Category: Photography

wiwo wednesday: storm photography

lightning storm photography

Here in DC, our classic humid summer has started to peek through in spurts, and I’m not looking forward to the muggy mornings, the muggy afternoons, and the muggy nights. But yesterday, I had something to carry me through the day: the promise of a big summer storm.

I got home safely from work, cooked dinner, shut down my desktop computer just-in-case, then waited. Without even looking outside, I could feel it in the air: an electric tingling, a tense anticipation.

pre-thunderstorm gray

The sky, and the world, darkened rapidly as the clouds moved in. Then, the rain began.

I stopped everything I was doing and sat on the balcony, living in the storm. I sat, and watched, and thought, with lemon tree safely at my side.

When the world calmed down, and cooled down wonderfully, I went back to my projects. Not long after, I realized that my apartment, and, again, the world, was bathed in yellow. Not the golden yellow of sunsets, but a nearly neon, turmeric yellow. I can’t remember seeing anything like it in my lifetime. I felt like I was looking at the world through filtered glasses (or, you know, instagram). It was delightfully and beautifully absurd.

post-storm yellow glow in the sewing room

Above, an unmodified shot of my sewing room. The world was glowing.

For the second time this year, I was compelled to set up my tripod on the balcony and shoot storm photos. In the shot below, I was lucky enough to catch myself and some of the prolific post-storm lightning – see the bright white in the low center? The sky was pink, the world was yellow, and the clouds were constantly flashing.

post-storm magenta sky

Yesterday’s magical storm held a downpour, but these other photos are from a storm in April that was nothing but lightning. No rain, no thunder, just lightning shooting across the sky every minute for an hour.

lightning storm photography

It was magical to watch, but even more magical to capture. I snapped away with the camera, blindly hoping for the chance to keep a few of those lightning streaks forever.

lightning storm photography

It was with this last photo that I said to myself, “okay, Sam, you can go to sleep now. you caught them.”

This week’s “what i’m working on” isn’t so much about the impromptu storm photography as it is about my mindset. There are many things that I love, and many things that I get excited about. It’s easy to try and shrug these things off in an effort to be more serious, more grown-up. But what I’m working on is rejecting that urge. I love thunderstorms. I’m often amazed at the beauty of the sky. I’ll grin at every fresh, cool summer morning.

It’s easy to stop being excited; it’s harder to realize that these things, no matter how common, are special.

I’m working on cherishing the small moments that bring me joy.

see the rest of the wiwo wednesday posts here.

color, texture, and doors: photographic study spring 2013

rainbow drip wall

This study was only my second course working in color digital photography. Of course I am familiar with my camera and with digital postprocessing, but it was tricky to channel my photographs into a cohesive study.

violent hole in wall

My biggest challenge with my digital camera, something I’ve almost certainly mentioned here before, is taking my time. Film is precious, valuable, scarce: and so I line up every shot as best I can. Digital space is nearly infinite, so, when shooting digitally, I tend to snap away. That spray-shoot approach always leaves me with a folder full of photos, but rarely are any of them of true value.

mystical window reflection

So this study, for me, was about practicing the first and most important step: taking the picture. Each of these images was something that caught my eye, and instead of impulsively shooting away, I paused. I stepped back, framed the image in my head, then in my viewfinder: and then snapped.

I can feel the difference. I took my time, and I think that approach is reflected in the presentation of these photographs. They’re all things that are above everyday notice, but I took the time to really look at them… and so they’ve been transformed.

brilliant turquoise door

And of course, the doors. A guest critic came to speak with each of us individually about our work, and he said to me, “what’s with the doors?” I don’t have a good answer, and I’m not going to be artsy about it: I just like colorful doors. I think they’re pretty. That’s why I took pictures of them. But maybe, by taking my time, I made the pictures a little bit more special than otherwise.

turquoise door with handle

The first half of the semester study was posted as February’s photographic gems, and I also posted the end-of-semester gallery display here, if you’d like to see how the whole study looked on the wall. I think it was a successful study, and very good exercise for my viewfinding eye.

art studio gallery show: my photographic prints

me, contemplating art (my own...)

At the end of every semester, the Art Studio hosts a week-long gallery show. It’s a wonderful chance for us to display our art, and it’s also a great way to preview the art course offerings – many students don’t realize these classes are available at such a technical school.

My work in this show marks the completion of my Photography minor. I completed two independent studies: one in Black & White film, one in Color Digital. Pure contrasts.

machine shop photos: black & white prints on fiber paper

I had difficulty choosing subject matter for my black & white study (i posted about it back in January) but finally decided on hands/body language/gestures. My intent was to capture the many things we can tell about a person without seeing his or her face.

After a few rolls of film filled with failed attempts, my study took a better turn. I took my camera to a familiar place, a place filled with interesting and hardworking hands: the machine shop where I work as a Teaching Assistant.

machine shop photos: black & white prints on fiber paper

I captured my students and my teaching assistant buddies, all working hard and all speaking volumes with just their hands. I can feel how awesome Ryan feels when he sits on that table for a quick break, and I can tell Valoryn’s hand belongs to a girl by the way she holds the handle on the mill. And Jim’s hands, practiced and worn, celebrate 20 years of teaching.

I’m happy I used this study to capture something so precious to me. I’ve loved the 1.5 years I spent in that shop, and now I’ve captured it forever.

color digital photos: textures

My color study focuses on textures, patterns, and, well, color. The first half of the semester was posted in full here, and I will post the rest soon. The digital prints come together so much faster – we don’t get the bonding time in the darkroom like I do with the film prints – so I don’t feel as attached to these. But it felt wonderful to see them all together on the wall.

There’s something to be said about hanging art. All semester, I’ve referred to these as “studies”, but they don’t become cohesive studies until they are up on that wall, coordinating and opposing one another, drawing parallels and contrasts, and saying, “I am art. That’s why I’m on this wall.” It feels good to finally have them all displayed.

I apologize for the awkward lighting in the photos; I intend to make scans of the black & whites and post them in full. But I love having documentation of them on that wall.