Painting with Light

by Sarah Popper

When I was younger I loved to paint and draw; actually, that is how I got into photography.  I definitely wanted to be some sort of artist when I grew up.  Every year in high school I took two art courses (except 9th grade, I only took one), so by the time I graduated I had taken 7 art classes. 

Each year I entered work into the Washington County Public School art show which first hung in the mall, then relocated to the local museum.  Senior year, my art teacher saw a painting at the mall that was well done from a rival school and told me to go check it out, because that was the painting I had beat. 

I flipped through some books looking at photos, because I knew I wanted to paint a tiger.  I picked out some ideas and showed them to my teacher.  He looked at them and then picked out a totally different photo, one that I would have never chosen, because it looked way to hard to paint.  Then he gave me this huge canvas to use, 24x36.  I had never painted that big in my life.  It took me about 4 weeks to finally finish the thing and long story short.... it won best in show at the local museum, and I was awarded a pretty red ribbon. 

What does this have to do with photography?  Well, originally I got into photography because I wanted to be able to take my own photos to paint from instead of using someone else's photos.  However, I picked up photography and loved the art form itself.  Since then, I have been trying to get one of my photos into the same local museum's photographic salon. 

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is truly a gem in the Hagerstown area.  It has an beautiful collection of art and is located in a very nice park.  I always wanted my art to hang there again.  Every year they get hundreds of submissions to the photographic salon and only accept about 60.  Each year they have a different judge with some sort of photographic background. 

This year they had over 300 submissions and they actually only accepted a little over 30 pieces.  It was judged by photographer Baldwin S. Lee who studied under Minor White.  I was overly excited when I got the email that said my photo "Tango" had been accepted. 

Tango by Sarah Popper

Tango by Sarah Popper

The image was created for a class assignment.  We were given a song that we had to represent with music (song is included below). To me it was a bright and peppy song and I wanted to show the movement that I pictured in the song. 

To capture these images, I set up a light up high (camera left) with a blue piece of acetate.  I set up another light (camera right) a little lower with a red piece of acetate. Then, in the center directly to the left of the camera, I laid the strobe on the floor pointed up slightly with a green piece of acetate.  Next, I set up my camera using a 50 mm prime lens and set it to the higher aperture like f13, so that I could get a slow shutter speed.  I set my lights so they would flash, but then stay on so I could get the motion blur.  I also let in just a smidgen of natural window light.  I used my self as the dancer, so I had to focus my camera on an item and then I stood where the item was and used remote to take the pictures.  Eventually, I had to set up a little box on the floor so I knew when I was out of the picture frame.  That worked really well, cause I was able to compose the pictures in my mind.

All in all, I finally reached my goal of having another piece of my artwork in the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.  I was particularly excited that this image got accepted.  It was always one of my favorites.  I love the colors in it, I love how I created it, and I feel like this photo is a true representation of how photography is art.  In this photo it is easy to see how an artist who started as a painter can paint with anything...even light. 

Motherhood Thesis Project

I just completed my Thesis class for school.  I have been attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online since March of 2011.  I am so close to being done.  Now that I have my thesis class done, I have 3 more classes to go before I graduate and receive my Bachelors of Science in Photography.

I was so incredibly nervous about this class, because I never thought I would come up with an idea creative enough to do well for my thesis project.  Now that I am done, I am saying "that wasn't so bad"; it was even one of the classes I enjoyed most.

I wanted to share my project with everyone because I really liked how it came out.  I love doing documentary style photography, so I decided to focus on that.  I thought of the idea of capturing motherhood.  I wanted to come up with something that I could achieve in my 5 1/2 week long class and something that I could gain access to, and I know plenty of mothers. 

So please take a look at my project and let me know if you think it looks like motherhood to you.  I took a ton of photos for this, and narrowing them down to 20 and sequencing them was probably the hardest thing to do.  I had to remove some other great options.  Overall, absolutely none of these photos are posed or directed.  They are all just captured in the moment. I hope you enjoy!

Welcoming Luca

Yesterday, I got to meet brand new baby Luca.  My friend and I had planned on me being there to take photos right after Luca was born. She wanted photos of her holding him in her arms for the first time.  What she thought would be a longer wait quickly turned into a short one.  She told her husband to text me to come to the hospital but Luca had arrived just 5 minutes later.  While I didn't get to be there for the first time she held him, I felt very privileged to be able to photograph the second time she held him, the first time the father held him, when his big brother got to meet him and many other special moments. Thank you to both of them for allowing me to be part of this awesome experience. 

Photo Restorations - Photographing the Original

Recently I have decided to photograph the original images for photo restorations instead of scanning the images.  I wanted to see if the resolution was just as good and if the image was just as clear.  I have found the results to be very pleasing. Another reason I have wanted to try this is because not everything fits on a scanner bed.  Also, as a picture framer I have seen many old photographs that are dome shaped.  The only way to go about restoring these would be to photograph it. 

The two images above is of a domed photograph.  This one had a glossy surface making it much more challenging to photograph for the restoration but with plenty of black foamcore I was able to get a good shot. 

As you can see from the above images, I was able to take a photograph without too much glare.  I then pulled it into Photoshop to edit.  This one only had minor damage, but the main goal for this project was for the client to get a copy of the image. 

The second project I did by photographing the original, was a much smaller photo.  It was under 3"x5".  By photographing it, I was able to get a huge image, way bigger than it needed to be.  This is ideal though because it gives me great quality.  Also, to photograph these images I used an 85mm lens because I have found that it gives me little to no distortion.

This image was a much more time consuming restoration.  The clear finish on the photo had cracked and left small hairline cracks all over the surface.  Once those were edited out, the image needed to be restored to its "original" color.  It was extremely faded and the client wanted me to add the color back in.  The images below show the before and after results.

Overall, I really like the idea of photographing my restorations projects rather than getting them scanned.  I am happy with the clarity and the resolution.  Both clients were pleased with their end products. I really liked the results of the second one, personally. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Maya & Jeff's Engagement Photos 10/15

I really enjoyed doing Maya & Jeff's engagement photos.  They were originally scheduled to be done in a park in Rockville, however a hurricane was supposed to come through and cause a lot of rain that day.  So after mentioning this to Maya instead of rescheduling she came up with the idea of doing the session in the Rockville Memorial Library.  This was an awesome idea in my opinion.  It made for a really interesting and unique shoot. I am not going to lie I was pretty excited about taking photos in a library.  Anytime I get to do something different like this my imagination just kind of runs wild. 

Photo Restoration - 9/15

I recently had the privilege of restoring this photo.  I really enjoyed this particular photo restoration because it is such a nice difference between the original and the edited image. Below is a series of images that shows my progression throughout the restoration.  When the image came to me it was cracked and tattered and taped.  Now that the restoration is complete it has that same aged quality but without all the flaws and distractions.  My favorite way of doing restorations is to keep the natural aged look that the photo already has rather than trying to make it look like a brand new photo. I think that is part of the charm! 

America Star Books Headshots

I recently took headshot photos of the sales team and owner at America Star Books.  The shoot was on Location in the America Star Book's office. I purchased a blue seamless backdrop for the occasion as per their color request. In preparation I set up the backdrop in my own studio and tested out my lighting set up using my ever patient husband as the model.  I wanted to get everything just how I wanted it so I wasn't struggling the day of the shoot.  Since the seamless paper used for the backdrop has no shade variation I wanted to create a gradient with my lights and it took a some tweaking to get just right.  So the day of the shoot I arrived at 9:30am and I was set up by 10:30am and was done shooting the 8 people by 11:00am.  We even did a few silly pictures for the team to have fun with.  I am sure you will be able to spot them in the mix.  Then I packed my stuff in my car and went to lunch. 

Kandice & Chester's Engagement Photos

I recently had the privilege of photographing my friends' engagement photos.  I am not able to take their wedding photos because I will be in the wedding, but I at least wanted to do their engagement photos! They chose Renfrew Park because it was a place they liked to go together. It was my first time shooting there and it is a beautiful place.  I definitely look forward to taking more photos there!  Congrats Kandice and Chester, I look forward to your wedding!