Create HDR images to show a place in a (literally) different light.
I went to Central Park while I was in the city and shot some HDR images. To do this, you shoot three images at different exposures. The first one you do is right on the button, perfectly exposed the way it should be. The next one is one stop overexposed (if there are any dark portions in the image, they’re going to be lighter), and the third one is one stop underexposed (which will pick up all the light stuff, like the sky and the clouds, that usually get burned out). Then you simply bring them into whatever computer software you’re using, combine the three images together, and manipulate the image to get it the way you want it to look. [For more info on this technique, read IPA’s guide to shooting HDR images.]
My “View From Central Park” shot was three exposures taken on a tripod on an overcast day — it actually began to rain while I was shooting. I was able to salvage the images using specialized software that combines them and allows for adjustments to get the final image. You get these spectacular shots that almost don’t look like photos. Some people don’t like HDR for that reason, because they say, “That’s not photography anymore, it’s art.” But photography is art!
Previsualize your shots, then bring them to life.
I saw a line of cabs outside of the Met and knew what I wanted before I took the shot. When you shoot with a telephoto lens, it compresses the subject matter, as it did here with the cabs. We also use this technique quite a bit when shooting fashion: You shoot from 20 feet away, or further, from the model with a telephoto lens, which then compresses the background into the shot, and you end up with a nice, sharp image of the subject and beautiful bokeh in the background.
For some interesting-looking sculptures inside the museum, I only took one shot. In this photo, the light was natural and warm, as you can see in the image. It’s all in the composition and your eye: You need to know what you want when you see it and before you press the shutter button. If someone else had taken that shot, it would have likely come out differently. It’s like people in an art class: Each one paints or draws the subject as he sees it, and each one looks different.
Look for unusual compositions to show places in a new light.
I often tilt the camera, as I did in one image while driving down 5th Avenue. It gives you a shot that has some movement or style to it. That’s a technique I do quite often when shooting models or people, too. In this case, I saw the scene in front of me and was at a red light, so I stuck my neck out of the window while stopped and took the shot.
I always like to frame my photos, which I try to do by including the branches of a tree or other objects. I took a shot of the main entrance to the Met from across the street as we were walking to the museum. Then I walked down the block and took a couple of additional shots, making sure I had the green leaves of the tree in there.
Even if you’re just shooting in your own neighborhood, be like a tourist in New York for the first time: Look up as you walk down the street or around a popular landmark. I do this with my camera around my neck, and I’m sure people think I’m a tourist, too! I did one of my shots of a skylight in the Met by looking up as I toured the museum. You’d be surprised how many great shots you can get that way.
I also like to create panoramics with the 18-270, like the ones I took from the roof of the Met. With this lens and the VC, you can create some spectacular panoramic shots, even handheld. You take three to six shots, depending on the expanse of the image you want, then merge them in Photoshop or other programs. [Check out Len’s recent article in IMPress on making panoramic images with the 18-270.