Bloomfield in Bloom

Picture info: ISO 250, 36mm, f/11, 1/80sec

Picture info: ISO 250, 36mm, f/11, 1/80sec

Week 39 (4/28/2014 -5/4/2014): 10th & Bloomfield, Hoboken

Picture taken on 5/3/2014 at 9:13 AM

Photograph description

Last week I mentioned that one of the biggest challenges for my Hoboken streets project would be to taking pictures that don’t in some way involve the sun .  Naturally I’m drawn towards taking pictures that utilize some kind of light source to create contrast.  In order to keep improving my photography, it’s important that I constantly challenge myself to go outside of my comfort zone.  It’s as the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life”

This week’s picture was taken while I was on my Saturday morning bagel run…for those of you that don’t know, I’m a bagel addict.  Moving on though. It was still early enough that the sun wasn’t high in the sky but it was still filling the day with plenty of natural light.  Although my usual Hoboken bagel spot is on Washington street, I decided to walk down Bloomfield instead so I could photograph the cherry blossoms that line the street.  It only seemed fitting that bloomfield would be filled with so many blooming trees.  Early into my trip I came across an apartment building that had a pinkish tint which acted as the perfect backdrop for the cherry blossom.  I shuffled around for a few minutes trying to find the best angle to fit everything in frame at ~35mm.  Eventually I found the spot and the here you have it!

Photography concepts:

One of the advantages of taking pictures with even light is that it’s easier to set your exposure for the entire scene.  When you include a bright light source in your picture (e.g. the sun) you have to worry about some or all of the image getting blown out (overexposed) or underexposed.  I usually worry more about overexposing the image because it’s harder to recover overexposed areas, than underexposed areas.  Since this week’s picture had no harsh light source setting my exposure was a breeze!

The hardest part of shooting this picture was capturing what I considered to be the good part of the scene at ~35mm.  The reason I’m saying approximately (~) is because I’ve been shooting more and more with my 17-50mm Sigma lens.  Yes 35mm is within the range of my lens, but for some reason the lens never seems to settle on 35mm exactly.  Any picture I take at 35mm usually reads as 34mm or 36mm when I review the image.  I’m not sure why this happens, but it’s not really a big deal.

If there is one thing I learned this week it’s evenly lit pictures are relatively easy to shoot, if you can find interesting ones.  The last part of that statement is the key, “if you can find interesting ones.”  My usual move in the absence of contrasting light is to find a unique angle or move in close and use a wide aperture to tap into a depth of field element.  I did neither this week and that again plays into my desire to shoot more variety.  Variety should be everyone’s goal.  Flip through the pictures on your computer, facebook or instagram and I bet you’ll see a trend.  Hopefully the trend isn’t selfies, but even if it is, this week try to shoot something new.  Find something you don’t usually photograph and get to it!

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

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.

Getting a-head

Picture Specs: ISO 200, 35mm, f/5, 1/30 sec

Picture Specs: ISO 200, 35mm, f/5, 1/30 sec

Week 10 (10/6/2013 – 10/12/2013): My Apartment, Hoboken NJ
Picture taken on 10/10/2013 at 4:53 PM

Picture description:

In life it’s always better to get ahead.  Getting ahead was the catalyst for this week’s picture/concept.   As I’m gaining more experience and exposure in the photography world, more opportunities are presenting themselves.  One upcoming project is going to require me to take a lot of indoor pictures and possibly product/macro types of shots.  In an effort to prepare (get ahead) for this future project, and to explore more areas of photography I decided to experiment with “studio” photography.  Now I don’t have a studio or access to one so the best I could do is purchase an at home alternative to allow me to take some small scale pictures.  Luckily one of the best companies to buy photography gear from has a storefront in New York City and not too far from my office.  I’m of course talking about B & H.  After doing some research online about what I should get I took a trip to B & H to check everything out in person.  I spoke to one of the employees who recommended a duel light set up which would have been both bulky and expensive.   I decided his suggestion wasn’t the route I wanted to take and ended up settling on the “MyStudio” portable photo studio with built in lighting.  It came at a reasonable price and it seemed to be the perfect size to be functional in my apartment.

Setting up “MyStudio” was pretty quick and easy.  Of course it helps that I’m a handy man (not by trade) but I feel like most people would be able to put everything together in under 10-15 minutes.  Once everything was set up it was time for the fun to begin.  Per my brother “anything is cool if you’re a good photographer”  at least in terms of macro photography so I took that as a challenge.  I began going through my room and photographing almost anything that would fit in “MyStudio.”  Although my brother was right, not everything that I took a picture of could easily tie into a post.  I decided to find something a little more relevant.  My “getting ahead” philosophy (along with Halloween being around the corner) is what drew me to skulls (heads) that are featured in this week’s picture.

Photography concepts:

One big difference between this picture and those of past week’s was I needed a decent amount of equipment to make this happen.   For starters I needed the “MyStudio” which I would recommend to anyone looking for a small at home studio option (link/picture below).  Next I needed a tripod since with macro/studio photography sometimes you have to take longer exposures to capture more light and you really need to line everything up with precision.  I probably could have gotten away with not using a tripod but I already had a good one so there was no reason to not.  Another key tool you need while doing studio photography and any other indoor shots are white balance cards.  I’ve mentioned white balancing before but this week it was really key.  When you’re using a white balance card you usually take a reference shot and either tune your camera into that setting or use the reference shot as a guide for setting all your white balance in editing.  This week I decided to leave my white balance cards in the picture so you could get an idea about how I used them.   The last and most obvious (other than my camera) thing that I needed was a subject.  In the past I found real life subjects to photography, while this week I had to find and place my subject.  Having the freedom to get creative was nice but also very challenging.

