December 20, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #15

Jay did not officially critic this photo.  He did, however, look at it on my computer while I was reviewing my shots from the day.  Jay wanted to know why I did not include this one in my selection for the day.  I told him that I was not sure that people would see what I saw in the image.  At which, he said “%@#*! them” !  Jay liked how the image raised questions:  what is going-on? why so much white? who are these guys? 
Anybody have any answers to his question? 
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 170mm, ISO 1,600, f/8 and 1/90th of a second. 
Post Processing:  None!

December 17, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #14

Jay:  OK, what’s the story here?
Me:  Again, this is at Bryant Park.  I saw this man sitting there lost in his thoughts.  He looked so dignified that I wanted to have a portrait of him lost in his thoughts.  So, I asked if I could take his photo.  I took a couple shots but was not happy with what I was getting.  The background was very distracting.  I moved to my left in order to minimize the distractions.  His expression did not change throughout my ventures.
Jay:  That’s what you did but you did not answer the question “what’s the story here?”
Me:  His name is Lucas.  He has three grown daughters that he reared by himself—his wife died in childbirth with the youngest.  He has worked two to three jobs most of his life.  He is 77 years old and his daughters have told him that he has to stop working and start living.  He said that he thought that he had been living for 77 years.  He did not know what to do.
Jay:  Even though you do not know what the story is, you know that there is a story.  You also want to know the story.  Did you offer him any of your thoughts?
Me:  No.  I think he knows what to do.  He just needed someone to listen to him for a few minutes.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 150mm, ISO 2,200, f/5.6 and 1/350th of a second.
Post Processing:  None!

December 9, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #13

Jay:  Where did you find this much green in New York City?
Me:  Bryant Park
Jay: Three things make this photo successful.  One, the harmony of the colors.  Two, the soft lighting on her.  And, three, her very pleasant and warm look.  Her eyes are engaging the viewer.  Nice, but I am not sure that I would consider this to be street photography.
Me:  I refer to this type of shot as street portraits because I often move the subject and do some directing.  She was setting in a chair and I just moved the chair to face another direction so that I would have the ivy as my background. 
Jay:  I like the term.  But, I am not sure what criteria I would use to judge it.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 120mm, ISO 1,600, f/5.6 and 1/500th of a second.
Post Processing:  None!

December 6, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #12

Jay: Really good concept, but you did not hit it out-of-the-park.  If the subject is man crawling out of a hole, then the man must be tack-sharp (which this one is not) and the background elements should be slightly out-of-focus—thus making the man the SUBJECT!  Great perspective—street level.  What the hell were you doing lying on the sidewalk. 
Me:  Yes. 
Jay:  If you are going to go to that trouble, then bring me back a real winner, not this want-to-be idea on paper! 
At this point, Jay talked at some length about working the subject.  He said that a great concept poorly executed produces another bad photo.  You must constantly refine your idea so that you distill it down to only the elements that you consider “the story.”  That may mean that you give up on it today and go back tomorrow—but, you go back until you get what you are seeing in your mind. 
While Jay was talking about refining your photo, my mind wondered to a Joe McNally seminar that I attended with Steve Schuencke.  Joe was working with a female model and the images that were flashing up on the screen were good, but, he keep working it, and finally, a photo flashed up and you hear a collective “wow” from the attendees.  On the way home from the seminar, the only think that Steve and I talked about was Joe working the image. 

Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 300mm, ISO 1,600, f/11 and 1/180th of a second. 
Post ProcessingNone!

December 1, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #11

Jay like this photo because it zeroed into what was important—her suspicious eying me—yet still provided adequate context as to what was going-on.  Jay did say that this might have been a time where he would have opened-up the lens to f/5.6 to blur as much as possible around her eye. The lady’s name is Juda and she is an camera-woman who works with independent film makers in New York.  We talked before I took any photos of her.  She gave me permission to photograph her, but did not want me to interrupt the filming that she was doing.  So, I tried to stay as far away from her as possible during my shots.

