The LaRoque Challenge - Season II

And I feel, so much depends on… The weather… So is it raining in your bedroom? And I see, that these are the… Eyes of disarray… Would you even care?STP

Strange opener huh? Well it's what came to mind when attempting to put myself in some sort of shooting zone last Thursday while down in DC visiting my friend and partner in crime Carly (more on the crimes or planned criminal activity later). I left home with some loose plans to do a bit of work on a personal project or two. Then the weather happened.

I know it's only autumn. I know it's not freezing cold but all I could feel the the things about the winter I hate - pressing down on me as I gathered everything I had in an attempt to pick up a camera and make something. Dark, raining, windy, generally miserable - I was stuck indoors, there was no way I was going to shoot outside. I had also noticed for the first time the day before in similar conditions that there was going to be no way to shoot after 5pm - not in this weather. It was the first time it hit me that it's getting dark early and we here in the US are not even on wintertime clocks yet.

It's this sort of thing that causes me great distress in the winter time. Much more so than it should. Last year I was sort of rescued by a series of short devil may care play between myself and Patrick LaRoque. Thursday a few things coalesced that allowed me to pick up the camera and just get down to business. They all lead to the same place - the LaRoque winter challenge. The impending winter darkness, holding my Fuji X100S while looking for how the hell I was going to shoot in Carly's loft of half-moved-out disarray, quite possibly the person sitting next to me happened to be Anastasia - the last subject I shot in the previous winter challenge. Just happened to be hanging at Carly's place last week.

It all came together really quick and suddenly I knew what I was going to shoot. Last winter was the first time during the challenge that I actually shot my first X100 with any intent at all - obviously due to some of the masterful work Patrick was making with the little guy. While doing that I started to experiment with a few things - like using the geometry presented to me in challenging non-traditional ways. Something I played with throughout last winter. An idea for a personal project was sparked - one that I have continued on with. Working slowly throughout the year I have come to a place where I am extremely comfortable using just my X100S but this time was different.

I had the confidence I could make the images I wanted to make as if it were a 50mm so I just used the little guy for all of what it could do here. I made shots similar to what I would have made with a 50mm FOV - I embraced the wideness - I even exaggerated it. I decided I wasn't going to modify the space. Instead I would use what it was giving me and some of it's geometry to play with compositions that used lines in ways that were a bit off the beaten track but not so much so that it detracted from the subject and hopefully enhanced it. Last time I was playing with the way picture frames on the wall and door ways and corners and verticals in the background interacted with my subject. Some complicated some simple. So that's what I did here. Just different.

You may have noticed the treatment on these is far more "funky" than my usual. It's quite extreme. VSCO 800Z++ with Green Shadows+ and lots of fake grain.

Kind of funny since LaRoque is at a crisis point to bring it back in a bit and I am on my way into left field. Well not quite yet but directionally it's interesting.

It's also a bit intriguing that while I am getting to a point of settling in on a camera with a 35mm FOV that can't even change lenses as quite possibly the only bit of kit I bring to work on personal stuff - at least sometimes - LaRoque seems to be acquiring focal variations at an alarming rate (at least to his wallet if he opts for that new one he just reviewed).

For 99% of this setup I used the focusing technique described yesterday. It's very workable in a fluid situation like this - at least for me. Does take a bit of time behind the wheel though. I wouldn't advise trying it for the first time on something important.

When shooting and then again when looking through this set it actually surprised me that most of them actually seemed to work with respect to the subject playing off of various strong geometry in the background.

There's a good chance they wouldn't have if I didn't play around a lot last winter with it while shooting or thinking about shooting the challenge. The fact that just playing, experimenting, and making it work when it failed, really stuck surprised me.

What did Patrick call it? The laboratory? Here's his post on it.

I call it play. Focused play. I want to modify the value proposition of this play/laboratory a bit though…

Sure it's an idea generator. Sure it good to sort out things technically you haven't played with or done. One other thing that's clear to me is that it's a bit more. All of those little play things add up to something else that's more.

I wasn't just surprised that some of my geometry stuff stuck but how capable I was in actually dealing with it with the 35mm FOV, the X100S's characteristics, and a fairly fluid subject all at the same time and making a hell of a lot of them work.

All that geometry stuff changes real quick based on camera tilt, point of view, angle of the focus plane relative to subject and background, etc. Even more so with a 35mm vs a 50mm.

Anyone that has spent time shooting people has to know there's a bunch of stuff to pay attention to. More than imaginable if you start listing them out like a checklist. Obviously you cannot go through that checklist in a more dynamic situation - if you take all your images like that they are going to be quite static looking - that's okay if that's what floats your boat I guess.

The way the light is playing with your subject, the expression, gesture, overall composition, etc, etc, etc.

What was a happy surprise was that I could do all that and pay attention to the way the strong geometry I chose was interacting with the subject at the same time. That's not exactly how I played in the laboratory with it…

I actually used a lot of interesting background/subject geometry for all of the setups that I shot Thursday. Not just this one - more on that another day though. This is just one that I did in the extreme specifically for the LaRoque Wintertime Challenge Version 2.0. Just for you Patrick.

If I was successful then viewers will see the image first as a whole and if you look just a hair deeper you might notice some fairly complex composition. There are a few things you might even want to use someday yourself… possibly.

Sorry for all the pictures - way out of my usual one image at the top kind of post or a couple of screenshots. I figured that I should probably show you guys/gals that I actually do make a bunch of pictures and don't just cherry pick 1 out of a gillion shots that was some sort of accident or something. I probably should have matted two ore three at a time since they are all verticals but I didn't feel like it.

So what's the challenge this time since I am kicking this off? Well, I guess it's geometry but I cannot make this easy so it's going to have to be the use of a fairly strong geometry with a subject that is not just the geometry. Nothing so contrived as just a picture of geometry - Patrick is way beyond that. No train tracks either. I want to leave it open so geometry doesn't mean lines it can mean anything you want. Don't worry Patrick you can cheat and just use some crowd pleasing leading lines or something but I expect more - run with it only different. The good kind of stress. There's time. It's not even officially winter yet.


Ps. If you want to get back to using the little X100 that's fine but not a requirement. I consider myself to be relatively handicapped compared to you when shooting this little guy.

blog comments powered by Disqus