Friday, July 31, 2009

Bad photo and why it's bad . . .

I went for a walk on the beach this morning and the light was kind of strange — sunlight filtering through intermittent clouds and a lot of mist. A child was playing with his dog in the surf and so I took a quick photograph. I like the way the clouds look, the soft blue tones, the body position of the dog, but I do not like the way the child's head merges into the background rocks. I wish his head had a cleaner background so that it would stand out more.

Could I fix this in Photoshop? Yes, but it would take me a long time and, frankly, the overall photo isn't worth it. I normally would throw something like this away, but I figure no, it's a good teaching tool. So there you have it. I'm not proud. I'll say it loud: this is not a good shot! And now you know why. ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The kitchen lights are on . . .

Just because you're "in the zone" and getting a rush from what you're photographing doesn't mean you're necessarily breaking new ground.

This morning it was foggy and dark outside. But the camera and tripod were all set up and the plant was sitting there on the kitchen counter, beckoning me.

I turned on the overhead kitchen lights (not the best light source in the world, but surprisingly good) and began focusing on the plant's flowers.

After awhile, trying this and that, I was stoked! Never has photography been so much fun. These shots are terrific! Hoo ha!

Well, not so fast, grasshopper. I bring them into the computer and begin looking at them. And a lot of them are pretty good. I'm praising "live view" and I'm praising my own vision ... until I realize that a lot of these shots look JUST LIKE SOME I TOOK THE OTHER DAY!

Just when you think you're growing and improving and GETTING SOMEWHERE you realize that you're not the hotshot you thought you were 45 minutes ago.

But you know what's good? I KNOW when I'm not doing something different. I KNOW when my photo is a "fleur ordinaire." Maybe not when I'm doing the shooting, but eventually it sinks in.

I took a lot of images I can use in my upcoming macro class. And I had a good time. And my time wasn't wasted. So maybe my NEXT set of photographs will be my best! ©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Still blooming

My sempervivum plant is just now getting underway with flowers, and more appear daily. The light from the kitchen window made them look really good this afternoon, so I had to stop what I was doing and shoot. The background? A sage-green dishtowel. The equipment? a 100mm macro lens and one extension tube. Shot at f/2.8 for minimum depth of field -- I wanted very little in focus from front to back. ©Carol Leigh

"Cheese Food?"

I've got an old wooden Velveeta box and some old bottles. I added a few of my neighbor Gene's dahlias and voila! But for some reason the term "cheese food" is sort of creeping me out. Oh, wait! It's a "delicious cheese food." Whew! I feel much better now. ©Carol Leigh

Monday, July 27, 2009

Friends and flowers . . . always good

A friend arrived on Saturday bearing a big bouquet of flowers! Hoo ha! So I spent a little time yesterday shooting, shooting, shooting. And today I will shoot some more, somewhat differently. I don't know what these round purple things are, but they are cool to look at and a challenge to photograph. The lens I used for all these pictures is a 100mm macro as well as a variety of extension tubes. ©Carol Leigh

Sunday, July 26, 2009

First bloom

My sempervivum plant has one open flower on it plus a lot more buds. A giant stalk has risen out of the middle of this thing and it's starting to scare me. Before it takes over my kitchen, I figured I'd shoot this first flower and then will stand back. I wish I could tell you what lens/extension tube setup I used for these shots, but I was changing things constantly. The only thing I know for sure is that a 100mm macro lens was used throughout. ©Carol Leigh

Friday, July 24, 2009


It was a beautiful afternoon on the Oregon coast — almost too sunny to shoot! We met David and Letty at Canyon Way for lunch in Newport and then Chris and I took them down to the fishing boats to do a bit of shooting. It was a tough go. This boat hull photo was inspired by a photo taken by John Wright on his blog, and I thank him for reminding me to look for such things. The first thing that caught my eye about that scene was the bright orange reflection of the boat's bumper in the water. Then I remembered John's boat hull shot and so I lined everything up just so. ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cats and wet leaves

Abby stands at the front door watching as four birds frolic in the birdbath. Gorgeous morning this morning, everything covered with a fine mist. I grab the tripod, set everything up, take two shots and the fine mist coming from the clouds turns into rain. Maybe tomorrow ... ©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Focusing on 3

Last week we were wandering around and came upon a pile of things that had a sign on them: FREE. YOU HAUL AWAY. I began taking photos of rust patterns, a paint brush, weathered wood, etc. and came across an old adding machine. With lots of numbers on it! And it still had a roll of adding machine tape in it. I picked it up and just a little bit of water came out, so naturally I had to bring it home to shoot.

Well, now that I have it, I'm wondering what the heck was I thinking? I've taken a few shots, as you can see here, but now, I don't know ... So it's currently sitting on the floor of my studio, taking up precious space, and I'm probably going to stub my toe on it one day, careen into the tripod, knock everything over, and then blame it all on Chris for oh, so patiently and without judgment, putting the damned thing in the car for me that fateful day. ©Carol Leigh

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Poppy pod

Using a 50mm lens at f/1.8 means hardly anything is in focus, especially when shooting down onto something. Just a tip of the crown on this poppy pod is in focus — everything else blurs out immediately. I put an extension tube on the camera to be able to move in this close. ©Carol Leigh

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Botanical study

It rained last night and as a result, everything in the back yard was covered with little droplets of water this morning. I tried a variety of lenses to see what I could do, beginning with an 18-55mm lens, then went for the 50mm f/1.8 with a 1.4X teleconverter. Then I took the teleconverter off and played with the 50mm and an extension tube, opting for an aperture of f/1.8 for extreeeeeemly shallow depth of field. Frankly, nothing I shot this morning really wowed me. But I thought I'd play with this stem/leaf photo of an opium poppy plant. Because depth of field was so shallow, it reminded me of an old-fashioned botanical study, so that's the look I tried to enhance. I made the photo less of a clear green, darkened some of it, grunged some of it, and this is the result. Do I like it? I don't know right now. But what I DO like is the fun of experimentation. ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More blurry trees . . .

It was foggy this morning so I went for a walk around the block really early to take advantage of the light and worked on the trees again. Beautifully quiet time of day -- just me and the garbage truck! Here are the latest incarnations. ©Carol Leigh

Monday, July 13, 2009

Trees on the move

Seeing some recent photos posted by Marianne Skov Jensen on her blog, I was inspired to revisit moving my camera while exposing the scene. I often do this in horizontal fashion when at the beach, sweeping my camera from left to right (or vice-versa) for a landscape shot, but haven't done much with vertical subjects. On my walk around the block today, I was taken by how dark the foreground trees were and how light was the background. I set my camera on aperture priority, selecting f/25 for my lens opening. At ISO 100, this required a 1-second exposure. I warmed up by simply moving my camera up and down and then, when I felt loose and easy, clicked the shutter. Although I kind of like this shot, I know I can do better. My shutter speed was probably longer than it needed to be, so I'll give this another go next time I take a walk. ©Carol Leigh

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Closer still . . .

I added a few extension tubes to my 100mm macro lens and moved in closer to the plant. I shot these two with my aperture set at f/13, resulting in exposures between 1.3 and 2 seconds. Here, too, I purposely underexposed the photos by 2/3 of a stop to prevent the lighter-colored fuzz from blowing out. The quest continues . . . ©Carol Leigh

Quick update: It's now July 21 and there's a huge stalky thing coming out of the middle with what looks like a bouquet of flowers getting ready to bloom. This thing has grown about half an inch a day. It's actually kinda creepy! Can't wait to see what the flowers look like.

Repeating patterns

A sempervivum plant patiently sits before my camera, looking absolutely stunning with its repeating patterns, beautiful colors, and with its fuzzy thingies all over the place. How can I do it justice? How can I photograph it without insulting it? For the next couple of days I'm going to give it a try. Here are a few examples. All were taken with a 100mm macro lens set on aperture priority (AV) with shutter speeds ranging from 1 second to 2.5 seconds, ISO 400. I normally would shoot this at ISO 100, but wanted to go with shorter shutter speeds this session, figuring whatever grain/noise resulted would be camouflaged by the fuzzy nature of the plant. Some of the shots were purposely underexposed by 2/3 of a stop so that the lighter-colored spikes wouldn't be overexposed. ©Carol Leigh

Two gifts in one

While in an art gallery the other day, I spotted an old box with weathered bocce balls in it. I asked the owner/manager if it was okay to take a photo of the box. "Sure thing! You can photograph anything in here!" Oh. My. God. Since most of you reading this are photographers, you KNOW how suspicious people get when they spot a camera. Especially in an art gallery. So to have someone say it's okay to shoot is like a huge gift. I mean HUGE.

He then gave me a little photo lesson. "If I can make a suggestion . . . most photographers stand way too far back to take their photos. Try doing this: Try moving in really close and FORCE the photo. Get in tight." Chris was standing off to one side with a rather bemused expression thinking, "You're telling THIS woman to move in close? This woman who has to try REALLY hard to take an overview?" I thanked the store person for the suggestion and dutifully moved in closer to the subject.

Here are my two favorite shots from the store — one of the bocce balls in the box and the other a close-up of some glass detail. It was a double bonus: permission to shoot in the store AND a good photo lesson. "Move in tight." I must make a note of that . . . ©Carol Leigh

Friday, July 10, 2009

Viva sempervivum!

I purchased this sempervivum plant specifically to photograph because I love the way the little spiky things stick out and look backlit even when they're not. I spent a lot of time this afternoon shooting it and will post the images as I process them. I used a 100mm macro lens and, just for the heck of it, turned off all the lights and then lighted the plant with a flashlight. Woo hoo! It glowed like crazy! And then darned if I could place the flashlight just right again. I never got this same lighting situation even though I tried a number of different angles. I have a short attention span and not much patience, so I moved on. But doesn't this look cool? I was shooting at ISO 200, 1/6 second at f/8. I purposely underexposed the shot by 2/3 of a stop to keep the look dark and glowing. ©Carol Leigh

Save the date . . . October 10, 2009

I just sent off the class description and it's pretty much a done deal that I'll be conducting a one-day classroom-style macro photography class in Castro Valley, California on Saturday, October 10, 2009. I'll post more details when they become available. If you would like to be placed on my notification list, please send me an e-mail. That's carol at In addition, I'll also be leading a photo walk to shoot the murals in San Francisco's Mission District on Sunday morning, the 11th. More details to follow on that as well. Hoo ha! This'll be fun!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A quick trip up to Newport

Thursdays and Fridays are sort of my "weekend," time when Chris and I can venture out together. We needed to go to the library and the bank today, so en route we stopped at a couple of places so I could do some shooting. Aquarium Village can sometimes provide interesting subject matter. I was struck by the incongruity of a rattan chair sitting outside the door of a warehouse. My students are working on the color blue right now, so it seemed appropriate. And inside an antique store there was a bottle of -- yes -- bluing on a shelf. I liked the label, so zoomed in tight to fill my frame. And then there was the repeating pattern of condo entrances in Nye Beach. It's a monochromatic look that's relieved by the pattern and the texture. After an excellent lunch at Quimby's Restaurant (where we have never been disappointed), we walked around the neighborhood and stopped in at a gallery, where I was encouraged to take pictures and was given a short lesson in photography, which I'll describe in my next posting. ©Carol Leigh

Small moments that mean a lot

My elderly neighbor is slowly going through all the things in her house in preparation for moving closer to her family in another state. She's assessing them, deciding what to keep, what to get rid of. "Hey, kid. I want to show you something." (I love being called "kid.") She reaches into a round wooden basket of sorts and pulls out a beaded bag. It's 200 years old, given to her grandmother in Idaho by a Nez Perce Indian woman. Oh, my gosh. It's beautiful. It's heavy. It looks brand-new. What a thrill to hold something this old, something that undoubtedly took a very long time to make. I ask if I can take some photos of it. "Go ahead, kid!" I set it on her floor and take a few images. As you can see, her wood floor looks pretty cool, too! A brief moment in time for me, but one that will linger. ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Trash or treasure?

When I die and someone goes through my stuff, they're going to shake their head at all this crap and wonder what the heck was I thinking. Like this box. It cost $4 at a flea market. Someone had taken some old wood, cut it up, nailed it together, used old hinges and a handle on top and then created a latch by bending a nail around a screw. Someone took just what they had and made it useful.

It's not beautiful — it's crude and rough and simple. And Chris doesn't think much of it. It pleases me, however, and it can hold markers and other art supplies. And the latch is a good example of finding and photographing curves, a lesson in my current online class.

My point, however, is that when I die someone's going to see this box, shake their head, and will either throw it out or sell it at a garage sale. Where some other weirdo will see it, think it's cool, and might even pay $4 for it. I doubt, however, that they'll think of photographing it . . . ©Carol Leigh

It's cherry season!

It's been a good season for cherries this year and the Rainier cherries are looking (and tasting) great. ©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In the bathroom . . .

I put a 50mm lens on the camera plus an extension tube and began wandering around the house, looking for things to photograph. I knew I wanted super-shallow depth of field, so I set the lens aperture at f/1.8. I turned on the faucet in the bathroom just to see what it looked like . . . love the bokeh -- the out-of-focus highlights over on the left. I also like the overall light and airy feel of the shot. A masterpiece? Of course not. Just playing around. ©Carol Leigh

Monday, July 6, 2009

Yet another dandelion

Beginning with a dandelion puff and a piece of blue fabric, I used a macro lens, various extension tubes, and a close-up diopter to move in tight. My online class is working on the color blue at the moment, so I thought I'd join in and created this. ©Carol Leigh

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A high-key kind of morning

Terry E. in my latest "Parts is Parts" class created a beautiful series of photos that all had a high-key look, so I've got high-key on my brain right now. Using a 50mm lens and some extension tubes, I photographed this daisy and purposely overexposed it by 2/3 of a stop to make it look light and airy. Thank you, Terry, for the inspiration. ©Carol Leigh

More dandelions . . .

The seeds on this dandelion puff pretty much all blew off in the wind before I could get it home, so I made do with the few that were left. The first two shots were taken with a 100mm macro lens plus some extension tubes and then toned slightly blue in Photoshop. They had a bluish cast to begin with, so adding a bit more blue seemed appropriate. The third shot was taken with a 50mm lens and a couple of extension tubes. I used a flashlight to give the center portion a bit of a glow. ©Carol Leigh

Friday, July 3, 2009

To the garden center

Our local garden center -- the Oregon Coast Garden Center -- always has a variety of beautiful plants and flowers. They're so kind to let me take photographs whenever I wish, and so when I'm in a photographic slump or wondering what the heck to shoot, I know I can always go there and find something wonderful. This morning I photographed an exquisite rose called "Lovestruck," a sedum of some sort, a burgundy/gold-colored succulent, and a bunch of bluish-purple things that weren't labeled. We always try to buy something in return, and today we came home with bright red geraniums, some alternanthera plants with red and green leaves, and petunias. It's a great start for the day.