photo challenge

Week 27: Flattery

This week we were asked to choose our favourite photographer and imitate their art or technique. Well, it actually said ‘master’ photographer. I’m not sure what that really means? What makes a master?

When I tried to think of ‘photographers’, who came to mind?

My friend’s husband Paul, who is based in Raglan. His photos have a clarity and an intense interest in the ‘people’.

Ansel Adams – I love his philosophy about nature and conservation as well as his photography

An ex colleague Ruth Gilmour who takes the most amazing portraits of people to celebrate their special occasions.

I then also thought of all the people I follow on Instagram – some of my friends take incredible photographs – what they see in the world around them, their challenges, their successes, the people they love and live with.  There is such life and passion in those photos, and whilst they may not be technically perfect, just like mine, does that make them any less a ‘Master Photographer’?

Of course, they haven’t learned their craft like professional photographers, they haven’t studied the ‘science’ of photography, they probably don’t know, like me, the rules about shutter speeds, light, framing techniques etc. But they have an ‘eye’ for a shot, they capture a moment, and I think there is something special about that.

But I’m not going to try and emulate any of these photographers – I hope in my own way, I already capture moments and have an eye for a shot, that I bring as much pleasure to others as their photos bring to me. No, I am going to introduce you to Norman Barry Hodgson, my Dad.

Young man from 1950s with dark hair and brown eyes wearing a jacket with his chin resting on his hand looking directly into the camera

He is the person who inspired my interest in taking photos. I am not going to call it photography, because  I think that that suggests that I know what I’m doing, that I have studied it as an art and a science.

My Dad always had a camera in his hand when we were kids. We had heaps of slides of us, and also some movies, because he also had a cine camera. We loved the screening evenings when we would all get together in the front room. The anticipation was palpable as the screen was hung over the curtain rail, the lights were switched off and the slide projector or the film projector was switched on. Four little girls waited excitedly to see photos of ourselves, laughed at each other and hoped that there would be a flattering one of ourselves!  He turned some of the slides into photos that were hung on the walls. Sadly, many of the slides were lost, although I managed to salvage some which I have carefully scanned and digitised.

Dad was a gadget man and a technician. His photos had to be technically perfect. He would read books about framing subjects, about low key and high key lighting, the rule of thirds, F-stops and exposure times. I don’t think he always trusted his eye.  I thought, when I was younger, that he wasn’t very imaginative or daring.

When he went through his ‘portrait’ phase, I remember three of us (number 4 was not yet born!) all under 5, sitting on the table, lights and screens set up in the living room, curtains closed, whilst he got the perfect shot! I still have some of the contact strips.

3 little girls sitting on a cushion against a wall. Two older ones on either side of a baby. The one on the left has dark, curly hair and brown eyes, the giirl on the right has straight, blond hair and blue eyes. Dressed in their best clothes, they are all smiling
As his daughters grew up and were less willing subjects – teenagers really are too precious about what they look like – he turned to landscapes, cars, planes, boats, trains. To be honest, his first photography, before we were all born, was all about vehicles!

When I was 12 he gave me a basic camera to take on overseas trips – one to Berlin and one to Paris. I remember him showing me how to put the film in the camera, how to roll it round so that it caught properly on the spool. He told me how to hold the camera, frame the subject and not move the whole camera when taking a shot. It was a fixed lens with no adjustments for shutter speed or anything like that. I brought home my first photos – mostly blurry, and very grainy, but I still remember the excitement of opening that package from the developers to see what would be there. Oh, yes, and the disappointment too that my photos didn’t look anything like the picture I had seen when I took it!  Those feelings of hope, anticipation and disappointment or satisfaction were to continue for many years!

The Arc du Carrousel in Paris. There are a few people walking around in the foreground
Arc du Carrousel, Paris

When I was 18, Dad bought me a camera for my birthday – an Olympus Trip. I still have it. That was the start of my journey. My life has been documented ever since!  I have every photo and every negative I have ever taken, carefully catalogued and arranged into scrap books from 1978 until 2003 when I started taking digital photos. I also have every camera he passed on to me.

Dad used to develop his own photos too.  When we were little he set up a darkroom in the garden shed. Then, Harry Potter like, he moved into the cupboard under the stairs!  By this time I was a teenager and wanted to learn how to develop and print too. After a few months of getting under each other’s feet, he decided to rig up the kitchen to give us more space and easier access to running water. So he designed a ‘mobile’ dark room. After dinner and washing up was done, we would put light-tight blinds on the windows and doors, wheel in the trolley with the equipment on it, put the ‘Do not disturb’ sign in the hallway, lock the outside door, put the music on that we sang along loudly to, and get to work!

