December 20, 2008

Self analyzing my photography styles

As I look over my growing collection of photos in iPhoto, I have several patterns I tend to follow. Of course, there are plenty of shots of friends and family, but then I have a lot of material that I prefer. I lean towards landscapes and nature photography mostly. The subject matter generally doesn't talk back.

I have a decent "prosumer" DSLR camera and two basic zoom lenses to cover wide angles to respectable distances. Recently, I picked up my first prime lens -- a 50mm f/1.8 which really should be the first lens for all photographers. With this, I can really push the depth of field technique. A second prime lens is on my wish list -- a 28mm wide angle.

Also, I started using a speedlight for better flash coverage instead of using the unreliable popup flash.

I have modest aspirations of having my material used for stock photography companies. I have pending applications at a few places, but even if they never pan out I'll still be out there clicking away.

So, here's the first in a series of my growing body of material.

Macros, or close ups

Sometimes, the subject is the "trees" instead of the "forest." Getting up close with your subject can give you more rewarding results. The first is the side of a log cabin barn at Keystone Colorado. Its texture fascinated me and I felt the story was better explained in a tight shot rather than a wider one to capture the entire cabin. The second is the base of a tree that had been struck by lightning, causing it to split down its trunk. The exposed fibrous elements were best captured in a closeup rather than a possibly more understandable wider shot.

Future posts will cover depth of field experiments, candid subjects, the rule of thirds, elongated perspectives, and ideas that were great but didn't quite work out.

December 19, 2008

Mouse Trap Drop Dog

If I ever formed a band, I'd name it Mouse Trap Drop Dog. Complete non sequitur, right? No, just a cool name for a emergency braking system on older chairlifts.

I worked as a lift operator during the 1988/89 ski season. The first order of business was to learn the nuts and bolts of the mechanics of the chairlifts. Sheaves, cables and bullwheels, among other items.

The worst thing that can happen is a rollback, when the cable starts going backwards. The momentum of the weighted rightside will quickly accelerate backwards, and the chairs are whipsawed around the bottom bullwheel.

An emergency brake technique is to use a heavy steel bar (the "drop dog") that is dropped down between the spokes of the bullwheel. An abrupt stop but effective. Some bullwheels are designed with a series of notches on the spokes. As the bullwheel turns in the correct direction, a small metal latch ("mouse trap") drops into the notch, which is cut to allow the metal latch to slide out and then drop into the next one. The sound effect is a constant clicking. Think of the old playing cards in the bicyle spokes trick we did as kids.

However, should the bullwheel turn in the opposite direction the notches are cut in a manner that causes the metal latch to catch and yank on it which will then trigger the drop dog to fall into the spokes.