The Mac Lab

Fishing for Photo-Graphics

by on Jun.24, 2009, under Blog

kevin_escher_smRecent posts have encouraged you to try something new (Kevin L) — to do something (like that’s something new). In the practice what you preach category, I’m going to embrace FM’s 365 challenge in the photographic sense. There’s 160 days left in 2009. I have 14 pics here. So, by the end of the year, I’ll need 175 photos uploaded to my Inspiration slot to exceed my goal.

I promised to upload a new photo yesterday. A comment by hayes made me look in my archives rather than taking a new picture because I wanted to feed two birds with one seed. This picture was taken in 2005 with a Canon PowerShot. Here’s the five minutes later enhanced version. You don’t need the latest, greatest camera to take great pictures. Also, even though I’ll be uploading shots from places like Yosemite or Crater Lake, this shot was taken inside a Home Depot (with the PowerShot). Great photos are also waiting right outside your door. This was taken in our front yard. A craft project my daughter made when she was five years old sits in our back yard.

Do you remember this? Almost all of you have access to a camera. Becoming a good photographer will help you become a better artist. Good photographers see the world differently. Don’t’cha think the same is true of artists? I could write pages more, but instead I’m going outside to snap a few shots in the back yard. You teach best what you most need to learn. So true, Richard.

Update: Just finished today’s honey-do projects and got a chance to look through the raw photos I took this morning. I’ll be posting info about each keeper as I “finish” the preliminary enhancements. I decided to shoot macro (close-ups) since I hadn’t done that in a while (on point and shoot cameras, it’s the setting with the flower). And since I said I was going to shoot in the back yard, that’s where these were shot. I wanted to head out front and wander over to the park but I stayed right here to prove a point. Note: All of these need noise reduction. That can wait. I just want to get you guys inspired to get out and shoot! Hint: Dawn and dusk is the best time. When the sky turns pinkish, watch how the colors pop!

Spiders: These critters are all over the place early in the morning. Problem is, to shoot them — to shoot any macro subject matter — you really need a tripod and I forgot to bring one home from school. Oh well. Took around 10 shots of different spiders and this is the only one that was remotely in focus (there was a breeze and the spiderwebs wouldn’t hold still).

Plants: There’ll be a few of these. First up are some small, grassy reeds growing in the pond. I tried to focus on a single reed and let the rest fall out of focus gracefully. I love how the image is almost cut in half by a different reed. I have no idea how the background changed colors on either side of that secondary reed. Sometimes you just get lucky. Next: Whoa! I may print this one. One thing about shooting flowers, you have to get down to the flower’s level if you want shots like this. I don’t really like the next image but it serves as a record of an odd technique that might work in the future on a different image. But this! I’d never noticed what was growing on our wall. Well, no, that’s not true. I’d seen the brownish fuzz (moss?) growing on the bricks but I’d sure never looked closely. There’s a tiny forest growing there. I’m heading out tomorrow morning to get more shots of this magical place! Dead leaf. Turn around. Look at leaf. Click. Move on. Ready for a peek between the petals of a rose? I’d sure never seen this before. Simply beautiful. Next: When the flower won’t stay still in the breeze, don’t try for a sharply focused result! This is about as soft as I could make it. How did geometric shapes emerge from this shot of the reeds in the pond? If you crop a macro of a tiny, fuzzy cactus, you get electricity! I never really liked this bush before. But then again, I didn’t know it was full of these little green piggies (or whatever they are). In another couple of weeks we’ll have been here 10 years. Considering all I’ve seen this morning, I’m wondering what else I’ve been missing. Look: A flower in a flower.

Man-Made: I’ve got to run to pick up my daughter but I wanted to get this one up. Don’t forget that little things can make beautiful big pictures. Here’s a bolt on Noël’s swing set. Spiderwebs and all. Too cool! Next: My wife had the sponge mop drying against the fence. I looked at it and thought, I wonder… Took two shots and moved on. Oh my! There’s a universe of detail in both shots. I may buy a sponge or two and really explore this strange landscape. Who’d’a thunk it? Speaking of the last thing I’d ever photograph, Noël has an old, worn-out, kid-sized push-broom she used to sweep with. It’s been outside for years and is in pitiful shape. I took one shot on a whim. I think I’ll be taking a few more. The wire scraper for the BBQ had too much noise so I made it into a funky background.

Outcome: I’m not sure how to score this as anything other than a complete success. Sure, the pics have noise and there’s plenty of room for improvement, but dang, all that in the back yard?! When I was out back playing basketball with Noël, I couldn’t help but notice dozens more things waiting to be immortalized. Stuck at home? Bored? Grab a camera. Don’t have Photoshop? Grab Gimp. Now, to figure which pics are worth re-editing and adding to my pitiful excuse for a gallery.

Credit where credit is due: If I hadn’t read Scott Kelby’s account of his trip to Tuscany yesterday, this post doesn’t happen (look through his photos). Though you’ll never see it, thanks, Scott! He goes around the world. I wander around my back yard. We both make wondrous discoveries. I couldn’t be happier if I’d just returned from Italy. But, to be honest, Italy’s still on my bucket list! As is my wish to be as good as Scott with a camera.

