Wednesday, December 21, 2011

citifari New York Landmarks Photo Tour

Earlier this year I read Switch to Manual Mode written by Sam Levy on the Digital Photography School Blog. After reading the article I clicked on a link to read more about Sam's citifari New York Landmarks Photo Tour. What I read interested me but there was one minor problem. Sam didn't have a tour scheduled on the day that Donna and I would be in New York and available to take one. After exchanging some emails and Sam getting things worked out on his end we were able to do the photo tour this past Monday, December 19th. As soon as I knew we had our date reserved Donna and I spent some time reviewing our camera manuals and other books we have for our cameras. I think I know how to operate my 7D pretty well but I wanted to be able to concentrate on taking pictures during the photo tour and not trying to remember which dial to turn to perform a specific action, etc. Monday afternoon we met up with Louis, our guide right outside of B&H Photo. If you ever make it to NYC go to B&H. Holy cow what a place that is. Just as my mom could spend all day at Macy's I could spend all day at B&H. I was good and managed to make it out of the store only spending a little over $100. I could have spent way more than that!

I wasn't really sure what to expect from the tour and in fact I had kind of thought it was going to be a bit boring in that you'd go from place to place the guide would point out a building or other landmark, we'd snap a picture and off we'd go to the next one. Boy was I ever wrong and I'm so happy that I was. Three other photographers joined Donna and me on the photo tour. Interestingly enough we all shot Canon's. Donna used her T2i, I used my 7D, another photographer from Mexico also shot with a 7D and the 2nd couple shot with a 7D for her and 5D Mark II for him. We brought along a light weight tripod but it turns out there's really no need for one to plan to travel light and leave the tripod and other goddies in the camera bag behind. There's really only one place where you could use it and there's a railing where we propped our cameras on when we needed to support them. After giving us some introductory comments and a hand out about the citifari photo tour, some photography terms, etc we were off to our first destination which is where we soon learned this afternoon was going to be WAY more than just pointing your camera at an object and taking a picture.

At our first location Louis stopped us and described the scene we were going to photograph. Along with that he showed us a sheet from his guide book showing the shot they had taken to give us an idea of the composition and camera settings used. "Now everyone set your dials to M." Louis said and I'll be honest with hearing those words a bit of panic hit me. I have dabbled around manual mode and have had some success with it. Donna has never used manual mode nor have we even talked about using it. I told myself to not sweat it, just do as Louis instructed and see what happens. After switching to manual mode we next switched our cameras from evaluative metering to spot metering. We then dialed in the suggested ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. With each setting Louis explained why were using the those instead of just telling us and us blindly following along. Knowing why we were making the changes really made things start to click for me. Our first photo was going to be of the New Yorker Hotel sign with the Empire State Building background. Louis instructed us to meter off of the New Yorker Hotel sign, adjust shutter speed until we got a proper exposure and then take the picture. While I understood what he said what I did do didn't match what he told me to do and my shot didn't come out as expected. I tried it a couple of times and just wasn't getting the shot. When asked how I was doing I showed Louis the photo and he agreed that I wasn't getting the shot :). We discussed the process I was using to take the shot and we soon figured out what I was doing wrong. What I was doing is after metering off of the New Yorker Hotel sign and setting my shutter speed I'd move the camera to recompose the shot. After moving the camera I would adjust the shutter speed a 2nd time because I noticed the exposure meter reading had changed. I wasn't supposed to be doing that. The process was to meter off of the Hotel sign, recompose and shoot. Once I figured that out things started working much better. Louis sent time with each of us making sure we were getting the shot correctly. Once we were all satisfied with the shots that we had gotten we moved on to the next shot.

I won't go into detail about each shot that we took but I will say that shot a variety of different subjects and each shooting location was used to teach us something new about our camera and shooting in manual mode. We shot everything from 1/2000th to 6 second exposures during the photo tour. I can honestly say that I learned more about using my camera and how to properly shoot using manual mode in the time we were on the photo tour than I have in the past 5 years reading books, magazines, and watching DVD's, etc. Later that night Donna and I were discussing the photo tour and she said that she had learned so much and felt so much more comfortable with her camera and couldn't wait to get out and shoot again. Hearing that I knew her photo tour was every bit as enjoyable and educational as mine was. If we ever make it back to NYC I guarantee you we will take the Central Park photo tour.

New Yorker Hotel
This is the shot I like best from our first stop. I lucked out and got the airliner in the frame as well. I used 1/1000th of a second at f/5.6, ISO 400 for this shot.

Subway Exit
This probably my favorite shot from the photo tour. I shot it kneeling down on the bottom step of the stairs leading out of the subway and waited until the gentleman climb the stairs before taking the shot. I used 1/2000th of a second at f/4.0, ISO 200 for this shot.

Empire State Building
Love the leading lines on this shot. I used 1/400th of a second at f/7.1, ISO 400 for this shot.

My wife, Donna, shooting the Empire State Building. Louis is behind her and the guy in the red jacket is another photographer. The guy in the blue jacket stopped and listened. I don't know if he's a photographer or not. I used 1/30th of second at f/7.1, ISO 400 for this shot.

Not part of the photo tour but when I saw my name I had to take the shot :). I used 1/200th of a second at f/7.1, ISO 400 for this shot.

The Lion
This is one of the Lions in front of the NYC Library. I used 1/100th of a second at f/5.6, ISO 400 for this shot.

Apple Store
This is actually the exact opposite of the shot we were supposed to be taking at the time. I had taken the shot we were supposed to get and then was fooling around when I noticed the bright Apple logo across the terminal from us so I adjusted my camera and got this shot. I used 1/6th of a second at f/22, ISO 200 for this shot.

I can't thank Sam (whom we met while at Grand Central Terminal) and Louis for sharing their expertise with us and getting us to move over to manual mode. If you're ever headed to NYC and have time for a photo tour I highly recommend you do so. I can't wait to get back out there shooting again with the new knowledge I gained from Louis and Sam. Thanks so much for everything!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Zack! We were happy to have you on the tour. The post and the pictures are great! Come back soon!