The Next Chapter

Picture info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/13, 1/60 second

Picture info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/13, 1/60 second

Week 52 (7/28/2014 -8/3/2014): Central Park, New York City

Picture taken on 8/2/2014 at 3:26PM

Photograph description:

A year ago when I decided to commit to doing this photoblog my goals were simple, shoot a picture each week, and learn photography.  It makes me proud to confidently say that I accomplished both goals, and in doing so accomplished so much more.  Hunting down my weekly pictures took me all over New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and countless more places in between.  Not only did this photoblog take me to new locations, it also helped introduce me to so many new people.  This week was no different, and perhaps it was one of my best experiences yet.

A few week’s ago my brother Ryan mentioned to me that one of his college buddies was looking to propose to his girlfriend.  Ryan had shown his friend some of my pictures, as a result, he asked Ryan if I’d be interested in photographing his proposal.  Initially I was hesitant to say yes, mainly because I don’t have much experience photographing people and I didn’t want to screw up such a special occasion.  After giving it some thought I decided what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.

This week Ryan’s friend reached out to let me know Saturday was the big day, and his location of choice was Central Park.  Coincidentally, Central Park was were I hatched the idea for this photoblog so it seemed fitting to get my last picture where it all started.

We all met this past Thursday to discuss the logistics for pulling off our covert mission.  Ryan’s friend was a military officer for 5 years so of course he showed up to the meeting with a map in hand and a plan for concealing our identity from his girlfriend.  We came up with a solid plan in a matter of minutes, the only thing left was for us to execute!

Our basic plan was to link up with my brother’s friend at the Southeast corner of the park, then follow him and his girlfriend North to the Bethesda Fountain.  Once at the fountain, the two would flip some coins into the fountain and make a wish.  They would both then walk towards the Bethesda Terrace, and just as they crossed under the inner arches Ryan’s friend would drop to a knee and tell his girlfriend what he wished for, that she would marry him.

52from52-wk52(2)

Bethesda Fountain

Saturday played out like a movie, we linked up with the couple and trailed them undetected while watching the plan play out.  Once it came time for Ryan’s friend to pop the question, I moved in for the shot.  As I crouched down to take the picture something new happened, my adrenaline pumped?  It was part nerves, part excitement but absolutely a new experience for me while taking pictures.  After taking the pictures my brother and I congratulated the newly engaged couple, took some more posed picture, then were on our way.

Bethesda Terrace

Bethesda Terrace: Proposal Location

As Ryan and I worked our way south towards Columbus circle we came across some large rocks that jutted out of the ground.  Ryan decided to climb on top of one of the rocks to get a better vantage point.  Once Ryan was at the top of the rocks I directed him to look out towards the city skyline so I could take a picture.  As Ryan turned towards the skyline, I saw it, the perfect shot, the perfect picture to close out my 52 week series.

You’re probably asking, why was the picture so perfect and what did I see?  It all happened so fast that it’s hard to describe, but as I took the picture I realized Ryan was inadvertently acting out how I was feeling.  Ryan climbing the rock represented me accomplishing my goal of completing my 52 week series.  Ryan turning around towards the city represented the idea that although I just accomplished my goal, in doing so it revealed a much bigger world full of new challenges just ahead. My unique experience while taking the proposal pictures, along with the previous 52 weeks made me realize that this is not the end of my photography journey.  Simply put, this was chapter one, and now it’s time for the next chapter.

Photography Concepts:

If someone asked me, “what do you think are the most valuable lessons that you learned of the past 52 weeks”, my answer would have to be my understanding of exposure and composition.  Understanding exposure enables you to take pictures that capture scenes as you see them.  Highlights, shadows, blacks and whites are the building blocks of a good exposure, they’re also what makes up a histogram.  Without explaining the histogram, I’ll show you how taping into the power of these attributes unlocks endless creative freedom.  If however you want to learn about the histogram, check out the link below.

