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Saturday, April 10, 2010

19 Frame Challenge

A week or so ago, my friend Jeff Youngren issued a 19 frame blog challenge:

Grab your camera, turn off the LCD screen, and challenge yourself by shooting a single scene or event AND tell it’s story with one lens (fixed focal length, if possible) in under 19 frames (or 19 frames exactly if you want to be super cool and earn some extra high-fives)

If you aren't already following The Youngrens, you should.  To get you started, check out their original "19 frames" blog post.

Anyway, here are my 19 frames all straight from the camera. No LCD chimping, no deleting and re-dos of any shots, and no post production other than my logo and sharpening for Web. If you're interested in how I shot these and why...it's after the photos. 

1:
villa europa condo complex

2:
villa europa condo complex

3:
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4:
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5:
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6:
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7:
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8:
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9:
villa europa condo complex

10:
villa europa condo complex

11:
villa europa condo complex

12:
villa europa condo complex

13:
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14:
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15:
villa europa condo complex

16:
villa europa condo complex

17:
villa europa condo complex

18:
villa europa condo complex

19:
villa europa condo complex


This was SUCH a fun challenge!!  I can't wait for the next one they come up with.

Anyhoooo.... here's a little info about my thought process.

First off, I am a lazy person.  So it took me forever to even get started on this because I kept trying to think of a location or story I could tell.  Because I'm lazy, I decided to just tell the story about where I live.  To kill another bird, people are always getting lost and confused finding my condo so I figure I can just point them here from now on :)

OK, second thing.  I TOTALLY understand and get the whole shooting with your LCD screen turned off.  It challenges you to nail your exposures and white balance in camera.  While I've been getting MUCH better at that, I still wasn't that sure of myself getting DEAD ON my exposures.  So I kinda cheated (well, technically I followed all the rules still :) and I used a light meter.  SURPRISE!!!  Even when you use a light meter sometimes you'll forget to adjust ALL of your settings so in some of the shots you'll see are a little too dark.....that's when I forget to re-adjust my ISO setting too.  Haha. So much for that.  But for me, the challenge was learning how to effectively use my light meter to nail exposure and get things right in camera.  I had to check multiple readings for a scene and still had to figure out in my head which exposure to aim for to get the feel I wanted in a certain shot.  (I took these mid-evening so there was still enough sun to present some contrast and sunlight/shade exposure issues to think through).

Ready for the next trick I pulled out of my sleeve?  I storyboarded my shoot.  I took a piece of paper, drew out 19 squares, and thought through exactly which shots I wanted and how to lead you through that story.  I sandwiched my story from the beginning (showing you the outside, overall shot of my complex) and the end (knowing that I wanted to end at the door to my condo).  Then I filled in the middle with what I wanted to represent.  During the actual shoot I kept pretty close to my script and only changed a small handful of frames.  But having that storyboard helped me know where I had flexibility and where I needed to stick to the script.

Because I knew most of my shots would be inside my condo complex and I knew it would be shaded I could take those shots almost anytime.  But the shot outside from the street would be full on with the sun.  So I knew I'd want to take that as close to sunset as possible.  Did I mention I was lazy??  Well, I didn't want to sit around waiting just to get that perfect shot so I did the next best thing.  I figure I'd get started whenever I could.  To get the timing as close as possible, I decided to shoot my 19 frames BACKWARDS.  That's right, I started my shoot at my front door and shot sequentially working myself from the end to the beginning.  This way, my outside street shot would be as late in the day as possible without inconveniencing my lazy butt.  Hee hee :)

A few things jump out at me after this challenge:
  1. In this digital day and age you HAVE to have solid post-production as part of your work-flow.  For all the care and planning I took I still had a few shots that were sub-optimal but could have been easily fixed in post.  
  2. Unless you custom white balance EVERY shot, you'll need to go back and make minor adjustments. If you compare shots 9 and 11 you'll see a pretty drastic color variation even though both were in-camera white-balanced to the "shade" setting.  
  3. Knowing your camera, your lenses, and your technology really pays off.  I would say I have moderate knowledge/experience with exposures and was able to set things like shutter speed to get the flowey water in shot 14 or just enough depth of field to keep everything I wanted still in focus for shot 8. 
  4. The more instinctive knowledge you have, the better the chance you'll have of taking amazing in-camera photos.  If I were doing this at an event I would be DYING!!!  Challenges like today help me push my learning to keep getting better and better at what I do so that when that one instantaneous moment shows up in front of me, I'll be able to nail the shot without having to think through what shutter speed or aperture I need. 

So there it is.  My 19 frame challenge.  One of these days I'll go through my normal post-processing on these photos to get them ship-shape and post those again so you can see how my photos look all dressed up and ready to go out.  But I couldn't leave without doing ONE of them... here here's one of my shots with some Lightroom enhancements.

EDIT: check out all the post-processed photos.


Post-Processed Version:
villa europa condo complex


Original:
villa europa condo complex

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