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Crafty Captures

Tara Ruby uses the Tamron 16-300mm VC PZD Macro lens to photograph a day of drawing, coloring, and painting.

By Jenn Gidman
Images by Tara Ruby

It's been a whirlwind few months for Tara Ruby, whose family recently moved from a military base in Texas to Fort Stewart, outside of Savannah, Georgia. She wanted to try out the Tamron 16-300mm VC PZD Macro lens to document a day of arts and crafts with local kids, but she didn't yet know anyone in her new neighborhood. "Luckily, because it's an HOA-type neighborhood, there's a club Facebook page, so I posted on there asking if anyone wanted to volunteer to do a photo shoot," Tara says. "A mom with four boys offered. Not only was I able to get some great photos of the day, but I also made a new friend."

Keeping kids busy (without simply sending them off to play video games) is a challenge for any modern-day parent, which is why Tara was impressed with how this mom organized her boys' day of art. "Everyone here has a screened-in porch, so that's where we set up shop so I could have lots of available light streaming in," she says. "The mom had a huge table she covered in paper, plus lots of materials for drawing, coloring, and painting. She dressed all of the boys in tie-dye T-shirts so that any paint that got on their clothes wouldn't show up. She had it all planned out."

Tara's goal was to document the entire story of the day—everything from the supplies and finished results to the candids she captured while the boys were working—and the 16-300's focal-length flexibility helped Tara nonintrusively capture the kids during their artistic moments. "This lens allowed me to stand back and let them do what they were doing while I got all the images I wanted," she says. "I could use the lens to pull back, for instance, and take a photo of the 2-year-old reaching across the table to grab a paintbrush out of a container, blurring out the background just enough so that you could still see one of his brothers working with him, but with the focus squarely on him. I also love playing with angles in my work, as you can see in this image. Taking it from this angle adds a bit of visual interest rather than having everything on a perfectly horizontal plane."

© Tara Ruby
82mm, F/5.6, ISO 320, 1/125th sec.

The 16-300 also allowed Tara to zoom in nice and tight when the same little guy decided to reach toward the camera with a paint-splattered hand. "When kids are painting like that, you have to just let them be kids, which often means letting them get as messy as they want," she says. "I blurred out the background even more than I had in the previous image because I wanted the hand reaching toward the camera to be the main focus of the image. Of course, I also didn't want to get paint on my camera, so the lens helped me stay a bit back to avoid that."

© Tara Ruby
73mm, F/5.0, ISO 400, 1/250th sec.

Tara also used the lens to zoom in close on some of the paint that one of the boys was working with. "The purple paint drop in that paper bowl actually resembled a heart, and he was so excited that he made that," she says. "He even ran to tell his mom about it. I zoomed in tight on that heart shape, as well as to feature all of the other paint to show what a colorful day it was. The hand gripping the side of the bowl adds a little more of a personal touch so it's not just a static object shot—there's actually a process going on here that you can see."

© Tara Ruby
300mm, F/6.3, ISO 500, 1/200th sec.

That same youngster then set to work painting a huge rainbow on one of the canvases, blending shades that went beyond the usual ROYGBIV. "The photo you see here isn't even the finished product," Tara explains. "He added all different shades to the basic ones. The reason I chose to shoot the painting from this particular angle, and with selective focus on the blob of purple paint in the middle, is because sometimes when we try to capture a picture of our kids doing a craft or a project, we hyperfocus on getting it 'perfect.' I wanted to show that maybe there was a little bit too much purple paint there, and that maybe it wasn't perfect—but it was still beautiful. He was so proud of his painting."

© Tara Ruby
251mm, F/6.3, ISO 640, 1/200th sec.

What most impressed Tara during her shoot, and which informed a few of her images, was the attention that the oldest boy dedicated to the task at hand. "He was 12, and I honestly didn't think he was going to sit out there and take part in this activity without complaining or getting bored, but he was so serious!" she says. "At one point I looked over and he was painting a cherry blossom tree, so carefully and meticulously placing the little pink blossoms on the branches. I wanted to capture that, almost from a first-person perspective, by taking a picture over his shoulder. I just had to make sure to control my ISO to make sure the image didn't come out too bright—there's a lot of white on that canvas that I didn't want to blow out in spots."

© Tara Ruby
117mm, F/5.6, ISO 400, 1/200th sec.

Not that he was completely serious—boys will be boys, after all. "The kids had brushes and sponges and all different ways to play with the paint, but of course someone is going to put their hands in the paint at some point," Tara says. "And he did, after he painted the cherry blossom tree. He started mixing all of the amazing colors together, then dipped his hands into the paint, which came out to be a rather drab gray. I went into 'please don't touch me' mode again while I was taking this straight-on photo. I guess their mom really was smart to put them all in tie-dye attire!"

© Tara Ruby
100mm, F/5.6, ISO 320, 1/160th sec.

To see more of Tara Ruby's work, go to www.tararuby.com.

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