Photo Outings: Lower Manhattan

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.
— Elliott Erwitt

This weekend I went for a long needed photo walk. I used to go on regular photowalks all over Manhattan and Brooklyn while I introduced myself to street photography, film, manual cameras and development. I would andomly choose a neighborhood to explore, get up early, ride the Path Train from New Jersey, arrive at the World Trade Center, and walk to the location. Miles and Hours later I would catch the train home and develop my film to see what I got.

I didn't shoot any film but I did take my Fuji XT-1 and new Fujifilm XF 35mm (53mm) F/1.4 Lens out for a spin. I absolutely love this combination of camera and lens. It is reminiscent of shooting on my Olympus OM1 (my favorite analogue camera) and Zuiko 50mm 1.4. I was worried about performance issues I read about in regards to focusing with this lens but after a full 7 hours of photo walking and looking at the images I can say those worries were unfounded. The lenses is tac sharp, performs well in low light and is a must have for anyone on the Fuji system.

This photowalk began like most of my previous ones, at World Trade Center. From there I made my way up towards the financial center and wall street. There is always so much going on here its often difficult to shoot here. In the face of overload I always try to find juxtaposition and message. This boy and his selfie stick in front of these two older women on their phones are a perfect image of America today captured by screens. Nearby for as little as a dollar tourist can take home a small piece of the US in the form of a statue of liberty crown or a wall street bull. 

I then made my way east and to south street seaport. I walked along and stopped to look at the helipads for a while (a favorite passtime of mine) and then continued along the walkway and under the Brooklyn Bridge. There was the usual assortment of people. Tourists, Runners, Homeless. All against a backdrop of Brooklyn, the bridge and the many reflecting puddles from the rain earlier in the day.  I never tire of photographing the Brooklyn Bridge. It has a personality all its own and I always seem to see it from a new angle.

After my waterfront walk, i travelled back west and into China Town. I have not explored this part of Manhattan nearly enough and plan to do so much more extensively in the months to come. Being there is like stepping into another country, A far away place full of street vendors, advertisements in other languages, mandarin spoken freely and all sorts of nooks and crannies with secrets to be discovered.

Next on the agenda was a rest stop. After 3 hours of photo walking I made my way up broadway to Argo Tea on University Place near Union Square. After using the restroom and the wifi and having a bubble tea (Piña Colada Tea with Coconut Milk) with my wife I set out again. This time finding a street fair selling the usual items like leather goods, bracelets and ...... tights?

The mannequin legs and the woman shadowing their stance were great but the matching stripes were the cherry on top. 

 From the fair I made my way east down 23rd street and back towards the water. Here I made two of my favorite images of the night, both juxtapositions of the space and people. I love using objects in an environment and waiting for people to walk in and provide context and meaning. Its the perfect cocktail.  

I love the juxtaposed image of Melissa McCarthy from her new movie Spy pointing a gun at this pedestrian. She raised her arm to fix her bag right as she crossed in front of my camera and I got this fantastic gesture. Continuing on my walk I found the graffiti in the second image. After hanging around for a few minutes I this young couple happened down the walk way and i was able to make the photo. I think its an interesting commentary on young love and the inclusion of the one way sign and the stop signal are tiny suggestive themes. You can interpret it as you like. That is the magic of street photography. 

Finally, after dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant in Manhattan, Rhong Tiam I made my way home but not before making the photo below at the subway station. As I saw these girls come on to the platform, I couldn't help wonder where they were coming from or where they were heading. The composition is intriguing. The two women looking towards each other but not at each other and the ambiguity of the friend who's back is turned to us. The hats, the bow on the dress and the shoes in hand are the kinds of small details I look for when photographing the street.

Photography is therapeutic to me and I had missed street photography more than I imagined. My new smaller lighter kit will be coming with me on many more photowalks and photo hikes. More Landscape and Street Photography are definitely on the way.

Stay Tuned.

Gus C.

Lee Filters Big & Little Stoppers

You can think of neutral density filters as sunglasses for you camera.

Milky waters, Blurred trees, and ethereal clouds. Key expression elements in Landscape photography today resulting from long exposures. 

In order to acheive long exposures under normal daylight circumstances we need to employ neutral density filters. You can think of neutral density filters as sunglasses for you camera. They reduce the amount of sunlight coming into the lens and hitting the sensor therefore lengthening the amount of time (shutter speed) needed to expose the same exposure without the ND filter. 

