Making Pictures: 26.2

What do 3.1, 5, 6.2, 10, 13.1, 26.2 have in common?  It’s not a Fibonacci series!  These are some of the standard distances for road race runners, with 3.1 and 6.2 in kilometers, and the rest in miles, and with the marathon at 26.2 miles being the gold standard of impressiveness for runners.  Running a marathon is like a badge of honor for those that complete this impressive feat.

DSC_5799 by Scott Vincent - 1(A runner and his partner proudly display their country’s flag and react to someone in the crowd, just 50 feet from the finish line.  Nikon D800, 70-200mm VR II, ISO 400, @f/2.8, 1/800 sec)

The New York City Marathon is one the most fun events I photograph every year.  I’ve been going for about 10 years straight, except for the one that was canceled last year because of the mess from Tropical Storm Sandy.  As a result of the skipped year, more runners than ever participated this year in the world’s largest marathon with 50k+ runners finishing.

The NYC Marathon is my frame of reference for this article, but there are road races being conducted nearly every weekend in most every US state.  Any one of these is a great opportunity to watch and photograph – and to get motivated to increase your own exercise level if that is on your list of New Year’s resolutions!

I’ve placed myself at different points along the 26.2 mile route, and there are no bad spots to photograph the runners.  On top of the excitement of seeing so many runners, it’s a great opportunity to fine tune your photographic skills.  If you’ve always wanted to learn to use “back-button” focusing, this is your chance (See Artie’s great article on this topic here: http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/2011/09/13/rear-focus-tutorial/).  I use this technique 100% of the time at road races and when photographing birds in flight.

DSC_4770 by Scott Vincent - 2(One of the lead runners collapsing just after the finish line being attended to Mary Wittenberg,  the President and CEO of New York Road Runners.   Please note that the clock in the background is for a different heat.  This runner finished in 14th place with a time of 2:16:35.  Nikon D800, 70-200mm VR II, ISO 400, @f/4, 1/1250 sec.)

Likewise, it’s a great way to learn to pan your lens, pick out a runner, focus, compose and shoot – all in a split second.  You can be sure that your reflexes and abilities as a photographer will be much improved after a single race.

This year was even more special for me because it was the first one that I’ve had the opportunity to be in the grandstand right at the finish line.  The shear excitement of watching and photographing the sea of runner as they see the finish for the first time is incredibly exhilarating.  I stood and photographed for 6 hours straight without getting tired.  I was surrounded by so much energy, cheering crowds and dance songs blasting – For me, it was one of the best days I’ve ever had photographing, and I wanted to share it with others.

DSC_5932 by Scott Vincent - 3(About 4 hours into the race, this runner is overwhelmed with joy as she sees the finish line for the first time, realizing that she’s about to complete the world’s greatest marathon.  Nikon D800, 70-200mm VR II, ISO 400, @f/2.8, 1/640 sec.)

It doesn’t matter if it’s 3.2 or 26.2, try to find a local running race, position yourself near the finish line, and you can’t help but become a better photographer and maybe even a little motivated to start running!  Who knows, maybe 2014 will be my year to run the NYC Marathon – Watch this space to find out!

To see a bunch more photographs, I’ve compiled over a hundred from this year’s NYC Marathon finish line and made it into a video that you can find here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhvxqza2CgI

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The Voice

Making Pictures – The Voice

By Scott Vincent

Note: “Making Pictures” is Scott Vincent’s continuing series about the technical of philosophical aspects of photography.

Much like you, I like to take photographs of things that I enjoy, that are interesting, or that are simply fun.  Having memories of these things and sharing them with others is what helps to make photography enjoyable.  But life isn’t always about love and roses – that’s simply the nature of living and life.  Sometimes there are things that we see that we don’t understand or don’t like.  Sometimes we run into controversy.

As a photographer, what do you do when you see something controversial?  Do you photograph it?

I was in just such a situation this past summer in Barrow, Alaska.  I was on an amazing bird photography workshop led by my good friend and fellow photographer Matthew Studebaker.  On the way back towards the hotel around midnight after a very long day of photographing some amazing birds we ran into a crowd of people and cars on the road.  This was very surprising because a crowd anywhere in Barrow is pretty tough to achieve since there simply aren’t that many people in the most northern U.S. city.  Yet, there it was.  Something important must be happening, but what was it?

It turns out that winter in Barrow this year was much longer than usual, and it extended way into the spring months.  As a result the sea ice didn’t break up until mid-June, which normally begins to happen in April.  This meant that boats could not leave the shore for fishing.  It also meant that boats could not leave to hunt whales.  Now they could, and just did.

Photo 1 by Scott Vincent(Above Photo: Wading up to my chest in ice cold water, I used a wide angle lens to show the environment which includes the floating ice, the gathering crowd of people, the whale lying on its side, and the modern machines that will shortly drag the whale by its tail onto the beach.)

I’ve been fortunate to have been able to see many parts of the world and to experience different cultures.  I get it that we’re all the same, but different.  We all like some of the same things and can’t agree on others.  I truly appreciate the differences.  But some things I will never understand such as why in the 21st century humans still kill whales and dolphins.  There is simply no need to kill these intelligent, beautiful species.  In some ways it seems that we’re still as primitive today as we are advanced.

A little background might be helpful.  The only piece of jewelry I own is a silver whale tail-fin pendant.  I’m a fan of the TV show “Whale Wars” and follow closely the daily Facebook live feeds from the Sea Shepherd and the Cove Guardians in their quest to raise awareness and to stop whaling and dolphin hunting once and for all.  I had always thought that it was other countries like Japan, Iceland and Norway that still barbarically slaughter these innocent creatures.  Sadly, I was wrong.  I was very wrong.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Even more so, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There were crowds cheering.  Car horns were blasting in triumph.  Photographs of the conquest were being taken with little children posing by the whale.  This was a huge celebratory event for Barrow.  Yet, it was a horrific day for this mother-to-be with a nearly full term calf inside her, now also dead.

Photo 2 by Scott Vincent(Above Photo: A photograph can portray the irony of a young child posing with its mother next to a recently hunted, pregnant whale)

As if in sympathy, the sun tried to set that day, but it too couldn’t sleep.  It was 3am, and I had been photographing this event for three hours straight.  I was exhausted but not tired.  I was upset but not mad.  I was standing next to someone who was overjoyed, and he was standing next to someone who was distraught.  This was controversy, and I photographed it.

Photo 3 by Scott Vincent(Above Photo: Normally we think of sunsets as beautiful and tranquil.  Photographing the hunters standing on top of their freshly killed prize and including the sun to create a silhouette helps to elicit mystery, drama and emotion.)

I was the only photographer who stayed to photograph this event.  The following day, knowing how much I admire cetaceans, someone asked me how I could photograph the butchering of the whale.  My response?  I had to do it out of respect for the whale. As disturbing as it was, I had to take the photographs to show others what is happening.  If I didn’t know what was happening, certainly others won’t know as well.

The funny thing about respect is that I have no doubt that the people from Barrow also have great respect for the whales they kill.  As little as 100 years ago, when there were no motor boats, no GPS, no SONAR, no exploding harpoons, and no airplanes to bring in daily supplies, whales sustained many native Alaskans over the hard winter months. I’m sure there is great respect for this inexpensive, yet unsustainable food source.

This was just one of 21 Bowhead whales that Barrow is permitted to kill this year.  Plus there are other Alaskan communities that also hunt whales making the total take for Alaska around 60+ whales each year – And this is to hunt a whale that is classified as Endangered by the United States Endangered Species Act and classified as “Depleted” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Times have changed though and so too should cultures adapt to these changes.  It is morally indefensible to simply think that killing whales is still acceptable on the basis of it having been done for centuries before.  There are large grocery stores filled with food in Barrow.  I know because I shopped there and ate very well.  Airplanes deliver supplies nearly every day to Barrow.  These days people can live in Alaska without having to kill innocent, majestic, intelligent, docile, free living whales.  It is simply no longer necessary.  It is simply tradition that keeps the killing alive.

Transparency is the first step to change, and photography provides transparency.

Yes, photographing things we like is very enjoyable. I wish everything was enjoyable.  Sometimes, though, photography can have a higher purpose.  Photography can capture and highlight the injustices that are still inflicted on the voiceless souls of the sea.  This whale, though, had a voice that day.  These photographs are this whale’s voice.

