Cafe Hoppe on the Spui and take 2 pictures inside which show the incident lighting in the cafe
  • Go to the Leidseplein and take pictures of 3 people with Blue Coats
  • Go to the Van Gogh museum and try to take a photo of a painting that speaks to you, gather background information
Overall, I completed the assignment, literally...but with little inspiration and imagination. ONe of my problems: I'm too literal. If I am assigned X then I will complete X. What I need to do is drop below the surface and dig more interesting with my view and what I am supposed to do. Move beyond my own borders.
The assignment was interesting in that it forces you to really put yourself out there, which I failed to do. I didn't feel confident enough (or perhaps it was awake enough...) to ask for the recipe to my lunch. I did stop someone in front of the Stock Exchange and asked him if I could take his photo and he was good.
On the Kalverstraat I had to take photos of 3 trends. I probably should have made portraits of 'Fashionably' dressed people...but I did it more sneakily. Another learning moment. Dare to ask! My photos probably would have been more interesting. I also find that when I am forced to 'impose' upon people I don't know, I get nervous and try to get the shot quickly, usually at the expense of the composition. Definitely need to work on that...And my critical eye. Don't just meet expectations...exceed them.

PP-02 Read On Photography by Susan Sontag and Ways of Seeing by John Berger
Taking photographs is more than that...taking photos. The essays from Susan Sontag are a review of the history of photography as well as how the role of camera and the photographer have changed through the years. What does an image represent? Is it art? And how has the role of the photographer evolved over the last century? Active or passive observer? What kind of influence do images have on our view of things. Things which, I suppose are obvious when you think about them, but how often do you think about them? A more deeper meaning to what I am doing, I suppose.

PP-03 Make a reconstruction of a photo in the assignment book
This was a difficult one, probably made more difficult by my tendancy to overthink. I looked at the photo, and looked and looked. I had a hard time figuring out the correct angle from which to photography, how to get the lighting right, etc etc. I took a few frustrating test shots...angle wasn't right, shadowing incorrect, lighting in the wrong place... blah blah blah. I was working myself into a state...then my husband came in and calmed me down, told me to take a break and I had an epiphany of sorts; Stop trying to do it all in one shot! I took a break, then set lighting and composition aside to focus on the correct angle from which to shoot the photo. I had a suspicion from the beginning that this 'recreation' was really an excercise in Photoshop...and I think I was correct. In the end I took the shot at a sort of correct angle, then adjusted the image to black and white, fixed the contrast and...Bob's you're uncle! I came pretty close to the original.

Here's my attempt:

Not 100% of the original ...the light on the knife and the hand aren't correct...but I feel like I'm getting closer. Recreating a photos is about the elements of it; light, composition, shadows, etc...but you don't have to tackle all of those elements at the same time (like layers in photoshop...). Another learning point!

PP-04 Present a 'Photo Project' which will take place over the next 6 months
Originally my concept was about pregnancy...something like taking a photo of myself every week. But after consideration...while that may be interesting to me, I need to look deeper. I now have a gagillion ideas...but I will have to narrow them down...

PP-05 Make a portrait of yourself that is recognizable, bring in 13x 18 print

Another tricky one. Have you every really taken a photo of yourself that you liked? I find that to be a difficult concept. Trying not to be so vain and to convey the things about myself that I think are important I took over 300 photos. In the end I narrowed it down to two:

I like the composition of this photo and the way the light falls on my face. It wasn't easy to get in and out of the hammock to set the camera, but worth it.

This is my favorite of the self-portrait's, because it's the only photo I have with Pebbles and myself. I've taken hundreds (literally!) of her alone,but I'm never in the photo with her. She doesn't like to be picked up, but she looks pretty comfortable in my arms. I love her rabbit foot sticking up and the way she's looking curiously into the lens . She's adorable!

I posted a few of my other self-portrait attempts on flickr...

PP-06 A photo Diary. Take one photo every day for 3 weeks, expressing an emotion or feeling
This one was interesting. How do you express how you are feeling? Through symbolism? Movement? Words, actions? I spend a lot of time with my cats (as sad as that is..) and I find them to be very expressive of my own mood sometimes. But I was looking for something grittier than a clear photo of something. At the beginning of the assignment I bought a Mini-Diana lomo camera ( you can see the complete set here). I really enjoyed taking photos with it. So as not to put all my eggs in one basket I also took digital photos in parallel. It gave me a nice selection when I was putting them all together in a book. I enjoyed having my camera with me all the time (which, to be honest I usually do...) and I did take A LOT of extra photos because of it...

All in all, this past month has been an interesting experience. I did learn a lot...especially that I have a lot to learn! There are a lot of boundries I have to cross to get to where I want to be as a photographer and to develop myself and my eye. It has been tough to combine the time to 'study' with a job (thank goodness I only work 4 days!), but the thing is, I loved it! I studied, planned, completed assignments in my own time and really enjoyed it AND I, queen of Procrastination (I'm famous for starting papers in University the day they were due), completed several assignments AHEAD OF SCHEDULE! I actually planned a timeline for when I needed to complete projects and stuck to it. Wow, who knew? Lets see how long this enthusiasm lasts. But for now, I can safely say that after years of getting lost and following wrong directions and incorrectly reading maps....I'm finally on the right path.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Year of the Lori: 9 month review

It's now September 2009 and I thought it would be a good point to review how close I am to achieving my goals in this, the Year of the Lori:

Goal 1:
Start a new career path- In September I will begin a 3 year Photography program that will, ultimately, help me become a Professional photographer
Update: I start next week! My career change is (almost!) on track!

Goal 2:
Get Healthy. Really! I mean it! Don't laugh! I WILL exercise again
Update: I am commuting to work via bicycle...which is about 5.1k each I am exercising at least a few days a week...

Goal 3:
I will have a baby
Update: Well, I haven't exactly had a baby (barely enough time for that to have happened already!) but I am FINALLY 'in the family way' at 37! After 7 years of testing, surgeries, procedures, hormones, injections, waiting rooms and countless other things done in the fertility pursuit, I am pregnant (I put it out there and it worked!...well, that and the IUI...).

So, overall, I have to say that this really HAS been the Year of the Lori. I'm on track to achieving my goals (although I really do need to exercise more often (now, more than ever)... But if I look back to where I was 1 year ago...when my husband was finishing his last round of chemo, I have to say that life is heading in the right direction.

This past Wedensday my husband got his latest results...and it looks like his tumor is gone. Yesterday, September 11th, my husband and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary and had our first echo. Jr is looking good so far! And today we celebrate the fact that 1 year ago today we brought Pebbles home. She inspired us and gave us energy at a particularly tiring time in our life and we are forever grateful for that.

What a difference a year makes!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Basic Photo Course Complete!

It's been a few (ahem...) months since I've updated and I apologize for that.

The last day of my photo course was scheduled for May 25th, but I was unable to attend that day because I was on vacation in France (I know, tough...but someone had to do it!). Fortunately I was able to attend the Dutch Basic Photo Class which met on Monday's. Monday June 8th was the last class.

After completing the darkroom assignments we moved on from Analogue to Digital. The digital portion included High Key and Low Key photography, The Panning technique, Working in Photoshop, Pop Art Portraits, Abstract photography, and creating a sequence. Phew! We've covered a lot in the last 3 classes!

To begin with, the Panning technique. This is something I learned in the last photoclass I took, but I think the success of my panning photo then was a matter of chance. I think this time I understand the technique better. But like all things I need to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

Anyway, during class we were sent out on our merry way and asked to come back with a panning shot and an abstract shot. First my panning shot:

My photo partner, Elaine, and I walked around the area to try and find the best location for a panning shot and ended up on the Haarlemmerstraat. I took several shots before deciding on this one, mainly because I like the color of the bike, the green body warmer, and the fact that she's not completly in the image. The upclose factor makes it interesing for me. It also takes out some other distracting elements in the background so you get the impression she is moving. It's a fun exercise to stand on a corner shoot on shutter priority (Tv on the canon) and your adjust your shutterspeed to anywhere between 1/30 and 1/15. The try and move with the object. You get people looking at you sometimes, but that can make for an interesting composition. In my previous photo class, in order to get a panning shot, I made maarten ride his bike back and forth in the Oosterpark until I got a shot I liked. He was a good sport about it, even though I ended up using this shot (which I took on our way home from the Oosterpark). The composition with Maarten was more interesing, but the man in black on the black bike was technically better.

We also worked on Pop Art Portraits. The idea was to take a portrait of yourself, or someone else, and turn it into a pop art portrait in Photoshop. I, of course, used a photo of Pebbles, my cat (I know, I'm turning into crazy cat lady). It was good photo, though! The original photo and the two pop art portraits:

It was fun to do and to learn. Photoshop is one area I don't really want to spend a lot of time on, but one in which I understand it is necessary to learn. I have A LOT to learn, as I'm discovering!

The next assignment we had to complete was to recreate a well-known photo. I, like most people in the class, chose to recreate 'The Fork' by Andres Kertesz.

Look easy, right? I can tell you it ain't! Getting the angle of the shadow was doable, but getting it dark enough was difficult, as well as getting the line in the back. He obviously used a VERY bright light to take this photo and I used the brightest lamp I had, but it still wasn't strong enough. You have to be far enough away to get the dark, clear shadow, but close enough to whiten out the white surface. I made two seperate attempts. The first attempt I used a round table and the wrong fork, but got the shadows right. The light isn't bright enough, however and the line in the back is wrong:

The second attempt the shadows aren't as dark, but it seems closer to the original composition:

It's an interesting exercise in really looking at a photo and all of the elements that make up composition. Where does the light shine, how does it affect the shadows? Is there reflection? It's a great exercise towards better understanding light and shadow.

In our last class, we spent some more time in Photoshop, and were sent on our merry way to photograph a 'Sequence' and a photo which we could convert to Black and White in Photoshop. I started with the sequence.

Since I've started this course, I have a developed in interest in old cameras. I've started collecting them. My latest purchase is an Agfa Optima II. I used it in my sequence:

I tend to REALLY overthink and overanalyse things, so I had all these ideas about the sequence. I brought my Nikon FE Analogue SLR also, in case I could use it in a sequence (It's SOOO pretty!). In the end, it's the simple things. While a fellow student was setting up studio lighting and background, and covering all the windows to shoot his sequence, I noticed the storeroom behind me had a window with natural light. I took a white chair into the small storeroom, put the camera on the chair and shot away. It worked! Sometimes the easiest solutions are the best ones (for me, anyway). The sequence turned out better than I expected.

The final assignment was to turn a photo we took that day from color to black and white. I chose a photo of my camera:

This was also the last photo of the sequence. That was easy, so I also began working on a photo I took of my friend Jeanine's daughter Caitlin. She's a good sport when it comes to letting me take her picture. This is one of the photos I took of her on Saturday, converted into black and white:

So, the first leg of my photographic journey has been completed. I received a certificate from the Course Teacher, Desiree, and a 'Review' of my skills. She said I had really good feel for composition and took some surprisingly good portraits during the course, that I took to the darkroom really quickly and really well, but that I struggled a bit more with photoshop than with the other subjects (completely agree!).

Overall I found within myself the desire to learn and develop. Sounds strange, as I am generally a curious person, but it's been a long while since I have found an interest that can keep my attention so continually.Hasn't really happened since I was introduced to Mr Darcy 9 years ago(ahh...Mr Darcy). I spent a week in France taking photos (700ish photos in 6 days) and studying technique. I brought with me Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson and the Photography by John Ingeldew and studied (Voluntarily? On my vacation? Me?!!).

I've finally found the map to my next destination and I have to say that I am really looking forward to this journey.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Further Developments in the Darkroom

Saturday was the 3rd day in the Darkroom, and of course, like previous days, it was GORGEOUS weather outside. Nonetheless, I brought my iPod and we all listened to music while developing our next photos.

We learned to Dodge and Burn when developing photos, a technique where by you can expose different parts of the photos to light at different times. In portraits, for example, by making the face a bit lighter (with less exposure) and the hair slightly darker, it focuses on the face more.

So, to start off with, I had to pick one photo from the 3 pages of contact sheet to develop. I wasn't sure, so I started off with two photos. The first one is a test strip from some Piopino mushrooms I took at the food market on the Nieuwemarkt:

The test strip is used to expose the image at different exposure times to try and find out which one is the correct exposure time. Once you pick the exposure time, you 'Fine Tune' the exposure,, then you come out with the final print. I wasn't completely happy with this photo, so I spent more time on my second choice, but here is the photo above at , I think around 12 seconds:

The second photo I chose to develop was a portrait of a classmate named Katerina. One of our assignments on the day we shot photos was to take portraits of 3 of our classmates. This was my favorite one of her. First the test strip:

The exposure time on the far right is 32 seconds, then 16 seconds, then 8, 4, 2, 1, 1. I (along with the assistance of my lovely teacher Desiree Vroeman, who has much more experience in these things...) determine the correct exposure to be between 8 and 16 seconds. After some more fine tuning, I think (if I can remember ) the exposure time was 8 seconds. The the Dodging and Burning begins. The result was this photo of Katerina:

I worked through lunch and developed another portrait of another classmate, Elaine. First the test strip (notice the clever use of a cover paper with holes in it...leaves an interesting effect!)

This after consultation with Desiree, and some fine tuning, this photo was exposed for 7 seconds. The negative was damaged (which you can see from the black spot to the right of her face), so I reframed the photo...did a little dodging and burning and came out (after a few tries!) with this photo:

Unfortunately Saturday was our last darkroom day. The next three classes will be 'Digital' focused. We are going into the studio and will learn about working with studio lighting. We also have an assignment to recreate a famous photo. It was recommended that we try to recreate a photo called The Fork by André Kertész. I need to get busy with that!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Next Photo Assignment and Spring in my Garden!

Today was the 3rd class of the Basic Photography course I am following at FotoFactory. I wasn't sure I was going to make it to class, as I had minor surgery yesterday...but I made it and glad that I did.

It was a beautiful spring day in Amsterdam, so naturally we went into the darkroom.

The first step was to develop a Test Strip to check the exposure on the enlarger I was using. This was my result:
The next step was to make a Photogram, which is quite an art in itself, but is essentially placing an object on a piece of photo paper. The exposed portion will turn black and the area covered by the object will turn white. Being my first attempt, my photogram was relatively simple. I used Artis de Partis from my keychain (The mascot of the Amsterdam Zoo, Artis). I like the look of it and made a series of him in poses (you can see the complete series here). I won't bore you with all of them- but here is one:

Once we made the photogram, we got made contact sheets from the negatives we made in the previous class. From the contact sheets (my photo partner Elaine and I took 3 rolls of film from our shared camera) we need to select one photo to develop for our first print I couldn't decide, so I picked two. Both were taken at the Nieuwemarkt in the center of Amsterdam. the first one is a young boy and his puppy:

I used this photo to check focus more then anything. The light on my enlarger was nearing it's end of life and wasn't very bright so I was having trouble seeing the details when trying to focus the negative on my other chosen print. I didn't really fine tune this print, I mostly guessed at the exposure time (which I think I was about 10 seconds). The puppy is perfectly focussed, which I am happy about, alhtough his little paw coming up in the bottom of the frame looks like something else at first glance.

My second print was for the assignment to take a photo of police officers at the Nieuwemarkt. However, it was a rainy day and there weren't any about, so I chose some other men in uniform: Scottish football fans visiting for the Holland vs Scotland game:

I like the composition of this one. They were very polite and posed for me as I asked if I could take a photo of their legs for a photo class. This one took me a few tries to get the right exposure, but I finally was satisfied with a 12 second exposure at f5.6 on the enlarger.

So that was my adventure in developing, part two. I am really enjoying the development part of the class.

