Why Fire Hydrants? To say it with the words of Sir Edmund Hillary: Because they are there ... Well, actually they are virtually everywhere. The street I live in is about 3 miles long - and there are 31 hydrants on it. They are colorful and kind of funny looking. Any more reasons necessary? Other photographers "collect" doors, windows, bridges, trains ... and I happen to like fire hydrants. I think it will be a fun project that in time generates a nice series of ... fire hydrant pictures. :)
How to approach this project from a photographic standpoint? I made up some "rules" for it:
1. A fire hydrant alone, in a format filling depiction might be an interesting subject for itself once or twice ... but not if you want to generate a series of pictures. So the surrounding needs to be included, to show the context it "lives" in. In a way, the fire hydrant is the catalyst, or an anchor point for the surrounding landscape, or cityscape.
2. To achieve the inclusion of the background, the aperture has to be as high as possible - f5.6 or f8 will do the trick with most compact digital cameras, f8 or greater should be used when shooting with an APS-C format DSLR.
3. It is desirable to use a telephoto lens to achieve a "compressed" view of thew scene. This is not always possible, because of the location of the subject, so some pictures will necessarily be shot by using a wide angle lens, resulting in a big hydrant in front of a somewhat small background. Oh well, compromises are a fact of life ...
4. The hydrant should be the prominent feature of the picture, but not dominate it too much. The background is important, too, so to balance the proportions of these elements in relation to each other is a major consideration for each new picture.
5. There is no specific position the hydrant needs to be in - the lower left corner is as good as smack in the middle. It depends on the circumstances to achieve a pleasing composition. What's right for one picture might not work at all for the next.
6. The pictures should serve the documentary purpose of this project, but at the same time they should also be aesthetically pleasing and just "good pictures" from a photographic point of view. If that means that instead of a whole building, just a part will be in the picture, it is totally acceptable. In fact, extracts of the background instead of showing it all can add a certain element of mystery and suspense. It is probably the greatest challenge in photography to leave things out ...
7. Landscape or Portrait - the format does not matter, it will depend on the circumstances.
8. No electronic manipulation will be done, except for cropping, and adjustments of color and sharpness, where necessary and appropriate. The pictures will be representative of the "real" world they were taken in.
9. If the background is more interesting in front of the hydrant, I will take a picture from behind, or at an angle, to include it. Of course, where possible the default view of the hydrant will be from the front. Also, if possible the hydrant will be at "eye level" with the lens. But if it will make a more interesting picture, any other position is possible, as well.
10. No animals will be harmed while shooting ... :)
Yes, I succumbed to the newest craze - I geo tag my photos. This way, you do not need to take written notes anymore, where you took a picture. This helps tremendously when you are a notorious mental-notes taker like me - I don't write down stuff like this on paper, but use my brain as a repository for that kind of information. That works pretty well for short term projects, but you will scratch your head more often than a flea infested dog, if you try to remember the locations of pictures from a couple of years ago ... Also, it is a pretty nifty feature to be able to see the locations on a (world)map. :)
Two human eyes, one human brain, 30+ years of photographic experience ... oh, the technical equipment I use ... well, here it is: Fujifilm Finepix S100fs, Fujifilm Finepix F100fd , Casio Exilim S12, Canon SX200IS
No, I currently don't use a DSLR. Maybe next year ...
As GPS tracking unit, I use the phenomenal Sony CS3-KA. It's a bit tricky to set the right time (GMT with or without Daylight Savings Time ...??!), but once you mastered this little hurdle, it works like a charm.
I generally don't use a tripod - a bean bag is sufficient most of the time. My modus operandi is free-hand shooting, and here the nifty anti-shake feature of the S100fs comes into play - down to 1/20 is no problem without a tripod.
Flash ... well, I prefer available light, but am prepared to use a slave flash unit from Metz if necessary.
And that's about it. No fancy equipment, I probably could do this with a pinhole camera. Hmmm, that sounds like another fascinating project ... :)