Trophy Tradition

Picture info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/2.8, 1/400 sec

Picture info: ISO 100, 36mm, f/2.8, 1/400 sec

Week 51 (7/21/2014 -7/27/2014): PSU Nittnay Lion Statue

Picture taken on 7/27/2014 1:16PM

Photography description

Tradition is something that my friends and I take very serious.  Over the years I’ve remained close with many of my High School friends, in part because of our yearly traditions.  Among all of our yearly traditions there is one that stands above the rest, the BRAM.  The BRAM started 10 years ago by complete accident.  Our original plan was to simply have one last weekend getaway to play some golf before we all set out for our Freshman year of college.  By the end of the weekend we came up with the concept of the BRAM (standing for Bob, Rob, Anthony, Mike).  By the following year we had a trophy, the BRAM Cup, to go along with our tradition, and things have escalated ever since.

At the conclusion of each year’s BRAM, the winner of our 36 hole golf tournament is presented with the BRAM cup in front of the Nittany Lion,  which is featured in this week’s post.  Just like this statue, we’re confident our tradition will stand the tests of time.

Photography concepts:

Taking pictures of statues is pretty straight forward.  Statues don’t move, so the main two decisions you’ll face are how to handle lighting (exposure) and what aperture to shoot with.  When it comes to selecting your aperture ask yourself this simple question, do you want to separate the statue from its background? If yes, then shoot the statue with the widest aperture you have.  If the statue you’re shooting has a wide depth of field, shoot with a smaller aperture (e.g. f/3.2-f/4) to keep everything in focus.  You want to avoid selecting an aperture that will only focus on the front of the statue, unless that’s the look you’re going for.  I was able to shoot with f/2.8 and still keep the whole statue in focus.

Figuring out the lighting for my picture was simple, mainly because the Nittnay Lion statue was in the shade and thus had nice even lighting.   I didn’t have a lot of time while shooting, so I put my camera on aperture priority to make sure I capture an evenly exposed picture.  I knew having a well exposed picture would enable me to do whatever editing I wanted after the fact.  In Lightroom I decided to emphasize the shadows and bright light spots by dropping the shadows and highlights while boosting the contrast and clarity.  These adjustments didn’t create a drastic change, but it was just enough to create the image that I had in mind when taking the picture.

Before and After Edit

Before and After Edit



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