Reflecting on Goals

Picture info: ISO 100, 34mm, f/2.8, 1/500sec

Picture info: ISO 100, 34mm, f/2.8, 1/500sec

Week 37 (4/14/2014 -4/20/2014): 8th Street, Hoboken

Picture taken on 4/19/2014 at 7:33 PM

Picture description:

What do I want to accomplish? This is a question that often keeps me awake at night.  I’m all about setting goals and  doing whatever it takes to complete them.  Step one of having a goal oriented mindset is obvious, set some kind of goal.  If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, how can you achieve it?  This “goal oriented process” is the concept I applied after purchasing my camera, my goal was to learn photography.  After setting my goal, step two was figuring out a way to achieve my goal, which led me to create this photoblog.  With the end of this photoblog quickly approaching, I’ve been spending time thinking about what will be my next step in achieving my overall goal of learning photography.   Learning photography is hard to measure though, one can argue that you can never fully learn photography.  There will always be  some new camera, some new technique or just something new to learn.  Knowing that I’ll never be able to measure my original goal has made me think, perhaps it’s time I expand my goal and decide what I’d like to do with my newly found photography knowledge?  I’m now asking myself, what do I want to use my photography to accomplish?  Is my passion for photography just a hobby, or do I want to take it further?

This past weekend I set aside some time to think about the questions I’ve raised about my next steps.  While kicking around ideas I decided to throw on a YouTube video from one of my favorite photography resources, “CamerRec Toby.”  Toby is a photography pro out in Vermont with his own YouTube channel devoted to reviews and tips about photography gear and techniques .  I’ve cited Toby’s videos before but this week one of his videos really caught my attention.  In the video (link below) Toby and his co-host Christina discussed an article “7 Reasons why most Photographers and Videographers don’t Reach their Goals” (link below).  The article was so relevant to what I was currently thinking about it almost seemed like it was targeted directly at me.  In the article the author talks about photographers setting too general of goals  (e.g. Learning photography), and how it’s important to have measurable goals. The article helped put things in perspective and made me realize it’s time for me to set some measurable goals.  The article and Toby’s video also motivated me to push forward on one of the smaller goals that I’ve been toying with.  As of this past weekend, I’ve decided that I’m going to participate in the next Hoboken Art & Music festival in September.  My main goal isn’t to make money (though that’s always a bonus), my main goal is to meet lots of people and seeing who and what might help me decide where to take my photography next.

With a new goal (participate in the Art & Music Festival) set, step two was to figure out a way to accomplish it.  There are many things that will go into preparing for the festival, but one of the most basic things is having plenty of pictures.  As a result, this weekend I also decided to start a new project called “Hoboken Streets.”  Since the festival is held in Hoboken, it seems logical to think many of the attendees will be Hoboken residents.  Having a geographically targeted audience means I should have geographically targeted pictures, hence my “Hoboken Street” idea.

If you’re still with me, you’re probably asking, “how in the world does all this related to this week’s picture?”  Well, even before officially deciding on the idea of doing a “Hoboken Streets” project, I wanted to explore more of Hoboken.  Over the past few weeks I’ve changed up my nightly running route and began zig zagging around town looking for pictures.  This past week one of my runs led me up 8th street towards Stevens around sunset, where I found this location.  It might come as a surprise but I don’t run with my camera, so a few days later I circled back with my Nikon and got the shot.

Photography concepts:

I wrote a little too much in the previous section, and the article I referenced could somewhat fall into this section so this week I’ll keep this section short.  Two keys to this picture were composition and editing.  In terms of composition, I wanted to have an equal balance between the sky/silhouette and the solar panels which were reflecting the sky/silhouettes.  Instead of following the usual rule of thirds guidelines I split my image in two halves horizontally (top/bottom).  The bottom half was focused on the reflection which was meant to lead your eyes down the path to the top half, which was meant to feature the sky and silhouettes.

Editing was key for this image because I wanted to emphasize the contrast between the dark silhouettes and light from the sunset.  In order to do create a nice contrast, I dropped the overall vibrancy of the image while boosting the saturation of specific colors.  After my color adjustments, I was left with the contrasting image that I was looking for.  Of course there were some other adjustments (e.g spot adjustments, highlights, clarity, ect.) but nothing more than I’ve talked about in previous weeks.  If you haven’t already, circle back and read some of my earlier weeks posts to get some more in depth tips on editing and composition.

Article:

http://theslantedlens.com/2014/7-reasons-photographers-videographers-dont-reach-goals/

CameraRec Toby Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhGUyD2g7Eo

 

White Site

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/2.2, 1/5 sec, -.6 ND filter

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/2.2, 1/5 sec, -.6 ND filter

Week 32 (3/10/2014 -3/16/2014): World Trade Center PATH station

Picture taken on 3/13/2014 at 12:33 PM

Picture Description:

Architecture has been an interest of mine for almost as far back as I can remember.  As a kid I dreamt of becoming an architect, but life had other plans.  Why and how I didn’t fulfill my childhood dream is a story for another time.  I don’t regret not becoming an architect, I’m very happy with where I’m at professionally, but there are days I find myself daydreaming about a good blueprint or 3D model.  Since I don’t practice architecture professionally I can only seek out nice locations to appreciate the work of others.

This past Thursday was one of those days where I decided to set out to see some local modern architecture.  My destination was the new World Trade Center (WTC) PATH station. I’ve been admiring the WTC PATH station via online posts (mainly instagram) for a while, so it was nice to finally see it in person.  Of course beyond just admiring the architecture, I wanted to photograph the location.  As I said, I’ve seen lots of posts online of the station and sadly all of them seemed almost identical.  Prior to arriving I planned out some shots in my head that might provide a more unique view.

Usual eye level shot (taken at 18mm)

Usual eye level shot (taken at 18mm)

As the train pulled into the station I was nearly blinded by all the bright white marble that made up the platform.  Getting off the train felt like walking into a dream or train station from the future.  I spent the next 20-30 minutes touring the area and eventually met up with my younger brother.  After linking up, my brother and I went to the main hallway that everyone has been photographing.  Most of the pictures that I’ve seen were taken at eye level, so naturally one way to get a more unique view was to shoot from low to the ground.  My plan was to set my camera up few inches off the ground using my mini tripod.  One advantage about using my mini tripod in a public location is most people don’t realize I’m taking a picture.  From a distance it could almost look like I’m tying my shoe.  While at WTC this ‘stealthy’ feature proved to be a big advantage because once one of the staff members realized I wasn’t playing with my shoe strings he told me “no tripods are allowed.”  The staff member then said my alternative was to put my camera on the ground.  This really made no sense considering shooting with my camera on the ground or with the little tripod takes up the same amount of space.  Although I didn’t agree with the rule, I had already gotten my shot so I saw no reason in arguing and took that as my cue to leave.

Photography Concepts:

There were two main lessons that I took away from shooting this week’s picture.  The first lesson was that with so much white my camera tried to underexpose the image.  In order to get the image the way I wanted, I had to override my camera’s judgement and overexpose the image via exposure compensation.  I could have shot in manual which would have given me more control over exposure, but I was trying to shoot quick before I got told to move (which did eventually happen).  Lately I’ve been finding that I am hardly ever using the even exposure my camera calculates.  Thus far I’ve mainly used exposure compensation (+/- 3 stops) to adjust my image, but I think it’s time for me to just start shooting in manual.  It’s a big step shooting all manual but when it comes to shooting an image such as this week’s, it’s the better way to go.

The second lesson learned was the ideal shutter speed to shoot to give a slight blur to people walking.  My original idea was to shoot with a long shutter (10+ seconds) to get ghost like blurs of people walking.  Unfortunately since there weren’t many people in the hall, when I shot a 15 second exposure there was hardly a hint of people, except one guy that was standing still.  From that point I began winding my camera’s dial to increase my shutter speed, eventually settling at 1/5 of a second.  I didn’t know at the time, but I had luckily stumbled upon the ideal shutter speed for blurring people walking.  Below is a link to a guide I found after Thursday which provides the ideal shutter speeds for capturing certain effects.  

15 second exposure

15 second exposure

The last thing I want to mention is something I learned from watching Lightroom Tutorial video.  There is a feature in lightroom that allows you to correct perspective.  Let me tell you, this is absolutely awesome.  For me it’s always difficult to get my camera’s lens oriented correctly to capture perfectly straight vertical or horizontal lines.  Lightroom’s perspective correction is something I always knew I needed but never knew existed.  Watch the video (link below) and you will understand the features capabilities better.

In the coming weeks when I’m not forced to shoot under a time restraint I’m going to try to shoot in manual mode.  My guess is this will open a whole new world of opportunities and image quality for me.  Only time will tell…

Links:

Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet

http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/06/26/best-shutter-speeds-for-every-situation/

Lightroom Perspective Correction:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bU_r5hS4fpE&list=PLmXfFxjdp3CH8D2p_Rm5RKtOUmGGzpnFj

How I see it

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 1/8sec

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 1/8sec

Week 25 (1/20/14 – 1/26/2014):  Central Park, New York City

Picture taken on 1/26/2014 at 1:29 PM

Picture description:

It’s hard to believe how quickly the bitter winter cold has snuck up on us here in the Northeast.  The cold became more of a chilling reality during this week’s return visit to Central Park.  If you recall, roughly one month ago I took a trip to CP while the weather was uncharacteristically warm for the beginning of winter, hence the title of that week’s post “Spring into Winter.”  Fast forward one month from my last visit and CP is now painted white with snow.  Being from the Northeast I’m no stranger to the cold so the temperature was not enough to deter me from enjoying the snow covered park.  

This time around I had a couple of friends join me during my visit to the park.  If I had to choose the one thing that I enjoy the most about taking pictures with other people, it’s seeing how each person approaches a shot or what they choose to photograph.  Oddly enough during this trip we all seemed to unknowingly steal each others photo ideas.  The interesting wrinkle was that although we selected similar subjects we all seemed to shoot the pictures differently.  This aspect of creative interpretation has been one of my favorite parts about photography.  I enjoy having the opportunity to share with people how I see the world.  I’m not really the most open person, but in a way photography has given me a means to let people inside my head and thus helped me share a piece of me.  What’s been even more gratifying has been all of the great conversations that have sprouted up from some of my photographs.   When I decided to take on photography as a hobby I never would have guessed it would yield so much engagement.  As I approach the halfway point of this 52 week journey I’m looking forward to seeing where the next 6 months will take me and who it will lead me to meet.

Photography concepts:

As mentioned in this week’s picture description, to me one of the most enjoyable aspects of photography is sharing the way I see things.  The way I translate my “mental image” to reality is done through about fifty percent “in camera” work and fifty percent “post” editing.  Everyone has a favorite style in terms composition and editing techniques.  If I had to summarize my “in camera” or composition style I’d say that I usually play to symmetry, leading lines, and using reflections to make pictures feel larger.  As for my editing style, I tend to use contrast to emphasize the points of the pictures that I want people to focus on and I like to enhance light sources to reflect how I see them.  This week’s picture is a prime example of all my preferred styles.  

I think that knowing your style is important because it enables you to take pictures quicker and more efficiently.  In the beginning of this blog when I ventured out to get a featured picture I would take close to 1000 pictures.  Yes 1000 pictures!  Now that I’ve gotten a feel for my style I can set up quicker and only fire off about 250 pictures per trip.  The way I trimmed the number of pictures down is by knowing that the most important thing “in camera” is to maintain good exposure.  Keeping your histogram in range gives you more flexibility during editing and enables you to get the picture to be your style in post.  Editing is where you can really tap into your creative side and put a piece of yourself into a picture.  Don’t be afraid to get creative with your editing to create an image that is unique and shows people how you see the world.

‘Tis the Season

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/100 sec

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/100 sec

Week 18 (12/2/2013 – 12/8/2013): Bryant Park, New York City
Picture taken on 12/7/2013 at 4:46 PM

Picture description:

It’s hard to top New York City during the Holiday season.  Everywhere you turn there are festive window displays, giant Christmas trees and glowing lights filling the night sky.  If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning you might remember my week 2 post, “A Day of Reflection” where I visited Bryant Park.   As I said in week 2, Bryant Park is one of my favorite locations in New York City.  One of the best things about Bryant Park is how it transforms throughout the year with each season.  During the winter months the center grass area turns into an ice skating rink with a beautiful panoramic view of midtown New York.  Surrounding the rink is a network of stores in in the form of tiny huts.  As you can imagine this winter wonderland attracts visitors from all over.  In case you didn’t guess by now Bryant Park is obviously where I got this week’s photo, but before I talk about my time in the park let me tell you how I ended up there.

In the beginning of the week I wasn’t sure what to photograph so I threw out a status on Facebook to get some ideas.  One of the suggestions I got was to capture the “hustle and bustle” of holiday shoppers, thanks Laura!  After getting this suggestion Bryant Park and its “Winter Village” instantly came to mind.  Since I pass the park during my commute to work I stopped in on the way home to scout for a good picture.  After briefly walking around I found what I thought would be a great angle for a long exposure.  The picture I had in mind would feature the Christmas tree centered between the store huts and shoppers in the foreground.  The reason I had a long exposure in mind was so I could get all of the shoppers in the foreground to blur as they moved around.  With my picture planned there were only two more questions I needed answered, could I use a tripod in the park, and could I fit everything in the frame of my 35mm lens?  I got one of my questions answered the next day after emailing the company that manages Bryant Park.  The tripod was permitted; I just couldn’t use it on the ice, too bad right?  The last question wouldn’t be answered until I got on location with my camera.

This brings me to the day of the picture.  Let me give you some advice, if you’re ever in New York City during December; don’t walk up 42nd street unless you want the full tourist experience.  I usually avoid 42nd street but for some reason I decided to take it after getting out of port authority, bad move!  I literally felt like I was an extra in the Walking Dead.  The streets were so packed that you couldn’t move any faster than at a zombie pace.  I fought through the crowd thinking it’s okay I’ll have space once I get to the park, wrong.   When I finally got to the park I was greeted with an even larger crowd than was on 42nd street.  I knew this might be a problem for my picture but I remained optimistic until I got to my spot.  Once I fought my way to my planned location it was time to answer my last question, will everything fit in frame…and the answer was no.  As you can imagine this was very disappointing, but I couldn’t give up so I starting thinking how I could still get this picture but from another angle?   I started walking around, and then while I was standing in front of the tree it hit me.  Just like in my last visit to Bryant Park, why not use a reflection to capture my subject?  Look closely at the Christmas ball and you’ll see the reverse angle of my original picture.   Now it’s your turn, try to capture a creative reflection shot!  When you do use the hashtag #52from52_wk18 and post it on Instagram.

Photography Concepts:

There wasn’t really anything tricky about capturing this picture from a photography technique standpoint.  This week’s picture was made mostly via creativity which is less of a concept and more of an attribute that each individual photographer possesses.  This is why I threw out the challenge for people to take their own reflection shots, I’d like to see them and see how your creativity is displayed.  All that being said even though this week’s picture wasn’t too technical I can still briefly talk about the picture I was originally going to take and some of the lessons I learned.

Original Picture Idea

Above is picture from the position I originally planned to take a this week’s photograph from.  As you can see it took a portrait composition to capture the tree and the crowd in one frame.  I could have taken two pictures and stitched them together via photoshop (definitely a future blog subject) but I didn’t know if that would work well with a long exposure.  I also could have tried to get my long exposure from this portrait composition but I wasn’t happy with the way the stores were getting cut off.  There was also one more issue with my long exposure idea that I didn’t learn until after the fact.  Dealing with a crowd of this density doesn’t really provide the look I was going for when using a long exposure.  Of the pictures I did take via long exposure, I learned that at 30 seconds the crowd disappeared and just blotched out the area they were standing in.  Even when I took shorter exposures (4-10 seconds) the crowd’s density still didn’t allow you to clearly see these were people I was photographing.  Below is an example of a 5 second exposure .  This concept of using long exposures to capture the movement of people is something I’m going to experiment with more in the future so stay tuned.

Picture specs: ISO 100, 35mm, f/4.5, 5 secs

Picture specs: ISO 100, 35mm, f/4.5, 5 secs

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/

A Day of Reflection

Picture Specs: ISO 500, 35mm, f/9.0, 1/200 sec

Picture Specs: ISO 500, 35mm, f/9.0, 1/200 sec

Week 2 (8/11/2013 – 8/17/2013): Corner of 6th/42nd Bryant Park, New York City
Picture taken: 8/14/2013 at 5:50PM

Picture Description:

If you were to ask me what are my favorite locations in New York City, Bryant Park would absolutely be in my top five.  Although I pass the park almost every day (during my commute to work) I don’t always have the time to stop and enjoy everything it has to offer.  If you’ve spent any amount of time in the park you know it’s a very busy place filled with a diverse group of people.  It’s safe to say there is an activity for almost anyone, year round. One part of the park that I never explored was the New York Public Library.  Yes, for those of you that know me I went into the library, voluntarily!  No I did not borrow any books BUT I did have fun checking out the amazing architecture throughout the building.  At the start of my visit, my plan was to get a picture of the “Rose Main Reading Room” however that didn’t come out as I hoped.  A picture with the 35mm didn’t do the room justice (trust me, Google it) you really need a wide-angle lens, so I decided not to use that picture for this post.

Taken via NYPL’s Photobooth

After exploring the library, I took my adventure outside.  In the heart of the park there were hundreds of people out enjoying the beautiful 70 degree sunny weather.  Both of the park’s restaurants were buzzing and the lawn was littered with people hanging out next to the towering movie screen sitting on the west side of the lawn.  In case you don’t know, HBO has a film festival that runs every Monday during the summer.  The festival makes for a great dinner and a movie idea, but those kind of tips would need a whole other blog so I’ll leave it at that.

After doing a quick walk-through of the park one thing that immediately caught my eye was how most of the buildings surrounding the park were picking up great reflections of one another.  A reflection shot usually makes for an interesting and unique photo so I decided this would be the perfect idea for this weeks post.

Photography Concepts:

There weren’t a lot of technical intricacies to this week’s photo other than timing.  Prior to going to Bryant Park I knew when the sun would be at the right angle (no pun intended) for some nice shots and maybe even a good reflection picture.  I use an APP on my iPhone called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” which tells me the angle of the sun based on time/day.  If you’re looking to use the sun as a part of your picture or get a reflection shot I highly recommend using this application when planning your shot.

One composition concept that I attempted to use at least subtly is “leading lines”.  When you look at the picture the lines sort of lead you to the corner of the building where you notice you’re not looking at a blurry picture, you’re actually looking at a reflection.  At least that’s the way I saw it.

Last, when shooting during the day even though there is plenty of natural light, at some points I had to slow down my shutter speed or boost my ISO.  I’ll talk about this more when I take a night picture but take note that for a picture like this when you want everything in focus you need to use a smaller aperture.  I used f/9 which is (based on everything I read) a good aperture for landscapes.  Since a smaller aperture means less light, you have to compensate with a higher ISO or slower shutter speed.

Challenges:

I’m only in week two and I can already see how challenging the 52 from 52 concept is going to be.  Luckily I like a challenge, anything worthwhile takes time and effort.  I put a decent amount of thought into what I wanted to photograph this week.  I naturally have lots of ideas but some of them are about timing (weather, time of day, ect.) while others are location based and require traveling.  With a busy schedule, one of my biggest difficulties will be setting aside the time to go out and take pictures each week…but that’s the purpose of this, to force me to get out there and learn!