How I Photograph A Building

Perhaps this article would best be entitled, “How I Photograph an Interesting Building” or “Abandoned Building”. But the idea is what happens after I decide to photograph a building.

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I came upon the building in this article by sheer luck. I was returning home from some business and decided to take a different way home, a way that took me off of the four lane, 65 mile per hour, highway. I looked at my atlas earlier in the day and decided I would take a secondary road home. I did not know what I would come across on the way home, but decided to do it just in case I came upon a photographic opportunity.

The last sentence in the last paragraph is important. I am an opportunistic photographer. 01-16-18_010 lo resI normally have one of my cameras with me wherever I go “just in case.” This time, “just in case” occurred on my way home. I drove along Connecticut Highway 85 and the scenery was nondescript to say the least. But in the town of Hebron I saw an abandoned factory with a “for lease” sign in front of it. Here was my opportunity to do some photography. The nice (and important) thing was the road had a wide enough shoulder so that I could safely pull off the road out of traffic. Many times I pass up photographic opportunities because it would be dangerous to me and other people if I pulled over on a road with narrow shoulders which left my car “in harm’s way”.

I pulled over and took my camera out of my shoulder bag. I had my Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 on my Nikon D3200. I crossed to the other side of the road and began to photograph the building. I “chimp” a lot when I photograph. I constantly check the LCD screen to see if I like the shots. Experts tell us never to “chimp”; who cares what they say! I “chimp” and am not ashamed of it (nor am I proud of it).

I took a number of photos (starting from north to south) from the opposite side of the road. I wasn’t overly pleased with any of them. They showed the building and I still liked the building and thought it had photographic potential, but the photos left a lot to be desired. There were no “keepers”. I recrossed the road. And continued photographing the building from south to north. These photos, again, left a lot to be desired. I then noticed the detail in the brickwork of the building and began to focus on it.

One of the major things I did notice was the white doors on the front of the building; they look like they were replacement doors and I don’t think added any beauty or interest to the building. There w01-16-18_013 lo resere more modern replacement windows on the lower level of the building; again, I wasn’t impressed by them. One of the things I did notice was the old styled light above the second floor window; that window looked original to the building. It also looks like it was broken. I took four photos of

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old style light above window

that window/light combination at various focal lengths. No matter how close I zoomed in, the first floor window was still in the picture. I decided that I could crop it out in post processing. I am not only interested in the window and light, but also the brick work around the edge of the roof. They put a lot of effort and respect into constructing this building.

I continued moving north along the building and came to a doorway; the first thing that struck me was old light above the door; it mimicked the light above the second floor 01-16-18_020 lo reswindow. That doorway was in deep shadow and I decided to expose the photo for the doorway, which had interesting markings on it. That left the rest of the building badly overexposed. I decided to expose for the part of the building in sunlight and (shooting in RAW, as I always do) make multiple exposures of it in Adobe Camera Raw and combine the multiple exposures for a faux 01-16-18_021 lo resHDR photographic, where I would have a properly exposed lighted section of the building and you could make out the detail in the shadows. I processed five exposures (from normal exposure to +4 exposure) to give me the details I wanted.

I took a total of twelve photos and was satisfied with two of them. But it was in the process of taking those photos that I began to see the beauty of the building I wanted to focus on. It would have been easy to grab the camera, jump out of the car, and take a few photos and be on my way. I would not have been happy with the results if I had done that. I have two photos that I like. I don’t claim they are perfect nor do I claim that are high art, but I do like them. That only happened because I took my time and began focusing on detail when photographing that building.


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Photograph I am happy with Light above the door Faux HDR

Jim the Photographer
Manchester CT

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Photograph I am happy with: Old fashioned light above the window

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Too Short to Be a Model? Never!

05-18-13_105aNot long ago, while in the gym, I gave my business card to a very beautiful, very fit lady.  She was about five foot, eight inches tall.  She had a nice figure; she was not rail thin.  Without being gross, I will say that she looked like a real woman!  I explained that I was a local photographer and I would be more than happy to do a free photo shoot with her; I would get to expand my portfolio; she could start a portfolio or just use the photos any way she wanted.  She thanked me for my compliment but refused my offer for the photo shoot.  “I am too short to be a model,” was the reason.

She knew the “ideal” stats for a model; you had to be at least six feet tall and look like you never had a cheeseburger in your life.  She could never break into the modeling world.  I told her that she was right that she would never been a high fashion model nor would she do runway work.  But, I told her, there are other types of modeling and she would be an excellent candidate for fitness modeling.  I told her of a friend, who looked remarkably similar to her, who started a fitness and nutrition blog.  She wrote about using the various weight machines at her gym; she bought some personal fitness equipment and began blogging about its positive effects on her; the equipment manufacturer learned of her blog (they monitor things like that!) and became one of her sponsors.  She shared her blog on Facebook and had many “friends”.  After a while, the local television and radio stations asked her on when they did fitness segments; she was even invited on one of the network morning programs as a fitness consultant.

What’s the point?  My friend knew she would never make it as a fashion model, but she is earning a good living (and gaining notoriety) as a fitness model/expert!  She was too short to be a model, but that didn’t stop her!  Nor does it need to stop you!  Do you have a passion (or even just an interest!)?  How can you turn that into a modeling opportunity?   If you think about it and develop a strategy to maximize your potential, you can be a successful model. And even if it doesn’t “work” you can have a ton of fun doing something you enjoy doing!

Will you make the cover of “Elle”?  No (but how many high fashion models do?). But you can be a model, and a successful one at that.

Too short to be a model?  Never!

Jim the Photographer
Manchester CT

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Is the Time of Day Important?


Over the years a lot of ink has been spilled over the issue of light in photography.  The “golden hour” is the holy grail of photographic light.  The “golden hour(s)” are those times right after sunrise and just before sunset when the sun gives off it’s golden hue.  Outside of the golden hour the sun is bright, casts hard shadows, and (especially if its overhead) does not cast a very good light at all, it tends to be a hard, white light.

We don’t always have the luxury of determining when we will photograph a given subject.  Seldom can I be at a particular place at the right time to catch the photo that I want.  A few years ago I was on a tour of Poland that included a boat ride down the Dunajec River; the scenery was beautiful but the boat ride took place outside of the golden hours.  I had no choice as to when the ride took place and I couldn’t go back later, so I made the best of the situation and took numerous photos as I went a long.  You can’t choose your relatives, nor can you always choose when you’ll be in a given place at a given time, so you make the most of the situation.

All that being said, the importance of the “golden hour(s)” came home to me this past week.  I usually bring my camera with me whenever I go out.  I was on a call and wanted to take a photo of a barn that I’ve photographed a number of times.  This time there was snow on the ground and I wanted to capture the image.  I got to the people I was visiting at about 1:15 and took the photo (#1) before I went in.  A few hours later, I took another photo (#2) as I left.  It’s important to remember that it is winter in the northern hemisphere and the sunsets earlier  in the day, so the “golden hour(s)” are earlier (and, in the morning, later) in the day.

Photo #1

Photo #1

Photo #1 was taken at 1:20 p.m. ISO 200, f/11, 1/200 second.
(to see the full sized photo, right click the photo and open it in a new window or tab)


Photo #2

Photo #2


Photo #2 was taken at 3:46 p.m. (about an hour before sunset). ISO 200, f/11, 1/200 second.
(to see the full sized photo, right click the photo and open it in a new window or tab)

Yes, the exposures are identical based on my hand held Polaris incident light meter.  While giving off the same light, the sun was lower in the sky and gave off a richer light that was lacking earlier in the afternoon.  In the photo #2  The shadows are better; I like the (for the lack of a better word) hue of the light better; the tree trunk is more pronounced.

Some may make the point that photo #1 is underexposed, but an examination of the histogram says that is not the case.  After examining these two photos, I’ve determined that I will make more effort in utilizing the golden hours in my photography.  That will not always be an option for me, and in those situations I will make the best of the situation (can you say “polarizing filter”?).

I may not be able to choose my relatives but sometimes, sometimes, I can choose the time I take my landscapes.  I will be more aware of when I shoot and try to utilize the golden hours in my photography.

Jim the Photographer
Manchester CT

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Low Cost B&W Prints?

Do you want low cost black and white prints?  How about 11x14s for $1.00 each?  Unbelievable?  Yes! but no!

Staples offers blue print services.  You can go to them with your black and white photographs, cropped to the size you want them, and order the prints you want.  They are not printed on photographic paper but the paper is substantial.  I ordered the “blue” prints a year ago, mounted and framed them, hung them on the wall where they are in the light, and there has been no degradation in the print.  Will they degrade over time?  I honestly don’t know.  But I recently had an 11X14 done and it cost me $1.00.

If I were going to sell the prints of my photos, I would absolutely check into the archival quality of the paper to see if it would stand the test of time, but until I start selling them, I’ll use Staples blue printing services for my low cost black and white photo printing needs.

Jim the Photographer
Manchester CT

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Select Portfolio 04

This gallery contains 28 photos.

Jim the Photographer, Manchester CT  e-mail: Select Portfolio 4:  Brianne Welcome to the fourth page of my select portfolio!  To best view the images, right click them and open in a new tab or page. This is Brianne at … Continue reading

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Great Sites For Photo Shoots Around Manchester CT — part 2

Great Sites For Photo Shoots Around Manchester CT — part 2

People often want to find great sites for taking outdoor portraits and fashion shoots.  Manchester, CT offers a number of great photo sites that work well for this type of photography.  Even if you don’t ask me to do the photographs I’ll offer you some ideas for great places to take photos (especially portraits and fashion shoots) in the greater Manchester, Connecticut area.

Like my last suggested area, this site is still in Northwest Park in Manchester.  It has easy access to I-84, ample parking, and (most of all) great photographic sites.  When you enter the park by automobile, bear right and continue on to the picnic pavilion.  At the picnic pavilion you have a number of photographic vistas to choose from!  And all of them are within easy walking distance.  Today’s site is a path/trail that starts next to the Butterfly Garden and goes along the banks of Union Pond.  There are a number of good photography sites along the path.  Have your models wear comfortable walking shoes and change into their modeling footwear when you arrive at your chosen photographic site.  Today’s model is the lovely Brianne.  If you would like to view larger photos, right click the photo and open in a new window.

05-20-13_053The first site is a short distance from the Butterfuly Garden.  It has good 05-20-13_059tree cover to give ample shade.  It nicely overlooks the lake which serves as a great background for your shoot.  There are two photos at this site, one a full body shot and the other a close up.

Walk a mere 25 feet and you come to another great 05-20-13_137scenic overlook.  Again two photos are used from this site.  The full body shot gives you an 05-20-13_144idea of the overall background.  The close up shows you that the trees are far enough away so that they do not detract from the shot.

05-20-13_149Another short walk and we come to another area overlooking the lake.  Brianne liked to shoot is this spot because she could use the tree as a prop.  Even though surrounded by trees, they do not detract from the beautiful Brianne.

05-20-13_177The nice thing about Northwest Park is that it has restrooms that can be used for changing rooms.  Brianne went and changed and we went to our 05-20-13_167next photo site.  This site is across from the first path that goes to the right.  I chose this particular site for a reason that you will soon see.  This site has a fairly unobstructed view of the lake, which has certain advantages, among them the model (and what he/she is wearing) is the focus of attention.  The site’s drawback, if you could call it that, is that more sun comes through as you can see on Brianne’s cheek, arm, and other parts of the dress, in the full body shot.  Again two photos are used, a close up and full body shot, to show you the environment of the site.

05-18-13_004The advantage of the site just mentioned is the path (also just mentioned).  This path, which is wide, goes into the woods and offers total 05-18-13_042shade during the photo shoot.  It offers a totally new and different environment and all we had to do was walk 20 or 30 feet.  During this segment of the shoot, Brianne again changed her outfit and I changed the setting on my camera (slowing the shutter speed) to let in more of the ambient (background light).


05-18-13_109The final site for the day was on the walk back to the car.  This area has dense trees.  As you look up the trail, back toward the parking area, the 05-18-13_119site looks like a tunnel.  But it offers a great photo environment.  Again, two photos are used to show the variety of the possibilities you can capture.

