If anybody actually keeps up with my photo blogging, I apologize for the constant parade of uninspired and generic pictures that I’ve been posting lately. I like to think of them as the Seinfeld of photography – an amusing look at mundane weekend events going on in a large city. As soon as I get a little more time I will focus more on portraiture and maybe a new concept or two, but for now I am enjoying the great Texas weather were having and focusing on leisure photography.
On that spirit, I was visiting the new Menil Collection exhibit on civil rights era photography and afterwords decided to take some pictures from the outside of the museum since the weather was absolutely perfect to be outside. It also was a good chance to try out my new 14-24mm f/2.8 Nikon lens.
The first picture is a giant sculpture at set of the museum. This picture is shot wide open at 14 mm on my D90 camera(this lens is really made for full frame cameras) and the picture is just very sharp. I know for a fact that I couldn’t have gotten it pictured the sharp with my old Sigma lens even if the Sigma was stopped down to a sharper aperture. Of course I am losing out on 4 mm’s until I get a full frame camera, but my main complaint against the Sigma lens was that I could sharpness and I certainly don’t have that problem anymore with the new beast of a lens from Nikon.
As far as generic pictures go, there is nothing as generic and cliché as an empty swing in a playground. There is however a little more into this picture than meets the eye. For one thing there is a very big difference in the dynamic range of the picture – the bright areas and the dark areas. The challenge when taking such a picture is to capture the feeling of actually being there, but unfortunately even the best cameras today forced you to either choose to expose the dark area of the picture and blowout that light areas or expose the highlights correctly and underexpose the shadows.
There are a few photography techniques to help out here. If this was a stationary subject, I could use bracketing and take several pictures with different exposures and then use HDR to merge them together and get a proper exposure. I could also use a flash to balance the foreground and the background, but in this case there is really a lot of lights coming in and out so it probably wouldn’t have been the best choice. One of the older techniques is to use a gradient neutral density filter so that the dark areas of the picture get the most light in the camera or the library has in effect have sunglasses on them. In my case since I am shooting everything in raw format, I decided to underexpose the foreground just enough to where I had some detail left in the sky and use a gradient tool in Lightoom to balance things out.
I also increased the color saturation for dramatic effect. So you see, a lot went into this generic and boring picture!
When I first came to this park, it was almost like going back to the 70s (or at least what I’ve seen on TV about the 70s) because there were people singing, dancing, and also prancing outside. This is what I love about the museum district. As nice as Austin is, Houston is not shabby in the culture and the arts department. It’s just scattered around more and people have to go to work the next day usually.