Greetings from the happiest place on earth – Walt Disney World. I love this place and it really does make me happy like no place other can. As you know today is Monday so that means it is Kickstart Monday. Seeing as today is Memorial Day, I’d like to do something a bit different and take a moment to thank our troops, past and present, who’ve fought to make our nation the greatest in the world. It is because of them that I can take this vacation as free man. Free of tyranny, free of persecution, and free to do the things I choose to do. To that end, I would like to share some of my photos that honor those who’ve served and especially those who’ve fallen. Accompanying the photos is also one of my favorite quotes, patriotic or otherwise.
“It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.”
-Charles M. Province
Well it’s Monday and that means another weekly installment of my Kickstart series. Looking at the forecast the night before, last Monday seemed like it was going to have all the makings of a beautiful day. And it did! I started off my week by heading to the West End Overlook, one of my favorite spots in the city, to work on the week’s series. The clouds were nice and moving quickly, but they were overly abundant and the light of sunrise just never developed. Dud! There went that idea.
I returned home and wondered how I would fit in my Monday shoot if the morning session was a bust. Harsh mid-day light does not make for flattering scenics and I had plans in the evening. It didn’t take long before I convinced myself the Pittsburgh Zoo would be an excellent choice for such a nice day. Now I could have settled for my theme (which I like all of my Kickstart posts to have one) to be animals. I took it a step further and decided only African mammals would be included. Still that wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to head to the zoo and simply slap on my longest lens, take some nice closeup portraits of the African wildlife, and call it a day. I needed something unique and challenging, something I’ve not done before.
On the drive to the zoo, I wracked my brain. Even as I was going up the escalator into the zoo, I’d not come up with anything. Then I got to thinking about camouflage and how both predator and prey generally do not like to be seen. Some have natural physical features to aid them in remaining well hidden and others employ techniques for hiding. Now at the zoo, most animals don’t have a reason to hide, and obviously visitors don’t want them to either, not that they have any control.
Enter JP. After thinking about this a little further I realized that if the animals were not going to hide, I was going to make them. The zoo does a great job of keeping the habitats looking pretty natural so there is no shortage of long grass, brush, and tress. This lush greenery would serve as the “hideout” for the animals. Instead of the rhino, for instance, positioning itself behind a tree or bush, I positioned MYSELF so that the tree would be between my lens and the rhino. I did this at all the exhibits I visited and to be frank, I really enjoyed the challenge. And a challenge it was!
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, I am having no problems seeing the animals in the photos. They are not very well hidden.” I agree. I had and still have no delusions that the photos would be a “Where’s Waldo” of the wildlife sort. My challenge to myself was to portray the animals at the zoo in a different perspective and create the illusion that perhaps they were out in the wild as opposed to in captivity. I’m sure I got some strange looks and some “what the hell is this guy photographing?” along the way, but I enjoyed the challenge and it got me thinking out of the box. And for me, that’s what helps me grow.
As I mentioned in my last post, I intend to have a theme or central idea for my Kickstart weekly series. For this week, I wasn’t sure what that theme would be. I have a general list of ideas but wanted to be spontaneous I suppose so I ignored my list. There was a Pittsburgh Pirates game on Monday evening, the day I do my shooting for the following week’s post, so I knew the Roberto Clemente Bridge would be closed to vehicle traffic. I decided this would be a great location so I headed there to set up shop. It wasn’t long after checking out the scene and conditions that I had my idea. I’ve always wanted to portray just how much the position of your camera can impact a final image. In composition, perspective is key, and it can be changed in a variety of ways: you can take a few steps to your left or right, forward or backwards; you can rotate your body and/or camera a few degrees; you can angle the camera up or down; or you can keep your feet exactly where they are and just raise or lower your camera. The last options was the best choice for this “experiment” as I wanted to the center of the bridge to remain moderately close to the center or my image and moving from my chosen spot would have not afforded me the look I was going for. I created three images with three different camera heights and the results are three completely different images. At the end, please feel free to take my brief poll to let me know which of the 3 images you like best.
In my short adventure into blogging, I’ve made a substantial observation: blogging is a challenge to keep up with…for me at least. I always have the best of intentions of writing a post about each photo I take. I like to write and I love to take photos so it should seem only natural that accompanying my photos with a story behind them should come easily to me. And generally it does, but that story or blurb usually accompanies my post on my Facebook photo page for my daily photo.
My challenge to myself is to use this new (to me) blogging platform more frequently and effectively. That was and is the purpose of beginning this “Kickstart” series. My hope is that I force myself to get out and shoot each Monday, morning or evening, then come home and process the photos. I want to have a theme that I adhere to, albeit loosely in some cases, and I will summarize the session the following Monday with both my photos and a story. My hope is that by doing this I will expand my creativity by having a week to think up a theme, then one day to execute it, no matter the conditions. If conditions are ideal, then I should have no problem. If they are poor, I’ll think on my feet and hopefully come away with some new perspectives and solutions. I anticipate no problems as I have found that conditions are very often ideal. Except when they aren’t, which is almost ALWAYS! So…thinking on my feet it is!
Unfortunately, I have a feeling dealing with less than ideal conditions while shooting will be the least of my problems. Picking a theme, well that will be challenging at times, but I’ve got a list to work my way through already so no problem yet. Taking the photos? NO WAY…that’s the best and most fun part! Editing the photos? No, no problem there. My real challenge is going to be consistency and sticking to a schedule. I started this idea a month ago. As we all know, there are 4 weeks in a month and as this is only my 2nd Kickstart post, well…you get the idea. But, with some discipline and dedication, I truly believe this weekly project will help my greatly. So, without further ado, please enjoy this week’s Kickstart photos: Mount Washington at First Light.