Sarah's Greenspace

Sarah’s Greenspace

I went out to the Minnesota State Fair Grounds today with Carol Anne. She and I were attendees of Chris Marquart’s Learning To See Workshop. We were working on the Challenge: Negative Space. This is her daughter Sarah.

One of the interesting things about these gray Minnesota days is that the local color of objects is much more saturated than you’d think. Without the harsh dynamic range of a sunny day, you can get some great colors on digital. This wall of green on the side of the Butterfly house caught my eye, since it matches the current color scheme of mitchster.com. It was great to have Carol Anne and her daughters with me, Sarah is a great model. This green wall would never work without a subject. I like images like this because they remind me of Mark Rothko’s paintings — it looks like a very simple abstract image, but there are little details that give it character like the dent in the wall and the patchy grass. Even Sarah’s akimbo stance adds tension to the otherwise static image.

Just a quick note, this photo won the Tips From The Top Floor Two-Week Photo Challenge! Thanks to all those who voted on and participated in the challenge titled Negative Space. The new Two-Week Challenge was just published. As the winner of the last challenge, I got to choose the the next one — Contrast.

Photographing Oil Paintings

Photographing Oil Paintings

This oil painting byJoe Paquet is an example of one of my more specialized services. I’ve been photographing oil paintings for Joe Paquet for a year now and over that time have upgraded cameras, purchased studio lights and have learned more about the behavior of light than I bargained for. Oil paintings present several challenges because they reflect light and cause little sparkly dots all over the image or worse, shinny gray where there should be black. As you can see above, the blacks are nice and solid.

Fine art landscape painters like Joe and Scott capture incredibly subtle variations in color. The accuracy of these colors are what give the painting air and a sense of space. The number of decisions they have to make while working is tremendous, it’s not just copying the local colors of the object, it’s the relationships of the colors and how they are effected by the light striking the object and how the light is changed by the atmosphere between the object and the observer. This is how you can tell if it is hazy or a clear morning, like in Scott’s painting above.

I was a student of Joe Paquet for several years and learned these techniques and how to observe the scene with them in mind. I also learned that I don’t have the patience or ability to follow that path. Though this did send me back to photography, it was a fantastic experience in learning to see. How a composition is chosen for painting is very different from photography. Where a painter spends time studying the light effects and the forms; a photographer looks for ways to show depth through the composition; because he doesn’t have the ability to change the colors and the line weights. The two fields are very different in execution, but both demand careful observation and the ability to really see. That’s one of the things that encouraged me to take Chris Marquart’s workshop, Learning To See.

So the upshot is I’ve invested lots of time and money in faithfully reproducing these incredible works of art by artists that I have a lot of respect for. I’m driven by the challenge and the opportunity to work with them and their art. I can now take these shots that require absolutely no post processing and use them on the websites that I have built for them and provide them for reprint in magazines and show catalogs. If you think that I am going to explain my techniques and provide a step-by-step guide — forget it. But if you are interested in having me photograph your art, give me a call!

Duck Portrait

Duck Portrait

Meet the fearless duck standing guard over the entrance to the Como Zoo. She didn’t mind my taking her picture, but I think she was a little upset over the lack of payment. She took it in stride though, like water off a… I must remember to bring food with me when I chase the local wild life.

Fall Colors around Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis

Fall Colors around Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis

A brief break in the rain and the desire to get a picture sent me out today to circle the lake. I walk around Lake of The Isles pretty much every day. Sometimes I bring the camera, but usually I don’t. There’s some kind of jinx thing going on that prevents cool things from happening when I have the camera. Now that the blog is officially up and running, I guess I’m going to have to bring the beast along with me. A Nikon D200 and lenses is a bit to carry, but it’s probably easier to manage than a kid, a stroller and two dogs.

Purple Delights

Purple Delights

I saw the purple invasive plants in the background and changed to my telephoto so that I could group the thistle in the foreground with the soft, out-of-focus plants in the back. Just as I got the picture framed up, this little hero dropped in for his close-up!

Back to the Source

Back to the Source

The last day has arrived for the TFTTF Workshop (explained below Oct. 11). The assignment was: Go find the object from the first assignment and take another picture using the things we leaned in class. So back to my little Fire Plug I went.

This time I used the dark wet ground as a background. We learned that light objects on dark backgrounds sand out better than the reverse, and I also used Joins to create crossing lines through the image. Throw in a shallow DOF and I think it worked!

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Fake Solution

Welcome to Day Three of the TFTTF Workshop (explained below Oct. 11). We went on an excursion to Historic Fort Snelling. The assignment was: Find something fake at Fort Snelling and use a predetermined focal length – I chose 28mm. I went to see the doctor and found on his shelf this little bottle hiding on his shelf, tormenting me in his bad light. Once everyone else left, I asked the ‘doctor’ if I could move things around. He said sure, and I set this image up while he continued to try lighting some wet logs in the fire place. I think I had greater success than he did. The light from the window cast some great shadows through the rippled glass and by using a big aperture, I was able to narrow the Depth of Field to draw the eye to my intended subject.

What's Yellow Isn't

What’s Yellow Isn’t

Welcome to Day Two of the TFTTF Workshop (explained below Oct. 11). This was for the assignment: Silhouette without using the Rule of Thirds. I struggled for a while to find something to silhouette on this typical gray rainy day. I eventually saw this dandelion and went to work on it. I found the McDonald’s wrapper in a trash can near by (it was right on top and pretty clean, and yes, I put it back). Placing Matt’s Nikon 800 strobe under the edge and taking lots of shots to get the light in the right place, I managed to get a silhouette.

I like the yellow background for the recognizable dandelion shape, sort of a negative space effect.