August 30, 2009 Inspiration Left and Right
I finally sprung for the sumptuous book Vanity Fair: The Portraits: A Century of Iconic Images; it arrived yesterday. Oh my.
Though it lists for $65, Amazon sells it for $40.95, with free shipping. Even at $65, it'd be a bargain. At 14" tall, 11" wide, an inch-and-a-half thick, this 384-page hardbound book weighs in at 7 pounds.
The treasure is the photographs. Most spreads have just two photos, or one, and their placements have received much thought. An old photo is often matched with a contemporary shot, to great effect. This gets my highest recommendation.
Amid 12 hours this weekend on preparations for school, I stole away for some music, catching Gabrielle Louise and David Rynhart (left) at the "Live at Studio C" monthly concert last night. More great stuff.
August 23, 2009 Direct from Dalhart
Is it just me, or does this guy have a great look? (Click picture to enlarge.) Maybe it was the circumstances, 97 degrees in the shade of these elm trees on a street in downtown Clayton, New Mexico. Six guys playing all afternoon from a fifth-wheel flatbed trailer, led by the legendary Eloy Gonzales, a resident of Clayton and card-carrying member of the Western Swing Music Hall of Fame. (He showed me the card!)
Eloy laughed when I asked the name of the band. It was just a pick-up group of guys he'd called. Some came and went during the day. But this lead guitarist and his Fender Telecaster played all day. He's Nick Cooper, of Dalhart, Texas. Even his name is great. I thought he was Hispanic but with that name, I guess not. Whoever he is, he plays as good as he looks. It may have been the heat, but I've had the pleasure of enjoying countless sweltering Texas afternoons of live music, hearing the legends, and this was right up there. Thanks, Eloy Gonzales and Nick Cooper and the guys.
August 14, 2009 Only 133 Shopping Days to Christmas
Christina's ordered up a half-dozen smaller framed photos for her Christmas season show at Studio C, a group show of smaller works with the hope that people will buy them all up as Christmas presents. (The gal's learning to be a businesswoman!)
The Madrid Wind Chimes above is a year-old photo, but it's the first one that came to mind. I like its bright holiday-like colors. I've never added it to my photography galleries here, so I've rectified that, adding it to the Migas gallery this morning.
The only other photography-related news I have at the moment is that I'm planning to give my camera and lenses a good cleaning today. I haven't cleaned the camera since the last rodeo, so it's dusty. It's best to clean the lenses when the sun's up: holding a lens in direct sunlight really shows up any dust that's left on the glass.
I'll be back in Raton daily beginning Monday, starting a new school year. Photographically, that's bound to increase the number of photographs I take, adding images to The Chronicle-News and my Photojournalism gallery. I'll keep you posted.
August 8, 2009 Art Can Be Tedious!
Except for a four-day mini-vacation with Christina to a rural B&B north of Taos, I've spent most of the last three weeks on a project you wouldn't know was so huge just to look at it.
I've added five dozen photographs to the galleries here, all taken since the first of the year. I've created three new galleries, too -- Character, Women, and Photojournalism.
Don't get me started on the minute details of the process, but suffice to say that I spent dozens of hours on it, and -- who knows? -- between 100,000 and 300,000 computer keystrokes. I'm especially proud that I accomplished it all without a single panicked inquiry to Mike Schoonover, my friend and web guru.
There were previously about 120 images in the photo galleries; that number has now been increased by 50%, to about 180. Thanks to Darcy for asking about new pictures. I plan to make the next additions over my Christmas vacation from school -- photos I haven't taken yet.
I sure hope you'll spend some time looking over the new and updated galleries! Thanks.
July 27, 2009 Moving On
In what is likely to be the last horse picture here for a good while, our friend and neighbor Rhodi Martin stands with her barrels competition horse, Geerio, out behind Studio C. It was the final shot I took for my Western Horseman story, which I sent off last week. I'm hoping to learn this week whether it'll be a cover story.
Friday, I received a positive response from New Mexico Magazine, after nine months. The art director expressed great interest in my photographs and the expectation to work with me in the future. Meantime, she invited me to submit photographs for their upcoming 2010 New Mexico Vacation Guide. She included a list of locales they're planning to cover, and for some of those (e.g., the Folsom Museum) in our region, she and I both think I may be the only photographer to have the desired photos. She said they don't have anyone working in our northeast quadrant of the state. I'm sending her sixteen photos in today's mail.
Finally, I'm late in replenishing my photography galleries here at TKP. I'm in the process of adding close to four-dozen photos taken during 2009. Right now I'm selecting, organizing, and resizing each image. I have to make four different sizes for each shot. The total work time to do all this and insert them into the website will be about 24 hours. Because I start a very demanding school year three weeks from today, I need to have all the new photos in place before that. So, you know what I'll be doing for a while.
July 18, 2009 Shooting for Classics
Here's a pair of pictures I got at last weekend's local youth rodeo. The Chronicle-News ran both in color on the front page of Monday's paper.
I call the one above "Paul Grice Gets Off". The one on the left I captioned, "Young Ayden Clavel watches the big kids and dreams of the day."
It was a good day, completing the photography for my Western Horseman story. Having all the photos, I sat down Tuesday and wrote the article. I've tinkered with it and now I'm about to mail it in. I heard from the editor this week; in fact, he e-mailed me about two hours after I finished writing the article Tuesday. They're ready for it. It feels good.
July 11, 2009 Idiot's Luck
After a couple weeks of trying to match schedules, and getting not enough weather (no clouds), or too much weather (our "monsoons"), I gave up in exasperation and scheduled Thursday evening for our second Western Horseman cover shoot at Laekyn's outside Seneca, NM.
Wouldn't you know it? We got fabulous skies. (Compare to the earlier session, below.) So if I failed to get the shots, it'd be no one's fault but my own.
We started using a flash umbrella to broaden the light on the shadow side, but the wind was too high and we had to abandon the umbrella. Laekyn's mom, Robyn, continued doing a great job as my lighting assistant, pointing the flash unit at Laekyn from just outside the frame.
There were two primary challenges. Shooting in manual exposure mode to get everything right, I had to first expose for the bright light on the horizon, so I'd get the detail of the sky. Then I had to adjust the flash power to be right for Laekyn and Scotch, the horse. But as the sun moved incessantly in and out of clouds, the amount of light shifted dramatically and constantly. It was hard to keep up with.
Secondly, while constantly monitoring and adjusting shutter speed, I had to try to see in my 3" LCD monitor, in the bright light, whether Robyn was pointing the flash accurately, and getting enough flash power. The flash is too fast for her to monitor this visually.
I failed almost all the time. Most of the shots were too dark on Laekyn and Scotch. But I shot so many frames (800, in about 80 minutes!) that even an idiot would get lucky a few times -- and indeed, I got a few images that I think will do the job.
I characteristically compose my images with a very tight, close framing. (A famous photographer's axiom is, "If the shot doesn't work, you're not close enough.") For this series, though, I shot every frame vertical and left lots of space all around, so Western Horseman's editors and excellent graphic design staff can crop it to their cover needs. In all that extra space, imagine the Western Horseman title logo across the sky above, feature titles down the side, and the bar code or address label in a bottom corner.
I'm going to photograph Laekyn and others here in the Des Moines youth rodeo today. I'm planning to write, finally, the WH feature next week. I hope to have everything finished and submitted by next weekend. I'll keep you posted.
July 2, 2009 Learning by Doing
I'm grateful that some of you have told me you're waiting to see how my first magazine cover shoot went last night -- thank you!
My best shot is here, left. Imagine the Western Horseman logo filling the sky at the top, with feature titles down the left and the other text and address label or bar code across the bottom. It works, and the light is really nice -- setting sunlight from the left, one SB-600 flash bounced off an umbrella from the right.
There are a couple problems. (Click on photo to enlarge.) Laekyn's eyeliner looks good when blown-up close, but at this distance her eyes just look black. And that new red shirt she bought for this shoot, it's big and filled with wind, making for an unattractive shape.
I also like this second photo, right, but it, too, has problems. I was up on a ladder with a 50mm prime (non-zoom) lens, and I'm too close for a cover: it needs sky above for the magazine logo. The other flaw is that the horse's head doesn't show: it needs to be turned to the left as Laekyn's is.
We weren't optimistic, anyway: the sky was cloudless, the south wind high. We delayed our planned starting time for the sun to drop lower; had clouds been around, we could have started earlier and taken more time. We had such a brief window of good light that we were rushed. Laekyn's mom, Robyn, was learning how to aim the flash umbrella while holding the stand down in the wind. I was learning everything I've pointed out above, and much more.
So, we're all watching the weather forecasts and planning to give it another go. I'll shoot with the 18-200mm zoom next time: given the importance of framing for a cover layout, I think I gave up too much in choosing the improved optics of a prime lens. The 18-200 is plenty good enough for the task, and it adds great flexibility -- I can get shots I missed with the 50mm. Blame the horse: filmmakers always complain about working with animals. Now I see why: try getting a horse to stand in place, posed the way you want, with tripod and flash stands close up, lights going off incessantly. Because Laekyn had to focus so much attention on managing the horse, her own face often showed her working, rather than relaxing.
I'll keep you posted: hopefully, we'll have some exciting results soon. Thanks for checking.
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