review: Photographs from the Edge

Photographs from the Edge photo photographs from the edge_zpscn9kirew.jpg

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe with Rob Sheppard

Each of the photos contained in this book was shot by Wolfe and is described in a few paragraphs. The camera and lens used is also detailed and a photo tip is offered related to the way that shot was taken. Each also includes a sentence or two in a section called the nature of the photo, many of which relate to the specific content of the photo, be it the location, an animal or person featured in the photo, or some other aspect. These are very much the type of photos you’d expect to see in National Geographic magazine and many seek to enlighten the reader about an environmental or other conservation-related issue. When I see photos like this that include people, I always wonder what permission the (Western, white, male) photographer had to be there, to be taking photos, and to publish those photos in a book that they will be making money from. Are the people being exploited? Some photos are taken in what appear to be very remote and in some cases environmentally fragile areas and I wonder what care was taken not to exploit the land. I didn’t find any answers to those questions here. Maybe it’s fine, but it would be nice to see more information about how those arrangements were made, or at least to know what protocols were followed. The book takes a more artistic approach so it’s not surprising that these details aren’t included, and it’s undeniable that the photos are stunning and expertly executed.

full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books

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most-used Blythe item

Of all the Blythe stuff I have collected, there is one item (or set of items, really) that I use more than anything else. It’s not a very interesting looking thing but it’s so useful!

Stands/props

These are stands that I use to prop up Blythe when I’m taking photos of her. They were originally designed to be candle holders, sold by IKEA (no longer available, I think – they were called NASVIS). They had little cups on the tops that would hold a candlestick, but I snapped those off (and sanded down the ends to be sure there weren’t any snaggy bits). They were also originally black, but K painted them white for me.

I have a few mats and rugs that I have snipped tiny slits into so I can slide the stand through and the base will be hidden underneath. One is a welcome mat that I have used in a ton of photos like this one:

Blythe Swap: Love Birds

The stands were still black at the time that photo was taken, but they do hide nicely behind Blythe for the most part. I like these better than stock Blythe stands for photographs because they don’t interfere with her outfit at the waist. They’re also a bit heavier than a stock stand, so they stay in place a little better. Blythe is definitely still capable of falling over when using these stands, but I can usually prop her up pretty well without her moving.

What is your favorite Blythe item?

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Aziz, light!

I’ve been trying to enhance my AnneArchy setup lately, investing in some new pieces, one of which is a new light kit!

Craftytown with new light kit set up

It’s a HUGE difference from the tiny lights I have been using! These cast a LOT of light, which is working really well. I’m still experimenting with them, figuring out various placements for difference effects, but I am really pleased so far. This light kit seems pretty decent so far. It’s not terrific quality – both umbrellas came with some threads hanging and some other imperfections, but they’re functional, so I’m not going to worry about it.

The overhead lighting in CraftyTown is pretty lackluster, so I’m researching replacement fixtures that would be more suited to my needs. Anyone have an awesome overhead fixture you love?

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Review: Learning to See Creatively

Learning to See Creatively

It’s another book about improving one’s photography! This one, entitled Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color, and Composition in Photography by Bryan Peterson, covers a variety of strategies for taking better photos. It offers side-by-side comparisons to illustrate many of the techniques, especially for framing and composition. Areas covered include line, shape, form, texture, pattern, color, light, and using Photoshop to bring out the best in your photos.

The photos offered as examples are a mix of far-off natural wonders and scenes that seem like they could be in anyone’s vicinity, which gives this book a more relatable feel – it doesn’t portray photography as solely the domain of a professional with unlimited travel options, which I appreciate. The section on close-ups especially makes me want to get our garden growing again, so I’ll have more inviting subject matter for practicing.

Full disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books.

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Review: Digital Nature Photography

Digital Nature Photography

I’m an unabashed amateur when it comes to photography. I mostly snap quick photos using my phone these days, and I only haul out the DSLR for things that require better lighting or have more detail (primarily close-ups of knitting or plants tbh). I do still want to be better at using the DSLR, though, and I thought this would be a good book for instruction since I like taking photos of things in the garden/yard/nature already. As I read into it, I learned that I was right in that this book is overtly JUST for DSLR technique. Not film, not phone, not point and shoot.