Using this week’s picture as my example, in camera I wasn’t able to capture the full spectrum of highlights and shadows.  What I’ve learned to do in this situation is to take an evenly exposed picture in camera, then rework the highlights and shadows in lightroom.  Below is a split screen before and after of my picture.  In order to bring back the blue and detail of the clouds I had to almost completely drop the highlights to -90.  To compensate for dropping the highlights I raised my whites, this made sure I didn’t totally darken my image.  Next I lowered my shadows and blacks to make the trees and rocks darker, and emphasise the contrast between the city and the view inside the park.  Knowing the effect of highlights, shadows, blacks and whites is what gave me the knowledge to mold the image into exactly what I wanted.

Before and After Lightroom Edit

Before and After Lightroom Edit

Just like with exposure, understanding composition enables you to capture a scene and pass on what you see to a viewer.  As I talked about in the photograph description, the site of Ryan up on the rock was very symbolic to me.  Much of what created the symbolism was the composition of the picture.  Ryan’s position in the image, and orientation of his body were the two keys to creating the powerful image.  As I’ve talked about countless times over the past 52 weeks, the rule of thirds is what guides most of my composition decisions.  I’ve practiced the rule of thirds so much that I lined Ryan up on intersection point between the right and middle thirds basically without even thinking.  Next, when I told Ryan to turn and face the buildings, I shot my picture before he completely turned and presented me with his whole back.  To me , this half turned orientation gives the feeling that he just got to the top and is just looking out for the first time.  As a comparison, I took a picture of Ryan with his back completely turned to me, and for me that seemed like the body language of someone that was deep in thought.  He might have been standing on that rock for minutes, hours or even days?  His body orientation doesn’t show motion so it seemed boring.  These are just a few examples of things to think about when you’re lining up your subjects.

Rule of Thirds Applied

Rule of Thirds Applied

Now that I explained some of the ways that I use exposure and composition to get creative, it’s your turn. I’ve spent the past 52 weeks showing you my perspective, perhaps it’s time you get out there and show me yours.  Start a blog, post more actively on Instagram, shoot YouTube videos explaining how and why you take pictures.  Do whatever it takes to share your creativity and I guarantee, you won’t regret it, I know that I don’t.

Alternate view: Ryan's back turned

Alternate view: Ryan’s back turned

Links: 

Histogram Article – Click here

 

Afternoon Shading

 

Picture info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/13, 1/60 sec

Picture info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/13, 1/60 sec

Week 45 (6/92014 -6/15/2014): My Apartment

Picture taken on 6/15/2014 at 6:05 PM

Photograph description

A recent YouTube video gave me the idea about trying to photograph things in my everyday life.  The challenge with photographing everyday life is finding ways to creatively photograph your surroundings.  This past sunday, as I laid on my couch post Father’s day brunch thinking about what I could photograph, I realized my subject was literally right in front of me.  Right next to the couch in my room is a 6 foot high inset window that captures the most amazing afternoon light.  The time and angle of which the sun hits my window varies throughout the year, but during the summer it’s light starts around 5PM and lasts until about 630PM.  As the sun moves left to right across the sky it’s light bleeds through the cracks of room’s blinds creating different shades of light minute to minute.  Adding to the shading complexity is a tree that sits in my backyard.  Depending on the day’s wind, the tree’s leaves are typically swaying creating a constantly shifting wave of shaded patterns.  This daily afternoon dance of shade and light has captured my attention countless times and is ultimately why I chose to feature it as this week’s picture.

Photography concepts

Manual, manual, manual, that is how I was able to shoot this week’s image.  Shooting in manual over the past few months has unlocked a whole new world when it comes to photographing light.  It took a few times of shooting then adjusting to find the exposure that I thought best captured the moment.  The tricky part was not moving away from an aperture that captured the sun’s light appropriately.  In week’s past I’ve often spoken about what apertures are best for making the sun look a certain way.  This week I didn’t wanted the sun to softly peak form the blinds so kept my aperture in the range of f/11-f/15.  I’ve found that those apertures produce nice soft sun beams.  Anything larger (f/1.8-f/10) starts to make the sun look like one giant blob of light, and anything smaller (f/16+) make the sun’s beam have a sharpness to them.  I’ve taken a picture of the sun peaking through my blinds at f/22 and it didn’t create an image that’s true to the way I see it.

Old picture using f/22

Old picture using f/22

The second half of creating this week’s image was done in lightroom.  Raising the Highlights, Contrast, Whites, and Clarity while lowering Shadows, and Blacks is how I achieved this week’s image.  The more you play with these settings the better you will become with knowing what to raise or lower to achieve your look.  It can be intimidating the first time you use Lightroom when you see all of the adjustments at your fingertips, but trust me before you know it you’ll be flying through them and wish you had more ways to tweak your image.  Lightroom has become my greatest tool for fine tuning an image to be exactly what I want.  The only way you’ll learn is through practice, I’ve edited 1000’s of images since starting this blog and I’m still learning new tricks.  If you haven’t already I highly recommend purchasing lightroom and trying it out today!

 

Instameet

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/9.0, 1/80sec

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/9.0, 1/80sec

Week 41 (5/12/2014 -5/18/2014): Madison Square Park, NYC

Picture taken on 5/18/2014 at 5:30PM

Photograph description:

Anyone that knows me would probably tell you that I’m an Instagram addict.  I share a picture typically 1-2 times a day, and I’m constantly in pursuit of my next post.  The reason I enjoy Instagram is mainly because it’s very simple, take a picture, share a picture, like a picture, and yet there is a depth to it.  If something is going on in the world, chances are you can find basically a live feed to it on Instagram.  Think of Instagram as your square portal to everything and anything happening around the world.  You’re never more than a hashtag search away from getting a glimpse into anything from having tea in London, to a wild safari ride in Africa.  The possibilities of what you can find are endless.

This past weekend Instagram tapped into the power of hashtags by using them to unify coordinated events around the world.  The overall event was officially referred to as “WorldWide Instameet 9” and had the official hashtag of #WWIM9.  The concept was simple, each city or region had an organizer that picked a time and location to meet.  After meeting up everyone did exactly what brought them together, take and share pictures via Instagram.  Each local “instameet” had their own hashtag in addition to the official worldwide one.  This concept enabled people to search pictures at the worldwide level, or by the specific location.

A few days before WWIM9 a post about it popped in my Instagram feed.  One of the more popular New York City instagrammers posted up the event details and pointed everyone in the direction of the organizers feed.  Of course after stumbling upon this, it immediately peaked my interest.  I’ve been meaning to check out one of these “instameets” but always seem to be busy on the day it’s held.  Luckily, this time around I was finally free to participate.

I could probably write a 10 page post detailing the entire event, but where is the fun in that?  Don’t just read about my instameet, go to one yourself!  I promise you won’t be disappointed, unless your camera dies.  My friend Becky may have put it best, there is so much creative energy flying around it’s hard not to get inspired.

Photography concepts:

This week I’m going to change it up.  Instead of breaking down my picture I’m going to talk about some of the new photography concepts I was introduced to this past weekend. There was far more than just DSLR’s being used amongst the many participants.  There were three different styles/equipment that really caught my attention.  First, and probably the most captivating was how one instagrammer (@huper_X) used a drone/gopro combo to capture amazing aerial footage.  I didn’t get a chance to talk to the photographer, so I’m not sure about the exact drone he used, but below is link to something that looked identical to his drone.  Bottom line, this drone captured footage that looked like it came from a helicopter.  It was truly amazing to witness this thing on display.

The second new style/equipment of photography that I was introduced to was a 360 camera called the “Theta” by Ricoh.  This compact device was used by @tsaebadliw (Will) to capture one of my favorite pictures from the day (below).  Will set up the camera, then had everyone gather around to capture an amazing 360 degree view of the group.  Usually, a 360 camera is used in real estate for virtual tours, but as Will and the “Theta’s” creators display on their site, it’s great for getting creative as well.

360 PhotoSphere by: @tsaebadliw (instagram) _wildabeast1 (twitter)

360 PhotoSphere by: @tsaebadliw (instagram) _wildabeast1 (twitter)

The third and most relevant piece of equipment to my style of photography that I learned about was Olloclips.  Olloclips are lenses for your iPhone/iPad that mimic the capabilities of a DSLR.  Olloclips has telephoto, macro, and wide angle lenses. The idea of enhancing my iPhone’s picture capabilities was very appealing since it’s impossible to carry my DSLR everywhere.  Taking great pictures with your phone doesn’t require an Olloclip, but it would certainly help.

