Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring bulb show dazzles with color

I spent a bit of time this afternoon at the annual Spring Bulb Show at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Indianapolis. This was my third consecutive year I made the visit.

Tulips dominate the modest display in the atrium area of the conservatory.

There were some hibiscus and hyacinth as well, and in years past I recall seeing some coneflowers (daisies), but not this year. One thing the displays is not short on is color: oranges, yellows, magentas, pinks, reds, whites and variagateds.

Included is a handful of pictures from my shoot; I'll likely upload the best of the crop to one of my photo galleries in the days ahead.

The Spring Bulb Show runs through April 3. On the following day, the conservatory will sell the plants to the public at varying prices, beginning at 10 a.m.

And if you're really a tulip fan, sign up at the conservatory's Web site to receive an email reminder for the annual "Keep What You Pull" day, when the public is invited to raid the Sunken Garden tulip beds and haul away whatever they can pull for replanting in home gardens. Bring your own tools and hauling mechanism.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Could this guy belong to the Gang of R?

I came face to face with this squirrel during a walk in the park the other day and couldn't help but wonder if this guy was in the Gang of Rodents that raided my spring bulb garden last fall. The guilty face really clinched it. So ... I felt compelled to snap this for possible posting on my frig with a "Wanted" sign over it!

Yes, I'm just kidding. I took this just for fun. Yeah, that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

The 5x zoom on my Pentax Opti Z10 enabled me to get pretty close without chasing the critter away.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

When mortality is the photo subject

A member of a photography group at the online business networking site LinkedIn recently asked other group members for suggestions on how to best shoot pictures of -- and I'm not making this up -- caskets.

Yes, there is a demand for this -- in advertisements, primarily. Maybe even in funeral home promotional literature. The "why" of posing the question is irrelevant. The reason I'm posting this is because a fellow member of the group, in his response to the question, contributed a remarkable anecdote that he insists is true. He gave me permission to post the story here, saying it happened some 20 years ago. I'll fudge on the names and places so as not to embarrass any party to this anecdote who might still be around -- and happen to stumble upon this.

Here's the story, copied from an email from the fellow who provided it at LinkedIn:

Empty caskets are reasonably easy to deal with. I have a friend (we’ll call him Bubba) who took an assignment to shoot a series of portraits of a young father IN a casket. Apparently the family had never had any images made of him while he was alive.

The family asked for photos of the two children and the wife with the deceased. ‘Bubba’ took his brand-new Hasselblad and a three-head portable studio strobe setup to the funeral home. He photographed Papa & Mama; Papa, Mama & kids; Papa & kids; Papa & each child; then the family left him to try to get a 'life-like portrait' of Papa.

The funeral home thoughtfully loaned Bubba a stepladder so he could get the right angle for the portrait. To make a long story short, while leaning to get the exact angle, Bubba lost his balance and fell into the box with Papa. As he fell, Bubba held the new Hasselblad over his head to protect it, but as his forehead connected with Papa’s nose, gravity smacked the camera into the back of Bubba's head, knocking him semi-conscious (and dented the new camera).

Talk about stuck! Poor Bubba’s hands were behind his head, holding the camera that had bonked him in the back of the head, his elbows on either side of Papa’s head. In addition, his forehead made poor Papa’s nose parallel to his cheekbone, his nose touching Papa’s Adam’s Apple, and he had to somehow get out of that box. Preferably without calling attention to his predicament.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, when he finally worked his way out (without tipping the whole casket and contents onto the floor), Bubba went to a men's room to wipe off the makeup that had smeared off Papa's face onto his forehead. Then he went to quietly find an employee of the funeral home to unload his story.

He apologized for breaking Papa's nose and offered to pay to unflatten the nose, if necessary, but begged the employee not to tell Mama. The mortician said, 'No problem,' and went to Papa, grabbed his nose between his thumb and forefinger and snapped it back into shape. My friend asked if that hurt anything. 'Nope, he's dead,' was the answer. They re-applied Papa's facial makeup, and nobody was the wiser.

Bubba never took another photo job involving a dead person, although he sold more than $2,000 in prints and enlargements. Apparently the family bought prints from virtually every image. The story has never been told in print before this, as far as I know.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More on the eye-opening F200EXR

If you've been following this blog for a while, you might remember a post from a month ago or so when I trumpeted a new point-and-shoot from FujiFilm, the 12-megapixel FinePix F200EXR.

This high-end camera is pocket-size for those looking for something convenient, which includes me for those times I just don't want to lug around a heavy camera bag or backpack. The big lure for me -- which is why I mentioned it previously -- is that it offers a couple desirable features that you'd otherwise wouldn't expect to be able to execute unless you were using a DSLR. This includes, in one mode, the ability to shoot in wide-dynamic range (the camera actually captures two shots at different exposures by dividing the 12MP, reserving 6MP for one exposure, and 6MP for the other), and in another mode, it regroups the 12MP into 6 million large pixels to enable high-sensitivity in low light conditions (and, consequently, low noise).

Photography Bay, an online resource which touted the F200EXR this year right before the annual Photo Marketing Association convention in Las Vegas early this month, recently posted an analysis (click on link) of the camera after checking it out at the convention, where FujiFilm gave the F200EXR its formal introduction.

Yesterday, I noticed that Amazon.com had trimmed $25 from the camera's original sale price of $399. Camera equipment prices don't remain static; in fact, many manufacturers have jacked up prices on camera bodies and lenses since the new year. Odds are this price will not stick at $374 for long.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

St. Paddy's Day parade

In most metropolitan areas, St. Patrick's Day doesn't pass without a parade of some sort.

Such was the case this past Tuesday in downtown Indianapolis, where we got some beautiful weather for the annual parade, which proceeds south down Pennsylvania Street from the three-street junction of Fort Wayne Avenue and North Street, turns west onto Ohio Street for block then double backs north on Meridian Street.

I was able to pull away from the desk at work to slip down and catch about 20 minutes of the parade this year.

Here are a few frames of the parade that I captured with my Pentax Optio Z10 point-and-shoot.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring is in the vicinity

The crocus flowers in my garden have bloomed; these photos were taken just a few hours ago with my Canon 30D and Sigma macro lens (105 mm f/2.8).

I know the days of winter are numbered. Still, in the past, a return frost or even snowfall has cut short these beautiful flowers' blooms, ending their seasonal tease. I always find myself hoping that at least one time they'll be allowed to hang around for a while. In the four years I've grown these, I haven't been fortunate to see that happen, though. At the same time, the foliage for my hyacinth, daffodils and tulips has broken ground. If experience holds true, the hyacinth and daffodils will bloom next, with tulips falling in shortly thereafter.

Some of you also may have noticed the main photograph at the top of the homepage has changed to reflect the nearing change of seasons. That image also was taken with the Canon 30D and Sigma macro lens; it came during my April 2, 2007, shoot of the annual Spring Bulb Show at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Indianapolis.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

PP's Photographer in the Spotlight:

Ron Germundson

The work of Ron Germundson, this month's featured artist in Photo Potpourri's Photographer Spotlight, stands out from traditional photographs because of its "look," and that's perfectly fine with Ron.
Ron, another member of Photo.net, a global online site where photographers of all skill levels mingle and interact, almost exclusively applies a texturizer to his public work, rendering their appearance to that quite often described as "fine art" or "classic painting."

Germundson was born in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1947, which Germundson likes to cite as the same year India declared its independence from Britain and aliens crash-landed in Roswell, N.M. He grew up in a military family that moved across the country frequently. Later, Ron said, he spent "a year of enlightenment" in the mountain jungles of Vietnam, then came back and settled in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. He now resides in St. Paul.
He earned a BA degree from Metropolitan State University and spent two years studying photography at Willmar Vocational School. He has spent some 28 years working with and exploring photography, developing his craft in the years when it was exclusively film and staying with it through the transition to digital.

"Over the years, my photography has gone through some transformations, from traditional to more painterly photo impressionism," Ron said. "I continuously strive to make my images uniquely different. A good friend of mine said that 'I'm a photographer with a painter's soul.' "

He acknowledges how the digital era has led to tremendous change in the craft in just the past 10 years. "It feels good to be part of this exciting experience. Where this journey will end up, I haven't got a clue, but I'm enjoying the ride!"

Ron has been published in the international publication Design Graphic and locally in numerous issues of Mpls St. Paul Magazine.

His work has been displayed at Spirit of The River, Phipps Center for the Arts and Minnetonka Center for the Arts. His wedding photo was cited in May 2007 as a photo of the month for weddings and engagements by CameraArts.

Ron works part time in the evenings, the rest of the time on his craft and other photography work. In the spring, summer and fall he shoots interiors and exteriors of new condos and apartments and does a few wedding. I caught up with Ron recently to ask him a bit more about his work:

When did you first get into photography, and was it a gradual thing -- or something you latched onto instantly and passionately?

My passion in photography started in high school, with my dad’s Kodak 120 box camera. The process of putting an image on film, developing and printing was very exciting. Later in Vietnam a friend resurrected my interest in photography. I bought a 35mm Topcon D and I’ve been pushing that little chrome shutter button ever since.

Anyone who has seen your work recognizes that your images reflect a distinct look of being a piece of fine art work, a painting. How would you characterize your style? And was there any influence, or "epiphany," that steered you into this direction with your images?

Ken Millburn out of California was the first to influence me back in '97 or '98. His work reflected a painting style that caught my eye. Later, Aimee Stewart opened my eyes to the use of textures as layers on top of the image. Another influence was Michael Regnier from Kansas. Michael’s work was inspiring to me, as were those great photo-impressionists as I call them from Europe: Vittorio Pellazza, Christina Venedict, Magdalena Wandi, Hans Jorgen Kotter and others. All of them are pushing the digital envelope to new frontiers.

Many of the comments about your portfolio at photo.net salute your post-processing work, your skills at "photoshopping." Are all of your photographs, indeed, treated with some kind of editing software filter, and do you use the same one or two on every image treated this way? Or is the process far more entailed than just simply applying a pre-set filter onto an image? In other words, do you feel comfortable explaining to curious photographers (myself included) any "secrets" about your system?

I feel very strongly that the terms used to describe the artistic process in digital photography are misnomers. Words like post-processing, photoshopping and manipulation seem to cheapen and degrade the finished piece of work. These descriptors make the piece seem more mechanical and less personal. New terms or definition are needed to define these techniques or styles. I’ve started calling this style "photo texturing: photo impressionism." Roughly 90% of all my art prints are manually treated from a catalog of textures that I have collected over the years. I have used up to 6 to 12 different textures on one image, all in varying degrees of opacity.

Because you know you're going to use a post-processing system on your pictures, do you approach the shooting of those pictures any differently than the average photographer? I mean ... is there stuff like lighting, positioning, a time of day, etc., that you need to have just perfect ... perhaps more so than if you were just going to use an image normally?

Nothing is perfect in art. I work with what I have and bend a little light in the process. The camera is the tool I use to catch the image. I bring it home and load it into my computer, which is my painting palette. It holds my colors, my textures and my brushes.

Is there a danger, do you think, for photographers aspiring to make a mark with their work, to mix the way they display their images, or diversity too much? I mean ... can a photographer or artist lose hope of creating a niche if he or she tries to diversify too much, do you think?

I feel it works best to find your own niche or style and stick with it!

Have you had your images published or displayed publicly in a gallery or at arts/crafts fairs -- and do you sell your work? Do you do this full ti me for your livelihood or is it a hobby?

I have my work up in two galleries at the present time with more openings coming up in the summer and fall. My work is selling pretty well considering the economic climate.

Are their subjects or projects you haven't done yet but would like to undertake with your photography?

I would like to make a children’s book.

What photo editing (post-processing) software do you use? Photoshop? How difficult was it for you to find the right post-processing combination you wanted to apply to your images?

I use Photoshop for 90% of my work the other 10% is Corel Painter. It has taken some time and a lot of hits and misses to learn the right techniques.

You can view these and other images captured by Ron Germundson at the following online galleries:

Ron's personal Web site

Ron's page at DeviantArt

Ron's galleries at photo.net

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A laugh for the day

Those of us who've struggled and angled frantically to get that "perfect" shot might appreciate this You Tube video.

The end is somewhat predictable, but the middle "getting there" part is comical.