Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Having fun in San Francisco (on a rainy day)

Yesterday, my wife and I made a quick trip up to San Francisco for a meeting. Needless to say, I never make a trip to the city without my camera in tow. Our meeting was not until 11am, but we arrived in SF at 9:30am to give us a little time to grab a coffee, relax and explore. Our meeting was in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero Center. As we exited the escalator and looked up, it was amazing to see hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of lights suspended from the heights of the lobby area.

I have been in this hotel many times before, but never at Christmas time, and it was cool to see the lobby sculpture with a backdrop of the cascading lights.

I pointed the camera straight up at the lights to accentuate the lines of the lights.

What was my favorite part of the quick trip to San Francisco? It was watching my wife taking very cool pictures with her iPhone and the Hipstamatic application. She has a really creative eye and I love watching her get that creative perspective that I missed. She was shooting some images of two gingerbread men and I happened to be on the other side and grabbed this shot through the gingerbread man.
A cool old street light near the Ferry Building.

As Annette and I walked back to the hotel for our meeting, we passed this barber shop. We were both fascinated by the "old school" look of this place. It reminded me of a scene right out of an old Norman Rockwell painting. Very efficient use of time, getting your hair done at the same time as getting your shoes shined. Love that!

When I got home and looked at this image, I just had to add a sepia tone to it, giving it that old time feel.

Then it was time for a nice lunch in the city. We went to an old steak house in the financial district and were lucky enough to get a seat by the window. I just could not help myself. I was watching all these people walking by with their colorful umbrellas and had to take some shots. Annette took this picture of me with her iPhone.

I could have taken images of the people outside and frozen them in perfect focus, but I wanted to show some motion in the shots. So, I slowed the shutter speed of the camera to 1/10 of a sec and panned with the walkers.
It is always fun to try new things with my camera, and Annette and I were equally amused with the people watching from our table.

This was my favorite of the motion blur images, because I like the fact that the woman in the back is clearly in focus but the woman in the foreground is more in motion. (Photographer note: For all of these shots, I prefocused the camera on a spot on the sidewalk where I assumed the people would be walking. This let me lock in the focus and not worry about this element as I was shooting. For this shot, I set the camera to 1/6 of a second and did my best to move at the exact same speed as the subjects. To get good results, you will have to practice this technique and take a lot of pictures. Not every shot will be a "keeper" but if you grab a couple of good ones, it is all worth it.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

As 2010 comes to a close, here is a video montage of some of my favorite photos from this year

The following video has some of my favorite photos from 2010 in chronological order. As I look back at the images from this year, I truly appreciate all the different events and cultures that I have experienced. Starting the year with the Olympics in Vancouver and ending it with a trip to Asia and multiple trips to NY. There were some sad events this year, with a funeral for a 13 year old daughter of a friend. Luckily, most of the year was spent capturing upbeat images of our family and friends; with weddings, mitzvahs, sports, vacations... I am thankful for all the opportunities that I have had, the people I have met and the family I am surrounded by.

I am also thankful that, through the lens of my camera, I can capture life and record a history for myself and others. It has allowed me to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me, and the details of life that I previously would have missed.

(To see this larger - click on the YouTube link)

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

San Jose Sharks vs. Edmonton Oilers Ice Hockey

Two nights ago I had some unexpected free time in the evening and was looking for something fun to photograph. I realized that the Sharks were playing the Oilers and put in a last minute request for credentials (at 4:30pm which is cutting it a little close). My friends at the Sharks were kind enough to oblige and off I went to fire off a couple thousand frames. While I was there, I realized that I have not photographed professional hockey since the Vancouver Olympics. It was fun to get back into the groove.
Antero Nittymaki getting ready for the start of the game.

Dan Boyle getting ready to break out of the defensive zone, rounding the net with the puck.

Solid defense from the Sharks for most of the night (only letting in one goal for the win).

Here you can see the concentration in the eyes of the athletes and the puck just waiting for someone to make a play.

 Ryan Clowe working hard in front of the net, trying to screen their goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin.

