Word and Image

Portrait

What makes you laugh

This is not a hard question. It’s just hard to come by. I think a child’s smile is just about universal. If you are not smiling already… why not? Better yet, it doesn’t get better than the smile from your granddaughter. You work days photographing image after image while they visit. Maybe you are better than me? This is the culmination of thousands images in several days. One image? … priceless.


Eyes

Portrait photography – the first rule – focus on the eyes. From the start, when I did film photography, it was always focus (manually) on the eyes. Nothing else is as important. Cats feel threatened when you point a big lens at them. It’s like a big eye. The cat does not like it. Mine, they are resigned. I have pointed so often that the lens is familiar. It’s still not easy. The skill is in putting the lens in front of their eye so it looks as though they are looking at you. Ha! And, salt on the tail, will catch a bird! It ain’t easy. But then again, if it were, all my pictures would be perfect. Right?


Eyes

Focus – eyes. If the eyes are in focus, just about anything else is forgiven in a portrait. The image is an edit discard if the eyes are not focused. If you stand back far enough everything looks in focus. Up close – focus is critical to the success of an image. Have I said focus is important? In a family of ten it’s important to be focused. Ha ha! I did a go around the house and got everyone’s eyes, mine included. (I chose to be upside down.) I suppose this is photo lesson 101. Focus!


Gear

I split the discussion and did not show you gear in yesterday’s post. Waiting is good. Most gear I get is purchased after agonizing over the need and justifying the expense. Leica is Rolls Royce but I do not justify its expense. The “bang” for your $$$$ buck is too low in my opinion. The Canon G7X is my dive camera. It worked so well at the time and still would serve just fine. I am invested in its underwater housing and a strobe. The Sony RX100 VI is a compact camera with more than adequate telephoto reach. It is as good at getting a tele image as my Nikon 80-400mm zoom. Crazy! But to my eye, the image is adequate and way offsets carrying around a big heavy lens when traveling all day. The Canon EOS M6 II was my first mirrorless camera and made an instant leap to my carry-around camera. Covid canceled our trip to Scotland. And, a year later I got the Nikon Z5 full frame mirrorless camera. Full frame is the operative phrase, The camera is larger, therefore, heavier. If you don’t “get” (understand) it (heavy), the Z5 is not for you. Currently, the Z5 is my “go to” except where size matters and I wish to be unobtrusive. And. NO! Colleen will not be going anywhere for the “duration (of our forever marriage).” I am only allowed to have more cameras. … no more cats either. Tech? Gear? No, it’s the image!

So much gear… gearhead? So little time… need all that gear? Does/did it make you better? … do we need another spinning wheel? Sure! Aesthetic? Ah! Hedonistic! The antonym is eudaimonistic. And, we have never heard of that term. So…. go for it! Though, I tend toward introvert, I have never been accused of being a monk.


Tolerant

My cats are very tolerant. (If) There are no other subjects at hand. Cat portraiture, it is. Spring is here. Soon, I will plant the flowers. And then, we can begin flower pictures again. Meanwhile, I do not have a grandchild in sight. So, cats it is. Tolerance is a plus. And yes, it is still hard to photograph a black cat. I got the eyes. There is not much detail in the black fur. The sister has dark patches. You do see detail in the whiskers. None of the grandkids have whiskers. I continue to work the eyes. Focus on the eyes and you have a picture. Have a camera at hand or you miss those fleeting moments.


Black

I said a black cat is hard to photograph. I have few good pics of my black dog, Reggie. Maybe, I wasn’t very good. Interestingly, if you are too good, you can see the dust in Tillie’s hair. Or, dandruff, whatever! But I get it. Eyes, it’s all in the eyes. You get the eyes and the picture pops. Black, against a white background, helps in this instance. This time around I think I am up for a challenge.


Out for a stroll

We let the new kittens out of the bathroom for a stroll in the big house. They found our bed – perhaps our smell – and made themselves comfortable. The lighting is good. I need a reflection in their eyes and the big window gives great indirect light. I bet you don’t care. Peas is not a pretty cat. At least that’s my opinion. Colleen has seen many more cats and I am overruled. My first naming was Butt – as in butt ugly. Don’t laugh; it’s part of the reason I ignored her in the pet store. But Peas has the sweetest personality. She is the quintessential embodiment that beauty is skin (fur) deep. When I first picked her up, it was about a second later, she melted my heart.


Another six

Yeah, yeah, seven pictures. But the last picture (Nutley) illustrates emotion. Colleen swears the cats can “express.” Nutley just got “wopped” by Spice. He has the look of “what?” He (Nutley) is bewildered and subservient to her (Spice’s) aggression. Can you see that? Six cats. I roam the house and shoot the cats. Ha! It’s not “hunting.” But periodically the cats settle into their morning routine. At that point I can get a shot. Cute!


Gee! photography… again

“When you see a disposable photo you know it’s real and it wasn’t crafted or put together,” he said. “It just happened and it was captured. That’s what makes it so exciting.”

Gee! WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get. No filters?! Not Instagram? It’s still social media. Better? Who knows? Every time you turn around someone is inventing the wheel and trying to make money from it. Good!? Real photography is work. Huh? Or is it that no one wants to work? Or…. Whatever. It seems to be an excuse to not blame the workman for the poor workmanship. Spontaneity? Freedom? No responsibility? It’s pretty easy to see how spontaneity can slip into “staged.” But, keep to your fantasy. You still have to press a shutter. And, something is better than nothing. Do you need to chase fame? Do you need a million followers to feel fulfilled? Whatever?! Someone is due to make a ton of money on this idea.


Confusion reigns

It was just a joke in the beginning. Back in 2015, I did a Photoshop mash-up of our three cats. Crude, would be too kind a criticism. But then again, it was an “in your face” mash-up. The sisters arrived in January, 2017 and the twins came in July, 2018. Sometime in July 2018 we did a family portrait. And, in December, 2019 we followed up once more – a picture, not more cats.

In November, 2020 we did two takes on the same day. The ladies at CVS were amazed when (with a straight face) I told them that all my seven cats just lined up on the table upon my command to do this group shot.

Confused? It feels like a history test on which general won what battle on which date? Yeah! I went back to find dates. My vaunted file system failed until it was successful in tracking down the photo shoots and their dates. There was no group shot in 2016 or 2017. I don’t suppose you care too much for the dates or my search of a catalog holding hundreds of thousands of images. Our family continues to expand and contract. I will be more diligent of keeping track of family groupings. But, as of this post we are up to date. Alas, Patch passed away in February. That will change my next shot.

Make no mistake, you don’t simply go out and replace a pet. Patch’s recent death has left a hole in our hearts. And, you may continue to shake your head and think we are nuts. Somehow the chaos of cats all about is an acquired taste. And, I didn’t do it correctly – see – two new kittens, not one, Tillie & Peas (in 2021). Patch fly with the snow geese; we miss you.


Family pic

As they said in the movie “Jaws,” We’re gonna need a bigger (boat) table.” Ha ha. After Patch passed away in February, it just wasn’t quite as chaotic as we are used to at feeding time. We held tryouts. It wasn’t that hard. Cat’s just gotta snuggle in your arms and dig her claws in – she’s going home with you! Tillie (black cat) is on double secret probation – ala “Animal House.” She snarled and growled at me. Me? Have you ever played, ‘spin the cat?’ Ha ha. I think Tillie has an opinion. Meanwhile, Dave said, “No more cats!” What can I say? Tillie and Peas are sisters – from different mothers? And, the pet store ladies laugh when they see me come in. They even asked if I wanted another, “Please?” when we came in today for more food. Colleen does higher math: that would be 3 1/2 sets of twins and a single (Elle).


Changes

Subtlety. Hmmmm… not me. I like things larger than life. Since covid we have been watching the background on TV behind the guests. Some guests have gone as far as placing books and such products to promote their own works. My background? It got busy, not so much by design but because I was more too lazy to bother to stage things more thoroughly. I surmise last year’s picture was taken in the summer. The crowded background makes things more cozy? Some folks prefer minimalist. I am helpless. We live with things and our lives are full. And, I must admit, it’s a nice life.


Herding cats

It’s the annual Christmas picture. And I am even posting at an apropos time. Colleen casually drops – “Do you know what? …. We should do….” And then it’s about …. hours, days of work for me. Yeah, I try to ignore her. Dammit! I get sucked in. The cats suffer. We all have to sacrifice…. First I round them up (each cat). They pose only very reluctantly. Seven cats!! Sure, I could just pose one twin twice three times …. no cheating! And then we have to take a shower – hair’s gotta be right! Note: no pants were worn for this photoshoot – by animal or human. (Ha ha) And then it’s hours in photoshop. Yup, it takes time. I’m ok, not great. But the effect…. Hey! Add some text, like merry and happy. Never ever listen – “Do you know what?” …

YES!!! They all just jumped up at once and let me take their picture…. really!! Honest! Truth!


Coming going

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I don’t often have cooperation from my cats. This one time they stayed put till I got around to the front of the window. Elle, Ray, and Nutley are an unlikely trio to sit in the window together. Just trust me on this point. And, to find her in the middle is actually quite brave of her. I feel like thanking them for posing. Crazy! Yes!

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Pet portrait

I could never be a pet photographer. Sure, I get great cat pics. There’s no pressure on me. If I get a good shot, I got one. Otherwise, send me on a mission for money… I have three sets of twins and one orphan. Right! I can’t tell them apart. Oh sure, there are some markings that tip you off. But on average I can tell which set of twins are which and not much more in a single glance. Seven cats. I ran around for a few minutes trying to photograph each in turn. If I showed you the same cat twice… Every once in a while, I set myself to see if I can get a shot of all seven within a single shoot. Ha ha!

One more comment: there are seven cats and eight pictures but nine cats in all the pictures. Need a pet portrait? ..willing to work for food.


Special

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Well, this post was planned about two months ago. Somehow the text to go with the photo was separated (lost). The picture is one of the white twins. Patch or Willow? Colleen would know. Me? I just guess. Patch. Special? They are all special kitties. And Patch? He doesn’t talk, never complains, and just gets along with everyone. Yeah, he’s pretty special. Or, it’s special that I got this picture of Patch. He never looks at me. It’s special when I get a good look into his eyes.


Tele(photo)

Prime lenses are commonly wide-angle lenses. When they discuss the best all around lens it’s usually in the range of 35mm. it’s good for portraits and landscape and street photography, an all in one all-purpose lens for all occasions. For me? I’m usually shooting at max tele on my zoom lens. I get rid of distracting background. I don’t have to move closer. It’s a good all-around lens for the lazy photographer. I don’t get the idea of 35mm. I can shoot at wide angle. My zoom allows. But I find most of my shots are near to max tele. It’s how it is.


On the move

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Dave’s been in one location for too long now. Kathleen’s sister had a child – Gio. I won’t comment upon the name. You look it up. “Noa” is pretty rare to hear too. On the go… Dave’s traveling again. Restless? Maybe west? There are a lot of options and there aren’t. But, as the country reopens, the possibilities are endless. And, he’s had Corona, we think; we can’t get him tested, but probably. No social distance if you are living with someone. I get to kiss Colleen but not hug Dave. No handshakes. They came to say good-bye. They’re headed to see the new baby. Risk? There are choices. Relaxing?

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Have you ever had a day when everything came together – light, smiles, background…?


Cat blog

I should be doing a cat blog. They are my/our kids now. So, they (the cats) get a lot of photo ops. They cooperate. There’s one good shot after another. How many good cat shots do you need? I can get a good portrait. I’m working on action. Don’t laugh. I have a camera everywhere I sit. Behavior happens in an instant. You gotta be ready. I try.


Portrait

Typically, a portrait is vertically composed. With iPhone it’s mostly? Vertical too? Most folks are too lazy to turn their phone. With a camera, the photos (portraits) are mostly horizontal. Same, you can’t be bothered to turn the camera vertically. Enough! Vertical! Horizontal! I will admit I am mostly horizontal (camera). Lazy! Guilty.


Second look

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I turned away for a bit. Lightroom presents my library images in a viewer of 28 per screen. Hey! It’s sorting. It is easy enough to go to a single image and examine it in more detail. Lighting. With all the new light bulbs around here, the color temperature of the light I am shooting with has varied wildly. Most folks don’t notice or care about the quality of light. They get what they get and are happy enough. And iPhone and most digital cameras make it easy. Why work? I don’t (work) either. But, I notice. I suppose it is the difference between words and poetry. I get my share of duds. But, sometimes, just once in a while, it all comes together. And then, it makes me glad I try. Colleen – says Feather is my favorite cat. True enough, I hug her (Colleen, too) a lot. Is it because she’s always in my lap and I’m her favorite human? Though there are imperfections, this will be a favorite shot for a while. (Shhh… I love Colleen more than the cat.)


Cuteness

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So little time, too many images, I would post one… but who can choose? It’s like your kids. You like them all… equally. Well, no, but, you must get my point. Pick? That’s editing. I edit by gestalt now. I look over a large group and one or two stand out. Done. It’s too much to agonize over each individual and way too slow to wait for each to upload. And yet, I continue to sneak in multiples. You/I would be better served by one outstanding shot. But then again, no, maybe not.


Critical

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Ego, shy? I don’t photograph well enough to be happy to post images of myself. Hmm? You could take that statement two ways. Whatever! This is part of the ongoing selfie series I started with the new camera. Today’s tech gives me more ways than ever before to shoot. Better? I think so. This shot involved a monopod, an iPhone triggering the camera remotely, and a Wi-Fi capable connection to my camera. Complicated? You bet. I could’ve done it with just the iPhone. But, then what would have been the fun? And it would have been harder to get the end result. hmmm? … another two way statement. Was it worth the effort? I would’ve swapped the model for my beautiful wife. She is patient but not willing to experiment with me while I endlessly tried different combinations.


Elle

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When there are no kids or grandkids at hand, I shoot the cats. My dearest wife has declined. She’s good natured enough. But…  and while I am breaking no new ground, I can photograph well enough to get good portrait shots, too many, too numerous to count. Once in a while it’s good to post one. There are categories – photo journalism, iPhone, selfies, etc. Sometimes it’s nice to have a good portrait.