Week 8 (9/22/2013 – 9/28/2013): Flatiron building, corner of 23rd/5th NYC
Picture Taken on 9/25/2013 at 4:58 PM
No, don’t worry I’m not going on any kind of negative rant in this week’s post. If you want to understand the “negative” reference in the title you’ll have to read the photography concepts! Enough on that, time for the story behind the picture.
I was reminded about a very valuable lesson this week, that lesson being that you really can’t force things. As usual I had a plan for this week but by Tuesday I realized my plan was pretty much a wash. The plan was to get a picture of or around the United Nations building. The reason I chose this week was because it’s the annual United Nations General Assembly. Most people have no idea about when the General Assembly happens let alone the chaos that happens in the area surrounding the UN. I work not too far from the UN so each year I get a front row seat to the insanity. SWAT cars, Secret Service, hundreds of NYPD officers, and countless diplomats converge on my little east side nook. What I wanted to do was get a picture that in some way captured the madness. On Monday I scouted the surrounding area to see if there were any good pictures that caught my eye. Due to all the added security I couldn’t get close to the UN building so I knew I’d have to get some kind of distant shot. The only idea I could think of was a sunrise picture since the UN is right on the water. Sunset shot easy right, yes…on any other week!
It wasn’t until Tuesday morning when I brought my camera into work with me that I realized the flaw in my plan. With so many cops and security personnel around the second I took my camera out all eyes focused on me. Why is he photographing the UN? Why is he wearing a black coat? Why is he walking down that street? Why is he looking around in such an odd way? These are all of the questions I could almost hear getting asked as I felt the burning stares. After a few short minutes I decided to move locations to the waterfront on the East river, bad idea. Once I got to the waterfront I saw police boats circling which seemed to immediately fixate on me. As one large boat headed in my direction, I quickly threw my camera into my bag and slowly walked away. In my head I had this sudden fear that some kind of unmarked car was going to zoom up, grab me, and take me away for hours of questioning. At this point I said you know what I really don’t want to get arrested this week, I’m going to get a bagel and call it a morning.
That afternoon as I thought about what unfolded in the morning I realized even though I really wanted the UN picture this week, now isn’t the best time, there is always next week. Giving up on something like this is difficult for me. Once I see something I want I go for it but as I said earlier, this week I was reminded sometimes you can’t force things you just have to be patient and wait for the right time.
Once I came to terms with holding off on the UN idea I decided that I would take a trip to the flatiron building to see if I had better luck without all the piercing police eyes. Prior to this week I had only seen the flatiron building from a distance or very briefly up-close while driving by. The building is quite the scene in person and can make you a little dizzy when you’re standing right next to it looking straight up. Luckily I was able to conquer the dizziness and get this week’s shot, hopefully you like it!
Photography wise what I learned this week is “getting negative” isn’t a bad idea, let me explain. As I continue to read about the concepts of photography one term that’s come up a lot when referencing a pictures composition is “negative space.” Based on everything I’ve read negative space is the area surrounding your subject (which is positive space). It seems logical enough right? I’ve seen that in some photos people literally fill the negative space with well nothing. What this does it it really emphasizes the subject. In my case my subject was the flatiron building and my negative space was filled with the nice blue sky. When I first started taking pictures if I took a picture where half of it was empty I’d probably think about cropping it down to eliminate that space. What I’ve now learned is if used correctly the empty “negative” space is a nice tool to put in your composition toolbox.
One trick I learned this week while getting myself dizzy from looking up for too long was how to line up my pictures better. In a lot of the pictures I’ve previously taken of buildings while looking straight up I noticed that the picture always seems tilted. The way I lined the picture up or saw it in real life didn’t translate well to the composition of the photo once I reviewed it at home. While I was shooting this week I tried to choose a line or lines in the building that would level things out when I looked at the picture later on. It felt odd while I was taking the picture but my results were a lot better. For example in the below picture I chose the corner line between the two sides of the building to line up my shot. It’s hard to give some kind of formula for choosing the right line, but it’s something I’m going to try and pay closer attention to in the future.