Logan Couture, the rookie, has been on fire. He has already scored 18 goals this season. Here he draws a penalty by working hard in the offensive zone...

...and ending up in the net.

Here is a shot of Dany Heatley making a point blank shot on net, but Khabibulin stoned him and kept it out of the net.

Another stop by Khabibulin.

The Sharks finally scored a goal in the second period.

Big Joe Thornton enjoying the game.

I love this shot of Dany Heatley working hard in front of the net.

Here the Sharks score for the second time. You can see the puck hitting the back of the net.
Torrey Mitchell flexing the stick to get the most power on his slap shot.

A funny thing happened when I was shooting this game. I shot most of these images with the Canon 1D Mark IV (which shoots 10 pictures per second) but also decided to use the Canon 5D Mark II with a Fisheye lens, like I did at the Winter Olympics. At the beginning of the second break, a gentleman came up to me, a little perplexed, and asked which lens I was using for the close-up shots. I told him about my setup with the Fisheye lens and he told me that he saw and liked my previous wide shots from the Olympics. As I explained to him, there are times when the athletes are right in front of me and I can not photograph them with a long lens (I was using the 70-200mm), so it is fun to try the wide lens to see what I get with that focal length. As you can tell from the image above, it really can pay off. This wide view really makes you feel like you are on the ice with them!

One more thing...Happy holidays everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Lunar Eclipse - Red moon

Last night was the Lunar Eclipse and my daughter made sure that we were out there to see it. She is studying the moon at school and was very excited about this event. She asked me to take pictures, as if I wouldn't have :)

Since we had been having rain and clouds for most of the day, I was not sure that we would even see the moon. But, as we approached 11pm, the clouds were nice enough to separate and give us glimpses of the eclipse.

This image was taken at 10:56pm, showing the partial eclipse. (You can click on any of the images to make them larger.)

 And then another shot taken at 11:18pm showing much less of the moon.

And then at 11:46pm, I fired off this shot of the moon, with the red glow very prominent. It was easy to see the color change, even with the naked eye, but even more exciting when I shot this and we saw the image on the LCD of the camera. (Photographer note: I used my Canon 5D Mark II with the Canon 100-400mm lens fully extended out to 400mm. I also used a Canon 1.4x adaptor to extend the range of the lens and get as close as I could. I manually focused, using LiveView to zoom in close and double check my focus detail. The camera was mounted on a Gitzo tripod and I used a cable release to avoid any camera shake when hitting the shutter. I used a combination of shooting in Aperture Priority mode (stopping down 1 to 2 stops) and manual mode, depending on the brightness of the moon. I wanted to keep my ISO as low as possible but needed a fast enough shutter speed to capture the moon clearly, trying to grab the image before the rotation of the earth showed movement in the moon.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shooting in Central Park - Modeling in New York City

Last Wednesday afternoon, while in New York City, myself and Scott (my cousin's daughter's boyfriend) made a trip into Central Park to take some new portrait shots of him. The weather was clear and cold, which was not ideal shooting weather, but we made it work.

Somewhere on the East Side near 150th, we heard about a garden within Central Park, and although it was winter time, it was still a cool place to take photos.

We managed to get Danielle (my cousin's daughter - whom I just consider my niece) out to join us for 30 minutes during her lunch break. It was a great chance to take photos of the two of them. They make a great couple!

Danielle was not exactly the willing subject at first, but once I showed her that she looked great on camera, she warmed up and let me take more shots of her. (Photographer note: Since most of us do not like to have our pictures taken, it is imperative to interact with your subject and show them your results. Once they see that you can make them look great, you will get a much more relaxed and willing subject at the other end of your lens.)

I scouted the location and found this cool fence on the upper area of the garden. I asked Danielle to hop on the other side and peak through the bars. I really like the way that the fence frames her face. (Photographer note: It would have been an even better photo if I had brought a diffuser with me, to block out the hot sunlight on her neck, but sometimes you make do with what you have, or don't have.)

After Danielle went back to work, Scott and I continued looking for cool places to photograph. I saw these trees in the distance and figured that the golden color would make a great background for him. I walked down the path, so that Scott was high above me, and shot these images of him up on the rocks.

(Photographer note: I took these images at f4.5 to maintain more of the detail in the leaves. I could have shot these at f2.8 which would have diffused them more, but I liked seeing a little more of the last fall colors in the trees.)

I really love this bridge (Bow Bridge), which is not too far from Strawberry Fields in Central Park. The pale color of the bridge along with the patterns, make this an ideal location for shooting. I had Scott stand on the bridge, waited for everyone else to clear away (although there weren't too many people out in the 29 degree weather), and I hopped a little fence and shot from the outside of the bridge. (Photographer note: I shot this photo at f2.8 because I really wanted to create a focus point exactly on Scott's face and I wanted everything else to fall out of focus. I also wanted to try and soften the trees in the background, since they would be very distracting if they were in focus.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

New York in December (Christmas Decorations)

I spent this week in New York City, presenting my work at B&H (largest photo store in the world) and roaming the streets to capture images of the Big Apple during the holiday season. This city really does come even more alive during the month of December.

My first stop was the original Macys store. As you can see, their theme this year is "Believe" and the windows had animated scenes from the "Miracle on 34th Street" movie.

Many of the streets were lined with decorated trees. I liked this one particular shot (5th Ave) with the well lit trees and the street vendor. This really does scream NY during the holidays.

I went over to Rockefeller Center to capture images of the Christmas tree.  I am always frustrated when photographing here since they do not allow tripods. I would use mine until a police officer came up and told me to stop. When I asked why I could not use a tripod, none of them has a good answer. Ughhh.

Moving to the next spot, after being kicked out of the first location, I set up the tripod for a quick shot of the ice skaters and the tree. I know that I was pushing the rules, but I think that the shot is worth it. :)

This is one of the more interesting displays. These are giant Christmas lights which are on display about one block from Radio City Music Hall.

I decided to take the camera off of my tripod and add some movement (and zoom effect) to the lights and like the end result. Something different.

I have taken pictures of Radio City before but never at this time of year. Across the street (kitty corner) from the music hall, there is this huge stack of ornaments in the middle of a fountain. I moved around until I had framed the shot so that the Radio City signs were in between the ornaments.

After shooting the first Radio City shot, I noticed the great colors being reflected in the fountain and framed this shot to highlight the colors in the reflection. I realized that if I shot an image from a higher vantage point, I would get even more reflection. So...I stepped up on the wall by the fountain, and yep, once again had a police officer say that I could not do that. Again, no weird.

One block further and I came across this office building with toy soldiers in front of each pillar.

On Wednesday, I was shooting images in Central Park and remembered that it was the 30th Anniversary of John Lennon's death. I made my way over to the Dakota Building and watched all of the media reporting from John's previous home. Then I walked across the street and into Strawberry Fields (a portion of Central Park dedicated to John Lennon) to see a huge gathering of people singing Beatles songs. It was truly amazing to see and hear this remembrance.

I wanted to shoot an image of his memorial circle, but with the huge crowd, I knew that it would be impossible to make my way into the middle of the gathering. I tried standing on a nearby bench, but it was too far from the memorial, so I came up with plan B. I mounted my Canon 1D Mark IV on my tripod, extended the legs all the way, set the timer for a 2 second delay, preset the focus, hit the shutter and extended the tripod above the crowd, looking down at the center of the crowd. Got it!

At the end of the day, I was walking out of the park and saw this awesome crescent moon in the deep blue sky. I ran to a clearing and caught the moon next to this beautiful building.

Walking back to my hotel at 1am (in 25 degree weather - yikes), I stopped in Times Square to shoot some motion blur images of the cabs going by. I have done this before on previous trips to NY, but it never seems to get old. After shooting images here for 20 minutes I reached my breaking point (freezing my tail off) and headed back to my hotel. For the remainder of my walk, I thought about this crazy city. As many times as I have been here, not being my favorite city, it sure is nice this time of year. There definitely is a different energy in the air...hopefully I was able to capture some of that for you.