Photography course: Day 3

The word photography came from the combination of the Greek word phos (meaning light) and graphis (meaning stylus or paintbrush) to form a word that means drawing with light. This highlights the importance of light in this kind of art, because without light, we could not see anything nor the camera be able to capture a photograph.

Last night’s lecture about light and lighting was the one I’ve anticipated the most because I want to be able to use available light properly, introduce artificial ones if necessary and use it to create mood, texture and drama. The class started with the theory of light, how light has different colour casts and how it affects the photographs we take. The instructor also mentioned the importance of paying attention to the quality of the light (hard versus soft light), size of the light and the direction from which it is coming from.

The lecturer specialises in portrait photography and it’s obvious from his body of work that he’s a skilled photographer. Unfortunately, the lecture started on a lot of concepts about light which didn’t seem to be connected to photography. After about the fourth or fifth slide about light theory, one of the class participants asked exactly what the theories had to do with photography. The instructor replied that he just wanted to emphasise how light works and not jump into light in photography without an explanation of how light might affect a photograph. However, his first few slides were quite wordy and practical examples didn’t come until later into the session. By then, I think some of the attendees were too confused or disinterested. I think his lecture would have been better served with more examples at the beginning of the session, a little less theory and perhaps a more practical live demonstration.

That is not to say though that the lecture wasn’t useful because it was. I loved the bit when he showed examples of his work and had the class guess the quality, size and direction of the light and I thought there should have been more of that. He also showed some photographs where the lighting wasn’t the best and how he worked around it or used reflectors and a flash pointed at an angle to remedy the problem.

One photograph he showed as an example was of a lady wearing a white top and black skirt standing against a black background. The light source was to the lady’s right and it wasn’t a particularly big light (if I remember correctly). The photograph came out flat and because her skirt blended with the black background, it looked like her top and therefore her torso was floating in space. In the comparison photo, a reflector was used and placed on the other side of the light source. The light gave the figure a third dimension and picked up some detail in her skirt and showed texture and the end photo came out heaps better than the first.

The lecture ended a bit over time but I stayed back a bit to flick through the lecturer’s album of photographic works. If there’s one thing I learned from the session, it’s that paying attention to the light and how it hits the subject makes or breaks a photo. Whoever coined the term photography really had hit the nail on the head, it literally is all about painting with light.

Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  

What’s wrong with this picture?

Bought these two tins of tuna from the supermarket on special. Aside from blurring out the brand name, the subjects and the photo were not changed in any way.

Published in: on August 12, 2008 at 7:55 am  Comments (5)  

Dinner is served

Hubby had to work late tonight and I had to eat dinner alone. Here’s what I had, chicken and zucchini soup. The original recipe called for pork but I used chicken instead although I followed the recipe exactly (although the proportions were a bit different as I rarely measure ingredients). As the recipe had no photo, I submitted mine and it got accepted. Anyway, the soup was yummy and hearty, perfect for a cold night alone.

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: Day 2

The weather yesterday was freezing and it took all my willpower to get out of bed earlier than usual. All I wanted was to curl up in bed and stay warm under the quilt. However, it was the second day of my photography course and the first workshop session. I certainly cannot miss that despite the rain and the winter chill outside.

I expected the workshop to be a full hands-on, practical session but it turned out to be a lecture with a 15-minute break for an opportunity to take a few photos outside to support what has been discussed. The lecture revolved around the auto-focusing system of most cameras, how it gets it right most of the time and what to do when it fails on difficult situations like contrasty scenes and smooth toned backgrounds. Then there was also a discussion of the three triangles of photography – ISO, aperture and shutter speed – what they are, how they affect a photograph and how they can be used creatively.

At one point during the lecture, the instructor asked how many people in the class enrolled because they want to be able to take photos in manual mode. Since my instructors from previous photography classes frowned upon not using manual mode, I was among the participants to raise their hands. Imagine my surprise then when the instructor said that that kind of thinking probably stemmed from the belief that a good photo would have to be taken from manual mode but that he recommend we use program, aperture or shutter priority. In fact, he said that we shouldn’t attempt to use the manual mode until we’ve taken at least 10,000 photos (film) or 100,000 (digital)! His reasoning is that the camera would be able to take good photographs with these settings most of the time anyway and it’s certainly better to get the photo than missing out on the opportunity because we’re worried about having to remember what the correct settings are.

