Saturday, January 30, 2016

Dolphins on the Malecon

Puerto Vallarta

The Malecon is Puerto Vallarta's boardwalk, famous for its eclectic collection of statues.

a photo of the dolphin sculpture on the malecon in puerto vallarta
Dolphins on the Malecon - Puerto Vallarta

These dolphins, in my recollection, form the only statue that doubles as a mini-fountain. The falling water provides a small zone of "air conditioning" to help offset the power of the Mexican sun.

Camera:    Nikon D810

Lens:        Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G ED

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2016 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

McWay Waterfall in Black and White

Sea Of Tranquility

a black and white photography of mcway waterfalls in big sur california
McWay Waterfall - Pacific Coast

McWay Waterfall in Black and White

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California

Camera:    Nikon D810

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

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2016 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sunset Over Point Sur

The Race For Peak Light

A friend suggested that the Earth Color Magic blog shouldn't wrap up its year with a black and white photo. I realized that he had a point. So here, for my color appreciating friends, is one last entry for what has been a fulfilling and enjoyable 2015.

People sometimes find this hard to believe, but landscape photography is a fast paced activity. Subjects like mountains and coastlines don't move around, but the light and the atmosphere change constantly. It's not unusual to have to work fast to get the shots that you want.

The best color of a sunset, for instance, rarely lasts for more than a couple of minutes. In order to capture peak moments, the photographer needs to interpret changing conditions, get his gear into position, compose, focus, and execute the exposure quickly and accurately.

a photo of a lighthouse at sunset at big sur california
Sunset Over the Lighthouse at Point Sur

I was photographing a line of trees about a mile from the lighthouse when I realized that a terrific sunset was about to reveal itself. I grabbed my gear, jumped in the car, and drove up the road for a more promising shooting location - being mindful of traffic, of course!

The Lighthouse at Point Sur is one of my favorite West Coast subjects. It sits atop a massive rock that juts out into the relentless surf of the Pacific Ocean.

I set up the camera again in a spot where I could silhouette the lighthouse against the most colorful part of the sky. I pulled out a couple of my best lenses and raced to get as many shots as I could. 

This was one of my favorites. It reminds me of the great fun that I have had over the years chasing fantastic light along this magical stretch of the California coastline. 

Camera:    Nikon D810

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

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2015 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pacific Dream

Tales From Monochromatic Oceans

a photo in black and white of waves and rocks in the pacific ocean
Pacific Dream - Tales from Monochromatic Oceans

Camera:    Nikon D810

Lens:        Nikon AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2015 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Color of Night

Grand Church

a photo of a catholic church in new york taken at night
Grand Church - New York City

Camera:    Nikon D810

Lens:        Nikon PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5D ED

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2015 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Across The Street

Creative Perspectives

Photographers use a variety of terms to describe their lenses, and those terms are sometimes confusing.

Most people understand that a wide-angle lens can be used to "fit" a large space or object into the frame. But wide-angle lenses can have a profound effect on the appearance of small objects as well. 

Move in close to a small object with a wide-angle lens, and its size will be magnified with respect to the objects behind it. This effect is known as perspective distortion. 

a photo of the vietnam veterans memorial in new york city by daniel south
Perspective Distortion - Wide-Angle Lens (24mm) - Near Objects Appear Larger

We can use perspective distortion creatively, but it requires the photographer to exercise caution in some cases. If you photograph someone's face with a wide-angle lens, for instance, their nose will look huge. 

Factoid: The mirrors on the side of your car are effectively wide-angle lenses. This is why they come with the disclaimer that "objects may be closer than they appear."

On the other side of the spectrum, we have telephoto lenses. Using a telephoto lens, we can fill the frame with a distant subject, effectively isolating it from neighboring objects that might cause distraction in the composition. 

Some people mistakenly refer to telephoto lenses as "zoom" lenses, i.e. lenses that let them  "zoom in" on the distant subject. Some lenses do feature both "zoom" and telephoto capabilities.

The important distinction is that zoom lenses can vary their focal length continuously. The photographer can zoom from wide-angle to telephoto, or from short telephoto to long telephoto. 

But many telephoto lenses - especially those used by professionals (at sporting events, for instance) - have no zoom capability. They are built to provide a single telephoto perspective. They still magnify and isolate distant subjects, but the magnification is not variable.

a photo of the statue of prometheus at rockefeller center by daniel south
Distant Subject Isolated With A Telephoto Lens (183mm)

Between the expansive distortion of wide-angle lenses and the isolating compression of telephoto sits an unassuming and poorly understood lens called the "normal" lens.

Normal lenses are so named because they produce the "normal" perspective of the human eye.

This description confused me when I began to study photography. Human beings see a wide angle of view, much wider than somewhat cropped angle of view of the normal lens. But "normal perspective" doesn't describe angle of view. I describes the relationship of near to far objects.

The flower photo above demonstrates the perspective distortion of wide-angle lenses. Notice how small the next flower pot looks (right side of the photo) compared to the frame-filling size of the flowers that are directly in front of the camera.

When we take a photo with a normal lens, distant objects aren't miniaturized so dramatically. The natural perspective of our eyes is maintained.

Across The Street - The Perspective of the Normal Lens

In the photo of two motor scooters parked across the street from one other, the red scooter is about as far away as the second flower pot in the wide-angle flower photo. Notice that it's size is not reduced to the same degree. 

(The only distortion that we notice is the blurring of the distant cycle, a creative option chosen at the time of exposure. With a different aperture setting or focus stacking, both scooters could easily have been rendered in focus.)

Some photographers avoid the normal lens. They prefer the drama of wide-angle lenses or the isolating compression of telephoto lenses. The normal lens is popular in documentary photography where realistic perspectives are valued, as well as in fine art photography, where shooters look for expressive ways of rendering their subjects. 

Images captured with a normal lens stand out in part because of the LACK of a dramatic perspective. With a normal lens, photographs have the option to frame their subjects in a clear, unadorned way that communicates directly and simply without reliance on special effects.

Cameras:    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Nikon D810
Lenses:       Various

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2015 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Autumn Flowers

Before The Frost

We tend to think of Spring as the season for flowers, but some plants display brilliant color well into autumn.

Autumn Flowers

Focus stacking was applied to extend depth of field and show more of the flowers in focus.

Camera:    Nikon D810
Lens:        Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2015 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 2, 2015

Are You Serious?

Finding Words to Explain the Inexplicable

Someone asked me today whether I was a serious photographer. 

Well, he didn't exactly ask. He presented me with an observation. 

"I feel that you're more serious about your music than you are about your photography.

I was at a loss for words. How do you respond to something like that? 

I've devoted a great deal of time and effort to both my music and my photography. I can't say that I prefer one over the other. They're both integral parts of my life, parallel channels of creative expression. 

But the observation caught me by surprise, and I struggled to put my thoughts into words. In particular, I found myself wrestling with the meaning of the word "serious."

a photo of a truck and filling station in the bodie ghost town
Truck and Filling Station - Bodie, California

Serious can mean consequential

"A serious accident left three people in serious condition."

I don't drag my camera into war zones or violent protests. I don't document crime scenes or ecological disasters. No one is going to be liberated from prison based on one of my photos.

I focus primarily on aesthetics. My photographs are designed to be enjoyable. They may be beautiful, memorable, or humorous, but they're not consequential.

Serious can also mean influential.

"Gustav is a serious artist. His work is taken seriously by serious collectors because it communicates serious themes."

My work isn't well-known or highly-regarded, and even if it were, I wouldn't recommend imitating it. Artists need to learn to trust their own instincts and tastes and vision, and they need to learn this early in the game. So seriously (ahem), I believe that we can neglect this meaning of the word.  

a photo of a Crescent Moon Setting Over a Bristlecone Pine
Crescent Moon Setting Over Bristlecone Pine

I'll tell you what I do take seriously. I'm serious about producing photographs in a variety of conditions. I've worked hard to develop skills that enable me to capture photographs at a certain level of technical and aesthetic quality. Every year, I push myself to learn a bit more, because there's always more to learn. 

And because you can get better if you continue to work at it. 

And because when the moment presents itself, I want to nail the shot. I don't want to come up empty because I was unprepared to make the most of the situation.

That's where I'm serious - in my photography, in my music, and in other pursuits. I'm serious about being able to turn what I have imagined into reality. You can't do that without putting in some serious time and effort.

I finally told my friend that I don't know whether to think of myself as serious or not. I just make photographs. I just put time into building my portfolio and developing my skills as I go along.

And here's one more important thought. Never take yourself too seriously. You need to keep growing. You need to keep working hard. The minute that you start thinking of yourself as a success, you'll be tempted to slow down and coast on your past glories. 

Don't let that happen.

Stay humble. Stay hungry. Stay focused. Stay driven. Because that's what it means to be serious.

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

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2015 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved