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Capturing Fireworks

From Josh Anon/ DPA instructor in San Francisco To view more of his images please visit I am a big believer in pre-visualizing photos and then executing them.  Even if your pre-visualization isn’t perfect, it gives you purpose and lets you actively plan for a shot instead of reacting to what’s around you.  In this case, I knew that for the fourth of July, San Francisco would have a big fireworks show downtown, and the forecast was (unusually) fog-free.  That meant I had a chance to create a unique image of San Francisco, with the Golden Gate Bridge (the most distinctive icon that immediately screams “San Francisco” to a viewer) and fireworks.  I knew of a good spot in the Marin headlands and arrived hours in advance, expecting a crowd and wanting a parking spot.  A lot of photography involves patience!  I framed this shot up before the fireworks started balancing where the bridge is and where I roughly estimated the fireworks would be, based on what I saw in the paper.  To shoot, I put my camera in bulb mode, held a piece of cardboard in front of the lens between fireworks bursts, and exposed each image for 2-3 firework bursts.  While the fireworks are a tad over-exposed, I still like the shot because of how the intense brightness and shapes from the falling embers contrasts with the darkness in the rest of the frame, just like when you see fireworks with your naked eye. Canon EOS 1Ds with Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L at 35mm on a tripod.  f/5.6, 8 sec, ISO 200.  

Finding a Crowd

From Josh Anon/ DPA instructor in San Francisco To view more of his images please visit A small change in perspective can make a big impact in the photos we create.  The San Francisco Ferry Building is often quite crowded during the Saturday morning farmers market, but when you’re down in it the crowd, it’s tough to capture the feeling you have of being there.  By finding stairs to a second floor, I was able to find a unique perspective, looking down at the crowd and showing how dense it was.  However, if I just took this with a regular lens, even at a small f-number, the crowd would read as a texture and the photo would lack a subject.  Instead, I used a Lens Baby to bring selective focus to just one part of the crowd, specifically an area squished in the middle of the crowd.  This blurred the crowd in such a way that it didn’t read as a texture (some is blurred and some isn’t), and it makes it clear that the focus of the photo (pardon the pun) is the crazy crowd.  Additionally, the lines in the wall converge, further brining your attention to the in-focus area. Canon EOS 1D MkIV with Lens Baby Composer.  f/4, 1/60 sec, ISO 400  

Bridges and Fog

From Josh Anon/ DPA instructor in San Francisco To view more of his images please visit Even though Mark Twain never actually said the coldest winter he’d ever had was a summer in San Francisco, the near-daily fog does make for some cold summers.  And some beautiful pictures!  The bay area’s geography is also unique in that there are hills in the east bay, and the hills are often a demarcation line for the fog.  Depending on the weather conditions, there are days where a low, thick bank of fog rolls into the bay but below the top of the hills.  This makes it so that you can get a great vantage point, looking across the city and seeing where the fog is.  I was in the hills on one such day, guessing the weather conditions would be correct, but I arrived before sunset and before I could see for sure what the fog was doing.  As the sun started to set, the fog moved across the bay.  A long lens on a tripod (roughly 400mm) let me isolate the features that make the scene say “San Francisco,” that is the bay bridge, Sutro tower, and the downtown skyline.  Even though the fog covers most of them, you still have a sense of geography.  Waiting for the lights to come on also added a nice element to the shot, a bit of warmth and brightness contrasting with the fog. Canon EOS 1Ds with Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS on a tripod at 400mm.  f/16, 1.6 sec, ISO 100, -2/3 stops in evaluative metering.  

Motorcycles Street Scene

From Josh Anon/ DPA instructor in San Francisco To view more of his images please visit I often carry a Sony RX1 with me, as it’s got great image quality in a very compact form factor.  I don’t always want to carry a big DSLR.  Especially on photo trips, when I’m in a different environment, even when I’m not shooting my main subjects, I often see opportunities for interesting photos that make me want a camera.  This street scene is one such example, as I saw it while leaving dinner in China, near Mongolia one evening.  I liked the row of bikes and the people walking, as it captured how the town felt.  The converging lines into the distance added depth and visual intensity, and the warm colors on the signs provided a nice balance to the cool shadows.  And as I framed up a shot, I saw a car starting to drive down the street.  I quickly focused and shot a burst, getting the car in different positions.  It was sheer luck that this one guy looked back at me (it’s possible I swore when I saw the car and rushed to get the shot setup), creating a nice connection between the photo and the viewer. Sony RX1 at 35mm, f/2, 1/80 sec, ISO 6400  

Symmetry, timing, and simplicity

From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor in Boston To view more of his images please visit Symmetry, timing and simplicity are the backbone of many stand-out images. This photo was taken while on a casual, end of day walk along the shoreline at Old Orchard Beach in Ogunquit, Maine.  As the sun was setting behind me, only the clouds were being directly illuminated, creating a scene with  an intense, warm-cool  (yellow/blue) color contrast.  Adding to this, was the reflection of the sky on the mirror-like, smooth sand beach, that appeared with each retreating wave, making the timing of the exposure an important factor.  Choosing a wide angle allowed for the inclusion of  the most real estate (keeping both the actual clouds and their reflections on the sand) and enabled me to work with a slowish shutter speed of a 1/15th sec with an aperture  of  f/8.0, holding focus from the foreground to the horizon. This was a situation where breaking the “rule of thirds” allowed for a more dynamic image.   Camera was Canon 5D, ISO 200 and using a 24mm focal length with a 24-105 IS lens.

A vision and a camera

From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor in Boston To view more of his images please visit Sometimes, quite often as it turns out, great photos are no further from your front door than your front porch.  This image is an example of that.  No need to travel to a distant land or even get in the car to chase light.  I did have to put on a serious coat and go outdoors though, but once there, all I needed was a vision and a camera.  To give this image the feeling of the day, I selected a tungsten color balance, which gave the chilling blue color-cast to the snow.  The contrast between the on-coming car’s headlamps and that blueish snow make the vehicle pop from the photo.  I actually enhanced the lights with NIK software, darkening and warming them, and used another NIK filter to add a cool glow to the overall image. One important technical aspect of shooting in the cold and/or snow is to keep your equipment (and yourself) warm and dry.  I made a plastic covering for the camera with an opening just large enough to poke a lens hood through.  When not actually shooting, I kept this opening pinned against my body which prevented any snowflakes from landing on either the camera or the lens. IF I’d stayed out longer, I would have kept the camera under my coat, not just for protection, but to keep the battery warm.  Shooting in the cold can suck the life out of your battery in a very short time.  To address that, I always keep an extra battery in an inside pocket, next to my body, and switch it out with the battery in the camera which is continually chilling as I work.  For extended shoots outdoors, I hold a Hothands Hand Warmer outside the camera’s battery compartment.  Along with keeping my battery active, I end up having at least one warm hand as well.  Another win-win. Camera was Canon 5D, ISO 100, 1/60th sec,  24-105 IS lens at f/5.6, shot at 105mm.

Wondrous light

 From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor in Boston To view more of his images please visit In the quest for great images, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking advantage of the exceptional quality of light in the early morning and late afternoon hours of the day. At this time, the light has a direction and a warmth that only happens when the sun is low on the horizon. I call it chasing light.  To this end, I try to find where the beautiful light is falling and nearly never come back without some image that is exceptional just because it was shot in wonderous light.  I have a friend from New York City who tells me he never has problems parking in the city.  What he does is simple.  He finds a parking spot, takes it and then finds something to do around it.  Chasing light is like that, and what you find around your spot is often magical. This image was taken late in the afternoon in Bethlehem, NH, found while driving down roads I’d never been on before.  It was all discovery.  This tree lined driveway (to what will remain a mysterious destination) is a nearly perfect example of both leading lines and the rule of thirds.  Everything takes your eye into the depths of this image.  The road’s curved sides are nearly mirror images of each other as are the trees themselves.  All lines lead to a point 1/3rd down from the top and roughly 1/3rd in from the right.

The Panning effect

 From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor from Boston View more of his images at The technique used to make this photo is called panning.  It is a very effective means of conveying motion, and can bring amazing energy to a photo. To obtain images like this, one moves the camera with the subject, keeping the main object in the same place, relative to the edge of the frame.  The image of the background sweeps from side to side while the car remains centered….or wherever you’ve placed it in the frame.  You can check out the intensity of the blur by simple experimentation, moving the camera at different speeds and/or following subjects which move at different velocities.  I like to find a shutter speed which gives me an acceptable and appealing blur and then find an aperture/ISO combination which gives neither an over nor under exposed file, checking your histogram to ensure you are not unnecessarily blowing out important detail.   Digital photography makes taking pann shots relatively simple, as it gives you the means to adjust your settings to meet whatever situations you encounter and provide you with an instant preview.   In this instance, I was in the small village of Lyme Regis in England and saw this red coupe coming towards me at a relatively slow speed.  In order to show it’s motion, I knew from experience that I would be able to get the results I wanted by setting my camera to it’s shutter priority mode and to a 1/15th of a second.   If the car had been traveling slower, I might have used a 1/8th sec exposure.   This technique is wonderfully effective when shooting runners, people biking, dogs running or even kids playing soccer.  The important thing is to find the shutter speed which works for your particular situation and then work around that setting.


 From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor in Boston To view more of his images please visit: I don’t think I’ve ever gone out shooting when I haven’t met a dog worthy of having it’s photo taken.  One technique which nearly always works is to get down to the dog’s level.  This isn’t to say that other unique angles won’t work, but what makes this particular image stand out is that “in your face” factor that you get when looking slightly up at him. I used a relatively short (24mm) lens and came in as close as I could, without altering the situation.  In doing so, I accentuated the nose and diminished the relative size of the ears.  I felt that this gave a slightly goofy, yet pleasing, feel to the photo.   Significant post production work included a NIK HDR application in conjunction with silhouetting the dog and treating the background as a separate entity. I was obviously not going for reality here, but rather a hyper-reality. To that end, I blurred an already out of focus background, while significantly sharpening the dog, except for areas (eyes, muzzle and nose) which wanted to remain crisp.   When shooting animals, it’s always helpful to have their person, as well as a helper, around.  The owner can get his pet’s attention and your helper can hold a fill card for you.  It’s important that the fill card, or reflector, does not alarm the animal however, and I’ve found that with some animals it’s best to use a bright reflector which works from greater distances.

Shallow depth of field

 From Frank Siteman/ DPA instructor in Boston To view more of his images please visit : A boy and his dog…..  Sure it’s a cliche, but for a good reason.  When a photo shows emotion, it’s successful.   One difference between a painter and a photographer is that a painter starts with an empty canvas and puts down on it what he or she wants to present.  A photographer on the other hand, starts with a full canvas and must eliminate what is distracting or unwanted.   In this photo, a relatively long focal length (200mm) was used at a wide aperture (f/2.8) to ensure that there would be a very shallow depth of field.  The focus was on the catch-light, or twinkle, in the dog’s eyes.   The sun was relatively low in the sky and I positioned the boy and his puppy so that they were illuminated from behind.  That produced a rim light that separated the subject from the already out of focus background.  It makes the image come alive.   I typically use a large reflector, made from a rigid foam insulation board (with an aluminum foil surface) and cover over 50 percent of it’s surface with gold spray paint.  This reflector can work from great distances, but must be catching direct rays of sunlight in order to bounce them back.  If there is an overcast sky, it will need to be much closer to the subject to work, but the gold warms what would be the reflection of a cool sky.   Again, a post processing affect was employed on a separate layer (with a mask) to selectively alter areas of the image and to create a painterly look.

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