Shoot for the Moon

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/16, 30sec

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/16, 30sec

Week 49 (7/7/2014 -7/13/2014): Pier A, Hoboken NJ

Picture taken on 7/13/2014 9:42PM

Picture description:

No matter how many times it happens, a full moon always seems to invoke a certain amount of awe after it emerges from the horizon.  This past Saturday I was out camping for paintball in Pennsylvania when I first spotted the orange full moon.  Although I was in a magnificent location to capture the moon in all it’s glory, I did not have my Nikon with me.  It was hard not being able to photograph the rare event but in a way I was glad.  Not having my camera forced me to sit back and just appreciate the moon in the raw, not through a lens, not on the back of a LCD screen, but through my own two eyes.  As I gazed upon what seemed like a giant orange in the sky, I couldn’t help but think how I would compose a  picture feature the moon once back home.  I spent the rest of the evening kicking back with friends reminiscing about our glory days in college, knowing that tomorrow I’d have my shot at the moon.

After getting home from my trip to PA, I quickly gathered my gear and set out for the waterfront to get in position to shoot for the moon.  It was cloudy on Sunday but I remained optimistic that the moon would find a way to peek through the clouds.  After arriving at Pier A, I scouted a few spots for my picture then patiently waited for the moon to rise from the Western horizon.  The predicted moonrise time came and went, and there was still no sign of the moon.  After about 15 minutes doubt started to creep into my mind and I began to think that perhaps the clouds were just too thick to see the moon.  Once 20 minutes hit I started to head back uptown feeling very defeated.  As I walked past Pier C I took a quick glance at the horizon and much to my surprise I saw an orange glow starting to burst through the clouds.  Could it be?!  Yes it was, it was the orange mood that I was eagerly waiting for.  I quickly ran back to my spot at Pier A, composed my picture and the rest is history.

Photography Concepts

When it comes to composing a picture featuring a full moon, or even the sun, one of the keys is knowing where your subject (the moon/sun) will be and when.  Although the moon popped out later than I originally expected, I still had a good idea about when it would rise and where I should look for it.  I’m sure there are plenty of options out there for figuring out the moon’s location but my information source is typically an iPhone application called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris.”  I’ve mentioned this application in the past, but it’s so valuable that it’s worth a second shout out.  Below is an example of how I planned the composition of my picture based on where the moon would be.

iPhone App Screen Shot

iPhone App Screen Shot

The reason I chose this location was because the trees lining Pier A created  a natural leading lines composition, drawing your eyes down the pier towards the moon.  I knew my focal length would leave the moon looking tiny, so I had to give the moon a boost a good composition to make it stand out.   Other than the trees, I also used the light reflections in the water to naturally point towards the moon.  In order for me to get the water looking as smooth as it did, I had to shoot a long exposure.  The trade off of shooting a long exposure was the moon wasn’t as in focus as I would have liked.  In hindsight I wish that I shot a few pictures using a quicker shutter to capture more detail in the moon.  The next full moon like this is on August 10th which leaves me plenty of time to plan out my next shot.  Mark it on your calendar, pick a location and shoot for the moon!

Circling Back

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/20, 20 Second

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/20, 20 Second

Week 43 (5/26/2014 -6/1/2014): Uptown Hoboken

Picture taken on 5/30/2014 at 9:49 PM

Photograph description:

Hoboken is a great place to live if you enjoy running.  Hoboken has countless running routes to choose from, most of which are accompanied by an amazing view.  Since moving to Hoboken over a year ago I’ve mapped out a few of my own running routes.  Each route presents a different physical challenge along with the constant mental challenge of fighting the urge to stop and take pictures every few steps.  Out of all the routes I run, my favorite is what I refer to as my “uptown route.”  My uptown route starts at Maxwell Park and hugs the water line all the way into Weehawken.  Eventually I circle back to Hoboken the same way I came, with my finish line being the path featured in this picture.  The reason this route is my favorite is because typically there aren’t many other joggers to get in my way and of course having this view as my finish line is a nice perk.

I run a few times per week so I’ve seen this view countless times and countless times I’ve said to myself that would make for a great picture.  Not only is this a beautiful site, it also reminds me to always finish what I start.  Each time I get to this point of my run I’m usually tired and ready to stop, but instead of slowing down I usually kick up the intensity for this last straight away. Typically I wait until some other runner makes it about halfway then I chase them down and try to finish ahead of them.  I believe that the more you train yourself to push through hard situations, the more it becomes second nature and the stronger you’ll be both physically and mentally.  This is the code that I live by and this picture reminds me to practice this each and every day.  Always finish and always finish strong!

Photography concepts:

One of the reasons this view always draws me in is because of the natural “Leading Lines” composition.  The lights and trees that line the path converge and take your eyes straight towards the Empire State Building.  Year round this is a powerful view but the conditions never seemed right for me to get a good picture.  Additionally the street lights always presented glare issues that took away from the picture.  Recently I figured out the right camera settings and editing techniques to eliminate the glare issues so I finally decided to give this picture a shot.

The camera setting that has helped the most with photographing strong light sources (e.g. the sun, street lights, ect.) has been a small aperture.  The smaller the aperture the less bleeding light and the cleaner it looks.  For night photography f/18 and above is a great aperture to use.  If you’re using this small of an aperture at night it’s more than likely that you’ll be hitting some slow shutter speeds so don’t forget your tripod.

When it came time to edit this picture there were two adjustments that were key.  First, to bring out the detail in the Empire State Building I dropped the highlights of the area surrounding the building.  I’ve found that dropping the highlights of buildings at night makes them look very crisp.  The second adjustment was to lower the saturation all colors in the image except green.  What this did was eliminate any of the lens glare that showed up as random colors, and it made the leading lines composition of the trees even more of a focal point.  As a result the not only does the composition of the image take you down the path but the isolation of the green color also acts as a guide for your eyes too.

The last aspect of this picture that helped enhance the composition was the size of the Empire State Building.  If you’re a Hoboken local and you’ve taken this picture before chances are the Empire State Building was much smaller than in this picture.  Why is that? It’s because of my focal length 36mm x 1.5 = 54mm.  Most phones shoot at around 30mm and since focal length essentially equates to zoom so when I use ~54mm the building is larger.  The thing that’s interesting about zoom is if you stand further back your foreground will be scaled regular, but whatever is in the background (e.g. the Empire State Building) will appear larger than usual.  You see this technique a lot when people photograph the moon and get that insanely large moon backdrop.  Although I shot with a greater zoom then people do with phones, my image resembles how this path looks like to the naked eye.  Had I stood further back and zoomed in with 80mm+ the Empire State Building would have looked massive.  I’m limited to the 35mm range for this blog but I encourage you to try zoomed focal lengths to scale up your backdrop subjects.  Experiment with your camera’s settings and new focal lengths, it’s the only way you’ll learn!

A Year Down the Road

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/22, 5.0 seconds

Picture Info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/22, 5.0 seconds

Week 42 (5/19/2014 -5/25/2014): “The Farm” PA

Picture taken on 5/25/2014 at 9:00PM

Photography Description:

Progress, it’s something that is noticeable but not always easy to measure.  Some progress is tangible while other progress is more metaphysical.  When it comes to metaphysical progress, the question is how can you measure the progress of something that doesn’t have a scale of measure.  Take for example a picture, how can you scale a picture’s quality?  Is a picture measured by the number of “likes”, the price tag someone can sell it for, or is it the satisfaction the photographer get’s after taking it?  The concept of measuring my own progress in the world of photography is one that I’ve been dwelling on recently.  I feel like I’m getting better, but how can I truly measure my progress?

This past week presented the perfect opportunity for me to try and measure my progress in the world of photography.  For me, one of the key metrics in progress is difference over time.  In terms of photography this means you need to take the same picture or shoot the same subject at two intervals of time.  How does this relate to last week? Well last week marked the one year anniversary of purchasing my camera.  I couldn’t think of a better way to gauge my progress than comparing pictures I took in the first week of owning my camera, to ones I took one year later.

During the week I went out and tried to recreate some of my first attempted “night photography” pictures.  After successfully recreating one of the pictures I took on the first night of owning my camera, the progress was pretty clear.  However, after looking at my recreation I realized one nuance in my recreation idea.  I couldn’t limit myself to taking the “exact” picture, I needed to place myself at the same location but then shoot freely choosing whatever composition I liked.  Since composition is such a large component of photography, it seemed silly to force myself into recomposing images that might have been better from another perspective.

On Friday, I set out for my traditional Memorial Day weekend trip to “The Farm,” which is my friend Bob’s PA house.  While in route I was excited knowing “The Farm’s” rural landscape would act as the perfect testing ground for my progress.

Recreation of a shot from 2013

Recreation of a shot from 2013

Without getting into the technical aspect of my progress (I’ll cover that in the next section), let me just say WOW, I saw a whole new side to the Farm.  It’s worth noting that I’ve been going to the Farm for 11 years, so something new totally blew my mind!  Take this week’s picture for example.  Never before have I thought to walk down this road during sunset.  It wasn’t until this year that it dawned on me, this road, sunset and mountain background would make for the perfect leading line composition.  The new perspectives didn’t stop at this road.  The entire weekend I was shown how photography has unlocked a whole new world for me visually.  That’s progress, and although it’s not entirely measurable it’s certainly noticeable to me and hopefully everyone else. Seeing the progress that I’ve made in a year makes me excited to think about where I’ll be another year down the road.  Only time will tell…

The last night's sunset

The last night’s sunset

Photography Concepts:

There are three major differences between the way I shoot now, versus how I shot a year ago.  First and probably the most important is the picture format that I shoot in.  Last year I had no clue about RAW vs. JPEG, so I shot in JPEG to give myself more pictures per SD card.  Had I shot this week’s picture in JPEG, I never would have been able to edit it the way I did.  This week’s picture was shot in Nikon’s RAW “.NEF” format.  While shooting, I purposely underexposed my image by a few stops knowing that it would better retain the detail in the sky, and I would be able to recover the lost detail in the foreground.  Simply put, last year I was unaware of the RAW power of shooting in .NEF…pun intended.

The second major difference between last year and now, is that I now mainly shoot in manual mode instead of aperture priority.  Manual mode is what enabled me to under expose my image to my desired level.  I made the jump to shooting more in manual a few weeks ago and I can tell you it’s been paying off in almost every one of my pictures.  Not only do I have more control, but I’m getting quicker at determining what settings are best for specific lighting or subject scenarios. Using this picture as an example, I instantly knew I wanted almost everything in focus so I shot at f/22.  Initially I didn’t have my tripod when I show this picture.  Last year I might have opened my aperture to f/2.8 so I could shoot with a fast enough shutter.  This year I knew f/2.8 wouldn’t let me capture the image I wanted, so I ran back to the house grabbed my tripod and tapped into the power of f/22’s large plane of focus.

Last but definitely not least is what I touched on in the previous section, composition.  Before taking the trip to the Farm this year I reviewed some of my pictures to see how I shot things.  What I noticed was that I wasn’t composing my pictures to take advantage of the full scene.  This year I focused more on lining things up or positioning myself at a location that gave me the best angle.  As often as you can, while out shooting mentally take a step back and think to yourself where is the best angle?  On top of that don’t fall in love with one location, move around!  Last year I was one of the biggest offenders of getting concrete shoes.  I picked a spot and took countless pictures.  This year I took 5-10 pictures ranging in aperture from a location, then moved to the next spot.  When you get home the last thing you want to see is 200 of the same picture.  Variety is good so don’t forget to move.

That about wraps up my review of the differences between this year and last year.  There were other things that I noticed, such as how I edit now, but it’s far too much to fit into one post.  As I get closer to the end of this blog you can expect more then and now comparisons.  Until then, I’m gone for now…

 

A shot I never saw before

Leading Lines Pt2

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

 

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.”

 

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.

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.

New Perspective

Picture Info: ISO 500, 35mm, f/11, 1/320 seco

Picture Info: ISO 500, 35mm, f/11, 1/320 seco

Week 23 (1/6/2014 – 1/12/2014): Pier C, Hoboken NJ

Picture taken on 1/12/2014 at 3:58 PM

Picture description

A new year and a new perspective.  One of the keys to making progress is the idea that only by searching for new ideas and perspectives will you truly grow.  Therefore finding new perspectives in life and photography is my goal for 2014.  This week I decided a good way to challenge myself would be to set out in Hoboken to find a new perspective on some of the locations I’ve so often photographed over the past year.

Starting out on 4th street I begin working my way towards Pier A park.  When I arrived at the park I noticed that there were quite a few puddles still around even though it was a bright blue sunny day.  I’m a big fan of puddle pictures, so I set my sights on one rather large puddle at the corner of Pier A.  As I crouched down to get a good angle an old man tapped me on the shoulder and asked what I was photographing.  I proudly hit my camera’s review button and showed him my most recent shot.  He responded with a “Wow” and told me that reminded him of something he did when he was young.  Intrigued, I asked him what it was that he did with puddles when he was young?  He proceeded to stand over the puddle and intensely look down into the shallow pool of water.  I initially thought he was checking himself out but then he explained what he was doing.  He was standing at such an angle that he couldn’t see himself, just the reflection of the sky in the puddle.  He said I’d stand here and look, look into the puddle, and if you do it long enough you can lose yourself in it’s reflection.  Little did this man know he had just in part described my goal for the day.  You see as this man stared into the puddle he wasn’t simply looking at the ground, no he was gazing into the deep blue sky but only from a new perspective.  As the old man stood there for a few more seconds in silence I could see he was adrift in the skies reflection and found happiness from this new perspective.  That’s what I want in 2014, I want to find happiness through the eyes of a new perspective.

The "Old Man"

The “Old Man”

After my nice interaction with the old man I continued on my quest for this week’s picture.  I took pictures looking straight up trees, crouches at ground level, and I even fired off some no look shots while chasing some birds.  Although I might have looked like a real oddball to anyone that may have been observing, after they saw my pictures they would understand.  Eventually I worked my way back towards 4th street and the took one final detour at Pier C, or as I like to call it, Hoboken island.  I’ve attempted to get a picture from the winding entrance of Pier C many times.  This time I decided to drop to one knee and see what perspective that brought.  What I saw was how the railing of the path was leading directly towards the city skyline. I snapped of a couple pictures until homing in my settings then leaned directly against the railing for what would be my final picture.

Tree Perspective

Tree Perspective

Photography concepts:

The focus of this week’s picture was finding a new perspective which essentially meant I needed to find a unique composition.  In this week’s picture the look that I was going for was one of a focus to blur effect on the railing that led to the city skyline.  To get this look I had to set my aperture not too small (f/22) nor too large (f/1.8).  A logical approach was to split the two numbers and that’s exactly what I did.  I shot my picture with an aperture of f/11 which usually puts mostly everything in focus but because I was so close (actually touching) the railing it gave a good blur to the city skyline.   Below is an example of how the closeness of the railing and use of focus points got me the “blur” look I was going for.  This picture is identical to my featured picture from a setting (ISO/aperture/shutter speed) standpoint but as you can see the skyline is a lot more in focus.  This is the picture that I think most people would take at this low angle.  I took this picture first, then to get a “new perspective” leaned into the pole to get a new spin on the view.

Picture Info: ISO 500, 35mm, f/11, 1/320 seco

Picture Info: ISO 500, 35mm, f/11, 1/320 seco

As I edited the picture in Lightroom, I wanted to emphasize the metallic look of the railing along with the lights that were built into it.  To do this I worked with the color sliders but unlike last week, I was actually adjusting the colors not black and white shading.  As a result of tweaking the green in the railing you’ll notice all the green in my picture really pops.  I wanted the green to stand out so it would first draw your eye to the railing then the green of the railing transitions into the green of the city skyline.

