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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.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 3

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 3 - Reflections on Ilford Delta 100 FilmStorm Drain Reflections 1 - Irvine, CA
Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 8:03am
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During this photo a day challenge, I was working on refining my daily schedule to be more efficient. Modeling it after Ben Franklin's structured daily schedule and inspired by his saying "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," part of this adjustment involved limiting my sleep to 7.5 hours instead of 8 and waking at 6:30 every day. I thought this would be a difficult adjustment but it turns out I feel more refreshed with 7.5 hours of sleep than I do 8. That little adjustment added 182 waking hours to my life every single year. Thank you, Ben Franklin.

On one of these early mornings, I decided to head out for my daily photo. For this photo a day challenge, I'd gotten in the habit of riding my bike around town with my camera gear in a simple school backpack. And right outside my apartment is a trail here in Irvine called the Mountain to Sea Trail. It's really more like hills to sea because there are no mountains here. But basically it's a series of paved biking/walking trails that connect the hills in the north to the ocean in the south. You can literally ride your bike 22 miles from the inland hills all the way to the Pacific Ocean, weaving through neighborhoods, shopping centers, under freeway overpasses, and over train tracks. I've done a large section of it before and it's a great workout with some beautiful scenery.

The portion of trail near my home runs along a concrete drainage channel that leads all the way to the sea. This ditch isn't a natural landmark in any way shape or form, but nature has found a way to make it livable. The sediment from storm runoff has built up in some stretches of the ditch. This provided a base for plants to grow. The plants provided a home for animals. And the sediment has built up to such an extent that in certain areas of the canal there are full-blown ponds. And in these ponds are fish and turtles. Big turtles. There are even cat tails growing from the ditch now. It's really quite picturesque.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 3 - Reflections on Ilford Delta 100 FilmStorm Drain Reflections 2 - Irvine, CA
Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 8:22am
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In the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, "Nature - uh, uh - finds a way." And I'm glad it did here. This area of the ditch has become my tiny little slice of wild lands in the suburban jungle of OC. It's almost like there is a little sliver of nature running through Orange County that survives despite all the development. I love riding along this trail, visiting the turtles, watching the birds, and admiring nature's ability to create its own ecosystem virtually anywhere.

And this little patch of nature helped me create 2 of my favorite photos from this whole challenge. The reeds and cat tails reflecting in the still waters at dawn offered a great opportunity for some black and white photos. The contrast was just phenomenal at this time of day. The plants were still in shadow from the low rising sun, but the sky was fully illuminated. This resulted in some nice separation between the two subjects in the reflection. I attempted to catch the turtle in one of these photos as he neared the surface, but he wasn't cooperating. Oh well. I'm sure he had breakfast to attend to.

The image at top was exposed for 1/60 of a second at f/5.6. The second image featured here was exposed at 1/125 of a second at f/5.6. No filters on either image.

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