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Action Shots

>> Friday, December 2, 2011

For the last two years, I have been working on improving my photography of sports/action.  My dear friend M plays baseball with a local league, and, to my delight, I have somehow become the team photographer.  I shoot the games I can make it to, edit the shots, and post the photos on Picasa for the team to see and share with their friends and families.  I can't express how much fun I have doing it, largely because the guys on the team are absolutely wonderful - they are fun to spend time with, and are darn good ball players, too.  Now our friend S has started playing hockey in a local league, so I've been starting to photograph some of his games, too.

Shooting sports is vastly different from any other photography I do.  With most of my photography I am focused on artistic quality of shots, and spend a long time lining things up.  I often scrabble around on my stomach in the dirt to get just the right angle, and take several shots of the same thing using different camera settings.  

But when I am shooting sports action I've got one "shot" at each moment.  And I had better get it right. 

I have found that doing this kind of photography is really good for my camera skills.  It takes incredible concentration to follow the game and have the camera pointed in the right direction so that I capture that one great moment.  I am typically shooting through small openings in a chain link fence or between globs of dried sweat and saliva on the arena glass, too, and that complicates things.

I've learned what tricks I can use to up my shutter speed, where all the short-cut buttons are on my camera for changing settings quickly, and have gotten good at shooting quickly yet still getting steady shots.  That said, hockey moves really really fast, and there's less light in a hockey arena than you might think, so I still have a lot of learning left to do when it comes to hockey photography.

But just capturing a sports moment is not really enough.  Artistry matters in sports photos, too.  It's just a different type of art, and requires a lot of practice to be able to get it right without much time.  I have to be constantly be looking for that right moment, even when there isn't much action on the field or rink.  You never know when that poignant, funny, or classic sports moment might happen.

I've taken a lot of crappy sports shots, that's for sure.  Thank goodness for photo editing programs, because my horizon line tends to be completely drunk in most of my shots.  However, I have also gotten a couple - just a few - really good shots that I'm rather proud of.  Thought I'd share my favorites.


A Little Drooping Holiday Spirit

>> Thursday, December 1, 2011

A few years ago I started making my own holiday cards, featuring some of my art.  As with most things I do, however, once I get started on something like that, I have to outdo myself each year. 

This year, I spent some time with my lumpy Basset hound Simon and some holiday trimmings to get in the mood and get the right image to use for a painting.  Simon has a certain droopy hound quality that reminds me of the dog from The Grinch, which was sort of what I had in mind. I would have considered Phoebe for the experiment since I haven't painted her yet, but she won't sit still for a second, much less walk around the house with a set of antlers on her head.  Simon, incidentally, will wear the antlers, or a green elf hat we have, for hours until Phoebe takes them off him.  He's such a good sport. 

Two full days of painting later, and voila!  My 2011 holiday card painting.  Even after spending all that time working on it, it still cracks me up.  I love how his deadpan droopy Simon expression came through.


I am Alive... but the Turkeys Aren't

>> Monday, November 28, 2011

I know, I know, it's been an unforgivably long time since I've posted a damn thing.  I attribute it to a combination of severely overloaded schedule and writer's block.  Well, and photographer's block, too, really.  I haven't even had the camera out much this fall.

Though for this particular story I'm about to tell, you are all probably mighty glad I did not have the camera on hand.  In fact, I wasn't even personally present for the event.  It's my husband's story to tell but since he doesn't blog, I get to tell it.

Background:  I am not, nor will I ever be a vegetarian.  I simply cannot do it.  I crave meat.  Moreover, I have a lot of dietary restrictions for medical reasons, and could not handle cutting anything else out of my diet - it's hard enough for me to find things to eat as it is.  However, I am also a lover of critters and detest animal suffering of any kind.

I have tried my best to balance those two competing forces in my life by finding sources of meat that are outside the often horrifying large industrial farms that are the American norm.  There are far too many videos and stories told about mistreatment of animals for me to be sure any ordinary grocery store source of meat meets with my ethical standards.  I won't even delve into the food safety aspect of the American meat system. 

My husband and I have been lucky and blessed though.  In recent years, we have been buying almost all our meat and eggs from one particular farmer, a woman named Wendy, who sells her wares at the Regional Market in Syracuse.  She raises cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and turkeys on her farm called Sweet Grass Farm.  Her farm is not certified organic, but her animals are hormone and antibiotic free, and fed organic feed (or grass, weather permitting).  Better yet, she gives her animals a wonderful quality of life.  We've been to the farm.  We've seen it first hand.  And you can see it in her eyes when she starts talking about egg production, and whether "her girls" have been up or down in production because of the weather.

Wendy runs the farm all on her own, with all those livestock.  This year, she's been short handed because of some employee issues, and she has really been struggling to keep up.  Since we've struck up a friendship of sorts with Wendy over the years, in a moment of kindness, my husband asked her if there was anything he could do to help.  With gratitude, she asked if he would be willing to help with the Thanksgiving turkey prep.

