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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 30

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 30 - Park at Night on Ilford Delta 100 filmPark at Night - Irvine, CA
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 7:55pm
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Well, I finally made it to the 30th and final day of my photo a day challenge. I again found myself out at night to make my exposures, this time at a neighborhood park near where I grew up. The real reason I chose to visit this park to take photos is because there is a beautiful Gratitude and Honor Memorial set up there for the fallen heroes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And seeing as how the date on this night was September 11th, I thought it would be fitting to photograph the memorial.

Here is a shot of just one section of one of the panels on this memorial. There are  20 panels in all - each one filled with names of soldiers killed in combat. As of this writing there are 6,714 names engraved in the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial (per www.northwoodmemorial.com). If you carefully review the names in the photo below, it's chilling to note some of the ages of these soldiers.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 30 - Northwood Park Military Memorial on Ilford Delta 100 filmWar Memorial - Irvine, CA
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 7:26pm
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The panels are glossy, so it was difficult to avoid reflections clouding the names. I first tried to get my own reflection out of the frame, but then I decided to let my outline show in the composition. I felt that my silhouette might serve as a reminder that these names aren't simply names on a plaque but names that represent real flesh-and-blood people fallen in the line of duty.

If you're in the area, I strongly recommend visiting this memorial.

After taking this photo of the memorial, I decided to venture around the park in search of other shots to finish off my final roll of film. I eventually found my way to the back of the park where I fixed my camera on a tree and lamppost with an interesting backdrop of silhouetted rooflines. Much like the photo from yesterday's blog entry, I think this shot of the lamppost is going to speak much more to me than anyone else. As I continue to mature in my photography, I'm realizing that more than capturing moments or subjects, I really want to capture "vibes" and emotions - those deeply-ingrained feelings that can't be articulated in words. This image of the lamppost and tree, I feel, captures a "vibe" that I can't articulate. I don't know if you'll get that same vibe from it, but that's what I like about it.

This 30-day photo a day challenge has been a huge growing experience for me. It helped me discover new approaches to photography and how to find photos in situations and subjects I wouldn't have otherwise thought to photograph. It helped me reach a point where I know now what to do next. I have project ideas sprouting up in my head left and right. The creative juices are flowing and I know where to go from here. This challenge certainly served its purpose.

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

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 29

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 29 - Streetlight on Ilford Delta 100 filmStreetlight - Irvine, CA
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 10:13pm
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There is a recently-built road in the hills behind my old high school here in Irvine. This road will soon be lined by tract housing, but as of now, it's empty. I love it here. Without any buildings in the way, you get a great high-up view of the city below and the whole stretch of asphalt feels quiet and secluded. I especially love visiting this road at night. With nothing but the streetlights lining the road to illuminate the dark, you can really feel like you're out in the middle of nowhere.

For day 29 of my photo a day challenge, I decided to visit this deserted road to make my photograph. I had a pre-visualized composition in mind of just a single streetlight rising up the center of the frame with a completely black background. One of my favorite things in the world is the way artificial lighting in a nighttime settings simultaneous creates some of the harshest contrast and some of the softest tonal gradations you'll find anywhere. And the resulting simple shadows look awesome on black and white film.

With my Mamiya RZ67 loaded up with Ilford Delta 100 film, I found a streetlight on a relatively level stretch of the road, set up my tripod directly across from it, and metered my exposure at 1/4 of a second at f/4. I chose a relatively wide aperture because there was no need for a big depth of field here. My subjects were all lined up on the same plane, all about equidistant from me, and the background had no detail to it in the darkness. This wide aperture allowed me to use a decently quick shutter speed in this dim lighting. Still had to use a tripod, though. The way I arrived at exactly f/4 is because of the way it rendered the light itself. See, small apertures turn pinpoints of light into stars. The smaller the aperture, the more pronounce the star. Here, I wanted some faint light rays "shooting" out from the light, but I didn't want a full-fledged multi-pointed star. With the help of my depth of field preview button, I found that f/4 gave just the right amount of starburst.

Strangely enough, this is one of my favorite photos from the entire photo a day challenge. It may not mean much to the average viewer, but it means something to me.

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

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 21

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 21 - Boy in Canoe on Ilford Delta 100 filmBoy in Canoe - Woodbridge Lake, Irvine, CA
Monday, September 2, 2013 at 2:32pm
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It was Labor Day on Day 21 of my Photo a Day Challenge and I was walking around Woodbridge Lake in Irvine in search of my shot for the day. There was a lot of activity going on at this artificial lake on account of the holiday and the energy there was very enjoyable. I really love some good ol' community fun and recreation. Everyone is having a good time, we're all taking a break from the bustle of daily work for a change, the smell of barbecues fill the air...classic Americana.

With my Mamiya RZ67 camera in hand loaded up with my usual Ilford Delta 100 film, I took a stroll around the lake with my eyes peeled for a good photo. I walked and walked and walked, attempted some photos, failed, then walked some more. I had nearly circumnavigated the entire lake and was on my way back to the car feeling quite defeated. A full hour searching this big lake and I just couldn't find a thing. I was itching to photograph some people, and there were tons there, but I couldn't make anything work.

Then I made it to the top of a pedestrian bridge spanning the lake and spotted a couple of kids out navigating the waters. They were clearly friends - one in a canoe and the other on a paddle bike. I immediately liked these kids. In a world of iPhones and Xbox's, they were doing what kids should be doing on a beautiful day like this: getting away from their parents and enjoying the weather. I loved the role they were playing in the larger scene of Americana surrounding this lake. The perfect weather, the barbecues, the calm waters, the energy of everything...it was all punctuated perfectly with these two kids operating their respective water craft. They were the bow on the present that was this scene.

The intensity with which I appreciated these kids engaging in such a simple activity may seem strange to some people. But it was so reminiscent of that certain type of picturesque childhood you saw in the movie Stand By Me or The Sandlot. These kids reminded me of a time and place when red-tape, regulations, and iPads didn't rob kids of their desire to explore and get into trouble. These kids are exploring as much as the rules will allow. It may not be the same as finding a dead body or trying to recover a prized Babe Ruth-signed baseball from "The Beast," but they're doing as much as they can with what they got. I have a lot of respect for that.

But back to the picture-taking. From my vantage point high up on the bridge, I visualized a shot from directly above the canoeist as he paddled slowly under the gangway. Lucky for me, he decided to stop right below me, allowing me to fire off a frame of him and his friend without ever giving away my position. Both shots were exposed at f/10 at 1/250 of a second.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 21 - Boy on Paddle Bike on Ilford Delta 100 filmBoy on Paddle Bike - Woodbridge Lake, Irvine, CA
Monday, September 2, 2013 at 2:31pm
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Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.