Picture info: ISO 160, 36mm, f/4.0, 1/4000 sec

Picture info: ISO 160, 36mm, f/4.0, 1/4000 sec

Week 29 (2/17/2014 -2/23/2014): Wagner Park, New York, NY

Picture taken on 2/23/2014 at 5:13 PM

Photograph description:

There is a first for everything, and this week was a feast of firsts. For starters, this week was the first time that I didn’t post within my weekly deadline.  After a busy weekend when it came time to write my post on Sunday night, I  couldn’t resist collapsing face down on my plush tempurpedic.  Other than my latent post, this week also marked the first time that my post’s picture was shot with something other than my Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens.  I still shot my picture at ~35mm but this time it was with a new  Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8.  I had been tussling with whether or not to buy a new lens for a couple of weeks.  Last week I was finally able to validate purchasing a new lens.  One of my stocks recently started to take a hit so I decided to cut bait and divert those funds to the investment of a new lens.  Hopefully the lens will pay better dividends.  

The last two “firsts” worth noting are locations based.  This week was the first time that I visited Washington Square park and the nearby Stumptown coffee shop.  I’ve been to the Stumptown on 29th street a few times but never the second and smaller location by Washington Square park.  It was nice finally checking out the park  even if it wasn’t the best time of the day for pictures.  The sun was at about 45 degrees and blindingly bright.  After walking around the park for a few minutes with my friend that tagged along we decidle split off from one another so we could each focus on finding the best shot.  As I moved away from the park’s iconic arch I found a couple ways to use to the sun’s harsh angle.  One was to shoot some reflection pictures using the wet ground.  The second idea I had was to line the sun up within the street lights that littered the park so it looked like they were glowing in the daylight.  Although both were fun ideas, they quickly grew old so I decided to find my friend and search for a better location.

Washington Square Park Light Post

Washington Square Park Light Post

With sunset approaching we decided to head to Wagner Park located at the southern tip of Manhattan.  I shot at that location once before during week 16 but since it provides great sunsets, I knew there was no harm in taking a return visit.

While on our way south we seemingly stopped every couple of feet to take pictures.  Since the purpose of our trip was to take pictures, frequently stopping wasn’t a problem, but it was threatening our chances of getting to the park at the right time.  Eventually we decided to jump on the 1 train to expedite our journey.

Once we got out of the subway we made a beeline towards the park.  When we finally cleared the tall buildings of the financial district, I yelled out “boomshakalaka” in excitement once I saw the beautiful evening sky.  For the next hour or so my friend and I were treated to one of the better sunsets I’ve seen in a while.  We both shuffled around the park trying to find the best shot.  I eventually spotted a patch of tall grass which provided me with a good foreground subject and sealed the deal for this week’s picture.

Photography concepts:

Since this week is the first time shooting with my new Sigma lens it makes sense for me to talk about some of the advantages it provides.  One of the advantages which benefited this week’s picture is the Sigma’s nice bokeh.  As I talked about last week, bokeh is the part of the picture that’s out of focus.  One thing I recently learned is that with nicer lenses the bokeh is smoother and although it’s a little bit of an oxymoron, the out of focus images are sharper.  The nice bokeh worked well for creating silhouettes of the lamp post, railing and couple walking.

Another advantage the Sigma has is a low fixed aperture of f/2.8. Although the Sigma doesn’t beat my Nikon 35mm’s f/1.8 aperture it’s still large enough to make shooting indoor and night pictures easier.  The Nikon beats the Sigma aperture but the Sigma has a 4-stop Anti-Shake feature which allows for slower shutter speeds.  This means that although the Nikon can let in more light via a wider aperture, the Sigma can let in more light via slower shutters (without using tripods).  The term 4-stops means I can go 4 stops lower than the recommended shutter speed for a specific focal length.  When shooting at 35mm (52 with a crop sensor) it’s recommended that I stay at or above 1/100 of a second.  Thanks to the anti-shake feature I can hit a shutter speed of 1/40 of a second, and possibly slower if I have any added stabilization.  This is a moot point if you’re using a tripod but it’s very relevant when you’re shooting indoors or at night.

