Thursday, June 25, 2009

Repeating Patterns

Stairs at ADNOC
In a recent post, the subject matter was reflections.  I suggested we find reflection captured in photography appealing, for one reason, because it introduces an element of repeating patterns.  I don’t pretend to understand the brain’s hardwiring or psychology that leads to this affinity, but I know it is true.  Even mundane subjects such as golf carts, become interesting when they are aligned in a way to present a series of repeating patterns.
Golf Carts
The next shot is of the famous “Corncob” apartments in Chicago.  As I look at this shot, my eye first sees the shot as a whole.  My gaze then starts to wander and marvel at the symmetry and repeating corncob “holes” representing each of the apartments.  Then I become more curious and begin to explore what is going on in each of those locations – there is a great deal of detail to attract the eye.
Chicago Corn Cobs small
The next two shots come from Washington DC and include Arlington National Cemetery (actually in Arlington Virginia) and the Washington Monument.  For those of you looking for some shots with repeating patterns, Arlington National Cemetery has a nearly infinite number of ways to compose photographs with repeating patterns that extend to the horizon.  I am particularly fond of shooting at Arlington in the winter – and in black and white; the starkness adds to the solemn nature of this revered location.
Flag Ring at Washington Monument
DCF 1.0
The next two shots both come from Innsbruck Austria and represent two very different forms of repeating patterns.  The first shot of church pews is similar to Arlington National Cemetery in that it is not only a set of repeating patterns, but also takes advantage of another photographic technique – leading lines – that I wrote about in a previous post.  The second shot uses repeating patterns to bring interest to the composition, but does not use leading lines to guide the observer through the photograph.
Innsbruck Church Pews
Innsbruck Crosses
The next shot comes from the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE. 
Finally, I will leave you with a preview of yet another future blog – Machu Pichu, Peru.
Machu Pichu - 34
I hope you enjoyed this post.  I also hope you get outside, take some shots, and look for repeating patterns to add interest to your photography.
All the best,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Night Shots of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Grand Mosque at Night  (1 of 22)
I planned to dedicate an entire entry to the process of night photography…this is not it.  I want to get this post up quickly because a number of people are interested in seeing these shots of the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque in Abu Dhabi.  So rather than discuss the process of night photography, the requisite equipment, and how to set-up your camera, I will tell a short story about the night I took these shots (just two days ago) and otherwise leave this blog to the photographs.
Grand Mosque at Night  (8 of 22)
ON Tuesday of this week, the night began with the intention of going to several locations around Abu Dhabi to take some night shots and to help a good friend of mine, Mohammed Al Hammadi, learn the techniques for night photography.
Grand Mosque at Night  (6 of 22)
We chose the mosque as our first shoot of the night.  We set up for the shot on a nearby highway overpass.  The first shot in this post is from that location.  On this night the mosque was lit in blue.  The color of lighting changes on occasion, but I have not yet asked the question whether there is significance to the changing colors.
Grand Mosque at Night  (12 of 22)
While shooting from this location on the bridge, a car pulled up behind us and a gentleman approached us then began talking with Mohammed.  The conversation was in Arabic, so I had no idea if this was a matter of curiosity, security, or it was notification that I won the lottery.
Grand Mosque at Night  (7 of 22)
After a while, Mohammed informed me that I had not won the lottery, but from the view point of our intention for the evening, it was the next best thing; our visitor was associated with the mosque and invited us to shoot on the mosque grounds from locations not normally accessible.
Grand Mosque at Night  (16 of 22)
As we were shooting I feared our new found friend would inform us at any moment he had to go (and therefore we must leave).  This thought motivated me to work quickly and take best advantage of the opportunity.
Grand Mosque at Night  (10 of 22)
Over the course of the next hour or so, I set up and shot roughly 100 exposures.  Our host was very gracious, and the invitation to leave never came.  The remainder of the shots represent the best from that night.
