This year I am photographing the Carolina Performing Arts as they celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Rite of Spring, which took place on May 29th, 1913 in Paris. They are many important parts to this photo story- the artists, the work itself, the hours of rehearsal, the venerable Memorial Hall, and the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But none of this art would be seen without the hardworking staff at Carolina Performing Arts.
The image above shows the artist team outside the green room in the wee hours of the night after the Yo-Yo Ma concert in September of 2012. I remember how tired I was at that point. I can only imagine how they felt! Recently I had the pleasure of photographing this fabulous artist team at Memorial Hall. From left to right below, Tiffany Gay, Marnie Karmelita, Sarah Mixter and Erin Hanehan handle and care for the artists that present work for Carolina Performing Arts. These ladies endure long hours in high heels and always seem to have a smile on their faces and a joke at the ready. These images were shot for an upcoming article that will focus on a week in which they all worked more hours than they thought humanly possible. Thanks, ladies, for always smiling and being so great to work with!
You may see the WHOLE STORY here.
By Kristin Prelipp Oguntoyinbo
When I first started photographing seriously in the late 1980’s I was shooting film. I had a 35mm camera and also had a medium format, twin lens reflex Yashicamat camera. The medium format film was very attractive to me because the print quality from such a large negative was amazing, when compared to little, old 35mm. Also, the larger cameras were so clunky and difficult to use that it forced me to slow down and really contemplate what I wanted to shoot. This is a good change from my normal Speedy Gonzalez pace. In 2003 I switched to digital photography, happily tearing out my darkroom and selling off my Bronica camera gear for a fraction of what it originally cost me. I love digital photography, but I have missed that impeccably sharp print quality.
Now, I shoot with a Canon 7D using the RAW format. So each resulting image file is 51 MB or 17.28” by 11.493” at 300 dpi. You can make really nice, large prints from these. But I have found a way to cheat and get a HUGE file in certain situations. I call them panos, or panoramas.
Let me give you an example. I recently spent a week on Fripp Island in South Carolina. On our street there is a marsh that was host to a large gathering of egrets. I normally see these elegant, white birds alone or maybe in a pair. So for me it was exciting to see so many together! I could have taken one image of them and then cropped it to a long, skinny shape, or a horizontal panorama. But that would reduce the file size from 51MB to 25MB and the print quality would suffer. So I put my camera on a tripod and took a series of photos scanning the scene from left to right. I usually do this two times, back and forth. Then I downloaded the images into my computer and selected five that covered the whole scene. I color corrected them so they all had the same hue and exposure. Now it is time to photomerge!
Look at the images in Adobe Photoshop Bridge. Select all images (crt + a) and click on Tools < Photoshop < Photomerge. A photomerge dialogue box will come up. I usually select AUTO to see if Photoshop can do a good enough job for me. If the panorama comes up looking crazy I will try again with the other options. Interactive Layout is good if you want total control. But in the case of the beautiful egrets, the auto option worked perfectly. I cropped the image and flattened it and now it is all ready to be sent to the lab for a HUGE print. Below are some other examples of panoramas I have taken.
This was taken at the wedding reception for Julia Lacy and Jesse Gaylord. The gigantic reception site, Bay 7 in Durham, NC can only be accurately capture with a panorama. What a cool space!
My yard a couple of years ago in Chapel Hill, NC.
The C.W. Stanford Middle School band this past fall. This panorama is made up of 10 photos all taken in quick succession and then joined together to make one huge photomerge. This was the only way I could create a really sharp, focused image of such a large group. When dealing with images of people, they often shift around a bit while I am panning with my camera. Sometimes after the photomerge in Photoshop a head or two looks crazy. You can always head swap.
Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. If you know of someone or something that should be documented, please contact Kristin.
By Kristin Prelipp Oguntoyinbo
Recently I took a long bus ride for a two-day, whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C. with my daughter’s 5th grade class. To keep the children entertained the teachers played all three Lion King movies so I have had “The Circle of Life” song in my head ever since then. It got me to thinking about my own circle of life. I am blessed to have healthy parents, three wonderful children, three siblings and many friends that feel as close as family. But I know we are all at the mercy of the circle of life and death.
Currently in my life I see this cycle most acutely in my pets. Unfortunately pets tend to live shorter lives than us. Last year my 15-year-old cat, Eve, passed away and I am now going through the same cycle of aging and death with my beloved Siberian Husky, Kika, who is almost 14. These pets are such amazing companions! To think that I had both Kika and Eve before I ever got married and had children. They have sat patiently by my side through three different screaming babies and all the chaos of daily life.
When my cat, Eve, was growing feeble last year I spent several months watching her decline. Up until that point she had always been a healthy and low maintenance pet. I hired a mobile veterinarian, Dr. Adriano Betton, so that I would not have to drive her to her frequent veterinary appointments. The whole process of putting her in the car carrier, getting on the highway and then waiting in a strange room stressed her out to no end. It took her days to recover from each appointment. So it was a great to have a competent, kind professional come to us. Dr. Betton diagnosed her with hyperthyroidism. The treatment would be $4500 and would require that she live at a clinic for several months to receive the treatment. I quickly decided that it would be cruel to put her through that so my attention focused on keeping her comfortable.
I asked myself three questions. Is she still eating? Is she still playing and purring? Is she relatively pain-free? I knew that if I started to answer no to any of those questions I would have to make a move to euthanize her. Eventually the negatives outweighed the positives and I was thankful that she died at home in my arms, with the help of Dr. Betton. That is the best we can all hope for, to meet our end after a long life in a peaceful place with loved ones at our side.
So now I spend my days working, taking care of my kids and keeping an eye on Kika. She is better some days than others. She has a particularly hard time when it rains and has taken to running away as soon as there is a shift in the barometric pressure. I always find her shaking on a neighbor’s doorstep, whining to be let in. It is as if she forgets which home is hers and she is not even sure who I am either, but she slowly walks home with me. But there are other days in which she is alert and playful and she always looks forward to mealtime.
So, overall I am very grateful to be taking part in this cycle of life and feel like for each heart-breaking ending there are many more bright beginnings.
How to Photograph Tweens
By Kristin Prelipp Oguntoyinbo
A tween is the stage between middle childhood and adolescence, so from roughly 9 to 12 years of age. This can be an awkward stage as tweens bodies and minds are changing rapidly in fits and starts. They are not little children and are not yet teenagers. They are busy transitioning in mental, emotional, hormonal and physical ways. My own daughter, Amira, is at this stage. Sometimes she is still my little girl and other times she epitomizes sassiness. I joke that if she continues to roll her eyes at me they might just get stuck that way!
Recently I was asked to photograph a tween named Josh Leffler, who is beginning middle school next year. His parents, Donnabeth and Barry, realized that they had many portraits taken of Josh when he was younger but had slacked off in recent years. Many families fall into this trap! They record every moment of their child’s early years and then don’t photograph them again until they are about to graduate from high school. What about all of those years in between? So, I thought I would write some helpful hints on how to photograph tweens.
Collaborate with the Tween
Before I even came to photograph Josh I asked his mom to consult him about what he wanted to do for his portrait. I made it clear that this would be best if we all collaborated. He decided that he would like to have his everyday home life and hobbies documented. Even at his young age he realized that this would be an important document that he would look back on as an adult. Before we even began photographing, Josh led me on a tour of his domain. His mom stayed busy at the computer, leaving us alone to talk. The most important work of this portrait involved talking and getting to know Josh, rather than immediately diving into photographing him and ordering him around. Josh came up with the idea for the photo above. Love it!
Speak to the Tween like They are an Adult
If you have ever met Josh Leffler, you might think he is an adult in a boy’s body. So intelligent and charming! Tweens respond well to adults who speak to them with respect rather than talking down to them. This was not hard to do with Josh as he is so well spoken. We talked about photography, computers and literature. He admires Steve Jobs and loves to read. He even has started an information technology business from his Mac. The photos above are an homage to his idol.
Even when I was going in for a more traditional portrait I lightly directed Josh to move around. He and I chose a spot with pretty scenery and nice light and I asked him to turn to the side then look at me. Once your subject stops moving that first frame you quickly snap is crucial! After they are posing for just a second they start to look staged and stiff. I wanted to capture him like he really is, not with a canned smile. So I had him keep moving around. I told him I was trying to figure out which was his best side.
Don’t Forget Mom and Dad
While your tween is busy changing, you are, too. When your child has grown to be an adult they will want to see their loving parents in photographs as well. Don’t worry if it is a bad hair day or if you don’t feel like it, just jump in there. Both Donnabeth and Barry were more than happy to get in a photo with Josh. No arm twisting here. This whole process took less than an hour. A tween’s attention span is longer than a toddler’s but don’t push it! Now get out there and document your lovely tween before you blink your eyes and they are off to college.
Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. If you know of someone or something that should be documented please write to me.
By Kristin Prelipp Oguntoyinbo
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Some gardeners know how to gently coax life out of even the most delicate plant. They study the soil, the available light, a plant’s specific needs and even give plant food and sprays to keep their plants healthy. My kind of gardening would be opposite of that. It could be called survival of the fittest gardening! I love my plants but once they are in and established they either need to thrive or they will be replaced. I will weed and mulch the beds but I don’t water and I rarely fertilize. So my favorite plants are made for our climate and are hardy as well as beautiful. I want to talk about my two favorite April plants today.
Kerria Japonica is not very common. I see a ton of forsythia, which is also yellow and blooms at the same time, but this plant, called The Japanese Yellow Rose, is overlooked. The branches have a weeping willow feel to them and the yellow blooms last for weeks. I have both the “Plenaflora” and the “Honshu” variety, but prefer the former. When mature this deciduous shrub is 3 to 5 feet in height. I have heard that some Kerria plants rebloom off and on all summer long but I have not seen this. Perhaps it is because I don’t baby them enough. They like well-drained soil and perform best in partial shade. Below are three photos of this magnificent plant.
Azaleas are very popular here. When I bought my home 11 years ago there were 20 azaleas bushes in the yard. They have all thrived with little care. Every April they bloom, turning my yard into a wonderland. Azaleas are in the genus Rhododendron. They are generally healthy, long-lived plants when their basic requirements are met. They like well-drained soil and partial shade to full sun. To see if you have well drained soil, dig the hole and fill it with water. If the water has not drained out of the hole within one hour, the soil is poorly drained. It is best to trim your azaleas right after they bloom. Here are three photos of some of azaleas in my yard.
Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. Just write to me with any questions.
Reflections on Parenting in Light of the Trayvon Martin Case
By Kristin Prelipp Oguntoyinbo
Like most parents, I am trying my best to teach my children vital life lessons so they will eventually be equipped to go out on their own to find happiness and success. We talk about self-respect as well as respect for others. I tell them that you are only as good as your word. Even though none of my kids are even close to driving yet, I promise them that if they are ever in a car with a friend who is driving and drinking, they can call me for a ride anytime day or night, no questions asked. We talk about the importance of education. We all see it as their key to getting to do their life’s work. Oh, the places they will go! We discuss taking good care of your body since it is the only one you get in this lifetime. But, it had not yet occurred to me to warn them not to wear a hoodie.
The Trayvon Martin case has really shook a lot of us up. If you have been living under a rock, let me tell you the basics. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American boy who lived in Sanford, Florida, a community north of Orlando. On a recent evening he was on foot returning home to his father’s house from a gas station with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone. Meanwhile, George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch caption armed with a gun, was following him and saw him as a threat. Zimmerman fatally shot Martin and has not been arrested as he told police he killed him in self-defense. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law supports that defense, although he was the only one armed.
In the days following Martin’s murder the news has exploded with facts about the case, about Martin’s character and his actions towards Zimmerman. This will all eventually be sorted out. But, basically this case has made me see how dangerous it can be to simply be black, especially a black male like my two sons. I am also so frightened that nearly anyone can get a gun and the laws are becoming more and more permissive. But race is what I want to talk about today.
I was married to my children’s father, an African American of Nigerian descent, for a decade. I saw glimpses of how my ex-husband interacted with society, compared to how people treated me as a blonde, white woman. For example, I remember that when we were shopping he always asked me to carry the bags as we wandered from store to store, as he did not want to be accused of shoplifting. Our close family and friends, who are from a wide variety of races and cultures, generally see people for who they are, not just what they look like. But some others will just see my children’s skin color. Until the Martin case burst onto the scene I had forgotten that I need to remind my children that there are ignorant, frightened people in our society who will only see that they are black and will automatically assume many things about them, most of which are not pleasant.
