Category Archives: Street Photography

HDR Photography Sans Tripod | When It’s Not Practical

When I first started with HDR photography, back in 2007, using a tripod for the required multiple exposures was a must, particularly in the low-light settings that I prefer for the types of subjects that work best for this particular tool. I use two tripods, a Bogen and a Giottos, along with a Kirk BH-1 ball head and L-brackets. A cable release is required as well. Anything to keep hands away from the camera during exposure while providing a stable and secure platform.

But what about those situations and settings when carrying and setting-up a tripod is not practical and/or appropriate while at the same time coming across a subject that is tailored-made for HDR (High Dynamic Range) ? Just yesterday I was touring the streets of Savannah with my daughter Emma, capturing scenes of beautiful southern-style architecture, hidden courtyards and fine details that make this picturesque city a favorite for street photography. Keep in mind that Savannah in mid-July can be like working in a sauna with heat and humidity rolling off the pavement and cobblestones. Just carrying a pro-grade DSLR and a few lenses – which I do using a Lowepro fastback 250 – can be cumbersome enough. Add the bulk and weight of a full-length tripod and ball head and getting around the city while navigating through gaggles of tourists can be a daunting and hot task. But there was so much that caught my eye. I knew to fully capture detail from darkest shadow to brightest highlight I would need to shoot multiple exposures of the same scene for merging and use of tonal adjustments for optimal results in my digital workflow.

Enter the compromise. With the auto bracketing feature of  the Canon 1D Mark III I can usually capture my three exposures needed for most HDR (actually I prefer five to six for interiors) while going “handheld” and still retain sharpness. The key is the burst rate on the 1D Mark III – the fastest available on a DSLR at 10 frames per second. I boost the ISO up to the 1600 mark and sacrifice some sharpness by using a wider aperture (4.0 or 5.6), but the auto bracketing and the high speed drive fire-off the three exposures with ease and without any noticeable shake from the camera being handheld. Granted it’s not the ideal way to capture multiple exposures for HDR work but it works in a pinch. Where this technique is very helpful is when shooting outdoor portraits that have that little bit of something extra in the foreground and background. Another important tip is to always shoot in aperture priority mode and bracket with differing shutter speeds. As soon as the aperture is changed from exposure to exposure the photographer alters the depth of field between shots and that’s not going to match to well when merging the files.

Below is one of the results I obtained after merging three, handheld  exposures using the Canon 1D Mark III and a Canon 17-35mm f2.8 lens. The subject is the interior of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Savannah. Setting-up a tripod in such a location is  . . . well . . . for lack of a better term, “not cool.” Besides my daughter Emma had her hands just holding onto the Canon 1D while I changed lenses. Fumbling with anything more would have been too much, taking away from the ability to move fast and easy and just having fun.

Cathedral Alter by Jim Crotty

Dare to be Different: Photo contest focused on Dayton

Photo contest focused on Dayton.

My advice is to take advantage of the opportunity. There should be clear weather this Friday evening, unlike last year. But when you see a gaggle of photographers setting-up their tripods at the same spot to get the same shot of the skyline reflected in the river, turn and go the other way. The best image will NOT be the one that wins the contest. It will be the photograph that speaks clearly of how YOU see and interpret light and subject.

Look for the unique – the location or viewpoint that all others fail to see or an angle that worked well for you when photographing entirely different subjects. Break away. Dare to be different. Judging in these contests is usually far from being truly objective (especially where local “art experts” are concerned), so even if you don’t enter, hold that image that you feel good about and look for other avenues to gain the exposure (no pun intended) that you deserve.

Most important of all, just have fun. That’s when that “award-winner” will appear through your viewfinder.

Welcoming July and Tips on Fireworks Photography

Welcoming July. The apex of summer and season of several family birthdays, fireworks, lightening bugs and the Thunder Moon.

Lots of opportunities for fireworks photography this coming weekend. Here’s some quick tips:

* A good, sturdy tripod is a must. Fireworks in a night sky can only be effectively captured using long shutter speeds, or time exposures.

* Keep your fingers away from the camera during long exposures by use of a cable release. Another option is to use the shutter release timer on your camera.

* Photographs with just exploding fireworks are fine but try to look for interesting foreground or background elements, such as trees along the bottom portion of the frame, or better yet, a city skyline.

* Use the manual setting on your camera for more creative control of both shutter speed and aperture. Try some test shots before the fireworks begin just to make sure your sky is dark, foreground and background elements are still visible (but not too bright) and you have an aperture setting allowing for enough depth and range of focus area so that the exploding shells and trails of light are not out of focus.

* Watch for distracting elements coming into and through your viewfinder. The most troublesome culprit are power lines. You don’t want anything that will lead the viewer’s eye away from your subject – the fireworks.

Travel Photography in Manhattan

My goal on a recent trip with my daughter to New York was NOT to take one of my DSLR cameras, but at the last minute I threw-in my Canon 5D Mark II and a couple of lenses that are relatively small and low in weight – a Lensbaby and a Canon 50mm f1.8. I couldn’t resist. What can I say ? I’m a photographer. Sometimes it’s a good thing to head-out to an entirely new location with completely different subject matter – as compared to what I usually photograph – and just have fun. Below are some of my favorite images from the trip.

What’s especially nice about the Canon 5D Mark II is the capability to shoot hand-held at very high ISO (film speed = sensitivity of digital sensor) settings. This feature came in handy while inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

What are your travel plans for the summer ? Try going with minimal camera gear and just go with the flow.

January Comes Quiet in Dayton

. . . While at first the only sound heard was the scraping of the snow plow and the occasional passing train outside, the more time I spent with the old instruments, the more I began to see the notes that were once played. As I focused my camera lens upon an interesting array of strings or lines of well-worn organ keys I began to realize that each instrument was at one time the extension of an individual musician, perhaps some accomplished professionals; maybe others just students. Here were the artfully crafted tools used to share a talent and give to others the pure pleasure of simply getting lost in the notes, whether it was with family in a living room, in the church loft above some congregation or in the music room of a grade school.

In many ways being in a room full of such reminders of life moved onward is like the feeling of walking into a child’s room, still adorned with toys and murals from more innocent times, after the child has grown and moved away. I think there’s something in all of us that secretly hopes for a return to those earlier days. Unfortunately the painful yearning of that hope often arrives too late. Yes there’s an element of sadness involved when photographing still life subjects that were once part of someone’s life experience and musical expression. Not surprisingly that’s exactly why such subjects have such a strong appeal to most visual artists. The resulting work is the expression of the heart exposed and is the proof presented of honest intent to just simply share that which is felt within.

Photography and Stock Image Licensing

Previously I was using kind of a “third party administrator” for sales of stock image licensing to most of my images. The monthly fee just simply wasn’t worth it. Hence I’ve returned to directly managing all of my stock image estimates and sales, and like the page on my web site that describes my commercial photography services, I don’t provide a standard rate. That’s too restricting, especially for the photographer. Each project and client situation is unique given the intended usage, distribution, print run, medium, etc., therefor estimates are provided only after I’ve had an opportunity to speak with the potential customer and ask him or her a series of questions.

My new page regarding stock image licensing includes several of what I call ‘stock strips’ – samples grouped according to my most popular stock subjects, including Dayton skyline and cityscapes, wildlife, avian, Ohio landscapes and holiday images. These are also designed to be printed as 4″x8″ direct mail or leave-behind prints.

Also, I’m discovering that more and more publishers and agencies are fishing the waters over on flickr. Nine out 10 times they will contact the photographer of an image they are interested in using without mention of their stock fees or offer of compensation. They simply throw-out the usual “we’ll give you a credit listing” in attempt to take advantage of a photographer’s desire for “the big break.”

I strongly encourage photographer’s everywhere, whether amateur or professional, to stick to their guns when it comes to being paid for usage versus a simple credit listing, or less. Even in the case of most so-called “non-profits.” If the organization has a payroll and they pay for utilities, advertising, etc., then they can – and should – pay for image licensing. A photographer’s time, skill and knowledge go into the crafting of each image.

Stock Photography of Dayton Ohio by Jim Crotty

Avian Stock Photography by Jim Crotty

Flower and Garden Stock Photography by Jim Crotty

Holiday Image Stock Photography by Jim Crotty

Stock Photography of Ohio Landscapes by Jim Crotty

Wildlife Stock Photography by Jim Crotty