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Thread: Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

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    Goldcoastgolfer's Avatar
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    Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Given it's the new year here already I thought I'd commit myself and start my Project 52 thread. I've had a long, hard think about what I want to achieve in my photography for 2012, made all the more difficult by the fact that I'm still really only starting out.

    For me I really love photographing people and telling their story. It's why I bought my camera. And while I've learnt a lot about portrait photography (predominantly from here) in the last few months, I want to get to the point where the photos of people I take deliver a story with more depth than what I've been able to achieve so far.

    I think therefore that it means that I need to become much better at a broader range of photography - nature, landscapes, architecture, low light - I could go on and on. I hope to get better at the other styles of photography and then combine them with people to ultimately tell a story of sorts that engages the viewer instead of having someone look at my photos and think "that's nice".

    Re-reading what I just wrote I realise what I'm hoping to achieve is somewhat ambitious and daunting. But I figure you have to aim high in life. Shoot for the stars - you still might hit the moon, as they say. I'm looking forward to the challenge in any case.

    I thought I'd add the photo below as my baseline. This capture for me was my first photograph that elicited some sort of "wow" reaction from people that saw it. And it was taken with the worst lens that I own, which served to tell me that just maybe, I can take the occasional good shot. This is where I'm starting 2012 from and I hope to improve on it much further.

    Project 52 by Mal Schulstad
    Last edited by Goldcoastgolfer; 10th January 2012 at 08:27 AM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    That's quite a baseline to be starting from Malcolm.

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    Re: Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Very nice.

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    Re: Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Well Malcom, I must say that I think you've chosen the right style of photography. This shot is a beauty! The lighting is wonderful but what I really like is that although it's a simple shot on an emotional level it says so much and can and will mean something different to everyone who views it.

    Wendy

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    Goldcoastgolfer's Avatar
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    Re: Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Thanks everyone - although now I feel under pressure to perform! You all do realise that I have only one photograph of this calibre in my portfolio, right?

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    Re: Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldcoastgolfer View Post
    Thanks everyone - although now I feel under pressure to perform! You all do realise that I have only one photograph of this calibre in my portfolio, right?
    Not true, but everyone loves a challenge.

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    Re: Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldcoastgolfer View Post
    Thanks everyone - although now I feel under pressure to perform! You all do realise that I have only one photograph of this calibre in my portfolio, right?
    Don't worry Malcolm, you have an entire 168 hours to dazzle us again (just kidding)...

  8. #8

    Re: Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    As I have commented before I enjoy candid shots. I think if you had stepped left just once and caught that light line in front, it would have made the picture even better. IMHO

    Ryo

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    Goldcoastgolfer's Avatar
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    Project 52 Week 1 - Reluctant Subjects

    So I find life has a habit of making some decisions for me (or a least highlight them an inch from my nose in a flashing neon sign so I can't miss the message!). From an earlier post this week on a boudoir photograph and how reluctant some people are to have their photo taken, no matter the style, I decided to shoot people that were hesitant about being photographed.

    I originally started with my eldest son, and I do have some photos of him this week. However, the following day I managed to capture some candid photos of my mother, one of her alone and the other with Jasmine. She really hates her photo being taken!

    Now to put this into context, my mother is a vain woman. Absolutely beautiful on the inside but has always been obsessed with how she looks on the outside, probably because she has been blessed with good looks for most of her life, (and still has them IMHO). She doesn't like her photo being taken because she feels she's 'too old' and has too many wrinkles now.

    Some of the challenges that come from a reluctant subject (and by reluctant I mean someone who really, really doesn't want their photo taken but won't actually stop you from doing it) I've found to be the following:


    • They're not likely to position or pose for you which means you won't necessarily have the best light to photograph them in;
    • The shots will be candid, which means you may struggle to supplement any poor light with reflectors, diffusers, flash etc; and
    • They will probably be attempting to hide from the camera, a less than ideal way to capture a portrait.


    The technique (calling it that for want of a better word) that I use to try and get around someone's reluctance is to strike up a conversation with the subject. Often that actually means not looking through the view finder of my camera and taking photos as you see the expression on the subject's face change to one you want to capture. The conversation itself doesn't matter, but getting them engaged in one provides more natural expressions. Of course, if you want them to be smiling, it helps to be talking about something you both find funny

    For me it meant that I was taking the photos blind, but in hind sight, there are a few things that I could improve upon using this process. The two things that I will do next time using this process will be have the camera manually focussed to ensure that the camera is focussed on the right place in advance, and to actually use the LCD screen.

    Here are the end results:

    Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    I guess these photos don't represent anything extraordinary at the end of the day. I've post processed to my own style and touched up some of my mother's wrinkles so she doesn't complain too much and I think they've come out okay. However, my father who has very few pictures of my mother these days is ecstatic with them, particularly given his job is in a different country and they don't get to spend much time with each other these days.

    Which brings me to another point and perhaps the importance of this theme to me. Life is short and when you look back on a life, all you often have left are memories. Photographs can play an enormous part in bring back those memories and making a life feel so much more meaningful.

    I can remember when my grandmother passed away, we searched high and low for a portrait photo and really struggled to find one. She was such a beautiful woman but in looking through the albums, we never really got around to capturing that. I think it's very easy to get lost in taking photos of young children and forget everyone else, but there is beauty to be captured in people of all ages. And for those who are nearing the end of life's journey, I think it is really important that they're beauty be captured for future memories as well.

    To finish off this post, this week I also stumbled across a letter written to a photographer about why they cancelled a photo shoot with them. If anything I've written here strikes a chord within you, please go to my blog and read my "Life Is Short" Post. It's worth a read, particularly for those of you who really enjoy capturing portraits for people.

    Apologies for such a long post. I accidentally chose a theme (or it chose me) that really made me think this week about why we do the things we do. Sometimes it's about creating that stunning shot that makes people stop in their tracks. Sometimes it's simply just capturing a moment that can be cherished forever.

    Of course C&C appreciated.
    Last edited by Goldcoastgolfer; 10th January 2012 at 08:28 AM. Reason: Forgot to ask for C&C!

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Project 52 Week 1 - Reluctant Subjects

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldcoastgolfer View Post
    ..... I decided to shoot people that were hesitant about being photographed.
    That's a pretty big demand you're making of yourself. But you're of to a good start. The one of your mother with Jasmine is, in particular, a lovely image.

    I enjoyed reading what you have written. And it's images like these that do indeed contribute significantly to memories.

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    Re: Project 52 Week 1 - Reluctant Subjects

    All I can say is great job and good luck.

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    Re: Project 52 Week 1 - Reluctant Subjects

    Thanks guys.

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    Re: Project 52 Week 1 - Reluctant Subjects

    A very thoughtful post (no wonder you forgot to ask for C&C!) it really touched me, both my parents are in their nineties and we are living 5000 miles away.

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    Re: Project 52 Week 1 - Reluctant Subjects

    Wow Malcom. You set the bar hight for yourself with some really great shots. Very well done. Good luck!

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    Re: Project 52 Week 1 - Reluctant Subjects

    Well your mum still looks pretty & your shots have come out very well.. 50 more to go

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    Re: Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Or they will be counted as 2?

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    Goldcoastgolfer's Avatar
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    Re: Project 52 Week 1 - Reluctant Subjects

    Quote Originally Posted by dulceza View Post
    A very thoughtful post (no wonder you forgot to ask for C&C!) it really touched me, both my parents are in their nineties and we are living 5000 miles away.
    Thanks Dora. Glad you enjoyed the read

    Quote Originally Posted by jjbacoomba View Post
    Wow Malcom. You set the bar hight for yourself with some really great shots. Very well done. Good luck!
    Thanks Joe. I think what I've done for this week it's reinforced the need to learn to be patient when trying to capture something - and to wait for the right moments.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sahil View Post
    Well your mum still looks pretty & your shots have come out very well.. 50 more to go
    My mum's still arguing the point - although not as much now And it's actually 51 - my first post was just my starting point

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    Re: Project 52 Week 1 - Reluctant Subjects

    Both shots are beautiful. I love the expressions in the second shot. Pure joy in your daughters eyes and pride and joy in your Mom's

    Wendy

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    Project 52 Week 2 - Focussing On Action

    My week began with the idea of attempting to take photos of people from a different perspective. However the kids had other ideas and the theme quickly changed to attempting to take actions shots of the kids.

    Shortly after I decided on the change of theme an opportunity presented itself to work on my skills on freezing the kids in an action shot - while they were jumping off diving boards. It seemed like a simple enough exercise and I thought I might get some interesting shots.

    As it turns out, the shots themselves weren't that interesting. However what I learnt from this exercise was. Initially I thought the main challenges for this shoot were the low light and the difficulty finding a good position to take a photo without falling into the diving pool. I figured freezing the action would be a relatively simple matter of picking a fast enough shutter speed and high enough ISO.

    What I discovered however when I first started taking the photos was that images of the kids were nowhere near as sharp as I would like. My initial reaction was that the shutter speed wasn't fast enough. However dialling up the shutter speed didn't really help - and i was adding more noise to the photos.

    Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    It turns out that there's a lot about the Nikon D7000's auto-focussing system that I needed to learn about. There are a lot of different autofocus modes and choosing the right one I discovered is essential to maintaining a moving subject's sharpness. So is positioning yourself in the right place to give yourself the best opportunity of staying focussed. I won't go into the details now but if anyone with a D7000 is interested, I did manage to find a document that explains the auto-focussing system in a lot more detail that I can send on.

    The other lesson I learnt was one of "Picking the moment" versus "Continuous Shooting to get lucky". I'm more of a "Picking the moment" kind of guy. However when you've got someone running and jumping off a 5 meter diving platform, they're moving pretty fast. It's actually really, really hard picking the right moment, keeping the subject in focus, and keeping the shot framed as best you can all at the same time. In the end, I found that my "Picking the moment" shots ended up missing a leg, a foot, a head and other important bits. Using the "Continuous Shooting" mode on my camera allowed me to worry about two things instead of 3 (women may not have this problem as I believe guys are supposed to struggle with multi-tasking )

    Putting it all together I think I managed to cobble together some reasonable shots that remained sharp. I'm not overly excited about the composition - I struggled to create a scene that portrays the challenges the kids were facing coming off the diving boards. But I learnt a lot through this process.

    Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Project 52 by Mal Schulstad

    Gee I talk a lot!

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    Rob Douglas's Avatar
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    Looks like week two has taught you something new. Along with having the right focusing mode selected being able to pan is another key element to getting sharp images of moving subjects. I learned that lesson fast while shooting my daughters cheer leading competitions. My fav out of these would have to be your daughter doing what's looks to be a cannon ball. Nice and sharp and I love the expression on her face. Great work Malcolm!

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