Luck of the Iris

March 16, 2012 

As sweet as it would be to have nothing but hot air balloon rides, rodeos and Water Follies feature hunting, it's the lackluster assignments that help keep us shooting for a living wage. Anybody can come away with some fun photos at big, boisterous and colorful events, but it takes skill, patience and experience to make that proverbial chicken salad.

A little luck doesn't hurt either.

Lectures and presentations are often tough to shoot. Bright projection screens in dark rooms create technical challenges while a general lack of interaction makes capturing meaningful moments tough. Last week's Cavalcade of Authors event was pleasant enough to cover, as somebody showed me around and was nice enough to give me some background while staying out of my foreground.

It suffered from the usual pitfalls, though, and after our first stop came up dry when the author decided not to go with his usual presentation plan of having a student join him on stage.

Vivian Vande Velde had students make up back stories for photos she handed out. David Standinger, 13, of Richland, had a story darker than the room he was in,

and though this simple snap of Caleb Wolf, 12, of West Richland, getting an autograph from Vande Velde was an OK moment,

my previous day's assignment of covering Andrew Gordon Smith at Enterprise Middle School in West Richland ended up with an autograph photo. Except this one featured a creepy head:

I tried some pseudo-clever framing,

and while I thought their thank-you notebooks were really creative,

that photo would have been a tough read at a small gallery resolution. I opted to key in on some appreciation for Richland-born Royce Buckingham:

Other than that, I had some very basic and boring CYA-type wide shots:

Though the second one gets a little help from the stuffed tiger. I tried going in tighter for a reaction,

but I thought it would be a tough sell to the editors and I didn't love it that much.

I had photographed Vande Velde as she walked in front of the projection, however, and was pleasantly surprised when I noticed a happy accident in one of the shots as a question mark curled around her eye:

I wish I wouldn't have cut off the beginning of the questions, but it still reads fine. I wish even more that I had been intentionally trying to pull that off, but sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

Just don't tell my bosses.

Speaking of shortcuts to good...

Heather Murphy has an interesting piece in defense of Instagram in reaction to Nick Stern's post at CNN about hacks being hailed as artists with help from the funky filters offered by Hipstamatic and Instagram. While I disagree with Murphy's collection of Instagram Campaign Photos Worth Looking At, she makes a good point about some photographers' curmudgeonly approach to new tools, and missing the opportunity to expand their audiences with technology.

Tom Welland's experiments with putting film through his dishwasher is being described as an analogue Instagram effect over Gizmodo.

Want something funkier? Check out "Genetic Portraits" by Ulric Collette. It's especially interesting to see how he blends faces of such different sizes and ages and a surrealistically believable way.

Love animated GIFs like this classic compilation of Zidane headbutt spoofs? Check out this PBS short about the creation of the format and its development as an art form.

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