Through the Gadling Lens: inspiration, courtesy of the Gadlingers

It occurred to me the other day that we’ve officially been together for a year here at Through the Gadling Lens — how great is that? So it seems a little bit of a retrospective on the past year is in order, because seriously, we have talked about a lot here on the column. And so, with the help of my fellow writers here at Gadling (as well as some of the amazing photographers who share their craft with us in the Gadling Flickr pool), I thought we could multitask: I asked some of the Gadlingers what they like to photograph when they’re traveling, and as a bit of inspiration, I thought I would feature some of the best our Gadling Flickr pool has to offer to illustrate their points. And while we’re at it, I’ll provide some links to some of the more popular posts of the past year.

So, ready? Then on with the show.
From Grant: “I like taking pictures of interesting locals when they’re not paying attention.”

Grant has actually hit on one of my favourite subjects in travel photography: people. There’s nothing like watching locals go about their day-to-day lives that really captures what the atmosphere is like of a place. This photograph, shot and shared in Tanzania by by localsurfer, is a great example — the image makes you wonder what this woman is thinking, where she’s going, what her story is, just by this simple image.

Remember, however, if you do decide to take photographs of locals on your next trip, there are some rules of etiquette (not to mention local laws) which can affect capturing an image without your subjects consent. For more on this, be sure to see the post on Photographing Strangers.

From Jeremy: “Graffiti.”

I’ll be honest: I’ve never even considered capturing images of local graffiti, and right now, I’m kicking myself for not having done it before. If you think about it, there’s nothing that can really tell a visual story of the atmosphere or personality of a neighbourhood like graffiti. And I’m totally intrigued by this photograph captured by Luke Robinson — I love the juxtaposition of the gritty feel of the tagged building with the pastoral setting of the autumn trees nearby. Beautifully composed.

From Sean: “…markets…”

In many countries, the market is the focal point of all commerce in a community, and it’s very smart to grab shots of the hustle and bustle of the local market — people are likely too busy conducting their business to pay much attention to you, resulting in some pretty authentic images. This great shot of market in Peru captured by Theodore Scott is a great example — enhanced by the lovely pop of colour of the produce and the texture of the cobblestones. Great job.

From Kraig: “For me, it’s mostly about wildlife and landscapes. Rather boring, but it’s true.”

Kraig, don’t sell yourself short, man — flora and fauna are hardly boring, and can make for amazing shots. In addition, they can really help add context to your travel photos. Finally (and as this image captured by Craig Damlo clearly shows), sometimes wildlife is just cool.

There are some great tricks to taking beautiful shots of flora and fauna, so before you go on your next holiday, be sure to check out this Gadling Lens post on just that subject for some inspiration. In addition, check out this previous post on capturing landscapes, seascapes and and cityscapes, as well as how to add oomph to your landscape shots.

From Annie: “Signs.”

I will admit that while I’ve certainly taking a photograph of an interesting sign or two in the past, I’ve never made a point of capturing signage as a subject matter; that said, this great photo taken by PDPhotography in Toronto is a great lesson in why I should pay closer attention. Of course, what makes this shot great is a combination of some great timing and fantastic composition-work; still, the moral of this story is to always keep your eye open for an intriguing shot. Well done.

From Alison: “any striking colors.”

I’m with Alison on this one: there’s very little that can make for great eye candy in a photo than a striking colour. For example, this photo by zakgollop, captured in Cromer, England, isn’t interesting just because it’s an image of doors — it’s the spectrum of colour that’s captured in this single shot that makes it special.

If you’re interested in finding ways to maximize colour in your shots, be sure to take a gander at our previous Gadling Lens post, all about colour. It’s a great tutorial on how to consider your vacation shots in terms of colour, rather than simply subject matter.

From Mike: “Tourists being tourists.”

Trust our resident comic to come up with this idea for a photograph — and I love it. There’s something very ironic (hypocritical?) and tongue-in-cheek about taking a photograph of tourists doing pretty much exactly what we’re doing when we’re grabbing a picture of them. This photo, taken by Moody75 at Sacrada Familia in Barcelona, is a fantastic example — when we look at it, we suspect that the expressions of wonder (confusion?) on the faces of this group have at one time or another passed across our own faces as we’ve traveled a well. Great idea.

From Katie: “Kids.”

Another favourite subject of mine — there’s just something about kids, their spirits, the way they enjoy the world around them — and capturing images of this, particularly of local kids, is such a privilege. This beautiful photo by Cazimiro, shot in Chicago, is a great example of how sometimes, you don’t even need to capture their faces — just capturing the energy around kids doing their thing is enough.

If you’re interested in capturing images of kids when you travel, remember first to ask their parents for permission; in addition, be sure to check out our previous post on photographing kids. (And incidentally, while we’re looking at this great photo, if you’re inspired to take photographs of water, don’t miss our previous post on this subject matter, as well.)

And with that, I want to thank all of you who have been so faithfully following Through the Gadling Lens over the past year — it’s been great getting your feedback, hearing your own tips, and seeing your own images as I’ve written here. If you have any ideas of what you’d like to see in the coming year, please send me an email or leave a comment below. As always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: 7 tips for photographs around the meal

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favourite pastimes while traveling is eating. Oh my heavens, how I love to eat. There’s just nothing like being in a completely foreign land, trying a whole new cuisine. It’s like an adventure in every little bite.

For this reason, it sort of stuns me that while I’ve mentioned that food is one of those great iconic subjects for photography purposes, I haven’t written yet about how to shoot images in a restaurant, or at the table where your hosts are sharing their meal with you. (And besides, here in the west, we’re pretty much heading into prime gather-round-the-table-holiday mode, so the time has come, methinks.) So this week, I thought we’d take a look at ways to capture your culinary travel experience as effectively as possible.

