Sunday, May 24, 2009

Violet lilies and pink roses

Summer flower season is actually upon us, even though we're still a few weeks away from the official change of seasons.

So I went out into my yard yesterday and captured the violet lilies you see with this post. While out there, I noticed the bountiful pink rose blooms on my next-door-neighbor's rose bush, and took some frames of those, also sampled here.

Later this summer, I hope to enjoy two "new" annuals in my garden, both started from seed and already showing about two-inch-tall seedlings: Violet bachelor buttons (blue boy) and "purple prince" zinnias, which -- looking at the image on the seed package -- look more like raspberry or magenta than purple.

I planted the seeds in my circular garden, putting the zinnias in the center and the blue boys along the rim to surround the zinnias. So I'm curious what the raspberry/violet colorfest will look like when the blooms arrive, hopefully sometime next month.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

whoa!tiger rocks for Relay for Life

I forayed into new territory recently, visiting the grounds of the IMA (see previous blog post), and also shot some musicians at work, which in turned sparked my creative juices.

A former work colleague, Dan Janke, and the rock band he plays with, whoa!tiger, was playing a free show in Franklin, Ind., at a Relay for Life benefit -- a fund-raiser for cancer awareness. That's Dan playing guitar at left, and the closeup of his pickin' is what you see as my new homepage image topper.

The band played a 90-minute set at the event, held in the expansive parking lot of Johnson Memorial Hospital, just west of U.S. 31 on Ind. 44.

The images you see sprinkled here are from that performance. whoa!tiger earlier this year released its first CD, "Truth Serum and Forgetfulness," and you learn more about the CD and band members Dan, Jack (in three-panel image at top), Erik (below) and Eric (right) at the band's site.

For a look at more images from the May 16, 2009, whoa!tiger concert, visit the photo album at

Friday, May 22, 2009

An evening at the IMA

For a while now, several photographer acquaintances who live outside Indiana had encouraged me to join a local photo club, which they said would motivate me to learn more, see more and shoot more. So a few weeks ago, when I sensed my direction and approach to my photography was stagnating, that's what I did.

The Indy MU Photo Club is a group formed through and consists of mostly amateur photographers who take pictures for a creative outlet and are open to learning how to take them better. I imagine -- and hope -- that my association with IMPC will influence the variety and quality of images I post here in the weeks and months ahead.

On Wednesday, the first IMPC outing since I joined the group, we strolled the grounds of the Indianapolis Musuem of Art, a beautifully landscaped property north and west of Downtown Indianapolis that also happens to house the community's premier collection of art. It's also where, on the first Saturday of September, the local Penrod Society holds its annual (and hugely popular) fund-raising arts and crafts fair -- frequently and affectionately nicknamed "Indiana's Nicest Day."

IMA boasts a relatively new addition, one whose architecture is striking enough to warrant appreciation and photographs. It also has stately former residences serving as museums, three developed gardens and a massive fourth under development and scheduled to open this fall. If you noticed, I haven't even said much about what's actually inside the art museum display facilities themselves, but that's for art lovers to explore and discover; our photo group was interested only in what was outdoors, and what that looked like under the creative and selective light of a late-day sun.

An idea of the latter can be found in the accompanying photographs, more of which you can check out at my gallery at Fototime. But as shown by these samples here, the grounds have splendid foliage, flora, architecture, sculpture and a fountain where, if you catch the light just right, you can actually capture a rainbow.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

PP's Photographer in the Spotlight:

Joo-chiang Lee

How does someone go from being an immunologist/microbiologist to a mortgage broker -- and chase her photography interest on the side? Let Joo-chiang Lee, who goes by "JC," tell you in her own words:

"I was trained
as an immunologist/microbiologist at Temple University. In the early 1990s, I had a high flying corporate career in Asia for 10 odd years as the country manager for a Swiss multinational company. Then I started a dotcom, an e-commerce of sorts, raised first-round and second-round funding, and busted with it (ouch) when the dotcom bubbles burst.

"I grew up on the island of Penang in Malaysia (where they filmed most of the scenes for "Anna and the King," starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yen Fatt). I speak two other languages besides English (Malay and Mandarin) and a few words of French and Spanish. I lived in Paris for six months while I was on an international finance graduate program (and) spent college years in West Virginia, then grad school in Philly and NJ, before heading west to Asia and back again to California, where I am presently.

"What do I do for a living now? I am a mortgage broker, tax preparer/tax planner working for myself. I would rather be an artist, writer, full time photographer if I have my way, but in all honesty it is probably best to keep it as a hobby, at most a creative project, so photography can remain a creative pursuit for me."

JC, how and when did you get into photography?

I remember the old Kodak camera when I was a child. Growing up in Asia, I was fascinated by paintings I saw and beautiful travel photos in the National Geographic magazines we had lying around in the house. I remember wishing someday I could take those beautiful images as well. As a child, I had to have my school pictures taken each year for the yearbook, and they were tiny passport-size black-and-white photos in heavy fiber papers. They stood the time and still hold up so well today.

I did not own a camera until I left Asia to go to college in the U.S. I was given a point-and-shoot so I can send pictures home. My first SLR was a Pentax Super ME, which I had right after college. However, I had a real mental block with f-stops and aperture and all that fun technical stuff. I recalled never once getting the exposure right, resulting in some horrible images. Too many times I failed to spool the film properly, and no shots resulted. Once bitten twice shy, I did not dare to try another SLR for many more years.

A little over three years ago, out of the blue one day, I decided I should have another go at a real camera. I picked up a Canon Rebel 2000 film SLR off Craigslist. My first few rolls turned out rather nice (beginner's luck as they say), and I was encouraged. I proceed to buy a few photography books and again tried to get my head wrapped around the f-stops, shutter speed and macro and what have you, and it worked this time around. A few months later, I decided to get a used digital Rebel, and later that winter, I took two photography classes at Santa Monica College. The first class grounded my basic understanding of films and slides and photography techniques. The second class, a traditional black-and-white photography class, taught me to see the light better and set me on a journey that is more and more rewarding each day.

Do you make a regular point of getting out to shoot to stay fresh, or do you shoot only when you feel compelled or, as they say, when the spirit moves you?

Yes, I am out frequently with my camera in the bag. I find that there is always plenty of photo opportunities, but they are elusive if one tries too hard. Photo ops often appear unannounced, unexpected, when you are not looking for them. My approach is to let my heart and the light lead me. Taking a trip to do photography invigorates me, and I am always up for it. Sometimes it is that one shot that makes my day. I look for simple yet interesting photo subjects, whether ordinary or extraordinary. These days, I am much more patient, I wait for the right moment and when the opportunities present themselves. I then shoot away. So yes, you could say I shoot when the spirit moves me.

Are there any photographers you can point to, or cite, as influences? If so, who ... and how has his/her/their work affected you and your approach to photography?

Definitely Dorothea Lange, I did a class paper on her and her works of the Great Depression. Both "The Migrant Women" and "The Man in the Bread Line" had a great impact on me. It is often that voice in the background when I am out with my camera, reminding me ever so often that with camera comes responsibility and humanity is a rare commodity today. I feel good photography comes from the heart and the ability to connect with the subject. If one is able to see more than what meets the eyes, and capture the unspoken, one truly has a gift.

The other photographer that has an impact on me more recently is Alex Gotfryd. It was a book of his, titled "Appointment in Venice" of a series of Venice, Italy, shot in a gloomy day in muted light. A lone woman clocked in a long, black robe was the center of his photos. The images are hauntingly beautiful and speaks to the heart. He explained in an introduction how a recurring dream of the loneliness of the human condition inspired and compelled him to create this elegant book. The book speaks very much to how I feel photography should be. It speaks to the soul.

Do you have a favorite subject to shoot? Or a
favorite spot or location? What kind of equipment do you use?

My favorite subject is people, interesting people, especially kids. Not the studio portraiture sort of shots, but more in a storyt
elling kind of way. At the recent Cinco de Mayo parade in downtown San Jose, I shot a series of young kids in their cowboy attire (vaqueros?) in the parade. There was a child in particular whose eyes caught my attention. It was his eyes ... there was something about his eyes that spoke to me as I clicked away

I also enjoy doing landscape and nature photography, usually at the crack of dawn when the light is soft. You could get me
up wee hour of the morning for photography, any place any time, even when it is raining There is always something to shoot, and I am always looking for light. I once read in a photography book that one could do beautiful photography anytime of the day, even when the world seems to be pitched dark.

I don't have fancy cameras, my equipment set consists of a Canon A1 film SLR, Canon 10D Digital SLR, Pentax ME Super, 100mm f/2.8 macro, an all-purpose Tamron Di-II LF 18-250 lens and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 nifty-fifty lens for low light or indoor work. Also a monopod, tripod, homemade light box and a plastic Holga, my latest addition. I plan to acquire a Pentax 645 medium format camera soon, as I see myself moving more and more back to chrome and film.

What photo editing processes and programs do you use to handle your images?

Photoshop CS2 mostly, HDR, Topaz Adjust sometimes. I had spent some time trying out both HDR and Topaz Adjust softwares. I like them and feel they definitely have a place in creative photography as long as one has a good shot to start with. It will not save a bad shot. It is a way to explore the many artistic directions if one is that way inclined.

Do you tend t
o use photography mostly as a documentary tool? Or vehicle for self-expression? Or to help represent or show a mood, feeling or concept? If all three, are you always conscious of those objectives when you're shooting?

I would like to use photography as a documentary tool for my story and writing. I believe a picture speaks a thousand words. Timeless photos are timeless for a reason because one takes away something new each time. Although I am conscious of what I want to convey when I click the shutter, I shoot whenever my heart speaks to me.

One of the things that grabbed my attention about you and your work was your enthusiasm
for experimentation -- most recently your delving into high-dynamic-range and exploration of Photomatix and Topaz software programs. How is your HDR work going, and have you decided yet whether you believe HDR images belong in the "photography" or "art" realm yet? I know you were struggling with that dilemma ...

Yes, I was blown away by what the HDR software like Photomatix can add to the original image and came to the conclusion that it can be a very useful tool in creative and fine arts photography and it is an interest I have. Topaz Adjust, on the other hand, is a wonderful tool if you need to add a little boast to the colors, though the plug-in is rather unstable. Both to me border on the realm of art, rather than photography, it is thus a great tool for the creative artist/photographer.

Was there ever a
photograph you were able to take -- or one that you saw -- that effected or moved you in a profound way? If so, please elaborate.

Yes, and it was the "Mother and Child" by Dorothea Lange. Quoting the photographer - "I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was 32. She said they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her cars to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her and seemed to know that my pictures could help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."

To me, Dorothea Lange was the people's photographer. She holds us all to a very high standard and shows us what photography should really be.

As for a photograph I was able to take that had made an impact on my own development as a photographer, I'd have to say it was the series of photos I shot of the kids at the Cinco de Mayo festivals recently. It was one of those moments, and I realized that was one of my better strengths ... that of connecting with the subject, shooting with my heart and letting the shutter do the rest.

Along the same line, I'll ask you a question I know you answered in a blog of yours once, but for the benefit of those who haven 't made it to your blog yet, why don't you repeat it here. Can you cite a "defining" moment in your journey through the craft of photography -- perhaps
a picture, or piece of equipment or some technological breakthrough or discovery -- that changed your perspective on the craft in a bold way?

For me, the defining moments came in stages, and they had more to do with techniques than equipment per se.

First, it was when I was introduced to cross processing at the end of the very first photo class I took, developing E6 slide film in C41 chemistry, I was shocked by the complete color shift and the resulting image.

Part two of m
y journey was learning to see light in photography by way of black-and white traditional darkroom technique, a labor of love. It was taught by an idiotic prof, an old chap with a wealth of knowledge (and we put up with him). I came away realizing that photography is really about seeing the light, and it has been my mantra since.

The latest would have to be HDR. I am blown away by the end products -- the potential into the realms of fine art photography/art. I am of two hearts, and colors being one of them, in the form of creative art/fine art photography, is a direction I very much enjoy. HDR provides such a tool to accomplish that goal.

I know you maintain two blogs on the Internet, and the content of each, in various degrees, reflect your interest and indulgences into photography. How did you get started with blogging, and do you have much interaction with readers?

I have had quite a few blogs over the course of the past two years, but now I seem to only have time to maintain one or two of them actively. With my many interests, I would like to have three active blogs, one for photography, one for books I enjoy reading, and one for my other ramblings, mostly of travel and wine country.

I started my first blog two years ago when a friend brought blogging to my attention. At that time I had just gotten back into photography. I was exploring my interests in many directions and was not sure if blogging is something I can and have discipline for. In addition, I did not quite figure out what I really wanted to blog about, and I think I have it figured out now. It has also become considerably easier for me to blog as long as I have time and something worthy to blog about.

As for interaction with my readers, my blog is generating interests in networking forums such as LinkedIn and other photography forums, so there is a fair bit of interaction with my readers. I also added a few polls to my blog, plus a host of useful links for fellow photographers and links to other photo blogs that I find interesting. I would definitely love to interact much more with my readers.

Have you ever had any of your images published or displayed publicly in a gallery or at arts/crafts fairs or in publications? And do you sell your work? If not, is that something you'd like to do some day?

Lately, I have had a few people who contacted me expressing interest in my work, mostly about selling my work on a microstock photography site. Stock photography is something I already do selectively. I am currently compiling a collection of my work that I like, along with a few themes, and plan to sell them in art fairs and plan on putting them in a book with some of my writings. Showing my work in a gallery would be a big milestone for me and a bonus if and when that happens. It is a work in progress, and I'm going to enjoy every part of this wonderful journey.

Follow the links below to check out JC's blog "SoCalIslandGirl" and to see more of her images in her online photo gallery.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A last stab at spring flowers

I saw an opportunity I couldn't pass up Saturday morning: first-year tulips in my gardens with raindrops still clinging to the petals, moisture the sun would dry up within three hours.

So I went out and took 56 frames with my macro lens.

I was fortunate ... the sun peeked in and out from a series of clouds that would move away for good in a very short time, giving me intermittent highlight, shade and translucent lighting (top and right), giving me multiple tones and contrasts for a petal already graced with dual hues. In one shot (left), the foliage from a neighboring day lily plant presented a neat complementary linear balance element. Heck, I even got lucky and snapped an ant smack dab in the middle of one of the bulbs (below).