April 30, 2009

mellifluous \muh-LIF-loo-us\,

Flowing as with honey; smooth; flowing sweetly or smoothly; as, a mellifluous voice.

There's no honey in today's word of the day, just oil and water. I am most definitely not the first to photograph the two together, nor are my photos likely the best. But I would bet money that I'm the first to do so on a blog dedicated to dictionary.com's word of the day.

The shortened definition of today's word, as it shows up on my word-of-the-day widget, is flowing sweetly or smoothly, and while nothing in my photo is actually flowing, I thought it might be a fun photo. It's just set up with two lights, one pointed below a glass of water at the white backdrop and the other above where the oil will be. Then just add oil, and snap away.

Focus is typically the toughest part of this type of photo. I was lucky to get what I got, even though it's not necessarily that sharp. Bumping the contrast can sometimes help with that problem, though. And having a real, sturdy tripod might also work for you.

Anyhow, get out there and take some photos for mellifluous and send them along to me in an email so I can include them with mine! Happy Thursday!

Update: Thanks again to Ronny for sending this photo -- it's the first photo he ever sold, on permanent display in the Tally Student Center on N.C. State. I like when you guys do that, so keep sending them over (even retroactively)!

April 29, 2009

bumptious \BUMP-shuhs\,

Crudely, presumptuously, or loudly self-assertive.

The photo for today's word of the day, in my very humble opinion, is fantastic. This is a definite response to an earlier photo starring roommate Bryan, which was much more intense and not quite as conducive to blackmail.

Clowns, I think, are loudly self-assertive. I had originally planned to get Bryan in some ridiculous makeup, but the wig and nose were $10 at the Magic Corner (the place for wigs and noses, apparently), and I think they got the job done.

The setup, as usual, was not too difficult. Two lights: one in front of the subject and to the right through an umbrella at relatively low power, and the other to his right and behind him at high power facing a white wall. I exposed for Bryan's (hilarious) face and so the light behind him was blown out, giving the side of his wig that effect of being almost feathered out at its end.

This was definitely a fun one, and I hope you'll all have something to match it. Send me whatever you've got for bumptious in an email and I'll be sure to include it!

Update: Another one from Ronny shows a friend, Clark, a little too close for comfort. Thanks, Ronny!

April 28, 2009

eleemosynary \el-uh-MOS-uh-ner-ee\,

1. Of or for charity; charitable; as, "an eleemosynary institution."

For today's word of the day, I headed down to the Shepher's Table Soup Kitchen on Morgan Street in Raleigh. The homeless problem in our city is pretty bad, and the line outside the door was probably about 50 people long before 11 a.m.

And as a woman passing by the soup kitchen mentioned to me (rather bitterly), photographing people in line at a soup kitchen brings up an interesting ethical question: when is it OK to take someone's photo without their permission?

The answer to that question is complex. There is, of course, a very easy answer to the question of legality: if you're in public and your subject is in public, you can pretty much just go ahead and shoot it (with a few exceptions). But on which side of the ethical line would you find yourself while shooting a dying man, a cancer patient, or homeless people without their permission? I think the answer is different on a case-by-case basis.

For example, I didn't feel like the photo for today's word intruded on someone's privacy - not the sort of privacy you find while in your own home per se, but the "personal bubble," borderline harassment type. In cases where I expect my presence while taking someone's photo will affect their physical or mental being, I tend to talk to them in the first place; permission often makes the photo easier to get to, especially when you want to get close and keep your subject from being visibly awkward (or angry).

I wouldn't categorize this blog as journalistic. If it was, though it might not be necessary, I might feel compelled to ask for the names of my subjects. Nor is it commercial. This blog, I think, is some sort of "art," and in that case, I don't feel I've crossed any ethical lines in today's photo.

But there are many sides to this kind of conversation. So if you've got any thoughts, please put them into the "thoughts" section at the bottom of this post, and I'd love to discuss.

In the meantime, eleemosynary is an interesting word of the day, and I'd love for you to send some photos along to me in an email!

April 27, 2009

fi⋅an⋅cée /fee-ahn-sey; fee-ahn-sey/,

a woman engaged to be married; a woman to whom a man is engaged.

Doing a little something different today: I got engaged yesterday, so I'm cheating for today's word of the day! This is going to be a little more personal than the other posts, but you'll just have to deal with that.
It goes like this: yesterday, I got up at the crack of 3:30 a.m. and got Jamie, put her in the car, and told her we're going on a surprise vacation to the beach. It was pretty believable, I think, because we haven't had the same day off in months, and we had been talking about taking a few days off together.

We went down to Wrightsville Beach and made it just before the sun came up. (Fantastic planning, I must say.) We watched the sun rise, and I proposed, and luckily for me, she said yes. Though, if she hadn't said yes, I would have left her here in her pajamas.

We stayed over night in a hotel room my sister got us with her points from traveling (thanks Katie!) and we're still just hanging out today, which is why the photo for today's word is so fantastic. There's no color correction, or even cropping, because I just got engaged and I don't care that much about the photo.

Hope you're all having a great Monday! I'll be back with a real word of the day tomorrow!

April 24, 2009

gainsay \gayn-SAY; GAYN-say\,

transitive verb:
1. To deny or dispute; to declare false or invalid.
2. To oppose; to contradict.

Today's word of the day was a relatively easy one. I took it right down the street at the Salvation Army. (I think I've taken enough photos of that place for this blog to start a brochure. If you're reading this, Salvation Army, and you want to pay me, give me a call.)

It's a pretty incredible day outside. There aren't any clouds in the blue sky, which can make for a pretty awesome background.

As usual, I'll be working this weekend, so I won't be posting anything. But I encourage you all to look back at previous days' words and send any photos to me that might fit. I'll update the posts with your photos, and hopefully I'll find some way to showcase them retroactively. If you've got something good, send it to me in an email!

April 23, 2009

paladin \PAL-uh-din\,

1. A knight-errant; a distinguished champion of a medieval king or prince; as, the paladins of Charlemagne.
2. A champion of a cause.

I didn't find too many knights wandering the streets downtown for today's word of the day. Instead, I met one of the nicest people in Raleigh: Miss Carol.

Miss Carol apparently runs a hot dog stand on Fayetteville Street. (For those foreigners among you, Fayetteville Street is Raleigh's main strip during the day, with offices and restaurants and stuff. But at night it's fairly dead with the exception of a few little bars.) The side of her cart reads, "The Hot Dog Lady," and if she wasn't the most kind person alive, I might have inserted a dirty joke here.

I told Miss Carol that today's word of the day is paladin, and asked her what her cause would be. "Just being the best person I can be," she said. "Helping everyone get through their day."

And within the 45 seconds it took to introduce myself and take a photo, she was helping someone on the street get into the bank adjacent to her hot dog stand. That's her in the photo telling him what buttons to press to get in. And when it didn't work, she left her post to go around to the window and find someone to help.

At least four people said "Hello, Miss Carol," on their way by. Evidently she's had some effect on the people that pass her cart every morning simply by standing on the same corner, day after day, being sweet.

How refreshing; what better cause could there be?

Anyway, if you happen to see any knights roaming the streets, or even someone championing a cause, send me your paladin photos in an email so I can include them with Miss Carol. Happy Thursday!

April 22, 2009

invidious \in-VID-ee-uhs\,

1. Tending to provoke envy, resentment, or ill will.
2. Containing or implying a slight.
3. Envious.

Today's word of the day showcases the ridiculously sized governor's mansion on Blount Street in Raleigh. It was extremely windy today, so riding my bike was less fun than it can be. But it's also awesome outside, so I might as well get a little exercise.

Not much involved with today's photo. Shot it wider than I probably had to, but I can't stop using the 12-24. I'm obsessed. I think I have a problem. (And judging by Ronny's recent photos, I think he has the same problem.)

Today's Earth Day (and, as it so happens, also my birthday), so I'm going to quit writing for now and go out and enjoy the day! I hope you all have an excellent Earth Day, and send me some photos of invidious in an email!

April 21, 2009

peccadillo \peck-uh-DIL-oh\,

A slight offense; a petty fault.

I got a bit of a new perspective for today's word of the day. I always say (or at least, I should always say) the dumber you look taking the photo, the more likely it is to come out well. In my opinion, that goes for most out-of-studio photos. Look for a different angle: get low or get up on top of something, and you're bound to find a perspective more interesting to viewers than what they can already see at eye level.

Well that's the lesson for today, anyway. I stumbled across these windows (with bricks behind them, for some reason) on Salisbury Street in Raleigh. I actually could have sworn I'd seen them somewhere else, like on cell phone camera aficionado Shawn Rocco's blog (which is awesome if you get a chance to look through it), but I couldn't find it anywhere. That said, if you happen to come across them, let me know.

It was an awesome day out, which is why I decided to hop on my bike in the first place, so it's nice to have gotten the blue sky in the photo. What you're looking at is just what I saw laying on the ground in a small parking lot.

As always, if you've got a photo for peccadillo, then send it to me in an email!

April 20, 2009

stormy petrel \STOR-mee-PET-ruhl\,

1. Any of various small sea birds of the family Hydrobatidae, having dark plumage with paler underparts; also called storm petrel.
2. One who brings discord or strife, or appears at the onset of trouble.

Today's word of the day, like so many before it, describes a bird whose name doubles as a way to describe someone. It's a little strange that the guys at Dictionary.com keep picking bird words, but I won't judge.

Sadly, today's photo isn't quite what I was going for. I wanted to try my hand at an HDR photo, but since I've got to work on my usual Monday off, I won't have the time today to go gallivanting around taking pictures with a high dynamic range.

But in any case, the sky did look pretty awesome today, and the word of the day folks seemed to finally get the word to match the weather. For once.

If you've got a picture for stormy petrel, send it to me in an email. And though I may not have been clear before, you can always retroactively send a photo for any other word of the day, and I'll be happy to include it!

April 17, 2009

ephemeral \ih-FEM-er-ul\,

Short-lived; existing or continuing for a short time only.

In the true fashion of 12-year-olds stuck in taller-but-just-as-squirrely men's bodies, friend Kevin and I set off a firecracker in my house for today's word of the day.

I should probably publicly apologize to Josh, as we set the firecracker off in my "studio," which shares a wall with his room. He may or may not have been sleeping at the time, and if he was, it made for a less than enjoyable awakening.

To be sure I would capture the small but extremely loud explosion, I brought the lights down for a 15-second exposure, which is why you can see both the sparks from the fuse as well as the light from the explosion. Kevin was standing by with a glass of water for safety (as if that would have done anything when I lost a finger).

As always, I won't be posting anything this weekend. But if you've got any photos for ephemeral, send it to me in an email!

Update: Thanks to Bryan for sending this photo of my brother with a sparkler for the word of the day. How exciting!

April 16, 2009

etiolate \EE-tee-uh-layt\,

transitive verb:
1. (Botany) To bleach and alter the natural development of (a green plant) by excluding sunlight.

Figures that the only word of the day that involves the exclusion of sunlight falls on the only day this week without rain. But no matter, I went for a little bike ride anyway.

It took me a while to find an idea I wanted to stick with and actually follow through. What I ended up with was a long exposure (the longest I could get in the shade on a nice day like this was about four seconds), shining a flashlight on the bright leaf you see in the photo. I'm thinking about another project that may be fun with this same idea, but you'll have to wait for that.

And by the way, did you notice the fantastic lightbox that Tyler helped me put my photos into? If not, click on the photos to see what I mean.

Hopefully some of my many readers with botany backgrounds have some good photos for etiolate. If you do, send them to me in an email!

April 15, 2009

outré \oo-TRAY\,

Unconventional; eccentric; bizarre.

Today's word of the day also happens to be Pig Latin for "true" (starting the blog off right with a crappy joke today). It also made me realize just how normal so many people walking around Raleigh are.

Unfortunately, I started off the day with one shot and then a dead battery. While I was walking back to my car, however, I happened to pass a man with four-foot dreads and a cross dresser. But these things happen, and I found a harp player instead, playing for a little crowd at the farmer's market on Moore Square today.

I also happened to see Ronny out shooting, which is always a lovely experience. He was out shooting video for work, and showed me the harp player.

Shorter post today, but hopefully you've got a few photos for outré that you can send my way via email!

Update: Thanks to Jessi for sending along the first photo in weeks. It is most definitely bizarre, and quite fantastic. Keep 'em coming!

April 14, 2009

labile \LAY-byl\,

1. Open to change; apt or likely to change; adaptable.
2. Constantly or readily undergoing chemical, physical, or biological change or breakdown; unstable.

I love Mondays and Tuesdays, because since I get those days off from work, I can focus on (extremely more enjoyable) photo projects and my word of the day. For today's, I went downtown looking for a construction site.

Today's project is a do-it-yourself tilt/shift lens. Similar, non-do-it-yourself lenses, like the recently released arsenal of Canon tilt/shifts, can cost over $1,000, and I haven't really got the money for anything like that. A tilt/shift lens works like any other lens, but has a very big advantage (and again, for those uninterested in the technical side of these things, go ahead and click here).

The depth of field (or, area of focus) on any regular lens attached to the camera is like a wall. That is to say, the range of focus will be parallel to your camera body. With a regular lens, that depth of field can be manipulated so that the "wall" is thinner or thicker, farther away or closer to the camera. (For more on camera basics, visit the best reference for basic camera functions. Ever.)

With a tilt/shift lens, the lens can move independent from the camera body, allowing that "wall" to move be manipulated in ways a normal lens wouldn't allow. Now the "wall" isn't necessarily parallel to your camera body. It can be at any reasonable diagonal, which can cause severe blurriness in whatever parts of the photo you choose. It works like the "bellows" of a large-format camera.

My do-it-yourself brand of tilt/shift is a little less sharp than what I'm sure the Canon lenses look like. But the concept is there, and it works well. (I used a lot of sources for reference on this, but here's the one that I think helped the most.) The most expensive part of this project was finding a medium-format lens (I sort of regret going with the cheapest I could find: a $70 Bronica from ebay), which focuses farther from the censor than a 35mm lens, allowing me to bring it away from the camera for tilts and shifts. To connect it to the camera, I just used black cloth, a body cap with a hole in it, and a lot of gaffer tape.

Hopefully I'll be able to use this lens for more than just today's project. I hope to bring you sharper focus with the next one, but for now, go out and take some labile photos, and send them to me in an email!

April 13, 2009

susurrus \su-SUHR-uhs\,

A whispering or rustling sound; a murmur.

Sorry about the late post for today's word of the day. I spent a little while today working on a project for the backlight that goes along with the picture.

Thanks firstly goes to Josh and Bryan for modeling in this shot. I know you can't see their faces, but that's what makes the photo so good. (Too harsh?) It's easily done with a flash behind them, keeping all the light off their faces. This flash was actually at about half power and the aperture was small, letting only a little light in. The room was lit with a regular overhead bulb, but it has no effect with a fast shutter and a small aperture.

On the flash was a homemade "gridspot," made from a stolen sign that you would find on the side of the road (the type that politicians use for their campaigns). You can find the directions here, and they're pretty easily constructed.

The light is a reddish purple because of a piece of red saran wrap fashioned over the flash with a rubber band. I could probably afford some gels, but who needs 'em?

Hope you liked this (better late than never) word of the day. If you've got any photos for susurrus, send them to me in an email!

April 10, 2009

frisson \free-SOHN\,

A moment of intense excitement; a shudder; an emotional thrill.

Today's word of the day showcases a former habit of mine that I've kicked. But this photo may be the thing that gets me back off (or is it on?) the wagon.

