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.

Cameo

Picture info: ISO 160, 36mm, f/4.0, 1/4000 sec

Picture info: ISO 160, 36mm, f/4.0, 1/4000 sec

Week 29 (2/17/2014 -2/23/2014): Wagner Park, New York, NY

Picture taken on 2/23/2014 at 5:13 PM

Photograph description:

There is a first for everything, and this week was a feast of firsts. For starters, this week was the first time that I didn’t post within my weekly deadline.  After a busy weekend when it came time to write my post on Sunday night, I  couldn’t resist collapsing face down on my plush tempurpedic.  Other than my latent post, this week also marked the first time that my post’s picture was shot with something other than my Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens.  I still shot my picture at ~35mm but this time it was with a new  Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8.  I had been tussling with whether or not to buy a new lens for a couple of weeks.  Last week I was finally able to validate purchasing a new lens.  One of my stocks recently started to take a hit so I decided to cut bait and divert those funds to the investment of a new lens.  Hopefully the lens will pay better dividends.  

The last two “firsts” worth noting are locations based.  This week was the first time that I visited Washington Square park and the nearby Stumptown coffee shop.  I’ve been to the Stumptown on 29th street a few times but never the second and smaller location by Washington Square park.  It was nice finally checking out the park  even if it wasn’t the best time of the day for pictures.  The sun was at about 45 degrees and blindingly bright.  After walking around the park for a few minutes with my friend that tagged along we decidle split off from one another so we could each focus on finding the best shot.  As I moved away from the park’s iconic arch I found a couple ways to use to the sun’s harsh angle.  One was to shoot some reflection pictures using the wet ground.  The second idea I had was to line the sun up within the street lights that littered the park so it looked like they were glowing in the daylight.  Although both were fun ideas, they quickly grew old so I decided to find my friend and search for a better location.

Washington Square Park Light Post

Washington Square Park Light Post

With sunset approaching we decided to head to Wagner Park located at the southern tip of Manhattan.  I shot at that location once before during week 16 but since it provides great sunsets, I knew there was no harm in taking a return visit.

While on our way south we seemingly stopped every couple of feet to take pictures.  Since the purpose of our trip was to take pictures, frequently stopping wasn’t a problem, but it was threatening our chances of getting to the park at the right time.  Eventually we decided to jump on the 1 train to expedite our journey.

Once we got out of the subway we made a beeline towards the park.  When we finally cleared the tall buildings of the financial district, I yelled out “boomshakalaka” in excitement once I saw the beautiful evening sky.  For the next hour or so my friend and I were treated to one of the better sunsets I’ve seen in a while.  We both shuffled around the park trying to find the best shot.  I eventually spotted a patch of tall grass which provided me with a good foreground subject and sealed the deal for this week’s picture.

Photography concepts:

Since this week is the first time shooting with my new Sigma lens it makes sense for me to talk about some of the advantages it provides.  One of the advantages which benefited this week’s picture is the Sigma’s nice bokeh.  As I talked about last week, bokeh is the part of the picture that’s out of focus.  One thing I recently learned is that with nicer lenses the bokeh is smoother and although it’s a little bit of an oxymoron, the out of focus images are sharper.  The nice bokeh worked well for creating silhouettes of the lamp post, railing and couple walking.

Another advantage the Sigma has is a low fixed aperture of f/2.8. Although the Sigma doesn’t beat my Nikon 35mm’s f/1.8 aperture it’s still large enough to make shooting indoor and night pictures easier.  The Nikon beats the Sigma aperture but the Sigma has a 4-stop Anti-Shake feature which allows for slower shutter speeds.  This means that although the Nikon can let in more light via a wider aperture, the Sigma can let in more light via slower shutters (without using tripods).  The term 4-stops means I can go 4 stops lower than the recommended shutter speed for a specific focal length.  When shooting at 35mm (52 with a crop sensor) it’s recommended that I stay at or above 1/100 of a second.  Thanks to the anti-shake feature I can hit a shutter speed of 1/40 of a second, and possibly slower if I have any added stabilization.  This is a moot point if you’re using a tripod but it’s very relevant when you’re shooting indoors or at night.

The last advantage I’ll quickly mention because it’s not one that can help me during my 52from52 photoblog series is that the Sigma is a zoom.  The advantage of having a zoom lens is pretty obvious.  With a zoom you’re able to recompose your picture without moving and hit targets that a 35mm prime can’t.  Because it’s a zoom I might use my Sigma again in some upcoming posts, not to shoot my picture from another focal length, but so that I have some flexibility for the pictures not meant for this blog.  The Sigma’s focal length range 17-50mm ( ~25-75mm) is very versatile.  The lens moves from wide angle to a nice focal length for taking pictures of people, especially when I can maintain a f/2.8 aperture.  The possibilities this lens has is exciting so stay tuned!

“Snowboken”

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/11, 1/80sec

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/11, 1/80sec

Week 27 (2/3/2014 -2/9/2014): Hoboken, Maxwell Park

Picture taken on 2/3/2014 at 1:09 PM

Picture description

It’s said that the day after the Superbowl is one of the highest call out of work days of the year.  This year I was smart and decided to preemptively schedule myself for a day off on the dreaded Monday after the big game.  As it turned out I couldn’t have chosen a better day to take off, not because of a big game hangover, but because of a huge snowstorm that hit our area.  While most people were fighting both their hangovers and the weather I was relaxing comfortably in my apartment.  Even though I could spend the day sheltered from the storm, I decided it would be fun to head out into the snow with my Nikon in hand.  The only problem I faced was how to protect my camera from the wintery elements.  The solution that I came up with was simple, rubberband a ziplock bag around my camera and I was good to go, or so I thought.

Once out in the storm my ziplock plan seemed to work in terms of protecting my camera, but it made taking photos extremely difficult.  I was able to make the best of the situation by shielding my camera within my coat until I spotted a potential picture.  Knowing that I couldn’t preserve my camera’s dryness for long, I decided to hit two nearby Hoboken locations.  First I went to my usual spot, the uptown pier at Maxwell Park.  To my surprise I spotted a family of geese trying to take refuge in the cove of the pier’s “beach area.”  They were surrounded by ice and almost seemed to be frozen themselves.  I moved around trying to shoot the geese from the best angle possible without falling into the water myself.  Next I moved to the pier on Sinatra drive by the skatepark.  Since the snow was creating a nice white out I wanted to take a picture of the gazebo on the water with nothing but a white background.  Usually the New York City skyline is the backdrop so I thought this would make for a unique picture of the area.

gazebo picture

Gazebo picture

After getting the gazebo picture I decided to head back in for the day.  I had been outside for about an hour and it seemed that my ziplock bag was close to losing it’s ability to protect my camera.  As I fought my way through the snow back to my apartment,  I said to myself next time I’ll be better prepared for the elements.

Photography concepts:

The first time out in the snow with my Nikon taught me some valuable lessons.  The first and most obvious is that you need to keep your camera dry.  Although the ziplock bag was able to protect my camera for the hour that I was out, it would have been a stretch to sustain it’s usefulness for any longer period of time.  As a result my first purchase after Monday’s snow storm was a rain cover or “rain sleeve” for my camera (link below).  They essentially work just like the ziplock bag but they’re longer and hug my arm so shooting with them is a lot less clumsy.  I was hoping for another snow storm this weekend so I could test the sleeves, but of course you never get the weather you wish for.  Expect a follow up review of the rain sleeves usefulness in a future post.   

The second lesson I learned is that you absolutely need something dry to wipe off your lens.  This seems pretty obvious as well, yet I totally forgot to bring a cloth while I was out in the snow.  I had to use some of my inner layers to wipe off my lense.  Luckily I always keep a UV filter on my camera’s lens so there was no chance of damaging the actual lens.  Using a UV filter is nothing new for me but absolutely essential when you’re out in the elements.  It’s much smarter to scratch a $10 filter than the lens of your hundred plus dollar lens.

The last lesson that’s worth noting is what I learned in post (editing).  While reviewing my pictures I noticed that I didn’t take advantage of a key feature my DSLR.  Most DSLR’s, including my Nikon, give you the ability to shoot with very fast shutter speeds.  This is a great tool to have when it’s snowing (or raining) because it allows to you seemingly freeze time and capture snow flakes or rain drops midair.  I unfortunately didn’t shoot many pictures with fast shutter speeds.   From the pictures that I so happened to have a fast shutter,  it seemed that 1/1000 – 1/2000 seconds was the ideal speed to freeze the  snowflakes.  My guess is the best lens speed probably varies depending on the wind and size of the snowflakes.  Lesson learned, my shutter speed will absolutely be on the forefront of my mind next time I go out in the snow or rain.

Taken with shutter speed 1/1000 sec

Taken with shutter speed 1/1000 sec

Rain sleeve option 1

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/469774-REG/OP_TECH_USA_9001132_18_Rainsleeve_Set_of.html

Rain sleeve option 2

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/891383-REG/ruggard_rc_p18_18_plastic_rain_cover.html

Halfway there

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 4seconds, -2.1 ND filter, -.7 exposure

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/22, 4 seconds, -2.1 ND filter, -.7 exposure

Week 26 (1/27/2014 – 2/2/2014) : Hoboken Uptown Pier

Picture taken on 2/1/2014 at 3:30 PM

Picture description:

This week marks the halfway point of my fifty two week photoblog series.  Throughout the week I jumped back and forth a lot trying to decide what picture/subject to shoot for my twenty sixth post.  In the end I decided where better to shoot than where I started twenty six weeks ago?  That’s right, I returned to my favorite spot in Hoboken along the uptown waterfront.  After I finally submitted to the idea I grabbed a coffee from bwè kafe and sat on “my bench” to think out how I could put a new twist on a picture I’ve taken so many times.  As I mentally flipped through the various pictures that I’ve taken at the location I paused on one picture taken with a triple exposure.  In the picture a runner zoomed through the frame and gave off a ghost like image.  As I sat at my bench dwelling on the ghost image it hit me, what if I used myself to create another “ghost like” image and thus was literally halfway in the picture, or “halfway there.”  This seemed like a cleverly fun idea and I’m glad that I was able to pull it off.

Photography concepts:

To pull off the “halfway there” image idea I had two options.  My first option was to shoot the picture like the original “ghost like” image using a double or triple exposure.  A multiple exposure picture would have been easy, so I decided to go with a more challenging option that utilized more of the skills/knowledge I’ve learned over the past twenty six weeks.  What I decided was to shoot my picture using a long exposure and wireless trigger.  This sounds straight forward enough too but the challenge was to do this during the day.  In daylight long exposures are hard to execute, luckily this is something I’ve done in the past in a few of my posts.  With the use of my handy neutral density filters, and a super small aperture of f/22, I was able to hit a shutter speed of four seconds.  Four seconds was the perfect amount of time to create a “halfway there’ image.  I stayed in the frame for 2 seconds then quickly jumped out of frame for the remaining 2.  It took me a couple of attempts but eventually I nailed it!

Challenge number two of this week was how to edit an otherwise boring skyline.  When shooting the skyline from Hoboken I typically wait for a day with interesting clouds, or wake up really early to shoot at sunrise.  This time I had already missed my sunrise option for the day, and literally had too many clouds to work with.  When I shot this picture it was a cloudy overcast day with a slight tint of blue showing up in the clouds.  Here is where being able to edit an image in an artistic manner pays off.  For this week I went with a dull look with some slight color tints.  The way I achieved my final look was by first applying some of my usual edits such as lowering highlights, increasing contrast, clarity and color saturation, along with applying some sharpening.  After getting my picture prepped I then applied a VSCO preset filter “Polaroid 669” which gives the image a film look.  I also applied some presets to boost the blues and saturation even more in the image.  The finishing touch was to add a slight vignette around the edges.  As you can see from the before and after comparison, the right editing makes all the difference.

Before and After

Before and After

Take a Guess

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/20, 3 seconds, -2.1 ND, -1 exposure stop

Picture info: ISO 100, 35mm, f/20, 3 seconds, -2.1 ND, -1 exposure stop

Week 24 (1/13/14 – 1/19/2014):  Hoboken, Maxwell Place Park

Picture taken on 1/18/2014 at 2:41 PM

Picture description:

If you’ve read my last couple of posts you may have noticed that I’ve been alluding to different goals and projects for 2014.  One of my 2014 goals is to create a collection of “Hoboken pictures” with the ultimate goal of selling them at the festivals held in town throughout the year.  I’ve been to the last couple of art and music festivals, and one thing I’ve look for each time was good (fair priced) Hoboken art and pictures.  Unfortunately I’m yet to find a booth that has both good and reasonably priced Hoboken pictures.  Knowing that current Hoboken residents, like myself, are looking for local pictures is one of the reasons I decided to take on this project.  I think this project will be a good way to take the next step in my photography adventure.  Another reason why I decided to take on this challenge is due to all of the positive feedback and encouragement that I’ve been getting from friends and family.  You all have motivated me to keep pushing myself forward by continuing to develop my photography skills and for that I thank you!

Although I won’t feature a Hoboken picture each week I’m planning on taking a lot more pictures in Hoboken.  As I talked about last week, finding new perspectives will be one of my focal points for taking pictures in 2014.  This idea particularly applies to this Hoboken picture project since no one will want to buy pictures they could have taken themselves.  The key to being successful in this venture will be getting unique pictures that people will want to feature in their homes.

This week’s photograph is an example of finding a unique picture in Hoboken.  I’d bet that few Hoboken residents have noticed there is a beachfront in town.  During the summer the city hosts kayak and canoe days where they launch the boats from this beachhead.  It’s a wonderful location and absolutely one of the secret amenities of living in Hoboken.

20 Second exposure

20 Second exposure

Photography concepts:

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last experimented with ND filters.  Week 17’s post “One Shot” was the first and last time that ND filters played a role in my featured picture.  Unlike in week 17, this week’s picture was shot in broad daylight.  Getting a long exposure during the day would never have been possible without using ND filters.  In this picture I stacked two filters, 0.9 and 1.2, to gain the -2.1 percent neutral density level.  In case you missed my week 17 post, ND filters reduce the amount of light that hits your camera’s sensor and thus enables slower shutter speeds.

In addition to using ND filters, shooting this picture at an extremely small aperture of f/20 is also how a 3 second exposure was possible.  Taking a long exposure of the ocean or some other body of water that has lots of movement (waves) has been on my bucket list for a while.  Since it’s the winter I’m yet to make it to the actual ocean, so until then this will have to do.  The crashing of the waves is what created the motion blur effect in the water as it crashed and receding from the shoreline.  I love that ghosting look and plan on getting a lot more pictures like this over the summer.

Tripod used to take photo

Mini-Tripod used to take photo (link below)

Over the past few weeks I’ve been using Instagram and Facebook to gauge the different editing techniques that people like.  Since I’m planning on selling my pictures in the near future it’s important I know what the average person likes.  I personally tend to like more dull, low contrast pictures, while I’ve found that more of the people I come into contact with like high contrast, vivid photographs.  In an effort to hit the look that people have been liking more, I’ve been editing my photos to have more pop.  It’s really hard to describe my editing process verbally, so in the coming weeks look for me to try my hand at creating Lightroom editing videos on YouTube.  Expect a follow up edit to this post with a video on how I edited this picture.

Tripod: http://bhpho.to/1jkddfR

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.

http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/07/05/how-and-when-to-use-nd-filters-and-what-the-numbers-mean/

Need for Speed

Picture Specs: ISO 200, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/4000sec

Picture Specs: ISO 200, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/4000sec

Week 15 (11/11/2013 – 11/17/2013): Palisades interstate park
Picture taken on 11/16/2013 at 5:20 PM

Picture description:

This week’s photo was captured at the Palisades Interstate Park, a place that I haven’t been to since I was a kid.  If you’ve never gone I highly recommend spending the day exploring all that the park has to offer.  The park is nestled on the palisades cliffs which are both beautiful and dangerous so mind the paths.  Jutting out from the cliffs is none other than the iconic George Washington Bridge which is always a sight for sore eyes, granted you’re not stuck in traffic on it.  To add to the parks beauty when you’re north of the bridge you have a sprawling view of the Manhattan island coastline aka New York City.

Helicopter Vs Seagull Joust

Helicopter Vs Seagull Joust

While walking around the park there were two things buzzing around the sky that kept grabbing my attention.  One was a pair of helicopters which were doing fly bys of the bridge, my guess is they were filming for either a TV show or movie.  The second airborne thing that I couldn’t help but notice was all of the seagulls flying around.  At one point I was able to creep up within inches of one seagull that seemed to like the lime light of my camera.  Unfortunately my Dr. Doolittle moment was spoiled when a couple of rude people crashed my photoshoot, naturally scaring away the Zoolander of seagulls.  Luckily this forced me to move locations which is where I stumbled upon a big flock of birds that kept doing take off runs towards the bridge.  While one bird launch from the cliffs he seemingly locked into an aerial joust with one of the helicopters.  It might be a little hard to see at your first glance but if you look at this week’s picture close enough you’ll see the helicopter’s silhouette in the top left.  At the time of the picture I wasn’t sure if I actually caught this freeze frame but I was pleasantly surprised when I found it during editing.  Capturing this moment was a good cap off to an amazing day!

Zoolander the Seagull

Zoolander the Seagull

Photography concepts:

If I had to sum up the key element to this week’s photo in one word it would be speed!  As you can imagine when trying to capture not just one but two moving targets you have to shoot fast.  There were two setting which enabled me to get this picture, a quick shutter and autofocus.  I shot this picture at the fastest my camera can take a picture which is 1/4000 of a second.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts my Nikon has 39 auto-focus points which was great for getting the bird, bridge and helicopter all at once.  I got a little lucky at the time of this picture though because I kept switching between auto-focus and selective focusing but was thankfully on auto-focus when the “jousting” moment occurred.

When it came to editing this picture I thought that turning my subjects (Bird, Helicopter, Bridge) into silhouettes would give an interesting affect. Lightroom really is an amazing tool and is what gave me the freedom to easily transform this picture.  As a result of dropping the exposure and other settings such as highlights, shadows, whites, blacks (which I needed to do to get silhouettes) lots of the detail that was in the clouds were revealed.  The last step was to adjust my vibrance and I was left with a picture that looks like it was painted to perfection.

Lightroom editing

Lightroom editing

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

A Day of Reflection

Picture Specs: ISO 500, 35mm, f/9.0, 1/200 sec

Picture Specs: ISO 500, 35mm, f/9.0, 1/200 sec

Week 2 (8/11/2013 – 8/17/2013): Corner of 6th/42nd Bryant Park, New York City
Picture taken: 8/14/2013 at 5:50PM

Picture Description:

If you were to ask me what are my favorite locations in New York City, Bryant Park would absolutely be in my top five.  Although I pass the park almost every day (during my commute to work) I don’t always have the time to stop and enjoy everything it has to offer.  If you’ve spent any amount of time in the park you know it’s a very busy place filled with a diverse group of people.  It’s safe to say there is an activity for almost anyone, year round. One part of the park that I never explored was the New York Public Library.  Yes, for those of you that know me I went into the library, voluntarily!  No I did not borrow any books BUT I did have fun checking out the amazing architecture throughout the building.  At the start of my visit, my plan was to get a picture of the “Rose Main Reading Room” however that didn’t come out as I hoped.  A picture with the 35mm didn’t do the room justice (trust me, Google it) you really need a wide-angle lens, so I decided not to use that picture for this post.

Taken via NYPL’s Photobooth

After exploring the library, I took my adventure outside.  In the heart of the park there were hundreds of people out enjoying the beautiful 70 degree sunny weather.  Both of the park’s restaurants were buzzing and the lawn was littered with people hanging out next to the towering movie screen sitting on the west side of the lawn.  In case you don’t know, HBO has a film festival that runs every Monday during the summer.  The festival makes for a great dinner and a movie idea, but those kind of tips would need a whole other blog so I’ll leave it at that.

After doing a quick walk-through of the park one thing that immediately caught my eye was how most of the buildings surrounding the park were picking up great reflections of one another.  A reflection shot usually makes for an interesting and unique photo so I decided this would be the perfect idea for this weeks post.

Photography Concepts:

There weren’t a lot of technical intricacies to this week’s photo other than timing.  Prior to going to Bryant Park I knew when the sun would be at the right angle (no pun intended) for some nice shots and maybe even a good reflection picture.  I use an APP on my iPhone called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” which tells me the angle of the sun based on time/day.  If you’re looking to use the sun as a part of your picture or get a reflection shot I highly recommend using this application when planning your shot.

One composition concept that I attempted to use at least subtly is “leading lines”.  When you look at the picture the lines sort of lead you to the corner of the building where you notice you’re not looking at a blurry picture, you’re actually looking at a reflection.  At least that’s the way I saw it.

Last, when shooting during the day even though there is plenty of natural light, at some points I had to slow down my shutter speed or boost my ISO.  I’ll talk about this more when I take a night picture but take note that for a picture like this when you want everything in focus you need to use a smaller aperture.  I used f/9 which is (based on everything I read) a good aperture for landscapes.  Since a smaller aperture means less light, you have to compensate with a higher ISO or slower shutter speed.

Challenges:

I’m only in week two and I can already see how challenging the 52 from 52 concept is going to be.  Luckily I like a challenge, anything worthwhile takes time and effort.  I put a decent amount of thought into what I wanted to photograph this week.  I naturally have lots of ideas but some of them are about timing (weather, time of day, ect.) while others are location based and require traveling.  With a busy schedule, one of my biggest difficulties will be setting aside the time to go out and take pictures each week…but that’s the purpose of this, to force me to get out there and learn!