Dan Wheeler sends in his Something from Nothing submission:
Working in an industrial setting can be, well quite a stark environment. Industrial lighting, noise, vibrations and on a bad day things get ‘odorous’. For many workers this is not a place of pretty curves or graphically appealing images, it is a place of employment where vision is replaced with production. Harsh lines, the constant squares and the ever present triangle of structure are all the common forms that make up a workspace. Functional, supportive, stable. A true slice of efficient construction.
Digging deeper though and looking at the forms within the forms the workplace opens up as the building takes on a life that to the worker becomes something to be admired. For me I am grateful that I can enjoy the outdoors which is where I do most of my camera work but unfortunately as most know we have to somehow make a living to be able to travel or afford the luxury of the outdoors. Over the past couple of years I have been adding the human element into what I photograph. Do I enjoy it? It is a challenge, but has helped in finding what I really like? For me yes it has.
What I have found is that the blending of light, steel and product has become a portrait that is usually left only for those that have the artist eye or desire to see into a place.
So look around where you work and put aside the daily walk downs or blank stares at the desk top and see what is present. A whole new world can open up and add to your version of the cubicle.
My husband and I were on a quick turn around trip with a one night stay in a hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, my husband set off to do some errands. I figured this would be the only quiet shooting time I would get on the entire weekend (and I was right) so out came my camera. These are a few of the shots that I came up with.
Well, I saw every spot there was to see in my bathroom but had to respond to the challenge of making something out of nothing. I can’t take a picture of the entire bathroom because it is too small but you can see much of it in the first shot. Then I explored different angles and close-ups and, despite having a small space, I found the objects or close-ups intriguing, especially with the light on them. And thanks to you, my bathroom is now the cleanest room in my home!
Cochrane-based photographer Olivier Du Tré sent in this little story about how he made the photos below of an everyday light fixture:
I loved your recent post because I – as well – believe that training your eye can start at home. Take these 10 images for example. This is something that ‘just happened’. I was waiting for a client to show up (I was on time, he wasn’t) when I noticed this light. I was looking at it for a bit and started wondering how I could do something with it. I started thinking about exposure and overal look of the images but I was too lazy to take the camera out (this was going to be a long day, no need to burn up the creative juices THAT quickly). I went back and forth in my head for a bit (am I going to or not) and finally decided to photograph this light. I made a little mini series about this one simple (yet beautiful) light fixture. At first my photographs were timid. They were distant. Almost like I was afraid to approach the light. After a few photographs I dug deeper. And you see my progression in understanding this subject through the compositions I made.
Here at oopoomoo we think that making decent photos from an iconic beauty location in sweet light is the low hanging fruit. Just show up at the grand location in glory light and most photographers can come away with something that will get oohs and aahs on Facebook. Easy!
But the real test of ‘seeing’ is making something from nothing. Can you take an absolutely boring subject in everyday light and make a decent image? I tried this awhile back while staying in a low end motel. I gave myself the assignment to photograph in the bathroom using only the light coming in from the window. The images may not be award-winning but the exercise keeps my eye trained. Below are some of the images from the musty motel bathroom I came up with using a digital point-n-shoot camera. If you want to send us your own Something from Nothing assignment to be considered for the blog please email your story and photos to us at email@example.com (images should be 585 pixels in the long dimension).
I can hear you all saying, “Another post from Catherine so soon?!” Well, there are several reasons for this post.
First, Sam and Darwin are trying to take some time off this month. As you read in Kennel Boy’s post, he was crazy busy while at Gone Wild Kennels. Sam slaved over the computer most of the time except one day when we both toodled off to Canmore. We spent some time strolling down the main street, stopping for a nice creamy latte and then heading to the deli to purchase a turducken for the festive season.
Keep your eye on the oopoomoo posts because I can see a story here!!! One day last week, Sam and Darwin went out into the forest just to have FUN. No further explanation was given. I don’t believe cameras were involved, so I guess we will leave the definition of ‘fun’ to our imaginations! They deserve some time off so I’ll help them out by doing this post.
