Have you been following the slow rise of the scaffolding around the Washington Monument? I sure have, and I’m fascinated by it! A cool little factoid about the world’s tallest obelisk: it was the world’s tallest structure for five years, from 1884-1889. Think about that: it is one of the world’s tallest structures and it is now covered in scaffolding. My mind is blown every time I think about that.
Kevin has a great shot here of the scaffolding topping out. He did a very nice color conversion to a slightly off black and white tone, which creates a great contrast between the stone and metal (and it gives a great look to the clouds too). Kevin’s been following the ascent of the metal girders just like me and has some other great shots here, here, here, and here. This is an all around excellent shot, and one to cherish as a piece of history.
DC has some great street murals. From U Street, to Adams Morgan, to H Street, and parts elsewhere, DC has quite a respectable display of interesting and fun public art. And they make for some great photos.
Evegophotos’ shot above is a great example of what a photographer can get while incorporating a mural. The swirling colors converging on the artist helps the viewer’s eye explore the entire picture. Also, you don’t get a sense of the scale of the art until you notice the artist…standing on a ladder and he’s still only half way up the mural! Throw in the great colors and this is quite the photo. Nicely done.
It’s like Stewie from Family Guy, only if he were a cat! Oh, are you going to try to kill us with a death ray? That’s so cute! Dan got a great shot of Thor, the new Sand Cat at the National Zoo. And Dan is far from a stranger with the creatures there; check out his other outings and get even more photos of fuzzy animals.
No photo lesson today, just cuteness. But I did want to ask: did you know the National Zoo itself has an awesome Flickr page? It makes sense, given what they work with is so photogenic. A quick scan of their photostream comes away with such things as photos of Clouded Leopard, Andean Bear, AND Cheetah cubs, along with two different types of pandas in the snow. And that’s only looking for five minutes! Did I mention they have videos too? There goes your productivity today; you can thank me tomorrow.
How a photographer orients their camera can have surprising effects on the finished product of a photograph. That sounds like an obvious statement yet most people never move their photos beyond portrait or landscape compositions. But once one realizes that photographs can be oriented however one wants, a whole new world of art can be opened up.
Let’s take Patrick’s photo above. Rather than simply composing the shot as a regular landscape shot, he set the escalator’s handlebar as the plane of the photo. This small change suddenly makes all the people look as if they are carrying or pulling heavy loads. Combined with the grim black and white treatment, it really does look like they are enduring some sort of punishment. If we imagine what this shot would look like with a typical orientation it would lose much of its interest.
I’ve taken quite a few bird photos in my day, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get a shot like this one. Not only was Dan able to get a Starling inside a cherry tree nook, but he got it while holding a cherry blossom in its beak. That’s some skill right there. And the qualities of this photo don’t end there. Look at the bird and you’ll see the wonderful color variation in its chest plume. Also, the depth of field, or fuzzy, background is perfect for giving color to shot while not distracting from the main subject matter. This is a top notch wildlife photo!
Infrared photography, or photography using film or a sensor which is sensitive to the near-infrared part of the light spectrum, is an interesting technique for photographers to use. While not the thermal imaging most people would think, infrared photography strips out the visible spectrum (remember “ROYGBIV” from elementary school science class?) and leaves a ghostly image which is reminiscent of a dreamscape.
Let’s look at cruffo’s shot. If shot as a normal image, the picture would be nice but rather plain; how many shots of tree, even cherry blossom trees, have we seen in our lives? But using IR photography, the viewer is forced to look at the composition of the shot, and see the trees stretching every which way. As well, the coloring of the photo makes it look like this was shot in the depths of an ice age, not on a 80 degree day. A great shot; I hope to see more in the future!
Long exposures, where the shutter of the camera is left open for longer than the fraction of a second of a normal photograph, are normally a night photographic technique. Which makes sense; exposing a sensor or film frame to such a large amount of daylight normally results in a worthless picture. But there are ways to make it work, as Chris shows above. While I’m unsure if his shot is achieved through post-processing in a computer program or an in-camera technique, it is a good example of a daytime long exposure.
Chris’s photo creates a great sense of movement, while simultaneously giving an idea of the crowd of people. As well, framing the shot between two cherry tress skillfully contains the subject matter. Lastly, the most powerful part of the shot is the solitary, and unmoving, bench in the middle of the frame. Juxtaposed against the ghost like movement of the people, one is left with a sense of time; both those things that are transitory and those that are stationary. It is a shame that there aren’t any cherry blossoms to add more color to the shot (new peak prediction is April 6-10) but it is a small issue. All around an excellent shot for the season!
A “happy accident” is an interesting experience for a photographer. While we like to project an aura of technical know-how, the truth of the matter is that good photography is measured in fractions of a second, which leaves much to chance. So when you get a result you didn’t expect, and it’s better than what you were aiming for, an unusual sense of accomplishment is felt. You get the thrill of taking a good photo but the dread of possibly being asked how you got the shot. Or worse: asked to try to get the shot again.
Robb’s picture above is a great “happy accident” photo. It’s a double exposure, which is when two shots are taken on the same film frame (see more examples in our Flickr pool). For obvious reasons, it’s a difficult shot to get right and is prone to the happy accident phenomenon.
Robb’s photo works so well because the two shots align perfectly; the tower in the second, bright shot, fits exactly in between the towers of the first darker shot, giving the Cathedral a castle look. As well, the brightness of the two shots contrast just right and it requires the viewer to take a moment to realize it’s a double exposure (at least, that was my reaction). All around good job! And fear not, I will not ask for it to be done again.
With each passing day the scaffolding around the Washington Monument moves higher and higher. If you will recall, the world’s biggest obelisk is getting the treatment to fix a number of cracks that occurred during (or were found after) the 2011 Earthquake. Even though we’ve lost being able to go into the monument until some time next year, the small benefit is that we get to see it wrapped up in the scaffolding again (look here for an idea on what it will look like completed).
Kim’s picture does a great job of capturing this time in the life of the monument. First, we have the crisscrossing lines of the scaffolding to draw the eye. Then the black of the night sky and the metal scaffolding, combined with the brighter white of the illuminated monument, create a great contrast. The flags provides a nice splash of color to the whole photo; as well as providing an interesting tell that this is a long exposure shot. All around, an excellent shot.
A constant request I get from my friends is to “teach me to take photos like you do.” I find I have to stop myself from responding like George Costanza: “That’s like asking Picasso to teach me to paint like you paint.” The arrogance of the statement is only half of the issue; the other half is that it’s very hard to explain how someone visualizes a photograph. Many times I don’t even know what has drawn my eye to take the picture until I sort through my photos later.
Abstract photos are particularly difficult to explain. Take Erin’s photo above, a great abstract photo. What drew her eye to take this photo? If it was the peeling paint, she could have cropped it more like this. Was it the contrasting colors in the scene; the dull tones of the paint, with the muted reflected colors? It’s easy to say it was all of the above, but it could have been the shape of the window. Or perhaps even something I am missing. How does what explain finding and taking this picture?
And if the aim was to get something abstract, there are many types that could work; ceilings, portions of railings, shadows on sidewalks, even reflections of signs.
The ultimate answer is you shoot what catches your eye. It’s a carefully cultivated talent, that is unique to each person. I, or any photographer, could no more teach this skill than Picasso teach us to paint like he does. Each person just has to go out there and take photos the way they take photos.
I’ve recently started to enjoy (and, when I go out to take photos, look for) shots that give the scale of a scene. We live in a time where impressively large buildings and objects are around us all the time. And yet we tend not to realize the size of our world.
Eric shows us scale with his photo. We have two people walking by a parking garage; something we see everyday. But look at how big the entrance and exist are; even the scale of the signs become apparent. Yes, we’re given another sign to explain, in exact terms, the size of the entrance, but contrasting it with the person actually shows the size; very different. The photo is also helped by the drab black, white, and gray look, with only hints of coloring in the umbrella, signs, and shrubbery. The composition is also spot on, with the straight lines of the openings framing both people, to capture the scene. Truly well done.
Twice a year the moon rises (roughly) at the eastern horizon; it happens at the full moon closest to each Equinox. With the Mall set up on a east-west axis, that means the moon visually align itself with the major monuments and buildings of the city. Because it rarely rises on that axis perfectly, the sight seems to always be different.
Phil, who has been taking these pictures for a number of years, came away with a great one this time. The first thing you notice is the orange coloring of the moon; that happens because the light the moon is reflecting is going through more of the Earth’s atmosphere than if it was at the apex of the sky. The atmosphere scatters the light and redshifts it (if you check out an earlier shot the redshift is more evident). But beyond the quirky rules of physics, the shot is well framed; with the Capitol dome fully visible, the size of the Washington Monument evident, and even the beautiful dome of the Natural History Museum. And then there’s the moon in the Reflecting Pool, which seals the shot. It’s certainly a gorgeous enough sight to keep one in love with DC!
I know it’s difficult, but look beyond the puppy. If you do, you’ll see that Robb has composed a wonderful shot. With a narrow depth of field, he has concentrated the viewer’s attention on the man and the dog, while giving a beautifully smooth backdrop to the scene. And while it would be natural to center focus on the person, instead he’s put the man’s hands at the center, which helps to shift the attention to the interaction between person and animal. The use of black and white film is also an excellent choice, as it helps make the photo about composition and not potentially distracting colors. All around a great shot…and look at the cute puppy!
What a wonderful street scene; it almost looks staged. In the foreground there’s the excavator positioned perfectly flush to the photographer’s point-of-view; and the lumber adds a great series of lines that attracts the viewers eye. But the part of the picture that draws everything together is the background. At first, you only notice it only as a black and white background, which helps to focus the viewers attention on the foreground elements. But once you look closer you see what it really is, a Civil Rights Era protest, and it gives the image a new depth. Are the protesters picketing this construction? Are they ghosts, forever picketing this street corner? The answer is no to both, but it certainly is fun to imagine. Excellent work DoctorJ.Bas!
courtesy of Noe Todorovich
A short time ago, in a art gallery not far away. Ok, how about this one: the art must flow! Not good enough? Would you like to know more? Then we’ll have to go straight to…ludicrous speed!
Ok, enough with my lame, joke sci-fi references. Noe does a great job capturing Leo Villareal’s Multiverse at the National Gallery. This light sculpture is a favorite of photographers, because you never take the same photo twice. But Noe goes a couple of steps further. First by actually moving the camera to create a fascinating whirlpool effect. She also used her iPhone to get the shot, which is very impressive considering this hallway can be especially dark when only a few of the LED lights are on. All around a unique and excellent photo.
One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed, as a photographer, is that I see the different qualities of light around me. This is particularly interesting when you notice it at different times of the day and year. At sunrises and sunsets it is, of course, easy to see the fascinating shades of color that can play. But what can be really interesting is the light an hour or two after sunrise and how it can make a scene look, especially at different times of the year.
Let’s take Kai’s picture above. If we were to add the scene up by it’s parts, there’s nothing remarkable; just some trees, clouds, and a hill. But once we add the light of a winter sun, which is just a little further after magic hour sunrise, a beautiful photo is created. Suddenly those trees are nicely silhouetted; the power lines help break the shot into pleasing thirds; and the steam of the smoke stacks is lit up perfectly. And most of this is done with just the right amount of light.
“Cookie cutter” can be a critique with modern architecture; truth be told, I think it can be rather boring to look at. But repetition can also make a fascinating photo when done correctly. Take Emily’s photo here. Catching this apartment building at just the right spot created a series of eye catching repeating of windows and balconies. In fact, there is next to no variation. Removing the color from the shot adds to effect, forcing the viewer to look for variation, and finding none. Truly fascinating.
Time lapse videos have always fascinated me, particularly the ones showing traffic (like this one). These types of videos give the impression of incredible speed, even if the cars aren’t going that fast. To capture the essence of a time lapse video in one still photo is easier than you think; generally all you need is a decent camera, a tripod, and some traffic. But it’s also almost impossible to know exactly what you’re going to get. With long exposures you generally have to open the shutter and then figure out what photo you took. To get an interesting photo that’s more than just lines, you have to get lucky.
Take Kevin’s photo above. First there is the standard white/yellow colored headlights from oncoming traffic, giving the sense of movement. But what is that blur of multi-color in the middle? It’s a bus, with it’s front displays causing that play of light. Notice how the greenish-yellow coloring slowly fades as the position of the bus changes, relative to the camera. It’s the same with the red highlight lights, where they suddenly come into existence and just as suddenly stop. I can bet Kevin didn’t know exactly what he was going to get when that bus showed up along Pennsylvania Ave, but I’m also sure he wanted it in this shot.
Similar to the warning on wide angle dvd cases, the black bar at the top of Eric’s photo is supposed to be there. Because if it wasn’t, your eye would not naturally be drawn to the woman in the right corner. Without it, your eye would also not notice the faint lines of the brick wall in the back ground. And without it, your eye wouldn’t notice the amazing pose that the woman is in, caught perfectly in mid-stride, with a fascinating shadow cast on the wall. It helps that the image is in black and white (and film, no less), which helps focus on the composition of the photo without the distraction of color. Much of what makes this photo so good is tied directly to these two elements. Excellent work!
Despite the occasionally nonsensical restrictions, DC is a photographer’s paradise. Incredible geography, amazing sight lines, and the monuments known throughout the country, as well as all of the things that only the locals know about. This is a great place to take pictures, and there are so many who do it well. Our talented pool of Flickr users have some of the best in the city, and I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing their work in the 2013 version of DCist Exposed this Spring.
Entries are $10 and encompass up to three photos per entrant. So comb through your photos, my friends, and start your application process well ahead of the January 9th deadline. DC needs you.