Sunday, July 30, 2017

51st Street Subway Sign

Miles of Tiles

The walls of New York's underground subway stations are finished with tile. The signs marking the station stops are made of tiles as well and help to give the subway its unique look and character. 

The sign pictured below is nearly eight feet wide and clearly visible to the passengers on the arriving cars. Someone put a lot of time and effort into assembling these beautiful creations.

a photo of an elaborate tile sign in the new york subway
51st Street Subway Station - New York

Camera:    Sony A7R II

Lens:        Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2017 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Desert Highway - Death Valley

Converging Lines and Calculated Risks

I made my first trip to Death Valley on a clear day in June when the temperature hit 122 F. I had recently become a photography enthusiast and wanted to capture some images of this majestic wilderness. 

In extreme temperatures, however, one shouldn't venture too far from the car. I made an attempt to hike to the Mesquite dunes but turned back quickly due to concerns over dehydration and heat exhaustion. For the rest of the day, I stayed close to the car.

I exposed the most memorable image of the day as sunset approached. I pulled the car off to the side of a stretch of roadway that had been freshly paved with deep black asphalt and painted with bright yellow lines. I mounted a 24mm lens on my trust Nikon F100 - yes, a film camera - and had my travel companion watch for cars approaching from behind me.

Of the handful of shots that I snapped, one of them turned out particularly well. I had several copies of it printed; a few of my friends still have that image hanging in their homes.

Returning to Death Valley some years later, I wanted to capture a similar image with the help of a tilt-shift lens. The tilt feature on this special-purpose lens enables focus to be repositioned from a vertical plane (typical for most cameras) to a ground-hugging plane that extends infinitely off into the distance. When the lens is adjusted correctly - which is a bit tricky - focus will be sharp on both the foreground features in the frame (e.g. the yellow lines and pavement near my feet) and distant objects as well (mountains, sky, brush, distant lines on the roadway). 

a photo of a desert highway at dusk in death valley

The stretch of highway that I had photographed years earlier was now gray and worn, but I found another location that appealed to my eyes. The surface was in good condition, it had been painted recently, and it stretched straight off into the distance where the last light of sunset was still visible. 

I was set except for one major complication. On this trip, I didn't have a travel companion. I had to rely on my ears and frequent glances behind me to keep from getting run over while focusing my camera in the middle of a highway. (Luckily, no one was drag racing through the valley that evening.)

As I mentioned before, focusing a tilt-shift lens can be tricky, and it becomes increasingly more difficult as the light fades. It's a manual process, but you have to focus for the near and far objects separately. By adding a small amount of tilt, typically only a degree or two, you can reach a point where both near and far objects are sharp. It's very each to add too much tilt, however, which messes everything up.

The process typically takes a few minutes even for skilled photographers - and even when you're not in mortal danger of being struck by a fast-moving automobile. Luckily, I had a lot of experience with my tilt-shift setup, so I was able to acquire the proper focus fairly quickly - while looking over my shoulder every ten seconds or so. 

Please don't attempt a shot like this without spotters. Even if you have someone - hopefully more than one person - watching your back, this kind of shot is risky to say the least. Just because I got away with it doesn't mean that it was a good idea. 

You'll think about it. It's tempting. My advice is to think about the future as you relax and enjoy the sunset a safe distance from traffic.

Camera:    Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens:        Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2017 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Post 100 - Happy Anniversary!

Celebrating What's Important With Photos

This is my 100th post on Earth Color Magic. I wanted it to be special. 

This is a photo of my father that I snapped in 2008. He was raking leaves one pleasant autumn morning with his dog and constant companion, Frankly, at his side. I saw them and snapped a photo. It's one of my favorite photographs, because it shows my father in his natural element, working in the yard, doing what he loves to do.

Frankly was my aunt's dog. When she passed away, Dad took him in, and they became inseparable.

a photo of my father raking leaves with his dog frankly by daniel south
My Father Raking Leaves (2008)

We all take lots of photos, but the most important images that we'll ever capture are the ones that record the milestones of our lives. Remember that. 

Life moves quickly. Children grow. Family members age. Friends and colleagues come and go.  

Take pictures of all of it. Take way too many pictures and store them obsessively. Take some video, too.

You can never go back in time. You will never, ever, ever be able to go back and photograph an important occasion once it has passed. When the moment is gone, the photos and videos that we took time to record will be critical physical reminders of important times and the people with whom we shared them.

Post 100 - Happy Anniversary! Here's to a hundred more.

Camera:    Sony A7RII

Lens:        Sony FE 85mm f/1.8

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2017 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved