Travel

Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Part of my job as a "people on location photographer" (as I like to bill myself), is to be aware of my surroundings when I'm shooting. But as you can imagine, it's hard to turn that awareness off and I find myself constantly seeing photo opportunities, whether on the job or not. This is a good thing, as I get to experience the world in a constant state of discovery or unfolding--I never know what I'll see next and I like that.

For example, I was in Washington, DC last month, talking to Congressmen on Capitol Hill about copyright reform; it's one of the roles I play as Co-Chairman of APA/NY, a trade organization that supports photographers and the business of photography (Google it, then join--you really should join if you're a photographer). As I was walking between floors in the Rayburn House Office Building, I noticed how beautiful the stairway was. I walked all the way to the top floor of the stairwell and snapped a few shots, but I needed a focal point; I needed a person.

As would happen, a Capitol Hill Police officer saw me and stopped to question why I was loitering in the stairwell. I'm glad I had a digital camera so I could show him on the screen what I was doing and why I was waiting for the right person wearing the right clothes to walk in the right spot. Officer Patrick (he asked me not to use his last name) was suspicious--that's his job--but he was also curious and willing to see the same old thing in a fresh way. As he left me he said, "I've been working in this building for 5 years and I've never noticed how beautiful the stairs were". His comment made my day and reminded me of what a gift photographers are; we see the world in unique ways and get to share our vision and our passion with others every day. So keep your eyes peeled, you never know when or where you'll see your next photo op--or whose way of seeing the world around them you may change.

 Lumix LX-100, 16mm lens, 1/125th sec at f2.8 ISO 800

Lumix LX-100, 16mm lens, 1/125th sec at f2.8 ISO 800

Cool Tool

Here's a fascinating tool from our world-wide overseers at Google.  www.Sightsmap.com is a graphic representation of all the photos taken in the world and uploaded to the Google photo sharing site Panoramio.

How cool to see where in the world the most photos are taken!  Now, these are only the photos uploaded to Google, but still it's an interesting representation of all the photos taken.  You can also zoom in on specific areas, like New York City; this is where I think Sightsmap might be a useful tool and not just an interesting time waster.

You can zoom tighter, all the way down to specific areas and even see some of the photos that have been taken. The ability to zoom in and explore may be helpful to travel photographers looking for ideas of what to shoot when visiting new places. Doing research about your travel destination in advance will help you get better shots while traveling.

 This shows that Bethesda Terrace, in Central Park, is one of the hottest areas in New York City for taking photos.

This shows that Bethesda Terrace, in Central Park, is one of the hottest areas in New York City for taking photos.

Cold & Crisp, Clean & Clear

The weather rarely bothers me; in fact, I love shooting on cold, crisp nights.  When most people would rather be bundled up inside, you'll find me out in the clean, clear air searching for beautiful scenic photos.  When it's cold and crisp, the air is generally clean and clear, which makes for images that "snap".  When there is humidity in the air or that haze that comes with summer heat, your photos can look fuzzy or even out of focus.  Certainly, you can take beautiful images in any conditions, but I really love the clarity that comes from shooting in the cold and I never mind throwing on another layer to prepare for the elements.

 Lower Manhattan photographed from Brooklyn Heights.  ISO 200, 15 sec. at f16, 35mm lens

Lower Manhattan photographed from Brooklyn Heights.  ISO 200, 15 sec. at f16, 35mm lens

Rocky Mountain High

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, "Rocky Mountain High" probably means something different today then it did to John Denver back in his prime.  But I understand his reverence and was recently reminded of how majestic the high mountains can be as I did some hiking in the Maroon Bells Scenic Area outside of Aspen.

 Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells are reflected in Maroon Lake.  Even if all of the elements are less than perfect, take the shot anyway as the weather may deteriorate later, or worse, you may never get to that spot again.

Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells are reflected in Maroon Lake.  Even if all of the elements are less than perfect, take the shot anyway as the weather may deteriorate later, or worse, you may never get to that spot again.

This was not a serious landscape shoot, but I couldn't pass up taking this shot anyway; yes, I would have loved to have a blue-sky day, but Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate.  And even if you're taking a simple "snapshot" while on vacation, put in the effort to find a nice composition. 

Fall Favorites

I love the Fall, it's my favorite time of year.  The air is crisp and clean, which makes shooting scenic photos nicer.  And of course, the fall colors come out.  We all love seeing the grand scenic in beautiful colors, but don't forget to photograph the details, too.  Look for individual leaves or even patterns of leaves on the ground; the already fallen leaves can be beautiful, too.      

 Back lighting colorful Fall leaves can make a beautiful shot and creating a "sunburst" in the background adds an interesting element.        ISO 320, 1/500 sec at f11, 18mm lens.

Back lighting colorful Fall leaves can make a beautiful shot and creating a "sunburst" in the background adds an interesting element.        ISO 320, 1/500 sec at f11, 18mm lens.

 I like looking for interesting patterns made by fallen leaves.  There was something about these dead oak leaves laying on the moss that grabbed my attention; Fall is not only about vibrant colors!   

I like looking for interesting patterns made by fallen leaves.  There was something about these dead oak leaves laying on the moss that grabbed my attention; Fall is not only about vibrant colors!   

