The Round 26 of the Photography Scavenger Hunt took place in the past couple of months, and the reveals are all done. We had 10 words for this Hunt, all related to the Wizard of Oz… which I haven’t seen! But oh well, the words could be interpreted in any way, as usual, so that was not a big issue. I only submitted 4 this round – lack of inspiration conspired with lack of time… or more precisely with time used in other ways. To compensate, someone in the Scavenger community gave me the idea of doing a “behind the scenes” type of post, with “this is the original picture, this is the picture I submitted”, so here we go!
The first word that was revealed was the first one I shot, coincidentally 🙂 Here’s the picture I submitted:
The idea came by chance – Pierre made some chocolate meeples to start experimenting with making his own chocolate molds (with ComposiMold), and he had put a red plastic one in the bowl as a joke. I played with a lot different configurations and structures before settling on this – which I took quite some time setting up in my lightbox with a ruler and everything! And then I spent quite some time experimenting with the lights and the different angles and so on, until I ended up with this in camera (that’s the RAW exported in Darktable as JPG without any extra processing):
The physical setup was my lightbox with my seamless background paper and a couple of LumeCubes to illuminate the scene. Post-processing was essentially cropping, fixing the light levels, and quite a lot of detail clean-up (turns out, chocolate on paper tends to leave some traces…).
For this one, I had a very clear image in my head of what I wanted, which is VERY rare, and I actually managed to pull it off, which I’m very proud of. This is what I submitted:
This is one of the most personal images I ever made, especially associated to that word – I wanted to convey the courage that comes with showing vulnerability and offering/opening one’s heart to another person.
And this is the main part of the image:
The photography setup was, well, me, a tripod, a remote (I don’t remember what I did there, I’m assuming I put a delay and put it back in my pocket before posing, or something), and a LumeCube with a red filter and a barn door to orient the light where I wanted it. One of my fellow Scavengers had made a talk during the Meetup about his Ghostrider image (you can see a speed edit here) and I definitely had that talk in mind when I got the idea of using the cube as a placeholder for the heart to give it a glowing aspect. I got the heart from PixelSquid, another resource I heard of during the Meetup. And then the final image was essentially finding the right image in the gazillion I took with that light, editing it to my liking in Darktable (crop, levels, that sort of things), adding the heart in GIMP, and adding a bit of shadows on the heart so that it looked reasonable – which is ALSO something I learnt about during the Meetup. All in all, I find it funny and kind of wonderful that I call this one of my most personal pictures ever, and it’s all assembling things that I learnt/saw during that meetup 😀 (Oh, the LumeCubes were also a post-meetup addition to my collection :D)
I believe my Sepia submission is the weakest of the four I submitted, but eh, better a weak submission than no submission, so THERE.
I started playing around with calligraphy recently, and I do own a bottle of sepia ink, so that kind of felt like a natural fit (and it suited me better than trying to do a sepia post-processing of something else). And then I also looked for inspiration on what to write, I looked for quotes, and I quite liked this one (which also has the advantage of ending with the word sepia, which I liked for “making things obvious” reasons). The longest part of making this image was to write the quote – I made multiple drafts on lined paper before I felt confident on this one – and still ended up hyphenating a word, which I would have preferred avoiding, but oh well. I also ended up needing to thicken my ink before I was able to do something reasonable with it (note: arabic gum works really well 🙂 ). And it’s a Nikko G nib and Rhodia white paper, if you’re wondering. And that’s the picture out of camera:
As you can see, pretty minimal edits on this.
Rainbow is probably the picture that took me the most time for this Hunt. Here’s what I submitted:
I was first thinking along the lines of playing with a prism, or doing SOME variation of the well-known Pink Floyd album cover, until I got a flash of “ooooooh, I know how to get rainbows!”. I started playing around without much success, until I called The Internet to the rescue and read this: How to Make and Photograph Rainbow Water Droplets on a CD.
And here’s the “out of camera” RAW-to-JPG conversion:
For this one, I have an extra picture, which is the “studio setup”:
So: CD, white table, room that can be darkened, tripod with a tilting center column (<3 Manfrotto), a way to make water drops and to remove dust, and a LumeCube. Also to be noted: there is a SOCK on top of my camera, because the very white PENTAX logo was reflecting in the CD on my first attempts (which sucked). The idea for the rainbow CD picture is to have a fairly long exposition (I had 20 seconds there), and to move around the CD with a light to create the rainbow effect. It took me A LOT of experimentation and A LOT of shots to get the one I finally decided for. And then it took me A LOT of time to get a clean image. It turns out that CDs tend to be slightly scratchy, slightly dusty, and even if you don’t see it on naked eye, that’s ALL YOU CAN SEE when you have an enlarged picture of them on your screen. So I spent a lot of time in Darktable to clean up the image.
All in all, it’s nothing much more than a very “technical” image – I’m still quite happy with it, and I feel it was worth the effort, because I quite like it 🙂 Funny coincidence, though: the day after the deadline for the Hunt, I took a double take on that wall in the office:
I must admit it made me smile (and then hunt down HOW that rainbow actually appeared – I think the bottom of one of the glass doors was hit by the sun in just the right way at the right time 🙂
The other words!
As mentioned, we did have ten words, although I only submitted four – but here’s the full list, with links to the albums of pictures submitted by my fellow Scavengers!
For those who know me, it may seem wildly out of character for me to go meet a large group of people that I don’t really know. And I’d tend to agree – I would lie if I said I didn’t have any reservations before actually making the trip. But still, it went very well, better than my wildest hopes, so… let’s talk a bit about that! Beware, this may be a slightly more personal blog post than usual 😉
Planting the seed
The Scavengers is a community I thoroughly enjoy being a part of. The group is made of people of all levels of skill (which helps not feeling too much of an imposteur) (not TOO MUCH, I said) and of general positivity and enthusiasm. Before the meet-up, I had met with two of them (and one of them twice 😉 ), who had happened to pass through my corner of the world, and I had a brilliant time every time.
I first met Sivani – and I believe she actually planted the seed of “you know, this may not be that crazy”. She told me about the first Vegas meet-up, I remember babbling something along the lines of “oh, I could never do that, because, you know, PEOPLE” – and she pointed out that a/ most of the people in the community are introverts and I wasn’t the only one there b/ actually seeing people with familiar name tags (because I’ve interacted with them, or at least seen their names before) actually helps a lot. And I guess that it stayed with me – along with her stories and enthusiasm.
Somewhat more recently, but before I made any kind of plan (possibly even before any kind of plan was made at all), I met Dave – we walked a bit with our cameras in the city, and we went for dinner, and everything went well. It also happens that I have the deepest fascination for Dave’s work, because I’m in awe of his toy universe and imagination, and I’m amazed (and possibly slightly jealous) with what he manages to pull off.
And then, I remember a couple of coincidences, but not their order. I remember wondering if there was a meet-up at some point in the plans, and seeing that indeed things were getting into motion there. I also remember having a fairly vivid dream that I was at a meet-up, I was having a pretty bad meltdown, but that someone was actually taking care of me. Now, I don’t believe in dreams being meaningful or predictive or anything, but it made me consider the situation and deem that it was actually plausible that, if something like a meltdown happened, someone would indeed take care of me. (I remember talking about it on the Scavenger community at that time, and that people confirmed 😉 ).
Making the plan
At that point, it felt like it was something I was considering, but not too sure about. One of the things that I was very hesitant about was the fact that the meet-up was in the US, which means a long flight, and more painfully… jet lag. And since my major concern was social-anxiety-related, and since fatigue (and ergo jet lag) really does not help with that, I was very hesitant. The flights to Orlando were also a fairly large pain from Zürich, which made me hesitate all the more.
When I talked to Pierre about that, he mentioned that the meet-up was roughly at a time where it would be good if he traveled to Boston, and so he suggested that I come with him to Boston, recover from jet lag, and fly to Orlando from there. I think that’s when things started to really click – that it was actually something that COULD happen.
Shortly afterwards, I told the Scavenger community “I’m in!”, and I booked the hotel in Orlando for the meet-up. It took us a little while to finish planning the rest of the trip (mostly because of procrastination), and at some point I said “folks, I do have plane tickets, I’m coming for sure, unless something super bad happens in the meantime.”
Well, the “something super-bad” was not that far. Two weeks before flying to Boston, I fell walking on a hiking path, and I sprained my ankle pretty badly. The following weeks were very stressful: I was in pain, I was super tired from walking with crutches, and it was generally speaking not fun. I had gone to the doctor and explained that I was hoping to fly; she gave me a prescription for blood thinners for the plane, which alleviated a very large fear of mine. I’d like to say that I didn’t waver, but it was a tough couple of weeks; just before leaving I told someone “well, see you in three weeks… assuming I’m actually making it to the flight, which I’m kind of doubting right now”. But in the end, I looked into “how do I fly with a crutch” (both in terms of security and luggage allowance), concluded it was not an issue, and off we went. I spent the first week in Boston, working a bit, getting over the jetlag, and getting slightly better every day; and when the time came to fly to Orlando, I was confident enough that I didn’t need my crutch and that I could walk enough… as long as there were not too many stairs going down on the way. Phew!
