As part of the independent study curriculum for the Iris PhotoCollective Visual Lab, instructor Carl Juste asked me to shoot one frame every day for the 10 weeks of the course.
Day7: Lost Time
It didn't take me long to miss a day. I was sick and wheezing and trying to focus on anything, much less focus a camera lens on something interesting, required more energy than I had. So, I made a decision to take the day, rest up, and make a strong image the next day to make up for it.
When: 29 March, 2011 2:44 p.m.
Where: abandoned parking garage off 6th and West, South Beach
Exposure: F6.3, 1/800, ISO80
Inner Thoughts: This corner is on my way to Publix. Every time I pass by, I look up at the weeds growing from the abandoned planters. On this day, I was interested in their silhouettes against the concrete, and in how the weeds were perpendicular to the horizontal lines of the garage.
I was drawn to the symmetry in this parking garage, the strong horizontal and vertical lines and alternating planes of light and dark. The weeds growing from the abandoned planters struggle to break free from these confined spaces, casting some disordered shadows onto the pattern in the concrete. It's a futile struggle, though: nature is too weak to overtake the man-structure.
Day9: The Pan
When: 30 March,2011 6:54 p.m.
Where: 9th and West, South Beach
Exposure: F4.1, 1/60, ISO400
Inner Thoughts: I made a point of taking photos of all the bicycles that passed me on my walk to the gym, to see if I could intentionally get the bikes in focus but the background blurred. (There's a technical term for that, right?) This was the cleanest frame, showing the motion of the bicycle from left to right.
The bicycle in motion is a reaction to the immobility of the parking garage the day before. Humanity enters the frame, with speed.
When: 31 March,2011 6:39 p.m.
Where: boat slips, 8th and West, South Beach
Exposure: F3.3, 1/500, ISO80
Inner Thoughts: Of all the boats, vessels and buoys lined up in a row, this dock and this boat immediately appeared to me as a pair. A pair of mismatched objects, tenuously tethered together while sunlight wedges between them.
Carl's response: "I really like this, but I don't know why." Neither do I. The boat was drifting away from the dock, as far away as it could be in the narrow boat slip, but I still saw the two objects as a pair. I considered cropping the image from the bottom, but that would have eliminated the rope that clearly ties the boat and dock together.
Day11: Four Guys
When: 1 April,2011 7:17 p.m.
Where: 9th and Washington, South Beach
Exposure: F5.0, 1/500, ISO500
Inner Thoughts: So, I've realized that with the digital camera, I tend to stop and over-analyze the shot I've just taken. It's not very productive. To get myself out of this habit, I thought I'd try out the high-burst option on my camera and shoot from the hip on my walks to and from the gym, aiming for groups of people standing or walking together. This isn't the best idea I've ever had. I ended up with 1.5 usable frames. So, I learned something: I really need to stop and focus.
Carl may have liked the boat picture, but what he really wanted to see was people. So, I found people. I like this shot of these four guys standing around on Washington Ave. in South Beach, but I'm not sure why exactly I like it. There's something about the rhythm of their four white shirts and shadowed forms. In the other frames I shot of this group, at least two of the guys would be standing with his back to me, arms straight down at their sides. In this frame, they're all shifting somewhat.
Day12: Michael Silhouetted
When: 2 April,2011 5:29 p.m.
Where: North Shore beach park, 80th and Collins, Miami Beach
Exposure: F4.0, 1/1300, IS080
Michael Travis does a sun salutation after a run.
Inner Thoughts: Here I go shooting into the sun again. I wanted to capture his silhouette, arms outstretched toward the sun, sort of like a tree.
Michael has great tattoos on his back and arms, and I started shooting with my back to the sun, but the images all looked flat in the bright sunlight. I moved to shoot into the sun and silhouette Michael mid-pose. If I had been standing slighty lower down the hill, I could have eliminated the palm trees from the frame, or set Michael cleanly against the sky.
Day13: Jan Mapou
When: 3 April,2011 3:28 p.m.
Where: Libreri Mapou, Little Haiti
Exposure: F4.5, 1/50, IS01600
Inner Thoughts: I'm asking Jan Mapou, well-known Haitian writer and bookstore owner, about Baby Doc, and somewhere in the middle of his thoughts about Fort Dimanche he stops looking at me and starts looking through me.
I wasn't happy with anything I shot at his book store today, and the head-in-a-box seemed like the only way to make something out of nothing interesting. Everything distracted from his face, especially the vertical lines of all the books lined up behind him. I'll have to figure out how to resolve that distraction, since Mapou will be one subject in the next portrait assignment.
Day 4: Birds
When: 25 March, 2011, 2:46 p.m.