Overall lot of my “new perspective” shots involved getting lower to the ground or closer to my subjects than usual.  I encourage you to do the same with some of your pictures this week.  After you take a picture pause and ask yourself, without changing your subject how can you adjust your composition to get a new look?

Rushing to/Rushing from…

ISO 400, 35 mm, f/3.2, 1/80 second

ISO 400, 35 mm, f/3.2, 1/80 second, -2 stop exposure

Week 7 (9/15/2013 – 9/21/2013): Hoboken Terminal, Hoboken NJ
Picture Taken on 9/17/2013 at 6:55 PM

Picture Description:

Have you ever noticed that almost everyone at train stations are in a rush? I have to admit in most cases I’m one of those people. Think back to your last time at a train station, chances are you were either rushing to or from your destination and paid little attention to your surroundings. In the rare instance (or maybe not so rare depending on how punctual you are) that you miss your train the thought of waiting for the next one can almost seem like a prison sentence. I’m no stranger to mass transit, I’ve been taking it for years and I’ve become all too familiar with the scenarios I just described. I have often wondered about all the little things I’ve missed over the years while rushing around or overlooked while being frustrated by some unplanned circumstance such as missing a train. Maybe I missed out on an interesting conversation with a passing stranger? I might have trampled right over a rare coin laying abandoned on the ground or perhaps walked past a person that needed my help with something as simple as directions. You would be surprised what you notice when you actually take the time to pause, think and observe. This concept of how people rush through train stations and life in general is what gave me the idea for this week’s post.

This week I decided to try and observe things, people and places I regularly might overlook. I’ve been riding the bus with my headphones out, phone in my pocket and head up. I made it a point to sit outside for lunch rather than eat at my desk on the computer. Besides the little day to day changes I also decided to take a trip to the train station, not to catch a train but give a photographic demonstration of what you/we often miss out on. My plan was to get to the Hoboken train station just before sunset because I knew the station was aligned East to West so there would be a good sunset down the tracks.

Upon arriving at the station it was exactly how I imagined it. I got to the station around 6:45 which is the tail end of rush hour but the station was still very busy. Crowds of people were weaving in and out of one another, some on their phones while others just with this blank look on their face. As I tried to shuffle between the waves of people to line up my shot I got tapped on the shoulder, “Can I help you?” I heard. My unusual behavior caught the eye of a police officer, apparently being the only person not rushing looked a little suspicious . I politely replied no (didn’t want to get arrested) and said I was just trying to get a sunset photograph while offering to show my pictures as proof. The police officer looked dumbfounded but said okay and walked away. I spent a couple more minutes fighting the crowd trying to get the best shot the whole time noticing that literally no one was seeing this awesome view. One person stopped and I thought they were checking it out, but it turned out they were just looking for a train time. By the end of my little endeavor I felt validated about my rushing theory and accomplished that I was able to get the the exact picture I had in mind. One oddly coincidental aspect of this photo, this is my seventh blog and somehow I ended up getting a photo of track 7. This wasn’t planned but sometimes the best things aren’t…

Photography Concepts:

I applied a couple of the basic composition techniques I’ve talked about in my previous posts to deliver what I felt to be an interesting picture. The rule of thirds and leading lines are the two most main composition concepts at work in this photo. Instead of going for a symmetrical picture and having the track split my picture down the middle I went with having it take you right to left and right out of the station, or is it leading in? I felt like this picture can give the feeling that you could be waiting to leave, or you just said good-bye to someone leaving you with nothing but an empty track. Basically when someone looked at the photo I was hoping they would almost ask the question, am I coming or going, am I rushing to or rushing from?

