It’s not like it sounds! You don’t need to find (or make) roadkill for this assignment. Instead, find some dead leaves or dead branches that look interesting and photograph them. They could be on the ground, but also might be still attached to a bush or tree. How about dead flowers?
Pay attention to contrast. Leaves, branches and flowers that die turn a lighter shade that living vegetation, making interesting patterns, especially in contrast with living vegetation. It is this contrast that is going to add interest to your image, to make it seem special, maybe even to suggest the cosmic cycle of life, death and regeneration.
Use your filter. To make the contrast even more strong, use your yellow or yellow-green filter. Yellow or green things you photograph will come out lighter in your print.
Pay attention to repeated shapes. If you want your image to communicate a mellow, laid-back feeling, photograph round shapes like leaves, but if you want it to communicate the uneasy feeling of a bad dream, photograph branches and sticks, hard, angular things. Or try to contrast young shoots with old, dried things. Whatever you photograph, try to make it communicate a feeling.
HINT: take a walk down Waonahele Rd. and out towards Puna Gate.
- You probably want your main subject to come out sharp. To do this, shoot at a small aperture, like f/16 (but not at the extremes: f/22 or f/2).
- At the same time, you will need to shoot at a high enough shutter speed so that you avoid camera shake — something above 125th second. This means that you will need to shoot in fairly bright light, not shade. Even at 125th second, hold the camera steady!
Look for some objects that suggest your family’s culture or religion. If your family is predominantly Hawaiian, or Korean or Filipino, what are the objects that might serve as clues, that might give someone else a hint that this is a Hawaiian, or Korean or Filipino family? If your family is Buddhist or Catholic or anything else, what clues suggest those roots? Think of:
- lichee tree?
- ti plants?
- rock garden?
- pictures on the wall
- things in a trophy case
- books in a bookcase
- an old photo album
It is OK to have people in some of your photos, but the people should be less important than the OBJECTS you photograph. Look for ways to direct the viewer’s attention to those objects. This is not an assignment to make portraits of your family.
- Remember the patterns assignment. Repetition is good. Repetition of shapes helps to organize and unify a photo, as long as it isn’t carried to the point of boredom. Every good photo walks the fine line between repetition and variety. Make all of your photos in this class walk that line.
- Slow shutter speeds cause fuzzy pictures. Don’t go there! Stay at 125th or above.
- The best lighting comes from just one direction, like the sun or a window.
Think of how you used to look at the world as a young child. You examined the world around you from a much closer (and lower) perspective than you do now. This assignment asks you to try to recapture or reproduce that point of view, and maybe make others remember something of their own childhoods.
Your camera lens can photograph as close as a foot and a half. Leave it at that distance and take an entire roll of close-up images. Only photograph at the closest distance your lens is capable of (about 18 inches). Think of:
- bark textures
- trash on the ground
- pipes against a building
- arrangements of small groups of objects
- extremely close portraits of your friends
- parts of bodies
- anything else, as long as it is at the minimum distance for your lens
The photos need to visually interesting. What makes an image interesting? Usually this means that it has a public meaning, in addition to the personal meaning you attach to it. This means that strangers will find the image interesting, not just members of your family. Something about it shows them a world they had not thought of before. What you photograph is not nearly as important as how you photograph it.
Pay close attention to your light meter and to the way you use it. There is no sense going to all the effort of taking a photo if it isn’t going to come out. Your meter takes all the light that enters and averages it to a middle gray tone. Most of the time that gives you the right exposure, but sometimes it doesn’t. To get the most accurate meter readings, avoid using your meter when something really bright is in the photo — such as the sun or white sand at the beach. The bright object or area can throw off the entire reading. Instead, meter something with a tone similar to the tone of your subject: a patch of concrete, your hand, a place on the ground.
When you aim your camera and press the shutter relaease, you might think you are photographing your subject. However, to be more accurate, you are photographing the LIGHT that falls on the subject and reflects back to your lens and film. Think about what is happening: you are actually RECORDING LIGHT. It’s all about LIGHT.
Do you sleep with a teddy bear or other stuffed animal? Bring him / her to school with you — or pick another object you carry around, such as your backpack. Look around for a spot with an interesting background and place your teddy bear so that it fills at least half of the frame but also reveals some of the background. Decide whether to turn the camera vertical or horizontal.
Without changing anything at all, take three images each of the same object at the same place and from the same angle at these different times of day:
- Before homeroom
- As close to 10 a,m. as possible
- As close to noon as possible
- As close to 2 p.m. as possible
- After 4 p.m.
The point os this assignment is to notice how light changes the character of what we see. Which time of day and which image do you prefer?
In addition to all of the above, make interesting images!
- Choose an interesting background. You are responsible for the WHOLE rectangle.
- Avoid shooting into the sun, so that sunlight is hitting the glass on the front of your lens.
- If your image has a center of interest, place it off-center, not smack in the middle of the photo.
- Gently SQUEEZE the shutter release to minimize camera shake.
Some images are built of repeated shapes that might turn into a good aloha shirt design. Photograph some of the repeated shapes that surround us every day in nature: leaves, branches, waves on a sand dune, flowers. A pattern is simply the repetition of a shape, like the repetition of a drum beat or a note in music. In fact, think of of your favorite song as you photograph. What kind of music are you making with your images? Rock? Jazz? Hawaiian slack key? Whatever you do, don’t take photos that are like department store or elevator music.
Repetiton is good. Too much repetition is boring. A good photo contains a variety of shapes and tones. A good photo balances repetition and variety (just like a good aloha shirt …)
Don’t just take one picture of each pattern — take four or five, from four or five different angles. That way, you are sure to get one that looks good.
- Remember that any shutter sped below 250th can make your pictures fuzzy. Sometimes you are not aware that they are fuzzy until you try to blow them up to 8X10. Even at 125th, your heartbeat can make a picture slightly unsharp!
- At 125th and 60th, brace the camera, tuck you elbows in and stop your breath as you press the shutter release. Hold the camera loosely and don’t jerk down on the shutter release. Better yet, put the camera on something, like a table or wall. Below 60th, use a tripod and a cable release.
- When you shoot, feel responsible for the entire rectangle; make sure that everything in it contributes in some way to make the image interesting. Often this means that you need to get up close, to get rid of distractions that don’t contribute to the image.
Think of the things that give Hawai’i its unique “sense of place,” that create what people think of as “the aloha spirit.” You might think of culture, climate,‘ohana, friends, landscape, the ocean, etc.
Your job is to
- Think of your own definition of “aloha,” or use some of those above.
- Think of a way to define aloha, by defining what it is not — un-aloha.
- Try to photograph un-aloha in a way that will produce technically good, striking images. What are some possibililties?
- housing developments or buildings that look “California” (or even “Tokyo”)
- damaged landscapes
- Are there any potential images in Waikiki?
- avoid trite, cliché images
- avoid boring images with just one thing smack in the center of the frame.
- use light and shadows in an interesting way.
- accept responsibility for the whole rectangle, including the background. Everything in that rectangle should have a reason for being there.
WHAT IS A “GOOD” PHOTOGRAPH?
No one rule applies, but many good photos share these qualities:
- Sharpness — Brace that camera at shutter speeds below 125th second. If you throw an image out of focus, do it deliberately
- Tones — Use light and shadow in an interesting, deliberate way.
- Complexity — Everything in the rectangle counts.
- Ideas / Emotion — A good photograph communicates ideas or feelings, maybe even passion.
You got your camera. You loaded a cassette. The cassette is in the camera, emulsion facing the lens. If you have an older camera, the meter is a needle on the right side of the viewfinder window. If you have a newer ZX-M camera, the meter is the dots that appear on the right when you press the shutter release half way down. OK, what now?
Frames 1-5 (silhouettes)
Grab a friend. If you don’t have one, make one. Ask your friend to stand in front of the camera, with the city and sky in the background. Lots of sky. At Paki, this might be on the third floor, looking out over Honolulu harbor. At ‘Akahi, this might be on the top floor, looking out over Lëahi. At Konia, just the sky will do. Take the picture leaning against the lockers, with your friend against the second floor railing. Be sure to get lots of sky in the background.
Turn the camera vertical, and set the shutter speed to 250th second. Make sure that your film speed is set to 100. Take a meter reading and place the needle (or dots if you have a ZX-M model) in the middle. Snap off five frames.
Frames 6-10 (portraits)
- Take exactly the same pictures as before, but this time follow these steps:
- point the camera down at your friend’s feet, so that you cannot see any sky.
- take a meter reading and balance your needle (or dots) in the center.
- point the camera up, focus, compose and shoot. Again, use the horizontal format.
Frames 11-25 (whatevers)
This is a test. Think about what you were asked to do above and try to use your meter carefully, so that you get the image you want, not the image the camera’s meter gives you.
- Double-check to make sure that film speed is set at 100.
- Remember to focus carefully, hold the camera steady, and squeeze the release, without jerking. When you shoot, tuck your elbows in and spread your legs — or brace the camera aginst something.
- For now, use a shutter speed of 250th second whenever possible. If you cannot set your meter needle in the middle, reduce the shutter speed to 125th second.
- Pictures taken in bright overcast or light shadows usually come out looking better than those taken in direct sun.
- If you want to take indoor photos, put the camera down on a flat surface and then press the shutter release.
- Don’t face the camera into the sun, with the sun hitting the lens directly.
- Take several pictures of each image. Sometimes, negatives get messed up and it is good to have a backup.
Take one complete roll of film showing all of these items in the most creative way you can. Concentrate on communicating feelings: make the images suggest how you feel. You should have enough film to take two frames of each assigned item.
- A picture that contains a symbol that suggests you somewhere in the frame.
- A picture of something your fear or loathe.
- a picture of a place that makes you feel creepy.
- A picture of something you like.
- A portrait of someone you like, with light hitting his or her face at just the right angle.
- A picture of your table at ‘Akahi (brace the camera).
- A place that makes you feel lonely.
- A picture of your bedroom, at a time of day when light is coming in the window.
- A photograph in or of your favorite class.
- An image of the most beautiful scene you can find. (Pay attention to the time of day and direction of light.)
- Turn this assingment in with frames on your contact sheet numbered to correspond with the numbers above.
- Remember to focus carefully, hold the camera steady, and squeeze the button, without jerking.
- Take a light reading for each picture, and be sure that background light is not throwing your meter reading off. If this is hard to understand, for now just avoid taking pictures of people against the sky.
- Double-check to make sure that film speed is set at 100 (or 400 if you use that film).
- Always use the fastest shutter speed and the smallest lens opening that your light reading will allow — unless you want to blur motion or throw something out of focus.
- Pictures taken in bright overcast or light shadows usually come out looking better than those taken in direct sun.
- If you want to take indoor photos, put the camera down on a flat surface and then press the shutter release. Camera shake ruins photos.
- Don’t face the camera into the sun, so that sunlight hits the lens.
Load your camera
• The “bump” of the cassette faces down.
• The leader (skinny two-inch part) needs to be jammed into the slot of the take-up spool as far as possible. THIS IS IMPORTANT!
• Advance the film twice, so that it is wound entirely around the take-up spool.
• Close the back and advance the film twice more. MAKE SURE THAT THE REWIND KNOB SPINS EVERY TIME YOU ADVANCE THE FILM. If it doesn’t, you loaded your film incorrectly. Hana hou.
Adjust your camera
• Make sure that the little window on top of the film speed dial reads “400.”
• Set the film speed dial to “250.” (This means that the shutter will be open 1/250th sec.) THIS IS IMPORTANT!
Until I can show you a little more…
• Avoid photos that contain extremes, such as patches of sun and deep shadows. BRIGHT OVERCAST LIGHT IS GOOD! Clouds are your friends.
• Avoid photos indoors, such as upstairs in Midkiff.
•Avoid distant scenes (Pu’uloa, Puowaina, Leahi, etc.) I’ll explain.
• Rotate the aperture ring (the moveable ring on the lens closest to the camera body) and bring the needle to the center of the viewfinder. Do this each time you take a different photo under different lighting conditions. Measure the part you most want to come out.
• If you cannot easily measure what you want to measure, point the camera at an object with a neutral, middle gray tone that is lit in a similar way. Often the concrete at you feet works well.
• For at least a half dozen of your photos, turn the camera vertically. Avoid that boring horizontal look. In fact, do this with every roll you shoot. THIS IS IMPORTANT!
• Your heartbeat causes camera shake. Below 250th second, tuck your elbows in, stop your breath (briefly), and gently squeeze the shutter release. Never jerk the shutter release. THIS IS IMPORTANT!
• To minimize camera shake, hold the camera loosely (but not too loosely).
What to Shoot?
• Your shadow, or the shadows of a group of friends.
• Your reflection in a car window or mirror.
• Roots, bark patterns, or interesting patterns of leaves and bushes.
• Things stuck onto the outside of buildings: pipes, drains, etc.
• Anything else that interests you.