Monday, May 2, 2011

Photo-A-Week: Tree

So I decided to be a bit humorous with this weeks theme. I am not an avid landscape photographer, don't get me wrong I like it there's just not much time in my life to go for a LONG walk anymore. I would love for there to be, but alas... My point is when given the topic of Tree for photo of the week my mind goes crazy trying to think of what to capture. I don't really know a lot of locations for cool tree shots, (that's a subtle way of me saying I don't get out much) at least not ones that you can find 1000 pictures on Flickr of the same shot (Arch grounds).

I do have one tree I am focusing a seasonal series on in my town but, it's not quite at the spring shot that I want yet, the grass has a bit more to grow before it's the shot I want. So remove that one from the list of possible subjects. I looked all week while commuting around St Louis but nothing really jumped out at me as the shot I wanted to use for the theme. Then... inspiration.

The church I run sound for is at the corner of Tower Grove and Shaw Avenue in St Louis, so it's right across the corner from the Missouri Botanical Gardens. The Shaw neighborhood is full of artwork and unique displays, some even hard to see if you're not looking. Like this week's photo.

The Treehugger project installed a display at the corner of Shaw and Vandeventer in 2010, many of you have probably seen these unique sculptures. Agnieszka Gradzik and Wiktor Szostalo are the artists behind the Treehugger Project.

I thought while driving by that a tree hugger was just as good as a tree shot. I mean it does have a tree in it... right?


Saturday, April 23, 2011

New Lens: Sigma 50mm 1.4

It has been a crazy few weeks for me. Between IT work, planning and setting up sound for Easter at TWAS and closing up our Ultimate Graduate Giveaway at Open Sky Studios I feel like I haven't touched my camera at all. So when my new Sigma 50mm 1.4 showed up Thursday of this week I knew I was going to make time for it this weekend.

I was really excited to get this lens it's the smallest aperture prime I have ever owned. Olympus doesn't make a prime below 2.0 so I had to go with Sigma to get the little bit wider aperture, and I am very happy I did.

Heres a couple shots of the lens and one of our new hen and chicks plants to show you how narrow narrow the depth of field is at 1.4 from about 6 feet away.




One of the main reasons I wanted a very wide aperture prime is to be able to have a narrow depth of field when shooting portraits, especially when you do location shoots. It's always a pain when you get back to the computer and see those pesky power lines in the background. Narrow depth of field is a very effective way to force focus on the subject of your picture without having the viewer start looking around at all the other elements in the picture that are sharp as well. Another great thing about narrow depth of field is bokeh. Bokeh is a Japanese word and basically means the aesthetic quality of blur. You can use blur as a very creative element in your photography. Which is what me and my children set out to do in the basement this evening.

I have always been attracted to blurred lights in the background. Duh, look at the background to my blog right? So the background on the blog was created in Photoshop from a tutorial I learned over at Abduzeedo, but I am very excited to be able to create these types of images now with a fast prime lens. We put up a small fast setup with a quick background, some Christmas globes from the holidays, a single flash, a reflector, a lovely model and a nice wide open prime lens. All in all we had about 45 minutes with set up, shots, then tear down.

I'm pleased, how about you?


And for you photographers who read here's a pull back view of the whole shebang.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Photo-A-Week: Mess

This week's theme was supposed to be Spring / Autumn, but for any of my readers in St. Louis you know we are about a week early for that theme. So we'll postpone it till the dogwoods bloom. So instead we will have an appearance by one of Open Sky Studios favorite toddlers. This past week on St. Patrick's Day marked Cayden's 1st birthday. And everyone knows the only way to celebrate a birthday is with cake.

Without giving away too much about our fun session with Cayden, you'll have to keep an eye on the Open Sky Studios blog to see the full post on our fun cake session, we had a lot of fun. Of course there was mess.

P.S. here's a sneak peek at our Russell's Bakery custom My Baby Steps birthday cakes. Also, keep an eye on the Open Sky blog for a feature on Russell's and their amazing butter cream icing.

I love the look on Cayden's face here. It's as if to say, "But you told me to make a mess!"


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Photo-A-Week: Underneath

Every time you go to the Arch in St. Louis you can find people taking pictures of the massive monument. I recently saw a shot of the Arch on a friend of mine's portfolio that had a perspective I had never seen before. So right up front, sorry Lee for stealing your idea :) Well at least at the time I thought it was unique to my friend. Little did I know it looks like I may be the last one in on this little trick.

This weekend the family and I went downtown for the St. Patty's Day parade. My son gets to walk in the parade with the rest of the St. Baldrick's participants, and family gets to come too. It's a great experience and a post about that will be coming soon. Any whoosie. After the parade we planned a picnic by the Arch where I was going to get my weekly theme shot. As I watched all the people around the Arch I saw several people with cameras walk out to the middle of the field directly under the Arch and point their cameras up at the sky. I sort of felt like a silly goose thinking that I had stumbled upon something only a few had thought about, but as I said earlier it looks like I am the odd man out. 

Not anymore! I am part of the crowd that has snapped this cool photo. What really strikes me about it is at first I thought it was a body of water with the reflection in the water. Then upon seeing the windows in the top of the Arch I realized it wasn't. Just for a moment though it can play a trick on the eyes. I like that.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Photo-A-Week: Bald

Last week's theme got hijacked for a very special event in our lives at the Eaton house. Last week's theme was Vegetables but we changed it to Bald. Every year for the last four years my son has participated in a shave-a-thon with an organization called the St. Baldrick's Foundation. St. Baldrick's is an amazing organization that focuses on helping find a cure for children's cancer. Matthew has lost two grandmas and a friend at school to cancer and his heart knows that he can make a difference just by collecting money to shave his head and he does it every year; him and 400 other individuals just in the St. Louis area alone. Last year St. Baldrick's was the largest grant provider for children's cancer research second to the U.S. Government.

St. Baldrick's has lots of reasons to be proud of the participants that sign up every year. But I want to focus on just one participant for a bit and how proud I am of him. The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver, "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor 9:7) That scripture has always raised the question in me, what is a cheerful giver? I mean who really is cheerful about giving things away. It's always a bit of an internal struggle when we think about what we could do with our time and money to benefit ourselves and then whether we should give that to someone or something else. I personally am prone to use two lines when I am asked for money or time. Let me check my budget or let me check my schedule. Then I am prone to look hard at each of them and think what I could do with that time or money that would benefit me first. I could go to the store then or use that money to get that new DVD player for the house... the list literally goes on and on. 

Over the last few years my heart has been changed by Christ and I have been given more opportunity in my life now to contemplate that scripture than ever before. Being a father means having the responsibility to make the name Dad look good. Too many children today don't have good daddy's. Which means you have to example for your children what love looks like. Meaning if God loves a cheerful giver then you purpose in your heart to show your children what that looks like. So, you begin to change yourself hoping that your children see it and are motivated to follow.

My view of that scripture changed four years ago when my son came home and put a piece of paper down on the kitchen table and said "Dad I'm going to do this". It wasn't a request he didn't say 'can I' or 'will you let me', it was, I have purposed in my heart that I am going to do this. The piece of paper was a flier about the second annual St. Baldrick's event at his elementary school. I asked him why he wanted to participate, mostly because I wanted to see if he had a reason beyond it seems like fun or some other child like answer. He said, with empathy and compassion with a real sense or purpose in his voice, "Because cancer sucks Dad and I can do something about it." 

A father loves a cheerful giver. I now understand.

Since that day my son has taken me on a journey that has let us meet new people and experience a blessing of joy that can not be found anywhere else than in the service of others. To see so many selflessly give is an encouragement to the heart, especially in these times. And the women who come out and shave full head fulls of hair is amazing. There were 40 kids from my son's school this year, 40 KIDS!!!

Our pastor said it best when talking about my son's compassion. "Empathetic people are people who look at your problem and say 'I feel your pain'. Compassionate people look at your problem and say 'I feel your pain, and I'm going to do something about it." That encompasses not only my son but every participant, volunteer, barber and financial contributor to St. Baldrick's. 

So the photo a week this week is bald because that's what my son is... BALD!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Photo-A-Week: Dinner

So I'm a little late this week, but well worth it. At least for my stomach anyway. Last week's theme was dinner and tonight was time for me to make dinner, since I had President's Day off work and my wife did not. We decided to dig into our new Trader Joe's Dinner's Done cookbook and see what we found. Usually it's just trying to find a recipe that we already have everything in the house. Tonight we hit the jackpot for flavor.

Both of these dishes were packed full of yummy goodness, as my family so affectionately terms delicious food. First is the Kinda-Greek Salad this dish has grilled chicken in it but could easily be a vegetarian dish by removing the chicken or substituting it with some grilled tofu.

Second is the Roasted Asparagus with Tomatoes and Feta. Asparagus being one of our favorite vegetables, needless to say this one went over smashingly. My youngest daughter who doesn't even like tomatoes couldn't resist one covered in feta, salt, pepper, garlic and tasting faintly of asparagus.

These recipes and bunches more in the book are really simple to make. The Trader Joe's Cookbook is becoming one of our favorites.

Now for some mouth watering photography.




Sunday, February 13, 2011

Photo-A-Week: Body Parts

This week's theme is really a broad topic. I struggled with this one because I wasn't sure what to write about, more less what picture to take. It seemed weird to write about the body part I was taking pictures of, that seemed a bit too intimate. I mean who wants to read me go on and on about someone's fingers? After some thinking I decided it would might be helpful for me to talk about how important body parts can be in photography, especially in photojournalism.

Photojournalism attempts to tell a story in pictures. Pictures of details tell a lot about a story and when wanting to tell a story about people, body parts add detail that brings that story to life. I greatly enjoy detail photography. You'll usually find me at a wedding hovering over hands taking pictures of jewelery or subtle touches between the bride and groom. At the baby portrait session I'm the one taking pictures of feet and little hands. I am often drawn to the detail shots of most of my favorite photographers, especially when they are creative.

Mostly what I wanted to do this week is challenge any photographers that read this blog is to take some detail pictures, especially body parts. Get some shots of your children's hands playing with Play-doh, or take some shots of the years of experience that are written in your grandmother's hands.  Look for the details and you just might find there's more to the story.

And to prove I took a body parts picture this week here's lookin at you.