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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 8

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 8 - Commuters Exiting Train on Ilford Delta 100 FilmCommuters Exiting Train - Tustin, CA
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 6:49pm
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On day 8 of my Photo a Day Challenge I had an itch to photograph some people in a candid daily setting. This would probably fall under the category of "street photography" but since my neck of the woods isn't exactly a bustling metropolis, I opted for the local train station in search of some activity. It was right around rush hour time so I knew there'd be a lot of trains unloading passengers from Los Angeles.

I don't remember exactly when or how I worked out this pre-visualization, but the composition I imagined involved a straight shot of the train door with commuters exiting onto the station platform. I didn't really want any recognizable faces. I planned to shoot from about the neck down.

When I arrived at the station, I saw that the southward track would be ideal on account of the setting sun. The low light from the west would illuminate that flank of the train perfectly. As I tried to nail down my composition, I realized that this shot was going to be very difficult. First off, I'd need a train there at the station so I could dial in which lens to use and where to stand. Since the trains aren't there waiting very long, I wouldn't have much time to do this. And then there was the metering. I utilize a system for manually metering that's quite similar to the Zone System, and it's all done with a handheld light meter. To put it plainly, it's not the quickest metering method, but boy is it precise. And since I only had 4 frames to work with and no immediate image playback, I needed that precision. I did my best metering off a passing train on the opposite side of the tracks, double checking it on various parts of the station platform.

With my settings were dialed in, I claimed a spot sitting on the ground near a railing, pointed my camera where I thought the train door would be, and pre-focused as best I could. The top-down waist-level viewfinder of this camera was perfect for this shot because it allowed me to look down into my camera, not towards the train. From the commuters' point of view, I was just some guy sitting on the ground looking down at his camera. No drawing attention, no taking people out of the moment.

Now it was a waiting game.

I heard a train rumbling down the tracks and I perked up, ready for action. I knew I'd only have 1 or 2 chances for this shot. My camera is a manual frame advance design which means once I trigger the shutter, moving to the next frame takes at least 1 second. The moment could be gone by the time I move to the next image. The train rolled in for a stop, the doors opened, and I steadied my camera. I didn't trigger the shutter as soon as the doors opened. Instead, I observed the activity for a split second until my gut told me "now." Luckily, my instincts were right and the first frame came out exactly as I hoped. Upon reviewing the film, I was thrilled to see that the exposure was spot on, the framing was as I envisioned, and the moment of activity had just the right amount of interest to it. The shadow of the man against the train was a nice bonus.

The exposure settings for the image at top were f/13 at 1/125, no filters. After this successful photo (which wasn't confirmed successful until days later when I developed the film), I fired off 2 more "safety" shots of the train departing - neither of which were phenomenal - and this one image of long shadows streaking across the concrete.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 8 - Late Light and Shadows on Ilford Delta 100 FilmLate Light & Shadows at the Train Station - Tustin, CA
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 7:07pm
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Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 5

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 5 - Doorway at Night on Ilford Delta 100 FilmDoorway at Night - Irvine, CA
Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 11:06pm
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I love a good nighttime black and white photo. I've taken a few myself previously, but I'd yet to try a nighttime shot on this photo a day challenge. So for Day 5 of this challenge, I packed my gear up for a late night shoot.

I didn't have the luxury of staying out all night, so tried to find something close to home. Something within walking distance. I'm sure I looked a little weird crossing a busy Irvine street on a Saturday night carrying a tripod, but I'm long past that stage of my photography career where I care about looking nerdy. Now I'll even sport a photo vest without a second thought.

Just across the street from where I live is a Catholic church. You may be picturing a classically designed structure with a steeple and all, but I'm sorry to say this building isn't so...picturesque. It really looks more like a school or a shopping mall. And, like all things in Orange County, it's Tuscany style.

So as I walked the grounds of this church, I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for. A good hallway or a lone streetlight maybe. Something. Anything. This is a pretty big piece of property and although it's Irvine (the safest city in the country), I still got just a tiny bit creeped out all alone there. Way across the parking is a statue of some catholic saint which is nearly life-size. Seeing that silhouetted against the night from the corner of my eye scared the crap out of me. But I eventually found my way to an interesting archway perfectly framing a door and window behind it. I composed and exposed 2 identical frames (just in case one gets damaged in developing).

It doesn't look like a church in the photo, but that's alright. I'm pretty happy with the simplicity of this composition and I like the contrast created by the single overhead lamp. The exposure was f/4 at 1/2 second. No filters.

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

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 4

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 4 - Chair in Room on Ilford Delta 100 FilmChair and Room - Irvine Ranch Historic Park
Friday, August 16, 2013 at 5:15pm
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For day 4 of my photo a day challenge I decided to return to the Irvine Ranch Historic Park near my home and photograph something I'd seen a few days earlier. Towards the back of the park is a cluster of old homes that have fallen in to disrepair. Being the kind of guy I am, I find the disrepair to be absolutely beautiful. Tattered drapes, peeling paint, buckling floors...these are the things that make great photographs. But unfortunately, it looks as though the city is working on restoring all of these buildings to their original state. Bummer.

In one of the homes I found a room just off the kitchen where plywood and old screens are piled up along the walls. In the center of this small entry hall is a patio chair. Having scouted the area a few days prior, I knew that around 5:00 in the afternoon the sun would be low enough in the sky to shine some light through the southern windows.

The light did pretty much what I expected, creating some great dramatic light in this dingy room. I tried several compositions on this subject using all 4 of my allotted frames for the day. I couldn't actually get in to the room so I had to shoot through a dirty window. At first I tried wiping away a clear spot in the glass, holding my lens right up tight to it, hoping that I could eliminate any reflections and evidence of dirt. I did a couple frames this way, but then I decided that rather than fight these conditions, I'll try to make lemonade out of lemons. So I stepped away from the glass a bit so the reflections of the road behind me would creep in to the frame and partly occlude the room inside. I positioned myself carefully so that the reflections would serve to enhance the photo by adding interest to the edges of the composition without actually blocking the chair.

I used my wide angle lens to enhance the sense of solitude in this room. Plus, the natural light falloff at the corners of this lens would add a slight vignette to the photo, further drawing the viewer towards the chair. My exposure was f/6.3 at 1/250.

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