my flickr photostream

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of 2009

As the year ends and we draft up our lists of resolutions for the new year (and the 52 weeks project is at the top of your list, right?), it's good to take a look back on what you've accomplished in the previous year. Or, in my case, to brag about some photos I've taken :) In no particular order, here's a few of my favorites:

"Black and White and Redwood all over"
Black and White and Redwood all over
© 2009 Simon Hucko

This is one of my favorites from our trip to Yosemite in February. I like the strong leading lines of the trees and the texture on the bark. I also think it captures the feeling of standing and looking up at the towering redwoods.

"Dark Falls"
Dark Falls
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Rather abstract for me, but I really like the effect of the polarizer and the long exposure here. A different take on the typical long exposure waterfall shot.

"Buttermilk Falls State Park"
Buttermilk Falls State Park
© 2009 Simon Hucko

This is my most popular photo on Flickr. A classic waterfall shot, and one of my first forays into long exposure work. I went in search of fall colors, and ended up liking this better in black and white, and apparently you all did too :)

"Washington Monument"
Washington Monument
© 2009 Simon Hucko

My take on the Washington Monument. I like the strong symmetry set against the wispy clouds. I also like that it's not a typical view of the monument. It can be hard to get unique photos of a touristy place, especially as a tourist, so I'm very happy with how it turned out.

"Sunday Afternoon"
Sunday Afternoon
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Four fingers, a book, a remote, a magazine, and a bottle of nail polish = a lazy Sunday afternoon. Simple, but tells a great story.

© 2009 Simon Hucko

I just love the candid laid back nature of this shot. The blown out background adds to the clean relaxed fun feeling.

"Rafting on the Street"
Rafting in the street
© 2009 Simon Hucko

I like this one for the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. It was raining so hard that the streets flooded and a bunch of students decided to go rafting in the street on an air mattress. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime situation, and one that I'm really glad I was able to witness and capture.

"Going for a Spin"
Going for a Spin
© 2009 Simon Hucko

This was the result of having some fun and not taking myself very seriously one fall afternoon. Not only do I like the photo, but I had a great time walking around and experimenting. A good reminder that it's important to have fun and try new things.

"The Time Traveler"
The Time Traveler
© 2009 Simon Hucko

This is probably my personal favorite from the year. The contrast of the old bike and clothing against the craziness of Times Square, the rain washed pavement, the feeling of isolation against the big city background and the little bit of motion make this one for me.


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, December 28, 2009

52 Weeks

© 2009 Simon Hucko

The new year is rapidly approaching, so it's a good time to start thinking about your plans/goals/resolutions for 2010. This is often a time when photographers start long term projects, and 365 (photo-a-day) groups start popping up and filling up on flickr. I've been considering joining a 365 group, but in the end I think that shooting every day just isn't feasible for me. I wanted a motivating project, not something that would cause me stress and become a chore or force me to put out sub-par work ("Oh no, it's 11 and I haven't done my 365 yet!").

So, enter the [tob] 52 weeks project. Rather than taking a photo every day, participants are asked to upload their favorite photo from the previous week. This project was designed with several goals in mind:

- Encourage people to pick up their camera and shoot at least once a week.
- Create a forum where people can share these photos, allowing for feedback from other photographers and discussion about the project and photography in general.
- Recognize outstanding contributions by picking a favorite photo from everyone's submissions and posting it here on the blog every week.
- Foster the growth of a small community of like-minded photographers.
- Have some fun. Photography is fun, remember?

So please: join up, invite everyone you know, say hello on the discussion board, and get ready for the new year. The more people and participation we have, the more fun this will be for everyone. I'm excited to see all of your photography, and to get this project started!


[title of blog] on flickr

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! May you have a safe and happy holiday filled with joy and love and plenty of photographs of family and friends. Feel free to brag about any shiny new camera gear here :)


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Secret to Shooting Christmas Lights

Lights at 116
© 2009 Simon Hucko

With the holiday season upon us, homes, stores, and even entire towns/cities are getting dressed up with lights. However, if you've gone and tried to take pictures of the lights before, you've probably been disappointed with how they turned out - bright blown out lights on an almost black background, possibly with some snow in the foreground if your flash fired.

