Podcast 296 : Aug 2011 “Alive!!” Assignment Winners

© Omar Gonzalez

Podcast 296 : Aug 2011 “Alive!!” Assignment Winners

After a bit of a false start with episode 89 when I covered the winners of the two month assignment that we ran for Mach and April 2011, I’ve been in remiss again for a while, and haven’t really covered the winning images for our Photography Assignment for some time now. Over the months, a number of people have mentioned that they’d like to see these review episodes reinstated, and I’ve been meaning to restart them myself for some time.

With a number of ideas for Podcasts stacked up, and then the ones that I slot in on the spur of the moment, this week too I was in turmoil again this week, as to whether or not to cover the July winners’ images and back-stories. Then I received a Private Message on the forum from Michael Scott, in Taipei, and Michael so eloquently made me realize that it’s important to continue this tradition, so that’s what we’re going to do today.

OK, so in reverse order as usual, in 5th place is David Bailey with “yaaaahoooo”. First, here’s David’s back-story.

Thanks to everyone who voted for my photo. Here is a bit of information about how I came up with my idea. I had a day off of work and I was trying to think of something alive like jumping on the trampoline or skydiving, but I’m not very good at either of those things. I decided to take my dog, Murphy down to the park to have a run. He loves to fetch balls. I would throw the ball and he would race off as fast as anything to chase after it, but would walk back with it, so I would have taken some really good butt shots of movement but, I was by myself and had to come up with a new idea. When Murphy was distracted I would slowly walk away. When he looked I would throw the ball the opposite way so he would run past me to chase the ball. I was able to get some front shots this way. I was trying to blur the grass so that it was blurred with motion, but was not successful with this. This was finally the shot I ended up with.

© David Bailey

© David Bailey

So David, I think you did really well to capture this very alive shot of Murphy, and I think you did OK blurring the grass too. It’s not a total streak of movement, but it’s far from sharp. You can tell it’s a panned shot, which is great. Murphy is perhaps a tad soft, but that also shows us how fast he’s tearing across the grass after his prize, the ball. You captured the essence of what this little guy loves, and you can see it in his face, and the position, with all feet off the ground, making it a real winning shot. Well done indeed and congratulations of fifth place.

David also went on to say that he’s glad I’m OK and he hopes my vision has stayed with me and no longer need my glasses. A quick update on that is that actually my eyesight in my left eye has pretty much returned to how it was before it took a turn for the worse from the effects of the tumor, which really started around January this year. My right eye is still much better than it has been since I first started needing glasses at 19 years old, but it’s no longer totally sharp, as it was for the month or so after the surgery. It looks like I am going to need glasses again, but I did not need those pesky vari-focals that they sold me in March, before we found out that it was the brain tumor causing my eyesight to deteriorate as it did. Honestly though, I am happy that it is still better than before, and I really don’t mind wearing glasses, so all is good here.

Anyway, let’s move on to fourth place, which was won by Taipei Su, or Michael Scott, who prompted today’s episode. Michaels photo is “Accident victim *can’t wait* to get back on his bike the next day!”. Here’s Michael’s back-story.

My son, who will soon be turning 5, crashed at the park the day before I took the photo I submitted. He hit the pavement and scraped up his knees and hands a bit, and also absorbed some of the impact with his face. It wasn’t anything serious, but I, having been at work when it happened (and coming home that day after he was asleep), still felt bad that he’d gotten hurt, and was worried that the bumps and bruises would bother him the next day.

© Michael Scott

© Michael Scott

But the next morning he woke up cheerful and energetic, with this giant smile on his face, eager to tell me about what had happened, and wanting to get on his bike again and go to the park as soon as he could. It was just one of those moments for me, as a father, where I was reminded how much joy and zest my boys bring into my life, and how infectious their enthusiasm and resilience can be.

I took the picture in manual mode with the camera-mounted flash turned almost 180 degrees behind me so that the light would bounce off the wall at my back (if you look carefully you can see the camera and Speedlite sticking up in the catch-lights in his eyes). Okay, not the most exciting back story, but there it is. 🙂

Thanks again to Martin for these assignments, and to all of you who participate. I thought this topic was a fun one, and although I ended up using this picture of my son for my final submission, I also now have a number of pictures that I quite like of dragonflies, hummingbirds, puppies and various other flora and fauna for which I have the assignment to thank!

Well, thank you for getting involved Michael, and for reminding us how much these assignments can help us to build ourselves as photographers. Your son is incredibly cute, and I can only imagine how proud you must be of him for still being full of beans after his tumble. Sure, they might only be scratches and grazes, but it was probably a scary experience all the same, and I’m sure he was thrilled to have done something that he felt was so dangerous and come out Alive!!

Thanks for explaining your technique, which really helped to create some beautiful light, as well as the catch-lights. I had looked into the catch-lights to see what could be gleaned from the reflection and I think I can just about see the flash poking up above your head. The soft light on your son’s face really makes the shot. I see from the EXIF data that you shot this at 42mm too, which is nice and intimate. I also like the titled head and tight crop, to really let that joy and energy come across to the viewer. Great work Michael, and congratulations on fourth place.

Next up in third place is the person I was with at my apartment when the March 11th quake hit Japan, Marcus Bain with “You bring light in…”. Here’s Marcus’ back-story.

This is a shot of my son Hal, @ 16 months old, re-enacting his favourite music video (at the moment).

© Marcus Bain

© Marcus Bain

The composition isn’t much, I was just snapping away trying to keep all his arms and legs in focus and in shot, but it is his expression and what he is doing that makes this shot for me. I think he is imagining himself floating up into the sky…

His favourite song at the moment is called “Two Months Off” by Underworld.

It is one of the happiest, most uplifting songs I know. And the video clip of a guy dancing, jumping in a puddle, in the middle of a forest with rainbows!! What a simple and beautiful expression of pure fun.

Hal and I dance and jump around together to this song every morning now. He sings “light in”, over and over, and asks for me to play the song by saying “light in?”. I am so happy to of caught this moment in my son’s life and share it with you guys, thanks for the votes.

Marcus, thanks for bringing a lot of light into my afternoon too, as I prepare for this Podcast. I’ve always wondered who sang that song, and I’ve been hitting repeat on the YouTube video for the last half an hour.

You certainly did capture Hal enjoying being at the beach and seemingly life itself. I can’t believe how much he’s grown since I last met him, and he really looks happy and free in his new environment.

I see you shot this at F8 and were out at almost 200mm, which explains the nice depth-of-field, and compression of the background, making it look closer than it probably was. Most of all though, you brought some light into my afternoon Marcus and hopefully into the life of everyone who’s listening and looks at this shot too. Thanks mate!

Moving on to 2nd place, here’s Mr Nikon, real name Dan Newcomb with “Down but Not Out”. And here’s Dan’s back-story.

We all had a scare with Martin’s recent health issue and Alive was a great theme for the assignment. For this photo I wanted to boil it down to the basics. I was after a strong composition with simple elements.

I went back to my usual habit for this assignment of shooting it on the last day of the month. I had a few ideas in mind but the one I ended up shooting was my backup plan. I just simply ran out of time for my first choice.

© Dan Newcomb

© Dan Newcomb

I was in a small northern town and after about an hour of searching, I found my beam in a structure that was holding up a large industrial satellite dish. I originally wanted to shoot this at 50mm or even a little wider but I just couldn’t exclude the power wires and trees unless I zoomed in. I had the camera on a tripod and set it to take pictures every 5 seconds while I hung from the beam. The camera was setup to bracket 7 exposures every 5 seconds as I had thought I would create an HDR image. In the end I only used a single exposure. I was trying to get one little puffy cloud in the center of the lower left box of the composition but it never happened. After about 45 minutes of cloud watching I decided to pack it in.

In post I converted the image to black & white and played with it in Sliver Efex Pro. I was happy with the overall image. Thanks again for the votes!

I knew this was your shot as soon as I saw it Dan. It has Mr Nikon written all over it. I couldn’t actually tell what was in the background at all, but it makes a nice abstract backdrop for a powerful image. I love the toning rugged feel to the image. Thanks for taking the time on the last day of the month to realize one of your ever wonderful visualizations Dan.

And finally, in first place, is ogonzilla, real name Omar Gonzalez, with “YEAH!!!”! And here’s Omar’s back-story.

What? I won? Wow! Thank you so much for the votes. I thought a lot about Martin this month and how everything worked out. His resolve and commitment to keeping us up to date were really inspirational. He totally cashed in on all his good karma and all he’s done for us. Thanks Martin!

You’re welcome Omar, thank you! Omar continues…

When I first thought about the theme, I was going the “Martin Bailey” route and shooting flowers, birds, and bugs… things that were alive. It didn’t really translate into what I wanted the photograph to say: YEAH! (Fist pump!) The photograph in my brain was of a surfer catching huge air with a smile… or a rock climber hanging from a ledge with a thumbs up… or someone rock climbing with a surfboard.

© Omar Gonzalez

© Omar Gonzalez

Needless to say, this situation didn’t present itself. So, luckily, a friend of mine asked me to shoot some shots of his son. I had never met the boy but being a bit of a goofball and a kid myself, we hit it off immediately. Now, this kid was a bundle of energy! He couldn’t stop moving (fast shutter speed anyone?) and wanted to run to the next location as soon as I fired one shot. After a few minutes, I knew that this little guy was going to be my Alive shot. For this shot, I set up my Vivitar 285 on a light stand camera left and fashioned a snoot out of cardstock and a pricey rubber band. (Nothing what like Mr. Nikon goes through to set up his awesome shots.) This gave me the look I was going for: high energy, dramatic, hard lighting. I triggered the flash with el a cheapo Cowboy Studios system bought on Amazon. This pose was entirely the kid responding to “Give a good jump, dude!” BAM!

Bam indeed Omar! I love this shot. You really nailed it, and I’m sure your friend was thrilled with the results. I’m impressed that you rigged the snoot yourself. I have some very thick aluminum foil painted black that I use for this sort of thing, and I still bought myself a 10º honeycomb for my Profoto monoheads recently though. Even after springing for the expensive rubber band though, it’s not hard to guess who’s money is left in their bank account to spend on something else.

I love the harsh shadows you made here with your Vivitar, and although he might not be a surfer, this young man sure got some air there for you. Well don’t on a great shot Omar, and congratulations on a well earned first place!

Just a quick note before we finish to let you know that this week I was interviewed by the folks at a great photography Web site, Fuel Your Photography. It was a fun interview so do check that out, and thanks to Jeremy Greenidge over at FYP for making this happen.


Show Notes

Interview on Fuel Your Photography: http://www.fuelyourphotography.com/featured-interview-martin-bailey/

Music from Music Alley: http://www.musicalley.com/


Audio

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