Covid Photo Journal – Cemetery Trip

So the last lesson in the class is a kitchen table studio session, but my lights won’t be here until May because of Covid, so I’m moving on to the capstone project. The project is so sprawling that I’m just going to use the next year as my capstone project, doing random trips and pics here and there. I’ve taken 4 months of courses in roughly 4 weeks and I’m a little burned out right now. I bought a pack to bring my camera on bike trips, these pics are from my first trip to the cemetery down the street.


I loved the mountains framed by these trees with the steeple in the foreground. I pumped up the vibrance and texture in lightroom to really get the contrast in the green steeple and the different colors of the trees in the background. I almost want to take this photo in mid-summer to see the color differences. This looks more like fall than spring. There’s a naturalist metaphor in here somewhere, nature as religion, etc. I’m reading a lot of Emerson right now, if you couldn’t tell.



This house haunts me. The house I grew up in on 65 Wynkoop Place is directly to the right of this house. I stared at this house throughout my childhood and it creeps me out to this day. I dream about entering this house about once a month and it’s always haunted or forbidden or something. I cut the contrast in lightroom to give this an eerie vibe. I’ve never really looked at this house from this angle before, but it’s even creepier with the headstones in front of it. It definitely implies haunted.



I tried to use the rule of thirds here to get the headstone in the foreground and the house in the background at the intersections. I didn’t really nail it, but I think the idea was good. When I was taking photos in the cemetery I didn’t think I had any good shots. I was a little disappointed, but when I got home and started editing, I found I liked these three photos quite a bit. I’m learning that you don’t really know what you shot until afterward. You can see my old house in the background here, to the right. Fun project, my bike bag works well, now to think of more places to go.

Covid Photo Journal – Lighting

Photography apparently means “to write with light,” so lighting is everything in photography. This lesson focused on choosing an interesting light source that was not ambient. I’m balancing dangerously close to the edge of an adolescent cliche with these photos.


My initial idea was to have the only light come from the TV. I cranked the ISO and slowed down the shutter speed, but I couldn’t find the tripod so I picked up some fuzziness because of my shaking hands. This is the first photo I edited with lightroom. I pumped up the contrast and vibrance a bit, and also tinted it a little more blue to give it a real blue screen video vibe. I wanted the light to distract from the books as a metaphor for what we’re all dealing with while in quarantine. Basic as hell, but I think it works fine.



I experimented a little with flash photography here. I wanted the flash to light up the books, but I’m still sitting in a dark room. The first shot I took had my foot in the lower corner, which I tried to get rid of, but I actually ended up thinking it worked and I took a few more with both of my feet stuck straight out. It’s like I’m laying down preparing for a sacrifice by the TV. I was able to use a higher ISO with the flash, which allowed the camera to pick up the static on the TV. I think this one is a better composition all around. More interesting in almost every way. The first one is moodier though.

Covid Photo Journal – Portrait en creux

The portrait en creux (or hollow portrait) may be my favorite technique yet. Basically, it’s a portrait of somebody without the ‘body’ part. I like that it’s simple and beautiful. They seem to say just as much, if not more, about the person than an actual portrait. A portrait shows how the person looks, a portrait en creux shows how the person lives.

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This was a little tableau my mom left on the kitchen table before she left for work, which she shouldn’t be doing since we’re all under quarantine. The book is about victorian architecture and I wanted to get the spine title in the shot, but it just wasn’t possible with the composition I was going for. I like the symmetry and cool colors of this image. I also like how the tape on the book leads the eyes to the eyeglasses. The book acts as a pedestal for the glasses, almost implying how one can view the world through literature, which is something I learned from my mom.


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This is my grandma’s corkboard she left when she sold us the house. The contents are mostly Jill’s, but the photo of my grandma in the upper left was hilariously left by my grandma. This composition is a little scattered and dark with no clear subject, I don’t think it works very well. It was a much more colorful and friendly board during the Christmas seas, but we haven’t been receiving much mail because of the pandemic.


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These are Jill’s herbs and candle holder, with her dress eavesdropping in the background. I used the lowest aperture I could to let in more light and give me the shallow depth of field I was looking for. The symmetry of the composition doesn’t really work. The right side is only slightly heavier than the left, but not so much so to make it blatantly asymmetric. Although I think the dress in the background is a nice touch, I think it struggles for relevance within the composition. The texture here is wonderful. I even like the herb crumbs on the ledge.

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I used the cool technique of focusing on a subject and then moving the camera here. I need a name for that technique – maybe focus shifting? Or something? I focused on Jill’s dress and then moved the camera lens directly behind her herbs. To my surprise, the camera maintained focus on the dress through the herbs. I really like this image. I like the voyeuristic aspect of it, like I’m peeping through trees. I also like the heavy shadow on the wall. It adds another layer of intrusion for me, as if I’m in an abandoned house or something.


