Archive | July 2019

When Creativity Wanders

The full moon is a wonderful event to photograph.  Something about watching it rise fills me with energy and curiosity.  Even when I don’t plan to photograph the moon, I love to watch, often from the back window of my home, as it crests the horizon,

When I do photograph the celestial event, though, I like to have an idea and a plan to execute the idea.  But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

Usually, my plan involves getting to the spot I’ve chosen no less than an hour before the man in the moon is set to show his face.  Sometimes, this early arrival spells trouble for my plan.  See, as much vigor as the thought of creating a new moon shot fills me with, the idea of waiting turns me into my four year old daughter.  She doesn’t like to sit still, and I don’t like it very much lately either, so my mind wanders.  Then I do.

For this latest moon adventure, I realized this is probably not a bad thing.

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The photo above is an older photo, taken in 2015 from the West End Bridge in Pittsburgh.  I was hoping to recreate it, but do it better.  And had everything gone to plan, I would have walked away with a nice, solid image that would have probably made a lovely print.  But it wouldn’t have been different.  I wanted to make something different and I bet that’s what you want to see to!

So I abandoned my plan and let my mind wander.

First, my right brain took charge, allowing creativity to also wander.  A lot of “what ifs” charged through my mind.  That’s when I noticed the lovely light on the railing in front of me.  Bingo!  “I’ll work with this until the moon rises in 30 minutes,” I told myself.

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This is when my left brain kicked in and started firing on all cylinders, bringing out that engineer in me that I often keep hidden.  I must have analyzed every spot on the bridge for a good 100 yards, trying seemingly endless combinations to make sure the city would be framed perfectly by the railing.  Finally I found my spot.

Then the Mr. Moon showed up, close to where I knew it would rise, but the composition wasn’t right.  There went that plan again.  Good thing I didn’t give the right brain the rest of the night off.  Now that the moon was present, I had all of the pieces of the puzzle and I just needed to put them together.

After one hour and fifteen minutes of tinkering – an inch up, three railing supports to the left, back up half a foot – it all came together and this was the final photo:

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It’s DEFINITELY different but still reflective of my style (if I have such a thing) and it was more challenging to create than the original concept, which makes the final image that much more rewarding.


Thank you for making it this far.  If you like the final image and want some more details, this is the place for you.

1 – THE MOON – obviously, the moon was critical in the image. Not just including it, but framing it as well.

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2 – FRAMING – the framing was the single most important part of the image.  Not just the composition and concept, but the actual spacing of the building between the railing.  Notice the Gulf Building on the left – dead center of the railings.  The US Steel Tower and the new PPG tower equally spaced from the railing as well.

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Keeping the balance in the image and preventing the buildings from intersecting the bridge, all while keeping the moon centered too proved to be quite the challenge, thus the nearly hour of tinkering with the camera and tripod to get everything lined up perfectly

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3 – SHARPNESS – because I photographed this with a telephoto lens and only few feet from the railing, getting the entire scene to be in sharp focus in on frame wasn’t an option.  So I did an exposure with the focus on the railing and a second immediately after, focused on the buildings.  I combined them in Photoshop for maximum depth of field.

So there you have it, a little backstory to what’s probably my favorite image of the year.  I hope you enjoyed the photo and the recount of how it was created.