Thirteen Exercises – Part 2: I Shot that Cow Ten Times

INTRODUCTION/RECAP: I recently read through ’13 Creative Exercises for Photographers’, an article by Todd Vorenkamp posted by B&H Photo Video (recently discovered a version on petapixel.com – links to both at the bottom of this post) and thought it would be interesting to go through each and bore you with the details. Today I did the second exercise.

Exercise 2: Ten of One

The instructions for this exercise were simple: Take 10 unique and/or abstract photographs of 1 small subject. For my subject I chose a small plastic cow my daughter had brought home with her from a class trip to Spain in 2007 when she was 13. Her name is Lechesia. She had been filled ice cream [from my daughter: If memory serves, it was like those cafeteria cups with half chocolate, half vanilla]. Until earlier this week, she had been sitting around our kitchen since then near the stove where it had been accumulating a veneer of cooking grease and dust ever since. (Relax, I cleaned it up a bit before starting this exercise.)

My daughter in Spain the day she got the cow [From a 7 megapixel picture (which was good stuff back then) save) that was converted to .3 megapixels when Facebook got a hold of it. Used GIMP to clean it up a bit]

Again, here’s how I cheated:

  • I will admit to taking an initial ten pictures not liking any but a couple of them and starting over again so, closer to twenty pictures (do the others count if I deleted them?)
  • Not sure if this is cheating, but for the past few days the cow has been sitting on my desk – this was before I started doing these exercises, so the cleanup and move were not premeditated. The directions, as I quoted above, were pretty spare, so I’m not sure it counts as cheating that I took the cow outside for a couple of shots.

    There’s another exercise later on (7: Portable Subject) where I’m supposed to carry an object around with me and make sure that it’s included in all my shots, but I feel this is different. My interpretation is that in this exercise the subject is the object, in the other is it’s the location.

I’m sharing all ten photos here because… well, who wouldn’t want to see ten pictures of a plastic cow? Who? (Might be you, so… oh, well, sorry!)


Image 1: Happy cows, they say, come from California. This unhappy cow came from Spain. I can’t make a blanket statement about the mental state of cows in Spain, but I’ve never seen this one smile. Ever.
Image 2: European cows tend to prefer soccer (‘Fútbol’ in Spain). When asked about the game, Lechesia, attempted to demonstrate using some large marbles I had, but it’s been so long that she got a little confused.
Image 3: No longer filled with candy, Lechesia has been using her copious stomach to store coins she finds around the house. She’s amassed a small fortune (for a cow).
Image 4: An unruly bit of hair on the top of her head. Yes, Lechesia has a cowlick.
Image 5: Lechesia often stands in front of the window, longing to go outside. I accommodate when I can
Image 6: Lechesia, like most cows, loves grazing. American lawns, however, don’t taste as good as the ones in her home country. ‘Moooooooooo!’ she says. [Moogle Translate tells me that she said ‘you’d think they’d spice it up a bit with some saffron!’]
Image 7: What makes Lechesia an extraordinary cow is her ability to climb trees. Getting down is a bit difficult, but fortunately she didn’t climb beyond my reach.
Image 8: Enjoying themselves until the cow comes home
Image 9: Lechesia enjoys art and has a collection of paintings by a famoos Russian artist and statues of eastern origins.
Image 10: Lechesia imagines what it would be like to be a Picasso painting of a sexy cow. Very nice, I think.

link to article on B&H:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/13-creative-exercises-for-photographers

link to article on petapixel.com:
https://petapixel.com/2015/07/16/13-exercises-for-photographers-that-can-help-jump-start-creativity/

Thirteen Exercises – Part 1: Don’t Move

Introduction


The other day I received the B&H Newsletter, something I usually ignore – I normally ignore emails from vendors unless I have an order in process – but the first words of the subject line caught my attention: 13 Photo Exercises Guaranteed to Jumpstart Your Creativity… Again, stuff I usually ignore. Not because I don’t think I could use the help, but every time I start reading one of these, they tend to be full of silly advice like ‘wrap your camera in aluminum foil and stick it down your trousers to take a picture of the the nearest building.’ However, I’ve been feeling a bit stuck in a rut: taking photographs of the same flowers, plants and buildings, so I thought ‘why not?’ and started to read.


SIDE NOTE: If you don’t know B&H (B&H Photo, Video & Pro Audio), they’ve been around as a physical store in New York City for ages (AGES!) I remember rummaging around their store on West 17th back in the late 70’s and 80’s. I’m pretty certain that’s where I bought both my first SLR, a Yashica TL-Electro X and my second, the Canon AE-1.

I wonder whatever happened to the Yashica – literally have no idea. I remember rushing out to buy it after seeing a great add in Playboy likening it to an iceberg: the greatest parts are hidden beneath the surface! As for the Canon, I still have one, but not that one – the original was stolen by an old girlfriend’s drug addict neighbour, giving him, I’m sure, minutes of enjoyment).

Wouldn’t you know it, you can find almost anything on Flickr


Digression, digression, digression: sorry!

Anyway, just wanted to say that a year ago, when I started to become interested in photography again, I was happy to find they were still around AND on the Web. I enjoy their site mostly for the links to product reviews, how-to videos and articles. Their prices aren’t any better or worse than other places and, when comparison shopping, I find their prices about the same as Amazon’s so I tend to buy from them out of loyalty to ‘an old friend.’
[SIDE NOTE NOTE: they’re no longer at 17th street, but there is still a brick and mortar store in Manhattan near Penn Station]


The email linked to an article by Todd Vorenkamp and, as I read through his exercises I found myself thinking… ‘well, this might be fun… and this might be fun too!’ I eventually decided that I would go through each of the exercises and bore you all with my attempts.

At the bottom of this post I will put a link to Todd Vorenkamp’s article for anyone interested.

Exercise 1: Two Dozen

The instructions for exercise one were: Pick a location. Stand in one spot and make 24 unique photographs while standing in the same place. You cannot move your feet.

Image 1: From ground level, looking south at picnic tables and trees. Shooting from the ground-level is something I enjoy; it allows me to view the world from a different perspective.

I did this in Bruce Park in a parking space on Wood Road, facing south toward the picnic area. Now, let me tell you how I cheated:

  • three shots in I actually moved my feet to go back to the car and get a second lens, BUT… BUT, I outlined where my feet were and made sure to stand in the exact same location and foot-placement when I got back, and
  • I actually took 32 shots because of subject movement – a cardinal that was hopping picnic tables and a tree (yes, I’m certain it was the tree that moved).

This was fun and slightly challenging. The first few shots were easy, but after a while I found myself thinking hard about what to shoot next (the cardinal’s sudden appearance gave me momentary relief).

I wouldn’t say any of these pictures are particularly creative (or, for that matter, even even particularly interesting), but … eh (🤷🏻‍♂️)! Lucky you, I only picked 10 to show here.

Image 16b: Cardinal on a picnic table. The Cardinal is the mascot of the Greenwich High School sports teams. Had always associated it with St. Louis starting to work here in the late 80’s and eventually moving to town. Honestly, though, I can’t say I remember seeing so many around as I have this year.
Image 17: Looking straight up. Branches over my head.
Image 19: Cobblestone Curb (or kerb, if you prefer). Within the last year they’ve redone the parking area on Wood Road – actually, I should say ‘they added a parking area’ since whatever might have been there was just street. The parking area is differentiated from the street by use of cobblestones (you’ll see this in subsequent images)
Image 3: I always thought you don’t poop bag where you eat. Bruce Park is very dog friendly
Image 4: Morning routines: a woman goes on her daily walk and the trash gets picked up. This shot gives you a better idea of the new parking area at the park. Last year, this street was completely closed for several months and for, some crazy reason, when they opened it again all this cobblestone made me so happy. Still does. I’m a bit of a nut.
Image 7: Picnic Table Legs. One of the reasons I moved to get that other lens was to take this picture (cropped because, since I couldn’t move, there was some extraneous stuff on the left).
Image 18: The lens I replaced on the hood of my car (Olympus M. Zuiko 14-42mm, because you wanted to know, right?)
Image 15: Dropped lens cap
Somewhere between Image 4 and Image 5: Probably the most creative thing I did all morning. I had four pens in my pocket and I used them to mark the positions of my feet so I could return to the exact spot and foot-placement after getting my other lens. (Who carries four pens in their pocket?)

All pictures taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III with either M. Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 or Panasonic/LUMIX 45-200mm f/4-5.6 lenses…

Link to Todd Vorenkamp’s 13 exercises: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/13-creative-exercises-for-photographers

My Problem With People

Most of my posts here and on other social media platforms are pictures of places and things: buildings, flowers, trees, birds. I find all these interesting, but I also people also interest me and I often find myself looking at a person with the same intensity as I do a flower, a tree, the sky or the water.

2019.04.03: Outside a Starbucks on the corner of Madison and East 49th. I’ve seen this woman more than once feeding birds and I’m not so sure she’s eating all that well, herself. Haven’t had occasion to be back in the City since COVID, so don’t know if she’s still there. I hope she’s well.

My cameras are always working, so I take almost as many pictures of people as I do of anything else. I seldom post these, though, because I have a problem with people: they scare me. I don’t like to approach them unless I have a good reason – and even then somewhat nervously. If I ever start a conversation with you you are probably one of two things: so incredibly interesting to me that I cannot resist or a bartender. Grateful am I that my life has been rich in both of these, but even more grateful am I for the people who have spoken to me first.

2019.08.24: Bartender (left) and Incredibly Interesting (both) and friends. Taken outside the Old Greenwich Social Club on a Saturday afternoon

I feel that, to take and post pictures of people, I would need to approach them and have some sort of conversation, if for no other reason than to ask their permission, and that scares me for several reasons. First, I don’t know how to start that conversation, it’s hard enough for me to walk up to up to a stranger and say hello, I find it impossible come out with ‘say, I’d like to take your picture if that’s okay?’ Second, I’m afraid of rejection or worse: being asked all sorts of questions about why, what am I going to do with it and if I’m some sort of weirdo (being honest, I’d have to say yes!). Finally, if people know I’m taking their pictures they’ll be less natural or want to know how I want them to sit or stand – I can’t give those sort of directions.

So the pictures I post tend to be photos of friends or people who’s faces are somehow obscured.

Everything above has been posted before, but there are pictures I’ve always felt I can’t post on either Instagram or Facebook because the people in them are recognizable. But I’ll post some of them here now because I have very few local followers here (few followers altogether) and I’m hoping that, thus, they’ll remain anonymous

2021.06.30: The Waiter Waits – Lugano, Old Greenwich, CT
2021.06.06: And the Waitress Waits – Old Greenwich Social Club
2021.06.13: Playing while the adults eat
2021.06.06: Strangers in the Park (*this one I think I instagrammed)
2021.06.11: Family Breakfast

Cameras used here were either iPhone (2019) and Olympus OM-D E Mark 5iii

Recovering From Carelessness

This morning I took a few pictures of the sun rising over an area called ‘Swamp Vue.’ To do so, I put my camera on ‘manual’ and took a few shots at different settings finally getting the shot I wanted with the aperture at f/22, the shutter speed at 1/160 sec, and the ISO at 250.

Swamp Vue

Usually, when I do this, I finish by setting the camera back to ‘auto’ before replacing the lens cap and turning the camera off. Well… I forgot to change the settings. Walking a little farther up the road I came to a bed of Chinese Roses (rosa chinesnis) and took a couple of quick pictures without paying attention to the settings. This is what I got…

When I got home later I was disappointed to say the least. Wondering whether I could rescue the shots, I transferred them to my iPad to go some quick editing with Snapseed – I figured if I could make a halfway decent job of it, I’d try a little harder later on my laptop.

I started by fiddling with the brightness, ambience, highlights and shadows; decreased the grain; then one thing followed by another. The results are passable – definitely worth spending more time on

Undressing Magnolia at Breakfast

Magnolia Blossom was lying under a tree at Pomerance Park when I met her, near the ruins of Wyndygoul, the old Seton home.

A chance encounter, almost didn’t see her, almost stepped on her actually.

I found her interesting and took her home where I set her on my desk then proceeded to ignore, and eventually forget, her as I worked.

I found her there this morning as I was getting ready to go out for my morning coffee. She was pretty much as I had left her. Though having lost some of her freshness and looking wilted, she was still attractive, interesting, still so full of colour.

I took her out to breakfast.

Alone together in the upstairs room of the coffee shop, I began to undress her.

[Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0]

56mm; f/13; 4.0s; ISO 250
20mm; f/4.3; 1/60s; ISO 400
22mm; f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 400
70mm; f/5.5; 1/160s; ISO 1600
25mm; f/4.7; 1/60s; ISO 320
20mm; f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 320
150mm; f/5.6; 1/160s; ISO 1600
25mm; f/4.7; 1/60s; ISO 320
150mm; f/5.6; 1/160s; ISO 1600
22mm; f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 250
150mm; f/5.6; 1/200s; ISO 1600

all images edited in Snapseed: Cropped or expanded to 5×7 ratio; a little vignetting, detail reduction to give a soft focus look

Bon Voyeurage

Most mornings I go out for a walk. Depending on weather I try to get five to six miles in on weekdays, eight to nine on Saturdays, Sunday I rest. I carry a camera in one hand, my iPad in the other.

At the three mile mark (sometimes a little more, depending on my route) I stop at what has become my coffee ‘local’: a patisserie called Aux Delices in Riverside, Connecticut. I get there shortly after they open at Seven and and take a coffee and croissant upstairs to the usually empty dining room where I sit at my regular table reading though my copy of the internet.

As I sit, people come and go and I can’t help watching, listening and, of course, taking pictures. Most of these I never post, especially if they show their full faces, but I thought I’d put some of them here including a couple of selfies I took using the Olympus’ remote control app on my phone.

2021.03.20 – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm F1.8; Settings: ISO 200, F/3.5, 1/200sec)
2021.03.16 – Taken with iPad Pro back camera (as you can see from the reflection)
2021.02.26 – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6, Settings: 14mm, ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/80 sec)
2021.03.24 – Taken with iPad Pro back camera
2021.04.02: Remote Selfie -Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6, Settings: 31mm, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/125 sec)
2021.04.03 – At My Regular Table – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6; Settings: 22mm, ISO 200, F/4.5, 1/80sec)
2021.04.05 – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6; Settings: 15mm, ISO 250, F/4.1, 1/60sec)
2021.04.06 – Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII (Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6; Settings: 16mm, ISO 320, F/4.1, 1/60sec)
2021.03.28 – Taken with iPhone Back Camera
2021.04.02 – Taken with iPad Pro back camera

The Lost Generation (… of Shopping Carts)

I’m always curious about the shopping carts I see abandoned on sidewalks around town, many quite far from the stores they come from, but not close to anyone’s home or even a bus stop.

2020.06.09: East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich

I imagine in them a desire for travel…

New surroundings, …

2021.03.23: East Putnam Avenue, Old Greenwich

To make different friends …

2020.11.21: East Putnam Avenue, Cos Cob, CT

In the end, though, they become lost and depressed …

2021.03.01: Ferris Drive, Old Greenwich

Having found no place that fulfills whatever expectations they may have had, some seek to find their way back home

2021.03.21: Arcadia Road, Old Greenwich, CT
2021.03.01: Arcadia Rd, Old Greenwich, CT

Some wait, hoping to be found and brought back …

While others fall into a deeper depression and give up

2020.03.11: East Putnam Avenue, Riverside, CT
2021.03.20: East Putnam Avenue, Cos Cob, CT
2021.03.20: East Putnam Avenue, Old Greenwich, CT

Finding the Missing Link

When I go for my morning walks around town, I am constantly on the lookout for something to photograph. My eyes usually gravitate toward lost, discarded or misplaced things (toys, balls, gloves, bottles, etc.).

A few days ago I found a beautifully rusted chain link. It’s a little over two inches long, a quarter inch thick, and worn with a gap on one end where it must have escaped from whatever it was attached to.

2021.03.09: Finding the Missing Link (OM-D MK5ii, 36mm, f/5.2, 1/80sec, IS0 320 – iAUTO mode)

I took a picture of it on lying on the side of the road where I found it and started to walk away, but it had so captured my imagination that I went back to pick it up.

For the next few days I carried it around to with me to photograph against different backgrounds using both the OM-D and my iPhone. When using the Olympus I almost always used manual settings – or at least in aperture priority mode; with the iPhone I just hoped for the best and that Snapseed would rescue the bad shots. I hope you enjoy the results as much as I enjoyed taking and editing them.

2021.03.09: Wood and Iron (OM-D MK5ii, 18mm, f/4.2, 1/20s, IS0 400)
2021.03.09: Hitting a Brick Wall (OM-D MK5ii, 49mm, f/22, 1/20s, IS0 400)

Hanging Out in Bars

There’s no denying it: although I profess myself to be a misanthrope, I do like to occasionally spend time sitting in a bar, watching people and listening in on conversations around me.

But what I like most is to take pictures in that special light that you really only find in a bar.

2021.03.07: The Town Dock Tavern, Rye, NY (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/60 sec, ISO 160)

People and things just look so different inside a bar than they do in the outside world (and I’m saying this is true even before I start drinking!).

2021.03.07: AC’s Boots (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO 400)

This afternoon my wife and I went to the Town Dock Tavern in Rye, about ten miles from home, to visit our friend Margaret who was bartending.

2021.03.07: Who invited Basil Hayden? (I don’t know, but I asked him to stay a while) (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/60 sec, ISO 250)

There was only one other person there when we arrived, but soon a few regulars started coming in. The place became lively with laughter and friendly conversation.

2021.03.07: Basil Hayden, Front and Centre (Guinness on the left) (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO 400)

Margaret made sure we were acquainted with everyone and we felt most welcome.

2021.03.07: Margaret’s Steady Hand at the Helm at the Town Dock (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/30 sec, ISO 640)

We ate, we drank, we enjoyed the people, and then we remembered that tomorrow was Monday.

2021.03.07: Clam-orous Dishes! (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/40 sec, ISO 320)

I want to explain the picture below (also the featured image) because they look less than flattering to the people in them and I call them ‘If Hell Had Happy Hour I’ and ‘II’ because nobody looks to be having a particularly good time, but this is one of those tricks of timing where, in that one split second, everyone looks off. It’s like when you pause a video in the middle of someone talking – that most beautiful or handsome person you wanted to stare at for a while looks like the biggest doof in the world!

I guarantee, everyone was having a wonderful time, they were some of the most pleasant people I’ve ever drank with and I hope to hang with them again someday soon.

2021.03.07: If Hell Had Happy Hour I (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/40 sec, ISO 320)

Reflections

Like many people, I’m fascinated by the way different objects reflect light or images. Capturing this on ‘film’ hasn’t always been easy for me. Been a bit of a learning curve.

2021.02.27: Lugano Wine Bar, Old Greenwich (OM-D MKVII 15mm, f/10, 0.40000 sec, ISO 200)

A lot of times I think I’m taking a photo of what I’m seeing only to find out that either my point of view isn’t exactly the same as my camera’s or that I didn’t have the settings right and the beautiful reflection I thought I caught looks undefined or washed out. Fortunately post processing with tools such as Snapseed, GIMP, etc., can help bring out the beauty that was there in my eyes.

2021.02.28: Sunlight Reflecting on Wet Blacktop (iPhone XR Back Camera, 4.25mm, f/1.8, 1/121 sec, ISO 32 – Left is original image, Right is post processed with Snapseed )

2021.03.02: Sun Reflecting Off a Copper Table (OM-D MKVII 14mm, f/20, 1/500 sec, ISO 200)

I love the way different surfaces reflect objects and light: how very smooth surfaces (water, glass, polished marble) act like mirrors, rough and dented surfaces provide only a rough idea of the images they reflect. There’s an analogy somewhere in there for the way we think and relate our ideas to each other.

2021.03.01: The Perrot Library Reflected on Binney Park Pond, Old Greenwich, CT (OM-D MKVII 14mm, f/5.6, 1/25 sec, ISO 200)
2021.03.07: Narcissist (OM-D Mk5ii, 54mm, f/6.3, 1/400 sec, ISO 100)

Not all reflection is about light and images – sometimes a reflection is seeing something two people are doing that looks almost the same.

2021.02.27: Reflecting (OM-D MK5ii, 16mm, f/4.1, 1/15sec, ISO 1600)

Those can be the most fun to capture.