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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 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.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 6

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 6 - Girl in Hallway on Ilford Delta 100 FilmWoman Walking in Hallway - Palm Springs, CA
Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 9:13pm
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Oh man. Day 6 of my photo a day challenge was a frustrating one. My lovely lady and I had driven out to Palm Springs for a short getaway in the desert, and on this first day I'd made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to find my photo. First I drove around town desperately trying to get a better view of the nearby mountains and the dramatic clouds rising above. Buildings, buildings, power lines, buildings...I couldn't get a clear shot. So that was a wasted 30 minutes that I could have spent with my girlfriend instead. I came back to the hotel room frustrated.

But I wasn't ready to give up yet.

So a little bit later, I grabbed my camera again and started walking around the hotel. I was looking for reflections in the water feature surrounding the building, pattens in the building itself, interesting sparkles in a sprinkler. But nothing was working. I was trying to force a photo in an area and at a time when nothing was working. I was determined to not return to the hotel room until I could check that box on my agenda for "take a photo." But after another wasted half hour, I returned to the room in shame.

My brain was telling me to call it quits. "It's really not that big of a deal if you miss one day," my brain said. "It's not like you're getting paid to do this photo a day challenge anyway."

"Nay!" I protested. I wasn't about to fail at this challenge only 6 days in! I would make this work!

Then an idea hit me. My lady and I were getting ready to walk down to the bar for some drinks. I imagined walking behind her down the narrow hallways. I thought about the doors and carpet streaking past all around her. This was it. This was the composition I'd been looking for.

I knew it'd be a little tricky because I'd have to use a slow shutter to get the streak in the foreword motion. I'd have to walk behind her at just the right pace, taking light steps so as to avoid up-and-down vibrations. Plus, I wasn't sure exactly what shutter speed would be just right. Too slow and my subject would blur too much. Too fast and the motion wouldn't be obvious enough. Luckily, the design of my camera made this job a little easier than it would be with a DSLR or some other eye-level viewfinder camera. See, my medium format camera has a waist-level viewfinder. That means I look down into my camera held at or around waist level to compose my shots, rather than pulling it up to my eye like a DSLR. With my camera held down low coupled with its heft, I was able to keep the camera pretty steady as I walked.

I used a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second at f/4.5. I also opted for my wide angle lens to help exaggerate the motion. No filters were used.

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