Lost Ball

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 1/2 sec

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 1/2 sec

Week 47 (6/23/2014 -6/29/2014): Apple Mountain Golf Course

Picture taken on 6/29/2014 at 8:12AM

Photograph description:

If you’ve ever played golf chances are you’ve lose a ball at some point.  No matter the level of play, mini golf, pitch and putt or a regular 18 hole, everyone has a story about losing their ball.  For me, this past week’s “lost ball” happened long after I left the golf course and for me that’s a first.  If you haven’t already guessed or sat puzzled as to why my picture has “This file could not be found” across the top, this past week’s picture was lost forever.  In my haste to import my pictures after my round of golf, I overlooked the fact that my Lightroom defaulted to some bad import settings.  Unfortunately it wasn’t until days after formatting my SD card that I realized the pictures had been lost.  Luckily Lightroom keeps previews of your imported images regardless of having files to support the image.  A quick screen shot later and I was at least able to keep my weekly steak alive and show a blurry representation of this week’s picture.  Lesson learned, double check your images are imported correctly before formatting your memory cards.

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Rethink

Picture info: ISO 3200, 36mm, f/2.8, 1/60 Sec

Picture info: ISO 3200, 36mm, f/2.8, 1/60 Sec

Week 46 (6/16/2014 -6/22/2014): Pier C, Hoboken NJ

Picture taken on 6/16/2014 at 9:05 PM

Photograph description:

If you took a step back and evaluated your life, what would you see?  One thing that I often notice about myself is that I have a tendency to fall into a routine.  I’ll make a decision that sets a precedent, then intentionally, or sometimes unintentionally, follow that precedent.  Routines can be good, but sometimes falling into a routine can limit the experiences or results that you get out of life.

Over the past few weeks as I’ve identified some of my different routines, I’ve intentionally set out to shake things up.  For example, every morning I pick up a hot coffee on my way to work.  To mix things up I started drinking iced coffee in the morning instead of my usual grande dark roast.  Another example, usually I go running in the evening, instead I’ve switched things up and have been going in the early AM.  These are just a few small examples which might seem trivial, but when you start to add up all the small changes, they make a big difference.  As with the saying “change begets change,” so the more routines that I’ve changed, the more I’ve rethought other aspects of my daily routine. As you’ve probably guessed, eventually this change made it’s way into my photography.

After analyzing my photography I noticed my tendency or “routine” was to shoot symmetrical photographs.  If my photograph had lines, they typically were level on a x/y axis.  The composition of my images was good, but as a whole my photographs were lacking some diversity.  The conclusion, rethink my usual composition style by, flipping, tilting, blurring and or anything that would bring a new composition look to my photographs.  The result, this week’s picture.

Photography concepts:

This week marked the first time I opened myself up for some image critiquing prior to posting.  Usually I commit to my image and don’t budge after selecting and editing my photograph.  As I said earlier, I’ve been mixing things up so after showing my brother-in-law (also Anthony) this week’s picture I reworked my photograph based on his critique.  After showing Anthony this week’s original image he pointed out how the railing was distracting and sort of made your eye stop look in confusion rather than continue down the path towards the blurry one world trade.  With Anthony’s comments in mind, I re-edited my photograph cutting some of the blurry railing out, while also darkening the rest so it was less distracting.  The next twist, literally, was I rotated the axis of my whole image so I no longer had a level shot.  The last major re-edit was to bring some subtle color back the image, this also helped the railing distraction by reducing the contrast of white on pure black.

Original Edit

Original Edit

After reworking my photograph I again sent it to Anthony for some critiquing.  He was in agreement that my re-edits were a good improvement to the image.  Anthony’s only remaining criticism was that the “in focus” portion of my image was a small portion of the railing, which was on the lower part of the image and not really featured in the image.  Although I saw the flaw that Anthony pointed out, the location of my focus was a necessary tradeoff to get the image I wanted.  While shooting this week’s photo my intention was to blur out the World Trade building enough so it had nice bokeh, but was still recognizable.  In order to get the bokeh I wanted, I needed to shoot with a wide aperture (my lenses widest f/2.8), which left me with a small plane of focus.  After selecting the appropriate aperture, I flipped my lens to manual focus and slowly twisted the focus ring until I got the right amount of bokeh.  Had I shot with a smaller aperture I would have gotten more of the railing in focus, but it would have been harder to get the same amount of bokeh.  As I hinted about earlier in the week, this week’s picture was all about the bokeh!

Afternoon Shading

 

Picture info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/13, 1/60 sec

Picture info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/13, 1/60 sec

Week 45 (6/92014 -6/15/2014): My Apartment

Picture taken on 6/15/2014 at 6:05 PM

Photograph description

A recent YouTube video gave me the idea about trying to photograph things in my everyday life.  The challenge with photographing everyday life is finding ways to creatively photograph your surroundings.  This past sunday, as I laid on my couch post Father’s day brunch thinking about what I could photograph, I realized my subject was literally right in front of me.  Right next to the couch in my room is a 6 foot high inset window that captures the most amazing afternoon light.  The time and angle of which the sun hits my window varies throughout the year, but during the summer it’s light starts around 5PM and lasts until about 630PM.  As the sun moves left to right across the sky it’s light bleeds through the cracks of room’s blinds creating different shades of light minute to minute.  Adding to the shading complexity is a tree that sits in my backyard.  Depending on the day’s wind, the tree’s leaves are typically swaying creating a constantly shifting wave of shaded patterns.  This daily afternoon dance of shade and light has captured my attention countless times and is ultimately why I chose to feature it as this week’s picture.

Photography concepts

Manual, manual, manual, that is how I was able to shoot this week’s image.  Shooting in manual over the past few months has unlocked a whole new world when it comes to photographing light.  It took a few times of shooting then adjusting to find the exposure that I thought best captured the moment.  The tricky part was not moving away from an aperture that captured the sun’s light appropriately.  In week’s past I’ve often spoken about what apertures are best for making the sun look a certain way.  This week I didn’t wanted the sun to softly peak form the blinds so kept my aperture in the range of f/11-f/15.  I’ve found that those apertures produce nice soft sun beams.  Anything larger (f/1.8-f/10) starts to make the sun look like one giant blob of light, and anything smaller (f/16+) make the sun’s beam have a sharpness to them.  I’ve taken a picture of the sun peaking through my blinds at f/22 and it didn’t create an image that’s true to the way I see it.

Old picture using f/22

Old picture using f/22

The second half of creating this week’s image was done in lightroom.  Raising the Highlights, Contrast, Whites, and Clarity while lowering Shadows, and Blacks is how I achieved this week’s image.  The more you play with these settings the better you will become with knowing what to raise or lower to achieve your look.  It can be intimidating the first time you use Lightroom when you see all of the adjustments at your fingertips, but trust me before you know it you’ll be flying through them and wish you had more ways to tweak your image.  Lightroom has become my greatest tool for fine tuning an image to be exactly what I want.  The only way you’ll learn is through practice, I’ve edited 1000’s of images since starting this blog and I’m still learning new tricks.  If you haven’t already I highly recommend purchasing lightroom and trying it out today!

 

Coffee

Picture info: ISO 6400, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/800 sec

Picture info: ISO 6400, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/800 sec

Week 44 (6/2/2014 -6/8/2014): Parent’s Kitchen

Picture taken on 6/8/2014 at 3:42 PM

Photograph description:

As a child I never knew why people drank coffee, as an adult I don’t know how I would get along without it.  Oddly enough I can remember the exact day that I made the transition to a coffee drinker.  My first cup of coffee was drank more out of a sense of duty than desire but the addiction took all the same.

It all started on a cold foggy spring morning in April of 2009.  I was at West Point Military Academy to compete in a paintball event.  On the first morning of my stay I was awoken by the sound of a bugle horn, followed by machine gun fire (blanks).  Although the startling sounds woke me up, they did not warm me up so I set out into the fog, cold and half asleep, for the mess hall to find some hot chocolate.  Once I arrived at the mess hall found a soldier standing by a hot water dispenser.  I kindly asked, “excuse me sir, do you have hot chocolate?”  The soldier sternly replied, “No, we have Coffee” while handing me a cup of hot coffee.  As the soldier handed me the cup I noticed he was a reasonably high ranking NCO.  Feeling embarrassed to turn down the cup of coffee from such a seasoned soldier I accepted the cup and drank it black.  Not only did that cup of coffee warm me up, it also gave me such a jolt of energy that I was hooked from that day forward.

These days my coffees aren’t shared with soldiers but instead typically with friends and family.  This past weekend while home visiting my family I grabbed a cup with my brother as we caught up.  After our coffee run we came back to my parent’s kitchen and brewed some coffee not for the purposes of drinking, but for the purposes of shooting coffee photographs.  It was a successful experiment and resulted in me finally checking “coffee picture” off my photography bucket list.

52from52-wk44(2)

Photography concepts:

This week’s picture was difficult to pull off, mainly because it required two things, a fast shutter and focus speed.  The first hurdle to overcome was how to get a fast enough shutter speed in a low natural light setting.  Even with a wide open aperture of f/1.8, my shutter was still too slow to when using a normal ISO setting.  I was left with no choice but to use an extremely high ISO setting of 6400.  Lucky I was able to clean up the “noise” created from the high ISO in lightroom by using noise reduction.  The trade off for using noise reduction is decreased detail and what ends up looking like a very smooth image.  In the case of this picture I actually liked the look that the noise reduction created so it all worked out.

My low light problem was solved with just a few clicks of a button, with my camera doing most of the work.  When it came to focus speed it was all on me to make the adjustment.  Since I was using a wide open aperture it was very important that I had control of where my focus point hit.  Small apertures result in small focus planes, meaning if my focus point hit the wrong spot my whole image would appear out of focus.  It’s easy to work around a small focus plane if you’re shooting something still, but I had to fire off pictures quick to catch milk’s mixing action.  The solution I came up with was to place my camera on a mini tripod and put my camera into manual focus.  The advantage of manual focus is the camera’s focus engine doesn’t think, it will keep firing instantly.  They key to using manual focus, at least in this situation, was to calibrate my focus via autofocus, then put my camera into manual focus mode so it wouldn’t change again when I clicked the shutter button.  The reason I had to use the tripod was so my camera didn’t move at all and lose my precise focus point.  This manual focus strategy worked well and is definitely something I’ll keep in my back pocket for pictures that require quick focus.