I did manage to win $1 with this lottery ticket (which actually cost $1 in the first place), so at least I don't feel like I got ripped off. I'm sure I'll lose the ticket before I end up back at the gas station to redeem my huge prize.

Setup was, as always, pretty simple: two lights, both through umbrellas (as I've found the missing piece to my umbrella adapter) on either side of the lottery ticket, which was just right on top of a sheet I found at the thrift store. They really do have the best props and backgrounds.

I've got to work this weekend (just like every weekend), so I won't be posting again until Monday.

But hopefully you'll all be out taking photos of frisson (though, if the past is any indicator, you probably won't). If you've got a good one, send it to me in an email!

April 9, 2009

impugn \im-PYOON\,

transitive verb:
To call in question; to make insinuations against; to oppose or challenge as false; to gainsay.

Today's word of the day was a quick one. As some of you may have guessed, I am very important and often have tons of things to do.

So thankfully, Josh and Lauren were around to help with today's word. We had to roll Josh out of bed, but it made the whole thing a lot easier since he was already angry.

The lighting setup for this shot is not very complicated: two bare flashes on either side of the subject at half power, and the aperture on the camera very small to block out a good bit of the bright sunlight and put the focus on my angry subjects. We were out in the street in front of my house, which was only a little bit terrifying.

Update: I reposted this photo with a little texture over it by taking a photo of some dirt/grass/whatever and using layer mode "overlay." It's still not my best shot, but it's at least a little more interesting!

Short post today, but if you've got any photos for impugn, send them to me in an email!

April 8, 2009

chimerical \ky-MER-ih-kuhl; -MIR-; kih-\,

1. Merely imaginary; produced by or as if by a wildly fanciful imagination; fantastic; improbable or unrealistic.
2. Given to or indulging in unrealistic fantasies or fantastic schemes.

Today's word of the day just had so many possibilities. Sadly, a small lack of time and slightly larger lack of money kept me from doing anything too elaborate, but those are ideas I'll be saving for another day.

Instead, I donned my flight gear and took to a field where I put the camera on self-timer and just took a couple flying laps around. Maybe it was chimerical, or maybe it was the wind, but I could have sworn I was really flying around out there for a little while. Of course, no one was with me to corroborate that story. So if I wasn't, I just looked like an idiot running and jumping around in a field.

It's a beautiful day for flying, so get out there and get some chimerical photos, and send them to me in an email!

April 7, 2009

nescience \NESH-uhn(t)s; NESH-ee-uhn(t)s\,

Lack of knowledge or awareness; ignorance.

Today's word of the day features one of my roommates, Bryan. For those of you who may be confused about the influx of roommates I have with the name Bryan, I've only got two. Perhaps I should give you a little background about my usual models in this post.

Today's Bryan (also featured in spoonerism) moved in with us just a few months ago. He's great at Fifa '09 and sports a stylish mustache. Then, there's another Bryan (yes, both spell their names with a "y") who has lived here all along. We were roommates last year; he's a singer and designer and skinny lover (most famous work includes ululate). And then there's Josh, owner and operator of Silver Lining Brewry (based out of my kitchen). We've lived together since freshman year of college. His most important work was in inanition.

So for nescience today, I used the old Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 (from 1968-ish) featured in my very first post. It give the photo its signature ring of soft light around whatever it's "focused" on, likely because it's relatively ancient. But it give some great colors that I always enjoy.

It's beautiful out, so take some nescience photos, and send them to me in an email!

April 6, 2009

aegis \EE-jis\,

4. A shield or protective armor; -- applied in mythology to the shield of Zeus.

Today's word of the day post may turn into a quick rant about how technology ruins my life, but I'll try to keep that to a minimum.

First off, I've been in cahoots with the folks from dictionary.com. I was hoping to get a word of the day a few weeks in advance to plan something fantastic for you, my many readers. But instead, they sent the words for today, tomorrow and Wednesday. It's just as well, though; I used that opportunity to shoot in an empty building down the street with my brother.