First evening in Orlando
I landed in Orlando around 3PM – Dave and Debbie had synchronized with me to pick me up at the airport (thanks again 😉 ) and the adventure started for real! Most of us were staying at the Embassy Suites on International Drive – Angela had organized a group discount, and many people were sharing rooms – I had made the choice to not get any roommate because I knew I would probably need my space at one point or another, and I didn’t regret that choice. A bit of time to get acquainted with my surroundings, and I found a group of Scavengers around the hotel bar 😉 I admit I have a fairly fuzzy recollection of the events and of the people at this point. I was still very flustered, probably terribly awkward, and a tiny part of me was going “oh God why am I here already?”. I’m happy I was happy to keep that part reasonably quiet 🙂 I found something to eat at some point, probably; but then one of the major event of my stay was happening at 10.30PM: SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 on that day. Since I was not driving, and since I was not comfortable enough trying to organize SOMETHING to get closer from the launchpad, I didn’t have a plan for that. I had, however, looked outside of the hotel, looked at a compass, looked at a map, and secured what I deemed a “reasonable” point for seeing things, if things were to be seen. I had had the impression that I had been either annoying or super repetitive with my “and tonight there’s the rocket launch!” – but… I left the table where I was talking at around 10.25, announcing “okay, rocket launch time”… and I was outside of the hotel, in the fairly warm weather, hoping to see anything.
There was enough time between 10.30 and “something happening” that my heart sank a bit – “I should have tried harder to get closer” – but finally, a small bright dot appeared above the trees. The bright dot eventually grew a tail, making it really unmistakable, even at that distance. I was adamant I didn’t want to take any picture, so I didn’t have my camera with me, but I still had my phone – so there, I have a few pixels of rocket on a picture.
And even at that distance, it was still a profoundly emotional experience and, for what it’s worth, I’m still happy I didn’t have my camera with me. I fully intend to go and see a launch from closer up at some point in the future, and I also fully intend to not have a camera with me at that time.
I came back to the table with a very, very large grin, “I saw the rocket!” and that’s when I understood that nobody had actually understood/realized what I was talking about before 😀 I’ve then been told “okay, from now on, we’re following you, because you OBVIOUSLY have awesome plans”. So all in all – despite my initial wariness and awkwardness, it felt like I was starting to warm to the people around me, and to start to include myself in the group instead of staying on its outskirts. And since this was technically happening before the start of the meet-up, let’s call it a win!
Also: I SAW A FUCKING ROCKET LAUNCH. That counts.
Friday: workshop day!
On Friday, we mostly stayed at the hotel, in one of the conference rooms, where we had a fairly packed day! But, first of all, group picture! Scavengers are easier to herd than cats, but barely – in the end, it did work out, and we have a group picture or 15.
Back in the conference room, Lauri started with the welcome speech; we were also treated with a few videos from people who couldn’t make it to Orlando but still wanted to say hi. These are people that I had never met, but I was still moved by their messages, and it was still fun to see these people whose name and sometimes profile picture I knew come to life on the screen.
Then, we had a talk by Dave, who had a talk with the subtitle “A rambling discussion of photography, toys, and toy photography”. And it was basically that, except that my own ramblings are usually far less structured 😉 He talked about how he came to the Scavenger Hunt and to toy photography, and he explained the process around a few pictures, including his Acorn for the latest Hunt. It was quite eye-opening for me – I really (really) like what Dave does, and I kind of “knew” that there was quite a lot of effort in his images, but it’s one thing to have SOME idea, and even to read about it, and one thing to actually see it explained. It made me feel both a bit better about my own efforts (there IS a huuuge gap in our level of post-processing skill, but I have some hope that the gap is far less than I thought on the “images straight out of the camera” level), and a bit worse (thinking that maybe I don’t put enough effort in this). But all in all, an inspiring talk – made me want to try some more stuff (and to up my post-processing game 😉 ). I also learnt about PixelSquid, and I’m definitely keeping that in a corner of my mind, it might become handy if I just need a 3D model of an Atari 2600 joystick or of a Piña Colada. You never know.
The second talk was Gilmar – whose work is also very recognizable, and very inspiring too – at the risk of sounding very obvious, I really like her handling of colors, that make her pictures really stand out. She first talked about creativity and getting ideas, as well as about her own journey and inspiration, with a few examples. Then she dug a bit more into the technical specificity of building composites, and I learnt a ton of stuff, even though I’m not using the same tools as she is – many things are transposable, and these were not things I was even aware of asking about (the unknown unknowns!), so this was brilliant!
We then split in groups for lunch – I ended up at the Bahama Breeze with a group that got split over two tables – I was a bit nervous during lunch, because the planned lunch break was an hour, and we for sure went over that 😉 but since one of the presenters for the afternoon was with us, well – I tried to relax and enjoy my food still 😉
In the afternoon, we split into groups. I first saw Mark‘s presentation about how he created his Fire entry for the Hunt – he released a speed edit video since then. This was also super interesting – I learnt about a number of tools and “but how do I do that”, and mostly, I learnt about the quantity of work that goes into that sort of things. One of the things that struck me is that I usually consider that if a given “final image” requires me to take, say, 60 shots, it’s… a lot of shots. Mark was showing his Lightroom catalog, and he literally had hundreds of shots… only for the “body” part of his picture. I also found very interesting when he was talking about his light setup and how he adjusted it and so on. Those are not processes that are even remotely on my radar, and that’s definitely something I want to explore more.
