Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rudolph Shares His Tips On Originality

Stand Out From The Crowd

Rudolph knows what it means to be unique.

If you'll recall his well-known story, at first he tried to blend in and be like everyone else. That didn't work out so well.

Although he always had a few special friends who believed in him, Rudolph didn't prosper until he embraced his own unique gifts and leveraged them to the fullest. Eventually, he went on to save Christmas and gain acceptance by his peers and his community.



a photo of a lady in a green skirt waiting to cross the street at times square
Waiting To Cross - Times Square



Santa and Rudolph stopped by earlier this week during one of their test flights over New York. I asked Rudolph if he would share his tips on originality. He accepted graciously and added specific recommendations for artists and photographers.


1. Accept that you are unique

No one else sees the world in the way that you do. As long as you stay true to your own vision, your work will trend toward uniqueness.

2. 
Do what you find appealing

Create the images that YOU want to see. Avoid trends and conventions. One day, you'll look back over your portfolio. Will it express what you wanted it to say? Or will it be a clone of what everyone else was doing at the time?

3. Innovate actively

Always look for your own shot, your own interpretation, your own composition. The world is full of photographers who stand behind other photographs in order to "get the same shot". Don't be one of them.

Avoid the herd. Don't take the "postcard shot" that everyone else is taking. Scout aggressively to find your own viewpoint, and make an image that really means something to you.

4. Work every day

Set aside time each day either to go out and take pictures, or to organize and processes images that you've taken in the past. (If you're like me, you probably have a bit of backlog.) Inspiration finds you when you're working, not when you're sitting on the couch.

Christmas comes only once a year, but the people behind the scenes (you know who they are) work every day to make sure that when the day comes, it's really special. If your portfolio means something to you, then you should be working on it constantly, not only when it's convenient.

5. Stay fresh

Mix things up. Vary your approach now and then. If you shoot landscapes, try events or still life. If you shoot portraits, try shooting sports or macro or doing some light painting. Do things differently. Try shooting in light that you would normally avoid.

Some of your experiments will fail. Congratulations! Thomas Edison would be proud of you. Learn what you can, revise your plan, and shoot some more.

6. Be patient

Give yourself time. Don't be too hard on yourself, especially when you're trying something new. Your creative style will emerge at its own pace. If you chase it, it will just move further away. As long as your are working, you are improving. Results will appear, not right away, but soon.



a photo of a photographer shooting with a tripod in times square
Photographer With Tripod - Times Square



I would very much like to thank Rudolph and The Big Guy for stopping by at this most busy time of year. I enjoyed their valuable insights, and I hope that you'll find inspiration in their advice.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to dash off to the store to pick up some more milk and cookies, because I appear to have run out.


Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New York - City In Motion - The Flatiron Building

New Light On A Photographic Icon

The Flatiron Building is one of New York City's most recognizable landmarks. It's been featured in movies, posters, television programs, and in the galleries of painters, illustrators, and famous photographers. 



a photo of the flatiron building at night with traffic trails new york
Flatiron Building - New York City In Motion



I wanted to photograph this iconic building in a new and exciting way.


Camera: Nikon D800E 
Lens:     Nikon PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5


Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, November 16, 2013

New York - City In Motion - Welcome!

See The World. Differently.

The New York - City In Motion gallery is receiving lots of positive feedback. Thank you everyone for your generous and thoughtful comments.

I have received only one negative comment so far. Someone felt that I was featuring too many taxi cabs in the photos. 




a photo of a bike and cyclist in front of the dakota in new york
Cyclist At The Dakota - New York - City In Motion



I would like to thank that person for their thoughtful observation - I appreciate that they took the time to comment - but I'll have to apologize. I had several reasons for including taxis in many the photos.

First, yellow cabs are a well-known symbol of life in New York City.

Second, the vibrant color of the taxis enhances photos shot in dim light.



a photograph of the guggenheim museum new york with traffic trails
Guggenheim Museum - New York - City In Motion



And finally - those taxi cabs are everywhere! I'd still be standing out on those street corners if I had to shoot scenes without cabsBrrr! :-)

New York. City In Motion. See the full gallery at our website.


Dakota:
 Nikon D800E, PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5

Guggenheim: Nikon D800E, 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S


Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Downtown Manhattan

Website Revitalization Project

Earlier this year, I decided to redesign my photo website and move it to a new hosting site. I didn't migrate photos from the older site automatically. I wanted to review each image and upload only the ones that I felt represented my best work.

At times, the review process had to take a back seat to new projects, but work continues. I am pleased to announce that my new Downtown Manhattan gallery includes both new work and my favorite images from the original website.

Here are some samples.



a photo of chinatown new york
Chinatown





a photo of the red cube metal sculpture in downtown new york
Red Cube




a photo of the new york skyline under pink clouds
New York Skyline Under Pink Clouds




Please visit the main website to see the full collection of photos from Downtown!

Thanks for your continued interest and support!




Cameras: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Nikon D800E

Lenses: Various

Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Using Flash In Daylight

Managing Contrast and Exposing Detail

When should you use flash?

Your camera might try to answer the question for you. When light levels are low, some cameras will enable their flash feature automatically. Sometimes this is helpful, and sometimes it's a bad idea.

Flash can ruin a photo when it overpowers available light, especially when the available light has a quality that works well with the photo.

Conversely, we might want to add flash to photos taken in bright light. Flash can expose details that would otherwise have been obscured by deep shadows.

A camera set to "automatic mode" isn't smart enough to suggest all of the available options. If we want to use flash creatively, we need to make our own decisions, take control and override the camera's recommendations.

Compare the images below. See if you prefer one over the other.



a photo of a cyclist at the obelisk in central park






a photograph of a cyclist near the obelisk in central park




I like both photos. The second photo with the cyclist in the shadows is intriguing. The rider is anonymous and mysterious.

The first photo, where the cyclist is illuminated by flash, shows more color and detail.

There's no right or wrong way to use flash or to choose to omit it. The outcomes will be different, but that's the magic of photography. We can render our subjects in different ways.

When do you use flash? When it will help you to create a photo that looks the way that you want it to look.

Flash can modify photos in many ways depending on the direction, quality, and intensity of the light that it adds to the scene. The more we understand about what flash can do, the better we can decide how and when to use it.

Gear: 
        Canon EOS 5D Mark III
        Canon 24-105 f/4L IS
        Canon 580EX II Speed Light


Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 1, 2013

On The Edge Of A New Idea

I have an idea, something that I would like to express with my photography over the next few months. It's not all that complicated, but I've never tried anything like this before and it runs somewhat contrary to my usual approach. It will require an investment of time and effort.

At the moment, the idea exists only in my head. There's always a gap between concept and reality. Some ideas fly and others flop. It's exciting to stand on the edge of that realization not knowing which way it will go.



a photo of a bicycle riding past a public safety vehicle
Public Safety




Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM


Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day, America!

Washington's Statue at Federal Hall, New York




a photo of the new york stock from federal hall
New York Stock Exchange from Federal Hall



I would like to extend a very special 'Thank You' to all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, bold men who risked life and limb and property for 'truths we hold self-evident', and to those who supported and participated in the American Revolution, wagering all that they owned and held dear for a new standard of equity, prosperity, and rights for the individual. 



Camera:
 Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon TS-E24 f/3.5L II

Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Death Valley Sunrise

First Light At Badwater

Good morning!

There are lots of Death Valley Sunrise photos on the Internet.  I suppose that one more couldn't hurt.

Imagine the feel of salt crunching under your feet as you hike out onto the flats in darkness.  The air is silent and surprisingly chilly. You half-seriously wonder whether a pack of coyotes is going to eat you for breakfast.

Now you're in the zone! Enjoy the sunrise!


a photo of the sunrise on the badwater salt flats in death valley
Death Valley Sunrise

This photo is brought to you courtesy of an exotic location, some timely clouds, and Canon's incomparable, ultra-amazing 24mm tilt-shift lens.

Please support our incomparable, ultra-amazing National Park system.  And watch out for hungry coyotes!


Camera:
 Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon TS-E24 f/3.5L II


Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Simulated Candid

Earning The Trust Of Subjects On The Street

You spot a couple of tourists studying a map.  You think, "Hey! That would make a nice picture!"

Okay, Hot Shot, what do you do?  Do you point your 70-200 at them and start shooting?

"Why not?" you might reason.  "They're in a public place.  There's no expectation of privacy.  Even if they take me to court, I'll win."

The trouble is that if they look up and catch you in the act, their reaction will most likely be negative.  "Why is that creep taking our picture?" 

a photo of blonde female tourists reading a map in new york city
Tourists Reading a Map in NYC
I want my subjects to have fun. I want them to feel respected and valued. I want them to tell their friends all about the interesting photo shoot that just happened featuring THEM. If instead I leave them with a negative impression, that doesn't really help anyone.

Why take the chance of making someone angry when I can potentially flatter them by asking for their participation? If things go well, I can share my business card and have subjects become potential clients or referrals.  That's a lot better than having them point me out to a cop who could potentially drag my butt into court. 

When I approached these ladies, I said something like: "Hi, I saw you guys reading your map.  I think that would make a great picture.  Would you mind posing for shot?"

Some people refuse, but most are happy to help.  Once the subjects agree to participate, they'll do just about anything for you.  With access comes power.  I end up with shots that would have been impossible had I hidden in the shadows and shot them candidly.

Sometimes, the subjects offer good suggestions as to how to make the photo better.  It becomes a collaborative project, and it feels much better to all involved than being stalked by a 'creep' with a long lens. 

The simulated candid is a time-honored photographic technique.  Many iconic magazine photos were taken this way.  They look completely candid, but the photographer had acquired the consent of the subjects in advance.

Again, remember the Golden Rule.  If you want to make 'people pictures', it pays to treat people as respectfully as possible.



Camera:
 Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon EF 70-200 f/4L IS

This is the twenty-fifth post on Light Happens!  Thank you for your continued support!


Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Composing A Photograph

Questions - Choices - Decisions

When we compose a photograph, we address and respond to a handful of essential questions:

1. What should be included in the frame, what should be excluded, and where should the components be placed for maximum impact?

2. What is the most important part of the frame/object in the frame, and how can we highlight it?

The photo below shows the fa├žade of two buildings, but we don't see the entire buildings.  The first decision was to exclude parts of the buildings in order to focus attention on particular details.

We see fishing nets and life preservers hanging from a railing.  We see window shutters of different colors.  If the photo showed the buildings in their entirety, these smaller details might have gone unnoticed.


a photo of riomaggiore cinque terre italy
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy


The second decision was where to draw the lines for the section that was included.  I wanted to include the green downspout on the right side of the frame.  I thought that it highlighted the edge of the photo nicely.

At the bottom of the frame I included part of a staircase and a sloping stone wall.  The opposing angles appealed to my sense of balance.  I trimmed the lower features a bit in order to hide some potentially distracting elements.

The building on the left was tricky.  Originally, I wanted to include only the two windows with the open shutters.  However, this would have required cropping through the leftmost door.

If you put your hand over the left edge of the photo and move it in toward the blue shutter, you can see the effect that I wanted to avoid.  I felt that it would have been a distraction.  I included the leftmost window in order to avoid cropping through this door.  It's not a perfect solution, but I felt that it was an effective compromise.

I'll mention one more detail.  It's so subtle that it's easy to miss, but I felt that it was important when framing the shot.  The distance to from the bottom of the doors to the bottom of the frame is approximately the same distance between the top of the windows and the top of the frame.  There is a similar consistency between the left and right sides of the frame.  I feel that this consistency in opposing margins gives added balance to the composition.

No cropping was done in post processing (although I'm not opposed to doing so when it helps the final composition).

Evaluation

There's no mathematical test for a good composition.  If such an algorithm existed, we could let an app in out smart phones make all of the compositional decisions for us. 

That said, when we compare two photographs of the same scene side by side, one will almost always impress us as being be the better of the two.  Our minds evaluate details and pick out the better composition almost instantly.

When we're shooting we need to be aware details that could make an image seem cluttered, disorganized, or poorly arranged.  The viewer will make those assessments, and we don't want to disappoint them.

The Human Factor

We can apply guidelines and principles to the composition of a visual image, but there is always room for interpretation.  I made certain decisions when shooting the photo above, and I can justify those decisions, but someone else would shoot the scene differently.  Countless individual interpretations are possible.

Taste, style, and the experience and personality of the photographer are critical factors in composition.  A photograph is as much a portrait of the photographer as it is a collection of the elements that are visible within the frame.



Camera: Nikon D800

Lens: Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VRII


Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved