Covid Photo Journal – Shape

I realize now that I should have been dating these journal entries. It’s April 11th, 2020, and the prior Covid Photo Journal posts have been between March 30th and today. I usually post these a day or two after I actually take the photos, so grain of salt for all the upcoming dates.

My next batch of assignments is a study in photo elements. There are surely more than just these, but this is a start. I’ll bullet all of the elements I’ll try and cover and then jump right into it.

  • Shape
  • Form
  • Texture
  • Tone
  • Line
  • Pattern
  • Color

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I came back to these modern golden arches for my shape assignment. I tried to emphasize the gentle arc to draw the eye through the rounded gateway. It’s a shame that the gate leads you into the corner of a dull brown building, but I learned about how arches, probably natural and manmade, can be used to draw attention to whatever is on the opposite end. There were two versions of this image that I had a hard time choosing between. One was more symmetrical and ignored the hardware on the top of the swingset. I decided to go with this skewed version that highlighted the hardware because of the context. The swings are down due to the pandemic. This is like a modern ring-around-the-rosise.


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My second choice for shape was more difficult for me, but I liked the shape of the silhouette of the trees here. It reminded me of a Bob Ross composition. I also liked the shape of the sloping hill. It seems to give the landscape wave, it’s like an earthly ocean swell that I can imagine moving from left to right through this image. It gives the otherwise underexposed image a nice natural energy that livens it up a bit. The shape of the clouds is neat too.

Covid Photo Journal – Full M

Now that I basically know how to take a photo, I’ve used that skill two whole times in the past two days to capture interesting events. I’ve been reading John Burroughs biography and it has inspired me to get outside and clean out my gardens. These moments were taken in the middle of intense raking sessions. For the first time in my life, I saw something interesting and instead of simply experiencing it, I ran inside to grab my camera and capture it. I wonder how John Burroughs felt about nature photography. I can see how it would allow you to relive the event, but I also see how it could distract from the event itself. It certainly made me consider what was happening in a different way. The poet in me usually experiences an event and thinks, ‘what does this mean?’ The photographer me thinks, ‘how does this look?’ Both sides think, ‘is this beautiful?’ and ‘does this matter?’


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This little friend would have made me quit raking in the past, but this time I got as close as I could. I shot full manual, set the ISO as low as it could go, set the lowest aperture I could, and cranked the shutter speed to catch the flapping red tongue. He seemed to know I was trying to get a photo. Each time I squat down and got focused, he stopped flitting. I had to nudge him a little to make him poke his head up and start the tongue again.


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He darted away after another nudge and I jumped up to capture his retreat. This would have been a perfect time for continuous shot mode, but I didn’t have a way to change it fast enough. I should have been shooting in continuous from the get-go. The lighting in this looks like stage lighting, I love it. It looks like the shutter speed could have been higher also, the little guy was too speedy for 1/200.


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For the first few months that Covid-19 was in the news, it was referred to as “coronavirus.” I found this corona can in my garden during a 3-day quarantine rake-a-thon. Serendipity is mysterious and often hilarious. I did stage this a little. This is pretty much right where I found the can, but I did turn it to better see the logo, but other than that it’s organic. I like the composition of this, and I think I nailed the lighting again. I feel like lighting during the day is pretty straightforward, set the ISO as low as it can go and adjust from there.

I’m now at the point where I have to start giving myself assignments. I have to start thinking about why I’m learning this and what I want to get out of it. I’ll keep practicing the technical aspects, but I need to consider the content going forward.

Covid Photo Journal – S-Mode

Shutter priority mode. Used for taking pics of things slow or fast. Sports, wildlife, night city blur, any kind of blur, S-mode is king. I wasn’t going to do this assignment as quickly as I did, but I went outside and noticed the bush in front of my house was swarming with flying insects. Mostly small bees, but also some black flies and wasps. I’m not sure what to do about it. I don’t want to call someone to look at it while we’re under quarantine, so I decided to take photos instead. It was super hard.

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Here’s my dumb dog slamming her head into the ground. I think she scratches her head and back like this. The slow shutter speed was a problem to use during the day because it allows in so much light. I guess this isn’t why we see a lot of blurry day shots. The fast shutter speed obviously wasn’t an issue, but it seems like you need a special lens or filter to shoot slow shutter speeds during the day.

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This is my first piece of wildlife photography. If you look closely at the center, there’s a bee. I used the fast shutter speed for this, hoping to capture one in the air, but it was more difficult than I expected. A telephoto lens would have been helpful here.


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Kind of a cool composition, but there’s nothing here to show off the shutter speed. This was taken at a lower one to try and catch some blur from the thousands of bees and flies, but they seem too small to have made any visible effect without zooming in.


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This last shot looked way better in the viewfinder than it does now. I guess that’s something I’ll have to get used to. This was also taken at a low shutter speed to try and catch the insect blur. I thought that thee was some blur here, but now I’m not so sure. It looks like a lot of the blur is just light reflecting from the leaves.


I need to take some more wildlife shots and I’d like to take a long shutter photo of the thruway or something, but there are barely any cars on it right now, so I have to wait until Covid dies. I’m not doing an assignment for full manual mode, that’s basically what I’ll be using from here on out. Something I learned doing this was that any of the settings can be changed using any of the MAPS options, so basically they’re all manual if you want them to be.  Something else I noticed was that the ISO needed to be set in all of the modes, not just P-mode. I’m probably going to use all of the settings when I shoot. I do have another lens that I should look at and play around with.

Covid Photo Journal – A Mode

My next assignment was to shoot in A-Mode, or aperture priority mode. This mode seems to be useful when depth of field is important. I’ve been struggling to comprehend the terminology for depth of field, but I think a shallow depth of field is when the subject is in focus and the rest is blurry, and this is done with a large aperture number, which, confusingly, is the smaller numbers.


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I started in the apartment attached to my house which is patiently waiting renovation. I was a little more conscious of composition for this shoot. I listened to music while I shot which really helped me focus. This shot had a broad depth of field, but I guess it didn’t really matter since the subject was flat. This wall is probably the most urban looking thing that I own.


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This chair came with the house. It’s a typical retiree throne and I felt bad getting rid of it. We put it on the lawn for free but nobody wanted it, including us. We stuck it in the apartment during a snow storm. It’s basically waiting to die. This is its purgatory. I wanted the shot to reflect this sad reality. The windows in the back are a problem, something a lens filter probably could have taken care of.


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This pile of pink insulation looked organic to me. Like a decomposing beached whale. It looks like the house has died and this is the effect of postmortem bloat. The image didn’t really take advantage of any depth of field tricks, but I thought the content was interesting.


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This used two techniques I recently learned. One is the obvious depth of field trick, using a large aperture to blur the background. The other is to move the camera after it has already focused, putting the subject off to the side of the frame. The windows are an issue again, but I think this photo turned out pretty good.


april week 1_5

More of that gross housing mass. I used a large aperture (number? This is why aperture terminology is confusing. The aperture itself was small, but the number was large, and I don’t know what the traditional way to refer to it is.) because I didn’t want any single part of the mass to be in focus, I wanted it all in focus if possible.


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I tried to focus on the canister in the back of the frame and have the foreground in focus, but I don’t think I quite pulled it off. This may have been a case where it would have been useful to switch into manual focus.


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Sweet texture here. I think, again, a different lens would have been cool. It feels futuristic, but I wanted it to look a little more dystopian given my current circumstances. The lighting is almost there.


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Here’s our shitty closet that collapsed while we were cleaning out the rat skeletons. I like the symmetry here, but I’m not sure that the mood of the photo matches the content. It’s a cool idea, but a little lazy.


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Classic depth of field pic. Pretty good, pretty plain.


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This was another one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that I was unable to capture, but at least I tried this time. There is a flock of turkeys (flock? gaggle?) somewhere in this picture. Between the two signs if you squint. There are stories of dolphins returning to the canals in Venice and other wild animals roaming the streets of major cities. I don’t know if there is a correlation between the lack of human activity and the return of these turkeys, but it took a pandemic for me to see them at least.


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I think I nailed this one. Jill’s dinner in the well-lit foreground, my hungry dog glaring in the background like Eve eyeing the apple. I love everything about this and I think the depth of field worked.


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Jill’s Covid notes and folders with natural coffee stains and everything. I made Jill wait to clean this up so that I could get a photo of it. I rushed the photo a bit and didn’t really think it through, but it was something that I needed to capture. 


What I learned was that aperture is hard. It looks like I’ll normally use it for exposure, but it can be fun to use to play around with the focus.

Covid Photo Journal – P Mode

Today’s lesson was about P-mode, or program mode. This is the first baby step after full auto. Program mode basically sets the shutter speed and aperture and lets you set the ISO. I found pretty quickly that I consistently use an ISO that’s too high. A lot of the images came out grainy. Using the lowest possible ISO seems like a solid strategy.



I don’t remember what ISO I used on this, but it was obviously too low. It looks pretty good outside, but I was trying to get a shot of the inside. It’s actually pretty cool and, again, illustrates quarantine well.



This is a nice little still life. I’m starting to realize that most of my photos are from my perspective, like exactly what I see when I walk around the house. I tried to stray from this a little, but I need to spend more time working the scene when I take photos. This one, for instance, I think I would skew a little to imply intoxication. Maybe that’s too much, but it definitely needs more energy.


This was the first portrait photo that I took. It felt good to turn the camera and try something new. I was able to capture more of the bookshelf this way, but it’s still basically a boring photo.



This one is just goofy enough to be good, I think. The angle of the lines is interesting, the content is interesting, the colors are interesting, and the lighting is good. I would say this is the best photo I’ve taken so far. I shouldn’t be surprised, I took my time with this one and tried multiple angles and ISOs.


Obligatory Hutton pic. Jill working hard at the Covid hotline marathoning old Puppy Bowls. Quarantine life. Not super interesting as a pic, but I think it’s great just for the content.

Covid Photo Journal – Full Auto Mode

For today’s assignment (March 30th? I’m losing track of days), I had to practice in full auto mode. This basically means I did nothing. Really though, what it taught me was that the focus should be on the subject and the content rather than the technical camera settings. This process made me realize how susceptible I am to setting obsession. I can see myself going out to shoot and staring at the LCD of the camera instead of looking at what I’m actually trying to take a photo of. Photography, like poetry, is a practice of looking. And there’s my corny takeaway for today. On to the photos.



