Magnum Opus

The final project for this class turned out to be a great way for me to showcase some of my photographs. I took up photography as a hobby over the summer and purchased a digital SLR camera. I’ve taken tons of photographs around DC but I have found that it is easier to go out and take lots of photographs than it is to then go through them to organize and touch them up. My original idea was to use the photos in a print design but using Final Cut Pro X to compile the photographs into a compilation video really worked well. The final product has a much bigger impact.

What surprised me the most was how a story developed that weaves the animation and effects, music, and the photographs themselves. I started by selecting which photographs I wanted to include in the video and then putting them on the timeline and key framing different movements and effects to match the music. Part way through I realized it made sense to have the night photos (my favorites) at the end of the video with a special effect that almost makes it seem like they are being drawn right before your eyes and have the daytime photos at the beginning. The daytime photographs help build up to the more profound photographs at the end. The most epic part of the music is right at the end where I put my favorite photograph, a double exposure of the Capitol dome with the statue Freedom silhouetted by a Full Moon.

Photographic Emotion

This shot was an entirely candid photo I took while I was sitting with some of my friends with my camera, taking random shots. Someone started to tell a joke and I could see my friend Liz’s reaction beginning to show. I quickly aimed the camera and took the shot. The frame captured her in the middle of laughing at the story with an absolutely incredible expression of joy spread across her face.

At the time, I was using my 50mm f/1.8 lens for a shallow depth of field and nice bokeh. I always like pairing this lens with the High Contrast Monochrome mode on my camera to get stunning portrait shots. The camera was in this mode at the time, so I only had a black and white version of the photograph.

I decided to let the fact that the photo was originally in black and white drive my manipulation and use a technique I have used on several old photographs. I colorized the photograph, or more specifically, only the subject of the photograph in Photoshop. The technique allows me total control over the colors in the photograph, meaning I can use a limited palette and select colors that work well together and create sharp contrast between certain elements of the photograph.

Each color is a separate Color Fill layer in Photoshop, each with its own mask layer. The blending mode on each color layer is set to Color, so the detail of the image is preserved. The quick selection tool makes it easy to select large general areas to color in, and then the paint brush on the mask layer can further refine the edges of the area.

The final version of this photo contains only 5 distinct color fill layers. Some objects share the same layer, such as her eyes and the stone on her necklace. Some objects have much brighter colors than they did originally, such as her eyes and her shirt. All together, the colors are very bright, increasing the contrast between her and the black and white background and fitting nicely with the bright expression on her face.

Photo Essay: Extracurriculars at AU

American University is often associated very closely with its location in Washington, DC. As a school for politics, public administration, and international service, that location is certainly a key advantage. However, the school’s location is also beneficial to extracurricular clubs and organizations like the College Democrats and the Kennedy Political Union. Thanks to AU’s location in the heart of the nation’s capital, we have the opportunity of hearing from many big-name speakers throughout the year. In my time here at American, I’ve been able to meet General Colin Powell, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen, and former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe, just to name a few.

This simple photo captures the idea that American University frequently hosts political speakers. With no person in the frame, I think it leaves the viewer to wonder who might be coming.

Picture of the Year

The Pictures of the Year exhibit at the Newseum showcased plenty of breath-taking photos. At first, I thought it might be difficult to choose just one photo to focus on, but then one really did catch my eye.

I think this photo from protests in Bangkok, Thailand grabbed my attention due to its unique composition. The photograph emphasizes the burning truck and the man actively throwing a tire through a reflection on the ground. The muddy water on the road provided a surprisingly crisp and clear reflection that provides nearly perfect symmetry to the image. The reflection is darker than the actual scene, making it seem like an alternative reality that emphasizes the dark and foreboding scene of a city turned upside down by discontent.

What also strikes me is the extraordinary color in the photo. By and large, the photograph has an almost monochromatic feel to it. Most of the picture is veiled in billowing brown smoke. The visible parts of the sky are not blue, but also a brown color that brings images of armageddon to mind. The parts of the image that are not dark brown are right in the foreground: the bright yellow and orange flames of the burning truck and the bright lime green t-shirt of the protester. The contrast of the colors at the focal point of the image add to the photo’s ability to draw the eye in.

The emphasis in this gallery was on photojournalism, photographs that can document a scene and tell a story in one frame. I think this photograph presents something of a dichotomy: the photograph seems somewhat surreal, but still transmits the feeling of that scene on the streets of Bangkok. It’s not a photograph of a protest on a blue sunny day. Every part of the photo lends itself to the dire situation that existed in Thailand during the protests and anti-government demonstrations.