Saturday, October 21, 2006

Contests and other updates

As you may have noticed, I've been enjoying participating in a few photography challenges recently. For the most part, I've been doing these for the fun of it and to attempt to hone my own skills, but it is nice to be recognized occasionally and get some feedback.

Several of my Self Portrait Challenge contributions have been selected by contributors there for their main site, but dozens of contributions are usually chosen for each monthly theme.

Photo Friday is pretty competitive with hundreds of entries every week. Six 'Noteworthy' entries are chosen for each weekly theme based on votes from users and visitors, but there seem to be a few recognizable names there who are featured pretty regularly. I still enjoy the opportunity to find a picture that fits the theme each week.

Speaking of Photo Friday, The theme this week is: 'innocence.'

I've chosen this recent picture of Hannah to submit:

portrait - Hannah

The reason I took this picture was because one of the groups in which I participate over at Flickr is called, "Masters of Photography." They had a contest for the month of September and the theme was, "Portraits with Bokeh." "Bokeh," for those that don't know, (I didn't either until I had to figure it out for this contest) is a term referring to the blurry portions of a photograph. Now, some of you may be thinking, "my Uncle Henry must be a master of Bokeh, 'cause all of his pictures are blurred beyond recognition!" But bokeh, as it is usually used, specifically refers to an aesthetically pleasing use of blur in photos. For a portrait, it is often quite nice because it allows you to include some background elements, but separates your subject from the background by focusing sharply on the subject and letting the background go blurry. I won't go into technical detail about how to accomplish this effect here, but there's a reasonably understandable article over at Wikipedia for those who would like more information, or feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment.

Anyway, I was pleased with how the picture turned out and what's more, my submission was selected as the winner of that contest. I am proud to have been selected and because you won't be reading anything about it in your local or national news, I'm sharing it with you here! There is now a small mention of it at the Masters of Photography Hall of Fame that should remain there indefinitely.

Coloring Contest EntryWhile I'm tooting my own horn anyway, I'll also mention about another recent contest of which I was chosen as winner. This was a slightly different kind of contest. Christy's work had their annual Fall party at a local Pumpkin Patch and this year, one of the activities was a coloring contest. So Christy brought home the pictures, I got out my box of crayons that I had from college (yeah, that's right -- it was therapeutic!) and Hannah and I worked on each of our pictures together. I blew those little kids away! They never stood a chance in the contest! -- No, really there were several different age groups. My entry won in the adult group. What I don't know - is whether or not I was the only entrant. :-)

Films Recently Watched:
The Great Escape (1963) dir. by John Sturges

Frances (1982) dir. by Graeme Clifford
An amazing performance by Jessica Lange as Frances Farmer. Interesting look at treatment of mental illness in the 1940s.

Cimarron (1931) dir. by Wesley Ruggles
Among the first films to receive "Best Picture" Oscar. This story reminded me a bit of another Best Picture winner: Forrest Gump, believe it or not. A fictional man living the only life he knows how in a turbulent time in the history of our nation. In Cimarron, it is Yancey Cravat in the 1890s through the turn of the century and even through the 1920s. We see the Oklahoma land rush, the settlement and development of a small town, Osage. Religion, politics, media -- this covers it all. An epic.

Zardoz (1974) dir. by John Boorman
Sean Connery running around is a red loincloth and matching suspenders is NOT the weirdest part of this movie. That should tell you something.

Contact (1997) dir. by Robert Zemeckis
After watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind, recently, I got the urge to watch this, one of my all-time favorites. Both try to deal in 'reality' to show how we might actually respond to contact from 'benign' aliens. Contact's dealing with ideas of faith is really well done in my opinion. Jodie Foster's last speech when facing the government review astounded me the first time I heard it and it still rings true every time I watch it:
I... had an experience... I can't prove it, I can't even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever...A vision of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how... rare, and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that we are not, that none of us are alone! I wish... I... could share that... I wish, that everybody, if only for one... moment, could feel... that awe, and humility, and hope. But... That continues to be my wish.

Forrest Gump (1994) dir. by Robert Zemeckis
I mentioned this in my thoughts about Cimarron. I got to thinking about Forrest Gump, so I decided to go ahead and watch it. And that's all I have to say about that. :-)

Cast Away (2000) dir. by Robert Zemeckis
So Contact and Forrest Gump got me on a Robert Zemeckis kick, so I watched this one too.

Back to the Future (1985) dir. by Robert Zemeckis
And finally, you can't get on a Zemeckis kick and not watch BTTF!

The Little Mermaid (1989) dir. by Ron Clements and John Musker
Hannah had been looking forward to this one for a while. She liked it, but there were several parts with the Sea Witch that were a little too scary for her.

Adaptation (2002) dir. by Spike Jonze
This is an awesome movie! I really liked it. Unfortunately, it is nearly indescribable. Just watch it and let me know, the we can talk about it. Oh, and for those who believe that Nicolas Cage is a one-trick-pony and only 'plays' himself in his haven't seen Nicolas Cage act until you've seen this film. He plays two roles (twin brothers) in Adaptation, and it's really like he's two totally different people. Excellent, all around.

Crash (2004) dir. by Paul Haggis
Most recent film to receive "Best Picture" Oscar.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2004) dir. by Peter Weir
Just finished this one tonight while finishing up this post. I was watching it on the PC -- it really needs to be watched on a big screen with a big sound system. Good movie, regardless.

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