I already have a DSLR, but if I didn’t, this book has a lot of great info on how to choose one and what options are out there. I do need to spend more time with the setting up your camera section, though, as I’d like to learn how to shoot RAW so I have more options. There’s also a ton of technical information that I need to let soak in and then play with repeatedly over time in order to learn what my preferences are and what gives me the best results. I feel like this should be a good guide, though, for that kind of practice. Should I get to the point where I’m ready to invest in an additional lens, there’s a lengthy chapter on different types.

The part I was really looking for, though, is the chapter on composition. I feel like I have a pretty good eye for this on my own, but I certainly have room to improve. There’s also a good chapter on close-ups, both with and without a macro lens. I’ll be practicing some of the techniques from that as well.

The only drawback to this book for me is also one of its features, depending on your perspective: John Shaw is clearly a very talented photographer who has had the opportunity to shoot in a wide variety of stunning and remote locations. Many of his photos are of rare creatures or landforms that aren’t accessible to most folks without a lot of travel. I do appreciate the beauty of these subjects, but I would appreciate someone with his expertise demonstrating photography with more commonly accessible subjects. I am looking forward to practicing his techniques, though, as I improve my photography knowledge and DSLR skills.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books.

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nature and shit

So I’ve been trying to learn more about how our DSLR camera works so I can take advantage of more of its capabilities. I saw this tutorial pinned a few times on Pinterest, and lo and behold, unlike a ton of other stuff on there, it turned out to actually have good information behind the pin!

silver maple

This is the silver maple tree in front of our house, as seen from where I usually sit on the couch. I can’t believe this photo turned out this well considering it’s through the window and on a pretty overcast day. I did crop it to a square shape to cut out the little bit of the interior that was visible.

barberry

I’d noticed recently (while peering out our bedroom window at the for-sale house next door) that the barberry shrubs I planted a few years ago actually have a couple berries on them! I’ve never actually seen any berries on them before – I’m not sure if they were under snow, never developed, or were quickly eaten by birds in the past, but I was happy to see a few. Of course I wasn’t thinking ahead and didn’t write down any of the settings I was playing with while I took these photos. But! Awesomeness of digital cameras is that they record that shit for you! It’s taken care of! It even shows up on Flickr so I can see it easily when I look at any particular shot I’ve uploaded. Anyway, I’m pretty pleased with how these turned out! For a first try, I’d say it was a success for sure.

barberry

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11 for 2011: Blythe Wishlist Meme

BlytheLife recently posted a dolly meme that’s been popular lately, in which one chooses 11 wishlist items for 2011. Fun!

These are all things that I’ve been thinking about for awhile and probably I’ll continue to do so. I don’t have a sense of urgency about any of them, and I figger things will work out when they do, and that’s good enough. Going from left to right, top to bottom:

11 for 2011 dolly wishlist

1. My dream custom mohair reroot Blythe. (This photo is a placeholder since she doesn’t exist yet! I really dig the look of this reroot by Pheisty.)  I’ve been collecting pieces – I’ve got the girl (bald Prima Dolly Aubrey Encore), eyechips, and pull ring charms, so I just need to buy the mohair and send her for rerooting and customizing. I’ll get there someday!

2. Make my girls a classic Doctor Who scarf. (This is NxtDrGrrl‘s cute example.)

3. More progress on the front garden, so it becomes a more versatile place to take Blythe photos.

4. Make time to use more of the awesome fabrics I’ve accumulated, to make more Blythe dresses.

5. Improve my skills at photography, especially refining the lighting and my skills using my lightbox. (This isn’t mine pictured here – but there are a lot of good notes and ideas on this photo!)

6. Acquire some sort of carry case so that I can take a Blythe with my in my purse and not worry about her getting scratched or super static-y. I’m not sure yet what shape/design I want. (The one pictured here is cute!)

7. Acquire or create some sort of efficient but accessible dolly clothing storage closet/system. Right now I keep all my Blythe clothes in Ziploc bags in a scrapbook storage box, but I can’t see what I have at a glance the way I’d like to. The challenge will be figuring out a system that keeps things safe, dust-free, and yet doesn’t take up a lot of real estate. (Isn’t Little Sheep Eep’s closet so cute?)

8. Expand my use of Re-ment and other minis in my Blythe photography. I have a bunch of this stuff and I just hardly ever remember to use it!

9. Acquire some of Laura Lorraine’s hair clippies for my girls.

10. More stripey socks!

11. Keep up with all my awesome Blythe peeps on Flickr, Blythe Kingdom, and Twitter. You are all terrific!

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