Stone Cold

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/5.6, 1/50sec

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/5.6, 1/50sec

Week 22 (12/30/2013 – 1/5/2014): Prospect Park, Brooklyn NY

Picture taken on 1/4/2014 at 12:30 PM

Picture description:

This week as we rolled into 2014 and January, so rolled in the extremely cold weather.  On New Year’s day we were hit with a blizzard dubbed “Hercules,” which dumped a good amount of snow all over the east coast.  The news of the blizzard got me really excited to get out and shoot my first set of snow pictures with my Nikon.  Going into the weekend the plan was to explore Greenwood Cemetery with one of my friends that was out with me last week.  After receiving written permission to walk around the Cemetery, everything was a go, that is until the snow.  After the large snowstorm we were unsure how it would affect our plans, good or bad.  The night before our shoot we could do nothing more than hope we wouldn’t run into any issues and plan on ways to survive the cold.

The next day when we finally arrived at Greenwood we were greeted with a sign that said “gates closed due to inclement weather.”  Although we saw the sign we decided to try our luck by driving through the open gate.  Upon driving through the gate we were immediately stopped by a security guard that informed us the cemetery was closed until after 12PM.  Since we were working under some time restraints that wasn’t good news, so unfortunately we’d have to call an audible.

Luckily as it turns out prospect park was only about 5 minutes away from Greenwood, so we decided to give the park a go.  Even though we were two days removed from the storm, the streets were still covered with mounds of snow and it seemed nearly impossible to find parking.  When we were just about to give up, BINGO, we got a spot!  And so our snow picture quest began.

We entered the park at the South/West entrance which is guarded by two towering statues of men on horses.  Surrounding the gates were some interesting pine trees which were draped with loosely packed snow.  As we tried to take pictures under the trees we had to dodge random mini avalanches of snow falling from the trees.  Even though the trees offered plenty of good picture opportunities we decided to work our way into the park and double back later.

Pines at the gates

Pines at the gates

For about the next hour we worked our way East along the Southern perimeter of the park.  One of the most interesting parts of the trek was combing along the shore line of Prospect Park Lake.  The Lake was iced over and presented some temptation to venture out.  The temptation was cured after seeing “rescue ladders” which meant many have tried and failed.  I decided to steer clear yet at one point still almost managed to fall in.  As we reached the South/East corner of the park we spotted a gazebo built from logs that was nestled along the shore of the lake.  We stopped there for a while before working our way back to the main gates to end our trip.  Just as we were exiting the park I spotted this lion’s head that was built into the gates.  I shouted to my friend and said I had to get a picture of this.  As you may have guessed this is where I got this week’s picture and to date it might be my favorite picture from this blog.

Gazebo on the lake

Gazebo on the lake

Photography concepts:

Throughout this week I’ve been experimenting with black and white pictures and the different editing techniques for them.  After watching some YouTube tutorials and doing my best to duplicate the editing in Lightroom, I’ve quickly realized how much fun black and white photography can be. After taking this week’s picture, although it looked perfectly good in color, I decided to flip it to black and white and see what happened.

Photo Credit; Roger Del Russo: www.delrusso.net

Photo Credit; Roger Del Russo: http://www.delrusso.net

I’m still very new to editing in black and white, but what I can already see as being the key are the different color sliders.  The color sliders allow you to focus in on colors such as Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Aqua, Blue, Purple, and Magenta, and make adjustments.  Now you’re probably saying “wait isn’t this a black and white picture? Why would you adjust colors?”  Well, although it’s black and white the original picture’s colors are still part of the attributes and editable.  As you adjust the sliders you’re adjusting the levels of their representation in black and white.  In the case of this week’s picture I was able to blow out all the colors to make the lions face appear to be white/silver, or flip it to black.  In the end I decided to settle right in the middle and set the lion’s face to a grayish slate.  Focusing in on the colors is great because it allowed me to change the tint without losing the attributes of other colors such as the white.  I really like the contrast these sliders allowed me to create and I can’t wait to experiment with this more in the coming weeks.

