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.

 

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

 

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.”

 

A growing family

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/3.2, 1/250 second

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/3.2, 1/250 second

Week 35 (3/31/2014 -4/6/2014): Treasure Island Beach, FL

Picture taken on 4/6/2014 at 8:03 PM

Picture description

This past weekend brought me to Florida to celebrate my cousin Danielle’s wedding.  It was a beautiful venue filled with my beautiful family.  Originally I planned to use a picture from the wedding for this post, but due to mobile limitations I decided to hold off on posting any wedding pictures until I returned and had time to properly sort through them all.  My back-up plan was to hit the beach at sunset sometime during my trip, preferably in the area of a pier.  My goal was to shoot either a long exposure and or some kind of sunset picture.  Since getting my DSLR I’ve taken two other trips to Florida, but neither visit brought me to the beach during sunset with my Nikon.  This time around I was determined to get to the beach for magic hour.

When I pitched the beach sunset idea to my family, they were all on board and even helped research locations.  After picking a location, we quickly ate dinner and set out for  “The Long Pier” at Redington Beach.  Redington Beach was a little far which had us worried about arriving late and missing the sunset.  As we drove up the coast we decided to call an audible and stop at the location of our last family reunion, Treasure Island Beach.

After arriving my cousin Courtney and I moved ahead of everyone else and headed towards the beach.  We moved as quickly as possible, taking into account my cousin is pregnant, but that didn’t seem to slow her down at all.  Once we reached the shoreline, Courtney and I both started assessing the sunset for the best shot.  Like me, Courtney is a photography enthusiast, and recently purchased a DSLR of her own.  We both shuffled around taking pictures until the rest of the family arrived.  When Courtney’s husband Ray arrived and stood next to her my eyes were immediately drawn to how their silhouettes contrasted against the sunsetting sky.  Their silhouettes were particularly meaningful because of Courtney’s little baby bump.  I took a couple steps back, told them to pose and three shots later had my picture.  Although I got plenty of great pictures that night, none seemed as meaningful as the one of Courtney and Ray.  To me this picture perfectly captured the essence of my trip, Florida, beaches, love and our growing family, both through marriage and pregnancy.

Photography concepts:

While in Florida I made it a point to shoot almost completely in manual.  The more I shoot in manual, the more I’m seeing how much it trumps my old technique of exposure compensation.  Yes I can fix my exposure in post (editing), but getting it right in camera feels more authentic and is definitely more gratifying.  Had I not shot this week’s picture in manual, my best option would have been to spot meter off the sunset background.  Spot metering should have done the trick for underexposing and therefore silhouetting my cousins, but I didn’t have time to test in order to prove my theory.

What made this picture was a combination of decisions involving, aperture, focus points, and composition.  First, I decided to shoot with a somewhat wide aperture (f/3.2).  The reason behind using a wide aperture was to isolate my subjects from the background.  A bonus was that I didn’t have to slow my shutter down too much, resulting in crisp edges in details such as strands of hair that were blowing in the wind.  Second, in order for me to get my cousins in focus and separate them from the background as I planned, I had to set my focus point on them.  Focusing on dark figures is difficult because your camera looks for contrasting colors to focus on.  Therefore I didn’t line my focus point up with either of their center masses, instead I hit the edges around their mouths.  The tricky part about using edges is knowing if you actually hit them or the background, it’s a very fine line.  I recommend zooming into your image after shooting and looking for some kind of detail such as hair to determine if you were successful.  The third and last point I want to mention is my composition.  I used the rule of thirds to determine both where I lined up my cousins, and the horizon.  I split my cousins between the left and middle thirds of the picture putting their kissing heads on the border line.  The reason I put them off center was because the background wasn’t symmetrical.  Had the the background been symmetrical, I think it would have looked better if they were symmetrically lined up too.  As for the horizon, the sky was more interesting than the water, so I gave the sky two thirds of the background space.

All of the decisions I just outlined are becoming very quick, almost instinctive decisions for me now.  I’m learning that the more you shoot, the more you fall back on the habits you developed in the early stages of learning your DSLR.  If you’re new to shooting with a DSLR, or you’re just applying these concepts to taking pictures with a point and shoot or camera phone, I encourage you to spend time thinking about what makes a good picture.  Before you shoot think about what you want to emphasize in the picture, then using the triangle of photography decide what settings are best.  Then determine your composition and start shooting.  The more time you spend on these decisions now, the less you’ll have to spend as you get more experience.  If you’re not new to taking pictures but never applied these concepts just slow yourself down and think.  The thing I always remind myself to do is take a picture less to “document” what’s going on and more to pass along the way I see things.  How do you see something?  Putting your creative spin on things is what makes it an art, that’s photography and that’s what people like to see.

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.

The right spot

Picture Info: ISO 640, 38mm, f/22, 1/400sec

Picture Info: ISO 640, 38mm, f/22, 1/400sec

Week 33 (3/17/2014-3/23/2014): Hoboken NJ

Picture taken on 3/22/2014 at 6:08 PM

Photography description:

Late again, but just with the post.  I got this picture over the weekend which was within my self imposed weekly deadline.  Usually missing my deadline (or any deadline) would drive me absolutely nuts, but I decided that I wouldn’t beat myself up about it this time.  Lately I’m trying to be more relaxed and not stress myself out over little things.  Although my stress free mentality was partially  why I missed my posting deadline, the main reason for the latent post was because last week was one hell of a week.  It was my turn again to provide support coverage for work, and let’s just say the luck of the Irish was not on my side.  Every time I tried to venture out to get a picture my phone buzzed.  The constant interruption, or threat of one, didn’t allow me to get more than a few blocks from my apartment.  Although my localized limitation still would have permitted me to visit the Hoboken waterfront, I didn’t want to feature another skyline picture this week.  There are a lot of techniques that I’m still exploring and to do so I need to find something beyond the skyline to experiment on.

After walking around for about an hour I got a couple good pictures which I thought would potentially work as a featured photo but nothing made me too excited.  On my way back to my apartment I stumbled upon a church with this beautiful stone front exterior.  The masonry was looking exceptionally nice because of the way it was catching the fading light of twilight.  I reached back into my bag pulled out my camera and began the result is what you see here.

Photography concepts:

Last week I threw out a challenge to try and shoot more pictures in “manual” mode.  Unfortunately this week’s photograph was not shot in manual, but it was a step in the right direction.  After spotting how the light was getting captured along the church’s jagged stone edges, I knew that I couldn’t let my camera make the exposure decision.  As good as my camera is, the human eye is better at judging exposure.

When I pulled out my camera it was in aperture priority with spot metering turned on, so I stuck with that setting.  In case you didn’t know, spot metering mode allows you to set (or “meter”) the exposure of your image from a specific point.  Usually if you leave your camera on the default mode, which for my Nikon is “matrix metering” (the name varies by camera brand), the camera will inspect what’s in frame and choose what it thinks is the best overall exposure.  The important part of that statement is the word “overall.”  What I’ve noticed is that when a picture has lots of variance in shading sometimes the camera will try to compensate for the darker areas such as shadows and overexpose the image.  The image won’t be overexposed to the level that there is damage done, but it doesn’t look like what you see with the naked eye.  One way to prevent your camera’s miscalculation is to shoot in manual, which as I said I did not do this time.  The other is to use a more manual metering method, which is what I did with spot metering.  For this picture I metered my exposure off of the top of the image.  The top had the most amount of light so I wanted to make sure that stayed exposed just right, with the rest of the image fading into shadow.  The difference in lighting a little more obvious in a zoomed out version of my picture.

Picture Info: ISO 640, 17mm, f/22, 1/400sec

Picture Info: ISO 640, 17mm, f/22, 1/400sec

As you can see spot metering allows you to get a very natural look with the shadows.  This is a mode that I’ve been experimenting a lot with lately, the hardest part is having the time to select the exposure point and recompose.  In the coming weeks I’ll continue to work spot metering into my photography and try to point it out whenever I do.

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

Sounds like home

Picture info: ISO 3200, 36mm, f/4.5, 1/320 seconds

Picture info: ISO 3200, 36mm, f/4.5, 1/320 seconds

Week 31 (3/3/2014 -3/9/2014): Wood-Ridge NJ

Picture taken on 3/6/2014 at 6:59 PM

Photography description:

It all started about 26 years ago on one seemingly regular afternoon.  I was too young to remember but I’ve been told the story hundreds of times.  My mother left me (then a baby) with my dad as she went out to run some errands.  A few hours later my mom returned to a house filled with the sound of music.  Figuring I was asleep in my room she went to check on me, to her surprise I was not in my crib!?  She scrambled around looking for me and immediately ran towards my father who was still playing the piano.  “Louis! Where is Anthony?!” my mother said, as my father turned around from the piano to answer she saw that I was sound asleep strapped to my father’s stomach.  I believe that in that moment my love for music was born.  From that day on music has been a source of comfort for me and always reminds me of home.  

As the years passed my father continued playing the piano and my love for listening never faded.  Though I’ll admit there were times where I didn’t agree with the music selection which usually led to a clash between my father and I.  Overall the amount of times I enjoyed listening to my father play far outnumbered the times I wanted to hit the mute button.

Fast forward to this past Wednesday, I was taken back to my childhood through the sound of the piano.  Visiting my parents is always nice but this time was especially great.  As my mother prepared a delicious meal, my father treated us to some musical entertainment.  Talk about sensory overload.  Between the sounds of the piano and the smell from the kitchen it was hard to not soak up the feeling of being home.  Luckily I had my camera on hand to capture a moment that I’ll always remember.

Photography concepts:

Light and how it fills a room is something that I always try to focus on in my pictures.  During my father’s mini concert all of the lights were off, with the exception of the one piano light.  The single light source enabled me to focus in on my father with everything else faded to black.  

Initially I set my camera to manual (M) to give me full control over the exposure.  The picture that I had in mind was one where my father was surrounded by darkness with only him and the piano softly illuminated.   While in manual I had two options for how to expose my picture.  One option was the shutter speed, the other option was my aperture.  The hardest part was finding the perfect equilibrium between the both the shutter speed and aperture.  If I shot with a wide open aperture it was hard to keep everything in focus (small plan of focus).  Meanwhile if I shot with a small aperture and a slow shutter my fathers hands began to blur.  Although the motion blurred hands looked interesting, it wasn’t exactly what I was going for plus it was hard to keep everything else from blurring too.  If I had my tripod I may have set that up and tried to get a nice motion blur image.  Unfortunately I left my tripod at my apartment so long exposures were out of the question.

Alternate view

Alternate view

Eventually I flipped my camera into aperture priority (A on Nikon) and used the exposure compensation feature to adjust my image’s exposure.  In order for me to get the picture to look the way I wanted, I had to underexpose the image by -2.3 stops.  After finding the right exposure it was all about finding the best composition to capture the moment.

Keeping the rule of thirds in mind as a guide, I moved around firing off shots from different angles.  I tried everything, directly behind my father, from the side, low angle, eye level, up close on his hands but nothing seemed to fit.  Then I remembered one of the handy features of my D5200, the rotating screen.  I flipped out my screen tilted it down and held my camera high above my head to line up my shot.  Finally I found the right angle which captures everything, the piano, my father and the sheet music.  This week I shot my picture pretty close to what I wanted in Camera so there wasn’t too much editing required.  I’ve talked about editing a lot over the past few weeks so this week I’ll skip it.   It makes me happy to say that thanks to the skills I’ve learned over the past 31 weeks,  I was able to create the image that I originally had in mind.

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

Time Flies

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/4000 sec

Picture Info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/4000 sec

Week 30 (2/24/2014 -3/2/2014): Hoboken Waterfront

Picture taken on 3/2/2014 at 12:14 PM

Photograph description

Wow week 30 and I can’t believe how fast time has flown since I started this project.  Doing this photoblog is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I have learned so much, made some new friends and have become even more hooked on photography.  That being said, I’m excited to see what the next 22 weeks will bring!

I was a little off my game this week when it came to taking pictures.  Usually I get out about 1-2 times per week, this way once Sunday hits I have some options for my post.  I’d like to say my lack of photo time was because it was hard to find time, but it was mainly hard to find the motivation to get out and fight the cold.  Waking up Sunday I felt the pressure to find a good picture to feature and lucky for me it wasn’t too cold.  As I have so often this winter, I went out along the Hoboken waterfront to see what I could find.

To get in the mood I threw on some headphones and lost myself in the hypnotic beats of Armin Vann Burren on SiriusXM’s electronic area.  Oddly enough electronic music has the ability to both get me amped and sooth me, sometimes simultaneously.  This time around Armin’s mix had more of a relaxing effect as I strolled around in the cloudy day.  After looping around the newly opened walkway that encircles the 4th street field, I came upon a surprisingly brave seagull.  No matter how quickly I moved towards him the seagull would only fly out a few feet then perch right back on the railing.  This seagull’s challenging attitude provided me with a unique opportunity to adjust my camera settings to find the ideal exposure and composition.

Photography concepts:

Shooting fast, shooting often and anticipating movement are the keys to photographing birds and most animals.  Shooting fast and often seems pretty obvious but the trick is knowing how to set up your camera to do so.  Ideally you want to use your camera’s fastest shutter speed.  The easiest way to get a fast shutter speed is to shoot with a large aperture.  The aperture will vary based on available light, but in most cases your safest bet is to shoot wide open at your lenses largest aperture.  My lenses widest aperture is f/1.8.  Shooting at my lenses maximum aperture allowed me to achieve a super fast shutter of 1/4000 of a second.  You may have noticed that even with shooting as fast as I did, the seagulls wings are still a just a little blurry.  It’s possible the blur is due to a little lag in focus but I’m pretty happy with my camera’s ability to focus quickly so it’s more likely due to a small plane of focus.

Now how to shoot often? My camera and most other DSLR’s have different shooting modes which allow for faster frames per second.  The fastest my camera will shoot is 5 frames per second.  This allowed me to hold down my shutter release button and let my camera fire off lots of consecutive bursts to capture all the action.

Now even with a fast shutter and my camera firing off almost continuous bursts, all would have been lost had I not positioned myself correctly.  Birds and other animals usually give away their next move by the way they orient their body or with their body language.  In the case of this seagull when he was about to fly he usually dipped his head and obviously started ruffling his wings.  I took his flight cues and  body orientation as my cue for where to lead my camera and when to start shooting.

One  last point worth noting, although I shot at f/1.8 I could have shot with a smaller aperture by increasing my ISO.  The reason that I shot at f/1.8 was to get the background totally blurred.  If you don’t want the background blurred raise your ISO and shoot with a smaller aperture.  Shooting with a smaller aperture will also give you a bigger margin of error in terms your plane of focus.  Don’t take my word for it, play around with your settings to find the look that you like.  Just remember you might only get one shot at the picture so practice and know what your settings are before you approach your subject.