Burst of Flavor

We continue to investigate Repetition in Exploring with a Camera this week. I was trying to decide what image to share when I realized I had the perfect repetition image staring me in the face! I have this image from a Venice market stall matted, framed and sitting in my dining room, ready to drop off to an exhibition. This image is all about repetition – with repeating shape, subject and color.

If you’re around Eugene, Oregon, you’ll be able to see this “Burst of Flavor” in the Taste and Flavor: Spicy exhibition at the David Joyce Gallery in Lane Community College from August 29 through January 1.

If not, you can enjoy it here along with some wonderful images featuring repetition from our participants. Visit them below, and link your exploration of repetition in too. We’d love to see how you repeat yourself!

A Favorite Sign

Today we wrap up July’s Exploring with a Camera: Signs. It’s been quite fun to investigate how signs crop up in my photographs and to see yours too.

I’ll leave this exploration with a favorite sign of mine, from Venice. All over the island of Venice are printed signs saying “Per San Marco” or “Per Rialto.” Since Venice is such a warren of walkways, bridges and canals, it is very easy to get lost. Often we found ourselves wandering and the only way to figure out where we were was to go back to Piazza San Marco or the Rialto bridge and start again, so these signs became a lifeline. My favorite sign image is this hand-painted sign, found off the beaten path in a back alley. There were none of the “official” signs around, so someone took matters into their own hands and created this one. They were probably tired of the tourists asking for directions. :)

You can still link in today with your sign images. I’d love to see how you use signs in your photography! Do share.


Sometimes I marvel how the human brain works. I wanted a mail-related photo for today’s Liberate Your Art Swap update post and I thought of this photo. I remembered taking this picture in Venice, although I had never done any editing on it. I thought I took it when we were there with my husband’s parents. So, with nothing other than that to go on, I went into Lightroom and went directly to the November 2010 folder, the month we visited with his parents. Yep, there it was! Pretty darn cool the way the brain works, isn’t it? And the way Lightroom works too. Even though my photos are still not keyworded (although getting better – this folder now has keywords for Venice!), I can find things relatively quickly.

So with that… on to the update! As of this morning, there are 255 artists signed up for the swap! Yeah! If the participation rate is the same or better as last year, I should meet my goal for increasing participation this year. And, there are still a couple more weeks to sign up! I’m going to keep sign up open through July 15. After that, I figure it’s getting to late to get everything together with creating and mailing postcards. Thanks to everyone who has been sharing about the swap – there is still time to share!

A few more envelopes trickled in this week, doubling my total of envelopes to 8. I’m also keep track of where they are coming from, so that will be fun to give an update on as I receive more. From the comments in the Facebook event, lots of people are getting ready to send their postcards in, so the rush is on it’s way. How fun!!

If you haven’t ordered your postcards yet, I received a code from Moo this week: Enter the code POSTSTICK at checkout by midnight PST 4th July 2012 and you will receive free shipping (cheapest shipping option only). Order must include at least one pack of Postcards and/or Stickers. I don’t know if that will work in conjunction with my link that gives 10% off for new customers, but it’s worth a try if you haven’t ordered yet and were planning to use Moo.

One more reminder: Photo-Heart Connection link up for June opens this Sunday, July 1! I can’t wait to see what’s connecting with you this month. See you then!

Exploring with a Camera: Silhouettes

Welcome to February’s installment of Exploring with a Camera! In this exploration we’re going to be looking at Silhouettes — how to capture and effectively use them in your photographs.

Lately, if I have my camera in my hand, it’s because I’m seeking the silhouettes of the trees against the early morning or late evening sky. Perhaps it’s because we’ve had an unusually clear winter here in Oregon, or maybe it’s just what I’m noticing now, but the shapes of the trees against the sky have been fascinating me. Have you ever noticed how different each type of tree looks in silhouette?

Silhouettes are all about shape. You take all dimension, all form, out of an object when captured in silhouette. This can be challenging, since you have to learn to see the shapes, and how they merge together, in order to compose your photograph. You may not realize how much information your brain infers from the knowledge of a 3D form until you distill it down into the 2D shapes using silhouettes. Not only that, but exposure when capturing silhouettes is not always straightforward. This makes exploring silhouettes a great learning opportunity!

Elements of an Effective Silhouette

Chances are, you achieve silhouettes in your images all the time without even thinking about it. There are a few elements that you need to create an effective silhouette in an image:

  • A light source behind your foreground object(s) in silhouette. The light source can range from back light to almost being side light, but the more directly behind the object the light is, the more of a silhouette you will achieve. The light doesn’t have to be particularly strong or directional, as shown in this example of my husband and son peering into an aquarium window.

    Even in side light, you can at times achieve a strong silhouette but some of your object may be highlighted. (See Exploring with a Camera: Rimmed with Light for an exploration of side light.) In this example below, even though it is full daylight and the light is a bit to the side, my son is a silhouette against the sky.

  • You need strong contrast between your object in silhouette and background. The background needs background to be lighter than the object in silhouette. The more contrast, the more the silhouette shape will pop. In this example, the tree is strongly contrasted against the morning fog. Converting to black and white increases the contrast, making the detail of the tree branches clearly visible.
    Reflections of light off of surfaces, like water or pavement, can enhance the contrast. The silhouette of this boat in the Venetian lagoon is created using water as the backdrop.
  • You need a recognizable shape. Unless you are working to create an abstract image, you have to pay close attention to the shapes of the object in your foreground. Multiple elements will blend together to get one shape when seen in silhouette. Being able to recognize how the shapes blend with each other and interact with the background is an important part of achieving a silhouette. In this moment of connection captured, it was important to ensure the figures weren’t merged so much as to not be recognizable. The space between their feet and the shadow helps keep the shape identifiable.

    A complex shape can be made more recognizable by effectively using any openings. In the case of the image below, the openings make the shipwreck on the Oregon coast an effective and recognizable silhouette.

Exposing for a Silhouette

Exposing to achieve a silhouette can be tricky. In-camera meters seek to achieve an average “mid-tone grey” exposure across the frame. When you have strong contrast of dark and light, as in the case of a silhouette, the camera will often choose settings that overexpose – making the background too light and capturing detail in the silhouetted object you may not want.

Since you want the contrast of black silhouette (with no detail) on light background (with most of the detail), you will want to underexpose relative to the camera’s meter reading. Depending on your lighting situation, you may need to underexpose 1 to 2 stops. If you manually choose your settings, this is straightforward. If you use the automated settings on your camera, there are a couple of ways to underexpose:

  • Use Auto-Exposure (*AE) Lock. With this feature, you aim your camera so that the background fills the viewfinder, lock the exposure, then recompose your image with the silhouette where you want it. When you press the shutter the camera focuses and takes the picture, but the exposure was set when you locked it. The exposure resets each time you take the picture.
  • Use Exposure Compensation (+/-Av). With this feature, you choose how much you want to underexpose your image, such as -2/3 or -1 stop. When you press the shutter button, the camera focuses and meters the exposure, then compensates the settings to underexpose as you instructed. This setting remains each time you take the picture, until you change it.

Revisit your camera manual to get the details on how to use these settings for your camera.

Capturing a stained-glass window, such as this gorgeous one found in Heidelberg, Germany, is the kind of situation where you will struggle if you rely on the camera’s automated settings. The camera’s attempt to get an average mid-tone grey across the frame would result in the window being completely “blown out,” or overexposed, with no detail. By underexposing relative to the camera’s meter, exposing for the windows only, you allow the dark areas to be black and you capture the detail of the windows.

You can also adjust your image in post-processing to increase the silhouette effect. If I still have detail in the dark areas, I will darken the shadows in order to increase the overall contrast. I may also lighten the background, but that can in turn begin to reveal detail in the silhouette you don’t want. It’s a give and take, so play around in your post-processing to see what you can do to create silhouettes. In the image below, taken in Salzburg, Austria, I exposed to achieve a silhouette in the towers against the sky, but still had some visible detail in the foreground next to the river. In post-processing, I increased my contrast by darkening the shadows, which created a more uniform black silhouette throughout the image.

Using Silhouettes

Silhouettes can be used as the subject of an image, as in the case of many of the examples already shared, or to set off other elements by their contrast. For example, in this image from the Amalfi Coast of Italy, the silhouette grounds the image and provides contrast for the interesting light in the sky and on the water.

In this image from Venice, the silhouette of the Bell Tower serves as a backdrop, enhancing the sense of place fo the lamp. It’s a simple image, yet it screams “Venice” to me due to the inclusion of the silhouette in the background.

There is something appealing to me about the simplicity of distilling an object down to its shape. I find the emotional impact is greater by the simplification a silhouette provides. The image of the couple in embrace becomes “love” or my son with his hands thrown wide becomes “joy.” A silhouette turns an object into a graphic representation, cutting to the essence and imparting a different meaning than if the object were seen in full light.

I hope after reading this you have become as fascinated by silhouettes as I have been lately. Look through your archive, or go out exploring with your camera to find new silhouettes and come back here to share. This link up will remain open through 24 February. I can’t wait to see your silhouettes!

Market/Wheels: The Giveaway!

I wrap up my new Market/Wheels images today with a giveaway! This is my biggest giveaway yet and I’m excited to share it with you. Celebrating the new images in this series the last week has been great fun! It has reminded me that I learn from working with my images, regardless of whether they are newly captured or from my archive.

Today’s image was found in the back alleys of Venice, where I loved to wander. It is another reminder that the work of getting the market wares to the populace of Venice is quite great. First on water, then on wheels. And not just any route! If you’ve been to Venice you know there are a great number of bridges with steps, so the route for wheels must be carefully chosen. Who wouldn’t maximize the amount carried in one trip? This cart, stacked high with crates, is a perfect example.