You can help demonstrate the power of photography by sharing this article and these three photographs.  Don’t let this whale’s voice go quiet.  Be the voice of the voiceless.

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Making Pictures: Serious Bocce

I’m never really sure what I’m going to come back with from New York City from an ad hoc shoot – It’s such an amazingly rich tapestry of life, people and objects.  I spent some time recently at Bryant Park admiring the dedication, skill and diversity of the Bocce players who were demonstrating their craft in the pits.

I created two interpretations from one photo that I particularly liked, in a process that I call “Making Pictures.”  It’s an example of creating something more or special from the original photo.  In this case it’s accentuating a mood and a feeling that otherwise may have been overlooked.  The equipment used was a Nikon D800 and Nikon 70-200mm VR II lens.

The first photo is an interpretation in a gritty black & white that I particularly like.  The photo makes you think for a moment about what is going on.  Black & white really simplifies this photo into it’s key elements.  The processing is partly the result of using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and the “Film Noir 1″ preset, with no changes to the preset parameters.  Be sure to click on each photo for a larger view.

_DSC5380 3kpx bw bocce

Serious Bocce in Black & White (c) Scott Vincent

The second photo is the optimized color version, using targeted saturation and contrast to highlight key areas such as the dusty rag and ruffled pants, and to lower the impact of other areas such as the background.

_DSC5380 3kpx color bocce - Serious Bocce in Color (c) Scott Vincent

Serious Bocce in Color (c) Scott Vincent

For comparison, below is the original photo immediately after the raw conversion and keeping the raw sliders at neutral, i.e. no change.  See the difference?  That’s how you Make Pictures!

_DSC5380 3kpx original bocce Serious Bocce - Original photo, straight from the raw capture (c) Scott Vincent

Serious Bocce – Original photo, straight from the raw capture (c) Scott Vincent

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New York City Skyline Full Moon

Join Denise Ippolito and me on the upcoming super fun New York Skyline Workshop.  This is one of my favorite locations to photograph from, and I’ve been coming here for 15+ years.

Denise & I recently ran into a last year’s participant who mentioned that he took his all-time favorite photo on this workshop – and I can understand why.  There are so many photographic and learning opportunities on this workshop that we will help you with.  We’ll help you learn to see like the camera does as we paint with light and enjoy the sun setting on this amazing New York panoramic view.

Last year Arthur Morris joined us on the workshop and mentioned in his follow-up blog that even he learned a thing or two!!  And this year it’s looking like Tim Grey will be on our workshop!!  You really don’t want to miss this one!!  Only one week left – sign up on Denise’s website (scroll down to July 21 Manhattan Skyline Workshop).

The photos below were taken recently from where the workshop will be conducted.

New York City Skyline with Full Moon

New York City Skyline with Full Moon

New York City Skyline with Flag Pole

New York City Skyline with Flag Pole

New York City - Empire State Building & Bright Lights

New York City – Empire State Building & Bright Lights

New York City Skyline Panorama Abstract

New York City Skyline Panorama Abstract

Posted in Denise Ippolito, New York City, New York City Skyline, Night Photography, Workshop | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Roundodendron”

I was intrigued by this Rhododendron’s radiating center of peduncles (the stems that hold the flowers in a ball)  radiating from the plant.  Normally this is not seen as the flowers form a tight floral ball, but the flowers here were beaten down by a long, hard rain.  This photo was taken with a Nikon 105mm Macro lens while standing on my toes to get the height needed.

But there was an added twist, litterally.  The Nikon D800 was in two-exposure mode – one image file with two superimposed photos.  I placed the center focus point on the central axis of the flower for both photos.  Keeping the camera’s focus point in the center of the flower, the second photo was taken after rotating the camera a few degrees to help emphasize the round Ferris wheel effect.

In post processing, three different Fractalius effects where lightly blended creating the final “Roundodendron.”  Enjoy!

