Word and Image

Posts tagged “Portrait

Nature or nuture

My daughter – no names please – has been said to look much like me. And, I suppose it is logical her sense of humor…  I can vouch that her photographic skill is sound. Humor in pictures? Oh my! Ha ha. It is indeed comforting to know that some of my good character is reflected into the future. Poor kid, there is a lot to be said for smiling and laughing. Colleen still cannot believe Jules staged this. I got to say that I was surprised at the genius myself. And, I am proud some of the lessons turned out so well. Lessons? Nah! I just put a camera in her hand one day. Proud?! Yeah, it’s nice to see your kids surpass you.


Now

Nowadays. Life is still disorganized. Sure, why would it be different? Come as you are. Discover adventure as you go. We don’t work with a plan. I take pictures. Random discoveries, scenes, locations, cats, weaving, and selfies dot my work. You never know what reflection will present itself or what sunset will come next. Though life can be unpredictable, it has and is certainly a lot of fun.


Logic

Madness! I have always said that computers are very good at keeping lists. Anything! Keep track, a computer keeps lists. Photographs or digital images, a computer can organize and keep the list. GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. Of course… you have to keep an organized and logical list… Digital alone numbers hundreds of thousands of images. I have two catalogs – sort of – one before 2016 and another after. Don’t ask. It’s chaos. I just checked. Things before 2016 are in the 2016 and vice versa. Confused!? Yes, it gets very confusing in a hurry. I got a spreadsheet data base and redundantly copied backup files/images. In other words, you are organized, till you’re not.

Did you lose interest? Anxious? Do you keep track of your images? It’s important in the event you lose your pictures. Anxious now?

This was 2019, the pandemic was right around the corner. Xmas. Groups!? I use my tripod and gather groups together. Somehow everyone seems cooperative. Pictures were taken. Do I remember? This was a random spin through the catalog and we were in a lot of homes gathered together with family and friends.

Logic? Logical? Just when you think you have a viable system, a good list… you discover chaos. I have a method to my madness. Anyone following me will have chaos. All the information is stored. Nothing has been lost. I can still make a coherent list. Maybe. Ha ha. Christmas in June, oh my!


Here to there

How’d I get here? In the absence of anything else, I shoot cat portraits. Simple. They pose?!? Nope. I put the camera in their face and point the lens straight at their eyes. It works.

Finally, a new oven! The old one – dead. Built-in obsolescence. Better one? It had to fit the hole of the old one. Pain!!! Major pain, supply chain issues, we snagged a clearance model at less than half price from retail. Lucky! You bet!! It clearly said on the box – in big black and white letters – the oven was too large for the hole – ¾ inches too large. Really!! So, it fit right into the hole of the old oven. Go figure.

And, within moments – carrot cake. I add (my mom did it) a cup of grated carrots; the cake rises…. And, a few days later… a sour cream apple walnut pie. We wasted no time in making up for lost time.

Pizza? Well, I gotta say, “Who doesn’t like pizza?” Gluten free crust. ??? Oh! Well, Colleen is also vegetarian (off and on), so, two pies – mine had sausage. It was a good pie! Yeah, it’s good to have an oven again.

One more step – to product. I spin – wool. We process. … ‘cause I don’t wash. The one and only time I washed, I felted. (If you don’t spin, the joke went right over your head.) Straight off the sheep, the fleece is polluted – grass, dirt, poop, etc. The fleece is opened up – picked. Then, it is washed, carded and prepared into bats, ready to spin. Spin, spun, it looks rather fine and refined, ready to go – cloth, shawl, scarf, and so forth. This would be here to there. Yarn!


Guilt

Survivor’s guilt. Death is all around us; the war in Ukraine rages on. Loved ones are lost forever. Grief, despair, loss, it is all too much for words to express the loss of human life.

Colleen. We still grieve our pet. Ray. Is it for the fact that his death was so sudden and instant and unexpected – for Ray? Can we take comfort that he did not suffer? Can platitudes assuage my guilt?

Two for two, I have failed to resuscitate a loved one twice – my Dad, my cat. Guilt?! It was never meant to be. I never had a chance. My Dad died at home in my arms my third year of medical school. I lived with failure to save him, early guilt nearly my entire medical career. And, when I had stopped practicing medicine, I was given another chance, Ray. I failed. Failed. Did failure teach me that I had no chance way back when? Answers don’t come easy. I can only say that knowledge and experience do not help even now. As a physician, I have encountered life and death too often. I know the consoling words. I fear words are inadequate. I keep trying. I will always do so. Even now, I am comforted by your hand, Colleen.


Groups

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.


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.


Quite a summer

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.


Summer of Reunion

…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.


Crazy

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.


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.


Work in progress

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.


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.