Pushing the shutter on your camera when looking at a subject at eye level with nothing else special done is very likely to result in an uninteresting photograph. Shooting like these I often refer to as just snapshot photography. I tell my photography students that to make a photograph one often has to show the viewer something she/he cannot also see simply by standing there too. One of the easiests ways to compose a shot that breaks from this constraint is to simply look, up! A sharp eyed viewer will also notice one of my other favorite composition techniques in the above shot of Signature Tower in downtown St. Petersburg--ending lines flush in corners.
Signature St Petersburg
When teaching photography at night I often tell my DSLR photography lessons students that with long exposures you can turn night into day. Well, with a high contrast red filter, you can do the harder reverse of that, which would be turning day into night! It is actually not hard if you have the awesome Silver Efex Pro plugin, which I have been raving about for years.
First I went through my normal digital photo editing workflow on this architecture shot of Signature St. Petersburg. I made a duplicate and sent it into Silver Efex Pro. From there all that needed to be done to change the color image to black & white and the blue sky into a night one was to click on the high contrast red filter preset. No mess, no fuss.
Finding and using repeating patterns in your photographs is my photography tip for this week. In the above photograph of Signature St. Petersburg I composed the shot to exaggerate row after row of balconies so that they came to form a repeating pattern. I also held my camera off-angle to create a leading line with the far edge of the skyscraper and also the interior contour that leads the viewer's eye from lower right to upper left. Thus, in this architecture shot I combined repeating patterns with leading lines in an attempt to produce an interesting photograph.
I used the exact same techniques in composing this architecture shot as well, just put into portrait orientation. In composing and later in cropping, I paid special attention to make sure each leading line ended exactly at the edge of the frame. Note how the lower left the line ends right into the corner, and for the small line in the upper right, just before the roof went upwards to the right, I cropped it there to keep the line straight.
Lastly, I chose black & white processing for both these images because there was cloud cover and the building itself lacks color, so no reason to leave what little color was left in the image.
My third DSLR Photography Lesson with Bill on Saturday morning was our first 1-on-1 lesson as his wife Ria could not make it for this one. We met at the usual spot in downtown St. Petersburg on a typcially beautiful, sunny and warm Florida spring morning. The focus for this lesson was on making architecture shots, and how to use aperture priority mode to get a general idea of the exposure wanted, before switching to manual mode to fine tune it exactly to the desired results.
At the very beginning Bill showed me some shots of the St. Petersburg skyline and waterfront he took since our last lesson, homework so to speak. This was very useful to me in being able to show Bill which settings were correct, and which ones needed to be changed in order to produce a better shot. We then simulated some of those shot circumstances during our lesson so Bill could practice getting all settings correct for better results.
We had time during this lesson to start to discuss composition more, especially when photographing buildings. I showed Bill my parallel edge photography tip while saying that the entire building does not always need to be in the frame.
Our next lessons will start to include digital photography editing in addition to more shooting practice. I am looking forward to seeing Bill's early morning dawn shots of St. Petersburg with the help of the things we practiced this lesson.
For our second of four 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons I met Rebecca at the same spot in downtown St. Petersburg where we began by looking at some photographs she had taken since our first lesson with her Canon XSi. Rebecca is following my most recommended path for anyone taking my 4-pack of lessons (or even a single lesson) by first taking a lot of notes during the content heavy first lesson, then shooting a lot between the first and second lessons. This allowed me to see her progress and give very specific help to improve her shots. In fact, we spent the entire second lesson practicing how to get a correct exposure given differing lighting (backlight, side light, etc) with a focus on architecture subject matter.
For this practice I had Rebecca start in Aperture priority mode (A, Nikon; Av, Canon) at f/11 which is recommended for our typical sunny Florida days. Then depending on where the sun is relevant to the subject, we were able to find the limits of A-priority mode. This is how I taught Rebecca to find the limit: 1.) once the shutter speed goes below 1/60th, increase aperture 2.) Once the aperture limit of f/5.6 is hit along with the 1/60th shutter speed limit, then increase ISO
When A-priority mode was choosing a shutter speed too fast even at f/11, then I had her switch to manual mode, staying at f/11 while manually setting a slower shutter speed and tweaking the latter to produce the desired balalnce between for example enough blueness in the sky, but also enough detail in the shadows of buildings.
Using these real world skills for setting up a properly exposed shot, plus the architecture composition tips I passed on to her, I am sure Rebecca will be able to make some great shots when she visits New York City next week.
I had been thinking a lot the past few days how long it had been since I went out and just shot for fun, for myself. Last week photography friend Wade suggested we join NPPF's meetup in downtown St. Petersburg. I said sure, let's do it. Then when one NPPF member said we can shoot from the top of the condo building he lives in, equivalent to the 28th floor, I thought wow, can get some new shots of an area I have photographed already almost every which way.
I had also been wanting to give Photoshop CS5's great Photomerge action another try, but one cannot just easily create a compelling panorama just anywhere. However, an open wraparound viewing area twenty-eight stories up is certainly a compelling area.
The rooftop we were on was adjacent to downtown St. Petersburg's newest skyline addition, Signature St. Petersburg, a very aggressive modern condo skyscraper that dominated our southern view, and thus received a lot of lens attention from myself and everyone else in the group. I taught a DSLR Photography Lesson on architecture back in March using the skyscraper as a subject matter.
I like having a high view. For four years in Tokyo I lived on the 11th floor of a building with views of downtown Shinjuku and the sunset. I liked being able to step out onto my balcony and survey all the land before me. There is nothing quite like having a sweeping, bird's eye view.
This was the second time in a week of being high up in a condo with a view of downtown St. Petersburg after never being more than a few stories off the ground in a year and a half. Beholding such a view is starting to feel contagious, although living so high up with a thirsty puppy needing half a dozen bathroom breaks a day would not be so convenient.