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Various musings and observations about photography, architecture, design, and life.

Dogwood 52 Week Challenge

I’ll be updating this blog post each week as I progress through the Dogwood 52-Week challenge. If you’re wondering why I’m participating, click here for a previous blog post. Hover over the image for description and camera info. I don’t think this works as well if you’re viewing on a mobile phone or tablet, so I’ll also add description and info below the image gallery. Enjoy.


Week 18 // Weight or Mass

Heavy as a stone, light as a feather. Find inspiration and shoot an amazing photograph.

Paper beats rock because the trees are not intimidated by the rock and simply grow on it.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5
Exposure: 1/125 sec at f/3.5, ISO 64
Lighting: Natural Light


Week 17 // Balance

Balanced composition is pretty straightforward, unless you are trying to shoot in the "Accidental Renaissance" style. So shoot a balanced image in the Accidental Renaissance style.

Accidentally got caught up in an Easter sunrise service while I went to go photograph the sunrise. Also accidentally composed the photo as a Golden Ratio.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5
Exposure: 1/25 sec at f/3.5, ISO 400
Lighting: Natural Light


Week 16 // Shadow

Tell a story. Make it compelling while only using shadow.

The face of the rock became more apparent as the sun rose higher into the sky, allowing the shadows to accentuate its features.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5
Exposure: 1/100 sec at f/8, ISO 64
Lighting: Natural Light


Week 15 // Anonymous

This week's inspiration is Anonymous. Interpret this how you wish.

This is an old photo I found when sorting through old photos. This photo has clearly gone through an IG Filter, but I don’t remember ever creating it or posting it and I can’t find any evidence of this photo on my IG accounts.

Camera + Lens: iPhone 5s
Exposure: N/A
Lighting: Natural Light


Week 14 // Center Frame Portrait

Center Framed composition is a great way to isolate your subject. Use this knowledge to create a portrait that exhibits loneliness.

Life in the sky must be lonely if a creature with the capabilities of flight is often hopping around along the ground.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5
Exposure: 1/800 sec at f/8, ISO 200
Lighting: Natural Light


Week 13 // New Beginnings

Our world is full of circular patterns; as some things end, others begin. Tell us a story of a New Beginning.

Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. The creation of Crater Lake was a result of the destructive eruption of Mount Mazama, destroying its own summit and over time turning into what is now one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5
Exposure: 1/200 sec at f/8, ISO 64
Lighting: Natural Light


Week 12 // Trash

Trash is your inspiration. Tell a story or create something beautiful.

Because this is the ATM that Portland deserves, but not the one it needs right now. Because it’s broken.

Camera + Lens: iPhone Xs
Exposure: 1/404 sec at f/1.8, ISO ??
Lighting: Natural Light


Week 11 // Fill the Frame

Using Fill the Frame is a great way to isolate your subject and create interest in your photo. Can you do it with only one color in the frame? Fill the Frame with one color.

Part of my job at the architecture firm I work at is to help take process photos. In this case, there was a strong theme of blues to match a client’s branding color.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5
Exposure: 1/60 sec at f/4.2, ISO 400
Lighting: Skylight


Week 10 // Hometown

Tell us the story of your hometown. It could be a famous landmark, something the town is known for, or even just your favorite place to relax.

Vancouver, WA is what I would consider my hometown I suppose. I lived there from 1997-2001 and again from 2005-2007. It is where the majority of my extended family have lived and where most of our family reunions occur. My work in architecture afforded me the opportunity to work on this great project on the Vancouver Waterfront. This is the next iconic spot for this city and I’m proud to have been able to help contribute to it.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5
Exposure: 4 sec at f/8.0, ISO 64
Lighting: Rising Sun


Week 9 // Mood

Your Artistic Inspiration this week is the mood you are feeling today. Take that mood and use it to create art.

It has been fairly busy the last few weeks and I feel like I’m often finding myself running on empty or drained, resulting in a rather exhausted but stressed mood. An empty coffee cup best encapsulates this cycle of being busy, but drained, and needing energy.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Tokina 100mm f2.8 Macro
Exposure: 1/60 sec at f/4.0, ISO 3200
Lighting: Cafe Lighting


Week 8 // Leading Lines

It is easy to use Leading Lines to show depth in an image or guide the eye to a specific spot in the image. Instead, this week use leading lines to show the concept of infinity.

