Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rappaccini the Cat

Today, since my attempt to add a red onion to my "Produce Roll Call" series failed, I give you Rappaccini.  My evil cat.  But today his evilness was tolerated because he became my last minute photo opportunity.  Without him, I would be forced to go to bed much later than I would like to, well, either that or fail to upload something today.  So I thank him.
Enjoy the inquisitive yet solacious kitty. 

Curious Cat
He is a fantastic stinkbug hunter.  Perhaps he heard the flapping of some stinkbug wings and is now prepping himself for the deadly pounce.
 You Hussy
Don't let him fool you.  He will rip your heart out and eat it for breakfast. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chopped, Sliced, Diced

A new manifestation of my "Produce Roll Call" series has begun.  This series will feature sections of vegetables and fruit.  I'm yet to decide if each photo will have the full piece of produce in it, just cut up in some way, but today's does.

Avocado Cross-Section TTV
This avocado went directly from the photo shoot onto some vegan rice and mushroom burgers.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Velo Transit

The last time my wife and I were out biking, for a split second we were going at the same speed and everything surrounding her and her bike was blurred.  She was the static part of the scene and though this happens all the time when you are looking at a moving object, I knew the next time we could get on bikes I would have my camera ready.  Well, today was a warmer day than the last few, so we went for a ride, and I tried awfully hard not to fall over while biking with no hands and looking through a viewfinder on a camera.

No Lies
Though I can't prove that I wasn't just standing there taking pictures, you can look at her spokes and see that she at least was definitely moving at a decent pace.  Getting a sharp image of someone speeding by while standing would be impressive as well, but you will just have to trust me, I was flailing around on a moving bike while shooting all of these. 

A Crack in the Road
The blur, focal point, colors, and cracked concrete make this image look like the earth is opening up, ready to swallow the bike and rider.  But no, more so, it's just what happens when you attempt to focus on a moving bike and miss entirely. 

Speed Demon
For whatever reason, the bike in this photo actually looks like it's going faster than the bike in the other photos.  The strange part being that you can actually better make out the spokes in this one than some of the others.   

  Through the Alleyway
Here is a normal photo of a portion of my wife making her way through the alleyway behind our house.  She adores that bike basket.

Monday, March 28, 2011


It's chilly outside.  This is not the weather I would like to end March with.  I'd even take rainy days if it meant that the temperature wasn't cold enough for a prediction of snow on Friday.  But no, it's chilly out there and I'm not in the mood to venture out into it.  So today's pictures feature the inside of my house.  Here is the first picture...

The Study
It goes without saying that if you have upwards of 700 shelved books in a room, you have a study.  Especially if that room is less than 15x15 feet.  I have a study.  

The next picture really doesn't count because it's a photo of my photos.  
I spent much of my free time today matting and framing three of my photos.  All three are for the same customer. Two of the photos are from this site, you might recognize them from an earlier post.  The other one is from my actual shop.  He was looking at this site and liked them so much that he checked out my other site, and shazaam....I sold three photos.  I consider this awesome because these photos are really not my best work.  They are just part of a project to keep me shooting.  But hey, I'm definitely not complaining.

Framed, Matted, and Hung
I always end up hanging my sold photos until I have a chance to deliver or mail them out.  I figure it's a nice, safe, out of the way place.  Plus, they should probably get used to hanging on a wall.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Produce Roll Call

I finished it today: my 'produce through the viewfinder' series.  Well, I finished the first installment of it, at least.  In creating it, I ended up with a few more ideas that I really like.  I'm thinking there will at least be one more installment of four photos.  For now though, we have ginger, tomatillo, purple garlic, and yellow onion.  Sadly, after creating the two new ones today, I realized the older ones don't really match up with the current vibe I was feeling.  So today's images are all new images, all created today.

Produce Roll Call
I was told by my brother that these photos resemble still life paintings.  I can definitely see what he meant by that.  The backgrounds remind me of a Van Gogh flower pot painting, they always have a very distinct line separating the table/floor and wall.

Even though it was awfully cold today, my wife and I wanted to get out for a little.  We ended up going to Middle Creek, a place we frequent...well, frequently.  We meandered for a little, saw a woodchuck, a bald eagle, a beautiful bluebird and some goats on the way home.  We also passed an old barn that I thought needed to be photographed.  

Bricks and Glass
It wasn't until after I got home and was editing the photo that I realized there is something rather strange in the window.  What is that thing?  It looks like a tarp surrounding a canoe.  That is my best guess.

BNR - Buy n' Replace

I woke up to a wonderful surprise today.  One of my favorite photos was used in a BNR on etsy.  A BNR is a bunch of items in which when you buy one of those items, one of your items replaces it.
Hopefully there are a few people out there that like the photo that was chosen as much as I do, and will result in a sale or two for me!  That would be excellent.  But mind you, you don't have to buy the item that is featured in order to get your item in.  You can buy any item from any of the featured shop owner's shops.  Pretty sweet.  Check it out...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tomatillo Through the Viewfinder

I'm continuing with my produce through the viewfinder series today.  I found a nice tomatillo and thought it would work well with yesterday's purple garlic.  My wife said that if this series continues to look the way these last two shots are looking, we should frame and hang them in the kitchen.  I suppose we shall see how the following photos turn out.  I already have the produce for the third shot, delicious ginger.  I will need to do at least four photos to make the series look good on a wall together...let me know if you have a good idea for the fourth shot.

Yesterday's purple garlic and today's tomatillo.  I see fantastic salsa verde in my future.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Purple Garlic Through the Viewfinder

I've been wanting to do a series based on whole produce.  Very simple images with the main focus on a single piece of produce.  I saw this beautiful bulb of purple garlic today and knew it was time to start the series.  I'm yet to come up with a good name for it, so far "Produce Roll Call" is the pending title.  Any suggestions for a better name?

Purple Garlic
I used the Through the Viewfinder technique for this image.  To learn more about this technique check out my post entitled "My Backyard."  This garlic will not last long in my kitchen, I'd give it two days.  Tops.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Abstract Days

Every so often I have an abstract day.  I'm not a fan.  Basically, I can't come up with a good idea for a subject, or the subject that I come up with just isn't cutting it, so I end up breaking down that or another subject and call is abstract photography.  By no means is it high-brow abstract art.  It's just something that I think looks cool, and will suffice until I actually photograph the subject in the way I originally intended but for whatever reason failed at. 
My guitar has been the source of many of these days.  I want an unique shot of it, something that has never been done, or at least that I've never seen...but no.  Everything I come up with is fairly mundane.  And so, abstract guitar.  

Hot Air Balloon Sunset
 The guitar strings create what looks like a linear pattern on what could be a hot air balloon against a fiery sunset.  

Sometimes She Comes to Me in a Song
A very soft and gentle take on something that is capable of spewing out piercing distortion.  The first thing I thought of when I saw the end result was the song "Lifetime" by the Bouncing Souls...don't know why that was the first thing, but it seemed appropriate to make the title a line from it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Three Tillandsias

Nothing special today.
I've been working on a big photo order for someone, so I didn't have any extra time to go in search of a great subject to photograph.  I was lucky to have the subject delivered to my door.  I had ordered a couple Tillandsias for my sister's birthday, and they came today.  Sure makes my life easier.

Three Tillandsias
Better known as Air Plants.  Too bad I have to give them away.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beautifying the Ugly

I can't say I find them ugly, but there are strange bud-like things in my backyard that appear dead.  They have a paper thin petal that looks like a dried autumn leaf, minus the vibrant colors.  I can only assume a few people would consider them ugly. 
I decided to do everything I could to make them beautiful.  Here is the result.  Did I succeed?

Reaching Bud
The color contrast and soft edges make the image much less offensive than the actual bud.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Watchmaker Analogy Series

I have been working on a photo series for a while now.  I like what I have so far, but I don't feel like I'm quite done with it yet.  I thought I had decent enough inspiration for another photo for the series, but alas, I was dreadfully wrong.  I have been working with the idea all evening, created a few setups and hated everything I came up with.  This is the best of the bunch...nothing special at all, but it's today's photo.  deal with it.

A Failed Candidate for The Watchmaker Analogy Series
Maybe I will just have to consider the series complete.  I don't think this image really fits with the rest of it anyway.  

Here's more information about the series, and to to see the decent images from it check out the photos that have the series name in their title over here at Next2Hector's Etsy Shop
I have been working on a photo series entitled The Watchmaker Analogy. The Divine Watchmaker Analogy is a teleological argument that William Paley (philosopher) made famous. It explains that if you were to stumble across a watch out in nature, you would assume there must be a watchmaker. Like wise, with a universe thousands of times more complex than a watch, one would assume there must be a creator of that as well. Though it has been dissected and countered by many great minds, Darwin, Hume, and Dawkins to name a few, it is still an interesting analogy that, if nothing else, lends itself to an interesting photo series.

Here is an excerpt from Paley's book "Natural Theology" (1802)

"In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. (...) There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. (...) Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation."

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Iron Furnaces, a Prisoner of War Camp that then became a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, and Hessian Barns.  For the large amount of Appalachian Trail that I have hiked, I have never come across so many historical remains concentrated in one place.  To avoid my giving you a (possibly incomplete or inaccurate) history lesson, I'd recommend researching any of the following mentioned locations: Pine Grove Iron Furnace, Camp Michaux, CCC Camp, POW camp, etc.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park's Iron Furnace
We started our hike from within this state park.  This is a 19th century iron furnace.

Hessian Barn
We then had to search all over in order to find this 18th century (possibly) Hessian Barn.  Our directions were not very good at all.

CCC Camp
We then, following our instincts, took a random path off the AT and stumbled across this 1930s CCC Camp. This was a drinking water dam.  During World War II, the US military began to use this location as an interrogation camp for German and Japanese Prisoners of War. 

CCC Fountain
This beautiful fountain was hidden deep in the woods, far from the main path.  We turned a corner and suddenly it was in front of us.

The central section of the fountain had a ring of slag, which is the byproduct of producing iron.  It works wonders as a decorative rock.     

The Results

The results are in.
My experiment, though the conditions were not perfect, seemed to prove that the moon was not noticeably different from Saturday to Sunday.  You will have to pardon the branches and stuff in front of the moon, but in order to get it at 8:00pm, I just had to hope that the branches wouldn't affect the results.  I can't see how they would.  I was at a shelter on the Appalachian Trail at 8:00, and had no intentions of hiking a mile one way or the other to locate a clearing.  Here's what I have...

 Clear Sky, Unclear Skyline
The outline of the moon is pretty clear.  If only I wasn't surrounded by trees, the shot would have been perfect.  Note: this is the only time you will ever hear my complain about being surrounded by trees.

Here is Saturday's moon superimposed over Friday's.  The outlines match up perfectly.  I definitely don't see a difference in size.  Perhaps there was a difference in luminosity, but the tree branches may have screwed that part of my experiment up. 

The earlier part of my day was spent hiking a small trail with my wife that brought us to some vernal ponds and then we hopped on the Appalachian Trail and did about 6 miles before we found a good place to camp.

Vernal Pond
It's fairly crazy to be hiking through the woods and suddenly come upon a pond right in the middle of the path.  These ponds are only a few inches deep but have some strange animals and plants living in them.  Need proof? Look up Fairy Shrimp.

Eggs, Lots of Them
The only animal life we saw were eggs.  They were everywhere.  These Vernal Ponds will be filled with frogs soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

An Experiment

I will be away this weekend.  I will be hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Sadly, though it is something I will accomplish before I die, I will not be hiking the entirety of it this weekend. 
My wife and I are going to Pine Grove Furnace State Park for some excellent hiking and photo opportunities.  It is considered the mid-point for thru-hikers of the AT, but it is also rich with history of its own.  I'm not going to go into details right now, for I am sure on my return there will be a history lesson accompanying my pictures, but suffice it to say: near the park is a once-secret WWII Prisoner of War Camp that housed 2500 German and Japanese POWs during its operation. Now, the woods of the surrounding area are in the process of reclaiming the land.  Interesting, right?  We sure think so...this state park combines our interests perfectly, nature and history.
The point I was trying to make in all of that rambling, was that Saturday, March 19th will come and go without an update.  Sunday will have two updates and probably a bunch of awesome pictures.

Today's picture is connected with my weekend plans.  Part of my desire to get out and camp this weekend is because the moon will be pretty massive on Saturday night.  Technically, it won't be any bigger than it is now, but the way we perceive it, it will actually appear to be 14 percent larger.  Also brighter.  This is due to the moon's orbit, it happens every month.  But this month is special, it's closest point in it's orbit will fall on a full moon.  It will be the biggest it has appeared to be since 1993.
So, my question is how different will it really appear to be?  The estimate is 14 percent, but will that really be noticeable?  Well, I'm going to attempt to find out just what the difference in tonight and tomorrow night's moon really is.  I'm going to use an 85mm lens on both nights, I'm going to use the exact same ISO, the same f-stop, and the same shutter speed.  I'm going to crop it, alter clarity and change the contrast all in the same way.  The only thing I can't keep exactly the same is the surrounding lights.  Tonight's moon will be in a more suburban area where as tomorrow night's will be out in the woods.  Maybe I'll make my way into a parking lot or something to take tomorrow's.  I'll do what I can to replicate tonight's surroundings.  Here is the moon on Friday, March 18th.  Make sure to check out Sunday's update for the results of my experiment. 

Friday's Moon
I cropped tightly in order to see just how much of the frame is filled with Saturday's moon. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On Cropping and Panoramas

I'm going to start with the picture this time, no annoying words keeping you from seeing the point of this blog...

Antique Fire Truck/Bridge
This is fantastic.  The subject of this photo appears to be a fire truck.  A beautiful old one at that.  But it is so much more than that, too!  It seems like this was either purchased so it could be used as a bridge over the little river, or (even stranger) was just lying around and the owners realized it would make a great bridge.  This makes me want to be 8 years old so badly.  I would have spent the better portion of every free day climbing on the back of the truck and then across the ladder/bridge.  Did I mention that this is just in someone's backyard?  Who needs a jungle gym or swing set when you have an ancient fire truck to climb on?

I shot this photo with an 85mm lens.  This definitely would not have been my lens of choice for the occasion, but it was the one I had on me at the time.  There was no way I was going to pass up this photo opportunity, that's for sure.  But yes, a wide angle would have been much better, as would getting much closer.  And so, I shall go back to this area with a wide angle, and I shall knock on the door and ask them if I could get up close.  (I've learned that if you tell people you are more than willing to give them a beautiful print of whatever you want to shoot, they readily accept...give it a try).
I am lucky enough to have a pretty decent camera, as well as a pretty decent lens, so even though the lens wasn't what I would have used, had I had the chance to choose, I was able to make my end result something I am pretty pleased with.  What I did was crop the image in such a way that you get an understanding of what the ladder is being used as without having a ton of negative space.  I cropped tightly around the fire truck and left just enough water so you could tell that it was indeed being used as a bridge.  If my camera or lens were not that good, the end result would have been much more pixelated or fuzzy.  
There is another option, though.  One that I didn't even think of at the time.  I could have shot a few images and blended them together.  This would allow me to fill each frame with much more truck, and I could have taken however many necessary to get all of the ladder as well.  This would have been a much better option, but one, I didn't think of it at the time, two, I didn't have a tripod (which would definitely be necessary for a panoramic shot like this), and three, I couldn't get any closer.  So, I worked with what I had at the time and made it work, but next time I will return with a different lens, a tripod, and a smile that will hopefully get me permission to photograph a stranger's backyard!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Backyard

Cellar door is a phrase considered by many to be the most phonaesthetic.  This means it is beautiful solely based on the way it sounds, and not due to any connotations or mental images that may surface when heard.
Donnie Darko, a fantastic movie, brought this concept to the general public even though the idea has actually been around for awhile and has been written about by many great minds, including J.R.R. Tolkien.
Oddly enough, it seems that there are very few cellar doors left.  I am one of the lucky few that still has one connected to their house, and so, once I was ready to go in search of today's picture, I started in my backyard, near the cellar.  

The Most Beautiful
Spring's slow but steady approach has me photographing more flowers and plants than I ever have before.  But which is more beautiful? A tangible thing like a flower or a phrase or idea, like "Cellar Door"?

For both of these pictures, I used a technique called TTV or Through the Viewfinder.  You can read more about it at the end of this post, but basically I shoot with my regular camera, through the viewfinder of another my case an old Kodak Duaflex IV.  You can see my other TTV photos at my Etsy Store, look for "through the viewfinder" in the title.  next2hector Etsy

A Fence Through The Viewfinder
"Fence" may not be so phonaesthetic, but if shot from a decent angle with a unique technique, it might end up looking pretty decent.  This fence is also in my backyard.  As of late, some beautiful cardinals have been using it as a tight rope.

These images were taken using a Kodak Duaflex IV, manufactured from the 1940s-1960s. The Duaflex was not the only camera used to create this photo. 'Through the Viewfinder' means a picture is taken, usually with a digital camera, of the viewfinder on another camera, usually an old camera (in this case the Duaflex), in order for the final image to have a vintage feel. The vintage feel comes from the dust specks that are on the old camera’s viewfinder as well as the vignette that images will tend to get due to the convex surface of the viewfinder.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keep The Past Present

Day Three.
I've only got one photo.  I fear that more than one a day might not be too common.  But that's ok.  My plan was at least one...

I rode my bike to work today.  Not a normal occurrence.  Sadly.  I could definitely use the exercise.
It's not a bad ride, about 20 minutes, so I'm going to attempt to do so much more frequently.
I passed a bridge on the way to work.  A bridge I pass all the time.  I had my camera with me in hopes of finding my daily photo on my way to or from work, so I rode onto the bridge looking over the river for something interesting.
Instead of seeing something running on the banks or floating through the water, I came face to face with a plaque that I never before saw.  Apparently the bridge is considered a historic site.  So says Lancaster County.  Need proof? ...

Historic Bridge
There are at least 52 Historic Preservation Trust Sites in Lancaster County.  I learned this today on my bike ride.  I would have guessed maybe 20.  And I have an unfair advantage...My wife worked at the Historical Society Library right here in Lancaster County.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day Two

I have two photos for day two.  One of which isn't really anything special.  More so, it's just a reminder for me to update my food blog.  If you have any interest in a vegan Do It Yourself kind of blog, check it out at ... ... Having created something fairly delicious for dinner, I now know what the next post on that site will be.  It will be the recipe for...

The photo that was once occupying this space has been removed due to a lot of people thinking it looked gross.  I don't want this to reflect poorly on the rest of my food photography on my other blog.  I wash my hands of that picture...forgive me for forcing you guys to look at it. (now on to the description of a delicious visuals this time)  
Pumpkin Filled Ravioli with Zucchini and Fennel Cream Sauce
I've never attempted to make raviolis before.  But now, knowing that it isn't hard at all, just labor intensive, I will make them all the time.  The next filling will most definitely be mushrooms and onions.

Oil Tankers
Leaving my sister's house and taking a different route home proved fruitful.  I had no idea that there was a train yard by her house.  This row of tankers went on for as far as the eye could see.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

365 Days (3.12.11 and 3.13.11)

It is probably too soon to start a new blog.

My other blog deals with my photography (which is the only function that this blog will serve), but it also deals with my cooking and DIY lifestyle in general.  I didn't want to overlap too much, filling a blog that people are hoping to find a good vegan recipe on with one of those "a picture for every day of the year" projects.  And thus, this. 

I never really saw the point in those projects.  They seem to throw inspiration out the window, forcing you to find something slightly worthwhile to photograph.  I figured if I ever were to do a 365 photo project, I'd just end up showing the world my second rate crap photography.  And maybe I will.  But alas, I was hiking at Middle Creek yesterday (a wonderful wildlife management area) and realized that I really miss what it was that got me into photography in the first place.  Perhaps it's the Spring, slowly forcing its way through the dirt, pushing the muskrats and minks out of hiding, or maybe it was forcing myself to shoot solely with the first lens I ever bought.  Either way, I realized that I very much missed the fantastic experience that is coming across something worth photographing.

As I grow as a photographer, I gain the knowledge of how to use multiple flashes, backdrops, and reflectors to get the exact shot that I envisioned.  But with this control over light and subject matter, I end up shooting less and less in an environment that doesn't allow such control.  More so than just ending up not doing so, I actually have a hard time forcing myself to do it at all.  I have experienced the control that all my photographic equipment allows for, why should I give that up?

Though I feel I should not, and will not give that control up, I feel I have now come full circle.  I now see the challenge that comes with a limited amount of control over the subject, and feel that if I wish to grow even further as a photographer I must consider this challenge itself as inspiration enough.

So I shall take at least one awesome picture a day.  I got a few I was happy with both yesterday and today, and that is why I feel I should give this a go.  Maybe I'm just missing out on at least 365 photos that should be shot.  Plus, who's to say I can't set up all my lighting equipment and control half a year or more's worth of photographs?

I'm going to post yesterday and today's in the same you go:

Black-Capped Chickadee
I love the tropical feel from the slightly yellow undertones in the background.  This was shot at Middle Creek.

An Extremely Muddy Path Through The Woods
I'm not limiting myself to straight off-the-camera photos.  If I feel the need to touch something up (or go all out), and have the time to do so on a daily basis, I will.

And here are the ones from today:

Old Barn Window
I normally will not take a photo of a window or door if it is not a head-on shot.  This window, being much higher than I was, has an interesting perspective that I really didn't think I would like.  I do.  The roof gives the photo a vignetting sort of appearance.

Basketball Symmetry
 I'm not a huge fan of sports.  I never really shot anything sport related, but I absolutely love the symmetry in this photo.

Fire Hydrant
The parts of the paint that are chipped off reveal what looks to me like fire.  It seemed rather appropriate.  The background gives the photo an almost frantic feeling.  Again, rather appropriate.

Spring Bursts Through
I'm not great with knowing what types of buds and sprouts will grow into a certain flower.  I'm thinking these are tulips.  They reminded me of the hens-and-chicks plants that used to cover the porch at my parent's house.