ND filters come in a variety of formats i.e. square, threaded, strip, graduated, reverse graduated and in a number of strengths. The most common being .3 or ND2, .6 or ND4. and .9 or ND8 resulting in 1, 2 or 3 stops reduction of light respectively. These strengths are useful in most cases from reducing exposure of a sky or a reflected water to a more manageable exposure range (standard digital cameras can only accommodate 5 stops of light). For example, if you sky is 7 stops bright than your foreground, a two stop graduated neutral density filter will reduce the exposure of your sky 2 stops giving you 5 stops of light from darkest to lightest and allowing your camera to capture the full exposure range.

While there are a number of  manufacturers of ND filters, I am partial to the Lee Filter System. They are really high quality adapter ring mounted square or rectangular filters and come in acrylic or my personal preference optical glass. In particular an "industry standard" is the Lee Filters Big Stopper which claims to give you 10 stops of light reduction (actually about 11).


Using the Big Stopper allows you achieve long exposures in the middle of the day. For example, Times Square mid day, camera on a tripod, lowest ISO (less noise and longest shutter), put your big stopper on, on a sunny day f16 at 1/160 (sunny 16 rule). Your typical 1/125th shutter becomes 8 seconds and allows you to achieve light streaks on taxis, ghost of movement of people etc. By stacking extra ND filters on top and/or reducing the aperture you should, in theory be able to eliminate people in the shot altogether (averaging movement exposure over static exposure, another article for another time) 

Fantastic, but as evening approaches and shutter speed are already much longer than in the middle of the day 16 minute exposures are overkill for most situations and also not very manageable. Thats where the Lee Filters Big Stopper's new younger brother the Lee Little Stopper comes in for the win. Lee Little Stopper is a 1.8 rated 6 stop neutral density filter and allows for the same effects at later hours (think sunsets and blue hour).  In the same Times Square scenario above your 1/125th second shutter only becomes 1/2 a second at the same time of day. In the evening when your shutter is likely a 15th or an 8th you can achieve the same 8 second exposure from the first shot. 

These are fantastic tools and ones that I would recommend to any landscape photographers. I will note that the big stopper has a slight blue cast. I personally enjoy the look but it is easily corrected via color temperature adjustment, 10-12,000k mark will do. I need to do more experiments with the little stopper but I assume the same amount of color correction will do. 

Always remember these filters are tools to help you achieve a particular vision. Master the tools you have before you overload your senses with too much new kit. Add new elements slowly, learn each tools quirks, push them to the limit and when you need that extra edge and your current gear can't achieve what your looking for, then upgrade.

Let me know of any questions or comments! I'm am here to answer!

1/30 sec at f/16, ISO 200, 20mm

1/30 sec at f/16, ISO 200, 20mm

2.5 sec at f/16, ISO 200, 20mm using Lee Little Stopper

2.5 sec at f/16, ISO 200, 20mm using Lee Little Stopper

30 sec at f/16, ISO 200, 20mm using Lee Big Stopper

30 sec at f/16, ISO 200, 20mm using Lee Big Stopper

Photo Outings: Cliffwalks, Rhode Island

This month I took a trip Rhode Island for my best friends wedding. I took my new compact camera kit with me intending to take it out on a dry run and get a feel for how this kit would handle. I expected to get out on some city walking and maybe see the Roger Williams park and zoo in providence. The trip turned out to be so action packed I didn't make it to either of those places and almost didn't make it to any sites at all. Fortunately on the day of the wedding I managed to sneak out with my wife to the cliff walks for just over 2 hours and make the image below.

Rhode Island Newport Cliff Walks

The cliff walks in Newport Rhode Island were designated a national recreation trail in 1975 and consists of sea side cliffs behind Newport's numerous sea facing mansions. Skipping the mansions and going straight to the cliffs turned out to be just the ticket. After walking the trail for 20 minutes or so I noticed this outcropping of rocks about 15 feet below the path. I carefully climbed down, set up my tripod and filters and went to work. After about some exposure tests with my Lee Big Stopper and balancing of the sky with my lee soft graduated neutral density filters I had my base image. 

Some things I'd do differently:

  1. Given more time I would have like to wait for sunset and blue hour
  2. My new kit is lacking a Circular Polarizer (Now on Order)
  3. I made due with my soft grads but the hard grad ND filters would have been more appropriate

I'm very happy with the way the image printed and it is now available for purchase through my galleries upon request.

The Ongoing List of Photographers You Should Know: Street

Street Photography

In my opinion, the most basic way to improve framing and composition and create stronger photographs is spend time looking at great photographs. It is OK to emulate and copy while your learning. Study the compositions and place yourself in the photographer's mind. Great photography is about excluding from the frame all things that don't help the message. Why are they choosing to include the elements they do? How does all the content add up to the overarching subject. Try different elements from various photographers and mix and match along with your own ideas until you find your style. The best investment you can make is in Photo Books, they will always be a source of inspiration.

Below is a list of Street Photographers you should look at for reference. I will be updating this list with new photographers over time. I also open to suggestions in the comments below.

Good artists copy; great artists steal
— Pablo Picasso

Elements of a Photograph

In it's simplest terms, a photograph is the confluence of subject, form and content.

The subject of a photograph transcends what is physically contained in the image. Subject is not the person, or the shadow, the bridge or the landscape but rather the more over arching themes described by the items within. Subjects can be anything from literal to abstract ideas like love, hunger, survival and hope. Truly strong photos are able to communicate these subjects through the use of the remaining elements Form and Content.

While subject is more akin to what the image is about, content refers to what is literally in the image contained in the image. These include all persons, places, or things that are visibly present and/or identifiable in the image.

The final element is Form. Form describes line, shape, value, texture, color, light and framing. All of which communicate their own sets of connotations and cultural clues to the viewer. Another way to think about form is to label it composition. Its all of the relationships formed within the content that produce meaning and communicate the subject clearly and concisely.

The photographer should practice recognizing these elements and using the technical levers available via the camera (Aperture, Shutter Speed, Focal Length and Camera/Sensor Format), Form Content to communicate the subject.

Make recognizing and applying subject and content a daily exercise. Now that your aware you will begin seeing all of the implied subjects in the images that vie for our attention everyday. 

Limited Edition Prints

Hello Photography Lovers,

Part of the thrill I get from my ongoing exploration of my world through photography is from printing my images and seeing them find good homes, to see them spark emotion in a viewer and to hope that they live well beyond my lifetime.

In an effort to achieve that, going forward I will be eliminating all other print sources of my images and will be focusing extensively on Fine Art Limited Edition Print Making. All prints will be offered in Limited Editions of 25 in both 8.5x11 and 13x19 inch sizes as well as open edition 5"x7"prints.

They will all be printed by me to the highest collectors standards as follows:

  • Canson Infinity Rag Photographique 310gsm 100% Rag Paper
    • Last up to 150 years
    • Meets ISO 9706 requirements 
  • Moab Entrada Rag Natural 300gsm/22.5 mil
    • 100% cotton
    • Natural/OBA Free
  • Canon ChromaLife100 8-Color Dye Based inks
    • will resist fading up to 100 years
  • Sealed with Hahnemuhle Fine Art Protective Sealant Spray
    • highly water resistant
    • scratch resistant
    • greatly increases U.V. resistance

Each print will be stamped, embossed with my monogram, hand signed at time of printing, numbered and will be accompanied with a certificate of authenticity for your records.

The print structure will be as follows:

  • 8.5"x11" Prints
    • 2 Artist Proofs
    • 25 numbered images
  • 13"x19" Printes
    • 2 Artist Proofs
    • 25 Numbered Images
  • 5"x7" Prints
    • Open Edition

Pricing will be based on edition number as follows:

  • 5"x7" Open Edition Print - $50.00 USD
  • 8.5"x11" Limited Edition Print 
    • Artist Proof - $75.00 USD
    • Limited Edition Print - Starting at $100.00 USD
      • each subsequent print will increase 20% until the 25th print
  • 13"x19" Limited Edition Print
    • Artist Proof - $128.00
    • Limited Edition Print - Starting at $170.00 USD
      • each subsequent print will increase 20% until the 25th print

Once the 25th image is printed. No other limited edition prints will be made. I will be keeping records of all print sales for reference and the information will be available upon request of potential collectors.

People want to be able to collect pieces of art and this structure allows them to do so as well as providing an opportunity for my work to outlive my time. I embark on this in emulation of greats like Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz. I have already sold one artist proof under this struct and hope to see many more prints find a way into loving homes. 

Work in progress

I am working hard to get this new website up and running. I hope to add photos and a brief blog post on a biweekly if not weekly basis.


Stay tuned...