Getting Lucky in Amsterdam

I kind of like the title of this blog post. However, it has nothing to do with the red light district. It has more to do with my previous blog posts regarding “capturing a moment” and “sometimes you just get lucky”. I found that of the 80 or so shots that I took in the short while that I was out in Amsterdam that I both got lucky and captured a moment in the outskirts of this old European town.

I was on business in Dusseldorf, Germany and had a longish layover in Amsterdam on my way back home. So I decided I’d take my camera in the off chance that I would have time to take some pictures. I did have that time. So I decided to take my chances on the unfamiliar streets of this city.

It was a gloomy late afternoon/early evening when I went for my photo walk. It wasn’t raining but it was misty and on the cold side. I was intrigued by the number of bicycles that were filling the streets. I was also intrigued by the desolate streets there were just begging me to take their picture. So I did. This first one combines one of these streets with a bicycle. My intention was to take a simple picture of the street because it had interesting lighting from the street lamps coupled with the misty air that gave it a hazy look. As I lined up the shot a lone person on a bicycle turned onto the street at the same time and entered my frame. I snapped away. I’m glad that the cyclist was a part of my image because it gives the overall shot a different “feel” than if he wasn’t there. I was lucky he entered into the scene and it captures a lone moment on this misty day in Europe. I cropped the shot a little and gave it a desaturated look with just a hint of purple color in the distance and the red of the bike’s tail lights.

A lone bicyclist turns onto an empty street in Amsterdam.

This next shot is another street in Amsterdam. I just liked the way that the lines converged into the building in the distance and how the triangles of the sky and the street mirror each other. I put a little fish eye effect onto it to give the old traditional European buildings on either side a more looming presence. I also like the dark colorization that gives the added look of old Europe.

Random Ansterdam street with interesting lines and angles.

For me, this picture captures a moment. I like to look at the street in the foreground and follow the wet lines of automobile tires into the distance and wonder about the building that is at that the end. It evokes a sort of inquisitive response on my end. Maybe, for me, it represents a mysterious trail that I ended up not taking in Amsterdam….perhaps a trail that would have led me to that famed red light district.

SV

 

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Photography – Someimes You Just Get Lucky (Shooting Fireworks)

My son Thomas and I look for all kinds of opportunities to shoot pictures together. Over the summer we planned on taking a crack at shooting fireworks for the first time. Neither of us had any idea how to go about doing this so we consulted our photography mentor and friend Rick O. as to what would be the best way to handle this new and difficult photographic situation (see his website link below). He told us the best way was to;

*Shoot at an ISO of 100.

*Close down the aperture to around f10/f11.

*Take long exposures…..~5-6 seconds to get each firework’s entire trail and explosion.

*Manually focus on the first firework’s center when it goes off and leave focus at that setting.

*Obviously use a tripod and a remote shutter release!

*Try both vertical and horizontal compositions and compose the shot/zoom in or out using the first couple of fireworks so that you get a full frame of activity.

*Try to time the shutter release with the launching of the firework.

So, with this game plan in hand, Thomas and I took the Vespa scooter up to the Weston, CT middle school with our camera gear slung around our shoulders in the late afternoon of July 4th, 2012. I wondered briefly at the time if taking the Vespa was a good idea because there was a chance of rain later that night. But at the time the skies looked perfect and taking the Vespa would be fun. We arrived early enough so that we were able to get a prime spot on the middle school field. Typically, the Weston (very small town) fireworks draws such a large number of people that every patch of the field ends up being used. If we didn’t get there at a certain time we would not have had such a good spot to shoot from.  So, we established our shooting location, set up our tripods and waited. I took this shot with my iPhone of our vantage point:

Vantage point for the 2012 July 4th fireworks in Weston, CT

Eventually it started to get dark so Thomas and I started to prepare our cameras. As the nine o’clock hour approached Thomas said to me that he was nervous. I asked him why and he said that since this was a new photographic experience and we were using a combination of camera settings that we hadn’t used before he didn’t know what to expect and hoped that we would get something decent. I sensed that, more than anything, Thomas was excited because Rick O. had shown us some fabulous fireworks he shot with the above settings and with any luck we’d get a few.

As 9:15 approached it stared to get really crowded. I mean REALLY crowded. So crowded that people were setting up their blankets and chairs very close to us. As luck (not the good kind) would have it a family with little kids set up within inches of my tripod legs (UGH!!!). I actually had to ask them to mind the camera and even after that one of the kids kicked the tripod inadvertently a couple of times. I’m happy to say that the mom was in tune to what I was doing and she did her level best to prevent it from happening which was greatly appreciated.

At 9:20 the first firework was launched. Both Thomas and I peered through our viewfinders to set our focus and frame of our shots. For some reason I noticed that the skies which were once beautifully clear started to get cloudy and the wind was picking up a bit. Over the course of the next several fireworks, as I wondered about the weather, we discovered by reviewing on our cameras’ LCD monitors that Rick O. gave us fantastic advice because our shots looked like they had good potential. Here is one of them that I took:

