Friday, June 22, 2012

Fridays

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Sitting on a dock in Montauk ready to take flight and making us very nervous since we were sitting in the middle of a pond.

Of all the things I've learned about myself and life and love since having a baby not taking anything for granted, especially the passage of time, is one of the most important.  Hours turn into days and days into weeks, then months and then years and here we are with this exceptional little girl who has the shiniest eyes, the brightest smile, very strong opinions and who loves to cuddle more than anyone in the world.  This weekend we'll be celebrating her second birthday and it hardly seems possible since it was only yesterday that we left the hospital and I showed her around her new home.  That first night I sat with her in my arms in our living room and I stared at her with wide wonder studying every centimeter of her perfect face.  I remember that I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that just 48 hours earlier she had been in my belly.  Yet there we were staring at each other completely in love and awe.  Happy birthday sweet angel, miracle of our lives, healer of broken hearts and maker of dreams come true.  We love you more than anything.

New York City
One week old.

Read my baby story here and here are some of my favorite posts about my little family...happy weekend!

Life dreams

Ten seconds of Lucia

Asking for stories

I dream of baby

She's here

Bed time

Crescent moons

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Maybe I heart Times Square (a little)

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

We drove through Times Square the other day on a whim. We were uptown and on our way home and I had the idea to go locally part of the way because for once we weren't in a rush and it was a lovely evening and I felt like cruising with the windows open. Times Square isn't exactly my favorite place in town but every once in a while it's fun to visit this part of the city where we rarely, if ever, find ourselves. The energy is electric and the excitement can be addicting and I never thought I'd say this -- what with all the tourists, crazy cab drivers, noise and people generally not watching where they're going -- but I kind of want to go back to just stop for a minute and take it all in.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fundamentals of Photography - Aperture

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Portrait of my baby having her favorite "bubbly agua" right from the bottle.  You try prying that bottle of water away from her when she's got her hands on it!  Aperture f/4.5 and focal length 44mm.

So after sharing a few tutorials and receiving a number of emails from readers I got to thinking that it might be time to write a series of posts about the fundamentals of photography.  This is the first one and it's about what I think is the most important part of taking a picture: Aperture and depth of field.

What is aperture?

A photographer who taught the one and only course I've ever taken in photography explained aperture in the simplest way: you have to think of the camera's aperture as the pupil of the camera's eyeball.  On a very bright day your pupils become smaller in order to prevent too much light from reaching the back of your eye.  When it's dark your pupils dilate to allow more light in. 

Similarly, the aperture controls the light that can reach your camera sensor (or film...remember that?)  It refers to the size of the hole in between your camera lens and the sensor (or film) that can be made larger or smaller in order to allow different amounts of light to reach the sensor.  Combined with the shutter speed (look out for the post on this) the aperture size regulates the sensor's exposure to light. 

How is aperture measured and what do those numbers mean?

The camera's diaphragm controls the aperture (the diameter of the opening of the lens) and the aperture setting refers to the size of the opening and the size of the opening is measured in "f-stops". 

The lens aperture is usually specified as an f-number (the ratio of focal length to the aperture diameter) and a lens has a set of marked f-stops that you or the camera can set the f-number to like f/1.4, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/22.  Moving from one f-stop to the next doubles (or halves) the opening in your lens (and the amount of light getting through).  I know this is a lot of technical information but I think it's really helpful to try to understand it since measuring light is basically the most important aspect of capturing images and once you learn how it works you'll really have creative control over your photographs and most importantly, finally take your camera off Auto (yay!).

It can be confusing to new photographers (myself included!) because large apertures (where lots of light gets through) have smaller f-stop numbers and smaller apertures (where less light gets through) have larger f-stop numbers.  So f/1.4 is a much larger aperture than f/22. 

What is depth of field?

Depth of field is used to control how much of an image is in focus.

Large depth of field just means that most of the picture will be in focus and small (shallow) depth of field means that only part of the picture will be in focus and the rest will be fuzzy or creamy or have those lovely little bokeh circles.  You can read a bit about depth of field and choosing aperture settings in my portraits tutorial.  Shallow depth of field is really useful when you want to highlight a particular portion of a photo or photo just on one subject.  I like to use it too just because it gives photos a really pretty and creative look that you just don't get when everything in the frame is in focus.  The thing to remember is that large aperture (smaller f/stop number) decreases depth of field and small aperture (larger f/stop number) gives you larger depth of field.
 
When depth of field is really important to me, like for a portrait for example, I usually put my camera on Aperture priority (admittedly my favorite setting after shooting manually) so that I can set the aperture and let the camera choose all the other settings like shutter speed.

Copyright 2008 Monica L. Shulman
Somewhere in New York City.  Aperture f/5.6 and focal length 200mm.

I Happen to Like Purple.
This has the same aperture and focal length setting as above but I physically moved away from the scene so that I could fill the frame with the flowers but still get that creamy background.  Also the post-processing was obviously different with the colors of this one being a bit warmer.

_DSC1714
Beets and carrots at the farmer's market.  Aperture f/4.0 and focal length 50mm.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Vintage bags at one of my favorite flea markets in NY on the Upper West Side.  Aperture f/5.6 and focal length 150mm.


Now get out there and practice!

Do you have any tips?  I'd love to hear in the comments.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
A butterfly flew right into the photo and startled my girl who for once was actually standing still and posing - these days she's always on the move.  Aperture f/5.3 and 90mm focal length.  I love the bokeh in the background.  This was shot in aperture priority.  

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
The "after" to the "before" just above.  She noticed the butterfly.  Aperture f/5.3 and 90mm focal length.

Also, check out tips for photographing people in public and tips for taking pictures of babies.  You can see all of my tutorials here.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I save everything, or why it pays to be a hoarder


 

I save everything.  I save the obvious things like journals, birthday cards, letters (remember those?) from old friends,  and matchbooks and the not-so-obvious and hardly ever necessary things like clothes I'll never wear again, concert tickets, and (very) old magazines.  I can't stand a mess so obviously I've got these two opposing sides of my personality constantly warring with each other - my crazy need to save things "just in case" and my constant need to declutter my living space and my mind.  I've gotten a lot better over the years and especially since I had the baby but it should come as no surprise that the one thing I will always save is a photograph.  I take photos because I love to hold on to memories.  Even unpleasant memories serve a purpose -- a broken heart, a missed opportunity, a fight with a friend -- and maybe that's why I feel like I can't ever get rid of anything.  I like knowing where I've been and how far I've come and I like to think that even though I've made mistakes and even have some regrets, I've grown because of them. 


The other day I was cleaning out my hard drive for what seems like the millionth time and I came across a folder of images from November 2008.  This picture was taken shortly before this one and I got to thinking about that night.  It had been over a year since I left my job and I was feeling out of sorts with the holidays coming and my new career at somewhat of a crossroads -- I was either going to keep trying or give up on this path altogether.  I was waiting for a friend in the rain on this cold night in New York and I felt like everything was a bit of a blur.  The photos were too literal and I took a look at them a few days later and decided I hated them.  I tucked them away into a folder in the abyss that is my computer and it's funny because it was a strange time for me then and looking back now I can't believe how much things have changed and how happy I am that I kept going and pushed myself to today.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Instagram Weekend

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

My little girl is turning two in one week and I find myself constantly wondering how time flew so quickly.  I wish I could bottle up the feelings around all of the moments that are so tiny in the grand scheme of life so significant -- the way her face lights up when she hears her dad's key in the door, the way she runs so free and fearless toward the ocean when we go to the beach not once looking back because she knows we are always right behind her, the look of concentration on her face when she tries to put on her shoes or button her sweater, the pride in her smile when she she builds a high tower with her blocks or puts together her puzzles.  Her insatiable curiosity and the look of wonder on her face brings me so much happiness.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
A family of swans in Montauk was a highlight and big surprise!

photo 5(7)
"Look Mommy.  Swan!"

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

By the way, if you're on Instagram, you can find me @ciaochessa.  And, I usually share photos here that don't always make it to my stream (remember you can put your phone on Airplane Mode but still use the app to create the Instagram).

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
My greatest Loves.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
She couldn't wait to get outside.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Photos out of cab windows are fun.  Errands in Soho earlier on the weekend before heading to the beach.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Fridays

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
My two greatest loves.  Moving so much in sync with each other.

Summer is almost officially here but we've been enjoying such beautiful weather and going to so many parks in the city during the week and beaches in the country on the weekends that it seems like the season started ages ago. Not that I'm complaining. This weekend will be spent outdoors and celebrating daddies.  Have a wonderful weekend whatever you do and here are some fun links from around the web.

Ten simple SEO tips.

Is there a right way to hold a camera?

iPhoneography trends.

This exhibit looks cool and makes me nostalgic.

Watercolor animals.

The most stunning and evocative wedding photos I've seen...ever.

Beautiful overcast landscapes.

Iconic images reimagined with Instagram.  The good, the bad, the terrible.

Speaking of which, check out Mastergram.

Spying on your neighbors.

On why Pinterest isn't for photographers.  But I still use it and love it even if I don't allow images from my portfolio to be pinned and only allow a limited number to be pinned from my blog. 

This interior has me swooning.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

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