Searching for…

Picture Specs: ISO 320, 35mm, f/7.1, 1/500 sec

Picture Specs: ISO 320, 35mm, f/7.1, 1/500 sec

Week 9 (9/29/2013 – 10/5/2013): St. Petersburg Pier, FL
Picture taken on 10/1/2013 at 4:04 PM

Picture description:

Everyone is searching for something. Like most weeks one of the things I was searching for was an interesting picture to write about. In past weeks I had a set plan or some general idea about what I wanted to shoot, but my only plan for this week was to leave it open ended. The beginning part of my week was spent down in Florida visiting my insanely awesome family. My hope was that while in Florida something interesting would present itself and that my Nikon would be close or in hand to capture the moment. As one day rolled into another my camera stayed on the bench while most of my time was spent running around with my cousins doing what we do, “You don’t even know!” By the last day while my cousin Courtney and I were killing time before my flight we decided to grab a bite and hit the St. Petersburg Pier or as they call it “the pier” to see about getting a picture.

Once we got to the pier one picture instantly jumped out at me. With the thought of how everyone is “searching for” something in the back of my mind, the picture that caught my attention was this man sitting on a bench peering out at the pier as it jutted out into the deep blue bay. To me it looked like he was simply enjoying the beautiful view but also deep in thought, perhaps searching for an answer to something?

Another reason why this picture caught my eye was because this man’s spot reminded me of my own back up North. If you recall my post from week one I featured my favorite bench with a view. Chances are if Florida was my home this or one similar to this would be “my bench.” I’ve found that setting aside time to be alone in your thoughts is mentally one of the healthiest habits to have. Things move fast, as do people so if you don’t carve out some time to slow things down for a little you’re going to burn yourself out, at least that’s my philosophy. Not everyone has a bench, but I encourage you to find your equivalent. This nameless man and I have found our bench, the only remaining question is will we find everything else we’re searching for?

Photography concepts:

With 9 weeks in the books more of my focus is shifting towards the composition of my picture rather than the technical aspects such as exposure. Setting the right exposure is by choosing the correct settings is still key but it’s becoming more second nature for me. Using this week as an example, once I picked my spot there were two apertures I wanted to try for this picture. One was f/4 since this seems to be the “sweet spot” for my lens, and the other was something around f/7-8 to get most of the picture in a crisp focus. In the end f/7.1 looked the best since it kept everything in a nice focus, with the priority going to the sign in the foreground. In past weeks more of my time might have been spent finding the right exposure but thankfully this week I found it quickly and could put more thought into the elements of my composition.

Other than the beautiful clouds and water there were three things that I wanted to emphasis in this picture. My main subject was the pier with my secondary subject the man on the bench. Luckily these two subjects complimented one another in that the man is looking out towards the pier. This leads the viewer towards following the man’s gaze out into the water towards the pier. My third subject was the sign which had the main purpose of highlighting the location of my picture, St. Petersburg.

Framing the shot

Once my subjects were chosen it was all about lining them up, which of course brings back the concept of the rule of thirds. You’ll notice that two of my subjects are in the left thirds of the picture with my third and main subject (the pier) at the lower intersection point of the right two thirds. Putting the pier in its own two thirds was so my main subject had the prime location in the photo and so the viewer could see the area surrounding it. The last framing element I went for was breaking up the picture top to bottom by putting the water in the lower 1/3, the sky in the middle 1/3 and the tree branches in the top 1/3. This naturally framed my main subject (the pier) in-between the branches and the water. My feeling was that framing the picture like this gave it a tighter feel rather than a wide open feeling one would have felt if the sky took up 2/3+ of the picture. My goal was that the combination of all the framing elements would make the viewer feel like they were looking through the same natural window as the man on the bench. I hope it worked!

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.

Unplanned “Destiny”

Picture Specs: ISO 2500, 35mm, f/2.2, 1/4000sec

Picture Specs: ISO 2500, 35mm, f/2.2, 1/4000sec

Week 3 (8/18/2013 – 8/24/2013): Shipyard Park, Hoboken NJ
Picture taken on 8/22/2013 at 6:25PM

Picture Description:

This week’s picture is a perfect example of how sometimes the best things aren’t planned. Opportunities present themselves when you least expect them, don’t get tunnel vision, especially in photography.

All week I planned on getting one of two shots, either a night scene in New York City or a sunset shot in Hoboken at Pier 14. I had a clear picture in mind for both ideas and scouted out locations where I could execute my idea. I was busy in the beginning of the week so I was aiming to take my picture on Thursday.

When I rolled out of bed Thursday morning still recovering from the night before (awesome night! Boozing for charity/Benjamin’s Steakhouse…Google it), I said to myself there is no way I’m going to have the energy to cruise the city streets late at night for the picture I had in mind. Luckily I had a plan B, Pier 14. After work during my run I did a quick drive by of pier 14 to make sure everything was good for later. Upon getting to my spot I noticed that this massive boat called “destiny” (ironic I know) was parked right in the way of what would be my view of the sunset. In addition to the giant boat there were a bunch of workers welding in the area that would be in the background of my shot. I thought to myself “ah maybe it will make for a better picture”….it didn’t.

When I returned about an hour later the picture was nothing like I had planned no matter what angle I shot it from. At this point it would have been too much of a hassle to bolt into the city for my original plan so I decided to start walking around. While wandering around I remembered seeing a fountain in Shipyard Park which could make for a good picture. When I got to the fountain I realized that thanks to “destiny” I stumbled upon the perfect shot!  The sun was at the perfect angle and I had the park all to myself.

Photography Concepts:

The most important part of this picture was capturing it with the fastest shutter speed possible. The quickest my camera can take a picture is in 1/4000 of a second, which compared to your average camera or iPhone is noticeably faster. The high speed shutter is what gave me the ability to freeze the water droplets and splashing. In order for me to use a super fast shutter I had to compensate with a very high ISO of 2500 and almost wide open aperture of f/2.2. Now although I mentioned “boosting” ISO in my previous post I didn’t explain it’s relationship to making your picture brighter. To put it plainly ISO is your camera’s sensitivity to light, lower number = less sensitive which means your sensor needs more light from either a slower shutter speed or wider aperture. The higher the ISO the less light you need from your shutter or aperture. These three aspects of a camera’s settings (ISO/Aperture/Shutter) are commonly referred to as the “Triangle of Photography”. I’ll try to explain this more in another post, but for now if you want to read more about ISO below is a really good article from NIKON. This article also explains the negative aspect of ISO which I’m yet to talk about.

See below for image source

See below for image source

When it came to framing the picture I followed the rule of thirds to position the key elements (bird, sun, water droplets). The bird is just about on the intersection point of the center/right thirds leaving the remaining two thirds of the horizontal space to be filled with splashing. As for the lighting angle back-lit vs front-lit, I took the picture both ways and found that the back-lit (sun/light source behind subject) looked way better because all the light shined through the water droplets. With the sun in the rear, the droplets captured the light and made for a cool almost glowing effect.

The one thing I should have tried but totally forgot was to take a couple pictures with flash. Although it might have lit up the bird too much, based on everything I’ve read flash freezes motion and in this case might have made the water droplets more prominent. On the bright side (pun intended) it’s something to walk away with, I’ll have to mess around with flash for a future post.

Nikon Article: http://bit.ly/1dAdide
Image source – Via Google search http://bit.ly/14pBJ9X

First Post!

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

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

Week 1 (8/4/2013 – 8/10/2013): Hoboken uptown Pier
Picture taken on 8/6/2013 at 5:45AM

Picture description:

For those of you that follow my instagram or are friends with me on facebook you’ve probably noticed I like to take pictures of the New York City skyline, particularly from the Hoboken piers.  Initially I told myself I wasn’t going to start with a skyline shot but in the end it made the most sense for at least one BIG reason.  Taking skyline pictures is pretty much what got me into photography in the first place. The more skyline pictures I took the more I realized how much I enjoyed taking pictures and that I really needed a better camera.  The second reason this picture is significant is because it’s by far my favorite spot in Hoboken.  I’ve dubbed this “my bench” and usually spend at least one morning/evening a week sitting here soaking in the view.  Whether I’m drinking my morning coffee or taking a breather after a run on the pier, I often find myself back at this bench.  My favorite time to sit here is the early morning for a couple reasons; there are a lot less people walking around, you hear tons of birds chirping and waves crashing during high tide, and you obviously get a great view of the sunrise.  It’s very tranquil and a great way to start out your day.  Trying to capture the feeling of sitting in this bench is why I decided to start out with this picture.

Photography concepts:

First I shot this picture at f/1.8 which is the widest aperture (opening of the lens) and shallowest depth of field I can take.  It might seem odd but the smaller the ‘f’ number the larger the opening of the lens is.  While the larger the ‘f’ number the smaller the opening is and the more things are in focus.  I took this picture with a small ‘f’ (fstop/aperture) of 1.8 initially to put the bench in focus and blur out the skyline but after trying one in reverse with my focus point on the buildings, I liked this one better.  Shallow depth of fields give that blur effect and are hard if not impossible to pull off with a camera phone since you can’t control your camera’s lens opening like with a DSLR.  For my fellow instagramers, the blur feature on instagram is meant to mimic depth of field shots but it’s limited to the circle or straight area.  I felt like by using the shallow DOF in this picture it makes it easier to imagine yourself sitting on the bench.

The second concept in play is the rule of thirds.  In this picture the bench is in the far left/bottom third of the picture with the rest of the scene in the middle/right thirds.  For anyone that doesn’t know about the rule of thirds, it’s just breaking the picture into thirds vertically and horizontally (seen below).  This results in 9 boxes with 4 intersection points.  It’s said that by putting subjects or things such as eyes on these lines makes for more dramatic pictures.  In my picture the bench  is on one of the intersection points and clouds are on two.  Using the rule of thirds in this way helps you focus on the sky and give you the feeling of looking out from the bench from left to right.

DSC_0023-ruleofthirds

The last sort of “concept” that I want to point out is the timing of the shot.  When shooting sunrises or sunsets it’s said that the best light is +/- 30 minutes of the actual sunrise or sunset time.  On the morning of this picture the sunrise was at 5:58 AM.  I got to my spot a little later than I had hoped (hit the snooze a couple times) but I still managed to get the light I was looking for.  Once it got close to and then past the actual sunrise time the colors seemed more washed out.  Overall I’ve learned that my favorite time to take pictures of the sunrise is before the time and for sunsets is after.