I wanted the photo to be totally about how she was eying me.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 180mm, ISO 1,000, f/8 and 1/180th of a second.

Post ProcessingNone!

November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

As always, the Patrick’s have a lot to be thankful for—our wonderful son and special daughter, our three great grandchildren, Cole, Chloe and Cameron, our many friends and our good health.
Janice and I are also thankful this year for our newest members of our family—Blaze and Pepper.  They have been with us a little over a week but they have firmly cemented themselves as members of the family—all 2 pounds 3 ounces of Pepper and all 2 pounds 5 ounces of Blaze.
All three of our grandchildren have played at the base of our kitchen table so it is only fitting that Blaze and Pepper also do so.  Da’Girls are a real joy.  Although we have papers saying that Pepper is 100% toy poodle, I know that she is really 50% toy poodle and 50% turkey.  She is everywhere and into everything.  Blaze on the other hand is Miss Sweetie, most of the time.   Of course there are times that Blaze thinks that she has to act like her sister.  Janice and I have spent many hours playing with them and watching them run around our house.
In the photo, Pepper is on the left and Blaze, who has a little white on her chest and the tips of both of her back feet, is on the right.
Enjoy and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 at 50mm, ISO 1,600, f/6.7 and 1/30th of a second with a Nikon SB800 using a LumQuest 20/80 attached.
Post Processing:
Lightroom:  Set black and white point, added contrast.

November 18, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #10

Jay:  Welcome to New York. This photo is totally about gesture. Look at his expression.  Look at how he has forcefully positioned his arm.  Look at how he is separated from everyone else—by focus, by the lighting, by being the only male, by not being engaged with everyone else at the table.  He is a New Yorker. How did you get this one, yell look like New York?
Me:  Just saw it and shot it.  Didn’t think about it.
Jay:  Good, leave the thinking home more.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 250mm, ISO 1,600, f/5.6 and 1/350th of a second.
Post Processing:  NONE!

November 15, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #9

Jay liked this photo because it did such a good job of isolating the subject and showing gesture—which brings me to how Jay thinks about photographs.
According to Jay, photographs are usually about three elements—light, color (or lack of color) and gesture.  It is the job of the photographer to determine which element is most important to the photograph and then select the angle, cropping and composition that supports the selected element.  Before I went to the workshop, I believed that my most successful (i.e., the photographs that I liked best) were ones that I saw something within a scene and then successfully showcased that element within my image.  The workshop did two things for me—it confirmed this fuzzy idea that I had haphazardly followed and it made me really focus on asking and answering a very basic question about a shot before I took it—what am I trying to project in this photo.
By making us (the workshop participants) shoot in jpeg and show “right out of the camera”, he forced us to make the decision about what the photo is about before we took the shot and he made us eliminate all distracting elements in order to distill what we wanted the photo to represent.
This photo was taken of a woman buying some ice cream at an out-door vendor.  To me, the subject is not the transaction (her face and the money in her hand), but it is the intensity of her face.  The money merely supports and gives context to that intensity.  I originally took the photo at f/11 which made both her face and the money in focus, but as I looked at it on the back of my camera I thought that I did not get what I wanted—there seemed to be some confusion about what was the subject, the woman, the money or the transaction.  I quickly changed my f-stop to f/5.6, focused on her right eye and retook the photo. 
Whether anyone likes the photo is not important.  To me, what is important is that I saw something—the intensity of her look—and was able to capture it as I saw it in my mind.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 300mm, ISO 1,400, f/5.6 and 1/180th of a second.
Post Processing:  NONE!

November 11, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #8

Jay did not critic this photo.
I saw this guy giving directions to two girls but could not get the shot because the girls were in my way.  After he finished, I told him that I thought his bag was really cool.  He immediately told me that it was not his but was his niche’s bag and he was taking it over to her house. 
I asked if I could take a photo of him pointing like he did when he gave the girls directions.  He was a little reluctant, but then he agreed.  After a few minutes, he really got into the scene.  I had a couple shots that I liked but it seemed that something was missing.  I saw the guy on the bike coming up the street and so I suggested that we take another shot with the bike in the background.  I think the bike helps sell the shot as street photography and helps add depth to the overall photo.
I know that some people might be concerned by the pole behind him looking like it was growing out of his head.  It does not bother me because of its size and because this is a street photo, not a portrait.  The thing that I do not like is the red sign and alarm on the pole.  To me, red is a very hard color to control in your images and I think that they take the viewer's eye away from the main subject—the bright pink bag.
One thing that I forgot to mention earlier is that I h ave presented a few photos that were in 4x5 format rather than 2x3 format.  The Nikon D3 has an option to change the format from 2x3 to 4x5.  So, this was done in camera with Jay’s permission.
Jay and I got into a big discussion as to why I wanted to do this.  I told him it was simple:  I had less real estate (i.e., distracting background) to worry about in a 4x5 format and I thought that the 4x5 format was better suited to photographing people.  Jay listened, but I do not think I made a sale. 
Jay said that he thought that all photographers look at things from a specific perspective—a wide or telephoto perspective.  He told me that he had a telephoto-perspective which meant that he zeroed-in on slices of a scene thus eliminating a lot of distracting elements.  He told me that he never thought about how people might look at scene from different aspect ratios.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 62mm, ISO 400, f/8 and 1/180th of a second.
Post Processing:  NONE!

November 9, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #7

Jay did like this photo.  No, he did not like it because of the girl.
Jay:  How did you get this shot?
Me:  I took this this early this morning on my way to the workshop.  I was photographing some details on a building when this lady yelled from across the street:  “Whatsa doing?”  I replied that I was photographing the building behind her.  She replied:  “I’ll give you something better to take.”  At which she began to strike various poses.
Jay:  You are s@#%#*&! me. 
Me:  No.
Jay:  Something like that has never happened to me in the sixty years that I have walked these streets.  You lucky son-of-a-@#%#*&What makes this photo so good is the fact that the subject is completely separated from the background.   It is separated by color, sharpness, focus and gesture.  As you look at the photo, there is no doubt what the subject matter is.  Even though there is the separation, all the elements of the photograph work together.  Nice job.
Me:  Thanks.
Jay:  Your skill as a photographer is definitely enhanced by your luck.  I hope you never get unlucky. (shy smile on his face)
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 300mm, ISO 1,600, f/5.6 and 1/250th of a second.
Post Processing:  NONE! 

November 4, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #6

Jay did like this photo.  I liked it, but have some reservations about it.
Jay:  Did you ask this guy to pose for you?
Me:   No.  I saw this neat background and then waited for people to walk in front of it.  I liked this guy because he looked at me and because his shirt was a solid, bright color that seemed to go with the background.
Jay:  Although his look is not really an inviting look, it still draws the viewer into the scene.
Me:  I am not real happy with how I have him placed in the center of the frame.
Jay:  You talking about the rule of thirds?
Me:  Yes.
Jay:  @#%#*&! the rules!  Does the photo have impact?  Yes.  Does it draw you into it?  Yes.  So, @#%#*&! the rules!
My thought:  Not sure about that!
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 300mm, ISO 1,600, f/11 and 1/250th of a second.
Post Processing:  NONE!

November 1, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #5

Jay did not like this photo.  I liked it.
Jay:  What is this photo about?  I have no idea what you are trying to convey here.  There is nice light and an interesting shadow on the Brooklyn Bridge and then there are two homeless people.  What am I suppose to look at?  What am I suppose to think?  Did you trip your shutter by mistake?
Me:  It’s all about opposites—the largeness of the bridge versus the smallness of the men; the beautiful golden light on the top of the bridge versus the murky shadows on the bottom of the bridge; the cleanliness of the top of the bridge versus the dirt of the bottom of the bridge; and finally the dejected look of one man versus the smiling of the other man. 
Jay:  Yea, right.
You:  ?  
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 300mm, ISO 1,600, f/8 and 1/180th of second.
Post Processing:  NONE!

October 29, 2011

Interruption of Jay Maisel Workshop

I interrupt my posts about Jay Maisel workshop for an important message:  today is JD’s birthday.   She is 29.  Not sure how the math works:  she is 29, we have been married 45 years and her son is 43 years old.  But, then again, she is our mathematician in the family.
For her birthday, she got Blaze and Pepper.  Two black, female toy puddles—actually one of them is mine, but I thought that I would get a few bonus point here claiming that she got two. 
Blaze and Pepper are a continuation of our long line of great black toy poodles:  Marble who was with us for 14 years, and then Elvis (16 years) and Sam (18 years).  Blaze and Pepper have some big shoes to fill, but just look at them, you know they are capable of fulfilling those shoes. 
Actually, we currently do not have them.  They are only five weeks old and we will not get them until they are eight weeks old, sometime around November 15th.   The breeder expects Blaze to be about 5 1/2 to 6 pounds and Pepper to be about 4 1/2 to 5 pounds.  A couple of doggie sumo wrestlers, for sure.
After seeing the photograph, Chloe, our granddaughter, named Pepper and JD decided on Blaze because of the white on her throat (the same as Marble). 
We look forward to bringing our new family members home.

October 25, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #4

I have had several people ask me:  “What exactly did Jay teach you about street photography?”  “Could we have more details about your process in taking these shots?”
I guess the biggest thing that I learned from Jay was “slow-down”.  Walk slowly; take-in everything around you.  When you see something interesting, study it to determine what you want to do.  Then slowly raise your camera to your eye (“don’t scare your prey with sudden movement”).  Slowly and carefully frame your subject.  Remember to look around the edges to make sure that you have no distracting elements.  Forget:  “I will fix it in Photoshop”.
Jay liked today’s photo.  He liked that I was down at the little girls level—we were looking eye to eye.  He liked that she was looking straight at me—that generated a feeling of connection between me (and ultimately the viewer) and the little girl.  He liked how the stroller’s lines added a dynamic element to the photo and how the balloon acted as an anchor and also eliminated a lot of bright pink that would have taken the viewer's eye away from the little girl's face.  He did not like that I shot the photo at f/5.6.  He believes that for ultimate sharpness, you need to shoot every lens about one to two f-stops up from its maximum f-stop, which would be f/8 to f/11 for this lens.  He also did not like that I shot this in landscape orientation.  It showed too much uninteresting space to the left of the little girl.
I agreed with all of his comments.  For my blog, I have committed the mortal sin of cropping today’s photo to illustrate Jay’s point about landscape vs. portrait orientation.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 200mm, ISO 1,600, f/5.6 and with shutter speeds 1/250th of second.
Post Processing:  NONE!

October 18, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #3

What did Jay say about this one?  Well, it went something like this.
Jay:  Larry, what were you thinking when you took this?  Better yet, were you thinking when you took this image?
Larry:  I liked the way the little girl was looking at me.
Jay:  Did you notice the eyes of the doll?
Larry:  No, not really.  I only saw them when the photo came-up on my computer.
Jay:  So, you openly admit before me and your fellow students that what helps make this photo a really good street photo was just a lucky accident?
Larry:  Well, yes, I guess it was.
Jay:  In street photography, accidents happen.  Sometimes the accident helps your photos, and sometimes it &%$#*! your photo.  Accept both and just move on.  What helps make this photo is contrast:  the little girl’s look is so intense and the mother’s look is so passive; the dark little girl with her almost black eye and the lily-white doll with bright blue eyes.  The contrast draws you into the photo.  It makes you wonder.  I like this one.
Larry:  Thanks.
Jay:  You thanking me?  You should be on your knees thanking the photo gods for the blessings they bestowed on you.

October 14, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #2

Before delving into today’s photograph, I need to provide you with the ground rules of Jay’s workshop.  The basic rule is:  what you shoot is what you present.  There is no Lightroom or Photoshop work that is allowed on anything that you print.  No cropping, no setting white and black points, no sharpening.  NOTHING can be done to your images other than downloading them and resizing (maximum length and/or width) them for proper presentation.  You shoot and present your images as JPEGs.
I try to know how my camera works, but since I never shoot in JPEG, I knew very little about how the various JPEG setting worked within my Nikon D3.  As a result of this, I was forced to quickly learn about the various sharpening, color saturation and contrast setting available within my camera.  I must admit, it took me a couple of tries before I got the camera setting the way that I wanted them.  The final setting that I settled on were:  sharpening at 7, contrast +1, brightness at 0, color saturation at +1, and hue at 0.  With these settings I felt that my images had just enough pop to catch the viewer’s eye, but not that “over the top” look that you often get when the sharpness and color saturation are pushed to the limit.
In the spirit of the workshop, all photos presented as Jay Maisel Workshop photos are JPEG images without any adjusting or retouching in Lightrooom or Photoshop. 
Both of the photos that I am presenting today were taken in New York City's Chinatown.  I had asked permission to photograph both of the subjects before I took the photos but I waited a little time to allow them to go back to their “normal” activity before taking the shots.  I wanted the images to be about normal life in the big city.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 200mm, ISO 2,200, f/8 and with a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second.
Post Processing:  NONE!

October 7, 2011

Jay Maisel Workshop #1

Meet Jay Maisel.  
Last week, as part of his workshop in New York City, I spent 8:30 AM to 10:00 PM from Monday through Friday with Jay.  The workshop in a word was mind-boggling!
Every day I was completely challenged by Jay’s instructions, words, works and of course, that special Jay-look that said:  “Have you lost your #@!*& mind?”  Jay’s instruction seems so simple when he explains them and then demonstrates them through his own work.  But then, you hit the streets of New York City and you feel like someone who has lost his “#@!*& mind.”
Did I learn anything?   Probably more than I will ever know. 
Did I enjoy myself?  Unquestionably.
Will I be a better photographer?  Time will tell.
Today’s photo of Jay was taken in his studio giving one of my fellow students one of his special looks.

October 4, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #17

Here is my final photo from Machu Picchu.  It is of JD walking up one of the many stairs that you will experience if you got there.  If you plan on going, a little advice before you go:  Stairmaster!

September 30, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #16

As you look past Machu Picchu to Huayan Picchu, you see a mountain covered with plants.  Yet at the top of the mountain there are many Inca ruins.  No one seems to know exactly why the buildings are there.  The most common believe is that the buildings were used as an outpost to survey the surroundings for possible enemy movements.   But again, because the Incas had no written language, there exact purpose will never be known.
Looking at the people in these photos, I think you can get some idea as to how hard the climbing is.


September 27, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #15

You might ask:  what does a well maintained trail look like?  It looks like this.

September 23, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #14

Today’s photo was taken from the top of Huayna Picchu (the mountain directly behind Machu Picchu).  According to the Lonely Plant tour book on Peru:  “at first glance, it would appear that Huayna Picchu is a difficult climb, but there is a well maintained trail; although the ascent is steep, it’s not technically difficult.”  Not sure what that means.  What I do know is that almost everyone that we encountered on the trail was gasping for air and making frequent stops to rest.  Access to the mountain is limited and you have to obtain a separate ticket to climb Huayna Picchu, but I think it is worth the effort.
Today’s photo is not one of my favorite shots from Machu Picchu. I am presenting it because you do not often see photos of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu.  I think this angle gives you a much better perspective of how large Machu Picchu is, its overall design and its relationship to the surroundings.

September 21, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #13

Well, we have finally arrived at what I really wanted to photograph—Machu Picchu.  Before I go into how and why I took the photograph that I took, I would like to provide you with a little background.  Photographing Machu Picchu is hard.  Why?  Basically, three reason:  (1) it has been photographed so many times and as a result, the bar is quite high for any photograph to be judged as good; (2) the orientation of the sun from left to right which cast hard shadows on many parts of the ruins and the harsh light because of the altitude makes taking a pleasing photograph very difficult; and, (3) the limited access (open at 7:00 AM and closing at 5:00 PM) makes for rather large crowds and poor lighting.
Before I discuss today’s photo, I want to say that I got lucky.  We stayed at the hotel at the top of the mountain and as a result I did not have to worry about catching the last bus (at 5:00 PM) down the mountain.  I got to stay to the very last minute of the park’s opening.  Second, clouds moved-in late in the afternoon and softened the light and provided some great rays-of-light that added to the photo.
I tried two compositions of Machu Picchu: one showing almost all of the ruins and the one presented here which shows only a small portion of the ruins.  I shoot seven shots (+3 EV to -3EV) with the camera on a tripod, so that I could use HDR, if I wanted.  In the image presented I used four of the shots (-3 EV to 0 EV) and combined them using nik HDR Pro (which is becoming my favorite program for HDR).  Because I wanted to soften the HDR effect, I then used nik Color Efex Pro’s glamour glow filter.  I think the result is details with a soft feel.  Finally, I dodged and burn various elements within the photo.

September 16, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #12

One of the things that I immediately noticed as I walked around Cuzco is the bright colors.  Almost everyone seems to be dressed in bright colors with lots of geometric designs —especially, the children.  In today’s photo, I simply liked the colors and how they seemed to be amplified by the dull brown and grey of the road and the ruins in the background.

September 13, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #11

After returning from Sacsayhuman, we treated to a fabulous sunset.  Looking at the dynamic range, I knew that I would need to use HDR to adequately capture what I was seeing.  My tripod was back in the hotel (resting from the travel, I guess), so I had to employ one of Barry Armer’s techniques—hand-held bracketed exposures.  I braced myself against a lamp post and shot five exposures at one-stop increments (+2 to -2 EV).
Last week, I watched an interesting video by Kevin Kubota on [FRAMED] about post-processing HDR shots when you do not have a steady tripod.  Essentially, he exports all of the exposures from Lightroom or Bridge into Photoshop as layers.  He then aligns the layers within Photoshop and then exports the various layers back as individual files.  He then runs his normal HDR program to convert all the exposures into an HDR image.   I tried this on a couple HDR wanta-bes and found that it does seem to reduce the ghosting that you get with out-of-register images.  If you are interested in watching the entire video you can find it here.   (As a side note, Kevin Kubota has presented some good post-production techniques for Lightroom and Photoshop—you might want to check them out at [FRAMED]).

Today’s image is of La Catedral on the Plaza de Amas in Cuzco.  The Plaza is the main gathering point for many tourist and residents throughout the day, and as a result, many people are moving always around in front of La Catedral—not the best conditions for using HDR.  Solution:  crop the people out!  I just felt that trying to fix all the blur of people and cars would take too much times, especially since they are really not the main subjects of the photo.

September 9, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #10

You have now left the Galapagos Islands and you are in Peru—Cuzco, Peru to be exact.  Cuzco was the capital of the Incas.  On a hilltop overlooking Cuzco is Sacsayhuman, which is an outstanding representation of Inca engineering and building skills.  Stones for the ruins were quarried over four miles from the ruins.  The Incas did not have any metal tools to quarry the stones or wheels to move them.  Just image the effort that was required to put these stones in place.  Complicating the planning and building even more was the fact that the Incas did not have a written language.  With all of this in mind, I must admit my mind was blown.
The first things that struck me as I walked around the ruins was the precision of the stone work and the shear size of the stones.  Today, I present three photos that hopefully will communicate this:  the first photo is of JD’s hand and a seam between two of the stones; the second photo is of JD standing in front of the largest stone (estimated to be 350 tons) in the ruins; and, the final photo is of a key that was used to join the stones.