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Last chance for Friendship in Fireworks in Salem!
As some may know I’m now a National Park Ranger in Salem and I get to give tours aboard the Friendship (tough job but someone has to do it!)
Well, if you were going to hold off till next year to get down to Salem to photograph the fireworks with the ship in the frame, DON’T WAIT! The masts are going to be coming down this fall, (All of them) and they will be working on the keel for the next year or two depending how much rot they find. So If you like my shot down below with the explosions going off behind the masts, like a battle is going on?? Then get down there and see it this year!
Leave me a comment if you have any questions on where to sit… I did get out there at 2 in the afternoon so bring a cooler but be prepared to be looked over very carefully. The police and park rangers will be looking at packages, backpacks and coolers (Thank you idiot terrorists for making our lives a little more secure)
I have the day off so I will be out on Winter Island looking over the fireworks from that angle. please enjoy your 4th of July, be safe! But if you can’t make it down this year, I will be sure to post when the ship is… Shipshape again hopefully 2016!
Focal Length or how much lens to use
I like a 24-105mm for this purpose. A wide angle is nice but I usually have to be too close. A big telephoto has its own issues unless you are a half mile away. I prefer a mid-range telephoto that allows some wide and zoom capability. I believe in flexibility.
I plan on setting my aperture/f-stop for f4 but I will usually go higher, earlier in the evening. You generally don’t need too much depth of field. As it gets darker you can trade off the fstop as needed. [note] I also lock my focus on the first shot and then turn off autofocus. Most cameras won’t focus if it doesn’t have something bright to focus on.
My secret technique is to open the shutter before anything is happening (black sky) and then I hold the shutter open for the count of one thousand one, one thousand two. You get the idea, and then at some point, I release it and stand ready for the next shot.
This depends on your camera. My normal setting is an ISO of 200-400 but my newer camera can go as high as 1600 if I wanted to. By going higher, though, you take the chance of inducing noise into the shot (colored dots of light). If your camera is prone to noise then set it for a low ISO and make your exposures longer.
Shutter Speed, cable release, and a tripod
Fireworks look better when you have the Rockets trail rising from the ground and the explosion with the points of light expanding outward. To accomplish this, the shutter speed will need to be measured in seconds. Most times my shots range from 2 seconds out to 12 seconds.
To me shutter speed is the key to successful fireworks photos.
There are two trains of thought on this. If you want some crazy patterns to the lights then by all means hand hold it. What-the-hey, move the camera while the shutter is open and paint with light. But for images that people really enjoy (or buy) then I will put the camera on a sturdy tripod and use a shutter release. The type of release doesn’t matter as long as you can use it to keep the shutter open manually
My cable release allows me to open my shutter, hold it open, and then close it, based on what I’m seeing.
Putting it all together
Each year I pick a different location to see what the fireworks look like from a different aspect. To me the best images (not always mine) are the ones that have a strong visual element in addition to the firework explosion.
In this image I was in Salem and I positioned myself so that the Friendship of Salem was between me and the fireworks. The result was the ship looked like it was in a massive battle with the bombs bursting in the air above the ship.
People in your shots or not?
This next image is over in Marblehead on Fort Beach. Low tide hit an hour before the fireworks were to start. So I found a large rock to get an unobstructed view and away from the crowds. As luck would have it the tide kept going out and revealed more rocks and the crowds went out in front of me to sit and watch the fireworks.
So, for the first time ever, I had people in my 4th of July photos and I think these are some of my best.
The Grand Finale
One of the problems we all have is the finale. They starting throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the air and you have way too much light. In an effort to tame the light you have to shorten the exposure, but then you lose the light trails due to a half second exposure.
My friend Eyal Oren used the photo tree in the image to block much of the intense light, resulting in this very pleasing image. See more of his work at Wednesday in Marblehead.
I suggest you go read the manual (RTFM), Yes, Read The Freakin Manual and see what it says..
Don’t wait until one hour before the start of the fireworks. Pull the manual out now and read what it says for low light situations and then go out and practice with it.
I hope this article helps you take some real winners and, if you are so inclined, please share them on our NEPGuild Facebook page.
Questions? Leave a comment.
The Hill West bridge and the VAST trail tale.
This is a story about the Art of getting lost. I wrote that article about my favorite season (Autumn) but it applies to any time you can get off the main road or highways and onto the backroads of New England. This story is to warn you that map books don’t always tell the whole truth so be careful out there. We could have just as easily had to walk out of there if I wasn’t lucky. Read the article on the art of getting lost to see what you should be getting out of back road travel.
The Hill West Covered Bridge is one of the five covered bridges of Montgomery, Vermont. This covered bridge is a bit off the beaten path, but if you keep your eyes open, you can find it. (Maybe.)
Beware the VAST!
Some of you may know what’s coming because you know what a VAST is (I’ll tell you at the end). So Lisa and I were driving up the Hill West Road from the Deep Gibou Rd. We were looking for the Creamery Bridge road but missed it and were a mile or two past it when Lisa said there was a small connecting road over to the West Hill Road… (Watch those unmarked roads in the Gazetteers).
As you read you may get confused. First, they named the two parallel roads, of which the Creamery Bridge road connects, almost the same? The Eastern road is Hill West and the western road is the West Hill road? Lucky for me, this was back when I was driving my big red Z-71/4X4 and I was invulnerable (or so I thought).
Ok, so we’re on the connecting road which quickly narrowed down to one lane and I thought to myself, that I could back-out, if it grew much closer. (Hindsight is 20/20.) Then the road became rutted and it looked more like a stream bed with round rocks in it… Ok, at this point, I stopped and put it in 4X4 low and continued on, I mean how bad could it be? (Stop laughing!)
Ok, how many of you have Googled what a VAST is? It stands for “Vermont Association of Snow Travelers” or in other words, a snowmobile trail!
Soon the track became even larger stones… OK, I believe the off-road enthusiasts would call this bouldering and Lisa and I are lurching side to side like drunken sailors. And I look behind me but quickly realize that going in reverse is a no-go.
So the journey continues to the end of the VAST! But just when we thought we were safe — there at the end of the track is a boulder (5 or so feet high!) sitting in the middle of the trail exit.
I suppose this is to encourage vehicles like mine to not go this way… TOO LATE!
I notice that the track goes around the boulder and I might add, at a steep incline. But I don’t see any other option so I start to make my way around it. Imagine your vehicle at this incline on a dirt track and you are so close to the rock that you have to pull the mirror in and Lisa is holding on to the “OH Crap” handle above her door!
The covered bridge is found!
Well we survive that and came down the West Hill road. We now find an unmarked road which turned out to be the Creamery Bridge road. We took it and in 90 feet +/- and at the bottom of the hill we found the West Hill Covered Bridge. According to Wikipedia, it’s also known as Crystal Springs Covered Bridge… which is over the West Hill brook in Montgomery, VT.
Are you confused? Me too!
SO, we have the West Hill Covered Bridge which lies between the Hill West Road and the West Hill Road. (That’s not too bad.) We have a covered bridge that is named the West Hill Covered Bridge but is sitting on the Creamery Bridge road (The actual… “Creamery Covered Bridge” is in Brattleboro, VT, just so you know).
This covered bridge is also known as the Crystal Springs Covered Bridge but doesn’t cross Crystal Springs but West Hill Brook???
I’m still looking for Abbott and Costello to come out and do “Who’s on first and What’s on second” and so forth. (Yes, for those of you who are nowhere near as old as me, I’m including a link to YouTube and their routine).
Finally the bridge!
The lattice truss bridge was renovated in between 2011 and Sept. 2013 and has been opened up to cars once again. The Bridge is starting to age and get the gray patina that we as artists love to see. The only problem is kids using this area and tagging the inside with graffiti.
I hope you find the covered bridge a much easier trip and to help a bit further, here is a map.
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What is a Panorama?
Webster’s dictionary defines a panorama as “a full and wide view of something,” derived from two Greek words: pan, meaning “all,” and horama, meaning “sight, spectacle, that which is seen.” The first documented use of the word was in 1787 by Robert Barker to describe his paintings of Edinburgh and London. There is no formal aspect ratio or field of view (FOV) that defines a panorama, but it is generally accepted that to be a panorama a photo must have a field of view that is wider than the human eye and at least a 2:1 aspect ratio, meaning at least twice as wide as they are tall. Some people accept either characteristic to define a panorama, others insist on both characteristics being met. After much research, I’ve discovered there really is no concrete definition to what constitutes a panorama however.
Field of View (FOV)
Humans have an almost 180° horizontal field of view, but only about 120° of that is binocular (both eyes) with depth perception. Thus there is some disagreement on how wide a FOV a photo must cover to be considered a panorama. I personally go with around 140° or more horizontally. A full sphere would be 360° horizontal and 180° vertical. These spherical panoramas are my favorite type of panorama to shoot.
That brings up an interesting dilemma however—what of vertical panoramas?! Do they also need a 140° vertical FOV to be considered a “panorama”? Or would a vertical FOV of 70° or more be enough to qualify since that is about what a human can see with visual acuity without moving the eye? Perhaps the field of view is too difficult a measurement to define a panorama and the aspect ratio is a better requirement.
Most DSLRs (cropped sensor and full frame sensor) shoot an aspect ratio of 3:2 (or 1.5:1). Most point and shoot cameras, four thirds cameras, compact cameras, etc., have an aspect ratio of 4:3 (or 1.33:1). High definition video, such as DVDs, Blu-ray, HDTV, is typically 16:9 (or 1.78:1). Movies theaters are usually either 1.85:1 or 2.39:1, which gets into panoramic aspect ratio, but not usually the same FOV obviously (unless it’s an OmniMax theatre). Common print sizes for panoramas are 2:1, 2.5:1, 3:1, 4:1, and 6:1 so I tend to crop my panoramas along those aspect ratios for easier printing, my favorite being 3:1. Many places will do custom printing of any aspect ratio though. Some projections like stereographic or “little planet” and a hemisphere of the full sky are 1:1 or square and still considered to be a panorama due to the extreme field of view. From my research, the overwhelming opinion is that to be a panorama an image must be at least a 2:1 ratio minimum. The majority of photographers, print competitions, and panoramic associations didn’t stipulate the field of view as a requirement to be considered a panorama.
Wide-angle photography can often be confused as panoramic photography. A 14mm rectilinear lens like my favorite Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 on a full frame 35mm sensor gives a horizontal FOV of 104°. You could crop the top and bottom off a single frame from that lens and call it a panorama, but a purist would still consider it to be wide-angle photography and not panoramic photography because the horizontal FOV is still less than human vision. A 16mm fisheye on the other hand has a horizontal FOV of 137° and a cropped 2:1 or wider aspect ratio could be considered a true panorama without stitching, although the subject would be distorted due to the projection.
Gigapixel and High-resolution Photography
The size or density of a photo has little to do with it being a panorama or not. A panorama does not have to be a very high resolution. Technically speaking, a gigapixel photograph is one that consists of more than 1 billion pixels, regardless of field of view or aspect ratio. A high-resolution stitched photograph in my opinion is one that is larger than your camera’s sensor by a significant amount. A high resolution or gigapixel image isn’t necessarily a panorama though since the aspect ratio might be less than 2:1 and the FOV might be less than human vision (regardless of aspect ratio), but most panoramic associations and print competitions do not seem to make this distinction. Ironically, many accept any high resolution or gigapixel stitched image as a panorama regardless of aspect ratio, which I find inconsistent. I tend to call anything higher than 50 megapixels, and not wider 2:1 aspect ratio, a high-resolution image and not a high-resolution panorama, but that’s my personal opinion. The same with gigapixel images.
In the photography world panoramas mean different things to different people, but generally it is accepted to be a bigger than normal view—whether that means aspect ratio, focal length, field of view, or size seems to be an individual interpretation. If this topic is of interest, I plan to write a series of articles on panoramas: their history, different types of projections and methods of displaying them, and also how to shoot and create them, covering both hardware and software from simple to complicated. Follow the New England Photography Guild blog or Facebook page for more!
Wildlife Photography for Everyone!
I realize that not everybody is a professional wildlife photographer, either due to a lack of a “long” lens or the time involved. (I count myself in this group). One of the biggest requirements is a lot of patience. You have to sit and wait in order to capture your wildlife subject, right time and right place.
I would rather go to locations where I have a better than average chance of finding multiple subjects to photograph. Some photographers might suggest you go to a zoo for captive subjects but I prefer no fences between me and my subjects. (So I guess lions and tigers are out.)
If you go online you may be surprised to find conservation areas close to your own home. These “green” areas can be found in the midst of residential areas and sometimes even in downtown areas. The best place to start looking for these “green” areas is the National Audubon website and from there you can go to your state and then town. Each state has a list of conservation areas on their websites.
Mass Audubon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
There are six wildlife conservation areas near my home in Salem, MA. Just 26 minutes from my house puts me at the Massachusetts Audubon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is just east of the Topsfield Fairgrounds on Route 1. The address for the sanctuary is 87 Perkins Row and you can get there by traveling up Route 1 to Route 97, and then south on 97 until you hit Perkins Row. You follow that East for about a mile and then you’ll see the entrance sign to the sanctuary.
Mass Audubon Activities
There’s more to this conservation area than just the 12 miles of interconnecting trails that wind their way through forests, meadows, and wetlands. They also have programs, classes, and activities going on monthly.
This February (on the 22nd) they’ll be having a “Flap Jack Fling” and sugaring tours. (Check their website for details.) Then in March, they have weekend maple sugaring tours where they will teach you how to identify a Sugar Maple tree, observe tapping and sap collection methods.
Wildlife to Photograph
The reason I head there is because I’m looking for wildlife to photograph. Visit my wildlife and nature gallery to view some of my favorites.
Depending on the season, you will find untold numbers of bird species either migrating through, or at this time of year (February), wintering over until spring. You can find everything from the northern red cardinal, Blue Jays and goldfinches to all sorts of ducks (mallards) and raptors such as red tail hawks. A list of birds is extensive so if birds are your goal, you should be very happy.
