Showing posts with label Photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Photography. Show all posts

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Nights In The Park

Finding Beauty In Darkness

My low-light photography journey began long ago. One of the first books I bought when I was learning to use a camera specialized in the challenges of capturing images in dimly lit conditions.

a photo of bethesda terrace central park at night in new york city
Bethesda Terrace and Reflections - Central Park, New York City

That was back in the film days, and the process was quite different. We didn't have the ability to confirm a proper exposure at the time of capture. HDR, Image Stabilization, and Night Mode didn't exist. High ISO film looked horrible, and the film that we used to capture most images required specially calculated adjustments to exposure time when the exposures lasted longer than a few seconds. Focusing effectively in the dark was extraordinarily challenging.

a photo of castle belvedere at night with a moon in new york city
Castle Belvedere With Moon - Central Park, New York

I didn't do terribly well at first, and for some years, I all but gave up the idea of taking photos at night. The only photos I took at night were star trails which, surprisingly, were easier to capture on film than with digital sensors.

a photo of bethesda terrace at night with the moon in central park new york
Bethesda Terrace With Moon - Central Park, New York

Once I made a firm switch to digital imaging, I gave night photography another try. One year, I went around the city photographing exterior Christmas decorations in the Winter darkness. It was a great exercise. I learned a lot in a few months, and I haven't looked back. I'm always looking for opportunities to capture the beauty of the night.

Fujifilm GFX 100S
Lenses:     GF 110mm f/2
                GF 30mm f/3.5
                GF 23mm f/4

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2021 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, November 23, 2013

City In Motion - The Inspiration Behind The Photographs

Reflection and Possibility

Urban photographers like to work with reflections. Modern cities are endowed with a generous supply of glass panes and shiny surfaces.

One evening in the summer, I noticed a black marble wall. I pulled out my camera and experimented with shots of the reflections of passing people and the vehicles.

a photo of the Empire State Building in New York City in Motion
Empire State Building - New York City in Motion

It was an interesting idea, it presented technical challenges. There wasn't much light at that hour, and the dark surface absorbed most of what was available.

Even with a highly sensitive modern digital camera, I was struggling to set a shutter speed that would freeze the motion of my reflected subjects. 

My mind began to search for solutions. I considered trying again with extremely fast lenses and using special noise reduction software.

And then I said to myself, "Stop!"

I realized that I was thinking in a habitual ways. I was solving the same problems in the same way, using the same thinking that I had been using for years. It was time for a break, time to set my automatic responses aside and approach the problem from a new perspective.

a photo of Grand Central Station in New York City showing Motion
Grand Central Station - New York City In Motion

What if I couldn't freeze the motion of passing objects? What if I let them blur on purpose?

Legendary photographer Ernst Haas used motion blur creatively in his images. Search online for a copy of his photograph, La Suerte De Capa, captured in Pamplona, Spain in 1956. It's one of my all-time favorite photographs in part because it defies common practice. Instead of freezing the motion in the frame, Haas enhanced its impact on the final image. 

I began to the see a possibility. I didn't necessarily have to fight to freeze my subjects. If I cold capture motion effective in the frame of a still photograph, I could use it to show the dynamic pace of life in New York City.

Empire State Building: Nikon D800E, PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5

Grand Central: Canon EOD 5D Mark III, TS-E24mm f/3.5L

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pretzel Girls

Capturing The Moment

As a rule, I avoid photographing children whose families I don't know. Society has become hyper-sensitive to any activity that could be construed as child exploitation. And for good reason.

Having a cute-kid-holding-a-lollipop photo in my portfolio isn't worth the hassle if the parents get the wrong idea. In most cases, I see the kid, but I just keep walking. There are plenty of other subjects.

Children doing something interesting in a group, however, is generally a safe exception. I think of it more as shooting the activity than photographing any particular person. I don't care who is doing the activity; it's the activity itself that's interesting.

When I noticed this group of young ladies eating soft pretzels on the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street, I made a quick decision to grab the shot. The camera was on and hanging from my neck, so all I really needed to do was positioning myself, frame, focus, and shoot. It all happened in three to four seconds.

a photo of a group of young girls snacking on pretzels in new york city
Pretzel Girls - New York

The lady on the right moved into the frame just as I was getting ready to shoot, but I managed to capture the photo of the kids before she impeded the shot further.

This is one of my favorite "people in the street" shots. It's colorful, fun, relaxed, and relatively unique. It's not often that I see six nicely dressed children eating pretzels together. I'm very happy that I decided to take the shot in the fleeting moment when it was available.

'Pretzel Girls' was part of 2012's 'Summer in New York' photo exhibition.

 Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4L IS

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Painted Piano

On Rating One's Own Work

Part of the lure of photography is the surprise factor. Sometimes things work out better than we might expect and sometimes less so.

I spend time each week reviewing, rating, and categorizing my photos. I want to understand what differentiates an outstanding or exceptional image from one that is merely competent. I figure that the more I know about what makes a meaningful image, the higher the probability of capturing more of them in the future.

I came up with the following rating scheme to help identify my best photos, the good ones, the not-so-good ones, and the inevitable turkeys.

No Stars - A flawed or otherwise unimpressive photo. I might keep it in my files for historical purposes only, but I wouldn't show it to my friends.

1 Star (*) - A well-executed photo without discernible flaws, but one that I need to spend time reviewing before deciding whether to publish it. I may have a better version of the photo, but I'm keeping this one as an alternative.

2 Stars (**) - A strong image with definite impact, an image that I would be proud to print or display on my website. This is the level where people start to say "Wow!" when they first see the image.

3 Stars (***) - An outstanding photograph with all of the qualities of a two-star image plus a uniquely impressive or interesting quality that makes it stand out in a collection.

4 Stars (****) - All of the qualities of a three-star image, but with some rare or remarkable quality. For people, it might be that one shot with the perfect expression or a spontaneous gesture that increases the impact of the image.

5 Stars (*****) - A rare gem. An image that captures a very special moment or situation and depicts it splendidly. A photograph that could not be improved in terms of impact.

a photo of a man playing a brightly colored piano in new york city
The Painted Piano

The Painted Piano qualifies as a five-star photo on my scale. It represents a unique and precious moment. I don't see painted pianos on the street every day.  In fact, it happened only this one time. I could walk the streets of the city for the next twenty years and never see anything like this again.

The gentleman playing the piano while wearing his New York Yankees hat and T-shirt had a wonderful expression, his eyes looking off into infinity. The colored paint on the piano adds to the uniqueness of the image, and the light was supportive and had just the right amount of contrast.

This wasn't a technically perfect capture. I had to crop out a pedestrian and a garbage can. (That can happen when you work fast.) Luckily, there was enough frame left over to yield a moving and memorable image.

I'm glad that I decided to take a walk that day. I'm glad that I decided to carry my camera with me. I'm glad that I stopped by to take a picture of the man playing his painted piano.

I'll treasure this image forever. It's one of those nice surprises that exemplify the joy and magic of photography.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4L IS

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Death Valley Impostor

The Rock That Wasn't There

Welcome to the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, that magical anomaly where rocks move mysteriously across a clay-like surface and cut trails to mark the path or their travel.

At least, that's what we think happens. Rain softens the playa and the surface becomes slippery. Wind currents channeled through the mountains are strong enough to move the rocks and cut trails through the soft clay. It's impossible to verify the theory because except for the smallest of pebbles, no one has ever seen the rocks move.

Yet, move they do and trails they leave, and in so doing they capture our imagination. The entire phenomenon is like something from a science fiction story.

There is, unfortunately, a dark side to our story, and that dark side is the hand of man. There are individuals who lack respect for the fragile wonder of places like the Racetrack Playa.

Here is case in point, a subject that I call 'The Impostor Rock'.

a photo of a sliding rock on the racetrack playa at death valley by daniel south
Impostor Rock - Death Valley

We see a long, well-defined trail in the playa, distant mountains, a clear sky, and a rock right in the middle of the action.

The problem is that this rock did not cut the trail, except perhaps for the last few inches. The rock that did cut the trail had a different shape. It would have been a bit wider, and it had a ridge that cut a groove to the left of the main trail.

This rock is an impostor.

Someone took the original rock as a souvenir, probably leaving the trail empty.(There are many empty trails on the playa.) I'm guessing that some well-meaning person put this rock in its place. Hopefully, the didn't snatch it from one of the other trails.

The Racetrack Playa is remote and not well-patrolled. Even if there were rangers on site, the playa is more than two miles wide. It's not possible to watch the entire surface at all times. Inconsiderate people take liberties.

There are signs posted: Don't move or take the rocks. Clearly, this one has been broken a few times. Don't walk on the playa when it's wet, or you'll damage the surface and leave footprints. I saw lots of this type of damage at the southern end of the playa. Don't let your dog run on the playa. While I was there I met a man who told me how much his dog loves to run on the playa, and then he let the dog loose.

The world is full of inconsiderate people, and there's not a whole lot that we can do about it. Let's hope that they don't destroy everything.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Geometric Skyscrapers

Art And Abstraction In Architecture


How many different ways are there to look at a structure? 

Where can we stand in search of a fresh view of a well-known structure?

How will light interact with architecture, and how does that change with season and time of day?

How can lenses and two-dimensional perspective enhance and stylize the appearance of large, three-dimensional objects?

I visualized photographing this landmark New York skyscraper from its base, but the composition didn't work until I included the building across the street.

The symmetrical convergence of vertical lines draws attention toward the center of the frame. The reflections hint of a delicate interaction between giants.

a photo of geometric skyscrapers in new york city daniel south photography
Geometric Skyscrapers - New York City

To capture this image, I aimed my tripod-mounted camera straight up. I had to compose and focus from below.  Onlookers watched as I crouched and twisted into a series of uncomfortable positions.

Alignment was critical. Horizontal lines had to remain parallel to the edges of the frame, or the buildings would have skewed to one side.  I wanted the convergence to balance well between the building in front (bottom) and behind (top). 

Luckily, it all worked out in the end. The shapes and patterns blend together nicely, the quality of light reveals sharp detail, and the reflections add a special highlight to the composition.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II (no movements applied)

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stay Out And Keep Shooting

Fair Seas in Foul Weather

It had rained that day, heavily at times.  When it wasn't raining the sky was solid overcast.  I remember feeling that my visit the seaside had met with unfortunate timing. 

Expectations were low; I figured that I wouldn't take many photos, and to be fair, I didn't take many.

Lunch offered a chance to get out of the rain.  Well, more or less out of the rain - all of the cafes in this resort town had outdoor seating.  An umbrella over the table helped, but the air was chilly.  Thankfully, Croatian pizza is warm and satisfying.

After lunch I took a stroll along the water's edge.  Several small boats were moored along a simple dock.  I noticed a man waiting to board one of the craft as another fellow prepared it to sail.

I almost walked past this scene.  The weather was gray and foreboding, but something about the dock and the boats caught my eye.  I grabbed my camera and took a handful of test shots. 

a photo of a man with an umbrella standing on a dock in porec croatia
Man on a Dock with an Umbrella, Croatia, 2010

At one point the man leaned on his umbrella in an interesting way.  I felt a rush of excitement as I pressed the shutter release.

This small gesture made all of the difference.  I was able to capture the moment, not by the grace of quickness or skill, nor with talent nor training, but rather with a willingness to be open to the possibilities that were unfolding before me.

If I hadn't been ready...  If I had kept my camera in the bag while moping about gloomy weather...  If I had opted to linger in a gift shop, the shot never would have happened.

I'm glad that I had the good sense to stay out, stay alert, and keep shooting.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4L IS

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 21, 2013


Portrait of Venice

I don't know the boy's name.

I don't know the name of the lady sitting in the window.

If I enlarge the image and look very closely, I can make out some of the names on the doorbells.

a photo of a boy and a boat named nico in venice italy by daniel south
Nico - Venezia

But the boat's name is Nico.

And that's all that I really need to know.

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8G ED

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved