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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…


Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet


Lightroom Perspective Correction:


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.


Out of time

Picture Specs: ISO 400, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/800sec

Picture Specs: ISO 400, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/800sec

Week 14 (11/3/2013 – 11/9/2013): Hoboken Terminal
Picture taken on 11/9/2013 at 4:31 PM

Picture description:

As the days continue to grow shorter and colder it’s becoming harder to find time during the week to snap a picture.  Once winter hits I get the feeling that I’ll be taking more nighttime shots since the sun goes down so early.  Option two would be to take pictures on Saturday and cut it close to the self imposed weekly deadline I adhere to.  Having completed over one quarter of my 52 week blog I’ve come to notice when I’m taking most of my pictures and for that reason I’m going to adjust my weekly window.  Usually I run my week Sunday-Saturday which means I have a weekend day on either side of the week to get a picture.  What I’ve noticed is due to my schedule I hardly every (as in never) take pictures on Sunday but it would be the prime day to write a blog if I take a picture on Saturday. For that reason I’m going to change it up and move my weekly window to Monday-Sunday.  I guess it’s my own daylight savings adjustment.

Now that I’ve worked out my time issue let me talk about this week’s picture and how it had a role in my recent decision.  Going into this week my plan was to revisit Top of the Rock (went in June) after work to get a picture looking downtown at sunset.  Unfortunately due to my busy schedule and daylight savings moving sunset times to around 4:30/4:45 this was an impossible goal to accomplish.  This made me realize that if I wanted to continue to take advantage of shooting during the “golden hour” I’ll have to do more of my picture taking on the weekends.  Taking a picture and writing a blog all in one day, especially on Saturday, a day/night I usually go out, can prove difficult.  This is the exact scenario that transpired this week.  My window of opportunity to get the picture I wanted fell to Saturday and in the end I didn’t have the time to make it to Top of the Rock.  Thankfully getting an interesting picture in Hoboken is as easy as taking an afternoon stroll, no planning required.  After setting out to get my picture I began to work my way down the Hoboken waterfront.  As I got closer to downtown  my eye’s were drawn to the train station’s clock tower. With the idea of running out of time in the forefront of my mind a clock picture seemed fitting, all that was left was finding the right angle.

*Never noticed before taking this week’s picture, this clock is not set to the correct time. 

Photography concepts:

As I mentioned in this week’s description section I try to take most of my pictures during what’s referred to as the “golden hour” or “magic hour.”  It’s said that during the “golden hour” you have the best/softest light for taking more dramatic pictures.  Although it’s called the “golden hour” it’s really closer to four total hours a day, one before and one after the sunrise and sunset times.  At these times the sun is at a prime angles for soft light which is roughly 10 to -10 degrees in relation to the horizon.  Having softer light provides lots of advantages for getting a nicely exposed and vivid picture.  Below are two links to some articles which go into more detail about the “golden hour” in case you want to read more.  Back to this week’s picture, I set out to get my picture at the start of the “golden hour” which for Saturday was around 3:45.  I ended up getting my picture just before sunset (4:45) which was good because any later and I might have needed a tripod or  to boost my ISO.

If you’ve been reading my blog or if you’re familiar with photography you might be able to guess how I was able blur out most of the tree and focus on the clock/train station.  In case this is your first time reading this effect is done through the use of a wide aperture, this week’s was f/1.8.  I’ve talked about aperture and it’s affects on an image in many of previous blogs so if you’d like to learn more circle back and read some of my older posts.  The last concept I used which is one I’ve also already talked about during my week 5 post “never forget” is selective focus points.  Just to quickly rehash, on most nice cameras and absolutely every DSLR’s you can manually select one point to base your camera’s focus.  This is different from auto-focus points in that those will often pick up whatever is closest or largest.  I use selective focus points very frequently when shooting with both my DSLR and even my iPhone 5s.  Why leave things to chance, it’s always better to control your focus so this is a tool I highly recommend any photographer uses.


Rushing to/Rushing from…

ISO 400, 35 mm, f/3.2, 1/80 second

ISO 400, 35 mm, f/3.2, 1/80 second, -2 stop exposure

Week 7 (9/15/2013 – 9/21/2013): Hoboken Terminal, Hoboken NJ
Picture Taken on 9/17/2013 at 6:55 PM

Picture Description:

Have you ever noticed that almost everyone at train stations are in a rush? I have to admit in most cases I’m one of those people. Think back to your last time at a train station, chances are you were either rushing to or from your destination and paid little attention to your surroundings. In the rare instance (or maybe not so rare depending on how punctual you are) that you miss your train the thought of waiting for the next one can almost seem like a prison sentence. I’m no stranger to mass transit, I’ve been taking it for years and I’ve become all too familiar with the scenarios I just described. I have often wondered about all the little things I’ve missed over the years while rushing around or overlooked while being frustrated by some unplanned circumstance such as missing a train. Maybe I missed out on an interesting conversation with a passing stranger? I might have trampled right over a rare coin laying abandoned on the ground or perhaps walked past a person that needed my help with something as simple as directions. You would be surprised what you notice when you actually take the time to pause, think and observe. This concept of how people rush through train stations and life in general is what gave me the idea for this week’s post.

This week I decided to try and observe things, people and places I regularly might overlook. I’ve been riding the bus with my headphones out, phone in my pocket and head up. I made it a point to sit outside for lunch rather than eat at my desk on the computer. Besides the little day to day changes I also decided to take a trip to the train station, not to catch a train but give a photographic demonstration of what you/we often miss out on. My plan was to get to the Hoboken train station just before sunset because I knew the station was aligned East to West so there would be a good sunset down the tracks.

Upon arriving at the station it was exactly how I imagined it. I got to the station around 6:45 which is the tail end of rush hour but the station was still very busy. Crowds of people were weaving in and out of one another, some on their phones while others just with this blank look on their face. As I tried to shuffle between the waves of people to line up my shot I got tapped on the shoulder, “Can I help you?” I heard. My unusual behavior caught the eye of a police officer, apparently being the only person not rushing looked a little suspicious . I politely replied no (didn’t want to get arrested) and said I was just trying to get a sunset photograph while offering to show my pictures as proof. The police officer looked dumbfounded but said okay and walked away. I spent a couple more minutes fighting the crowd trying to get the best shot the whole time noticing that literally no one was seeing this awesome view. One person stopped and I thought they were checking it out, but it turned out they were just looking for a train time. By the end of my little endeavor I felt validated about my rushing theory and accomplished that I was able to get the the exact picture I had in mind. One oddly coincidental aspect of this photo, this is my seventh blog and somehow I ended up getting a photo of track 7. This wasn’t planned but sometimes the best things aren’t…

Photography Concepts:

I applied a couple of the basic composition techniques I’ve talked about in my previous posts to deliver what I felt to be an interesting picture. The rule of thirds and leading lines are the two most main composition concepts at work in this photo. Instead of going for a symmetrical picture and having the track split my picture down the middle I went with having it take you right to left and right out of the station, or is it leading in? I felt like this picture can give the feeling that you could be waiting to leave, or you just said good-bye to someone leaving you with nothing but an empty track. Basically when someone looked at the photo I was hoping they would almost ask the question, am I coming or going, am I rushing to or rushing from?


The rule of thirds gave less of a message and was more of the framework for lining everything up. I put the train right on the bottom third intersection line and did my best to have the exit for the station at the intersection point of the bottom and left thirds lines. The last two main pieces of the picture were the track sign and the empty platform, I lined both of those up along the left thirds lines. You might be saying to yourself wow you gave lining up a lot of thought. Surprisingly I really didn’t think too much while framing everything. Over the past couple of weeks as I have taken more and more pictures along these guidelines I’ve started to do it automatically. I’ve noticed a big difference in the pictures I’ve been taking, and judging by peoples comments they have too. Don’t take my word for it, pay more attention to lining up your pictures and see what you think or better yet what other people think.