Reason two for this post is that I had one more assignment to complete for my Instructor at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology). He told us that he was so impressed with our creativity that the doors are wide open for our last assignment. The one restriction is that we cannot do any post production. While working on my assignment I came across a ‘discovery’ that I thought I would share with all of you.
The third reason is that I am not running around buying chocolate, marshmallows, candied fruit, dates and all the other goodies needed for the Christmas sweets. I am not out in the woods looking for a six foot tree which, by the time it gets into the house, is ten feet!!!! (it looked so much smaller in the forest!) AND…I am not fighting off crowds of people, listening to crying babies who are all bundled up in strollers like wee cocoons, or standing in line for one hour only to find out that the 2012 Christmas gift fad is all sold out!! Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas!!! We celebrated ‘Christmas in July’ because it’s so difficult to get all family members home in December. Yep, this year we had our Christmas Polar Bear on our front lawn, some strands of lights in the trees, our Christmas tree dressed in its best, presents waiting to have their outer skin ripped off, stockings hanging and the wonderful, delicious smell of ……………barbequed hamburgers. Hey! It’s too hot in the middle of July to have the oven on for five hours while the bird cooks!!! We enjoyed our meal on the back deck with family and friends and some even enjoyed a soak in the hot tub! Our neighbours thought perhaps Ed and I had really lost it when we were decorating the front yard with Christmas decorations on July 10th . They were convinced we belong in the loonie bin on July 14th when we were on the deck unwrapping Christmas gifts !!!
Soooooooooooooo, I have some time on my hands. What better way to spend some of that time than writing an oopoomoo post?
Now, to my AH HA moment. The pressure is on. Twenty Continuing Education Students need to be photographically creative. We are a competitive group, in a friendly way, and this is our last chance to ‘show our stuff’. However, I don’t know if I can top the RED BRA in a snow covered tree image shown last week in class. NOOOO, I did not submit that photo.
I should work on my Portrait Challenge Sam and Darwin have given me and kill two birds with one stone. The challenge is to be finished by the end of the year and the portraits are to be of strangers. I need to develop a rapport with them prior to ‘shooting’ them. But, I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to mention it to Sam or Darwin…….They neglected to tell me how many portraits I am required to hand in. Ha ha ha! I know I can grab one image of a person before New Years Eve so I’m not in a big panic.
For my SAIT assignment I decided to do some water droplets on glass photos. I have never done this before so I knew there would be some trial and error happening.
The first step was to find a small piece of glass. Downstairs I went. After rummaging through some boxes I saw just what I needed – an 8×10 piece of glass from a broken photo frame.
The second step was to get my tail over to the local ‘tires and everything else store’ to buy some Rain X which causes water beads to form when water contacts the glass.
After washing, drying, Rain-x-ing and dropping little droplets of water on the glass it was now time to set things up. Camera was attached to the tripod. Small items to put under the glass included a lizard figurine, red and green confetti, a red and white card shaped like a mitten and one of Ed’s treasured collectors matchbox cars (this is another secret, okay?)
I held the glass between the mitten shaped Christmas card and the lens and played around with distance from the card. I focused the camera on the droplets. Not bad…… good depth of field and you could see part of the card in some of the droplets. Snap. Ummm, what are those funny lines all over my image??? Okay. I need to keep the glass absolutely still. Out come four small boxes. With the glass carefully placed on top of the boxes I snapped away again. Still wiggly lines! Wash, dry and a super polish this time. Snap. Nope! What the heck!?!? Must be poor quality glass!
I downloaded the images on to my laptop to have a better look at the wiggly lines. Ummmm, these lines remind me of something I’ve seen before…..??? Relaxed and stretched out in my recliner (I do my best thinking in this position) I was in heavy thought and staring up at the ceiling. That’s when I had my AH HA moment! WIGGLY LINES!!! ON THE CEILING!!! The textured ceiling was reflecting on the glass and because of the lighting I was getting a perfect reflection!
I replaced the red mitten card on the table, focused on the wiggly lines and SNAP. Here is what I got.
I put the lizard under the glass and focused on the lizard through the glass. Here is an image of the set up.
Then I focused on the wiggley lines.
The images I shot today were not what I was hoping for but they are kinda neat. I won`t submit any of them for my SAIT assignment but I may come back to this technique at a later date and see what else could be done with glass and ceiling. Perhaps when I succeed with my water droplets on glass project, I will share them with you.
Ian McGillvrey also took us up on the Something from Nothing challenge and spent an hour and a half mining gifts from his kitchen. None of Ian’s photos rely on post-processing tricks; these are all in-camera JPEG captures! We think there are some stunners that Ian captured from scenes most of us would pass over. Congratulations Ian on photos well seen!
In keeping with the idea of challenging myself to just creatively see images and not rely on processing or other tricks, I limited myself to working with the elements in the room as they sat and with the light available to me. These images are JPEGS straight out of the camera (only in-camera processing, i.e. monochrome or vivid picture style were used) and all images were shot handheld.Here’s the overall scene, my kitchen island:
Right away I went to the sink… not sure why, maybe just following Darwin’s lead? But as I did, I noticed a cool reflection happening on the backsplash from the setting sun coming in the front windows.
Getting closer (nearly inside the sink!) I was able to isolate this. I used a wide aperture (f 2.8 on my 24-70) to keep the focus on the reflection and let the rest fade away. Not too bad for just getting started!
I wanted to just focus on the lines and patters in the plastic bag so after switching over to monochrome and my macro lens (105mm f 2.8 for those interested), I came up with these two images below:
Then I thought I could do something a little more interesting and shot the other way towards the bananas for a more colourful background.
I liked the warm glow of the previous one, but I also tried one with a more correct white balance. I’d been shooting on daylight up to this point, but the majority of the ambient light at this point was coming from the interior light fixtures. Switching over to tungsten white balance gave me this:
Finally, I had a look at the Slap Chop and wondered what I could make of it.
The coiled spring on the handle looked kind of interesting so I worked with that. I think these probably wound up being my favourites from the night. Going with monochrome again and looking across towards the white door gave me this:
Then I went around the counter and shot from the other side towards the green cutting board as a background.
I was really pushing it to get a sharp image at this point, handholding in such low light. I’d already pushed up my ISO as high as I was comfortable and was still only at 1/15th of a second or so. To try and gain some more shutter speed, I turned on the light in the dining area (duh, why didn’t I think of that half an hour ago!) and tried another background idea shooting towards the bananas like I did with the strainer. This time, the light from the dining room I had just turned on (to my left as I was shooting) reflected off the green cutting board on the right and gave me this cool green highlight I wasn’t expecting.
This was a great exercise and I found that the more time I spent, the more images I began to see. I had planned on only spending a few minutes trying this out then getting some work done, but before I knew it, an hour and a half had gone by and I only felt like I was just getting going!
Darwin’s September 1 post, The Something from Nothing Series, resonated with me. As a chaser of photography subjects in the Midwestern United States, my usual M.O. is to wrestle something from nothing, more often than not. Oh, the area has its beauty, but it is of the subtle sort that often requires a good long look, some thought, and a healthy dollop of imagination to truly appreciate. The Midwest’s rivers, farmland, industry, and their associated human activity are full of photographic subjects, but they are unlikely to be included in anyone’s top list of subjects.
After a dozen or so years of wandering and photographing things local, it became apparent that wood plays a very big role in the creation of place. The material is fundamental, ubiquitous, and as a consequence is often overlooked. As a result, it has become a favorite subject of mine, and a few images of it might serve as an example of Darwin’s idea. So here is my Nothing but Wood series.
Our first post on Something from Nothing generated a lot of interest and response. A number of you are going to take up the challenge to make interesting photos of everyday objects around your house and yard — hoorah! We encourage you to send us a photo of the overall scene where you photographed and then the images you extracted. This is an exercise in learning to see beyond the obvious and finding the magic in the mundane. Send us your assignment results and your thoughts on the process and what you did and if we find the results instructive for your average oopoomian, we’ll post ’em here. (Remember: local = qualified for our Walkabout Photo Contest!)
Jim Dricker wrote us about his ongoing assignment:
Since November, 2010, I’ve been involved in a project photographing within my house and up to 150 feet from my front door. Some of the images reveal a kind of seeing that results from slowing down and opening up to the possibilities in front of me. Here are several examples:
It seems a popular pursuit in landscape photography is to globe trot to exotic locations mining dramatic landscapes in theatrical light. In the past, the hard work in this kind of photography was the research. Getting yourself in the right place at the right time in the right conditions was a bit of a task. Today, with GPS-tagged photos, location apps and eGuides, finding the world’s trophy locations has never been easier. Witness the ever-increasing crowds lining up for sweet light photos of Maroon Bells, Delicate Arch, the Giant’s Cuaseway or the Taj Mahal. Few locations are ‘secret’ any longer so coming up with unique photos based solely on access and good light is getting harder and harder.
As impressive as it is to see a portfolio of big dramatic landscape images from around the world, these portfolios resonate with us less and less because they are now so common place. The photographers’ portfolios that really impress us are those photographers who can consistently make the extraordinary from the ordinary. Those photographers who find gems in their living room, in the ditch on the side of the highway or in any location most of us would pass over are, in our eyes, true artists. There is a plethora of fantastic images all within eye sight of each of us right now, if only we are open to seeing. Think of Edward Weston’s famous photo Pepper 30. Who would have thought that a common vegetable we get in our grocery bag could be such an evocative subject?
I have occasionally been able to make a memorable (at least to me) photo of mundane subjects that normally I would pass over, but mostly I still rely on the obvious to present itself for me to capture as an image. (Sam, on the other hand, almost always goes for the quiet, personal image of an overlooked subject even when we are in a trophy location with big light.)
In an attempt to grow as artists and to learn to see deeper, we have given ourselves an ongoing assignment; to create ‘something from nothing’. We will pick a mundane location or subject and try and make a photo with personal vision. This is probably easier for Samantha. I know I will struggle because I have been trained for over 25 years to go for the big light!
Of course the danger of consciously forcing yourself ‘to see’ is that you may fail simply by being conscious of intention. The idea here is not to purposely create an ‘extraordinary photo of the ordinary’ that we can show off (that is just another form of trophy hunting and bragging). Rather the goal is the process of seeing. The failures (in seeing) are just as important as the successes. We will show both. I rarely show my failures so this is a big step for me 😉
With that I share with you my first “Something from Nothing” exercise and the thought process behind it. We would love it if some of you tried this exercise along with us. Send us your description and a series of images from your own attempts and if we think the results are instructive we’ll share them here on the oopoomoo blog (firstname.lastname@example.org). Happy seeing!
Something from Nothing – The First Attempt
One day while doing the dishes I noticed the vases in the windowsill were reflecting colours on the metal of the sink. I took a half an hour off of house duties, grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos.
Like most of us, I found myself immediately attracted to the brightest colour and contrast of the scene. I started with the reflections spilling across the drain. The image below is probably the most obvious and was the ‘gimme’ image that had to be made first!
Next, I tried to move beyond the obvious and work pure colour and shape in a more abstract representation. The image below relies on the geometry inherent in the scene (circle, triangles and line) along with the coloured reflection but is a little more subtle. I used a shallow depth of field to focus attention on the foreground metal.
I wanted an even more abstract representation of the sink and drain and shot through the reflection on the edge of the sink to show a hint of the subject emerging through the coloured reflection. This is the image I like the best from the series and represents for me a marriage of pure abstraction of colour and shape with an anchor of reality. I also like how the frame is divideded into triangles of reality in monochrome and abstraction in colour.
I then tried to work the lines of the facet and taps but didn’t really get anything evocative but rather just predictable and boring. Notice I still couldn’t get away from the draw of colour!
In the end, I had one image that I liked. None of the results here are ‘extraordinary’ but the process really helped me tune my eye. Now that I look at the overall image of the kitchen I see things I missed while I was fixated on the coloured reflections. For example, in the upper left of the photo the bottom of a wine glass contrasts strongly with a silver bowl. That might make an interesting photo. Also the soap bubbles on the counter would make an a decent abstract macro image. There are dancing shadows on the tiles above the taps that would be worth a look. Personally, I think I was too fixated on the reflections to see the other visual gifts that the scene contained. This exercise makes me want to try the kitchen sink again to see if I can see a little deeper next time. I gotta go and get the dishes finished. Who knows what I might find!