Yesterday afternoon I wandered into my garden and saw my Magnolia tree was blossoming. Beautiful. This is my favorite of the (undoubtably hundreds) of photos I took yesterday:

Next week, more photos to develop as well as fixing some of the (many) problem photos.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Year of the Lori Goal #2: Starting a New Career Path
I started a pre-course of Basic Photography, which will lead into a 3 year photography program at the Foto Factory in Amsterdam. So far I've had two classes and am really enjoying it. The first class was just camera mechanics; aperture, shutter speed, exposure, ISO, etc. The second day we were given old analogue cameras and black and white film and sent to the Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam to take some assigned photos. I had a Nikon F1 camera and I LOVED it. I'm going out this weekend to find an old Nikon or canon film camera.

After shooting for a few hours we went into the dark room and developed the negatives from the rolls of film. It was fantastic! Next class (April 11th) we will be developing the prints. Most look over/underexposed and blurry, but I think I got a few good shots out of them. I'll post them here.

Assignment 1

Our first assignment was an aperture assignment: Set up a shot of a still object (such as a statue), on a tripod and take the same photo with the lowest aperture setting, medium aperture and highest aperture. I wasn't completely happy with the composition and I really need to learn how to use the leveller on my tripod, but here are my photos:

Photo 1
Aperture f1.4
shutter speed 1/2500
ISO 100

Photo 2

Aperture f11

shutter speed 1/50

ISO 100

Photo 3
aperture f22
shutter speed 1/130
ISO 100

Assignment 2
The second assignment was a shutter speed assignment: set up a shot of a moving object on a tripod and take the same photo with the lowest aperture, medium aperture and highest aperture setting on your camera. I shot several different things and narrowed down to two sets. The first set is a good example of seeing the relationship between shutter speed and aperture, but I wasn't happy with the composition- too boring and busy:

Photo 1
aperture f1.4
shutter speed 1/400
ISO 200

Photo 2

aperture f11

shutter speed 1/8

ISO 200

Photo 3
aperture f22
shutter speed .4
ISO 200

On Friday (the day before the assignment was due, of course) I finally shot these three at the park across the street. The second one is over exposed- the sun was coming in and out all day- but I am happier with the composition:

Photo 1
aperture f1.4
shutter speed 1/3200
ISO 200

Photo 2
aperture f11
shutter speed 1/15
ISO 200

Photo 3
aperture f22
shutter speed 1/10
ISO 200

I think I have a good eye for composition, but most mistakes that I make have to do with lack of complete technical understanding of my camera. I know enough to know I don't know (if that makes any sense!). It's a learning process...and one that I am really enjoying!

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Year of the Lori

On January 22nd, 2009 I declared this, the Year of the Lori. This is the year that I am going to make the changes in my life I've been waiting to make. This is the year that things are going to happen. Blockages, flow, negative energy, experience, cancer, infertility, career disillusionment, creative energy...They have all lead me down the path that has brought me to where I am now: the Year of the Lori.

This is the Year that:

  1. I will have a baby - now, this is a bold statement, considering the infertility issues my husband and I have had for the past 5 years but after 1 year of insemination and countless tests I'm just going to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and throw it out there. That's the secret..tell everyone.
  2. Start a new career path- In September I will begin a 3 year Photography program that will, ultimately, help me become a Professional photographer
  3. Get Healthy. Really! I mean it! Don't laugh! I WILL exercise again

Most of you know, from the fact that my lovely husband is such a media whore, that Maarten has cancer. So far the news is reasonable...his tumor is shrinking and we can hope for a full recovery (except for the presence of some possible scary spots on his lungs, but we won't worry about that now). This past 6 months have lead to a lot of reflection...and conclusions...why am I spending my time making a living that doesn't make me happy? Now, don't get me wrong, it's not a bad living...but it's not what I want to be or where I want to go. I need to do something more creative...and I need to have more control over my path. Doing something that I really want to was never a possibility before because....well, I never really knew what that was. The past two years have led me down a path that I think is right for me. So, by google, if at the age of 37 I have finally figured it out, I am CERTAINLY going to do whatever I can to get down that garden path!

So begins the Year of the Lori. I look forward to many positive things happening this year. Last year we decided that getting Pebbles was the best decision we made last year (incredibly entertaining and inspirational to watch a kitten in the early stages of discovery). She's also brought some life back to our Freddy as well as given us joy in a period when there was little to be found.

So, out with the old and in with the new!