March 31, 2009

contretemps \KAHN-truh-tahn\,

plural contretemps \-tahnz\:
An inopportune or embarrassing situation or event; a hitch.

For those who know me best, they'd know that it's a real stretch to relate me with this word of the day. I'm very composed and not often embarrassed. Right.

The photo for today's word is a representation of something that has definitely happened to me before, and it truly is embarrassing. It was taken just outside the house, next to a yard with the three loudest dogs in history.

That beautiful looking suit I know you're wondering about is from a buy-one-get-three-free sale at Jos. A. Bank. And thanks to a graduation present, I didn't even have to buy the first one. Man, I look great.

Anyhow, if you've got a photo for contretemps, which I'm sure you do, send it along to me in an email!

March 30, 2009

ludic \LOO-dik\,

Of or relating to play; characterized by play; playful.

Today's word of the day will definitely be included immediately in my vocabulary, though I'm not sure when I'll get to use it. In any case, it made for a pretty simple and fun photo.

This makeshift basketball court is at the Salvation Army down the street. They must have thought I was a crazy person climbing the back of their hoop. It was much more difficult than I expected it to be, and I think I may have injured things that aren't necessarily appropriate to talk about on this blog, as I'd like to keep it as clean as possible.

And it must have been a funny sight to see my shaking at the top of a 10-foot hoop, crouching and struggling to look through my camera. But this made for a good, quick word of the day shot, and now I'm off to work on other photo projects. Stay tuned for more on those a little later.

In the meantime, get out there and take some ludic photos, and send them to me in an email!

March 27, 2009

feckless \FEK-lis\,

1. Ineffective; having no real worth or purpose.
2. Worthless; irresponsible; generally incompetent and ineffectual.

Today's word of the day only cost me $5, and I think the bank will refund my money if I bring them back the 500 pennies I traded for real money earlier this morning.

That's right, for today's word, I'm claiming that pennies are worthless and generally ineffective. While some are more up in arms over the silly coin than I am, I still think this article makes a good point: "Because of the soaring price of zinc, it now costs nearly a penny-and-a-half to produce a penny."

That was back in 2006. I'm no expert on zinc, but I would say that the penny deserves the description today's word of the day provided if only to express my frustration when trying to buy, well, anything at all with a pocket full of pennies.

The setup for today's photo was as easy as any other: primary light was a flash shot through an umbrella (on the left), and then another flash, bare and on low power, from the right. I used a wide lens again to make 500 pennies seem like a little bit more.

As always, I won't be posting this weekend because I'll be at work, so you can spend your weekend looking for feckless-related photos and sending them to me in an email!

March 26, 2009

propinquity \pruh-PING-kwih-tee\,

1. Nearness in place; proximity.
2. Nearness in time.
3. Nearness of relation; kinship.

Hey, readers! Sorry for the delay in the photo for today's word of the day. We got everything worked out and took a picture that I'm really happy with.

There seems to be some pattern here with my feet in some of these photos. My girlfriend, Jamie, helped me with this one by painting her toenails and posing for this shot.

Two lights for this image: one is the homemade softbox set next to our feet, the other is a speedlight with a shoot-through umbrella to light the rest of the room and add a little color balance (as I still have yet to buy myself any gels). Natural light would have been good for this one, but as it was getting a little late, it seemed better to use another flash.

Again, sorry for the late post. And as always, send your photos for propinquity to me in an email!

March 25, 2009

tumult \TOO-mult; TYOO-mult\,

1. The commotion or agitation of a crowd, usually accompanied with great noise, uproar, and confusion of voices; hurly-burly; noisy confusion.

For today's word of the day, I headed back to my alma mater, N.C. State. At certain times of the day, hundreds of people flood the school's Brick Yard, and today was no exception.

Today's shoot taught me two things:
1. Young people are usually more likely to let you take their picture, especially on a college campus.
2. I need to clean my lens. Badly.

The girl in the photo (whose name, I remember, started with a T, but that's all I remember) actually asked if I needed someone to be my subject. And as I had planned to take photos of my own knees, I was happy for the help.

