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Monday, November 28, 2011

Choctaw's 7th Annual Powwow

On Saturday Stephen and I attended and photographed Choctaw's 7th annual Powwow.  First let me say that in my rush to find any clothing that would fit over my turkey bloated belly I grabbed one of Stephen's t-shirts and headed off to do some photography. Once we arrived and found our selves a place to dump our bags and jackets I suddenly found myself feeling extremely self conscious. What a complete moron I was to have grabbed one of Stephen's t-shirts with a huge British flag across the chest. I mean really who goes to an Indian event and advertises that the British are here!!!! I quickly grabbed $20 bucks from the ATM and purchased a really cute brown and pink Powwow t-shirt. Not that I am ashamed to have married a Brit. I for one love the fact that Stephen is British and most days I cope with his British ways fairly well (lol)  but I am not completely blind to the fact that the Indians lost a lot due to the British.  I did feel that flaunting a British flag at an Indian Powwow was a bit disrespectful and not at all my intention. Once I had corrected my error I found myself in complete awe of the events taking place around me. 

Partly I was feeling guilty about the fact that our children where missing out on such an amazing event, partly I was thinking that there was no way Ayden would stay in a stroller for 15 hours with this much excitement all around him and partly I was excited about the potential photographs.    I found myself, several times, staring in awe of the dances taking place before me, so captivated that I had to remind myself to take the photos. 

I am embarrassed to admit that I graduated high school with a class that was at least half Indians, I have family that are Indian, but I have little understanding of the traditional Powwow and what a lot of the stuff means. For instance each person had various stripes and designs painted on their faces and I have no idea what those symbols represent. As well each group of competitors had different wardrobes to wear and I don't know what each of them represent. As well there was an instance when one Indian's bustle (I only know it is a bustle because the MC said so) came unattached from his clothing and fell to the floor. I had no idea that there was a specific way that the bustle must be retrieved. In another instance a section of feathers fell onto the floor and another, but different, ritual was done to retrieve the feathers. I had no idea and found the entire thing fascinating.   
I noticed that through out the dances, quite often the dancers would have their heads down, almost as if in prayer. It had the feel of a religious reverence and in many ways could be very humbling.  

This is my favorite image of the head lowering portion of the dances. This particular man seemed to be so completely consumed by his dance and the meaning of it that he never even recognized my lens pointing at him.  I love those shots where the subject is so focused and so unconscious of the world around them.  

It was a long day but I honestly loved it, I could do this type of photography every day!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Interesting change in Falconry Photographs

Over the last couple years while Stephen was dragging me kicking and screaming into supporting him in his falconry adventures I have obsessively photographed his Redtails every time I get a chance. Last weekend We drove to Bartlesville, OK to take some senior portraits of the son of a friend. At the end of the day I got my first glimpse of a Falcon training. It all happened so quickly that I didn't think much about the situation or the bird really.  Today however we went to Ft. Worth so that Stephen could go hunting with a friend of his (Mario Nickerson) Now once again I am not a Falconer and only have a very dubious  connection to Falconry because Stephen is a Falconer, so mind you I may have terms incorrect.  I do believe that the above bird is a Harris Hawk???  anyway I found photographing him amazing and a bit different than my past experiences. First of all the above hawk (Jimmy) does not wear bells, in the last couple of years I have became accustom to following Stephen's hawks with my camera, partly relying on the bells to help me keep up with them. Because Jimmy has no bells I struggle to figure out where he was, where he was going or when he was moving. At the end of the day I was thinking "omg I now have to dig deeper into falconry to understand Harris Hawks if I want to anticipate possible moves and maybe get any shots!" How the heck it is that my complete delusions of   not supporting Stephen's ventures into the world of Falconry have evolved into me needing to know more I simply can't even begin to think about.  ( read my older blogs to understand my reasoning for outright hatred for Stephen's desire to become a Falconer and you will see I never had a chance here) It never fails Stephen gets a hobby and I get sucked in, that is just how it works.I need to find a really feminine hobby if I ever want to repay him for sucking me in all the time!

