A growing family

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/3.2, 1/250 second

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/3.2, 1/250 second

Week 35 (3/31/2014 -4/6/2014): Treasure Island Beach, FL

Picture taken on 4/6/2014 at 8:03 PM

Picture description

This past weekend brought me to Florida to celebrate my cousin Danielle’s wedding.  It was a beautiful venue filled with my beautiful family.  Originally I planned to use a picture from the wedding for this post, but due to mobile limitations I decided to hold off on posting any wedding pictures until I returned and had time to properly sort through them all.  My back-up plan was to hit the beach at sunset sometime during my trip, preferably in the area of a pier.  My goal was to shoot either a long exposure and or some kind of sunset picture.  Since getting my DSLR I’ve taken two other trips to Florida, but neither visit brought me to the beach during sunset with my Nikon.  This time around I was determined to get to the beach for magic hour.

When I pitched the beach sunset idea to my family, they were all on board and even helped research locations.  After picking a location, we quickly ate dinner and set out for  “The Long Pier” at Redington Beach.  Redington Beach was a little far which had us worried about arriving late and missing the sunset.  As we drove up the coast we decided to call an audible and stop at the location of our last family reunion, Treasure Island Beach.

After arriving my cousin Courtney and I moved ahead of everyone else and headed towards the beach.  We moved as quickly as possible, taking into account my cousin is pregnant, but that didn’t seem to slow her down at all.  Once we reached the shoreline, Courtney and I both started assessing the sunset for the best shot.  Like me, Courtney is a photography enthusiast, and recently purchased a DSLR of her own.  We both shuffled around taking pictures until the rest of the family arrived.  When Courtney’s husband Ray arrived and stood next to her my eyes were immediately drawn to how their silhouettes contrasted against the sunsetting sky.  Their silhouettes were particularly meaningful because of Courtney’s little baby bump.  I took a couple steps back, told them to pose and three shots later had my picture.  Although I got plenty of great pictures that night, none seemed as meaningful as the one of Courtney and Ray.  To me this picture perfectly captured the essence of my trip, Florida, beaches, love and our growing family, both through marriage and pregnancy.

Photography concepts:

While in Florida I made it a point to shoot almost completely in manual.  The more I shoot in manual, the more I’m seeing how much it trumps my old technique of exposure compensation.  Yes I can fix my exposure in post (editing), but getting it right in camera feels more authentic and is definitely more gratifying.  Had I not shot this week’s picture in manual, my best option would have been to spot meter off the sunset background.  Spot metering should have done the trick for underexposing and therefore silhouetting my cousins, but I didn’t have time to test in order to prove my theory.

What made this picture was a combination of decisions involving, aperture, focus points, and composition.  First, I decided to shoot with a somewhat wide aperture (f/3.2).  The reason behind using a wide aperture was to isolate my subjects from the background.  A bonus was that I didn’t have to slow my shutter down too much, resulting in crisp edges in details such as strands of hair that were blowing in the wind.  Second, in order for me to get my cousins in focus and separate them from the background as I planned, I had to set my focus point on them.  Focusing on dark figures is difficult because your camera looks for contrasting colors to focus on.  Therefore I didn’t line my focus point up with either of their center masses, instead I hit the edges around their mouths.  The tricky part about using edges is knowing if you actually hit them or the background, it’s a very fine line.  I recommend zooming into your image after shooting and looking for some kind of detail such as hair to determine if you were successful.  The third and last point I want to mention is my composition.  I used the rule of thirds to determine both where I lined up my cousins, and the horizon.  I split my cousins between the left and middle thirds of the picture putting their kissing heads on the border line.  The reason I put them off center was because the background wasn’t symmetrical.  Had the the background been symmetrical, I think it would have looked better if they were symmetrically lined up too.  As for the horizon, the sky was more interesting than the water, so I gave the sky two thirds of the background space.

All of the decisions I just outlined are becoming very quick, almost instinctive decisions for me now.  I’m learning that the more you shoot, the more you fall back on the habits you developed in the early stages of learning your DSLR.  If you’re new to shooting with a DSLR, or you’re just applying these concepts to taking pictures with a point and shoot or camera phone, I encourage you to spend time thinking about what makes a good picture.  Before you shoot think about what you want to emphasize in the picture, then using the triangle of photography decide what settings are best.  Then determine your composition and start shooting.  The more time you spend on these decisions now, the less you’ll have to spend as you get more experience.  If you’re not new to taking pictures but never applied these concepts just slow yourself down and think.  The thing I always remind myself to do is take a picture less to “document” what’s going on and more to pass along the way I see things.  How do you see something?  Putting your creative spin on things is what makes it an art, that’s photography and that’s what people like to see.

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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