In the late fall I stop in to photograph both the fall foliage around the trails. As the people start to head home this is when you find that the deer come out of the woods to scour the open fields of the sanctuary for any left over food.
It’s also getting close to hunting season and they seem to understand that if they stay in the sanctuary, they are safe.
The cost is free if you are a Massachusetts Audubon member but if you’re not, the fee for non-members is only $4 dollars for adults and $3 dollars for children. They are open (November through April) Tuesdays through Sunday from 9 AM till 4 PM.
At this time you can walk the trails or visit the Audubon store and ask questions of the employees and volunteers about wildlife that’s being seen on any given day and the best location to find different types of animals.
This is a great way to get out and get some exercise, get in touch with nature, and unplug for an hour or two from our technological world.
~ Jeff Folger
Avoid the box
When someone learns that I enjoy photography, often their next question is: “What type of photographer are you?”
Recently, when asked this, I was about to give my “landscapes mostly” response when I realized that I always added the word “mostly.” So, I started to question myself: Why did I feel it was necessary to add that caveat? How many artists would willingly put themselves into a box? Why do we feel compelled to limit ourselves by a description? Who is the sadist who invented pop-up ads and why?
These were the many questions swirling around in my head. Since introspection is not necessarily my strength, it took me a while to distill all of these random thoughts (the “pop-up ad” thought excepted) down into one theme:
When I place limits on my photography, I do so at the peril of my passion.
Do you find yourself losing your passion?
Photography is my passion, my obsession, my raison d’etre… okay, maybe that’s going a little too far but you get my point. If I only took landscape images, I would quickly get bored and my art would suffer for it.
How do I know? Because it happened to me.
There is a reason that I have so few artistic images from the period when I set down my film camera in the late ’90s and when I bought my first digital camera in 2010. Photography had become routine and I knew my images were uninspired. The digital revolution gave me an opportunity to be excited again by learning a whole new technology and way to capture the light.
Since then, I have made it a point to always push myself to learn something new and different every time I pick up my camera – so I never lose my passion again. Often, this means shooting and processing outside of my personal comfort zone of nature and landscapes and entering the world of street, black and white, flash, macro, portrait, wildlife, urban, travel, pet, and underwater photography among many others. I’m still trying to convince my wife that being hired as a boudoir photographer will help my creativity, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful.
The more challenging it is to cross whatever mental or physical boundary I have set for myself, and the greater the fight/flight fear response while doing it, the more inspired and invigorated I am afterward – regardless of the results.
Recharge your creative batteries
If you find yourself losing your passion, I suggest you “mix it up” and discover what stimulates your creativity. You will find you are in great company.
A few weeks ago, I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston expecting to just enjoy an afternoon with my family. Instead, I left the museum inspired to take finer photographs. Ironically, I never viewed a photograph the entire time I was there. The source of this newfound inspiration? The special exhibit of John Singer Sargent’s watercolors. Did you know his “day job” was as a portrait artist but for leisure he still painted? How many studio photographers do you know who never pick up a camera once they leave work? In my experience, sadly, it is many.
Sargent’s famous watercolors on exhibit consisted of the art he created while on vacation. He painted landscapes, street scenes, and candid scenes that he encountered during his travels. In essence, he recharged his batteries and passion during his free time, not by putting down his brush, but rather by painting differently – creating variety through technique, medium and subject matter.
If I find my passion waning, in addition to mixing it up, I will also do other activities to reinvigorate myself, such as: go to an art museum; sit in a park and people watch; look at the images of fantastic photographers either online or in books; read a book by one of my favorite photographers (Galen Rowell); or, take a non-photography related art class to learn more about the fundamentals of all art.
Live the tapestry!
Life is a rich tapestry of woven experiences – created one warp, one weft, one thread at a time. Just like the yarns of a tapestry our experiences can be discontinuous. Each one is different in context and understanding. It’s this variability and the anticipation of the unknown that creates the special moments worth capturing. Without passion, I would never have created the opportunities to view the world through my mind’s eye and actually see the moments before me instead of just passing them by as ordinary.
I was struck by this passage that George R. R. Martin wrote in A Game of Thrones on seeing and how I think it applies to our ability as photographers to see with passion and capture the extraordinary:
“Opening your eyes is all that is needing. The heart lies and the head plays tricks with us, but the eyes see true. Look with your eyes. Hear with your ears. Taste with your mouth. Smell with your nose. Feel with your skin. Then comes the thinking, afterward, and in that way knowing the truth.”
So, next time someone asks me: “What kind of photographer are you?” I think I will respond with: “A passionate one.”
~ Tom Gaitley