Archive for October, 2010

Assignment No. 7



1/60, f-22

The Napa River: early morning at the boat launch in Kennedy Park.  I like the warm tones of the dock versus the cool colours of the water and the sky in this photograph, and the reflection of the hill on the other side of the river. 


1/60, f-14

Verboten.  Rather than keep me out, this fence looks like it’s keeping this poor oak tree in!  I took this photograph in black and white because I liked the contrast of the dark foliage of the tree against the grey, foreboding sky.  I think the yellow of the dead grass may have diverted the eye away from the captive tree.


1/80, f-14

Walnut Drive, Oakville.  Besides the city of Napa, Oakville boasts one of the widest parts of the valley floor.  I was hoping I’d find a tree-lined road that ran from Hwy 29 to the base of the Mayacamas, and here one is.  I like the size difference between the mature trees on the right and the young trees on the left.  This road looks like it may go on forever, but the hills will eventually get in the way.


1/50, f-25

A view through a bridge.  Taking a peek at the landscape through perhaps the largest manmade structure in Napa County.  New Topographics?  Early morning, hazy day: I like the muted tones.


 1/60, f-18

Through the round window: Oakville.  Taking a peek at the landscape…part 2.  My one picture of a vineyard,  taken from indoors, looking east towards the Vaca Mountains.  I walked up to the window and metered on the sky, which made the pink stucco walls of the room that I was in all but disappear.   I like this photograph, the window frame acts almost like a picture frame, but not quite Pictorialism

Thoughts and Observations.

The weather, once more, did not exactly cooperate this week.  But, the haziness that persisted most off the week actually produced some nice muted colours that were pleasant to the eye.  I find that I can’t quite capture, in  a photograph, what I intend to.  Ultimately, I find that the landscape still looks more beautiful with the wide-angle-naked-eye.  Hopefully, practice makes perfect.  It was interesting trying to keep vineyards out of my photographs.  Driving around Napa, I usually take vineyards for granted, but they are everywhere (as are a lot of manmade structures.)

All photographs were taken with auto white balance and no tripod, so my shutter speeds never got too slow for me to have to worry about blur.  I liked that the whole assignment let me further practice maximum depth of field, in pursuit of capturing the big picture.


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Assignment No. 6

B&W vs. Colour. 

Part I.


 1/10, f4

One man and his dog.  I don’t think I know anyone who would actually pose for a portrait for me.  This photo is somewhat candid, as I sat on the floor and pretended to be messing around with my camera whilst my husband took a quick peek at the Niners/Raiders game.  Wanting to see why her humans were relaxing, Tilly Mint wandered over and climbed up on her dad’s lap.  Dogs aren’t allowed on furniture in our house, but in this instance I did not protest as I wanted to take a photograph.   A floor lamp, to my husband’s left,  lends a nice warm glow to his face and is reflected on the white ceiling.  In black and white, the scene is cold and changed – I much prefer this photograph in colour.  I like the quasi-leading line as you follow the dog’s neck upwards until the two noses meet.



1/60, f2

The valley floor.  Perched atop a dry-stone wall, I am looking down at the Screaming Eagle vineyard in Oakville.  I wanted to get elevated as much as I could to try to capture the topography of this particular part of the valley.  The Bradford pear trees, that circle the vineyard pond, are just beginning to show their autumn colours.  Taken at about 5.30 pm the sun is low, over the Mayacamas to my right, and is casting a yellowish glow over the grapevines that are going through senescence.  The entire photograph is filled with colour, even the smokey blue-greys of the hills in the distance.   In contrast, the black and white version of the same scene draws the eye to the rows of grapevines and the lines and patterns they form in the landscape.

Object or Objects.

1/15. f5.3

Red and green bell peppers.  Unloading my groceries, I remembered that red and green are complementary colours.  In colour, these peppers are so bright, the red bell pepper is almost vibrating with red-ness!.  In black and white, the reflection from the window in front of the peppers and the soft curvature and form of the shoulders of the vegetables is what I notice more.

 My Choice 1.

1/13, f5.6

Rain, rain, go away… actually, don’t!   Every cloud has a silver lining – for me, my now highly reflective wet deck proved to be a good subject matter for the first photograph I took for this weeks assignment.  In colour, the eye is drawn to the very pink ball and the multi-coloured, striped fabric of the deck chair.  In black and white, the eye is drawn to the horizontal and vertical lines the deck and the reflected railings create on the wet surface.

My Choice 2.

1/30, f6.3

The last of this years tomatoes.  In colour, very vivid reds, oranges and yellows, and the contrasting green of the stalks.  In black and white the form of the tomatoes is more apparent, and the water drops on the flesh from being washed are more noticeable because they are reflecting light.  Also, because the brilliant colours do not totally distract the grain of the table becomes a little more obvious.

Part II.

My Choice 1.

1/50, f5

Caberenet sauvignon grapes hanging on the vine look like one great mass of blue velvet.  However, in black and white the roundness of each little orb of grapey-goodness is accentuated.

My Choice 2.

1/60, f5.6

Quercus suber – the Cork Oak.  On the grounds of the Napa State Hospital there are several examples of this particular species of oak tree from which the bark is harvested for cork.  In colour, the outer bark of this tree is grey and weathered, the inner bark is the yellowy-tannish colour of, let’s say, a wine cork.  In colour there is much more depth of field, as your eye travels from the outer cork to the inner cork.  In black and white, some of the texture of the cork is lost, and only grey patterns are observed.

My Choice 3.

1/60, f5.3

Barbed wire is not very colourful at the best of times, sometimes it can be rusty.  In black and white it becomes more abstract and menacing…or am I being overly anthropomorphic?  I find this image a little unsettling – it seems the wire is going around, and around, and…

My Choice 4.

1/60, f16

Logs.  We are used to looking at wood as, well, wood coloured.  Without those often soft, brown and tan hues of unstained wood, the eye is drawn to the texture of the bark and the grain and splits in the exposed surfaces of this hewn wood.

My Choice 5.

1/125. f22

I just had to use my peacock feather one more time!  Usually, the vivid peacock-blue and other colours of this feather define it’s very being.  In black and white my eye is drawn more to the form of the feather, and the patterns the colours have created, rather than the colours themselves.  It really does look like an oversized eye now, that  a peacock would spread wide in his tail to intimidate an enemy.

Thoughts and Observations.

I thought this was the most difficult assignment thus far.  Again, subject matter proved to be quite a challenge.  Also, the weather did not cooperate this week,  instead of observing shadow and light, I found myself looking instead at colours and contrast.  Rain, fog and cloud – nothing was throwing shadows this week, or if it was, I missed it because I was at work.  I discovered that I’m not as big a fan of black and white photography that I thought I was:  I like colour.  Some things, whilst acceptable in B&W, just work better in colour…we see in colour and I think our brains are hard-wired to appreciate bright, colourful objects that are pleasing to the eye.

Just for fun.

The pantry.  WordPress would not let me post my horizontal pictures side by side.  I played around in Picasa to see if I could create a collage of one of my rejected colour vs. black and white subjects, that could be viewed at the same time.  Voila!

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Assignment No. 5

Still Life.


1/15, f-13, ISO 400

The marginalisation of the American Indian.  The once proud, indigenous people of North America have been unfortunately reduced to Halloween tchotchke.  I used an oil painting, Jack American Horse, by Richard Lorenz as my entire background.  The hatchet looking stone object is an original Indian artifact, and I added indian corn as corn would have been a staple of the North American Indian diet.  The Chief Skull, the brightly coloured Halloween Chief’s headdress, and the Rubber Ducky Chief are all modern-day affectations.

This photograph was taken indoors with some side lighting from the afternoon sun, but also a desk lamp pointed at the Halloween kitsch.  I wanted Jack American Horse’s face to seem dark and foreboding, to see  if I could somehow illustrate how he might have felt about the fate of his people.  I used an ISO of 400, but in hindsight I wish I had used a higher one to achieve more noise because I think this photo would have perhaps looked more interesting if it was more painterly and more grain might have achieved that I intended the photograph to be quite warm and yellow to accentuate the gaudy cheapness of the rubber duck and brightly dyed feathers.

Beauty and Aesthetics.

1/125, f-18, ISO 200

A peacock feather.  Once again Mother Nature achieves real beauty, and pure aesthetics.  I took this photograph on a white-painted window sill in the full afternoon sun.  I wanted full sun conditions in order to capture the iridescence and colours of the peacock feather, as it would perhaps look when the peacock was displaying his tail in a courtship ritual.  I like the contrast between all the colour of the lower left, and the whiteness of the negative space in the top right.  I also like the shadows of some of the slender, individual feathers, they add extra texture to what we normally would perceive as just a brightly coloured feather.


1/40, f-32, ISO 1600

Water into wine.  Symbolic of Jesus Christ’s first miracle at the wedding at Cana.  But, even if you’re not religious, you have to know that wine is mostly composed of water and wine grapes would not grow without it.  Water is important to all of us.

I took this picture indoors with some back-lighting from the afternoon sun, and a flashlight directly shining on JC himself.  I chose to take this photograph in black and white to emphasise that water is clear and pure: no colour to distract the eye.  I experimented with the highest ISO, 1600, that my camera would permit because I wanted the photograph to be somehow other-worldly and perhaps ethereal.  I was inspired to do a photograph with a religious theme as quite a few of past students work had included Catholic symbolism.  The white rosary beads are from my First Holy Communion, in 1971!

My Choice 1.

1/100, f-22, ISO 200

The potting bench.  Late afternoon sun and terracotta, a nice warm composition.  I wanted a traditional type of still life photograph, and just like Imogen Cunningham, I went about my immediate environment in search of something to inspire me.  A pile of unused clay pots and fallen leafs did the trick.  This was perhaps the easiest of the photographs I took because the light outdoors was easy to work with, and so very straight forward.

My Choice 2.

1/80, f-22, ISO 200

A few of my favourite things.  I love anything blue and white, these two colours together are just so pleasing to my eye.  So, I own quite a few blue and white things…these are a few that I just put together quickly, again wanting to try a more traditional still life composition.  The early morning sun lent some interesting shadows to the scene.  I ran over to my neighbours and picked some chicory (my favourite blue weed this time of year), and added it to the photograph.  Unfortunately, the shadows had shifted and I wasn’t happy with the resulting photographs.  So, I chose this simple little picture, with its chicory-less mug, as one of the ‘my choice’ pictures for this weeks assignment.  Clean and crisp.

Thoughts and Observations.

This was quite a difficult assignment, it took a lot of thought and planning to come up with appropriate subjects.  No matter what the subject is however, I find it rather difficult to achieve the results I desire without proper lighting. I often try to deal with low light conditions and the photographs produced are more often than not disappointing.   It is so much easier to take photographs outdoors where the camera lens seems happiest, and I don’t have to wrestle with my brain trying to understand what the lens is asking me to do.  I can see that still life requires a lot of practice, coupled with imagination.  I am determined to learn more about lighting and composition.

Overall I am quite pleased with the results.

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