In the second part of the afternoon, I joined the toy photography part, provided by Dave again. He had setup a light box, and provided a LOT of toys and figures, as well as Lume cubes to play with, and a fair amount of advise about posing the figures and lighting them. This was a ton of fun – I did fall in love with the Lume cubes (I just ordered a couple yesterday), and I’ll probably splurge on a decent light box at some point (for now, my ad hoc tinkering with a box and a bunch of tracing paper to soften daylight is good enough for me… especially in the summer). And I do have a few shots with which I might make images at some point – we’ll see how that goes 🙂 Dave wrote something about the whole experience too: A Toy Photography Workshop.
There was also a third group doing portraits with Gilmar and her awesome-looking lights, but I got hit by a case of the shys and didn’t approach that group from less than a few meters away.
In the evening, we had dinner at Olive Garden (incidentally, we had one of the best waiters I’ve ever seen) and, as we came back to the hotel, I declared that I was going to go for a walk in the direction of the Ferris wheel that was visible from the hotel, because Ferris wheels are pretty cool picture topics 😉 We made way with a few other Scavengers, met another group on the way, and generally speaking had fun. And so, I have a first set of pictures here: Orlando – Icon Park. (Yeah, there was more than just a Ferris wheel there.)
At the end of the day, I was bubbling with ideas and motivation and all this sort of things; I believe that Friday was the day that made the most contribution to the motivation that I still have today, and gave me the most ideas of things to explore. It’s also the direct cause the my “Spiderman” image that I built a couple of weeks ago when coming home (more details in Spiderman visited Zürich!)
Saturday – Bok Tower Gardens
On Saturday, we went for a field trip at the Bok Tower Gardens. The garden has a very pretty tower (the Bok Tower in question):
There was a Game of Thrones event in the garden that day, with a lot of cosplayers! It took me a while to connect the dots between “wait, this guy is REALLY reminding me of someone” and “ooooh, he’s cosplaying as George R.R. Martin! Well done!” before I had seen the rest of the people. I know that many Scavengers took the opportunity for some great shots, but I was, at that moment, both too shy and too flustered to even try to interact with them 😦 It’s a bit sad, it would have been cool – they were really looking fantastic! It must have been quite difficult, though, because they had a lot of layers on, and it was probably around 33-35°C at that time… The tower is also hosting a carillon, and it’s been playing for a long while – including, at some point, the GoT theme, which I found very cool 🙂
The garden also encloses the Pinewood Estate, which I could visit. It has, in particular, fantastic tile work and light fixtures 🙂 And a very cool sink.
And that yields a second album: Bok Tower Gardens. I kind of regret not having more pictures of the gardens themselves – it was very nice, but it was also very warm (limited me-compatibility) and sunny (limited photo-compatibility).
We were also very lucky to have Tatjana André with us, thanks to Angela and Jim – she modeled for us under the heat with a lot of patience and grace, and was generally speaking amazing 🙂 It was the first time ever that I worked with a model, and it was a very interesting experience, although not necessarily one that I would repeat any time soon. I do have a hard time taking pictures of people in general, and I have an ever harder time editing/processing pictures of people in general – and that’s something that came very clear during this session and its edition. It didn’t help that I made Bad Choices with camera settings, and that my pictures were often either unfocused or annoyingly noisy, and it didn’t help that my focal length was not nearly long enough. Despite all the awkwardness, I did get a few decent shots.
In the evening, we had pizza in the hotel lobby, and some toy photography shenanigans happened, lit with a mix of lume cubes and cellphone lamps 🙂
Later, we went for drinks to Lafayette’s – there was a cool band, Ancient Sun, and I enjoyed that a lot. I don’t know much about saxophones, but I particularly enjoyed the saxophonist’s performance 🙂 And I may have ended on the dance floor for a couple of songs – proof that my ankle was definitely getting better (A couple of songs was all that was reasonable, though!) And at the same time, there was more toy photography shenanigans happening 😉
Unfortunately, I had to bail pretty fast, because for all the fun that it was, it was also very loud. But as I walked back to the hotel, I felt an amount of joy I have only rarely experienced in the past few years. I think it was a mix of “everything is going great despite my initial fears”, “I’m learning a ton of stuff and I’m super motivated right now”, “I like literally everyone I talked with” and “I’m actually glad I bailed and kept the good memories instead of pushing through and ending up in a worse mood”. I arrived at the hotel, dropped a few lines of apologies on Facebook (which has been our major communication channel during the meet-up), and spent an hour or so editing some pictures from Boston. Someone nudged me to come back down in the lobby, which was much quieter, and after asking myself whether I was okay to do that and whether I wanted to do that, I spent a bit of time in the lobby, chatting and laughing, before eventually going to bed.
