Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Photography Assignment #3 ~ Portrait of a Pet

The idea of taking someone's portrait can be a bit intimidating for a beginner or amateur photographer. Luckily, there are ways to practice with live subjects, provided that you aren't allergic to the furry or feathered.
Ruffio & Watts

Now I know that it isn't entirely the same as taking human portraits because you can't really "pose" a cat or a dog to help accentuate their best features. For example, pets won't cooperate if you ask them to tilt their chin at a 90-degree angle while turning their head slightly to the right to hide that double-chin. Having a moving, living, breathing subject is very different than still-life. They don't always cooperate. Sometimes they break out into wrestling.

Wrastlin' Kats

But the practice does accentuate your powers of observation with a live subject and the different dynamics that could include. How the subject interacts with its environment and how environment affects the visual mood. How a light source from the left casts a shadow on the right, adding depth and contrast. How just even slight changes in expression can entirely change the feel of the picture. Those are just a few examples, of course, but you get what I mean.

Two Kitty Paws

The best part? If session doesn't go well or if the practice portaits don't turn out, the "client" won't care. And, if your subject is your own pet, you can practice, practice, practice until you start liking the photos that you see!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Experiment: Inspired by Light

So I wrote last week about how TCB is an amazing and inspiring Light Art Performance Photographer from the Twin Cities. Here are some of my own photos inspired by TCB's work.

Light Streamers

Now this isn't light art performance photography. This would probably be closer to light art. But in this case, instead of the subject moving and creating the light image, I made these pictures by moving the camera during the capture of a fixed light source.

Centripetal Light

In other words, I shook the camera in a calculated way while taking photos of my neighbors Christmas lights. Pretty cool, huh? It's amazing how another photographer's perspective and technique can add new angles and colors to your own.

Light Drizzle

Sara Duane-Gladden is a freelance writer and photographer in the Twin Cities area of the great state of Minnesota.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Inspirational Photographers - TCB / Twin Cities Brightest

I started a monthly Inspirational Photographers segment in October. Then I didn't blog at all in November. Now I am picking it back up here in December as if nothing happened! Okay, so...

hollow heart

TCB, short for Twin Cities Brightest (or Them Chernobyl Buds depending on your street cred ;) ) is a light art performance photographer in the Twin Cities. This Saint Paul native combines photography, graphic design, and performance to create  unique, magical, almost supernatural images and landscapes, or "lightscapes" rather. What you see here has not been edited or manipulated. As Crack For Your Eyes put it, "What you see before you is as real as it can get. No PhotoShop, no hallucinations but straight up real art, with the world as a canvas and light as brushes." Sounds beautiful, doesn't it?


TCB, who's real name is Dana, is addicted to light art performance photography, or LAPP, and take one look at these photos and you'll understand why. Descended from light painting, LAPP is accomplished using one-shot long time bulb exposure, performed additionally with movement of light to create the different effects. TCB goes to great extents for his art, putting in lots of time and energy. He is also more than willing to teach others his craft.

21% oxygen
What started as trying to find the best places to skateboard turned into finding interesting places to paint graffiti. That caused a lot of drama in his life, though, so eventually the graffiti fell off and he became more of an urban explorer. With the Twin Cities' many drains, bridges, and abandoned buildings, there are innumerable unknown and out-of-the-way places to discover.


One day in a pitch-black tunnel, I was taking pictures, and at this point I was just documenting the expedition, and I accidentally made some light paintings by doing long exposure photographs. The flashlights we were using to see looked like paintbrushes in space, and I soon realized that you could create a composition by considering the aperture size and shutter speed along with the location.

cosmic background radiation

A week or so later I had been to every toy store in town searching for cool light up toys, and ended up spending about twenty bucks on different stuff. The results were so cool; I couldn't stop thinking about it at that point.
He discovered sites like Flickr.com, drawing inspiration from groups like Light Junkies where "some people were doing some amazing things with light." He started making tools out of lights and other props like hula-hoops, poles, and wheels to create different effects. His first big breakthrough was putting lights on a wheel attached to a paint roller extension. The images created with it produce perfect "spirographs" of light. The total cost of the tool to make this picture was about $10, but just look at the results.


He is more than a light photographer, too. He really has an eye for composition. And as you can see, his love for bright, light colors transfers over to that work. Whatever style, TCB's work is truly unique and inspirational.


You can view more of TCB's photos at Flickr. Also a graphic designer, he has recently launched his own website, TwinCitiesBrightest.com. There are also videos and tutorials available at both locations so you can see how the magic happens.

Sara Duane-Gladden is a freelance writer and photographer in the Twin Cities area of the great state of Minnesota.  

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas at the Mall of America

For reasons that are beyond me, a trip to the Mall of America was in order on Saturday. Super Saturday, that is, the final Saturday before Christmas, when crazed people are swarming everywhere. The place was... insane, but since I really wasn't there with much of an agenda, it was kinda fun to sit back and people-watch while I snapped pictures of the pretty decorations (Inspired by pics from the Dusty Lens (North Metro Photo Blog) and partly the reason why I conceded to this jaunt into the Labyrinth in the first place).
 Wreath in Abstract

Pretty decorations. Everywhere. I love the colors of blue, white, silver, and green. The place already looks gaudy enough, having red, green, and gold splashed everywhere would have been an eyesore. Look at me critiquing Christmas decorations. :) At the mall even! I'm unqualified on so many levels.

Giant Christmas Bulbs

While I was there, a few things were happening...

First and most obviously was a Holiday Music Festival. During my visit, the Northview IB World Concert Orchestra was performing in the rotunda. You can't see it in this picture, but the female conductor was also playing an electric guitar. Very cool. At the opposite corner of the mall, the melodic voices of the Pella Community High School Madrigal Singers could be heard.

Northview IB World Concert Orchestra
Second, and probably less apparent was that there was a taping of "Mall Cops: Mall of America" happening on Saturday. Yes, there is now a reality TV show being taped at the MOA that centers on the daily work-lives of its security guards and on-site law enforcement personnel.

Mall Cops Filming

While people watching, I noticed a group of about 5 high-school age kids running up an escalator. They were quickly followed by about as many mall cops, followed by a camera and sound crew. I tried to snap a few pics but the lighting wasn't very good in the areas I saw the action happening. This badly blurred picture I took as I followed them up the escalator is one of my favorites, though, because of the ethereal look it has. You can pretty much only see the cops and the film crew and can't make anything else out.

Up the Escalator

It was a strange but fun day at the MOA. It was one of the busiest shopping days of the year and yet, I think it is the first time I've ever gone there and not left feeling like I'd stuck my finger in an electrical socket. We got our gifts, I got some fun pictures. All in all, a successful trip. Below is my favorite pic of the whole day.

Gathering Place

See the rest of the pictures taken on Super Saturday of Christmas at the Mall of America.

Sara Duane-Gladden is a freelance writer and photographer in the Twin Cities area of the great state of Minnesota.  

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Victorian Christmas at the Historical Ames Florida Stork House

Over the weekend, the Ames Florida Stork House museum and historical society at which I volunteer at held a turn-of-the-century style Christmas Tea. The house was decorated beautifully and the atmosphere was festive. Once everyone cleared out, I had the chance to take some pictures of the house with all of its twinkly lights.

Yes, there were strands of Christmas Lights at the turn of the last century. These aren't that kind, though, I think it would probably be a fire hazard, and we wouldn't want the Stork house to burn down. Plus, if we had light strands that old, they would be an artifact on display in the house. And that would be cool (Yeah, there's the history nerd in me).

Take a look at that beautiful fireplace. We couldn't have a real fire, so a volunteer wrapped logs in orange Christmas lights. The glow looks nice in the photos and even reflects on the wood flooring in a warm way.

You can check out the whole set of Victorian Christmas Tea 2009 photos on Flickr, including some black and white photography. Of course.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Seasons Change ~ Subjects Change

I was going through some of my recent uploads to find photos I'd like to highlight for a blog post. It dawned on me that I really like taking pictures of moss. Tiny green forests with their own creatures, that grow in places they shouldn't really be growing. On the sides of trees. On rocks. On the roofs of buildings. Made me think I'm going to miss it while it is gone over the winter. It is a fun photography topic.

It takes a keen eye and a little imagination to find a moss formation to be interesting. But add another subject as fleeting as moss, say something like cobwebs or even light, and it becomes even more its own miniature environment at the whim of the elements. Is something hiding in the dark recesses of the stone?

The contrast of granite's solidity adds yet another angle. By now, the moss has died, its green faded. The cobwebs have frozen and dissolved. This stone wall is still there, will still be there in the future.

The snow will pile up, ice will form, and the wind will bluster. And there will be new interesting ice-bound formations to photograph and share. The white is a stark contrast to the colors and green of summer and warm hues of autumn. But I'm up for the challenge that a snow-covered world poses an aspiring photographer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fail ~ Time to Reboot

I sputtered out here at Sam Can Shoot a lot sooner than I expected. A month of posting, and then nothing. Fun new experiments with the new camera for a few weeks and then it just sits in my bag for just about as long. No photos, then no Flickr. No Flickr, then no Sam Can Shoot.

And I haven't been writing much at True to Words either.

Well that's enough procrastination! And to prove my renewed energy, I've just sorted through and uploaded 90 new photos to Flickr. I kind-of want to continue sifting, but I should really probably get to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day, with new photo opportunities and a more reasonable time to try and sort through 500 more photos. Wait, I think I took about 300 over the weekend. Hmmm... Well, better get to work!

In the meantime, here is one of the photos I uploaded today. It's an abandoned barn. But unlike my poor abandoned blog, no guilt-ridden soul is coming back to take care of it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Photography Assignment #2 ~ Study of a Classic Car

Another assignment I fulfilled during my first set of photography classes was a study of a classic vehicle. The only requirements at the time were that the car be a model older than 1980, and that I take a picture of the headlight/fender, tailight/fender, and a wheel. Fine with me, classic cars are some of my favorite photography subjects.

1972 Ford Mustang Grande
Front Fender ~ Black & White
The other thing, of course, is that the film was black and white, which I firmly believe makes for more interesting pictures. The first time I did this assignment, my topic was a 1968 Ford Mustang. You have no idea how upset about not having those pictures I am. So for my second time around, I chose another Mustang.

Mustang Grande Tail ~ Black & White
This is a 1972 Ford Mustang Grande. It looks a little different than the '68, but it's still pretty. And since the car was originally gray, the black and white isn't hiding a beautiful paint job.

Mustang Symbol
The wheel picture didn't look that great, so I'm including this circular Mustang logo instead. Creative substitution is okay when you're making up your own assignments!

To see the color versions of these photos and the rest of the pictures in this set, please take a look at this 1972 Ford Mustang Grande photo set on Flickr.

Sara Duane-Gladden is a freelance writer and photographer in the Twin Cities area of the great state of Minnesota. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Snowy South Crow River

Saturday's snow disappeared fairly quickly. But the snow we had on Monday is still sticking in some places. I took some pictures while it was coming down.

Winter on the South Crow River
I snapped these photos because this isn't something we normally see around here. Usually all the leaves are on the ground before it snows. This time it was early, likely because of cool summer we had.

Heavy Branch

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fire and Ice: A Study in Contrasts

Contrasts are some of the most interesting subjects when it comes to photography. Contrasting colors, ideas, subjects, whatever, a photos attention-grabbing, conflicting or contradictory nature can mean the difference between just a picture and a masterpiece.

Winter is Here

I'm not saying this photo is a masterpiece, but I think the contrasts of the summery, sunny sunflower and the cold, white snow of winter is appealing. The composition as a whole reflects conflicting moods, vibrant colors against a plain white background, summer subjects with in a winter scene, warmth amidst the cold. A sad looking sunflower in the middle of a winterscape. It is images with that kind of dichotomy capture our attention.

Snow-Capped Sunflower

Contrast also has some more specific meanings in photography, and these are referred to as "tonal contrast" and "color contrast." One gets a photo with color contrast when the subjects include "complimentary colors". Even if we haven't thought about it in years, most of us were introduced to complimentary colors when we learned about the color wheel in grade school. Red and green, yellow and violent, blue and orange, colors that are "opposite" each other on the wheel are complimentary.

Tonal contrast, on the other hand, usually applies to black and white photography. High-tonal contrast photos have black and white tones with very little or no use of greys. Medium-tonal contrast photos have a blend of darks, lights and greys. Low-tonal contrast photos have similar shades, with very little difference between the darkest parts of the photo to the lightest. Though this picture may not have been a study in complimentary colors, but it made a perfect medium-tonal contrast example.

Snow-Capped Sunflower ~ Black & White

Sara Duane-Gladden is a freelance writer and photographer in the Twin Cities area of the great state of Minnesota. 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Wicked Witch of the Mid-West

Sometimes, you have to take a trip specifically to take a picture. I tried to get these pictures two separate times, and either missed the turn or didn't have time to stop. So the third time, I made getting the pictures the point of my trip.

Crooked House
This witch probably should have planned her journey better. Wide open spaces all around, and she runs into this crooked little house. I love this kind of stuff. It's kitschy and fun. Halloween decorations, Christmas decorations, art installations, I am not picky.

Wicked Witch of the Mid-West
And because I like this crooked little house, I wanted to make sure I included the creator's website address. Especially since its posted on a sign in front of the crooked house. I couldn't fit the sign in, though. This house (and witch) were created and displayed by rusticway.com. It's actually a cute little garden shed. So much more attractive than the wooden sheds you can buy at home improvement stores.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Taste of Buffalo

As I said before, I like food and photography. And I will combine the two. I had one of my first chances to do this properly when I covered the Taste of Buffalo a few weeks ago. The story has finally been published, so I posted the rest of the photos!

Apple Cobbler & Cream

This time, there was cooking, plating, and setting, but I didn't have to do any of that. HA! But I did get to eat lots of salty and sweet treats without having to put in much work. Is this one of the best kind of food photography? I think so.

Cheese & Meat Plate
I like the color in the cheese and meat plate. But the details on the bruschetta make it my favorite shot. It didn't make it into the printed article. That's okay, it's posted here!

All in all, I think this was a good project. The only real challenges were trying to catch good pictures while other people were milling around. I still liked the results. This will only encourage me! Watch out!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Experimental Chess Game

It has been wet and rainy outside to pursue the photo-hikes that I wanted to this week. It probably turned out better that way, because I got a lot of work done. Now I'm writing a new blog post while I wait until its time to go see the Minnesota Twins play one of their final games in the Metrodome against the Kansas City Royals. GO TWINS!

Anyways, earlier this week I took some pictures of chess pieces in a simple assignment I gave myself to practice the manual controls on my camera. Afterward, I thought it might be kind of cool to take pictures of a chess game. But chess games can take a lot of time and concentration as-is, no one is going to want to play with me if I tell them I'm taking photos of it. So I played a game against myself.

Light Captures Dark
The depth of field hints to the victor in each battle as the game progresses.

Dark Captures Light

It also hints to where the action is when a centered focus is used, with the foreground and background slightly blurry. I really liked how this experiment turned out.

Tight Battle
The only trouble I ran into is that in between thinking about the next moves I was going to make and taking the pictures in between, sometimes I would forget if I last moved a dark piece or a light piece. I think partway through the game, light was winning simply because it was closest to me and therefore ended up getting played more.

The End Draws Near
What's worse, it didn't end with a check-mate, it ended in a draw. But that wasn't as interesting of an ending, so I took some liberties.

Check and Mate
This was fun. I think I'll experiment with games more. I might have to play around with some others before I come back to chess, though.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Inspirational Photographers - Ian Talty / Joy of the Mundane

A new installment I'd like to do monthly is aptly named Inspirational Photographers. I'd like to highlight the work of other people who inspire me to take more pictures, to experiment, and to look for the unique angle for that perfect shot. I can't imagine a person more suited for the first installment than the late Ian Talty, otherwise known as Joy of the Mundane.

Tunnel Of Light

Ian was a good friend of mine. If you read my True to Words blog, you've probably read the press release I wrote for his art show premier, which is Friday at SpotArt in Minneapolis. If you haven't, read it, it explains a lot.

Painted Bridge
Anyways, he inspired me to pick up the camera again about 2 years ago after 10 years of on and off dabbling. He is partly responsible for my current path down the digital photography trail, because I used to be hard-core about film as a medium. Used to be.

Graffiti Space

Ian was an urban explorer as well as a photographer, and as a result he brought his camera into a lot of places in the Twin Cities that not many others would be willing to go. Abandoned, out-of-the-way, dare I say rough places.

Above It All
What he brought back were beautiful pictures of urban spaces gone wild.

Field of Columns
Sometimes they literally grew wild with trees, moss, and leaves.

Forest Ruins

Other times, they were taken over by the native youth, in which case he would end up capturing images of creations made by some of society's most under-appreciated artists.

The scourge of property owners and city officials, street art was one of his favorite topics. He paid homage to these street artists by taking pictures of their work, found deep in the tunnels and abandoned buildings of the metro, and posting it online, in the light, for the whole world to see.

And his recognition of their work was reciprocated. Obviously he inspired more than just myself, who knows how many he lives he has touched, as his pictures have been viewed thousands of times online.

Joy of the Mundane
Even if you don't make it to the premier on Friday at SpotArt, you can view 10 of his works on display for the entire month of October. Additionally, there will be works exhibited by other local artists that you may like.