Vacations and general busy-ness have limited the Challenge entries this month, so we're posting everything that's wandered into the Inbox. This proved to be a very easy shoot for July with the 'Americana' theme. The traditions, history and uniqueness of our country can be seen all around us, especially here in California where most of our group lives. July begins with all things patriotic and ends with county fairs, car shows, hamburgers and Coca-Cola. Maybe we'll use the same theme next July, so be prepared.
Don gets an 'A' for sending his photos in before anyone else - actually he requested it: "Do I get extra credit for being a little early this month? Deanna Bradshaw would be proud of me." Miss Bradshaw was our senior class English teacher in high school, who commuted every day from San Luis Obispo (her hubby was going to Poly). Famous for her Texas drawl and charm, squinty eyes and buzzard-tough grading. Oh, did I mention that she was the beauty queen in the teacher queue? Anyway, Don felt she had it out for him. Sorry, Don. And especially sorry that I had a cozy dinner with her when I lived in SLO for one quarter of my senior year. A night to remember - particularly when said it would be best if I'd leave early.
Don's first entry was taken at the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles. "My Cousin Chris is quite the floral decorator and enters the fair every year. This year, she decorated a small wheel barrow I gave her and earned a Best of Show award." Note that Don moved in tight to eliminate any distracting background clutter, captured the main elements, and had the right 'white balance.'
Don's second and third pictures were taken on Park Street in Paso Robles at first light (check the shadows). "Last Thursday, the 20th annual pancake breakfast was held in the city park. Went down and got a couple of pancakes and a few pictures. There was a 5 horse power wagon cruising around the park. Kind of like the old days except the dirt streets are now paved and the hooves go clippity clop instead of clumpity clump." Note that using a low angle in the first shot Don was able to include the top of the Mastagni Building in the background, adding to the Americana look and feel of the picture. Note in the second photo, Don zeroed in on the pancakes - which sound pretty good right now ) as it's 5:19 in the morning when I'm putting this together- I think I can smell them, too!). Again, the rule is: get in tight and keep out the fluff.
Don's last photo is of the American flag that rises on the north side of the City Park in Paso Robles. "Lastly, another night time visit to the park to capture Old Glory on an almost windless night." Note his use of framing, using the trees to balance the shot, give place and perspective, and point the viewer to the main subject. Also note that the flagpole is perfectly vertical. When shooting verticals or horizons, always try to get them straight (unless there's an 'artsy' reason for not doing so). I always have the 'grid lines' showing in my viewfinder to help me when I'm shooting. See if you're camera has this feature.
Looks like Ginnie also went to the fair, braving the hoard of cotton candy connoisseurs and general mayhem. Her first photo is an action shot taken at dusk where she perfectly captures the fun, excitement and energy of the American county fair experience: the roller coaster. She says, " The not so brave can ride the CrazyMouse. No upside downs, not too fast, but people screamed anyway." The flying hair really makes a difference here, adding movement to the shot. It almost looks like these girls were expecting a photographer to be there and posed for the picture. Wow!
Here's Jordan in Ginnie's second photo, sporting the all-American cowgirl look during a dance routine. Again, tight composition is used. A fast shutter speed is a must for action shots as well.
The American railroad is iconic, although not unique to our country. We've grown up with it and haven't seen much evolution in its original purpose or design. Some of us grew up by the 'tracks,' and have a familiarity and affinity for this historical legacy. Freight trains have rumbled and chugged over the backyard fences where I've lived for 66 years now. In Oak Park; in El Paso; and now here in Stockton. Just can't get away for the smell of diesel fuel, screaming of bad wheel bearings, house shaking and 110 decibel whistles. Ginnie's last photo needs little comment.
Yours truly got an early start by shooting a 4th of July parade here in Stockton on Pacific Avenue. Miniature by most standards, very small-townish and not well attended, but patriotism was in the air. The karate club was handing out little flags to everyone. People certainly dressed the part, as did a few pets. Lots of well-behaved dogs at this shindig. People were friendly and didn't mind me taking pictures of them, thankfully. Hey, go to a parade and expect crazy photographers to take your picture - just part of the territory.
My favorite of the morning was this shot of a youngster with his grandmother (along with two sisters). He didn't know what to do when his grandmother tried to position him for the picture, so his expression is pretty rare. One of the few kids I've seen who didn't ham it up in front of a camera. I was using on-camera flash for fill light in the shadows and got in as close as I could. I was shooting from the hip, so this little guy is watching me tell him to look at the camera. Ha!
My second entry emphasizes patriotism as well. This is a still life using a flag, my grandfather's WWI dog tags and a leather pouch with what looks like '?' 9 PA - or '9', '?', A. I'm very lame when it comes to still life and knowing how to stage items and apologize for that. I used a Nikon D90, my old 55mm MicroNikkor lens, window light and 60th of a second shutter at ISO 400. Pretty much the same settings for the second shot as well.
Ah, let's hear it for Kodachrome and the old days when life and travelogues were tinted with this iconic look! I think there are plug-in filters now for Photoshop the produce the Kodachrome look. I think the compass belonged to my dad.
Nextly, we turn to another American icon: the Harley Davidson motorcycle. Co-worker, Miguel, rode his bike to work yesterday, so I jumped at the chance to get a few more Americana photos before July was in the history books. I used my point and shoot Canon SD980 IS to get a number of close-ups, which I then married together for a montage. That's Jan standing behind me in the lower right photo.
Made in America is becoming rarer when it comes to machinery, vehicles, tools and lots of other stuff. In trying to save a buck, Americans have unwittingly sent most manufacturing to China and other foreign countries. But some things continue the American tradition of Made in the Good Ol' USA, like Miguel's Baby. (Don, clue us in on whether the whole bike is made or just assembled here).
Anyway, I talked Miguel into taking his portrait, surrounded by all things American: The press he was running, his T-shirt logo, and the Craftsman 7/8" wrench that says, "Forged in USA" on the back. American Exceptionalism at work.
We have one more entry that wasn't sent in. Bruce posted his Newport Harbor pictures and I 'borrowed' one that has an American flag in it. Newport Beach is an Orange County community in Southern California, famous for its rich lifestyle and famous people who were born there. Most of us (all of us?) couldn't afford to live there and probably wouldn't want to live there, either. Looks like a different world culturally. I really like the sunset glow and lights in the background.
Thanks to everyone who submitted pictures for July. Hopefully, the themes for August will spur interest as well.
The August themes will be:
- The Eyes Have It- Use your imagination for this one. Bonus points for creativity.
- Water- All things H2O.
- Blue- All things the color blue.
If you're really good, you'll be able to have all three themes in ONE photo!
- Try to keep the file size under 400KB, 1400 pixels wide maximum.
- Black and white will be okay - except for the Blue theme, of course.
- Photo must be taken during August.
- Have fun and happy shooting!
E-mail your photos to me at email@example.com