Saturday, July 25, 2009

Writing on the wall


In using a pair of photographs to tell a story, the first one should make the viewer curious.

A sense of “What are they DOING?” needs to be established. Perhaps by adding a speech balloon (callout in MS Word eg “My turn, MY Turn! Or How tall are you?)

Then the second photograph can resolve the question. In this case a shot to show the signatures, stretching away into the distance.

Manhattan, MoMA, 090810, Canon 5DII, 17-40mm, f4, 1/125



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Photographing sculptures indoors

Some museums (by no means all), allow photography (usually non-flash). MoMA in New York almost encourages it. Perhaps this is because many of the modern images are copies of commercial products (eg Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans), and perhaps because it’s a museum that doesn’t take art too solemnly.

Avoid clutter in the background, shoot with existing light, (up the ASA to 3200, shutter speed 1/25 to 1/100) restrict the depth of field by opening the f stop to f4 (or lower if you have a wide aperture lens).

You don't have to aim for a classic ¾ view; many sculptures and mobiles are best see from directly front-on. Focus on the center of the sculpture. Stand away as far possible and use the zoom to avoid distortion and enhance focus.

Line up the base of the photo with the floor if you're aiming to keep horizontals and verticals true.

Sometimes it helps to add a figure in the picture, walking past, looking at it to add perspective or direct attention. No need to get the figure in focus, it can help if the figure isn't in the field of focus; this draws attention to the sculpture.

Manhattan MoMA, 090809, Canon 5DII, 17-40mm, f4, 1/50

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Photographing buildings


Buildings are easy subjects. They don’t move. They don’t scowl or blink at the wrong moment. You can go back and retake the shot if you muffed it.

But there are some problems. Middle of the day, the lighting is from overhead which washes out textures and colors; so early mornings and late afternoons, when the sunlight comes from angle, is generally better. Then people sometimes get in the way, so you have to wait until the scene clears. And it is often difficult to get an undistorted view of the building.

The most common form of distortion is where the vertical lines converge towards the top of the building.

To compensate for this, there are tilt-shift lenses which correct this. The photographer here was using a film 8x10 camera with a tilt-shift lens to shoot the Flatiron Building (1902) in Manhattan.

Another way of compensating for distortions in building photographs is to use Photoshop’s distortion function (Filter>Distort>Lens Correction). However this works less well for multiple verticals such as in this photograph.

For a discussion on tilt-shift photography go here.

Manhattan, 090810, Canon 5DII, 17-40mm, f4, 1/640


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Friday, July 10, 2009



It doesn’t sound like a must-do tourist attraction but going to the New York Public Library is worthwhile.

The building has the atmosphere of a church or a temple. There are exhibitions. Tourist traffic is minimal.

Hence a photo-opportunity. The architecture is classical, there are shafts of light and pools of darkness, people murmur as they move leisurely down corridors.

A good place to wait is near an arch filled with light from behind. The subjects are framed by the arch and backlit.

New York, 090808, Canon 5DII, 17-40mm, f4, 1/40

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Then and now


Comparative writing is marked by words like “but” and “however” and with expressions like “on the other hand…” and “alternatively…”

Showing two pictures of the same subject can be dramatic. Especially if one is a “before” shot and the other a “later” one.

Pictures which show the effects of special diet, or a cosmetic procedure, or pictures taken of a location before and after urbanization or before and after an earthquake…

There are also the "then and now" comparisons. Pictures taken of the same subject over time.

And for we as human beings, it can be compelling to see pictures of us as we once were, and as we are now. 

Director George Lucas took a nostalgic look at the 1960s in the 1973 movie American Graffiti. Here’s a couple of pictures taken of him then and now. Would that we could find photographs of ourselves that portray us projecting authority as well then and now.

Lumix TZ5 090701