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.
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.
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.
In sum, I found out Bruce is in WPP. If he has a sense of humor, I’ve never seen it. Look at his attempt at a “bee sting” kiss. Polar opposites, we won’t be friends anytime soon. I did not get the ‘serious’ gene. Humor is all around us. It was another summer reunion. People came and went for about three weeks. If you own a beach house, you will never lack for relatives. We had quite a group go through and sleep in all our beds. It was a very nice mishmash of relatives. All were vaccinated. The lost summer of Covid was over. Normal? Hardly. But, it was sure nice to see folks again.
…feel like you been behind bars? Covid’s done?! Summer convention: Colleen’s family has been coming to the beach forever. Decades and decades. I am new to the mix. Fun?! There is a strange dynamic. The older generation is gone now. This is Colleen’s family – her siblings and her daughter and grand kids – mixed in with her favorite cousin. There are always the missing persons, who could not be present. And, there are complex group dynamics in play. If you look closely at the ‘bee sting’ shot you can see who’s constipated – Bruce. (From here, the text was heavily edited to protect the innocent.) Ha? Eh? Me? Don’t burn your bridges – nuke ’em.
Neurosurgeons are collectively super-conservative and stuffy. At our national convention a well known and well regarded colleague got up from the head table at the annual banquet. He pronounced the group to be staid and boring. And, then he proceeded to hang a spoon from his nose. (Bruce was president of his state medical society?) I have taken this to heart. Don’t ever think yourself too important. Stay humble and keep a sense of humor about you. Get a grip! Laugh, live, love. We are all here for a short time.
Correct etiquette is to say nothing. No one’s precious feelings will be hurt – to which I say, speak. I certainly have and there are those who wish I had not. Stories spin, the truth dies with you. It was never in my nature be quiet and proper. I never embraced the “big lie.” At least my point of view is not still a mystery.
How often do you shoot a group and someone has their eyes closed? I shoot a lot of pics in hope that everyone looks good. Someone (me) is always wanting. How did/was I get goaded into doing a moon shot? And then, I asked everyone to just raise their hands. Eyes closed, I just clicked the shutter. Neat! I’ll try this again. Too much staid! Not enough fun! I guess no one else will volunteer to “moon” in this crowd.
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?
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!
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.
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 cat?! It ain’t easy to get a pic. I got the eyes! Flash, it helps. I got the eyes; the fur? Now, to get the whole cat. It is, at best, a challenge. I suppose it’s good to show some failures. How else do you learn and improve? A lot of what I learn is by seeing a good pic and then copying the technique. It’s a lot like cooking. Taste it; like it; try to recreate it; make it your own. Much of what we do is to build on the knowledge of those who came before us. I’m ok with that.
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.
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.
Willow never looks at me. The “twins” will/do. But, Willow, he’s a different cat. He never looks at me. We communicate. He gets what he wants. I know what he wants. We just never quite make eye contact. It’s subtle enough to have eluded me for so long. I realize now. Knowing is helpful. It’s like hugging without kissing. There is just something different. And, it’s different, (looking elsewhere). If you don’t know what I mean, then you don’t know. But, I get it, now.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Sometimes I unintentionally post something. What was I thinking? It’s trash. Replacement? Action shot – Elle in motion, well, just about. She was poised to leap. It’s not easy getting motion. One of the sisters – I cannot always tell who is who – posed at my current favorite spot. More cats, I’m cat proud. There’s always someone about to keep me entertained. The trick is to have a camera at hand. I have enough cameras to keep one near at hand wherever I am in the house. Lucky!