Photo Challenges

A quick update

March has been a busy month in my "real life," and I have naturally fallen behind on all of the individual posts/updates I wanted to do here, but in the name of clearing the slate and catching up, here's a recap of the last few weeks. 

As I have mentioned before, I am participating in two yearlong challenges, each with one assignment per week. For one, which originates from Dogwood Photography, the themes are on a three-week cycle of portraits, landscapes, and "artistic"/interpretive subjects, and I have the entire year's worth of briefs laid out for me; I have worked ahead for a couple of them, but in general I'm trying to let each week build on the last. This challenge has spawned a giant community on Facebook and Flickr, and it has been great fun so far playing along with people from all over the globe and with all levels of training.  The other challenge, which has been going on for a few years over at, also follows a cycle of themes - black and white, outdoor, portraits, and "other" - but is a bit different in that each week's assignment comes out on Saturday evening and participants have a week to meet the brief. These challenges tend to be a bit more specifically technical and with a real focus (ugh, pardon the pun) on image quality. I can't say enough about how much you develop as an artist and a technician when you are pushed to try new and uncomfortable things on the regular; I feel like my work has really improved even though we're barely a quarter of the way through the year. 

So, in chronological order: 

An "environmental portrait."  I actually shot this one back in January, but I liked it better than any of the attempts I made in the interim.

Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda. All rights reserved. 

The brief was "Black and white: entropy." It was a busy week work-wise, which was probably for the best as I could have gotten lost in this assignment. 

Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda. All rights reserved. 

Landscape: Reflection. I struggled with this one, as the weather was difficult (raining and windy), and also because I tend find this subject a bit boring unless the landscape is truly compelling. At the last minute I grabbed this composite panorama, shot on a foggy morning at high tide in the salt marsh near my home. I love the dreamy, minimalist quality, here. Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda. All rights reserved. 

Outdoor - Brenizer Method. This week's challenge was quite intimidating as it involved the creation of many-frame composites to mimic the shallow depth of field usually only achievable with large-format cameras. I ended up falling completely in love with this technique, and have had a hard time not shooting EXCLUSIVELY this way since. 

Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda. All rights reserved. 

This challenge was about "transportation." This is a decrepit double-decker bus parked in front of an "olde English pub" near my home. I shot this with the intent of making a composite image, but when it came time to edit I actually preferred this tight, flattened, and almost abstract version. 

Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda. All rights reserved. 

Portrait, with an emphasis on using a bounced/reflected light source. I corralled a couple of friends into a portrait session on a not-quite-warm Saturday afternoon on Boston Common.  Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda. All rights reserved. 

Portrait - high-key. I ended up having to do a selfie for this one, as two portrait weeks coincided and I failed to line up a second model. This was no easy task, between finding the right exposure and focus, holding onto a reflector, and managing the remote shutter... not to mention getting the eyeliner just right! 

Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda. All rights reserved. 

Still life in the style of the Dutch Masters. Another fun one, although I made a huge mess by pulling out all sorts of dishes, curios, pieces of fabric... only to ultimately decide on this more simple and naturalistic arrangement. Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda. All rights reserved. 

So, this catches us up; I will try going forward to make a separate post about each of these challenges, and about other stuff I'm working on. By popular demand, I am also working hard on getting images uploaded to my vendor so you can buy prints of them. I will update when there's movement in that direction. 

Thanks for visiting! 

Still Life and Shadows

I had a photography professor once that was fond of saying, "I'm most interested in the images you make once you run out of ideas." She would advise us to shoot until we had taken all the pictures we were thinking of, and then shoot at least 2 more rolls. "Those," she would say, "are the shots I want to see." And she was right; once we got all of our preconceived notions and "perfect" shots out of the way,  more interesting stuff began to happen. 

I am participating in two shooting challenges this year, each of which requires a weekly response to a theme. Sometimes, the assignment feels easy; I immediately have an idea of what I want, and it is achievable. Other weeks, I am stymied. Such was the case this week, when the subject was simply "shadows." 

Perhaps it was the simplicity of the assignment that made this difficult; after all, anywhere there is light, there is shadow. I played for a while with chasing shadows in the natural world, but came up short, discarding all of my first round of images as feeling like cheap snapshots, neither interesting nor meaningful. 

Uninspired and running out of time,  figured that at a minimum, I could fulfill the assignment with a still life, which is a style I don't play with that often.  I constructed a (very rudimentary) black box on my kitchen table, using a few pieces of black foam board and some duct tape. I balanced a flashlight on a coffee cup, and cast around my home for some objects with interesting shapes, ultimately settling on a gnarled pine cone that has been floating around on the counter since the autumn, and a tiny, jewel-like Roman glass jar. 

The end result bears absolutely no resemblance to the image I was originally chasing, but in many ways is much better. 

And that, I guess, is the point. 

The Roman Jar - Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda

Pine Cone - Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda

Fibonacci Spiral - Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda

Shadow Play - Copyright 2016 Hannah C. Nesbeda