Most of us are starting to struggle with finding activities to keep us busy during our COVID-19 lockdown. I am no exception. Yesterday I was talking to one of my granddaughters about some old movies I enjoyed and King Kong came up. She had never seen it, so we talked about it for a few moments. Later, I looked on-line and found some old movie posters from the 1933 release of this film. In many ways, it was a shocking film for its time period! This gave me an idea to have some Photoshop fun to spend some time creating a fun photo. I decided to use the newest skyscraper symbol in New York, Freedom Tower, in place of the old symbol, the Empire State Building, as when the film was originally released. Here it is for your viewing pleasure. Now go on-line and view the movie. I know I will!
This past weekend I took my granddaughters to the Leesburg Airshow here in Northern Virginia. The sky was extremely overcast which made for a pretty poor photographic background. It did, however, give me an opportunity to spend the day with my granddaughters and also to take some photographs. Several of the photographs turned out reasonably well and are included in this blog post for your enjoyment!
I learned multiple lessons that, hopefully, will help me in the future relative to photography. When these airplanes were in flight it was very difficult to capture them properly in the frame. After a few mistakes I realized I would be better off if I was shooting in continuous mode. That is probably a big Duh from the more experienced photographers reading this blog post. However, for a slow learner like myself, it was not something I immediately thought about. So one of the first lessons I did learn, was that it is very important to consider the photographic shooting environment before taking the first photo. I’m usually so excited to take pictures that I seldom consider the complete environment beforehand.
The next learning opportunity arrived when I tried to use the panning technique on a few shots with mixed results. The few photos that did turn out somewhat decent were mere luck and not due to any skill on my part. This is the next lesson learned. It was not a mistake to try pannin; however, I do need to practice it more often to become proficient at using this technique. Combining panning and continuous shooting mode was not something that immediately occurred to me. I did use it for several photos and the results were an improvement on the shots taken earlier in the day.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the sky was very overcast and gray and it made for a poor photographic background. Needless to say I did not use the proper exposure in several instances. Looking back on it, some of these photographs would have turned out a lot better had I dialed in either a slightly different exposure or perhaps minimized how much sky was in the photograph. Another option obviously would be to use Photoshop to replace the skies in these photos.
Speaking of using Photoshop, I did try it for the composite photo of the parachutist and the American flag. A couple of months ago I shot several photos of the American flag against a very nice and colorful sky. It was my intention to use these for backgrounds in some future photo, but I did not have any idea as to when. This is another tip that I picked up from my photo club. Always shoot backgrounds for future use. I have built up a small library of various backgrounds; however, my limitation is utilizing them with Photoshop. I just recently subscribed to the Adobe Creative Cloud and I am in the process of attempting to learn Photoshop. The composite that you see here was difficult because of the number of ropes dangling from the parachute. I did the best I could to select the parachutist and then to erase the background between the ropes. The photo came out okay, however, don’t look too closely at the ropes!
The airshow also featured an exhibit of several classic automobiles. Two of them caught my eye for their photographic potential. I have included them in the blog for your viewing pleasure. As always, I came away from the shooting opportunity with a few decent photos but the most valuable thing was the experience of taking the photographs. There is a lot to learn in becoming a better photographer and I am enjoying the journey, even if the results are not great to this point. Now enjoy the photographs from the Leesburg airshow.
It seems that I have a penchant for photographing city scenes such as cityscapes, street scenes and architecture. Recently, I had an opportunity to attend the Prince William County Fair here in Virginia. The premier event at the fair that evening was the demolition derby. This struck me as a great opportunity to photograph some new subject material.
First of all, to those of you who are unfamiliar with a demolition derby, let me explain it. This is basically a very unusual automobile race. The race cars themselves have had everything that could fall off, taken off. This includes the interior seats, windows, mirrors, headlights, etc. These cars are wrecks that are used to crash into one another! There is no racetrack, just an open area with concrete barricades around the perimeter. The surface is dirt that has been watered down to make traction very difficult. From watching the drivers, it seemed their primary tactic was to back into another car at as high speed as possible in order to render the rammed car inoperable. The winner of the event was the driver of the last car that was still in operation.
