Friday, August 29, 2014

NFC Car Show, Part 3: The Headlamps

This group of photos is focused on the headlamps. I think lights are so cool. There are so many different kinds, shapes, styles, sizes. They might seem like just lights, but I think there is real artistry in the engineering and design.














Wednesday, August 27, 2014

NFC Car Show, Part 2: The Abstracts

For this group of photos, I concentrated on abstract images. Following the example of Keith Walklet's images, I spent a significant amount of time looking for unusual details: intersections of lines and shadows, reflections, etc. I wanted to find things that would most likely be overlooked by other people and that would become abstract images when processed. I like this group. Knowing these came from a car show, some of them will be recognizable. But if you didn't know the context, I think it might be difficult to interpret what you're seeing. I don't think 'unrecognizability' is essential in abstract images, but it certainly seems important and to me, it improves an abstract image.

I'll be curious to hear your thoughts.















Monday, August 25, 2014

NFC Community Event, Part 1

Saturday, Nampa First Church of the Nazarene hosted their annual community event. Last year I went for the first time, and got some great (in my mind) photos of the many cars there. This year I went back. Their car show has at least 200 cars; it's a big show with some great vehicles. Everything from early 20th century to the most modern sports cars.

Normally I'm pretty good at culling my photos - meaning I'm brutal in choosing only the best. Saturday I must have been on a roll. I have so many good photos from that day. So I'm going to divide the keepers into several blog posts. It would just be way too many for one post. Part 1 will be the people pics.

While I was there, I remembered how much fun I had photographing the people at the fair. Since this event was full of people, it was an opportunity for more people photos.

I was photographing the car in this photo when this cute girl and her brother (I'm assuming there) asked, "Are you going to take our picture?" After I had a few images of the hood, they were walking past me. "If you want your picture taken you can stand in front of the car." So they did. So cute and photogenic.


However, those two were not the only cute models that day. This girl was adorable, sweet and loved the attention she was getting.


They had lots of food booths; most of the same foods that had been available the Western Idaho Fair for the week. This guy knew I was taking his picture, so he kept eating. I love cooperative models.


NNU was also represented with their summer traveling groups.



And just behind the music stage was the bicycle course (there's probably a more accurate term for the jumps and ramps and stuff but I'm not cool enough to know what it is). The big ramp gave the riders some impressive height on their jumps.




Of course I ran into some friends. Nick, on the right, is the son of my friend Nicole. I swear that he's grown a foot taller in the last year.


These last three photos are from the climbing wall they had set up. I didn't see any adults on it - just kids. Some of the kids weren't too sure about going to the top, and others scrambled to the top like they were climbing stairs. This first kid was on her way back down.




In Part 2 of this series, I'll start showing the car pics. I'm trying to decide how best to present them. At the moment I'm thinking I'll divide them into themes: abstract, hood ornaments, head lights, grills, reflections ... I'm still working on the list.

That's not a photograph - that's an enhanced photograph!

While I was working at the Western Idaho Fair Thursday, a photographer came to the booth, visibly upset, or displeased, or disgruntled ... something. It was clear he wasn't happy before he even started complaining about the judging.

I'll try to summarize his complaint, briefly, even though it wasn't brief in the moment.

"It's not fair that I have to compete against these winning photos. They're clearly not real. They've been photoshopped. Mine is a real photograph; theirs are enhanced photographs. How am I supposed to compete?"

Using my counseling skills, I listened for a while, making sure I understood what he was trying to say. I wanted to understand what his definition of 'enhanced' is, and what he meant by 'photoshopped.' I've heard that term used frequently, but what does it really mean?

When I felt he was ready, I started explaining my thoughts.

Photoshop can be used in so many ways. PS to a graphic designer is completely different than to a commercial photographer, which is in turn completely different to a professional photographer (portrait, photo-journalism, etc), which is different than an amateur photographer. Some of these artists use photoshop to create something from nothing. Some photographers use PS to add or remove elements from an image, and some photographers, like myself, use PS to enhance what's already there.

I use PS sometimes, but I also use other processing software. I use Lightroom most of the time, Nik sometimes and Topaz sometimes. I even have Perfect Effects (which I rarely use and got for free), and Perfect Layers (also free). I have been known to remove a stray spot here and there, a distracting branch or two, stuff that didn't add anything to the image.

I use the software to make the image look like it felt when I took it.

I spent some time with the man at the fair, explaining raw images versus jpg images. I explained to him my perspective on photo enhancement and where I personally draw the line between the right amount of processing and too much.

However I was able to do it, I got the guy on my side. Instead of defending his position, he started asking for more information. He wanted my thoughts on why certain photos won ribbons and why others didn't. We talked about composition, lighting, technical aspects (like focus and depth of field), and the impact a particular image is. He showed me his 'losing' image and I critiqued it and compared it to the winning image. I was able to explain the weaknesses in his images (and other images that didn't win ribbons), and make suggestions about how to improve his photograph. We also talked about how to approach a subject.

One of the winning fair images was of a bristlecone pine (an amazing image). This man also took a picture of a tree. His image didn't win anything. It wasn't a strong image. So we talked about why.

"What were you trying to capture with this picture?"
"Well, the tree."
"What was it about the tree that made you want a photo of it?
"It's old and gnarly. The grain and bark look really interesting."
"The way you took the photo, I can't see any of that gnarly-ness. I don't see texture, or age. I just see a tree in the dessert."

I suggested he could have moved a lot closer to get that old, gnarly-ness he liked. I also suggested he could have moved further away to give the tree some context. There were some great cliffs in the background, but I could only see a small portion of them. I also talked about how I might photograph that particular tree. "I could see myself spending an hour with that tree," I said, "shooting it from 100 different angles and finding as many compositions."

