The slippery slope of cowardice…

So, this Sunday, my plan was to head down to the marathon after church to get some great photos of runners nearly passing out as they crossed the finish line. (well, a guy can hope, right?) But I ended up napping the day away. This lackadaisical attitude apparently continued until today, which was a day that I felt I had three or four great opportunities for photo shoots, which is odd for me because Wednesday’s aren’t an open night for me. However, other plans fell through and I walked around campus all afternoon with a camera IN THE CAMERA BAG. Not conducive to good photography. Taking the camera out of the bag increases its effectiveness by at least 75%. It was weird, I literally inner-monologued myself out of every photo opportunity. (okay, frustration vented)

  While I don’t have a new shoot to bring to the table, thankfully, I did capture this image during my Day in the Life of shoot. This little boy’s name is Ethan and he joined his dad at the barbershop that day. It was really surprising, this little guy was so quiet during the hour or so he was in the barbershop, I almost forgot he was there.


  I cropped the image down from its original size to focus in on little Ethan’s grin. As well, I didn’t realize how much the hanging toy would be in his face. I remember thinking while taking this photo, “With this photo I can show that Studio One A is a family place too.” However, I am really glad he was such a happy baby on that day, because I might otherwise be stuck for an emotion photo.

Last minute inspiration…

Initially, I really didn’t have a message I wanted to convey with this assignment and after seeing all of your photo illustrations, which were great, I realized the only thing I wanted to try was to photograph the skyline of downtown St Louis. Unfortunately, the best angle is from Illinois and I didn’t think about that until it was too late.  After trying to match two photos, which really didn’t work, I thought about other ideas. Is there a message I want to convey. Love for the city? How St Louis looks better at night? Then, at 5am (yep, magic hour) I remembered that I had had a couple of instances at work involving homeless men. And I realized that is where I wanted to go.

 While St Louis is not overrun with homeless, there are about 1500 persons listed as homeless, according to the last census. However, another a homeless services website, listed the number of available beds in St Louis to 574. There is help available in this city, whether it is enough or taken advantage of is another story.

  My thoughts with this photo were to simply highlight how often we simply walk by or don’t notice the less fortunate around us. My attempt was to make them ghost-like, nearly transparent. Which is how, at times, people treat the less fortunate.


While none of the photos is exceptionally strong (well the one on the right I grabbed from is pretty strong, but he’s nearly transparent, loses a bit of the power–the other I grabbed from a website called Our Modern Youth, I am hoping the weight of the message will carry through. Hopefully, this is not just a deadline-induced bad idea.

Day in the Life of…

Today was about the only day I could schedule time to do this assignment, so naturally, I thought I’d finish all aspects today as well. Let me introduce you to my good friend Bob Cutts. Bob is my barber and has been for the last four years. I was introduced to Bob by a good friend and the first few haircuts he gave me were out of his basement. Since then he has moved into his own shop, Studio One A in Southampton. Its a nice place with character that screams Bobs Cutts. Look around and you may see a family photo I took for him a few years ago as well as our softball team’s photo from a few years back. Yea, Bob and I go way back. So, when thinking of a day in the life of, I thought of coming here:


 Now with this critique, I kinda want to do something different. I submitted a different establishing shot for this assignment, because, this one has a “newspaper focus.”  I tried manual focus for a while and had mixed results. I like this photo, aside from the lack of a proper focal point, because it really sets the scene for the day in the life of Bob Cutts. This is his domain, his place to practice his craft and I think this photo highlights a lot of what people come to expect when they head to Studio One A. The lighting is decent, but the action is minimal.  I took it from a different angle to try to incorporate more into the photo.

 This is the photo I submitted as an establishing shot for this assignment:


Not as good, but the focus is better. The action is still there and it still somewhat sets the scene. I did have to crop this one because it was canted. (I wasn’t trying to crawl on the floor and crouching got me this) However, I still feel this is a strong photo to show the scene and little more than simply someone getting a haircut. The blur of the fan blades is a lucky thing because I had the shutter so low to compensate for the light. After typing that sentence I realized that I could have simply raised the ISO, but no that idea didn’t occur to me.

General News…

I’ve said it before, but each time we get an assignment, an idea immediately springs to my mind.Sometimes it has worked out, sometimes it has not. The news story was a case where it did not. First, a little thing called perseverance really helps if you want to get the story you want. Three times I had to go to the folks in Pius to try to get access to the fourth and fifth floors to make some pictures. I was a step away, when I succumbed to the pressure of time and simply found a subject I could photograph.

I knew it would be more difficult, but I decided it was better than nothing as deadline was approaching. Still would have liked to get to the 4th and 5th floors though. “Safety.” Meh!Image

Not my best work in this class, but with communicating news, I did want to tell a story. My new friend Joe was kind enough to help me out and let me snap some shots of him at work. With this photo, I wanted to show the whole project, pull back a little for some perspective. I much prefer to have faces in photos, however, I think its clear he is at work.The photo is a bit over exposed, I was really trying to find the balance between the dark, recessed ceiling and the bright outside the awning. Thankfully, my ISO was right where I wanted it this time.


Taylor Essner rushes across the line of scrimmage after the quarterback during an intramural game Wednesday March 28, 2012 at Saint Louis University. Essner, a sophomore at the university, joined the intramural team with his fraternity brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon, who were playing in the first intramural league game of the season. (SLU Photo/John Silwanus)

This was such a fun assignment.  I love sports.  Though I did procrastinate until the near zero hour, it was a pretty good shoot.  However, I do want to warn everyone to heed Erik’s advice when he says, “Reset the camera as soon as you get it out of the Media Center.”  I realized only after returning home that I complicated this shoot immensely by having my ISO at 1600 in the full sun of 430pm. Yes, a little more difficult than necessary.

Anyway, I chose this photo to critique because it is not a typical sports shot, I hope.  The action is in the explosion of that first second after the center snaps the ball.  I like the photo because this is one you snap and hope you catch the right action.  Many of the elements in it are clean, no real background noise, a slight blur of a head in the foreground, the focus is almost obscured and you don’t see the football. I discarded this photo on first glance because I missed Taylor’s determined look in looking for the center’s hand on the football.  Then I saw it and decided to keep this photo. Its not the best of the bunch, but I think its still a decent photo.

Telling a story…

In looking for photos for a feature this week, I realized I am pretty excited about the upcoming photo story project. I feel like with looking for a feature photo, I was also looking for detail shots and supporting frames to capture to help tell the story. But, that will have to wait.

  Anyway, about this assignment, I have been to Cafe Ventana this week more than I have in my life. Its a great place. So, when I heard feature photo, I pictured a person behind a large espresso machine staring intently into a cup as steam rose up around their face. This picture is as close as I could get to that today. The staff at Cafe Ventana were great to allow me to hang out behind the counter for about a half hour while I snapped and dodged their ever-hustling selves. All of them were easy to chat with and willing to cooperate with the guy with the camera.

  I like this photo because the lighting at Ventana was a “magic hour-esque” orange right over the espresso machine. That and because its got the steam that I had used as my inspiration. Its not a great photo because the action is hidden behind the bulk of the machine. As well, I did cut off a bit of my man Britt’s hair.It also feels like less than a full profile, if he had turned toward the machine more it might help to be more of one. However, I do think the lighting and crisp focus (thanks autofocus!) help to make it feature-worthy.


Joy is in the eyes…

As has been the case with many of the assignments we have been given in this class, I knew immediately who and what I wanted to capture for a great portrait. And in customary fashion, that changed.  I set out wanting to photograph two of my friends who are simply filled with joy. However, I ended up finding another friend and coworker of mine who ended up being an excellent subject for portraiture.

Meet my buddy Jim.  Jim works as a bartender in the hotel I work at.  I have known Jim for about a year, but I enjoy working with him as he is a funny guy and is consistently in a good mood when he’s at work.

I chose this photo to critique, because its safe for him and his face isn’t plastered on this blog for all of us to take apart, but also because I nearly missed this shot.  I was trying to get Jim working so I asked him to make a drink for a pretend guest.  After making the drink for the 10th time, we laughed at something and he responded with an over-the-top Jim laugh.  It was a good moment.

In looking at the photo though, I wonder if this frame might have been better suited if I were up nearly eye-level with him.  Getting a little more of his actual face would help in more easily identifying him.  I do like the low angle and that the shot is pulled back to help capture some of the environment.  I am thankful I wasn’t stubborn this time and shooting with manual focus, because I am pretty sure I would have missed this moment.

Overall, I like the idea of taking portraits and I do hope to do it again for more friends.


This assignment was definitely a challenge in finding weather that could be captured through the viewfinder. It didn’t really rain, nor snow, but was just nice out.  But I kept thinking, people’s response to the weather. So, I parked myself on the quad a few times and just started looking. Thankfully, when the weather is nice people take advantage of it. I really didn’t have to wait too long.

This photo came about because instead of walking to my car, I walked to the quad.  I saw these guys playing ball and just started snapping.

This photo isn’t a spectacular sports photo, though, I think its good.  I really hope this captures what the assignment was about.  The guys wearing shorts and of course playing football outside in February.  I like the photo because I did get the moment the two guys in front seem to be most anxious for the ball.  In looking at ways to improve, I do believe it is a tad under-exposed. The football and the trees are a little dark.  Or maybe that’s my computer screen.  If this were a sports assignment, I would have wanted to use a larger lens and get the two main players only. However, for a weather photo, I think it works to be pulled back just a bit.

I think this assignment really stretched me to want to grab contact info. I was shooting and realizing, people have names, so I had to make sure that I was getting the names of everyone I shot. That’s a little awkward at first, but everyone I asked for their name was really nice and responded with, “Sure, no problem.”  So, while it felt awkward to do, it was really easy to get everyone to talk about why they were out and what they were doing. Would not have thought that in a PJ class, I’d be learning people skills, but in a way I have.



Like many have already said, this assignment was initially fairly difficult for me.  I didn’t really feel as if I had any inspiration to make some good images, so I didn’t really start until about 10 hours ago. With deadline looming, I simply got in my car and drove down to Cherokee Street, near Benton Park.  I know it to be an artsy area and thought there might be some inspiration lurking along the two lanes of this little neighborhood.

For the most part I was right.  One casual stroll from the west end to the east, I seemed to capture many different ideas about this assignment.  It was quite a good little walk.  The buildings were creative each seemed pretty unique.  The next step was deciding which photo to critique.  I chose this one simply because I liked it and wanted to talk a little more about it than a cutline would allow.


A parking meter on Cherokee Street, near downtown St Louis, Mo, has the silhouette from the street lights drawn on the sidewalk. The painted outline of the silhouette appeared to match perfectly with the shadow cast by the street light. (SLU Photo/ John Silwanus)

The subject itself seemed very interesting to me: Did someone really draw the outline of the parking meter’s silhouette? Yes.  It made me laugh, that someone would take the time to do so. Naturally, I took the time to photograph.

Overall, this was a hard picture to make. I tried to focus on the parking meter itself, which in the low light was very difficult. Not to mention crouching down to get the low angle.  I had to use some creative imagination to get the focus right (ie–Autofocus), but was finally able to capture.  Thinking now, though, I would like to have made the focal point the paint on the ground. That is where I thought my subject was.

As well, there is a bit of a cant to the horizon that I really didn’t intend to have. It doesn’t detract too much from the photo, I hope, I does mess with equilibrium.  The low light was hard to work with at first, but this being my near 30th photo, I had found some good settings.  And they captured the light well.

Hope you like it.

Silwanus–Feels good to be behind a camera again.

It felt really good to have a camera in my hands again, after nearly two years without. Though, my last three and a half years in the military I didn’t do a lot of photography.

However, with the point of view assignment, I was really interested in photographing a person on a treadmill, running. I realized that I did not want to be the creepy guy in the gym walking up to college students saying, “Hey, can I take your picture?” I chose to go with the safe option of archery with friends.

I ended up with several images that I am happy with. The one I would like to critique, however, is one that came out okay, but not what I wanted. This is the photo:

Overall, I feel that the composition is pretty rough. The viewer has to look past the largest element in the photo to see the focus. Its a little distracting, and the fact the focus is on the targets.  If the subject were shorter or if I had elevated the camera, I may have gotten look I was going for. But I didn’t and he wasn’t.  Eliminating the big blue elbow would be one of the first changes I would make in camera for another shoot.

Another element of composition that I would like to try for another shoot, is to move tighter to the ‘over the shoulder’ look and attempt to see more ‘down the sights’ as the subject was seeing. The point of view right now is what a person would see standing behind the person shooting. I was more looking to photographically display what the archer sees.

I would like to see what this photo would have looked like if I had metered for the light behind the targets. I would possibly have lost the targets and some of the elements in the garage, but it might have looked neat to see the cloudy sky and grassy field behind the targets.

The image is relatively quiet in background distractions. There are a few elements on the right, however, they aren’t drawing the eye away from the focal point as much as the blue elbow.

Overall, while not an award-winning photograph, this is a decent image that conveys a point of view.  I do believe that a more close crop in the view finder and possibly a different metering position would help to make it better. While there are things I would change, I have to say it was a lot of fun to make.


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