Well, I'll let you in on the secret to getting good photos of Christmas (or any other) lights - don't wait until it's dark! It seems a bit counter-intuitive, why would you want to photograph lights when it's still light out? The key here is balance. Unlike your eyes/brain, your camera can only make sense out of a relatively narrow range of light. In order to get the most out of a photo, you want to make sure that every detail in that image falls within that range. Otherwise you end up with something like this:

[[Ok, so I wasn't able to do this properly, and don't have a "bad example" shot for you. But I trust you know what I'm talking about...]]

Blown out lights, dark black everything else. Not very pretty. Here's what you need to know:

- Get there early. Scout out a location, and get there around sunset. Make sure the lights will be on this early (if you know the people who own them or if they're yours, it shouldn't be too hard getting them to flip the switch a little early one night).

- Plop down your tripod and frame your shot. Try to get some sky in you photo for maximal effect. See if you can include some sort of reflection (ice, shop window, whatever) or other point of interest (wintry goodness, cars rolling down the street, etc). Not required of course, but could be cool.

- Set your white balance to tungsten... probably. Christmas lights (the old kind) will balance out perfectly to this and it'll give you a nice rich blue sky. The new LED lights could be more blue, so be aware of that. You may want to keep your white balance at daylight in that situation.

- Shoot and chimp! I know, we usually don't encourage this sort of behavior around here, but this is really the only way to go. When you first start off it will probably be too light out, and the lights will look pretty dull compared with the sky. As the light fades, however, you'll come to that magic point where everything starts to balance and the lights really start to pop against their surroundings. This is when you want to start shooting seriously, especially if you have moving elements in your frame to worry about (cars, people, and whatnot). Pretty soon, you'll notice your sky fade away and your photos start returning to the ugly blackness of before. That's it, show's over, time to go home and have some whiskey hot chocolate.

That's all, folks. No fancy settings or gear required, just get out there at the right time of day and shoot away. So now not only will your Christmas decorations be better than your neighbor's, but your photos of them will be, too :)


[title of blog] on flickr

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cold Weather? No Problem

What are you looking at?
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Winter officially begins on Monday, but it's already been pretty wintry around here for the past few weeks. So what do you do when the snow starts falling and the thermometer plummets below freezing? Why, take your camera out and keep shooting, of course! Snow and cold weather are actually very minor inconveniences for your camera, even if they may be less than minor inconveniences to you. Here's a few tips to get you through the winter weather:

- Slow temperature changes are better. Warm air contains a lot more moisture than cold air, so any sudden change will cause condensation. This is especially problematic when bringing cold gear back into a warm building. If you just carry your camera in, it'll probably fog up pretty quickly. This won't necessarily harm it, but it does make it useless for a while. There's also a chance of condensation on the sensor, which could require a sensor cleaning. The solution? Keep your camera closed up in the bag and allow it to come up to temperature slowly. If you're in a hurry or are more paranoid, you can also zip your camera and lens up into a large plastic bag before bringing it in. This way, any condensation will happen on the bag and not on your camera. Once your camera has come to room temp, it's good to go again.

- Batteries don't like the cold. The chemical reaction going on inside your battery slows way down when the temperature drops, which can have a very severe effect on battery life. The good news is that this effect is only temporary, and your batteries will "come back to life" if you warm them up again. The solution here is to carry at least one spare battery somewhere close to your body (inside pocket somewhere) and swap it out when the cold one in your camera starts calling it quits. By putting the cold battery in your pocket, it will be ready to go again when the fresher battery starts to fatigue. Swap out and repeat. You can keep going like this for a long time.

- Falling snow likes to hang onto your camera and lens. No trickery here, just keep a microfiber cloth with you and use it to gently wipe off your gear when it starts getting covered. Be careful when wiping off glass not to smear the water around or fog things up with your warm hands - a brush or blower might be best if you've given your camera time to cool down so that the snow doesn't melt, it just falls off like dust. Try to keep your lens pointing away from the falling snow if possible to minimize the problem. Make sure you do a final wipe-down before shoving your gear back in the bag and bringing it inside to keep the snow from melting all over everything. You might want to keep your lens caps off for a bit too until everything is nice and dry.