It’s a departure from what I’ve been previously taught that using these modes were just crutches that should be avoided. I definitely could understand his reasoning though and I guess as long as I learn from using aperture and shutter priority for now with a view of using manual mode once I’m comfortable doing so then it’s okay. Experience in shooting and learning which settings suits particular situations are important factors for a beginner and I suppose aperture and shutter priority would suffice for now. Perhaps he believed that we might just be discouraged if we use manual mode then get terrible photos and stop photography altogether?

Click here to view photo album

After the lecture, we had a bit of a break when we had to go out of the building and take 3 shots – one with almost no sky, one with a bit of the sky and the ground, and one with a lot of sky. It was drizzling when we went out and most participants were hesitant to expose their cameras to the rain. I quickly took a few photos and went back inside the building.

After everyone had gone back into the lecture hall, the instructor uploaded his own photos. He used aperture priority and made us take note of the camera settings and how the photos turned out. Two out of three (the ground shot and the one with sky and ground) had pretty accurate exposure but the third one, the one with the biggest portion of the sky, was under-exposed. This supported what he said about the camera getting the settings right most of the time and how it could get it wrong. He explained that the under-exposed photo was the result of the camera metering off the sky and thinking that the scene was brighter than it was. He also mentioned that the solution to the problem would be discussed in the next lecture, which would be tomorrow!

The class would also be having another workshop on Sunday in one of the CBD gardens, hopefully with more shooting involved. I’m also hoping for better weather than we got yesterday but the forecasts aren’t very good. I know there’s still a drought on but could the sky please hold it in for a few hours on Sunday?!?

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 8:18 am  Comments (2)  

Purgatory Station

It looked like a fairly modern and large train station. There were TV monitors hanging from the ceiling showing time tables and, sometimes, some random ads. The other thing I noticed was that there were a lot of people. Some looking nervous, some looking happy, some looking really sick.

It took me a bit to realise that I didn’t know where I was and why I was there at that mysterious train station. I can’t remember how, but I found out that I was there because I was dead.

Yep. As in the train station was a sort of midway point between life and the after life. Apparently, I needed to board a train to move on to the next stage. The only problem was that nobody knows what the next stage was.

Well, actually, most of us there had a pretty good idea. The final destination was only one of two places: Heaven or Hell. The tricky part was that you’ll never know which place the train will take you until you get there.

The idea of finally going to Heaven to be one with God and leave my sinful life behind made me really excited to get on board the train. Ah, but how much of a sinful life did I lead, I wondered. Having realised that I was a little less than saintly made me dread the possibility of being sent to Hell and be tortured forever. And forever is such a long time when each minute of it will be spent in agonising pain.

Although I wasn’t the perfect boy scout I always wish I was, I had then hoped that God might judge me favourably in the end anyway so I made a ran for the train platform where there was a train waiting to leave. The train doors were closing when I got to the platform.

I was too late. The train had started to move by the time I reached one of its sealed doors. I looked around and saw that there was another train, a monorail actually, readying to go at a platform above from where I was. Even though I was out of breath, I started running up the stairs to catch the monorail.

I was too late yet again. The monorail had already moved away when I finally got to the platform. I later discovered that that was the last train trip for the day. The last train always leaves just before the sun sets. It probably wasn’t an actual sunset as there wasn’t an actual sun in that dimension but the sky was definitely growing darker.

With the darkness coming, the station was closing up shop. The stations workers started to disappear. The only people left at the station were people like me who missed the last train ride out of there or people who intentionally didn’t want to go on a train or new comers (as in, freshly dead people).

Some people chose to stay behind because they were fairly certain they will be sent to Hell. Being stuck at the station was a much better alternative for these folk. But staying at the station wasn’t all fun and games. I’ve learned through the announcements through the station monitors that when the darkness sets in, the monsters and demons usually run amok near and around the station. The announcements were vague as to what these monsters can do to us who were stuck at the station so I was a bit worried about that.

I stepped outside the station and I saw more people approaching the station. These are the newly dead. I thought, at least there’ll be many of us tonight to fend the monsters off. Safety in numbers, as it were. I looked at the new people and was glad to see a familiar face. It was my boss from work!

I suppose I shouldn’t have been gleeful to see him as that meant he was as dead as I was but I was just happy to meet someone I knew at the station. I told him we were basically dead. He already knew. He also knew how we died. Apparently, the makers of the competitor to our product placed a curse on the development team. And now we were dead.

The entire team? I looked behind him and saw my co-workers walking towards the station. I didn’t see any of the girls in our team though. Lucky them.

One of the remaining workers at the station started to herd us back in the station where it was supposedly safer. I so didn’t look forward to the monsters coming in but there wasn’t anything we can do now. It was completely dark outside then.

Then, I was awake. Raquel woke me up just in time. I was so happy and relieved to be awake! Raquel later told me that all she did was tapped me and I was suddenly wide awake. Usually, it takes a lot more than that to wake me up, she claims.

That dream definitely made me rethink the way I’m living my life at this time. Have I been following all the commandments faithfully? Have I been a good enough person? What awaits me when I die? Only God knows.

Published in: on August 7, 2008 at 11:48 pm  Comments (4)  

Photography course: Day 1

After receiving the payment for the use of my photographs in Metropolis a couple of months ago, it was a toss-up between spending it on a camera lens and enrolling myself on a short photography course.

I took two short photography courses many moons ago when I was still in the Philippines. The first was basic photography and the second one was black and white. Both were aimed at the absolute beginner and were geared toward film photography (digital was still out of the price-range of hobbyists then). Although I had heaps of fun in both classes, I wasn’t able to make the most out of them because I didn’t have an SLR camera.

I used my point-and-shoot for the basic photography course and wasn’t able to maximise learning about aperture, shutter speed and ISO. After all, most those settings are chosen by the camera for me and there was no way for me to adjust them. The black and white course was slightly better in that I managed to borrow the instructor’s camera and at least have some practice with it. Trouble was, I only had the camera to practise with when we have to do our photo assignment. Given a limited time to shoot, grapple with the idiosyncrasies of the camera, worrying about the subject for my photographs and trying to remember what I have remembered on the first course, it was small wonder that my photographs were rather simplistic and not particularly attractive at all. Heck, I was happy to be able to a sharp photo using manual settings during that time as opposed to the fuzzy ones I had the first few times. I didn’t care about lighting, composition and all the other things that would make a good photograph.

And so I opted to try for another photography course again, this time with a SLR and better idea of what I’m signing up for. I originally wanted to join last February’s session of the Melbourne Camera Club course but was told that it was quickly filled up and would I want to be register my interest for the August one? I said yes and I got contacted by email toward the end of May stating that if I am still interested in joining the course, could I forward my application and $250 payment by snail mail as the class is now quickly filling up and there are only 9 spots left!

I mailed my application and payment on the same day and crossed my fingers. People who don’t get on the August class would be offered places for the one in February next year but I don’t think I could wait another six months! Luckily, I was able to get on the class this time around and we had our first lecture last night.

There were several club members who welcomed us to the course, gave us our course materials, name tag, club’s programme of events for the rest of the year and a survey form. The class was bigger than the one I attended in the Philippines. Whereas the Alcove classes only had about 10-20 students, the one last night probably had 40-50 participants. This class also seem to be more diverse in terms of age and interests.

Although the topic for last night’s lecture was about the basics like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, lens and exposure, I still got some gems out of the session. It was good to see how a lens hood could make a difference when shooting against the sun, how to use AE Lock to meter, what settings to use for particular photographs and how to use different settings for the same scene to change the impact of a photo. Some of the examples used throughout the lecture were the instructor’s own photos and it was interesting to hear the stories about the photos as well as see his creativity at work. Questions from other participants also added to the lecture – the questions that particularly stuck me were where to focus when taking a landscape photo (1/3 into the scene if I remember correctly) and how to remember the relationship between higher ISO and noise (one club member had a particularly good analogy of imagining it as a volume control on a radio, the higher the volume, the more the noise).

