Friday, August 20, 2010

Oh, Shoot!

That's what I would often say--or something less printable-- when I was trying to photograph one of my quilts to send to an exhibit somewhere.  Since exhibiting my quilts has not been a major priority in this year of experimentation, I have not had to confront my ineptness in this area--or bring up my usual complaint:  why should a quilt be judged on the basis of  a quilter's skill in photography or her ability to hire a professional photographer?  Not only is professional photography expensive, but here in rural northcentral Pennsylvania there are no local photographers who have experience photographing quilts.

Nevertheless after getting several e-mailed calls for entry for a show I had gotten into a few years ago, I began to get the urge to attempt the process again.  But one of the quilts I wanted to enter I had tried to photograph before, had even had a friend photograph it who has won so many awards for her photos that she might as well be called a professional, and neither of us, either with indoor lighting or outdoor, could get the color true on the photos without a color adjustment in Photoshop Elements.  And the rules, as they so often do, clearly state:  "Images cannot be enhanced in any way, including color correction."  I have a penchant for purple, you see, and it seems that purple is very hard to photograph; it turns blue or gray.
Okay, I said, this is my year of learning.  Let me confront my ignorance and see if I can learn something.  I had known about Holly Knott's website for a while and her tutorial "Shoot That Quilt!" that steps you through the process of photographing a quilt.  So I actually sat down last weekend and read it, bought some of the lighting hardware at our local Dunham's Do-It Center (I tried Walmart but I'm glad to say the reflector lamps were too cheap and wouldn't hold steady on the posts), ordered the bulbs she recommends online and made do with 150 watt regular bulbs for this session since of course the deadline was today.  Took about an hour total of my time putting everything together.  Well, part of that hour included Tom's time since he has a new drill he wanted to use to put the screws in.  And I now have better and more reliable lighting than I have ever had before.  Two of these less than elegant gizmos can light a quilt quite nicely.
Along with a talk at our guild meeting at the beginning of the week that just happened to be by local photographer Caleb Williams, she gave me confidence to play with the white balance on my camera.  I learned another technical term--bracketing (taking an underexposed, normally exposed, and overexposed set of three pictures) and tried that, feeling proud of myself that I had figured out one more thing about my camera.  I couldn't tell from the camera screen how correct the color was so  it was quite a surprise when I downloaded the photos to my computer and there was my quilt looking reasonably like it should, without any color correction needed.
The next hurdle was the 5 x 7 inch format required.  I might have been able to squeeze this into a 7 x 5 but had no idea how to fit this vertical image into a horizontal space.  In Gloria Hansen's book, Digital Essentials, which has become one of those what-did-I-do-before-I-found-this books in my library, I discovered the specific steps I needed to resize the image. 

So I made the deadline for the entries. Even though the photos are a bit better, that's little guarantee that the quilts will be accepted.  The one above, which is called No. 61,  is one of my favorites because it captures so many meanings for me.  I created all the fabrics for this piece--the background is painted with Setacolor and sun faded, and I dyed the deep purple and red to fit the project.   I love the contrast of texture and color and movement.  But it's small, only about 36 x 26 inches, and  it is certainly not as flashy as so many of the quilts are these days.  We shall see what happens.  And if you're still with me, thanks for the company!

1 comment:

Anya said...

Nice job with photographing the purple...that's always tough. Very nice quilt, as usual!