March 5, 2013

the scene’s 2013 photo contest

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 9:49 pm

Some of the photos from the Scene's photo contest that I thought were noteworthy:

  • Scott Simontacchi, “Eloise,” Bowling Avenue
  • Holden Head, “Pasiphae,” East Nashville -- I actually found this photograph to be grotesque, but that doesn't make it a bad one. It did get me reading about Pasiphae. Pasiphae, in Greek mythology, was the daughter of Helios that fucked a bull and gave birth to the Minotaur, and represented the evils of feminine lust and excess. I am not 100% certain what the connection between her and this photograph is, but it got me thinking/reading, so there's that.

November 24, 2011

the scene’s photo contest

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 7:58 am

Photos that I liked:

  • Andri Alexandrou's "West Nashville" -- I always have mixed feelings about shots like these. I feel like I take a lot that are similar: i.e. a very well-composed shot of nothing. That is, a photo without a subject. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and what constitutes a "subject" is up for debate, but I take a lot of photos where I look at it and go "welp, this is a perfectly composed picture of nothing". Not that this is entirely the case here. I suppose the downtown area in the distance is a subject, in a way. Regardless, I like it. Great lines and nice atmospherics. and stuff.
  • Doug Lehmann's photo of Crema.

Not related to the contest at all, but Blake Wylie has been taking a lot of cool wet plate photos lately. They look great, but I think someone should tell him about digital cameras. So much easier!

May 27, 2011

lightning tips

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 1:35 pm


I had someone ask me for tips regarding lightning photography and it got long enough I figured I may as well post it here and just link to it. These are just some random things I've had success with. Your mileage may vary:

The general idea for capturing lightning is to take longer exposures in which you happen to catch the bolts in the frame. I usually use anywhere from 5 seconds to 30 seconds, depending on how much lightning there is and what effect I desire -- a 30 second exposure will have much more blurred/fluid cloud movement as opposed to a 5 second exposure which would have more cloud definition)..

Either way, a longer exposure is necessary, as no human has the reflexes to catch a lightning bolt. However, a long exposure of a scene metered normally may be blown out subsequently if you get a really brilliant lightning flash, so you may have to underexpose severely so that when you do get lightning, it's not blown out..

So, a few tips:

  • Use Av or Tv to meter the scene and get a feel for a 'normal' exposure of foreground and sky..
  • Switch to Manual to use those settings to dial in a proper exposure for the lightning (probably a bit underexposed, but it depends on the lighting situation) so that it will not be overexposed. From there you can quickly adjust what you want specifically to respond to what you want or changing conditions. (You'd be surprised how often the lighting in a storm changes depending on whether there are high clouds or low-hanging clouds reflecting city light moving in, etc). Whether and how much you underexpose will vary depending on conditions. If the storm and the lightning are far away, you can probably get away with just metering normally, because the distant bolts will not cause much ambient reflection that might blow out the scene. If the storm is right on top of you, though, you may have to underexpose more, because a large nearby brilliant flash is going to be very bright.
  • If your camera has Long Exposure Noise Reduction (most modern DSLRs do), turn it off -- in Canon cameras, it's in Custom Functions. I do this because when you are trying to get lightning, murphy's law will dictate that you *will* see the most spectacular bolts while you are doing something else -- or waiting for your camera before taking another exposure. When the camera notices you are doing a long exposure, it immediately takes a dark frame exposure right afterwards and subtracts it in order to eliminate noise. This is a great feature, but it means if you take a 30 second exposure, your camera will spend another 30 seconds taking the dark frame, and during this time I guarantee you will see all the most spectacular stuff. So, I turn that off and just snap away over and over. The unfortunate consequence is that your resulting pictures will have a lot more defects: noise, in the form of "stuck" or dead pixels from your sensor that will need to be fixed in post-processing. It's tedious, but not that hard to do in GIMP or Photoshop. The newer the camera you have, the less this will be an issue. (It takes me forever with my ancient 5D)
  • Once you have the metering situation sorted out, you get to the boring part: sitting there pressing the shutter button over and over until it starts to rain. Don't bother spending much time reviewing your pictures to see what you've got -- you'll miss something spectacular while you're peering at the LCD. Let it be a surprise when you get home.
  • Lightning is unpredictable, naturally, so a wider angle lens can be helpful to guarantee you get lightning in the frame. You can get different/cooler results using a tighter lens focused on a particular part of the sky, but obviously this requires a lot more patience and luck.
  • Composites (combinations of multiple shots) are your friend. Sometimes you get a few bolts here and there that are unremarkable alone, but can look pretty cool when combined into one exposure. It's a lie, but so is all photography. Compositing is not trivial, but it's not terribly difficult. Look up tools like Hugin's "enfuse" for a starting point on how to accomplish this. The above shot is a composite of a bunch of photos from an oncoming storm.
  • Try not to get hit by lightning, as I understand it really sucks.

May 5, 2011

how to get featured

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 6:40 am

How to get featured on Verve Photo's Documentary Photography blog in 3 easy steps:

  1. Buy a plane ticket to a third-world country or an urban slum.
  2. Take a portrait of a destitute resident in their modest home lit by sunlight through the one window.
  3. Write some bullshit artists' statement about socioeconomic disparity or religious tension or something that has nothing to do with your photo of some lady in her hovel, really, but plays well in the art community.


  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Three
  4. Four
  5. Five
  6. Six
  7. Seven

I could go on, but anyways. Don't get me wrong: most of the stuff they feature is awesome, but they seem to have a hardon for this cliche that seems long since expired. They could all maybe work as part of one collection -- you know, some crap about people in living spaces, or something (which has been done and done over again) -- but as individual photos by all these different artists, it doesn't work at all. What do these photos tell us about their inhabitants, really? Very little, except some sort of very puerile "garsh, there are poor|indigent|foreign|different folks?!" lesson of disparity. It's getting to be as bad as homeless photography. It's time to retire this formula. Thus I have spake.

November 24, 2010

free prints!

Filed under:, — cwage @ 2:37 am

Over on my photo blog, I discuss why I've decided to offer prints for free. (1 part creative ambition, 3 parts abject laziness!)

November 4, 2010

critical mass pic(k)s

Filed under:, , — cwage @ 5:45 am

Some good stuff to come out of the Critical Mass 2010 thing (I don't know if it was a contest or what). Some of my personal favorites:

  • Dima Gavrysh
  • Mitch Dobrowner
  • Christopher Capozziello -- the pics in this one are good, but not great -- at least not necessarily my thing. The story/statement, however, was pretty moving.
  • Elin Høyland -- these too. sad. :(
  • Thomas Jorion -- I had mixed feelings about these, because I liked the photos, but I couldn't decide why. Was it because they were really good photos, or just photos of really cool places? A little of both, I think -- and merely going to seek out aesthetic places and things is a not-insignificant part of good photography, so hey.
  • Daniel Traub -- reeeeally liked these. to me this guy's stuff represents the difference between the photographers that go to blighted areas and take snapshots and those who know how to take and curate good photos.
  • Corinne Vionnet -- I've seen these before, or if not, she's copying someone else. Somewhat gimmicky, I suppose, but neat pictures.

And a few bonus asshole photographer nitpicks:

October 11, 2010

your life is not hard

Filed under:, , , , , — cwage @ 4:15 pm

Someone sent me this collection of pictures from the pacific theatre of WWII.

On a morning when I'm in the midst of several days back-log of work while being inundated with clients calling about hacked servers, it's a good reminder that I really have no good excuse to be that stressed out.

I also think it's funny that while I'm thoroughly vexed trying to take pictures with a Argus C3, lamenting how hard it is at lunch on a weekday while eating a burrito, these guys were doing it in the middle of the jungle while being shot at. Remember that next time you think you're hot shit because you got a new DSLR.

June 17, 2010

exposure exposé

Filed under:, — cwage @ 3:07 pm

[Insert standard nerdy photography post disclaimer here.]

So, I stumbled across this post, which is billed as the ultimate beginner's guide to exposure. It's actually not a bad little intro, but I did notice something extremely hilarious.

If you go to the actual section called "Exposure", you'll note that they've provided three examples for "Overexposed", "Underexposed", and "Exposed well". The funny part? I am 99.9% confident that the "Exposed well" example is just a composite of the first two (or more) pictures. How can you tell? Look at the lows of the Overexposed and the highs of the Underexposed -- they're both at the same level in the "well exposed" shot. If this were truly a well exposed shot in between the two, you'd see an image that was more of a compromise between the two. Combining highs/lows in this way to get greater dynamic range is a fundamental benefit/function of HDR compositing. I'm not sure if it's actually HDR/tonemapped, but it's definitely a composite of some sort. Ironic that a tutorial on fundamental photography basics resorted to digital manipulation to provide the "exposed well" example. Fail.

June 14, 2010

derby at the fairgrounds

Filed under:, , , , , — cwage @ 5:14 pm

I took some before/after pics of the fairgrounds prior to the last roller derby bout this weekend and made this overlay thing. Be sure to roll over the image.

Unfortunately, it's not a pixel-perfect overlay because in the spot where I originally took the before picture there was a guy videoing during the bout and I didn't wanna screw up his stuff.. Oh well. (And yes, I tried re-aligning/rotating the two images -- unfortunately it's an angle-of-view issue. amazing what a difference a few inches can make.) Nerd alert!

April 5, 2010

pilgrim's (project365) progress

Filed under:, , — cwage @ 2:49 pm

It's April 5th, which means, for no particular reason, it's time for a project365 update slideshow! (Yes, I'm doing project365 again this year.) I missed the discipline it forces, even if I did forget how miserable it is to know you have to go take some picture on a cold, rainy miserable late winter day. It's better now that it's gettin' nice out again.


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