Cat Maintenance – Photoblitz

With warmer weather comes cat maintenance.

For my Photoblitz I decided to do a simple story that still had a beginning, middle and end. My helpful assistant, Brenda, and I debated between brushing the cat or cleaning my workshop table and settled on the cat.

But first, a note on the cat. I’m allergic to cats. We don’t have a cat. We’ve never had a cat. A cat lives on our porch. She doesn’t help with the rent. Last summer we held a barbecue and enjoyed our fire pit set back in the woods, attracting the attention of a curious kitty. Of course, my wife had to pet it. So she coaxed it over. Long story short, this once emaciated feral animal now enjoys the life of Riley, demanding food four times a day and ballooning up to Jabba the Cat proportions. Her name is Aunt Jemima.

The clock starts ticking…
Hello, Kitty.

The beginning. This photo introduces the setting and characters. Brenda comes out the front door and greets the cat. Anything actually involving AJ requires lots of talking and preparation. Brenda’s head was closer to the upper left rule of thirds crosshair when I pressed the shutter.

Tools of the trade

Rising action. Brenda takes up the implement of her work. I was going for a “converging lines” shot here mixed with a change in perspective, but didn’t get enough of the bench in the shot. Hindsight is 20/20, and since I realized this only after shooting I couldn’t re-shoot it.

Obtaining consent

Conflict. Like I said, lots of talking and preparation. Here Brenda explains to AJ what will happen and shows her the brush. It sounds silly, but without this step the cat may have freaked. This photo is a metaphor for complexity. While you know brushing will be good for her, she doesn’t necessarily get it and will make the process exponentially more complex if you skip this step. Note the grass in the next image. AJ, not entirely comfortable with the whole brushing idea, got up and walked away, even though she usually likes brushing (reinforcing the complexity of the situation). Thankfully, she let Brenda follow her and continue.

Corn rows

The brush makes an interesting pattern in the cat’s fur as huge chunks of it detach and float away. The photo shows a repeating pattern. I wanted a closer shot with the rows more prominent, but the cat wouldn’t let me get closer with the camera.

Toes and nose

Frequent breaks are part of any interaction with AJ. During one break, she found Brenda’s foot particularly interesting, which was awesome because getting a shot of someone’s foot or shoe was on the list. Some elements from the Tips page show up in this image, including higher contrast and working with light/shadow, paying attention to the moment, and depth of foreground/background as the grass rolls away from them.

You’ve been framed

The original idea for getting a shot through a frame or opening called for the slats on the porch rail. The cat negated the idea when she walked off the porch. But these shrubs actually worked out better. This shot also has an interesting quality with the shadows, as AJ lay down right on the edge of the shadow cast by a tree.

Happy kitty

Climax. Finally at ease with the idea of being brushed, AJ settled in and let Brenda do her business. The look on the cat’s face represents joy. This image is also fairly well balanced, with Brenda large and active to the upper right and AJ smaller and sedate to the left. There’s also an interesting triangle formed at the points of Brenda’s head, her left knee and her right ankle.

That’s all, folks!

Denouement. Time was up, and it was time to go inside. I tried to use the rule of thirds in this image, but it’s hard to compose when your subjects are moving. Brenda is roughly in the upper left crosshair, but AJ is too far down the frame to hit the lower right crosshair.

So many assignments, so little time

So what did I learn during this assignment? Planning your photo shoot is a balance of what you expect to happen and what actually happens. I printed the list of what to capture from the Photoblitz page and made some notes of what I thought I could capture. All of that went out the window when the cat got up and walked off the porch. Of the 58 images I took during this shoot, these eight best told a “story” while demonstrating some of the techniques from the video, the Photography and Narrative page, and the Tips page, all of which is hard to remember when you’ve got a 15-minute deadline hanging over your head as you work. The bench ‘leading line’ shot didn’t work in hindsight, so I learned to make sure I actually have the shot or effect I was going for before moving on. I tried several shots into the light, but none of them worked out with the afternoon sun so high. This assignment also called for posting to Instagram, from which I learned you cannot post from a laptop to Instagram and that Instagram will crop your photos to fit its format. I used an Olympus digital camera for this assignment and did not edit the images.

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