Now for why technology is terrible: after shooting last night, I plugged my card reader into the computer and lost everything. I'm still not sure why it happened, but when I went to retrieve the photos, there was nothing there. In fact, the only reason I have anything for you at all is because I downloaded a recovery software that costs $130 if you want the full-sized image back.

And that's why today's photo is so small (when you click on it). I ended up just taking a screen shot of the tiny photo in the recovery program, which is unfortunate.

And for the photo itself: it's a pretty simple, but very fun way of using light. There's a flash to the right with a softbox pointed at Steven, my brother (thanks for modeling!), and another in the back shot through an umbrella to the wall. The "bars" in the photo are streaks of light made with LED key chains. Helen and I drew them in while Steven hung out looking awesome.

Well that's it for my anti-technology post. Luckily, there wasn't much more than a few photos and the 7th Harry Potter in mp3 on the card. But hopefully it won't happen again.

As always, if you've got a photo for aegis, send it to me in an email!

April 3, 2009

longueur \long-GUR\,

A dull and tedious passage in a book, play, musical composition, or the like.

This word of the day brings me right back to my high school days, when I thought everything I read was longueur. Of course, now I read only the most complicated and rambling pieces of literature.

Bryan insists that his book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, is neither dull nor tedious, but the title implies something different. He was already reading at the Morning Times coffee shop downtown, so there wasn't much setup involved. The windows let in a good bit of natural light, accented by the soft yellow of the restaurant's tungsten bulbs in the ceiling.

Lucky for me, the Times has free Wi-Fi, so I can still hang out a while after the photo.

A few have asked how I shot this: I was standing on a chair opposite from Bryan, holding the camera out over his head. Lots of practice shooting this way has gotten me to the point that I can usually aim pretty well without looking through the viewfinder, though it may still take a few tries. I was not hanging from the ceiling mission impossible style.

This is a tough one, but if you've got any longueur photos, send them to me in an email! As usual, I won't be posting this weekend because of work, so you should have more time to shoot and submit!

April 2, 2009

gambol \GAM-buhl\,

intransitive verb:
1. To dance and skip about in play; to frolic.

Too bad this excellent word of the day fell on such a dreary, depressing, rainy day. But it's alright, because many of my friends tend to gambol even on rainy days, so it wasn't hard to convince them to go out frolicking for just a little while.

We went to the second most popular place to photograph Raleigh: Western and Salisbury, just south of downtown (the first most popular being the Boylan Street Bridge). There's a nice little grassy spot where you can frolic if you pull off the road and don't let the authorities get at you.

Today I shot with my favorite, the Tokina 12-24 f/4, but it tended to be just a little too wide that far away from town. But no worries, the girls filled the frame really well with their dancing feet. I'm starting to discover that I like to use people's feet and legs in my photos sometimes, as opposed to their faces, to provide a sort of anonymity and so that the subject isn't just a face, but the entire frame.

Hopefully some of my many readers will brave the rain to go out and do a little gamboling (not gambling), and if you do, send me your photos in an email!

April 1, 2009

jape \JAYP\,

noun, verb:
1. A joke or jest.
2. A trick or prank.

The guys at dictionary.com are clearly in an April Fool's Day mood with today's word of the day. I didn't even know it was April 1 until I guessed after seeing their word.

So today, I looked online and found a magic shop down Capital Boulevard in Raleigh. When I got to the little store, there was a pudgy little man in red suspenders and a little yipping white dog, so I knew I was in the right place. I've never been in a magic shop before, but that's how I would have imagined it.

I bought that little flower for $2 and brought it back home to shoot. For lights, one flash camera left facing subject (myself) in that homemade softbox (only because I lost a piece for my other umbrella adapter) and one flash through an umbrella camera right, pointed where the water would go.

Also, did anyone note that this is the second time in as many days that I've worn a suit in the photo? Classy.

Anyhow, if you've got any April Fool's Day photos that will go with jape, send them to me in an email!