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.

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?


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.