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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.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 2

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 2 - Palm Trees on Ilford Delta 100 FilmPalm Trees and Sky - Irvine Ranch Historic Park
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 3:06pm
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With my discovery of the Irvine Historic Park on day 1 of my Photo A Day challenge, I decided to return for day 2 to see what else I could find. Towards the rear of the property there is a stretch of driveway leading to what I'm assuming was the once-impressive entry gate to this homestead. Lining either side of the curved driveway is a colonnade of evenly spaced palm trees. After failing to find a decent shot of the architecture (which was and is my main attraction to this place), I started feeling out some compositions on these trees.

I circled the trees looking up and down for the right angle. The light was harsh on account of the clear midday sun but I knew this would be suitable for the high-contrast monochrome look I was after. I wanted to highlight the repetition in these perfectly spaced palm trees in some way. With my lens pointed straight up using my camera handheld, I snapped the shutter at 1/250 of a second at f/11. No filters were used. The image was made on Wednesday, August 14th at 3:06 pm.

I think this is the kind of photo that would be utterly mediocre in color. The blue sky was nice, but the desaturated nature of black and white takes the viewer a little further out of reality. For me, this photo has a vibe of 1920's Hollywood and Los Angeles that I can't quite articulate better than the photo does.

By day 2 of this little photo a day challenge, I realized that this exercise was already resulting in photos that I never would have taken otherwise. Clearly the challenge was working. Plus, it gave me a great excuse to get out and see the neighborhood, revealing hidden gems like this that I normally wouldn't have stumbled upon.

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