Where: the beach off Lincoln Road, South Beach
Exposure: F6.3, 1/1300, ISO80
Inner Thoughts: I was furious with this woman for tossing Cheetos to the seagulls, luring more seagulls to the patch of beach where I was laying out. Then I pulled out my camera to see if I could capture the Cheetos in mid-air. I didn't see that the second woman had the same reaction I did and had pulled a T-shirt over her head until I looked at what I had in my camera.
Carl and I talked about cropping this photo down, making the frame more narrow to focus more quickly on the two women reacting so differently to the birds flocking overhead. I thought it was important to keep the wide shot, though, to keep a sense of scale in the photo. This one small scene on a wide beach under a big blue sky. The wider frame also preserves a sense of motion, of birds flying across the frame to get to this woman tossing Cheetos into the air.
Day 5: Pool
When: 26 March, 2011 6:52 p.m.
Where: My building's pool, South Beach
Exposure: F6.3, 1/2000, ISO1600
Inner Thoughts: Today was the first day I felt lazy about making a frame. I wanted to be where this girl was instead, just floating in the pool. I knew I was shooting into the sun, but the light in the water didn't look right when I walked to the other side of the pool.
I know the rules against shooting into the light, but I did it anyway with this image. I had walked around the pool's edge to put the sun behind me, but the light on the water didn't look the same. It just looked flat and solid, no reflections bounced off the bottom of the pool and the way the girl broke the surface of the water wasn't as remarkable as it was when the sun was in the wrong place. I shot into the sun to make the light work for me.
Day 6: Orchids
When: 27 March, 2011 7:03 p.m.
Where: Poolside, South Beach
Exposure: F4.8, 1/100, ISO80
Inner Thoughts: It's a flower picture but at least there are three flowers -- odd number rule.
Where light had worked for me the previous day, it worked against me in this frame. The white petals of the orchids would have popped so much more against a uniformly dark background, which I might have achieved if I had noticed the square of light bouncing off the building in the lower left corner of the frame. I thought an open aperture would have blurred the background enough to counteract the light, but the light still shines through.
For the first few days, I felt a panic that I wouldn't find anything interesting to shoot. My days feel like routines played over and over, home to work to home to gym to errands to home. Having to carry a camera around, though, made me more aware of the scenes I was walking through. I started seeing shapes all around me, and how light could change, highlight or distract from those shapes. By the end of the week, I knew I could find something to shoot every day. I just needed to find the light.
Day 1: Skateboards
When: 22 March, 3:59 p.m.
Why: I saw these three skateboards against the wall and thought, "Hey, that looks like the conversation I had with Carl yesterday." An odd number with a pair.
How: In a rush to get onto the treadmill, I knelt down and focused but didn't take the time to get the exposure exactly right. And now that I look closer, I see the wall tiles are in better focus than the skateboards, which is not what I intended.
Exposure: F3.3, 1/6, ISO400 on the Program setting.
Where: Crunch Gym, 13th and Washington, Miami Beach, Florida
The previous day, Carl and I had discussed how the eye naturally wants to pair elements in photos, and how odd numbers of elements can make a photograph more interesting. I saw these skateboards leaning against the wall in the gym and immediately thought, "That's the perfect illustration for that conversation." It looks like the two skateboards on the right are having a conversation while the third leans, lonely, off to the left. The problem with this image was the glare of light in the right third of the frame. Even cropped, there's too much temptation for the eye to travel there instead of focusing on the relationship of the skateboards. Shifting the composition would have solved this problem.
Day 2: Light Bowl
When: 23 March, 2011 5:02 p.m.
Where: Spa, 9th and West, South Beach
Exposure: F4, 1/1300, ISO400
Inner Thoughts: I felt like I had very limited time to take a picture today, and I was in full panic mode when I sat down in the spa and saw how the light came through the window and the glass bowl and cast shadows on the table. It was immediately soothing and I thought the contrasting shadows would work as an image. I was happy with the way it turned out in black and white.
This is a purely an abstract image. I was interested in how sunlight cast shadows through a bowl onto a white table, and then how the white table contrasted with the shadows around it. I shot an additional frame in color, but the contrast between light and dark was clearer in black and white.
Day 3: Lines Play
When: 24 March, 2011 3:48 p.m.
Where: Stadium Court, Tennis Center at Crandon Park, Miami, Florida
Exposure: F4.9, 1/800, ISO80
Cutline: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, in foreground, prepares to volley a return struck by Caroline Wozniaki in the first round of women's tennis at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida.
Inner Thoughts: I thought it would be easy to find interesting photos at the tennis tournament, but I found it difficult to deal with the bright sunlight. I settled for testing out the zoom ability on my camera. What I really wanted was to get both players in the frame, so I zoomed and focused on the net and short court early in the point and waited for both to enter the frame before I clicked the shutter.
This image is all about lines: the intersecting lines of the court, the line of the net bisecting the frame and the diagonal line the players are traveling as they play out the point.