Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tableau From Below

A rare day! For the first time in, well, forever, Reena had off the Saturday before Christmas. As a retail operative, that never happens. But as she is transitioning from one retail position (of 27 years!!!) to another good one, things are different. Since that transition pretty much fell on 12/21, we are assuming that is what the Mayan end of the world meant for Reena personally. We decided to run some errands - together - and spent a little time on State Street. Dashing out of the house with no breakfast meant a priority stop at a coffee shop for me to put a scone and a cuppa java in my belly. Leaving there we were headed to Fromagination (a super awesome cheese and other foodstuffs shop on the Capitol square). En route I spotted an arm sticking out from a second-floor tiny balcony.

Tableaux, From Below (DS3_6882)

Just as I unslung and got the camera into play, the subject leaned forward. I would have preferred just the arm, but a street photog shoots what is there. The subject was watching the birds while enjoying a cigarette and I liked the scene. Or, if you prefer as I do, a tableau from below.

Other than the bit of snow on the branches, the shot could be any time of year from October to March.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snowstorm "Draco" (When did they start naming snow storms?)

Madison got hit with the same storm that dumped snow from the Rockies east. We were right in the path of the most snow too. It has not stopped snowing yet, and the temps have been hovering above 32 degrees (F) all day, so the snow is deep, wet, and heavy. For reasons that are clear to no one, my wife's part time employer decided to open. So, after shoveling this morning, I drove her to work because the metro buses were not running (hello, clue?). Rather than go straight home, I went looking for scenic spots. Fortunately they were not difficult to find.

Tenney Park Bridge

At this point in the day there was only about six inches of snow on the ground. Driving was not too bad, though I did help dig/push six other drivers out of where they were stuck. Memo: You drivers with bad tires, automatic transmission, and the incorrect idea that spinning your tires is a good idea really should not have Good Samaritans push you out. You should really just stay inside when the weather is like this.

There were lots of pedestrians out, mostly walking dogs or headed somewhere. Not a lot of point in shoveling when there is going to be another 6-12 inches of snow to fall. Fortunately there were not many drivers.


While I was by the Yahara River at Williamson Street I was intrigued by the slushy ice that was floating downstream. It moved like fabric and was really quite beautiful. I have never seen anything quite like it. I'm not sure this photo really does it justice, but it is the one I got. It was still snowing hard, and blowing, so I was not prepared to stand around and set up and wait for the perfect shot.

Slushy Ice

Once I got home I had an invitation to walk six blocks over to a friend's house for "brunch". If you do not eat until 2:15 PM, it no longer qualifies as brunch. More like Second Lunch, except that I had nothing but a Power Bar in me, so my belly button was gnawing on my spine by the time we ate. I arrived home again just in time to have the road plow bury my driveway with a three foot high, three feet deep pile of heavy snow. The rest of the driveway and sidewalk needed it, so I shoveled the whole works. Now I intend to put my feet up and have a nice rye whiskey.

There are more photos from today HERE.


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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Leko Redux

Life has been fun and busy of late, with all sorts of interesting diversions and distractions thrown in my path. My last day job relocated out from under me, and I have been looking for the right job. I had a positive interview a couple of weeks ago and a follow up interview has been scheduled for this week. I look forward to confirming that it is a good fit. I have had several really fun and adventurous photo shoots (and I really need to get some samples out here) that have filled the coffers a bit and fed my soul. In early December the aerial dance troupe of which I am a member - Cycropia - had a corporate gig that was fruitful and exhausting. It was particularly challenging because as we assembled at the venue to start make-up, we learned that a dear friend (of 30 years for me) had died quite suddenly and unexpectedly. We were distraught, but had to suck it up and put on a happy face to perform. The show they say.

For one of the recent shoots, the client was performing for the first time in a burlesque show. The event was a women-only show, dancers for dancers, and the venue is lousy for good photos. So she hired me to get good performance shots. We set up the studio sparsely, blank wall and hardwood floor, and rigged the Leko spotlights rather than the strobes I mostly use. I have had the Lekos since late 2009, but seldom find an opportunity to use them (here is one such occasion) so I was delighted to do so. Those pics came out great, and if the client doesn't object might post one or two here. We'll see. In the meantime I was inspired to try some other things with them, so yesterday I took myself in to experiment. The results are not quite what was in my head and that is OK. It was an experiment.


The studio is not capable of rigging aerial apparatus, but I wanted to make it look like I was being supported by the silk (which in this case really was fine silk rather than an aerial silk which is sturdy tricot). The artifacts on the wall are dirt on the Leko lens. I can't decide if I REALLY need to disassemble and clean them, or if I like the vintage spotlight look. There is little doubt that I could create this same shot using a strobe, and probably in far less time than this took, but again, the learning was the point. There is something unique about having the spots in play. Plus when irised down to a narrow spot, they add great shadows.


The vignetting is from the lights themselves, boosted a bit in post camera processing. In the burlesque shoot the shadows of the client/performer were and integral part of the composition. I often shoot against black backdrops and do everything in my power to prevent or eliminate shadows so this was a new treat. In these two experimental photos I kept the shadows strong, but was not so concerned about them in the composition. In the second I planted myself just a few inches from the wall to get a strong outline, and it adds a strong visual element.

If you are interested in the technical details here they are. The Lekos are not particularly bright so the camera was set quite differently than I would with strobes and it contributes to the overall look and feel.

Camera: Nikon D300
Lens: Sigma 30mm prime (on this camera it is equivalent to 45mm)
ISO: 1000
Aperture: f/13
Shutter: 0.3 seconds
Light Source: Single Leko spotlight at about 20', camera-right about 6'
Post-Processing: Image free rotated (the top one), minor tweaks to levels and brightness (especially the top one), converted to B&W, adjustment layer added with moderate sepia toning.

And might I add that I am quite pleased that my body still looks like that at 50. *grin*

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