Monday, May 31, 2010

Fun Photography on Memorial Day Weekend

Light Painting with Sparklers Photographers have a tendency to focus their work on things they find important, beautiful, tell a story, make money, or fit within some framework of photography that is consistent across their body of work.  This makes very good sense – it is good to work within themes and bring focus to your work.  However, sometimes it is a good thing to just have some fun with your photography.  Act like a child, and just play.
Light Painting with Sparklers-2
The photographs in this post have little in common other than I took these shots while just having fun on Memorial Day weekend.  The first two shots are something fun anyone can do with a tripod.  There are plenty of photographers who have used this technique.  It is a well developed area called light painting and can be very creative.  These shots are a much less creative in comparison to the really unique work of light painting…my daughter and her friends just having fun with sparklers.  It is amazing how a box of sparklers can still entertain a group of 20-somethings!
Dreamy Yellow Flower
The next two shots resulted from some play with my Lensbaby coupled with the macro lens.  The lens baby system is really designed for play and experimentation.  With all the interchangeable bits and pieces, the possibilities are endless.  In this case the result was an apparent ridiculously short depth of field.
Maryland Blue Claw Crab
Have FUN, and go make some great photography.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Washington Monument on Memorial Day Weekend

Washington Monument
It is Memorial Day weekend and gratefully I am home in Washington DC.  I just returned from a 25 hour juggernaut of travel across seven time zones which means I have a couple days of adjusting to DC time.  In other words, I wake up very early the first couple of days.  The one benefit is getting out of the house before sunrise to get some photography in wonderful light as the sun comes up.
Washington Monument-2
Being Memorial Day weekend, I thought some photography on the Mall in DC, particularly with the World War II Memorial would be appropriate.  I was happy to get some nice shots.  I will share more, but thought to get these out quickly.
Enjoy your weekend, and if you see a veteran or an active duty serviceman, thank them for their service.
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Odd Sleeping Habits in New York

Christopher Street Station Hotel
My last entry (Breaking the (composition) Rules in New York) led off with a photograph of someone just waking from a slumber on the oh so comfortable streets of New York.  The guy in the photo featured in today’s entry has somehow taken this to a completely new level.  While maybe common place for New Yorkers, I found the wholly casual nature of his nap quite unique.  He had this look of, “this is precisely the place and time I wanted to nap and am pleased with my choice.”  Of course most New Yorkers paid no mind to him and likely only took notice when they had to step over or around him to enter or exit the subway station.  I was pleased to have the woman on the left side of the photograph in the frame to represent the wholesale disinterest of New Yorkers passing on the street.
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Breaking the (composition) Rules in New York

New York Sidwalk Sleeper
As I was reviewing some of my past posts, I realized I frequently talk about compositional rules but have failed to mention the most important rule – IT IS OK TO BREAK THE RULES!!!
Honestly, I think conventions like “the rule of thirds” should be toned down to something much softer…maybe the concept of thirds.  There are a number of ways to break the rule of thirds.  One of my favorites is shown in the first photograph.  By placing the subject in a corner, the balance of the composition can be used to draw the eye to the subject.  In this case, the majority of the photograph is composed of the sidewalk helping the eye move up to the man waking from a peaceful sleep on the sidewalks of New York.
Bicycle in Grand Central Station
The second way to break this rule is putting the subject square in the middle of the composition.  Making this approach to breaking the rules is difficult  because in general I believe it is too ordinary or pedestrian to find the subject in the center of the composition, but I think it works for this photograph of a bicycle messenger hustling through the grand hall of Grand Central Station in New York.  There are other points of interest that fall on the 1/3 lines, but the cyclist is clearly centered.
Metro North Tickets Grand Central Station
My final recommendation for breaking the rules is related to the first approach.  Rather than composing your subject in a corner, move them to one of the vertical or horizontal margins.  In this case, the subjects (people on the move in the Great Hall of Grand Central Station in New York) are at the very bottom of the composition.
So please keep this in mind: there is an exception for every rule and it is often quite fun and challenging to creatively break the rules.
Have fun, and go break some (composition) rules!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another Thought on Triangles – Composition and the Sandwich Rule According to the Sporkful

As a student of photography and a student of life, after just posting my last introductory post on triangles in photography (Triangles in Photography – Abu Dhabi Corniche), I came across an interesting connection to food.  In the realm of photography, we are aware of the relationship of triangles, the rule of thirds, the golden rule of thirds, the golden triangle rule, etc.  All of these have “3” as a common concept (three points and sides to a triangle for instance).  My discovery, and motivation for this post is the sandwich.
_MG_5197 - Copy
As a point of context, I am a podcast addict.  My full time job requires me to travel…a lot….over 50 percent of my life is spent away from home and outside the U.S.  I rely on podcasts for news, entertainment, and connection to what is going on at home as well as furthering my knowledge of things for which I am passionate (such as photography).  One of the podcasts on my playlist is the Sporkfull.  The hosts of this engaging podcast deconstruct the consumption of food to a level of detail that is highly entertaining and oddly familiar.  For example, where in the construction of a hamburger is the best place to position the cheese?  This is something you may have considered in an odd moment of lapse in conversation between hamburger bites, but not necessarily considered with full academic rigor.  These guys take it to a crazy, and thoroughly fun level of analysis.
So here is my connection to the good guys at Sporkfull.  The episode I just enjoyed focused a large segment on how to cut a sandwich.  Growing up in Michigan, I was accustomed to the perpendicular cut.  Only after meeting and marrying my wonderful bride did I learn the joys of a diagonally cut sandwich (two triangles!).  After being presented with this alternative, I was completely sold…why?…I have no clue.  So the Sporkfull episode continued into the delicious debate of square cut vs. diagonal cut to help me understand.  The argument for diagonal cut clearly won the day.
_MG_5219 - Copy
I will admit there is little connection to the use of triangles in photographic composition and how you cut your sandwich, but I was instantly drawn to the potential of an even tenuous relationship.  My attraction to the connection lies in our apparently natural psychological and perceptual attraction to thirds and triangles.  I don’t claim to understand it, but promise to continue my pursuit of understanding this phenomenon.  I also promise to report back on my findings as I continue to discover.
While rambling about sandwiches and triangles, I thought it might be a good idea to include a few more photographs demonstrating the way the idea of concepts adds to photographic composition.
_MG_5223 - Copy
So the real question that must follow from this discussion, is “what does it mean when you cut your hamburger in half?”  I’m sure that Dan Pashman and Mark Garrison at the Sporkful have the answer!  If you enjoy food, you will enjoy their podcast.
Have fun, and go make some great photography!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Triangles in Photography – Abu Dhabi Corniche

