Monday, November 15, 2010

Tart at the Mill

(All pics. snapped on 11/11/10)

There are a couple of things that I actually like about the pictures featured here in this post. The first is that someone has offered to purchase a print - from one particular group that I shot in this mill (YIP!) Second? They signify the end of a years-long cold war between me and a former adversary...

A few weeks ago (maybe a month?) I was forced to muster the courage to approach an arch-rival and ask permission to do self-portraits in a building wherein most (if not all) activities fall under her jurisdiction...Eh, I dunno...maybe "arch-rival" is too strong a term to accurately describe the person in question, but what I do know is that there has been a significant amount of uncomfortable tension between us for as far back as I can remember. Presumably because for years we shared the curse of being two unmarried, middle-aged women, residing in the same small community where the pickings are slim for eligible men, and after competing with each other for the same man at one point - she rose victorious......and she has way better hair than I do (mumble...*expletive*...grumble). That whole drama happened ages ago (and I'm totally over it now, no I am! Seriously!) however, our palpable resentment towards each other has for whatever reason - never flagged...

I got the idea to shoot in the historic Burwell-Morgan Mill (just up the road from my home) after seeing signs around the neighborhood advertising "Art at the Mill" - the local historical association's biannual art show. It's so funny because I drive past this landmark countless times each week, but the thought of shooting inside of the meticulously restored working mill, had never crossed my mind before then. Aiming to kill two birds with one stone, I stopped in to beep at the art, but also to (hopefully) get the green light to make my own art there soon. I cringed at the thought of groveling to her, but she was the go-to-girl after all, and the decision - yay or nay - would be entirely at her discretion. 

I laid everything out for her right there on the front desk (including my portfolios so that she'd be clear about what it is that I do)...and although at first she sort of bristled at my mere presence - after discussing my intentions like reasonable adults, I felt the iciness that historically has kept us estranged - begin to melt away, and ultimately - become water under the bridge...Her kind gestures of complimenting my work and agreeing to let me shoot at the Mill, indicated that we might be moving towards rising above our differences and burying the hatchet for good. 

My preference was to wait until the art show was down, so that visitor traffic would be minimal as I roamed the venue taking pics. of myself in varying states of undress. A childless weekend closing-in, I called "her" to see when it might suit for me to pop by The Mill and do my thang. Now check this - she offered to let me into the building on a day when it wasn't even open to the public, that way I'd have the whole place to myself - BONUS! I was stunned by her willingness to shift her schedule for my sake and her friendliness towards me was icing on the cake. (Muchas gracias!)

What I don't like about these pictures is how inept I was at harnessing the intense natural light while at the same time barely coping with the exaggerated shadowy darkness that flanked it. In scoping out all three floors prior to shooting, I'd become overconfident that there would be no possible way I'd end up with anything less than a pile of great pics.. Lo and behold - out of two full memory cards (and 2 1/2 hours racing from camera to pose) I came away with only 5 or so images that didn't completely insult me...

  This ^ is not one of them...
But since I do still appear to have eyes, nose and a mouth, it is marginally better than the rest from this lot...

That tantalizing light that streamed in through the window and misled me into thinking I was golden - instead erased contours and burned the pigment from my skin. I manipulated the hell outta these pics. on iPhoto, but in all except three photos snapped from the angle above - I looked as if I was either wearing a white body stocking...or was a freakishly, featureless not good. 

Although hesitant to shoot right into the light and directly facing the sunny window - I thought, "It certainly can't hurt to try. Could the pictures be any worse than the ones from the last set?" 

Upon reviewing the first coupla shots from this direction, I was pleased to see a marked improvement (although other issues plagued the bulk of the pics. from this set) Lucking into making use of that scrummy light, is proof positive that I ain't nuttin' but a greenhorn still, and a long way from finessing finding the "right" light...on purpose.

OH! And how bout that truce reached between me and my nemesis? It's comforting to know that good things can come from this silly, little hobby of mine...


  1. (jeric75 here) Are you saving your images in RAW format? I'm not positive, but that may give you the exposure latitude to pull good images up/down in Photoshop or ....that other big Adobe product I can't remember the name of. OTOH, RAW sucks memory like crazy, so memory cards should be on your xmas list.

    As usual, nice stuff. ::thumbsup:: And congrats on the diplomacy.

  2. I'm using a memory card, let's see what it says - hang on a sec...Ok - "SanDisk Ultra ll Memory Stick 2GB" is that kind all right? Oh, aaaaand I don't have Photoshop. I'm actually reluctant to get it. Not sure that I want to be able to solve problems that I'd rather try to avoid when I'm taking the pictures...(I'm a hardhead, no doubt)

    Thanks for BEIN' here!

  3. Yeah, it's _always_ better to START w/a good exposure, but, people didn't use to object to photographers maximizing their product in the darkeroom. Same diff, different tools:

  4. jeric's right... RAW would likely have saved the whole shoot. I discovered it almost by accident, shooting into the sun in Albuquerque, I turned on the RAW setting, knowing I'd never get the shot otherwise... and then I forgot to turn it back off again. By the time I emptied my massive 16 gig card, I had hundreds of pics shot in RAW, so I had to learn about it. It's really awesome the stuff you can do, and I haven't shot jpg since.

    And luv your work, BTW! I used to shoot (but not self-portraits) in similar settings. You beat yourself up pretty bad in your last post, but IMO, you totally didn't deserve it. Granted, I didn't see the images you didn't post, but the ones you did post were great! The only crossways thought I had about them was that the iPhoto vignetting on the one image on the hood of the old car was unnecessary... the image was strong enough that it didn't need bells and whistles, IMO.

  5. Ahhhh - So happy to SEE you on here, Steve! Thank you so much for checkin' out mah stuff! (And for the pep talk...totes preesh) Yeah, the main prob w the old truck pick was this chunk of tree, sorta floating in the corner. The vignette effect was the only way I could crop it out...Sadly though, it def diminishes the strength of the pic..

    Ok, you two - I know I'm gonna sound like a complete dunce (cuz I IZ!) but what exactly IS - "RAW"? Is it a setting? Would it be available on a simple point-and-shoot cam? Or does it mean - shooting withOUT the memory card - so the pictures go directly into the cam?

    I'm gonna Google search it and see if I can figure it out...thank you BOTH for your feedback - GREATly appreciated!

  6. Great to check out your stuff... better than you give it credit for! As for RAW, it's a type of image, like jpg or tiff. It basically stores a lot more info about the image, so the files are bigger (like 10 megs versus 2 or 3 megs for a jpg on my camera) but you can do more with them. You can pull detail out of the shadows or out of the highlights, and do a lot of other stuff as well. Problem is, you need software to do that. I use PhotoShop, which is the best. Basically, it lets a decent photographer produce great images. Not sure if your camera shoots RAW... it would be somewhere in the image settings. You might Google your camera's name and RAW and see what you find.

  7. Thank you so MUCH, Steve! Ok, I just checked - and the bad news is that my little Sony Cyber-Shot canNOT shoot RAW...The good news? It's about on its last leg (I've literally worn out the timer button, haha!)...soooo - I might consider going with a Canon Power Shot for my next point-and-shoot cam. It DOES come equipped to shoot RAW (but I'll feel like such a traitor - I just LOVES my SONY so!)

  8. Check this out... I just did a Useful Stuff blog post showing some of the stuff you can do with RAW: Once you go RAW, you won't worry about the old camera anymore... ummm... OK, guess you go raw pretty often already!