So what can I emulate – what photo can I take this week to ‘flatter’ my Dad?

As I already said, he was a technical photographer. We would often go out together and I would be his ‘eye’. He would have read about a particular technique in a book that he wanted to try, and have some idea of what he wanted to do but often couldn’t see the possibilities in a situation.  He got better as he got older!  I like to think I influenced that just a wee bit. On the other hand I used to frustrate the hell out of him, because I would just see something,  and take a photo without any regard for setting up the shot. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.  I wonder now, though, whether it wasn’t so much that he didn’t have any imagination, but that film was a restriction. With film, we were limited to 36 shots, it was expensive to buy film, and expensive to buy the materials to develop and print or to have it done commercially. I think going digital helped to shift his thinking?  Didi it give him license to be more adventurous? He didn’t have to spend time getting everything right; failure is possible with digital because there is no limit to how many tries you get.

So, what can I do? I guess, I could try to take a more technical shot, try to follow the rules. Where Dad was quite imaginative, was in his editing of photos, both during the developing process years ago and using digital editing tools. He was always experimenting, always wanting to learn new things. Maybe, just by doing this whole challenge, I am emulating him? Is that enough? Maybe, I’ll try to get my boys to pose for a ‘portrait shoot’?

Week 26: Creative – High or Low Key

What does this mean? A Google search led to this website which tells me;

A low-key image is one that contains predominantly dark tones and colours. A low-key image is usually dramatic and full of mystery. Low-key lighting creates striking contrasts through reduced lighting. Shadows are now the primary element of the composition.

High-key images convey atmosphere and mood. A high-key image feels airy and light, it over-lights the subject to reduce contrast. 

So, how to go about doing this? Which opportunity might present itself first as I go on my adventures?

Early morning and a sunrise might seem to be a good opportunity to get interesting light on a subject. I was in Rotorua last week and thought about going back to bed after dropping colleagues off at the airport but decided it was too beautiful a morning to be inside. So, I went for a walk along the lake front and was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. As the sky lightened behind Mokoia Island, the swans, geese and ducks started to awaken and come to shore. I tried to capture them with the light behind them as they swam in. There is a beautiful story associated with Mokoia which you can find here.

two swans and a duck swimming into shore with the sun rising over the horizon
I took this photo in a great wee bar in Hamilton called the Wonderhorse – I think I may well have posted a photo from there before – Alex, the barman, is a joy to watch as he mixes cocktails. As you might imagine the place is dark and so snapshot photos are often grainy so do require some editing.

A cocktail maker at work pouring the concoction through a sieve into a glass.
 

Week 25: Technical Starburst

When shooting into the sun or other light sources, you may notice that some of your images have a unique quality to the light – this is known as a “starburst” effect. This can create a very strong focal point and add an entirely new dimension of interest to your image.

Just like the edge cut sun challenge, I found this one difficult. I really need to spend some time reading up about the technicalities around taking these sorts of photos…and maybe actually get my SLR out rather than just using my phone. But I am an opportunist photographer, and carrying my heavy camera round is not really an option!

Given that I am mainly out and about during the day, starburst opportunities usually involve the sun. This is late afternoon on a winter’s day at Rotorua, looking through the Manuka trees at the lake.

Sunburst through Manuka Trees on a winter afternoon

I love moonlight too but it is so difficult to capture. This was a beautiful full moon reflecting in Lake Ngaroto one evening. So bright that when I tried to get a photo I just got this starburst. You can just see the lake and treeline between the two ‘stars’.

Moonburst

This one doesn’t provide a focal point but I love the effect of the lights in this concert. This is Salmonella Dub playing at The Factory in Hamilton.

lights forming a starburst at a concert over a stage. The band can be seen behind the lights and concert attendees as silhouettes in the foreground

Week 23: No Peeking!

Week 23: Vision: No Peeking

Shoot as if you were using a film camera. That means that you will not look at the photographs you’ve taken until they are downloaded on your computer.

Vision: This category is designed to push you to go beyond sight, to insight; to take inspiration and make it a reality. Vision exists in your imagination and is revealed your photographs; expressing something otherwise invisible. Developing a Vision for your work is showing to others what you see in your mind’s eye.

Given that I mainly use my phone for taking photos, this was difficult – the temptation to look is just too much!