Sails on Corniche
Triangles have a firm position in photography with respect to composition, and leading the eye through the photograph.  For example, the first photograph uses the triangles formed by the pavilion in the middle to draw the eye from the sunset (mid right 1/3) up through the sky, back to the Abu Dhabi skyline, then back to the man strolling along the Corniche on the right.  There are also overlaying triangles formed by the guy wires supporting the mast.  Finally, although inverted, another prominent triangle is formed by the sun, the highlight in the cloud above and just to the left of the mast, with the third leg formed by the subtle cloud lines in the upper right quadrant of the photograph.
Sails on Corniche - Triangle
The triangle formed by the batsman, bowler and fielder, all with their attention on the ball, add both focus and tension in the form of anticipation to this photograph.  This triangle is mimicked by the pattern of bricks in the walk – shallow triangles that almost imperceptibly reinforce the relationship between batter, bowler, and fielder.
Corniche Underpass
In the final photograph, the Abu Dhabi Corniche underpass, forms a set of four triangles born from the X of the vanishing lines in the walls floor and ceiling of the under pass.  In this case the eye tends to begin with the base of the triangle (nearest the view) and draw the eye through to the center of the photograph.
Corniche Underpass - Triangles
There are a number of ways triangles are used in composition to add interest, tension, focus, and guide the viewers eye.  I will be sure to return with more examples.
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Abandoned Bicycles in Abandoned Tarif, Abu Dhabi

Bike in Tarif-3
In January, I wrote about my photo expedition to Tarif, Abu Dhabi on New Year’s day 2010.  The post “Abandoned Buildings in Tarif, Abu Dhabi” talks about the location and some of the photographs I made.  This entry is a companion to the first entry and narrows the subject to a couple of abandoned bicycles in one of the buildings.
Bike in Tarif-2
One of the things I like about these shots is the fun of trying to get a unique look at something relatively simple.  The challenge is to find the right angle, the right light, the right depth of field and the composition that takes something from uninteresting to noteworthy or intriguing.
Bike wheels in Tarif
You should note that I did not stage the bikes or wheels.  I did not move anything, but rather shot exactly what I found.  Fortunately, whoever left them, did a fine job of leaving things in interesting positions with good lighting in mind!
Bikes in Tarif
As I mentioned in the first post featuring Tarif, I took over 600 shots that day.  In other words, you are likely to see some more from Tarif.
Have fun and go make some great photography.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Garmisch Germany Barns in the Field

Garmisch Field at Sunrise-4
For those of you who follow this blog, you know that I am predisposed to black and white photography.  The photographs featured here are intended to provide some proof that I have not completely abandoned the world in color.
Garmisch Field at Sunrise-2
Neither of these photographs were punished greatly in post processing.  Both received some cropping to place the subjects where I thought best, a little push on vibrance, and a touch of sharpening.
The rich greens of the grass and the moss on the roofs coupled with the wonderful sunrise blue sky convinced me to stray from a conversion to black and white.
If you ever get a chance to visit Germany, I highly endorse a visit to Garmisch.  It is a fairy tale book location with easy access to Austria on the other side of the mountains.  The views, food, hospitality, and wine are all well worth the visit.
Have fun, and go make some great photography!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Boats in Aqaba Jordan

Boats in Aqaba Jordan
I received some good feedback on some recent and past posts showing the before and after versions of raw photographs and finished product.  So here is another example.
My first decision on processing this photograph was conversion to black and white.  I applied one element of my set of criteria that asks if the color information is important to the composition.  With only a bit of the reds and the blue sky adding anything of note to the shot, I chose to go black and white.
Boats in Aqaba Jordan-2
The second shot shows the result of the first portion of post processing; cropping, and exposure adjustment.  In this case, I was happy with the composition and did not crop.  However, I increased the exposure by about one stop, and used the Lightroom recovery feature to bring back some of the detail in the mountains on the horizon.
Boats in Aqaba Jordan-3
The final set of adjustments included adjusting the curves to add contrast, an angled gradient filter to darken the sky slightly (more darkening on the right), some dust spot removal (look about 1/3 of the way from the left just below the top of the frame to see a prominent piece – on the first two versions), and a small bit of sharpening.
This photograph will get some more work, but I thought I would share my general workflow in Adobe Lightroom.  Processing the photo to this point amounted to about 5 minutes of work…interrupted by a local kid selling magazines (I’m a sucker and bought Wine Spectator…he got 2000 points, whatever that means).  The process varies a bit with color, and I promise to share an example soon.
Have fun, and go make some great photography.