Shooting at Home as Though it Were Away

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In writing about getting ready to photograph on the road I realized that I don’t bring that level of rigor to shooting close to home and I should. Home for me is Boston’s South Shore, a region that many people, perhaps most people, zip through on their way to Cape Cod, or Martha’s Vineyard and yet there are lots of great places Hingham, Cohasset, and Scituate among them.

In looking for local photographers that fueled the fire for me I realized that the south shore is underserved by the kind of photographers and photography that I like. The Focus Gallery does a great job of highlighting Boston area photographers with perhaps Cindy Vallino and Mike Sleeper being the most local of the locals.

I do have one book on my shelves that has been good for getting ideas about potential locations – Boston’s South Shore and a quick search on amazon shows another couple of books that I ought to have on my shelves. My major tool for researching potential locations has been a combination of the satellite view tool in google maps, the photographers ephemeris and of course doing the leg work of driving to check places out. I’ve written about this kind of virtual scouting before and you can see the process that I use by clicking here.

If you do live in a location like I do, where there is relatively little in the way of resources to draw on you’re in a great position to explore the area both virtually and in person and find unique locations that few others are photographing. Go for it!

Wide Angle Distortion – Does this Lens Make me Look Fat?

Over Labor Day weekend I spent some time playing with my regular lens walk around lens, Canon’s 24-104, but using it at the wide angle setting. I know that wide angle lenses can cause distortion and have particularly noticed curved horizons as the a byproduct of working with the wide angle. Converging verticals and keystoning are also other hallmarks of a wide angle lens.

I’ve read all this in books but hadn’t really internalized it until I made this image:

Sort of annoying because I wanted to include a big open sky.

Keeping the sensor parrallel to the lighthouse resulted in this:

A little better. When I got this home I used the function within lightroom to correct for the lens used and got this image:

I looked at this for a while but couldn’t put my finger on what was the problem with it. Then it dawned on me. Correcting for lens distortion made the lighthouse ‘chunkier’ than it actually seems in real life. There’s a lesson for all of us in that – be careful with automatic settings. They work great the majority of the time but not always.

I finally decided on how I wanted the image to look and came up with this:

Tons of fun and some good lessons.

Labor Day Labors

One of the things that I like about digital photography is how easy it is to try things out and get immediate feedback. I have heard people say that they are switching back to film because the constraints of using film force them to be more creative. For a while I almost bought that argument. I do believe that all innovation is a creative response to overcome a problem, obstacle or constraint. Why not instead of retreat to film use digital technology under a defined set of rules? The instantaneous feedback that digital offers can then be used to adapt, modify or improve upon what you’ve just done. This past labor day I was playing with my usual walkabout lens the Canon 24-104 but using it at the wide end of that range just to see what I would get. I had fun, answered some questions and ended up with the image above. If all my labors were like this they wouldn’t feel like labor!

Mare’s Tails

I would be the first to admit that I struggle to handle wide angle lenses.  They cover a huge amount of real estate which makes it a challenge to control all the details within the frame.  One of the things that I’ve consciously been working on with my rocks at the waters edge project is to use a wide angle for the majority of the images, just to force me to use it and get used to it.  I naturally gravitate towards a longer lens that allows me to extract details from the whole, often resulting in an image that takes a moment to figure out what you’re looking at.  This was the case for the image above.  The larger fishing boats were at the dock in Scituate harbor and the yellow in the nets caught my eye.