So Many Stories

I’ve heard it said that eventually, everyone passes through Times Square. There’s no way to describe it unless you’ve been there; it’s electric.

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So Many Stories

The stories we tell with pictures are a form of virtual reality

Last week I was talking about telling stories with simple images at the beach, but this is an example of a subject that’s the polar opposite of serenity and sunsets. Regardless of the scene, success comes about by framing an image in a way that allows the viewer to enter it and muse about what is going on.

more urban exploration in the gallery

If you want to tell stories with your photos, it doesn’t matter what the scene is. It could be a beach, a farm, a city or anything in-between. I find that having a sense of depth draws us into the scene. We start at items close up and then wander around establishing distance and placement. It happens so fast we don’t notice, but crafting scenes are what makes photography so enjoyable. It’s a subtle version of virtual reality based on immersion. If we are, even for an instant, immersed in a photo, then we’ve experienced a form of virtual reality. Stories when told by a picture or a book, have always been a way to experience a different reality.

Making Up Stories

This image is an example of the kinds of things you’ll see just by showing up to a location and observing. It’s not staged, yet it has receding elements: a girl, a bird, and a sailboat, not to mention the evening sun. The objects are receding, and from a compositional perspective, that’s pretty cool. Let me explain.

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Making Up Stories

There were other objects and people around, but I positioned the frame to simplify the image. Unconsciously our eyes are drawn from the close-up objects to those far away, and in that split-second traverse, each observer (you) creates a story. I refer to “story” a lot in my images, but what I mean is the musings of an observer (you). When you muse, you automatically make up a story. That makes me the story-teller, and now I’ve connected with you. It’s pretty simple really, and it’s the idea behind stories in photographs.

favorites in the gallery

We can create stories in different ways; for me, it often involves simplifying a scene and engaging the viewer. But each person is different, and we could take a complicated scenario and do the same thing, there are no rules. My photos at the beach are simple, but I also like busy city streets with a lot of things to explore. (In fact, I’ll post one like that next week.) But I digress. When taking photos, you want to tell a story. No matter where you are, you can compose the shot in such a way that when I see it, I make up my own story.

Beach Bums

If I had a nickel for every one of these shots on the beach at sunset, I’d be, well, …sitting by the beach at sunset. But that’s what people do here, so I take pictures of it. When in Rome (or Florida as the case may be), you do as the Romans do.

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Beach Bums

A typical scene from Manatee Beach in Florida

Switching topics for a moment, I have a lot of lenses for my cameras. Some are expensive lenses designed to operate under demanding conditions. While I use them in specific settings, I use an older cheaper lens for my landscape photos. I guess my point is, for my favorite type of photography, I’m happiest when using the inexpensive equipment.

The reason I mention that is to say that photography should not be about the equipment. Any fool can buy a camera and take a picture; “yours truly” is a case in point. But framing an image that creates a story, that takes imagination. That can be done with any camera including the one on your phone. Everything has its use, but I think that when you are creating images, the best piece of equipment is between your ears.

beaches from the gallery

So there you have it, a little bit of photography advice from someone who’d rather be a beach bum. If you take that, and a handful of nickles you can buy a nice cup of coffee.

Hot Summer Nights

Last year I was in New York City on the hottest three days of the year. It was unbelievably hot and the only thing to do at night was to walk around Times Square in the pouring rain.

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Hot Summer Nights

A hot and steamy night in the rain at Times Square

I should be used to the heat from Florida, but it was no easier. Nevertheless, the rain and lights created fantastic photo opportunities that are entirely different than those I get back home. A nice effect is how the rainwater creates a reflective sheen on the pavement.

more street photography from the gallery

Taking photos at night in a city is a matter of experimentation. With a camera, we have several choices to make. A wide aperture combined with a high ISO allows a type of street photography without a tripod. However, with a tripod, we can take longer exposures if we want to capture light trails. In this case, I just wanted to capture images of the scene without special effects. For me, the most exciting thing was watching people out having fun in the rain; which by the way, was what I was doing also.

Down by the River

After a rainy day last week the wind died down in the evening. When that happens, the water in the river becomes smooth like glass, which is the perfect time to take pictures. I made this near my home in Palmetto, just off the road next to the bridge.

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Down by the River

A section of the Manatee River from the Palmetto side of the bridge

This scene is an HDR image made of four frames with different exposures. By combining frames, the greenery and sun appear without either appearing blown-out. I use Aurora HDR from Skylum to process my HDR compositions. After mixing the frames, I usually make three or four additional adjustments to get it just the way I want it. I may also process it in Luminar which is another tool from Skylum.

more from Palmetto in the gallery

This area is a little section by the river that few people notice. It’s next to a major road that thousands drive by each day. As for me, I believe a photographer should work close to home as a way to practice seeing the familiar with new eyes. Seeing something new in the usual, or looking at it from a different perspective is a useful skill at home and abroad. So if you happen to be driving to work and see me standing by the river, now you’ll know why.

Tunnel Trail

I’m always looking for new scenes so capture and so once in a while I’ll go to the park in the middle of the day. I prefer the mornings and evenings when the light is softer, but being open to possibilities, even in the middle of the day, is a good idea. Showing up is half the battle, and once at a location, I’m open to interesting scenes to photograph.

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Tunnel Trail

This is a section of the trail at Robinson Preserve in Bradenton, Florida

For this photo, I was walking along a path that had a canopy of brush on either side. When some folks rode past on bikes, I noticed the tunnel effect and took a photo as they receded. It’s another variation on the leading line theme that’s so popular in photography.

more images from Robinson Preserve in the gallery

This stretch of the path causes a little sensory deprivation because the sides are thick with growth and you can only see in two directions. That feeling was heightened one evening when I happened to be walking here as darkness closed in. The effect of being in a darkened tunnel caused my sense of hearing to become heightened. Before you know it, I could hear every little sound in the bushes. At that time of day, all the nocturnal animals begin to stir. It was no surprise that I started hearing sounds emanating from the brush all around me. My imagination started working in overdrive as I wondered what might pop out on the trail in front or behind me. Nothing happened of course, but that’s maybe why I decided to come back here in the middle of the day.

Uncovering Gems

This image is another from the series I took while visiting Neal Preserve in Bradenton. The dry season is over, and thundershowers are now a regular occurrence until the end of summer. Water fills the ponds which in turn creates photo opportunities like this. Only a few weeks back this might have been bone dry.

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Uncovering Gems

A pond at Neal Preserve in Bradenton after the afternoon rain

The image is an HDR; it’s a combination of five shots of different exposures. Because I was shooting directly at the sun, I took exposures from -4 to 0. The software that I use, Aurora HDR, is smart enough to pick out the best from each frame to combine into one. Then I use the sliders and masking techniques to adjust the saturation, shadows, and highlights. After a while, it started to have a look and feel I was trying to uncover.

more landscape photography

Processing a photo is like polishing a stone, you work at it until it shines. That’s a simple analogy but aptly reflects the process. So often I’ll look at the raw photo that I have sitting in my library and think to myself it has little or no potential. But then, perhaps out of curiosity, I begin working on it and sometimes, I get a real gem. Not always, but enough times to keep me coming back for more.

Barcelona Night Scene

Here is a shot I took last year on my last night in Barcelona. I was “stuck” there while a Hurricane passed through my home in Florida. It’s not something I’d wish on anyone, but as long as we were stranded, I could think of no better place to be. Barcelona has a unique energy to it, and it’s super easy to pass the time.

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Barcelona Night Scene

A street corner in the gothic section of Barcelona at around midnight

In a city like this, people are out walking and socializing late into the night. It’s fun to be in the middle of it all while taking photos. For whatever reason, nighttime street photography is something that gets my creative juices flowing. There is something about the lighting that changes the mood completely.

more night photography from the gallery

For this scene, I selected a particularly gritty looking corner. The idea is to use the light and leading line to draw the eyes across the image from left to right and into the busy intersection. This type of lighting reminds me of scenes from movies; it gives me an appreciation for good cinematography. In another life, I think I might spend my time here making film noir type movies.

The Path at Neil Preserve

Niel Preserve in Bradenton borders the intercoastal waterway. The boardwalks allow you to walk through and above the thick brush and mangroves. From a photography perspective, the perfect time to come is just after the rain and right before sunset. That way the clouds accent the natural elements and help set the mood.

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The Path at Neil Preserve

One of many boardwalk pathways at Neil Preserve in Bradenton Florida

However there is one minor problem, the mosquitoes are thick as thieves. And they also love this particular time of day, perhaps as much as I do. They are quite active after the rain; so when I arrive, I typically spray myself down with a generous portion of repellant. That way the photographer and bugs keep a respectful distance and everybody gets along.

more landscapes from the gallery

The path in this image is a classic leading line. With our eyes and imaginations, we follow the trail and perhaps feel it leads to a safe place. That is the central principle behind this image, and it should be convincing as long as you don’t think about the bugs.

Upgrades

I posted an image of this building last week. Since then I pulled this older one out of my archives and reprocessed it. It’s the first image I took of the World of Science building, however since then I’ve made many more. I was using a Nikon at the time which I later upgraded to a Sony; not that the choice of the camera matters at all.

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Upgrades

The view of the TELUS World of Science building in Vancouver, BC

Here is my original take on it (https://www.flickr.com/photos/justenoughfocus/9109050970/in/dateposted/). I don’t reprocess images too often, but every once in a while I wonder what it would look like with newer software and updated sensibilities. My sensibilities are like software; they get upgraded every year or two as well.

see the Canada gallery

Because of its shape and location by the water, there are no bad angles. You could make a study of this building from different perspectives which is what I’ve done over the years. With the amount of construction in Vancouver, it seems that even the view gets upgraded every other year.