Kind of a “whoah dude, metaphor!” pic of nature here. I do think being literally quarantined right now makes it more relevant, but it’s still probably cliche. I like the actual composition of the pic. I think the trees look good, and I’m glad the autofocus picked the fence, though I am interested in how it would have looked if the trees were in focus instead. But in autofocus mode, the machine decides.



I liked that last pic so much that I took it again without the lame metaphor. I like this one more. You pretty much can’t go wrong on auto mode as long as what you’re looking at is nice or interesting. The symmetry feels right in this. If I were to do it again, I would angle my camera so that the land looks straight and the trees would look slanted.



These trees are way more imposing in this image than in real life. I didn’t even adjust the angle I was shooting at, but somehow they look ominous here and delightful in real life.



This is a pandemic shot, with a tiny bit of Hutton and a tiny bit of a dinosaur toy. So here is a good time to mention that I have not edited any of these photos yet. They should all probably be cropped and touched up, but I’m assuming my class will take me through that process and I trust it. The orange barrier is hilariously the same color as the major elements of this playground and it ends up doing a terrible job of letting people know that the playground is off-limits. It’s a little more morbid given context.



They took the swings down to prevent people from gathering and playing in the park and left us with this wicked piece of weathered modern art. I love the dirt tracks from kids sticking out their landing gear legs to slow down. The angle is neat, but I could have done better I think. Looking at this now, I could have spent some more time finding the right show. I think it’s the right subject though.



This is another subject that I love with a shot that doesn’t do much for me. The texture is the highlight of this subject and that doesn’t really come across in this photo. Having the little puddles helps, but the angle is a little half-assessed. Coming from a photographer of one and a half days.



Obligatory Hutton pic. Hell of a profile. Hey full auto mode, gonna need a little quicker shutter speed to pick up this tail.



These monsters came the first day of quarantine. Serendipitous scheduling. The road work being done actually inspired me more than anything else to start taking photographs. I took Hutton outside one night and there was a giant trench in the middle of my road stretching as far as I could see down the street. I couldn’t get to the park. It looked like a stereotypical earthquake road crack and I wanted to capture it. I thought about how often I would see my street in this condition and decided it was essentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I started taking a photography class that night (like a dope) and by the time I got to the point in the class where I was taking pictures, the crack was filled in. So this photo here is the best I’ll ever get to seeing that Godzilla crack in front of my house.


Covid Photo Journal Beginning

I’m quarantined. What better way to spend time during a pandemic than to stay inside and learn something new. My new thing is photography. I’m taking some online courses and playing around with Jill’s DSLR. I’m also playing around with the idea of a photo journal, or photo essays, to complement my poetry and give me something more documentary to work on. This is the beginning of a journey, a journey that may very well end once this quarantine ends, but it could also be the beginning of a lifelong thing. (I wrote passion, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself)



This is the first real photo I took. I’ve taken plenty of pics with my phone, and I owned a few DSLR’s, but I’m going to consider this my first real photo. This photo was taken after 3 days of procrastination and contemplating whether or not this should be something I attempt seriously. I actually like this photo. I was shooting on manual (not something I’ll be doing moving forward until I know what to do) and I obviously overestimated my lighting situation, but I think this photo captures the feeling of quarantine pretty well. Dismal, solitary, etc. I have to say though, I’ve been having the time of my life under this quarantine.



This was the second photo I took. Believe it or not, it was taken seconds after that first one. I was still getting used to the ISO – Shutter Speed – Aperture holy trinity, and it looks like that will be something I’ll struggle with for the rest of my life. This one shows a little more of the bright side of quarantine.



This is one of the brightest spots of quarantine. We get to stay home with Hutton every day for the foreseeable future. There may be an obligatory Hutton photo in every journal entry. She’s just so damn photogenic.



I got a little ambitious with the angle here. I like the skew because it implies the dog’s signature curious head-tilt. The clock in the background and the layered doorways are also nice touches. I can almost hear Hutton asking if it’s time to go out.



Here I got ambitious with shutter speed. My mom is currently living in our house while we renovate the apartment next door for her, so we’re all quarantined together. She has been doing a lot of cleaning to keep herself busy and relieve her anxiety. This is a neat chicken leg vacuum action shot. The huge windows in the living room make the lighting an issue. Lighting is hard.



This was also one of Jill’s only days off since the outbreak. She is working from home now and I’m sure I’ll have some photos of her hard at work, but here she is planting some new seeds for the summer. Prepping for a better place after this pandemic. I like the lighting in this one a lot, I think it captures how the lighting felt in real life pretty well. I also like the fruit in the bowl to the right, like an amateur still-life subject that I largely ignored.


So that’s my first batch and my first step on this journey. The class I’m taking has assignments, so I’m going to be following those in the days coming up. Workflow is something I have to get hammered out. It’s a struggle right now and it makes me not want to move forward, but I have all the time in the world and no excuse to stop now.