Category Archives: Photography

Round and Round the Merry-Go-Round

merry-go-round
merry-go-round

There are some things that, once seen, trigger nostalgic memories, of simpler and, what we always consider, better times. For some of us who grew up with carnivals and village feasts, visiting a fair filled with cotton candy, Ferris wheels, and Merry-go-rounds were a common sight.Visiting the NY State Fair last weekend thrust me back to into those memories especially when I saw the Merry-go-round.

The lights, the horses, the continual rotational movement was always fun and relaxing in spite of being monotonous. Certainly, they rides do not compare to what you would get at a place like Disney Land. But, I think being high-tech and exciting was never the appeal of a merry-go-round, that was never the point. It was fun because it simply appeals to a very basic desire to have uncomplicated fun.

That desire led me to take the photograph of this merry-go-round at the NY State Fair. It reminded me so much of those uncomplicated fun-filled days  that I enjoyed as a child and I wanted to capture the excitement of that moment. In using a slower shutter speed, I tried to capture the rotational movement of the ride and the exhilarating experience it’s riders would be enjoying. The lights which forms a natural appeal for the ride and most other carnival exhibits are emphasized here as they capture the circular pattern helping the ride seem almost like a flying saucer. And, it stands out as a marvel from the distance it was shot.

Indeed, their simple nature is one of the major appeals of merry-go-rounds. And, it is true that because of this, they do not stack up to more contemporary rides available in places as Disney Land when it comes to high-tech appeal. But, it is the lack of that characteristic which inspires people to get-in-touch with the nostalgic moments of their childhood and experience the exhilarating, uncomplicated fun of the merry-go-round.

White Mane

White Mane
White Mane

Like a scene straight out of a fairytale novel, a white maned horse, Jill, pauses and casts here stares in my general direction resulting in the photograph presented on the left which I have titled – White Mane. Indeed, the scene appeared almost majestic as the various elements coalesced into the composition visible here. But to explain how I got to this point let me take a step back to explain the back story.

Since my relocation to Long Island, NY last year, I had been longing for the opportunity to return to the place I now call home, Syracuse. I took the opportunity to visit some family, revisit some old familiar places and to take photographs over the Easter weekend. It was on one such photography outing with some family, Lynne, that I captured this scene.

We stopped at a nearby farm which we have frequented in the past to see two familiar horses – Jill and Jasper. On this visit, we discovered that both had two new companions – Dixie and Tiki. Tiki was not present when I shot this scene but Jill was well represented as she stood out front and center for this photograph. With her striking white mane flowing from her head to her back she stood out majestically among the other horses. Being a draft horse she stands out prominently with muscular legs and tall stature. But, in spite of her size, she is a gentle and beautiful giant.

For me, it is always a pleasure to see this horse. She embodies the sort of qualities which I fancy in horses – strong, majestic and beautiful. An of course, I can’t help but mention about her striking white mane which, to me, is her mos telling characteristic trait.

Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn
Breaking Dawn

This is not the final installment to the Twilight saga – far from it. This is to introduce the real “Breaking Dawn”. The photo in this post was taken at Robert H. Treman State Park in Ithaca New York. And, to me, is a much accurate representation of breaking dawn.

This is one photograph that I could not possible convert to black and white because if I did, I would loose the effect of the warm sunrise over the crest of the waterfall. The warm, golden yellow color seen here is indicative of the soft glow seen from the sun as it slowly creeps its way into forest areas. The atmosphere at the top of the falls was a sort of hazy mist filled with the moisture liberated by the splashing water of the falls. The lit area to the left of the photograph define the contours of the  jagged, rocky terrain lining the falls and provide depth to the image. The sun rays almost split the image in half creating an equally sized shadow area where the milky, white water of the falls cascade down to the pool below.

In contrast to the well-lit, warm, sunny area, we have the cooler parts of the falls where the water runs through. The falls cascade no less than three times, zigzagging, carving its way through the terrain until it finally terminates at the pool. The white water of the fall is indicative of the motion of the water as it descends through the rocks.