So, here are a couple of interpretations of this week’s theme;

1. One of the activities I get teachers to do as part of a workshop about the Digital Technologies Curriculum, is a lego challenge. In pairs, they choose the same 5 lego pieces – colour, shape etc. Then sit back to back so they can’t see each other. One person creates a model with their 5 pieces and then has to give the instructions for the other to complete the same model. It is a fascinating thing to observe – they don’t always come out with the same model!

three images showing two people sitting back to back making a model with lego pieces. one image shows two models the same, the other shows two completely different models

2. The second image is probably more consistent with the intended idea. As I was driving through along the Forgotten Highway one misty morning, the light was beautiful. Clouds hanging in the valleys with the morning sun threatening to break through. I decided to pull in and try to get a photo. As I walked along the fence line I like the look of the raindrops on the barbed wire and thought that would make a cool photo. Then I noticed the spider’s web. The loght was shining directly into my face and I really had no idea if I had captured it or not. Given that I was on the road, I couldn’t look at it until I got home that evening. Pretty pleased with the result.

spider's web spun between barbed wire fencing against a lush green field and misty sky

Week 22: Door

Week 22: Door.  A symbol of transition, a door or a gate providing a passage way….

As I travel around NZ for work, I see some beautiful and interesting sites. I am currently working with a group of small primary schools in the Taumarunui area. The villages in which they are situated are fascinating. Many have seen better days when there was a bigger population and a vibrant community. I took this photo in the small village of Ongarue. Once a thriving township with a railway supported by the timber industry. The forestry work is much less than it used to be although it is having a wee bit of a renaissance as a result of the tourist trade. It is the starting point of the mountain bike track The Timber Trail. Some of the old buildings have been converted into accommodation for the bikers, it looks like there may also be a cafe in the summer months. Maybe this old rugby club building will be re-purposed?

I wonder what we would find if we went through that door? What memories of rugby games, of wins and losses, of tries nearly scored, of the well-timed pass and the try saving tackles? How many generations of boys and men played proudly for their village and how many marched away bravely to different sorts of battles never to return? What of their children and grandchildren? Where are they now? What of the lives of the womenfolk who supported tirelessly on the sidelines, prepared after match suppers and washed and dried woollen jerseys and socks? And, I am making assumptions here, maybe there was an Ongarue women’s team that broke through stereotypes and just as proudly as the men represented their town on the pitch?

old rugby club building in the mist in a small village in rural new zealand

Week 21 Product

Week 21 Product: Imagine your image in a catalog or a magazine. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

I didn’t really get hooked into this one – I am not a technical photographer and really couldn’t be bothered to set something up. For me, if I can’t ‘see’ a photo, then it doesn’t get taken!

However, I did remember taking a photo in the sunshine on our first real campervan trip a few weeks ago. We had bought some really nice vodka the evening before we headed away and decided to take it with us.

We parked up in a tiny, remote campsite in the Whirinaki forest, called The Sanctuary Campsite, 5km down a very washed out metalled road. It was lunch time and since we were there for the night and didn’t have to drive anywhere, we decided to have an aperitif before lunch. I was sitting in the van as Nigel prepared it and when I looked down, the sun was casting shadows of the bottles and the glasses. It isn’t a technically good photo, nor is it even very well composed or framed but I like the clarity of colours and the light. In terms of it being an advertisement, it isn’t really any good either as you can’t see the full name of the distillery!  But if you want to check out the Cardrona Distillery, it is well worth it!

clear glass bottle and two glasses with clear liquid in, castig shadows in the sunlight on a grey table

The only other ‘product’ type photo opportunity that jumped out at me was the Instagram images I create for Craft Hamilton – a craft beer bar in Hamilton, New Zealand. It is our local haunt and I enjoy creating whacky photos for them!

Here are a couple;

collage of photos showing beer being poured and the name of the bar "Craft" vertically on th left hand side of the image

the menu of a bar vertically on the right hand side, the name of a bar Craft" on the left hand side, the background is glasses on a bar and a full glass of beer

Week 20 Composition: From Below

I’m a bit of a ‘look up’ person so have taken quite a few photos from below in the past but this week I haven’t really been out an about in places where a ‘from below’ photo was possible. Mainly because it has been pouring down with rain. MMM… maybe a photo in the rain might work quite well! Or maybe I’d rather stay in warm and cosy by the fire!

But my brief foray into the Redwoods did present me with one of my favourite ‘from below’ shots – majestic, towering redwoods high above me, their leafy heads in the sky. What I can’t work out is – does the blackness of the tree trunk get in the way or does it create a clear line to the top of the tree. Sometimes, they just seem to be so dark that they are distracting.

looking up the trunk of a redwood to it's canopy and the sky beyond

I like trying to get underneath mushrooms – the gills are fascinating but it is not always easy! We found these on a recent trip to Whirinaki.

white mushroom viewed from below showing white gills

a white mushroom wuth frilly gills seen from below nestled amongst autumn leaves and three smaller mushrooms

Ceilings are always fascinating too. This one is from the airport in Christchurch.

zigzag ceiling panels

Week 19 Vision: Edge Cut Sun

Another difficult one especially using a phone. The sunlight at this time of year in New Zealand is also quite harsh unless you can catch it in the small window as it disappears in the evening. There has also not been a great deal of sun this week!

