Thursday, March 31, 2011

A 5K & a photo shoot (with dogs!)

Another mid-week post, another photo of yours truly (with my new glasses):

In other news, remember last year when I started this whole running thing and ran my first 5K?

Well, this Saturday, I'll be running the same 5K again. Do you know how wonderful it feels as a runner when a 5K is your minimum running standard? Last year, I was still struggling so much just to complete a 3.1 mile run. And now, having completed two half marathons already this year, it feels fantastic to only be "competing" in 5K. Seriously. It's like a nice, brisk jog as opposed to a drawn out and painful mental and physical battle where your goal is to not die and just finish this damn race...

That's pretty much how running a half marathon feels. (At least to me.)

I'm seriously excited to be back where I was last year with tons more training under my belt. (And new running shoes!)I'm hoping to demolish my time from last year and run my little heart out on the "anniversary" of my first real race as a runner.

And now, some more photos. I did several photos shoots last year and didn't really have the time to share them. Here are some of my favorites from a shoot I did for a good friend. Her and her husband had just received terrible news that their dog Duke had cancer and wouldn't survive much longer. She realized that they didn't have any family pictures of them and their dogs, so we spent an afternoon photographing everyone together.

Duke is the dog in the foreground. He had such beautiful brown fur.

Duke & Spike were such good buddies.

This was my favorite shot of the day.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Three: Red Telephone Boxes

There's a neighborhood near downtown Houston called Upper Kirby that has a very visible and distintive feature: the red telephone box.

Scattered throughout this neighborhood are several of these British telephone booths, all of them either empty or sealed off. Most of them are proudly labeled with the "Upper Kirby" mark, and they're all randomly placed and clearly spotted from the road. I spent the afternoon yesterday circling the neighborhood in search of all of the red telephone boxes this neighborhood houses and successfully found most of them. Oddly enough, I could not find a list online to help guide me.

Box #1 was placed off the beaten bath of what is known as Upper Kirby, and the only booth that, to me, looks authentic. It still has the "Telephone" label, and you see the remnants of what once was a telephone inside.

Booth #2 rests on a busy street across from newly built, super swanky condos and lofts. If one wanted to label this feature of the Upper Kirby neighborhood as stuck up and upper-crusty, this particular booth's location would be the ammunition.

Booth #3 was tucked away a bit and stood within an unremarkable, modern strip mall right outside a CVS Pharmacy. There was also a dumpster rather close to this booth, making it the most randomly placed of the seven I found.

Booth #4 was the sister to #2, also placed in the "new swanky condo high-rise" district of Upper Kirby within the parking lot of a recently built Wells Fargo. It had a cosmopolitan feel to it that I liked.

Booth #5 has further down Kirby, which quickly loses its cosmopolitan feel as you drive to the south. This booth was placed in the park stip right in front of a car wash and repair shop that might have been related. It didn't blend well with the surroundings, but it added that touch of class it might have needed.

Booth #6 was located at a street corner off the main drag of Kirby. It was surrounded by hip, young shops (Whole Foods, Borders, etc.) and boxed in with flowers. I thought it was a beautiful location.

Booth #7, the final booth I found, was shaded by huge trees next to the outdoor seating of a local cafe. It would be the perfect spot to eat outside on a pleasant day and, perhaps, imagine yourself in London, staring at the red telephone box.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Red Scare

It's time for...a mid-week post!

First, a photo.

For those of you who are not on Facebook (or not my 'friend'), about 2 1/2 weeks ago, I went red. I posted a quick photo on Facebook, but I figured (a) why not take another photo and post it here on the blog, and (b) I like the color of my hair better now that it's faded just a bit. Instead of being in-your-face red, it's more of a normal (but still bold), dark red.

I know I look a bit deer-in-the-headlights in this photo, but I wasn't trying very hard. And I also kind of like this look on me. It's a bit quirky and odd. Just like me. And yes, I was totally holding out my camera (on my gorilla pod) out in front of my face Facebook-style. Again, not trying very hard.

I had a conversation with a photographer about taking self-portraits, and he told me that for over 5 years, he took a self-portait every day as a way of documenting his life. Wow. Since I had a month to learn the art of/get comfortable with self-portraits, I really respond to this idea of documenting my life through photographs and making sure I am in them. So often, I take hundreds of photographs at events, and I'm not in a single one. That's...a bit sad, I think.

This photo above is quite unremarkable (except for the red hair), but I've decided to try and take more self-portraits, especially as I'm exploring and experiencing new and different places this year. And perhaps I'll start posting those every now and then. My blog seemed to get much more popular during my month of self-portrait taking, which (hopefully) means that everyone thought I was an awesome portrait-taker.

Is...that right?

And in other news, I bought a wide-angle lens attachment last week.

New photography equipment (especially attachments that are cheap!) makes me happy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Two: The Rodeo

Yesterday, Matt & I & some friends went to the Houston Rodeo & Livestock...thing. We weren't actually interested in any of the music or rodeo shows, and we found that we had plenty to do just wandering both the carnival and livestock section of the Rodeo!

I found the ferris wheels a pleasure to photograph against the clear blue sky. Although, I didn't particularly want to get on one. I'm quite the wuss when it comes to most carnival rides. I'd rather photograph them.

We did, however, spend the money to take a ride on the ever classic carnival ride, the bumper cars. Because we all rode at once, I couldn't take any photos while we rode, which was too bad! I think we all seriously felt like kids again chasing each other around in magnetic cars for a few minutes.

While we were checking out some of the carnival games, Matt noticed one game that was giving away light-saber-esque "swords". It was a fairly easy game, so he paid the $5 to attempt to win one.

Look familiar? Pretty simple game. Matt immediately caught one of the fish and won his fake light saber.

More games were played and fair food was eaten. One of our party tried to tackle the classic turkey leg.

Mr. Turkey Leg also wanted his own light saber and was successful in winning one for himself. I couldn't help but photograph the cuteness that was two grown men wandering the carnival with their prized light sabers.

And lastly, the prize-winning animals. Or, well, I'm not sure if they all won, but they were all definitely cute. Bovine:


Swine (photo by Matt):

Chick (newly hatched!):

And the poor turkeys, who had to stare at pictures of their probable future all day:

We had a ton of fun with our friends at the Rodeo. And in case you were wondering, both deep fried snickers and oreos are delicious. And probably heart-attack inducing. But still delicious.

And perhaps one of these days, I'll pluck up the courage to ride one of these things.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One: Beer Bike

Yesterday, I decided to spend part of the day at Rice University to witness the spectacle that is Beer Bike.

Beer Bike is the hugest event of the year at Rice for the students and alumni, even bigger than Homecoming. It had its humble beginnings in the 50s and has evolved into a highly regulated "sporting" event that involves, you guessed it, beers and bikes.

Before it was regulated, the race involved one person chugging beer and then (trying) to race on bike in a relay against all of the other residential colleges. Obviously, this form of racing was arguably dangerous, and so now, there is a chugging "team" and a biking relay team, each performing the duties separately.

And yes, I went to spectate this "sporting event" yesterday if nothing for purely photographic means. I figured it would be a gold mine of opportunity, and since I have never been to Beer Bike before, I thought it would be "fun" to "experience" it for myself at least once while we live here.

While it was certainly crazy to behold at times, I had tons of photographic fun wandering around the Beer Bike "grounds" with my camera, which included the undergraduate side of the track where all of the colleges were cheering on their team.

Each college has a theme each year for their team. I saw such "themes" as "The Kegfather" and "The Fresh Pints of Bel-Air". Brilliant.

Once the races got started, we wandered over to the graduate student side, and we beheld what Matt referred to as a possible Quiddich scene from Harry Potter.

Quiddich? Nope. Beer bike. Different "sport", but the same crazy fans.

I was glad, however to be on the graduate student side as it was much more chill. Everyone was having fun rooting for the GSA (Graudate Student Association) team, which historically does quite well in the races.

I had much more fun, even as a teetotaler, than I thought was possible. I hung out with Matt & his graduate student friends during the races and watched the occasional craziness break through.

And these bikers were hard core. Halfway through the race, the GSA was nearly a full lap ahead of everybody else.

Unfortunately, a bad crash involving a spectator stopped the race, and 30 minutes or so later after the judges (yes, there are Beer Bike judges) had deliberated, they decided that it was too windy to continue the race safely on bike, and so they turned it into a Beer Run.

And somehow, the decision was made for the GSA team and the college that was in second place to start in the same spot on the track. Boo!

And the GSA ended up coming in second because of this. I left soon after the race ended, but I can only imagine what righteous anger and plenty of alcohol would have looked like at the after party for the GSA.

And so I have experienced Beer Bike. I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had because I was simply hanging out with friends the whole time. And I brought home a lobster-red sunburn to match my hair. Awesome.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Project 52 Begin

It's true. I'm embarking on a new photo challenge for the next year. I was going to begin immediately after my photo-a-day challenge ended at the beginning of the month, but I apparently needed a break. But now, this photo project is on!

Nama's Project 52

For the next year (52 weeks), I will be taking a series of photos at some point during the week, and then on Sunday night, I will be posting these photos along with the story behind them and my experiences.

My goals are varied for this year's project. I want to explore the art of photojournalism as much as I can, taking photos that tell a story and evoke emotion through the subjects and their stories. I've been quite moved by many photojournalistic series I've come across that weave intricate and beautiful stories within a series of photos. This type of photography truly speaks to my soul, and I so want to break out and give this a shot in whatever way I can.