0625: Don’t want to make this an epic post, but it deserves to sit atop the blog for a few days. It’s a lesson I won’t soon forget and I’d like you to discover the magic too. I’ve reached at least one other person so it’s doubly worthwhile. Once upon a time, Chris took this shot. Beauty! What’s next? I know few of you want to hear this, but once, just once this summer, try getting up before the sun rises. I know, I know. Too early. But if you don’t try it, you’ll never discover the light and color that only appear at dawn. Dusk isn’t the same. That’s when light recedes. Dawn is when light emerges. A world of perceptual difference.

Speaking of the world (Bahamas, 104 countries) and perceptual differences, near the end of the school year, the camera was a heavy thing I’d carry when we went on family excursions around San Diego. Not sure why I took it because I sure wasn’t taking many pictures. (And none of the ones I took were any good.) Even left the camera at home a couple of times and told my wife it felt good to just walk and talk. It actually did, but photography has become my creative outlet. You guys know how many hours the Mac Lab eats every day. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I also need to do something creative. I can analyze it all day long but my lack of photographic excellence (or even adequacy) boiled down to one thing: I wasn’t seeing what was right in front of my eyes. So, what was the cure? It was simple. I started studying other photographers. I added more bookmarks to my morning tabs (42 sites and counting). Kelby has great stuff and he links to other great stuff. Every Wednesday there’s a guest blogger/photographer. Then the “D’oh!” moment when I began a third-party photography section in Inspiration. Adding my own section isn’t vanity, it’s a cattle prod for my creative self. I make my students upload work to the Web in hopes that they’ll feel the same: Oh no. Everyone can see this now. I have to do better work than this!

I’m not a great photographer but I am improving. It’s kinda like my writing. That’s my dream, you know. Well, one of ’em. Says so right here. Do you have dreams? Life is empty with out them. I want to be an artist. I want to be a writer. I also want to be a great teacher, husband, father, and human being. Lofty goals. But to paraphrase Robert Browning in the spirit of our post’s imagery, Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what the fish is heaven for?

The light’s coming up on a new day. I think I’ll head outside to meet it.

Later: Been digging through old digital pics. Here’s one from my first year in the Mac Lab taken with a 3MP camera. I added Eddie Tapp’s Dream Glow and Cookie Lighting (I’ll show you in class) then invented what may be an original vignette combination. (Probably not, but I’m going to work on this one as it shows real promise for certain photos. Tut coming soon.) Read Eddie’s Guest Blog Post and check out this technique his new blog. Just thought about teaching what I most need to learn and practicing what I preach. I took that old “finished” pic on a trip through Camera Raw for some subtle enhancements. Took less than a minute. Better? Here’s the third picture I ever took with the Rebel. I trashed the first two way back when so I have no idea what they were about, but this one, check out how I’m focused on the pillow rather than my daughter. Oops! Wonder if it might be worth working on? Thanks, Eddie!


13 Comments for this entry

  • Kyle W.

    i love the enhanced photo.

    photoshop is amazazing!

  • skocko

    First thing when we’re back in the fall, I’m going to ask Kevin to rearrange the fish so four mouths meet rather than two in his Escheresque imagery. Just to see…

    Hope you guys got inspired by the story/imagery. It was really fun to recharge my creative batteries, and to discover what’s sitting right outside my door!

    Powerful metaphor for all of us.

  • Kevin L

    I will have to try that when I get back. Hand drawn tessellations can be frustrating but they do look cool.

  • Chris J.

    You’ve done it again Skocko. I’ve been so busy with work and trying to maintain a social life that I’ve done almost zip for photography. I keep saying I’ll get out there, but never do. I think this post has pushed me over the edge now. Guess I have to go out now.

  • skocko

    Kevin, you have a digital advantage. Illustrator and Photoshop are your friends. The modification is simple and won’t take long. Of course, M.C. Escher had an advantage over you, me, and virtually everyone else. Genius! The proof’s right here.

    But y’know… You keep working like you do and who knows how far you’ll go? If you decide to stick with the current version (after seeing the alternate), be sure to fix the missing link at the lower right. 😉

    Chris, glad to hear it. And looking forward to seeing your new discoveries!

  • Tardy Girl aka Kim

    Hi Mr. Skocko,

    Its Kim :)

    Here’s my dad’s website:

    I thought you would like it :)

  • skocko

    Very cool, Kim. You dad’s got a ton of talent!

  • Samantha P

    Hey Skocko,
    I was really fascinated by your photography. Photography is my passion and I look forward to doing more with what I capture, in this class. Another interest i have is sketching up portraits. I’m not sure how this whole digital arts thing works but i am anxious to find out!

    Again, great job with the photos! :]

  • Samantha P

    Love the Yosemite National Park “Bridal Veil” Waterfall Photograph. GORGEOUS!

  • skocko

    You’re right! I’ll have to fix the name.

    Thanks for the kind words, Samantha. Your passion for photography and sketching will serve you well (sooner than you think). Is you work online?

    If not, it will be soon! :)

  • Michael W.

    Hi Skocko,
    I was wondering if a 6.2 megapixel camera is a good camera to use as a beginning photographer. If you remember the planet project I showed you, i used that camera to get textures for the scene. Thanks in advance!

    P.S. Loving the maclab 2.0 features so far; great blog!

  • skocko

    You camera is fine. The Mac Lab also has lots of Canon DSLRs (and lenses) for students to use. If photography is something you want to pursue, you’ll have plenty of opportunities this year!

    Glad you’re enjoying the 2.0 features.

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