Check out below for links to all of the new toys I learned about, along with some links to the instagram blog for the WWIM9 event.  I’ll get back to breaking down my pictures next week, enjoy your memorial day weekend!

 

Links:

Phantom 2 Vision Drone:

http://www.dji.com/

“Theta” 360 Camera by Ricoh

https://theta360.com/en/

OlloClip:

http://www.olloclip.com/

Instagram’s blog post on WWIM9

http://blog.instagram.com/post/82909503229/wwim9-announcement

Video shot by @huper_X at Madison Square park via an aerial drone.

 

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!

Beaming

Picture info: ISO 250, 36mm, f/14, 1/100 second

Picture info: ISO 250, 36mm, f/14, 1/100 second

Week 38 (4/21/2014 -4/27/2014): 9th & Park, Hoboken

Picture taken on 4/22/2014 at 6:40 PM

Photograph description:

If you have ever scrolled through my instagram gallery, you probably noticed that I enjoy taking pictures featuring the sun.  When posting to Instagram, the sun is a little bit of a photo hack. What do I mean by photo hack?  It’s been my experience that people tend to give more likes to pictures that have nice contrast, especially when that contrast is created from the sun’s beaming light.  Featuring the sun might be a bit of a cheat, but there still is an art to it.  I’ll give some tips on how I feature the sun with my phone and camera in the next section.

This week’s picture was shot while I was out hunting down material for my “Hoboken Streets” project.  The biggest challenge of the project will be to find unique ways to photograph the “streets,” without featuring the sun in each picture.  On top of avoiding too many sun shots I’m also going to avoid taking any of the pictures along the waterfront.  Yes the waterfront is still in Hoboken, but I’d like this project to feature more of the interior sections of Hoboken.  If you have any suggestions for locations shoot me an email.  This project is all about exploring the streets so the more unique the better!

Photography Concepts:

The main thing you have to think about when you’re taking pictures directly into the sun is setting the right exposure.  When you’re shooting the sun with your phone your exposure is typically locked to wherever your focus point is.  My recommendation is to set your pictures exposure on a darker area.  When you select a darker area your phone’s sensor will adjust the exposure to make the dark area evenly exposed.  With the darker area exposed properly the sun should be overexposed and appear to be very bright.  If you want to apply some kind of HDR setting to your picture in post, then meter the pictures exposure by focusing on the sun.  This will make your image look very dark but the HDR will bring back most of the detail.  I recommend going with the first exposure setup, overexposing the sun makes it look better.

Setting your exposure is obviously different with a DSLR and is done by making adjustments to your ISO, Shutter speed and aperture.  When shooting the sun with a DSLR your ISO should be as low as it can go, which is typically 100.  Choose your aperture based on how you want the sun to look in the picture.  If you use an aperture of f/22 the sun will look almost like a star with very sharply pointed flares.  The wider the aperture the softer the flares will become.  This week’s picture was shot at f/14 which is a good middle ground.  My beams (flares) have nice lines that fade into the picture smoothly.

Selecting your shutterspeed is easy if you’re in aperture priority, because the camera will do it for you.  If you’re shooting in manual, like I did for this picture, then you should start with a quick shutter and work your way down until your image is exposed to your liking.  The reason you should start with a quick shutter is so you don’t burn out your sensor with the sun.  I can only imagine the damage that would be done to your sensor with a 30 second sun exposure….ouch.

Two more quick tips.  One when you’re lining everything up, try to put the sun on either the left or right thirds intersection line.  This not only follows the rule of thirds, it also will make for better sun beams shooting through your picture.  My second tip is to find something like a tree, flower or cloth material that you can backlight with the sun.  Backlighting things that let some light through give your picture some nice texture.  If you backlight something that lets no light through, as in people, walls or buildings you’re left with a nice silhouette.  The choice is up to you, get creative and more importantly have fun!

Reflecting on Goals

Picture info: ISO 100, 34mm, f/2.8, 1/500sec

Picture info: ISO 100, 34mm, f/2.8, 1/500sec

Week 37 (4/14/2014 -4/20/2014): 8th Street, Hoboken

Picture taken on 4/19/2014 at 7:33 PM

Picture description:

What do I want to accomplish? This is a question that often keeps me awake at night.  I’m all about setting goals and  doing whatever it takes to complete them.  Step one of having a goal oriented mindset is obvious, set some kind of goal.  If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, how can you achieve it?  This “goal oriented process” is the concept I applied after purchasing my camera, my goal was to learn photography.  After setting my goal, step two was figuring out a way to achieve my goal, which led me to create this photoblog.  With the end of this photoblog quickly approaching, I’ve been spending time thinking about what will be my next step in achieving my overall goal of learning photography.   Learning photography is hard to measure though, one can argue that you can never fully learn photography.  There will always be  some new camera, some new technique or just something new to learn.  Knowing that I’ll never be able to measure my original goal has made me think, perhaps it’s time I expand my goal and decide what I’d like to do with my newly found photography knowledge?  I’m now asking myself, what do I want to use my photography to accomplish?  Is my passion for photography just a hobby, or do I want to take it further?

This past weekend I set aside some time to think about the questions I’ve raised about my next steps.  While kicking around ideas I decided to throw on a YouTube video from one of my favorite photography resources, “CamerRec Toby.”  Toby is a photography pro out in Vermont with his own YouTube channel devoted to reviews and tips about photography gear and techniques .  I’ve cited Toby’s videos before but this week one of his videos really caught my attention.  In the video (link below) Toby and his co-host Christina discussed an article “7 Reasons why most Photographers and Videographers don’t Reach their Goals” (link below).  The article was so relevant to what I was currently thinking about it almost seemed like it was targeted directly at me.  In the article the author talks about photographers setting too general of goals  (e.g. Learning photography), and how it’s important to have measurable goals. The article helped put things in perspective and made me realize it’s time for me to set some measurable goals.  The article and Toby’s video also motivated me to push forward on one of the smaller goals that I’ve been toying with.  As of this past weekend, I’ve decided that I’m going to participate in the next Hoboken Art & Music festival in September.  My main goal isn’t to make money (though that’s always a bonus), my main goal is to meet lots of people and seeing who and what might help me decide where to take my photography next.

With a new goal (participate in the Art & Music Festival) set, step two was to figure out a way to accomplish it.  There are many things that will go into preparing for the festival, but one of the most basic things is having plenty of pictures.  As a result, this weekend I also decided to start a new project called “Hoboken Streets.”  Since the festival is held in Hoboken, it seems logical to think many of the attendees will be Hoboken residents.  Having a geographically targeted audience means I should have geographically targeted pictures, hence my “Hoboken Street” idea.

If you’re still with me, you’re probably asking, “how in the world does all this related to this week’s picture?”  Well, even before officially deciding on the idea of doing a “Hoboken Streets” project, I wanted to explore more of Hoboken.  Over the past few weeks I’ve changed up my nightly running route and began zig zagging around town looking for pictures.  This past week one of my runs led me up 8th street towards Stevens around sunset, where I found this location.  It might come as a surprise but I don’t run with my camera, so a few days later I circled back with my Nikon and got the shot.

Photography concepts:

I wrote a little too much in the previous section, and the article I referenced could somewhat fall into this section so this week I’ll keep this section short.  Two keys to this picture were composition and editing.  In terms of composition, I wanted to have an equal balance between the sky/silhouette and the solar panels which were reflecting the sky/silhouettes.  Instead of following the usual rule of thirds guidelines I split my image in two halves horizontally (top/bottom).  The bottom half was focused on the reflection which was meant to lead your eyes down the path to the top half, which was meant to feature the sky and silhouettes.

Editing was key for this image because I wanted to emphasize the contrast between the dark silhouettes and light from the sunset.  In order to do create a nice contrast, I dropped the overall vibrancy of the image while boosting the saturation of specific colors.  After my color adjustments, I was left with the contrasting image that I was looking for.  Of course there were some other adjustments (e.g spot adjustments, highlights, clarity, ect.) but nothing more than I’ve talked about in previous weeks.  If you haven’t already, circle back and read some of my earlier weeks posts to get some more in depth tips on editing and composition.

Article:

http://theslantedlens.com/2014/7-reasons-photographers-videographers-dont-reach-goals/

CameraRec Toby Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhGUyD2g7Eo

 

Fighting Light

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 6 seconds

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 6 seconds

Week 34 (3/24/2014 -3/30/2014): Lincoln Tunnel, NJ Exit

Picture taken on 3/28/2014 at 4:44 PM

Photography description:

Long exposure photography has been a passion of mine since day one of purchasing my Nikon DSLR.  Most recently, my favorite subject for long exposures have been tunnels.  The effects that result from shooting with slow shutter speeds while driving in a tunnel are truly amazing.  My interest in tunnel/driving long exposures started after seeing a stunning picture posted on Instagram.  Some photographer wedged his DSLR in the back of his car and triggered it remotely.  The final image looked like something out of Star Wars.  All of the lights streaked, giving the feeling of motion to the viewer.  The concept captured my attention not only because it was visually beautiful, but because I like the idea of portraying a feeling through photography.  After seeing the picture on Instagram I knew that I had to try my hand at that type of picture.

Over the past couple of months I’ve had a couple opportunities to try out a tunnel long exposure.  Thus far I’ve only experimented in the Lincoln and Battery tunnels, but both have provided great images.  I haven’t strapped my camera to the back of the car yet, instead I came up with my own method.  I sit in the passenger seat and use a mini tripod to stabilize my camera on the dashboard.

Prior to this week, most of my tunnel pictures were shot using aperture priority, with an exposure time of under one second.  As I’ve mentioned over the past few weeks one of my new goals is to shoot in manual more often, so this weeks tunnel picture was shot in manual.  I’ll talk more about why I chose specific settings in the photography concepts section.

This week’s capture was the last picture I took before exiting the Lincoln tunnel during my Friday commute home.  I previously shot a picture that I really liked at the exit of the Battery tunnel, so my goal was to shoot something similar inn the Lincoln.  The contrasting or “fighting light” (dark/bright) that exists at a tunnels exit presents the perfect scenario for an interesting photograph.

Battery Tunnel Long Exposure

Battery Tunnel Long Exposure

Photography concepts:

As the end of the tunnel approached, it felt like a race to get my camera’s settings right for my photograph.  The stress and potential for a mistake that exists while shooting is the main negative about being in manual mode, but the risk is worth the reward.  Shooting in manual was the key to this week’s picture because I didn’t want to lose control of my shutter speed.  In order to get the picture looking as I imagined, I needed a slow shutter and for it to close right as I exited the tunnel.  Had my shutter stayed open too long after exiting, my entire image would have been blown out.  The aperture I selected (f/22) was more of an experiment than something I knew would work.  Previously I shot most of my tunnel pictures with a wide aperture, the smallest being about f/7.  Post picture, I’m happy with the look that f/22 generated.  Although mostly everything is blurred, the texture of the road at the tunnel exit is still visible, and that’s due to shooting at f/22.  Shooting at such a small aperture also enabled me to hit a slower shutter while maintaining the exposure that I wanted.  In my mind I wanted the exit of the tunnel to be completely blown out (white) so I purposely overexposed my image.  The result of all these things turned out to be almost exactly what I was looking for.

This week was the first time that my post production led me to doing photoshop manipulation.  I’m not a fan of “editing” an image in the way of changing what you originally shot.  I don’t mind editing the raw images attributes (contrast, clarity, hue, ect.) to modify an image, but I usually feel changing the structure of an image in photoshop is cheating.  In my opinion once you start changing your image, you move out of the photography world, and more into the art realm of painting and or drawing.  This week however I made an exception to my rule.  As a result of my longer shutter speed, some of the light blur in my image became choppy.  The choppiness was due to the car’s vibrations which usually aren’t as obvious with quicker shutters ( < 1 second).  What I decided to do was use the smudge and blur tools in photoshop to smoothing things out.  The result of my photoshop manipulations left my image looking more like a painting than an actual photograph.  As I said I’m usually not a big fan of doing this, but I’m really happy with the way this image came out this week.  I’m not planning on making a habit of manipulating my photo’s like this, but it’s nice knowing that I can with some sort of success.

