washington

PHOTOGRAPHING CHERRY BLOSSOMS PAST PEAK BLOOM

A lot of patience and a lot of exposures let me keep the branch in focus while still capturing plenty of motion in the cherry blossoms. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/15 @ f16, ISO 100.

A lot of patience and a lot of exposures let me keep the branch in focus while still capturing plenty of motion in the cherry blossoms. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/15 @ f16, ISO 100.

Every year I try to make it to downtown Washington, D.C., at least once to photograph the cherry blossoms. Sometimes my schedule aligns with peak bloom, which historically occurs between late March and early April, other years, I simply make the trip with no expectations other than fresh air and exercise.

This year one thing was for certain, the first weekend I was free was already past peak bloom, defined as the day 70 percent of the trees have opened their buds. The other thing about the day I choose to photograph was the weather, overcast with intermittent light rain and low temperatures. The day before, however, was perfect. So it goes and as it turned out, the weather worked to my advantage. 

Again, knowing that it was well past peak bloom, I was pretty much expecting that the blossoms would be on the ground and figured that would be the picture I came away with. What surprised me right away was the number of blossoms that were floating on the surface of the water in the tidal basin.

For this photo I choose a slightly slower shutter speed, coupled with a wider lens, to really emphasize the motion. Again, I left some branches in the frame to give context to the photograph. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 23mm, 1/8 @ f16, ISO 100

For this photo I choose a slightly slower shutter speed, coupled with a wider lens, to really emphasize the motion. Again, I left some branches in the frame to give context to the photograph. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 23mm, 1/8 @ f16, ISO 100

That was something I had not seen before and I knew right away that this was going to be the photograph. I had a tripod with me, which would allow me to shoot at slower shutter speeds, so It was only a matter of choosing the right shutter speed in order to show motion yet retain enough detail in the cherry blossoms. Too fast of a shutter and I would freeze the blossoms, too slow, and they would be a blur of pink. 

Even with overcast skies, I knew if I wanted a slower shutter speed, I was going to be right at the limits of my exposure. I stopped my lens all the way down to f16 and set my ISO to 100. That gave me a shutter speed of 1/8th to 1/15th, which I found to be the sweet spot. It's a good thing too, because without a neutral density filter that was it. 

This was the photograph I was expecting to make when I left the house that morning. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/8 @ f10, ISO 200

This was the photograph I was expecting to make when I left the house that morning. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/8 @ f10, ISO 200

Sometimes you head out for the day with the intention of making one set of photos and something entirely different presents itself. That was the case on this day and I couldn't be happier with the results.

WORLD WIDE PHOTO WALK REDUX


So the 2012 World Wide Photo Walk results are in and you can see the grand prize winner and 10 finalists over at Scott Kelby's blog along with many of his personal favorites that didn't make the cut.

The really cool thing is that at the World Wide Photo Walk web site in the people's choice section you can see all the local walk winners from around the world and get the opportunity to vote. They are presented in order alphabetically by location.

Entering contests means you put yourself out there for others to judge. In this case you were judged by your local walk leader, then by Scott. I don't envy having to go through all these images and pick just one winner. I've been a photo contest judge in the past and know that everyone will second guess you. Even in this case as I looked through all the local winners, I found images that I liked better than those ultimately selected. That doesn't mean anything really, because who am I to disagree, the ultimate winner is a very nice photograph.

I participated in the Washington DC (Capitol Hill and The Mall) photo walk and thought I would share a few thoughts about the day and the process I used for selecting my contest entry. First, it forced me to get up before dawn on a cold morning and photograph around the U.S. Capitol Building and for that I am grateful. And I was happy with the results after two hours of shooting.


When the time came to select which photo I would enter, I struggled a bit. Did I submit the night shot of the Capitol, a portrait, or the still life of the apple taken in front of the Department of Health and Human Services? The shot of the Capitol was technically very good, but I figured everyone would have a similar shot and there was nothing really special about it. The lighting in the portrait was very nice and I figured most other walkers would not have photographed people, concentrating instead on the buildings. And the apple, which I thought was something very different, a found object in an unusual location, might stand out among other submissions.


So I went with the apple and was happy with the decision. I don't mind being judged and even though that photo didn't receive as much praise as the others when shared on Facebook and Flickr, it was my decision and that is a freeing experience. I've spent much of my photographic career playing it safe and this was my small chance to just go with my feelings.

My photo was not selected by the local leader and in fact when all the local photos were posted, I picked the same photo that was ultimately selected.

Would I have won if I went a safer route and submitted my night Capitol shot? It was better than the other night shots submitted after all. But the fact that others had submitted those same shots just confirms that I was conforming again which only makes me happier that I submitted the photo I did.

I mentioned in a previous post on the topic what I hoped to get out of a group photo walk and things went pretty much as expected. Following other walkers and leaders, as well as posting photos on Google + was a great way to connect and expand on the experience. It also made me take a second look at using Google + more often. One thing that I hoped for was a little more interaction between walkers and some follow up afterwards. From what I saw on Google +, it appeared many of the other groups met and shared photos immediately following the event.

I have an idea for a great walk location next year and will apply to be a group leader. More to come on that.

See my selection of photos from the Washington DC (Capitol Hill and The Mall) World Wide Photo Walk on Flickr.

WORLD WIDE PHOTO WALK

Photo taken during a solo photo walk in Chicago last week.
On October 13th 28,000 photographers will participate in 1,300 local photo walks around the world. I will be in in Washington, D.C., participating in my first.

Photo walks are essentially walking with your camera for the sole purpose of taking pictures of things you find along the way. They can be done alone or as part of a group and sometimes are led by an experienced photographer who will offer tips along the way.

The Worldwide Photo walk is the brain child of Photoshop expert and photographer Scott Kelby and if like me you've never taken part in a group photo walk, I think this is the perfect opportunity. While most of the world wide photo walks filled up quickly, you can check here to see if there are openings in your area or add your name to a waiting list.

As I stated above, I've never taken part in a group photo walk, however, I think being part of a group offers several things that a solo photo walk can not. It is a chance to share what you know with others while learning something from them. I provides you the opportunity to see photographs taken by others at the same time and location as you were shooting thus allowing you to reflect on your own work and vision. Finally, the peer pressure ensures you actually get out and shoot.

I will be participating in a three two hour photo walk that starts at 6 a.m. and focuses on Capitol Hill and the The Mall. Not sure exactly what gear I'll bring, but it will be minimal for sure. Years ago I accompanied my wife during a business trip to Paris and while she was in meetings during the day I had the opportunity to walk around the city just taking photos. I traveled to France with pretty much all the gear I owned at the time, but in the end found that my Nikon FM2 with a 24mm lens and a few rolls of film allowed me the freedom to really explore the city.

My goal during this photo walk will be to enjoy the company of fellow photographers. My only regret is that I have a 10 a.m. assignment at Mount Vernon which means I will not be able to stick around following the walk. Very disappointing, but not enough for me to cancel.

Check out the Official World Wide Photo Walk Facebook page or follow the official walk on Google+ or on Twitter using the hastag #WWPW.