Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Juxtaposing images

I have always been intrigued with the way one image plays off of another in terms of suggesting concepts. To that end I have been collecting images that could potentially work together to form a new image with a specific meaning beyond what either of them convey on their own.

The photo combination below is one such juxtaposition -- some barren trees in fog, and a model I photographed recently specifically for assembling these allegorical compositions.

Monday, September 28, 2015

New York is treated to half of an eclipse

Last night cloud cover rolled in to hide the second half of the eclipse of the moon, but not before I was able to take the ten exposures I needed to record at least this partial view. I took one photo every six minutes for the first hour of the eclipse. Later I combined the photos as layers in Photoshop and put them over a darkened sunset sky I had recorded earlier.

I used a Nikon D810 set to its 1.2x crop mode. With a 1.7x telextender on a Nikon 80-400mm zoom I was able to obtain a bit over 800mm focal length, which was perfect for this scene. For the first part of the sequence I was working at 1/250 second and 800 ISO. I had to increase the exposure time and ISO as the moon darkened while going into shadow.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Location spots for photographing New York at night

Some of the best views of Manhattan can be taken from across the rivers that surround the island. On the west side is the Hudson River offering several spots along the coast of New Jersey, all of them an easy ferry ride from New York. Last night I hit two spots with good views of midtown.

My first spot was at Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, a 6-minute ferry ride from the West 39th Street ferry terminal. It is directly across the river from midtown Manhattan. From Lincoln Harbor you can take another ferry one stop down the river to 14th Street in Hoboken for a more southerly view of both midtown and lower Manhattan, and from here it is a short ferry ride back to Manhattan.

A good view from Lincoln Harbor is from the riverside terrace of the Chart House restaurant. A nice thing about this spot is that you can enjoy a glass of beer or wine, as I did, while sitting on the terrace waiting for the right time to photograph. It is also an enjoyable place to have dinner after the shoot.

I intend the images to be used to make large prints so I used the 42mp Sony A7RII camera and stitched together a panorama. The first photo below is a combination of four images taken with the Leica 135mm APO Telyt lens with the camera in vertical position. The APO Telyt is one of the sharpest lenses out there so the image quality is exceptional, and the final print size is 4' wide. This could easily be interpolated to double that size if needed.

Four vertical images with the Leica 135mm APO Telyt combined to make an extremely large panorama. This photo was taken about 15-20 minutes after sunset, the best time for balancing the light from the sky with the lights in the buildings. In this shot the building lights maintain their details and are not blasted out as they are in the shot below. In fact, on the top floor of one of the buildings across the way you can actually see a party going on inside. 

This shot taken a little later in the evening was done as a single photo using the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 zoom mounted on the Sony A7RII.  This lens is one of the best zoom lenses available today and offered me the versatility of rapidly adjusting the focal length. Though not nearly as sharp as the first image, it is good enough for more moderate enlargements. The light streaks are from a ferry that passed by during the 20 second exposure. 

This is a more southerly view of midtown from 14th Street in Hoboken. By the time I took this shot it was getting late. To work more quickly I switched to the Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar zoom for this shot. It is not nearly as good as the other lenses I was using, but it was quicker to set up and compose. 

Both of my stopping points also offered this view of lower Manhattan, this one taken with the 135mm APO Telyt from Lincoln Harbor. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Magnificent sunset over New York

Last night we were treated to a brief, but beautiful display of sunset clouds in the southwestern part of the city sky. With the sun moving further south as the year progresses, we are approaching the best time for taking sunset photos looking south towards lower Manhattan. I originally went out just to see if I could get some sunset skies to keep for use in putting into photographs in the future, but the sky was so dramatic over the city that I also grabbed a shot of the tiny city silhouetted against it.

I used both the Sony A7RII and Fuji X-T1 for the photos. The city shots were done with the A7RII so I would have a file size big enough for making large prints.

I kept the silhouetted city small and jammed towards the bottom of the frame so the sky would dominate the composition. The lens on the Sony A7RII was a 21mm Leica Elmarit-M used at f/5.6. Super-wide angle lenses such as this give the most dramatic skies with their ability to include the higher up atmosphere.

This panorama is a composite of two images taken with the Fuji X-T1.

This was one of my favorite sunset shots with the sun so tiny in the dramatic sky. It was taken at a 18mm (27mm equivalent) focal length on the Fuji X-T1 and 18-135mm zoom. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

It pays to always have a camera with you

I've been very pre-occupied lately with images for my Metropolis series, but not so busy that I haven't also been shooting some black and white of the city with my Fuji X-T1 and X100T. All of the images are essentially grab shots because I carry a Fuji camera with me all the time when walking around the city.

This was taken using the Fuji X-T1 in black & white red filter Fuji mode in addition to a polarizing filter on the 18-135mm lens to obtain the dramatic sky. 

A straight shot with the Fuji 55-200mm zoom right into the morning sun as it came up across the East River on a hazy morning. 

Late afternoon shadows and the polarizing filter used the same way as in the top image of the Flatiron Building. 

Taken with the Fuji X100T

The World Trade Center and nearby building with the Fuji X-T1 with 55-200mm lens.

Tower of the World Trade Center reflected in a nearby building. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Metropolis gets back to work

It's Monday morning and the city begins a new work week. Over the weekend I created another addition to my Metropolis series, this one titled, Metropolis - Workday morning. Five photographs were super-imposed to create this image of the city beginning its workday. The final print size is 27x48".

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Split personality of the Metropolis

The diversity of the city is intense. At the same time it is cloaked in calm, meditative serenity, it can also take on a chaotic, boisterous frenzy. It is always filled with high energy, sometimes to the point of over-powering.

This past week I tried to capture two opposite extremes of the Metropolis -- its sophisticated side and its wild side. Both are night time views made up of multiple exposures. The top image, called Dressed for the evening,  is the minimalism of the city grid reflected in its architecture and lighting. The bottom image, called Boogie-Woogie too, is Times Square and Broadway lights at night. This image pay homage to Piet Mondrian who moved to New York to escape the second world war. He loved the "dynamic rhythm" of the city, which he liked to "Boogy-Woogie" jazz popular at the time, and tried to capture this spirit in an abstract painting finished in 1943 and entitled Broadway Boogie-Woogie. Using purely abstract forms, Mondrian sought to convey an order he saw underpinning the natural world. I have used found grid patterns of the city architecture to similarly tie together my compositions of the Metropolis series of photographs.

Metropolis - Dressed for the evening, NY, 2015

Metropolis - Boogie-Woogie too, NY, 2015
Because I intend to print these images quite large I have taken to photographing them with the 42mp Sony A7RII  equipped with high quality, usually Leica or Zeiss, lenses.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A visit to Times Square

Last night I was in Times Square just after sunset to gather some material for a Metropolis image I am planning. I had both the Sony A7RII with Leica lenses, plus the Fuji X-T1 with only the 55-200mm zoom. I grabbed several variations of the scenes below as the traffic passed in from on the LED screen of the American flag. Both of these were taken with the Fuji X-T1 hand held at an ISO of only 400.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Metropolis goes gritty

I have been taking photographs of water towers and back alleys in the city for years with the idea of eventually assembling them to create other images. Someone left a comment on a blog post a couple days ago about doing some water tower photos for the Metropolis series. This was enough to spur me into action. I had enough material to assemble not one, but two images for the series. The colorfulness of these two photos is caused by photographing some of the original scenes used for the composites at sunrise or sunset.

Metropolis - Alleys and rooftops a hidden city, NY, 2015

Metropolis - Drink up, NY, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Things I like about the Fuji X100T - Part II

A few days ago I did a blog post on how I like the Fuji X100T for close-up photography. Since acquiring my X100T, I have integrated it into my work flow in many other ways, finding it adds a special, contemporary feel to lifestyle photography. The distinctive look of cell phone photography, particularly on Instagram, has come to dominate our modern visual vocabulary with its in-your-face closeness, its extreme depth of field caused by the short lenses due to minuscule sensor sizes, and its ability to be placed almost anywhere.  Commercial lifestyle photography usually mimics current visual trends, and the casual vernacular look of this trend is no exception.  The wide angle, close focusing lens of the X100T is perfect for re-creating this candid look. The idea is not to create an overly worked composition, rather something candid and casual, like the snapshot from a cell phone, yet with a higher-end, professional camera so the image is suitable for commercial use.

Placing the X100T right off the surface of a nearby desk accomplishes a look similar to picking up a cell phone for a causal snap shot of a co-worker in the office. The camera is small and light and can fit almost anywhere. 

The short focal length coupled with its ability to focus very close allows the camera to move in tight on people subjects. This delivers a "rouinding" effect that gives the shot a more casual, intimate look. Due to the proliferation of  digital cameras, the public has become very well aware of the look and feel of different lens effects, especially those of cell phone cameras. 

For this candid-looking shot I was able to place the small X100T on the dash board of the car and control it with the Fuji camera APP, which I find to be one of the best remote controls available for digital cameras. 

After covering a seen with my regular lifestyle lenses -- typically the 56mm, 35mm, and 90mm -- I then pickup the X100T and move in close to pick up some extra shots that have a different look due to the unique characteristics of the close focusing 23mm lens.

The two photos below illustrate the different look and feel of using the shorter 23mm lens on the X100T versus a more typical 90mm lens on an X-T1. The difference in the perspective is obvious, as is the treatment of the background in relation to the main subject. While the 90mm delivers a more polished, professional look, the 23mm has a candid look, more as if the mother feeding the child had picked up her cell phone and snapped the photo. Both images are "valid", but each has its own characteristics that address different uses of the image.

90mm lens Fuji X-T1

23mm lens Fuji X100T

Monday, September 14, 2015

Metropolis plus one

I was on a roll over the weekend and put together another image for my Metropolis portfolio. This one is a composite of five images, all bleeding through one another and tied together with a unifying structural grid. These images are quite large with a finished size of 40x40".

The title of this image, Metropolis - Higher and higher, reflects the constant upward movement of a city that never stops growing.

Metropolis - Higher and higher, NY, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Metropolis portfolio gains an addition

Over the weekend I worked on a number of Photoshop images including this latest addition to my Metropolis portfolio. In this image I wanted to illustrate the sensual effect from the complex overlay of juxtaposing architectural styles found throughout the city.

Metropolis - Pre, post, now and then, New York, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015


I began photographing the first World Trade Center on assignment when it was still under construction in the early 1970's. When the New World Trade Center began after 911, I photographed it from its beginnings to its completion. Below are a few photographs of the new building in homage to the day, 9/11.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Shooting still life with my Fuji X100T

There were several reasons I decided to add the X100T to my Fuji camera pack. It's ability to focus so close with the 23mm lens was at the top of my list. Turns out I am using this camera much more than I had even anticipated. One of my primary applications is for still life photography. Getting in close with its 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens delivers a rounding effect to the subject, while the fast f/2 lens produces a pleasing selective focus with plenty of story-telling detail. This gives the images more of a casual, candid realism that sometimes mimics a cell-phone snapshot, or an old film camera.

Used wide open f/2 aperture, the images also have a soft glow about them that is very pleasing. Close the lens down for even one stop and the lens reverts to being sharp making it quite versatile. The Fuji style modes are another plus with this camera. I've come to really like Classic Camera with its muted colors and deep contrast. Although I always shoot in both RAW ans jpg at the same time, I can apply the camera style later in Adobe Camera Raw while using the jpg image as a reference for color and contrast. I usually go on to tweak the colors and contrast even further by adding a Vibrance adjustment layer in Photoshop to mute the colors even further. The photos below taken during a still life session in the studio using available window light were all done that way.

I almost never go anywhere without a camera. More and more, the camera around my neck is my Fuji X100T.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Composite imaging in Photoshop

During a photo session this past week I took some time out to grab a number of photos of one of the models so I could use them in assembling composite images. Below are two variation of one of the first attempts. It is a triple exposure (quadruple in the image with the cloud), one of the model photographed in a dramatic light against a white background combined with two photos of the city, one in focus, and one out of focus. I added the star to the models eye to complete the image.

To blend the images I experiment with the various layer modes available in Photoshop, generally using Overlay, Hard or Soft Light, or Screen to merge the images. Sometimes the merger is as simple as turning down the opacity of the layer to allow the layers beneath to show through. To fine tune the blending I add a layer mask and paint areas in or out.

When working on these composite images I like to start with 16-bit RAW files converted to TIFs. This preserves the greatest color and detail and helps keep artifacting to a minimum as the image is manipulated.