Orange Glow

Picture Specs: ISO 800, 35mm, f/2, 1/125sec

Picture Specs: ISO 800, 35mm, f/2, 1/125sec

Week 12 (10/20/2013 – 10/26/2013): Bloomfield St., Hoboken NJ
Picture taken on 10/24/2013 at 8:14 PM

Picture description:

What a busy week!  Lucky walking, or running, around Hoboken always seems to provide interesting pictures when I don’t have the time to plan something.   This week my goal was to try and get a picture related to the fall or Halloween.  With a crammed schedule all I could do was hope that something would present itself, and it did!

Normally I run along the water in Hoboken but on Thursday I decided to change it up and run down Bloomfield St. since lately there seemed to be this orange glow emitting from the street.  Much to my surprise the people in Hoboken are really into decorating for Halloween.  Most of the houses lining Bloomfield had at least some interlaced webbing along their stoop, if not a full out Halloween scene.  Running down the street was almost like going through a haunted house since there were witches, ghosts and spiders littered all over.  Along my path I even stumbled upon a news crew camped out around one of the more creative houses.  The news crew was likely talking about how intense and competitive decorating for Halloween gets in Hoboken.   There were so many houses I could have chosen but the one that caught my eye featured a string of jack-o-lanterns that seemed to be smiling at me.  After finding my subject I ran, literally, back to my apartment to grab my camera (no I didn’t run with it!) and went back out to get my shot.

Photography concepts:

Like in my other night pictures the biggest challenge was dealing with the low amount of light.  My subject (the jack-o-lanterns) were nice enough to emit a good amount of orange glowing which enabled me to drop my ISO.  Hopefully by now you know what ISO is and how it’s related to light, if not circle back and read either my week 3 or week 4 blog.  Back to ISO, thanks to the light coming from the lanterns I could shoot my picture with an ISO of 800.  I probably could have gone lower but I didn’t want to creep in front of some persons house for too long.  Using the lower ISO left my picture looking crisp rather than grainy as is usually the result from a higher ISO.

The other aspect of the “triangle of photography” which helped shape my picture was the aperture that I used.  In this picture my aperture was f/2 which is part of why I was able to shoot with a low ISO.  f/2 is one of the largest apertures you can use and lets in a lot of light.  One of the results from using wider apertures is the background blur caused by a shallow plane of focus that I’ve talked about in past blogs.  Having a shallow plane of focus is why you can clearly (or not so clearly) see the pumpkins gradually get more and more blurry as they move further away.

The last thing I want to point out about this picture is how I lined it up.  It’s often tempting to take a picture head on but I highly encourage you to try to find a unique angle that perhaps you wouldn’t see while walking around.  Not too many people would bend down and look straight down the line of jack-o-lanterns.   Anyone passing by might stop and look at the lanterns head on, this is why finding a unique angle is way more interesting.  Get low, get high (legally), and find that unique angle!

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A Day of Reflection Pt 2

Picture Specs: ISO 200, 35mm, f/4, 1/640 sec

Picture Specs: ISO 200, 35mm, f/4, 1/640 sec

Week 11 (10/13/2013 – 10/19/2013): Chelsea 11 Ave/19th St
Picture taken on 10/14/2013 at 4:57 PM

Picture description:

Since taking the picture for my second blog “A Day of Reflection” I’ve been drawn to taking more and more reflections shots. After a crazy/good weekend and with a very busy week looming ahead of me I thought Monday would my only opportunity to get a picture this week and an ideal time for a second “Day of Reflection”. The title of this week’s blog is just as much a reference to a day of relaxing outdoors as it is to the kind of picture I took. When things get busy it’s even more important for me to set aside one day to clear my mind and of course get a picture for this blog. Walking around the city and enjoying the fall weather is one of my favorite ways to relax. Add a camera to the mix and it’s a hard afternoon to top.

Setting out the target destination for my afternoon was Chelsea, more specifically the area surrounding the Chelsea piers. Knowing there were a couple of parks, some interesting buildings and of course the waterfront/piers in the area Chelsea seemed like the perfect spot. After popping out of the subway on 14th street I began my short journey towards the water. While on my way to my picture’s destination I unknowingly passed the Chelsea Market and a bar called “The Tippler”. Not to get off topic but I circled back to both locations on Wednesday (not for pictures) and if you haven’t been to either I highly recommend checking out both, very cool!

After a walking around for a little I eventually arrived at the Chelsea Piers and immediately saw what would be the subject of this week’s blog. There are two buildings right across from the Chelsea piers which are architecturally awesome. One of the buildings is the main office for IAC which is an internet media company and the other is ‘trendy’ residential building called Nouvel. Both buildings are incredible so it was difficult to decide which building should be the focus of my picture, that’s why I decided a reflection shot was my best option…and so the challenge of getting this week’s shot began

IAC Building

IAC Building

Photography concepts:

As mentioned in the this week’s picture description my goal was to get two buildings in one shot. Capturing multiple buildings would have been a much easier task to accomplish if I was using a wide angel lens, or even a zoom lens from a distance. As you hopefully have come to know by now this blog revolves around me shooting with my 35mm lens, which due to my crop sensor provides around a 50-52mm perspective. Most people don’t know what these ‘mm’ measurements equate to so let me put it into perspective once more, a camera phone is around a 30-35mm perspective. When shooting with a camera phone I’m sure you’ve had limitations when it comes to fitting everything in the picture. Now imagine shrinking that window by about 40%. Yes maybe now you understand why capturing buildings or wide scenes is so challenging, here is where using reflections comes in. Through the use of reflections you can capture larger images in a smaller window.

