Tag Archive | Kickstart

KICKSTART – I Freeze So You Don’t Have To

One of the most common themes I notice this time of year is that people DO NOT like the snow and ice.  The reasons might vary, and to some degree, I agree.  Most of us don’t like the seemingly inherent danger that follows the cold weather.  Roads become treacherous if not treated properly or proactively, and if the snow (or ice) is significant enough, any amount of preparation and treatment may well end up being futile.  It’s easy to see why this would be a reason to wish away the cold and relocate to Florida.

Living in Pittsburgh, where winter -and certainly snow – are not a new concept, it can be very easy to become annoyed with snow.  If you look out your window and see falling snow, it’s almost a guarantee that you can jump on your Facebook Newsfeed and see no less than 37 memes and complaints about “people not not knowing how to drive” and “this is Pittsburgh, it’s snowed here before.”

You’ll also see even more dramatization about the amount of snow that’s going to fall and gripes about how the weatherman is NEVER right.  I try to give the meteorologists the benefit of the doubt – they are trying to predict the future, after all – but I don’t think they do themselves any favors by naming every storm.  And monikers such as “Snowzilla” and “Snowmageddon” don’t help, but I don’t believe those names come from the news stations.  Regardless of where the names originate, Facebook certainly does not help contain Snowzilla’s icy breath from causing the next Snowmageddon.  So, yes, Facebook drama queens and lousy traveling conditions allow me to sympathize with the winter haters.

My sympathies end there, though.  My disdain, if you can even call it that, for winter does not begin or end with the cold, snow, and ice.  It’s merely the other people that dislike it so much that they can do nothing but be bitter about it that causes me to sometimes, and only sometimes, wish the snow would melt.

In all actuality, I embrace the biting temperatures and the frozen stuff that falls from the sky.  To me, there’s no beauty like looking out at a scene with a blanket of untouched, pristine snow.  Walking along, listening to the subtle crunch of snow beneath my feet with my camera in tow…well that is euphoria for me and I forget about the cold.

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I forget about the cold, that is, until the mercury busts through the bottom of the thermometer.  Even when that happens, though, there’s a good chance you can find me playing near the banks of the rivers in the city.  See, when it gets to be so cold that the rivers, mostly the Allegheny River, freeze I find the patterns, lines, and shapes make for amazing compositional elements in my photographs.  This ice usually lasts more than a day also, and even though the it’s seemingly solid and static, the patterns are pretty dynamic which allows for unique photos with each visit, even if I stand in the exact same spot.

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Usually, inclement weather is a detriment to my photos along the rivers because I almost always try to incorporate reflections for added interest.  But if it’s windy and choppy, the reflections are nil and that can make for a dull subject and photograph.  Frozen rivers, though, provide patterns, shapes, and lines that negate the need for a reflection.  They serve as an interesting foreground and lead you right to the subject of the image.  If the skyline is reflected in the ice or unfrozen patches of water, then that makes the image even stronger.  Not needing calm waters expands the amount of “worthwhile” time I can spend on the shores and adds endless possibilities to what I can create.  So I say bring on the snow and ice.

Now I’m not saying winter is a season without its drawbacks or that it doesn’t get unbearably cold out there.  It does.  It gets really, really cold.  But I feel, when I’m not numb from head to toe, that after a freshly fallen snow, there’s too much beauty to be seen out there to stay inside.  If I’ve yet to show you enough to convince you to take a winter excursion yourself, well the cause might be hopeless.  So just cuddle up next to the fire with a nice glass of wine or mug of hot chocolate, and take a trip into the cold through my eyes.  Let me show you what most choose not to experience.  Let me freeze so you don’t have to.

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KICKSTART 8 – In A Fog

Last Monday seems like a blur.  It was a whirlwind of activity and a morning of shooting unlike most mornings for me.  Typically I don’t like to jump around from location to location (in the same morning or evening) trying to find that perfect spot for a photo.  I like to set up shop, move around within that spot, and take advantage of the conditions before me.  Sometimes, though, I need to change things up a bit and that’s what this Kickstart series is for me – breaking norms, exploring new ideas and concepts, and getting outside of my comfort zone a bit.  Monday provided me with just that opportunity.

Fog and Rocks - Pittsburgh Skyline Photograph

Upon waking up, I checked the conditions outside my office window at home.  Fog.  Awesome!  I grabbed my gear and headed out the door.  Within a mile from home the fog was gone and I thought the morning would be foiled before it even started.  Luckily, by the time the city was in my sights, I couldn’t see it!  A nice blanket of fog was covering the skyline.  I had a feeling Mount Washington would not provide much in terms of photos as the fog was higher up and pretty dense.  I began my morning there anyway and I was right.  Upon my arrival, the twilight fog was impervious.  Nothing was visible more than a hundred feet or so in front of me.

Dense twilight fog blankets the city, blocking any view of the skyline.

Dense twilight fog blankets the city, blocking any view of the skyline.

I mentioned I don’t like to jump around too, too much during sessions.  Well after this sight, I knew that would have to change.  If I stayed in this spot, I’d have a camera full of the same scene and who wants to see that?  Not me and I bet you  don’t either.  So I jumped in my car and headed down to the Duquesne Incline.  Nothing to see there as I suspected – in fact I never even took a photo from the overlook.  Back to the car for the next location.  I flew down PJ McCardle and down into Station Square.  I stopped by my favorite spot along the train tracks, but again the fog was too dense and I couldn’t catch any skyline.  The Smithfield Street Bridge was my backup plan to the tracks and luckily, it didn’t disappoint.  The fog was thick but not impenetrable so I was able to hop up on the Median and snag a few frames.  The buses flying by combined with a long exposure allowed me to catch some nifty light trails to complement/contrast with the moodiness somewhat invisible skyline.

Buses flying past and long shutter speeds create an interesting dynamic to an already moody view from the Smithfield Street Bridge.

Buses flying past and long shutter speeds create an interesting dynamic to an already moody view from the Smithfield Street Bridge.

Next on the plate was…wait for it…Mount Washington.  Yes, I went back.  I’ve had a shot in mind for years and I was hoping to get it.  The conditions weren’t right and you still couldn’t see anything so I was thwarted again.  Oh well.  I’ll catch some day and share it all with you.  Since the mountain was a bust, I headed low again to my favorite spot…the North Shore.  This is where I hit my stride and found some success.  I started between the Clemente and Warhol Bridges shooting above and along the dock at water level.  Conditions were pretty nice and I was able to snag a few good photos.

The reflections were nice, the fog was perfect, and the foreground bollards and chained mirrored the shape of the bridges nicely.

The reflections were nice, the fog was perfect, and the foreground bollards and chained mirrored the shape of the bridges nicely.

Even along the North Shore, though, I jumped around more than usual.  I hit a couple spots that I like to frequent up along the Sister Bridges that I enjoy.  The rocky shore along the Allegheny provides an awesome foreground and makes it feel more like a landscape photo than a cityscape.

 

The rocks along the shore provide a nice natural element to the urban scene.

The rocks along the shore provide a nice natural element to the urban scene.

A four image panoramic captures both the Warhol and Rachel Carson bridges.

A four image panoramic captures both the Warhol and Rachel Carson bridges.

For my last spot, I jumped down across from Heinz Field to incorporate the fountain.  The river was very calm as I snapped the first photo featuring the fountain.  As luck would have it, after that the wind picked up and the still reflections were nothing but a memory caught in one photograph.  I kept working the scene, though, and incorporated some of the flowers along the river walk.  I got some strange looks since I was basically standing in the tall patch of weeds, but I didn’t care.  All in all, it was a fantastic morning of shooting.  I’d been waiting for 3 years for fog like this and it didn’t disappoint.

The calm waters provided the perfect setting for a foggy reflection of the fountain and Fort Pitt Bridge.  Anybody else see an outline of a fish?!

The calm waters provided the perfect setting for a foggy reflection of the fountain and Fort Pitt Bridge. Anybody else see an outline of a fish?!

Summer blooms along the North Shore provide a nice contrast to the fog blanketing the city.

Summer blooms along the North Shore provide a nice contrast to the fog blanketing the city.

 

Kickstart 3 – A Change in Perspective

As I mentioned in my last post, I intend to have a theme or central idea for my Kickstart weekly series.  For this week, I wasn’t sure what that theme would be.  I have a general list of ideas but wanted to be spontaneous I suppose so I ignored my list.  There was a Pittsburgh Pirates game on Monday evening, the day I do my shooting for the following week’s post, so I knew the Roberto Clemente Bridge would be closed to vehicle traffic.  I decided this would be a great location so I headed there to set up shop.  It wasn’t long after checking out the scene and conditions that I had my idea. I’ve always wanted to portray just how much the position of your camera can impact a final image.  In composition, perspective is key, and it can be changed in a variety of ways:   you can take a few steps to your left or right, forward or backwards; you can rotate your body and/or camera a few degrees; you can angle the camera up or down; or you can keep your feet exactly where they are and just raise or lower your camera.  The last options was the best choice for this “experiment” as I wanted to the center of the bridge to remain moderately close to the center or my image and moving from my chosen spot would have not afforded me the look I was going for.  I created three images with three different camera heights and the results are three completely different images.  At the end, please feel free to take my brief poll to let me know which of the 3 images you like best.

EXHIBIT 1:  This first view is just above eye level.  My camera is about 1 foot over my head (and I'm 6'2") and pointed slightly up.  With this perspective you get a broad view of the skyline with the bottoms of the buildings not being obstructed by the sides of the bridge.  The center line is present, but not prominent, in the image and serves as a leading across the bridge and into the city.

PERSPECTIVE 1: This first view is just above eye level. My camera is about 1 foot over my head (and I’m 6’2″) and pointed slightly up. With this perspective you get a broad view of the skyline with the bottoms of the buildings not being obstructed by the sides of the bridge. The center line is present, but not prominent, in the image and serves as a leading across the bridge and into the city.

EXHIBIT 2:  For this view, the camera is just above the ground and again angled slightly up.  Notice how the buildings seem to be "leaning" in.  If a camera lens is not perfectly level, the resulting image will have lines that are not completely perpendicular, similar to how a building would look if you were standing beneath and looking up at it.  This view again uses the center line as a lead into the image, but with more focus and emphasis on the vanishing point.

PERSPECTIVE 2: For this view, the camera is just above the ground and again angled slightly up. Notice how the buildings and bridge supports seem to be “leaning” in. If a camera lens is not perfectly level, the resulting image will have vertical lines that are not completely perpendicular, similar to how a building would look if you were standing below and looking up at it. This view again uses the center line as a lead into the image, but with more focus and emphasis on the vanishing point.

EXHIBIT 3:  The third and final view is close to the second, but with the camera level and actually place on the pavement.  You'll notice in this perspective, the center line accompanied by the steel supports and side of the bridge all serve as a lead to the rest of the image.  Also, since the camera is level, the buildings are appropriately vertical and natural looking.

PERSPECTIVE 3: The third and final view is close to the second, but with the camera level and actually place on the pavement. You’ll notice in this perspective, the center line  is prominent in the composition and takes up about 55% of the bottom of the image.  Accompanied by the steel supports and side of the bridge, the painted stripes serve as a lead to the rest of the image. Also, since the camera is level, the buildings are appropriately vertical and natural looking.

All of the above images were shot with the same lens at similar settings:  Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8.

Kickstart Week…2

In my short adventure into blogging, I’ve made a substantial observation:  blogging is a challenge to keep up with…for me at least.  I always have the best of intentions of writing a post about each photo I take.  I like to write and I love to take photos so it should seem only natural that accompanying my photos with a story behind them should come easily to me.  And generally it does, but that story or blurb usually accompanies my post on my Facebook photo page for my daily photo.

My challenge to myself is to use this new (to me) blogging platform more frequently and effectively.  That was and is the purpose of beginning this “Kickstart” series.  My hope is that I force myself to get out and shoot each Monday, morning or evening, then come home and process the photos.  I want to have a theme that I adhere to, albeit loosely in some cases, and I will summarize the session the following Monday with both my photos and a story.  My hope is that by doing this I will expand my creativity by having a week to think up a theme, then one day to execute it, no matter the conditions.   If conditions are ideal, then I should have no problem.  If they are poor, I’ll think on my feet and hopefully come away with some new perspectives and solutions.  I anticipate no problems as I have found that conditions are very often ideal.  Except when they aren’t, which is almost ALWAYS!  So…thinking on my feet it is!

Unfortunately, I have a feeling dealing with less than ideal conditions while shooting will be the least of my problems.  Picking a theme, well that will be challenging at times, but I’ve got a list to work my way through already so no problem yet.  Taking the photos?  NO WAY…that’s the best and most fun part!  Editing the photos?  No, no problem there.  My real challenge is going to be consistency and sticking to a schedule.  I started this idea a month ago.  As we all know, there are 4 weeks in a month and as this is only my 2nd Kickstart post, well…you get the idea.  But, with some discipline and dedication, I truly believe this weekly project will help my greatly.   So, without further ado, please enjoy this week’s Kickstart photos:  Mount Washington at First Light.

 

Morning twilight:  The city slowly awakens.  Cars begin to slowly creep into the city as a morning barge begins its journey up the rivers.

Morning Twilight: The city slowly awakens. Cars begin to slowly creep into the city as a morning barge begins its journey up the rivers.

Purple Dawn:  Pre-sunrise color very often shows itself in a variety of colors.  On this day, purple was the color du jour.

Purple Dawn: Pre-sunrise color very often shows itself in a variety of colors. On this day, purple was the color du jour.

The sun finally crests the horizon.  A small aperture and the sun being partially blocked by the skyline allow for a small, yet beautiful sunflare.

The sun finally crests the horizon. A small aperture and the sun being partially blocked by the skyline allow for a small, yet beautiful sunflare.

Kickstart Week 1 – Pittsburgh Pirates Season Opener

Hi everyone and welcome to the first installment of my new blog endeavor: Kickstart.  Kickstart is going to be a weekly blog post, generally on Mondays, that will recap my photo session from the previous Monday.  My plan is to have a theme for each session and post.  I’m hoping that by setting out each Monday morning with a theme or idea in mind I will stretch my creative limits and think about photography in a different way.  Often times I find myself in ruts or shooting the same scenes again and again, just under different conditions, and I’m hoping this project of sorts will alleviate some of that creative block while allowing me to start the work week off on a positive note.

For this first installment, I decided to go with a Pittsburgh Pirates theme.  Ever since I thought up this idea I wanted it to be done on Mondays.  As look would have it, the Pirates season opener was a Monday and coincided beautifully with the timeline in which I wanted to begin the project.  I awoke before sunrise and headed in to the city where I spent a good 6 hours walking around and taking in the wonderful baseball sites and weather.  There were tons of people walking to the stadium over the Clemente Bridge heading to the game dressed in their Buccos gear.  I people watched.  I photographed the sites.  I sat by the river and just watched the stadium.  I wanted so badly to go to the game, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune.  I was, however, able to snag a few shots that I normally wouldn’t take, though looking back I wish I would have focused a bit more on the crowd outside the stadium and long the bridge.  Anyhow, here are 10 of my favorite images from the shoot.  I hope you enjoy them and LET’S GO BUCS!

stay tuned for next weeks Kickstart post – the theme will be Washington, DC!

Opening Day Pirates Scoreboard MLB Opening Day Pittsburgh Pirates PNC Park Sunrise Roberto Clemente Statue Pittsburgh Pirates Raise the Jolly Roger Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day Pittsburgh First World Series Sign Pittsburgh Pirates Roberto Clemente  Great One Statue Pittsburgh Pirates Home Opener Clemente Bridge Pittsburgh Clemente Bridge Sax Man Pittsburgh Pirates Willie Stargell Statue Pittsburgh Pirates PNC Park Reflection