One shot

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/9, 30seconds, 0.6 neutral density filter, -2 exposure stops

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/9, 30sec, 0.6 neutral density filter, -2 exposure stops

Week 17 (11/25/2013 – 12/1/2013): Hoboken Light Rail Station
Picture taken on 11/30/2013 at 5:12 PM

Picture description:

Opportunities come and go, and sometimes you only have one shot to take advantage of them.  That was absolutely the case for my week 17 picture.   This week I picked up some neutral density filters (I’ll explain what these are in the concepts section) which I wanted to experiment with.  Coming into the week my goal was to venture into the city to get some kind of street shot/long exposure.   When it came time to go out and shoot on Saturday I was a bit demotivated due to two things. First it was really cold outside, and the second reason was because of the conflicting online posts about wether or not it’s okay to use a tripod in New York City. Since I wasn’t in the mood to argue my way out of a ticket I decided to play it safe and set out for an area in Hoboken that I have been meaning to photograph for a while.

The location I chose for this week’s shoot was a walkway between the Hoboken train station and Newport, Jersey City.  I’ve seen some really nice pictures on Flickr that were taken from this seemingly hidden location.  Many of the pictures featured old dock posts of a broken down pier with either the Jersey City or New York city skylines in the background.  With a couple clear pictures in mind I set up my tripod and started taking some long exposures.

After spending about 2 hours taking long exposures and chasing lots of seagulls I decided to call it a night.  As I started to pack up my gear I spotted a potential picture which would feature the light-rail train as it left the station.  I figured why not give it a shot?  I quickly set up my tripod on the edge of the tracks in preparation for the next train.  The trains were coming about every 30 minutes, so unless I wanted to wait out in the cold for the next one, I’d have only one shot at capturing a good picture.  From the distance I heard the bell sound announcing the train’s pending departure, I quickly clicked my camera’s shutter release, sat back and watched as the light-rail moved in and out of the frame.   After what seemed like an eternity, but really was only 30 seconds, my camera finished taking the picture and I eagerly awaited seeing what it captured.  Once the preview came up on the screen I immediately knew this was the picture I had to feature in this week’s post.

Photography concepts:

This is the second “long exposure” post that I’ve done, the first being my week 6 picture “Night Light.”  Since week 6 I’ve learned some new tricks for taking and editing long exposure pictures.  As I am becoming better from past lessons, I’m able to add more moving parts and that’s what spurred on this week’s experiment with neutral density filters.

Neutral density filters, commonly called ND filters are pieces of glass that come in many shapes and sizes but ultimately block light from hitting your camera’s sensor.  As I mentioned in this weeks description, my goal for the week was to get a long exposure but you don’t need an ND filter to do this.  Although ND filter’s are not required for all long exposures, they are if you want to take a long exposure during the day or anytime there are bright light sources.  With the use of ND filters you’re able to use settings that would usually not be feasible in certain conditions or due to other selected camera settings such as wide apertures. Usually when you use slow shutter speeds (20-30 second) you have to shrink your aperture to f/13-f/20 to limit the amount of light.  f/13 isn’t bad but once you start approaching f/20 pictures lose their crispness, this is where the ND filters come in handy.  Take the below picture for example.  The sun was setting behind the buildings and flooding my camera’s sensor with light.  Given the amount of light, and having already maxed out at the smallest aperture my lens can shoot with (f/20), I would usually only be able to use a fast shutter.  With the use of the ND filters I was able to shoot with a 4 second shutter speed.  For the below picture I used a combination of ND filters which totaled out at a 2.7  density rating,  which is equivalent to -9 exposure stops.

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/20, 4 seconds, 2.7 ND filter, -2 exposure stops

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/20, 4 sec, 2.7 ND filter, -2 exposure stops

Now you’re probably asking why would you want to do a long exposure for a picture such as this, and what are the effects? One reason/effect is the smooth and very reflective water.  Notice how the water has begun to almost look like ice in the above picture.  The smoothing effect is even more prevalent in the below picture where I used a 30 second exposure and a 0.6 ND filter.

picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/14, 30 seconds, 0.6 ND filter, -2 exposure stops

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/14, 30 sec, 0.6 ND filter, -2 exposure stops

All this being said, how did the ND filter help me with this week’s picture? In order for me to capture the train’s full movement from right to left I needed to use a 30 second shutter speed.  As mentioned in previous blogs, night pictures look better when under exposed but even with dropping the exposure down 2 stops I still wasn’t able to hit the 30 second shutter speed mark.  Add in the fact that once the train passed by my camera’s sensor was going to get a burst of light it was very important to somehow compensate.  I didn’t want to shoot with too small of an aperture so here is where the ND filter came in.  I used a 0.6 ND filter which is equivalent to -2 exposure stops, this allowed me to maintain a good night exposure, use an aperture of f/9 and hit my 30 second shutter speed.  The result of the 30 second exposure was the very vivid light trail that’s featured in this week’s picture.  This was my first time experimenting with the ND filters so expect some more pictures and feedback in some coming blogs.  For more info on ND filters check out the below link.