There is a drawback to photographing in Northwest Park.  It’s a park!  And people use it.  If you maintain your sense of humor (as Brianne did!), the “interruptions” (which weren’t that many as we photographed on a week day) are not unbearable.  The people who walked by were friendly and seemed to enjoy seeing us do the shoot.  You do need to watch out for poison ivy.

The advantage of shooting here is that we had a number of different environments and sites all within easy walking of the parking places.  Clean restrooms can be used for changing outfits.  Ample and easy parking.  If you have any questions about Northwest Park, feel free to ask me!

Tricks and techniques for this shoot:  The lighting for the shoot was two speedlights (flashes) on a tri-flash holder without any light modifiers (a technique I learned from Nick Carter, an award winning photographer).  The flashes were set to 1/4 power for an effective yield of 1/2 power.  Using two flashes at once allows for a faster flash recycle time.

Want me to do a photo shoot for you?  I work a lot cheaper than you think!  I simultaneously shoot in RAW and JPEG.

UPDATE:  I visited Northwest Park today (June 3, 2013) and the area along the lake shore has grown in quite a bit more.  There are still great spots for the shoot, but the leaves and plants are bigger, fuller, and greener.  The poison ivy is also out in force so be careful where you stand.  There are two trails off of the lake shore trail which are open and will not cause a problem.

Jim the Photographer
Manchester CT

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The Sunny 16 Rule

I read a number of photography forums and I regularly read questions to the effect, “I’ve decided to shoot in manual mode.  What do I do now?”

Shooting in manual mode is good because it gives you the greatest possible control over you images.  By understanding the relationship between aperture and shutter speed you can either show motion in a photograph, as in waterfall photography or manipulate depth of field.

The_Exposure_Triangle1 copyBefore we get into the Sunny 16 Rule, you need to understand the relationship of ISO, aperture and shutter speed.  When all are perfectly balanced, you have a well exposed photograph.  If they are not balanced, you photos will either be under or over exposed.  Not enough or too much light will hit your camera’s sensor.  Many photographers will fix the problem in postprocessing.  I don’t believe that’s really an adequate option because there is a craft (not only an art) aspect to photography.  By mastering the craft of exposure, you control the photo.

Now don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong with postprocessing.  Photos fresh from the camera are seldom “perfect”.  I finally sprung for the cost of Photo Shop Elements.  When I used the PSE presets to “fix” my camera fresh photo for the first time, I couldn’t believe the difference as I thought, “That’s the way this photo was supposed to look!”  From that moment on I decided to shoot in RAW and JPEG.  What’s my point?  There is a place for postprocessing in photography, just not as a fix-all (or an excuse) for poor photographic craftsmanship.

Simply put, the Sunny 16 Rule is “On a bright, sunny day set your shutter speed to the number closest to your ISO setting and set you aperture to f/16.”  The following exposures will give you well exposed photos (and the exposures will be close to identical).

ISO        Shutter Speed    Aperture
100        125                       f/16
200        250                      f/16
400        400                      f/16

exposure guideThe exposure guide gives you the aperture setting for a given outdoor lighting situation.  (The shutter speed and ISO will remain constant).  Click on the exposure guide, download it to your computer, print a copy of it and bring it with you when you go out.  I keep my exposure guide with me and consult it regularly to determine lighting conditions and the proper aperture setting.

  • On a bright sunny day, my aperture is f/16.
  • On a slightly overcast day:  f/11
  • On an overcast day:  f/8
  • On a heavily overcast day f/5.6
  • In the shade f/4
  • the exception?  On a sandy beach or in snow on a bright, sunny day  f/22

When you master the Sunny 16 Rule, you are prepared to manipulate the three aspects of the Exposure Triangle to give you the photo you really want.  By mastering the craft of exposure, you will improve the artistic aspect of your photography.  But that is my next blog entry.

Jim the Photographer
Manchester CT

Posted in aperture setting, exposure, Exposure Triangle, f/stop, ISO, photographic lighting, photography, shutter speed, Sunny 16 Rule | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment