Friday, June 18, 2010

Wanna Ride Bikes?

I have this friend Garrett. Awesome guy, the kind of friend who would give you the shirt off his back. His last shirt.

One of the many things Garrett and I have in common is we both struggle with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (AADD). One day Garrett turns to me and asks:
hey Kev, how many ADD kids does it take to screw in a light bulb?’.
I pause for second to think of an answer, but I’ve hardly digested the question when Garrett abruptly blurts out the answer:
Wanna ride bikes? Bwwaaahahahahaha!!!’ 

Never before has a silly joke so perfectly described an aspect of my personality. My poor parents; to think, they had to put up with me as a child who thought and acted just like that.

As a father of three children, (two of which also have ADD) I think I can imagine what my mom and dad must have dealt with when I was a child. Yikes! I’m can’t believe I’m still alive! (kidding!)

Looking For Inspiration
I’m in the early stages of a project whereas I want to create a visual representation that conveys the impact the BP Gulf Disaster has had, is having and has yet to have on the environment, the economy and the people who live and work in the affected areas. 
As I poke around the ‘net looking for inspiration, I see something that catches my eye. It’s an image of a broken light bulb, and it’s smoking! How cool is that! Wait, even better…how did they do that? 

The ADD takes over.

Right away, I’m on the phone with my wife, who’s out doing errands. She agrees to bring home about 5 packages of light bulbs of various wattages, and some safety goggles.

That’s strange, she didn’t even inquire as to why I wanted those things. Hmmm…she’s either afraid to ask, or just assumes it’s for a photo project. Either way, I’m getting my stuff.

To The Bat Cave Robin!
This is clearly a project for the studio, but first it needs cleaning. I get that done just as my wife - and the bulbs - show up. About this time, the kids have become increasingly curious. Dad has light bulbs all lined up on the desk, and….he’s breaking them?

If you decide to try this, do so carefully. Sharp glass and human skin do not bode well together, and the bulbs break with a sudden ‘pop’, sending little fragments in different directions. Thus the goggles. <wink>
With broken light bulbs ready, I grab a clamp light and , uh, clamp it to a tripod. I connect the light to a switched outlet for safety, and start the job of pre focusing the camera, and wild guessing the settings. It’s trial and error at this stage as I’ve never attempted something like this.

Twenty minutes and four burned out bulbs later, I’m starting to finally get the idea of the best settings. The studio is starting to smell a little odd from all the smoke, and I start to wonder if that smoke is safe to be breathing. My ADD rescues me from that thought, and I’m ready to fire off some additional shots. These will be the ones that come out the best. I can just feel it.

The whole project takes me about an hour from start to finish, and I’m pleased with the results. Turns out, I neglected to make a note of which broken bulb was which wattage, so It’s just a guess that the 60 watt bulbs worked the best because they burned longer, allowing for more frames. There were some that burned very quickly, so I assume those were the 40 watt bulbs. Perhaps I will try 100 watt or even higher next time.

First off, I’m a closet pyromaniac. Well, at least I used to be until that last sentence. If something needs to be burned, I’m the first to volunteer. Add photography to the mix and I can hardly contain myself.  Purposely burning out light bulbs is strangely fun and fascinating. There’s no noise, and the smoke appears to dance above the glowing filament, if only for a few seconds, and then it’s gone.

The final image, (above) needed some color to make it more appealing visually, so I added the red hue in post. Other than that, the image you see came out of the camera that way. There, I did it: I got my picture of the burning bulb. Now I can put that project to rest. And while I’m still working on the visual-conceptual imagery for the BP disaster unfolding in the Gulf, I had fun going down the bunny trail that led me today’s image.

If you should try this project, I’d love to see your results. And if you do attempt to do this, please be careful around the electricity and the glass.

Thanks for stopping by, now go take some pictures!
Kevin Kratka

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Would you like fries with that?


 It was inevitable.

No matter how much I tried to ignore it, pretend it wasn’t happening, it was. My first born son was growing up. And today I have taken a picture that will help tell his story for years to come. He starts his new job at McDonalds on Wednesday, and this, as they say, is just the beginning. 

Austin, (left) was born premature, and came into this world a mere 2.8lbs. On the day of his birth, one of the doctors performing an emergency C-Section on my wife in an effort to save both of their lives was not keen on me bringing my camera into the operating room. Once he saw it, he told me to put it away. So I did, but not before taking a quick reading thru the built in light meter, pre focusing on (roughly) the area where I thought our baby would emerge, and then respectfully placing my 1968 Minolta SRT200 SLR on a small accessory table just behind me.

After what seemed like an eternity, all the voices in the operating room, the noises made from the equipment and the clanging of surgical tools being dropped into stainless steel bowls…all of that, slowly faded into silence as the words ‘it’s a boy’ came from the masked doctor, holding the baby in his hands.  This little miracle, a little boy, so tiny, so teeny, he was the reason why everybody was in the operating room that day. It was because he decided to come into this world 8 weeks ahead of schedule.

He was beautiful, and I just had to have my picture.

Like Jackie Chan reaching for a mop head and a broom to fend off the bad guys, I quickly and precisely reached for and grabbed my SLR, aimed, adjusted, and fired.

< CLICK! > The mechanical sound of the cameras shutter gave me away. The very doctor holding my newborn son was now yelling at me to put the camera down, and in the same sentence and breath, ordering the nearest nurse to put that camera out of reach of the over- excited new father. I heard him, but his voice was so distant. All I could think of was that our son was born, he was here, he was really here, and he was…squeaking (versus crying) because of his size. I got my son, I got my picture. Mission accomplished. I tried not to let the doctor see me smirking behind my surgical mask.

That was 15 years ago, and today my young man asked me to photograph him in his snazzy new McDonald’s Uniform. His first job, his first real pay check, his first of many firsts yet to come.

So out comes the camera, out comes the lights, the extension cords, the light stands and we start shooting. I later learned that his idea of me ‘taking his picture in his uniform’ was simple snapshot, nothing fancy. Yea right, like that’s going to happen!

But this got me thinking; sometimes there are things that we simply must do in our lives, and for those things, we have to do them ‘our way’

For starters, taking pictures of the ones we love. Those times with your family are precious, so take those pictures the best way you know how and own that moment.

Secondly, make every moment count with the ones you love, because each moment that passes is just another moment you can never relive. Like that day in October, 1994, when Austin was born. The doctor had told me not to take any pictures, but the way I saw it, it was not his moment, it was my moment, my wife’s moment, this was Austin’s moment. That’s 3 against 1. Sorry Doc, but I had to get my picture.

It was inevitable.


 Kevin Kratka