Shoot for the Moon

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/16, 30sec

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/16, 30sec

Week 49 (7/7/2014 -7/13/2014): Pier A, Hoboken NJ

Picture taken on 7/13/2014 9:42PM

Picture description:

No matter how many times it happens, a full moon always seems to invoke a certain amount of awe after it emerges from the horizon.  This past Saturday I was out camping for paintball in Pennsylvania when I first spotted the orange full moon.  Although I was in a magnificent location to capture the moon in all it’s glory, I did not have my Nikon with me.  It was hard not being able to photograph the rare event but in a way I was glad.  Not having my camera forced me to sit back and just appreciate the moon in the raw, not through a lens, not on the back of a LCD screen, but through my own two eyes.  As I gazed upon what seemed like a giant orange in the sky, I couldn’t help but think how I would compose a  picture feature the moon once back home.  I spent the rest of the evening kicking back with friends reminiscing about our glory days in college, knowing that tomorrow I’d have my shot at the moon.

After getting home from my trip to PA, I quickly gathered my gear and set out for the waterfront to get in position to shoot for the moon.  It was cloudy on Sunday but I remained optimistic that the moon would find a way to peek through the clouds.  After arriving at Pier A, I scouted a few spots for my picture then patiently waited for the moon to rise from the Western horizon.  The predicted moonrise time came and went, and there was still no sign of the moon.  After about 15 minutes doubt started to creep into my mind and I began to think that perhaps the clouds were just too thick to see the moon.  Once 20 minutes hit I started to head back uptown feeling very defeated.  As I walked past Pier C I took a quick glance at the horizon and much to my surprise I saw an orange glow starting to burst through the clouds.  Could it be?!  Yes it was, it was the orange mood that I was eagerly waiting for.  I quickly ran back to my spot at Pier A, composed my picture and the rest is history.

Photography Concepts

When it comes to composing a picture featuring a full moon, or even the sun, one of the keys is knowing where your subject (the moon/sun) will be and when.  Although the moon popped out later than I originally expected, I still had a good idea about when it would rise and where I should look for it.  I’m sure there are plenty of options out there for figuring out the moon’s location but my information source is typically an iPhone application called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris.”  I’ve mentioned this application in the past, but it’s so valuable that it’s worth a second shout out.  Below is an example of how I planned the composition of my picture based on where the moon would be.

iPhone App Screen Shot

iPhone App Screen Shot

The reason I chose this location was because the trees lining Pier A created  a natural leading lines composition, drawing your eyes down the pier towards the moon.  I knew my focal length would leave the moon looking tiny, so I had to give the moon a boost a good composition to make it stand out.   Other than the trees, I also used the light reflections in the water to naturally point towards the moon.  In order for me to get the water looking as smooth as it did, I had to shoot a long exposure.  The trade off of shooting a long exposure was the moon wasn’t as in focus as I would have liked.  In hindsight I wish that I shot a few pictures using a quicker shutter to capture more detail in the moon.  The next full moon like this is on August 10th which leaves me plenty of time to plan out my next shot.  Mark it on your calendar, pick a location and shoot for the moon!

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Redux

 

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/9, 1/40 sec

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/9, 1/40 sec

Week 48 (6/30/2014 -7/6/2014): Shipyard Park, Hoboken NJ

Picture taken on 7/6/2014 at 6:29 PM

Photograph description:

With the summer now in full swing, it’s become difficult to find the time to shoot new locations.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent plenty of time outside of Hoboken, but I’m not always in a position to take my camera.  The past few weekends have brought me to places like Atlantic City, to the beach aka “DTS” for you locals, Pennsylvania, and lots of places in between.  All of these places offered plenty of great photographic opportunities, but bringing my camera would have added a layer of complexity I wasn’t comfortable with.  One of the few negatives of having a nice camera, is that it’s a nice camera, and you don’t want to risk messing it up or getting it stolen.  Luckily not every trip I have planned for this summer falls into ‘danger’ category,  I have a few trips in August that I’ll be able to bring my Nikon on.  This 52 week photoblog might be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop posting once I’ve completed the year commitment.  I’m still kicking around ideas for my next theme but you can bank on the fact that I’ll still be posting and sharing my photography long after this photoblog theme wraps up.

