A Road In Idaho

June 26, 2013

  By Catherine Bruce

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We were on the road to visit my in-laws. My husband, Ed, was driving, and as usual I was looking out the window, imagining wagon trains coming through the hills on the Oregon Trail. Most of the area traversed by the highway is still undeveloped and fairly rustic.  But it’s now changing rapidly after years of inactivity.  On this trip I had my camera and, feeling bored, snapped some pictures through the window. (Click images for larger views.)

When I got home I debated how much through-the-window look I wanted the images to have, and started playing with cropping out the side-view window, car roof, etc.  Your mind does that for you when you look at a scene, and I found it easy with these pictures to make them look like what the mind sees, which in that area includes lots of desert and sky.  Once the photos started looking fairly Oregon-Trail-like (except for the occasional paved road or farm building), I decided that would be my theme.

Once I started cropping, I decided on a few more tweaks.  For one thing, the foreground was going by at 60 mph and looked kind of messy.  I might have left more of it in if I had software that would dodge and burn, but I’m using MS Picture Manager because my software-developer sensibilities reject the cumbersome design of Photoshop.

Trailer-5634The first photo I took, of the trailers, is a true “hipshot,” although it looks composed.  We’d pulled off the road for some reason and were turning around in that field.  I took the picture because I’ve always liked sagebrush and dried grass, and I feel like the desert doesn’t get enough respect.  And I thought the trailer encampment looked a little mysterious.  So I just held up the camera and clicked.  The picture you see is exactly what I shot.

Mesa-5720I like the two pictures of the mesas because they look almost like plein air paintings but less sentimental.

Meanwhile, the deep green field at the top of this post looks like alfalfa, which has always interested me because it is so Mesa-5690amazingly green it practically knocks your eyes out.  Many people, including some who live there, don’t realize that Southern Idaho is desert. They see towns and dairy farms and don’t realize what a small part of the landscape they take up.  So this was just a little impromptu attempt to get photos of the desert while it’s still there.

I never spent much time in the desert until I met my husband.  His family moved from the Southern California desert to the Southern Idaho desert a few years ago.  Visually, the two towns they lived in are almost indistinguishable.  The main streets are lined with the same chain hotels, restaurants, and big box stores.  The California town grew up because the Federal government sees the desert, home to Edwards Air Force Base, as a handy place to crash airplanes.

House-5658The Idaho town was established because the Snake River was a good source of water for turning the desert into farms.  And both expanded because of low real estate prices. I might like the desert less if I had to live there. But I fantasize that if I did live there, it would be in a house on the sand with cactus for landscaping, tumbleweeds for interior decoration, and desert wind for air conditioning.

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lzCathieCamera2Catherine Bruce is a mostly-retired software developer who gave up film photography when she claims she stopped improving.  She recently became more interested in snapping pictures with her digital camera, when Doodlemeister.com persuaded her that it’s not necessary to agonize in advance over what the photos will look like.  She still has a weakness for symmetry and order, but is working on developing a “hip-shot” mentality.

Copyright © 2013 Catherine Bruce.

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June 24, 2013
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Hip Shots

June 21, 2013

Flag Change XVI

By Jim Sizemore

(Click images for larger views.)

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The “Hip Shots” series of photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly,” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method the more frames exposed, the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting — a related series that may be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own images, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.

City Kids

June 19, 2013

citykids-1Buddies, 2/24/74

Back in the days when I was doing street photography in South Baltimore (in squint-producing sunlight on this occasion), just about the only challenge I had was how to frame the image. When these boys spotted me and my Minolta, they struck a pose and the boy on the left yelled, “Hey, mister, take our picture!” (Click image for a larger view.)

When photographing kids, I usually tried to lower my point of view so I was on their eye level, but if I had done that here I would have had a clutter of background cars, buildings and telephone poles to try to organize visually. Since those things added nothing of value to the image, I didn’t move.

With backgrounds, the ideal is to have large simplified shapes, so I stood erect and shot slightly down at the boys and the sidewalk. Shooting either up (“worm’s-eye view,” ceiling, sky, or a forest canopy) or down (“bird’s-eye view”,  floor, sidewalk or street) is a good way to eliminate unwanted visual clutter. In this image we still see a bit of curb, chewing gum spots on the pavement, and a pole shadow cutting diagonally across the top of the frame. But that’s fine; it’s just enough background detail to suggest an urban context, but no more — and zero clutter.

This is an edited re-post from August 18, 2008

Copyright © 2008 Jim Sizemore.

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June 17, 2013

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Hip Shots

June 14, 2013

Patterns

By Catherine Bruce

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The “Hip Shots” series of Doodlemeister.com photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method, the more frames  exposed the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting — a related series that can be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own pictures, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below. Meanwhile, click the “Hip Shots” tag above for many more examples. This feature will appear most Fridays.

Copyright © 2013 Catherine Bruce.

One-Minute Memoir

June 12, 2013

Trains

In May of 1977, I was depressed about the breakup of a relationship — which, for me, was not all that unusual back then. But an abiding interest in photography became a tool that I used to, if not cure my malaise, at least divert me from my sad-sack self while I figured out if I needed to seek professional help as an individual, or sign up for cheaper group therapy sessions with an odd-ball collection of other interpersonal failures. But I digress . . .

The “train project,” as I called it — photographing vintage rail cars at the Baltimore and Ohio Train Museum in Southwest Baltimore was something I had thought about for several years. Each time I had taken my two very young sons there — I saw them every-other weekend on court-approved visits — I would think about photographing parts of the rail cars, treating the smaller sections as abstractions, isolating areas to create compositions based on the size and shape relationships of the various elements. The pipes, levers, armatures, wheels, etc., were beautiful to me. The idea was to reduce the massive machines to circles, rectangles, triangles, and so on, visually “deconstructing” the cars, so to speak. It was a post-modern photographic concept before I knew what the term meant. In this digital age it is quaint to note that back then we made our photographic images by exposing rolls of chemically treated acetate film and developing the exposed frames in solutions mixed (in my case) in a tiny dark room rigged up in the kitchen area of my three room apartment. I kept out ambient light with a thick temporary curtain.

One design trick I used to emphasize and simplify the basic shapes was high contrast, reducing the component parts to basic black and white, with only a few middle tones. To get that effect, I relied on very fast film (Tri-X), which I exposed in bright sunlight for the juicy shadows that retain good detail, and used fast shutter speeds, then printed them on high contrast paper. All the rail car shots were composed “in camera” and printed full-frame. Whether or not I managed to make “art” with my approach may of course be debated, but I have no doubt that the activity worked well for me as therapy. At the very least, it got me through a bad emotional patch and on the path to more conventional help. (Click images for larger views.)

This is an edited re-post from 12/10/08

Doodlemeister is looking for short memory pieces of up to a thousand words, on any subject, in any style — as long as it happened to you. Whatever the subject, we have a bias for the lighthearted tone, and if need-be we’ll help you to edit and/or cut your piece. If you’d like to submit a story, please contact us by leaving a comment or inquiry below.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.

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June 10, 2013
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Bob and Me and Kal

June 5, 2013

Characters and Caricatures

Two cartoonists walk into a bar — No, wait . . .

lzBobMe739When two cartoonists, Bob Weber, Sr., (on the left) based in Westport, Connecticut — and Jim Sizemore (me), on the right, based in Baltimore, Maryland — meet for a “bro-date,” what do we decide to do for fun? Drink? Nope, we’re both too old and wobbly for that, so scratch an extended saloon visit. Chase women? Once again, bad idea and for the same reason. Mud wrestle? Naw, I don’t think so. I’m three years younger than Bob, but I’m sure he can still take me.

But for old guys, we are pretty busy. Since 1965, seven days a week, Bob has drawn Moose & Molly, a nationally syndicated comic strip; and with his son, Bob Weber, Jr., he produces the kid’s comic activity feature, Slylock Fox, both distributed by King Features. While Bob is a big-time syndicate guy, I do magazine-style “gag” cartoons, marketed to print and web publications around the world by the London-based outfits known as CartoonStock.com and Jantoo.com. I also take on the occasional freelance humorous illustration project — a recent example being eleven images for a National Parks Service “Jr. Rangers” booklet at Fort McHenry.

So when Bob, who has lived and worked for many years in “Westpork” (as he likes to call it), shows up in his hometown of Baltimore, we usually try to get together for dinner. This trip — on May 11, 2013 — he had a different goal. Bob came down to attend a presentation by the internationally known, and locally based, editorial cartoonist, Kevin “Kal” Kallaugher. Kal has drawn his famous caricatures for The Economist magazine and the Baltimore Sun for over 35 years, and he had scheduled a multi-media book-launch extravaganza at the Walters Art Museum. Bob was keen to attend, asked me if I’d like to tag along, and I was happy to. So, what do old cartoonists do for fun when they get together? Why, whenever possible, they try to hookup with another cartoonist!

Kal began the presentation by talking at some length about his new cartoon collection titled, Daggers Drawn, all of the images done for The KalBook3-024Economist. He said he got his big break there as a result of doing caricatures of people on the streets of London, and showed a slide of the cover of the book. He also promised that at the end of the show he’d teach us — the entire audience of over 100 — to caricature President Obama. (By the way, how many of the book cover caricatures can you can name?

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Before our turn came to show our stuff, Kal did a self-caricature. That’s him all right!

Then he did a bunch of other folks, some of whom I think you’ll recognize, including the first President Bush, Al Gore, John Kerry, Bill Clinton. (You can enlarge any image by clicking on it.)

Gore-470As Kal drew the caricatures, he explained his use of simple shapes — circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, etc. — to capture a likeness. For example, the Al Gore caricature is accomplished using mostly triangles — right side up, upside down and sideways. But he pointed out that the most important Gore feature was his half-circle”vampire-like” eyes, underlined generously with “bags.”

Kerry-510Another fun example. Kal began his John Kerry caricature with a very long chin-shape, then “realized” that it was by no means long enough, and proceeded to tear off the flip chart page and stick it on the bottom of a clean sheet of paper. Then, with a few more deft lines, he produced the clever drawing you see here.

Now that big finish: Kal’s demonstration showing how we can all “do” President Obama in 10 easy steps. Below I’ve tried to recreate his process, more or less . . .

OBAMAcari-ture1) Kal directed that we draw a large “C”shape at the top of the page, turned on its side with the open part down.

2) Then add a long interior horizontal line, and two short vertical lines, to reinforce the top and sides of what will be the skull; and fill the spaces those two actions create with squiggly lines to indicate hair.

3) Next, place two short angled lines jutting off either side of the skull, then continue downward with two long inward slanting lines for the sides of the face.

4) Back up top, outside where the skull ends and the face lines begin — on both sides — place nested “C” shapes for ears.

5) In the middle of the interior face space, give him two dots for eyes.

6) Above the eyes, add several lines close together to suggest very bushy eyebrows.

7) Below the eyes, about half way down the face, draw a series of three large, connected, open-topped “O’s,” with the middle one bigger than the other two, to form the nose; then place a small open Obama “O” just under the nose.

8) Below that, add a stretched out “M” shape, enclosed with a horizontal line and filled in to make the upper lip; then a stretched out “U” shape under that for the bottom lip.

9) At the bottom of the face shape, add another — smaller —horizontal upside-down “C” to make the Obama chin.

10) To finish our Obama caricature, Kal had us begin at each side of the nose and draw long parentheses lines that extend all the way down to the chin.

KALobom-772Kal writing a dedication on the Obama caricature he did on stage during the presentation.

GroupOs-681Select members of the audience, including Kal’s mother and wife — both in blue —  showing off their Obama caricatures.

KAL-Darrenn782Darrenn E. Canton, a young illustrator from the Washington, D. C. area, with portfolio. He waited patiently at the end of the book-signing line in order to have an extended chat with Kal.

BobKAL733In this photo Bob Weber, Sr. is either telling Kal a joke, or suggesting how to improve his presentation — or, knowing Bob as I do — more than likely both . . .

Kevin Kallaugher (KAL) is the international award-winning editorial cartoonist for The Economist magazine of London and The Baltimore Sun. In a distinguished career than spans over 35 years, Kal has created over 8000 cartoons and 140 magazine covers. His resumé includes 5 collections of his published work, one man exhibitions in six countries, international honors and awards in seven. KAl is currently the artist-in-residence at University of Maryland Baltimore County. He has created acclaimed animations and calendars, toured the US with Second City improv comedy troupe and addressed audiences around the world. In 1999, The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons said of Kevin “Commanding a masterful style, Kallaugher stands among the premier caricaturists of the (twentieth) century.”

To order Kal’s new book, click on his name in the sidebar links.

All photographs in this post © 2013, Bruce Guthrie.

Today’s Gag

June 3, 2013
1306-Regret-BlogCopyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.

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