When we started the conversation, he had decided not to enter the following year. "There's no point in entering because I can't compete."
By the end, he and his daughter were thanking me for my time. I think he was excited about improving his photography and coming back the next year. I know my job was to man the booth and be there to answer questions. I didn't anticipate questions like this.

But that 30 minutes was the best of the whole fair for me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Milky Way, from Idaho

Yesterday the Boise Camera Club took a field trip to Bruneau Sand Dunes. We went out to shoot the dunes, and the Milky Way. It was a gorgeous night, perfect temperature, no wind, no clouds - and the Milky Way was spectacular.

Although I've done some astrophotography before, I haven't done much of it, so last night was an experiment.

This first image is one created using my barn door tracker. It's a great tool that allows for longer exposures without star trails. This particular one was 421 seconds long (7 minutes). The tracker seems to have worked really well, meaning I had it well aligned with the North Star. You can also see a shooting star (meteor, meteorite - I don't know what the proper name is). That was just good timing.


This next image was only 30 seconds, but I shot it at ISO 12,800, the highest my camera will go. I really like the starlight reflected in the lake.


For a different look, I added some closer foreground objects, trees in this image, to add some depth. I think this might be my favorite from the night.


Lastly, we created a different look. With the help of Brad and Sam, I used my headlamp to light up the tree. I was aiming at the Milky Way hoping to make it look like the galaxy extended all the way to the ground. It turned out pretty well. I had to do some creative processing, but I like the look.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Western Idaho Fair 2014

Although I've lived in Idaho a long time, I haven't been to the Western Idaho Fair very many times. In fact, it wasn't until the last four years that I started going every year. As a member of the Boise Camera Club I get to volunteer in the Photography Exhibit. We help accept entries, assist on judging day, display the photos, and man the exhibit area during the fair.* In exchange for our volunteer time, we get free admission to the fair for that day.

In past years I've gone with the intent to stay after my shift and photograph the fair. Mostly because of my physical difficulties I haven't had the energy by the end of the day. This year I decided to change that. I finally took some time to shoot the fair: the rides and the people.

Wednesday night the Camera Club of Eagle (I'm a member there too) took a field trip to the fair. I spent the evening shooting some longer exposures, experimenting with compressing lots of motion over time into a single shot. To see the gallery of shots from that night, go to my photo website.

I'll let you look through them and pick your favorites, but I'd like to highlight a couple of my favorites from that night.

Spinning rides, in long exposures, tend to create symmetrical results. It takes some creativity to find asymmetry among all the moving parts. I like this first images because of the asymmetry. I caught the ride while it was rising and speeding up which created the moving lines of spin - that and some creative cropping.


The shape of this second ride is so unusual. I took a dozen images or so, and each one looks different. Normally I pick the best of a group of similar shots, and delete the rest, but I'll probably keep all the images of this ride.


Thursday I worked a shift in the photo exhibit, then went back out to photograph the people of the fair. There is no place quite like a fair for people watching. It's one of those places at which people from all walks of life gather in the same place. I'm not a street photographer, and photographing people I don't know makes me nervous. I've always been worried that people will be offended because I'm pointing a camera at them. Or they'll get upset at me, or refuse to interact with me. But none of those things happened.

I found a place to sit (my feet wouldn't take any more standing) that was right in the major traffic patterns. People were approaching me from all four directions. Most people didn't know I was shooting them, involved in their own world. Some people 'caught' me pointing the camera at them, and every one of them smiled at me, or posed. I caught a few people doing something they didn't want photographed (like wiping their nose or mouth, or eating something), but their reactions were fun. "If you're going to take a picture, at least take a good one." Then they'd let me take another photo. I had such a great time, but I suspected there wouldn't be many keepers among the photos.

There were more than I expected.

I tried to capture moments - sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't. This is one of my favorites from the afternoon because of the girl on the far left of the frame. I was shooting this image from the hip, aiming at the group. My aim was a little off, but that lack of accuracy found a fun model. She thought I was shooting her and gave me a fun pose.


People were so cooperative. I asked the four people eating corn to hold up the cobs for me. They did, and smiled. The couple taking a selfie had already taken one. I walked over and asked them to do it again so I could shoot them shooting themselves. The man photographing the woman holding the turkey leg was a redo also. I asked them to recreate the moment, and they did. And so did the kid holding the two corn dogs. He was warming up his ears. Before he handed one corn dog to his friend I heard him say, "I'll give you the one without earwax on it."

Here's another favorite. Even the toughest looking guys love to ham it up for a camera.


Lastly, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to get a little philosophical. And since it's my blog, you don't really have a choice. :)

As I was sitting on my perch, I was contemplating who I was photographing, and why, and more importantly, who I wouldn't photograph. I came up with two rules for myself, and I think both of them stem from my personality and the kind of person I want to be in life, and are then extended to my photography.

1. I won't photograph someone to make fun of them.

There were certainly people there whom I could ridicule, and people who seemed ridiculous. But that doesn't seem in keeping with who I am. Yes, I laughed at people, but in my heart I was trying to laugh with them, not at them. Some people never saw me, but the ones who did look my way saw me looking at them, and smiling. If they were close enough, I commented or thanked them for the picture.

2. I won't take creepy photos.

We all know what those are. I won't be the person with a long telephoto lens trying to sneak up on people, or hide behind something. I want my photography to be right out in the open. Anyone who was paying attention, and watched me for more than a minute, knew exactly what I was doing.

As a reminder, you can find both galleries on my photography website.
chrismcnaught.weebly.com


*Just to clarify, BCC members aren't involved in any of the judging. In fact, those of us who work on judging day aren't allowed to even speak to the judges while the judges are working. We work to ensure we don't influence the judges' choices.

Full disclosure: I did judge the Youth Photography division this year, but there aren't any BCC members entering photos in that division.