assignment: composition


This week, we moved from the technical aspects of photography (shutter speed, aperture, depth of field), and started moving towards the more creative aspects of photography. Our assignment this week:

Find an object (not a person or an animal) that you want to take a picture of. It should be reasonably sized. Shoot it 36 times, with no two compositions being identical. If you can, try to pick an object that is consistent with your final class project.

Since my final project is going to be about bicycles, I decided (obviously) to shoot a bicycle. I was originally going to use my own, but when I got up to the berkshires, I found out that our neighbor friends had ended up with an old-fashioned style bike that had a lot more character, so I went over to their house one morning to get pictures of it. for some reason, it’s got beer branding all over it, but I think that just makes it a little more quirky. I actually took about 70 pics, and narrowed it down to the following 40 (click to enlarge):

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Kissena Park


Today I joined the brooklyn by bike crew again and we rode from Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn to the Velodrome in Kissena Park, Queens, where they were holding the New York State track cycling championships. We were originally supposed to go yesterday, but the rain pushed us back a day, and it was definitely the right decision, as today was absolutely gorgeous out. Some photos below. Video to follow at a later date, after I’ve gotten some sleep and edited the video of the races in a way that makes them not nonsensical.

On the way back to brooklyn, we took a little detour off of our path to also visit Flushing Meadow, running into lots of police for the US Open (all of whom were very friendly and helpful in directing us out of their traffic “calming” maze), and the Unisphere. Which I realized I had never seen up close before, despite the fact that I grew up near new york and have lived here for over ten years. It’s stuff like this that makes me love these rides.

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reinvention and relics


Last week’s episode of Mad Men focused, in part, on the planned destruction of the beaux-arts masterpiece that was Penn Station in favor of the horrendously ugly madison square garden. Considered one of the greatest architectural travesties in the history of New York City, not even an adman as great as Don Draper could sell the “futuristic” MSG believably. I wasn’t even alive when they tore down Penn Station, but I feel the loss every time I see a photo, or have to take Amtrak. And they’re still trying to fix the error by reshaping the companion post office across the street as a “new-old” railway terminal (one which faces endless delays in its own right).

But the one good thing that the travesty gave us was new rules regarding historic preservation in New York City. Which is the only reason that the New York Central Railroad wasn’t able to do the same thing to Grand Central Terminal (and yes, there were plans on the books to tear that one down as well). Instead, the station was renovated and renewed, and is now considered one of the crown jewels of New York City architecture, one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, and one of my personal favorite places to go. Sometimes I just stop by when I’m in the neighborhood to stare at the ceiling. One of my favorite birthday dinners ever was a spur of the moment decision to eat at MJ’s steakhouse, sitting under the great ceiling. The food was fine, but the atmosphere was what couldn’t be beat. The Summer Streets events that just concluded here in NYC afford pedestrians and cyclists a unique opportunity to stop and take a lingering look at portions of the great station that otherwise go by as a blur in a taxi window.

Now, if only something could be done about the monstrosity of the MetLife building in the background.

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class photos for this week


As I mentioned earlier, we had last week off from photography class because of another event scheduled for the photo studio, so we had two weeks to do our homework. of course, I did mine the first weekend. Two assignments this week. The first was technical, and had to do with light metering correctly.

1. Find a scene that has dramatically different light values (like a light source). Shoot the same composition for the following exposure methods: (a) highlight, (b) shadow, (c) average (manual calculation).

2. Pick a general theme to run for the length of the class. Take six pictures representing that theme.

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two great tastes…


I went to photography class last night and generally got good feedback on my photos (which, given the technical nature of the assignment amounted to “yay, you were able to follow instructions!”), and we learned more about exposure control, metering and other similar things that will help shoot photos when there is inconsistent lighting (or too consistent lighting) in your scene. But, aside from the technical homework assignment on exposure control which I’ll do later this week, we got a more general assignment that extends for the entire class. We have to start thinking about a subject we’d like to shoot for the duration of the class, and take pictures each week in connection with that assignment. These pictures will be exhibited at the end of the class.

So, of course, I froze. I had no idea what I wanted to shoot. I like taking pictures of flowers, but those don’t really translate well when shooting in black and white. I like people, but I don’t necessarily want to be rude and shove my camera in people’s faces, and I don’t want to stress out too much about asking permission (plus, that always screws up the candid-ness of the photos). Theoretically I like architecture, but I find (for me) it’s more luck than talent when I get a good architecture shot, just because of the “bigness” of all the buildings around here. Other people were coming up with some ideas, and while I thought about, maybe, subway stations, someone else mentioned it and I didn’t want to be a copycat. Our instructor mentioned that it should be something fairly ubiquitous, so that it would be easy to shoot something week in and week out. But not so abstract so that no one would know what the theme was when they looked at your series.

So last night I decided that I wanted to shoot people who make their living on the street. People like street vendors and flea market folks and street fair booth operators. Maybe those folks who are always soliciting donations for charities and handing out flyers for manicure places. But this morning, when I took my camera out to get some shots of the food cart on my corner, I wasn’t feeling it. The photos weren’t very good, and I just wasn’t liking it. And then…

Someone rode by my on a bicycle. And it clicked. Of course! I love bicycles, I love cycling, I spend lots of time around cycling and cyclists, Heck, I’ve got two bicycles of my own. And when I started walking up the street looking at all the different types of bikes locked up, I realized it was perfect. Abandoned, damaged bikes, shiny new bikes, cruisers, racers, mountain bikes, bike parts, close ups of handlebars and gears, spokes and seats, people riding bikes, bike accessories, tandems, unicycles…the list goes on…and, they’re in every part of the city.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it last night, but of course the best thing for me to do would be to combine one of my favorites hobbies with the other. Now I just need to figure out how to pack my SLR with me when I go on the next Brooklyn by Bike ride, since, yep, we’re biking to the velodrome to watch the bike races!! perfect!!

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independence day


this year, I decided to take a trip to governors island for the fourth of july. It was really just because it was a beautiful day, I had been dying to see what they had done since last year, and all the rain has prevented me from a really good bike ride for almost a month (speaking of which, I have to re-break-in certain parts of my body, again! which sucks). Anyhoo, for future reference, I would most vociferously advise against picking a route to the ferry that involves going anywhere near battery park on the fourth of july. between the concert they were setting up (and the requisite temporary gates) and the fact that this was the first day in almost 9 years that the crown on the statue of liberty was open, it was a bit of a madhouse.

But, I did do my part as an ugly jingoistic american on this independence day by yelling indiscriminately at tourists to get out of my way.

The island itself was a pleasure – not crowded at all, lovely to ride around, and the entire thing is open this year (unlike last year when the back “half” was closed off) – it’s now got a nice picnic area as well as a freshly paved bike route. Lovely.

my tiny bike on the ferry over ferry ride ferry ride/statue of liberty statue of liberty hospital colonels' row houses liggett hall liggett hall colonels' row houses colonels' row IMG_0081 colonels' row castle williams manhattan tall ships the view new jersey new jersey & manhattan lower manhattan bridges water taxi beach (no water taxis, and no actual beach) more tall ships tall ships and manhattan

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rain, rain, go away…


riding in the rain
(what I’m anticipating for tomorrow, yet again…)

My allergies are happy that it’s finally raining and washing away some of the pollen that’s invaded the city over the last week (when I left my apartment last saturday morning, the trees were still bare. By yesterday, they were in full bloom thanks to the heat wave earlier this week). The rest of me, however? not so much…

I’m doing the 5 boro bike tour tomorrow, and it’s looking like it’s going to be a rehash of the MS ride from last fall, without the possibility that the sun will come out at some point during the day. Could get ugly.

I was going to try to find some biking rain gear for tomorrow, but if I can’t find anything good, I remembered that I bought a waterproof windbreaker that’s not particularly aerodynamic when I was down in Roatan in January, because it rained every day while I was there. So that’s a backup plan (a backup plan that could result in disaster if it’s windy, but still…a plan). Unlike the MS ride, where I not only didn’t wear rain gear, but I wore cotton leggings under my bike shorts because it was cold out, and they didn’t get dry the entire day. That’s a mistake I won’t be making again!

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floyd bennett field – video


On Saturday, I rode with the brooklyn by bike crowd out to floyd bennett field. I’ve still got to organize my (very few) still photographs and put a map together, but here’s the video from the ride! (Best to watch in HQ):

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things I did not know about youtube


so, as I mentioned the other day when I posted stuff from coney island, there was no sound on the video of our ride down there. In actuality, I had added a soundtrack from my iTunes library (Fatboy Slim’s “Build It Up, Tear It Down”), but not 3 seconds after the video got uploaded, I got a notice from youtube that my video may contain copyright-protected elements. So rather than tempt fate (and the RIAA), I removed the music and uploaded a slightly less interesting noiseless version. This morning, due to my “early waking” insomnia, I was checking out my video states, and, while looking at all the buttons, I noticed something called “audioswap”. so I checked it out. My original song choice wasn’t in there, but I found one that accompanied the video pretty well (appropriately titled “bicycle rider”), and I added it in. At the moment it’s still processing, but it should be good in a few minutes. Same link.

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photos from coney island


In addition to the video I put together last night, I did also take some actual pictures during the stops on our ride. I included a few of these at the tail end of the video, but, due to the conversion process, the quality is not so good. Here they are in all of there originalness.

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