I pondered on this week’s theme of using leading lines to show the concept of infinity for a while and kept coming to the conclusion that the typical leading lines composition always leads to a singular point. I decided to use that and flip it around with lines that point to all sorts of directions, creating a sort of entropic experience for the viewer. I found this in Axiom Custom Product’s art installation at the Portland Winter Light Festival.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 FL
Exposure: 1/40 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1600
Lighting: Whatever was in this art installation


Week 7 // Love Story

Make us feel the love in this week's photo. Tell a love story in one image.

Justin Timberlake fans love them some JT. For this set at the concert, the stage light was cut down to a minimal few spotlights over the performers on stage so it was quite dark except for that one spot. Then he asked the crowd to turn on their phone’s light and suddenly the whole arena lit up.

Camera + Lens: iPhone Xs
Exposure: 1/30 sec at f/1.8, ISO a lot.
Lighting: Stage Lighting and a lot of Cellphone LED Flashlights


Week 6 // #NoFilter

No limit on what you shoot this week, as long as the image is pure. No filters, presets or other edits. Basic exposure corrections only this week.

Given that I rarely use presets or filters, this week’s challenge was pretty easy. As I was helping photograph the Portland Winter Light Festival this week, I took the opportunity to grab a shot of the south waterfront area. I liked the way the crescent moon and clouds looked as a backdrop to the Marquam Bridge.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 35mm f1.4G
Exposure: 13 sec at f/16, ISO 31
Lighting: Natural and Architectural


Week 5 // Symmetry Landscape

Landscape is one of the most practiced type of photography. Use Symmetry in a Landscape to create a new viewpoint for this week's image.

I didn’t want to take a typical landscape photo for this challenge; I wanted to push the boundaries a little bit here and there. I decided to focus in on a subject. I initially wanted to go with a macro photography style, but ended up with this moment on my commute home. I also wanted to take a photo in portrait orientation instead of landscape orientation. Symmetry is typically a man-made concept (at least when it comes to reflective symmetry). This situation puts the symmetry of the brick work against the asymmetry of the tree and soil.

Camera + Lens: iPhone Xs
Exposure: 1/46 sec at f/1.8, ISO ??
Lighting: Natural Light


Week 4 // Warmth

Tell a story that makes us feel warm inside.

Wood in architecture is one of the best tools to help provide a sense of warmth in a space, especially when juxtaposed against the more contemporary building materials of glass, steel, and concrete. We subconsciously slow down around wood; we let our guards down around wood; we become comfortable around wood.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 @ 24mm
Exposure: 1/25 sec at f/3.5, ISO 400
Lighting: Skylight and Available Artificial Light


Week 3 // Black and White

Take an amazing black and white photograph of any subject you want.

I decided to challenge myself to convert a photo that I normally would want to depict in color as black and white. This colorful sunrise photo was the perfect candidate for me to try and make black and white. I emphasized the layering of the foggy hills and the fluidity of the cloud textures as they become the dynamic points of interest once color is stripped away.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Sigma 85mm f1.4EX
Exposure: 1/2.5 sec at f/16, ISO 64
Lighting: Hydrogen Fusion + Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) Softbox


Week 2 // Rule of Thirds Motion

Use Rule of Thirds to show motion in your picture.

Knowing that I was going to go hiking this weekend to chase some waterfalls, I had a couple of rough ideas of what I wanted to capture. I don’t normally photograph waterfalls using the rule of thirds, but this particular waterfall was almost asking for it.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 VR
Exposure: 15sec at f/16, ISO 32 + ND8 Filter
Lighting: Hydrogen Fusion + Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) Softbox


Week 1 // Self-Portrait

Take a picture that tells us who you are, without actually showing your face.

For this week’s photo, I went with the “take photos of items that represent who I am” route. The items in this image are pretty self-explanatory for most of those who know me.

Camera + Lens: Nikon D810 + Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX
Exposure: 1/80sec at f/8, ISO 400
Lighting: 18” Neewer Ring Light


Process | NYE Photo Booth
20181231_203356_760_DSC_0000.jpg

To close out 2018, I helped set up a photo booth for my friend’s New Year Party. This is the first time I’ve set something up like this. Overall, I would say that it was a pretty successful. My main goal was to set up a photo booth where I didn’t need to be present to take the photos or monitor it all night long. There were a few quirks to iron out here and there and some things that could be tidied up a bit for the next time, but for something hodge podged together for the first time I was pretty satisfied.

