Tag Archives: Inspiration

No Christmas without Halo

I don’t know about everyone else, but I know that the closer we get to Christmas, the more I want to spend all my time gaming. You know: snugly, warm Christmas holiday spent gaming in monkey pj’s. Completely natural. Right now I’m back in Everquest 2 for the Xmas content and generally rocking my own guild hall, and playing my way through Halo Anniversary.

Inspired by this, and by Xmas cheer, I’ve made a few gamer ornaments for our tree. Like this Halo Anniversary bauble:


Merry Christmas to all and every nerd!

Camera Out of Nothing

I’m taking a small photography course right now (Digital Photography and Image Theory), about photographic images in a world of digitalized media. The course is a combination of lectures and theory, but also of practical problem solving and assignments as the course progresses.

The theory is extremely interesting, putting the origin of photography and its development into a historical and social context. I find that the way I think about photography is evolving. But I must say that I enjoy the practical assignments even more!

The very first assignment was to create my own camera obscura using my own home. It’s been something I’ve wanted to try for a while, ever since me and Jed went to Scotland last year and visited the Camera Obscura museum in Edinburgh. We even bought a little pinhole camera kit to try out, but we never found the opportunity to use it.

Anyhow, my problem with this assignment is that usually the easiest way to do it is to black out your apartment, and then project light from the outside world into your camera obscura. What makes it easier is that you have a lot of nice, sharp daylight outside. I didn’t have the time to do this during daytime though, and since it now becomes pitch black quite early in the afternoon, there was no daylight to be seen when I came home from work. So I had to do the whole thing completely within the confines of my home.

Luckily I have a small storage room (well, nowadays it’s my tiny, wonderful, happy-place crafting studio, of course) with a doorway facing my bedroom. Commence blackout!

Jed helped out, of course, being just as interested in the result as I was. Also, he had to pose in the shot so that there was something more interesting in it than our messy bed and balcony window.  So, we used a ton of black bin liners and masking tape.

And then some more bin liners in the place where I cut the little hole for the light projection. A small frame was made onto which I taped a thin sheet of oven paper.

Sure enough an image appeared on the oven paper, but very blurry and not so bright. To make it better I needed to get rid of any light pollution, and make the hole smaller and more even. Loads of tin foil was used (I’m sorry, Mother Nature. It was in the name of Papa Science) on the outside of the black bin liners. Also, black cardstock was placed on top of the old hole to create a better one, but this time I made a tiny hole and made it much more even.

And suddenly I saw an upside-down image of my bedroom projected on the oven sheet. It felt sorta cool.

Results really approved. Awesome! So, with my camera on a tripod I could take this camera obscura portrait of Jed in our bedroom. How cool is that? I made a camera from bin liners, tinfoil and masking tape.

I know it’s been done a billion times, even by Aristotle. But this time I did it :)

Oh me, oh mime

I was looking through a few sketches to work with for a photo layout. They’re of course mainly drawn in black and white, so I thought I’s make the entire layout in black and white, including the photographs. So, I thought it would be a fun thing to take a self-portrait. I really only did this for a laugh, because all I could think of when I thought of black and white were those mime artists. I don’t particularly like being in photographs, but this was kind of fun.

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Bears up close and personal

Russian wild life photographer Sergey Gorshkov has spent six years following the bears in the forests around Kurile Lake in Kamchatka, Russia. He also visits the Okavango Delta  in Africa several times every year. He likes to get really close the animals, my mind boggles at the thought. He says himself: “’I have got as close to the bears in the wild as you could in the zoo. It is only now, looking back I realise how dangerous it was” (quote from the Guardian, which has also published a series of the photographs).

The Russian Geographical Society has a nice translated interview with Gorshkov, that I found to be rather inspiring. he beliefs that photography can change minds, and talks about the impact a photograph can have, how some photographer’s work have actually lead to sensitive geographical areas being turned into a nature reserve. This is his advice to budding photographers:

“You shouldn’t seek popularity and fame. You should enjoy what you do, and then, when you start taking good pictures, you’ll certainly get noticed. You shouldn’t keep pictures which are of no photographic value. Out of a hundred shots you may keep just one, which is really worth it, which is the best. The rest should be deleted. Keep and show only your best photos.  And you should learn to wait and be patient.”


“Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson

I’m partly writing this post to comfort myself, because I am an expert at taking un-sharp photos, and thus I’m preparing myself to maybe post the blurry photos I took yesterday (I really need to invest in a proper tripod). I’m also writing it because I’m getting more and more interested in the history of photography and this is a funny side note I found while surfing websites in search of some of famous photographs.

As mentioned before I’ve been watching a documentary on photographic history, and find myself fascinated, hence the scouring of The Internetz for the photos. I felt I wanted to follow up some of the things I thought was inspiring or appealing.

I stumbled on a picture in a blog called Iconic Photos, and felt rather pleased with myself that I actually recognised it, because I wouldn’t have just a week ago.

It was great reading a bit about Henri Cartier-Bresson, but what I’ve spent way to much time on this evening is the link it referred to at the end of the blog post.

At one point someone posted the picture in a Flickr group for public criticism, where people vote if it should be deleted or not. But it was posted without any mention of its background or who took it. The poster named it “Mario’s Bike”.

Of course, hilarity ensues when some of the members in the group votes for it to be deleted because it’s too out of focus and un-interesting and badly composed and what-not. Helpful comments suggest for the photographer to try and use a tripod next time, should he have the chance to get a hold of Mario and take the photo again.

I mean, imagine some of the greatest and most influential photographers in history getting their work critiqued on today’s various Internet forums… (clicky)

After a few comments like that of course it’s revealed that this is an early photo taken by Cartier-Bresson, considered a classic, and the people who voted for it to get deleted gets slapped on the fingers for not knowing this. War commences.

Now: the first thing that I find interesting is how the act of posting this photo on Flickr in the way that it was done inspires such a great debate on the old “What is art?”. It really goes in all directions; it’s as heated as a debate on democracy.

The second thing is that the critique towards the photograph is the same as it was back when it was first taken. As a pioneer of photojournalism and being an advancing figure within the snapshot aesthetics and street photography, he faced the same assessment from his contemporaries.

But no matter what you think of the photograph, Cartier-Bressons did have a style that has influenced generations of photographers. He was part of a paradigm shift. He very decisively approached photography differently from those before him, he said: “I suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in an instant”. He was the man who defined the decisive moment.He is a part of the canon.

For me I suspect itbecome art when it makes me think and wonder: “This made me feel something, how did this affect me?”. Personally I like the photograph very much. It does impress me and it does make an impression on me, because it makes me imagine the moment when the picture is being shot. Did he take it accidentally, on his way down the stairs? Did he stand there waiting for the right time? I like all the motion and the curves of the railing and the cobble stones. I find the perspective pleasing. And I don’t mind that there are no specifically extraordinary sharp spot to rest your eyes on. As Jason Wilson says: “the beauty just has to be enough”. (<– It’s a very good article, go read it).

All this makes me want to get out of the house more often with my camera, and there is no question about it: I will spend a lot of time taking blurry pictures. But maybe, sometimes, I will also catch something that might be worth keeping, even though it’s a bit un-sharp. Because if you don’t even try, in fear of failing, you’ll end up with a lot of nothing. I also feel I need to read “The Decisive Moment”. I think I must.

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”

Ansel Adams

I stumbled on a picture in a blog called Iconic Photos, and felt rather pleased with myself that I actually recognised it, because I wouldn’t have just a week ago. It was great reading a bit about Henri Cartier-Bresson, but what I’ve spent way to much time on this evening is the link it referred to at the end of the blog post.

Fancy Japanese Word for Blur

Jed spoiled me for x-mas with a couple of new lenses for my camera, and as we tried out the 50-milimeter the other night, I don’t really know how I even survived without one for so long (seriously, with it I could probably find a way to fight back the Zombie apocalypse, it’s that frikkin’ great). It’s funny though, I was reading about it and what people used it for, and thought: “Hey, that sounds like something for me, I could really use that with the type of photos I’m taking”. At the same time Jed had already ordered me one, since HE observed was I was trying to accomplish and thought: “Hey, Jennie could really use one of these for the type of photos she’s taking”. Perceptive boyfriend is perceptive!

One great thing about it that I completely love is of course how much you can play with the depth of field. I find it a bit hard to trust the auto focus now though; with a low f-number like 1.8 you really have to make sure you get the focus exactly where you want it, and there is no trusting that tiny LCD-screen on the camera to see if you got it right (zoom in and make sure, valuable lesson…). F1.8 is so tight it’s even hard to get both eyes focused. I have to learn to balance it a bit; extremely narrow depth of field is fun, but on the other hand maybe you don’t want to make your subject look drunk:

The great effect you get is of course the blurry background. There is even a word for it: Bokeh (pronounced bo-keh). It’s Japanese, it seems photographers started using it in lack of a good translation. I guess “Look at that pretty blur!” doesn’t sound as fancy. But that is what it is about: The attractiveness of the blur, the aesthetics of the blur. It’s been suggested that, because it’s about aesthetic values, there is no point discussing “good bokeh” or “bad bokeh”, but rather speak of “pleasant” or “un-pleasant bokeh”. That said, also keep in mind it’s not about how far something is out-of-focus, but rather the character of it.

It’s a bit like when you were a kid and you made your eyes go all wonky and un-focused on a long and boring trip when you couldn’t fall asleep in the car. You’d sit there and watch the world go by with all the lights being smeared out of shape.

Just using the manual focus when aiming my camera at my old x-mas lights it’s easy to find different steps for different degrees of blur:

Of course you can use any light source and with different ones make loads of different cool effects depending on colour and mass. There is even a sort of prestige battle of the lenses going on. Expensive lenses have more leafs in their shutter, making the actual background blur rounder and prettier. Imagine that.

But here is the really nifty part:

What Jed suggested was that by locking the lens on the biggest aperture, and then punching a shape into a black cardstock and put that over the lens, we could force the bokeh into whatever shape we wanted. So we used one of my crafting punches to make a hole in a piece of paper, shaped like a dragonfly.

It’s cheap and ghetto, but it’s amazing how much you can do with some masking tape. Now, point your camera towards the light source and take a picture. The behold the awesomeness:

Put your subject far in front of the background lights. Try to focus (which might be hard when you live in a small shoe box apartment like mine) by doing a little footsy dance. I think we’d have done a bit better if we’d have used a tripod, but were a bit to excited to have time to set it up.

Of course, once we had done all this and there where paper and masking tape and stuff all over my apartment we found loads of ready-made kits you can by off the internet, but I think it’s sort of neat that it’s so easy to make yourself.

I can really recommend a Google picture search on bokeh, people do so many amazing and inspiring things with this method. My list of “Photos I’d like to take before I break my camera” grows longer.