Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Five / Seven

Self-portrait : Photographer at year's end

As we countdown to the new year tonight, I've been thinking about the last year and my adventures in photography. When I started this blog in 2007, my intention was to post a photo-a-day of Washington, D.C., and its surrounding environs. As time has progressed, I've managed mostly to do that and I'm pleased that I have. But what I've enjoyed more is a) how my eye for crafting a picture has developed, b) the response I've had to some of my work, and c) the talented people I've met along the way. That said, here are five things I've learned as a result of seeing life through a lens and seven photographers who inspire my work.

1. Everything is a potential picture.
How you frame it is what makes it noteworthy.

2. I'm more creative and artistic than I thought I was.

3. Inspiration is best when shared.

4. Including people in pictures makes them more interesting.

5. Even if your family doesn't like having their picture taken, take them.
You'll never regret it.


The insight doesn't stop there. Here are seven photographers from around the blogosphere who inspire my work. For fun, I've added some side-by-side comparisons.

Ramsey at Fog Bay

Fog Bay was one of the first photography blogs I ever came across. In addition to breathtaking photos from around the Bay Area, Ramsey's format is one I adopted for my photo blog: photos and information about the city I currently call home. The added bonus of his blog: It's mostly about San Francisco, a city I love like no other.

San Francisco's Tranamerica Pyramid and Flat Iron Building
on Broadway, as captured by Ramsey of Fog Bay. Seeing an icon
in a new light inspires my photographs of some of Washington's
better known, but often poorly photographed sites.

Debi Cates at Odessa Photo-a-Day

I can't remember how I found Debi's blog, but I praise the heavens that I did! Debi has the most exquisite eye and can turn something so seemingly banal to the rest of us into art. These two photos (here and here) are currently among my favorites.

The intricacy of simplicity as captured in Debi's photo of a set of smokestacks gives pause
and has trained my eye to see the potential in things I might otherwise walk through or by
and never bother to photograph, like the breezeway at National Cathedral.

Rob's twilight and night photography and his ability to crop and frame continually leave me in awe. His photos are often exceptional and high-quality. On top of that, he has the cutest dog in photobloggerdom! Case in point here and here, among others. Also, he likes Pink Martini, therefore that makes him extra cool.

Taking photos after the bright light of day has faded often eluded me until I started reading Rob's blog.
His use of the "golden hour" has created some stunning results and is a technique I've learned and
put to good use, I think. Striped Sunset is a fine example of Rob's skill with low light.

Like Rob, Maya also has a great eye for cropping and framing, but she also has the ability to see the potential for a great picture where someone else (namely me) would be annoyed by some something or other supposedly blocking or obscuring the thing I want to photograph. Case in point: the first photo in this series. Maya is also the first photoblogger I've met in person. I hope I get to meet and shoot photos with some more of you in 2009.

Maya's photo of Seattle's EMP through winter trees took my breath away when I saw it on her blog.
I was hanging out with her the day she took this picture and it's one I completely missed because
the trees were a distraction. In my narrow mind, at least. After seeing this picture, I realized what
I was missing and decided to try a whole new approach when photographing this year's
Festival of Lights at the Washington Mormon Temple.

Virginia is the one to credit for pushing me to photograph strangers. While my sister says I can make friends with a rock (the other day, she upgraded that and said, I "could make friends with a cactus, while the rest of [my family] would be too afraid to approach the prickly bastard"), photographing strangers is a challenge for me. Doing the 100 Strangers series has pushed me out of my comfort zone and opened a whole new area of photography for me. I also love watching VJ's eye and photography evolve. And, I've had the pleasure of speaking with her on the phone on several occasions. She is quintessentially Southern and an absolute kick in the pants, bless her heart!

Pushing me to photograph strangers has resulted in meeting people and having conversations I
wouldn't otherwise. Virginia's beautiful portraits of strangers she meets, like this mother and her son
in the airport in Paris, are moving and nudge me to create what I hope are meaningful portraits, too.

Bob's photos of gritty, midwestern, not-quite-southern Saint Louis are incredible, but it is his pictures of the iconic Gateway Arch by Eero Saarinen that blow me away. His ability to capture, recapture, and capture again an allegedly average metropolitan tourist attraction is stunning. As I photograph typical attractions in D.C., I try to find new ways of presenting what would otherwise be ho-hum monuments and every time I step in front of one to photograph it, I ask myself, "How would Bob shoot this?"

Seeing the Gateway Arch from as many angles as possible provides infinite possibilities. Bob's ability to
capture this monument-to-architecture inspired me to find unique ways of photographing what I
otherwise felt was a dull monument--the U.S. Air Force Memorial. The result? I now love this memorial.

Finally, Nic of London Daily Nature Photo. First of all, Nic's photos are beautiful--well-composed and brilliantly executed--and second, he was gracious enough to share a tip or two on how to approach and photograph wild things that flit and fly. I always appreciate a gracious photographer.

Nic's fine eye and patience for photographing nature--especially things that don't sit still for long--
has gone a long way toward improving my ability to photograph flighty things.

So there you have it! Those are the five things I've learned in the last year looking through a lens and seven photographers who inspire my eye. Thank you to everyone who visits D.C. Confidential and thank you to those of you--named and unnamed--who inspire me!

Happy New Year and here's to some great photography in 2009!

Photo copyrights: Janet (Self-Portrait and Bald Eagle), Ramsey (TransAmerica Tower), Debi (Imaginary Place in Reality), Rob (Striped Sunset), Maya (EMP), Virginia (Mother and Son), Bob (The Skinny), and Nic (Chaffinch). Used with permission. All rights reserved.


Abraham Lincoln said...

You have posted a lotg of nice photographs.

I don't have a lot to say about last year or this new year but here are some thoughts...

I hope 2009 will be better than 2008, 2007, and 2006. I do think our government will be inspired by our new President Obama -- at least I hope so.

I would like to see the War in Irag end and I would like to see the killing stop everywhere.

It is my hope that Japan will stop slaughtering whales and raping virgin forests.

And I hope the people will lose their clubs and no longer club baby seals to death.

What a world we have and live in. 2009 could be so much better than it will be.

Virginia said...

Well for once I'm at a loss for words! I am flattered to sit amongst your photos and the other bloggers' as well. I have learned a lot from you this year my friend. An unlikely friendship we two, but hasn't it been fun. Oh and can I put this on my resumé???HA

PS Very cool self portrait!

Dusty Lens said...

Well I thank you for this honor, I too am flattered. I'm honored to be amungst those fine blogs. Together, we learn from ech other as well as become inspired to further our creativity.

Wishing you a happy, safe and prosperous new year.

Arlene said...

Love the self portrait. Is that the inside of your house? How dreamy!

Bob Crowe said...

Thank you for your kind words. I don't have any other photographers to hang out with here in St. Louis. It's people like you in the CDPB community who have taught and supported me. Anything I can give in return is a pleasure.

Love the self portrait. I find myself wondering what the very low POV and the ladder out of the scene signify. It's got strong personality.

Hope I get to shoot with you when I'm in your town in March.


D.C. Confidential said...

Abe: Happy New Year! And yes, I, too, hope 2009 is better than 2008. Here's to world peace for all creatures, great and small!

VJ: It's been a riot getting to know you! And yes, you can put that on your resume! (Get that sheet to me, toot sweet!) ;-)

Rob: You're welcome! Learning from each of you has been the one thing I cherish most! Happy New Year to you, Mrs. DL, and Winston.

Arlene: Yes. I took this photo by placing the camera on my six inch tripod and setting on the floor in front of my bed door. In the morning, the light streams in through the bathroom window behind me and lights up the hall. I thought it would make for a fun picture!

Bob: Thank you for your feedback and advice! St. Louis has a gem in you, sir. I look forward to getting together in March and shooting things. As for the POV on the photo and the ladder--when you're only 5'2" you do all you can to look taller. The ladder is there because I had to go up in the attic the other day. I left it because I liked its industrial feel and ambiguity.

Maya said...

Wow, thanks!! I'm glad you were inspired by my photos. I've been taking them my entire life and had some good teachers along the way (like my dad), so some of these things (like good framing) are quite ingrained in me. I'm not entirely sure if they are talent, or just something I learned so long ago that I don't remember...

I love your photos and am inspired by you as well! Keep up the good work. I look forward to going out shooting with you again!

Petrea said...

I love love love this post. Unfortunately you've turned me on to new blogs and new photographers. Just what I need, more time on the web.

Maybe Virginia can make me braver about photographing strangers. I'm terrified to ask, but I know I should try. Good for you.

I like this self-portrait a lot.

Brian said...

What a perfect way to round out the year! I absolutely love your blog! Happy New Year, to you, and all those who inspire you! :)

D.C. Confidential said...

Maya: Your eye may be trained, but your ability to compose is sheer talent. Thank you for your kind words. You'll have to come this way some time so I can return the favor with a photo walk in this town!

Petrea: Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed this post and I hope you enjoy the beautiful photography and writing you'll find among the bloggers I highlighted here. They're all wonderful people! As for photographing strangers, my trick is to take their picture, then approach them and tell them what I'm doing and ask their permission to post their photo. If they say yes, great! If they say no, I respect that. At the very least, give it a shot (so to speak)! I know you'll be fabulous at it, as I've seen the caliber of writing and photography you produce when you feature people you know.

Brian: Thanks! Happy New Year to you, too! Here's to a year full of inspiration and dreams fulfilled!

Kim said...

Janet, I nominate this as the best post by any CDPBer all year. You have expressed so eloquently and completely what I think has happened for many of us on this daily journey of trying to get better at capturing what we see and why it means so much to us, and to LEARN from each other how BETTER to see. Thank you for featuring your inspiration photographers, many of whom I already know and also adore their work, and new folks to check out on your recommendation. I would like to introduce you to my old boss from my San Francisco days who has lived in DC for quite awhile now and who is a fabulous photographer. Her name is Karen Ackerson, and if you email me I will put you two in contact with one another.
I love your self portrait and I love how you've actively tried the things your friends are doing and seeing where it leads you. It is exciting to see how this has affected your work. I was sorry to not get to meet you when you were in Seattle. Maybe next time. I've got to book some time with Maya myself. Weird that I haven't met her or Chuck face to face yet. . .life's been complicated, but seems to be clearing up rapidly and freeing more time to get back to my photowalks.
Best to you in this new year, and thanks again for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post. It captures so much of what I love about this community in the blogosphere.
Seattle Daily Photo

D.C. Confidential said...

Kim: You should definitely hook up with Maya! She's got a great eye and is a lot of fun to hang out with. I think the two of you would really enjoy a day of photography together. I may be back in Seattle in a month or so and will DEFINITELY give you a call.

Thank you for your kind words about this blog entry. I share sentiments similar to yours about this community and am glad I decided to do this blog.

I should have added you to the mix of bloggers who inspire me, because when I was in Seattle, I kept thinking, if I could just take one picture of the Sky Needle as cool as all of yours are, I'd be happy! So, thank you for providing inspiration to a visitor!

I'll email you re: your old boss Karen. Her name sounds so familiar to me, but I can't place it. I wonder if I know her from SF? I lived in Walnut Creek and worked in SF for nearly eight years.

FogBay said...

I first started taking photos five years ago because of a photoblog that inspired me.

So thank you for including FogBay on your inspirations list. I am very happy that you enjoy the site.

Congratulations on the wonderful photography and posts in D.C. Confidential.

Best wishes for 2009.

- Ramsey of FogBay

D.C. Confidential said...

Ramsey: Thank you! Your blog is what got me started doing mine, so I guess this means you've paid it forward.

Happy New Year to you and good shooting in 2009.