The software

I wanted to see what kind of software was out there for what I had in mind. I wanted something that could utilize my DSLR and be self-operating without needing to stand next to the booth the whole time. I was envisioning being able to offer this service for event photography without taking away from my time to photograph the event or hiring someone to help operate the photo booth. There were a few options available and after a few hours spent researching and watching Youtube videos, I decided to settle on DSLR Booth. This software has a lot of great features that I have yet to fully unpack. It was relatively easy to set up and get running quickly. There is a custom layout designer which is one of the least intuitive parts of the program. It wasn’t confusing to use necessarily, just frustratingly lacking when compared to InDesign or even Bluebeam.

The software requires hooking into either a PC or Mac as opposed to a tablet like the iPad because of the DSLR tethering functions. It supports touchscreen monitors—which was ideal as I would prefer guests to not be touching my laptop. It also supports both of my cameras—the Nikon D810 and D300—along with a plethora of other camera models from the major manufacturers. This provides me the flexibility to utilize my D300 on the photo booth while I can use my D810 to photograph the event. The software license is stated to only work on one machine only, so if you plan on using a dedicated laptop other than your main working laptop for this then I would recommend registering the license on that laptop only. Knowing most software companies though, if you simply give them a call and talk to support they should be able to help you out in the event you do need to transfer the license to a new laptop.

The Hardware

Computer: Apple 2015 15” MacBook Pro
First and foremost, this software needs to be downloaded and operated on a PC or Mac. Since I am currently using my MacBook Pro, that’s what I downloaded it on. Fortunately, this version still has all the ports that I need. I need a USB port to connect the camera to the computer. I also need an HDMI port and a USB port to connect the touch screen monitor to the computer.

Touch Screen Monitor: Acer T232HL
I had an old external 10-point multi touch screen monitor that I used during grad school. I just looked up the monitor and it’s still being sold and it’s more expensive now. Crazy. This is a nice and large monitor at 23 inches. I’m still on the fence whether or not this is too large of a monitor. I guess if I was limited to a smaller space, it might be considered too big. And if I were to mount this monitor onto a stand, I would need to get a pretty hefty stand. I’m currently planning on only using the monitor on a table or stool or something. In the future if this photo booth service becomes more popular, I may invest in an iPad Pro and use it as an external monitor with Duet Display or something.

Lighting: Neewer 18” Dimmable Ring Light with Light Stand
The main hardware that I invested in for this setup was the 18” ring light. I’ve always been interested in getting one for portrait lighting and this was a perfect opportunity for me to purchase one. It also came with its own light stand so that was a bonus. I’m excited to be able to use this light for other kinds of photography in the future.

Camera: Nikon D810
I think I would use my D300 for most events, but since I wasn’t taking photos at this party, I figured I’d try it out with the D810 first. I did test it with the D300 at home and it worked just the same.

The Setup

Setting up the software took a little bit of time. I had to first figure out all of the settings I wanted to do—how many seconds to wait between photos, what kind of features I want to show, how many ways to deliver the photos, etc. I also had to set up a layout for the photo. I decided to go with six photos in a strip—though it seemed like some people would have preferred four photos. I created a brief Happy New Year message and branded it with a small logo of the host’s firm. This was probably my least favorite part of the software because of how overly complicated they made it to create a template.

A little bit into the evening, it was evident that the start screen could use some instructions of how to operate the booth. So I quickly created a set of text instructions in InDesign and exported it as an image and uploaded that as a background image of the start screen. I will probably refine this a little bit better for future events now that I know that some instructions would be needed.

Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of my photo booth setup for this party as I was busy trying to set everything up and make sure everything was going to work as intended. Instead, I’ll try to describe how everything was put together as best as I can. The photo booth was actually in its own little rectangular room instead of out in the open of a larger space, which was nice. The door is on the short wall. The background was placed along the long wall of the room with a table on the opposite wall under a window for the props and touch screen monitor. The distance between the camera and the people was a bit too short for my preference, but we were able to make it work. Due to the placement of the table, we had to place the camera tripod on the table. I wanted the monitor to be centered in front of the camera and the light ring. Unfortunately, the lighting stand was too tall to be placed on the table, so I set the light stand on the floor right in front of the table, but had to shift the monitor off center a bit. This wasn’t how I would have optimally set up the booth, but this was the best solution for the room that we were in.

Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 1.16.13 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 1.14.56 PM.png

The Results

After a few quirks to work out and some last second fixes, the photo booth turned out to be quite the hit. It started off a bit slow, but as the evening went on, more and more people started to use it. Some of the photos were quite creative! A lot of people also enjoyed the Boomerang feature. It was fun to see what everyone could come up with.

Lessons Learned

While I would consider this photo booth a success, there a few things that I can make it even better. There were two types of blurs that I notice from time to time in the photos. The first type is motion blur due to the shutter speed being too slow and the second type is a focus blur due to the depth of field being too shallow. I need to address the first type by increasing the shutter speed and the second type by decreasing the aperture. There are a couple ways that I can help achieve these solutions. The first way is to increase the ISO a significant amount. The second way is to increase the light output. Since the room was relatively dark to begin with and the ring light was already intensely bright, it was difficult to turn up the light output from the ring light. I probably could have increased the ISO a little bit and increased the ring light output a little bit. The most likely solution I would employ is to add a speedlight that would help fill in the needed light output without being too intense on the eyes.

Another aspect of the booth that I can try to improve upon is the placement of the touchscreen monitor. I need to find a way to minimize the amount of people looking at the monitor instead of the camera lens. I could find a way to move the monitor closer to the lens, but that may result in more people looking at the monitor since it’s harder to realize that looking at the monitor means not looking at the lens while having the monitor further away from the lens would make it more obvious that the monitor is not the camera. I could also find a way to display a message on the monitor to look at the lens, but I would need to explore the software a bit more. Another option would be to turn off the live view preview before the photo, but I think it’s better to actually see how you’re positioned in the frame before the photo gets taken. This is one reason why I think a smaller touchscreen might come in handy.

While there are a few things I can do to improve on providing the best photo booth quality and experience, at the end of the day the most important aspect of the photo booth is that people have fun taking photos.

I Miss the Georgia Tech Photography Club
photo courtesy of gatech.edu.

photo courtesy of gatech.edu.

Back at Georgia Tech, I was a part of the Georgia Tech Photography Club.  We weren't exceptionally productive all the time, but we did have our moments of brilliance rooted in a common interest of photography.  We walked around the city, we photographed events—some of them were even paying gigs, we set up a photography studio to provide free portraits for students and staff, we photographed sports, we photographed products, and we shared photos that we’ve taken with each other and even held a photography exhibit and sold our prints. But more important than learning different skills and techniques with and from each other, we learned how to explore and experiment with photography. There was a sense of comfort of having others around you who can help you without judgment because they have either been there before or they are just as eager to explore something new.  Since I moved back to Portland, I haven't really put much effort into seeking out a similar group of people.  Architecture grad school occupied most of my time and it also did not have a lot of people.  However, now that I've graduated from school and am in the "real world", I miss having a community of photographers to just explore the craft with and improve my skills.

Despite this longing for seeking out a group of photogs, I am still hesitant.  Being an introvert, I am naturally hesitant to meeting new people or being a part of a group of people.  It usually takes a long time for me to get to a point of being comfortable around them.  While at Georgia Tech, we had a common bond of difficult academic life of school to connect over in addition to our common interest in photography; it wasn't photography 100% of the time which was nice and made for easy conversation.  Another cause for my hesitation is the amount of time and commitment I would have to put in.  In college it was fairly convenient to go to the student center during lunch for a meeting or meet up to walk around the city.  However, the real world is far less convenient and it'll be hard to say how committed or consistent I can be with other priorities in life.  So I guess it's partly an introverted and mild social anxiety issue, partly it's a motivation issue, and partly it’s other life priorities issue. Case in point, I started writing this blog post back in 2015 and just got around to finishing it because I didn’t really know where to go with it until earlier in 2018.

