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Quick as a Wink ;-)

To keep it simple the trick is to keep a long exposure. But that would work in low-light conditions so adjust the shutter accordingly. You cannot predict when the next lightning will strike and its so quick that you can’t keep your hand on the shutter and coincide your click with it. But what happens with the long exposure (10-30 sec or even in bulb mode) is that the shutter is open long enough to catch one if it strikes again in that 20-30 seconds. If you are lucky you can get multiple lightning strikes in that 1 exposure.

Lightening, NJ

Lightening, NJ

Lightening, NJ

So go out, take some shots BUT REMEMBER to keep yourself safe, needless to say thunder storms and lightning can be very dangerous. As you can see I kept myself safe by not staying out for too long.. hence not too many of them.

Telephoto Landscapes

My Ideal choice for  landscape photograph is a wide angle lens like a Sigma 10-20mm or may be even a Nikor 18-50mm. However there is no hard and fast rule that you need to use such lenses all the time for the landscape shots. Sometimes you need to look further, probably because the colors in the sky are changing fast and you can’t run to a good spot fast enough. May be sometimes you want to close in to a composition which would make more sense in a tight crop. Depending on whatever your reasons are don’t be afraid to use a telephoto lens.

Example:-

BadExample

In the Image above you can see I don’t have a great composition. So I decided to switch the lens to a Nikor 70-300mm and composed the shot below taking in to consideration now the curve you see in the center and the tree at the end of the curve line. (marked by a red arrow.)

Sandy Hook Beach, NJ

 

And then I walked up to the spot on the right to get another perspective and got the shot below.

Sandy Hook Beach, NJ

 

Give it a try.. and let me know how it went ..🙂

Seeing Things ..

No! not like “Seeing Things” which don’t exist, but to see things that do exist… differently. Lets see if I can explain this clearly. When you are shooting landscape and nature and the light is beautiful you tend to miss out on finer aspects while creating the image. I usually, like most photographers do some scouting before the magic hour to find a nice spot and set up my gear and wait for the right light. But sitting around doing nothing would waste a lot of time. I use that time to observe things around me, sometimes you can get a good abstract out of finer details.

Sands of Time..

The shot above I created while waiting at Island beach SP. I liked the pattern on the sand. I put a ND filter on the lens and with a simple lens zoom trick I created the shot. Its simple and good use of time and works as an abstract.

Abstract
Abstract

The above two shots of the frozen surface of the lake created in Harriman SP in NY. I was driving up to Bear mountain and on the way I stopped on a few spots and noticed these.. thought would make a nice abstract.

Untitled

This one was at Sandy Hook Beach, yet again waiting for the sunset. The tide was coming in and these small rocks were interrupting the smooth flow of the waves.

Untitled

This shot I created in Ocean Grove. The low tide was creating these interesting lines moving back and forth. Probably had something to do with the texture of the beach sand. I also used these patters as leading lines in one of the Pier shot.

Jersey Shores

The New Jersey Shore line is a little over 200 miles of coastline spanning from Sandy Hook all the way to Cape May in the south. I have visited and photographed most part of the shoreline. My favorite being the Sandy Hook and Cape May point. Its a popular vacation destination on the East Coast. Unfortunately we were hit by a devastating Hurricane Sandy in Oct’12 and that has pretty much ruined most of the coastal communities and state parks.

Its been over two months now since Sandy, but most part of the coastline is still closed for visitors. Last week I drove down to Island Beach SP and just a few miles before the entrance, there was a barricade beyond which no one is allowed. Today I checked for Sandy-Hook and that’s shut down too. It sucks not to be able to go back there now. I hope they open it by Summer time, else the tourism industry would take a huge financial hit. I was quite bummed about it, was going through some pics I had made in the last two years and thought will share with you all. Hope you enjoy them:

Lawrence Harbour,NJ

Lawrence Harbor

AshburyPark-0170

Asbury Park

Barnegat Lighthouse

Barnegat Lighthouse

Island Beach SP, NJ

Island Beach SP

Cape May, NJ

Sunset Beach, Cape May

Ocean Grove Pier

Ocean Grove

Broken Pier at Ocean City

Broken Pier at Ocean City

SandyHook Beach, NJSandy Hook

Let there be NATURAL LIGHT !

One of the most important rule I have learnt about landscape photography is to capture the right kind of light. Just like any other rookie, initially I scouted for locations and created images. Not that it is wrong to do that, a great location makes a huge difference. The problem comes when you travel to a great location and shoot average images which anyone could shoot. Although I always knew at the back of mind that I need to shoot at “Golden Hours” because that’s when the light is right. But I never knew its importance until I compared my shots with the top landscape photographers in the US. The main difference apart from many other differences, I realized the natural light they captured along with the great location made the image incredibly awesome. Needless to say, in order to improve my images I started shooting during the Golden Hours as well and started getting great results.

However, that was not good enough for me. Every good landscape photographer I spoke to mentioned “Light” as their first rule along with location and other things. So, I thought to myself, if Light is such an important part of an image then the “Right” kind of Light should make an ordinary location look awesome too. The image below is an example of such. This is a spot in Sandy Hook Beach in new Jersey. I have made “believe it or not” more than 20 unique photographs in the same location. And I don’t mean a 1 mile radius, I mean 50 steps radius at the most. What makes every image unique? It’s the “LIGHT” along with other composition techniques. Its a very simple shot, with soft light at sunset falling on the dramatic clouds with a slight long exposure to capture the motion of the waves.

SandyHook Beach, NJThis image landed up as SIGMA Corp’s Fan Photo of the Week. The image below is of the exact same spot, except that I am looking North instead of east. The clouds are not so dramatic, however the afterglow after the sunset is crazy here, and makes the image so much more interesting.

Jersey Shores..So, my theory was proven correct. And this was important because it helped my improve the quality of my images a lot. All Pro Photogs know and understand this, and that’s why they make quality images. I thought of putting this blog for the rookies who might underestimate the power of Right Light in Landscape Photography.

Skyline NY

A week before I screwed up my right foot, I took my Mom and Grandmom for an outing to Liberty SP, in Jersey. Funny thing is that I have lived here for over 2 years, and have never made a trip there. To my surprise there was a fantastic paved cycle route there. The state park is quite peaceful and beautiful, and I look for such places to go on Sundays for bike rides. For me that was not the ‘only’ best part. From there you get to see a beautiful view of the Brooklyn Skyline, and Manhattan skyline from a slight more distance. I used to generally drive to Hoboken to get the view. Overall quite enjoyed the place. There is a Ferry ride from there to Ellis Island and Statute of Liberty Island.

Anyways, so I was carrying my Camera bag and tripod. I was hoping to catch the sunset there. I thought it would be dramatic, because there were a lot of clouds that evening and a storm was brewing. I did not get much sun light though, so I waited a while for more clouds to come. The resulting are the images below:

Manhattan Skyline as seen from Liberty SP
Manhattan Skyline as seen from Liberty SPI always feel that NYC is best seen in B&W, so I could not resist making two versions of the same image.

Brooklyn Skyline as seen from Liberty SP
Brooklyn and Manhattan Skyline as seen from Liberty SPI tried to capture both the skylines in one shot, but unfortunately the Manhattan Skyline was a bit to far for a wide angle lens.

9/11 MemorialAnd this is the 9/11 memorial created on the Jersey side. We wen there just 2 days before the anniversary, else would have captured the Twin Lights as well. Also don’t forget to check out the ‘Goodies’ page for free Facebook Cover and Desktop Wallpaper of these images.

Broken Pier

I have been looking for this spot for quite some time now. I saw couple of shots of this pier on 500px and Flickr, but for some reason nobody had put the location to this place. So, a few weeks back I stared searching the Jersey coastline on GoogleMaps, beach by beach to check where exactly it is. Finally found it on 59th Street in Ocean City about 2 hours drive from where I live. That evening I decided to drive down there. It was quite a long drive to take just one or two shots..

Broken Pier at Ocean City
Broken Pier at Ocean City
Broken Pier at Ocean City
Broken Pier at Ocean City
Broken Pier at Ocean City
Broken Pier at Ocean City
Broken Pier at Ocean City

As it turns out I didn’t take 2 but 7 unique shots🙂 . And I like all of them. Also do checkout the Free Desktop I have made from one of these shots.

I reached this spot at around 7 pm. The sunset time was 8:27, so I had a lot of time to kill. Unfortunately the natural light was not so soft at 7 pm, and I wasn’t planning to stay the night there, and it was a long drive back. So In order to make these long exposure shots I stacked two .6ND filters on my Sigma 10-20 and one .6ND Grad filter to make sure Sky doesn’t get washed out. That allowed my to keep longer exposure, more saturation in the colors and good texture on the water surface.

Back to Sandy Hook ..

In my last post I said that I am kinda bored of going back to Sandy Hook beaches again and again. It still holds true but I did make a recent visit again. The problem of going to the same spot again and again is that you eventually run out of compositions. All you can hope after that is you get a different dramatic natural light, which might make the image unique. One of the reasons I keep going back is the distance. Its about 45 min drive from where I live, so its easily accessible.

So, now the problem I face is how to get creative every time I go there. And I take it as a challenge. Now, importantly I look for dramatic clouds, and high tides and prefer to go during coastal flooding, which may sound dangerous but its not. Essentially, what happens is that the water comes into the beach bit more than usual. Also, another thing I have started doing is using props. There is a lot of drift wood on the beach, so once in a while I pick one up and put it in my frame as a foreground interest.

The shot below is an example of such:

Serene

And this shot below shows the movement of the waves. The idea was to keep the exposure long enough to capture the movement but short enough to capture just a short burst. Because of that I was able to capture the right mood of the waves at that time, and adds a lot of texture.

I also used the rocks from the jetty as a foreground interest:

Sandy Hook

Ocean Grove, NJ

I hate to say it but I’m kinda bored of Sandy Hook beaches now. I have over 10 unique images from there and wanted a change. So, I logged on to Google Maps and started some prelim scouting of the Jersey beaches. The closest one which I have not seen was Ocean Grove. I noticed a fishing pier there and decided that’s what I am going to shoot. I check the weather app on my Android, and it seemed like its going to rain heavy that day. There was a heavy overcast. That kind of turned me off because with the over cast there won’t be any sunset. After pondering over that thought I decided to go anyways. I was hoping that may be last min the clouds might break open and i’ll get a dramatic sky, and if nothing else I can try some B&W shots.

 

Ocean Grove Pier

 

Fishing Pier

I loved the above composition. I noticed those small curvy lines on the beach sand because of the low tide moving in towards the pier. I decided to use them in the composition as leading lines. As you can see it gives a nice depth to the image. With just a little contrast in LR I was able to put this together. Since it was a long exposure shot, I got some nice highlights, so decided to try out a B&W version of the same image.


I found these line patterns quite interesting so decided to take a shot from up, perpendicular, thought it probably will make a nice abstract. Can probably try to make it a triptych.

Ocean Grove Pier
Ocean Grove Pier
Here are two more shots of the Pier. In the first one I stacked two images, one for high tones and one for shadows. I liked the moss on the rock jetty next to the pier and wanted to highlight those. SO I composed the image such that I get the rocks in the foreground of the image. And then the other one just before night. The tides came in so thought will take a long exposure shot here giving that misty feel on the water surface.

 In between the shots I noticed these Gulls. The thing about shooting these Gulls at the beach is that they are so common and there are so many regular shots of these birds. So I sat there and waited for one of them to do something interesting. Luckily for me this one just was about to take off and spread its wings. The funny thing is that it did not take off. For some reason I felt that it was trying to intimidate me because with the wings wide open it kept staring at me. May be she didn’t like what she saw🙂.

My Thoughts on HDR

Some of my images (very few) sometimes get confused for HDR image, in the sense of having a Surreal Effect to them. Here are my thoughts on the technique. Essentially the concept of HDR is to capture more dynamic range of light. The Camera captures 5 to 6 stops less than what a human eye sees, hence, losing out details, specially in the shadow area. So what the HDR technique helps in acheiving is to merge 2 or more images of different exposures to highlight the shadows clearly. This is a very old concept. After taking a shot the photographer would rewind the film roll to the previous frame and take a shot again. In digital photography you can do that with computers.

At Princeton Univ

The Image above has been confused for a HDR. It was shot in Princeton,NJ. The image below was shot in Bear Mt, NY (Appalachian trail). It is an actual HDR. I took two images, the underexposed one was for the shadow and to get that small Sun Burst. The other one was Overexposed for details. It is also an example of how I compensate for not having a good Grad Filter.

Bear Mt., NY

I generally shoot in natural light, and mostly at sunset or sunrise, and I love bad weather because then clouds add a lot of dramatic effect. I don’t have expensive glass filters, thats why sometimes end up using the HDR technique. The more popular form of HDR is what you see with the Surreal effect. it makes the Image extraordinary and poster like.
I don’t use the surreal effect on the outdoor and landscape images I take. However, it works perfect for indoor shots, giving that very awesome look and feel.

HDR

The Image above, shot in Island Beach SP, NJ, is an HDR of two images. The one below is the same image but not an HDR. The one above has that slight surreal effect to it. I personally prefer the non-HDR version.

Island Beach SP, NJ

I use Photomatix to merge my images and then process them in lightroom buy adding contrast, tweak the clarity and sharpness.
it eventually is a personal choice of how you want your art form to look like. If HDR interests you then may I suggest you have a look at the work of Trey Ratcliff. Also Jay Patel has a free tutorial on Manual HDR technique.