It came out this morning between the wind and rain showers so I had a play. Nothing really spectacular, and mostly over exposed splashes.  I could see the wind blowing the trees and the sun flashing between the leaves as the wind blew them so I grabbed my phone and headed out.

looking up at a blue sky and sun shining through bright green maple leaves

My boys bought me a beautiful garden ornament for Mothers’ Day and I thought that it might be interesting to see if I could catch the edge of the sun against it or through the holes. It proved trickier than I thought – partly because I couldn’t stand it in the right place to catch the sun and partly because the wind just blew it around too much, and partly because it is bright metal and the sun glinting off it just burnt everything else out! I enjoyed playing with some editing though…

sun shining through a garden ornament that looks a bit like a spear head. Set against blue sky and clouds. Edited so that it is deep blue, white and red.

 

In the afternoon I was out in the Redwoods in Rotorua briefly for a run before watching youngest son play hockey. The sun glinting through the tall trees gave me another opportunity to try to capture the edge of the sun. Still not very successful. The sunburst isn’t fantastic but I love the colours and the shadows in these two shots.

Tall Redwood trees with long shadows across leaf and bark strewn paths with sun shining through.

Redwood trees in forest, autumn sun shining through

 

 

 

Week 18: Wildcard Photographer’s Choice

Oh, so many choices, too many choices! Sometimes being constrained by themes makes it easier to be creative. When there is open choice, it gives me freedom to explore but also I am overwhelmed either by too many ideas or none at all!

I am on the road quite a bit for my work, travelling over and through stunning New Zealand scenery. Often it is impossible or dangerous to stop when I see a view that I would love to capture, so I content myself with the pleasure if having just been there at the right time and seen it.  Somebody reminded me recently about ‘being present’ in a moment, really experiencing it. I am often guilty of whipping my camera out to capture a shot when maybe I should take more time to simply enjoy the moment.

However, there are times when it is safe to pull over and take a quick photo. This was driving home from Piopio one evening after a school visit. I was struck by the colours of the newly cut fields and the dusky pinkness of the evening sky. The light was very flat, so had to do a we touch up after the fact.

Newly cut fields in the foreground, trees and hills middle ground and a dusky pink evening sky with a few wispy clouds

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Christchurch, I have visited regularly since the earthquake and have watched the slow but steady rebuild. One place where there has been no progress is the cathedral.  I chose to keep the link fence in the foreground of this photo, rather than get up close and eliminate it because it seems to me that it is trapped, not forgotten, not abandoned, but waiting. I tried to capture also the light on the lefthand side shining onto the windows of the gable.

falling down remains of the Christchurch Cathedral with sunlight shining into the window from the lefthandside. Cones in front and seen through a chain link fence

Homelessness is a big issue in New Zealand at the moment but I have to say that this week was the first time I have seen people sleeping in doorways in Christchurch. Plenty in my hometown of Hamilton and in Auckland. Maybe, I just haven’t been there often enough or at the right times or the right places. New Regent Street is on the walk from my hotel to the office and I was saddened to see this sight. I though the juxtaposition of the sign above the boarded up shop and the people curled up in their sleeping bags was ironic.

Black and white photo with two people culred up in sleeping bags in the doorway of a boarded up shop with the words "The story of my Life" above.

Finally, this is a bar called the Wonder Horse in Hamilton. A great wee place and my favourite thing is to sit at the stools overlooking the bar and watch the barman making cocktails – what an art! On this particular evening the DJ was there too, so I wanted to capture the vibrancy of the place and the passion that both these people seem  to bring to their work.  I tried to get the barman actually shaking the cocktail but there was just too much movement to get anything that wasn’t just a blur given the lighting.

View of a cocktail barman and a DJ in a bar. A tall shelf of bottles above the barman. Taken from above

This photo taken in the same bar a few weeks ago may capture the movement better.

a barman making cocktails and a DJ seen from above in a bar

 

 

Week 17 Creative: Humour

I didn’t enjoy this week’s challenge. Humour isn’t really my thing. I like laughing, I enjoy funny things, but I’m not very good at creating it! So, I only have two photos. One is the image I created to send people to my new blogsite from my old one. The other is a mural I found amusing in Tirau, a small town in the Waikato.

a thistle with arms and legs and a face running away saying follow me

painting on a wall outside a public toilet showing two people sitting on a toilet reading the paper