The Magical Twilight Hour

Twilight, that time when the sun has already set but there is still light in the sky, is one of my favorite times to shoot.  The color of the sky makes a gorgeous backdrop to just about anything, especially when you use strong colors that stand out against the blue.  I love shooting moving cars against a twilight sky; the red taillights provide a great contrast of colors.  But sometimes it's difficult to get the right mix of trailing lights against the sky due to traffic flow.  You can wait for a big flow of cars, or try a different technique--multiple exposures.  As long as you have the camera locked down on a tripod and don't move it between shots, you can shoot in-camera multiple exposures or merge multiple shots together in PhotoShop.  It's a fun technique to play with and can yield some beautiful results.

 This shot of the Flatiron Building in New York is a 9 shot in-camera multiple exposure.  The traffic was coming from both camera left and camera right, so the multiple exposures enabled me to record the trailing lights on both sides.

This shot of the Flatiron Building in New York is a 9 shot in-camera multiple exposure.  The traffic was coming from both camera left and camera right, so the multiple exposures enabled me to record the trailing lights on both sides.

A Stranger Walks into a Bar...

One of the most frequent questions I get is, "how do you take pictures of people you don't know?"  It's a common problem but one easily overcome if you stop being so self-conscious. Human beings like to feel safe, it's a built in survival mechanism and for the most part, serves us well.  But if you want to take your photography to the next level, especially when shooting travel photos or street portraits, you have to push yourself to get what you want.  How?  You just ask!  Most people are willing to help and are often flattered if you ask to take their picture; of course, you have to ask in the right way.  It pays to be nice, complimentary and genuine.  The excitement and enthusiasm you show will be obvious and contagious so that people will WANT to help you.  Here's the trick: nobody knows you; for all they know you could be one of the most famous photographers in the world, so pretend to be a famous photographer, or at least pretend to be a professional on assignment.  By pretending to be someone else, you short-circuit your self conscious and it allows you to get over your survival instinct about approaching strangers.  You also have to pick the right time to ask; don't interrupt someone when they are obviously busy. When you do shoot, be quick about it, continue talking with your subject, get to know them a little.  Afterwards, thank them. You may want to offer to email them the best picture and if you do make that offer, be good to your word and follow through by sending the image (otherwise you ruin it for the next photographer wanting to take their picture).

Finally, you will get people who say no.  So what!  There are always more people to photograph.  Just remain courteous, thank them and walk away.

The rewards of asking strangers to be your portrait subject far outweigh that little voice in your head warning you not to ask.  So go ahead, pretend you're someone else and ask away!

 While in Richmond, Virginia on business earlier this week, I arranged to meet friends for Happy Hour at the Franklin Inn.  You couldn't help but notice the beautiful light streaming through the big windows by the entrance and the wonderful reflections off the glassware and liquor bottles.  No one was there so I asked the bartender if she would pose for a photo. 

While in Richmond, Virginia on business earlier this week, I arranged to meet friends for Happy Hour at the Franklin Inn.  You couldn't help but notice the beautiful light streaming through the big windows by the entrance and the wonderful reflections off the glassware and liquor bottles.  No one was there so I asked the bartender if she would pose for a photo. 

 Hearing what was going on from the kitchen, the cook said, "What about me?"  So I took his portrait, too!

Hearing what was going on from the kitchen, the cook said, "What about me?"  So I took his portrait, too!

Patience Pays Off

Sometimes you see a great image opportunity but your gut says it could be better; it's instances like that where patience pays off.  I like to "pre-visualize" the elements of the scene I'm photographing and then wait for all the pieces to come together.  Other times I orchestrate the scene and place people where I want them.  But the best images happen organically, like the samples posted here. 

 I had already shot a good number of images of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC when this man stood before the statue.  The sunset was perfect but other people were moving in and out of the scene, causing distracting blurs.  This was a 3 second exposure and I was praying the man wouldn't move.  Finally, he was alone and I clicked the shutter.  I didn't plan for him to be there, but without him this would be a much less dynamic image.

I had already shot a good number of images of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC when this man stood before the statue.  The sunset was perfect but other people were moving in and out of the scene, causing distracting blurs.  This was a 3 second exposure and I was praying the man wouldn't move.  Finally, he was alone and I clicked the shutter.  I didn't plan for him to be there, but without him this would be a much less dynamic image.

By being observant to what is happening naturally, and waiting for the right moment, the results can be magical.

 The High Line Park on New York's west side is a lovely place for a stroll, but on a rainy morning as this, few people are there.  I saw the potential of this scene but it needed the right focal element--people.  I stood in the rain for at least 10 minutes before I saw this mother and son walk toward me.  I let them pass then took out my camera and framed the shot.  The woman's umbrella didn't look right but at the last minute she folded it under the canopy of trees; I snapped off four quick frames and caught one where they were in synchronized step.

The High Line Park on New York's west side is a lovely place for a stroll, but on a rainy morning as this, few people are there.  I saw the potential of this scene but it needed the right focal element--people.  I stood in the rain for at least 10 minutes before I saw this mother and son walk toward me.  I let them pass then took out my camera and framed the shot.  The woman's umbrella didn't look right but at the last minute she folded it under the canopy of trees; I snapped off four quick frames and caught one where they were in synchronized step.

 This shot, at the Musee de O'rsay in Paris, is another example of exercising patience.  This is one of those "no-brainer" shots, but no one was around.  I waited for over 15 minutes until this man walked up and looked out the clock window.  Once all the elements come together it doesn't take long to capture a great shot.

This shot, at the Musee de O'rsay in Paris, is another example of exercising patience.  This is one of those "no-brainer" shots, but no one was around.  I waited for over 15 minutes until this man walked up and looked out the clock window.  Once all the elements come together it doesn't take long to capture a great shot.