MyStudio; Taken from BH's site (link to product below)

MyStudio; Taken from BH’s site (link to product below)

The main challenge about having “creative freedom” was positioning my subjects and relationally lining up my camera.  When you’re working on such a small scale the slightest adjustments to your camera’s angle or the location of your subject changes the entire dynamic of the picture.  Using this week’s picture as an example.  You’ll notice that the single skull and the bag of skulls are a little offset with the single skull being further up in the picture.  I positioned the single skull forward so it was larger in the picture but I had to push the bag back to get it in the full frame.  Once I put the two subjects on different planes, in relation to my camera’s lens, it forced me to use a smaller aperture.  If I had shot this picture with a f/1.8 instead of f/5 the single skull would have been in focus and the bag blurry.  Even with f/5 you can already start to see some of the blur in the back portion of the bag.  Based on what I’ve read, along with my own experience with wider apertures (smaller f numbers) the plane of focus becomes very thin.  What this means  is only the things that are on the same plane as your subject will be in focus.  The smaller the aperture the deeper the in focus plane gets.  I haven’t done enough reading to explain the mathematics behind this focal plane concept but I feel like this picture was an easy way to demonstrate the concept and it’s challenges.

There is still a lot more to learn about indoor shooting so this topic might get featured again in the coming weeks. Let’s just say for now this is to be continued…

BH Link for “MyStudio”

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/727653-REG/MyStudio_PS5_PS5_PortaStudio_Portable_Photo.html

Night Light

ISO 100, 35mm, f/8.0, 4 sec

ISO 100, 35mm, f/8.0, 4 sec

Week 6 (9/8/2013 – 9/14/2013): Shipyard Marina, Hoboken NJ
Picture Taken on 9/9/2013 9:11PM

Picture Description

Going into this week my goal was to create a multiple exposure photograph or light trail night picture.  As a possible secondary option I bookmarked the possibility of photographing the freedom tower.  On Monday night I went out around 6ish to mess around with my new Nikon ML-L3 remote.  I was aiming for either a double/triple exposure of the Hoboken ferry or some kind of sunset shot.   After messing around for about an hour I went back to my apartment to eat some dinner, review my pictures, and wait until the sun was totally down so I could try for a night picture.  Unfortunately after reviewing the pictures on my computer none of them worked out as I planned so I was going to have to go back out for the night shot.

After dinner as I stepped outside of my apartment my eyes were instantly drawn to the distant southeastern skyline.   What I was looking at was simply amazing, the 9/11 memorial lights were getting trapped in some low thick clouds and forming this surreal spherical glow.  All of my other night picture plans went out the window at that point, I had to take a picture of this unique occurrence.

After taking the picture I thought it was good (not great) but didn’t want to use it as my picture for this week.  As I do with most unused pictures I posted it up on Facebook to share with my friends.  To my surprise this picture got more activity than any other one I’ve posted.  Coming up with a picture to top this one, at least this week would have been hard so in the end I decided to use this picture.

 Photography Concepts 

To get this picture I had to apply many of the tricks I’ve learned over the past couple of months. In some of my previous long exposure pictures I noticed a slight camera shake.  To prevent getting shaky images I’ve moved towards using either a 2 second delayed shutter release or in this case a remote.  Next I regularly use a UV filter on all my camera lens to prevent any wear and tear.  Over time I noticed that at night using a filter increases the amount of light distortion and bleed, so prior to this picture I removed the UV filter.  The last two keys to this photo, which I’ll talk about in a little more detail, are the exposure settings I used and editing in Lightroom.

The exposure I used was -2 (stops) which for anyone that doesn’t know, it’s an underexposure.  The reason I underexposed was because after taking other nighttime city shot I’ve noticed that with so many lights from all the buildings my pictures tend to get overexposed.  There are lots of negatives with overexposing, in terms of my city pictures the most noticeable is the change in the sky color.  After messing around with different exposures I’ve settled on -2 for my go to exposure setting.

Now it’s hard to describe all the different tweaking I did in Lightroom but one of the main fixes was the white balance setting.  I forgot my white balance cards when I went out to shoot this picture so I had to do it after the fact.  I also made some moderate adjustments to the Highlights, shadows, whites, blacks and clarity to get the picture to look like what I saw in person.  If you want to learn about Lightroom I highly recommend going on youtube and watching some tutorial videos.  There is so much information out there to support learning photography (and most other hobbies) it’s just about finding it.

Before and After Editing in Lightroom

Before and After Editing in Lightroom

Since I originally did not want to use this picture let me quickly explain why and what I could have done better.  For starters if I remembered my white balance cards I would not of had to do so much editing in Lightroom.  I rather get a good picture in camera rather than edit it especially for this photoblog. I also wasn’t happy about my composition, the green in the picture is really nice but I was made I cut off some of the left side of the peninsula that is shipyard park.  I wish that I would have stepped back another 30-50 ft to get more into the picture.  Last I wish I found something interesting to put into the foreground of the picture, it just makes for a more interesting picture.

Article about Exposure
http://bit.ly/1eOEzt8

Lightroom Video’s
http://bit.ly/140WqbT
http://bit.ly/1ddxPTS

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