From my photography standpoint, it was interesting trying to catch some action shots that would clearly portray this unusual car race. One of the first issues was related to where I was standing. I needed to use a telephoto lens. I also had to shoot between spectators, since I did not have a pass to get inside the perimeter. The lighting became more difficult as the races went later into the evening. The combination of the car’s motion and low light made taking a proper exposure difficult. Needless to say, all these photos were done with the tripod.
I must have taken approximately 100 photos that evening. After uploading the photos to Adobe Lightroom and reviewing them, I came to the conclusion that most of the photos were not really very interesting. Many of them were technically acceptable, but they had no real visual appeal. I’m sure that this is something that many of you reading this blog have also experienced after a day of photography. So I culled through these photographs and came up with several that I’m sharing with you in this blogpost. My personal favorite is the one of the driver sitting on his car waiting for his group to race. The casual and unpretentious nature of this race is evident by his pose.
The other photos of the demolition derby are an attempt to capture some interesting action. In one of them you can see flames coming out of the engine compartment. Shortly after this, the race was stopped so firemen could douse the flames. I do have a photo of that and it is not very interesting since it only shows the firemen’s back and his hose with no flames bellowing from the car.
Since this was a county fair, there was a carnival in progress. I took several photographs of the Ferris Wheel in the distance and I’m sharing the nicest one in this post. This particular photo gave me an opportunity to use Adobe Photoshop. I managed to lighten the shadows of the trees and this brought out significant detail. There were also several distracting objects in the background that I was able to remove with the healing tool. A few adjustments to the white and black points and the result was a decent photograph. This photo certainly won’t win any awards but it did give me an opportunity for late evening photography and a chance to start using Adobe Photoshop for editing. My first impressions of Photoshop are it is very powerful but also very complicated. I will be spending a lot of time in the immediate future attempting to learn this tool.
I hope reading this blogpost encouraged some of you to go out and photograph something that you’re not used to doing. It is only by tackling unfamiliar projects that we as photographers can learn new skills and techniques and improve our overall ability to capture a good photograph. I know I certainly enjoyed this opportunity at the county fair.
I have found that taking photographs of people in their urban surroundings is very enjoyable for me. In a previous blogpost I discussed what types of photographs I wanted to take and decided that I like to point the camera at anything I enjoy! Is that something that appeals to you or do you tend to concentrate on one specific type of subject matter? Have you considered trying new subjects and challenges? With summer approaching and good weather to be found throughout the northern hemisphere, now is a great time to get out and explore taking photos of different subjects and situations.
Recently, I had the opportunity to take some photos at both a local street festival and in the historic city of Annapolis, Maryland. I consider these to be urban photography although some of you may prefer to call it street photography. Since these are my photos I have decided to use the term urban photography. My hope is to display people interacting with one another in an urban setting or just being a critical element of an urban scene.
The first several photos were captured at the OneLoudoun Festival in Ashburn, Virginia. Ashburn is a suburb in the greater Washington DC metro area and OneLoudoun is a real estate development that is attempting to mimic a downtown area in a city. If you visit, then you can decide for yourself if this idea is successful. The picture below is entitled Conversation. I caught sight of the couple in conversation in the midst of a crowd of people. I processed this photo to highlight them and at the same time to deemphasize the rest of the scene. I wanted the effect to be subtle and my style seems to gravitate to lightly post processed photos.
The next picture from the festival featured a dog. Usually, I am not the person who has much interest in photographing animals, but this scene caught my attention with the dog, his owner and the costumed person in the background. Since the dog was a black and white breed and his owner was wearing black tights, a white top and boots with white fur trim I decided to process this as a monochrome image. I did use a slight tint just to make it look a little different.
