Springing into Winter

Picture info: ISO 250, 35mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec

Picture info: ISO 250, 35mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, – 1 exposure stop

Week 20 (12/16/2013 – 12/22/2013): Central Park, Sheep Meadow

Picture taken on 12/21/2013 at 3:00 PM

Picture Description:

With Christmas less than a week away, New York City is buzzing with holiday festivities.  This week I decided to check out the Columbus Circle Holiday Market located at the south west corner of Central Park.  As the weekend approached, the weather forecast was calling for a warmer than usual day for December, so I decided to add a visit to Central Park to my agenda.  While visiting the Central Park website I noticed that on their map page you’re able to select specific destinations of interest within the park.  For weeks I’ve seen lots of great pictures taken of various arches and bridges in the park, which gave me an idea.  My idea was to use the map and plot out an “Arch and Bridge Tour” which would bring me to all of the southern arches and bridges, starting with the Gapstow bridge (South/East corner) which is adjacent to the ice rink.  With my plan set, all that was left was setting out on my weekend adventure.

Planned Arch/Bridge Tour

Planned Arch/Bridge Tour

My trip started with about an hour of fighting traffic and subway crowds prior to finally popping out of the 59th/5th subway tunnel.  Upon emerging from the subway  tunnel I was oddly greeted with the smell of spring.  If the streets weren’t packed with holiday decorations I would have swore to you that I had traveled back in time to April.  Even though I appreciated the nice weather I was a little disappointed, I really wanted to get some pictures of Central Park in the snow.  Later on my disappointment was cured by the much appreciated feeling in my fingers and toes I enjoyed throughout the day.

After visiting the first couple of bridges and arches, Gapstow included, I was running into issues with getting good compositions with my D5200.  The sky was getting washed out because it was earlier in the day than I usually shoot.  I also wasn’t able to fit enough of the landscapes that I was photographing into my 35mm lens frame.  Since the bridges weren’t cooperating I decided to cut my tour short and work my way to a part of the park called Sheep Meadow.  The large 15 acre “meadow” is special to me because it’s actually where I finally decided to due this blog.  Back in July I toured the park and ended up at the Meadow which I photographed and realized how fun it was to set out on photo adventures.  July’s trip cemented my idea and I moved forward with this blog, and I haven’t looked back since.

As I got closer to the Meadow I noticed that there were no visitors on the beautifully lush green lawn.  When I finally arrived at the fence surrounding the meadow I realized why it was so empty, it was closed for the winter.  Although I was disappointed this provided me with an opportunity to photograph the meadow without any visitors crashing my picture. I worked my way around the fenced perimeter shooting pictures above and through the fence. At the end of my trip around the meadow I spotted this week’s picture.  The way the rock picked up the sun with the contrasting green meadow really caught my eye.  Although the day didn’t turn out as planned, I was very pleased with this picture and really enjoyed my day in Central Park.

Sheep Meadow Closed!

Sheep Meadow Closed!

Photography concepts:

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been experimenting with different editing techniques and applications.  I use Lightroom for all of my blog photographs but for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter I use Snapseed and VSCOCAM.  The advantage of Snapseed and VSCOCAM is that I’m able to give my pictures a little more “pop” with just a few clicks.  The disadvantage of both applications is that they don’t maintain the quality of the original picture, therefore they’re not suitable for editing pictures for this blog or any kind of high quality sharing.  All that being said, there is no reason why I can’t create the same type of vibrant images with Lightroom, it just takes a little more work.

Edited Location comparison

Edited Location comparison

This week I put a lot more effort into editing specific details of my photograph, with the goal of creating a more vibrant picture.  I shot my picture straight into the sun which in turn caused a lot of shadows and dulled out the many of the colors in frame.  The way I corrected both issues was via Lightroom’s spot correction tool.  This tool allows you to do exactly what it sounds like, select certain area’s of your picture and adjust things such as color, exposure, contrast and so on.  I usually do these kind of adjustments globally (to the entire picture) or through the use of gradual filters.  In the past the issue I’ve run into is gradual filters aren’t good when you have to apply different settings to lots of different small areas.  This is where spot editing comes in handy.  The challenge that spot editing presents is keeping your picture looking a natural by manually blending your edits seamlessly into the picture.  You want to avoid creating obvious edit lines and look for natural breaks in your picture to tie your edits together.  Above and below are examples of before and after, along with a representation of the areas I focused in on with the spot edit tool.

Different colors represent different spot edits/localized adjustments

Different colors represent different spot edits/localized adjustments

Prior to editing the picture I obviously had to shoot one that was crisp and provided me with flexibility for editing.  To do this I underexposed my original picture and made sure I shot with a small aperture to keep more things in focus.  The last aspect of this picture I’ll briefly touch on is how lined it up. As I talked about in my week 16 post, framing a picture that’s shot into the sun can be tricky because you’re basically forced to use the live view.  I really don’t like taking pictures in the live view so what I do is line up my shot via live view, then switch the camera back to through the lens and fire away.  Once I get my first picture I adjust the composition via slight tilt and shift adjustments until I get the picture I want.  I used this method to get this picture and I think it worked well.

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‘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