Musings on m
y life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!

Friday, November 5, 2010

An entirely photographic post: Strobist HoCoConservancy project

As mentioned in yesterday's post, I was one of the lucky 15 invited to join David Hobby on an "advocacy journalism" shoot (definitely a case of being online on the right day at the right time and thus responding before he closed the opportunity!!). The landscape and architectural subject matter is very different from the kind of thing I usually shoot, but I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to stretch my legs and, of course, work with Mr Strobist himself, David Hobby, the genius behind www.strobist.com.

Other than the fact that I have little experience with this type of photography - most of what I do involves people in relatively controlled environments rather than buildings or fields and at the whim of nature's light! - the most intimidating part of the day was that we had to turn over our unedited files to David. The protocol was for us to shoot - jpg, no less (I always shoot raw if only as a CYA measure!) - mark the ones we liked best on our card as the "first cull" and then give him those to upload and edit. Eeek! If I ever do something like this again, I will definitely take a laptop or netbook - I found it very difficult to judge the shots on the camera LCD and, indeed, on review at home there are some really good pictures that got missed (or lesser ones from a series of shots were selected instead). But, given that I usually torture my files in post - even ones which are decent straight out of camera - boy that felt like being photographically nude!! Still, it was an excellent exercise in producing something under a bit of pressure; it's not such a bad thing to demand of oneself. Also, it did prompt me to explore my in-camera processing - the 7d's jpgs are actually pretty good!

In any case, yesterday, on a bright but decidedly chilly autumn day, we were instructed to turn up at the historical property for which we were taking the pictures, for their future publicity needs. We'd been encouraged to arrive as early as we wanted before the official 10am meeting where we would receive our assigned shooting responsibilities, so we could take advantage of the sweet morning light; I gather quite a few people were there before sunrise. I got there around 8am and had grossly miscalculated on the weather; it was indeed in the 50s by about 11am, but it was below freezing until the sun came up (duh on my part - should've thought of that!) - thank goodness I never clear out my car very well, since I had a pair of fleecy gloves and hat in the back... and I needed them!

The beautiful historic barn is one of the major features on the property:

Note the frost....

A little later in the day

The barn is just gorgeous inside - it's ~17th century, although it was moved from its original location when they built a major roadway.

David's reaction to this shot is typical of both what a great teacher he is, and his amazing eye: he immediately went to this picture among my set because of the cool light from one doorway on the haybale contrasting the warm light from the other door on the walls (which I hadn't even noticed - they were both from available, natural light so I hadn't clocked the temp variance from the sunny and non-sunny sides of the building - the doors on either side were open)

The beams of the barn have peg/hole construction

And lastly, some of the items in the barn. This is actually shot with off-camera flash, just to the right, bounced up towards the ceiling and against the wall. The wood produced a very golden tone, so I switched my WB to tungsten to get a more daylight look - I think it worked quite well!

Since there was still some time before we received our "assignments", I wandered around some more. The goat on the roof just cracked me up!

The background here is the frost-covered fields

At 10am, David and Allison, the conservancy's Development Director, briefed us and gave us our assignments

One of my assigned areas was woodlands, so I decided to start with that one before the sun got too much higher, and because I also thought it was going to be the most challenging one for me, with my lack of landscape experience. So, armed with my Tamron 17-50 and a polarizer, I yomped down into the forested area.

I took a lot of reeeaally bad shots before I came up with any I liked - between the harsh sun and the bare trees, it was tricky (we've had very little colour here this year - we went from green to barren without much in between, and even the trees that have changed have done so patchily instead of prettily!). Deeper into the woods, though, the light improved if only because it was blocked by other trees.

Then I stumbled over this abandoned machinery. I have no idea why I got fixated on it, but it did at least give me an "anchor" for a shot. Had to add a tickle of fill flash to the wheel though - the dappled sunlight just missed it, no matter where I stood or how I exposed!

Next up was the farmhouse itself, up on a hill overlooking the property

I was also assigned one of the outbuildings. I'm not sure if I could have done more with this with different lenses - a superwide, perhaps? A fisheye? - but it was ssooo bright outside and there was a lot of building debris just out of shot to camera left which I had to try and minimize - tricky. Not sure this is brilliant, but at least it's clean, and I do quite like the high-contrast conversions on these sunlight shots (although why do I keep thinking of the opening of "The Wizard of Oz"?! It looks like Dorothy's house!!)

All in all, it was a GREAT day and despite tired feet and being chilled to the bone, I'd do something like it again in a heartbeat. It wasn't a "workshop" as such, but a chance to shoot, learn and contribute to the community with some terrific folks.

Gallery here for a few more shots of mine, and blogpost here about the project with some of the extraordinary shots captured by my colleagues.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What a week!

The worlds collide. Again.

Sunday, we opened the Poe recital. It went extremely well for a first outing, I'm happy to say: a momentary glitch as the page-turner grabbed 3 pages at once resulting in the usual flurry and slapping of paper that accompanies such things, but otherwise it went pretty smoothly. The Poe-settings were well received, and we can also now say that we have taken Erlkoenig and nailed it to the wall! Actually, if I'm honest, that was probably one of the most enjoyable pieces of the afternoon for me - I've wanted to sing it for many years but never had the right occasion or quuiiitte the courage to ask a pianist to learn it for me, so I'm thrilled to have done it at last! Similarly, it was a real pleasure to finish the program with Sondheim's A Little Priest from Sweeney Todd - while it is a memorizing nightmare ("Wait - was that verse vicar or friar? Is this the one about beadle or rear admiral?!"), it is an absolute delight to perform; it was rewarding that the audience seemed to have as much fun with it as we did! Special kudos, too, to my wonderful husband for being able to both play it AND sing Sweeney Todd without dropping a beat or syllable - the man's musical versatility is beyond compare!

As soon as that was over, I immediately switched hats and got ready for Tuesday's photoshoot, an opportunity to meet and work with David Hobby, the genius behind www.strobist.com. I'm delighted to say he's even wittier and more brilliant "in real life" than he is on his blog and, while the shooting requirements were definitely outside my comfortzone (one of the reasons I wanted to do the event, to stretch myself!), it was day well spent crawling around the woods and frost-covered fields taking pictures. I can't imagine a better way to have spent my birthday! Look for a full post about it soon, but in the meantime, a small teaser...:

And now, tomorrow, back to singing: we're performing a shortened version of the concert - just the actual Poe settings rather than the "Poe and Friends" of the full program - for a lunchtime event, details here.

There's certainly never a dull moment this week!