Another goal I have is to simply get out of my photographic comfort zone. I tend to photograph the same places, people, and things, because that's what I've become comfortable with. I need to break out of that. And this is a way to push me beyond that bubble I've inadvertently created around my photography. I will strive each week to photograph "new" places, people I do not know, and things that I haven't even begun to explore.

I hope this goes as well for me this year as this last year did! I'm quite excited to continue building my photographic skills with new goals and a new outlook. Please still come and support me through this new challenge! And come back every Sunday night, starting tomorrow night, for my weekly series of photos.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

One year later...

I've been in the process of writing a retrospective on my year long photo challenge for approximately six months.

Before you get too impressed, this is simply because I wanted to write a "half point" retrospective of how I was feeling six months into my challenge.

And then I kept putting it off. And fairly soon, it seemed ridiculous to post 8 or 9 months into my challenge, so I decided to hang on to my writings and post it all (modified) at the year's end.

I want to first say thank you to everyone who has followed me during my journey this past year. My heart would flutter every time I received an email from Blogger informing me of a new comment. They like my photos! Validation rocks! I know many of you simply came to look, and I can’t thank you enough for your support. Knowing I had an audience looking forward to my posts every day is part of what kept me going.

These past few days have been a combination of weird, oddly satisfying, and empty. I came home Tuesday night and instinctively started to pull my camera out of my bag. And then I had to stop myself. I didn’t take any photos today. I don’t have to post a photo tonight.

Both relief and sadness flooded me. Is it nice not having to worry about the daily task of photography? Yes. I feel like I’ve earned a break. But I now feel like I’ve lost a part of me, something that, at times, enveloped my life for a year! I realize that just because I’m not obligated to use my camera every day, I still can use it to my heart’s content, but perhaps it feels a little different now.

With this in mind, I’ve been dreaming up a new photographic project that I will start this weekend. (Look for my introductory post on that tomorrow.) I want to keep pushing myself to grow and learn, and, of course, I love giving myself an excuse to take photographs. In some ways, this past year has been nothing more than a self-indulgent project! While there were definitely days that I didn’t want to take any photos or that this challenge felt more like a chore, most of the time, I absolutely loved it. And I want to do more.

But first, a look back. How did I get here?

My hope in starting this project was more than just to take photos every day. That was certainly part of it, but I knew (or hoped) that in forcing myself to photograph the world around me daily, both my creativity and technical skill would grow. Posting a chosen photo on this blog was a natural end result and something to keep me in check. It allowed me to complete a photographic process, from snapping the image, to editing, to sharing.

I can honestly say that my skills set as a photographer has experienced tremendous growth. Part of this growth, however, was the continuation of the decision I made when I bought my DSLR, which was to force myself to shoot in full manual mode. Through doing this, and with the help of the photography class I took last year, I was forced to learn everything that my camera was capable of. Sure, I could have taken short cuts, left certain camera settings on auto, but what good would that have done me?

And now, shooting with my Nikon in manual is incredibly natural and seamless. In fact, I feel a bit confused when I have to pick up and operate a point-and-shoot. "What? I just have to point it and shoot? Weird." This growth has been wonderful and having full confidence in what I'm doing is an incredible feeling.

My creativity has grown, too, by leaps and bounds. Would you agree? I believed when I started this project that I already possessed a good photographic eye. I never simply pointed my camera at a subject and clicked away. I naturally had a good sense of how to frame the shot with an interesting perspective.

And while I was worried about how that would hold up to daily use, I never thought I'd see the quick and very real changes to my creative eye. I don't mean to be a braggart, but I was genuinely surprised by this growth, and now I seriously think my ability to compose a great photograph is awesome.

That's just good taste and sense talking. :)

I now look at my first month or so of photographs, and while I have favorites from that first foray into this challenge, I'd say about half of the photos inspire a big fat "meh" from me. As the months go on, however, more and more photos still stand out to me as not merely okay photographs that were nice enough to post, but truly great works of photographic art.

Am I talking myself up too much? (Feel free to say yes!)

I know some of my favorites from this past year, but what are some of the photos that you’ve really loved? I’d be very interested in knowing your thoughts.

That being said, I fear I don’t have much more to say. Just keep an eye on the ole’ blog. I’ll keep on photographing and sharing my experiences. In fact, I have a lot of photos backlogged that I want to share soon.

Also, on a related note, remember when The Pioneer Woman chose my frog photo last year for one of her photography assignments? Well, it’s happened again! What a wonderful cherry on top of an accomplished week!

I took this photo of Jessica, The Best Friend, on her wedding day in Las Vegas back in October while she was getting ready in her hotel room. I seriously love this photo on so many levels. I loved that I captured such a calm sense of anticipation emanating from Jessica. She looks so gorgeous in this photo. And I’m not just saying that because she’s The Best Friend. And I’m thrilled that PW chose this photo for her “Sisters” assignment! Jessica's practically a sister to me. We even have a song.

More good things to come.