Delusions of Grandeur September 2016

Photographing the Familiar.

When I travel to a new place, there isn’t time to learn the locale and take really interesting photos. Instead, I often capture the kind of postcard images you’d find at a supermarket. When you see a really dynamic composition, it’s likely the photographer is intimately familiar with the subject. You rarely see their first attempt.

iPhone’s camera goes everywhere with you. As a result, you take photos of the same places, of the same people. It might not be an exotic location, but it’s good practice. Iteration on a familiar subject is the perfect way to get out of a rut, and find fresh perspectives.

When we lived in Virginia, there was a playground across the lake behind our house. Every Saturday, I would take the boys on adventures around the lake and we’d finish at the playground. I have a lot of photos and many fond memories from those walks.

There was a tube slide, which was a particular favorite of the boys. The fascination started when they were little. The slide wasn’t too steep to crawl through as a toddler, and wide enough to fit alongside one another as they grew.

I will never forget that tube—games of tag, superheroes1, and hide-and-seek.

Since it was their favorite hangout, it became an interesting subject to photograph. I took so many photos of that slide, it forced me to find new and interesting compositions. Otherwise I wouldn’t have something new to post to Instagram.

It was a great subject for me to push my skills and learn new techniques.

Looking Glass.

The boys would constantly run in and out of the slide. Doing tricks, trying to impress one another, and generally being little boys. Shooting into the slide from the front (or back) side provided an interesting window into their play.

"Watchful Brother"

Watchful Brother. Burke, VA instagram

I’m also a sucker for circle in squares. In the photo above, I shot it straight on, letting the geometry of the tube frame the boys. I caught my oldest watching his younger brother. It gives a window into his protective nature and the sweet way he dotes on his brother.

Looking through the slide, it adds a sense of distance that gives the composition its energy. The tube makes it feel like you’re spying on them with a telescope or pair of binoculars.

Funny Portraits.

Kids like to make funny faces—a habit I encourage in my children2. What is more fun than a silly smile? It’s even better with iPhone, since they can see their silly face immedietely after taking the photo.

"Duck Face"

Duck Face. Burke, VA instagram

The porthole windows of the tube slide are perfect to frame silly faces. The photo above is lit from the side, providing a perfect mask to emphasize my oldest son’s face. I love how the light blows out the freckles around his nose, while those around his eyes appear in shadow. Since his face is protruding from the window, the photo has a 3D quality to it.

Pin-hole Perspective.

This is a shot only iPhone could take. The porthole windows are just big enough to slide the lens-side of my phone into them. The wide lens—combined with the angle —gives the photo a unique look, which reminds me of pin-hole photographs.

"Tunnel Vision"

Tunnel Vision. Burke, VA instagram

The composition turns the tube into an expanse, which my youngest is gazes into. He could be looking for treasure or trouble. It was a bright day, and he’s backlit. He casts a defined shadow on the slide, which looks to walk into the tunnel ahead of him.

By shooting the inside—without context—I deconstructed the cylindrical quality of the slide and provide a fresh composition for this familiar object.

  1. “Dad, you be the Green Goblin!” I don’t know when or why I was always the Green Goblin, but it stuck for years.

  2. Haters gonna hate, but I love the front-facing camera for funny faces. I have piles of self-portraits on my boys, courtesy of iPhone.