Sunday – last day! And after…
My Sunday was pretty quiet. I went to breakfast quite early, because I wanted the opportunity to see everyone who’d be there and to hopefully say goodbye to everyone – I don’t think I managed, but I still saw a lot of people. It was a bit sad, of course, but I think there’s still some certainty that we’ll see each other again, at least on the Hunt, and hopefully in a future meet-up.
I had arranged a ride to the airport with Gary and Wade, who had planes around the same time as mine (thanks Gary 🙂 ), which made me somewhat nervous (timing-wise) about joining other people’s activities (on top of being somewhat weary in general), so I stayed in the hotel lobby in the morning with my laptop, and continued my photo processing.
I posted my last “25th Scavenger Hunt” post from the airport in Orlando, which I thought was quite fun.
The whole thing ended three weeks ago, but there’s still pictures and memories trickling on the Facebook group, which makes the whole experience last just a little bit longer – which is amazing.
Since the meet-up, I’ve done the Spiderman thing, I started learning how to use GIMP for real (I’m watching videos and everything!), and I do have a concept for a couple of images that I want to make – and I typically don’t have images in my head before I start shooting, so I’m super curious about how this is going to turn out.
And, hopefully, for the next Scavenger meet-up, I’ll be less nervous beforehand 😉
We went to the US for a couple of weeks – I wanted to attend the Scavenger Meetup in Orlando, and Pierre visited colleagues in Cambridge (near Boston); since both are on the same coast, it played out pretty well.
What did NOT play out pretty well is that I sprained my ankle quite badly less than two weeks before leaving, and I was still sporting a “potato foot” and walking with an aircast and a crutch when we left for the US. Consequently, I didn’t explore around as much as I would typically have – but I still got a few photo albums out of it!
New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium in Boston is a staple of my visits there – I like the place, I like their gigantic tank in the middle, and it’s generally a cool place to take pictures.
I had never visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History – and despite my initial grumbling about stairs at the entrance (there WAS an accessible entry. I just chose to grumble instead.), I absolutely loved it 🙂
The first thing that caught my interest was the botany exhibition.
All of these are… glass models, made between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. They’re really impressive (I couldn’t believe they were made of glass) and very pretty. I’ll have to go back, because my pictures are shitty, but the models are very pretty.
The other room where I spent a lot of time was the mineralogy collection.
It was truly fantastic, a lot of specimens, great curation, and even panels on the side explaining where to find the Minecraft rocks 😀
Also, does this guy look hungry or what?
I believe that the “animal” sections were also great, but I got unfortunately freaked out before I could appreciate their true worth – I was still not walking very well and I got tired, that probably didn’t help.
There’s a pretty famous MIT building, the Stata center, designed by Frank Gehry. I hadn’t managed to get a decent picture of it in my previous stays in the area, but that’s now fixed – we went on a walk on Memorial Day and I was able to get a few shots from an angle I had noticed a few days before.
On the same day, we walked a bit along the river, ran into a bunch of kayaks:
who happily provided me with some foreground:
And we dropped by the board games and comic book shops near Harvard – which was preparing for graduation ceremonies:
One of the direct consequences of my Scavenger trip to Orlando (more about that later) is that I got weirdly motivated to start learning “proper” photo editing/processing. And hence, here comes my first attempt at that – and a bit of write-up, both to not forget what I did, and to share with whoever may find it useful.
I started with a picture of Spiderman taken during the workshop:
The picture itself is a Spiderman action figure, held with a piece of 8-gauge wire to some box in the room, and lit with a Lume cube (I’m DEFINITELY getting a couple of these) held in the hand that was not holding the camera. This is already processed a tiny bit in Darktable – levels, (debatable) white balance, that sort of things. I exported in TIFF to not start compressing before I had to, but I’m not sure this was absolutely necessary.
Then I looked into my archives for places where I could put Spiderman, and I ran into this older picture, snagged with my phone a while ago to show snow falling quite late in the year:
Now that I had something that I thought could work, time to start GIMP and work on it! The first step was getting a cleaner image of Spiderman, removing the background. I first cropped the image to only contain the part I was interested in, added a layer mask to my image, and worked with the paintbrush tool (with finer and finer brushes) to remove all the stuff that was Not Spiderman. I left the bit of wire that held the figure on the waist, I figured it was not that visible and could be confused with a belt, or something. In order to keep the layer and the mask (if I wanted to go back to the picture), I created a new layer from the “visible content”, and that’s what I copy in the other image. (I have no idea if that’s the “canonical” way of doing things, but it worked that way for me 😉 ).
Then I pasted and scaled/positioned the figure in the image, doing my best to match the lights in both images.
I did make a mistake there: I realized that my clipping was not great (there was still a lot of stuff around the legs, in particular), but instead of correcting it in the initial image, I started correcting it in the composite. Retrospectively, it doesn’t make much sense; I’ll blame jet lag.
