Just had an itch for a horse photo. In fact, I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t been out taking horse pictures since early November. That was a sale with lots of action and drama. To scratch the itch, I spun through the archives and hit on the first thing that caught my eye. But I better get some winter horse pictures!
There’s a big difference between assignment photography and taking pictures for the hell of it. Maybe that’s obvious. But for those of us who live on assignment photography, taking pictures for the hell of it is very important. It’s a luxury to snap a picture without the consequence of failure. Financially, that is. Saturday, I had the chance to wander around with top notch photographers @sharkypix, @laurinovakphotography, @stevesfoto , and @thomashawk.
The pressure for taking pictures for the hell of it is on you. You can fail to live up to your expectations, or fail to create what you wanted. That’s it. Strive to meet your own standards or to challenge your notions to do what’s new.
Hastily at the end of the day I was working my cold fingers to get a few last night shots of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Earlier, I’d given away my flashlight to a couple of kids climbing around in an abandoned factory thinking it might keep them a little safer in the quickening darkness.
Asking for an invite is perhaps uncomfortable. But then, when @thomashawk mentioned he was going to Milwaukee, I asked if he minded company. Most graciously, he said let’s hang. Hawk was met at the Milwaukee Art Museum by myself and @sharkypix, @laurinovakphotography, @stevesfoto. All new acquaintances and soon a wonderful cast of fellow photographers were busy taking pictures.
@sharkypix took us to an abandoned factory after we’d exhausted MAM. The whole day was a special treat for me to step away from assignment work and just snap snap snap away for the fun of it. The day was made so much better by sharing the fun with the rest of the cast.
Later, I joined Hawk for dinner at John Hawk’s Pub and introduced him to my kids. Thanks for the great day everyone!
At the sale
For the last seven years I’ve taken photos at an annual horse auction. The first time I was bored so I started taking pictures. Who knew a few people might want them. This isn’t a big-paying gig. Gratuities really. They’ve been nice.
But because it’s not a high pressure assignment, I take the opportunity to try new things. If it doesn’t work out what are they going to do? This year I used my opportunity to mess with flash systems. Recently I rediscovered “The Beast.” It’s a late 70s vintage Sunpak 520 and is commonly called a “potato masher.” Found a cord at Paramount Cords I could use to connect The Beast to radio trigger to set the thing off with my camera.
So I toggled together the trigger and the flash and a large Rogue Flashbender on a light stand and set it up where it could bathe the area with diffused light. Then I put a regular speed light on a stand with a diffuser to fill in some shadows from the opposite direction. On top of my camera I used another speed light set at a TTL setting so I could move around and have the scene well lit. Horse arenas have notoriously bad lighting.
All things considered, I think it worked well. The horses run by in front of you a few times and basically you can snap one or two pictures on each pass. Mostly I wanted them well lit and the action stopped so people can see the horses.
A vacation is delightfully awkward for photographers, for me at least. It’s a vacation so you’re supposed to step away from the routine and recharge. If your routine includes taking pictures does that mean no taking pictures during vacation? Or, does it mean using the time to challenge yourself further?
On our recent vacation, I really wanted to use the time to try some new things and practice other techniques I use infrequently but want to master. Nice plan. It fell apart quickly. You want to have some fun on a vacation and you need to spend quality time with your spouse or family.
We traveled through eastern Kentucky and Tennessee with stops for Cumberland Falls and the Smoky Mountain National Park where it reaches into North Carolina. Pictures were taken. But nothing experimental or challenging and plenty of snaps with the phones.
We ended in Charleston where we attended a wedding. Instead of hauling my camera gear in, I used my phone to grab snaps around the edges and let the paid professionals do the heavy lifting they were hired to do. Also enjoyed the wedding and family and had a great time with my spouse. The wedding coincided with our wedding anniversary so that was amusing, too.
The rest of our time in the area was full on tourist mode. Charleston is history rich and loaded with interesting sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. We hit the high points such as Ft. Sumner and the historic mansions in the old town. Pictures? Yes, but really snaps as we went along with not a lot of extra energy expended.
Finally, we visited the nearby beaches and at that stage I decided to take pictures and have some fun and not beat myself up trying anything in particular. If an opportunity came along fine. Otherwise, we concentrated on each other and the delightful environment we rarely have the opportunity to see. These new phones take a great picture and cover a lot of memories.
Over on my favorite social photo site, Flickr, there’s a feature called “Explore.” Each day 500 photos are pulled out of the stream of pictures being uploaded to Flickr. Flickr posts the 500 photos to its Explore page where thousands of people see them. It’s great fun.
You have to wrap your head around a couple of things with Explore. The pictures are selected based on “interestingness.” An algorithm runs all the pictures and makes choices for Explore based on how interesting the image is. There’s a lot of mystery and speculation about this and Flickr is pretty close to the vest with information. Best as people can figure, interesting includes things like views and favorites and comments as well as attributes of the picture itself.
What Explore isn’t is a judged photo contest. While most of the images on Explore are outstanding, they landed there because they are considered “interesting.” If you’re a fan of Explore, you’ll no doubt find yourself thinking, “Well that’s interesting” as you scroll the page. That’s the deal. The same image may not fare so well before a hardened photo judge in a competition.
Flickr is criticized for running Explore the way they do. People think the company should judge and pull out “the best” pictures from its vast upload stream. The criticism has some merit. Pictures hitting Explore get a lot of exposure and exposure can mean good things for a photographer. But because Explore isn’t weighted toward such values, almost any image, if it’s interesting, has a shot at Explore.
For me at least, I think Explore is good fun and take it with a wink and a smile. If you go deeper into Flickr I think you can find opportunities beyond Explore if that’s what you want.
The James Ranch in Durango, Colo., has a flock of well-tended range chickens among other wonderful things. I was there a couple of years ago on assignment for John Deere Furrow magazine and I got this bright idea about getting pictures of the range chickens.
The idea was to put the camera on a tripod down low and put it right in the middle of the flock. My notion was that the curious birds would approach the camera and I’d snap pictures remotely. The birds didn’t care about the camera at all and never came close.
So I went over to retrieve the camera and try something else. That’s when this bird took exception to me being on her range and came over to give it to me. I just held the camera between her and me and kept pushing the shutter. Maybe I’ll post more later but this one seemed to sum up her attitude the best.
Flickr Explore 9/24/2014
A jumbo scoreboard entry
Some of my pictures were used on the jumbo scoreboard in the stadium in a tribute to agriculture earlier this season. While I do now get to make the claim my images were so used, it’s not that big of a deal. Yes, I shall make note of the exhibition. Why not?
But in reality, the pictures showed up pregame before a mostly empty stadium. Of the few people in the building at the time, only a small subset may have even looked. There wasn’t any credit or anything since the pictures were all in the public domain.
It’s called filler in the business. Something, almost anything, is needed to fill the space and time and some of my pictures landed there. Yes, my pictures were used on the giant scoreboard. I don’t have to say anything else.
Fun when it happens. Neat Sunday morning treat!