"Roundodendron "

“Roundodendron ” (c) Scott Vincent

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Beautiful Cut Throat

The term Cut Throat is one that usually conjures up a very negative connotation of someone who is not nice, is mean, is spiteful, is a bully.  Basically, it’s a person who will do anything to improve his/her status in some way at the uncaring expense of others.

So when can a Cut Throat be beautiful?  When it’s the colloquial name of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and so named because of the startling blood-red plumage starting at its neck line.

The Grosbeak is a member of the passerines that spend their winters in Central and South America.  Then, as if in a race for its life, makes a bee-line to North America where it tries to find suitable habit, searches for a mate, rears its young and then prepares to head south again.  Unlike human cut throats, the grosbeak is a stunningly beautiful animal.

Like clockwork, every year the Rose-breasted Grosbeak arrives in the North East during the first week in May – this after flying non-stop over the Gulf of Mexico, like millions of other birds do this time of year.  Simply Amazing!!

This rendition uses a photo taken this week of a new arrival and applies two passes of Fractalius of different effects that are blended at less than full strength on top of the original photo.  This was overlaid with a background texture for the final effect.

Enjoy this Cut Throat – but don’t be one!

Cut Throat – (c) Scott Vincent

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Lessons from a Lone Osprey

The Lone Osprey.  So many things to learn from this image.  Photographers, when seeing an opportunity to photograph a bird, will generally attempt to inch closer and closer in order to obtain a more frame-filling image.  A frame-filling image can be beautiful and I’ve taken many of them, but they can be less artistic and less creative than an image where the bird is small in the frame simply because there is more to work with when you have a subject small in the frame in terms of placement, what you decide to include or exclude, etc.

However, because of all of the possible options, it is much more challenging to make an artistically pleasing photo of a bird which is small in the image, but in my view it is very worth it to try.  When done right, these images can be highly memorable and impactful.

When I saw this Osprey land in a dead tree, I looked immediately to see what opportunities there may be to make a pleasing image.  The tendency is to get closer – instead, I walk away.  How far?  I walked away until the tree was fully visible in the whole frame.  A much more impactful image resulted in my view.

But getting a great image is only half the battle.  How do you present it?  In this case, I wanted to enhance the artistic impact by enhancing the silhouette effect by adjusting levels and curves.  Then the image was run through the Fractalius processing software where I selected options to create a small white boarder around the silhouette to make it stand out a bit more.  Lastly, a texture overlay was added to the background to complete the effect.

I’m liking it!!  How about you??

Lone Osprey (c) Scott Vincent

Lone Osprey (c) Scott Vincent

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If you think you can’t…

…then think again!

There are 30,000 reasons why the ING New York City Marathon is inspirational – that’s how many runners there are each year in the race.  I’ve been photographing the marathon for several years, and each time I’m in awe of the runners who finish the 26.2 mile endurance run.  As soon as I photographed this amazing runner, the thought that came immediately to mind was “If you think you can’t…then think again!

Congratulations to Dan Cnossen for a great finish!!  Truly inspirational!!

419 Dan Cnossen 2:38:00 NY United States USA
If you think you can't...then think again!

If you think you can't...then think again!

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Baxter State Park – Finale: Behind the scenes and cut photos

Some final “behind the scenes” photos and photos that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another from the recent photo trip to Baxter State Park in October of 2011.  I hope you found this series fun, inspirational and helpful.  If these posts have inspired you to go to Baxter State Park, be sure to send me a link of your photos – I’d love to see what you came away with!  Best of luck!

Here’s a photo taken when using the eMotimo time lapse machine (the orange box). If you’re interested in getting started in time lapse, this is a great, relatively inexpensive device that will help you to capture a lot of interesting motion time lapse photo sequences, such as this one: http://vimeo.com/34357777.

eMotimo PT - 2-Axis time lapse machine used to capture the stream sequence

Returning from having just taken some cool photos at Big Niagara Falls, I wanted to capture the sign so I wouldn’t forget where I was.  In a moment of bad judgement, I put myself in the photo :-) Notice the layers of clothing and rain jacket – be prepared for anything when visiting Baxter!

Yours truly. Oh come on - give me a break - it's a FISHEYE lens!! :-)

Here are the High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos used to produce the first photo in the first post in this Baxter series. HDR is an awesome technique, but it’s not without it’s own faults and limitations.  I use and recommend Photomatix to process HDR images.  It’s the only HDR program I’ve used to date – however I’ll happily try others if companies send me a copy!

