I was feeling better today and planned to take pictures. As I watched TV around 3:30 the light coming into my living room and dining room was almost too perfect to pass up. I had bought a wood bowl and matching plate (cheap) just for these kinds of shots. Unless Colin and I get out tomorrow or the next day you will probably be seeing some variations on these with other food items.
It might have been better with the field of focus closer instead of on the stem but I like it anyhow. This really is a learning experience.
I'm not really asking your thoughts on the subject, just ruminating. If I decide to do it I'll probably start over the Christmas break so I get a bit of time in. While I'm sure I'll have no shortage of things to take pictures of (what with a macro lens and all kinds of tchotchkes around the house) I will also be interested in taking pictures of people and pets. If you have some ideas along those lines I'm starting a list.
I'm getting a lot of comments about this picture. It was actually done as a setup shot to test out the flashes and the acrylic sheet. Diane first said she liked it and so I posted it on my Facebook account. From there others have mentioned their appreciation of it. Who knew? The more people talk about it, the more I like it too!
Well it seems I'm feeling much more creative recently. It's probably due in part to the fact I now have less than one week till I report back to school. I was particularly pleased with these two shots of the blueberry pie. Diane made a pie last week (blueberries are incredibly cheap this year) and I kept saying I wanted to take pictures but my back was so tender I could barely get out of bed. So yesterday she made a second pie (like we need the calories around here) and this morning I was feeling good enough to do some shots. I spent some time last night going through the flickr site looking at shots tagged "blueberry" and was surprised at how few were well lit and looked "designed. The vast majority were just snapshot quality. Now, you might be inclined to say to me, "Chuck, I bet there just aren't that many people who take pictures of food and post them to flickr!" And I would respond with, "Did you know the 'Food Porn' pool of pictures on flickr has over 285,000 pictures?" That's a lot of food. And you would be hard pressed to find many bad shots there. If you are interested in seeing some of these amazing pictures of food click that little link!
Prior to today though I saw a picture on a Still Life pool where a guy had used his bone white, elongated coffee cups lined up and I decided to try my hand at that type of set up. I took several versions but decided on this one because the handles mimic the pattern of the back drop.
I re-started my picture taking with this shot. Several people have told me how much they like it but I think it's too busy. It was shortly after this that I decided to try and go simpler with some of my still life pictures.
And finally there is this picture of a silver sugar bowl with roses. I spent hours polishing this bowl (and trying several different concoctions to do it). We found the roses at the local HEB and I started cutting them down to fit. You'll notice, too, that several of these pictures include the acrylic sheets I bought earlier this summer for reflection work. It was while I was taking this picture that I realized just how hard it is to take pictures of highly reflective surfaces and not get your own noggin in the picture. Thankfully I have a remote trigger for my camera and I could stand off enough to the side that I'm barely visible.
Now, of course, Diane thinks I'm uniquely qualified to clean all the silver stuff we have around the house! Finally, I recently found Diane's grandma's cookie tin full of buttons. I'm planning on trying some abstract and/or macro shots of those this week. As soon as I get something interesting I'll let you know.
Maybe I spend TOO MUCH time looking at other people's pictures. I don't know. What I do know is that not only is this a pretty shot that is very well executed, I also would have never thought to do something like this. It's just simple and yet incredible. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
What I do want to discuss is photography. Recently The Strobist blog (one of my favorites) started a new "boot camp" with challenges for those using small camera flashes. The challenges this year are tied up with also doing something "good" for the community. The first challenge was to do a "headshot" portraiture but the twist was to seek out job hunters and do pictures for them to use in their search. There was some good photography but not "exciting" work.
The second challenge came out while I was in DC visiting Ryan and Ash and there was only 1 week to complete it. The request was simple enough, take a creative picture of food. The twist was to go to a local restaurant and offer to photograph their dishes for free. Since I didn't have enough time to think something through and execute it I didn't enter that challenge either BUT the winning pictures were fantastic and I know for a fact that I would never have come up with anything as creative as what some of these people did.
I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the shots from this challenge. To only see the winners click on the link that is attached to the title of this post. To see all of the food pictures (800+) go to this Flickr link. My favorite (the Oreo shot) did not win but I'm not the only one that was surprised by that fact.
The picture above is one of mine. I was going to display some of the winning Strobist shots but ran into technical difficulties. I finally decided that since this is my blog, you get my pictures! The biscotti belongs to Diane and if you have tried any of hers, you know how yummy it is.
Now that I've woken up I find that I have a few other things to discuss so expect more, soon.
Now add to this that the photography blog I follow (Digital Photography School) runs a weekly challenge that I occasionally like to work on. The result? This week's challenge was self-portraits and this is the one I entered for the competition.