wk22-lion-combo

If you’re new to this blog circle back and read some of my older posts.  In my earlier posts I’ve touched on subjects such as the rule of thirds, the triangle of photography and the different effects each point of the triangle (ISO/Aperture/Shutter speed) have on a photo.  As I’ve been progressing in my photography journey these are becoming more second nature and I’m beginning to focus more on editing techniques and changing the content that I shoot (people, close-ups, non-landscape).  I’m laying out some projects for 2014 so stay tuned and see what happens.

Sh-HOOT-ing with friends

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/1250 sec

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/1250 sec

Week 21 (12/23/2013 – 12/29/2013): DUMBO, Brooklyn

Picture taken on 12/28/2013 at 11AM

Picture Description:

Being an admitted cornball, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work “hoot” into this week’s title.  This Saturday marked the first time that I participated in what is often referred to as a “photowalk” in the photography world.  The idea was hatched by two of my friends, one a photography enthusiast like myself, and the other a professional photographer.  We kicked around some location ideas and eventually settled on DUMBO since it’s one of the more interesting and subject rich locations in the New York area.  DUMBO, located in Brooklyn, stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.  Before Saturday I had never been to DUMBO so it was nice to finally cross it off my location bucket list. The area can get touristy not only because of the beautiful views but also because it’s home to the famous “Grimaldi’s Pizza”. Though not the original, there is a Grimaldi’s located in Hoboken so standing in line for pizza was not part of Saturday’s agenda.

DUMBO Classic Picture

Classic DUMBO Picture

Shortly after arriving on location I spotted what I consider to be the classic DUMBO picture.  Although I didn’t want to use this as my featured picture, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take the shot.  We spent the morning walking around discussing different techniques, equipment and comparing pictures.  After walking around the east river’s shore line we decided to head into the streets to see if we could find some lunch and perhaps some graffiti.  Post lunch we stumbling upon the brick wall that contained this weeks picture.  All three of us worked the wall individually to find what we thought would be the best way to photograph it.  It was interesting seeing how other photographers approached shooting the same subject and how each of us had our own unique view.  After a few minutes of working on our own we compared pictures and tried our hand at duplicating each others shots. We continued doing this for a little while then eventually decided to call it a day.  While driving back to New York City we came to the conclusion that this shouldn’t be our first and only photowalk.  In the coming week’s expect more posts chronicling different “photowalks” and if you’re interested in participating in one shoot me an email.

Bokeh Owl Version

Bokeh Owl Version

Photography Concepts:

This week I learned less from my own shooting and more from the discussions and tips that were traded during the photowalk.  One of the biggest takeaways, which might come as a surprise to anyone familiar with photography, was the concept of spot metering.  Prior to this weekend I heard the term before but never really understood what it meant or where it would be applicable.  In a nutshell spot metering allows you to lock in the exposure you want then recompose and shoot your picture.  I didn’t get any good photo example  for spot metering this weekend but you can bet I’ll be experimenting more with this in the future and do a post on it.

Another subject that came up worth noting was white balance and the importance of doing it in camera.  I always thought that I could do white balancing during editing and there was minimal to no trade offs.  This however was not entirely true.  Essentially although you can fix white balance after shooting, by getting the correct white balance in camera I’ll have more flexibility in editing later.  I mainly shoot landscape and outdoors pictures, so luckily white balance hasn’t come into play that much for me thus far.  In 2014 my goal is to take more pictures of people so expect more posts on white balancing now that the subject is a lot less murky.