The HDR captures for the first photo in the first post of this series

I parked the car and saw a perfect mushroom. It wasn’t going anywhere so I figured I would take its photo when I come back from looking for moose.  A couple hours later, this is what it looked like!! Not long after that, only the stem was left!! Note to self – Take the photo right away next time!!

I should have taken this photo when I first saw the 'shroom - before it was half eaten!!

Thought the next scene was colorful – nothing more…

No particular reason...

One of my objectives was to photograph Mt. Katahdin and Sandy Stream Pond at night. This was taken with a fisheye on my last night in the park. All of the other nights were clouded over. Taken with a fisheye – the landscape is being lit by a nearly full moon while the stars light up the expansive sky! (Click on the photo to see the stars better.)

Starry Sky - Moonlit Landscape

Baxter State Park would not be here if it were not for the generous gift of Percival Proctor Baxter. Always good to think about and recognize the people who make things possible. What a loss this would have been!!

Thank you Percival Proctor Baxter for your generous gift and amazing foresight!!

Thanks for stopping by. This concludes this series on Baxter State Park. I hope you found it helpful and enjoyable. Best of luck if you go – be sure to send me a link of your photos if you do!!

Thanks for stopping by - Please visit this blog again!!

Resources for more information:
- High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing software: http://www.hdrsoft.com/
- Emotimo PT Time Lapse Machine: http://emotimo.com/
- Maine Foliage Report: http://www.maine.gov/doc/foliage/report/index.shtml
- Maine Moose fact page: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/education/wildlifepark/wildlife/moose.htm
- Moose Wikipedia fact page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moose
- Baxter State Park: http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/
- Maine Appalachian Trail Club: http://www.matc.org/
- Official US Government Web Site: http://www.nps.gov/appa/index.htm
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home

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Baxter State Park – Part 6: Moose!!

Happy New Year!!

For many people, the primary attraction to Maine’s Baxter State Park is for the chance to have a close encounter with moose!! Baxter State Park is one of the best locations in the Northeast US to see moose – however even here, sightings are not guaranteed!!

Besides actually seeing a moose – there are two easy ways to know that moose have been in the area. The first is to find their scat (droppings), which are like deer droppings only much larger!!

The second way is to see their foot prints. This will also give you a clue as to the size of the moose. First year calves will have smaller, less deep foot prints. Larger males will have much larger and deeper foot prints. The first two photos below depict both signs – scat and foot print.

Moose in Baxter State Park are free roaming, wild animals and can show up anywhere, even if you don’t see these tell-tale signs. However, it’s a good bet to wait in an area where there are many of these signs, especially if they are found near a pond.

Moose Scat - Foot included for scale - no moose scat was injured during filming!! (c) Scott Vincent

Fresh moose foot print - Human foot included for scale - (c) Scott Vincent

While waiting near a pond with the moose signs shown above, I waited out any number of rain showers – and this wet Red Squirrel that constantly tormented me, probably saying “No moose for you!!”

Red Squirrel giving me a hard time for not seeing a moose!

The last rain shower produced the closest rainbow I had even seen. It literally lit up the side of the pond where I had been waiting for several hours – surely this must be a good sign!!!

A rainbow in Baxter State Park must be a good sign while waiting for a moose to show up!! (c) Scott Vincent

Not long after the rainbow disappeared, a large male moose came out and wandered around the pond in search of a suitable mate. Moose have a keen sense of smell, and during the rut the males use this to their advantage to find a mate.

Waiting outside for several hours through the rain showers paid off!!!

Moose smelling the air for a mate in Baxter State Park (c) Scott Vincent

Majestic Male Moose in Baxter State Park (c) Scott Vincent

Majestic Male Moose in Baxter State Park (c) Scott Vincent

Resources for more information:
- Maine Foliage Report: http://www.maine.gov/doc/foliage/report/index.shtml
- Maine Moose fact page: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/education/wildlifepark/wildlife/moose.htm
- Moose Wikipedia fact page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moose
- Baxter State Park: http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/

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