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This is a nice little home and gardens snapshot of Jill’s spring planters. I considered moving them to be more symmetrical, but I thought the organic placement complemented the organic content. I think the texture here is a standout. It seems like the top planters are a little out of focus and I’m not sure why. The splash of green in the lower left is like foreshadowing, and the hint of another planter at the top implies repetition, like this collection of pots go on forever.


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Here is a hollow family portrait. My mom’s unfinished watercolor has the most visual weight here, but Jill’s plant is a close second. My bike hanging out in the background says a lot about our current living situation. I spend a lot of time exercising or in another room, while my mom and Jill are still working. When they aren’t working, my mom is painting and Jill is planting. Again, I didn’t have to move anything to make this image work. I think the composition itself is a little lazy, but as a hollow portrait, it’s spot on.


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This last one is hilariously sad. The day of my cousin Sam’s birthday party last April, my uncle Tim was brought a bear by the DEC. Apparently, a bear crawled into some guy’s house the night prior and the guy shot the bear with an AR-15. The DEC needed to do something with the dead bear, so they brought it to my uncle to butcher in exchange for a case of beer. I wouldn’t believe this story if the DEC truck wasn’t at his house when we arrived at the party, and if the truck didn’t reappear with a case of Coors later that night. Uncle Tim sent me home with this bear loin roast and tragically died in a motorcycle accident a few weeks later. It has been in our freezer ever since. We didn’t know how to cook a bear loin roast and he was going to show us. I had to throw it away this week because it was gross and freezer burned, but I wanted to make sure I always remember this tall tale. There’s also a photo of me and Uncle Tim playing beer pong on the same team that night, he’s wearing a gross pink inflatable fat suit. I wouldn’t make this shit up.

Covid Photo Journal – Symmetry

It’s April 16th 2020 and I’m still quarantined. I feel like it’s going to end relatively soon, but in the meantime, let’s learn about symmetry. Symmetry is pretty intuitive. The big takeaway from the lesson was the rule of 3rds, or the golden ratio, which is pretty ubiquitous in all of the arts. It comes into play more often in asymmetry I think, but it’s still very useful. Here’s what I got.

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My first symmetrical photo was of these Easter flowers on top of Hutton’s cage. It’s super hard to get the exposure right in front of daytime windows, but I think I did an okay job here. It’s funny, I feel like my bad photos are better than they’ve ever been. I feel myself getting better at this.

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Same subject, but asymmetrical. I adjusted the exposure to try and highlight our cars to give it that quarantine feel. We spend a lot of time staring out windows these days. This photo implies the flowers are looking longingly out the window, which I like. I don’t think I nailed the rule of thirds here, but I tried.

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The symmetry of the fan wasn’t something I noticed before. I should have zoomed out a little to get the entire fan in the frame. I had to basically lay on the floor to get this shot. I’m trying to focus on perspective for each photo I take now. I should say, I took these photos in like two minutes. I honestly didn’t want to do this assignment because I felt like I understood symmetry, so the whole thing was rushed.


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I think the rule of thirds is working here. The two light bulbs are right in the rule of thirds intersections. Now that I’m looking at it, it’s actually pretty symmetrical. I guess I flunked this assignment. I’m getting a little sick of taking photos of my house and the park. I want to take photos of different things, and I want to start editing these. I ordered an SD card reader for the iPad, but because of the pandemic they have prioritized shipping medical supplies and masks and things.

Covid Photo Journal – Color

Color – the vocabulary of photography. On the seventh photographic elements assignment I’ve realized that every element has a poetry equivalent that could have made this whole process easier for me to understand. Shape is the shape of a poem, made from line. Texture is the cadence, word choice can also suggest a texture through sibilance and stuff. Patten is the rhyme scheme, color is the vocab. Form is the only thing that’s a little different. The poetic form refers to the set of rules the writer used to produce a specific type of poem, while in photography is refers to the form of an object. There’s probably a better way to compare these two, but I think they are the most different compared with the rest of the elements.

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The color here probably isn’t the strongest element (maybe line?). The green is pretty striking, and I like how there are three different shades of green in it. It’s my attempt at a monochromatic piece. The line of the barrier is just so strong, it kind of overwhelms the color.

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The bright colors of the castle make this seem like a real fantastic destination. It also looks illuminated by electric lights. It reminds me of a fast-food sign. Color can, of course, makes things pop, and that’s what it did here. Although, the tone as much as the color makes this pop.


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The colors here, along with everything else, are perfect. Look at this perfect angel. My muse.

Covid Photo Journal – Pattern

Repetition, similarity, direction. Those are the elements of pattern. They work the viewer’s expectations and can be used to imply or distract or a number of other things I’m sure. It’s the photo’s rhyme scheme.

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This photo says a lot about my relationship with my studio. There were four soundproof panels a few months ago. The fourth is lying on the floor out of frame. The neat pattern being broken drags the eye to the empty space, suggesting loss and neglect. The shadow from the bookshelf is ugly. Ideally, I would have lit this scene from the camera so there wouldn’t be any shadows, but I rushed it. There is natural light coming from the left and fluorescent light coming from above, it’s kind of a lighting mess.


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Another sad park pic, this one may be the most moving. The pattern of the barrier is strong and telling, but I think the most important element of this photo is the perspective. I didn’t fully think this through while I was shooting, but in hindsight taking the photo from the eye-level of a toddler makes this photo a lot sadder. I was just trying to capture the symmetry between the railing posts, but looking at this photo again I find myself wanting to climb the stairs and take the slide. One big lesson I’m learning is that the photos you think are the best in the field may not turn out to be the best, and the photos you weren’t sure about could be great. What practical advice that fact suggests is that I should take a lot of photos in the field and treat them all like they have the potential to be great. A lot of these shots were taken a number of times also. I was constantly adjusting, which is probably not the best way to shoot, but the more I learn the less I’ll have to adjust.

Covid Photo Journal – Line

Line is the closest distance between two points. That always seemed like a tongue-and-cheeky definition. In a photo, like other art, it can be used to make shapes and stuff. I feel dumb describing line. I guess it’s interesting to compare the artistic line to the literary line – it’s the building blocks. Line forms the poem the way line forms the painting. I still don’t truly understand how to utilize line in poetry, so I imagine line in photography will take a lifetime of learning to understand.

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Here I tried to use line to lead the eye to the bright houses. I think it worked pretty well. My shadow sort of makes it a self-portrait. The sun is illuminating my solar panels pretty well. The trucks in front of the houses add a nice splash of yellow. The implied horizontal lines in the clouds sort of clash with the vertical lines in the grass, but it also sort of highlights the houses and tree line. My house is really the focal point of this scene. I think the composition works pretty well. 6/10


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This is almost to artsy. I suppose I’ll go through this phase for a few years at least. It’s a cool pic anyway. The curving chain line gives it a nice energy. I like the rusty chain strangling the wooden telephone pole. It looks like the wood is cracking because it’s being squeezed too tight by the chain.

Covid Photo Journal – Tone

Tone is not contrast, but contrast is a measure of tone. Maybe? I’m slowly getting it. It definitely relates to the lightness and darkness of a scene. The two photos I chose below weren’t necessarily the two with the starkest tone, but I think the tone works in both of them. This whole shoot was shot around 6pm during what Jill says is called “The Golden Hour.” I’ll have to look more into that.

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This is about as moody as that pavilion has ever looked. Tone is definitely used to set the mood of the scene. I think the two tree stumps in the foreground work to guide the eye to the trail and up to the dark pavilion. It’s framed nicely by the trees and the accidental branches at the top are actually kind of neat. I think this composition works and I’m proud of it. I didn’t like it much when I scrolled through the dailies. It seems to work better the larger it is. It’s filled with nuance. I’d like to see it even bigger.

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I may only like the tone of this photo. The darkness makes it so ominous. The highlights were bright enough for me to use a super-wide aperture. Centering the rock gave it it’s proper strength and stability. It takes up most of the frame which makes it feel heavy. Wanna talk visual weight? Wanna use every photography buzz word? I think I’m getting the hang of this. So much of art is vocabulary. If you know how to talk about something you can justify and dumb artistic decision you make.

Covid Photo Journal – Texture

Texture is fun. The lighting has to be right to really accent texture, but something with interesting texture should show even with an amateur like me taking the photos.


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I’ve taken a few photos of this rock now. The texture is the most interesting element of the rock, but I think the morning would be the best time to photograph it and I haven’t had the energy to get up early and give it a shot. This photo may be a little overexposed, at least the sky section. I may have even wanted to get closer to the rock to really emphasize the texture. Seems like you can’t really get too close while trying to capture the texture of something.

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I love this photo. It makes the playground look like the barren wasteland it feels like. It’s eerie seeing the playground blocked off during the pandemic. I wanted to capture the texture of the wood chips. I think the glare ends up being the dominant feature here, but the wood chips still look pretty good.

Covid Photo Journal – Form

I almost feel like I cheated by using trees to demonstrate form, but they had the most interesting shadows out of what I could see. Form is a little bit too general for me to focus on easily. Doesn’t every shadow at least imply form? I find it hard to separate form from shadow and shape. I guess, in a way, it’s a combination of the two.

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This is one of the strongest trees in the park. Many of the surrounding trees were cut down recently, so this one really stands out. The dark branches in the back look like telephone poles. I learned about ‘occlusion’ which is basically hiding part of an object behind another object in the photo – I’m not sure if the branches in the back could be considered an example of occlusion,  but it is some fancy shop talk.


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This composition was a little rushed, but the form of the trees definitely pop out against the sunny hillside background. I feel like having the sunny part in the foreground and the shadows in the background is probably a more traditional idea, and probably for good reason. I don’t think this photo looks very good. When I was going through the dailies after this shoot, I felt the least amount of excitement about this one. I only really kept it because I needed another example of form.