In America, we have a provision in our Constitution that permits citizens to own firearms. The actual text of that amendment is as follows “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. Depending where in the world you live, this might be a concept that you disagree with. Many individual states also have laws that allow for citizens to carry firearms on their person. A weapons permit is required to do this. The Commonwealth of Virginia has laws to allow the carrying of firearms and if you are interested click on this link http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter7/section18.2-308.01/
The rationale for this discussion is found in the next photograph from the festival. This scene was interesting because the two blue balloons are harmless and photogenic. If you look closely to the left of the woman with the balloons you will see a man wearing a red headscarf. Note that on his hip is a handgun. I thought the juxtaposition of the innocent balloons in a scene with a handgun was a great opportunity for a photograph. I tilted the image in post for a little extra effect.
Now the last picture from the festival was of a family behind the stage where a band was playing to the crowd. I watched the dad take several pictures of the family and I took candid pictures of them at the same time. The one below is entitled Why me? And I think you can surmise the reason for the title.
Annapolis is a very historic city here in America. It is the capital of the State of Maryland and it was also the first capitol of the United States prior to Washington DC. It is also the home to the U.S. Naval Academy. The first picture was taken on Main Street near the harbor. This area is a very tourist oriented neighborhood filled with shops, restaurants and bars. I noticed several Naval Academy Cadets standing outside of a restaurant and thought the scene was interesting due to the four people and dog (again an animal) in the foreground. Their facial (not the dog!) expressions are all quite different and tell various stories. Feel free to guess what you think those stories might be.
The last photo is of a traffic control officer. It looks like his hand signals are giving contradictory instructions. Actually he is signally to pedestrians on both curbs that they can walk. Just as I snapped this photo a gust of wind blew in from behind me and blew my hat across the street behind the officer. He was kind enough to run after it and grab it before a car had the great opportunity to run over it!
Thanks for visiting C’est La Vie Photography Blog and come back to see another post in the not too distant future! Feel free to leave a comment.
In the last few months I have attended a couple of presentations by gifted photographers who discussed the concept of working a composition. By this, you should try and take a photograph of a particular subject from different perspectives, different aperture settings, different focal lengths, and any other techniques you can use to try and create a picture that is unique. The emphasis for you is on doing this in-camera and not just relying on Photoshop or some other editing program to manipulate the pixels.
I must admit that this technique is one that I have not done a very good job with in the past. As I look back it seems that I probably spent too little time on any given shot. This is perhaps because I didn’t think through quite clearly what I wanted to do before I started shooting or in some instances I was impatient to move on to the next photograph. In any event, this is a problem in my photography that I plan to correct immediately.
Recently, I visited New York City with the intention of enjoying a day or two in the city and not necessarily concentrating on photography. Fortunately, I did bring my camera with me just in case I changed my mind. As it turns out, I did use my camera much more than I had originally planned. New York is a fantastic city for photography, in particular, for urban street scene photography. I think I will use some of those photographs for my next blog post on the topic of street photography, but for now let’s stay on the topic at hand which is working a composition.
When I came up with this idea for the blog, I realized that I did not have very many examples of working a particular composition to get a perspective, view or just a composition that was somewhat unique. I guess that points out what a poor job I have been doing in the past with working my compositions. While in the financial district I did manage to take a few different photographs of the icon of the Financial District, “the bull of Wall Street” sculpture. I will use those photos to somewhat highlight the idea of working a composition; although, admittedly, a very poor example of that technique.
The first photograph that I took was from the front of the bull and it is shown below in color. As it would happen, many people were walking by and just as I snapped the shutter the woman on the right came into the frame and I memorialized her as a blur. I wasn’t originally planning to show this photograph to anyone because of that; but, since we’re talking about many photos of the same subject I thought I would include it as an example. Not exactly good in-camera examples, but I told you I had not done a good job of this in the past!
The next shot was a close up but it was also marred by someone walking into the photo as I pressed the shutter. So I cropped it to eliminate the blurred image of that person.
This was the resulting image.
Ok, I took another photo and again a person walked into the frame. I needed an assistant to watch for me or I should have been more attentive to what was nearby before firing the shutter!
By the way, did you note the position of the woman at the rear of the bull! I wondered what had her so fascinated, I managed to walk around to the bull’s rear end and as you can expect I saw a substantially different view! This view by itself is fun to look at and certainly illustrates taking a photograph from a different perspective.