Indeed the serene scene evokes a mood of tranquility and in some ways a mood of refreshment – not only because of the cool, flowing waters of the falls but also because of the directional light cast by the rising sun. A mood which is further emphasized by its title – “Breaking Dawn”.

The Eyes have It

The Eyes have It
The Eyes have It

During the preparatory work for Thanksgiving, I took a photograph of a friends daughter. The part of the composition that really caught my attention at first was the back-lit area behind her as she was sitting near a window. But, this had another beneficial effect as it created a reflection on the dinner table surface and bounced a catch light into her eyes – hence the title “The Eyes have It”.

I believe there were other elements which helped this image besides the simple catch light. For one, there was the color of her hair which was more like fire embers. The color ranged from at times from golden yellow to reddish orange.

The other interesting element was her stare. This is just one of about three shots. But, it is the one where the eyes were directed straight back to the camera and, to me, gave the most dramatic effect. This, in combination with the catch light which reflected of her eyes, drew a lot of attention to her serious stare. By no means was she upset or unhappy, but I could tell in talking with her that she was exhausted from doing her morning jog.

The last element which I believe helped the image was the depth of field. Although very subtle in this image, it is noticeable on the curved part of the wooden chair she is sitting on that there is a soft blur that recedes to the window. This brings her to the foreground in a very prominent way creating a sense of depth to the image.

Of course the back-lit scene created by her proximity to the window also helped immensely in creating a minimalist, airy feeling by painting the background white. However, the combination of all the elements came together to create this rather simple but dramatic image which focused attention on the eyes. Thus, the title of the image – “The Eyes have It”.

Winter Berries

Winter Berries
Winter Berries

Thanks to the acute attention to detail of fellow photographer and instructor, Joe Inzalaco, I was able to capture something I rarely take notice of – winter berries.

We were both assisting some students at the Rozamond Gifford Zoo, taking them through the paces of adjusting their camera to take photographs manually. Upon leaving the pond where ducks and flamingos are frequently on exhibit, we paused at the primate park exhibit. There, Joe pointed to a berry plant which had lost almost all its leaves.

Thanks to thick fog and dense cloud cover this morning, the lighting was flat. There were no deep shadows and this allowed me to emphasize the small amounts of light which would break through the clouds occasionally  In this case, there was a small amount of light which shone on the right side of the berries bringing drama to the image.

The leaf shown in the image was the last leaf I observed on this branch; And, I used it to counter balance the berries on the opposite side of the frame. I also used a shallow depth of field to further isolate this singular branch. The photo was taken such that the branch ran diagonally through the frame to add a dynamic feel to the image. Although I had considered converting the image to black and white, I thought the colors were rich and added more to the image than taking away. Further, the purple blurred patches in the background add to the context of the image and makes for a nice smooth background.

For a completely spontaneous image, I thought that various elements came together to make the image work. The soft lighting, the leaf, the shallow depth of field, the color all converged in making an image which emphasized depth, drama and the beauty of these “Winter Berries.”

Fall Daisy

Fall Daisy
Fall Daisy

Thanks to hurricane Sandy, there were many other photographs I had celebrating Fall but had not published. I was much more concerned with following the weather and the developments as it pummeled the east coast. One such photograph is the one included in this post – Fall Daisy.

I had taken numerous photographs of this daisy which could only be regarded as boring. It was boring because it seemed like any other photograph of a daisy. That is, until I decided to break some conventions of photography.

One particular convention that I have always heard of is to never place your subject too close to the edge of your frame – broken. Yes, in experimentation I decided to jettison this convention in an attempt to draw attention to the subject. But, I decided to go one step further in breaking convention.

I also decided to shoot the photograph such that the daisy is facing the edge of the frame. It is convention to provide some space to your subject to allow it to face into the frame – thrown out the window. Here, I did just the opposite allowing my subject to face outside the frame. Indeed, I could have shot this daisy in such a way that it would provide more space to the left. But, It would have taken away from the mystery and interest I wanted to draw to my subject.

