Monday, September 8, 2008

Stephen: Break This Rule!

Since the rule of thirds is largely about not putting lines, edges, and primary subjects in the dead center of the photograph, and was supposed to do just that, I decided to invent and follow a rule of halves. My camera's viewfinder has guides along both center lines, so lining thing up was not difficult. Making them not look dumb was harder.

This assignment was very open-ended. I could shoot anything I wanted in any way I wanted, as long as I centered things. At first, I thought architecture would provide good subjects, but as I mentioned in my previous post, my first set didn't turn out well. This is the one surviving photo from that set, after significant editing.

If you every get a great idea for a photo that involves creating shadows and lining things up in a complicated way, I have some advice: Don't. Setting up and shooting this photo took way too much time and effort. Unless you have a dedicated studio with the right equipment (and preferably an assistant), studio work is very difficult. It would have been way easier to fake this with the GIMP, and it probably would have looked better. I know the horizontal edge is not at the half-way point, but I tried it that way and it looked dumb. The mental line between the peach (that's a peach, by the way) and its shadow is at the center, so quit your whining.

I took the next five photos yesterday evening at Big Spring Park. The birds are really tame and not at all shy, so they made better subjects than a lot of people I know. The third photo doesn't follow my rule of halves as well as I would like, but the geese were lined up like that for only an instant. I used my clipping-correction method on the fourth picture to remove a cyan tinge from the sky.

As always, comments are appreciated.

Should we ditch rounds?

Here's the deal. We all have unique, unpredictable schedules. Even when we make time to shoot, something like weather may interfere or the photos may not turn out well. Working on a tight schedule is hard, especially when you aren't getting paid for it.

For example, last week I shot some photos downtown. I felt great about them as I was shooting, but once I got them back and uploaded them to my PC, I realized they were boring and actually bad. They looked like they were taken by someone who needed to learn the rule of thirds rather than by someone who had moved beyond it. Only one of them made my final set for the assignment (which I will post shortly) and then only after extensive work in the GIMP.

All of this is to say I am thinking about getting rid of the rounds. I don't think we need to do away with due dates, but if we don't have rounds, one person's delays don't affect other participants. It will make things more complicated once we have more than two people actively participating and we rotate whom is assigning whom, but I think we can keep up with it.

Here's how I see this working. Once someone posts a set of photos, his next assigner gives him his next assignment within a day or two with a due date about two weeks from the assignment date. The time period for the assignment can vary depending on the complexity and the photographer's schedule. This will require the assigner to check Google Reader regularly so that the photographer doesn't spend a week with nothing to shoot. The assigner should also be thinking of assignments ahead of time, so that he can post one quickly. The photographer should make every effort to meet the due date, but if he cannot, it will not throw off the whole system.

I like the way rounds keep things orderly and provide labels for grouping, but I think the flexibility afforded us by doing away with them is more valuable. What does everyone (photographers and readers alike) think of this idea?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stephen: Break This Rule!

You know the Rule of Thirds? The rule that is so helpful in nudging every beginning photographer out of the my-subject-must-be-centered nest--that's the one. Well, I want you to break that rule and show us what centering the subject can really do. If you get in a rebellious frenzy and break other rules, please explain when you post.

Even if the rules don't like being broken, I'm confident they'll enjoy being acknowledged. Being hated is better than being ignored

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Daniel: Travelogue through Portraiture

In each place you visit, make a portrait of Mary Catherine that captures the spirit of that place. The representation of the place should be accomplished through the style of the photograph rather than through the objects captured in the frame. Do not just take a picture in front of the best-known landmark.

Due date: 25 October 2008 (Feel free to post as you go, but I would love to see them as a set as well.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nathan: The Power of Lighting

Select one object (natural or man-made) to photograph. Make a series of photographs of that object that each evoke a different response to the object (or reflect a different attitude toward the object) by changing the lighting. Perspective, setting, and processing may be changed if necessary, but the lighting should be the primary driver of the unique way the object is presented in each photograph.

Due date: 26 August 2 September 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Round 3

Assignment date: 21 August 2008
Due date: 26 August 2 September 2008
Evaluation date: 28 August 4 September 2008

Stephen assigns Nathan.
Nathan assigns Stephen.

In light of Daniel's continued preoccupation with wedding-related activities, I am leaving him out of this round. He may need to be on a modified schedule during his trip as well. He will likely receive both trip-long assignments and shorter (possibly location-specific) assignments.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Even More Clipping

As I was thinking about clipping, I realized there is an easy way to fix the hue of the sky in the GIMP (or Photoshop). To try it out, I used the following picture. I took this in bright sun on a Texas flight line in the early afternoon. I used fill flash to deal with the harsh shadows. This is the original, which was was not overexposed or clipped.

So why would someone use a correctly-exposed photo to illustrate a way of correcting clipping? So he would know the right answer. To do this on a photo that was originally overexposed, you can use all the same steps, you just have to play with a couple of things until they look right. To clip the colors, I moved the top point of the value curve in the curves tool from (255,255) to (191,255). Using the levels tool should give the same result. This provides the overexposed, clipped image.

I can now correct the overexposure by moving the top point of the value curve in the curves tool from (255,255) to (255,191). This step is optional, and if this was a real overexposed photo, you would have to figure out how far down to adjust it. Here it helps make the final result look more like the original. You can see that the hue of the sky is greener than it was in the original.

This is the real trick to this fix. I created a new transparent layer and used the brush tool to fill the sky with a color of the right hue (210). Only the hue matters. In a real situation, you would have to figure out what hue the sky should be, but an average of the bluest section of the sky should be close. If all of the sky is noticeably clipped, just pick a blue you like. You can color over the clouds because hue does not affect white or gray.

Next I changed the mode of the new layer from Normal to Hue. This makes everything below that layer have the hue of that layer. Clever, huh? The result does differ from the original in some important ways. The detail in the clouds is gone, and now they look flat. There is no way of fixing that, unless you want to paint them by hand. The sky looks a little different, but at least it now looks fairly natural.

What if I had not readjusted the exposure after I forced the clipping? It looks mostly the same, just brighter.

It is better not to overexpose your photos, but if you do, this might help you deal with a cyan sky. Maybe next time Nathan will think twice before he asks a question about one of my pet peeves.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Clipping, again

I used the curves tool in the GIMP to put together an animation showing the way clipping can affect the color of the sky. The important thing is the way the hue changes.

Stephen: Travelogue + Color

I didn't take pictures consistently enough throughout my trip for a real travelogue, but I took lots of photos during my two long layovers in Atlanta. I focused on people wearing clothing with interesting colors. The result is essentially street photography of people in the Atlanta airport. As far as I know, none of these people ever knew I photographed them, but I usually didn't hang around to find out. I shot many of the photos somewhat blindly from my hip.

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Assignment for Stephen: Travelogue + Color

Potts, I want to know about your trip. Travelogue me! And do something with color. Your choice, just explain it when you post.

Due date: August 19, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Here's the deal...

I am a bit out of commission at the moment. While I am in Hoover at this instant, I am not really... Tuscalossa will be my home for the next few days.  I am getting married in 2 weeks and I haven't much time to take photos. Not only that, but my lens is broken and I am in the process of ordering a new one. I have this trip around the world coming up and it will give me lots of opportunities to provide Halfastop with good material. I also just graduated. Saw you there Lucy. Ok that is all for now. Look for me to post after the 25th of August.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I'd love to discuss clipping. Why do you (Stephen) hate it so much? How do you (Dan and other readers) feel about it?

Though I admit I'm exerting no control over when my photos clip, sometimes I like the sense of overwhelming brightness.

Assignment for Stephen: Military-Industrial Complex

Potts, I want to learn about Huntsville's economic furnace, the military-industrial complex. Create images that convey strong opinions. The subject can be any size you like--a landscape, microscopic robotic spy, or anything between. Each image should convey its own view of the MIC, and I'll guess (how I love guessing!). If this assignment is going to jeopardize you job security, I'll revise it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Assignment for Daniel: Rocks of Hoover

Photograph rocks and their surroundings in Auburn Hoover, Alabama. Select a variety of rocks in a variety of locations such that they say something about the city.

Due date: 12 August 2008

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Photo size

It's nice to be able to click on photos and view them in a larger format. However, the photos we uploaded initially are gigantic. My browser won't zoom out, so I'd have to download yours to get a full screen/full photo shot. Check my second batch (Round 1, 2/2) and see if 1024 is a reasonable width.

Photographs by Nathan: A Dog's Point of View (2/2)

Here are the rest of my Round 1 photos. I took these inside the house, in the dogs' kennel in the basement. The first is a longing look at the lock. The next two feature Sam's favorite thing in all the world: his green ball. I'd love some feedback on the two similar ball photos: Which is more effective? What do you think of the selective saturation?

That's all for this round. Bring on the comments!

Photographs by Nathan: A Dog's Point of View (1/2)

Here's my first installment. These three shots focus on my two dogs' longing to be in the house.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Photographs by Stephen: The Domestication of Water

To varying degrees, all my posted photographs reflect both goals of the assignment, to be somewhat ambiguous as to the subject and to use a wide range of values in the presentation of the water element. If there are any you can't identify, let me know and eventually I will reveal their origins in the comments.

Round 2

Assignment date: 7 August 2008
Due date: 12 19 August 2008
Evaluation date: 14 21 August 2008

Stephen assigns Daniel.
Nathan assigns Stephen.
Daniel assigns Nathan.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Assignment for Stephen: The Domestication of Water

Find water wherever you can in your house. For each photo, choose one of two goals. State the goal of each image you post:
  1. Post photos of water that is difficult for the viewer to place (e.g., I will have to search and think before I realize I'm looking at a water hose. )
  2. Photograph with the goal of capturing a wide range in values in the water element itself.
Due date: August 5, 2008

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Round 1

Assignment date: 31 July 2008
Due date: 5 August 2008
Evaluation date: 7 August 2008

Stephen assigns Nathan.
Nathan assigns Stephen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

General Guidelines

For consistency, please follow the following guidelines. They may change as the need or desire arises.

New assignments should be given as new posts with the title "Assignment for [Name]: [Assignment Title]" and the labels Assignment, [Name], and Round[#]. The body of the post should contain the instructions for the assignment and the due date. Assignments should be made no later than Thursdays, and due dates should be on Tuesdays. Assignments may consist of just about anything. They may specify a subject, a technique, a theme, a mood, a style, or some combination of these. They may set a minimum number of photographs to shoot or a maximum (or minimum) shooting time.

Completed assignments should be posted as "Photographs by [Name]: [Assignment Title]" and the labels Photographs, [Name], and Round[#]. The body of the post should contain reasonably-sized photographs linked to higher-resolution versions and any comments the photographer has about the assignment or the photographs.

Evaluations and other responses should be posted in the comments section of the appropriate post. As much as possible, evaluations should be positive and encouraging. The assigner should comment no later than Thursday, and others should try to meet this deadline as well. Evaluations may contain questions for the photographer, and the photographer is free to respond to any comment.

The use of an Atom web feed reader (such as Google Reader) will help participants keep up with assignments, photographs, and evaluations.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Assignment for Nathan: A Dog's Point of View

Take at least 30 unique, quality shots that show your home from a dog's point of view. Black and white is preferred. Post your best few shots.

Due date: 5 August 2008