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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 10

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 10 - Wooden Fence on Ilford Delta 100 Film
Wooden Fence - Irvine, CA
Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 3:35pm
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For day 10 of my Photo a Day Challenge I decided to not go looking for a photo. Instead, I'd get on my bike, go for a ride, and let the photo find me. If there's anything I'd learned thus far from the previous 9 days of this challenge, it's that many of my best photos came from those situations where I wasn't actively searching for something to photograph. So with my Mamiya RZ67 loaded up in my backpack, I set out on the Mountain to Sea Trail near my home. Winding through neighborhoods and along a drainage canal, I kept my eyes peeled for an interesting shot.

This area consists of a lot of groomed trails. When you hear "Mountain to Sea Trail" you're likely picturing a dirt hiking trail. This is different. It's a paved walkway wide enough for a single car to drive down. It's designed for riding bikes, walking, and pushing strollers. The trail connects with other trails that traverse all parts of Irvine. It's excellent for a nice bike ride on a warm summer day.

On this trip, I stumbled upon a section of trail lined by a wooden fence surrounded by overgrown bushes. I have no idea what type of plants these are, but they have a beautiful white tip not unlike a stalk of fuzzy wheat. They dance calmly and sway in the breeze like feathers. But the real reason I stopped here for a photo is because of the light. A low afternoon sun backlit these plants so they appeared to be glowing from within. These glowing white stalks wrapping around the fence, I knew, would make for a great black and white. The contrast was nice and strong and the textures created some character. My exposure came out to f/4.5 at 1/125 using a 3-stop neutral density filter. The reason I needed the filter is because I wanted to use that wide aperture of f/4.5 to blur the background. Since my shutter speed tops out at 1/400 on this camera, I needed the filter to tone down the light a little bit.

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

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 9

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 9 - Avocado on Ilford Delta 100 FilmAvocado - Irvine, CA
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 2:41pm
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Day 9 of my Photo a Day Challenge was the first day I felt like I really dropped the ball. The creative juices were stagnant, I was busy and preoccupied with other things, I couldn't get out of the house for a decent stretch of time. I wasn't "in the zone." But hey, it happens. That's half the point of this challenge - to work through those tough days.

Rather than throw in the towel and just not take a photo, I tried to make something work at home. I was in the middle of making lunch when I looked at the half an avocado sitting on my counter. "That might work," I thought. I envisioned the avocado in black and white with the meat a bright white tone contrasted against a stark black background and a dark core. Shot straight down from overhead with the avocado placed squarely in the middle of the frame, I might achieve an ultra-simplistic composition that would highlight the shape and tones.

So, I put the avocado on my black coffee table and positioned my tripod overhead. In order to make the green meat brighten up, I opted for a Green #11 filter. This would also help darken the core, which is more of a reddish tone. My calculated exposure came out to f/22 at 1 second. I used f/22 to get a sufficient depth of field on this subject because being at this close of a shooting distance, my plane of focus shrunk down to almost nothing. Using a cable release and mirror lock-up to minimize vibrations in the 1" exposure, I exposed a few frames at different brightnesses. Turns out my first calculated exposure was the right one. I did a tiny bit of dodge and burn on this photo to eliminate some faint texture that showed up in the background and to further lighten the avocado meat.

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

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 7

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 7 - Cabazon Dinosaurs on Ilford Delta 100 FilmInconsiderate T-Rex - Cabazon, CA
Monday, August 19, 2013 at 3:42pm
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On the way to Palm Springs from Orange County or LA, you'll see a strange site off the side of the 10 Freeway. Rising above the desert are two huge dinosaurs - a t-rex and an apatosaurus. These are the Cabazon Dinosaurs. They are delightfully kitschy, utterly unusual, and actually somewhat famous. They've been featured in music videos and movies (Pee Wee's Big Adventure anyone?) and, according the website, are seen by over 12 million people each year.

I knew these Cabazon Dinosaurs were where I'd get my shot for day 7 of my photo a day challenge. I mean, come on, how often do you get to photograph life-size dinosaurs?

Rather than seek out the obvious shots, I wanted to focus on the more intimate weirdness of these structures. After spending quite a bit of time circling these dinosaurs in search of the right compositions, I started with a tight shot of the t-rex's leg "stepping over" the fence below it. I actually wanted this composition to look as though I was really just trying to photograph the palm tree and mountains behind it, but then this annoying dinosaur just happened to get in the shot right before I clicked the shutter. Like those bygone times when you'd get a roll of film back from the lab and start flipping through the prints only to find that some clueless out-of-it tourist stepped in front of your lens and ruined your perfect photo of the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Damn clueless dinosaur tourists always getting in to your shots. They don't even speak our language. God I hate dinosaurs!"

I then did a couple of compositions that I felt simply highlighted the randomness of these dinosaurs. I mean, really. Why are there giant dinosaurs out in the middle of the desert? It's not like this area is a hotbed of archeology. Such a non sequitur landmark.

I like this photo of the t-rex looking off in to the distance much more than I'm sure anyone else will. I like to think he's dreaming of bigger things, thinking about what could have been. Maybe he's thinking about going back to school to get his nursing degree or maybe he has big dreams of broadway. Either way, he's clearly a dreamer.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 7 - Cabazon Dinosaurs on Ilford Delta 100 FilmT-Rex Dreams of Greater Things - Cabazon, CA
Monday, August 19, 2013 at 3:56pm
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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 7 - Cabazon Dinosaurs on Ilford Delta 100 FilmApatosaurus is Not Amused  - Cabazon, CA
Monday, August 19, 2013 at 3:50pm
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Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.