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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 24

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 24 - Hills in Orange County on Ilford Delta 100 filmHills - Santiago Oaks Regional Park, CA
Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 8:39am
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Day 24 of my photo a day challenge and I was out mountain biking again, this time in the morning. I was at my usual stomping ground in Santiago Oaks Regional Park. The temperatures were already soaring. Or maybe it was just the weight of the camera gear. Every minute on the trail feels hotter with a medium format camera in your backpack.

Trudging up the hillside, I kept my eyes open for a good composition. Nothing was really jumping out at me. It was a cloudless morning and the hills were bone dry. I'm not a fan of cloudless days when it comes to photography because it just leaves the sky a boring single tone of color. I need some puffy white clouds in there to break it up! But alas, you gotta do what you can with what you got.

Eventually I found myself in a position where a series of hillsides receded off into the distance in front of me. They looked like layered construction paper cutouts on account of the harsh backlighting. Most of all, the diagonals are what really jumped out at me. Desaturated into black and white, I hoped that these backlit ridges would flatten out into an interesting mosaic of lines and textures. I'd need to work hard to enhance the contrast, though. Without sufficient contrast, the hills would blend together too much. That's why I used a red #23a filter to help lighten the sunlit areas and darken the shadowed areas. I also used a total of 5 stops of split ND filters to darken the sky above.

The best news of it all: my sweaty bike ride proved productive on more level than one!

Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 23

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 23 - Palm Trees in Laguna Beach on Ilford Delta 100 filmPalm Trees 1 - Laguna Beach, CA
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 5:37pm
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Day 23 of my photo a day challenge brought me to Laguna Beach for a private photography lesson in Orange County with one of my long-time students. It was a beautiful day - classic southern California summer. The offshore breeze cooled my skin to the perfect temperature. I decided to seize the opportunity of being in Laguna Beach for my photo of the day. I brought my gear and showed up early to see what I could find.

Up on a cliff in Heisler Park, I found a great vantage point on these three palm trees perched along the Pacific Coast. These three trees were just too perfect to pass up. They were simple, picturesque, the light was hitting them perfectly, and there were three of them. Everything looks great in threes. And look at them, even their heights are staggered perfectly. It's like these trees were designed to be photographed.

Although the breeze was relatively mild down at my level, the palm tree fronds suspended high in the air seemed to be taking a bit of a pounding. I think the trees would have had a little bit better shape to them if the wind hadn't been so strong - it would have had more of a relaxed, calm, postcard-esque summer day feel rather than an offshore typhoon feel. But oh well. Details, details.

I moved around quite a bit left and right trying to get a hand railing out of the shot and trying to get a good balance between the three trees and the rock in the background. I opted for a Red #23A filter here to help darken the blue sky and water. I knew this would work to create some separation between the sunlit sides of the palm trees and the bright sky and water behind. My exposure was 1/125 at f/14.

And then I tried a similar composition, but horizontal. Because why not? I can't decide which one I like better.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 23 - Palm Trees and sky on Ilford Delta 100 filmPalm Trees 2 - Laguna Beach, CA
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 5:49pm
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Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 22

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 22 - Shadows on Stairs on Ilford Delta 100 filmShadows and Stairs - Irvine, CA
Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 2:43pm
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You know what I really love about black and white photography? Something as simple as a shadow can look awesome. So when I have Ilford Delta 100 film loaded up into my camera, I can make photos out of things that in color would be really boring. In fact, harsh midday shadows like those from a summer day at 2:43pm usually look absolutely terrible on color film. But in black and white, these shadows create the contrast necessary to separate tones in a photo. Black and white is much more forgiving.

For day 22 of my photo a day challenge, I stumbled upon my subject unexpectedly. Literally. I had come home for lunch in between a morning and afternoon stint at the office. Upon walking down the stairs of my apartment complex to head back to the office, the shadow casted by the hand railing caught my eye. From the angle it was at, the light and shadow created some gorgeous lines, diagonals, and patterns. I imagined an ultra-simle composition that highlighted all the various lines and planes here. Something from straight overhead.

I ran back inside and grabbed my camera. But here's where the shooting got tricky. In order to get the angle I wanted, I needed a pretty high, straight-up vantage point on the stairs looking straight down. My Mamiya RZ67 is not exactly lightweight, and I had to hold it clear out in front of me, upside down so that I could look into the waist-level viewfinder from the side. The image in the viewfinder on this camera is backwards. So when I shift right, the image moves left. It's difficult enough to get used to looking at normally, but now at my weird upside down position, it was even tougher.

I carefully maneuvered the camera this way and that, trying to make sense of the backwards movements. Eventually I got everything lined up just right and snapped the shutter at 1/125 of a second at f/22.

Another day down, another shadow photographed...

Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.