Inventories of the Invisible

I found a link to this witty TED talk by John Lloyd at Daring Fireball this morning: illuminating and very funny!


New lighting equipment

The photo shoot with Hannah reminded me how much fun it is to take photos in a studio setting. When one has greater control over the light, one can do so many fun things that just aren’t possible otherwise. Inspired by this experience, I began to think about putting together my own portable studio—a set of lighting gear I could set up at home or on location. Robban, the chap who lent me his studio in Stockholm during the summer, gave me some good recommendations, and I put together a list of the equipment I would need.
Today I placed an order for my starter kit:
Obviously I’ll need to find a place to work. I think the living room at home would be a good place.

I’m going to investigate options for setting up larger backgrounds than the collapsible ones I’ve ordered. Plain black or white cloth would probably suffice for many applications I have in mind; then I just need a rig to hold it in place. If anyone has suggestions for flexible and inexpensive ways to set up backgrounds, please get in touch.

Another thing I’d like to do is to find a way to block stray light from the windows, so that I can work during the daytime. It’s too bad this house wasn’t constructed after the built-in rolling shutters became popular in this part of the world—those things are great for blocking out light! Perhaps some heavy curtains would be a good solution. They could remain in place even when not in use. However, maybe there are other ways to block the light. I welcome ideas on this too.

Most of the new gear should arrive within a couple of days. I’m excited about putting it to use for the first time!

Advice for new DSLR owners

I had a long chat last night with my friend Annelie in Stockholm, who recently purchased her first digital SLR—a Canon 1000D with an 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. She was frustrated with the results from her first day of shooting. After a bit of questioning, I learned why: she had taken a bunch of photos using settings chosen essentially at random.

I gave her three pieces of advice:
1. Learn the language and basic principles of photography. Learn how ISO, aperture, and shutter speed affect the amount of light collected. Learn how the aperture affects depth-of-field.
2. Learn the capabilities and limitations of your camera and lens. Learn about the main modes of your camera, and start taking photos in aperture priority mode (A on Nikon, Av on Canon).
3. Get a 50mm f/1.4 lens, and start playing with it. Shoot in aperture priority mode, but also start experimenting with manual mode, particularly in low light settings.

My 50mm f/1.4 lens is my favorite lens by far because of the freedom its wide maximum aperture and light weight afford. I often go out with only my 50. I have learned more about photography while using my 50mm f/1.4 lens than with any other lens. I’ve also taken many of my best photos with this lens. It’s so simple and so fun to use.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of Annelie’s next photo session.


Helena in the studio

_MAL8017.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

My good friend Helena Petterson saw my photos of Hannah this morning and gave me some positive feedback. Helena is also a photographer, and so we talked for a while about poses, techniques and ideas for future photo projects. It was then that I remembered the shoot we did together last year. Here are some photos of Helena I took in a studio in Stockholm, just before I moved to Switzerland.


Hannah in the studio

_MAL3794, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

When I was in Stockholm in July, I spent a rainy afternoon hanging out with my good friend Hannah. On the spur of the moment, I picked up my camera and captured a few remarkable photos of her. Impressed with her natural beauty and ease in front of the camera, I invited her to do a photo shoot with me a couple of days later. We spent a Friday afternoon in a lovely villa on Gärdet. We set up a studio in one large room, but also took photos at other locations in the house. We had a terrific time, joking, laughing, and capturing some amazing photographs. I’m very pleased now to share some of the best photos of Hannah.


Some of my favorite photographs

_MAL8486, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Recently I selected some of my favorite photos among the thousands I’ve taken in recent years. A recent addition is the photo above I snapped of two new acquaintances of mine, Ray and Jia as we left a bar downtown late one night.

Like many photos that I’m fond of, this one happened spontaneously and without any preparation or planning. I was fortunate to be in the right time and place, and to have my camera handy!


Magnus’s surprise birthday party

_MAL9429, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

On Saturday I went to Nordiska and attended the surprise birthday party for my friend Magnus. It was a great party and I was among the last to leave around five in the morning. As one of the guests said while toasting to him, Magnus is one of those rare men who is truly, honestly genuine all the time. I try to do this but for me at least, it take a little work. For Magnus, it seems to come so naturally! This is what makes it so easy to be around him.

Here’s to you, Magnus. I’m looking forward yet another party in just a few days!


Jesus would support health care reform

A small minority on the extreme right of political spectrum have recently been resorting to fear-mongering of the most vile and dishonest kind, in a desperate attempt to stand in the way of meaningful health care reform in the United States. What disappoints me most about this fear-mongering is how blind many otherwise thoughtful people have been to the blatant hypocrisy of these obstructionists.

Many of those protesting the most vehemently against health care reform are people who consider themselves Christians. These so-called Christians treat their religion like a glee club and spiritual self-help program, but ignore the social mission message of Jesus.

Jesus of Nazareth told his disciples to care for the sick, to feed the hungry, and to visit those in prison. He had strong words for those who did not do so. For just one of many examples of Jesus commandment to care for those in need, see Matthew 23:31-46.

I believe the Democrats and like-minded Republicans and Independents need to reclaim the moral high ground, and shove the obstructionist protestors’ bibles back in their faces. “How can you call yourselves Christians?” they should demand. Obama should eschew for now the conciliatory tones of bipartisanship, and use his bully pulpit to shame the hypocrites, and to inspire us all toward a higher calling: social justice.

In short, we need to put these fair-weather friends of Jesus in their place—on the defensive.