AKA Abraham Bacoln

Anatomy of a Photo II
July 10, 2009, 12:48 pm
Filed under: photography

NOTE: I was planning on writing this before this image got submitted to reddit and got thousands of views and now I can’t decide if its popularity is incentive or disincentive to write. Good thing I already have some inertia – now it’s too late regardless. PLEASE WATCH OUT EVERYONE I HAVE BEGUN TO WRITE.

You’ll remember back in May I wrote the first Anatomy of a Photo about the picture of me in the top hat. I had fun writing and it created a bit of conversation (though oddly enough everywhere but on the blog entry itself). And hell, if you know me you know I’ll go on just to hear myself talk, so I’m bound to write for the same reason, right? Right.

So here’s how “Good Lord! That was unexpected!” came to be. The other day, maybe … maybe Tuesday, let’s say … I was sitting at the computer running my hands through my hair. This is the longest my hair has been since 1995, if you can believe it. I turned to say something to Casey and she stopped me and said, “Your hair looks AMAZING. Go see.” So I did.

I think I’ve proven enough times before that I’m more than willing to make myself look like a goofball if it’ll mean a good picture, and so of course when I got to the mirror and saw just how stupid I looked, well, I knew it was time to begin plotting. The conversation was something like this: “What does it look like? A crazy professor? Egon Spengler? Where could I find a lab coat? Oooh, I look startled. What would startle me? A beaker of acid exploding, something got set on fire? Wait, where am I going to find a laboratory that’ll let me shoot there?” and so on. As I practiced making frightened faces (trying to channel the spirit of Doctor Emmett Brown) I decided against the science experiment aspect of the picture. Too hard to find a location, too hard to find the props.

The inspiration came in the form of a question: what would it be most silly for a grown man to be frightened of?

And thus the idea was born.

I didn’t have much hope for a jack-in-the-box picture, though, because seriously, who has a jack-in-the-box? Not me, that’s who. However, the other day I was working at the store out in the ‘burbs and after work we went out to dinner, and right down the street from where we ate is a Toys R Us. I went there and actually had to ask someone where the jacks-in-the-boxes were. I bought one. Just for you, just for this picture.

I couldn’t shoot that night, though, for two reasons: one, I didn’t know yet where I was going to do this, and two, the sun was going down and I knew I wasn’t going to waste a good idea on harsh flat incandescent light. While on the porch I realized I could just set up in the middle of the street, why not, and there most of the details were finalized.

I spent that night thinking through the shot, which is something I almost never do. Normally by the time I’m thinking about the shot I’ve already edited it and posted it to Flickr, and only then do I realize all the things I should have done differently. I know how anxious I can get while in the middle of shooting something that’s not spontaneous, especially when I plan to put my dining room table in the middle of a public street (a one-way street, but a public street nonetheless) and so I made a point to make a list of everything I would need so that the next day I could pack it all up and not have to keep running back to the house for one last thing. The list reads as follows: spray bottle with water, comb, mirror, hand towel, tripod, camera with 15-35mm lens, jack-in-the-box, table, glasses, tablecloth, white tape.

Yesterday came, and I got off work, and I waited for the sun to go down some so that the shadows would be pretty even, and finally the time had arrived to go shoot. My beautiful assistant Casey and I dragged everything out there and set it up. The tape was to mark the exact placement of the table and tripod in the off chance that we got one picture shot and a huge truck came and we had to move it all – I wanted to be able to get everything back in place perfectly. It also came in handy in keeping the tablecloth down, as it was a bit breezy.

At this point I have to compliment Casey – I couldn’t ask for a better assistant. It’s obvious that she’s done work in the theater with prop wrangling, marking places, and directing people on how to move. Everything went twice as fast with her there, and kept me from going overboard into panic about the light fading between shots because I was taking too long setting everything up, etc.

We took the dry-hair picture first, of course, with about 20 takes on the same theme: me being startled and looking like a muppet. I concentrated on being Beaker with maybe 10% Animal thrown in. Once we were satisfied we had the right shot it was time to wet my hair and comb everything down, a point from which there was no going back. If something was screwed up with the first image I could have dried my hair again, but by then the light would have changed too much. The wet hair pics were taken (an out-take of which will be published on my Flickr eventually because I like it as a stand-alone) and then we were done. That’s right about when some disgruntled guy in a mini-van drove by and glared at us for being in the road, even as we were moving the table out of his way.

So, as for the technical aspects:

I took this with the wide-angle lens because, well, pictures shot really wide look goofy, and the last thing I wanted was to shoot telephoto with shallow depth of field making a serious image out of a guy being frightened by a child’s toy. Ultra-wide puts everything on the same plane, more or less. Because it was so wide the camera and tripod were literally pressed against the edge of the table, maybe two feet from my face. If they had been any farther back I would have just been a small speck in the middle of a neighborhood panorama.

Originally the shot was envisioned facing the other direction. However, after the first two test shots it was obvious that a big tree in the background was throwing everything out of balance. We looked at an angle shot, but that destroyed the lines of the road, table, and buildings. However, we found a place that worked just fine facing the other way, so we tore up all the tape and set everything up all over again.

One reason I wanted it in the middle of the road – and facing straight down the road – is that the wide-angle makes this great group of lines converge right in the middle. The side edges of the table, the street, the sidewalks, the roof lines of the buildings, even the power lines – they all point right to the middle, forcing the viewer’s eye and saying that even though the image may be shot in ultra-wide the only thing you need to look at is right here. To emphasize that effect I did some moderate vignetting on each of the images (something I’ve avoided lately as super-vignetted faux-Lomo images are already looking dated) to darken the edges and make the middle look brighter by comparison.

I went with a pretty high-contrast edit, pumping up the vibrance of the colors. Bright colors make for good silly, and I think they came across well. Still, the houses and grass and so forth were subdued and flat enough that the jack-in-the-box takes the front of the image in terms of attraction via color. That’s also why I wore a white t-shirt and used a white tablecloth – to make sure nothing in the center detracted from the toy.

The glasses were just to help me look extra dorky.

So there you have it – the analysis behind the conception, planning, setup, and execution of one of my favorite images of recent history. If I took this much time to think through all of my shots I’d be a hell of a lot better photographer.

July 2, 2009, 7:44 pm
Filed under: tidbit

The old deli kitchen

Originally uploaded by Brother O’Mara

Pardon this bit of self-indulgent rambling.

I got my first job in the wine industry in February of 2002 and it was literally as the result of a finger poked at random into the Help Wanted section of the Times-Picayune. They were looking for stockmen and cashiers. The short version of my career is this: I showed up, got the job as a stockman, came to work on time and did what was asked of me, and as a result got several kicks up the ladder. I worked for months at the retail store on Baronne and of course experienced the frustrations of a retail store but overall really enjoyed my time there. I felt like I totally fit in with the company. By the end of 2002 I had been promoted to a position in our Mid-City offices, and I left the store to go sit at a desk and push papers. I worked there from 2002 until the storm.

Okay all of that is a grand oversimplification but you get the point.

What I’m trying to say is this: when I was working at this company before the storm we had two stores – one in Uptown New Orleans and one out in Metairie. I always aligned myself with the Uptown store, because that’s where I started. Most people in the company have a fondness for one store or the other, and for an astoundingly high number of us it is because that’s where we started our careers as stockmen (or stockwomen, or cashiers). The Uptown store is where I learned about wine, where I learned how to pour, and how to taste, and where I was thrown into the driver’s seat of a delivery van and forced to learn the layout of the city. That’s a great job, I might add – whenever you get to a new city, get a job as a delivery person. You’ll learn the bad parts of town right quick. It didn’t take me more than once driving down St. Bernard to realize that the biggest streets on the map might not always be the best way to get somewhere.

Anyway, the Uptown store is where I learned to love wine. I greatly furthered my knowledge during my desk job in Mid-City, and by attending every Thursday night tasting that I could, but the Uptown store is where it all started.

The last time I was there would have been some point in the summer of 2005.

As with so many of my stories, you know that Hurricane Katrina comes next. I left my flooded apartment and flooded possessions and flooded workplace and went out to the Great Northwet to find a new life, then ended up back in Tennessee, and then realized just how damn much I missed this city and this company, and in December of 2008 I came back here. I got a different job with the same folks, and now I sit in a different office in the same building in Mid-City.

During my first trip back here post-Katrina, in March 2008, one of the first places I drove by was the old Uptown store. It was shuttered, closed, the result of flooding and looting and everything else bad that happened during the storm. Since that first post-K view I have driven by many times. I parked there twice during Mardi Gras and that was somehow the most bittersweet – there should have been a lot full of employees’ cars and someone I knew guarding the entrance, but it was just me, my girlfriend, and a big empty lot beside an empty building.

Finally today after having been back at work for six months I had an opportunity to see the gutted insides of the old workplace, a chance upon which I jumped with both feet. My boss knows I do the photography so he encouraged me to bring my camera along. We drove there along with the owner. He and my boss were going to discuss what was left inside that might still be salvageable before they tear down the old building. I went along just to see the place.

And … it was very strange. I didn’t live the post-K New Orleans experience. I did my grieving somewhere else. It’s been three years and ten months now, and I don’t have any pain left associated with the hurricane – not that I really ever did in the first place. So … when I set foot inside the store I was awash in old happy memories. I didn’t feel sad, full of regret, full of remorse. I just felt invigorated.

My boss and I talked about the first time we ever met, the night that all the stockmen (of which I was then a part) moved hundreds of bottles of wine and tons of shelves so that we could replace all the carpet. I saw the signs on the walls declaring the various wine regions. I saw the handwritten chalkboard sign above the old cheese counter. I saw the customer courtesy phone where tens of old ladies had stood and chatted, just far enough out in the aisle to keep me from being able to wheel my hand truck by and stock shelves. I saw the warehouse upstairs, the receiving room in the back, the remnants of the old deli and kitchen and walk-in cooler.

I saw on the floor upstairs the inter-office memo from late summer 2005 saying, “There is a restructuring in the Inventory Department. Kevin O’Mara is now the Inventory Manager of the Wholesale division” – my most recent promotion before the storm worked its magic.

I saw two half-full bottles of Ojen. I saw one ancient bottle of the old style of Ojen. I saw floors and ceilings, walls and windows, and I was filled with every happy memory I had of the place and not a single one of the bad. It was, to say the least, an uplifting and fulfilling experience – something I didn’t expect in the slightest.

So now I’m content. Now I’m ready for them to tear it down and build anew. I got my last visit.

I don’t know about the others, those dozen or two people still with the company that worked there for years before I did – decades before I did – that lived half their lives in that building. I can only hope they feel the same sense of relief and happiness that I do in our decision to move forward and build something even better than that which we used to have.

June 26, 2009, 8:08 pm
Filed under: tidbit


Originally uploaded by Mirabila

So in case you’re not part of the twitterses or facebookses you may not have heard that we got a new cat. Well, technically it was Casey who paid the adoption fees, so … anyway, the point is that Barton lives with us now.

The strange thing about … yeah, I know, you can see in the picture that he’s carrying a ball. He fetches. Now I’ve known some cats that would fetch occasionally, but fetch is his favorite game of ever. He will fetch at least 20 times in a row before he starts to get bored, and he’ll be up for another game of fetch in an hour. We even have a video of Barton fetching so that you know Casey didn’t just Photoshop a ball into his mouth in this picture.

He loves fetching so very much that last night he jumped up into our bed with a ball in his mouth and dropped it between us. He did this not once but twice. I told him, “Barton, it’s dark outside. It’s dark inside. This is not the right time to play fetch.” He didn’t really want to hear it. He never wants to hear that it’s not time for fetch.

So there you have it – our pretty boy from the LA SPCA has a nice trick. Oh, hey, yeah, let me mention that the LA SPCA was wonderful. We got a cat, neutered and with all his shots, and microchipped, AND a bag of Science Diet cat food all for $75. That is, in my opinion, a hell of a deal, and we managed to save this soft white fluffy fetching lump from possibly being sent to his demise.

A little promotion
June 18, 2009, 10:09 pm
Filed under: photography

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you’ve probably already heard about this, but if not, here goes.

Casey and I first visited Cure a few months ago. It’s a great bar near Uptown that specializes in proper cocktails and other delightful libations. In other words, it’s kind of the opposite of most of the other bars in this city that specialize in volume and drunken tourists, or tired locals wanting to lose themselves in happy hour. It’s a great place to try new tasty things and relax and have a conversation – oh, and it’s a non-smoking bar, so that’s an extra added bonus. Not to mention there’s a distinguished food menu as well.

Anyway, my first trip there I took some pictures and posted them to Flickr. The people that run Cure are pretty web-savvy and keep an eye out for any mention of their place, and apparently through diligent searches my images came up. The next time we visited I was actually stopped by Neal, the owner, who said that he liked my work and wanted to hire me to take the official promotional images for the bar.

Of course if you’ve been following my photography career (or specifically lack thereof) you’ve probably heard me say a hundred times that I don’t want to make this a profession for fear I’ll destroy the hobby I love, but I have to make an exception for a place that fills me with such joy. The ability to share a little of what I do in trade for the drink artistry they’ve shown us, well … it seemed like a good deal. I told Neal I’d do it in barter, not for pay.

And so I did, and I delivered many pictures, and he and Peter (his web designer) liked them, and several of the bartenders asked me where they could get copies, and so forth. But here’s the whole reason I’m writing – they have finally finished their website, so I can now show you curenola.com which features photography by yours truly. To be more clear, all the shots on the site are mine, and that thrills me to no end. I think Peter and his team did a bang-up job of utilizing my images to create the right atmosphere for the bar’s site. I couldn’t be happier to see my work used in such a format.

So there you have it – if you’re in or around New Orleans you must visit Cure, and you’ll see that it wasn’t through any sort of trickery that I created a smooth modern clean look for them. Neal very carefully designed the interior, the menu, and everything else, and it shows. Go check them out.

tiny little pictures
June 14, 2009, 4:55 pm
Filed under: photography

I recently became the next-to-last person on earth to get an iPhone (we all know that Kenny Rogers will be the last, for reasons I’m sure I don’t have to explain). Yesterday I took a picture of the interior of a green bell pepper and sometime last night I thought, “Man, that would look good as a wallpaper for my iPhone.” Is it egotistical to want to use one’s own photography for the artistic decoration on one’s own phone? Well, regardless of whether or not that’s egotistical, the rest of this sure is.

While we were driving around today I thought of another picture of mine that I would want as a wallpaper, and then another, and suddenly it occurred to me that you might want them too. Excited, I came home and did this:

… that’s right, I found fifty-something of my favorite images and cropped them all to 320×480 (iPhone wallpaper dimensions) and then zipped them up and set them right out there on the internet where you can get to them. I of course uploaded them all to Flickr and put them in a set so that you could pick and choose as well, if that’s how you like to do it.

Admittedly some of them are Cookeville-centric – I’m not sure anyone but a Cookevillian can truly appreciate the flying car or the water tower. I hope you don’t mind. With the rest of them I just aimed for something abstract, weird, visually appealing, or all of the above.

So there you go – have some tiny pictures of mine. They’re for you, on the house. I would love to know if you use any of them, even if only for a day. Please leave a comment if you do.

June 5, 2009, 4:47 pm
Filed under: food, photography

In case you were still wondering why this happened:

No tricks, no wires

it’s because we had a pineapple in the kitchen getting ready to go into this incredible recipe for pork tenderloin with pineapple mint salsa.

Okay so yeah that doesn’t really explain the image. I … um … I can’t really explain it either. I think I blacked out, I’m blaming alien abduction, and so forth.

sweet cuppin cakes
May 29, 2009, 8:35 pm
Filed under: tidbit

Did I mention birthday cupcakes? I think these might be the birthday cupcakes I was talking about. Oh my yes.

hbty hbty hbdk hbty
May 29, 2009, 10:38 am
Filed under: tidbit

Sometimes I totally geek out about data collection. I can’t even explain; it’s just a thing I find myself doing. Without any sort of apology I present to you a pie chart of the ways in which I was told “Happy Birthday!” yesterday:

[click to embiggen]

The important thing to note here is that a certain social networking site will gladly tell you exactly when your friends birthdays are, and because of this (plus the ease of leaving a message for another user on said site) it shot to the top of the charts in terms of quantity of messages.

In terms of quality, though, the homemade cupcakes I received yesterday beat hell out of everything else.

How interesting
May 5, 2009, 5:37 pm
Filed under: photography

Flickr gives some clandestine and arcane attribution called Interestingness to the photographs on its site. Every user is given a list of their most Interesting photographs. I figured I would show you mine and give you some idea of what went into each of them, why not?

10.) Game not available in all locations

Game not available in all locations

I had some small chess pieces that I was going to throw away, as I had no chess board and was in the middle of getting rid of a lot of useless stuff. I figured they might be useful one last time. I spent what seemed like hours one night running around the university trying to find a good black and white tile floor and finally I located one in the bathroom in the basement of South Hall. I got the picture and just as I finished packing away the last of my gear the cleaning lady came. I can only assume she was surprised to find two tiny armies in the trash.

9.) Sunset flowers

Sunset flowers

I’m always surprised to see this one on my list. You see that barn in the background? That’s what I had gone out to photograph, and this was the second time I had tried to get the shot. I was unable both times to find the image I wanted – I just couldn’t make it work. On my way back to the car I stopped to shoot the flowers instead as a kind of throwaway image, and next thing I know people are adding it to their favorites like crazy.

8.) Did I ever tell you that when I lived in New Orleans I used to practice card magic?

Did I ever tell you that when I lived in New Orleans I used to practice card magic?

I can’t remember what inspired this photo, but I remember the fun I had setting it up. I tried using string and blue-tac to levitate the card but the results were difficult to edit out in Photoshop. Finally I settled on straightening a wire hanger, sticking the card on top (again with blue-tac) and removing the wire in post-production. The most important thing I learned because of this image is that people find my mad-dog eye abilities unusual and impressive.

7.) I feel kind of bad

I feel kind of bad

When I went to remove my burned-out light bulb from my outside fixture I found it like this with the glass separated from the sleeve. I set it on the kitchen counter, knowing that eventually I’d figure out what to do with it. All it took was talking to myself one day while looking around the kitchen, being silly, saying, “Awww, poor light bulb, broken and bleeding and useless on the counter …”

6.) Indifferent


I went to Fido in Nashville with Trey one day. It started raining buckets and I got my camera out to shoot (from the safe dry indoors) some of the gallons upon gallons of water cascading down the street and into the gutter. Then this guy, soaked to the skin, wandered up and looked in through all the windows, apparently searching for someone and acting like he hadn’t a care in the world. I think of this picture as proof that if you sit with your camera in your hands long enough something strange will happen in front of you.

5.) Perimeter breach

Perimeter breach

One day the idea of Army men being threatened by a stuffed bear just appeared in my head, fully-formed. I went to K-Mart to buy the ingredients, then drove out to Sheep Bluff Road because I knew from our rock climbing excursions that I could find the right location out there. Twenty minutes later I was done, looking at a bag of Army men and a spent bear thinking, “What in the world is wrong with me?”

4.) There is a perfectly valid reason for me having done this

There is a perfectly valid reason for me having done this

Seeing this image included on my Interestingness list is always startling to me. It’s not very well-composed and I really rushed the post-processing as I was getting bored with it before I even finished. And yet, well, apparently I need to learn to separate my opinion from everyone else’s, because it got a lot of attention. Oh, yes, the image itself is documentation of an aborted make-up attempt.

3.) Bananadog


I don’t even have this one on klophoto because I’m not that pleased with it. The imagery is fine: striking, unusual, etc. The technical aspects of the photography are atrocious though, and so I usually try to forget about this one. Apparently Flickr won’t let me do so.



This picture was created from a combination of two different motives. One was me visiting the Dean’s conference room and thinking it would be a great location for a photo. The second was me getting tired of seeing the same old boring clone ‘multiple me’ images on Flickr. I wanted something with action and interaction. So many of the clone images are terribly boring – they might as well be of multiple people all at their own tasks for all the interest they hold. I think I’m qualified to say that because I myself have done dull ‘multiple me’ pictures, I’m not perfect. I guess sometimes people see the clone concept for the first time and think, “Oh god I have to go do that right now!” and get caught up in the idea of the whole thing without making a compelling photograph. You know what I mean? Doing the picture for the technique’s sake, not for imagery’s sake. Anyway, this one is far from perfect but I do love it because I think it speaks as a group photo first and digital manipulation trickery second, which is the correct order of events.

1.) Getting ready

Getting ready

Some guy on campus offered to sell me a surplus civilan gas mask for $2 so of course I took him up on it. I was very excited about the prospects, and then my enthusiasm diminshed over time. A gas mask makes such a solid statement about war or post-apocalyptic life that it’s almost completely unavoidable. In fact, I would say it is completely unavoidable. One can not separate the gas mask imagery from the ham-fisted and juvenile war commentary. So this is what I struggled with – how to utilize this object while avoiding the knee-jerk response that has been beaten into us? Finally I decided that the silliest thing I could do was shave the gas mask, so I went into an unoccupied house with a swanky bathroom to try to add a further sense of normalcy and everyday-life-ness. I got the image I wanted, I did my post-processing, and later in the day I showed it to Walter who said, paraphrased, “So it’s a commentary on how the gas mask has become such a necessity that it’s viewed as a second skin.”

You just can’t win for losing, I suppose.

Anatomy of a photo
May 1, 2009, 9:08 am
Filed under: photography

and by “a photo” I mean this photo:

I get people asking me all the time about my inspiration for my photos, or technique, or lighting, or all of the above. Most of the time I tell them that I do not decide on a photograph and then go create it, moving pieces around and setting lights and so forth. More often than not I just see an interesting scene or unusual lighting and I take a photograph because of that. You know what I mean? Opportunistic photography is what I practice.

Once in a while, though, I get home from work with an idea that has been running through my head all day and I have to piece it all together. I decided to describe for you what my thought processes are with regards to the setup.

1.) I have a face I make that is freakish and horrible and borderline gross. I’ve been meaning to photograph and document it for a while. For the rest of this discussion I will just refer to it as grossface. I may not describe it in full as … well … I’ll get to that.

2.) The restroom at work is large and spacious and has two sets of lights – one is the big bank of overhead fluorescents that really light up the room, the other is a group of small incandescent wall sconces, one on each side of the mirror, that aren’t very bright. I had turned on just the wall sconces. While standing there washing my hands I thought about grossface and decided that it would be a good day to photograph it. I made the face in the mirror and I thought that the way the light looked, two soft light sources directly – but not harshly – lighting the front of my face made for a good visual. It was especially strengthened by the darkened room behind me. Noted.

3.) While at work I occasionally thought about the rooms of my house and which ones had the least-distracting walls. I knew that for the photograph I didn’t want much of a background – I wanted the obvious concentration to be on the face, not the setting.

4.) Also worth noting is the fact that I had a big headache all day at work.

5.) I got home and started looking over the rooms of the house. The one big front room is very light. While I may have been able to take some paintings off the wall and create a blank background, I would never have been able to darken the rest of the room sufficiently as the curtains are too light and gauzy. The front room was out.

6.) The library was out because although there are heavy curtains there was too much unmovable stuff along the opposite wall.

7.) I settled on the bedroom – heavy curtains meaning I could make the room dark, and a more-or-less empty background. Achievement unlocked.

8.) At this point I laid down on the spare bed to talk to Casey for a while and rest my eyes because of my headache. However, I was excited because I knew that I had a good setup for the picture, and that I would have sufficient light for at least an hour, meaning I could take some time to get things together.

9.) Aaaaand then came the worry. What else will I do in the photograph? It’s not enough that I just make grossface, I need … something else. I have a bad tendency to feature something a little bit off-kilter in my non-spontaneous images. I like that sense of the one thing that creates a bit of a story in the viewer’s mind. But what would I use here? Every single time I’m in this position I feel like I have used up every prop item I own. Finally my eyes settled on Casey’s silk top hat and I decided that it would do for the time being unless I found something better.

10.) So let’s review so far. I wanted a picture of my face. I wanted glowing light from directly in front of me, and a dark background. I decided to add a hat for the hell of it. This left me worrying about my shirt. I have about five options when it comes to my upper torso in self-portraits: shirtless, tank top, t-shirt, dress shirt, dress shirt plus suit jacket. That’s it. I knew that t-shirt wouldn’t work with top hat, and dress shirt wouldn’t be sufficient, but dress shirt plus suit jacket wouldn’t be fancy enough for top hat. It’s a business suit, not a tuxedo. So … I settled for the tank top.

11.) Casey has generously agreed to be my assistant in my self-portraits. She is (of course) a thousand times better than using a tripod, especially because the tripod doesn’t ever fix stray hairs, or tell me to tilt my face more, or have me move one foot to the left because the line of my body is interrupted by the window on the building behind me, or whatever. In short, she is an incredible help.

12.) While Casey was finishing up a project of her own I got ready for the picture. I put on the wife beater (sorry, tank top) and hat and checked it in the mirror, but something looked wrong. I figured if a guy is wearing a top hat and a wife beater he’s probably at the end of a hard day. I pushed the hat back on my head, and my hair just looked too dry and boring. I wet the parts of my hair that would be wet with sweat after a hard day’s work and I felt that improved the image immensely.

13.) I went in the bedroom and pulled the curtains almost shut so that only a thin band of light was on me and the rest of the room was dark. The sun was just below the house behind us which meant that the light was direct but diffuse, not strong and harsh and shadow-causing. Perfect.

14.) I held the camera out at arm’s length to do a test shot while waiting for Casey. If you can remember back to number 4 in this list you’ll recall my headache. My test shot was of me in a top hat and wife beater looking sweaty, tired, and a bit … well … headachey. I fell in love with the weary look.

15.) Casey appeared and did what she does so well – took some shots, made adjustments, took more shots, etc. We took several with grossface but she as well as I had seen the weary look and liked it. We took some more with that in mind.

16.) Once I got the images into Adobe Bridge for review I decided that while the grossface picture was great, the weary picture was far better – the decision was made to completely discard the idea I’d had since number 1 in this list. This is the kind of thing that happens to me, photographically-speaking, all the time.

17.) I took the weary picture into Photoshop and did some minor adjustments, mainly regarding darkening the red channel so that the color and texture of my skin stood out more. I didn’t want perfect and airbrushed-looking (not that I ever do that anyway) but instead kind of super-real and detailed. Past that there was a little bit of desaturation and sharpening. I also chose to crop it a bit, to cut out just the top edge and side of the hat, to draw the viewer in and really fill the frame, and voila – the image as you see it came into existence.

And that’s it. That’s what I go through in taking a planned photo.

Thanks for reading this far, if you got this far. One day I’ll re-photograph grossface and show the world, but not today. That’s why I can’t tell you what it is – I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Also, I recognize that I could get that direct-lighting diffused darkened-room look with a ringflash, but I ain’t got no ringflash, sorry. I have to make do with the sun and curtains and so forth.

The point of all this was to show that even when I do take the time to set up a photograph I’m still an opportunistic photographer – when I see something that looks good I run with it, even if it means abandoning my previous idea.