The combination of the tight framing and breaking the convention by having my subject look out of the frame made for a photograph that not only broke with convention but created interest. The composition creates a lot of tension encouraging the viewer to question what lies beyond the daisy’s left side, why such tight cropping and negative space. This, however, helped transform this image from an average daisy to one which calls attention to itself.

Jasper the Nipper

Jasper the Nipper
Jasper the Nipper

This post is dedicated to a friend and fellow photographer, Lynne Fordham, whose dedication to getting the story through the lens often means stepping in harms way and risking lens and limb while being ambushed by “animals.”

The title of this post, Jasper the Nipper, is a horrible play on words but with good reason. Jasper, the horse depicted in this photo, is notorious for nipping just about anything that he feels like. In petting him, he has nipped at my fingers; In photographing him, he has nipped at my camera. I don’t think there is anything that he has not tried to put in his mouth. He is a rescued horse and has not really learned how to be comfortable among people hence the compulsion to nip. And, his little habit got out of hand when both Lynne and I visited the farm where he was kept.

I can only assume that the animals were cranky the day we visited. Upon entering the barn where the horses are kept, we were targeted by a rooster which insisted on attacking us regardless of where we stepped. Although we kept our distance from the bird, he absolutely refused to leave us alone and followed and attacked us throughout the entire visit. The attacks, unfortunately, seem to have been inflicted more on Lynne than myself as she is the more adventurous of the two of us.

When we finally got to see the horses, Lynne decided to enter the stalls where both Jasper and another horse, Jill, were being kept to get a closer photograph. She incidentally was using a wide angle lens which required her to be closer to get a more flattering capture. While she was taking photos of Jill, Jasper crept up behind her. I was a bit confused by his advance and had not quite figured what he was going to do next. With her back turned to Jasper, she was unaware and perhaps unconcerned, that the horse had crept up behind her, lowered his head and with the affirmation of her scream, nipped at her posterior. I was both startled and amused at the site as Lynne quickly covered her mouth with her hand, surprised and perhaps a little embarrassed at the experience, but underttered.

Even now as I write this post, thoughts still run through my mind – what was he thinking? It was bad enough that we had to suffer the attacks by the farm rooster but now the horse? But then, that is to be expected from Jasper as he has a habit at nipping at everything. Consequently, he has earned my unequivocal respect as a nipper, Jasper the Nipper.

Two of a Kind

Two of a Kind
Two of a Kind

It is amazing sometimes to observe some of our human like qualities being reflected in other species. In the same way we care for our young, that behavior is exhibited in other species; In the same way we may groom each other, that behavior is exhibited in other species; In the same way we  cuddle when it gets cold, that behavior is exhibited in other species. These characteristics are observed in numerous species beyond our own and in this photo I have titled “Two of a Kind.”

On a rather windy day, I visited the zoo and upon passing the primate enclosure, I noticed two monkeys huddled together near a viewing area of the enclosure. The wind was not whipping, but it was certainly cooler than it had been for a couple of days and these two monkeys had huddled together, embracing each other to keep warm.

It was not just the huddle that caught my attention as this is quite common among monkeys. But, it was the addition of the stare. The stare which was directed right back at me through the window pane of the observation area. In one instant, it humanized that moment. For that one moment, I no longer felt that I was looking at an animal at a zoo, but a species that was capable of caring and sharing. To be frank, words are not needed to describe how they may have felt and what they were trying to do as this was already conveyed through their actions and their eyes. It was a warming embrace that is expressed through nothing short of love and concern for the other.

In all species of animals, there are certain behavioral characteristics that resonate with us as we exhibit the same characteristics given certain situations. Consequently, their behaviors also communicate, without words, certain things that we ourselves do. Things that are expressed in this photograph of two monkeys, “Two of a Kind.”

Grazing Reindeer

Grazing Reindeer
Grazing Reindeer

I will be the first to admit that the photograph of this grazing reindeer looks a lot like something straight out of a fairy tale book or some wildlife photography shot. And, I will not deny that this was the look I was going for.

As stated, the scene looks like something out of a story book. With its gentle sloping hills, its green pastures, the ground littered with the golden and yellow leaves of Fall, and a soft sunny backlit area, the scene looks almost staged – but it wasn’t. This is yet another photograph from my visit to the zoo last week. I started early and had decided to make my way around the Rozamond Gifford Zoo but from a different direction. I choose to start of from the pond entrance rather than the bird exhibit where the kookaburas reside. As I made my way around the winding path, I came across the open pen of the reindeers. It was still early in the morning and the sunlight was more directional than it was overhead creating long streaks of yellow light in the areas where it penetrated through the leaves and branches. The gentle slope of the land helped to accentuate the fallen leaves which littered the grounds of the pen. The reindeer, with its solid brown, white and black colors, anchored the photograph illustrating that it was the subject. Had it not been for the reindeer in the shot, the scene would have been plain and would lack interest. But with the reindeer in the shot, and the including of all the other elements working together, it creates a photograph which is memorable.

Although the photograph looks staged, it wasn’t. In spite of this, however, the combination of elements which make the photograph  work – lighting, gentle sloping hills, reindeer, leaf littered landscape, green pastures – give the impression of a scene straight out of a story book; A story book of a grazing reindeer in a meadow.

Golden Lion Tamarins

Golden Lion Tamarins
Golden Lion Tamarins

Golden Lion Tamarins are one of the more active simians present at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, next to the Squirrel Monkeys. Being one of the New World Monkeys, it is lighter, faster and smaller than the Old World Primates which tend to be larger and heavier – apes and humans. It is this combination of characteristics along with the lighting conditions of their enclosure which made them a challenge to photograph; Let me explain why.

One of the bigger attractions of the Golden Lion Tamarin exhibit at the Zoo is the tamarin itself. Golden colored, small and agile, the tamarin is usually a very active primate which jumps from branch to branch, often hiding behind leaves and branches. The small size and active nature makes them pretty difficult to track even with the autofocus system of most modern cameras. I have walked away with many blurred shots because they were so active.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that the lighting conditions in the pen is very low. To the human eye, the change in light is not all that significant as our eyes have a higher dynamic range than that what is achievable with digital cameras. However, for a photographer on a budget who does not have the money to invest in the next 2.8f 200mm lens, having a significantly high ISO capable camera with low noise can be your best friend. Otherwise, one can suffer from slow shutter speed which again results in blurred pictures. Now, blurry photos are not a bad thing, as long as they are done deliberately and with reason.

Thankfully, on my visit to the zoo earlier this week, I arrived at a time when the tamarins appeared to be still sleepy. It may be that they are just adjusting to the cooler weather of Fall. However, this was the first I had visited and seen them so lethargic hanging from the branches within the pen. This gave me the opportunity to really think through my shot and compose the best way I could. Consequently, I took this photograph labeled Golden Lion Tamarin. This photograph is one in probably three or four that I took of the tamarins. Of all of the photos, this is the only one where the tamarin in the foreground raised its head and looked forward. In the others, it merely laid its head on the branch and slept. I choose to stick with this image because I thought it carried the most interest, compositionally.

Further, I chose to stick with color on this shot as there is no other way I can illustrate that the tamarins are golden color without showing them in color. The hair growth on the tamarins is also interesting as the hair on the head appears like a mane on a lion. I guess this explains the name.

Tamarins are always a pleasure to watch because of their color, agility and general active nature. However, they are difficult to shoot because of their very active nature. The problem can be further compounded by the lighting conditions of their enclosure. But, if you are lucky, there are times when you can capture them when they are still. And, that opens the door for more creativity in shooting them.