Babies!!

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, but it’s been a long month.  I’ve also been shooting a lot of film that I haven’t been able to scan yet, but we’ll see if I ever end up talking about those anyway…o_O  My new favorite toy is shooting with polaroids…I love the instant gratification with film!  But the downside is that I usually end up giving the photos to the person in the photo, so I don’t end up with a copy for myself…oops!!

Recently, my favorite subject to shoot are babies and toddlers =D  Fantastic for me because I have quite a few friends who have young kids.  I know my wife secretly sighs and rolls her eyes when I casually bring up, “hey, do you think So-and-So will like it if I take pictures of their son/daughter?”  She just amuses me by smiling and saying, “Yes, I’m sure they will love it.”    So, I just wanted to share recent favorites from two adorable toddlers!

First one is Wyatt, who just recently had his 2 year old birthday party.  His parents bought him this TOTALLY AWESOME toy train set that every kid wants and every adult dreamed they had when they were 2 years old…or maybe even now.  So, I thought it would be fun to take a few photos of him playing with his super cool toy.   These were tricky because I wanted to shoot in his comfort spot (home), be able to interact with his toys, but still not give a “home-snapshot” look.  Converted to black and white so there won’t be any distracting colors, or otherwise it will look more obvious that these were shot in a living room.

The next adorably cute baby is Lydia, who just melts my heart every time I see her.  We shot these in Discovery Green park in downtown Houston.  It was rather fun to see quite a number of photographers there taking photos of the park itself…I always keep peering to see what kind of equipment they use.  I guess it’s the gadget guy party of me.   Anyway, Lydia was irresistibly cute as always, but SO difficult to (manually) focus on because of her incredible energy!  I don’t know how her daddy and mommy keep up with her…whew.  Lighting was difficult because it was a very bright, sunny day out, and she had the attention span of a squirrel, so I couldn’t get her to stand still to try some strobing.   So, we kept trying to duck into the shaded areas for even lighting.   Here are some my favorites:

Like I said earlier, I love shooting babies…too cute!  Best part is that they don’t mind having their picture taken at all unlike adults who shy away from the camera…or maybe the babies aren’t mobile enough to run away yet!  Either way, I can’t wait til I become a “papa”razzi…oh yes, that’s right!! =D

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Testing..

Two photos from my last post that I think look much better when enlarged.  Just a test to see if my new layout works better for posting large photos…

San Diego

Two years with my wonderful wife.  We went to San Diego (where I went to college) for a little celebration.  One of the huge benefits of getting married on a three day weekend is being able to take short weekend vacations on your anniversaries =D  My wife humored me over this vacation though, she didn’t complain when I packed more camera equipment than clothes for our little trip.

San Diego was a huge artistic challenge to shoot.  Why would I say that, since it’s such a beautiful place?  Well, that’s the precise reason – how do I photograph a a beautiful place in a unique way that presents a different perspective from just anyone with a camera?  I really don’t know, and I don’t think I succeeded, but I tried my best.  Here are a few from the different spots we visited over the weekend…San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Coronado beach.  All were taken with the D700, used either 21mm, 28mm, 58mm, or 100mm.  Wish I was able to bring my medium format equipment with me, but I think that would have pushed my wife over the edge…heh O:-)

I linked some of the better photos here, but there are still some others on my Flickr site if you like to see more.

And most importantly, of course, the wonderful girl who I shared all these great memories with…=D

Happy anniversary, sweetie.  Love you 🙂

New lenses

New lenses mean one thing: need more opportunities to go shooting.  Okay, maybe it means a few more things than that.  Actually, in this case, it does.  New lenses were acquired by selling other ones.  So that means now, I don’t have any more autofocus and/or zoom lenses.  Kind of funny, with all of this technological advancement, I feel like the best equipment for me still ends up being the ones with the least bells and whistles.

One of my new lenses is a 28mm prime.  I’m in love with it already.  I brought it to a birthday party last weekend, and it was perfect for the setting.  Wide angle on full frame, close focusing.  Aperture opens only to f/2 though…wish it were faster.  Nikon seriously needs to get their butt into gear and release a 24 or 28/1.4.