A Shot in the Dark

Picture Specs: ISO 4000, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/13sec

Picture Specs: ISO 4000, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/13sec

Week 4 (8/25/2013 – 8/31/2013): East River, New York, NY
Picture taken on 8/28/2013 at 8:10 PM

Picture Description:

I’m on a Boat!!! Well…I was on Wednesday and that’s where I got the picture for this week’s post.  Hopefully you get the reference and if you don’t shame on you, go watch some SNL highlights.  Unlike the members of “The Lonely Island” I was not on a boat to shoot a music video with T-pain (damn), I was celebrating my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary.  We spent the evening on the Duchess which is part of World Yacht’s fleet of party boats.  Our cruise left from pier 81 at around 7PM and provided us with beautiful views the entire night!  I highly recommend booking a trip on World Yacht if you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate an occasion or trying to plan a memorable night out in the city.

View from the top deck of "Duchess" - World Yacht

View from the top deck of “Duchess” – World Yacht

Going into the evening I knew I’d have plenty of scenic picture opportunities but since I was there for my parents the time I could devote to getting a picture was limited.  Luckily I ended up sitting right next to a window which opened and allowed me to lean out and get this week’s picture.  The Brooklyn bridge is one of the most iconic New York City landmarks so when it appeared on the horizon I immediately put my steak knife down and grabbed my Nikon.  The shot I got is of the “BMW” bridges or Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges as we traveled North on the East river.

Photography Concepts:

If there was one overall lesson I learned this week, it’s that taking pictures on a boat and at night is VERY difficult.  First, the lighting is inconsistent  (low, high, indoor, outdoor)  which makes it difficult to tune in your exposure.  Second, surprise the boat is moving good luck focusing! Third, if you’re taking pictures of subjects off the boat you have to act fast because you have a very small window to get the shot you just saw.  As a result of hitting moving targets your composition is constantly changing.  Normally when you frame up a picture you’re standing still so you can get a couple pictures, not on a boat, snap fast and often!  In my opinion the combination of moving targets and low light was definitely the hardest aspect of this week.

This picture was tricky and I definitely wish I had a couple more shots at it.  Just like last week I had to use a high ISO but this time it was almost double (4000) which starts to show the negative attributes of a high ISO.  My picture (pre-edit) was a little grainy which is what happens when you use a high ISO.  I won’t try to explain why graininess (aka noise) happens but there are plenty of places to read about it online (one linked below).  While editing my picture in Lightroom I did my best to lessen the graininess by using some noise reduction corrections, which made for a softer (less sharp) image.  This is the first time I’ve mentioned Lightroom but let me tell you, it’s awesome!  I’ll talk more about it another time but I highly recommend it for editing/organizing all your pictures.

Other than a high ISO to make up for the limited amount of light I also had to use a wide aperture (f/2.8) and slow shutter speed (1/13 of a second!).  Now remember slower shutter speeds blurs motion so using one on a moving boat is risky.  I think this picture came in focus enough but if I was on land it would have been a lot sharper and I probably would have used a tripod.  I could have opened my aperture more (max f/1.8) to enable a faster shutter, but the wider the aperture the shallower the depth of field which isn’t ideal for a landscape picture.  As I mentioned earlier the window (especially when shooting through a literal window!) of opportunity for a picture is limited so I didn’t have enough time to work my way up the aperture scale (large to small).  Even if I had more time though a shutter of 1/13 is already too slow so I couldn’t drop that any further which I’d have to do if I shrunk my aperture.   As I said, this was a tricky picture.

One more big lesson that I learned this week (which isn’t really demonstrated in this picture) was the importance of white balancing.  While taking picture inside the boat everything seemed yellowy due to the indoor lighting.  Once the light stabilized inside I took a couple pictures of my white balance cards in the different parts of the boat so I could adjust everything in Lightroom later.  Let me tell you WOW what a difference!! I’ll try to get a picture in the coming weeks to demonstrate the usage of white balancing.  If you’re a beginner like me you’re going to be surprised by the results.

Links:

World Yacht Site: http://bit.ly/14KB8zR

ISO/Noise Article: http://bit.ly/18qN5bB