Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More Tobacco - Seedlings

I have a few more shots from my trip to the tobacco farm a few weeks ago that I'd like to share. They're not the best photos I've taken, but I'm still learning with every shot, so they're still valuable to me.

I wandered into this field only a few hours after it had been planted. See, the plants are grown from seed in greenhouses and then the seedlings are transplanted into the fields in the spring.

You can see the marks in the soil left by the tractor wheel in the foreground.

As I've mentioned, the shade covering the field made the light somewhat flat inside, so I find that the colors are too ashy in the photo. I tried to adjust the colors to more closely reflect the actual richness of the soil and the vivid green of the plants.

I also cropped and leveled the photo to bring the focus to the lower left corner. I like the sharpness, but I still think something is missing. I just don't know what it is.

In the next shot I tried to get a macro-style close-up of one of the seedlings. I couldn't get the camera positioned just right because I was awkwardly straddling some of the plants and was afraid that I might crush one.

Again, the colors look too ashy so I adjusted them, and the whole thing looks crooked again. Those things are easy enough to fix, and I also cropped the photo to be in portrait alignment so that the plant would have more impact.

What really bothers me about this shot is that the position of the horizon is placed awkwardly in relation to the top of the leaf in the background.

Maybe the contrast is better in black-and-white? I'm not sure.

Here's a fun one.

When the tractor comes through the field to plant the seedlings it sometimes drops one or two outside the shade tents. Those plants just stay there and will eventually be crushed by the various farm equipment and people who work the fields, or they will wilt away since they are not watered and lay unprotected from the sun.

As I was poking around I found one of these plants that still looked relatively intact. I scooped it up and took it to the end of the field. I set up my tripod to focus on a little shrub I saw, set the timer and ran to stand in front of it, holding my little seedling.

Ignoring how terrible I look in this photo, I was most interested in my hands and the plant. I cropped it pretty close (and was thankful that I took the photo in full resolution so that I didn't lose too much sharpness).

The few hours of being left out in the sun made the seedling a bit wilted, but I still like this shot.

And if you're reading this, Dad, I promise - it was a stray seedling. I didn't dig up the field to get it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tobacco Barns

I'm so far behind on this project that I've all but given up on it. I see the assignments go by on my calendar, and I have plenty of ideas for things I'd like to photograph for them, but my ideas are becoming more ambitious, and I can't find the time necessary to set up and capture them the way I'd want to.

Instead, I'm trying to take pictures when I can and pay more attention to framing and lighting as I go. I figure that if I concentrate on taking better pictures with the time and equipment I have, I'll be more likely to know how to take advantage of a better camera once I make the decision to upgrade.

Not long ago I went back to the tobacco fields to take the photos for the "Looking In" assignment. The seedlings were in the ground and it was a bright and perfect day.

I took this picture of some of the sheds. I really, really like it. The grass is the green you only see in springtime, and the sky couldn't have been more lovely.

I did fiddle with the contrast a bit, but for the most part, the photo is SOOC.

I had a coupon and had the photo printed on canvas, and it looks nice sitting here in the office. I plan to go back to the tobacco fields periodically during the growing season and I'll have the best shots printed up and scattered throughout the office.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Looking In" - Seedlings

This winter I went out to the tobacco fields in my area to take some photos. Among my favorites was this one, which showed the fields covered in snow and ice.

I went back to the farm last week.

They are in the process of planting the tiny seedlings right now, and I thought it would be interesting to see how different things look when they are awake and alive.

This is the photo I took, straight out of the camera. I miss the trees in the distance, but because I wanted to see what was actually under the tent, I couldn't get too high.

Obviously, the light coming from my right makes the barn too dark, but I boosted the contrast to make up for it as best I could.

I also cropped out most of the dirt road in the foreground and ended up with this:

It's okay, but only just okay, in my opinion. I didn't anticipate that the difference in light outside the shade would make it so difficult to get nice shots of the green tobacco within. Obviously, since I work in the tobacco business myself, I wanted to make the tobacco look as nice as possible.

I took some closer shots of the tobacco itself, but that's not for this assignment. Today I am "looking in."

Again, in order to "look in" I needed to stand in the bright sunlight and take pictures into the shade. I am not sure if a better camera (DSLR) would be able to help with this problem, but since I don't have one of those, I tried to do the best with what I have.

I adjusted and cropped again, hoping to make the soil look rich and the plants look vibrant.

Better, but somehow the focus got too tight on the nets and the plants look somewhat mushy.

Trying again...

Straight out of the camera, above, and edited for color below.

Still disappointing, so I drove around until I found another field that I liked.

I took this from my car, using the open window as a tripod. The foreground is the other side of the road, so I cropped it out to make the story about the tobacco.

This is the final image, and I'm happiest with this shot. I like the lines and the colors are closer to what I actually saw in the field.

I plan to go back to this farm over the next several months to see the progression of the crop. Hopefully by the end I will have found a solution for my lighting issues. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Temptation" - Apple

The problem with cliches is that they're the first things that pop into my mind when I see these assignments sometimes. This week, for example, I haven't been able to get past the connection between Temptation and Adam and Eve.

If I'd had access to a serpent I'd probably have used it in the photo too.

Anyway, I asked my husband to buy me a few perfect apples for this assignment, and in the end I decided to use a beautifully round Cortland apple.

At least, I think it's a Cortland.

All I did to edit the shot was straighten it and deepen the contrast a touch.

I resisted the urge to saturate the colors. I wanted them to be bright, but I was afraid they'd look fake if I made them any more vivid.