I blurred the background so that it would look better (especially since Spidey’s legs DO have focus blur) – I’m not sure if it was blurred enough, it’s tough to tell. I also re-added a couple of brighter spots in the image to better match the light on Spiderman, which I think kind of helped, but that I might have over done it a bit. I also added a bit light below my pasted Spiderman. I also tried my best to better match the color temperature of both images – I think it’s okay.
Finally, Spiderman cannot be complete without a couple of spider webs – especially since his hands are very much in position! These ones were paths, stroked in grey and edited with a large white brush to make them a little bit less uniform. I tried playing with the gradient tool (which seemed…. made for the task), but failed at it. Then, I decreased the opacity of the “web” layer, and added a bit of blur to it. The spider webs are in my opinion definitely the weakest part of the image, and I kind of believe that making them better would require better drawing skills than mine 😉
Still, for a first attempt at this sort of things, I’m super pleased with the result 🙂
It seems fitting to start writing this post at the airport while waiting from my flight back from the Scavenger meet-up, where I got to meet a great group of great people, learn stuff and get a lot of ideas of new things to try and to experiment. But, without further ado, here are the remaining pictures of my 25th Scavenger Hunt submission (the first two parts are in previous posts: 25th Scavenger Hunt – 1/3 and 25th Scavenger Hunt – 2/3).
I’ve been wanting to experiment with photographing rocks and minerals for a while now (but lacking the proper subject to do so). And then, at some point, I remembered that there was a mineral shop that I wanted to visit in Zürich, and that it had been closed every time I had been there (it’s in a part of town where I like strolling, but mostly stroll on Sundays, for some reason!) I finally pushed their door one afternoon, and came home with a small haul of small stones, including this very pretty Green emerald stone. And no, emerald doesn’t break the bank when it’s in that form 😛
The picture is a composite of between 10 and 20 pictures, focus-stacked using Zerene. I shot the stone on my paper background, and was pretty surprised to see its texture appear below the stone – but I happened to really like the effect (not to mention being profoundly unable to edit it away :P), so I kept it that way.
My shot for Quarter started as a backup “if I don’t get a better idea” shot – literally shooting my dinner, in fairly crappy evening light on top of that. And then, I started playing a bit with it, darkening the background, playing with the orientation, and it started to become a shot I didn’t hate, so it ended up being the final shot.
Knife is one of the last words I tackled, if I remember correctly. Inspiration had not struck there either, so I went for yet another easy kitchen shot as my husband was cutting onions.
Something would be missing if I did a Scavenger Hunt without a single board game picture 😉 So for Button, here’s a picture of Patchwork, a very neat two-player game where players compete at building the best quilt, and where buttons are used as a currency and as victory points.
It hasn’t always been the case (I’m thinking of a Squash entry for a previous hunt), but now I’m trying to get a credible game state whenever I take board game pictures. And the easiest way to do that is to actually play the game, even by myself playing the different players (which is exactly what I did there).
And the picture itself was mostly a matter of finding a pleasant enough angle.
That’s the most accidental one of the whole set: I went to the aquarium to shoot Sponge, I came home, and I realized I could play the penguins for Ice. Not a great picture by any means, but it’s part of the full set, so I’ll be happy with that 🙂
Second self-portrait (over a set of 26 pictures, I would have expected more of them!) for Remote. Buying a remote trigger for my camera was one of the best decisions I made, because I really use it quite often, either for that kind of application or to avoid moving the camera when triggering the shutter manually. So for once, it’s very visible in the picture 🙂
I was also playing with the studio lights that my colleague had lent me – I’m not necessarily convinced by my work with them on this picture, but I like how my hand has more light than the rest of me. And it was generally speaking a good exercise for me to start playing with these things (although it gets warm very fast!). Also: probably should have brushed my hair before taking that picture 😛 (But hey, this is a photography thing, not a modelling thing 😀 )
I had a different set of pictures with a pose where I’m holding the remote as if it were a pistol; I liked the image more, but I was not comfortable sharing it publicly, so you get this one instead 🙂
My Donut was an unexpected find in the frozen goods aisle of a large supermarket – I took a couple of picture with my phone from above, and boom. The plan B was to have my husband make some donuts during the Hunt time – he probably wouldn’t have objected to the idea 😉
The picture is somewhat more processed than usual – for some reason, I was trying to get a “retro” look for this picture, because it felt like the right thing for it; I’m actually pretty happy with how it turned out.
Yellow also benefited from my trip to the mineral shop that gave me Green at the top of this post. It was significantly more annoying to shoot, though, even if it’s a single image (not a composite). That stone is obviously much more interesting when you see the inclusions and the transparency, which meant backlighting, which meant struggling to find a way to hold that thing vertically – it doesn’t hold on its own, and it’s small enough that there’s no easy way to find a support that doesn’t hide it completely. I finally solved the problem by leaning the stone against my studio lamp, and putting it over a box covered with my faithful dark fabric.
The processing was mostly making the blacks black and the whites white (although I failed at that in the left corner and I’m grumpy now that I see it).
And there, those were all my entries for the 25th Scavenger Hunt… which makes me want to ask, do we have a list for 26th yet? 😀
My Leaf comes from… my balcony. I have a 5th floor balcony, all concrete and metal and everything, and that thing’s been growing in the drain 🙂 Life… finds a way, I suppose. The picture was mostly a matter of lying down on the balcony, arranging the offshoot to get the right angle over the drain grille (which I really like as a background here).
Olive was also a theme for last hunt, and I was super happy with my entry there, but completely out of ideas for a new one. Lukily, this pretty MG spawned in my neighborhood (and stayed long enough that I have multiple views of it, even if they’re all on my phone!)
My Vase entry is firmly on the “I’m happy with this one” side. It started with a bouquet of tulips, which I had initially bought for another word of this hunt (one that has not been revealed yet, shhh!), and ended up being used in yet another image (but not in the original theme) 🙂 I took a fair amount of pictures of that (by that time wilted) bouquet – this one was taken on the floor, in front of my dishes cabinet, and it worked really well in my opinion, with the white-blue-grey of the vase and the white of the cabinet behind. I’m also very happy with the crop, which happened almost by accident. Generally speaking, I like that picture 🙂
Earring also ended up being a favorite of mine, despite being somewhat in the “hmm, I don’t really have an idea there”. I actually searched Google Images for inspiration – that’s where I got the idea of setting up on the side of a glass. And then it kind of clicked – I went for a “after the wedding” theme, using my own wedding jewelry (and my husband’s cufflinks), adding the hair pins in one of the glass (there’s definitely a memory of removing a gazillion hair pins 😀 ), and finishing the image with a piece of ribbon, also coming from our “wedding memories” box. Setting up all of that in my softbox, and voilà !
Fire would probably have ended up with me playing with me playing with candles in one way or another, if my husband hadn’t decided to try his hand at crème brûlée during Hunt time (better: FANCY crème brûlée, with roquefort and pecans. It was delicious.) And I actually manage to react quickly enough for a “waaaait a minute, this is relevant to my interests” camera-grabbing. A thing of note on that image is that I flipped it on the vertical axis because it “felt” better that way, which is not something I often think of, and I’m definitely happy I did, because the image is better that way. Sometimes things are weird 🙂
For Chocolate, my husband is also to be credited 🙂 He made some chocolate (it’s a thing that happens from time to time – I started it, he took over 😉 ), I arranged it in a corner of the kitchen and snagged that shot. Easy-peasy!
I had a “backup shot” with some (delicious) hot chocolate in a café in Zürich, but I ended up going for this one that I liked more (for one thing, it’s pretty difficult to make the difference, on a photography, between a hot chocolate and an espresso… except by the size of the cup!)
There was a full Moon and clear skies a few days after the Scavenger Hunt start – perfect opportunity for some balcony shots! This image is a composite of two – the lines and halo are from my neighbor’s balcony (the moon was “trapped” in there for a while), and the moon on top was shot at a different exposure. I’m happy that I had previous experience with taking pictures of the moon, because it’s non-trivial at first glance, but it goes well with the the right technique (expose at f/11 – 1/250 – ISO as required, use tripod and remote, do NOT focus at infinity, use live view and zoom and peak focus to focus properly).
I was expecting to go for a more “natural” look of the composite, but I actually kind of liked the “quirky” effect that this one had (it’s like the moon’s a penny!). It was my first shot of the Hunt, and I’m still quite happy with it.
I had a lot of fun with Jellybean. I don’t eat much candy; I’d assume I could find an equivalent of jellybeans in Switzerland, but I didn’t find anything convincing when I browsed my supermarket aisle. Hence, time for some creative solutions: let’s have… jelly beans, I guess. I found a pack of red strawberry jelly, which I made with slightly less water than was written on the package to get something that would really hold together for the picture. And I took the prettiest dry beans I could find, sorted though the package for the best looking ones, assembled all of this, and tadaa! At first I wanted to just do a “food” shot, but I decided it’d be funnier to go for the “I don’t know what all these people are raving about, jellybeans are DISGUSTING!” approach 🙂
My first idea for Pencil was to go for a bunch of pencil shavings – you can always get a pretty graphical shot with these, and I liked the idea of just “suggesting” the pencils by their absence. But in the end, the laziness prevailed and I went for a shot of my pencil box. It turns out that I broke my blue pencil, and it’s consequently significantly shorter than the other ones, which give a bit of interest to the picture. (But I do own the replacement of that pencil somewhere 😉 ). I spent a large amount of time sorting the pencils in an order that made sense to me, and then some time shooting them from different angles, before deciding for that one.