The 52-week dogwood photography challenge

Instead of forcing myself to find a photography group, I will take one aspect of photography club that I've enjoyed and try to incorporate it into my routine: Weekly themes.  A different theme per week to focus my photography, forcing me to see things in certain ways.  I will provide camera/lens info and lighting setup if applicable.  Hopefully I'll be able to keep this up once a week.  I've attempted daily photography challenges before and have failed miserably.  So I’ll be participating in the 2019 52-Week Dogwood Photography Challenge, a list of topics created by photographer Dale Foshe that has attracted over tens of thousands of participants. 2019 will be its fourth year. I’ve casually followed along with this photography challenge but have never participated in it myself.

Each week, the weekly challenge will be in one of three categories:

  • Story Telling: Good photographers can take beautiful images of something. Great photographers can tell a story with an image. In this category you will take a prompt and turn it into a photographic story.

  • Compositional Eye: In past challenges we have explored the rules of composition. This year we push the rules even further by using them in specific ways to train your compositional eye.

  • Inspiration: In this wide-open category, we start with a simple inspiration. Use this inspiration as creatively as you can. There are no rules so feel free to think outside of the box.

If you want to follow along and take your own photos, I highly encourage it!  Personally, I’ll be posting these to my Instagram account (@niou.photo) as well as on this blog. I might create its own page for convenience, I haven’t decided yet. Either way, it will be somewhere on this website.

The Challenge List

Week 1 | Story Telling: Self-Portrait
Take a picture that tells us who you are, without actually showing your face.

Week 2 | Composition: Rule of Thirds Motion
You already know what the rule of thirds is, now is the time to use it. Use Rule of Thirds to show motion in your picture.

Week 3 | Inspiration: Black and White
Your inspiration this week is to simply take an amazing Black and White photograph of any subject you want.

Week 4 | Story Telling: Warmth
Tell a story that makes us feel warm inside.

Week 5 | Composition: Symmetry Landscape
Landscape is one of the most practiced type of photography. Use Symmetry in a Landscape to create a new viewpoint for this week's image.

Week 6 | Inspiration: #NoFilter
No limit on what you shoot this week, as long as the image is pure. No filters, presets or other edits. Basic exposure corrections only this week.

Week 7 | Story Telling: Love Story
Make us feel the love in this week's photo. Tell a love story in one image.

Week 8 | Composition: Leading Lines
It is easy to use Leading Lines to show depth in an image or guide the eye to a specific spot in the image. Instead, this week use leading lines to show the concept of infinity.

Week 9 | Inspiration: Mood
Your Artistic Inspiration this week is the mood you are feeling today. Take that mood and use it to create art.

Week 10 | Story Telling: Hometown
Tell us the story of your hometown. It could be a famous landmark, something the town is known for, or even just your favorite place to relax.

Week 11 | Composition: Fill the Frame
Using Fill the Frame is a great way to isolate your subject and create interest in your photo. Can you do it with only one color in the frame? Fill the Frame with one color.

Week 12 | Inspiration: Trash
Trash is your inspiration. Tell a story or create something beautiful.

Week 13 | Story Telling: New Beginnings
Our world is full of circular patterns; as some things end, others begin. Tell us a story of a New Beginning.

Week 14 | Composition: Center Frame Portrait
Center Framed composition is a great way to isolate your subject. Use this knowledge to create a portrait that exhibits loneliness.

Week 15 | Inspiration: Anonymous
This week's inspiration is Anonymous. Interpret this how you wish.

Week 16 | Story Telling: Shadow
Tell a story. Make it compelling while only using shadow.

Week 17 | Composition: Balance
Balanced composition is pretty straightforward, unless you are trying to shoot in the "Accidental Renaissance" style. So shoot a balanced image in the Accidental Renaissance style.

Week 18 | Inspiration: Weight or Mass
Heavy as a stone, light as a feather. Find inspiration and shoot an amazing photograph.

Week 19 | Story Telling: Aging
Love it or hate it, aging is something we all experience. So tell us the story of Aging in a single photograph.

Week 20 | Composition: Negative Space
Create a powerful landscape using Negative Space.

Week 21 | Inspiration: Serenity
What does Serenity mean to you?

Week 22 | Story Telling: Stranger
It is easy to tell the story of someone you know. So for this week's challenge I want you to tell the story of a stranger.

Week 23 | Composition: Leading Lines
You have already used leading lines to show Infinity. Now try to use strong leading lines in food photography.

Week 24 | Inspiration: Who inspires you
Inspiration comes from many places. Tell us about who inspires you.

Week 25 | Story Telling: Freedom
Freedom means many things to many people. Tell us a story about what Freedom means to you.

Week 26 | Composition: Geometry
We live in a world surrounded by geometry. Use Geometry in your photo this week.

Week 27 | Inspiration: Gratitude
What are you grateful for? Show us.

Week 28 | Story Telling: Your Culture
Photographers participating in the challenge come from nearly every country and culture. Tell us the story of your culture.

Week 29 | Composition: Depth of Field
Depth of Field is a great way to isolate your subject. Instead, for the challenge though I want you to use DoF to make a subject appear part of something larger.

Week 30 | Inspiration: Exit
"Every exit is an entry to somewhere else". Be inspired by the Exit this week.

Week 31 | Story Telling: Friends and Family
Telling the story of someone you know well is sometimes the hardest story to tell.

Week 32 | Composition: Frame within the Frame
Using only natural elements, frame your subject. No actual picture frames allowed.

Week 33 | Inspiration: Tell a Lie
It is said that the "Camera Never Lies". Prove it wrong.

Week 34 | Story Telling: Color without Color
Tell a colorful story, but do it in black and white.

Week 35 | Composition: Symmetry Portrait
Symmetry is a strong compositional technique most often used in landscapes and architecture. So break the mold by using Symmetry in a portrait.

Week 36 | Inspiration: Your Habits
Some habits are good, and some are bad. Your inspiration this week is either.

Week 37 | Story Telling: Seasons
The weather is changing! Find inspiration in the seasons. 

Week 38 | Composition: Rule of Odds
The rule of odds is easy enough to understand and employ. So use the rule of odds in an Urbanscape/Architecture photo.

Week 39 | Inspiration: The Elements
Earth, Fire, Wind, Rain, and Spirit. Find inspiration in the elements of our world.

Week 40 | Story Telling: Modern Convenience
What modern convenience of 2019 can not you live without? Create an image that looks like an advertisement for your favorite Modern Convenience.

Week 41 | Composition: Color Theory
Color Theory is a huge part of composition that most photographers don't explore. So it is time to explore it. Use Color Grading to create an image that looks like it is a still from a movie.

Week 42 | Inspiration: Work Work Work
Work, let it inspire you this week.

Week 43 | Story Telling: Film Noir
Film Noir is a dark and moody type of photography well suited to storytelling. So tell us a story using Film Noir.

Week 44 | Composition: Viewpoint
Changing your viewpoint creates a different perspective and is often used by photographers to create interest. Shoot this week from the viewpoint of another person.

Week 45 | Inspiration: Musical
Music is part of the soul, so let it inspire you this week.

Week 46 | Story Telling: 7 Deadly Sins
The 7 deadly sins are Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed and Sloth. Tell us a compelling story about one of the 7 deadly sins.

Week 47 | Composition: Rule of Thirds Emotion
The rules of thirds is so popular because it is so versatile. This week use the rule of thirds to show emotion.

Week 48 | Inspiration: Current Events
What is happening in the world today? Be inspired by current events.

Week 49 | Story Telling: Storms
Storms are a powerful force of nature. Show us weather at its best.

Week 50 | Composition: Patterns
Patterns/Repetition are another well known compositional rule, but have you ever tried to use it in Macro Photography? Well now you can!

Week 51 | Inspiration: Food
Be inspired by Food. Yes, it really is that easy this week. You made it this far you deserve the break. A sweet, delicious break.

Week 52 | Story Telling: Self-Portrait
In the first week you took a self portrait and told us who you think you are. To finish this off take a self portrait that shows us who others think you are.

Year in Review | 2018
I’ve been to the Tulip Festival almost every year since I’ve moved back to Portland and this was the first year I’ve seen them successfully launch the hot air balloons.

I’ve been to the Tulip Festival almost every year since I’ve moved back to Portland and this was the first year I’ve seen them successfully launch the hot air balloons.

The end of the year is upon us which means it’s time for reflection on everything that has happened the past 12 months. Overall, I would say 2018 has been a rather successful year for me when it comes to photography. I dipped my toes a bit more into wedding photography and also picked up a couple more wonderful clients for event photography. As I am only doing this part time, I am starting to pick up enough photography work where I need to be careful not to overcommit to projects. I hiked a lot less this year and woke up for less sunrises compared to 2017, but I think that I still did enough to satisfy the itch. I figured with this post I would recap some of my best images from the past year, talk about my new experiences, and review some lessons learned from the year.

New Experiences

2018 was more of a continuation of professional growth kind of year for me. In 2017 I was primarily photographing family and baby portraits. This past year however, I picked up a good amount of commercial photography work as well. I did take less photographs this year than I did last year—but not by too much. In 2017 I took 13,700 photos. In 2018 I have taken 12,247 photos as of this writing. This is still a stark increase from 2016 when I only took 4,419 photos.

  • I’m continuing to help my architecture firm with more photography related projects. This year was the first time that my photography was used in a project. I photographed my first large-format print that is being used as a wall cover—9’ tall by 42’ long! This was a fun experience and I look forward to working on more projects like this.

  • I also photographed my first wedding as a second shooter. I’ve confirmed that photographing a wedding is just as tiring as I thought it would be. It wasn’t as daunting of a task as I thought it would be—at least as a second shooter, so I’m open to picking up more second shooting jobs. There are definitely a lot of things that I need to still learn about it.

  • I will end 2018 by developing a new facet of my photography skillset with a self-operating photo booth at one of my friend’s New Years Party. It’s currently a DIY hodge podge of parts put together so hopefully it all goes well! Perhaps in 2019 I will be able to offer this service as an add-on along with my event photography services for a more complete event experience once I refine it a bit.

  • I don’t currently have the numbers available, but I believe I took more videos this year than last year. I started dabbling a bit more extensively into Adobe Premiere Pro too, so we’ll see how things go with that in the future.

  • I now have a couple more long-term commercial clients that I photograph events for that I hope will continue to grow. I increased my photography revenue 9x while increasing my expenses 5x. I realize how sad I will be when filing taxes on this additional income.

Lessons Learned

There are always lessons to be learned. It’s important to note and document these lessons so I can continue to grow as a photographer.

  • With the increase of photography jobs, one of the main things I need to constantly work on is managing my time and these projects—knowing what my limits are and knowing when to say no to projects will be crucial for my sanity going forward.

  • Another lesson I learned this past year is that I don’t need to photograph at maximum resolution with maximum color depth all the time. I can save a significant amount of storage simply by switching from 14-bit to 12-bit color. I can save even more storage by shooting at a lesser resolution setting than my camera has.

  • I also learned that I need to find time to clean my camera sensor. I was starting to find myself spot correcting a lot more often as the year went on because of a dirty sensor. My main camera is currently in a shop getting cleaned and I feel naked without it even though I still have my backup camera available.

  • Always keep track of all of your expenses immediately—especially if you didn’t buy it online. I was better at this in 2017 than I was in 2018. I know for a fact I’m missing a couple of things that I had bought.

  • Final lesson learned is to always carry around some business cards. There have been a few occasions where I find myself without my photography business cards where it could have been useful.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to 2019, I have a few manageable goals I would like to set for myself.

  • Some goals I would like to achieve for 2019 include heading back out to do more landscapes again. Hike more, explore more, travel more. Wake up earlier more.

  • I don’t think I will set a goal to take more photos as I think I’ve reached a pretty good number the last couple years. I think maintaining roughly the same amount is good. I would instead strive to take better photos. More interesting and unique photos. Photos that I haven’t regularly taken in the past.

  • I would like to add more clients with continuous work throughout the year to help build up a more regular side income. I would like to blog a bit more consistently—it helps to organize some of my thoughts and it’s always nice to look back on and track my growth.

  • I would like to organize my photos better. Work on my file management, categorizing, keywords, cataloging, backing up photos etc. I spent a good amount of time searching for photos I know I took but just couldn’t remember which exact date I took them. I also need to start creating a more robust backup system as I continue to pick up more clients. Since my photography volume has increased and my laptop currently partitioned out to run Windows for architecture work, I can only shoot about half a years worth of photos before needing to dump my photos on to an external hard drive.

Selected Images

And without further ado, here are some selected images from the past year that I really enjoyed.

Process | Umpqua Bank Plaza Conference Center
DSC_3862-Pano1 web.jpeg

I have the privilege of working in the field of architecture and photography. As my career in architecture progresses, I’m finding that my photography work is growing along with it. Usually I am photographing architecture or documenting the architectural process. However, every once in a while an opportunity comes along where the photography is used in the architectural design.

A couple of my coworkers were working on a conference center renovation and the client had a vision of a large graphic wall that depicted their building along the Willamette River Waterfront in Portland. I was asked to help them realize their vision. Their building, the Umpqua Bank Plaza, is in a prominent position to be photographed from the East Bank Esplanade. The client wanted a selective color panoramic photo with their burgundy brick building standing out from the rest of the skyline.

There were a few challenges to this project that I knew I’d have to figure out right away. The room that this photo will be put up in is not a very large room. It was roughly 9’ wide and 42’ long and 9’ tall—a pretty long and narrow room. This means that the normal viewing distance would be very close. I didn’t want the photo to be perceived as too pixelated or blurry from the normal viewing distance. I knew that there was a correlation to the viewing distance and the pixels per inch resolution (ppi) and found a couple of great resolution to viewing distance calculators such as this one.


//WARNING
<MATH>

I entered in the 9’ (108”) x 42’ (504”) image size and the 5’ (60”) viewing distance and it spit out a resolution of 58ppi. This means that my photo needed to be a minimum resolution of 6264 x 29232 pixels. Fortunately, the Nikon D810 has a maximum resolution of 7360 x 4912 pixels per image. This means that if I stitch together a series of portrait mode photos into a panorama, then I should be able to achieve the minimum desired resolution for viewing from 5’ away. 29232 / 4912 = 5.95. If I gave myself zero tolerance, this means that I would need to take a series of 6 photos to cover the resolution needed. However, I like to give myself about a 50% overlap when doing a series of photos for a panorama—resulting in 12 photos needed to cover the resolution. (The end result was a 6495 x 29708 pixel photo after some minor cropping to get the ideal composition).

I knew that the other challenge for this project was that it’s an open space where people can walk right up to the image to view it. Using the same calculator, I typed in a viewing distance of 12” as the worst case scenario of how close someone might get to view the photo and it says 287 ppi (hence the rule of thumb of 300ppi for best quality printing purposes). So I decided to upsample the photo to help smooth out the rough edges when viewing up close. 108” x 504” image at 300ppi would be 32,400 x 151,200 pixels. Now this is where I learned that jpegs have a maximum resolution: 65,535 x 65,535 pixels. Since my long edge is maxed out at 65,535 pixels, dividing that by 504” results in an upscaled image with 130ppi resolution—not that bad.
</MATH>

Umpqua Flag.png

Now that I know that I can achieve an acceptable quality photo, I set out to take the photo. The local forecast was predicting overcast to partly cloudy skies. I wasn’t too bummed about it and was thinking the photo could actually benefit from the overcast skies as it would help wash out the sky and keep the focus on their building. I found a good spot just south of the Hawthorne Bridge that allowed me to help frame the photo. I took a few series from that spot as well as a few alternate spots. One particular detail that I wanted to make sure I got was the US Flag on top of their building since it was the only one visible from this vantage point. I wanted I good shot of the flag catching the wind a little and waited until I was able to finally get it in a fairly picturesque form. The wind was sporadically blowing here and there, nothing too consistent so it did take a little effort.

After capturing enough photos for a few good panoramas, I began the post processing. After some minor adjustments in Lightroom, I exported out two images, a colored image and a monochrome image. I wanted the red brick to really stand out so I edited the color photo around that and tried to not get distracted by what else was going on in the photo. The monochrome photo I really wanted the details the shine through while maintaining a good contrast between the light and dark tones. A couple of layer masks in Photoshop later and I was able to obtain a satisfactory result. The hardest part of the selective color process was the base of the building where it falls behind the trees in the foreground. The trees were pretty close in color to the building so it was a lot of trial and error as to how best to tackle that area.

From here, it was a matter of coordinating with the printer about where and how to install the image—particularly around the corner. A few months later, the construction of their newly renovated conference center was back open. A few weeks ago I finally got a chance to head over there to check out the space and see how the massive photo wall turned out. I was pleasantly surprised at how clear the photo was from just a couple feet away. I also did take a minute to soak in the meta moment of taking photos of an architectural space that features a photo that I took for that space that features the building that the space is in.

ProcessTimothy NiouComment