Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Turn On the Bright Lights

Here's the self portrait of the day, taken with my new camera.



Though I miss a lot of things about my old camera, this new one has rejuvenated me! I suddenly feel like there are a whole lot of things waiting to be photographed again! Here's one I took today. I generally don't do flowers and whatnot, but I thought the DoF and ugly background here made this interesting.



...and here's a photo of me and my new baby, a 365 day project outtake.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I love black liquid liner

My newest self-portrait for the 365 days project. It has yet to be posted since the internet here is so damn slow. It's more silly than anything.



I love nail polish too!

It Finally Happened

The moment we have all (okay, just me!) been waiting for!

MY NEW DIGITAL CAMERA CAME. My cute little baby :), a Canon EOS RebelG XT, all boxed up for waiting for me to come take it. I know it sounds like it was shipped to me, but in fact, I had the camera shipped to my family in California, and they sent the camera with a friend who was coming to Egypt. It was a very long, difficult process, because this friend didn’t have room in her luggage, and at the same time, would not allow my mom to pay the fee should the bags go over weight. My mom ended up shipping it to her at her lay-over stop (she was staying for a few days), because then she would have more space.

So, it took a lot to get here. It was actually supposed to come with my roommate’s sister. She came to visit a little while back, but the camera arrived to my family’s house one day after she left. So as you can see, I have been waiting on edge for this camera for quite a while now.

Still, I felt a little sad as I removed the standard lens from my old 35mm Canon EOS RebelG and put it on my new camera. The digital one shall be taking the place of the film camera in my camera bag, and the 35mm will only be pulled out occasionally from now on, more for fun and for old time’s sake than anything.

My new camera has all these buttons on it! The strap is really sleek and fancy looking and even the texture of the camera itself is a little different…nice to see these advances in technology. I just realized that I have no idea how to use my new camera, even though it is supposed to be easier than 35mm. I guess I have some reading to do…

Oh, and here is some candy for yours eyes (or not?). These are photos from my last two rolls of film ever apparently. I sent the rolls back to the states with my mom to be developed in a real lab and the CDs came with her friend as well.

This is a candid of a fisherman in Muntazah, Alexandria, Egypt. I caught him as he was taking a rest. I like the perspective on this one a lot – this was one of those shots that you take and afterwards say, “ Oh, I know that one is going to turn out just right.”

And this one wasn’t one of those, but I like it too:

This was taken in Siwa, Egypt, right next to the Cleopatra Pool (Otherwise known as the Goda Spring). Siwa is an oasis town, and this is supposed to be where Cleopatra used to swim. People actually still swim in it. I saw these two kids just checking out the scene as some of my friends swam so I captured them, and I am pretty sure at least the one on the right knew it. I love the reflection of the palm trees on the water. Siwa is a beautiful, beautiful town, and has yet to be touched by much technology. As a result, it’s just very clean and wholesome – kind of like an Egyptian Wild, Wild West. Most people there don’t own cars – just donkey carts.

Oh, and yesterday was the most beautiful I have ever seen Cairo! My mom says something about Cairo makes it naturally dirty, and it’s true – the city rarely sees rain, so it’s just very dusty all the time. Today it rained, and since I was unable to wait for my camera, I began walking to her friend’s place as soon as it stopped. The ground was wet, but the sun was out, and suddenly the plants and buildings looked clean and bright. It was the first time I have ever walked through Cairo, at least the part I live in, and thought, “Wow, this place is beautiful.”

And to top it off, no one sexually harassed me as I walked. Perfection.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Off the Wall #1

So every time I am feeling homesick or down, I start hanging things up on my closet. The paint they use here doesn’t allow for hanging things up on the wall, and my closet is big and not particularly attractive, so I hang photos on it. Here is what I did the other day:




This is a collection of some of my favorite fashion photos since I was a kid. I don’t know why I saved them, but I am glad I did. So I figured I could break them down and talk about each one, where it came from, why I like it. I think I’ll do one a day, until I get bored.

This is the first one, please bear with me since I don’t have a scanner and just took a picture of it:




This image came from an editorial in ElleGirl Magazine perhaps 3 or 4 years ago – you know it has to have been a long time ago since ElleGirl has long since gone belly up. ElleGirl was considered an alternative teenage girl magazine next to Seventeen and CosmoGirl, and that is why I liked it so much

So this was supposed to be an editorial basically about what to wear to the Curiosa music festival that was occurring later that year. I am not sure if this festival still exists, or if they changed the name or what.

I love rock music and I have been to many a festival. I really don’t think the outfits selected for the photo are very indie-rock-festival-worthy. However, what I do like is the model on the left. Something about her facial expression, her pose, the way her jeans are half in the boots and half not, just seem really natural to me – and that makes it rock. Plus, the girl on the left has a rather cool outfit, even though it’s not particularly music festival-ly. The background gives you the vibe that something really is going down in this place, and these girls are going to be there for all of the action, and I really like that. Perhaps the indie-rocker in me just likes the pending excitement for live music seen in this picture – but the model on the left is very convincing, in an indie-rock-boho way. The model on the right does nothing for me. Even her outfit screams magazine-attempting-to-make-rock-and-make-it-fashionable. Rock and roll is about being wild and dirty, not about being primp and fashionable.

the newest me

so, I decided to attempt to photoshop my latest self-portrait again, "The Apparition in the Mirror." I think it came out well. I reduced the contrast on the mirror on the left and increased the contrast on the mirror to the right for a more eerie feel. Whatcha think?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Me, Myself, and I – An Eclectic Relationship

It took me a really long time to get the nerve to big taking self-portraits, though I brought my tripod along with me to Egypt because I knew it would happen eventually, more so because I would miss photographing people rather than just the urge to take on the challenge.

I have always really admired people who are avid self-portraitists. Taking self-portraits is a challenge, because you have to be an excellent photographer and an excellent model to get a really great photo, and it is definitely hard to do both at the same time. My two favorite self-portraits are Lara Jade and Diana Pinto – they’re both superb at it, and Diana in particular is willing to make some sacrifices for her photos that a model might not be willing to do, such as wear a string of steaks as a necklace or pour black nail polish on her face and photograph as it drips down her forehead. I also really enjoy Alli Jiang – her self-portraits are more artistic than fashion based, like I would say Lara and Diana’s are, and that makes them electrifying.

One thing I like about self-portraits is that you will always allow yourself to be used for a shot that isn’t necessarily flattering to your look, if it is artsy. Don’t get my wrong – I love making people look beautiful in my photos, but sometimes beauty must be sacrificed to give the picture an equally exhilarating, but less pretty, tone or mood.

I took one self-portrait when I first got here, and though it’s a nice picture or whatever, it doesn’t have the interesting edge I like my photos to have, so I decided to leave self-portraiture. Here is my first self-portrait ever:

Since, I have been trying to continuously improve my self-portraiture technique. It’s a little hard due to limited resources and being limited to the house, since I am a little afraid of setting up a tripod outside and just photographing myself, especially since I live in Egypt. I joined the Flickr 365 days project though, and this has been encouraging me to at least give it a try, even if I don’t always do one a day. It’s been really great so far, as otherwise I might just be letting myself go as I wait for my new camera. It keeps my brain functioning and thinking about what I can photograph myself doing and where. Here’s what I have done so far:

Day 1: The Difference between dark and light


Day 2: She Spider


Day 3: Protect Me From What I Want


Day 4: The End of the Line

Day 5 The Apparition in the Mirror




I like them alright, but of course feel like there is room for improvement. I really had wanted to use my cool geometric shape carpet in a shoot and I finally did in “The End of the Line.” I feel like this project will allow me to develop myself as a photographer and I am eager to do this. Also, I think that every picture will show a little bit more about you, which is nice. I think the viewers should be allowed to peak into the photographer’s personality, if only a little bit.

“The Apparition in the Mirror” needs some photoshoping to get the eerie mood I was going for, but unfortunately, I don’t know much photoshop beyond photo retouching. I tried, as you can see, but I may save the original for later…That is actually what my closet here in Cairo, Egypt looks like. The landlord was nice enough to bring me one, because my room just didn’t have one and wasn’t supposed to, so I am thankful, despite the broken mirror. As soon as I saw it – vintage and clearly once beautiful but now beaten and ugly– I knew I would be able to use it for some photos.

In case you’re interested in knowing, most of these were taken using only natural light coming from my window, and sometimes I turned on the room light as well. This would have been a problem had it not been for the slow shutter speed + the tripod. This is also the reason some of these photos are side-lit…the window is only on one side of my room!

Oh, and since this blog is like my photography “behind the scenes,” here’s my favorite outtake from the “The End of the Line” shoot with myself. I liked the playfulness of the pose, but in the end I liked “The End of the Line” better.

Hello, World Wide Web

Hello out there, wide world of the internet.

My name is Lara and this is my first entry in the blog, which from now on will be known as Lara’s super amazing photography blogs of photography and other things of similar interest. Well, no…it won’t quite be called that. But this is my space to discuss photography with you, or at least to write things that are picking my brain at the time.


The Works


Here are a few of the works I have done. Sorry about the watermarks! You just can’t be too careful, you know. You can see more works at my Website (LaraHamdan.com), or at my Flickr. I also have a DeviantArt page if you’re interested in purchasing some of my prints.

Fashion:




Candids and Street:



Still-life:





Portraiture:





The Beginnings


I’ve always been into photography, though I only recently started the practice of photography. My dad was really into still-life when I was a kid, and one of my best friends in college was an avid photographer, also very into still-life. My dad no longer practices photography (he gave me his tripod, which is cool), and I am no longer friends with that person. But I am thankful to each of them for giving me the desire to learn and begin photographing.

I am also thankful for my best friend’s encouragement. NJ and I spent the entire last summer (2007) together, doing what we called “photoadventures,” and some photo shoots. “Photoadventures” is the activity of going to a new place every so often and just photographing what the area has to offer – still-life, candids and street portraits. We started out with still-life, progressed to portraits, and I have since taken a great liking to candids. They are challenging to do, especially to get a great shot, and that’s what makes it so fun and rewarding.

We dabbled with fashion photography for a little while, left it and then picked it up again. We started off photographing each other, then worked with our first model TFCD, Aki, and then worked with a female model named Chelsea. Now, we have both decided we enjoy fashion photography more than any other type, and I am eager to progress in this aspect.

However, in September 2007, NJ went back to uni, and I left for Egypt to continue my education and pursue other career interests. All of this has put photography somewhat on hold. Models are hard to find here, and walking around with a camera is considered somewhat taboo, especially if you photograph people without asking them, or sometimes even if you ask them. Heck, people look at me funny when I take still-life pictures. Egyptian society is also very conservative, so it’s not like I can walk around with a model in a little dress and snap photos of her, unless both of us don’t mind being harassed.


The Way I Tick


The main aspect of fashion I enjoy is editorial and high-fashion. I also enjoy some glamor, so long as it is interesting. I love conceptual fashion shoots and working on location. I think concepts are as important as the photography itself, because they tell a story and make a photograph interesting. I believe I have an eye for photography, but also a mind for concepts. The beauty of fashion photography is that it allows you to be imaginative, to make something fantastical.

My favorite photographers include Richard Avedon (of course, of course, of course), and smaller known names such as Lara Jade and Jingna Zhang.

I’m not sure if I want to take photography as a career. I enjoy it so much, I sometimes think that by trying to make money off of it, I may ruin it for myself. I also have other career goals which are important to me, and everyone knows it is very difficult to make a living from photography.

The only thing I do know is that I want to make art, and I want to share it with people.

My financial constraints (I just got out of college and am scaling the ladder of corporate America) make it hard for me to pay for make-up or models. Thus, I work with models and MUAs one a TFCD basis. This means I am always looking for fresh faces, since the models that actually have the look I want should be getting paid for it – unless they’re completely new to the game. Or, once in a while, I meet a really cool, experienced model or MUA that takes a great interest in my work and is willing to work TFCD.

Notice I didn’t mention stylists – this is because I prefer to do all of my own styling. I like to mix high-end and low-end, modern and vintage. So generally, I am in no need of a stylist, unless I am working with a very particular theme (or with a guy!). I would be willing to work with one with pay.


The Equipment


I have up until now been working with a 35mm Canon EOS RebelG. It’s about ten years old and I bought it for $30 from a guy on Craigslist. He also gave me the standard lens, a sigma telephoto lens (70-300mm f4/5.6), the manual and a bag. I named the camera Malcolm, because I name everything. I think this was a pretty good deal, and I certainly have used the camera enough to make the money worthwhile.

I chose film because, well, the camera was cheaper for one. Secondly, I do enjoy the surprise when you develop the roll, the sound the camera makes after each photo, and saturation in the photos. I couldn’t afford a digital camera at the time, so the film was fine.

However, film has its downsides. One is that film is prone to get ruined sometimes, and this happened a few times in the states, many, many, many times since I got here to Egypt. I don’t know how to us a dark room, which is bad and is something I need to learn. So developing my photos was up to a lab. Here in Egypt, ever single lab messed up my rolls. One developed them all with a weird soft focus over the pictures. Another messed up the coloring and gave me these weird black lines along the sides of the photos.

I became demoralized, and decided I needed a digital camera if I intended to continue photographing. I paid $400 for a Canon Rebel XT, a slight upgrade from my last camera. I purchased the body only with the intent of using my current lens with it. It should be arriving sometimes next week, and I can barely hold myself with excitement!

Any self-portraits you see of me have been done with my crappy point and shoot and then edited to make the colors look like the photo came of a proper camera. This will change when that new camera comes…and I will of course let you know when that happens.

As for lighting, I generally use natural light when available. I have yet to buy a lighting kit because I am not going back to the states for a while, and I am not sure I want to buy one here, but I am looking into it. Photos with artificial lighting, taken before I came to Egypt, were actually taken using work lights, meant for construction, and I would recommend them as a cheaper alternative to anyone seeking to get into photography but isn’t interested in immediately investing a lot of money into equipment. My experience tells me that you need at least 600 watts to photograph indoor, and that’s exactly how much these work lights provide. They are halogen so the color will be a little off, but this can be adjusted easily with photoshop.

I do want to get a lighting set when I go back home, and I have set my eyes on this one. I also want to purchase some light gray background paper and a stand to do some more portraiture and editorial style works.