I’ve been participating for a few hunts to what has been known as Chrysta Rae’s Scavenger Hunt, as Google+ Scavenger Hunt, and which these days is the Photography Scavenger Hunt – and I may or may not be in the US right now for next week’s Scavenger meetup 😉
This was the 25th Hunt, and as a way to celebrate, we got a very large hunt: 26 words! They were the words of the first Hunt, to which I didn’t participate. And, as you’d expect from the number, there was one word per letter of the alphabet.
I did manage to submit a picture for each word – and I’m very proud of that – although the overall quality of the pictures is obviously very inconsistent 🙂 (I’m still VERY HAPPY with a significant amount of my shots, so there’s that 🙂 )
In this post and the following two, I’ll present what I submitted; I’ll present them in the same order as they were revealed in our community, because this way I don’t have to think as much 😉 And I’m adding a link to the community albums as well – these are definitely fun to browse!
I thought I’d be stumped by Acorn until almost the last minute. And then I remembered that the Swiss card game Jass had an Acorn suite! So I went to my neighboring toy shop, bought a maxi set of Jass cards (which means I can now play Jass – I just need to learn how to play 😉 ) and, after a bit of tinkering, I arrived at the shot above. I’m not super happy with it because I think it’s quite boring, but I’m happy I found something to submit 🙂
I recently started playing with lettering and brush pen calligraphy, so that made my submission for Z kind of obvious. The drill sheet comes from The Postman’s Knock, and the picture itself is pretty straightforward 🙂
I think my Xylophone entry is my favorite for this Hunt. SOME PEOPLE argue that a XYLOphone is necessarily wood – and they’re not wrong, BUT considering the Hunt album, it’s VERY CLEAR that Fisher Price has done A LOT for the popular image that comes to mind when saying “xylophone” 😉
So I made mine with glasses filled with water – something which, as far as I can tell, happens at roughly one wedding out of two at least 😉 – and I used food coloring to evoke said Fisher Price image. I then played with the angle of the light – the one I ended up shooting had the light pretty low, which allowed to get colored shadows, which I really, really liked, at the cost of fairly strong reflections, which I liked… less.
Post-processing was mostly color correction to get a better visual (especially on the red and the orange) – I’m almost tempted to correct it now since I’ve seen that I had forgotten to correct the little dots at the bottom of the glasses for consistency 🙂
And, for the record: this xylophone is _roughly_ in tune – I could play a few tunes on it without hurting my ears too much (I do not have a very good ear, though 😉 ).
For my Sponge entry, I went on a day trip to Konstanz – which I documented already: Sea Life. I had gone there for the specific purpose of shooting a sponge picture, and I’m happy the trip worked out 🙂
For Whistle, I knew I wasn’t going to be stuck, because I knew that, in the worst case, I’d setup and shoot Whistle Stop (the board game). But then I was actually too lazy to setup the game, so I fell back on this – which involved a significant amount of YouTube watching to be able to pull off a credible whistle gesture. And no, I still can’t whistle that way. I’m very disappointed.
My Hamburger submission was a cell phone picture snagged at Fork&Bottle during a dinner with friends. It was a “backup” shot that I ended up using almost as is.
Underwear (careful, NSFW album) was the word I had estimated with the highest chance of stumping me when the list came out. That’s not the kind of theme I’m super comfortable with 😀 But in the end, I’m very happy with what I came up with. I was definitely going for a “Nike ad” kind of aesthetics, and I think I pulled it off. (Well, except for the Adidas bag below, I guess.) It was also an opportunity to experiment with real studio lights and reflectors than a colleague of mine had lent me (which allowed me to conclude that I really didn’t want the same softbox setup because it was a huge pain to assemble 😉 ).
Another uninspired shot for Newspaper 😉 I almost snagged a picture from someone reading a newspaper on the train, but I didn’t manage to actually gather the courage to do that. So instead, I setup my tripod and my camera timer to take pictures every few seconds while I prepared newspaper for recycling (in Switzerland we have to bind paper together to recycle it) – so at least I learnt how to program my camera timer for that sort of sequence 🙂
I don’t exactly remember when I got the idea of “ooooh I need LEGO” for the Tire theme, but it was early enough that I had made a few attempts at setting things up with my regular collection of toys and concluded that I needed a figure at another scale than what I had. That made it quite obvious that I needed a LEGO Technic figurine – so I hit Bricklink, ordered a couple, and they arrived a few days later (so I’m now the owner of a couple of LEGO Technic guys.)
I honestly wish I had taken the time to re-shoot this one – at least to get a black road instead of my white-ish balcony. (I tried to edit it in post-processing and failed miserably 😉 ). Part of my issue there was that I couldn’t think of a place where I could find believable black terrain and not feel super self-conscious with my setup So to me, this one falls into the category of “I liked my idea, I’m really not convinced about my implementation”.
That’s it for this first reveal post – more to come!