An alternate reflection shot

An alternate reflection shot

The first challenge in capturing this week’s reflection picture was finding an angle that provided a clear reflection of the Nouvel building. Once I found the right angle the second challenge was determining what lines I should use to level off my picture. I decided to align my picture on the Nouvel building. Once I had my angle and point of reference to level my shot the third and last challenge was messing around with settings to find the best aperture for capturing a crisp image. I took the same picture in an array of apertures to make sure once it came time for editing I had options. While shooting with a DSLR taking the same picture using different settings is the surest way to insure you get a great picture. When you’re reviewing pictures in the LCD screen on the back of your camera it isn’t always easy to identify one that’s going to look good on a big screen. This concept is commonly referred to as “bracketing” and is one of the most important photography lesson’s I’ve learned thus far. The concept of bracketing is applied to almost any camera setting, it’s most often use is probably when it comes to exposure or light settings. Below are a couple articles on bracketing if you’d like to read more about how to apply this concept. In the future I’m going to attempt to use bracketing and merging pictures to capture a picture that contains high and low exposure areas so stay tuned!

Bracketing Articles

http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Learn-And-Explore/Article/gblbwrp6/exposure-bracketing-the-creative-insurance-policy.html

http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/11/13/bracketing-explained-what-you-need-to-know-about-maximising-detail-in-your-photos/

Nouvel’s Site

http://www.nouvelchelsea.com/

Getting a-head

Picture Specs: ISO 200, 35mm, f/5, 1/30 sec

Picture Specs: ISO 200, 35mm, f/5, 1/30 sec

Week 10 (10/6/2013 – 10/12/2013): My Apartment, Hoboken NJ
Picture taken on 10/10/2013 at 4:53 PM

Picture description:

In life it’s always better to get ahead.  Getting ahead was the catalyst for this week’s picture/concept.   As I’m gaining more experience and exposure in the photography world, more opportunities are presenting themselves.  One upcoming project is going to require me to take a lot of indoor pictures and possibly product/macro types of shots.  In an effort to prepare (get ahead) for this future project, and to explore more areas of photography I decided to experiment with “studio” photography.  Now I don’t have a studio or access to one so the best I could do is purchase an at home alternative to allow me to take some small scale pictures.  Luckily one of the best companies to buy photography gear from has a storefront in New York City and not too far from my office.  I’m of course talking about B & H.  After doing some research online about what I should get I took a trip to B & H to check everything out in person.  I spoke to one of the employees who recommended a duel light set up which would have been both bulky and expensive.   I decided his suggestion wasn’t the route I wanted to take and ended up settling on the “MyStudio” portable photo studio with built in lighting.  It came at a reasonable price and it seemed to be the perfect size to be functional in my apartment.

Setting up “MyStudio” was pretty quick and easy.  Of course it helps that I’m a handy man (not by trade) but I feel like most people would be able to put everything together in under 10-15 minutes.  Once everything was set up it was time for the fun to begin.  Per my brother “anything is cool if you’re a good photographer”  at least in terms of macro photography so I took that as a challenge.  I began going through my room and photographing almost anything that would fit in “MyStudio.”  Although my brother was right, not everything that I took a picture of could easily tie into a post.  I decided to find something a little more relevant.  My “getting ahead” philosophy (along with Halloween being around the corner) is what drew me to skulls (heads) that are featured in this week’s picture.

Photography concepts:

One big difference between this picture and those of past week’s was I needed a decent amount of equipment to make this happen.   For starters I needed the “MyStudio” which I would recommend to anyone looking for a small at home studio option (link/picture below).  Next I needed a tripod since with macro/studio photography sometimes you have to take longer exposures to capture more light and you really need to line everything up with precision.  I probably could have gotten away with not using a tripod but I already had a good one so there was no reason to not.  Another key tool you need while doing studio photography and any other indoor shots are white balance cards.  I’ve mentioned white balancing before but this week it was really key.  When you’re using a white balance card you usually take a reference shot and either tune your camera into that setting or use the reference shot as a guide for setting all your white balance in editing.  This week I decided to leave my white balance cards in the picture so you could get an idea about how I used them.   The last and most obvious (other than my camera) thing that I needed was a subject.  In the past I found real life subjects to photography, while this week I had to find and place my subject.  Having the freedom to get creative was nice but also very challenging.

MyStudio; Taken from BH's site (link to product below)

MyStudio; Taken from BH’s site (link to product below)

The main challenge about having “creative freedom” was positioning my subjects and relationally lining up my camera.  When you’re working on such a small scale the slightest adjustments to your camera’s angle or the location of your subject changes the entire dynamic of the picture.  Using this week’s picture as an example.  You’ll notice that the single skull and the bag of skulls are a little offset with the single skull being further up in the picture.  I positioned the single skull forward so it was larger in the picture but I had to push the bag back to get it in the full frame.  Once I put the two subjects on different planes, in relation to my camera’s lens, it forced me to use a smaller aperture.  If I had shot this picture with a f/1.8 instead of f/5 the single skull would have been in focus and the bag blurry.  Even with f/5 you can already start to see some of the blur in the back portion of the bag.  Based on what I’ve read, along with my own experience with wider apertures (smaller f numbers) the plane of focus becomes very thin.  What this means  is only the things that are on the same plane as your subject will be in focus.  The smaller the aperture the deeper the in focus plane gets.  I haven’t done enough reading to explain the mathematics behind this focal plane concept but I feel like this picture was an easy way to demonstrate the concept and it’s challenges.

There is still a lot more to learn about indoor shooting so this topic might get featured again in the coming weeks. Let’s just say for now this is to be continued…

BH Link for “MyStudio”

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/727653-REG/MyStudio_PS5_PS5_PortaStudio_Portable_Photo.html

Searching for…

Picture Specs: ISO 320, 35mm, f/7.1, 1/500 sec

Picture Specs: ISO 320, 35mm, f/7.1, 1/500 sec

Week 9 (9/29/2013 – 10/5/2013): St. Petersburg Pier, FL
Picture taken on 10/1/2013 at 4:04 PM

Picture description:

Everyone is searching for something. Like most weeks one of the things I was searching for was an interesting picture to write about. In past weeks I had a set plan or some general idea about what I wanted to shoot, but my only plan for this week was to leave it open ended. The beginning part of my week was spent down in Florida visiting my insanely awesome family. My hope was that while in Florida something interesting would present itself and that my Nikon would be close or in hand to capture the moment. As one day rolled into another my camera stayed on the bench while most of my time was spent running around with my cousins doing what we do, “You don’t even know!” By the last day while my cousin Courtney and I were killing time before my flight we decided to grab a bite and hit the St. Petersburg Pier or as they call it “the pier” to see about getting a picture.

Once we got to the pier one picture instantly jumped out at me. With the thought of how everyone is “searching for” something in the back of my mind, the picture that caught my attention was this man sitting on a bench peering out at the pier as it jutted out into the deep blue bay. To me it looked like he was simply enjoying the beautiful view but also deep in thought, perhaps searching for an answer to something?

Another reason why this picture caught my eye was because this man’s spot reminded me of my own back up North. If you recall my post from week one I featured my favorite bench with a view. Chances are if Florida was my home this or one similar to this would be “my bench.” I’ve found that setting aside time to be alone in your thoughts is mentally one of the healthiest habits to have. Things move fast, as do people so if you don’t carve out some time to slow things down for a little you’re going to burn yourself out, at least that’s my philosophy. Not everyone has a bench, but I encourage you to find your equivalent. This nameless man and I have found our bench, the only remaining question is will we find everything else we’re searching for?

Photography concepts:

With 9 weeks in the books more of my focus is shifting towards the composition of my picture rather than the technical aspects such as exposure. Setting the right exposure is by choosing the correct settings is still key but it’s becoming more second nature for me. Using this week as an example, once I picked my spot there were two apertures I wanted to try for this picture. One was f/4 since this seems to be the “sweet spot” for my lens, and the other was something around f/7-8 to get most of the picture in a crisp focus. In the end f/7.1 looked the best since it kept everything in a nice focus, with the priority going to the sign in the foreground. In past weeks more of my time might have been spent finding the right exposure but thankfully this week I found it quickly and could put more thought into the elements of my composition.

Other than the beautiful clouds and water there were three things that I wanted to emphasis in this picture. My main subject was the pier with my secondary subject the man on the bench. Luckily these two subjects complimented one another in that the man is looking out towards the pier. This leads the viewer towards following the man’s gaze out into the water towards the pier. My third subject was the sign which had the main purpose of highlighting the location of my picture, St. Petersburg.

Framing the shot

Once my subjects were chosen it was all about lining them up, which of course brings back the concept of the rule of thirds. You’ll notice that two of my subjects are in the left thirds of the picture with my third and main subject (the pier) at the lower intersection point of the right two thirds. Putting the pier in its own two thirds was so my main subject had the prime location in the photo and so the viewer could see the area surrounding it. The last framing element I went for was breaking up the picture top to bottom by putting the water in the lower 1/3, the sky in the middle 1/3 and the tree branches in the top 1/3. This naturally framed my main subject (the pier) in-between the branches and the water. My feeling was that framing the picture like this gave it a tighter feel rather than a wide open feeling one would have felt if the sky took up 2/3+ of the picture. My goal was that the combination of all the framing elements would make the viewer feel like they were looking through the same natural window as the man on the bench. I hope it worked!