I asked her to stand still as I let the shutter open for about 1/6 of a second. (By bringing the aperture up as far as it will go, it's only really possible on a cloudy day like today, or with a neutral density filter.) This photo is actually the end result of two photos because it added more to the crowd. People of all ages seem to "courteously" avoid the backgrounds of your photos, even if you want them in it (which is sometimes hard to communicate).

So many crowds to shoot, I'm sure you'll all have a photo or two to contribute to tumult. If you do, send it to me in an email!

March 24, 2009

thaumaturgy \THAW-muh-tuhr-jee\,

The performance of miracles or magic.

Not a bad word of the day today. I think this project is really expanding my vocabulary.

I used this word to do a quick series on some of the 234,108,846,128 churches around Raleigh. I took a trip down the street to Southeastern Camera, where I rented a 15mm fisheye lens for the day.

Truthfully, I was a little disappointed with the lens, probably because of my camera's crop factor. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, all non-full-frame SLRs crop the image to some degree because the small censor can't capture the entire image. On my camera, the multiplier for that crop is 1.6 (so, a 10mm lens actually shoots at 16mm on my camera).

Because of that, the 15mm fisheye didn't have the same amount of distortion it would on a full-frame camera (say, a Canon 5D or 35mm film body). But it did do the job, and I'm still happy to have gotten to shoot with it.

As always, if you've got a good photo to go along with thaumaturgy, send it to me in an email!

March 23, 2009

spoonerism \SPOO-nuh-riz-uhm\,

The transposition of usually initial sounds in a pair of words.

Spoonerism? Really? I think someone at is messing with me with this word of the day. But it's just as well, because I was able to find a good example of a spoonerism and have a little bit of fun with it.

Light a fire.
Fight a liar.

The first (creepy but awesome) picture is of a doll I found in a thrift store this morning set aflame. And for the second photo, a lot of thanks has to go to my brother, who let me experiment with blood and lights even though it was probably fairly uncomfortable.

The setup for the first is just a flash to Bryan's left as an opposing source of light to both the fire and the sun. The second shot has one flash close to the subjects on the right and another (though it didn't really show up) to their left and behind. In a studio setting, that flash would have provided a rim light around them both, but outside it sadly didn't make much of a difference.

All the same, to join in, send your spoonerism photo to me in an email, and have a good Monday!

March 20, 2009

diatribe \DAHY-uh-trahyb\,

a bitter verbal attack or speech

Dearest readers:
In the spirit of full disclosure, I'd like to let you all know that I've removed the photo for this word of the day. It's not because my models, Bradley and Susannah, were any less than phenomenal. (On the contrary, they really were fantastic.) I removed the day's photo because I didn't like it, and I didn't think it represented me well as a photographer.

Sorry for cheating, everyone, but stay tuned for more words. In the meantime if you'd like to contribute to diatribe, send me an email!

March 19, 2009

florid \FLOR-id\,

1. Flushed with red; of a lively reddish color.
2. Excessively ornate; flowery; as, "a florid style; florid eloquence."

For some reason, today's word of the day took a long time to get finished. Hours of bike riding around Raleigh, and I still ended up with a photo that doesn't match the definition as well as it probably should.

In the end, though, I chose this photo because I liked it for itself (as opposed to liking it for its ability to fit with the definition well). I do find the dome of the capital building downtown to be ornate, but excessive? Maybe not; and it certainly isn't flushed with red.

But I do like the way the dome seems to bend inwards and to the left towards the lamp from the perspective of this photo. And I'm happy with the contrast the daylight left me with. Overall, I may not have completed the assignment, but I'm definitely happy with the photo that I ended up with.

Hopefully others of you will be able to contribute photos that better fit with the definition of florid, but I would accept anything even remotely related. Just send it to me in an email!


Image contributed by Bryan Costello, who went shooting with me this morning around Raleigh. Incidentally, his submission was actually taken by the camera on his phone, which is reminiscent of this News and Observer photographer's favorite medium.

March 18, 2009

elucidate \ih-LOO-si-dayt\,

transitive verb:
To make clear or manifest; to render more intelligible; to illustrate; as, an example will elucidate the subject.

One last word of the day during my dad's visit to Raleigh. It was a pretty simple one; we shot through a 55mm f/1.2 (which means the aperture on that lens is extremely wide open, and that's why we can see so much through the lens).

To shoot, we went to probably the most popular place to take a photo of the city. It's the Boylan Street Bridge, outside the newly opened Boylan Street Brewpub, (which is pretty good, but I expect it'll be even better when the weather warms up and people can sit outside).

Not too much complication in today's word, so it didn't take long. Shot with Canon 10D and Sigma 28-70 f/2.8, probably the most versatile lens in my meager arsenal.

Shorter post today - I hope some of you have a good shot for elucidate, and if you do, go ahead and send it to me in an email. Have a good Tuesday!

March 17, 2009

libation \ly-BAY-shun\,

1. The act of pouring a liquid (usually wine) either on the ground or on a victim in sacrifice to some deity; also, the wine or liquid thus poured out.
2. A beverage, especially an alcoholic beverage.
3. An act or instance of drinking.

Pour one out for my homies for this word of the day.

Sadly, it's day six of crappy weather outside, which means more indoor photo time. This one was done pretty simply with a piece of glass over a black backdrop. ("Backdrop," in this case, means long piece of stiff fabric from Wal-Mart.)

We (including myself and photo assistants Dad and Bryan) started off using apple juice as the subject so that it would look more like a 40. But in seeing that it was almost perfectly clear upon pouring it out, and that it was making the front of my lens sticky, we switched to water.

The setup was fairly simple: one light directly to the left of the subject, and one to the right and behind. (Since the subject was clear, of course, it showed right through.) The glass was from my coffee table, and the equipment is all the same bobo stuff I've been ranting about this entire time.

Of course, as always, get to work on your photos for libation and send them to me in an email to be included.

March 16, 2009

cormorant \KOR-mur-unt; -muh-rant\,

1. Any species of Phalacrocorax, a genus of sea birds having a sac under the beak; the shag. Cormorants devour fish voraciously, and have become the emblem of gluttony. They are generally black, and hence are called sea ravens, and coalgeese.
2. A gluttonous, greedy, or rapacious person.

What a fantastic word of the day to use while my dad is in Raleigh visiting! No, he's not a species of Phalacrocorax, nor is he gluttonous or greedy. But it is definitely fun to smear ketchup and mustard on his face.

That's right, my father is the dignified man in the photo stuffing his face full of Cookout hamburgers. (A dozen burgers for $12? Yes, please.) Thanks also to Bryan for helping me do the smearing and setup.

It was all done in the same small "studio" upstairs in my house, with the homemade softbox and a flash in the background to light the $2.99 wallpaper we found this morning at the thrift store. The sheet that covered that TV tray table was also from the thrift store. All in all, a very good match.

In retrospect, I would have changed the way we hung the wallpaper to be vertical instead of horizontal - it's definitely too distracting. In real life, I may have worked a little harder on the wallpaper part, but I'm still pretty happy with having soaked my dad in condiments.

So there it is. And if you've got any photos to add for cormorant, just shoot me an email with your photos attached. Happy Monday!

March 13, 2009

inanition \in-uh-NISH-uhn\,

1. The condition or quality of being empty.
2. Exhaustion, as from lack of nourishment.

3. Lack of vitality or spirit.

Update: I call mulligan

Dear readers:
The original photo for today's word was terrible, and it bothered me all day. I have to apologize, but I'm cheating. This is photo #2 for today, since the first one was crap. Hopefully I won't lose too much credibility for this situation, but all the same, I think this one is better.

As I said in the previous post from today: "As it's miserable outside today, I was lucky to have a nice, dry, indoor word of the day to work off of. And just as lucky was the fact that this word described the inside of my refrigerator perfectly."

And it's true. My refrigerator is close to that desolate.

(Thanks to roommate Josh for use of his likeness.)

I used the same technique of attaching a blue cloth to the top of a flash via rubber band (in the place of a gel set) and flashed from the bottom. There was also a flash on top of the camera inside the fridge, as my fridge doesn't have a light in it. (Are you starting to see how poor I am?)

Since it was dark, I let the shutter go for about a second and used the flash from below by pressing the test button. Incidentally, light from below often looks unnatural or creepy. But in this case, the flash from the floor was just a fill light, and the prominence of the flash inside the fridge balanced it out pretty well.

Again, sorry for cheating a little today. I probably won't be posting this weekend as I have to work, but if you've got a good photo for inanition, send it my way in an email!

Update #2:

One more from Ronny Nause for inanition. His are great, but I would love some contributions from the rest of you!

March 12, 2009

tetchy \TECH-ee\,

Peevish; testy; irritable.

Today's word was a bit of a tough one. Short of cutting someone off in the car and turning around to capture their mean looks and rude hand gestures, I wasn't sure how I would portray someone's irritability. Luckily, the people of Raleigh are already angry when you stop them on the street to take a photo, so it worked out in my favor (this time).

Joking aside, people were actually pretty receptive to me today. I think the ratio of Nos to Yeses was probably about two to one, which is a winning record. Usually people are less than ecstatic to see me wandering up to them, lugging a big camera with a bright yellow tie for a strap.

(Why does #6 look like he's smiling? Way to ruin the effect.)

But today's subjects were very nice - one even asked if I would take his picture for him - so that made the whole thing a lot easier.

Gear (and today's post will pretty much exhaust this section)
Today I shot with my very favorite lens: it's a Tokina 12-24 f/4, which means it's really wide and picks up a bit of distortion towards the corners. It's tough to stop using it once you've started, just because it allows for a little more fun in composition. Definitely not the best portrait lens in terms of photojournalism or the like, but it worked alright for today.

As always, if you have a good shot for tetchy, send it to me in an email.

March 11, 2009

ululate \UL-yuh-layt; YOOL-\,

intransitive verb:
To howl, as a dog or a wolf; to wail; as, ululating jackals.

Busy day today, but it seems that I've managed to take advantage of this relatively awesome word of the day. I had to head to Charlotte for work (which was some particularly good Harry Potter on tape time - yeah, I said it), so I had limited time to get it finished up, but I think it turned out pretty well.

(Thanks to roommate Bryan for his screaming face.)

And as I was a little short on time, I couldn't find a pack of wolves or jackals. I thought it might be fun to take a picture of a crying baby for this word of the day, but it seemed a bit too ambitious to think I could persuade new parents to let me take photos of their sad child.

So I turned today into a lighting project.

To get the effect I wanted, I made my own softbox, which was only about a 45-minute project. I won't bog my many fans down with the step-by-step directions as they're plastered all over the internet, but I will give you this picture of the setup. It's made up of about 90 percent duct tape. The other 10 percent is made of some leftover matte board, a ripped up T-shirt and, on the inside, tin foil.

If you've got any photos of wolves (or, of course, anything loosely related to ululate), send me a quick email!

March 10, 2009

pedestrian \puh-DES-tree-uhn\,

noun, adjective:
1. a person who gets about on foot; walker

1. going on foot; walking
2. without imagination; dull

Another pretty straightforward word of the day photo assignment today. I really enjoy taking pictures of people in public, but they often don't like having themselves photographed. I think people feel like a photo might be incriminating or somehow show them in a bad light (ridiculous).

And that's why today's photo features my own foot as the subject.

Just as a fun legal note, it's not illegal to take pictures of people out in public, even if they ask you not to (and that extends to adults, children, men, women and whoever), though it certainly can be pretty rude. It's also never illegal to take a picture from a public sidewalk or street, though there is a reasonable expectation of privacy for people in, say, the bathroom.

Another important note: it's never OK for a policeman or anyone else to confiscate your gear at any time. They can't ask you to stop taking photos or take your film or memory card or anything like that.

One guy was recently arrested for unauthorized photography - a charge that doesn't exist - while taking pictures of a train, but the charges were dropped after they realized they weren't real.

All that said, try not to give photographers a bad name by being a jerk. I tend to ask people first and let them be if they say no.

Don't forget to send your photo of pedestrian by email if you want to join in the fun!

Another photo submitted by Ronny Nause for pedestrian, taken by one of these awesome little cameras.

March 9, 2009

incisive \in-SAHY-siv\,

1. penetrating; cutting; biting; trenchant

Firstly, I should apologize to my many loyal readers: I'm sure you were quite befuddled when you came to my site this weekend as you normally do, first thing after waking up. You had only this blog on your mind, and you were disappointed to find out that, because my work schedule is ridiculous and I have to work Saturdays and Sundays, I probably won't be doing this much on the weekends.

But don't let that get you down. Since I get Mondays off, I had some extra time to work on today's word. I semi-stole the idea from another photo of nails in wood (which I would show you if I remembered where I had seen it), though I'm sure it wasn't quite as brilliant as this masterpiece.

I headed over to Home Depot to get a little block of wood, and they gave it to me for free out of the goodness of their hearts. (Forever indebted to Home Depot, I will never return to Lowes.)

Setup (and tips for cheap lighting)
This was the fun part. In lieu of any actual professional equipment, I find it helpful to be able to construct a studio out of whatever might be lying around. I bought two flashes a while ago: a used Canon 420ez that may be on its last legs and a Nikon SB 600. The Nikon is definitely a better flash; it's more powerful and more easy to use. But, as I shoot Canon, I can only use it on full manual (which means I only use it in a "studio" setting).

Throw in a couple of Cactus flash triggers for under $50 and a couple stands, and you've got yourself a "studio." Today I used a boom stand for a microphone, which allowed me to place the light directly over the subject. Black in the background, and white (though it didn't show in the photo) under the block of wood. (And the "stand" underneath the subject today was just two drums, instead of the usual TV tray table I like to use.)

All in all, the lighting setup costs between $400 and $500. Though it's not up to the standard of most professionals, it works well for me because of, well, poverty.

As always, send your incisive photos to me by email to join in. Have a wonderful Monday!

March 6, 2009

martial \MAHR-shuhl\,

suitable or used for war; warlike

Today's word was pretty straightforward, which I'm pretty stoked about because I didn't get much sleep last night due to the midnight showing of this awesome film.

A quick ride downtown was all I needed, and outside the courthouse I found my subject.

Clearly this man was made for war.

Gear for today
Same ol' Canon 10D, this time with a Sigma 28-70 f/2.8, which was my first lens. It's pretty fast and pretty sharp, but when it focuses, it sounds a bit like a jet liner.

Short post today, but if you'd like to add to the word of the day with a photo, send me an email.

Update: email from Ronny Nause had this submission for martial. He took this shot while in Washington, D.C. covering inauguration for News 14.

March 5, 2009

For my first trick

Word of the day

As an exercise in quasi-creativity (and also an exercise in getting myself out of bed before 11 each morning), I hope to spend most mornings taking the word of the day from and going out in search of a photo to correspond to it. It's pretty likely that I won't make it out of bed in time every day to find a good photo, but I'll do my best to keep it going if only to keep myself from lying in bed every day, getting fat.

I expect that many words will have to be matched up with a less-than-literal interpretation, but use your imagination and I'm sure you can make the stretch.

I would also encourage what I anticipate to be my many, many followers to join in by submitting their own photos that follow the theme. Just send your best images to, and if they're great (and I'm sure they will be great), I'll post them up with mine (which may be less great).

Today's word:
parry \PAR-ee\,
1. to ward off; turn asid
e (as a thrust or weapon)

1. the act of warding off

As I rode my bike around Raleigh this morning in search of a streetside fencing match, I tried to imagine what else might go along with the word. And there it was:

Gear and whatsuch:
I shoot a Canon 10D, which is the 2003 version of the now popular 40D and 50D, which are much, much better. While it became obsolete almost immediately, it still takes photos, and that's what's important.

For this particular polaroid-looking photo to the left, I used a lens I bought from an old man on Craigslist.

(For those of you who hate the tech talk, click here instead of reading on.)

The lens is a Canon
FL 55mm f/1.2, circa 1968. It came in a whole bag of old gear the man was getting rid of for $50, so I went ahead and snatched it up.

The FL and FD le
nses sported bayonet mounts, so I had to find an adapter (which only took a 10-minute ebay search, despite what the pompous, tech-savvy-but-fully-devoid-of-happiness former photographers at Peace Camera told me).

Probably because the lens is so old, the light tends to bounce and diffuse on the way in, which gives it a strange look. Sometimes I think it adds character. Sometimes I think it ruins the photo.

The lens and I have a very love-hate relationship.

In any case, I hope you, my many fans, have enjoyed the first entry of what I'm sure will blossom into a brilliant and extensively lucrative blog. If you'd like to add to the parry category, just send an email. Thanks for reading!