The red of the apple pops against the green of the new growth on the trees - just as I hoped they would.

I have a small island in the yard where we have planted some shrubs and perennials. I took my apple there and balanced it on a mossy rock and used the leaves of our iris plant to accent it.

I love the texture of the rock, but I hate the glare on the apple. I only had a short time to take photos (while the kids took a nap) so I didn't have the time or means to prevent it, but it does bother me.

Cropped a little tighter, and with colors boosted slightly, I like this shot. I like the vertical lines of the leaves in contrast with the horizontal line of the rock.

If I could remove the glare I'd be very happy with this shot.

Finally, I decided to look at the variety of apples my husband brought for me.

I call it "Pick Your Poison."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting Back Into It - Bald Head Island

I have fallen off the photography wagon, so to speak. For the past several weeks I've watched the themes pass by on my calendar but haven't managed to do much more about them than think of photos I'd like to take.

The week of vacation I spent with my daughters and my mom (and my sister and father) would have been an ideal opportunity to gather some good shots for the "Mother" assignment, for example.  And I think that I could have done some interesting things with the balloons I got for my daughter's birthday for the "Up" theme from last week.

Of course, I didn't do any of those things. I hit a funk of sorts. The illness of a friend and her ultimate passing last week has kept me from accomplishing much beyond the basic tasks that keep a family of five running.

I've decided that I need to get back into this project. I think that it will help me to spend some time alone with my camera, so I'm going to ignore the assignments that I have missed and go forward with the remaining ones.

The theme for next week is "Temptation". I have some ideas.

In the meantime, I have taken a few photos that I'd like to share.

I mentioned that I was on vacation with my daughters. The boys stayed home to enjoy a week of drinking milk from the carton and eating cold raviolis out of the can. (I actually don't know what they did together, but I'm sure table manners were not a high priority.)

This is where we went. It is the beach of Bald Head Island, North Carolina.

Granted, this is not a particularly original subject or framing for a shot, but I always liked to see the sand, surf, sky, and grasses of the beach put together.

The sky was so perfect that day. "Not a cloud," as they say.

I walked closer to the water, turned to my right, and saw this scene.

I actually really like this shot. I like the color (this is completely untouched), and I love the one person sitting under an umbrella on the right side. I started to walk down the beach to get a little closer so the figure and umbrella would be clearer, but before I took two steps she stood up, collapsed her umbrella, and packed up her things to leave the beach.

I tried to crop the photo to bring the umbrella closer, but I always lost too much of something else so I left it as-is.

Before I left the beach I happened to see a piece of driftwood that looked interesting.

I love the texture of driftwood. So much contrast.

I wanted to see the wood in the context of the beach, so first I tried to frame it so that I could still see a lot of the sand and surf behind it.

I'd set my area of focus to the lower left corner and then held my breath to try and get a steady shot without a tripod.

Then I went to the other end of the log and focused on the texture I found there.

The closer I got, the more I wanted to shoot from a lower angle to really capture the grooves in the wood.

Nope. Lower.

Even lower.

Okay, maybe that's too low.

In the end, I think this one is my favorite of the bunch. I increased the contrast and sharpness a tad.

Overall, I'm happy with the few shots I was able to take on my own while on vacation. I am excited to get out and rejoin this project. Next up..."Temptation."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Work" - Mouse and Keyboard

For this assignment I took a slightly different approach.

Instead of using my regular camera, I decided to play with my "Retro Camera" app on my phone. I"ve used it a little bit with the kids, and it gives some interesting effects.

I chose my mouse and keyboard as my subjects.

I'm always surprised by how sharp the photos are.

Okay, so my keyboard is a little dusty, but the stark quality of the photo intrigues me.

I like the grain of this one and the curve of the mouse is interesting to me, especially if it is held next to the sharp lines of the keyboard.

Same idea, different effect.

One of my favorite variations of this camera is this one.

The filmstrip look is really fun. Perhaps they won't win any awards, but for an app on my phone, I think the results are pretty interesting.

The app takes a long time to focus, so it's hard to use on squirmy kids, but I keep trying.

"Excitement" - Tricycle On a Hill

I am more than a week behind with this assignment. A period of foul weather killed any excitement we were feeling for quite a while.

Thankfully, the sun came out and the temperatures rose above 50 for a few blessed hours over the weekend. We couldn't have been more thrilled or more eager to finally get outside.

Of course, the kids grew over the long winter, so most of their outdoor toys were either too small or too young for them, but after being stuck inside for so many months, my girls made do with what they had and enjoyed the weather anyway.

I did too. Not only did I bask in the feel of actual sun on my face, but I also giggled right along with them as they ran, danced, and jumped in the grass.

Of course, I was so busy giggling that I didn't get any photos of that part. Fail.

I grabbed the camera when they started riding the tiny tricycle down the gentle hill of our driveway. As far as excitement goes, it was all they needed and more.

This is the photo as I took it. All I did with it (and all the shots in this series) was to sharpen it, and then improve the contrast.

The difference is pretty subtle, but I like the colors much better.

This is my oldest daughter. She likes the camera.

She waves to me to make sure I'm paying attention to all of her photo-ops.

She makes funny faces for it so that I'll keep taking her picture.

She wasn't the least bit scared here. She'd been down the hill a dozen times already. She just likes to have her picture taken and she's figured out that being a little silly usually gets the job done.

Mission accomplished.

On the other hand, my younger daughter would prefer to keep her excitement private.

The slightest hint of a smile is there to betray her, but she's pretending to remain unimpressed.

You can't fool me, Little Girl. I know you're having fun.