Turn Around

Turn Around

Where do you think this picture was taken? It’s a nice nature scene right? Actually it’s Central Park in New York City (one of the biggest cities in the world). This is about as far away from what I think of as being in nature as you can get. Standing at this dock is where I took the Bow Bridge picture. So if I was to turn around from where I took this picture it would have been a cityscape instead of a nature scene.

The takeaway here is if you think you don’t see a good shot, change your perspective: turn around, get down on the ground, try to get up higher, anything you can think of to get a different point of view. You never know what you can come up with by just moving yourself around until you try. This picture shows how much of a difference this can make. Turning around to see what is behind you is an easy one, and easy to remember to do. Getting down on the ground frequently has a nice effect, but is often forgotten. Give it a try some time to see what you think, you might be surprised at how much it can change a picture. Getting up higher sometimes takes come creativity. In nature this may mean walking up a hill, or finding something to stand on. In cities we have done things like walking to the top of parking decks. As with getting low, this can make a big difference on your picture.

Are you always going to get amazing pictures by changing perspectives? Unfortunately no, but always remember to keep it in mind to see what happens. I have even had times where I was getting pictures I liked at my “normal” height, then found when changing perspectives that I could get much better pictures. So even if you are happy with the pictures you are getting still see what difference moving around makes.

Turn Around Information

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All About Eyes

All About Eyes

Portrait photography is all about eyes. People are naturally drawn to the eyes, and the eyes tell the story. This picture was taken before one of a PYMBL bike races and you can see the excitement in Tyler’s eyes. Tyler looking at me is what makes this a good picture. When you look at the picture it seems like Tyler is looking and you; like you are there at the race with him. The story his eyes are telling is “I’m excited and I’m ready to race!”

Another nice part of this picture is the blurry background. The blurry background makes it so nothing draws your attention away from the main focus, the eyes. The way to get this blurry background effect is to use a wide aperture. If you notice in the picture information, the aperture in this picture was 6.3 which isn’t very wide. The thing to keep in mind is that the more the lens is zoomed in (112 mm in this case) the less width of the aperture that is needed to get this effect. To get this same effect with our 50 mm lens the aperture would have probably been around 1.8 – 2 and I would have been standing much closer.

When taking a picture like this it is always tempting to try to get the background in the picture also to show all the things going on around the person. When this temptation comes remind yourself that it is all about eyes, and get in close to focus just on the person. I have frequently been disappointed with pictures that show the whole background (they rarely come out like I imagined), but I have never been disappointed by getting in close and focusing on the persons face.

All About Eyes Information

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Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah’s Wasatch-Cache National Forest offers some spectacular views. This picture was taken on a hiking trail at Brighton Ski Resort. The Big Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway (State Route 190) is well worth the drive if you are ever in the Salt Lake City or Park City areas.

One challenge to photography here can be that the air is so dry there isn’t cloud to be found, leaving only bright blue skis. While it is spectacular to see in real life, these skies can lead to not so interesting pictures. In this case I tried to use the trees in the foreground with the mountains in the background to create interest on one of these blue sky days. Without the trees, the mountains looked washed out with all the bright sunlight, and the picture wasn’t very interesting. Some storm clouds coming in behind the mountains (but not a completely cloudy sky) is what I really wanted for a picture, but the beautiful sunny weather in the cool mountain air was perfect for hiking so I can’t really complain.

A bonus tip for road cyclists: Big Cottonwood Canyon along with the neighboring Little Cottonwood Canyon are two of my all time favorite rides. The two canyons are right next to each other so both can be ridden in one day is you are ready for A LOT of climbing at altitude. The temperature change from the bottom of the canyon to the top can be pretty big so make sure to be prepared with layers. I have had rides where I started off hot at the bottom with temperatures in the high 70’s , only to be freezing when I started back down with temperatures in the low 40’s.

Big Cottonwood Canyon Information

  • Taken By: Paul
  • Date Taken: 2-JUL-2012
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T1i
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
  • Exposure: 1/200 sec at f/7.1
  • Focal Length: 21 mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Flash: Did not fire
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Rough Ridge Views

Rough Ridge

Rough Ridge is part of the Tanawha Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains which runs beside the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rough Ridge provides amazing mountain views where you can see for hundreds of miles. The parking area for Rough Ridge is at mile 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a short section of trail from the parking area that goes to the Tanawha Trail. At this point, take a left and the views are close by.

There are several places along Rough Ridge that provide breath taking views. The views start at the boardwalk, but make sure not to only stop here. After crossing the boardwalk, the views continue all the way to the top of the mountain, and a little past the top. It is under a mile to the top of Rough Ridge and well worth the hike. Make sure to wear proper shoes because the trail is rocky with big steps in places (it’s called Rough Ridge for a good reason). If you want a longer hike, keep going past the summit. The views get blocked by tress, but it is still a pretty hike.

With views this great the trail can get crowded so if you want some solitude start early to try to avoid the people. If your goal is to take pictures, just before sunrise or just before sunset are usually the best times anyways so take advantage of it.

The bridge in this photo is the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and runs around Grandfather Mountain. We were just past the summit of Rough Ridge and on the way down the backside of the mountain when I took this picture.

Rough Ridge Views Information:

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Bird In Flight

Bird In Flight

This hummingbird comes around and hangs out on our back deck every day. Normally the bird stays around even when we are outside moving around, but on this day it was much more cautious. I had to sit on the back deck waiting patiently ready to go. As soon as I would move to get ready the hummingbird would fly off. Who knew that hummingbirds were camera shy? If you look closely you can see the hummingbird just starting to stick it’s tongue out. Here it looks like the end of its beak, but sometimes a hummingbird can be caught sticking it’s tongue way out.

Catching a bird in flight needs a fast shutter speed to keep from blaring the bird. As you can see here, a hummingbirds wings move so fast that even with a fast shutter speed the wings blur. I would have liked to experiment with faster shutters, different lenses, etc. but like I said the hummingbird didn’t want to cooperate (a common problem with wildlife photography). Sometimes with wildlife photography you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. This day I figured I was going to end up with no pictures, but right before I gave up I got lucky and got this one. If you want to give wildlife photography a try don’t get frustrated if you don’t end up with a picture every time out. Instead enjoy the peace and quite. How often do you get a chance to sit back and relax?

Bird In Flight Information:

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I Need A Hug

I Need A Hug

Any time I need a hug Lucille is always there for me. Really, any time anyone needs a hug Lucille is happy to be on the receiving end. Here we were out for a walk at night while Lucille was still a young puppy. She got tired so Paul picked her up and carried her. By the time we got home she was cuddled up inside of his coat, sound asleep.

The van in the background of this picture is a dark red color with a light strip across the bottom. With the picture in color, contrast and color of the van really drew in your eye. Making the picture black and white took the focus away from the van and moved it to Paul and Lucille’s faces. Easy techniques like this (making a photo black and white is a single click of a button in a program like Lightroom) can often turn a throw away picture in to a favorite.

I Need A Hug Information:

  • Taken By: Susan
  • Date Taken: 17-Jan-2015
  • Camera: iPhone 5s
  • Lens: iPhone 5s back camera
  • Exposure: 1/15 sec at F/2.2
  • Focal Length: 4.15 mm
  • ISO: 32
  • Flash: Did not fire
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Manhattan Skyline

Manhattan Skyline

This is the view of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. We knew that while we were in New York we wanted to get some pictures of the Manhattan skyline, the problem is the buildings are so tall it is hard to get a good, open view. From Brooklyn Bridge Park there are views of many of New York City’s famous landmarks. The Statue of Liberty, Freedom Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Empire State Building are all visible from this one spot.

In this picture you can see the Freedom Tower (the tall building in the left center of the picture) and the Brooklyn Bridge. For reference, the Statue of Liberty is to the left of this picture, and the Empire State Building is to the right.

The long exposure here of 15 seconds gives a soft look to the East River which was moving fast and somewhat choppy. I was a little surprised to see that I got such nice reflections considering the choppiness of the water. The long exposure also made a tripod necessary to keep the image from being blurry. I was using the Canon EF 17-40mm ultra wide angle lens and actually wish I could have gotten the view wider. The view from this spot is so beautiful it’s hard to figure out what to include and what to cut out in a picture.

If you are ever in New York City we would highly recommend a trip to Brooklyn Bridge Park to take in the views of the Manhattan Skyline! This was one of our favorite parts of the trip.

Manhattan Skyline Information:

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Thin Air

Thin Air

This picture was taken on the trail near Quandary Peak outside of Breckenridge Colorado. This was just one of the many great views we had on the hike. With Breckenridge at 9,600 feet (2,926 m), Quandary Peek at 14,265 feet (4,348 m), and this trail sitting somewhere in-between be prepared for some thin air if you plan on visiting. Also be ready for changing temperatures as it is usually chilly in the morning and warm in the afternoon. There are many nice trails around the mountain so you don’t have to be headed to the top of Quandary Peak to enjoy the area (we were not going to the top).

For this picture I combined four separate images into one HDR image in Lightroom. With the shade from the trees in the foreground, and the bright sky in the background one image alone was either too dark in the trees or too bright in the sky. The human brain can adjust for this so you don’t notice when you look with your eyes, but a camera doesn’t have this ability. Combining the images allows for a nice exposure in the whole picture.

One tip for a picture with the sky and clouds is to use a circular polarizing filter. This can reduce glare from the clouds and bring out the blue in the sky. To use it turn the filter while looking through the view finder. As you turn the filter pay attention to areas such as the clouds and the sky. You are looking for the point where the sky gets a deeper blue and the clouds have more detail. Depending on the current light the filter can either have a big effect, or not effect at all, but you won’t know which until you give it a try. Another tip with a polarizing filter, always turn in the direction of tightening the filter onto the lens. It’s very easy to accidentally unscrew the filter as you turn it and have it fall off if you turn in the loosening direction. Having your nice filter come off and fall out of your hand does not make for a fun time!

Thin Air Information:

  • Taken By: Paul
  • Date Taken: 12-AUG-2014
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
  • Exposure: HDR Combination of 4 images: 1/13 sec at F/13, 1/30 sec at F/13, 1/50 sec at F/13, and 1/100 sec at F/13
  • Focal Length: 17 mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Flash: Did not fire
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Night Photography – The Brooklyn Bridge

Night Photography - The Brooklyn Bridge

This picture is of the Brooklyn Bridge taken from Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. Night photography provides new and unique photo ideas that people usually don’t think about. If you feel like you keep getting the same pictures over and over give night photography a try. The different lighting and colors can give you new perspectives, and make scenes that seemed boring during the day exciting. There is no question that the Brooklyn Bridge, or any of the Manhattan skyline, is spectacular during the day, but at night it really becomes magical! One thing to keep in mind is that long exposures typical of night photography make a tripod an important accessory in order to keep the images from being blurry.

The red “streaks” running across the bottom of this picture are cars driving by. The long exposure used here keeps the shutter open while the cars drive by creating this effect. Longer or shorter exposures can provide different amounts of blurring from the cars so try experimenting to see what you like best. In this case, my main focus was the Brooklyn Bridge so I wasn’t worried about the cars, they were just an added bonus.

Brooklyn Bridge Park provided so many great photo opportunities for us it’s hard to imagine how it could get better…but it did. We found our favorite restaurant of the whole trip right around the corner. We had an excellent meal at Juliana’s Pizza. Not only was the food and atmosphere great, but the owners were out talking to people and they were very friendly, interesting people.

As a side note, another cool night photography idea is to photograph start trails. The Digital Photography School has a good free tutorial on photographing star trails so check it out if you are interested.

Night Photography – The Brooklyn Bridge Information

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Lab Puppy Reflection

Lab Puppy Reflection

Our dog Lucille loves to go everywhere with us. Here we were picking the kids up from school and Lucille was loving the people watching while we waited. A Lab puppy will not wait around to be cute until your nice DSLR camera is out and ready so our iPhones are frequently used to get pictures like this.

This picture is another good example about what Paul talked about in the Central Park Sax Man post. The only camera I had a available was my iPhone. Waiting for everything to be perfect, and having the perfect equipment, would mean not getting pictures like this. Cameras on smart phones have gotten so good we never hesitate to reach for them when our DSLRs aren’t around. It doesn’t take long for a lab puppy to become a lab dog and we don’t want to look back and regret not taking pictures. Don’t forget that the same thing applies to kids! Don’t end up with no pictures just because you didn’t have your favorite camera available.

Our phones are always with us (for better or worse) so we never have the excuse of not having a camera. The best way to get better at taking pictures is taking more pictures. Practice makes perfect right? With digital cameras it doesn’t cost anything to take and “develop” a picture so snap away!

When you do get home to look through the pictures, don’t just keep the ones you like and throw out the ones you don’t without thinking about why you like and don’t like them. Taking some time to think about this is a great way to improve your photography. Maybe you should have gotten in closer for the picture, maybe placing the focus along one of the interceptions from the rule of thirds is what you wanted, or maybe something as simple as making it black and white will make you like the picture. If you take the time to learn why you like one picture and why you don’t like another, you will start to think about this while you are taking the picture instead of after, therefore increasing the number you end up liking in the end.

Lab Puppy Reflection Information:

  • Taken By: Susan
  • Date Taken: 18-Mar-2015
  • Camera: iPhone 5s
  • Lens: iPhone 5s back camera
  • Exposure: 1/2400 sec at F/2.2
  • Focal Length: 4.15 mm
  • ISO: 32
  • Flash: Did not fire
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