Monday, April 16, 2012

med ed

The Medical Education building, where I had class the past two years.

I don't know how people do promo photography for big buildings and the like--I admit that my favorite device for picture-taking is adding interest with a lot of background bokeh.  I can't do much with a big building.  You see it from all sides anyway, as you're walking toward it, so you can't present it in a new and interesting perspective.  Maybe it all boils down to lighting, and a wide angle lens. 

Speaking of lighting, the clouds were ridiculous in real life, all yellow and grey and low-lying sunlight (it was fixing to storm).  And as I dashed to get my camera and document it...the sky cleared, and I was left with all this puffy white boring stuff.  Maybe it would have been better during the golden hour?

(Everything is better during the golden hour.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


That shivery blur of dogwood blossom in the back of this photo is exactly what they look like when I take off my glasses.  A mess of creamy white rustling at the slightest breeze.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Living pine and dead (also called a snag).

I love the delicate, veiny lacework of the Scotch pine needles--like spiderwebs of ink.  If I had to quibble, I'd blot out those extraneous twiggy branches along the ground and just leave the two trees.  Alas, it can't be perfect, right?  I actually love this shot--I exposed the sky just right to get those clouds to that soft peach against the bluish grey.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

oh hot damn

After a huge absence, photos from my Scotland trip in February.  And you KNOW I'm going to stretch these into several entries to make more content. 

The challenges of shooting landscapes weren't lost on me--I don't have a dedicated wide angle lens, so shots on my 18-55mm just looked so...uninspiring.  Compared to what I could see--miles and miles of countryside and mountain and rocky moorland--the camera's view just turned out so blah.  The pictures were flat and boring.  What I wanted to express--the gorgeous, open cragginess--didn't translate to two dimensions.

I honestly don't know anything about shooting landscapes (just that it's hard) because I've really never tried, and I wish I had known earlier the value of closing my camera's aperture all the way down and shooting with a slower shutter.  The results I got from that were so much crisper (duh Joceline, more depth of field) and the colors much richer. 

In all honesty I almost always shoot with the aperture the openest it can go, since I usually am shooting people, and I like a blurry background to add depth.  I didn't even think to change it when I started taking pictures of mountainsides and the like.  I just figured, the camera will focus itself on the farthest object, and if anything, something out of focus will just show depth.  Wrong!  Depth in a photo doesn't come from differences in focus, it comes from taking a picture of a scene with depth in it.  Duh again.  Taking a picture of something that looks good will yield a good picture.  I can't expect a camera to focus on a landscape the way my eyes do--unless I tell it to.  Seeking out a landscape with a focal point, a lot of depth, or a good composition is all on me.  Maybe that's why I've always preferred doing macro photography--it's easy to take a dynamic photo when you get up really close to something. 

Oh well.  I love the photos from my trip anyway, because they remind me of one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  The first is a mountain we climbed, Meall a Ghiubais, that was much steeper in person (trust me).  The second is a detail shot of the delicate frost that edged every fallen leaf and bit of bracken that lined the way.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

fluid stone

Another one from Japan, at the main Jodo Shinshu temple in Kyoto.

This was a tough one to get correctly exposed, and I still didn't really do that the way I wanted to.  Clouds are always hard anyway--they need a ridiculous range of black and white and my camera just can't get there.  If I got the highlights bright enough, I lost all detail in the clouds and the sky, but if I got the clouds the way I wanted them, the underside of the fountain on the left and the temple on the right would be completely dark.  As it is the highlights aren't that blown out, but the picture is a wee bit underexposed.

Incidentally, I just learned how to use my camera's histogram and what light meters are for; usually I just shoot on manual and judge from the back of the camera how I should expose the shot.  What a histogram tells you is how much darkness and lightness is in your photograph.  Light meters, back in the day where you couldn't immediately check your photo digitally, would tell you at which exposure you'd get your photo to be a "medium" value of dark/light, if you averaged out all the pixels.  When you're looking at a scene like this one, which has very dark shadows, intermediate values, and then very light highlights, you probably want a balanced histogram.

How do I use this?  I'm embarrassed to say, not very much (now I just know what it's for, not really how to employ that knowledge).  I usually check to make sure my highlights aren't getting washed out, which sometimes can be hard on the LCD screen.  I just look and make sure the histogram isn't mashed up against the right side, which means not too many pixels are at the maximum lightness that my camera can see.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

blue and gold

Bright leaves against the sky is sort of my M.O. when it comes to autumn foliage snaps.  What can I say?  This picture, as saturated as it is (and this is unedited), doesn't do the real thing justice.  There's nothing like standing beneath a golden ginkgo and peering up at the shreds of the bluest blue.

What I like best about this photo:  the thin outline of the leaves where the light catches the edges.  Such an exquisite, paper-thin detail.
What I don't like: the fact that I can't think of any original ways to photograph my favorite tree in its autumnal glory. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

rock and recline

A lawnie had left his chair in the middle of the lawn, so I commandeered it for a few quick shots, fully intending to return it after five minutes or so.  But you know how it goes--you shoot, you check, it all looks okay, you zoom in, you realize nothing is in focus and your background is extremely distracting.  So I moved the chair around to various positions, tried shooting on my stomach, moved the leaves that I didn't want in the photo out of the way (anal), until--the poor resident asked me if I was done with his chair.  Oops.

If I'd had more time I think I would have taken it further up the lawn--those big, dark tree trunks in the background aren't as blurry as I'd like, so the dark of the chair doesn't pop nearly as much as I wanted it to.  I do like the colors though; easy golden hour shooting and no tweaking needs to be done.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Partly Cloudy

Late afternoon sun on the Rotunda.  Taken with a friend's Canon Rebel this past weekend.

Things I like: Dappled light, black and blue palette.
Things I don't:  That little edge of tree branch in the lower left corner--could have cropped it out, but then the balance was off.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Japanese maples.

Things I like: composition, this photo feels pretty balanced to me.  I like the green too.
Things I don't: Blown out highlights where they shouldn't be blown out.  I need to learn to coax a larger range out of my camera.  Technically this is an example of "bad bokeh" as well but I'm not too sensitive about that sort of thing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Walking up a mountain to a Tendai Temple for what seemed like a mile.  These little shrines, decorated with colorful aprons and fans, lined the way.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Feeding koi at a temple pond in Japan.  You would go grab an old plastic mug from a cute mismatched little collection (very clearly the castoffs from temple members' kitchens) filled with fish food pellets, and leave 500 yen or so in another mug.  Then you'd approach the pond and watch the fish go crazy.  There were probably over a hundred of them, some colored but mostly these huge grey-brown guys.

 Things I like about this photo: the curves--in the water, in the fish mouths; the dark-and-light pattern of the water.  Things I don't like:  I wish I had gotten some of the colored fish to do this.  Also, this took some post-photo cropping/rotating, which I just need to learn to do while I'm taking the picture!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

rice fields

During September in Japan, the rice fields reportedly turn gold (something I wish I could be there to see).  As it is, the wide expanses of green, sometimes arranged in tiers for efficient irrigation, are breathtaking.  No--not breathtaking...I wish there were a word for the feeling you get when you feel unbelievably free.  There's something about the wide open space that makes me feel bigger, like I'm spreading out into the expanse itself.

Something I'm going to start on this: critiquing my photos.  Things I like:  being able to rule-of-thirds without thinking about it now.  Things I'd work on: not taking crooked photos (I straightened the two landscapes in after-editing).  Also, not photos out of a car window.  I strongly believe in stopping when you see something photo-worthy when possible, so you can move yourself in relation to the scene.  Also still dying for a wide-angle lens...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

well hello

After a long absence (blame the Gastrointestinal block at school, and the fact that summer's far too hot to traipse around taking pictures), here's a photo from my recent trip to Japan.  Perhaps I'll have some material to keep posting regularly until I get my butt out to take more!

Friday, April 15, 2011

blue and green

Common speedwell, one of the first spring flowers.  The tiny blue blossoms can be seen dotting grassy medians and edges of lawns as early as February.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


My favorite time--ginkgo leaves are just budding out.  Spring always amazes me, with how the slightest hint of pale green erupts into full-on foliage in a matter of days.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Spring is tiptoeing in.  Cue more photos of flowers appearing on the blog soon.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

happy couple

Taking pretty pictures is SO EASY when you have a couple that is this beautiful and this much in love.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


At photoshoot.  Pause taking photos of beautiful couple to snap some of dead grass and sticks.  This is not uncommon for me; for example, in a string of family photos at graduation there are a few of an earthworm on a sidewalk.  Nature finds a way.

Monday, February 14, 2011

happy valentine's day!

Went to a field with a photographer friend and some other friends who are engaged and played around with lenses and poses for a couple of hours.  You'll see more of these as I edit them to satisfaction.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Learning muscle groups is the only thing that's gotten me back into drawing again.  Gotta love med school.

Friday, January 21, 2011

flowering quince

Another one from last spring...I just can't motivate myself to take photographs in the cold!