My last night in Manhattan I spent exploring Central Park and taking a lot of photos. The park is well lit with street lamps along the paths and people milling about just as they do during the day. This is in a section known as Central Park South, which is bordered by the towers of midtown to form a surreal backdrop.
This is thirty-second exposure and it appears a little brighter than it actually was. As a result I didn’t notice the people to the right until about halfway through the exposure. I think they had the perfect setting for an evening picnic.
I rented a bike so I could cover more ground and even at midnight on a Sunday there were people riding bikes alongside me. Maybe I’m naïve but the park seemed safe. Historically the park has had a bad reputation after dark, but it seems to have shed some of that that over the years. There are lights everywhere and paths filled with people enjoying the setting, not to mention an abundance of security.
If the park didn’t close at one in the morning I could have stayed all night. There are endless compositions for photography. But alas I had a plane to catch in the morning so it was just as well. But now I know that the next time I come back I can plan on getting very little sleep, at least at night.
Now that I’m getting a little better at flying the drone I’m starting to make panoramas. It’s basically the same process that I use on the ground, which is to shoot vertical images and stitch them together. One of the options on the drone is to shoot in portrait mode. So once I’m in position I switch the drone camera into portrait mode and take several shots side-by-side.
This is one such panorama over the neighboring towns of Palmetto and Bradenton. I live in Palmetto on the right and Bradenton is just across the river on the left. In this you can see a couple of bridges that cross the Manatee River, which is almost a mile wide at this point.
This image has more resolution than a single shot from the Mavic because it’s several shots combined. The camera on the DJI Mavic is fairly small compared to that of my main Sony camera. It’s roughly equivalent in resolution to some of the better smartphones. That’s not bad but I still prefer a higher resolution for landscape images. So for now my best option is to make panoramas. However in the future I expect manufacturers like DJI will give us better sensors for the drone cameras.
That’s okay because I’m still in a learning phase and I really like how I can use this in photography. I’m a little late to the game because these things have been out for a number of years. But having waited I now have the advantage of all the safeguards that are built in. Someone like me is less likely to lose my investment due to pilot error. And as Martha Stewart would say, “that’s a good thing”.
I took this photo on a recent trip to the beach. It was right after a tropical storm and the waves were a little larger than normal. Mind you, they are small compared to other places but still fun to watch.
I know an emergency responder who works at the beach and there is no shortage of stories about people miscalculating the waves. Even though they look small there are rip currents just like everywhere else. Normally the waves are so small it looks like you could swim way out, but apparently that’s not a great idea.
I cannot get enough of the beach. When I visit places away from bodies of water it seems something is missing. Of course that’s not true, it’s just a perspective I’ve acquired by living so close. Yet there is something in our psyches that’s attracted to bodies of water and we feel that with images like this. For some reason we like pictures that include water. It could also just be our primal need for it.
There is something rejuvenating about oceans, lakes and rivers. Why else would we spend our money traveling to these areas for vacation? We have holidays at a cottage on a lake, go for cruises on a boat, or just hang out at the beach. I am writing this on a Friday, all of those things sound especially good to me right about now.
This is a view of two bridges to Brooklyn I took from the One World Observatory. I thought it was called the Freedom Tower but I guess the name was changed a while back. Nevertheless it’s a great place to visit when you’re in town. And if you’re a photographer, the sky is the limit, literally. It probably took me an hour and a half to walk around the main observation deck. I stopped every few feet to take photos of some different angle on the city. I can’t help it; I get carried away.
I used a lens skirt to block the reflections you normally get when taking pictures through windows. I mentioned this a few days ago on another post. It takes a little extra time to get it all setup but it’s worth the effort.
I’ve been on the other side of those bridges shooting back at the tower, but this was my first experience shooting towards Brooklyn.
With shots like this there is so much detail packed into the image. When I’m there I’m concentrating on focus and composition. Only later when processing the image do I really get a chance to take it all in. Thanks to the high resolution of the Sony sensor I can zoom in and examine all kinds of interesting details.
I was shooting in the middle of the day so I had no need for a tripod. However I’d like to come back in the evening for images with city lights. Hopefully I’ll be allowed to bring a tripod then. My fingers are definitely crossed on that one.
Here is a shot of my wife Crystal and our dog Wiggles at Bayfront Park on Longboat Key. The few times I’ve been here it’s usually empty. It’s a nice place to visit if you’re looking for that kind of thing. We stopped in on the way to dinner at St Armands, Circle; a little village just south of here. A few minutes later when we got to St Armands, the sun was setting so I quickly double-parked and ran out on to the beach to grab a few shots. That’s the problem with sunsets, they always occur around dinnertime. It helps to have a patient family.
Back here at the park we were watching a manatee just off one of the piers. He was just resting in the water, blowing bubbles and coming up for air every few minutes. Manatees and dolphin sightings are common in this area. They’re fun to watch but I’ve not had a lot of success in capturing them in images.
I took a lot of pictures in the few minutes we were here, including some from the drone. We were just heading back to the car when I noticed the long shadows. This is an example of just trying to be aware of scenes as they unfold and going with the flow. I had other shots in mind but this ended up being my favorite. It was completely unplanned yet somehow wins the day. That’s pretty much how every outing goes, I may get several shots I like, but usually there is just one that stands out, and this is that one for me.
