Monday, December 5, 2011

A Little Weekend Shoot

What a beautiful weekend the past couple of days have been.  A slight chill in the air (it's about time), semi clear skies and a photowalk with a couple of friends down to Liberty State Park in New Jersey.  We had dinner with a couple friends last Tuesday and they mentioned they were going to Liberty SP on Saturday.  They asked if we'd be interested in joining them.  We had our usual zero on the calendar and thought it would be a fun day to do some shooting.  Lorri Freedman is the shooter of the pair and she has a great eye for images and does a great job doing some Photoshop magic with the images she shoots.  Check out her SmugMug portfolio.  I'm sure you'll agree.  Well, we left the house at 9:00 AM for what Google Maps said would a ninety minute drive.  We were supposed to meet at 11:30, so we'd left ourselves plenty of time.  Grabbed some coffee to go at the local Dunkin Donuts and set off.  Would you believe the GPS knows of a second Liberty State Park about twelve miles from the one that was our intended target?  In checking Google Maps I knew we wanted exit 15E on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Google had given one option of taking, basically, city streets once we'd crossed over into NJ on the George Washington Bridge.  I figured I'd ignore the GPS until we'd gotten to Exit 15E and then follow it on in.  After exiting at the appropriate spot the GPS said take a left, take a left and get back on the Turnpike in the opposite direction.  I knew that was wrong and if we just headed east the GPS would recalculate and find the way.  It fought with us for the next half hour and I finally surrendered and followed the directions from the GPS.  After all, it knew "a way" to get us there.  Followed the instructions until it said we were within a block or so of our destination.  I knew that couldn't be the case, because the LSP we were looking for was on the Hudson River Estuary and the GPS had us in the middle of Jersey City.  Asked Doris to reprogram the GPS using Statue of Liberty rather than Liberty State Park.  It gave three options.  Two in NYC and one said New Jersey access.  Asked Doris to use the Jersey access option and we were finally in route to the right spot.  Of course, instead of being a half hour early, we were now 45 minutes late.  Lorri and Mark were very gracious about our tardiness and had waited past one boat out to Ellis Island and the Statue.  It is nice to have understanding friends.  To find out about today's image and why they don't lineup exactly, hit the "Read More".

Both images are five or six shot panoramas.  The daylight shot is from Ellis Island and the night shot is from back at Liberty State Park.  The distance between the two spots is a little less than a mile, with Ellis Island being to the south.  Therefore, the shots are slightly skewed from one to the other.  The new Freedom Tower, being built on the site of the Twin Towers looms large and is centered in the shots.  Since there was the shift in shooting position, it was impossible to match the shots building for building. 
The more interesting of the shots, from a photographic technique point of view (bad pun) is the night shot.  After taking a test shot I moved the EV (Exposure Value) on the camera to -1 (minus one).  Since there was so much dark area in the scene, the cameras sensor was fooled and would have made the image too light.  It seems a little counterintuitive to move the EV lower in a dark scene, but it does work.  The camera, being a dumb beast, wants to shoot a neutral gray.  When it "sees" a dark scene it'll try to brighten it up to an overall gray reading, killing the tonal value.  That's when you move the EV "down".  You know that the scene is supposed to be dark. The camera is only doing some math.  It's important for the photographer to make the decisions and let the camera make "suggestions".  After that, the camera can knock it out of the park (another bad pun) doing the heavy lifting.  Other than stitching the five or six shots together there is very little Photoshop work done to the scene. 
There is one caveat to that statement.  We weren't fortunate enough to have the moon in a perfect position for the shot.  It's pretty accurate as far as the phase of the moon, but it comes from a collection of shots specifically of the moon on a nice dark night.  As long as your sky is black in the moon shot and something other than black in the shot of the scene, it's a snap (or rather a click) to put the moon in the scene.  Position and size the moon where you want it.  Then switch the Blend Mode to Lighter Color.  The black sky of the moon shot vanishes into anything lighter than black.  Saves a lot of time rather than making a Mask.