Campus Life

Ha!  The title's kind of a joke (except for the squirrel).  I was supposed to go out and shoot "Campus Life" at the University of Illinois.  Last weekend was absolutely gorgeous, and when I walked out onto the quad, it was teeming with life.  However, I have this thing called shy-ness, and I didn't want to start pointing a 250mm lens down people's throats.  It's something that, as a photographer, I really need to get over.

I know there's a fine line between taking photo-journalistic type shots of people in public, and actually creeping said people out.  I know if I was playing frisbee on the quad and someone pointed a lens at me, it would weird me out just a *little* bit. 

My favorite photography podcast touched on this a long while ago, and basically they say that people you are taking pictures of get more weirded out the more shy or timid you seem.  The key is to be confident, seem like you know what you're doing, and if are getting close, simply ask to take their picture.  The key is to seem confident.  I guess a guy that is shying away from eye contact, hiding behind a bush trying to sneak a shot does seem a lot creepier than the confident guy down on one knee pointing a giant lens at people.

Again, something I want to work on personally and as a photographer.

BUT, the day was not lost!  First, probably my favorite shot in a good long while.  I only wish it were a tad sharper.

 A squirrel playing to the camera on a nice spring afternoon.

This was shot with my 50mm.  I am in love with the DoF, the Bokeh, and the Colors.  I didn't have the luxury of a long lens, but I didn't need it!  In this shot he was probably 3 feet in front of my lens.

I was scoping out a bike rack just off the quad, and was trying to compose a good shot of some bikes lined up, and I saw a squirrel that was completely un-shy.  He was sniffing me out from 3 to 4 feet away on the ground.  I did as many quick shots as I could, just hoping to get one in-focus shot before he darted away.

Instead, he kept sniffing at me, darting to the side, sniffing me some more ... he obviously wanted food.  I wish I had a granola bar, I bet I could have taken a picture of him eating out of my hand!  After 30 seconds that felt like 10 minutes, he started darting up this small tree that, as you can see, was budding these bright pink flowers.  Before heading all the way up the tree, he took one last look in my direction.

Further up on another road, I found an even better bike-rack, and snapped this:

 A retro bike hanging all by its lonesome.

I like the colors, moodiness and depth of focus.  This bike really stood out on the rack.  I was playing with composition, and I think I like the tension of the bike rack being on the left-edge of the image, with the shrub on the right side with this bike caught in the middle.

And I think Christina actually took this last shot.  I was ribbing her earlier when she's try and take photos.  I'd ask, "who's the subject of this photo?  Every good photo has to have a subject."  She grabbed my camera and just shot up at the building.


I love the geometry and angles, and the drain pipe is such a strong pull on your eye to get you to look up and down the image.  I wish I could take credit for it, but Christina saw it and snapped it.

Spring Twenty Ten

With the vinegar comes the sugar, and in Champaign, that means that with the bitter Winter comes the Spring. And Spring has come, in a big way.

As one is apt to do, when the sun fights back the bitter cold, and the grass, birds and flowers come to life, I went outside. Actually: my wife, my dogs and I went outside. We went to Crystal Lake park in Urbana. Of course I had to bust out my camera, and Christina had to put up with me spending 10 minutes at a time peering at tiny flowers through my lens while she wandered off with Thor and Cleo.

Similar to my Fall Panorama I posted last year, I made a panorama of one of the better views of the park. I used Photoshop's built in "Photo Merge" feature, and I love it! I need to remember to use it more often, now that I have a machine that can do one in less than a bazillion hours. Click it for bigness!

A Spring panorama that feebly tries to convey the warmth and calmness of a spring day in Champaign.

And because I'm all about close-up, depth of focus effects, here is a shot of some tiny pansies that were growing in the grass. I love this shot, because it feels like it could be a background for Alice in Wonderland or something. Foolishly I was shooting at ISO 400, so it's a tad grainy. Oh well.

An army of tiny purple pansies

My new 50mm did not monopolize the shoot, though! I did catch a shot of this sunbathing goose using my long angle lens. I've heard that geese are mean, and I didn't want to test my luck with this one. I tried to bring out the warmth of the sun from the late afternoon.

A goose, catching some warm rays

And, finally, I tried another HDR shot. It's hard to do them anyway, let alone hand-held, and I think I kind of succeeded. Basically this shot was tricky because the bridge was under shade, and the clearing was bright. So I had to use two exposures, one with the bridge properly exposed, and one with the clearing properly exposed. Then I brought out the color and bumped up the contrast. I kinda like it

A lonely wooden bridge leading to a bright green clearing

By the way, so far i'm keeping up with my three shooting-sessions a week plan. I will post two more blog entries later in the week. COMMENT!