I can see the stone wall of the Missouri Botanical Garden from my front porch. It often beckons to me. Though my walks are often brisk, I bring a camera to slow me down to catch a brilliant color, an engaging pattern or a playful reflection. Sometimes, I sit for 5 or 10 minutes and try to meditate.
At the MBG, there’s people watching, of course, and this often causes me to think of the people I care most about–how could this not be the case in such a beautiful place?
But the two things come to my mind almost every time I visit the garden:
1. David Attenborough’s “Private Life of Plants.” (It’s about the only thing I keep my VCR for – it’s not available in Zone 1 on DVD). It’s a beautiful video series that blurs the line between flora and fauna, when plant growth is run in fast-motion.
How are portrait photographers influenced by their preconceptions about the subject. Quite a bit, it turns out, based on this clever experiment.
“Portraits can be shaped by the photographer’s point of view rather than just by the subject being documented. Created by The Lab in conjunction with Canon Australia, the clip features six photographers, one portrait subject and an unexpected twist. The twist consisted of the (mis)information each photographer was given regarding the person being photographed.”
I’m enjoying photography, especially portraits. The final products are fun to create, but what is it that I’m looking for in a portrait? I’m convinced that photographers can benefit from some of the findings on what it means to be attractive by those who study biology, and specifically, evolution.
The above-linked Wikipedia article has lots of information on this topic of physical attractiveness as explored scientifically. Here’s an excerpt pertaining to women:
Research has attempted to determine which facial features communicate attractiveness. Facial symmetry has been shown to be considered attractive in women, and men have been found to prefer full lips, high forehead, broad face, small chin, small nose, short and narrow jaw, high cheekbones, clear and smooth skin, and wide-set eyes. The shape of the face in terms of “how everything hangs together” is an important determinant of beauty. A University of Toronto study found correlations between facial measurements and attractiveness; researchers varied the distance between eyes, and between eyes and mouth, in different drawings of the same female face, and had the drawings evaluated; they found there were ideal proportions perceived as attractive. These proportions (46% and 36%) were close to the average of all female profiles. Women with thick, dark limbal rings in their eyes have also been found to be more attractive. The explanation given is that because the ring tends to fade with age and medical problems, a prominent limbal ring gives an honest indicator of youth.
In a cross-cultural study, more neotenized (i.e., youthful looking) female faces were found to be most attractive to men while less neotenized female faces were found to be less attractive to men, regardless of the females’ actual age. One of these desired traits was a small jaw. In a study of Italian women who have won beauty competitions, it was found that their faces had more “babyish” (pedomorphic) traits than those of the “normal” women used as a reference.
A friend of mine, Steve Grappe, recently posted an article at his studio, PhotoG, about the process of taking my portrait. Steve is a professional photographer who excels at portraits. I am also a photographer, and I was looking for both a learning experience and a portrait. I wasn’t disappointed.
Without getting into the details, I was recently divorced, and the experience of struggling in a dysfunctional marriage can leave both parties feeling less than confident about who they are. This is not a good starting point for one to branch out to meet new people post-divorce. [More . . . ]
Steve Grappe of PhotoG Studios offered a boudoir photography workshop Sunday. I attended and learned a lot of about lighting, shooting and posing. The venue was the Cheshire Inn, in STL. Obviously, this is a engaging genre, and it was equal parts fun and work.
The woman below, Andrea Fentem, is beautiful in a unique way – she told me that her mother is a blonde haired blue eyed Swede and her father is native American. This photo is one of my favorites so far, though I’m still culling and post-processing the batch. I’ll put others on my Flickr site soon. I can’t say enough about Steve, who is both an excellent teacher and a great guy to know. I’ve taken his classes on several subjects over the past year and a half, including low key lighting and post-processing. Before then, I didn’t even own a DSLR, so things can move fast in photography.
I recently returned from a trip to the above three national parks. I loved working to compose good shots, a task made easy by the trail designers. I’ve uploaded my recent photos from Grand Canyon North Rim, Zion Park and Bryce in higher res format to to a Flickr album. Feel free to download any or all of these to use them as a screen saver or for any other non-commercial use.
I use a Canon 7D. There are a couple of things I have done here that helped out. One is that I worked hard to compose the photos–I wasn’t just snapping pics. This required a lot of hiking, and sometimes climbing off the trail out onto an outcropping. It wasn’t dangerous, but I did need to be careful out there This let me get rid of foreground trees, bushes and other distractions. Second, I shot HDR. This means I shot 3 pics of the same scene, bracketing the shutter speed (dark, med, light). I then combined the 3 pics in post-processing with a program called Photomatix, which evens out the lighting. This is amazing software that allow you to approach the HDR with many settings, some of them a bit like a painting,and others straightforward. I then further cropped and straightened and did minor sharpening with Lightroom, another amazing piece of software. Most of these were shot through a new $300 Canon lens that zooms from 18-10mm. That allowed me to squeeze these scenes into one frame, though there is some distortion on the edges at the 10mm setting. Mostly, it was a matter of getting to these places, which required hours of hiking for some of the photos (though others were easy access). I’m about to add the night shot from the north rim at Flickr – it was a long exposure shot where I added foreground lighting in live time with a flashlight. I also obtained the blueish stars by setting my white-balance to tungsten. It involved lots of experimenting, and I did take a lot of shots that didn’t work out. That is the main “trick.” Don’t show people your shots that don’t work out well.
I’ve come to enjoy urban exploration over the past year. Today I learned that a favorite urban exploration spot in St. Louis, the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in north St. Louis, has completely collapsed. That is the first photo of this group, which I took back in August 2013.
It’s so very sad to hear that a beautiful structure has imploded, even if the economic reality pointed in that direction. It was obvious that this was going to happen, but I was hoping to photograph it again before that happened. I learned about the death of Bethlehem from a friend who lives and breathes urbex. This afternoon we explored an old factory in southeast Missouri (St. Joe’s-Part of Missouri Mines Park area). That is where the remainder of these photos were taken.