Since I haven’t had time to  get out and explore new places with my Nikon, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the locations of my earlier posts.  If you’ve been with me since the beginning you might remember my week three post “unplanned destiny” where I photographed the same fountain as this week’s picture.  If you missed it here is your chance to go check it out!

Photography concepts:

In my week three post I talked about the settings I used in order to achieve my camera’s fastest shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second.  Previously I chose a fast shutter speed so that I could freeze the water droplets that were spraying from the fountain.  This time around I decided to go with the opposite strategy and slow my shutter down so I would catch more of the water’s motion.

Just like in my week three post I had a regret after shooting my picture.  This time around rather than wishing I used flash to freeze the water’s motion, I regretted not using my ND filter to help slow my camera’s shutter down and pick up even more of the water’s motion.  You might have noticed the aperture I chose (f/9) and said well if you wanted a slower shutter you could have shrunk your aperture down beyond f/9.  If that was your thought, you were right, however the reason I stuck with f/9 was so the sun’s flare would stay relatively blown out and soft.  If you remember back in my week 38 post “beaming” I talked about how the aperture you choose when shooting into the sun has a big effect on the way the sun’s flares look.  Check out “beaming” if you want to get a better understanding about why I didn’t choose a smaller aperture.

Besides my shutter speed, the other big change I made from my week three post was the composition of my picture.  This week I took about 20 steps back from my original spot, and placed my camera on the ground while shooting.  In part, I used the ground to help stabilize my camera since I was shooting with a slow shutter.  I also wanted to make sure the clearing between the trees which the sun was shining through was lined up directly behind the fountain to backlight everything.  I may have looked like a fool getting so low, but I was very happy with the end result.

 

Time Flies

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/4000 sec

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/4000 sec

Week 30 (2/24/2014 -3/2/2014): Hoboken Waterfront

Picture taken on 3/2/2014 at 12:14 PM

Photograph description

Wow week 30 and I can’t believe how fast time has flown since I started this project.  Doing this photoblog is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I have learned so much, made some new friends and have become even more hooked on photography.  That being said, I’m excited to see what the next 22 weeks will bring!

I was a little off my game this week when it came to taking pictures.  Usually I get out about 1-2 times per week, this way once Sunday hits I have some options for my post.  I’d like to say my lack of photo time was because it was hard to find time, but it was mainly hard to find the motivation to get out and fight the cold.  Waking up Sunday I felt the pressure to find a good picture to feature and lucky for me it wasn’t too cold.  As I have so often this winter, I went out along the Hoboken waterfront to see what I could find.

To get in the mood I threw on some headphones and lost myself in the hypnotic beats of Armin Vann Burren on SiriusXM’s electronic area.  Oddly enough electronic music has the ability to both get me amped and sooth me, sometimes simultaneously.  This time around Armin’s mix had more of a relaxing effect as I strolled around in the cloudy day.  After looping around the newly opened walkway that encircles the 4th street field, I came upon a surprisingly brave seagull.  No matter how quickly I moved towards him the seagull would only fly out a few feet then perch right back on the railing.  This seagull’s challenging attitude provided me with a unique opportunity to adjust my camera settings to find the ideal exposure and composition.

Photography concepts:

Shooting fast, shooting often and anticipating movement are the keys to photographing birds and most animals.  Shooting fast and often seems pretty obvious but the trick is knowing how to set up your camera to do so.  Ideally you want to use your camera’s fastest shutter speed.  The easiest way to get a fast shutter speed is to shoot with a large aperture.  The aperture will vary based on available light, but in most cases your safest bet is to shoot wide open at your lenses largest aperture.  My lenses widest aperture is f/1.8.  Shooting at my lenses maximum aperture allowed me to achieve a super fast shutter of 1/4000 of a second.  You may have noticed that even with shooting as fast as I did, the seagulls wings are still a just a little blurry.  It’s possible the blur is due to a little lag in focus but I’m pretty happy with my camera’s ability to focus quickly so it’s more likely due to a small plane of focus.

Now how to shoot often? My camera and most other DSLR’s have different shooting modes which allow for faster frames per second.  The fastest my camera will shoot is 5 frames per second.  This allowed me to hold down my shutter release button and let my camera fire off lots of consecutive bursts to capture all the action.

Now even with a fast shutter and my camera firing off almost continuous bursts, all would have been lost had I not positioned myself correctly.  Birds and other animals usually give away their next move by the way they orient their body or with their body language.  In the case of this seagull when he was about to fly he usually dipped his head and obviously started ruffling his wings.  I took his flight cues and  body orientation as my cue for where to lead my camera and when to start shooting.

One  last point worth noting, although I shot at f/1.8 I could have shot with a smaller aperture by increasing my ISO.  The reason that I shot at f/1.8 was to get the background totally blurred.  If you don’t want the background blurred raise your ISO and shoot with a smaller aperture.  Shooting with a smaller aperture will also give you a bigger margin of error in terms your plane of focus.  Don’t take my word for it, play around with your settings to find the look that you like.  Just remember you might only get one shot at the picture so practice and know what your settings are before you approach your subject.

“Snowboken”

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

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/469774-REG/OP_TECH_USA_9001132_18_Rainsleeve_Set_of.html

Rain sleeve option 2

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/891383-REG/ruggard_rc_p18_18_plastic_rain_cover.html

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

Take a Guess

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/20, 3 seconds, -2.1 ND, -1 exposure stop

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/20, 3 seconds, -2.1 ND, -1 exposure stop

Week 24 (1/13/14 – 1/19/2014):  Hoboken, Maxwell Place Park

Picture taken on 1/18/2014 at 2:41 PM

Picture description:

If you’ve read my last couple of posts you may have noticed that I’ve been alluding to different goals and projects for 2014.  One of my 2014 goals is to create a collection of “Hoboken pictures” with the ultimate goal of selling them at the festivals held in town throughout the year.  I’ve been to the last couple of art and music festivals, and one thing I’ve look for each time was good (fair priced) Hoboken art and pictures.  Unfortunately I’m yet to find a booth that has both good and reasonably priced Hoboken pictures.  Knowing that current Hoboken residents, like myself, are looking for local pictures is one of the reasons I decided to take on this project.  I think this project will be a good way to take the next step in my photography adventure.  Another reason why I decided to take on this challenge is due to all of the positive feedback and encouragement that I’ve been getting from friends and family.  You all have motivated me to keep pushing myself forward by continuing to develop my photography skills and for that I thank you!

Although I won’t feature a Hoboken picture each week I’m planning on taking a lot more pictures in Hoboken.  As I talked about last week, finding new perspectives will be one of my focal points for taking pictures in 2014.  This idea particularly applies to this Hoboken picture project since no one will want to buy pictures they could have taken themselves.  The key to being successful in this venture will be getting unique pictures that people will want to feature in their homes.

This week’s photograph is an example of finding a unique picture in Hoboken.  I’d bet that few Hoboken residents have noticed there is a beachfront in town.  During the summer the city hosts kayak and canoe days where they launch the boats from this beachhead.  It’s a wonderful location and absolutely one of the secret amenities of living in Hoboken.

20 Second exposure

20 Second exposure

Photography concepts:

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last experimented with ND filters.  Week 17’s post “One Shot” was the first and last time that ND filters played a role in my featured picture.  Unlike in week 17, this week’s picture was shot in broad daylight.  Getting a long exposure during the day would never have been possible without using ND filters.  In this picture I stacked two filters, 0.9 and 1.2, to gain the -2.1 percent neutral density level.  In case you missed my week 17 post, ND filters reduce the amount of light that hits your camera’s sensor and thus enables slower shutter speeds.

In addition to using ND filters, shooting this picture at an extremely small aperture of f/20 is also how a 3 second exposure was possible.  Taking a long exposure of the ocean or some other body of water that has lots of movement (waves) has been on my bucket list for a while.  Since it’s the winter I’m yet to make it to the actual ocean, so until then this will have to do.  The crashing of the waves is what created the motion blur effect in the water as it crashed and receding from the shoreline.  I love that ghosting look and plan on getting a lot more pictures like this over the summer.

Tripod used to take photo

Mini-Tripod used to take photo (link below)

Over the past few weeks I’ve been using Instagram and Facebook to gauge the different editing techniques that people like.  Since I’m planning on selling my pictures in the near future it’s important I know what the average person likes.  I personally tend to like more dull, low contrast pictures, while I’ve found that more of the people I come into contact with like high contrast, vivid photographs.  In an effort to hit the look that people have been liking more, I’ve been editing my photos to have more pop.  It’s really hard to describe my editing process verbally, so in the coming weeks look for me to try my hand at creating Lightroom editing videos on YouTube.  Expect a follow up edit to this post with a video on how I edited this picture.

Tripod: http://bhpho.to/1jkddfR

New Perspective

Picture Info: ISO 500, 35mm, f/11, 1/320 seco

Picture Info: ISO 500, 35mm, f/11, 1/320 seco

Week 23 (1/6/2014 – 1/12/2014): Pier C, Hoboken NJ

Picture taken on 1/12/2014 at 3:58 PM

Picture description

A new year and a new perspective.  One of the keys to making progress is the idea that only by searching for new ideas and perspectives will you truly grow.  Therefore finding new perspectives in life and photography is my goal for 2014.  This week I decided a good way to challenge myself would be to set out in Hoboken to find a new perspective on some of the locations I’ve so often photographed over the past year.

Starting out on 4th street I begin working my way towards Pier A park.  When I arrived at the park I noticed that there were quite a few puddles still around even though it was a bright blue sunny day.  I’m a big fan of puddle pictures, so I set my sights on one rather large puddle at the corner of Pier A.  As I crouched down to get a good angle an old man tapped me on the shoulder and asked what I was photographing.  I proudly hit my camera’s review button and showed him my most recent shot.  He responded with a “Wow” and told me that reminded him of something he did when he was young.  Intrigued, I asked him what it was that he did with puddles when he was young?  He proceeded to stand over the puddle and intensely look down into the shallow pool of water.  I initially thought he was checking himself out but then he explained what he was doing.  He was standing at such an angle that he couldn’t see himself, just the reflection of the sky in the puddle.  He said I’d stand here and look, look into the puddle, and if you do it long enough you can lose yourself in it’s reflection.  Little did this man know he had just in part described my goal for the day.  You see as this man stared into the puddle he wasn’t simply looking at the ground, no he was gazing into the deep blue sky but only from a new perspective.  As the old man stood there for a few more seconds in silence I could see he was adrift in the skies reflection and found happiness from this new perspective.  That’s what I want in 2014, I want to find happiness through the eyes of a new perspective.

The "Old Man"

The “Old Man”

After my nice interaction with the old man I continued on my quest for this week’s picture.  I took pictures looking straight up trees, crouches at ground level, and I even fired off some no look shots while chasing some birds.  Although I might have looked like a real oddball to anyone that may have been observing, after they saw my pictures they would understand.  Eventually I worked my way back towards 4th street and the took one final detour at Pier C, or as I like to call it, Hoboken island.  I’ve attempted to get a picture from the winding entrance of Pier C many times.  This time I decided to drop to one knee and see what perspective that brought.  What I saw was how the railing of the path was leading directly towards the city skyline. I snapped of a couple pictures until homing in my settings then leaned directly against the railing for what would be my final picture.

Tree Perspective

Tree Perspective

Photography concepts:

The focus of this week’s picture was finding a new perspective which essentially meant I needed to find a unique composition.  In this week’s picture the look that I was going for was one of a focus to blur effect on the railing that led to the city skyline.  To get this look I had to set my aperture not too small (f/22) nor too large (f/1.8).  A logical approach was to split the two numbers and that’s exactly what I did.  I shot my picture with an aperture of f/11 which usually puts mostly everything in focus but because I was so close (actually touching) the railing it gave a good blur to the city skyline.   Below is an example of how the closeness of the railing and use of focus points got me the “blur” look I was going for.  This picture is identical to my featured picture from a setting (ISO/aperture/shutter speed) standpoint but as you can see the skyline is a lot more in focus.  This is the picture that I think most people would take at this low angle.  I took this picture first, then to get a “new perspective” leaned into the pole to get a new spin on the view.

Picture Info: ISO 500, 35mm, f/11, 1/320 seco

Picture Info: ISO 500, 35mm, f/11, 1/320 seco

As I edited the picture in Lightroom, I wanted to emphasize the metallic look of the railing along with the lights that were built into it.  To do this I worked with the color sliders but unlike last week, I was actually adjusting the colors not black and white shading.  As a result of tweaking the green in the railing you’ll notice all the green in my picture really pops.  I wanted the green to stand out so it would first draw your eye to the railing then the green of the railing transitions into the green of the city skyline.

Overall lot of my “new perspective” shots involved getting lower to the ground or closer to my subjects than usual.  I encourage you to do the same with some of your pictures this week.  After you take a picture pause and ask yourself, without changing your subject how can you adjust your composition to get a new look?