Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moab Photo Symposium

My first few days in Moab were spent at this photography symposium.  I am at the point where I need some additional guidance to improve my photography from "nice pictures" to art. One of my big hangups is that I tend to take the safe shots, the post cards.  I don't have a great eye for composition and I am not the most creative person in the world.  So, I am now on a mission to train myself to understand and think more about composition and to force myself to try new and different things. There's a trick, planning to be creative.

At the symposium, you got to pick from a long list of workshops to attend.  My first choice seem tailor-made for my quest.  We went to a Volkswagen parts junkyard (affectionately referred to as a museum).  You just can't walk into a junkyard with preconceived notions about the perfect picture. You try lots of different things and just see what works.

My title photo...
The cars were old and beaten.  Most had been stripped of parts.  And like all of Moab, everything was a dust bowl.
Some of the bodies had interesting rust patterns.  In the name of art, I threw them into my HDR program, Photomatrix Pro, and played with the color tones.
and a different body panel of the same car, with different HDR processing.
 For being such beaters, they were actually kind of pretty.

This was just something someone had tacked up to one of the buildings. Now I want one for our house, but perhaps a little happier.
I liked this stack of extra doors.  Nice patterns.

Another suggestion for a different look was moving the camera during a long exposure.  Move it too fast and everything was a smooth blob.  Too slow and it looked like you were trying to get a normal picture but screwed up. Just right and you start getting some interesting color flows.
Nice contrast and pretty lines, but who puts a bike rack on a VM bug?

Then I found reflections.  As I kept digging through the yard, I realized how many shiny surfaces there are on the old VWs.
It's hard to see in a small photo, but you can really identify a lot in the reflections, even on small surfaces.
And you can even find panoramas with a curved bumper.
This photo was oddly complex.  There are many layers going on. Windows. Reflections from them. Views through them.  Reflections off the reflections.

How to make your VW more badass?  A little skull on the hood.   Sadly, I am guessing cat.
And the closing photo from that workshop.  There's definitely something about old VWs, both vans and beetles.


My next workshop was taught by an incredible young man named Dan Ballard.  It's wonderful to run across people with so much natural talent.  I hope to find more opportunities to work with him.

He would give us ideas of a good composition and then send us out to quickly come back with something.  For our first effort, we had to find something very, very simple, but yet still interesting.  It is amazingly difficult to keep clutter out of a photo without having something bland.  We were shooting these in a Moab city park.
The next project was to find some with strong lines leading the eye to the subject.  I laid on my back to try and get the curve of the ramp.  Nice picture, but a failure. 
Then I found a cooperative young lady on the playground and took this.  Interesting, but I still failed to find a nice line.
I finally had some success with a bad picture, but a good line, looking from the fingertips of a person in a yoga pose, following her arm up to her face.  I did it so quickly to avoid bothering her any more than I already was that I screwed up the exposure. Oh well, it is just a learning exercise.
From there we headed off to Dead Horse Point State Park. The intent was to capture the sunset using our new focus on lines and simplicity.  I found some decent places to try things, but sometimes you get nice lighting in the canyon and sometimes you don't.  This was a "don't".
There was a lot of haze and dust in the air as the jumbo Super Moon came up.  It almost disappeared until it got a good ways above the horizon. Unfortunately, that makes for much less interesting moon photos.  I was much happier with the ones I shot the day before.
The symposium was a good one.  It was well run, very social, and much less expensive than I would have expected.  Of course the Moab area is an incredible source for interesting photos.

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