Monday, December 8, 2014

A different point of view

I never understand it when photographers shoot the EXACT same picture that's on every postcard they can buy from any souvenir shop…..when they could just spend a few minutes and find their own unique point of view.

I've seen hundreds of shots of the Eifel Tower in Paris, and had no desire to take the same shot as everyone else, but it wasn't until I had travelled away from the tower, and noticed a lunchtime soccer game going on, that I realized I might have a unique view of the over photographed monument that I hadn't seen before.

The moral of this story? Take the time to look around, even if you are traveling a well worn path. New points of view, even of old tourist traps, can breathe new life into your photographic subjects. Even the ones that have been "overexposed" for decades!

Canon 5D Mark-II
Canon 24-70mm f2.8 lens

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Rainy Day Refuge

I was wandering around Central Park on a dreary New York afternoon, looking for anything to shoot in the cold, flat light when the clouds opened up on me.

There's nothing like being caught unexpectedly with all your camera gear in a downpour, so I quickly
dashed under a bridge to try and keep things dry. There was no let up in the monsoon rains, so I started to explore the framing possibilities the bridges' arches were offering me.

I noticed I could add to the mood of the cold and damp by setting my camera's white balance on tungsten, so that daylight would be rendered with a strong blue tone.  After a few shots, I added a small prism filter across part of the frame to see what it might do with the trees and buildings.

The rains eventually stopped, and after returning to the open air from the protection of the bridge, soon realized that I probably had one of the better shots I was going to make that day.

The lesson here? Don't stop shooting just because you think you might have to "wait things out".
Sometimes the best shots can happen completely unexpectedly!

Canon 5D with 24-70mm lens

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Never shoot into the sun…not!

Everyone's heard this one: "always keep the sun behind you", otherwise horrible things will happen. Lens flare! Ghosting! You'll hurt the camera!

But one thing you'll notice is that if you watch enough movies, they ALWAYS seem to be shooting into the light. Why? Drama! Nothing adds drama more effectively than backlighting subjects, and even if you get a little lens flare, well, who really cares?

Modern multicoated lenses don't flare nearly as badly as the old single coated variety, and if the image is made more dramatic and effective by shooting towards the main light source, there's really no good reason not to try it. And as mentioned before, you'll also find backlighting to be more flattering with faces than direct hard light. So go for it!

Canon 1Ds Mark II with 24-70mm 2.8L lens

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The decisive wave

Ok… sometimes you just get lucky. I was wandering around Bondi Beach in Sydney Australia on a quiet afternoon, and happened to notice a salt water swimming pool at the far end of the beach.  As I got closer, I noticed not only that the pool was empty, but that 2 young boys were standing quietly in the waterless environment.

As I was trying to figure out why they would want to remain motionless against the pool wall, a huge wave came crashing over the side. As luck would have it…..I had preset my camera exposure settings and composed the shot just before the wave surprised me.

The lesson here? It's always a good idea to get your camera settings dialed in BEFORE something happens.
Opportunity rewards those who plan ahead….and 2 young boys waiting for a wave!

Fuji 690SW Camera 65mm lens

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Turning bad light into good

So the sun is up, the weather is great, it's a perfect time to shoot people outdoors, right? Not so fast...!
It would have been perfect just after sunrise, or right around sunset, when the sun is low, and the light is softer and warmer, but right now, the sun is high with harsh shadows.

When you try to shoot people in bright glaring sunlight, they squint, the light looks harsh on their faces, and the resulting images usually disappoint. The solution? Break the rules! Rather than shooting them with the sun on their faces, turn the shot 180 degrees around, and shoot them backlit.

Now the harsh direct sun becomes nice edgelight on their hair and shoulders, the light is soft on their faces, and they're not having to squint with the sun in their eyes. It also helps to have a shade on your lens to minimize lens flare, and to use a background that isn't too bright, so the nice edgelight or rimlight is visible to separate the subjects.

Nikon F3 with 180mm f2.8 lens

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Weather or not...?

That is often the question when you live in the Northwest, and the extended forecast is rain, rain, or rain, and you're thinking about grabbing your camera.

Bad weather can make good pictures.  A moist world looks pretty great - notice the number of car commercials with wet pavement or the sparkling drops of water on "fresh" vegetables in a fast food ad.  Wet surfaces have more contrast and provide the beautiful snap of spectral highlights.  Backlit rain is especially lovely.

If you decide to brave the rain, just make sure to use common sense and protect your equipment from getting wet.  Find a covered area or protect the camera with a plastic cover or an umbrella.  I always carry a few hotel shower caps in my camera bag for this.  I also carry an REI-style gaiter that covers my zoom lenses that are too large for a shower cap.  

WARNING - Camera manufacturers may claim that their products are weather resistant, but they don't really mean it when it comes to honoring the warranty on a soggy DSLR.  Digital cameras hate water, so be very careful when you are in a wet environment. 

This cross country image was taken at Seattle's Woodland Park during a fall monsoon. 

Canon 1Ds Mk2 with Canon 300mm f/4 ISO 1600, f/5 @ 1/400

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Good things come to those who wait...

I'd heard about the skateboard park hidden under the Burnside Bridge here in Portland, but never actually checked it out......until now. I had waited until the late afternoon sun was doing it's magic with the light and shadows.

Rather than try and follow the skaters around, I found a nice composition that worked for me, and did what I always do in situations like this......just waited. I knew that if I was patient, one of the skaters would eventually occupy the portion of the frame I had hoped for, and add that moment of gesture that helps make the shot work.

The message here is sometimes it's better to find a nice "frame-able" composition first, and spend some time waiting for a moment of "gesture" to bring the scene together.

Nikon F5 with 180 f2.8 ED Lens

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