Lately I’ve been spending too much time huddled over my phone, checking status, entering challenges, voting and topping up my exposures. I’ve been playing Gurushots, a real-time online photo competition system.
It works by entering challenges and accumulating votes to achieve levels. The levels tip to points and the points tip to ranks. The more you vote, the more exposure your photo entries get for voting. There is no limit to the number of challenges you can enter. And that’s a problem.
At one point I had ten challenges going. I was constantly checking on my exposure meter and submitting votes to bump it up. Problem is that voting involves paging through hundreds of photos, some good, some not so good and some downright puzzling. It all depends on the wording of the challenge. Sometimes, the guidance is too vague.
Take for instance the “Starts with a K” challenge. The description was too vague. It should have qualified the language. I paged through hundreds thousands of Kittens, Keys and Kiwis. (Question: How many interesting angles are there to a Kiwi? Answer: None. I’ve seen them all.) But then I started seeing Cakes, Coffee and Corn. Someone couldn’t spell. Wait … maybe they could spell but it was in German. Kuchen, Kaffee and Korn.
Another fun challenge was “Face in the Crowd”. There were lots of pictures of crowds but no distinctive single face. Other pictures were classic single person portraits; you had to imagine the crowd. One remarkable shot was taken on stage, of the back of a band performing to a crowd. No faces seen but they were facing the crowd. Ha ha! That one got my vote.
Anyways here are a few of my photos in recent Gurushot challenges.
In the East there is an ancient man made reservoir called Srah Srang. It was built in the 10th century by the Khmer civilization in the kingdom of Angkor. For over a thousand years people have used this place for religious rituals, communal baths and water collection.
On this early morning, as dawn broke across a cloudy eastern sky, a lady collects water for another day.
In the West coast of Canada, the rain forests meet the Pacific and the sun sets in a blaze of glory.
A hoodie shrouded man walks along a jetty after bidding the day good bye.
Two worlds. One day. Twelve thousand kilometers apart. The sun rises and sets on both.
I learned a harsh lesson in portraiture this week: Digital is not the same as Print.
It’s a surprising realization that after four years of photography I’ve never actually printed my pictures. I’ve been satisfied with sharing them here, on Flickr and other social media. That changed when I committed to mailing prints back to the folks in Cuba.
But let’s rewind a bit.
The highlight of my recent trip was the opportunity to take pictures of people. I met members of the Chivirico community and with their gracious consent, took some wonderful portraits. As an additional bonus, on the last day our group had a full day model shoot with a troupe of professional dancers. It was an chance for composed shots with enthusiastic and ‘malleable’ subjects. As a gesture of appreciation I agreed to send printed pictures back to the community.
And here is where reality bites.
Portraits that looked perfectly fine on screen showed up harsh and unflattering in print. So many of these folks had been charming in person; I hated sending back ugly photos. I hastily adjusted the images, dialing back on clarity to soften the details and smoothe out natural skin imperfections. Softer, toned down images resulted with improved print quality. On screen the visual effect was almost as dramatic.
My lesson learned? For close up portraits, particularly those slated for print and people you’d rather not hate you, hold back on the clarity.
On the other hand, for my model pictures I allowed for more dramatic license. There were some pictures where I’d scaled back on the clarity, reprinted the image and then decided that I preferred the original.
For example this portrait of Graciano. I think the hard lights on his face adds a gritty edginess to the picture. It elevates it from being a nice shot to being an interesting one.
Have you walked through a warren of alleys, turned a corner and been startled by a cacophony of color, light and pattern? Visuals so loud and discordant that you had to blink three times to tone it down?
This happened to me in an outdoor market in Northern Thailand. I’d stumbled into hat makers alley. A place where ladies surrounded by gaily colored fabric, sewed ribbons of bubbles and baubles on to hats, aprons and vests. They draped themselves with vibrantly patterned scarves with no apparent concern for color harmony. The laughed and chattered among themselves, ignoring the tourist fidgeting with her camera and trying to isolate a shot.
Later when I uploaded my photos I ignored all of these photos. I had liked one but decided that the frame was too full with color and pattern. It was hard see the subject against the distraction of background.
Fast forward to years later. I’m searching through my catalog looking for interesting B&W portraits. I find this old photo and casually flick it to B&W. What a difference.
The moral of this story? Never discard photos that you like. Maybe your eye saw something your brain did not. Time will tell.
The Fancy Shawl dance is the most flamboyant and energetic of all Pow Wow women’s events. Performers skip and jump through the air while swirling their shawls in large sweeping gestures.
The category is a relatively new one, different from the more conservative styles of the Jingle and Traditional Women’s dance. Some say its origins lie in mimicking the transformation of a butterfly from a cocoon. Others say that it was created by women wanting to duplicate the complex foot work of the Men’s Fancy dance.
Saga says that the first time a woman (her friend) competed, she disguised herself as a man and entered the Men’s Fancy dance. Unexpectedly, she won! The judges decided it was time for change and they a created brand new dance category for women.
I especially liked these shots of Saga in her Fancy Shawl regalia. I thought the strong colors and striking poses looked powerful. That’s representative of the dance’s origins in both cases, don’t you think?
For more explanation of the different styles of Pow Wow dances I refer you to this article. Although dated, the post is comprehensive and complete. It is very informative and great prep for your next Pow Wow visit.
The very first time I went to a Native American Pow Wow, I remember walking through the grounds and being followed by a symphony of bells and wind chimes. When I looked around I was surprised to see a dancer in her Jingle dress right behind me.
The Jingle dress dance is a simple one. It is a ladies event and they jump up and down with their hands placed on their hips. It is mesmerizing to watch and so easy to get lost in the rhythm of the drums and metallic clink of the bells.
Saga (my model) says that each bell is hand made and sewn individually to the dress. There can be up to three hundred and sixty five bells, one for each day of the year. It’s extremely heavy! Imagine jumping around with all that metal on a hot summer day. Even so, Saga says that once she gets going, she slips in to a zone where all the discomfort disappears.
The Jingle dance is associated with healing qualities. The story goes that at the very first dance there was a sick little girl. The magic of the jingle dance roused her from her sickness and she awoke refreshed and cured.
For more history on the Jingle Dress, have a look at this documentary by PBS and produced with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
The Jingle Dress Dance is a popular and powerful tradition that has spread throughout America’s Native communities. Ojibwe elders offer stories of its beginnings and its healing powers, and musicians demonstrate the unique songs and rhythms of the dance. Produced with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
A new year is a good time to try something different.
After my less than illustrious foray into flash photography, I’ve been shy about doing studio shoots. However when Hubby arranged a session with a model in Native American dress, I was more than happy to tag along.
The difference between studio and street photography is light. In a studio, you have full control of light, in street you don’t. In street, you chase the light. In studio, you make it. There’s a lot of technical knowledge involved in getting light to perform. Know-how and Gear and Set-up. For this session I was glad to rely on Hubby’s expertise. My focus was on getting a few good shots.
Here’s my first set. I kept them in dramatic B&W to emphasize the shape and movement of the fancy shawl.
Saga our model had some spectacular outfits. They were all handmade with fine details and gorgeous colors. She also had an interesting tale about the origins of the Fancy Shawl dance event in Pow Wows … but you can read more about that in my next post.