The light meter in your digital camera, be it an SLR or a point & shoot, is a pretty darned sophisticated piece of electronic wizardry. Throw the meter into matrix mode, point your lens at a scene and shoot it, you’re going to get a “correct” exposure. The problem is, a correct exposure might not be what you’re looking for; your creative eye will look at a given scene and see it very differently from how the dead accurate, but unimaginative, meter does.
This neon art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston serves two purposes. It’s art, and it is a nice way to present the museum do’s and don’ts to visitors. The piece is located near the main gift shop in a well lit lobby. I took a couple of snap shots of the sign because it made me chuckle, but then started to wonder how I could make it a semi-worthwhile photo.
The neon is mounted on a stark white wall in a largely white room, pretty uninteresting as a photographic background. Blue light shining out of a black hole though would look pretty cool…outer space like even. How to make it happen? There are two light sources in this photo. One is the neon lights (conveniently that also happens to be our subject) and the ambient room lighting. I’m no genius with light, but solution to this problem is pretty simple; get a base exposure for the scene (which ended up being 1/30 sec, f8, ISO 800) and then work the shutter speed til you kill the ambient. Starting with that exposure, I took a series of shots, upping the shutter speed about 1/2 stop for each one; if I was good I could have guessed at the right shutter speed but I’m not. I ended up getting the effect I wanted at 1/160 sec, f8, ISO 800. The ambient light is gone completely and all we have is our funny neon artwork.
The above quote is attributed to Robert Capa, one of the founders of Magnum Photos. I believe Capa was mostly referring to the photojournalistic photographs for which he is famous, but it’s true enough for any style of photography. I spent some time at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on Sunday and took a few casual shots while I was there. Take a look at these two images and tell me which one you prefer.
The first image at least lets you know what you are looking at, an amazing glass sculpture, but the detail shot is the better, more interesting photograph by far in my estimation.
Each year in May the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Growers Association sponsors a sheep and wool festival. Basically it’s a farm show/craft fair oriented, not surprisingly, around yarn and wool crafts. Many merchants show up from around the New England area to hawk their goods plus there are the usual food and beverage stands, very much a country fair atmosphere. There are hand made goods available of course, plus tools and supplies for knitters, spinners, crocheters, and whatever else kind of wool related endeavor you can think of. You can buy hand spun and dyed yarn or for the truly committed (my wife) you can buy raw fleeces freshly shorn from the sheep that then need to be hand carded, spun into yarn, and dyed. My wife, and many others, do this for fun.
My wife usually goes to the festival every year, and often I’ll go along with her. The fairground where it’s held is a nice place to walk around and there are plenty of picture taking opportunities. And I like the country fair atmosphere, it’s a good time. Usually.
The last time I went I encountered my first ever episode of anti-photographeritis. Yarn merchants typically have their skeins of yarn laid out on tables or hanging from racks for display, and the color patterns are interesting and beautiful and, frankly, unavoidable if you are a photographer. There are no posted rules against photography on the site so I was happily snapping away at some displays when I hear, “excuse me, sir, excuse me! You can’t take pictures of that!” It was the woman who owned the booth and she was beside herself that I was taking shots of the yarn display. I mentioned that there were no rules against cameras and she said she didn’t care about that, HER colors were unique and she didn’t want pictures taken of them. I didn’t realize that I’d just met the first woman in the history of Western civilization to come up with the idea of dyeing yarn. It wasn’t a discussion worth having, so I put my camera down like a good boy and, like a good girl, my wife put back a few things she had picked up to purchase from the Mother of Yarn Dyeing and we moved on. It was an annoying and disturbing occurrence and had never happened to me before. I have to admit, it put me off for the rest of the day and I didn’t really enjoy it.
Here are a couple of shots I took that day. The yarn is from the Dye Queen’s collection. Shhhhh…
That makes it sound like I’m someone who might start blogs and then not stick with them. No, no, that’s not me.
Yes it is. But part of my New Year’s resolution was to start a blog about something I’m passionate about, and then stick with it. So, I love photography, so here goes…stick with me for as long as it lasts folks!