- Fingerless or thin cotton gloves might be a good investment. Your nice warm goretex gloves with the down insulation are going to give you zero control over your camera, and it gets pretty annoying having to pull them off every time you want to change a setting or even press the shutter. Thin or fingerless gloves aren't as warm, but can save you from having to remove them every time you take a photo. Mittens are definitely out, for obvious reasons ;) (edit: Unless they're the convertible fingerless kind. Thanks for the tip, Adam!)

That's it for this installment of winter shooting tips. I'll definitely do another one at some point about exposing for snow. I also have a post coming on shooting Christmas lights (I promise!) - that should be done for Monday.

If you haven't done so yet, go check out the [tob] 52 weeks group. The more people that join and participate, the more fun this will be for everyone! Remember, it's only one photo a week. You can do it!


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Big Picture

2009 in Photos:
part 1
part 2
part 3

I know I've mentioned this site before, but I really do enjoy their work. If you haven't subscribed to their RSS feed yet, you definitely should. They're also on twitter now (@big_picture) if you want to follow them that way.

Basically, The Big Picture puts together photos from various events into small photo essays that give you a feel for what's going on in the world. Whoever makes their selections does a wonderful job, and finds some absolutely amazing photography to share. I find it to be very inspirational, as well as educational (both from a photography standpoint and as a way to stay up on current affairs). So if you haven't been following them, get on it. The "2009 in photos" series is a great place to start.

I'm still working on getting images for my "how to shoot Christmas lights" article, but that's coming soon, I promise.

I'm also going to take a minute to announce the upcoming [title of blog] 52 weeks project over on flickr. Link here. I'll probably dedicate a post or two to this, but just a quick heads up on what's happening:

52 week projects are the slimmed down version of the 365 projects (photo-a-day) that people do. Essentially, I'm asking you to submit your favorite photo from the week before for everyone to see. I'll pick my favorite out of everyone's submissions and feature it in the group and here at the blog (with permission, of course). The point of this exercise is to motivate everyone to shoot at least once a week and take the time to edit and upload a photo that they like. I chose a weekly format rather than a daily one because I want this to be enjoyable and not a chore, and I feel like I'll get more participation if people have some flexibility in that regard. If you're feeling motivated, a 365 project is a great way to get yourself shooting every day and there are hundreds (possibly even thousands) of 365 groups on flickr that you can join. Now is the time to start thinking about it, as a lot of the 365/52 groups close soon after the year starts. Photo submissions are currently turned off for the [tob] 52 group, but discussion is open so feel free to say hello and invite some friends.


[title of blog] on flickr

Friday, December 4, 2009

Blue Week, Day 5

red white & Blue
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Well, that's it for blue week here. Hope you enjoyed it. Today's photo was shot looking through the crane from yesterday. I had originally cropped it tighter, then backed it off again. Looking at it now, I think I should have stuck with the tighter crop - it gets a little busy at the bottom of the frame. Ah well.

Have a good Friday and a great weekend - don't forget to get out there and shoot some! Next week's post is going to be about shooting Christmas lights, so stay tuned.


[title of blog] on flickr

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Blue Week, Day 4

De Crane, De Crane!
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Almost finished with blue week here at the blog. It's been fun reading your comments on my photos, and I think I'll have to try this sort of thing more often (theme weeks).

Today's photo was grabbed at a construction site on campus. I liked the intersecting lines of the crane and building, and how can you go wrong with the blue reflection off the windows? Bumped up the saturation, boosted the black point to get good silhouetting, and added some heavy vignette to taste. Not my usual shtick, but I like the results. I kept the building in the frame to give it some context, and to exploit those great reflections.


[title of blog] on flickr

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blue Week, Day 3

Cleared for Takeoff
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Blue week continues! These birds were standing on a submerged log all in a row, making it look like they were taxiing out to the runway for takeoff. Sorry for all the branches and junk in the way, nothing I could do about it.


[title of blog] on flickr

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Blue Week, Day 2

Blue Trees
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Day 2 of blue week here. Today's image brings me back to some shots I took this summer. I like the silhouetted tree against blue sky effect. The best thing is, this is how the camera exposes for a scene like this, so there's no thinking involved. Colors and contrast boosted a little in post, and some heavy vignette added. My favorite part is probably the highlights coming off the water through the trees at the bottom of the frame.


[title of blog] on flickr