Last night I watched my boys, 5 and 8, play basketball in the yard. Leo was Harrison Barnes and Roman was Tom Robinson. (Yes, you can tell we are still processing the UNC vs. Kentucky game.) The late afternoon sun was illuminating them beautifully so I took a quick photo. The sun kept going down and it was getting too cool for their sleeveless shirts so they put on hoodies. I just didn’t have the heart to warn them yet about walking around in a hoodie. So, now I realize I need to add some life lessons about racism to my repertoire. Mentally I had placed us in a safe bubble because we live in a liberal, accepting community like Chapel Hill/ Carrboro. Our particular neighborhood is very tight-knit and supportive. We all know each other and watch out for each other. But my job as a parent is to prepare them for the world. I am just so sorry about the senseless death of Trayvon Martin, but it has helped me to face up to the fact that I need to remind my children that, although we have come a long way, racism, ignorance and fear are still out there and we must be wary.
Please feel free to continue this discussion by emailing me. As always, thank you for reading.
1. the process or art of producing images of objects on sensitized surfaces by the chemical action of light or of other forms of radiant energy such as x-rays, gamma rays, or cosmic rays.
As you can see from the definition above, light is EVERYTHING in photography. I first fell in love with photography as a teenager. I attended Myers Park High School in Charlotte, North Carolina where I took my first photography class with instructor Bryon Baldwin. He loved photography and his enthusiasm for it was contagious.
For me, photography was the perfect way to marry my artistic side with my desire to tell stories, both real and imagined. I always felt like I had an artistic soul but was a mediocre musician and wasn’t interested in the traditional ways of expressing myself as an artist, such as drawing or painting. Since elementary school I had loved writing stories and would often lose myself in my imagination and musings. So I grew up to become a professional watcher of light and the objects they illuminate.
I soon realized that to love photography you must understand light and become technically proficient at capturing light as you see it. As a watcher of light you have to learn to record it in all its many forms. Today I want to write about a side effect of bright light called lens flare. Flare is caused by a very bright light source either in the image or shining into the lens, but not in the image. Generally this bright light produces a haze and makes the image look washed out or devoid of contrast. Typically photographers try to eliminate lens flare. Most commonly, it occurs when shooting into the sun (when the sun is in frame or the lens is pointed in the direction of the sun), and is reduced by using a lens hood or other shade. But if you are a lover of light you will want to find ways to embrace lens flare and make it work in your favor.
This portrait was taken in 2001 at Ayr Mount in Hillsborough, NC. My client, Jane Rouse Ellison, wanted a spring bridal portrait. I was shooting film with a medium format camera. Unlike fast, spontaneous 35mm photography, 120mm forced me to slow down and be very intentional about what I was photographing. I saw this amazing weeping cherry tree and envisioned having Jane surrounded by the new blossoms. I wanted to create a feeling of hope and rebirth. I set up my light in front and had her turn her back to the sun. This gave her a natural hair light and I think the lens flare works to create a magical look.
In this image of Jeannine Sato and her son, Kenji, I deliberately shot into the sun to create lens flare. I really do think it creates a great mood, when used sparingly. Because lens flare typically produces an image low contrast I usually go into Photoshop to increase the contrast in post production. Again, I am using this normally undesired effect to bring more meaning to the image. For me, motherhood and raising children is such a fantastic journey but it goes by so fast! The haziness of the lens flare contributes to the illusory, fleeting feeling. And on a side note I think brunettes, especially, photograph better with a little bit of hair light so not to get lost in a dark background.
Here are two more examples of intentionally using lens flare. In the image above you can see the tell tale lens flare circles coming across the frame. The spatial distribution of the lens flare typically manifests as several starbursts, rings, or circles in a row across the image. In the photograph below the lens flare created by the early morning sun is almost overpowering.
You can even artificially create lens flare if you really want to. This image of my youngest, Leo, was taken at night in Croatia as we were walking to a Carnaval celebration. I slowed the shutter down to an eighth of a second and bounced my powerful flash off of a nearby, light colored wall thus creating the lens flare. I also put my flash on rear shutter sync. What a handsome pirate!
This is what happens when you combine lens flare and smoke. I love smoke bombs!
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