Ruleofthirds2

The rule of thirds gave less of a message and was more of the framework for lining everything up. I put the train right on the bottom third intersection line and did my best to have the exit for the station at the intersection point of the bottom and left thirds lines. The last two main pieces of the picture were the track sign and the empty platform, I lined both of those up along the left thirds lines. You might be saying to yourself wow you gave lining up a lot of thought. Surprisingly I really didn’t think too much while framing everything. Over the past couple of weeks as I have taken more and more pictures along these guidelines I’ve started to do it automatically. I’ve noticed a big difference in the pictures I’ve been taking, and judging by peoples comments they have too. Don’t take my word for it, pay more attention to lining up your pictures and see what you think or better yet what other people think.

A Day of Reflection

Picture Specs: ISO 500, 35mm, f/9.0, 1/200 sec

Picture Specs: ISO 500, 35mm, f/9.0, 1/200 sec

Week 2 (8/11/2013 – 8/17/2013): Corner of 6th/42nd Bryant Park, New York City
Picture taken: 8/14/2013 at 5:50PM

Picture Description:

If you were to ask me what are my favorite locations in New York City, Bryant Park would absolutely be in my top five.  Although I pass the park almost every day (during my commute to work) I don’t always have the time to stop and enjoy everything it has to offer.  If you’ve spent any amount of time in the park you know it’s a very busy place filled with a diverse group of people.  It’s safe to say there is an activity for almost anyone, year round. One part of the park that I never explored was the New York Public Library.  Yes, for those of you that know me I went into the library, voluntarily!  No I did not borrow any books BUT I did have fun checking out the amazing architecture throughout the building.  At the start of my visit, my plan was to get a picture of the “Rose Main Reading Room” however that didn’t come out as I hoped.  A picture with the 35mm didn’t do the room justice (trust me, Google it) you really need a wide-angle lens, so I decided not to use that picture for this post.

Taken via NYPL’s Photobooth

After exploring the library, I took my adventure outside.  In the heart of the park there were hundreds of people out enjoying the beautiful 70 degree sunny weather.  Both of the park’s restaurants were buzzing and the lawn was littered with people hanging out next to the towering movie screen sitting on the west side of the lawn.  In case you don’t know, HBO has a film festival that runs every Monday during the summer.  The festival makes for a great dinner and a movie idea, but those kind of tips would need a whole other blog so I’ll leave it at that.

After doing a quick walk-through of the park one thing that immediately caught my eye was how most of the buildings surrounding the park were picking up great reflections of one another.  A reflection shot usually makes for an interesting and unique photo so I decided this would be the perfect idea for this weeks post.

Photography Concepts:

There weren’t a lot of technical intricacies to this week’s photo other than timing.  Prior to going to Bryant Park I knew when the sun would be at the right angle (no pun intended) for some nice shots and maybe even a good reflection picture.  I use an APP on my iPhone called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” which tells me the angle of the sun based on time/day.  If you’re looking to use the sun as a part of your picture or get a reflection shot I highly recommend using this application when planning your shot.

One composition concept that I attempted to use at least subtly is “leading lines”.  When you look at the picture the lines sort of lead you to the corner of the building where you notice you’re not looking at a blurry picture, you’re actually looking at a reflection.  At least that’s the way I saw it.

Last, when shooting during the day even though there is plenty of natural light, at some points I had to slow down my shutter speed or boost my ISO.  I’ll talk about this more when I take a night picture but take note that for a picture like this when you want everything in focus you need to use a smaller aperture.  I used f/9 which is (based on everything I read) a good aperture for landscapes.  Since a smaller aperture means less light, you have to compensate with a higher ISO or slower shutter speed.

Challenges:

I’m only in week two and I can already see how challenging the 52 from 52 concept is going to be.  Luckily I like a challenge, anything worthwhile takes time and effort.  I put a decent amount of thought into what I wanted to photograph this week.  I naturally have lots of ideas but some of them are about timing (weather, time of day, ect.) while others are location based and require traveling.  With a busy schedule, one of my biggest difficulties will be setting aside the time to go out and take pictures each week…but that’s the purpose of this, to force me to get out there and learn!