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

Saturday Night Focus

Picture info: ISO 1000, 35mm, f/2.0, 1/50sec

Picture info: ISO 1000, 35mm, f/2.0, 1/50sec

Week 28 (2/10/2014 -2/16/2014): Hoboken, Washington/13th

Picture taken on 2/15/2014 at 7:52 PM

Picture description:

Like many people my age, on a usual Saturday night there is a good chance you’ll find me out at a bar with friends.  This past Saturday night however was not my usual evening.  This weekend was different because I was providing 24/7 support for work.  Working in IT has it’s perks but it also occasionally carries some unique responsibilities, one of those being support coverage.  This weekend was the first time I held this role in a long time and it’s not one that I take lightly.  While covering support I need to maintain my wits and have a quick response time if I get any calls, therefor going out to a bar isn’t on my social menu.  

Original "accidental" picture

Original “accidental” picture

Coincidentally this weekend the newest season of “House of Cards” released on Netflix so that provided the perfect means to pass my Saturday night.  Though I had a good TV binge in the queue, I decided to pop outside for a little with my camera.  Earlier in the week I took a picture which I planned to use as this week’s post.  My goal for Saturday night’s picture hunt was to try my hand at recreating and or improving my previous picture.  The original picture was shot on Washington street and was more of an accident than a planned image.  When you’re attempting to take a picture in the middle of the street you can imagine how one might feel rushed.  It could be the possibility of getting hit, or just the fact that people gaze upon you like you’re crazy. Regardless of the reason, while shooting my original picture from the middle of the street I felt rushed and thus fired off some quick pictures, a few of which were not in focus.  After reviewing the unfocused batch of pictures, I actually liked the way the blurred imaged looked.  Fast forward to Saturday night, my goal was to not leave this round of pictures to chance.  My plan was to use the manual focus of my camera to create a “controlled” blurred image.

My chosen spot was at the corner of 13th/Washington. As I stood at the corner waiting for the light to turn red, I fiddled with my focus to get a blurry but clear enough to see image.  During one of my practice pictures I accidently got a taxi in frame which triggered the idea of creating an picture that represented how I usually recall Saturday nights.  I waited a couple of light cycles until again having a taxi staged for the picture.  Once the light turned red I darted out into the street and captured this week’s image.

Photography concepts:

The more I learn about my camera, the more artistic freedom I have to create the images that are in my head.  Although this week’s picture wasn’t an exact representation of what I mentally saw, it was close.  This is the first time I used manual focus for a featured post and I’m happy with the result.  Manual focus gives you the freedom to choose the exact focus you want rather than relying upon the camera to make the decision.  It would have been nearly impossible to shoot this picture if I only relied on my camera for focusing.  When in autofocus mode your camera needs to focus on something in order to shoot.  There is a setting to override requiring focus but it’s easier to put your camera in manual.  Putting your camera in manual focus allows you to take a picture no matter what the focus is, blurry or razor sharp.  The reason I wanted to achieve an out of focus image was because of the effect it creates.  The effect that results from images being out of focused is often referred to as “bokeh.”  Most of the time bokeh is used to create separation in a picture between the subject and background.  The intensity of the bokeh usually increases as your aperture gets larger.  This technique is used a lot in portraits such as head shots.  In my picture instead of focusing on one subject and blurring out everything else, I blurred out the entire image.  I wanted to use the blurriness to create a sense of disorientation from looking at the picture.  I also wanted to use the blurry lights to create the composition of my image in the form of leading lines.  All of the lights are pinched inward to pull your focus onto the blurred out taxi.  The leading line composition was meant to represent the usual progression of a saturday night, increased blurring over time and ending in a taxi.  

As you can see by applying some of the lessons that I’ve learned, I was able to create the image that I wanted.  Of course some chance was involved this week, but the lesson to take away is that once you start to build your photography toolbox it’s important you know what concept to take out or apply to achieve the image you’re going for.  Your creativity will always be limited to the speed that you’re able to think of your feet and apply your knowledge.

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.