As long as I was having fun, I decided to take this photo into Photoshop and using the Out of Bounds effect created a fun photo of the bull crashing into the New York Stock Exchange. Like a lot of people, I have lost money in the market and this gave me some satisfaction as a visual way of getting back at Wall Street!
As I look at these photos I wonder how much better they could have been with a little more time invested in working the composition. Perhaps a few photos from a ground level perspective would have been good. If I had arrived early in the day before the crowds arrived, then I would have had fewer distractions and a better environment to concentrate on the various compositions. Maybe a photo taken from a few inches from the bull’s nose with a wide angle lens would have been a winner.
Hopefully from here on out I will concentrate on working a composition in greater detail. The other thing that I’ve heard multiple times, especially in relationship to street photography, is trying to convey a story in my photograph. In the next blog post on the topic of street photography, I will share some photos that attempt to tell a story. I will leave it to you to judge whether or not I have accomplished that mission and to what degree. For those of you who already are doing a good job of working your compositions you didn’t need to read this, but for those like myself who have not been doing this, I hope this gives you some ideas that you can use in your photography.
What to photograph is a question I ask myself quite often. Usually, I think about what themes I would like to photograph such as landscapes, nature, etc. or maybe this is the day that I really focus on street photography. In the last year or so I have been trying to determine what type of photographer I am. Not whether I am a good photographer or poor photographer, but what style of photography should I be pursuing. I’m sure many of you have asked yourself the same questions. And I’m equally sure that some of you have made a clear determination of what photographic path is most interesting to you. I’m just as sure that some of you are still trying to figure out what photographic journey are you actually on and why.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a presentation at our photo club where we heard professional photographer John Barclay ( http://johnbarclayphotography.com/ ) talk about “Discovery and the Creative Choice” or fear, uncertainty and doubt in photography. His discussion centered around his own concerns about photography and how he had come to some very specific conclusions. Most importantly, is the idea that you should photograph what you enjoy, what you like to look at or what interests you. Being concerned about any particular theme or philosophy of photography is not all that important! Neither are some of the well-worn rules of photography, however, it is important to understand the rules at the beginning, so that you have a solid set of fundamental skills that will help you take great pictures.
As I thought about the idea of just photographing things I enjoy or things that catch my eye, it was a freeing idea. It occurred to me that I had been taking pictures like this anyway. I was not focused, no pun intended, on any particular theme I just took pictures of things that caught my attention for whatever reason. As a consequence, in the last week I’ve had the opportunity to take some photographs that perhaps no one else would be interested in but I enjoyed taking them and looking at them. Interestingly, while I was preparing this blog post I read a similar one on 500px by Viktoria Haack entitled “Why you should Not specialize in one type of photography” https://iso.500px.com/why-you-should-not-specialize-in-one-type-of-photography/ . This has further convinced me to not be fixated on what type of photography to pursue but to photograph what I like!
As an example, I recently had the opportunity to travel to New York City. There are not too many locations that offer more photographic opportunities than the business capital of America. When I arrived in New York it was raining and the forecast was not encouraging for any letup. As it turned out about 10 PM the rain subsided and merely became a slight drizzle. I got up and left my hotel with my camera and tripod and started walking. Because of the rain, the streets of Manhattan were unusually quiet, and somewhat deserted. As I was walking I happened upon a store being remodeled at the corner of 5th Avenue and 49th Street. As I looked in the store windows I saw some rather eerie window displays. These caught my attention and so I decided to take some photos. The challenge was to avoid the reflections in the glass from the lights nearby and passing cars. Fortunately, because of the rain there was not much traffic and due to the magic of Adobe Lightroom I was able to remove the few reflections that did appear.
These photos also gave me the opportunity to work a little more on my post-processing skills. I tried to maintain the dark, eerie mood; yet brighten up some of the faces, along with the glasses and other items that appeared in each scene. These pictures are eerie, as a matter of fact they’re downright weird; however, I enjoyed taking them and I enjoy looking at them. I hope you will also enjoy them. I’d like to know what you think, not only about the photos, but your own experiences in determining “what type of photographer are you?”