Tag Archives: children

On portraits and “Tamelife” photography

If you look at my work at all you’ll notice that it’s quite a lot of random. When it comes to photography, if something sits still I’ll shoot it in macro. If it runs I’ll chase it and if it’s looking back at me then I’ll try to pretend I’m not really taking its picture. I tend to approach all my photography like I’m stalking a wild animal on the Serengeti, even if it happens to be the middle of GenCon and everybody will stop and pose even if you look at them funny.

Despite this general outlook, I still like the idea of taking people’s pictures because they want them taken. For years now I’ve put out the general message that yes I will take your picture, dozens of pictures, and give them to you if only you ask. You don’t even have to sit still because I’m accustomed to that sort of behavior in my subjects, though usually they’re furrier and faster than the average human. On a very rare occasion someone will take me up on my offer and I’ll show up and awkwardness will commence. Having done this a couple of times I’ve come to realize that portrait photography doesn’t really have all that much to do with actual photography, at least not as I define the science of the whole thing. I’m used to having to sneak up on my subjects and work for a couple of hours to catch them at their best whether they want to be caught or not. When you’re doing someone’s portrait though, they do something even more unnerving than run away. They stare back at you expectantly as if to say, “you’re the expert. so now what?” Somehow the desired answer of “Just go about your business and do whatever you’re going to do” doesn’t sit well with people.

This, I think, is a real pity though because it’s those absolutely frank and unposed moments that are most evocative. For example, a few years ago at the Talbot art fair I was behind a dad who had a very tired and very hot child in his arms and snapped this shot. It’s one of those absolutely raw moments but her eyes bore in to me even a year later. This is the sort of thing you get after you’ve let your guard down and stopped smiling the 3rd grade photo day smile into the camera.

I’ll wrap it up because I’m close to coming up on rant status, but I guess my real point is that the good shots happen after your hair is down, your makeup is smudged and you’ve forgotten anybody is taking pictures at all. It’s that moment when you look up and say, “Dad, is it time for lunch yet?” in your best and most expectant face. And that, I suppose, is the difficulty of Tamelife photography. Getting it to revert to its natural state so you can get the best out of it.

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Miscellaneous Photographic Rot From June

As is typical, I’ve been rather remiss in my posting. Sure, I can take hundreds of photos and spray them around the Interwebs but I’m apparently not nearly manly enough to bother to comment on them with anything approaching timeliness. Ah well.

After returning from St. Louis, I felt myself bitten again by the macro bug (no pun intended). I chased this little green critter around the yard for a while before he conveniently alighted on a day lily. I’m endlessly amused by the fact that these guys have hair if you look close enough.

From 6-15-2013 Misc

Over the years, it seems that the once-common caterpillar is increasingly hard to find. Luckily, this one sat still for quite a while.

From 6-15-2013 Misc

A week later on the 20th, Zionsville was graced with an exceptionally beautiful and fiery sunset. Some things cannot be ignored.

From 6-23-2013 Misc

On the 24th, I was asked to photograph a local youth baseball game. Despite the fact that I will happily photograph anything for anyone for free and try to promote this offer fairly widely, I only get about two requests a year So when they come, I give them my utmost attention.

It’s my hope that when the kids see their photos that they feel like they’ve really gotten the ‘big league’ treatment.

From 6-24-2013 Westfield Youth Baseball

And I’m always amused when the ball appears to hover in mid-air.

From 6-24-2013 Westfield Youth Baseball
From 6-24-2013 Westfield Youth Baseball
From 6-24-2013 Westfield Youth Baseball
From 6-24-2013 Westfield Youth Baseball

And the emotions on display are priceless.

From 6-24-2013 Westfield Youth Baseball

And sometimes you capture that instant of decision. Ball in glove, foot on base, that would be… out at first.

From 6-24-2013 Westfield Youth Baseball

And for some, you don’t really need the ground, you can just hover above it.

From 6-24-2013 Westfield Youth Baseball

The next day, in search of … well, anything to photograph, I made off for a local outdoor concert. As always, there is an ocean of things to point a camera at.

Joy abounds among young and old…

From Fisher’s Concerts 6-25-2013

when not-quite-Jimmy-Buffett is singing.

From Fisher’s Concerts 6-25-2013

uh oh. I think he’s seen me.

From Fisher’s Concerts 6-25-2013

An apt image for July 4th, I’d say.

From Fisher’s Concerts 6-25-2013

And nobody ever pays nearly enough attention to the drummer.

From Fisher’s Concerts 6-25-2013

Finally, on the 30th, it was time to visit the IMA. Relatively speaking the stop was brief, but not uninteresting. It never ceases to amaze me, however, how little the exhibits change in the main galleries from one year to the next. I was there for the Ai Weiwei exhibit, but as always, the insects in the garden steal the show.

From IMA 6-30-2013

And that pretty well sums up the last two weeks in photography.

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St Louis – Day 1: Forest Park, St. Louis Zoo

So yesterday my daughter’s mother was off getting Honeymooned by her new husband so we all took off for St. Louis. In general, when I vacation it tends to be simply going from place to place, wherever the wind will blow. In this case, with three kids along, I let them go wherever they would blow. Whenever asked, “Where are we going?” my steadfast answer was, “you tell me.” Simply put, it was my job to keep them fed and away from the police station. Aside from that, whatever the popular vote called for was in order.

The first destination requested was the zoo. I handled parking and after that the kids were in charge of selecting destinations, planning their time and, most amusingly to me, navigation.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

At some point Amanda will stop giving me these silly looks because inevitably they’re captured forever.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

Eric is looking stoic as always.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

First order of business was the primates, I’m always struck by the soulful humanity in their eyes. It astounds me that any hunter could ever look into these eyes and think it was right to kill such a creature in cold blood.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

Their hands are practically human.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

And in some cases, their faces almost prayerful.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

And touchingly somber. Pity they’re locked up.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

Izzy, of course, finds a way to get attacked by a tree.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

Little bowling pin prairie dogs. Amanda asked, “Are prairie dogs supposed to be that fat?!” Sadly my knowledge of prairie dog dietary needs is woefully insufficient to speculate.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

One mustn’t forget the flamingos.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

or the pelicans…(?) either.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

The penguin house was cool (no pun intended) but rather dark for much good photography. However there was no shortage of silhouettes.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

But the puffins were slightly better lit.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

I realized while editing a series of rather dull zebra photos, that I’ve neglected textures as of late. It seems well nigh time to put that to rights.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

Mr. Camel has rather a grievous overbite.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

And caught in the right instant, ostriches look to be laughing…

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

… but they quickly become shy after their outbursts.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

Since the children somehow showed up with no proper footwear and only flip-flops available for several miles of walking, this fountain was a godsend for tired, hot and grumpy feet.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

Various St. Louis landmarks are in evidence.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

This scene struck me as rather apt, though depressing. All the children have run away to play, leaving only their shoes and water bottles behind…. well, that and all manner of electronic gadgetry.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

Arches in relief.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

I put on my most friendly voice with the front desk clerk to move us up to the top floor. She stated categorically that “none of the rooms have a good view” but this view from the hallway is nothing to sneeze at. I’ll just set my alarm for 5:00am and we’ll see where the sun comes up amongst this tangle of humanity.

From 6-10-2013 St Louis

And that’s the day that was.

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Swimstock 2012

Last month when Amanda had an outdoor swim meet I took it as the perfect opportunity to do some sports photography. This is the sort of thing I’m always pestering people to let me photograph for them.

The expressions at these things are always priceless. Some true determination reflected here.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

And it never hurts to catch someone in mid-dive either.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

And… well, not ALL the expressions are all that flattering. Some of the adults seem rather disinterested.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

The sheepish ‘why are you taking my picture, dad’ look if ever I saw it.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

One thing about swim meets… they’re LONG affairs punctuated by very brief periods of activity that the spectators may specifically care about. Izzy is unimpressed.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

In fact some of the onlookers are bored absolutely stiff.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

But, making the best of a rather dull time, there’s always the macro lens to play with. Is it obvious what this is?

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

These little things are all over the place this time of year in Indiana. Let me just stress again the importance of exfoliation lest YOU have to shed your skin.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

Izzy doesn’t know whether to eat it or be scared of it. Apparently the average of those two emotions is ‘bored’

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

Claw detail. Note the carapace of some other creature on the left.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

Izzy also managed to sit on a mosquito without damaging it. Miraculous.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

Wonderfully complicated little creatures.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

So after two more hours, bored has turned to patently annoyed.

From 7-14 15-2012 Swimstock Swim Meet

And so eventually ended a day at the swim meet. In retrospect…. it didn’t really seem to have much to do with swimming at all.

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Talbot Street Art Fair 6-9-2012

As I sit here on a balmy June day, I listen to the camera clicking away on the patio. Since 1:00 today it has been dutifully recording the sky at 2-second intervals. I’ve endeavored many times to time-lapse the sunset but something makes me want to do so today with complete perfection, to start with a turbulent and cloudy sky and to watch the Indiana horizon all the way until the proverbial ‘fade to black’.

I’ll admit though that being this lazy about my photography does harken me back to the winter. I recall with great vividness sitting in this exact same spot and being vastly annoyed that the weather was so averse to my usual summer pursuits. Now that summer is upon us, here I sit upon my ever-widening posterior being lazy. That is not to say that I haven’t taken ANY photos over the past week but it certainly hasn’t been a week of abundance that one would expect given my previous annoyance at my force lethargy only 4 months ago. Damn these temperate climates.

Last Saturday we traipsed off to the Talbot Street Art Fair in Indianapolis. For an entire weekend a whole section of the city plays host to hundreds of artists selling their wares. Laura and I debated briefly whether the people who actually live here enjoyed or despised the presence of these people. Whatever the case, the transformation is amazing.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

I have learned, as of late, that artists hate to have photos taken of their work. As someone who casts his artistic progeny freely and widely into the public domain, I find this disappointing but I obeyed their desires anyway. Any “artwork” found in these shots is purely coincidental. My main focus for this trip was to capture the attendees and ignore anything of a material nature. I wanted to capture culture, personality, people.. all that intangible rot.

This woman is a sign of our age. She motors along with her child in tow (who is obviously unamused by the whole thing) while she putters with her phone. The yellow necklace and blue nail polish also say something but I’m not qualified to say what that something is exactly.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

So, a few words about this type of photography. Firstly, it’s REALLY hard. My intent in all these is to capture people candidly so there’s not really a whole lot of ‘aim and focus’ involved. You point your camera in the general direction of what you want to capture and hope desperately that it works out. The second that somebody KNOWS that you’re taking their picture the whole universe changes. Life lives on a knife’s edge and even the hint that you’re trying to capture it disrupts it. In this case, I liked the hat. It screamed to me 1960’s Parisian. Unfortunately, she’s out of focus. What *IS* in focus is the guy in the background looking on. I’ll save my more candid commentary on his person but I don’t doubt that you’re thinking the same thing I am. Whatever the case, I love the result.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

I always take shots of these when I can get them because really, they are the epitome of childhood. Parents sacrifice to lift us up and as a result, we get a really grand view. In many cases, it’s a view that we will never, ever have even as adults. This is a grandfather I suspect.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

One of my goals in this session was to focus on strong personalities. This woman screamed personality and strength to me. Clearly the sort of person that if you came into contact with her you want her on YOUR side.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

Outside the concession area, we found these adults looking much like 10-year-olds enjoying their snacks. Oh how little things actually change despite the passage of decades.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

I… well, I don’t even know what to say about this. Dude with shirt unbuttoned, looking on with his pizza in the upright and ready position…. Well, ok, I know what to say, but I’m not willing to say it in print.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

Some of the art was quite visibly alive, though it chose its moment of movement all on its own.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

So one tries to be candid. One tries to be subtle. One tries to just slide unseen through the crowds. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it doesn’t always work. This gentleman seems to peer effortlessly into the photographer’s soul. As I look at him, I wonder what his story is and ponder the possibility of inviting him to have a beer sometime.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

This hat… is dramatically huge. I say nothing more than that.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

And so we close with this face of childhood. As kids, we were all here. WAY too tired and don’t even want to WALK. As parents, we’ve all felt this but seldom actually see it in our children’s faces though we can feel it the small frames that we carry towards their rest.

From 6-9-2012 Talbot Art Fair

And with that, we close. And that was the Talbot Street Art fair.

PS: A while ago I took photos of the Superbowl crowds and against all odds I found that somebody from that crowd actually not only saw my photo but recognized themselves.  If you should see yourself in this blog post, then don’t hesitate to reach out.  Hopefully not with a subpoena.

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Since Last Writing…

I realize rather suddenly that it’s been a month since I last posted. It should be noted that the Facebook page for this little endeavor gets rather regular attention but the blog… not so much. Perhaps it’s the necessity of actually putting down words that causes the neglect. Whatever the case, tonight you find me verbose and therefore tonight… you find me at all.

At last posting there was actually a glimmer of a possibility of photographing real people. In retrospect, this was a boon of enormous importance but sadly, like most good things, it came swiftly to an end due to circumstances quite outside my control. Hopefully the time will come when I will again have actual willing humans towards which to point my interest. Until such time as new victims appear, we always have the standard fare.

I have found over the past month that I’m increasingly fascinated by the medium of time-lapse. What would make a fairly dull picture can, with the aid of large amounts of patience, make a reasonably interesting video.

Building on the lessons learned in the time-lapse I did for our company meeting… Oh, did I mention? My video for my company actually won a grant competition for Kids Against Hunger and netted the organization a $10,000 donation. You can look at the news release on their website here. Despite being a surprisingly anonymous contributor to this effort, I’m still giddy beyond all reason about it. Anyway, moving on… I spent several hours in downtown Indy working on this same sort of “limited attention span” effect. Time-lapse is great and all but after 10-20 seconds, the average person is ready for a new point of view. So I’ve taken to composing short vignettes and moving the viewer rapidly between them. Add some up-beat music and you’ve got a reasonable result, I think.

And, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include at least one celestial event.

For the race fans out there, we took ourselves to Carb Day at the Indy 500. At almost 7 minutes this is by far the longest video I’ve ever bothered to cobble together. I’d say it sums up the event pretty well though. The last half of the video is the pit-stop competition. Given that the actual pit-stops take all of 12 seconds to finish it felt a bit ironic to be compressing time but it does give one a sense for just how long it takes to set up for those 12 seconds.

Penultimately, my youngest expressed her desire to “do a movie” of her own. Find below her chosen content as well as the music she chose, by specific request by name, “I want the popcorn song”.  Who says the hits of yesteryear are lost on the young?

And finally, you may have noticed that a few nights ago we had a celestial event that only occurs once in a couple lifetimes as the planet Venus passed across the disc of the sun. Of course we were all at the top of a parking garage to see it and time-lapse it. To actually see the tiny dot that is Venus, you’ll have to go with the HD version of this one.

And so we close. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll summarize some of the still shots that transpired over the past week. Perhaps even better I’ll bother to post on a regular basis.

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Indy by Night… More or Less Ignoring the Super Bowl

Last night we all went downtown to see the sights but I made an effort to ignore as much as possible the fact that there was some sort of event going on. This was basically an attempt to get the art back into my photography rather than shooting pictures that would be better suited for an encyclopedia. I leave it to you the viewer to tell me how I did.

So Super Bowl or not, you pretty much just HAVE to go to the top of any available parking garage to shoot downward.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

As photos go, this is among the less intentional but when I first saw this on my monitor I was rather freaked out. The layers upon layers of images were rather confusing.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

Near the State Museum, a small bridge crosses the canal. It’s liberally lighted at night.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

The canal…

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

And you can never go wrong walking down the street with the shutter open at f/22. Well, you can, but it’s always interesting though a bit cliche.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

Yes, yes, blast it, yes, it’s the Thermal plant AGAIN but I still like it. Especially in black and white. And the lights in the background work for me too.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

This is at least the third time I’ve shot these spires just down the street from Lucas Oil. The first time though that it was from the top of the neighboring garage.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

Super-Fan dude was out yet again; note the contrast in expressions. She’s about to bounce off the walls and he looks like all he wants to do is go to bed. I think that sometimes we forget that there’s a person under the costume who might just want to sit down once every 6 or 7 hours.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

Best view in the house…

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

I’ll bet the anonymous homeless won’t be on any of the TV coverage.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

And this girl riding high on her boyfriend’s shoulders is the counterpoint to the previous picture.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

This amuses me in sepia only because of the apparent anachronism.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

And one last leftover photo from tonight’s sunset. I’m amused by the symmetry.

From Indy Night Downtown – 2-1-2012

And that’s the night that was… and a tiny bit of another night.

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