A few from the party:

Since the wifey is out of town these few days, I also dropped by Hermann Park for a little photo walk.  I’ve been to Hermann many times now, and honestly…I’m kind of uninspired.  (One of my friends mentioned that I sounded almost a little bitter in a previous post because I complained about how there’s nothing interesting to shoot in Houston…heh, I don’t intentionally do it!  But maybe it’s something subconscious o_O ).  But, like the assignment I mentioned before, sometimes we need to force ourselves in a “normal” looking setting and use your creativity to make something interesting out of it.  (That’s why I love taking pictures of babies – nothing ever normal!  They’re always adorable!)  So, here are a few of my attempts at making something look more interesting…

What do you think?  Let me know!

Hope you guys enjoyed looking 🙂

Behind The Scenes – Worship Practice

The last two weeks, I had the privilege to play for our Sunday morning worship.  I was surrounded by incredibly talented musicians – I really wasn’t sure what I was doing there myself 🙂

However, I thought I would take advantage of the situation, and use a photojournalistic approach to show of some behind-the-scenes moments of how these talented folks prepare for Sunday morning worship.  I’ll try to keep the text to a minimum, just a few captions to describe what’s going on.  I hope the photos can express something by themselves.  Since these photos are taken over the course of two weeks, different people might appear to play the same instruments or roles.

Our practice was scheduled for Friday evenings for both weeks.  Friday evenings are precious times to give up, but these people are dedicated.  They arrive at church ready for hard work.

Musicians (not comprehensive due to lack of pictures, sorry!):

Esther and Jeremy.  Both are college students back at home for the summer, and both with some of the most incredible vocals I’ve ever heard.   If only you could hear them through pictures…

Anny, one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, and makes a piano sound like the way you think music will be in heaven.

James – a great guy, friend, (ex) roommate.  He’s amazing on the keys, but also has talents and skills with several  different instruments o_O  Music flows through his veins.

Daniel – I met him for the first time when playing with these folks, but there’s no doubt his sixth sense is a metronome.

Isaque – such a nice, helpful guy with a beautiful family.  His music skills?  Well, he teaches guitar at New Heart Music Ministries…enough said 😉  (although you would never tell from his humble behavior)

Peter – our humble leader.  We all love him, he commands our attention through his servant heart.  Here he is exemplifying (what I believe should be) worship:

Practice Session

Our fearless leader (with his supportive wife) telling us about the songs he chose, why he chose them, and how he hopes people will be blessed through them.

And the others intently analyzing and discussing how to play the songs.

Sunday Morning Breakfast

There’s something special about sharing a meal together.  I don’t know what it is, but breaking bread together with brothers and sisters makes us grow closer.  Peter generously treats us to breakfast on Sunday morning before practice, not only for the sake of providing food, but more for the purpose of this bonding time.

Ellie, Peter’s mother-in-law, another worship leader, and also our pastor’s wife, joins us on Sunday morning as well to encourage us.

Prayer

As with all ministry, nothing is effective without prayer.  Peter reminds us to always start and end with prayer.  It’s only God who makes things happen, no one else.

Unfortunately, this is all I have for now.  Perhaps I will be able to share some more if I can join in again in the future.  Hope you have enjoyed this. 🙂

Too lazy to travel

I once read about a photography teacher who gave a series of assignments (or something along these lines): 1) take an interesting photo of something within a mile of your house 2) take an interesting photo of something within 500 yards of your house 3) take an interesting photo of something within 100 yards of your house, and etc.  I suspect the purpose of the assignment was to teach and emphasize how much your creativity, composition, and control of your camera is more important than an “interesting” subject.  After all, anyone can take a photo of a gorgeous sunset or a beautiful piece of architecture – a lot of times, the photo only ends up being a snapshot of what is already there.  Or, in the case of architecture, it’s really just a snapshot of what someone else has created.  Just my personal opinion, of course, feel free to disagree with me.

As such, one of my personal goals lately is to find photo opportunities right around the places I see every day.  Or, you can interpret it as, I’m too lazy to go anywhere to find photo opportunities 🙂  Texas, and especially Houston, is arguably one of the most ugly places for scenic photos, whether nature, landscape, or architecture.  There are a few interesting places around here, but every other person with a camera can take a photo of the Mecome fountains (three fountains in Herman Park on Main St.), for example, and they eventually all end up looking the same no matter who clicked the shutter.

The outdoor light during the day was bright and soft last week due to some overcast rain clouds, and it just happens to be my favorite type of outdoor light.  So I grabbed my medium format camera, jumped in my car, and zoomed off to…right outside the neighborhood of where I live.  Seriously, too lazy to go anywhere.  The drive didn’t even last 2 minutes…I could have walked there if it weren’t raining on and off.

Overall, I’m decently proud of these two following photos for two reasons: 1) like I mentioned above, the challenge of creating a decent looking photograph just within my everyday surroundings and 2) no light meter!  :O   (For those who are unfamiliar with the term, light meters are the sensors in the camera that tell you if the combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO will make your photo too bright or too dark.  Of course, we usually want to be Goldilocks and aim right for the middle – just right.  This is usually automatically determined if you use a point and shoot.).  Seriously, no light meter in this camera, and I was too lazy to bring a second camera with a light meter, and no way in heck am I going to spend 200 bucks on a handheld light meter.  So I just guesstimated the aperture/shutter speed values, erred on the side of overexposing, and click!   Thank God negative film has such large latitude.

Bronica S2, Nikkor 13.5cm f/3.5 and Nikkor 7.5cm f/2.8, Kodak Portra 160VC

This last image, I took at the dog park over the weekend when I brought my stinky dog for his every-two-week trip to the park.  I really, really love this image for it’s emotive value, but it kills me that I didn’t focus on his face properly.  Well, my excuse is that manual focusing with medium format cameras is ridiculously hard on subjects that dart back and forth 😛  And yes, this guy was keeping up with the best of them.  Perhaps though, for the sake of artistic value and making up nonsense to sound philosophical, it’s an even bigger statement that the focal plane falls on what the dog no longer has…

Bronica S2, Nikkor 13.5cm f/3.5, TMAX400 – my favorite black and white film so far…I’ll be sticking with this one for a while.

Hope you guys are entertained 🙂

When Wife Gives You Lemons…

…you go shoot some photos.  I guess that isn’t as catchy.

Last week, my wife “kicked” me out of the house because she had guests coming over.  She actually didn’t make me leave, but my only other option was watching tv all night in my bedroom, which I really can’t do either.  So, I grabbed two of my cameras and drove out for a few hours during the evening without a clue of where to go or what to shoot.  Thankfully some ideas popped into my head…

First place I went to was this grassy area near 610 and Braeswood.  Sadly, it’s one of the largest patches of greenery in Houston that I know of.  I’m not a big scenery shooter, but I rather like the way this first photo turned out:

This is why medium format rocks my socks off.  A lot easier for photos with subject isolation and precise DOF.  Plus, the viewfinder looks amazing…although the image that appears is backwards.  It still throws me off and makes me dizzy o_O  Details: Zenza Bronica S2, Portra 400VC, and uh…I don’t remember which lens.  If I had to guess, the Nikkor 13.5cm f/3.5 .

Next, I went to a church on Main St., actually turns out to be right across the street from where I play basketball on Saturday mornings.  It was moody and terrifyingly creepy, and I tried to reflect it in a few of these photos.  Coincidentally, it actually started raining and thundering while I was there.  o_O!!

Details: Nikon D700 and fun glass 😉

Honestly though, my favorite photo subjects are people, especially friends.  For me, the most beautiful sceneries, flowers, wildlife, etc. will never beat portraits and/or candids of people captured in a photo which reflects their personality or that moment – a photo that tells you a story of what is happening with them in that moment.  For example, my friends D and C were married this past weekend, and I hope they’ll cherish some of these photos from that day…

http://www.flickr.com/photos/panda81/3767348015/

Details: D700, fun glass 🙂

By the way, if you’re taking photos at a wedding, never get in the way of the hired professional.  I felt so bad for the hired professional in this wedding…there was one person who walked right in front of the professional’s camera countless times to snap his own shot.  No good!

Honestly, I’m just writing all of this to keep up with a habit so this website won’t become cyberspace driftwood.  Hope you guys enjoyed some of these photos 🙂

If you’re interested, there are more photos from each outing on my Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/panda81