Sarasota Reflections

When there is no breeze, the water on Sarasota Bay turns to glass. I was fortunate enough to show up one night two years ago when the conditions were just right.

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Sarasota Reflections
Apartment buildings overlook Sarasota Bay, as seen from Island Park.

Everyone likes the views from Island Park which is why folks come here to walk and take photos. I’m particularly fond of the perspective it provides for nighttime cityscapes across the water.

more from Sarasota

Sarasota is growing, and the skyline changes about every six months or so. That means I need to get my behind down to this spot at least once a year to keep up. But I’m pretty sure nothing has changed in this one particular section.

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.

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.

Cool Shot on a Hot Day

This is not a product shot, I just thought it was a cool shot on a hot day in our winter and your summer. Well, it seems a few days ago was the shortest day of the year, which also means it’s winter. Since I moved to Florida I can’t seem to get it straight, winter is like summer and summer like winter. Hear me out.

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Cool Shot on a Hot Day
Cool Shot on a Hot Day

In winter, we have mild sunny weather, in summer we have storms daily and the tourists are gone. If that sound a little backwards you’re not alone.

some of my favorite photos

This favorite little spot of ours known as Crabby’s Beachwalk Bar & Grill in Clearwater Beach. It’s a good place to contemplate these types of conundrums. When I get disoriented it’s better to just take a seat and chill. That’s exactly what my wife and I did when I got the idea to take this photo.

Nuns on Vacation

I was walking through the old section of Kotor and came upon a group of nuns on vacation. At least I think they were on vacation, I didn’t actually speak with them. But they seemed to be having fun nuntheless.

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Nuns on Vacation
Nuns on Vacation – As seen in Kotor Montenegro

I’m not really in the habit of following people around, but I kept running into the same group. On no prior occasion have I seen nuns with cameras and iPhones, just like the rest of us. I don’t know why I found that odd, perhaps they are allowed to order these items on Amazon. But again, with nuns I am a novice and I could have it all wrong.

my favorite images

Anyway, I saw the group of them a couple of times and I took a few pictures of the spectacle. There is a certain ascetic to this scene that I find pleasing. I don’t see a lot of vacationing nuns in Florida. There is nothing much for them to see here except people that lay on the beach. And trust me, we have the mother of all beaches. But, they could raise money by selling French Fries. Anyone could order and they would just put the ingredients in the friar.

What I Saw in My Mind

Walking to the train one morning in Vancouver I noticed this cruise ship at dock. It arrived a few hours earlier and was preparing for another voyage to Alaska. A common site in the summer but nonetheless it looked awesome in the morning light so I took a few photos; this is what I saw in my mind. Let me explain…

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What I Saw in My Mind
What I Saw in My Mind – From Vancouver BC

I spent a lot of time on this photo to make it look like what you see here. The original photo didn’t look so pretty. It had a lot of distractions, including other boats and a parking lot in the lower right. So I manipulated it to make it look like what I thought I saw. What we perceive is usually different than what we see. In other words, we perceive what we want to see and have a tendency to screen the rest; so this image is now closer to what I thought I saw.

At the time I only noticed the boat, it stood out because it wasn’t there the day before. I also noticed the soft light of the morning sun reflecting on the side. I thought to myself that it was an awesome scene, but when I looked at the image later there were other things I didn’t remember seeing, like the parking lot for instance. Rather than get disappointed and throw it away, it became a challenge for me to see if I could replicate my initial impression.

more images from Vancouver

To my way of thinking the practice of photography is an expression of art. If I just want to record an event I snap a photo with my phone. But “photography” can be more than that. That doesn’t mean it should always be manipulated, but it should tell a story. In this case I did indeed manipulate it so that I could convey the story what I perceived in my mind on that summer morning in Vancouver.

Composite of Downtown Vancouver

This is a multi-exposure composite of downtown Vancouver. I took this while staying on a high floor at the Marriott Delta Vancouver. My Marriott profile indicates a preference for a high floor. About half of the time, depending on availability, I end up with an amazing view like this.

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Composite of Downtown Vancouver
Composite of Downtown Vancouver from the Marriott Delta Vancouver

To get this I setup the camera on a tripod next to the window and left it there for about twelve hours. I took exposures in the afternoon, evening and then upon waking in the morning. I also used a lens skirt so that there wouldn’t be any reflections on the window coming from my room. Later I blended them all together to form this composite image.

The technique is my attempt to counteract my indecision. Often, the images I post are just one of many that I took of the same thing. I suppose I could post them all but that would get boring, so I pick just one. That’s where indecision comes in. I’m left with ten or twenty images of the exact same thing, but in different light.

some other composites

A composite allows me to pick and choose my favorite aspects of each photo and combine then into one image. It’s a little like seafood gumbo; it can be tasty if all the ingredients are nicely blended. And for desert, I get to have my cake and eat it too.

People at One World Observatory

So often when travelling we find ourselves in places where there are a lot of tourists. There’s nothing wrong with that and quite often I am one of them. However from a photography perspective it presents a challenge. For me the challenge is either how to incorporate crowds into an image or avoid them altogether. In this case I sat on a bench watching the people at One World Observatory and noticed the reflections creating this scene. I took several photos and this is my favorite.

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People at One World Observatory
People at One World Observatory

This is also a good example of post processing. Because right out of camera the people looked more like silhouettes, you couldn’t see too much detail. I was able to bring that out in post processing, and primarily because I used a Sony camera with a great sensor. That sensor captures much more shadow detail something like an iPhone. So this is closer to what the scene actually looked like because of course our eyes are able to capture a wider range of light. I used post processing to bring the detail back from the shadows.

Getting back to the challenge of crowds, the other approach would be to avoid them altogether. To do that you need to get to places early or stay late. I don’t know about you but for me that’s easier said than done. Sometimes it can be difficult to get up and out early. I still try and sometimes I make it and I’m usually rewarded with softer light and scenes without a lot of people.

other travel images from the gallery

But these are just common sense tips. What makes an interesting photo is entirely in your head. With photography we can take the most common and mundane of scenes and express something transformative. That’s true for any art form, so whether you decide to include crowds or avoid them is just a technique, the thing that’s really important is what you see.

Salt Lake City

A few months ago I was in Salt Lake City visiting some close friends. I am not Mormon but my ancestors were and so are my close friends. So while there I took the time to visit the temple grounds and took a tour of the convention center. This panorama I took while standing on the convention center roof.

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Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City panorama

My ancestors were the original settlers of Salt Lake City. So we also visited the cemetery to see where they were buried. Through help from my friends and a little sleuthing we found the graves where my great-great grandparents were buried. They’re in the Salt Lake Cemetery, which is the resting place of many of the original pioneers.

It was for me an amazing experience because I came away learning about my heritage that heretofore I’d only heard from my grandmother before she died. It goes without saying the Mormons are big on ancestry and so they were more than happy to help me fill in the gaps. I am fortunate to have such a recorded history and now that I know a little more I’m eager to share it.

Daily Images

Back home the other day I was taking some photos along the waterfront. Two Mormon missionaries approached me and rather than ignore them I engaged them in conversation. I pulled out my iPhone and shared this photo and told them about my experience and ancestors. They seemed genuinely surprised to meet me and equally happy to see a picture of their main temple. It was a fun encounter. While I am not planning to convert to the Mormon faith, there are many things we share in common. And for that connection and fellowship I am truly grateful.

Study of Light and Impressions

This is a study of light and impressions from familiar scene; it’s a public boat dock along the river. Folks sometimes dock their boats here and walk over to the nearby restaurants. In reality it’s not used all that much. More often people come here to sit and watch the water. It’s a regular stop for me when I’m out walking with my dog Mr. Wiggles.

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Study of Light and Impressions
Study of Light and Impressions

I’ve taken a lot of pictures of this location at various times of the day and night and from different angles. So I guess you could say this is a study of how the scene changes each time. It’s also how I practice, by shooting the same subject slightly differently and then working with it in post. In this case I noticed the lights just as dawn was breaking from the east. It was a quick shot that I hadn’t preplanned.

But later I’ve spent hours working on this. As you know, images out of the camera do not always reflect the mood or scene as we remember it. Our images seem to come out flat and a little boring. So I’ve done a lot of things in an attempt to being back that feeling. I’ve enhanced the lights from the lampposts and I’ve saturated the colors to accentuate the reflections on the water.

More images from Riverwalk in Bradenton

So does it work? It’s all completely subjective; I’ve created something partially resembling what I saw yet something completely different. In the end it is what it is, a study of light and impressions from a familiar scene.