Grand Mosque at Night  (2 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (11 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (20 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (22 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (3 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (21 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (4 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (19 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (5 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (14 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (9 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (18 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (13 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (17 of 22)
Grand Mosque at Night  (15 of 22)
I hope you enjoyed these shots.  I promise to return soon with some thoughts on how you can get shots like these and a continued discussion of the appeal for night photography.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Hirshorn Museum 5 of 6
Capturing reflection is a fun and creative part of photography.  Photographs that incorporate reflection are appealing on multiple levels.  But as I was conceiving this post I had to ask “why?”  I know I enjoy shots that take advantage of reflection, but simply acknowledging the affinity is not a sufficient explanation.  To answer the question, I decided to gather the shots for this post and analyze them…what specific elements of the shots created interest, drew the eye, and why. 
The first shot (above), is an example of reflecting something that is not actually in the frame.  All told, this is a more complex form of using reflection.  The composition is dominated by the water feature at the center of the Hirshorn Museum in Washington DC.  However, in addition to the water feature, we see the reflection of the Hirshorn museum proper.  I find this shot particularly appealing because unlike most water reflected shots, the water feature has it’s own texture and depth.  The reflection of the interior walls of the Hirshorn is overlaid on the beams or channels that span the water feature, just below the surface, leading to the large hole where the water drains at the far side.
Now contrast the first shot of the Hirshorn with this one:
Hirshorn Museum 6 of 6
This is essentially the same shot, but the composition was expanded to include the interior walls of the Hirshorn rather than just reflecting the walls.  This composition introduces what I have concluded is the second way reflections add interest to a shot; repeating patterns.  Our eyes are naturally drawn to repeating patterns.  I can’t explain why we are attracted to repeating patterns, but I know it to be true.
The next photograph, from the Thames River in New London, CT, is another example of the appeal brought by repeating patterns.
Swan and Sailboat in the Mist - 2
We can differentiate some of the elements of this photo to further distinguish what we find appealing.  In this shot, the reflection is primary limited to the two principal subjects in the shot; the swan and sailboat.  Other features such as the far shore and a house emerging from the fog do not have reflections.  This results naturally in your eye falling on the sailboat, then moving to the swan, and eventually to the fog shrouded shoreline in a clockwise manner.
Now contrast the swan and sailboat with this shot of Mystic Harbor in Mystic Connecticut.
Mystic Lighthouse
In this case, the reflection runs the width of the entire composition; everything has a reflection.  If you notice how your eyes move through this shot, you will likely find that you pick something of interest such as the lighthouse or the tall ship, then your eyes will move horizontally along the waterline to take in the rest of the shot.
Returning, to the reflective form that brings something to the composition from outside the frame, this shot from Millennium Park in Chicago is a great example.
Chicago Egg
In addition to the skyline brought into the composition by the reflection, I like having a person standing under the “egg” to provide some scale to the shot.
Water is the most common surface for compositions using reflection.  Naturally, this leads to many nautically themed photographs.  The next four shots are exceptions to the nautical them and use reflecting pools (U.S. Capitol and of minaret of the grand mosque in Abu Dhabi) and the tidal basin in the case of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.
DCF 1.0 
Domes from Exterior-2
Washington Monument Refelction-2
Jefferson Memorial Reflection-2
The next group of shots focus on animals and water reflection.  Specifically, a shot of retriever entering the water with perfect form, and a pair of swan shots.  Notice with the shot of the swan and the boat how the swan mimics the boat.
Retriever at Maritime Museum - 2
Munich Swans
Swan and Sailboat in the Mist - 1
Finally, I will leave you with two nautically themed shots.  The first is of a radio controlled sailboat in the boat basin of the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland.  The second comes from a fog enclosed marina in New London, Connecticut.
RC Sailboat 53 - 1
New London Marina - 1
I hope these examples of reflections in photography are helpful in understanding their appeal.  So the next time you are composing a shot with a reflection, try to understand how the reflection adds interest by either developing repeating patterns, or by adding to the composition something that is not directly in the frame.