Archive for July, 2009

2009 Oregon Brewers Festival

Oregon Brewers Festival Media Preview 2009

Oregon Brewers Festival 2009

Oregon Brewers Festival 2009

Oregon Craft Beer Month is almost over–and it ends with a bang: the Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF).  This year, I attended three events surrounding the festival: the Oregon Brewer’s Guild Dinner, the OBF Media Preview, and the OBF itself–all while draggin my camera and bag around.

The Brewer’s Guild Dinner was great.  There are a limited number of seats sold so it’s never over crowded, there are about 25 beers on tap that aren’t available at the OBF, there are beer celebrities galore, and the food is delicious.  All of this makes my job fun.  I get to walk around, drink great beer, and take photos.  For events like this, I usually use my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens to get shots of the crowd interactions without being intrusive.  If someone knows you’re shooting, they always behave differently.  For events like this, you want to capture spontaneous action and it’s much easier with a long lens.

The next day was the Media Preview.  We tried about 16 different beers that spanned styles from Raspberry Wheats to Stouts.  The pace wasn’t that quick, but juggling my camera, lenses, a notebook (and pen), and a beer slowed me down a bit and the beers seemed to come one right after another.  Not that big of a deal when your job for the day is drinking beer!

After that, it was the OBF itself.  We got there around noon, the lines were short, the beer was great, and we got our fill before it became too hot.  Attendance and beer consumption records were broken again this year and it was over before I knew it.

Photographing 52 Beers in a Year

52 Beers Group, Week 8: Brrr, Seasonal Red -- Widmer Brothers Brewing

52 Beers Group, Week 34: Old Boardhead

52 Beers Group, Week 29: Alpha Dog Imperial IPA

52 Beers Group, Week 13: Goudenband, Brouwerij Liefmans

52 Beers Group, Week 31: Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale

I don’t think anyone would be surprised that I enjoy beer.   It’s fun to sample, write about, and photograph.  Exactly 44 weeks ago, I joined the 52 Beers group on Flickr.   I don’t write reviews or document my beer intake in any way, but I took this on as a challenge to force myself to come up with new ways at looking at beer by photographing one new beer each week for a year.  To accomplish this, I had to ask myself a few questions: What makes a beer unique?  What makes a bottle or a label stand out?  What does beer mean to me?  What have I gotten myself into?

Taking photographs for fun and taking photographs professionally are two different monsters.  As much as I love photography, it doesn’t mean I want to have a camera in my hand around the clock.  It’s pretty heavy.  Plus, motivation does not strike all day, every day.   If I don’t have any appointments scheduled for the day, it’s fairly easy to watch a DVD, take a nap, and then spend the rest of the afternoon wondering where my day went.  I can admit that. Evidently,  not just to myself,  but to anyone reading this.  I think a lot of people are like me in that respect,  so it’s important to set up challenges and exercises where I can be held accountable.

Well, I’m almost a full year into the project and what did I learn?  Well, I love beer.  I think that was already a fact though, so it doesn’t count.   First, I don’t have an expensive studio with unlimited lighting.  So, some were shot outside, some under random generic lamps, and others under a speedlight.  But lighting, although imperative, was secondary to me for this project.  The overriding element was composition.  Show the beer?  Show the head?  Show the bottle?  Show the glass?  Show the growler?

  • Widmer Brothers Brewing, Brrr:  I got a sample bottle in the mail, but things didn’t come together until I bough a six pack off the shelves.  What typifies “Brrr” more than huddling together?
  • Full Sail Brewing, Old Boardhead: Simple label, complex beer.  I happened to be drinking it when I got a phone call.  When I got back to the beer, late afternoon light had come through the window and lit the beer through the glass.  It was nice, but a flashlight exaggerated the effect and created the shot I wanted: a complex tasting beer that was also complex visually.
  • Laughing Dog, Alpha Dog Imperial IPA: The analog TTV treatment seemed to work with the bottle design and the glass of beer in the background.  I didn’t think about it while I was shooting it, but the lpha Dog is definitely gaurding the beer in the background.  Sometimes, things just come together.
  • Liefman’s Goudenband:  I decided a dyptych would be the best option to show the label from the front as well as the twisted tissue presentation layer.  It’s very unique packaging, and very important ot feature it.
  • Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid: Not everything has to be planned.  I was playing dominos, drinking Hop Stoopid, and my camera was nearby.  End of story.

The Fourth of July

2008.07.04 - Fourth of July

2008.07.04 - Fourth of July

With my tripod out on loan, I went outside with my monopod and a fast f1.4 lens on the fourth of July to explore the street fireworks in my neighborhood.  I was also equipped with high hopes, but those were quickly dashed by a few test shots that had me steadying my monopod for around 10 seconds to get an exposure.  Needless to say, it didn’t work.  All was not lost though–at least I know better for next year.

Last year, I went outside and took a few shots of the Vancouver fireworks as well as some neighbors down the street.  I cursed my location.  I cursed the cables in the sky.  I cursed my shadow–twice.  But I pressed on, and I’m really happy with the results.  Now, I won’t be winning any awards for these–or selling any prints for that matter–but the photos are special to me.  Attempts to beautify the photos or set up the perfect composition failed, but it did so elegantly.

Capturing perfect fireworks was not my intention (nor was it even a possibility shooting from my front yard).  I didn’t really have any intentions.  What I ended up with is a capture of my neighborhood during a distinct event–a good sense of personal time and place.

But why black and white, especially for fireworks?  Well, I wanted to make sure that the fireworks weren’t too overpowering in the shot.  I wasn’t in a good enough spot to make the fireworks the focus of the shot.  The black and white conversion decentralized the focus and makes the eye wander, searching the photograph.  Trying to push the viewer in this direction, allows for more exploration of the photograph, and inevitably more questions about my intentions.

It’s often important to have a clear theme and intention, and the viewer can appreciate and concentrate on the details of your work.  With more personal photos such as these, it was more important to capture a moment in time.  Forcing viewers to ask questions like “Why was this shot in black and white?” will hopefully allow them to consider my intentions and get closer to the truth of the photo.  And the truth is different for every viewer, every interpretation.  So the longer you can hold someone’s attention, the closer they’ll get to their own truth.

Or, that’s just a long-winded, made-up, pompous, way to describe an arbitrary set of photos.  I guess it just comes down to the simple fact that I like the photos.  Sometimes the simplest, least “artistic” shots are my favorites.

Happy Belated Father’s Day

neilily_ttv_04 copy

Belated Father's Day

Belated Father's Day

Belated Father's Day

My brother.  What can I say?  We’ve got history.  We’ve got a future.  We’ve got the same mother–I think.  No blood tests have been performed, but the rumors are very strong.

If things never changed, I wouldn’t get sentimental.  I wouldn’t miss my “go drink a beer at the nod of the head” brother.  I wouldn’t miss my “roommate” brother.  I wouldn’t miss my “doctorate at the age of ten” brother (you’re welcome).  And I surely wouldn’t miss my “I answer my phone” brother (seriously dude, pick up your damn phone).

Things change.  I changed.  My brother changed.  I complained a little–and still complain now and then.  When I do, it’s because I’ve lost a bit of power over him.  The influence that I squandered has been replaced by other obligations.  Unfortunately, those obligations don’t revolve around me.  Fortunately for him though, those obligations don’t revolve around me.

The set to the right include three different interactions between my brother Neil and his daughter Lily: protection, compassion, confusion, vigilance, understanding, love, commitment, not understanding, fear, playfulness, and exhaustion–all within a few hours of the same day.  They may not be the most glamorous captures, but they are a moment in time, from eyes that he doesn’t have time look through.  Oh, and the compression of these images is horrible, make sure to click on the images and check out  larger sizes.

Unfortunately, my brother is just my brother.  It’s still strange to think of him as a father as well.  Because of this, the only thought I had this Father’s Day was of my dad.  While he deserves a pat on the back, he’s in the easy phase: he can shrug and say “I’m not responsible anymore”.  But it’s my brother, as a new father, who needs the most help and well wishes at the beginning of this journey.

I’m sorry I missed it. Happy Belated Father’s Day.  You’re doing just fine.