Posts

Streets of New York

Streets of New York

.

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35 mm 1.4 l, f/2 iso 100 1/160 // buy print)

When we were in New York back in October, my wife and I took a day to wander the city. We started off in the West Village by grabbing a quiet little breakfast and then wandering down random streets, taking pictures of anything we thought was interesting.

There is something quite beautiful about an empty road. I loved the slight sprinkling of leaves, the bike, the shadows and the trees.

I focused on the manhole cover at f/2 to drop off focus in the background quickly.

Must

Rainy Reflection Downtown Phoenix Road

There are a lot of “musts” in this photo…all traffic must turn right…you must not park here…you must stop ahead…and of course at the time I thought “I must take this photo.

What is it about me and the weather? I mean, first it was lightning, then it was photographing awesome monsoon clouds across the desert and that was followed closely with wanting to chase storms in the midwest. On this night, it was the thought of rainy, reflective roads that got me out shooting around downtown Phoenix until midnight. If it hadn’t rained, I wouldn’t have been out there, that much is certain.

This image is part of my continued love affair with my 50mm 1.4 and the amazing fun I have shooting low to the ground, opening up the aperture, using Live View and manually focusing to find that sweet spot.

(exif: rebel xsi, 50mm 1.4, f/1.6, iso100, 1/4sec)

I like taking pictures

When I thought of the title of this blog post, I immediately remembered the guy from Idiocracy (a less well-known/liked movie from Mike Judge who brought us Office Space) who would say stuff like this in a really dumb voice:

“I like money.”

Also

“I can’t believe you like money too. We should hang out.”

What does that have to do with this blog post? Nothing really…other than the simplicity of the quotes. If you know about the movie at all, the plot revolves around a future society where people have so much done for them, that they’ve been dumbed down to the level of children.

In a way though, that kind of parallels my point, which you’ll see below. Kids keep it simple.

Since taking up photography, I’ve explored so many different aspects of the art. I remember the first 6-8 months doing nothing but perusing through thousands of photos on JPG Mag, or Flickr, learning what people like, learning what I like, seeing different techniques, styles and processing. I tried to do a 365 self-portrait project and got to about 60 days before realizing that wasn’t important to me anymore. It probably took until the end of last summer for me to narrow down who I was and what I liked to shoot.

That is still evolving, but I feel much more focused now. I know myself better. More importantly I think, I’m confident in what I shoot and how I shoot it.

As I explored, I grew to love HDR. It’s a tool I use probably 90% of the time on my landscape, storm and urbex images. I enjoy it, I have had a lot of success in it, but it’s not who I am.  I have no desire to be known as an “HDR Photographer.” I certainly wouldn’t mind people saying they love my technique, style and processing when it comes to HDR, but I’d like it to stop there.

Since HDR is kind of new (as in more mainstream now), fun and catchy, a lot of photogs are using it as a way to identify who they are. Flickr accounts, blogs, usernames, etc…they include the words “HDR” in everything so people know that’s what they do. And I believe some of that has contributed to the love/hate debate when it comes to HDR.

I guess my point is…you don’t see a lot of people declaring themselves “Color Photographers” or “B&W Photographers”…etc. They are just photographers.  Those of us who love HDR have to constantly fight against people who hate it. We struggle to get the point across that “HDR is just a tool in my bag“, nothing more. I hear that defense all the time. And it’s a good one because it’s true.

But then we go out and call ourselves HDR photographers. If it’s just a tool, why not call yourself a “10-Stop ND Filter Photog?

I’m certainly someone who would fall into this a lot. For awhile I put information under my pictures about how many brackets I took, if it was HDR or not, etc. Even having a Flickr collection saying “HDR” is something I’m re-thinking. Or using the little #HDR hashtag on Twitter. I dunno how I feel about that yet.

I just know we struggle to get HDR accepted as a normal part of photography, but then we go out of our way identify our photos and ourselves as HDR.

If we brought less attention to the fact that a photo is HDR and more to the composition of the photo itself…I believe it would benefit everyone. To me, composition is key and trumps everything else. If you have a photo that is composed well, then it doesn’t really matter how you process it, it’s going to be a great looking picture.

I think people just love a beautiful photograph or image. When I’ve shown my work at a gallery or the farmer’s market, 98% of people just comment on how much they love a photo, without any knowledge of it being HDR or something else. A few will of course ask why it’s so detailed and then I explain the processing techniques.

As photogs who use HDR, I think it’s kind of up to us to change the way it’s viewed by using it solely as a tool and then posting our pictures as they are.

Yes, there will of course be times where posting a photo kind of demands you explain how you processed it. I get that, and will undoubtedly do the same thing here and there. I realize it’s kind of fun to explain WHY you made a photo black and white, or chose to use HDR in this instance. I know on our blogs it’s even harder because we tend to have a lot more photographers looking for technical explanations for the things they see, but that’s totally fine if people have questions. Go ahead, answer them. But wouldn’t it be awesome to just display a photo and have it judged solely on how it looks without any pre-conceived notions? Talk more about WHY you took the photo and less about the processing aspects behind it?

This is just something that has been on my mind for the last month or two. My good friend Brian and I talked about some of this stuff before Christmas and he even eluded to the same thing in his post not too long ago. Be careful about being pigeonholed as a specific type of photographer…instead, keep it simple…just BE a photographer. The more and more you put yourself in a box, the harder it will be to climb out of it.

I shoot all kinds of stuff and process photos in many different ways. Weddings, kids, families, babies, parties, storms, landscapes, urban decay, B&W, color, HDR…my photography isn’t about just one thing…it’s about a wide range of subjects that boil down to one idea: I’m a photographer.

And truly…I just like taking pictures.

Warp Speed

A few nights ago I declared I was tired of urbex for awhile and wanted to get out and shoot some desert landscapes against the setting sun. I hadn’t been to South Mountain in awhile and didn’t remember much of it, so I dragged along my wife and daughter and we drove up to the top of Summit Road where you can see the entire city. It’s breathtaking. But for me, I didn’t want to just sit there with the hundreds of other people and take a picture that everyone else was taking. So we didn’t even stop at the top and I headed back down, trying to find something to frame the evening sky against.

Only the pull-0ffs were very few, the road very tight. My wife is the one who suddenly pointed out this tiny little turnoff amidst my frustration at not seeing ANYTHING. I stopped, gave her a peck on the cheek saying she was awesome as usual and squatted outside the car to snap off some brackets.

This spot I loved immediately because the road had a sweet S-curve to it and although you can’t see it in this picture, it curls back to the right off in the distance. I also dug the little bit of pink clouds creating some contrasting lines in the sky.

But of course, it was the car that drove by during my bracketing that made this for me. You don’t necessarily plan for stuff like this, but I did want to see if I could get some car lights in the shot. These turned out awesome…almost a warp speed effect with the ghostly image of a car leaving a trail of light behind it.

This made me realize how much I miss the desert. I mean, sure, this spot was just about 30 minutes away or so, but it’s not like where I used to live where it was a half-mile to the wide open spaces. I’ve been so focused on the city and urban environment, it was a nice break to realize that the desert and mountains still hold me captive.

Autumn in New York

Okay, it’s not New York, it’s Phoenix…but really, this is Phoenix?

The first day of winter is tomorrow, but down here in the desert, fall is in full swing. I’m not entirely sure what kind of trees these are in the picture above, but along with the Chinese Elms and others, the leaves have suddenly started falling all around the downtown area and it’s just beautiful. Having lived in the outskirts of town for awhile, we don’t really see stuff like this too often. Fall leaves, sidewalks that aren’t right on the curb…it’s more like a place back east. I wasn’t expecting to see this at all…and it’s been a joy to drive up and down some of the smaller downtown streets, checking out the older houses and the fall colors.

The more I live downtown, the more I love discovering the awesome little secrets Phoenix has and the moments I can capture on camera.

Holy CRAP that was close!

(See below for the uncropped version)

Storms rolled into Phoenix from the southeast last night at a fairly fast clip. I was photographing some lightning off on the horizon to the northeast while waiting for the stuff south to hit us.

Once it finally arrived, it was quickly evident that if you wanted to stand outside your car with a tripod to photograph lightning, you’d better have a wetsuit and waterproof housing for your camera, not to mention a personal “windshield wiper” for your lens. There was just so much water, the levels of Precip Water in the Atmo (PWAT) were close to 2 inches I heard, and we received 1.22 inches at my house. That makes the third storm this year that we’ve gotten over an inch of rain.

So the photo above. Wow. I learned a secret from Shane Kirk about shooting lightning in pouring rain. You can do it from your dashboard with the windshield wipers on high. It’s not ideal, it may not work perfectly nor give you the most crisp shot of all time…but if you have no other choice, it can suffice.

This strike hit just under half a mile away from what I judged. Usually you know a bolt is close when you see the burnt orange “fire trails” that kind of fade away from a close strike. There was a little debate with my buddy Bryan about whether it hit right in front of that sign, but if you click on the large version, you can see the main, thicker part of the bolt stops at that hill and the rest of it is some kind of reflection in the rain.

The one bummer, if there is one, was that I was at 28mm for this shot when I should have been wide open at 17mm. Would have been even more amazing to see the upper levels of this bolt. Feel lucky to have captured this, the storm was essentially on top of me and I chose one direction to aim.

Here is the same shot straight out of the camera. A friend of mine, Brian Matiash, offered the idea of cropping the little left strike out, to see what it looks like and I have to admit, I like it better. But the original is below too!

This is most definitely the closest lightning strike I’ve caught on camera and you can be assured my heart skipped a beat!

The Red Light Bar Coffee Shop in Amsterdam

Wandering the streets of Amsterdam early in the morning really allowed for picture taking without thousands of people in the frame.

I loved this scene because of all the different colors there were to capture. From the orange flags for supporting the Dutch soccer team, to the neon signs, the Heineken sign, the graffiti in the alleyway, the red bricks, the awnings, the dirty black stairs…they just played so well together to create an explosion of color in an old town.

The door was closed to the coffee shop, but if it was anything like the other ones I passed with open doors…I’m sure there was some good smoking going on inside!

(More photos from my trip overseas: Holland Trip)