I am back with more pictures and stories. Of course this one has to include cats, this is the internet after all and there are rules, man.
“On the Prowl”
After playing with a rental DSLR for two days I broke down and landed a deal on a Canon T5 from a warehouse chain. I just could not image myself switching cameras every week or two or going back to using my Panasonic Lumix. The only use I see for the Lumix is that I could hand it to my research participants for photo voice exercises. First thing at home, after the battery was charged, I played around taking pictures. I turned off the flash and the focus beep as they spooked the cats and started to take pictures with the 18-55mm lens, ISO 3600, F 5.6 1/50. I instantly remembered how difficult it is to shoot animals; they never keep still or do what you expect them to do. This is my seven-year-old cat Loki: he was actually curious and started to hunt the camera. The longer I had the camera out, the less shy he became. I feel this is a very good picture, not as cute as the ones often circulated on the Internet, but instead it captures the barely domesticated almost wild animal that could kill you if it were 500lbs and still had its teeth (he was allergic to his tartar, his mouth was constantly inflamed the poor thing) and front claws (we got him from a shelter, he ran away from the folks that did this to him)
I continued to play around with the settings; this time I changed the ISO to 400, F 5, 1/8 exposure, same lens. I totally forgot that I also have a 75-300 mm zoom lens, so I got really close with the 18-55mm set to 55mm. I was surprised that I was able to get such a relatively steady shot of our other cat, seven-year-old Odin. He only held still because my spouse had cuddled with him for a while, otherwise he tends not to cooperate. This is a whopping 18 pounds of cuddle monster with an affinity for drooling all over his humans and he has the softest belly ever.
I took the first image on Thursday morning in the Husky Union Building on campus. When I entered I was immediately mesmerized by the piano music coming from the second floor. I discovered the source and sat down next to the grand piano on the couches and listened for a while. At some point I remembered that I had my camera equipment with me and so I began to take pictures. Fortunately I already had the focusing beep of the camera disabled, as it might have been even more disruptive than the closing of the shutter was to me. I did not want to take direct facial shots, first because I had not asked for permission, and second as I also wanted to see the hands to capture more of the embodiment of the activity. This shot was taken with a 70-300mm telephoto lens at 3200 ISO (it was not very well lit, did not want to use flash) during the most intense part of the music played. One can see the focus in his facial expression as his fingers dance vividly and purposefully over the keyboard. What is not in this shot is the fact that the player had removed his shoes to have a more visceral contact with the foot pedals of the piano. I used to play myself and am wondering if I used to do this or if I left my shoes on. Somehow I cannot remember and sitting there watching him made me long to play again. I stayed until he was done playing and had a brief conversation with him as he left. I got his verbal permission to use the photos for class, he told me that he has been playing for years and that the piece was a personal improvisation piece that never turns out the same each time he plays it.
This photo is a detail shot of a Maori piece with the title kuaha (Gateway), made by Parateno Matchitt, a member of the Whanau a Apanui (tribe) in New Zealand in 1985, gifted to the Burke Museum by the New Zealand Ministry of External Relations and Trade (Catalog Number 1992-73/1). This is one of the largest pieces in the exhibit we photographed, if not the largest and is very impressive to look at. I focused the camera on the center part atop the lintel and the figure standing with legs spread wide open. I used the same telephoto lens as for the previous shot at 800 ISO and F 6.3, which resulted in a nice three dimensional photo and I was able to catch every detail. This was for me the most interesting detail to get a closer look of. From a distance the figure appears to be genderless; the smooth body does not reveal any hints towards the identity of the figure. But if one approaches the gateway and looks up, a very distinct clitoris and vaginal opening reveals itself to the onlooker. Due to the position of the lights this feature remains in the shadows, but I am quite certain this must have some significance to the carver and the cultural context of the piece. As I know nothing of Maori culture I’d rather not speculate. However I must say that I was very intrigued to find this detail of female anatomy so beautifully carved, right here at the UW. I wonder how many people walk past it not even noticing or immediately looking away in shock.
 Dimensions are L: 69.5 x 93.5 in, W: 14 x 14 x 14 x 11.5 x 11.7 x 21.2 in, H: 10 x 66.5 x 66 x 62.5 x 63 x 20 x 23.7 in according to the information found online at http://collections.burkemuseum.org/ethnology/display.php?ID=95687
This week we were doing portrait shots in a settling with a lot of things going on in the background. I chose a popular restaurant during lunch on the Ave. When I looked through the results I also noticed some issues related to focusing, in some the camera had focused on someone in the background or the background in general. Lighting was also an issue, I used to flash and it was a rainy day. Some natural light illuminates the right side of the face, but the left is darker. This was one of the shots where the difference was not too intense. I got my friend’s permission to help me with a class project and started taking pictures while we carried on lunch and our conversation. To show my appreciation for their help I also offered to email them the best pictures. I intend to carry on sharing pictures featuring people with them to give something back to them.
What’s the story here? We were having lunch at a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant and my friend is looking over the bubble tea selection to decide what to get. However the title of the photograph also hints at different decisions people make everyday, such as what to wear, how they represent their identity, or how to be comfortable with the choices made not caring what others might think.
I did not take nearly as many pictures as I usually do this last week. On a recent stroll to a local park I took some pictures of the plants and I picked this one for my second photo as it shows so nicely the curled petals of Maianthemum dilatatum, commonly known as false lily of the valley. I chose this over a similar shot where I had everything in focus as I feel that the blurry background in this case provides a better contrast to the delicate plant. This park is close to where I live and also to the community college where I earned my transfer degree. A section of it was actually transformed into an ethnobotanical garden by the Edmonds Community College LEAF (Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field) school in cooperation with the Snohomish Tribe during Summer quarter 2010. I was a member of LEAF school the year prior and learned a lot about the native plants in the Pacific Northwest. Places like Gold Park show me that we can all make a difference, especially as efforts to care for the project continue with regularly occurring work parties to remove blackberry bushes and other non-native invasive species.
“Spring in the Quad”
This is one of the 24 pictures we were challenged to take during the hands-on part of the class. Taking photos in that way very much reminded me of the times when I was using film in a camera, which is for me about eleven years ago. I noticed how digital photography and the capacity to take and save hundreds of images on an SD card shifted the way I think about the pictures I take. When I only had a certain amount before having to change rolls I was a lot more conscious to get the settings right as every picture was developed and I did not want to waste money on fuzzy shots and such. And yet, of course I did. But I had a hard time going to the drugstore to pick up the photos only to find out I had cut off heads, the camera shook, or the photo was not as interesting as I hoped it would be. And I also remember the conundrum of fear that the film might get damaged at airport security, which I believe never actually happened. This exercise taught me that being mindful of every single shot is a useful tool in itself; it helped me to slow down, look more closely at my surroundings with my own eyes first before looking through the viewfinder. This is the story of this picture, which I shot from a low angle, kneeling and keeping both the Rhododendrons as well as the background in focus.
Both of these were taken at the 30th Annual Powwow at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, WA on Sunday May 3, 2015. Before I began to photograph I walked around the space for a while with my camera visibly displayed and noticed others with cameras and a lot of cell phones used to take pictures. Still I asked one of the organizers, Dr. Thomas Murphy, which guidelines I should follow. This was a public event in a public space, but I did not want to presume anything. He assured me as long as I don’t take pictures during prayers and would ask individuals who were not dancing for permission I would be good. I decided to err on the side of caution and took only pictures of the crowd or the dances. I had a hard time picking my absolute favorite shot, so I chose one of the adult women dancers, “Over the Rainbow”, and one from the traditional men’s headman special contests, “Fire Bird”. I have to admit that I do not know anything about the symbolisms of the dance costumes in the context of Native Americans and chose those titles intuitively based on my interpretation of the colors and shapes. In my pictures I wanted to capture the movement of the dancers who seemed to fly over the dance floor with power and grace, full of joy and pride, celebrating the diversity of Pacific Northwest Native peoples.