FIELD TECHNIQUE: It’s All in Your Perspective

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

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Hessian Lake – Bear Mountain State Park, New York. © F.M. Kearney

It’s something that usually isn’t given much conscious thought, yet it’s like that one obscure ingredient that can make or break a recipe. Its effects aren’t as obvious as your choice of aperture or shutter speed, but nevertheless, it is just as important. What I’m referring to is perspective.

Contrary to popular belief, your perspective is controlled by your viewpoint — not the focal length of your lens. The only reason the perspective of wide-angle and zoom lenses is so different from normal is because they “view” drastically more or less of the scene. Focal lengths ranging from the mid-teens to the early twenties can provide dramatic landscape views. This is great if you want to include a very close foreground and a background that might be miles away. Sometimes, however, a scene might call for just the opposite kind of perspective. Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Just Another Gray Winter Day

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

New York City’s Central Park in winter. © F.M. Kearney

New York City’s Central Park in winter. © F.M. Kearney

The middle of winter can be a little depressing. The five-day forecast might show such a long stream of dull, dreary days that it makes one wonder if the weatherperson forgot to update the map. In the Northeast, it can seem as though the entire world is in hibernation. Everything is lifeless. Nothing is in bloom. On overcast days, you might feel like you’re living in a black-and-white movie. Then, of course, there’s the unforgiving cold. Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUE: One man’s trash

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

Snow-covered saucer magnolia blooms.

Snow-covered saucer magnolia blooms.

The groundskeepers were a bit perturbed, but I was ecstatic.

Four inches of snow had fallen the day before. This wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy except it was April 8, 2003. These four inches brought the total amount of snow received in the New York area to just under 50 inches, placing the 2002-03 winter among the top 20 snowiest winters in the city’s recorded history.

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FIELD TECHNIQUE: The challenges of winter photography

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

The Lake frozen over and snow-covered from The Hernshed Central Park New York, NY The Lake at the Hernshed Central Park New York, NY (5-image HDR compilation)
Left: The Lake in Central Park, New York City, in winter. Right: The same composition in early fall.
© F.M. Kearney

As beautiful as winter is to photograph, it also can be burdensome for you and your equipment. Certain precautions are required that no other season demands. Creativity takes a backseat when you’re cold and wet and thinking only about going home to enjoy a nice warm bowl of soup.

We’ve all heard that dressing in layers is the best way to go. You have the ability to add or remove articles of clothing as the temperature fluctuates. But what about your lower body? Jeans are probably the worst type of pants to wear, because they can freeze if they get wet and denim is often stiffer than other materials. Wool pants are warm, but I prefer to wear long underwear with nylon ski pants that stay dry even in the wettest conditions.

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NANPA Weekly Wow: Nov 14-20

Fall foliage, NY Botanical Garden © F.M. Kearney

Fall foliage, NY Botanical Garden © F.M. Kearney

Each week www.nanpa.org highlights 7 images from the top 100 submissions of the 2016 NANPA Showcase competition. This week’s images are by:

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FIELD TECHNIQUE: The Beauty of Bokeh

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

© F.M. Kearney

© F.M. Kearney

Years ago, I referred to the out-focus parts of an image as, well, the out-of-focus parts of an image. Nowadays, it seems as though there’s a specific name for everything, and bokeh is the name for the aesthetic quality of the blur in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. It has also been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.”

After viewing several You Tube videos, I’m still not 100 percent sure how to correctly pronounce bokeh, but I can tell you it was popularized in Photo Techniques magazine in 1997. The word began showing up in photography books in 1998.

Perhaps the only thing that really matters is how to use it to enhance your photos. Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Autumn—The foolproof season

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

If there was such a thing as a Super Bowl season for nature photography, it would have to be autumn. Perhaps the best thing about this time of year is that there are no bad days for a shoot. Fall foliage is one of the few subjects in nature that look good in virtually any type of lighting or weather condition.

Fall foliage at Hessian Lake Bear Mountain State Park Bear Mountain, NY

Overcast condition. © F.M. Kearney

Fall foliage around Richmond Lake Clove Lakes Park Staten Island, NY (5-image HDR compilation)

Sunny condition. © F.M. Kearney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorful foliage and bodies of water are a great combination. Look for reflections along the shorelines of lakes and rivers. I used to think that sunny days provided the best reflections, but as you can see from the images above, stunning results can be obtained in cloudy conditions as well. Although purely a personal choice, I prefer shooting fall foliage on overcast days. However, there is one important thing to keep in mind: a gloomy white sky won’t add much to your photos. In fact, it can be distracting. In the overcast shot, I zoomed in tight to crop it out—placing the emphasis on the multicolored tree line. Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Shedding New Light on Common Subjects

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

Overcast light, direct sunlight, high angles, low angles: there are probably as many ways to photograph flowers as there are flowers themselves. However, if the flowers are the sole subjects of your shot, each image might not look radically different from the others. If you’re tired of the ordinary and you want to create something truly unique, try a totally different approach.

Photography is all about light, so it stands to reason that if you drastically change the light, you will drastically change the look of your photo. One way to do this is to shoot indoors under artificial light. You don’t need a studio or any special equipment to do this.

Backlit lily (Liliaceae) In studio New York, NY

© F.M. Kearney

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NANPA Weekly Wow: Aug 8-14

"Mauritius ornate day gecko, Phelsuma ornata, Ile aux Aigrettes, Mauritius" © Gabby Salazar

“Mauritius ornate day gecko, Phelsuma ornata, Ile aux Aigrettes, Mauritius” © Gabby Salazar

Each week www.nanpa.org highlights 7 images from the top 100 submissions of the 2016 NANPA Showcase competition. This week’s images are by:

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Urban Nature

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

How can I crop out the edge of that building?

Has the traffic completely cleared the scene yet?

Are those tourists ever going to move?

If you’ve ever tried to shoot nature photos within an urban environment, you’ve undoubtedly asked yourself questions like these at one time or another. I often write about the difficulties of pursuing a career as a nature photographer in a large metropolitan city. It’s not always economically or logistically possible to escape city limits and venture into the wild to capture true nature. You sometimes have no choice but to shoot nature wherever you can find it—amidst all the inherent distractions of a concrete jungle.

I used to go to great lengths to avoid any man-made objects in my nature photos, believing that any hint of urban artifacts would lessen the impact of the natural subject. This would be true if the objects were only in the shot due to careless oversight. However, it’s an entirely different story if their inclusion is deliberate and done for creative purposes.

Cities come alive with color in the spring. You probably won’t have to go far to find a beautiful flower display. Instead of attempting to isolate it from its surroundings, try to incorporate the natural and the artificial worlds.

Looking down Park Avenue

Looking down Park Avenue

In New York, colorful tulips adorn the median of Park Avenue for several miles. With the traffic zooming by just a few feet away, it’s amazing that they survive. Yet, not only do they survive in this inhospitable environment, they flourish. And for a couple of weeks during the season, they really put the “park” in Park Avenue. Countless tourists photograph these flowers each year, but very few hang around until twilight. That’s too bad (well, it’s great for me since I practically have the whole place to myself), because the city and traffic lights add a lot of vitality to the scene. Instead of waiting for the traffic to clear out of the shot in the photo above, I waited for it to enter. I wanted to use the light trails from passing vehicles as a dynamic framing element for the tulips, as well as a way to help draw the viewer’s eye into the shot. I chose this particular spot in between two glass towers for more symmetry and more colorful light reflecting off the windows. Lastly, I used a 16mm fisheye lens to emphasize the “tunnel” effect of the scene. Continue reading