Before launching into the giveaway information, I want to invite you to come visit me elsewhere today! I’m guest posting on Caryn Gillen‘s site, with a photographer’s view on Enjoying Food Memories. I’ve mentioned a bit about my journey with Intuitive Eating, and Caryn has been a fantastic guide. This work has really clicked for me, and I’m excited to share my thoughts on her site today. Good timing too – with all of the yummy market food that’s been showing up here in the last week!

The Giveaway

Let’s get to the details of the giveaway, shall we? I’ll be giving away matted print of choice from my RedBubble shop to the winner. The prints are 8x12in matted to 16x20in and they are beautiful! This image shows a couple of examples, which are now framed and hanging on the wall of my home:

Greeted Cards and Matted Prints from RedBubble

Are you excited? Cool! Since there is no such thing as a free lunch – I need something from you too. Here’s what you need to do to enter:

1. Visit my updated Market/Wheels Portfolio and look through all the images. (Click on any thumbnail in the portfolio and you can scroll through full-size images.)

2. Come back to this post and leave a comment telling me which are your favorite images and why. Choose one or two or three, the number doesn’t matter. I’m interested in your feedback on any number of images – but only in one comment/entry per person please!

3. Leave your comment by the end of the day on Monday, 13 February. I’ll randomly draw from the entries on Tuesday, 14 February and contact you for your selection and mailing address.

A little bonus for you too – RedBubble has a sale going on through 15 February. Use the code cards143 at checkout and get 10% off all Greeting Cards and Postcards. Yay! I’ll have the full Market/Wheels series added to the shop over the weekend, so it’s a great time to stock up.

How “Market/Wheels” Came About

I’ve gotten a few questions about the series and how I process it over the last week. To finish up today I thought I would share how this series evolved and the creative choices I’ve made throughout.

The first image in the series, Where Fiats Retire, was captured and processed in December 2010. I chose the processing to create a vintage feel. I wanted to highlight the classic Fiat and make the image more timeless. You can read about the processing in this post.

In February 2011, I found two more images which some common elements after a trip to Parma, Classic Italian Transport and Offerta, and the series was born. Follow the links to read about the discovery of the series and more about the processing. From that time on, I’ve looked for opportunities to add to the series. I also knew early on that there were more images in my archive, and I would need to go back some day to find them.

As this series evolved, I had to become clear about what is and is not included. Since I named it Market/Wheels, it had to have an element of both. For the “Market” piece, I require some obvious element related to a market, which could be permanent, temporary, food, other wares, crates or carts. For the “Wheels” piece, I require some obvious element of wheels – used by the vendor or customer and in some close interaction with the market. This seems obvious when you look at the series, but it wouldn’t be if I hadn’t made careful choices. There are a number of interesting images in my archive that almost make it, and I’ve chosen not to include them in order to remain true to the series.

Another decision to create a stronger series was to continue with the vintage processing that started in the early images. I liked how this processing created a timeless feel, and supports the premise that markets and wheels are a combination that cross time and culture. It helps to pull the series together, especially as I add new images from the US to those I’ve already captured in Europe.

There are more Market/Wheels photographs waiting for me in the future, I know it. I look forward to seeking out new images around the US to complement and build the connection to those from Europe. Of all of the personal photographic projects I’ve undertaken, this one is closest to my heart. This is the series that tells me we are all the same, regardless of where we live. It has helped me with my emotional transition between Italy and the US, and has helped me grow as an artist.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the Market/Wheels series over the last week! I’ve truly enjoyed the opportunity to share it with you.

Tucked Away

Lots of news today!

First, today is the last day to link up for January’s Photo-Heart Connection. There’s been a great response to this new series! I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to connect with each of you as you connect with your heart. I love seeing the community of kindred spirits grow around this. Don’t worry about being a “latecomer” to the party. It lasts a week so that you have time to find your heart connection and write about it. That’s not always easy! Consider joining in today.

Second, the winner of the Evidence of Love postcard giveaway is comment #20: Sharon. Congrats Sharon! Enjoy sharing a little love with the world. If you didn’t win and you would still like to share the love, the images in the Evidence of Love series are all available in my RedBubble shop. Or, as always, I encourage you to create your own images and share the love that way. So many options!

I continue my sharing of new Market/Wheels images today with this one from Venice. As I showed the other day, in the Venetian Lagoon it’s not all delivery by water. Wheels are needed to get the market wares to the shops, the same as in any city, they are just smaller and non-motorized. It takes effort to live and work in Venice.

This image shows you what a typical market store looks like in Venice. Tucked in a side alley, off the tourist paths, you will find these little markets bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to the permanent population. The texture that is found everywhere in Venice comes through here, from the rust on the cart to the crumbly brick walls. It’s a perfect example of why I loved photographing Venice so much, with the bonus of being part of the market/wheels series too.

I hope you have a wonderful day today!