And here is where my morals collided with reality.  At first I thought I would go assist.  In the end I (pardon the pun) chickened out.  I wish I could kill what meat I eat.  It seems to me like if I am not willing to kill it I shouldn't eat it.  But... I selfishly wanted to enjoy my Thanksgiving turkey and was afraid I wouldn't be able to if I assisted.

My husband, though, followed through.  Having raised and participated in slaughtering chickens when he was a kid, he wasn't intimidated. 

I won't go into too much graphic detail for those of you with weak stomachs. Wendy actually killed the birds since they knew her and wouldn't panic when she handled them.  My husband scalded them, and removed feathers and feet (did you know there are machines that pluck the small feathers off turkeys???  I didn't) and two other volunteers removed necks and innards. 

He's not sure how many turkeys they processed that day, but he guesses 50+.  It was, I gather, absolutely back breaking labor - I can't imagine hoisting a large turkey in each hand and hauling it around.  It was also dirty work.  God bless him, he had his clothing in the laundry before I got home.  Oddly, he said the dogs were keenly interested in sniffing him when he got home...

So this Thanksgiving?  I found I was impressed that my husband could do what he did, and thankful that he's the kind of man who would volunteer to do such hard labor to support someone and something he believes in.  (Though we did get our Thanksgiving turkey out of the deal - she wouldn't let us pay for it).  I was also thankful that my faith in Wendy's ethics was well-placed.  My husband can personally attest that her animals have a good life right through the end.  I am thankful I can afford to eat in a way I consider to be "ethical", and that we even found Wendy in the first place.

And yes, the turkey was positively delicious.  And I was thankful for that, too.


Last Gasp of Summer Weather

>> Sunday, October 9, 2011

We've had positively glorious weather this weekend!  It's felt like summertime during the sun-drenched days.  In between all the Super Dirt Week events (yes, I confess it, dirt track racing is my guilty pleasure) we managed to get in a brief photography trip Saturday morning.

We went to a place called Trenton Falls, which is just north of Utica near the junction of Routes 12 and 28.  Trenton Falls are on privately owned land, and are only open to the public a couple of weekends a year.  My Dad had raved about the place, so my husband and I decided to grab our photographer friend D and take a peek.

It is a lovely spot, with deep gorges and a series of water falls.  In autumn, there isn't much water coming over the falls - I imagine they would be much more impressive during spring runoff.  I gather the area was historically popular, with the signs showing quite a number of old photographs and prints of the falls.

Unfortunately, it was SO sunny on Saturday, and the sun was at the wrong angles, so getting good photos of the falls themselves was a bit tough.  On the other hand, all the sunlight made for some positively luminous fall leaf photos.

There are a few other nice little tidbits at Trenton Falls, including a sweet little overgrown cemetery enclosed by an ornate wrought iron fence, old industrial, concrete cradles that used to support a giant water pipe, and an old barn with some character.  All told, those little extras provided me with the type of photography opportunities I relish - a mix of nature and decaying human construction.

Here are my favorite shots:


Vehicular Vignette

>> Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I am totally behind in putting up posts, yet again, and now they're going to go up out of order, but I am too excited about these pics to wait to post them later.  I'm impatient like that.  Besides, I don't have to look up plants or mushrooms to identify them, like I need to do with a couple of my nature posts that are waiting in the wings.

This past weekend was the Jordan Fall Festival, which is a little local annual event my tiny Village is very proud of.  On the Sunday of the festival each year they have a car show, and this year there were more than 400 cars in it.  I grabbed my camera and my husband and I did a quick tour of it.  I really didn't have time to linger, since I had so many other activities crammed into my weekend.  I hadn't really expected to get photos I would do anything with, but as per my usual, once I started taking photos I got lost in the moment and wound up with a whole bunch of shots. 

Thank goodness for the invention of digital photography - if I had to pay to develop all my photos I would be woefully broke.

I found it hard to resist capturing a little of the character of the show.  There's no doubt that a lot of car enthusiasts have a sense of humor.  I snapped a couple of pictures just because the signs made me laugh:

But then, when I downloaded all my pictures, I was rather tickled some of them.  When I took the shots, I was focusing on just three things: the bright colors, the beautiful old-fashioned lines of the cars, and the reflections in all the shiny paint and chrome and glass.  Some of the photos turned out looking kind of like abstract art.  Others are wonderfully complex because of all that's contained in the reflections, even when they are showing just a tiny snippet of the car.  And the colors and lines I think make for a nice theme.

So, without further ado, my little car show vignette:

My favorite car in the show - a 1960 MG, British racing green with a tan leather interior.  I am such a sucker for cars with that color combination.  My favorite classic car of all time is a 1950 Jaguar XK 120, in those colors.  Yuuummmy.  But this little beauty was lovely, too.


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