The last advantage I’ll quickly mention because it’s not one that can help me during my 52from52 photoblog series is that the Sigma is a zoom.  The advantage of having a zoom lens is pretty obvious.  With a zoom you’re able to recompose your picture without moving and hit targets that a 35mm prime can’t.  Because it’s a zoom I might use my Sigma again in some upcoming posts, not to shoot my picture from another focal length, but so that I have some flexibility for the pictures not meant for this blog.  The Sigma’s focal length range 17-50mm ( ~25-75mm) is very versatile.  The lens moves from wide angle to a nice focal length for taking pictures of people, especially when I can maintain a f/2.8 aperture.  The possibilities this lens has is exciting so stay tuned!

Saturday Night Focus

Picture info: ISO 1000, 35mm, f/2.0, 1/50sec

Picture info: ISO 1000, 35mm, f/2.0, 1/50sec

Week 28 (2/10/2014 -2/16/2014): Hoboken, Washington/13th

Picture taken on 2/15/2014 at 7:52 PM

Picture description:

Like many people my age, on a usual Saturday night there is a good chance you’ll find me out at a bar with friends.  This past Saturday night however was not my usual evening.  This weekend was different because I was providing 24/7 support for work.  Working in IT has it’s perks but it also occasionally carries some unique responsibilities, one of those being support coverage.  This weekend was the first time I held this role in a long time and it’s not one that I take lightly.  While covering support I need to maintain my wits and have a quick response time if I get any calls, therefor going out to a bar isn’t on my social menu.  

Original "accidental" picture

Original “accidental” picture

Coincidentally this weekend the newest season of “House of Cards” released on Netflix so that provided the perfect means to pass my Saturday night.  Though I had a good TV binge in the queue, I decided to pop outside for a little with my camera.  Earlier in the week I took a picture which I planned to use as this week’s post.  My goal for Saturday night’s picture hunt was to try my hand at recreating and or improving my previous picture.  The original picture was shot on Washington street and was more of an accident than a planned image.  When you’re attempting to take a picture in the middle of the street you can imagine how one might feel rushed.  It could be the possibility of getting hit, or just the fact that people gaze upon you like you’re crazy. Regardless of the reason, while shooting my original picture from the middle of the street I felt rushed and thus fired off some quick pictures, a few of which were not in focus.  After reviewing the unfocused batch of pictures, I actually liked the way the blurred imaged looked.  Fast forward to Saturday night, my goal was to not leave this round of pictures to chance.  My plan was to use the manual focus of my camera to create a “controlled” blurred image.

My chosen spot was at the corner of 13th/Washington. As I stood at the corner waiting for the light to turn red, I fiddled with my focus to get a blurry but clear enough to see image.  During one of my practice pictures I accidently got a taxi in frame which triggered the idea of creating an picture that represented how I usually recall Saturday nights.  I waited a couple of light cycles until again having a taxi staged for the picture.  Once the light turned red I darted out into the street and captured this week’s image.

Photography concepts:

The more I learn about my camera, the more artistic freedom I have to create the images that are in my head.  Although this week’s picture wasn’t an exact representation of what I mentally saw, it was close.  This is the first time I used manual focus for a featured post and I’m happy with the result.  Manual focus gives you the freedom to choose the exact focus you want rather than relying upon the camera to make the decision.  It would have been nearly impossible to shoot this picture if I only relied on my camera for focusing.  When in autofocus mode your camera needs to focus on something in order to shoot.  There is a setting to override requiring focus but it’s easier to put your camera in manual.  Putting your camera in manual focus allows you to take a picture no matter what the focus is, blurry or razor sharp.  The reason I wanted to achieve an out of focus image was because of the effect it creates.  The effect that results from images being out of focused is often referred to as “bokeh.”  Most of the time bokeh is used to create separation in a picture between the subject and background.  The intensity of the bokeh usually increases as your aperture gets larger.  This technique is used a lot in portraits such as head shots.  In my picture instead of focusing on one subject and blurring out everything else, I blurred out the entire image.  I wanted to use the blurriness to create a sense of disorientation from looking at the picture.  I also wanted to use the blurry lights to create the composition of my image in the form of leading lines.  All of the lights are pinched inward to pull your focus onto the blurred out taxi.  The leading line composition was meant to represent the usual progression of a saturday night, increased blurring over time and ending in a taxi.  

As you can see by applying some of the lessons that I’ve learned, I was able to create the image that I wanted.  Of course some chance was involved this week, but the lesson to take away is that once you start to build your photography toolbox it’s important you know what concept to take out or apply to achieve the image you’re going for.  Your creativity will always be limited to the speed that you’re able to think of your feet and apply your knowledge.


Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/11, 1/80sec

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/11, 1/80sec

Week 27 (2/3/2014 -2/9/2014): Hoboken, Maxwell Park

Picture taken on 2/3/2014 at 1:09 PM

Picture description

It’s said that the day after the Superbowl is one of the highest call out of work days of the year.  This year I was smart and decided to preemptively schedule myself for a day off on the dreaded Monday after the big game.  As it turned out I couldn’t have chosen a better day to take off, not because of a big game hangover, but because of a huge snowstorm that hit our area.  While most people were fighting both their hangovers and the weather I was relaxing comfortably in my apartment.  Even though I could spend the day sheltered from the storm, I decided it would be fun to head out into the snow with my Nikon in hand.  The only problem I faced was how to protect my camera from the wintery elements.  The solution that I came up with was simple, rubberband a ziplock bag around my camera and I was good to go, or so I thought.

Once out in the storm my ziplock plan seemed to work in terms of protecting my camera, but it made taking photos extremely difficult.  I was able to make the best of the situation by shielding my camera within my coat until I spotted a potential picture.  Knowing that I couldn’t preserve my camera’s dryness for long, I decided to hit two nearby Hoboken locations.  First I went to my usual spot, the uptown pier at Maxwell Park.  To my surprise I spotted a family of geese trying to take refuge in the cove of the pier’s “beach area.”  They were surrounded by ice and almost seemed to be frozen themselves.  I moved around trying to shoot the geese from the best angle possible without falling into the water myself.  Next I moved to the pier on Sinatra drive by the skatepark.  Since the snow was creating a nice white out I wanted to take a picture of the gazebo on the water with nothing but a white background.  Usually the New York City skyline is the backdrop so I thought this would make for a unique picture of the area.

gazebo picture

Gazebo picture

After getting the gazebo picture I decided to head back in for the day.  I had been outside for about an hour and it seemed that my ziplock bag was close to losing it’s ability to protect my camera.  As I fought my way through the snow back to my apartment,  I said to myself next time I’ll be better prepared for the elements.

Photography concepts:

The first time out in the snow with my Nikon taught me some valuable lessons.  The first and most obvious is that you need to keep your camera dry.  Although the ziplock bag was able to protect my camera for the hour that I was out, it would have been a stretch to sustain it’s usefulness for any longer period of time.  As a result my first purchase after Monday’s snow storm was a rain cover or “rain sleeve” for my camera (link below).  They essentially work just like the ziplock bag but they’re longer and hug my arm so shooting with them is a lot less clumsy.  I was hoping for another snow storm this weekend so I could test the sleeves, but of course you never get the weather you wish for.  Expect a follow up review of the rain sleeves usefulness in a future post.   

The second lesson I learned is that you absolutely need something dry to wipe off your lens.  This seems pretty obvious as well, yet I totally forgot to bring a cloth while I was out in the snow.  I had to use some of my inner layers to wipe off my lense.  Luckily I always keep a UV filter on my camera’s lens so there was no chance of damaging the actual lens.  Using a UV filter is nothing new for me but absolutely essential when you’re out in the elements.  It’s much smarter to scratch a $10 filter than the lens of your hundred plus dollar lens.

The last lesson that’s worth noting is what I learned in post (editing).  While reviewing my pictures I noticed that I didn’t take advantage of a key feature my DSLR.  Most DSLR’s, including my Nikon, give you the ability to shoot with very fast shutter speeds.  This is a great tool to have when it’s snowing (or raining) because it allows to you seemingly freeze time and capture snow flakes or rain drops midair.  I unfortunately didn’t shoot many pictures with fast shutter speeds.   From the pictures that I so happened to have a fast shutter,  it seemed that 1/1000 – 1/2000 seconds was the ideal speed to freeze the  snowflakes.  My guess is the best lens speed probably varies depending on the wind and size of the snowflakes.  Lesson learned, my shutter speed will absolutely be on the forefront of my mind next time I go out in the snow or rain.

Taken with shutter speed 1/1000 sec

Taken with shutter speed 1/1000 sec

Rain sleeve option 1

Rain sleeve option 2

Halfway there

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 4seconds, -2.1 ND filter, -.7 exposure

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 4 seconds, -2.1 ND filter, -.7 exposure

Week 26 (1/27/2014 – 2/2/2014) : Hoboken Uptown Pier

Picture taken on 2/1/2014 at 3:30 PM

Picture description:

This week marks the halfway point of my fifty two week photoblog series.  Throughout the week I jumped back and forth a lot trying to decide what picture/subject to shoot for my twenty sixth post.  In the end I decided where better to shoot than where I started twenty six weeks ago?  That’s right, I returned to my favorite spot in Hoboken along the uptown waterfront.  After I finally submitted to the idea I grabbed a coffee from bwè kafe and sat on “my bench” to think out how I could put a new twist on a picture I’ve taken so many times.  As I mentally flipped through the various pictures that I’ve taken at the location I paused on one picture taken with a triple exposure.  In the picture a runner zoomed through the frame and gave off a ghost like image.  As I sat at my bench dwelling on the ghost image it hit me, what if I used myself to create another “ghost like” image and thus was literally halfway in the picture, or “halfway there.”  This seemed like a cleverly fun idea and I’m glad that I was able to pull it off.

Photography concepts:

To pull off the “halfway there” image idea I had two options.  My first option was to shoot the picture like the original “ghost like” image using a double or triple exposure.  A multiple exposure picture would have been easy, so I decided to go with a more challenging option that utilized more of the skills/knowledge I’ve learned over the past twenty six weeks.  What I decided was to shoot my picture using a long exposure and wireless trigger.  This sounds straight forward enough too but the challenge was to do this during the day.  In daylight long exposures are hard to execute, luckily this is something I’ve done in the past in a few of my posts.  With the use of my handy neutral density filters, and a super small aperture of f/22, I was able to hit a shutter speed of four seconds.  Four seconds was the perfect amount of time to create a “halfway there’ image.  I stayed in the frame for 2 seconds then quickly jumped out of frame for the remaining 2.  It took me a couple of attempts but eventually I nailed it!

Challenge number two of this week was how to edit an otherwise boring skyline.  When shooting the skyline from Hoboken I typically wait for a day with interesting clouds, or wake up really early to shoot at sunrise.  This time I had already missed my sunrise option for the day, and literally had too many clouds to work with.  When I shot this picture it was a cloudy overcast day with a slight tint of blue showing up in the clouds.  Here is where being able to edit an image in an artistic manner pays off.  For this week I went with a dull look with some slight color tints.  The way I achieved my final look was by first applying some of my usual edits such as lowering highlights, increasing contrast, clarity and color saturation, along with applying some sharpening.  After getting my picture prepped I then applied a VSCO preset filter “Polaroid 669” which gives the image a film look.  I also applied some presets to boost the blues and saturation even more in the image.  The finishing touch was to add a slight vignette around the edges.  As you can see from the before and after comparison, the right editing makes all the difference.

Before and After

Before and After