Indian Woman

There was more to see at the balloon festival than the eponymous flying machines. With thousands of people wandering around the airfield, there were many chances to catch some great shots of folks as they socialized or took pictures of their own.

I’ve always wanted to travel to India. I have several friends who come from that country, and I admire the beauty of their language and many of their customs. So I was pleased to find a woman in traditional dress at the festival. It was a bit cold that day, and I imagined she might have been shivering a bit, wrapped up though she was.

As with other shots taken at the festival, this one required a versatile lens: in this case a 18-270mm zoom. In street photography, conditions can change in a heartbeat. Moments can be found and lost with equal speed, so it’s often a good idea to wait for the action to come to you. A good zoom will allow you to be more unobtrusive in the midst of all the activity. Instead of constantly moving back and forth to get just the right distance to your subject, just adjust your lens.

Exposure Data: ISO 4000, f/6.3, 1/200

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Balloon Interior

There was a lot to see at the recent balloon festival in Queensbury, NY. Thousands of people criss-crossed the airfield while large speakers blared an eclectic mix of music from popular songs to movie soundtracks. Meanwhile dozens of lighter-than-air behemoths with fire in their bellies struggled to rise from their grassy beds.

Each balloon’s crew carefully kept both their machine and onlookers safe as photographers like me struBalloon Fireggled for a spot to get a good shot in wherever we could. Added to everything was the challenging light: the sun struggled to shine through overcast skies and made each press of the shutter button an exercise in artistic risk because of the inevitable sensor noise.

Fortunately modern DSLRs tend to take great shots even at extreme ISOs. A denoise filter, in this case Topaz’ De-Noise, helped to eliminate most of the grain.

In an environment where conditions constantly change, such as weddings or busy events, having a zoom lens with a wide range of focal lengths helps to eliminate potential fumbling with many different lenses and subsequent loss of the moment. At this festival I used an 18-270 mm zoom, my “swiss army knife” of choice.

Exposure Data: ISO 6400, f/4.5, 1/60

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Chained Angel

 

I suppose you might call this shot a bit of photographic therapy. I’d had a hard and hectic day and I decided to take some photographs for the sheer joy of it. After driving around, I once again gravitated to the local cemetery. Even though the place was right up against a busy street, somehow it still  seemed peaceful. And while most of the stones and monuments seemed rather uninspiring, a tiny stone angel with a broken wing lay on the ground. Since it was magic hour, I had a feeling the shot would prove to be an interesting one.

But I didn’t actually notice all the shadow’s effects until after I brought it up for post-processing. Imagine my curiosity when I saw a the shadow of a chain cast on the little cherub’s neck! There was a small family plot sectioned off with chains nearby and it was no doubt one of those series of links that the sun was catching. But the irony was amazingly high. Biblical imagery to be sure.

Whenever possible, I like to compose my shots so they need a minimum of cropping. This mostly involves placing the subject at the right off-center spot in the viewfinder (rule of thirds and all that). Cropping is fine in many cases, but it can often be problematic and prone to removing previously desired elements. In the case of this shot, I was able to eliminate distracting elements both through composition and a little artificial vignetting.

Topaz Adjust was used to add some extra-special effects toward the end.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/8, 1/80

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Old Guide

 

Towards the end of the afternoon, we were walking along the street in the historic town of Fort Edward, where Jane McCrea met her tragic end during the American Revolution. As the sun began to sink behind the centuries-old buildings, an elderly man met us on the road with a smile and a wave.

He pointed at many of the buildings and byways we’d been admiring, and he told us the stories of how the Tories once held power, how musket balls could still be dug up in places, and how McCrea’s death stirred up such a furor. In the end, he took his leave and told us that he hoped to see us again in his hometown. My 7D was in hand and as he pointed toward the heart of the village, in the middle of a story, I froze his face in time.

Later on, Topaz B&W Effects and a few tweaks to the contrast in Photoshop brought some extra power to the impromptu portrait.

Often street photography is all about spontaneity. The photographer should be ready to bring up her camera at a moment’s notice and compose quickly. It’s a good idea to have the camera’s settings all ready to go so that the moment isn’t lost in a flurry of technical preparation. Also, consider apertures and shutter speeds that tend to shift the histogram further to the right, i.e. a bit brighter than normal. This allows for a more contrasty effect in post-processing.

Exposure Data: ISO 160, f/2.8, 1/80

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At the Wall

Most street photographers, at least the ones that have been at it for a while, will tell you that their chosen form of photography is often spontaneous: much of it is done just because someone or something caught their eye.

I found this building facade down the street from a local civic center. Some false doors had been nailed to the exterior wall, and in the middle of one of these an artist had placed a small hand drawn picture. Clearly this was meant to be viewed. So from a photographic standpoint it seemed incomplete without a viewer.

My assistant-now-fiancé graciously agreed to be that viewer. I was able to combine the love of my life with my love of the photographic arts. A win-win scenario in my book. :)

The Canon 7D was used here along with a 50mm prime lens. An interesting side note is that though the subject was in shade, I was forced to stand in the harsh sun to take the shot. So I’m glad I thought to bring along a lens hood as well. A lens hood is a nice low-cost way to block out that unnecessary extra light. If the sun is actually in your shot, a hood is superfluous. But in a case like this, where the sun is off-camera, a hood can give that extra bit of control.

Exposure Data: ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/60

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History of Man

Once again the street surprises me! All I had was a little point and shoot, but fortunately this subject didn’t need to be told to hold still. On the side of a small independent restaurant, an enterprising street artist had decided to make a statement.

In the Biblical account, mankind fell when a “forbidden fruit” was sampled because man decided he wanted his own way. Now, in juxtaposition with this classic story, we find modern man perhaps tasting another forbidden fruit?

I leave the reader to interpret the message the artist struggled to depict in a cramped space. For me, I was just so awed that a work like this was to be found outside of an art gallery!

The lighting for this shot was fortunately quite soft as the nearby building provided shade. When outdoor lighting is hard and harsh, often the best way to defeat the overly distinct shadows caused by these conditions is to make use of shade. The reflected light coming from larger perceived light sources such as the pavement or other buildings automatically diffuses the light source. This is especially true of portraits where the sunlight can cause unflattering shadows particularly at mid-day. But find the shelter of a tree or building and things become both easier and much more flattering.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/320

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Snake Show

Life with no script, no agenda. That’s candid. And it’s at the heart of much of street photography.

Street wandering sometimes brings you into contact with the most interesting people. This young man was waiting to cross the intersection while taking his snake out for a walk, and passersby couldn’t resist asking him if they could pet it. He was apparently a good-natured sort, not minding the impromptu zoo experience life handed him.

What really struck me as touching in this scene was the mutual friendliness of everyone. In the midst of a world that often seems deranged, this was a moment of sanity and connection.

Canon Powershot SX160IS was used to capture this. Topaz Adjust was used to create the simplified style, and Photoshop added the b&w layer and a little dodging and burning to increase the contrast in selected areas.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/5, 1/320

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