Dealing with lines

Picture Info: ISO 1600, 36mm, f/11, 1/30 sec

Picture Info: ISO 1600, 36mm, f/11, 1/30 sec

Week 36 (4/7/2014 -4/13/2014): Tampa International Airport, Terminal A

Picture taken on 4/8/2014 at 6:37 PM

Photograph description:

While traveling it’s nearly impossible to avoid standing in lines.  Typically a trip starts with the traffic you always seem to hit on your way to the airport.  Once you arrive at the airport, there is bag check, security and finally the line for boarding.  In addition to the standard lines you might also stand in line for a snack, the bathroom or perhaps to gain access to the highly sought after charging station.  For so many lines, there is an equal amount of solutions that people come up with for dealing with them.  Some people bring a travel buddy, some depend on an unhealthy amount of electronics (my father), while others simply pop a pill and fall into a manufactured state of calm.  No matter how you slice it, everyone has to deal with lines.

Just like in traveling, in photography we all have to find a way to deal with lines.  I was reminded of this topic while killing time in the airport waiting on my delayed flight. As you likely guessed my entertainment of choice while waiting was taking pictures.  From a visual standpoint Tampa is one of the more interesting airports that I’ve flow into.  Terminal A, my usual turnstop, is a long continuous room split by the Green Iguana bar.  When you stand on either of the extreme ends of the terminal you’re provided a nice visual.  There are many “Leading Line” types of visuals.  Looking down you’re taken through the terminal via winding tiles, while looking up will provide you with a super straight light formation.  All of these lines have always made it an interesting challenge to try and get everything lined up.  This time around I decided to make good use of my delay time and try my best to properly line up the shot.  Let me just say this week’s photo was the result of more than a few attempts.

Photography concepts:

As mentioned in this weeks description section, this week was all about dealing with lines.  When you’re dealing with lines and multiple points of symmetry things tend to get complicated.  There are a couple adjustments that all need to be balanced properly.  First you need to center your picture, which if you’re observant doesn’t look like I did.   Although the light was centered I was a few inches off with my physical alignment with the center tile.  I wanted to use my mistake to illustrate the difficulty of dealing with so much symmetry.  Through mistakes such as this, I’ve found what I believe to be the main adjustments to focus on while lining up a shot.

First, as I said center your image to the best of your ability, and more importantly make sure your camera’s lens is in the right position (where I failed). You don’t have to be perfect because once you start making other adjustments you’re going to lose the perfect center.  The important thing it to take note of whatever you central reference points are (top and bottom). Second adjust your left to right tilt which is done by pushing either side of the camera more forward.  While doing this try to recenter your image again using two center reference points.   The third and last adjustment is your camera’s up/down tilt.  Tilting your camera pointing up will forced 90 degree horizontal lines (such as buildings) to lean back, while tilting down will lean things forward.  Completing all of these adjustments is a juggling act and may take a couple times of cycling through your steps doing minor tweaks.  If you have a tripod, I highly recommend using one for these precise shots.  Take your time and get the shot right.  That was my issue, I couldn’t take my time.  I rushed my shot a little because of the fact that I was in an airport.  Sometimes people get odd when you’re using a DSLR in certain places such as airports or train stations.  In fact, the person walking towards me in this week’s shot was a security guard.  Luckily he wasn’t coming to yell at me.

Right after taking the picture I saw that it wasn’t perfectly lined up but I figured that was the best I’d get, and thought I could fix it via lightroom’s perspective editing.  After importing my image into lightroom I realized that even though the perspective editor is good, you can’t fix everything.  Because I positioned myself wrong there wasn’t much I could do.  Based on this realization I’d say although you need to focus on all three adjustments (center, left/right tilt, down/up tilt) the most important is center setting that central pivot point (the line between your two center points).  The down/up and right/left tilt perspective are easier to fix after the fact.  This just goes to show you, you’re always better off getting it right “in camera.”


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.

Searching for…

Picture Specs: ISO 320, 35mm, f/7.1, 1/500 sec

Picture Specs: ISO 320, 35mm, f/7.1, 1/500 sec

Week 9 (9/29/2013 – 10/5/2013): St. Petersburg Pier, FL
Picture taken on 10/1/2013 at 4:04 PM

Picture description:

Everyone is searching for something. Like most weeks one of the things I was searching for was an interesting picture to write about. In past weeks I had a set plan or some general idea about what I wanted to shoot, but my only plan for this week was to leave it open ended. The beginning part of my week was spent down in Florida visiting my insanely awesome family. My hope was that while in Florida something interesting would present itself and that my Nikon would be close or in hand to capture the moment. As one day rolled into another my camera stayed on the bench while most of my time was spent running around with my cousins doing what we do, “You don’t even know!” By the last day while my cousin Courtney and I were killing time before my flight we decided to grab a bite and hit the St. Petersburg Pier or as they call it “the pier” to see about getting a picture.

Once we got to the pier one picture instantly jumped out at me. With the thought of how everyone is “searching for” something in the back of my mind, the picture that caught my attention was this man sitting on a bench peering out at the pier as it jutted out into the deep blue bay. To me it looked like he was simply enjoying the beautiful view but also deep in thought, perhaps searching for an answer to something?

Another reason why this picture caught my eye was because this man’s spot reminded me of my own back up North. If you recall my post from week one I featured my favorite bench with a view. Chances are if Florida was my home this or one similar to this would be “my bench.” I’ve found that setting aside time to be alone in your thoughts is mentally one of the healthiest habits to have. Things move fast, as do people so if you don’t carve out some time to slow things down for a little you’re going to burn yourself out, at least that’s my philosophy. Not everyone has a bench, but I encourage you to find your equivalent. This nameless man and I have found our bench, the only remaining question is will we find everything else we’re searching for?

Photography concepts:

With 9 weeks in the books more of my focus is shifting towards the composition of my picture rather than the technical aspects such as exposure. Setting the right exposure is by choosing the correct settings is still key but it’s becoming more second nature for me. Using this week as an example, once I picked my spot there were two apertures I wanted to try for this picture. One was f/4 since this seems to be the “sweet spot” for my lens, and the other was something around f/7-8 to get most of the picture in a crisp focus. In the end f/7.1 looked the best since it kept everything in a nice focus, with the priority going to the sign in the foreground. In past weeks more of my time might have been spent finding the right exposure but thankfully this week I found it quickly and could put more thought into the elements of my composition.

Other than the beautiful clouds and water there were three things that I wanted to emphasis in this picture. My main subject was the pier with my secondary subject the man on the bench. Luckily these two subjects complimented one another in that the man is looking out towards the pier. This leads the viewer towards following the man’s gaze out into the water towards the pier. My third subject was the sign which had the main purpose of highlighting the location of my picture, St. Petersburg.

Framing the shot

Once my subjects were chosen it was all about lining them up, which of course brings back the concept of the rule of thirds. You’ll notice that two of my subjects are in the left thirds of the picture with my third and main subject (the pier) at the lower intersection point of the right two thirds. Putting the pier in its own two thirds was so my main subject had the prime location in the photo and so the viewer could see the area surrounding it. The last framing element I went for was breaking up the picture top to bottom by putting the water in the lower 1/3, the sky in the middle 1/3 and the tree branches in the top 1/3. This naturally framed my main subject (the pier) in-between the branches and the water. My feeling was that framing the picture like this gave it a tighter feel rather than a wide open feeling one would have felt if the sky took up 2/3+ of the picture. My goal was that the combination of all the framing elements would make the viewer feel like they were looking through the same natural window as the man on the bench. I hope it worked!