Out of time

Picture Specs: ISO 400, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/800sec

Picture Specs: ISO 400, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/800sec

Week 14 (11/3/2013 – 11/9/2013): Hoboken Terminal
Picture taken on 11/9/2013 at 4:31 PM

Picture description:

As the days continue to grow shorter and colder it’s becoming harder to find time during the week to snap a picture.  Once winter hits I get the feeling that I’ll be taking more nighttime shots since the sun goes down so early.  Option two would be to take pictures on Saturday and cut it close to the self imposed weekly deadline I adhere to.  Having completed over one quarter of my 52 week blog I’ve come to notice when I’m taking most of my pictures and for that reason I’m going to adjust my weekly window.  Usually I run my week Sunday-Saturday which means I have a weekend day on either side of the week to get a picture.  What I’ve noticed is due to my schedule I hardly every (as in never) take pictures on Sunday but it would be the prime day to write a blog if I take a picture on Saturday. For that reason I’m going to change it up and move my weekly window to Monday-Sunday.  I guess it’s my own daylight savings adjustment.

Now that I’ve worked out my time issue let me talk about this week’s picture and how it had a role in my recent decision.  Going into this week my plan was to revisit Top of the Rock (went in June) after work to get a picture looking downtown at sunset.  Unfortunately due to my busy schedule and daylight savings moving sunset times to around 4:30/4:45 this was an impossible goal to accomplish.  This made me realize that if I wanted to continue to take advantage of shooting during the “golden hour” I’ll have to do more of my picture taking on the weekends.  Taking a picture and writing a blog all in one day, especially on Saturday, a day/night I usually go out, can prove difficult.  This is the exact scenario that transpired this week.  My window of opportunity to get the picture I wanted fell to Saturday and in the end I didn’t have the time to make it to Top of the Rock.  Thankfully getting an interesting picture in Hoboken is as easy as taking an afternoon stroll, no planning required.  After setting out to get my picture I began to work my way down the Hoboken waterfront.  As I got closer to downtown  my eye’s were drawn to the train station’s clock tower. With the idea of running out of time in the forefront of my mind a clock picture seemed fitting, all that was left was finding the right angle.

*Never noticed before taking this week’s picture, this clock is not set to the correct time. 

Photography concepts:

As I mentioned in this week’s description section I try to take most of my pictures during what’s referred to as the “golden hour” or “magic hour.”  It’s said that during the “golden hour” you have the best/softest light for taking more dramatic pictures.  Although it’s called the “golden hour” it’s really closer to four total hours a day, one before and one after the sunrise and sunset times.  At these times the sun is at a prime angles for soft light which is roughly 10 to -10 degrees in relation to the horizon.  Having softer light provides lots of advantages for getting a nicely exposed and vivid picture.  Below are two links to some articles which go into more detail about the “golden hour” in case you want to read more.  Back to this week’s picture, I set out to get my picture at the start of the “golden hour” which for Saturday was around 3:45.  I ended up getting my picture just before sunset (4:45) which was good because any later and I might have needed a tripod or  to boost my ISO.

If you’ve been reading my blog or if you’re familiar with photography you might be able to guess how I was able blur out most of the tree and focus on the clock/train station.  In case this is your first time reading this effect is done through the use of a wide aperture, this week’s was f/1.8.  I’ve talked about aperture and it’s affects on an image in many of previous blogs so if you’d like to learn more circle back and read some of my older posts.  The last concept I used which is one I’ve also already talked about during my week 5 post “never forget” is selective focus points.  Just to quickly rehash, on most nice cameras and absolutely every DSLR’s you can manually select one point to base your camera’s focus.  This is different from auto-focus points in that those will often pick up whatever is closest or largest.  I use selective focus points very frequently when shooting with both my DSLR and even my iPhone 5s.  Why leave things to chance, it’s always better to control your focus so this is a tool I highly recommend any photographer uses.