Monday, August 23, 2010

 Of myths and macros

I'd like to dedicate this blog to two of my favorite teachers, Mr. John Hartley and Mr. Jim Coppens. 
Teaching me English in high school, Mr. Hartley gave me an appreciation for a clever and precise use of language. He also gave me a command of grammar that has served me to the present day. 
Mr. Coppens was my yearbook adviser the first two years I seriously worked on the Roll Call. He helped me learn how to research, report and write. He gave me my first opportunity at photojournalism and gave me a sense of how to crop a picture. 
I think the two of them provided me with 90% of the abilities I use today in my job as an editor and in my hobby as a photographer. They helped me maintain an eye for detail while keeping the big picture in mind.  These skills help when you are translating a text, writing a book or making a picture. I don't always succeed, but it's nice to have a goal to aim at.

As I've already admitted, I am a collector, a gatherer of images. This is different from an Annie Leibovitz, for example, who makes pictures to fit the preconceived image she has in her mind. If I tried to do that in my photography all the time, I'd make five pictures a month and try to imagine pictures and find the resources to make them the rest of the time. (Perhaps that should be my goal and perhaps I'll make it there one day, but for now, the way - the gathering - is part of the fun.) As it is, I sort through thousands of pictures each month, looking for a dozen good ones that are worth showing.
And yet I have learned that it is important to ask yourself not only what a picture is of but what it is for and why are you taking it. In other words, what is the story behind the picture?

Last summer when we were in Richmond, we went to a butterfly exhibit at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. It was 100° outside and 98% humidity. Inside the butterfly house it was even hotter, plus they misted the air every five minutes, just what a photographer wants! 100% humidity. I think I empathized with this butterfly which was  trying to get out of the greenhouse so bad that it was beating its wings to the point of destroying them.
Of course butterflies are a macro photographer's dream, especially when they are in your front yard sucking on echinacea blossoms all day. This image is all I could pull out of my old 90mm macro lens. Looking at professional photographers' macro shots is a humbling experience.
When taking pictures of flowers, you often have to contend with the wind, unattractive backgrounds and bad lighting conditions. Sometimes, however, you are lucky and everything works out. This pretty little picture is one of my favorites. The contrasting colors appeal to me.
In this shot the single blossom seems to be conversing with the green cloud hovering nearby. As static as the composition is, it seems to me to have some hidden motion in it.
Right outside our kitchen window the week after Julia was born, a mother spider laid her eggs. This picture was taken through the window, which lessened the clarity. Other visitors to our home have been dragonflies, frogs and spiders. Contrary to what I would have thought, they proved to be very patient models.
In this one you can see the "red eye" effect the flash had on the spider's six eyes!
And speaking of eyes, I had two flashes provide the catch light in this amphibian's eye. Don't worry, animal lovers out there: he didn't even blink!

I'll end this tale with an odd combination. Curiosity seemed to get the better of this slug. I have to think of the children's book "Are you my mother?" when I look at this.

1 comment:

  1. Especially like the fact that you don't kill the spider visitors to your home either. Instead you photograph them.

    I'm not even going to ask HOW you take all these, truly incredible, I am still amazed you are able to snap a photo at all with the kids around. Point and shoot, yes. But focus and fiddle? Impressive.