Monday, May 16, 2011

Pictorial Monday: Self Portraits

There is a site called Digital Photography School that I follow (via RSS feed) and, in general, it has been very helpful. I like the challenges they present once in a while; but, I rarely participate. Well, sometime last week this post popped up in my RSS feed and intrigued me. I decided to go for it as I thought it would be fun.

Let me tell you, the creativity aspect is tough not to mention attempting to take a self portrait is even tougher. My lack of knowledge did not stop me - I was determined to plow through in spite of myself and learn. I learned more about lighting in these exercises. I also learned about aperture and depth of field.

Dan was my willing assistant. He sat or stood while I focused on him to make sure I would be in focus in the picture. He explained (or attempted to explain) concepts to me. He deserves a lot of credit for the pictures below because without him, I do not think these would have been as good as they are.

Below are the pictures that I came up with for the three different challenges that were presented. I have to say that I do not like myself in pictures – I am not photogenic unless I am laughing. At least, I feel that way. Dan feels otherwise; but, love is forever blind. These pictures were all taken this past weekend.

Self Portrait Challenge #1: Props

Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl

Material Girl written by Peter Brown and Robert Ran
sung by Madonna
I had originally thought about laying among a bunch of fabric; but, that would have been too tough to implement as I do not have a remote switch nor would I have been able to set the camera high enough to get a picture of me wallowing among fabric. At least, it would not have been easy or safe to attempt this scenario.

The above shot was thought of by Dan as I was talking to him while sitting behind the sewing machine. I liked the idea well enough that we set it into motion by piling the fabric around the sewing machine. It took many attempts on my part to finally get the lighting right. The above shot is the one we both liked. So, I picked it to use in the challenge.

Self Portrait Challenge #2: Light

Instead of cursing the darkness,
Light a candle for where we're going,
There's something ahead, worth looking for.

When the light of time is on us,
We will see our moment come,
And the living soul inside will carry on.

Light a candle in the darkness,
So others might see ahead,
Light a candle in the darkness, when you go.

Light a Candle by Neil Young
When I received the #2 challenge in the RSS feed, I immediately knew I wanted to do something with candles. I love candles of all kinds and am addicted to the Yankee Candle brand. However, the candles I used here were cheap ones I had purchased specifically for this challenge from Walmart. I envisioned using dark candles so that only the candlelight would be evident and this one came out very well.

I had a problem with lighting and shadows. I ended up with one candle sitting just outside the right of this picture on a chair. Dan held another candle on the left and I finally had an acceptable shot.

Self Portrait Challenge #3: Mood

My soul is weak
My heart is numb
I cannot see
But still my hope is found in You
I’ll hold on tightly
You will never let me go

Clinging to the Cross by Tim Huges
This was the toughest challenge. It is extremely hard to convey a mood through the camera. I had a hard time imagining something that conveys a particular mood of any kind through the camera. My mind was working really hard and then I thought of something that might be doable. I had envisioned a cross in the background blurred with me a distance a ways to convey the feeling of "lost" which I sometimes feel due to depression. At the same time, I am holding onto the Bible to convey that I am clinging to my faith. I also felt that a black and white photo would be best in this situation.

I had to make the cross that you see in the background. I made that prop almost entirely by myself with the guidance of Dan (who is into woodworking). I even used power tools - a duel-beveled, sliding compound miter saw and a router - and did not hurt nor kill myself in the process. Also, this did not cost anything as I used scraps.

It took a better part of a day to finish the prop as priming and painting takes time not to mention allowing time for the wood glue to dry before painting. I'm quite pleased with end result. It just needs one more coat of paint, which I will give it someday. I'm planning to keep this prop. After all, It is my very first woodworking project that I have completed from start to finish.

This time, Dan helped me immensely because I had an idea and every shot I took just wasn’t cutting it. He finally understood what I was going for and helped me in the process.

A lot of credit goes to Dan for this photo because he put his 50mm lens on my camera and explained some details to me. I took one shot at f/4.5 and it wasn’t what I was going for. I took another shot at f/1.8 and the shot was very close! Dan had taken the time to explain to me that the bigger the aperture, the smaller the depth of field. I wanted to understand the why of it all. He smiled and said that he did too - this is just one of those things you have to accept. Ugh. However, I see that it is true. It works. So, it is just one of those things I am just going to remember and accept.

I hope you enjoyed reading this long winded post and viewing the pictures. Note: all the lyrical quotes I added were an afterthought - not the basis for the pictures themselves.