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Colleen, I’m feeling blue. Ethereal, but a moment, delicate, fragile, gossamer, tenuous – life. We are here for a moment in time. My photographs depict some of those moments passed which will never be here again. Suddenly, things change. You realize how utterly delicately we interact. Loss is part, parting inevitable. I have been lucky to have experienced loss in small quantity. I am no stranger to love and loss. But, I have been largely spared. Hug your loved ones tight. Love them, tightly.


Lessons

Good equipment will only get you so far. I needed more experience. Lessons would have helped. Me? Nah. Too much ego. Just press the shutter, and, there you are! It did not help that I developed my own slides. So I accumulated a lot of rolls to process all at once. Therefore, feedback was severely delayed. Hence, my mistakes tended to continue. It was, using the wrong settings for a good long while before you realized the mistake. Lokking back, it appears I was lucky to have survived my msitakes. Oh boy! stupid! Really stupid! Parsimony. Film cost $$. What digital has taught me. Almost every shot is a double. Redundancy is de rigueur! Oh boy! The things I simply did not know to do. Oh well, the most important thing is to be self-critical and learn. My regret, it took decades to be aware of my mistakes. It’s just one more thing to do differently if there were a do-over.


Speaking of … still tryn’

I tried to illustrate wide angle distortion in an iPhone  portrait of a child the other day. Everyone liked how cute she was and ignored the forehead distortion. Ok!? So, here is a loaf of challah right out of the oven. Smells great, butter glazed, good enough to eat!! Colleen made a braided proportional loaf. That is to say, it was a parallel loaf!? I intentionally moved in close and distorted the lines. Do you see? It doesn’t matter when it comes to bread. But a child?

Ok. I didn’t want to do a formal portrait of my son. Shy?! I don’t mind sticking my camera into Colleen’s face. She is used to me by now. But, “the boy?” So, I sneak/snuck a few grab shots. The lighting was not helpful. It would help if we got the right situation before he is on the road again. Yes, they (the images) are a good representation. But it’s not what I am trying to achieve. … another day, another opportunity.  


More lessons

I fear I may have lost family after correcting angle distortion the other day. No angle distortion here. Secret: get the camera down at the level of your (cat) subject. Hence, use the angled screen to take the picture at the subject’s eye level. Pretty easy. Most people don’t do it.

Flash has never been my forte. I use it very sparingly. The more recent cameras I use have better exposure than ever before. Flash will certainly help to brighten hooded eyes. Portraits? It is the eyes. Focus on the eyes. And, to be more effective, I think the subject should be looking right at you. … my opinion. After that, breaking the rules is what gives you something different. Better, worse, “keepers” are pretty easy to spot. There are so many bad shots….


Familiarity

When you are with someone every minute of every day… well, I got to take some candid shots of Colleen. She needed a shot for a web profile… I had to look back a long way. Ha! And, Dave? I still do not have a quintessential shot during this visit. Once in a while we get a selfie in which my hands never touch the camera. It would be nice if Dave were better (this time around). But, in a pinch, any (vaguely decent) shot is a keeper. And, as Frank Sinatra sang, I love my wife.


Distorted

The original image transmitted was #4. I used ‘transform’ in Lightroom to make some quick changes.

1. Transform and crop – it’s better. But, see the sleeve and arm? They are disproportionately large.

2. Another try – crop and elongate the face, slightly. Without any other reference the distortion from the first pic is hidden.

3. Once more – I rounded the face slightly. Subtly. This is hard. Because of Covid I have not seen the child in person in more than two years. So the shape of her face is not quite known to me.

4. Angle distortion – it occurs when you stand above the subject and aim down with your spiffy iphone. The head is disproportionately larger than the feet. Can you see this? (My hydrocephalic patients had overly large foreheads.)

Of course, the easiest solution is for dad to get lower, more or less eye level with his kid. Because dad is tall, the distortion is more noticeable. Alas, I have lost many a friend due to constructive comments about their photographic technique. This is family. There’s nowhere to go or hide. I like the kid and think she deserves better preserved memories.

Epilogue: Since I texted the image corrections, not a peep from the parents. I guess I am/will refrain from further comment about their perfect child.


If you look back

…just a few years back. We have been in this house since 2015. Ok! Check out the backgrounds. Our house and deck were so sparsely occupied by things and stuff. No planters! Wow! My bad. I turned Colleen loose in the stores and she said, “I like that…” We got a few things – like a bunch of spinning wheels (not regular… great wheels!) and other such antique items. Did I mention – TWO barn looms? Oh my! Note: the iPhone 5 on the table. Those were the good old days.


Confession

I’m perfect. And, I’m the first person who will tell you so. Not, nope! Your family keeps you honest. In this case, my wife, Colleen. She said the pic we printed was not good. Color balance was chiefly the culprit. She could not articulate all the mistakes. I’m perfect and argued, “How can it be bad?” Wrong! She was right. I improved composition and color. It’s not perfect. Yeah, yeah. But, better. It was hard to get those cats to jump up and sit for another photo. But then again, I’m the dad.


Merry Xmas

But, of course! From our family to you and yours, we wish you a safe and healthy holiday. It’s been another eventful year. We lost a cat – Patch. We gained two cats – Tillie and Peas. Peas was an afterthought. We mistakenly left Tillie’s sister behind at the pet store. My bad. You cannot replace a lost cat – for (darn) sure. …but we had an extra food bowl…. Now the table is full once more. Happy and merry to you all. We are both fortunate and happy to wish you all the best. YES, they all jumped up on the table and lined right up. Didn’t you realize? I herd cats!


Out of print

Things jump out – sometimes, literally. Ha ha, another Photoshop trick (not!)? The frame was set up to take a portrait and to make it look elaborately framed. I would never be so subtle. Ha ha. It was colonial day on the green. People were dressed in Revolutionary war style fashion – a snake oil salesman, etc, It was still fall. I was still chasing color. In this case I settled for a closeup in order to avoid the vast areas of drab brown leaves. Autumn color was scarce around these parts.


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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