Weston, CT Fireworks – 2012

So for the next 10 or 15  minutes Thomas and I were busy clicking our remote shutter releases over and over again. We’d click, wait the 5-6 seconds, and click again…..each time looking to see what we captured and getting progressively excited and looking to see the other’s shots. You would offhand think that we had the same shots but we didn’t because we weren’t in sync with our shutter release timings. By now not only was the wind picking up some more we also started to hear distant thunder. We could see the skies flash with lightning in the distance beyond the fireworks. It became quickly apparent that a storm was approaching us from that direction and our cameras were pointing directly at it. All I kept saying to myself at that point was “hold off until the fireworks were done”.  Well, it didn’t. Lightning started to strike closer to us but still safely in the distance and it did start to rain a little. The lightning became very exciting because the position that it was striking was behind and just off to the side of where the fireworks were shooting off from. It was apparent that we had the potential of getting some nice lightning shots and, if we were lucky, we’d also get fireworks in the same image. We kept pressing our shutter releases and kept getting disappointed because the timing just wasn’t right….disappointed like a baseball player hitting a home run ball only to have it go foul. Then it happened. We both clicked our shutter releases and during the ensuing 5-6 seconds a firework went off as well as several lightning strikes giving the sky a very cool purplish color. When the shutters closed and our respective images came up on our LCDs we both said “I got it!”. Somehow luck was with us and we captured a dream shot. Here is how mine came out (Thomas’ was composed at a slightly different angle and, as a result, his didn’t capture much of the lightning):

Several lightning strikes as fireworks beautify the night’s sky in Weston, CT 2012.

I absolutely love this image. I love how many bolts of lightning there are and the subtle direction of the wind revealed by the shifting of the fireworks in flight to the right. I will admit that I got lucky. But even so…without having the camera, the desire to try, and the proper camera settings no amount of luck would have gotten this shot. So, I will take a little credit (with much of the credit going out to Rick O.) and leave the rest for being in the right place at the right time and pulling the trigger, so to speak, at just the right moment. I submitted this shot to the local paper and two days later it made the cover in full color. One of Thomas’ other fireworks shot made the publication’s online version of the paper.

Now for the rest of the story. We really didn’t know how good our shots were at the time. You can only get so much information from the little LCD on the camera. Plus, we were frantically busy taking picture after picture while the fireworks continued. Eventually the fireworks finale came……and, at the same time, the skies opened up and started to pour down on us. We snapped away until the fireworks ended and quickly packed up our gear and ran to the Vespa. Ugh! The Vespa!!! I forgot that was our mode of transportation. We hopped on and sped away as people were running to get to their cars and the cars they were in were trying to get out of the parking lot. By the time we got home we were both soaked through our clothes. Thankfully, we only had to ride a half mile away but that’s hard to do at night, in the pouring rain, water soaked goggles, and camera gear (protected with rain shields by the way) around your shoulders. After we made it home and dried off we downloaded all of our images to the computer and were blown away at the number of excellent quality fireworks shots we ended up with aside from the above “money shot”. Check out Thomas’ fireworks gallery on his website listed below (crestedgeckoexposures). I particularly like the one that looks like a green flower with a yellow middle. I would say that in the future Thomas doesn’t have to be nervous about taking photographs of fireworks anymore! He actually ended up with many more great shots than I took. You can see mine by clicking above on Galleries and then choosing the “fireworks” collection.

Sometimes with photography you just get lucky!

SV

www.rickophotography.com

www.crestedgeckoexposures.com

 

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Searching for a Niche

I am very new to photography. I got into it because my 12 year old son became very interested in it and I figured that I would learn with him. As I talk to other photographers, read articles on photography, look at others’ images I am beginning to understand that, generally, photographers develop some kind of niche of their favorite things to shoot. Whether it’s landscapes, city scenes, kids, or whatever they are particularly drawn to that area of interest. I don’t know if I’ve found my niche but I seem to like to shoot live music and often times end up with decent results.

Delta Rae from Durham, NC plays at the Levitt Pavilion in Westport, CT  in the Summer of 2012.

I obtained my camera in April of 2012. Over the next several weeks I learned all kinds of things. I took pictures of everything. When the beginning of the summer rolled around I got a hold of the schedule of performing arts at the Westport (CT) Levitt Pavilion. I figured that me and Thomas can go there from time to time and see if there would be anything to shoot. One of the first concerts that we went to was by a band called Delta Rae from Durham, North Carolina. We were able to get right up in front of the stage to get unobstructed views of the band who, by the way, was very good. I was very happy with dozens of the shots I took of this band that I wanted to take more pictures of live music. You can see more of my Delta Rae shots in the galleries section of this website.

A few weeks later we decided to check out Steve Dagostino and his band. Due to stormy weather the concert was moved from the Levitt to indoors. This posed a challenging environment for me but I feel that my results were pretty good. The band was great and played a ton of old crooner type classics. I came away with a series of decent shots which have their own gallery on this website.

The Steve Dagostino Band

More importantly, however, is that I began to realize that I particularly like taking pictures of music performers. Maybe it’s because I can take pictures and be entertained at the same time. Maybe this was my niche? So, for the next few months (and even now) I tried to go to other concerts. My kids are active in the School of Rock. Each “semester” of the School of Rock ends with a concert. Perfect! I can take pictures there too. And there, too, I ended up with some “keepers”. I posted many of them on the School of Rock Facebook page and ended up getting a ton of compliments. Also, I seem to like the black and white imagery of live music. The monochrome feel of it all gives a certain mood to the shot.

The Fairfield (CT) School of Rock performs their Nothing but the Blues show.

Laughing Pizza performs in Greenwich, CT.

I also like how rich color shots can be. I guess it all depends on the mood of the venue and the style of music. Laughing Pizza is a family oriented band that is all about fun and being in a happy mood.

I don’t know if I found my nich or not. But one thing is for sure….I really like to take pictures of live music performers. There is lots of emotion and superb moments. Check my website for future shots like those I posted above.

SV

www.goDOGphotography.com

www.deltarae.com

www.stevedagostino.com

http://fairfield.schoolofrock.com/

www.laughingpizza.com

 

 

 

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