Monday, May 22, 2017

Infinity Mirrors Yayoi Kusama at the Hirshhorn



A week ago I went to see the Kusama exhibit in Washington D.C. at the Hirshhorn Gallery.

I was lucky to have a friend gift me an un-timed ticket and I went on the second to last day.  I got in very shortly after they opened and the lines were still short inside.

One one the things that caught my eyes was this painting, which was displayed along with the Mirrors exhibit.  I tried something different and went for the slow shutter speed and lens zooming during the exposure.  Of a huge number of tries, a handful came out ok and I liked this one in particular.

The original painting is called "End of the Universe, Abode of Love".

End of the Universe, Abode of Love (Yayoi Kusama)


The rooms that contain the Infinity Mirrors pieces are fairly small, and can hold a couple of visitors at a time.  With this being so popular, each set of visitors is timed and allowed between 20 and 30 seconds depending on the one (or maybe the docent's interpretation of the time limit, IDK).

Once I had seen the first exhibit/room, I knew that shooting just inside was going to leave me wanting more.  And I also wanted to somehow capture the visitors going in or going out.  I lurked outside a few of them, and with the one below captured something close to what I hoped for.  Again I used a slow shutter speed, and this time with the moving mirrored door, the reflections are stretched out horizontally.  And the door helps to bridge the inside with the outside.  I wish I had spent much more time with this approach.



Finally here's one from inside.  This is shot with a D4 and 35mm perspective control (PC), manual focus lens.  I only shot a very brief amount of time with this lens inside the exhibits because getting good focus in the dark in 20 seconds while examining a scene I've never experienced before is all too much.  I realized this when I chimped my shots from one room and found almost all of them out of focus.  I just hadn't gotten it right.  The other setup I was using was a D810 w/ 24-120mm f/4.

Infinity Mirrors

I also posted the above to Instagram, and cut off my legs which were distracting in the flickr verison in my opinion.

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There are still a lot more images I'd like to share.  Here's a small collage of 4 more images from the day.



Have you seen this or another one of Kusama's exhibits?  What did you think?

-Jon


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Where I go to Reflect



Some of my favorite recent landscape photos are shot in Lido along the first jetty.

My "trick" is to either go bare foot and stand in some water, and use the wet sand and receeding waves to create my mirror for a reflection.  Or I run in and out of the remains of the waves while wearing shoes and wimping out on getting wet.

Here are a couple fairly recent photos (all HDRs from 3 images).

Where I go to Reflect


 Lido


 And here's a long exposure that looks relatively normal, but it is in fact a night shot done under a nearly full moon.  The recent rain helped.

Lido @ Night!

-Jon Read more On "Where I go to Reflect"!
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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Home by the Sea



I grew up in New York, and I like to visit often.  This year I went in February and shot a lot of sunrise and sunset images at the beach.

This is an HDR from 3 source images shot with D4 and 14-24mm f/2.8, on 1 of my 2 new and favorite tripods (Really Right Stuff - extra tall 4 section series 2 and 3).  I'm probably going to get a 3rd one that's a series 4 XL 4 section.  After years of skimping on tripod and spending on lenses and bodies I've taken the plunge.

Last year right before going to Florida I got a 1000$ Gitzo and it broke on my second day shooting there when it was only around 3 weeks old.  One leg became wobbly and lose.

When I got back from Florida I returned the tripod and ordered an even better and only slightly more expensive Really Right Stuff series 3 tall 4 section one.  It is great.  I have absolutely no complaints.  And then I bought a second one that was a series 2 and as such a little smaller and lighter for a ball head and short lens use.

I have had a few other tripods (crap 1, small Gitzo, and large Fiesol) and really I should have just spent a thousand bucks on the best when I started and been done with it.  Everyone makes that mistake so I guess I had to as well.  You're probably reading this and have done it too, or will in the future.  It's like a right of passage all non-millionaire photographers have to achieve.

Home by the Sea

-Jon


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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

AF-finetune for Subject and Shot - how to get better focus for birds in flight (towards the camera)



I use the AF-finetune to calibrate my lenses and cameras.  Usually this works out pretty well.  Calibration will set the camera to not front-focus or back-focus, the focus will land where you want it - on the spot where focus was attained.

What I have found almost all the time when shooting birds in flight is that focus is harder.  Sure, nothing news worthy there.

But what is most frustrating is when a bird is flying at the camera focus is rarely on the eye.  And it is because the eye is rarely in the center of the frame where the selected focus point is most likely to be.

I've speculated and toyed with changing my AF-finetune specifically to be setup for this type of bird flight shot, but it is rare that I do it.  The setup is to change focus to bias towards front-focus.  With the birds flying at the camera, and the head likely the closest part of the bird, you want focus to be closer than what you will normally get.

So, I rarely do it because how many flight shots towards the camera in a row do you get and if it is just a few is it worth blowing all the other shots?

On this day I was shooting the Herons as they were nest building and they kept flying a similar route.

I got some of the best focus in this setup than I have ever gotten before...  Normally my lens (600mm f/4) is set to about -14AF I think, and I changed it to -18.  I tried a few settings, and the following weekend I tried with my 500mm and experimented more.  I got better results with the 600mm at about -4 on top of my normal calibration.

Have you ever tried this technique?

Or are you already happy with your birds in flight towards the camera shots - so no need to tweak this setting?

AF-Finetune for Subject and Shot

-Jon Read more On "AF-finetune for Subject and Shot - how to get better focus for birds in flight (towards the camera)"!
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Flying Fish

VA Osprey taking a fish for a ride.  It was soon to be a meal.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Signs of Spring


Seeing dozens of American Robins working in the grass and hunting for worms is a welcome sign of spring.

This weekend I was out on the dreary overcast day (Sunday) and found some robins.  This was taken by sitting in the grass next to a garbage can to help "blend in" a little, and hand held (probably braced against the can).  The birds were a little weary of me, but I waited long enough and the few turned in to a dozen where I was sitting and I managed a handful of images.

Signs of Spring

The Osprey are back mostly.

Next I'd like to see some Black-Crowned Night Herons...




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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Going Old School - Osprey Drawings

When I was a kid, I used to like to draw.  I would draw cars, trees, boats, whatever.

Fast forward and now I like to take photos.  A ton of photos.  I usually take more than 100,000 photos a year.  A typical day could be 500-2000 images depending on how many places and cool things and action I encounter.

A month or so ago I bought a couple of sketch books and some pencils, erasers, etc.

Thursday I sat down with a pad and pencil and stared at it for a while.  Then I drew a box with a vertical line through it.  And I scratched my head so to speak...  What is that and why did I draw it?  I didn't know.  I still don't know, but it was a starting point.  I figured out that was NOT what I wanted to draw.  Usually my doodles are boxes, three dimensional distractions that are a waste of time but accomplish the goal.

Then from somewhere the idea of drawing a bird came to me.  I decided to try to draw an osprey, and drew about 8 that first night, each roughly a quarter of the page I had to work with. Here are 3 from the first night.














Then on the second night I used most of a page and drew this single portrait.  It's got some light and shadow...




Tonight (3/25/2017) I drew another osprey portrait but I didn't like the way it came out.  It was too dark and there some issues with the proportions being a little bit askew.

So I drew a second image and here's what I came up with, it is from an image I took today of an osprey eating a fish.  All these drawings are based on photographs I took at some point.  I put the image up on my iPad and then drew...




Tonight's second drawing (above) is the first that has the tail and the repeating patterns in the feathers, and the first with talons.  I drew it quickly and probably because I had done another image and given up on it, I was fast to call it done.  Looking at it more I could work on the eye more and the left leg might need some adjusting.  But part of this exercise is to go quick and make drawings and learn and move on.

I'm still playing with a few modes of doing the drawings.  2 days ago I started with the eyes and then added around that slowly.  Today I tried starting with the tree branch and then added the eye and then more of an outline of the bird.  In the future I want to try to do more of an outline of the entire bird/subject and then as I go fill in the details.  That should help me get the scale and proportions better.  But I also know from some past drawings that starting with small details and adding slowly to that can have a surprisingly good result because it is details added to details and the scale is considered for each small area vs. trying to get the scale correct all up front...

Hope you like the drawings, I had fun making them and plan to make more.

-Jon Read more On "Going Old School - Osprey Drawings"!
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2017 Osprey




When the osprey leave at the end of the summer I always anticipate their return 6 months later.  Usually that means early March, some osprey are back and I look forward to seeing my first ones of the year.

First osprey (1/2 of pair) of the year, from March 2017:
 Feasting Osprey



Possibly my 2 favorite osprey photos of 2016, from out at St. Michaels on the Maryland Eastern Shore.

Male delivering a fish to a full nest:

July Osprey [1]


I don't previsualize photos very often, but this is one I planned for and hoped to capture.   The only thing I went to shoot on this and one other day were 2 specific osprey nests, which each had 3 chicks.

Female shading her 3 chicks on a near 100 degree day:

Happy New Year

-Jon Read more On "2017 Osprey"!
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tell me about Your struggle



This tiny turtle was as small as a quarter.  I spotted him along the trail at  The Nature Conservancy's Meadows in Cape May NJ.

D4 w/ 24-120mm. 1/1250 f/7.1 ISO 220 (manual exposure w/ auto-ISO)
tell me about Your struggle


Seeing such a small version of a turtle that is hoping to grow so large and has a huge struggle in front of them was something I found interesting and something to reflect on and gain perspective from.

In day to day life we think we may have it hard and things aren't going our way, and it is such a struggle.  But when compared to this little guy we have it easy!  He has it so hard I could have easily not spotted him and stepped on him and that's it.  Some giant shoe ends his entire life.  Over.

And yet we worry and complain and feel like it is so hard our lives. Read more On "Tell me about Your struggle"!
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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Women's March on Washington

The day after the inauguration of Trump, there was a rally in Washington DC - the Women's March on Washington.

Normally I take photos of nature, animals, and occasionally friends and family. But I have lived near Washington DC for almost 20 years, and I have never photographed any significant or historic events in the area.


A photo posted by Jon (@the_real_nikographer) on

Recently I have been open to trying new things, as I did with my trip a couple weeks ago to Jackson Wyoming.  Attending a crowded rally in DC, planning for the logistics of shooting there and the uncontrolled/unknowable aspects of being on foot during such a busy time has in the past made me decide to do other things.  But not this time.

So I got up at around 5am, and made to a parking area off Ohio drive behind the Jefferson Memorial around 6:15am and then waited.  I was unsure what to expect even with this small aspect of the day, where and when to park.  But when I got there the lot was nearly empty, heck it was an hour before sunrise - nothing new with regards to planning and traveling for wildlife and sunrise - but the lot could have been closed, the road access could have been closed or diverted, a ton of things could have made this first step a problem  But luckily it worked out.

A photo posted by Jon (@the_real_nikographer) on



I got to the lot and then rested a bit, and was reassured by this first step working out.  Then I walked to the Jefferson, and was the only one there - an odd and eerie thing.  The capital would be over run with people in the hours to come but this was the calm before the so called storm.  I tried to use the facilities there but they were accessible but closed for repairs.

As dawn approached I walked over towards the Washington Monument, it was foggy and damp out.  And there were a few others also getting a jump on the long day ahead (not pictured in this shot).

A photo posted by Jon (@the_real_nikographer) on


On Friday I called the park service to see about the march, routes, access and restrictions.  What I learned was that there would be restrictions and security for those inside the protected area (whatever that actually meant).  But that throughout the rest of Washington D.C. it would be just like any other day and there would not be blockades, or checkpoints, or heightened security.  So I took a backpack that was too large for the restricted areas never intending to go inside a restricted area.

As I got closer and the morning progressed, I realized that there would people everywhere and I would be able to see "the event" from all over the place.  I walked down the Mall and then south on 4th street (I think).

During the entire day I took about 2,700 photos, and walked 10 miles.

A photo posted by Jon (@the_real_nikographer) on


For the most part I managed to remain on the edges of the crowds and assembling marchers.  However a few times I had to "retreat" to get to less crowded areas.  One time a couple of guys took the baracades along 7th street and made an opening so that the people in the street could easily move to the sidewalks and grassy areas.  Most people continued to move towards the Rally area, but within a short time the area was nearly packed with those that didn't want to move closer and wanted a spot to rest.

Another time at roughly 7th and Independence I stopped to shoot the crowd from in front of a jumbo-tron type display.  There was space in front of the display because the angle from right in front of it was too oblique to be able to see the screen.  However even that spot filled in as more people moved in to the area and gathered.  I managed to shoot a handful of images facing the crowd from this spot and it worked well.  I also got up a couple feet by standing on something to get a better angle on the crowd - though it was an awkward spot and eventually after I had move off a person asked those nearby not to stand there (on it) anymore.

And later when the intersection of Independence and 15th street was in the preparing stages of the actual march proper, I managed to I guess look like a press photographer and stayed IN the intersection along with organizers, police and actual press photographers.  I took the time to shoot photos and talked to everyone there. It felt like one of those act like you belong moments and it worked out.  Everyone was friendly and I even chatted it up a bit with a particular press photographer from New York city.  He seemed like a seasoned veteran of the trade and was nice and had some interesting quips about the day that I appreciated - such as some background on the "American flag hijab" thing, which he said started in NYC.

A photo posted by Jon (@the_real_nikographer) on


This type of photography is new to me, and I have been trying to find a way to show meaningful moments from the day.  I realize that I could post photos from throughout the day and that various messages marchers had would be seen via their signs and actions, and the images would invoke various responses.  I don't usually try to express my own political leanings through my photography, and I am mindful of which images I choose to share.

With that, here are a couple of images that are a start to my selecting and sharing meaningful images:

Granda
Grandma @ Women's March in Washington DC.

Hijab
WMW 2017

-
With that, I will add images to this post as I process and share more images.

update 1 - 2 new images

I took a lot of portraits of those at the rally, there were some really interesting looking people.  I used to setups while at the rally, D500 w/ 70-200mm f/2.8 and D810 w/ 17-35mm f/2.8 (I swapped lenses between those 2 bodies a couple times).

Faces in the Crowd @ Women's March on Washington

Portrait @ Women's March on Washington

update 2 - A couple more photos...

@Women's March on Washington

Women's March on Washington


Update 3
Two more images from the march, there was a genuine positive attitude at the march.  People were excited to express themselves and to get their message out there.  Everyone wanted to be seen and to have their voices heard.

HOPE

ERA YES


-Jon









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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Even from a Stone - Something can Grow


I went to Shenandoah National Park 3 times in 2016, and was struck by this wall and the things growing in it.

Today I was reminded of this image. 

Even from a Stone 

There is hope and determination in these plants. 

What is now almost a couple weeks ago, I had an experience that has stuck with me, and has had a strong impact on the way I see things, and the way I reflect on the choices I have made.

Life is not a sure thing.  Tomorrow is not a given.  But we live like both are guarenteed to happen every morning when we wake up.

I got a glimpse in to something truer, briefly.  Part of me is afraid that this new insight will fade away, and I will go blissfully on expecting to get a chance to do more, to live another day, when really today is the day to live in.

What do you think?  Do you take tomorrow for granted?

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Black Skimmers in NY and NJ - 2016

Black Skimmers in NY and NJ 2016.


I enjoy watching and shooting the Black Skimmers.  They are usually a mix of adults and immature birds - when I see them both in New York and New Jersey.

They will let me get pretty close, but often will also seemingly fly off for no reason.  But usually it is a jogger, a person with a dog, or a predator flying by (like a peregrine, which I have seen buzz them at Cape May).

Some times when they take off they will fly around and fly off and land a half mile or more down the beach.  Other times they will land right near where they took off from.  For this reason I usually give it a few minutes and stay where I was shooting from without moving or getting up.  This has occasionally worked, and they have landed right back in front of me.

I find that cool.  And even cooler is when the birds approach me.  Sometimes this has been due to other people approaching them from another side/area, and it has also been when they have the water/surf on one side of them and me on the other.  When they run away from the surf and towards me, to a safer location, I find that to be a sign that I am there and not bothering them and they are comfortable with me shooting them.

It is also interesting to see them as they move this way and that way, and how often there will be an immature bird that must be tired and it is either sleeping and not moving or it is just slower to respond and follow the movements of the flock.

The really do behave like one bird, all in sync, when it comes to responding to perceived danger.  If they think there's something bad about to happen they will all fly off together in a moment.  Only once or twice have I seen them leave a bird behind, and that bird has always been injured or weak.  To survive they've got to be able to go with the flock when danger approaches...

 D500 w/ 600mm f/11 1/1600th
Nickerson Beach, NY
Black Skimmer on Approach

D810 600mm f/5.6 1/500th
Cape May, NJ
Sunrise Skimmer


 D500 w/ 600mm f/5.6 1/800th
 Cape May, NJ
Juv. Black Skimmer

Happy New Year.

-Jon



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