I like to call it "The Angry Teacher" because I'm sure my kids have seen this face on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, I probably won't win because there are literally hundreds of other entries that are far more creative than mine. I thought two others turned out pretty good and convey some sort of "feeling." You get to decide just what that feeling is!
The interesting thing about this "assignment" was just how difficult it turned out. I mean, really, it's not like you can just turn the camera around and start snapping pictures. For a true "self-portrait" you really need to have some sort of plan or idea and then try to get both the mood and lighting to match what's in your head. Needless to say, I learned a lot by working on this assignment.
I'm thinking about using this picture as my official school mug shot! My kids will just love it.
Speaking of students. During my first year of teaching I spent 8.5 months convinced that I had no clue what I was doing and that my poor students were getting absolutely NOTHING from me. Last night I checked my school email and found a note from a student from that first year. He was writing to thank me. Let me repeat, THANK ME! According to him he hated math until I started to teach it and made it fun for him. I was floored. I mean, really, much of that first year was spent in the pose shown just above and trying to figure out how I was going to get any better. Needless to say, this is now my most favorite student - of all time! Seriously, I am humbled. I've been told that you never know just how your actions are going to affect someone and in this case I would have truly guessed wrong.
My next official assignment is "portraits" of others and guess who is going to be my model? I bet you can also guess that I probably won't be allowed to post any of the pictures of her. Also, in the meantime I've been doing some table-top still life shots and as soon as I edit them I'll post an article here.
Today, at a speech in front of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, President Obama outlined his proposal of 5 pillars of reform for education and I'd like to comment on his thoughts. If you click on the title of this article it will take you to the White House blog entry for the speech. In short, here are his pillars:
1) "Investing in early childhood initiatives" like Head Start;And my thoughts:2) "Encouraging better standards and assessments" by focusing on testing itineraries that better fit our kids and the world they live in;3) "Recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers" by giving incentives for a new generation of teachers and for new levels of excellence from all of our teachers.4) "Promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools" by supporting charter schools, reforming the school calendar and the structure of the school day.
5) "Providing every American with a quality higher education--whether it's college or technical training."
- While the San Antonio branch of Head Start has had some management problems, there are numerous studies that show that children from disadvantaged neighborhoods tend to do much better in later school years when they receive support from the community at a very early age. It would be nice to see more put into those initiatives.
- I hate to say it but this seems to be a "throw-away" line. Everyone wants better standards and assesments but there are real arguments as to what those should look like. In Texas, the TAKS tests have been a dismal failure except to prove that people can easily find ways to punish schools, teachers and, by association, students. By "proving" that public schools "don't work" people can more easily push for charter schools or other personal designs. Every time I receive the grade reports on my students I am reminded of the axiom I was taught in my college statistics class, "If you torture a number long enough it will tell you anything!"
- Better recruitment and preparation = good thing. Incentivizing teaching is not a good thing. For many reasons. a) Studies show that "bonuses" bring improvements in a persons job for a very short time. Eventually the employee sees the extra money as an entitlement and they quickly return to their old ways. b) If you expect the best from someone and they agree to the payrate you offer, why would you ask for "better results" for more pay? Seriously, if I'm doing my absolute best then there is no such thing as 110%. Also, we don't REALLY give kids grades of 110...well, in class I do, but when the report card comes out it's rounded down to 100. You can't ask for more than the best and we ask for the best from our students AND our teachers. You are insulting my professionalism when you tell me you'll pay me more if I do even better.
- "Charter schools" - questionable at best. Some are pretty good and others are horrible. It's a crap shoot. We're talking about children's lives here. Why do some people get a chance to experiment with these kids? This whole idea reminds me of another favorite phrase of mine, "Hold my beer and watch this!" "Reforming the school calendar and the structure of the school day" - I'd like to see the plan before I comment. We know that children tend to lose ground over the summer months and we also know that the current school calendar was originally based on a lack of air-conditioning and crops needing to be brought in. However, you will have a difficult time convincing teachers that those 10 weeks (more or less) off during the summer needs to be shortened.
- I've spent 4 years listening to people say that we should plan for 100% of our kids going to college. The truth is, there will always be a number of people who can't or won't be able to enter or complete college. For various reasons. In my humble belief, students should be prepared for whatever comes their way. Some should go into technical trades and others should go to college. It's nice to see someone at the upper levels of government see this also. As a "Career and Technology" (CATE) teacher I'm proud to be helping to prepare my students to be successful in either college or technical jobs.
One last note, when did education go from a "local" issue to a "national" one. I thought education management was a "States Rights" item and our state lawmakers (in ALL of their infinite wisdom) delegated the decision making to local school boards. What exactly happened to THAT concept?
Chuck smiles as he climbs off the box and exits stage right.
Change has come...to the official website of the White House. If this stuff interests you at all, check out the new www.whitehouse.gov website. Of particular interest is the official "blog" - look under "Briefing Room." While there is no place to leave comments to specific postings (think: "hey, send me some bail out money") there is a form to send email messages. What I was really impressed with was the first post that described some of the uses for this site and blog. Under the third priority of "Participation" they state that the text of all non-emergency bills will be posted on the site for 5 days before being signed by the President. This is to allow for further public comment.
I have already put this site into my Netvibes account so I'll be instantly notified of any changes/additions to the website. If you haven't already done so, I suggest you find a nice "News Aggregator" so you can watch stuff like this (or, my blog for that matter). Some possibilities include: Netvibes, iGoogle, Google Reader, Yahoo!, Pageflakes, etc...
Feel free to share this info with any social studies teachers you know. I'm sure they too will find it facinating and a great addition to their classroom.
Through the weekend, though I've been planning scallops for dinner. As I worked though it in my head I decided that this would be a good chance for me to cook something good and possibly get a couple of pictures too. This article includes only the best of my shots but if you click here, you can see a couple other pictures of the scallops, talipia, noodles and "pseudo" sauce.
The dinner turned out good and I'm reasonably pleased with the pictures I shot. As always, I need more practice, especially with the new flash setup. Specifically, I need to remember to use some sort of reflector on the opposite side of my flash to kill off a few of the harsh shadows. Given that, this picture of the scallops really pleases me.
Make sure and check out that link above and look for a new picture of Olivia! She's really a darling and is out to capture our hearts. As some of you heard, our older cat, "Moogie" was sick and passed away this weekend. She was a good cat and over the years since Ryan moved she had adopted me. Especially through her, I had grown to truly appreciate cats, their power to put someone into nap mode and their aloof love. She was a good cat and we were blessed to have her around for over 13 years. A few weeks ago I posted a picture of her so I'll not re-post it here. Know, however that we loved her dearly.
I hope you have a great week and spend some time watching the inauguration. I won't bore you with a long diatribe about the historical context of this swearing-in (just watch CNN or any network news and you'll get that). I will say that I am grateful we will now see some changes in how things are done on a national level.
Plane crash into Hudson River, originally uploaded by grego!.
Do I think I'll ever be first-hand on a news story and be able to photograph it? Actually, I hope not. But, you never know when a very pretty flower or sunset or building, etc. is going to appear out of the blue.
And then there's always my dinner at some restaurant. Sometimes, even that deserves a good picture! And Ryan so loves it when I take pictures of my meals.
Have a great MLK weekend!
While we were shopping, I just stumbled upon this shot and thought the mirror added something to it. Also, the donuts looked to be almost as old as the table they were sitting on. I hope you enjoy these. In the coming weeks, as I have time, I'll post more from the fall and last spring.
Beau and Moogie have spent the past week ignoring the new guy. I'm guessing they think he'll go away. Beau, especially, has been very aloof to everyone around here. We're hoping he'll settle back into his regular routine of camping on Diane's lap, soon.
Apparently our finding this guy was a stroke of good luck for the entire litter. Of the six kittens, we took one, Colin took one and two of my school colleagues each took one. I'm already planning a "family reunion" in a couple of months! The last I heard (Wednesday) there are two more if you are interested.
I've got lots of things to do this weekend but I plan to spend time later today or tomorrow getting some good pictures of the new guy. Hopefully I'll get them posted soon. Have a great weekend!
The funny face Diane is making is because "he, who has not been named" has already stolen her heart. Since I am leaving town in 2 hours you probably won't see many more shots till later in the week. Rest assured, though, MANY are coming. Take for example this shot of "he, who has not been named" and Colin.
Speaking of whom...Colin and his mother just left the house to go to the Humane Society for a kitty for him. I'm guessing this will be a "cat" year for our family.
Finally a solo shot. Don't you just love how my new flash captures his colors? Fine, I had to ask because, after all, it is ALL about me and my camera!
Have a great weekend! Please send cat food!
After we stopped by Little Flower Basilica and got several pictures there, we headed downtown. Since I have covered most of the route that I took him on, I decided to look for lines and patterns. Both of the shots on this post are what I came up with. While the one below is kinda nice (I need to go back and take it head-on), I was really pleased with the top picture. I'm especially happy because the sun is in a perfect position to make shadows that nearly exactly match the lines of the fire escape. The stinking tree leaves in the top left are a bit of a distractor but otherwise I thought it worked well.
Now that the new years party is over I plan to spend some time today playing with my new flash. I did a little practice last night but none of the pictures are post-able (meaning the subjects will get mad at me for putting them on the internet!). Also, tomorrow, Colin is coming back for another walk-about.
I hope all three of you who read this (thanks mom!) have a wonderful new year! It's hard to believe we are already in 2009 and while I had a pretty darned good year, I know there are many others who struggled. I pray that this year will be better for all. Certainly bringing in a new president will help to get the ball rolling. Blessings to all!