Working the Shot
Alright, so this last little section is gonna be looking at a few of my favorite photographs, and talking about kind of how they came to be, and some of the important things in getting the shot. So this first one, we'll just call Intersection, and I was out photographing one morning, playing around with some of my tilt shift lenses, and there's an unusual intersection in Seattle that crosses the main freeway, Interstate 5. And it's a true intersection, so there's a four-way intersection on top of the freeway, and it meets in an X pattern, but you can't see it unless you're up really high. Well at some point during the year, I found out that I had a friend who worked up in the office of this building up there, and I says, "You work where? Oh really? Okay, I got an idea, do you ever stay late at work, like til 5:00 or 5:30 in the winter time? Because I have an idea, and I would love to come by your office and shoot for about an hour." And he says, "Okay, that would be fine." And so we sc...
heduled a time, and so I got to go up to his office, and unfortunately, you're not able to open the windows, and so this is a bit of a challenge. So I brought my microfiber cleaning cloth and cleaned the windows, and I brought up, knowing I was gonna have to shoot through windows, I brought a large black cloth that I taped to the windows above me, and then threw over my camera and me so that I wouldn't see any reflections, 'cause it was a double-paned window. And what I was wanting to shoot was this intersection that I was on in the previous photo. And what I was wanting to shoot was cars going by at night with the street headlamps, and I got there before it got dark, and so I was just setting up, I wasn't intending for this to be a good shot, and it's just not dark enough right now. I did use a long exposure, there's a traffic accident down there on the right side, and the cars are just too much of a ghost here, 'cause there's too much light right now, we need to wait for it to get darker. And this is one of those areas, there was only on point of view. It was this one corner in the office. The camera is one place, there is no other adjustment other than your angle of view and what lens you're using, and so I was playing around with some different lenses, but we can see that main intersection down on the bottom of the frame, and so the main frame that I like was this one, but it was just a matter of playing around with shutter speeds, and getting the right action with the cars at the intersection, and as you can see, here in Seattle we have a lot of heavy traffic, and on the right side, it's kind of stop and go, and so you can kind of half see the cars as well as their lights. And so as I'm playing around here, I'm just going from lens to lens, trying some different options, seeing what else works. I was using my tilt shift lens to do the miniature effect, 'cause it's not very often you get access up into the high buildings, and so I brought my lens just so I could play with that a little bit. And then, wanted to show the entire, you know, the river of lights in that case. And so working around with lots of different shots, not knowing how I might use them in the future. I do wanna come away with a variety. But the main shot that I wanted was this one here, and this was what I was happy with. And I liked it because I got nice good street headlamps on the freeway down below, and I got some kind of fun lights of cars that were mostly there, but a little bit ghosted in some cases and some lights that are coming off of the back end of those cars as well, and so that was my favorite version of that shot, but I didn't have much choice in the point of view, but I was really happy that I could get to that one little place that I could. Another favorite shot comes from the New York Central Library, and as I was going through the library, there was actually a beautiful section to the library, I forget the exact name of it, and I saw some photos of it, and it was just stunning. And then I went in there, and they basically didn't let you take photos in there. And it was just really disappointing, and so I'm like, "Well, I'll look around and see if there's anything else I can find." And I found this stairway which is an unusual stairway. You don't see stairways like this very often. And it actually fit into the frame pretty well here. And so I was really, I spent a lot of time working this angle and trying to fine-tune the camera, 'cause it's kind of a tricky place to get the camera, and then I wanted to get a person in the frame, and really trying to play around with this, and I worked and worked and worked at it, and I never really got something I was totally happy with. And so I probably should have moved around a bit more, the first time, listened to my own advice, but I went over at the halfway point where there's a nice symmetry in the stairs, and I said, "Okay, this is kind of a nice place," and then it's just a matter of waiting for the right person in the right place at the right time, and often in these situations, I have the worst luck. It's either like the worst people ever come through my frame, or the most people ever come through my frame. And I'm just kind of waiting for that one solitary figure, and the one that seemed to work out was this gentleman, and then I took the photo and turned it into black and white, and that was my favorite version of that. And so it took a little bit of working around, a little bit of processing to figure out what I liked, but that's one of my favorites. This isn't what you think it is, okay? In New York there is Brooklyn, one of the neighborhoods in New York, and boroughs, and in there, there is the Dumbo region, which has a great viewpoint of the Manhattan Bridge, and so if you want a good viewpoint of the Manhattan Bridge, there are lots of people who have taken photos there. And so I'm going to a location that I know that has been photographed about a trillion times, and posted on Instagram, okay? And so, I don't know that I'm gonna be able to get anything different, I just wanna get my own shot that I'm happy with. I don't care what anyone else has done. Now this is one of those situations where there's only so many things you can do. It's a relatively narrow street, and the whole idea is to frame up the Empire State Building in the bottom of the Manhattan Bridge, and about the only thing that you can play with is how far back you stand. And so my intention was to get the Empire State Building as large as possible, as the first time I walked away from the scene, this was my favorite shot where I got the Empire State Building as large as possible. For some reason, I completely did not see the tree on the left side of the frame, and I came back, and I'm like, "Wow, I didn't realize that the tree took up that much of the frame." I was concentrating so much with my 2,500 millimeter pinpoint vision on what I wanted to, and so I had to go back and try it again. But it was a good thing that I went back. I went back in the morning, and it's very close to where this famous view is of the city, and so I went and photographed the city for a while, 'cause I knew the bridge shot would not come out as well at nighttime, it was more of a daytime shot. And so, getting myself into a better position here, I had some nice morning light, and it's a little different in the morning and in the evening light, and you can see how much that tree gets in the way if you stand back too far, and so it kind of forces you to be one place or the other. And I'm always trying for a different shot as well, and so this is an even tighter shot, which is not bad. And so I ended up shooting the top of the bridge and the bottom of the bridge with a tilt shift lens, and what was amazing is that the shot really wasn't that good until I added a polarizer to it, which really helped bring it out. Now I did have to raise the shadow areas so that you can see the buildings in there, but I love this, and I wanna put this in the frame section, framing your subjects 'cause it's a frame within a frame. And so I don't know that it's that much different than anyone else's shot, but it's a shot that I enjoyed the process of getting, and that's part of what I've been kind of preaching about lightly throughout this whole process is that photography is a fun experience. It's fun leading the lifestyle of a photographer. Working the problem in one way or another. One thing I did have to do down here, is I did have to crop out all the Instagrammers on the bottom of the street here, 'cause it's just, you go there in the evening about five o'clock, and it is just filled with people out there taking their selfie shots in front of this, 'cause it's just a great spot to be, and if you want a new and original and completely different version of it, it kind of doesn't exist in most ways, because you're so limited in where you get the shot. We're gonna go to Cuba for the next one, and we were doing our Cuba tour and walking down the streets, looking at different things, and so, on a previous trip we had talked about using reflections, and looking at reflections, and so I kinda had that in the back of my mind, 'cause there's a lot of windows and things that you can use for reflections, and so, using the window of an old car is a frame, right there, that's a good frame for your subject. And we had somebody who was sitting around us that was looking kind of interested, and okay, I might have gotten myself in the photo a little bit on this one here, so you gotta play with the angles a little bit. And so I was just kind of working around with the angles to get myself out of the frame, and working on my subject, but it was nice having more of the frame in the shot, and one of my favorite shots is this one here, and I think it's a pretty good shot on its own, but one of the things that good photographers do is they don't stop, they keep trying, they keep trying new things, and so I says, "Okay, got the shot, this one doesn't get much better for me right now, let's try something completely different." And I only had a couple of seconds for it, but I went around to the backside of the car and shot through the car to get this one, which ended up being my favorite shot of the bunch. And so, yeah, he's not looking into the frame, but sometimes we break those direction rules that we talked about before. I think you've seen this shot before, but at the dance school, we've taken people in Cuba to this dance academy, and they're practicing, they put on a little recital for us, and it's amazing what these young athletes do. Especially with the extreme low budget that they have at this school, they're using worn out equipment, and I don't know how long it's been since this floor has been repaired, and the shoes that they're wearing, but their heart and soul goes into their dancing. And so there's groups of dancers, there's individual dancers, there's a lot of things to photograph, it gets a little cluttered, 'cause it's not a really refined, finished performance hall, it's just a rough school where they get their training done. And so you can get some nice moments in there, and I've shown you a number of these tight, tight moments, and so if you are trying to get clean shots, sometimes you gotta go in really tight, not show the whole thing, and get in there. And it's fun to show the people and what they do, and what's going on in and around the scenes, and sometimes you gotta go away from the scene. There's where the main action is, and there's often things off in the other direction, and so while everybody else is off shooting the dancers, I was going over to this stairway that I have shown you before that I really liked. Now my first photos were a little over-exposed, because this is a tricky lighting situation. It's one of those places that requires a little bit of practice, getting in and shooting a couple of test shots to make sure it's what you want in there. And so my favorite shot of them coming down the stairs is right here. Another favorite shot is during a fall tour that I had led there, and it was a very good timing situation, shall we say. Fidel Castro had just died. We just happened to be there when they were having a memorial service for Fidel, and this is a great time where you're gonna see a lot of emotions, and people out on the street, and they were waiting to pay homage. And you might notice somebody in this photograph here who was going in to see what was going on with this memorial for Fidel. And this was taking place at night, and it was in their large gathering area, and there was thousands and thousands of people all over, and the problem is, is that there's just too much going on. Every place you point your camera, there's something going on, but is there a clear subject? What sort of story are you telling in this mode? And so you're trying to kind of kick into the photojournalism mode, and some people are open and receptive to having their photograph taken, and other people don't want their photograph taken. And so you kind of have to, you're playing it kind of cool, 'cause you're in a foreign country, and so people holding flags, people holdings signs. Those are often good elements to have because they're nice big visuals that will showcase some emotion, you might say. And so I was working behind these people who were waving the flags, 'cause those are nice colorful visual elements to add to everything else. And we had no access of any special. We were just where everybody else was, and you can kind of see there's a bunch of dignitaries way up there, and, certain there was a number of credentialed press photographers way up there, but we're just around in the masses, and so just looking for individuals who are holding up signs, or very visual, we had people who were writing things on their forehead, and two people that were really standing out to me we these two gentlemen here. Now granted, this is an out of focus picture, but this is what happens when you're in a crowd and you're rushing your first shot, and so this isn't quite the final shot here, but two very different looking gentlemen. Now the poster in the background is having a whole lot of glare on it right there, and so it's not quite the right moment, but when they move it just a little bit, there's one nice moment that we get to see faces really clearly, we get to see a pattern of faces in here. And so I think this works on a number of different areas. You get to see the emotions in a couple of different ways, and it's a glimpse into what that event was like that evening. Alright, my final little shot to share with you is the solar eclipse, and this story goes back a few years. Maybe a few decades. (audience laughing) September sixth, 1979 is when there was a solar eclipse here in Seattle, and I was in grade school, I forget exactly, I might have been sixth grade, or something like that, and we had an eclipse and it was all very exciting, except that it was Seattle and it was cloudy out, and we couldn't see the eclipse at all, and I remember visibly at the time them saying, "We're not gonna have another one in this region of the world until the year 2017." And it's just like, "Oh my gosh, I'm gonna be an old man." And I was right, and just in case you wonder what I look like in 1979, here I am proudly playing my foosball table. My Lenny Wilkens basketball camp shirt. Alright, so the eclipse happened on October 21st, 2017, and anyone who has been in a coma for the last year might not know that there was this great American eclipse that came across the United States, and I live in Seattle, and I have friends in Portland, and I have friends in central Oregon, so logistics-wise, this was a good little road trip for me to be taking, and so what I decided to do was talk my friend in Portland into doing a little adventure, so we went down to Portland, and then we drove out into central Oregon, and the plan was to go down and visit my friend who lives in Sisters, 'cause he has a home, he says, "I'll let you stay at my place for free, but I'm renting out the driveway for $350, 'cause this is what wa happening in central Oregon is that all the campsites were filled up 12 months ahead of time, or however long it could be, and people were renting out their driveways and their front yards to campers and motor homes, but I had friends in the right places, shall we say. Well I never made it down to Sisters because my friend and I in Portland decided to do some searching on Google Maps, can we find some mountain roads, and some lakes, or some place up in the hills to get to, 'cause we heard these horror stories of what was gonna happen, because everybody from California to Washington was gonna be flocking into Oregon for this, and the roads there are just two lane small country roads, and hundreds of thousands of people are gonna clog them up, and emergency vehicles are gonna have problems, and it was just gonna be, basically the armageddon in central Oregon, and so we packed up the vehicle. We had, we brought five gallons of, seven gallons of water. We had another five gallons of fuel on top of a full tank. We had food for a week-and-a-half. We were survivalists out there at this point. We were ready for anything. And so, and driving in, I don't mind giving you all the secrets, 'cause it's never gonna be the same again, alright. And so we were driving in around Detroit Lake, and we decided to go up into the hills, and we were looking at this one lake to go to, and as we got to the lake, there was all these people parking their cars and hiking into the lake. You just see all these people going, and we're like, "We're not even gonna go, we're not gonna touch that. That doesn't even look good at all." And so we continued driving down the road, and we kept driving and driving and driving, and we were seeing fewer and fewer cars, and we ended up at this little fire road that you can see ending on the map there, and we didn't really see anything, we didn't know where we were, we got out of the car. There was a couple of ranger cars there, and there was some really young rangers there, and they were sitting in lawn chairs, and, "Hey, how you doing?" And, "What's going on here?" And, well, they were watching the fires. At the time, in the summertime of Oregon, there's a lot of fires, and they were just kids and they were just like, "Yeah, we'll tell them where there's fires and we'll see where the smoke is and we call it in." And they happened to have a good viewpoint, and they had this nice little viewpoint here where they could see out to the East pretty clearly. And I go, "This looks like kind of a nice spot." And they go, "Oh yeah, clears up a little bit around the edge over there." I go, "Oh really?" And so I walked around over the edge over there, and holy smokes, we had 180 degree view looking due East to Mount Jefferson, everything you would wanna see. Perfect viewpoint, and we looked around and was like, "Where is everybody? Don't they know about this spot?" 'Cause I would assume people in the area know about that spot, and so we set up a tent, this was on, let's see, that was on Saturday morning we found the spot, and it wasn't 'til Monday, so we spent pretty much all day Saturday there, and then all day Sunday there, and then we got up Monday, and the eclipse was around 11, 11 o'clock or so in the morning or so, and so for the actual eclipse, I decided to, well the advice that I heard, 'cause I had not shot a solar eclipse before, was just try to do one thing right, and just take a camera out there, and it's gonna happen really quick, just try to do your one thing right as best you can. So I decided, okay, let's set up three cameras. And I spent some time figuring out, and I had a whole table figured out on a notebook. Okay, sun, or the eclipse happens at this time, and I had three different things that I wanted to do with three different cameras that were completely different shots, and I scheduled everything out, so I had about 30 seconds to shoot with one camera, and then get to the next camera and get that shot, and then go to the next camera, and then I would wait for another two minutes, and then i would start a different sequence, and everything was alternating, 'cause every camera was doing something different. The camera on my right was with my longest telephoto lens, and I was gonna get a single shot of the eclipse, and that's kinda your standard shot that everyone saw at the eclipse, and I wanted to try to get that as well. And with the camera in the middle, I wanted to do a time lapse that would show the different phases of the eclipse, and then I would Photoshop in all the different elements, and it was gonna be tricky because during the eclipse, you have to use a solar filter, and you have to have a special exposure set for that, and then when it gets to the actual full eclipse, you don't want the solar filter, and you need a different exposure for that, and then when it goes back to partial exposure you need to use that filter again, back, and then change your exposure back. So there's a number of exposure changes that you need to make on them, and then on the third camera I was gonna experiment with a multiple exposure technique. Now, this is kind of bad to start with, a lot of plates to juggle, but the one other trick with it is, or the other little hurdle that I imposed on myself, is that, I'm thrifty, and I only purchased one solar filter. And so, you have to shoot with a solar filter, and so I would then have to be moving the solar filter to count the next one, adjusting, timing, adjusting the exposure, and moving it to the next one, so that each of the shots could be taken, but I spaced all of them out that I figured that I'd have enough time that I could do my plate juggling back and forth. Now as we got closer to the event, in the morning of the event, we slept very, very lightly, and I heard at like three o'clock in the morning, "Hey, I think we can set up over here." I'm like, "What's that, what's that? Tim, did you hear that?" And these people were coming in. And I says, "I did not wait here for two days for somebody to come in and take my spot." So at three o'clock in the morning, I got up, and I put my tripods up, and put sandbags on them, 'cause I didn't want anybody in the exact spot. I figured out exactly where I wanted to be. But it ended up not being that crowded. This is about it, we had about 50 people up there, and you can see that it's not really that crowded. But there was a fun group of people up there. Obvious a lot of eclipse enthusiasts there, and there was some science club from some school that was there, and I'm really glad that I set up three cameras because, the three cameras was the A camera, the close-up, that's the most important one, and then there's the B camera doing something a little experimental that might be kind of interesting, and the C camera is very experimental. I doubt it's gonna come out, and you know, just because I have a third camera, I'm gonna use it in a situation like this. So camera A took the following photos, and this is where I was just kind of hand-working it, and getting the one shot of the solar eclipse, and, you know, this isn't really that much different than what everyone else gets, and so, yeah it's nice. Nice job, you and about a thousand other, 10,000, 100,000 other photographers got the exact same thing. So then on B camera, what I was shooting was a time lapse, and I know it's just a small little dot in the sky, but I took one of the normal exposure right during the full eclipse, and this kinda got messed up for two reasons, number one, I didn't fully anticipate the height the sun was going to be as it exited the backside of the exposure, and the other problem was, the forest fires in the middle of central Oregon really destroyed the vertical landscape that I was wanting to shoot, and so it was definitely less than I was hoping for. So then we go to camera C, which is the multiple exposure, and then on this one, this is where I had to pre-vision what I want it to do. And I go okay, here's my box, what do I want in my box? And I thought, one sun, two, three suns, four, five, seven suns, odd numbers, see odd numbers are always better. Right, so I thought seven suns would be kind of nice. 'cause you want one in the middle, three, five, seven seems like a nice number to get across the frame. Okay, does anybody know how often you need to take a picture of the sun to get seven suns across the frame? And with what lens do you need to use? And so I definitely had to do some experimenting, and I figured, how far, how long does it take for the sun to move to a completely new position? And it's around three minutes or so. And so I did a test shot earlier in the trip just to see what it looks like, and so this was the idea, is that I would shoot seven photos with the sun about that far apart. And so when it came to actually shooting the eclipse, I did an in-camera multiple exposure. So this is kind of real time, in-camera, and each one of these has to be captured by hand because I didn't have an intervalometer, and I only had one filter that I had to use, and this was the final shot, and I was really happy that I had a third camera going, 'cause it came out, and so this is what I can say, it's not a single shot, but it is a single raw exposure on the camera. My camera saves individual raws, so if I wanted to combine it, I could, but it's a single hand raw, and there are two mistakes, and I'm gonna be totally honest in here, the mistakes that you may be able to see, is the spacing between the suns is not perfect, and that's because I was doing this by hand, and I didn't get the timing, I was trying to get it like down to the second, but I was really getting rushed. And the final one is maybe the best one, and I probably shouldn't admit to this, but, you know, I'm teaching a class, I'm gonna be honest with you. I had intended to get a full eclipse on this, and I had got so rushed in shooting the other cameras, I missed the full eclipse, and my one shot I got was what is called the diamond ring effect, which only lasts for a couple of seconds. And so a few seconds later, I would have been totally dead in the water. A few seconds earlier, I would've got a total eclipse, which would be nice, but I ended up really liking the total eclipse with the diamond ring effect here. And so, the nice thing about that is at the time, I wasn't very active on Instagram, and I'm like, "Okay, I'm pretty sure this one is not one that a lot of people got." And so it's nice to try to do something original, and so experimenting is a good thing from time to time when you know everyone else is gonna go one direction, I like going the other direction in many cases.