Any way, Mario's hawk was pretty quick and extremely quiet! I have to say I was super impressed at the end of Jimmy's hunt when we headed back to the car.  First of all this was our first face to face with Mario, and we all hopped into my car to head to the hunting area. So imagine my surprise when Mario said "30 second warning in a minute Jimmy will fly ahead of us and  back to the car" That comment wasn't the surprise, the surprise came when Jimmy flew back to our car! If we had of been in Mario's car then ok but this was  as strange car that Jimmy knew he came there in!  Even better was when Mario made Jimmy work for his treats and started throwing the bits in the air for Jimmy to go after. That few moments of tricks and bits gave me a chance to anticipate the hawk a bit better and resulted in the few good shots that I got for the day.  I have to say it was impressive and a huge Thanks to Mario!!

Now along the way I grabbed a couple shots of the scenery and a couple abstract shots where I purposely slowed the camera down to beyond slow and captured some weeds blowing in the wind. Not that you can tell what the subject is, but a slow shutter speed, bright yellow weeds and a hard wind makes an interesting abstract shot!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Photographs

Just a few images that I have taken for class this week. Finding creative overexposure to be quite interesting and useful!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nikon D7000

Recently I upgraded my Nikon D80 to a Nikon D7000. I chose the D7000 because reviews say that this camera is great for action shots, panning and tracking. I suppose it does a decent job of tracking if you are into soft images. However I want the above shot and I want the hawk's face and legs to be sharp, extremely sharp. I have probably taken a couple thousand photos with the D7000 so far, some in the field like this above image but a lot of studio shots and  I have to say that not one of the images, even from a tripod are sharp. I even purchased a new Nikon Lens just to be sure that the issue wasn't down to using older lenses but even with the new lens the images look great from a distance but are soft when viewed up close. The more research Stephen and I do the more it seems that there could be a calibration issue with the D7000. Now my first thought here is that for the price of the camera the darn thing should be calibrated and shooting sharp before it goes on the shelf for sale.  As things stand I am stuck on a class assignment that needs to be done right now but can't be done until I can mail the camera back to Nikon and get it sorted.  I just have to wonder at this point what kind of reputation Nikon will have if they continue to sell equipment that has to be returned upon purchase in order to be repaired?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Created these for one of my classes today.  Not so sure that I created what they wanted but I liked them anyway

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My View

 Stephen received a magazine in the mail the other day, some Falconry magazine that one of his friends had an article in. Oddly enough I swiped the magazine before he got to read it,  just because I noticed an article that was written by a Falconer's wife.  Now just because I have been in school for to long and I have an need to half hardheartedly site some sources; the magazine is American Falconry Volume 56,   page 44,  a story title "A Falconer's Wife" by Ann Kienholz Jurcevich.  Not that I am attempting MLA citing or anything but clarity and credit where it is due.

The story being written by a falconer's wife instantly caught my attention. Maybe because I am married to falconer....  The story is written well enough and has a bit of a funny twist, with that said I couldn't relate to the story. I felt sorry for the wife and her husband's lack of attention and I guess I have suffered from "falconry tunnel vision" a time or two over the last two years. But I think I vary from this wife because some how I got sucked in. I have said it before and I will say it again. I am not a falconer, I have never attempted to study for or take the test, I don't personally possess a hawk and I have no desire to deal with a hawk while it is killing and eating it's prey. Those things aside, you can't be married to or live in the same home as a falconer and not be affected by falconry.  This is my view and my story about how I got sucked in.......

Not only has Stephen's three hawks given me a couple of great photographic opportunities, which I have from time to time posted in my blog, but there is the matter of trapping. Now any adrenaline junkie would be hard pressed to pass on trapping day.  I openly admit that I went kicking and screaming into the role of "falconer's wife" I wasn't happy that the muse was built where my storage shed was suppose to be built.

As I said earlier I have suffered from some of the "falconry tunnel vision" myself. In fact the muse was not only built where my storage shed was suppose to go, he chose the worse time ever to build the muse. See I had just had a pretty major surgery with some serious complications, so I had to be off work without pay for a couple of months. Realistically loosing my income for two months should have been a serious reason to forgo the expense of building a muse.  However Stephen figured if he built the muse while  I was mostly  unconscious maybe...just maybe I wouldn't notice that the muse had been built where my storage shed should be standing.  Needless to say I seriously had no intention of even acknowledging that Stephen was doing falconry because I was so mad at him over the muse, he didn't even have a hawk yet and I was royally pissed.

However Stephen had a trick up his sleeve. We had taking the early stages of our relationship really slow, during that time we discussed a lot of stuff, including the fact that neither of our previous spouses seemed to be interested in even learning the basics about the things that we were interested in let alone supporting us in chasing our dreams. So in one of those sappy moments we promised that if either of us had an interest the other would at least attempt to be involved, then if we hate it we can opt out of participating but we have to give it a chance first.  Some how I have not  to date  enforced this promise on Stephen, but he has done so to me a few times. The photography I went into willingly, the falconry and bee keeping he pulled the "but you promised" card and I got sucked in.

Stephen had been building up to "permit day" for what seemed like a lifetime. Basically he had passed his test for his falconry permit and was waiting for the permit. I heard the "you promised" speech a thousand times during that waiting period.  Then his permit came in and he didn't say a word to me, I found out because I heard him telling his sponsor on the phone. He rushed around and was gone trapping before I could ask him where he was going or even grab my camera. Now mind you that I was not exactly recovered from this surgery, I wasn't exactly able to chase after him.  I was even more determined at this point to really not support the falconry, how the heck is he going to guilt me into supporting  his hobby and then run out the door and leave me sitting there, I mean come on I hobbled through OKC for two days when I could barely walk so that he could take his test but he didn't take me trapping with him. I was done with falconry before it ever really began.

Admittedly Stephen realized his mistake after I pointed out his errors.... ok this is a man thing that is grossly enhanced when your husband is a falconer, especially when it is their first trapping attempt.... no excuses though he ditched me....  Once Stephen calmed down he realized that he can't pull the "you promised" card and then totally ditch me because that voids the promise and he isn't dumb enough to think I wouldn't recover from surgery and get some payback.

Over the next few days Stephen took me trapping in the evenings, well he trapped and I drove. This really wasn't much fun and I wasn't in any way convinced that I should be supportive, but see we were not seeing many hawks and not trapping any.  Then the weekend rolled around and Stephen's sponsor, Steve, decided that this hunting with out trapping pretty much sucked. The whole point in trapping is to trap a  hawk that is young enough to be kept, so we had been driving around for days and days looking at old hawks, and not trapping anything. Steve basically decided that we were going to trap the first hawk that would get on the trap because Stephen needed to experience a trapping or two before he went out trapping on his own.

Now this is where they hooked me, this is where Stephen started pulling me into supporting him. Trapping is a lot like fishing. If the fish are biting its just flat out fun but when the fish aren't biting it is the most boring thing ever. Same goes for trapping if you are driving all day and not trapping or even trying to trap anything its so mind numbing it makes you want to drive into oncoming traffic just to be doing something besides driving and looking at empty telephone poles. Everything changes when your passenger throws out a trap though.  Here is how it works.... you drive by slow enough to not kill the bait when they through it out but fast enough to not scare off the hawk. This is easier said than done because a wild  hawk is scared of people but most of them are used to cars driving by fairly fast. If you are going to fast, they have to through the trap a little to hard and fast and well that is not always good for the bait. In our case this was a hamster. The bait not only needs to live because we have children who want to keep it as a pet, but hawks tend to go for live moving hamsters not dead ones.

Once the trap is thrown out you have to drive a good distance from the hawk and trap, turn the car around and wait. Just like fishing, your sitting on the bank waiting for a bite, only in this case everyone else is watching the hawk on top of the pole with binoculars. I don't watch with binoculars when I am driving because it is really hard to safely peel out and drive like a nut to the trap if your looking through binoculars. I don't need binoculars anyway, I can see this hawk swoop down onto the trap and I can see it jumping around in an attempt to get off the trap, but most importantly all the people with binoculars will be screaming at the top of their lungs "go! go! go!" I don't need binoculars I have a pretty good idea when it is time to go.

From that first day when we trapped the first hawk that we saw, I was hooked on trapping, as long as we are trapping something, anything really, I am up before Stephen and in the car with my foot on the gas before he ever gets in the car. Its just plain old fun. I have talked Stephen into trapping in the snow, I have driven for hours on end just to get to places where hawks might be at. He hooked me with trapping.

Then there is training, as I said before I am not interested in hunting with the hawk. In fact I have rarely went on hunts with Stephen, because I don't care to see the hawk catch it's prey. Training on the other hand is almost as fun as trapping.  It's a matter of getting this hawk to fly from it's perch to your arm. The hawk won't want to do this at first but once he realized there is food on the glove he will fly at Stephen at a high rate of speed and land hard on the glove. Not only is this amazing to see but extremely challenging to photograph.  Any person with an interest in photography would be hard pressed to pass up the chance to photograph a hawk flying by your face at 30 miles an hour (that is a guess I don't know the actual speed).

I suppose my entire point here is that Jurcevich wrote a story about how her husband had ignored her because of his falconry, however my view is that if you get involved in  falconry, a non falconer, spouse of a falconer, could get just as much enjoyment out of falconry as the falconer does! In fact, Stephen has almost completed all of his "molting season to-do list" and I am ready for him to start working with Shilo, I got a new camera and need to try it out on Shilo...

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A matter of uneducated opinion

As always I have been neglecting my blog because of school, work and life in general. I happen to be about to finish two classes that both required photos each week. So I have been taking a lot, but not so many that I was excited enough about to come write a blog. Until today, well yesterday but the motivation came today.

One of my classes required us to take a series of images each week and submit them to the instructor only, the rest of the class did not see any of them until this week. The point of the series is to either create a series of images that could be used in a advertisement campaign or a series of images in a journalistic style. At the end we will choose 8 images from all of the course that are appropriate for the style we chose to shoot in.

Considering that more than one of my instructors have told me that they struggle to get me to shoot a series of images outside of a journalistic style, which I have never done intentionally it just happens that way, I choose to do the journalistic style and use Stephen's hawk to create  a series of photos that pretty much represents falconry through the spouses eyes, because I am no falconer but I live with one and believe me not being a falconer does not prevent falconry from taking over the spouse's life.

Late last night I posted my set of images from this week. Here they are:

There are three additional photos of the hawk having dinner, Stephen ask me not to post them so I won't. Really those three images were a huge step across a line that I have not crossed before. I never stick around for feeding, I don't care to deal with feeding, to see it or photograph it. Stephen fed the hawk and I didn't realize what he had done until I had already snapped a few shots. I included those three images in my post to my instructor because realistically the hawk eats, it is part of nature and something that a falconer must deal with, and something that the falconer's family must learn to live with.

Any way, you get the general idea here, its photos all about the hawk.   My instructor's response was this:

What you need to work on is the composition. When you shoot close up images, you will really need to pay attention on every detail in the frame. Take a look at George Reis’s assignment for this week. He has shot his airplane model in variety that will make the story more interesting. His carefully cropped images are great as well, and he chose the frame and DOF to bring the viewer’s eye to the center focus of the image.

You can use the same approach with hawk. Image1_1 is a slightly underexposed but handsome image of hawk.  This image is earthestically successful because of the diagonal line that the hawk’s feather and entire face create. Image 2 needs more structural element like image 1. While keeping the artistic composition, you also need to illustrate what it is in the image so the viewer who does not know the subject you are shooting can understand what it is. Image3 can work in the project as long as it has the same concept as other images. Image3_1 seems good for the composition, and the mouse does not look too bad there.

So now I feel compelled to post the images that she wanted me to "look" at. First let me say this, George Reis is a student in one of my classes, he has posted some amazing work, and a couple of my other instructors always post previous student's assignments as an example of how our assignment should be assembled. George's assignments seem to be a favorite among many of my instructors and with good reason. He does pretty good work and my argument here has nothing to do with the quality of his work, because I personally have really liked the work that I have seen. So here are the images:

Now bear in mind that the assignment could either be an advertisement or a journalistic style. It is obvious to me that George went for the advertisement style of images. He did in deed capture great images of his product.  However he is shooting clean shots to depict the product that would be for sale. I am shooting a story that informs the viewer about the subject. So George has three close up images, dead on shots, good images but if I was reading a story or listening to a wild life channel, these three images wouldn't add a lot of character, they are product shots, straight forward, white background, even light, perfect for showing the viewer what they would get if they purchased the product, not so great for showing the character of the product. Do these images say, I am mysterious or dangerous, no that is not the intent nor the result. Now I have three close up images of Shilo's face. I chose more contrasty light to show character, not that she disputed the light, she said my composition was off and should be more like George's composition, well umm I am not selling a product, I am showing character, straight forward images on white background with even light wouldn't show that. She also said my first image is under exposed, well that is a matter of opinion, and not my opinion what so ever.

Moving on, George has three images that are not so close in and have a longer depth of field, in other words the entire image is in focus. My images are of Shilo's feet, showing his talons and jessies.The instructor indicated that I needed " to illustrate what it is in the image so the viewer who does not know the subject you are shooting can understand what it is" I took this to mean that a viewer not familiar with a hawk wouldn't know what the images were of. Now this is where my mouth fell open. Well before Stephen trapped a live hawk, even before he bought 101 books about hawks, hell before I met Stephen, when I was in 2nd grade, I could have looked at those three images and knew right away that those were the feet of a bird, a bird with very large claws. Does the instructor think that my viewers are un-intelligent, two year olds that don't know what a birds foot looks like? Hello even my 2 year old knows that Shilo's feet have claws and can hurt you! If my instructor or any other viewer looks at these three images and don't know that they are the feet of a bird of some sort, they should go back to elementary school and review their science book because I feel sure that this was covered before I moved on to middle school. Not to mention that these assignments are suppose to be done in a manor as if we had been hired for a shoot and needed to produce the images for the client. They are suppose to be images usable in real life. So let us be realistic here. The average joe is not going to hire someone to take photos of a hawk in order to sell their air plane, coffee or toy cars. Someone hiring a photographer to capture images of a hawk is going to be doing some project related to hunting, falconry or wildlife. These people would hopefully want images that captured the significant details about the subject. Ask any falconer and I think you will find that the hawk's feet and those leather thingies and bells around his leg are pretty damn important to the subject . (that would be bells and jessies Stephen, I do know the name but apparently my instructor don't have a clue)

I can't even be bothered to read the rest of her comments or to respond to them. The bottom line is, if you want to tell me I should shoot more like someone else maybe it would be a good idea to pick a student that chose the same style for the assignment as I did. You can't compare advertisement photography to journalistic photography it is apples and oranges, both very important and both have potential of amazing photography but they are different things, used differently and done differently. Not to mention that from day one, over a year ago, when I started this degree in photography there has been huge weight put into the idea that we each need to develop our own style of shooting and our own creative view of every subject, well damn it, this is my view of falconry from a spouses stand point, if you don't want to see the images of a hawk eating a mouse and you are not impressed with the subject you had a chance in week 1 (5 weeks ago) to tell me then that the subject was not appropriate for the course and I could have been giving these images to my other instructor and you could have got the freaking images of flowers growing in my yard!

On that note I did take a couple of shots of flowers in my yard, then per my class assignment I altered them in PhotoShop, so completely off the topic here are a couple of those images too!