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365 Cellphone Pics, Day 15-18: Aug 15-18

I’ve said before that the real key to successful photography is having a camera with you at all times and as such, this is the largest bonus to the cellphone camera. Always being able to reach in your pocket and snap a shot of anything that you happen to see in any situation. This article on the photofocus blog talks about this very thing.

My shot from August 15th is an experiment in sign photography, something that a lot of people seem particularly into of late. A lot of sign photography I’ve seen is straight on, either an image of the sign cropped to be exactly the sign, or pulled back so you can see what the sign is attached to. I wanted to do something different. In specific, I wanted to play with the idea of getting close to the subject and the idea of using interesting angles. Filling the frame is one of the most basic ways to turn the mundane into striking art. While at distance this would simply be a picture of a sign on the side of a dumpster, when we get close we can now inspect the texture of the metal. The angles of the edges of the sign contrast with the perspective of the bin itself (a trick I’ve found myself using a lot to increase the dynamism of cell phone shots). And there’s a subtle bit of humor contrasting the message of the sign with it’s own condition. 

For August 16th, I decided to return once again to model photography for the daily shot. I was doing another Zivity shoot, this time with traveling model, Lady Sutton. For this shoot we were going for a very summery series full of soft portraits and natural lighting. It was shot in a small woodshed in the back of an overgrown yard with a very blue sky behind us. For the actual shots with the dSLR, I had a speedlitht flash, with a Gary Fong LightSphere diffuser to produce fill light on the models face, but I lacked the ability to fire that in synchronization for the cellphone shot. So instead I had to rely on all natural lighting for this one. If I’d had an assistant, I could have used a reflector to redirect the natural light back at the model. Instead, I simply had her position her head so that the light fell evenly on her face and the shadows fell into her dark hair in a pleasing manner. There is a slight bit of overexposure on the photo, particularly on the models hand, where there was just too much white from her dress and hotspot occurred. This is one of the deficiencies of shooting with the cellphone, but in my mind, not the end of the world. 

Another thing of note on this particular image is the posing of the model. I wanted an intimate but natural portrait, so I framed her close and had her tilt her head slightly to draw more attention to her face. I wanted to see her eyes but I also wanted to avoid the artificial feeling of having her looking directly into the camera, so I have her looking slightly out of the frame. This combined with the fact that she’s partially hiding behind the door gives the appearance that she’s interacting with someone out of frame. It is a natural pose that calls more attention to how pretty she is.

For August 17th, I again turned to found object photography. This is a shot of a simple fire hydrant. The PhotoFocus article talks about using interesting angles on everyday subjects, getting higher or lower than eye-level to give a unique perspective on how an everyday item is seen. However with a fire hydrant, we are almost always looking down at it. So by getting low and taking a shot of the hydrant at eye level, we see it in a unique perspective. Given the mundaneness of a subject like this, I tried to keep follow more strct basic photography rules in order to draw the viewer in. Of note is that the hydrant lines up DIRECTLY on a verticle one-third line. The horizontal sidewalk in the distance also lands on a one-third line. Thus there’s an intersection right at the top of the hydrant (where the both shadows and highlights meet) which immediately draws the eyes attention. In addition, I chose an angle where the hydrant has lines pointing inward, while the sidewalks lines point outward, thus using contrasting perspective to further draw the viewer into the photo. 

This particular hydrant is under a tree which provides a nice bit of shade and interesting shadow patterns, while allowing just enough light to hit the hydrant in order to make it an interesting subject. The shadows on the ground, mixed with it’s dull green and gray color tones play against the bright yellow and green of the hydrant to really allow the subject to pop from the photo.

And speaking of perspective and playing with lines, we have the photo from August 18th. A tricky thing to do with photography in general and cellphone photography in specific is to create engaging abstract images. That’s what I was attempting to do here. I decided to start with a very simple idea. Texture. In particular the texture of a random Pittsburgh street. I knew the cracks in the asphalt would look interesting playing with the grain of the substance itself, however that didn’t seem to be quite enough to really make a good picture. But then I found a street with a pair of yellow divider lines painted along it and that gave me this idea. Since we had two parallel lines, running next to each other, I let them cleave the photo in two, going directly directly down the center of the frame, allowing the perspective to create the illusion that they’re getting closer as they move on, and will eventually meet (which they do not of course) somewhere off frame. While the divider lines create a sense of symmetry in the photo, the randomness of the cracks break this symmetry and add chaos to the image.

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