Cracker Jacks

When I was a kid, the best thing about Cracker Jacks was the anticipation of finding the “Toy Surprise Inside”. I loved digging down in the box and ripping open the little envelope that contained the prize. Of course, the prize itself was usually a disappointment, but it never kept me from wanting another box when we went to the ball diamond the following weekend.

Panda Portraits are a little like Cracker Jacks. If you’re not familiar with Panda Portraits, they’re self portraits taken while riding a bike. Taking a Panda Portrait is pretty simple. If you have a camera that allows you to manually set the shutter speed, set it to around 1/25-1/30 of a second so the background blurs, then while you’re riding along, take a large number of shots of yourself and/or the bike from different angles. Of course, because you’re holding the camera away from you, it’s impossible to know what you’re capturing. That’s where the “Toy Surprise Inside” idea comes in. The anticipation of whether you’ve captured any good photos is like that old feeling of digging through a box of Cracker Jacks. Typically, most of the photos are completely blurred or framed poorly or show some other defect, but once in a while everything comes together and a real gem pops out. With some practice you eventually figure out what works and your keeper-to-reject ratio improves.

Here are a few Panda Portraits from this morning’s ride.

6 Responses to “Cracker Jacks”

  • janfrid says:

    Your lenswork is really becoming even more inspired; in the realm of ‘stunning’. Are you using various cameras and are the Panda Portraits image stabilized? Do you Photoshop? I have a nice camera and a lot of photography study, but I don’t turn in images like yours.

    Thanks for sharing your fine art,


  • Alan says:

    Hi Janfrid,

    I’m using a relatively inexpensive 6mp digital – the Canon S3IS. I plan to invest in a nice DSLR system someday, but the little S3 is fine for now.

    I run all of my published photos through Photoshop. Some just get a few minor tweaks to overall color and exposure, others get a more thorough going over using various combinations of adjustment layers, filters, and layer masks.

    Thanks very much for the kind words–


  • Chris from DE says:

    Wow, that’s kinda cool and kinda risky. I looked at the flickr site and didn’t see any pictures of people on recumbents. I might have to change that!

    If you never hear from me again, it is because I got splatted on my bike while trying to hold a camera with one hand and steer with the other one — all because YOU told me to do it. It will be all your fault, Alan.

    Chris from DE

  • Alan says:

    Hey Chris,

    Drop me a note when you post your Panda Pics – I’d love to see what you come up with.


    PS – And be careful! I don’t want broken clavicle weighing on my conscience! :-)

  • andy potato soup says:

    this reminds me of serendipity, which to me is something like an african garden. instead of neat rows, you just broadcast and scatter seed. so it’s intentionality gracefully mixed with randomness. this is definitely more like nature itself.

  • Croupier says:

    Or the surprise could be finding out how much the dental bill is after you go over the bars whilst trying to take a Panda Portrait.

    Just kidding… but it is a good idea to be careful as you take a Panda; and always try it in an obstacle-free environment.

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