Photo Challenge

The 20 Day Photo Challenge began on the evening of January 21st, 2016, when Ruth asked Robbie for 5 adjectives, 5 colours, 5 emotions, and 5 objects — without even any Mad Libs on hand. After this she wrote them on slips of paper and stuck them in a bucket. For the following 20 days, we selected one slip of paper from the bucket, and Robbie took that on as his assignment for the day: create and finish a photograph that represents the selected word.

After twenty days, 1,324 shutter releases, saying goodbye to my beloved Wheezie (and hello to Boris), here are the results (see below for more information about the images):

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About the Photographs:

Day 1: “Outstanding”
This picture was lit from below with three-way bounced light, through a piece of diffused glass, and shot in low key. The film version was shot with a P25 Press flash bulb, on 120 (medium format) Kodak Tri-X roll film, pulled to 200 ISO.

Day 2: “Magenta”
Shot in monochrome, with a magenta filter added post-shot in Phase One Capture 9. Specific angle of the shot chosen to capture the way the light was shining off the tanks.

Day 3: “Dark”
This picture was shot looking east in the late afternoon sun, from the south shore of Lake Clara Meer, in Piedmont Park, Atlanta. A polarizing filter was used to control water glare and to capture the reflection of the trees and the shoreline in the water. The dark leaves around the edge produce a framed picture effect, drawing the eye to the detail in the center, highlighting both the shadowy darkness and opening up into the brightness of the lake scene.

Day 4: “Awesome”
This is a rather awesome picture of a drinking fountain in Piedmont Park, near Magnolia Hall. The image was captured by spot metering on the spout, along with a polarizing filter to catch the reflection of the tree in the spout. The brightness and angle of the sun required some fancy footwork, and the selected image is at +0.7 EV. When in doubt: bracket.

Day 5: “Green”
This image of a Costa Rican Black and Green Poison Dart Frog was shot through aquarium glass with no flash, at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in Atlanta, GA. A 5 shot bracket was used, adjusting the shutter speed (instead of the aperture) to preserve the depth of field. The picture itself contains 14 different shades of green. For tips on shooting through aquarium glass, follow this link.

Day 6: “Funny”
This early evening shot was created using ambient light and a fill flash (at 1/64 FP, with a cloud diffuser) to reduce, control, and eliminate shadows. The camera-mounted flash was set at +1.3 EV to override the light loss imposed by the diffuser.

Day 7: “Bulb”
The key to this shot was the manipulation of light to create a 5:2 light ratio — which is to say that the lighting was set up to intentionally create a 2 1/2 stop difference between the highlights and the low-lights in the picture. To achieve this effect, two flashes were pointed at a downward angle toward bounce cards, which then directed the light to a pair of gobos, aimed at a 45° angle to the subject, and positioned to create the desired lighting for the shot. In addition, fill cards were placed around the subject, to avoid loss of light from around the subject. A Minolta IV flash meter was used to measure the incident light, the main flash was set to 1/4 power, and the fill (second flash) was set to 1/32 power. The image was captured in monocrome with a 50mm macro lens, using a three shot flash bracket to maintain depth of field (+1 GV selected for the final product), and with the camera off axis by 90°. Post shot, the image was inverted in Phase One Capture 9. This method, in its entirety, allowed for an image in which detail was captured that would have otherwise been overlooked (e.g. the inner workings of the narrow bulb, and the silver filaments in the old-timey flash bulb). Also of note is the fact that there are six kinds of bulbs in this picture.

Day 8: “Perplexing”
It’s possible that sidewalks are coming to the City of Atlanta in general, which would be a welcome change. Moving from Pittsburgh to Atlanta has been a bit of a culture shock when it comes to the ease of walking around — which is itself perplexing. On the other hand, if this sign is about this stretch itself then how, exactly, should we be defining “sidewalk”? What, exactly, is it that is coming? Even more perplexing is the idea that maybe, just maybe, the sidewalks are coming…to get us. There is a great revolution underway, and they are tired of being walked all over. The sidewalks are COMING!

This image was captured on the 1200 block of Huff Road in Atlanta, in mid-afternoon ambient light. A graduated ND #4 (-2 stops) filter was used to lower the highlights of the sidewalk and asphalt. In addition, a Tiffen 85A filter was used to warm the overall colour saturation to midday light. The image was framed and shot at a slight right downward angle with a wide-angle lens to add distortion of straight lines to an infinity point.

Day 9: “Ochre”
This covered walkway under a CSX railroad trestle at Tanyard Creek Park in Atlanta was, in technical terms, an absolute exposure nightmare — largely because of the wide range of lighting throughout the frame. It was shot with a wide-angle lens, and light readings were taken by spot metering the bottom shadow lines, the far opening, and the gravel near the bottom on the right. A 3:1 ratio was achieved by stacking a graduated ND #2 filter to the left side, a graduated ND #4 filter at a 45° angle to the left, with overlap in the center spot, and an 81A warming filter. This particular shot contains four different shades of ochre, and the lesson of the day is to always use quality filters!

Day 10: “Glass”
This is Robbie’s version of a selfie — and you better believe that no selfie stick was used to create this shot. The shot was taken in front of a glass wall at the Atlanta History Center. The camera’s segmented metering setting was used to calculate the image exposure value, and bracketed at ±0.7 EV (null EV image selected). Neither flash nor filter was used. Note that this type of shot will not work if the sun is shining directly into the window; instead use the ambient reflective light to achieve the effect.

Day 11: “Fork”
This an image of the Rocky Mountain Pizza Company triangle-shaped building at the intersection (or “fork”) between McMillan St., Hemphill Ave, & 10th St. in Atlanta, GA, taken in late afternoon sun. A wide-angle fish-eye lens was used to extend the lines of the street and building, and a polarizer filter was used to deepen the colour of the sky. The contrast was dropped in camera to create the overall feel of the image, and the all-important bracket was used (±0.3 EV), with the +0.3 EV shot ultimately selected.

Day 12: “Happy”
If you don’t get the happy feels from this picture, then you might be a bad person. Adorables. This image was shot inside the Smith Family Farm house, catching the Artful Dodger doing exactly what cats do — and obviously very pleased with himself for it. A camera-mounted speedlight (a.k.a. a flash) with a cloud diffuser was used, pointed straight at the subject and set to +1.7 flash EV to compensate for the diffusion light loss. A 1/4 CBO (Color Balance Orange — or CBA in non-Amurika, for Colour Balance Amber) gel was used on the flash head to change the temperature of the flash from a cool 5400ºK to a more pleasing 4400°K tone. A three shot ±0.7 flash-bracket was used (-0.7 EV selected).

Day 13: “Dazzling”
These shots were taken from the back patio of our apartment, about fifteen minutes apart, with a medium telephoto lens. Normally Robbie uses high end lenses to create images, but in this case he went with a kit lens — like the one you get in the box, when you buy your new camera. Part of the aim was to prove that you don’t need high end and/or high priced equipment to get results — although ten years of art school doesn’t hurt.

For the first shot (13a), a graduated ND #8 filter was used, angled to left center coverage. Because the camera was pointing directly into the sunlight, there was one chance to get a light meter reading (light meters see spots after looking directly at the sun, just like us); a center-weighted 60/40 metering was used (in other words, the camera calculated the “correct” exposure value by taking 60% of the light reading at the center, and 40% from the rest of the frame). The exposure value was then cut by 1.3 EV to drop the brightness of the sun and to bring out the colour of the evening sky. The white balance was set at 5100°K to capture the reds and yellows of the golden hour. The shot was bracketed ±0.3EV with +0.3 selected for the image.

The second shot was taken 15 minutes later, this time metering the sky with the multi-segmented (matrix) meter. This allowed for the sky to be highlighted and the tree to be in silhouette. The shot was bracketed at ±0.5 EV and the null EV was selected for this image. Post-shot the image was masked as a Polaroid Transfer, using Google’s NIK Colour EXIF Pro 4 plug-in for Phase One Capture 9.

Bonus: 1929 Stutz
This is an image of the world’s only remaining 1929 Stutz Biarritz Saloon Automobile that is currently on loan to the Atlanta History Center. It may or may not have caused drool to run down Robbie’s face. Ruth told him that if he took it for a joy ride, she would not bail him out of jail. At least not right away. A wide-angle lens was used to accentuate the curves of the fenders and the length of the bonnet cowling. The white balance was achieved by way of a white card — which was necessary because of the mix of ambient sunlight and fluorescent overhead lighting. To achieve the correct exposure the shot was spot-metered with a Minolta IV light meter — with a 5° spot attachment — pointed at the center of the radiator, the long side of the cowl, and the front shadow under the bumper. These three readings were averaged together, and the exposure value was increased by +0.7 to keep the radiator in Zone III and the body colour in Zone IV. A five shot bracket was used at ±0.3 EV intervals (-0.3 EV selected).

Day 14: “Melancholy”
This image is a double exposure of the Oakland Cemetery Civil War monument and the graves of those who fell in the siege of Atlanta (1864), with graves of fallen slaves in the foreground, and graves of fallen soldiers throughout the frame. The image was taken from Slave Square using a Holga Lomography lens — a “toy” lens that does not communicate electronically with the camera. A Minolta IV light meter was used, with a 30% reflective spot. Focus was set to infinity for both shots, and each shot was under-exposed by 1/2 stop. The white balance was altered to 4000°K to cool the tone in the shot and create the somber mood in the image. This is where all wars end. No one wins.

Day 15: “Plate”
Today’s entry is in the form of a photo storybook, inspired by the work of arch-nemesis of Dudley Do-Right, Snidely Whiplash. Multi-segmented metering was used, with the same exposure setting for each shot — being careful to use the same placement of the subject. One small plate was destroyed in this process, and one photographer was detained for questioning on account of taking pictures on private property, but no actual Canadians were harmed. Each image was bracketed at ±0.3 EV; +0.3 EV was chosen for shot one, and -0.3 EV was chosen for the second and third shot. This difference was expected, given the different placement of the greatest bear on earth. In addition, the initial meter reading was increased by 1/3 stop due to the heavy rail shadow, and to maintain the track bed in Zone V, and the rail shadow in Zone III and IV (far and near shadows, respectively).

Day 16: “Cyan”
This image is made up of four different images, layered together with a labour-intensive (6 hour!) post-shot marathon using Phase One Capture 9, Adobe PS 6, Google NIK Color Efex 4 Pro, and ON1 Effects 10. The background sky image was taken in the late afternoon with a Singh Ray ND #4 filter, and a Cobalt Blue filter #3202 was added for the three featured images: the steeple at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Buckhead, the NeoGothic Revival Bell Tower at the Cathedral of St. Philip  at St. Philip Episcopal Church in Buckhead, and the Minaset at Al-Farooq Masjid on 14th St. in Atlanta.

The images were layered in with distinct seams to highlight the artificial, human-made divisions between religious traditions. We often let our differences — and particularly our religious differences — tear us apart. A better way forward is to accept and embrace those differences, and to live with one another in peace. Quoting Pope Francis and the Qur’an in turn, “Who am I to judge?…Our God and Your God is One, and unto Him we surrender.”

Day 17: “Ambivalent”
These images were captured using a photojournalism style called commentary, where the photographer develops 2-3 photographs, each with a strong message, to tell a specific story.

The first photo in this series is a picture of the Georgia Governor’s mansion in Atlanta, viewed from the side gate area on Woodhaven Rd NW. It shows a pristine setting with groomed trees and hedges on a perfectly landscaped knoll, beautiful and secluded. The second photo is of an abandoned home at 2338 Coronet Way NW in Atlanta, showing the results of leaving a property to waste away for over a year. These two homes are under 4 miles apart, both within Atlanta’s city limits, and when viewed side-by-side they tell a story of wealth and decay. There is a stark contrast between the care taken with one home versus the other: the Governor’s mansion enjoys security and opulence, while the abandoned home on Coronet way, across the street from a children’s playground, represents a part of Atlanta that is rotting away, going to waste from lack of care and concern.

The Governor’s mansion was shot with a medium telephoto lens, spot-metered in camera, aimed at the mansion, through the trees. The exposure value was increased by +1EV to bring the dark foliage up to Zone IV, and the shot was captured with a 5 shot bracket at ±0.3EV (+0.3EV used).

The house on Coronet Way was shot with the same telephoto lens, and a Wratten #8 K2 (yellow) filter to boost the contrast detail in the collapsed carport roof. The flash was set to FP (causing an elongated flash peak duration, thereby allowing for high shutter speeds and high speed sync), and power was cut by -3GV. Multi-segmented metering was used (a.k.a. Robbie was too lazy to spot-meter, so he used his experience looking at different Zones and made an educated guess) with a +1.3EV to bring the contrast of the carport back to Zone III, and the upper exposed attic to Zone II. The shot was bracketed at ±1EV in 0.3EV intervals, with the +0.7EV selected. Post-shot, Google NIK Silver Efex Pro 4 was used to add Kodak Tri-X film grain.

Day 18: “Spoon”
Today’s submission has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA*†‡, and comes to you courtesy of cold-flu-induced delirium. The second picture in the series is offered as a placating device for the Bertha-better-n-you folks in the crowd, as evil queens and witches are far more wholesome than urinating cartoon figures.

The first picture in the series — Glutes & Spoon — captures a wonderful piece of street art found on an abandoned building on Krog Street in Atlanta (near, but not in, the Krog St. Tunnel). The second picture in the series — Evil Queen & Spoon — captures an old movie promo poster on another building on Krog St. The building was in indirect light with mild shadowing, so the white balance was adjusted to 6800°K to compensate. In camera multi-segmented metering was used for both shots, along with a fill flash diffused at a -3GV power setting to even out tone and add to light depth. A three shot bracket at ±0.7EV was used for each (+0.7EV selected for both). Post-shot, on the second image, Adobe 1998 color spacing was replaced with Pastel Pantone color spacing via the ON1 Effects 10 Plugin for PS6.

*The MPAA was not consulted in the development of this rating.
†To the MPAA, direct from Robbie: “I fart in your general direction!!!”‡Editor’s Note: Robbie may not be feeling entirely himself today…

Day 19: “Blue”
Aught-OH! Seems the poindexters at Georgia Tech (editor’s note: hey! I resemble that remark!) have updated the T.A.R.D.I.S. Playing on the theme of “blue”, the point of this picture is to imagine what the good Dr’s ride would like, updated to 2.0 To create this image a super wide angle lens was used to distort straight lines and skew the perspective of all lines in the image. In-camera, multi-segmented metering was used, and the exposure was adjusted by adding +0.7 stops to find the correct exposure in heavy overcast conditions (editor’s note #2: it snowed in Atlanta today!). White balance was set to 5800°K due to the overall bluish tint to the ambient light through the cloud cover. The shot was bracketed at ±0.3EV (null chosen as image). Post-shot, motion blur and false bokeh pattern were added with Google NIK Analog Efex Pro. A graduated blue filter was added by way of ON-1 Effects 10.

Day 20: “Content”
Today’s entry is meant for viewing and enjoyment, with no elaborate explanations about the technical work behind it. Just take it in as a piece of art, made for you. (although…editor’s note…it’s kind of cool on account of how he turned his camera into a pinhole camera and whatnot….)

Twenty-one days ago, Ruth saw me feeling down, and devised a scheme to draw me into my art. To her: I love you (bunches!). You allowed me to step back, to realize why I do this, and why I create. To you the viewer: this one is just for you! This is your camera. I loaded it for you, and it’s your turn. Ollie (my trusty steed of a camera) is taking a nap — although not for long. I hope I was able to inspire you, and perhaps help you see the world through my eyes — which is perhaps different than the “normal” view of the world. For that I am grateful. Thank you, all!

In parting, let me just offer you this: just look and try. As the old cuss Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” And he’s right: there is a difference. Have the courage to try. Oh…and take the bloody thing off automatic! Pick it up.

Go ahead.

I dare you…