FIELD TECHNIQUE: The final frames

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

Azalea garden, © F.M. Kearney

As you are probably aware, this is the final issue of eNEWS. It’s been an honor to write for this publication, and I truly hope that my words and images have inspired you with new techniques and ideas. For a slight change of pace, I’d like to focus more on human interest than technical details in this installment. The following is a small collection of some of my favorite unpublished photos and the stories behind them.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve visited the New York Botanical Garden. But, no matter how often I’ve been there, I never seem to run out of new locations to shoot within its 250 acres. The garden is constantly under renovation, providing endless photo ops.

The azalea garden underwent such a renovation a couple of years ago. I went there on an overcast day to shoot closeups of the azaleas, which were in full bloom at the time. By mid-morning, the weather made an about-face, and the day became completely sunny. The harsh lighting dashed my plans for intimate details. I reluctantly switched gears and decided to concentrate more on the overall area.

I passed by a large, red rhododendron bush several times, because I didn’t think it was worth shooting. It was in the shade, and a few of the leaves were spotted with yellow and black marks. When I finally decided to photograph it, I used an off-camera flash to balance shaded light in the foreground with the brightly-lit background. I removed the dead leaves later in post. I shot many compositions, but I like the one above the most due to the curvature of the footpath on the right and the garden itself.

Lone woman in snowstorm, © F.M. Kearney

On February 9 of this year, a blizzard hit New York City. I like to get out as soon as possible to capture pristine conditions, and since I live only a block away from Central Park, I can usually get there within minutes. Since I was going out at the height of the blizzard, I took a few precautions. I stripped my camera of all unneccessary accessories — no flash, no filter, no big lens, no shutterboss and, certainly, no tripod. All I used was one small 28mm wide-angle lens. I covered the camera with a plastic baggie and cut out holes for the lens and strap. I found the baggie to work better than most commercial rain covers I’ve tried. I kept the camera warm under my heavy coat, only taking it out for a few seconds at a time when I was absolutely ready to shoot. While walking along the reservoir walkway, I saw a woman in the distance heading in my direction. I quickly repositioned myself off the beaten path and waited for her to pass. When she was in just the right spot, I captured the photo above. I really like the progression in tree sizes, as well as the abyss beyond the fence. On a regular day, you can clearly see the other side.

Japanese cherry blossoms, © F.M. Kearney

I’ve never been a huge fan of considerably altered photos. Traditional photography has always been my main objective. One of the licensing agencies I work with, however, has repeatedly told me that straight photography just doesn’t sell that well anymore.

In response to the agency, I purchased a program called Topaz Impression. The program can transform an ordinary photo into an image resembling an Impressionistic painting, and it allows for infinite creativity, with dozens upon dozens of effects you can apply to your images. I applied an Impressionistic, black and white sketch effect to the cherry blossoms above. I then brought it into Photoshop and “painted” the color back in selective locations, producing an almost 3-D effect with a Flemish Baroque influence. This effect takes time and patience to perfect, but it creates truly unique images that straddle the line between photography and painting. My licensing agency loves the look, and I have to admit, although it is far from “traditional,” so do I.

Christmas tree display on Park Avenue, © F.M. Kearney

As Snoopy might say, “It was a dark and stormy night,” and that night was December 26, 2016. The day after Christmas is also known as Boxing Day in some parts of the world. It is a day when it is customary to give gifts to people in the service industry as thanks for their work throughout the year.

I specifically chose that night during the holiday season when the traffic would be light to shoot the Christmas tree displays on Park Avenue. On a regular night with heavier traffic, there would be a higher likelihood of turning vehicles stopping in the middle of the intersection and blocking the display. That would have totally ruined the shot. I wanted to have “clean” light trails on either side of the display. Although I was correct about the traffic pattern, I failed to take into consideration that many of the residents had left town for the holidays — reducing the surrounding buildings to eerily darkened monoliths. At first, I wasn’t too thrilled about that, but as it turned out, the darkened areas help the trees stand out more. It had rained earlier, and the still-wet pavement beautifully reflected the colorful lights. Finally, the lone couple waiting to cross the street sort of reminds me of the famous movie poster for The Exorcist, of the silhouetted priest standing under a single streetlamp in front of a dark house.


 

F.M. Kearney began his career as a photojournalist for a variety of local New York City newspapers. It was an exciting profession, which allowed him to cover everything from famous celebrities to ride-alongs with the NYPD and the FDNY. He now specializes in nature and urban landscapes. As an award-winning photographer, his images have been licensed on many products and published in numerous publications, as well as exhibited in galleries in the United States and abroad. To view more of his work, visit www.starlitecollection.com. Kearney can be contacted at starcollec@aol.com, or via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.