Since we started slightly later than scheduled, we had to rush the last few minutes of the lecture and went into overtime for about 10 minutes. Robert, the course coordinator, then reminded us to bring our camera on Sunday since we would be having a hands-on session and would be taking about a dozen photographs. He then asked how many people would be using film cameras (a couple), and advised them that it might be better not to load the film prior to the session so that they could practise the settings on the camera without wasting film. He also asked for the survey form back where we are asked what kind of camera we would be using and what sort of photography we are interested in. After a few more reminders, the class was ended and most everyone quickly spilled out into the night.

Nothing mind-blowing in this first session but it was interesting nonetheless. Although I can’t wait for the practice session on Sunday, I still have to find time to look for and read my camera’s manual, get the concepts to stick and probably get some practice in.

Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 8:04 am  Comments (4)  

Mobile photo dump

At the risk of this blog being all about food, I did a photo dump from my mobile and found more food photos. What can I say, we absolutely like to eat!

This is by far the oldest photo in the batch and is so far my first and last attempt at Spanish Flan or as Filipinos know it, Leche Flan. I think the finished product looks decent but it was on the bland side. It wasn’t creamy enough nor was it sweet enough. Definitely not one of the best that came out of the our kitchen. If I ever have to make one again, I would have to look for another recipe to use.

With winter well and truly upon us, our usual breakfast of cold sandwiches just have to change. We wanted something to warm us up in the morning and I don’t remember anymore how I came up with the empanadas but I recall searching for recipes online. Some of the recipes mentioned using frozen puff pastry instead making my own and I did just that even if it’s technically not the proper way of doing it.

Well, the empanadas worked well and we’ve been having them for several weeks now. I’ve used two brands of puff pastry and I find the most thing I have difficulty with is estimating the amount of filling to put in. Too much filling and the filling would spill out as it bakes, too little and we’d end up hungry before lunch.

While we were in our weekend away at Brissy, we frequented the food courts for some fast food. We found a Japanese shop at Wintergarden on our second day called Hanaichi and decided to try the limited menu mainly because of the number of people queueing in front. With the price ranging from $6.20 to $6.70 a bowl, it’s quite affordable as well. I gave the Chicken Hanaichi a try after seeing so many other customers order it and I must say that although I initially had misgivings because of the amount of greens it has that it’s almost like a salad on rice, the accompanying karaage chicken with the sour cream made it my favourite. Gabriel, on the other hand, was consistently a Katsudon fan.

Another thing we tasted in Brisbane was the Wicked Banana at the Southbank markets. It’s basically a banana that had a thin strip of chocolate injected at its center. They had different kinds of chocolate such as milk chocolate, dark, hazelnut and a few more. However, we only ever bought the milk chocolate ones and hubby loved it so much that he bought one again when we visited the market again the next day. Having the combination of a naturally sweet banana paired with chocolate though gave him the inspiration to create his own version. He bought a bottle of chocolate hard tops, sliced a banana and had the chocolate as a topping. I must say it’s his favourite snack at the moment that he keeps stealing the bananas I’ve been buying for baking!

I like my salmon occasionally and rotate through a few recipes. Unfortunately, hubby doesn’t like salmon and hasn’t taken to any of the recipes I’ve cooked. However, I recently tried this recipe that’s supposed to be simple but yummy. I marinated the slices overnight then baked it in foil packets. I gave Gabriel a small slice as usual and lo and behold, he actually liked it enough to ask for more! With this small miracle, I wrote the recipe a review and said that even my salmon-hating hubby liked it. After typing up my review, I proceeded to read the comments of the other reviewers and found out that most of the other reviews were the same. Something along the lines of even husband who won’t eat salmon loved it. Gabriel jokingly then said that the recipe’s title should be changed to Salmon Hater’s Grilled Salmon. Yeah, maybe they should!

Published in: on August 2, 2008 at 12:56 am  Leave a Comment