Tuesday, March 2, 2010

This is A Low Budget Operation

You all were so complimentary of the self portrait I posted yesterday (thank you, thank you), that I had to let you in on a little secret; that shoot was done with a minimum of equipment (and portraiture knowledge). Like a lot of other things in my life, it was cheap fun, and I mean that in the nicest of ways. While I'm not big on sharing pictures of myself, I'm sharing the rest of the self portrait photos with you in the interest of encouraging you to make the most out of what you have. Plus, you can learn from my mistakes. All of my technical knowledge comes from fumbling around with stuff, and this post is my way of saying, "Hey, there's nothing wrong with fumbling!" Just try not to do it in front of a crowd. Or at least not in front of anyone who can tell on you.


Participating in photography challenges on the internet teaches me a lot. I enter knowing that my stuff doesn’t hold a candle to many of the entries, but I usually learn something in trying to generate a submission or looking at everyone else’s stuff. That was the case this weekend. It was indeed a learning opportunity. (Opportunity-that’s a word I learned in many a management seminar.) The Photo Friday Challenge was “Self Portrait”, and as soon as I saw the topic I looked in my files and said, “Hula, you got nothin’.” That meant I was either going to have to get creative with my shadow or lower half of my body OR finally figure out how to use the timer on my camera. Since you need sunshine for a shadow, and we’ve been a little thin on that lately AND I have no body parts below my thighs I feel proud enough to highlight in a picture for the WHOLE WIDE WORLD, I opted to learn how to use the timer. I don’t know what was funnier, me racing against the timer or watching the pets watch me race against the timer.


Now, let me just say I hate taking pictures of me. I’d rather take pictures of you. There’s something about self portraits that seem a little narcissistic, and I hate photos of myself. I have one eye that always looks a little smaller than the other, and I can’t seem to smile in a way that doesn’t look fake or bored. I’d rather take pictures of paint drying than photograph myself. However, the assignment was self portraits, and as Sissy used to say, “It is what it is,” so I jumped in. And my theory is if you’re going to jump in, you might as well jump with both feet. So, Saturday, I dragged out my entire set of gear: a tripod, camera and single lens and got started. I have no lights, no remote, no extra lenses. (Although, I am about to order a new macro lens, and I just scored a new $104 camera backpack for $51 plus shipping on Ebay. Yeah, me!) With the help of my camera's instruction manual, I fumbled around with the camera until I figured out how to operate the timer. That turned out to be the easy part.


The hard part was getting everything set just right and striking a pose before the timer ran out. I started out in the foyer of the house because that’s where the best light was, but it was still too dark. In photography, lighting is everything. If you don’t have enough light, you go to where the light is, and for me, that was outside, so outside I went. The backyard was too muddy, and I was too embarrassed to set up in the front yard, so I opted for the deck. But the background was all wrong. I needed a backdrop. A blanket or sheet makes a decent substitute, but I had nothing to hang it from. I refused to be stumped. After some thought, I realized I could use the black grill cover as a plain backdrop. Problem solved, since I figured I could use PhotoShop to erase that big blob of bird poop on it out of the shots later. Now, the problem with a plain background is that the camera’s auto-focus doesn’t want to work on a consistently flat surface It has nothing to latch onto. I couldn’t manually focus on something that wasn’t there. I had to find something that substituted for my body when I wasn’t in front of the camera. Solution? I laid a towel on the grill where I wanted to focus, hit the timer, focused, ran into place, pulled the towel off the grill so it wouldn’t show up in the picture and then posed, all within ten seconds. And without knocking over the tripod and camera. There I was running back and forth, over and over until I had what appeared to be a few decent photos. A few feet away, inside the French doors sat the dog and cat, watching me run around. They were spellbound. Apparently, I was the most exciting thing on our deck since that bird with a bad wing that got stuck between the deck chairs a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure, but at one point, I think they were eating popcorn.


At first it felt kind of weird smiling at no one, but eventually, I got over that. I tried several poses, praying the whole time that the nice elderly man who lives next door wouldn’t wander into his backyard and see me. He’s already seen me in my robe and pajamas. He doesn’t need any more proof that I’m weird. Back and forth. Back and forth. Focus. Tilt. Pan. Don’t forget the towel! Run, run, run. It took a while. It felt strange, but I overcame the fact that I don't have all the fancy stuff many photographers do. And I learned plenty. I have the timer figured out, and I know I still need to work on the focus. It's a little soft in these shots.


I wasn’t thrilled with the pictures, but I was happy with the lessons, and the pets got about an hour of entertainment out of it. Oh, and you’re gonna’ wonder when you look at these why I never told you that I play the violin. That’s because I don’t. I had to do something with my hands and needed a prop, so I grabbed the coolest thing I could find in the closet. None of the Hula-gen’s plays the violin. A guy who needed money offered to sell it to Hubby about two years ago, and he couldn’t resist a bargain. He figured he’d resell it for profit but never has. The BC Rich is actually Teen Angel’s guitar. She plays guitar. I don’t, and when she reads this she’s gonna’ have my scalp for messing with her guitar. What can I say? Mom’s rule and kids drool. And dogs and cats like to watch.










9 comments:

J.G. said...

Ooooh, the backstory is awesome! I would never have known it was a grill cover. You did a great job, and you don't even look stressed by the rushing around.

But I have to confess, I'm sorry you didn't get a shot of the watching fuzzy faces through the window. I bet they are still discussing it! "Wonder when Mom will do that thing on the deck again?"

Jan said...

I'm glad you posted these. They really are great, really. I love the 3rd one.

Janis said...

I'm with Jan...the third one is my favorite.. thanks for the behind the scenes tour. Sounds like me with the self timer...you have to run fast!

The Church Lady said...

Thanks for sharing your "story behind the photo". You are too funny! I would have never thought to use the grill cover as a backdrop. My favorite is the first one, although I love all of them!

oreneta said...

The dog and cat are so so very funny....eating popcorn! The part you didn't talk about what the creativity of coming up with the idea and the violin.

Trailboss said...

I wish I was your neighbor. Then you would see what REALLY weird is. Well, I guess we both would. More than likely we would be back and forth to prove to the other that I am the weirdest! lol That was fun.

Trailboss said...

P.S. My dogs have bacon and beef flavored popcorn....what kind were your pets eating?

Seriously, I bought it at Big Lots in Mayfield!

Swampy said...

Wow ! I'm impressed. I always blink. Great shots. I especially like yesterday's...

Cole said...

This is what you do while I'm at work?!... Shame Shame Shame on you mommy!