Here is an interesting shot down West 54th Street. It’s actually two photos of the same scene blended together. One was taken around midnight and the other around dawn. I setup my camera on a tripod and took a long exposure before falling asleep. I left the camera in place on the tripod and when I woke up several hours later I took another. Later I used the lighten blend mode in Photoshop to combine the two.
I also used a lens skirt, which cuts out the reflections; it’s indispensable when taking photos through windows. In fact, while on the same trip, I took it to the observation deck of the One World Observatory; it worked wonders with the floor to ceiling windows.
We were lucky with the hotel; it has excellent views of this section of the city. When I’m traveling I never know what I’m going to see. So with respect to photography, and life in general, I try to be flexible and go with the flow. It’s a constant theme and sometimes struggle to let go and become aware of things around you. Sometimes I recognize cool images and other times I walk right past them.
It seems we covet high floors in the buildings of large cities, certainly I do. As a photographer I’m looking for the perspectives above the fray. More and more that can be achieved with a drone, but good old fashion brick and mortar buildings are the best if you can gain access. A drone can fly for only so long and is usually restricted in busy cities.
Here’s a shot of the pier at Redington Shores Florida. I took this on one of my first drone flights and I was about a half mile away sitting in a chair. It’s very easy and probably a lazy way to take a photo, but there was still a little stress involved. I couldn’t see the drone even though I knew where it was. I positioned it and took a few snaps and then brought it back to where I was sitting. I breath a sigh of relief when the drone comes back and I can see it again.
I’ve had it now for a little over a week and I’m getting used to flying it. The stress is still there, although manageable. Even though it gives me a live view I find it a little disconcerting when it’s so far away. I have no idea what can go wrong and a little mistake can be costly. Add to that you have to be mindful of aviation, and where I live there is no shortage of that.
But with the risks comes a little reward. I am getting perspectives I could only dream of and it’s taking my photography into another dimension, figuratively and literally. Now that I’m not limited by altitude I can revisit familiar places and take completely different photos. I have a long list of locations to hit and that’s a great problem to have.
Thanks to the automation of the DJI Mavic Pro, I’m getting efficient at it as well. I can have it in the air, take the shot, break it down and move on within 10 minutes. In some ways I prefer that to the longer flights, less can go wrong and there’s less stress to deal with. After all, this is supposed to be fun, right? Notwithstanding the learning curve, it really is.
This is a shot that I had a lot of fun making. I went walking down Broadway late at night in the pouring rain. Shooting street scenes in the city is fun enough, but add the lights reflecting on rain slicked streets and it takes it to a whole new level. And of course, being New York, there are always people out walking regardless of the weather.
I was a block from Times Square and there were lights everywhere. The colors of this scene were so vivid it almost looked unreal. At the time it seemed normal, but that’s what happens when you’re in the middle of the city, wild lights everywhere start to seem normal.
I had my camera covered with plastic and I was wearing a rain poncho. I must have been quite the site, but then maybe not. What could look more normal than someone with a camera in Times Square? I wasn’t the only one; I saw one or two others looking for cool shots as well. Rain seems to bring out the photographers, at least the ones that are visiting.
I was out for a couple of hours and people kept emptying out of bars and walking around looking for places to eat. That was me back in my twenties. Now I’m content just to take pictures of people doing what I used to do. In a way I think that’s kind of funny.
On Monday tropical storm Emily blew in from the Gulf and through my hometown with very little warning. It seemed to come out of nowhere and before we knew it we were in the eye. Our cell phones where blaring tornado warnings and the oak trees were waving like twigs. By the afternoon Emily moved east and I headed straight to the beach to watch the breakers.
By that time the wind died down so it was safe to fly the drone. It supposedly flies in winds of up to 20mph, but having just purchased it last week I’m a fair weather flyer.
Here is a shot over one of the piers at Bradenton Beach. That’s local surfer David Julius riding a wave on the left. David is from California so he was stoked by whatever the storm could dish up. From this angle it’s hard to tell but from ground level the breakers were awesome to look at, and surely even better to ride.
In addition I got video from the drone that I’ll post shortly. The drone is a DJI Mavic Pro and having survived my first week I’m starting to get my sea legs. That’s an oxymoronic thing to say about flying, but that’s what you get when you read my posts. It’s a little like Emily; it just comes out of nowhere.
Here is a familiar scene transformed by the weather. It’s another in a series of panoramas I’ve been doing; only this time I used an iPhone. I shot this on a rainy day with three vertical images side-by-side.
I like shooting in the rain. When it rains, you may see things that make for interesting images. Maybe the opposite would be true if I lived in a rainy climate. I’d be writing about how I like shooting on a dry day because it offers a slightly different perspective than the typical rainy day. One person’s mundane is another person’s awesome.
Do we consider whatever we see regularly as mundane? I have a photographer friend who lives in a condo overlooking a beautiful beach. He’s been there a year and he recently told me he wasn’t tired of the view. But he does like going to other places to take photos. When I visit him the beach looks amazing to me so I take a lot of photos.
Anyway, I’ve been to this location in Bradenton a hundred of times, but in the rain at dusk it looked completely new to me. Sometimes I think we just need a change of scenery, even if that means just going to the same place on a rainy day.