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.