1. Take a shot before the food arrives. There’s something about table settings: if it’s at a fancy restaurant, it’s all about the presentation and the style. If it’s at a casual restaurant or better still, someone’s home, table settings just say something about how your host has taken the time to create a comfortable setting for you to enjoy your meal. So before you sit and the setting gets a bit chaotic and difficult, steal away and take a photograph of the table setting in its pristine state, prior to the food arriving.

As you do this, be sure to look for the light. We discussed looking for the light in previous posts, and it becomes very important at this time, particularly if the light is low. You should look for reflective surfaces — glassware, dinnerware, and adjust your settings and frame your shot accordingly.

2. Capture the ambiance of the table as people gather
. One of my favourite times to capture shots is when family and friends approach the table in anticipation of a delicious meal. In general, people tend to be all smiles, eagerly awaiting the feast. They laugh, they hold chairs for each other, they ooh and ahh over the arriving food. Completely Kodak moment in the making.

During this time, you should be sure to grab your camera, and watch as the atmosphere grows around the table. Remember, at this time, you’re not so much focused on the food or the place settings, you’re focused on the faces and the energy between the people with whom you’ll be dining. As is often the case when you’re in spectator/photojournalist mode, it’s often great to turn the flash off, so as not to disturb the energy in the room, so make sure your settings are adjusted accordingly.

3. Take a few table-level shots. Once I’ve been seated, I love placing my camera on the table, setting the timer and capturing a few table-level shots. This is particularly effective if I’m sitting in a restaurant, because (a) often the people in the restaurant have no reason to believe I’m taking a shot, so they remain relaxed, and (b) in restaurants, often the lighting is very dim — by setting the timer and resting the camera on the table, I reduce the chance of camera shake from taking a photograph in a dark room.

It’s another lovely way to capture the energy and atmosphere of a dining establishment.

4. When photographing food, consider texture and light. Since a still photograph is incapable of truly capturing the smell and taste of the food, when you’re photographing any foodstuffs, it makes sense to maximize the texture and the light of what you’re shooting, so that the viewer can truly imagine what it would feel like to sample the food. I’ve mentioned a few photography tips when shooting food before, but I think it bears repeating here:

a) If you have a macro lens (or a macro setting on your point-and-shoot camera), this is often the best way to go. The beauty of good food is usually the taste and the smell; since your camera won’t be able to accurately capture either of these, maximizing your sense of sight can help compensate.

b) Make sure the food is well-lit. Otherwise, the food will likely simply look like an amorphous blob. Not very appetizing.

c) Check your background, colour and texture. Ideally, you won’t want to have anything in the background competing with the food for the viewer’s attention; similarly, when composing your shot, consider looking for patterns in colour and texture, and maximize accordingly.

5. Consider unusual angles, and play with depth of field to maximize expression. Here’s where you can really get creative with your images: do what you can do move the point of focus around, so that you can use both the foreground and the background to help convey what you’re trying to say with your shot.

One example of how you can do this is by focusing on the food in the foreground, while using depth of field (by keeping your aperture number low) to show the blurred image of someone enjoying the food in the background. Here are a couple of examples of what I mean:

In this case, notice that the focus is on the hot chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven — my daughter Alex is in the background happily anticipating them. If you’ll notice, even though she’s completely out of focus, you can still make out her smiling eyes.

She loves chocolate.


In this image, the focus is again on my husband’s chocolate birthday cupcakes in the foreground — but you’ll notice in the back, Alex is already diving in.

Did I mention she loves cupcakes?

Anyway, the point is that shooting in this fashion makes for a more interesting shot, as opposed to if I’d just taking a photograph of the cupcakes.

6. Consider all the colours around you, to help frame your shot. When framing your shot, don’t forget to check your background — not just to make sure that you don’t have any extraneous subjects in the shot, but also to help maximize the ambiance of the shot. An example follows:

In this example, shot in a hotel bar, I was about to take a photograph of just the martinis, because I loved the colour. However, once I looked through the viewfinder, I realized that there was a lot of colour and light all around us, and it added additional visual interest to the shot. And so, I moved the martinis toward the left two-thirds of the frame, in order to maximize the light and colours in the entire shot. As a result, the entire shot looks more festive.

7. If there’s movement, don’t be afraid to capture it. Finally, restaurants in particular tend to be pretty dynamic places, and there’s nothing like a little blur to capture this. Again, because restaurants tend to be dimly lit, capturing the blur is suprisingly easy: simply rest your camera on a sturdy surface (or use your travel tripod), frame your shot and set your settings for the dim lighting, use your timer, and take the shot. The shutter will stay open longer because of the dim light (assuming you’re shooting in fully-automatic or aperture priority mode), and any movement will appear as a blur, while the still subjects will remain sharp.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

In this particular case, my husband and I had gone out to dinner, and afterwards, decided to check out a small tea house. Little did we know that as soon as we sat down with our tea, several patrons would get up to tango — a lovely surprise.

Because the lighting in the tea house was rather dim, I just used a counter to steady my camera, and pointed the viewfinder to where the action was. As the camera did its thing, the dancers moved in and around the frame, causing a lovely blur (but notice the patrons who were not dancing remain sharp):

So that’s it! Go forth and shoot great restaurant shots (and practice in places near your home when you’re not traveling). And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: Look for the light

I just got back this week from a quick trip to a spa.

It sounds luxurious, doesn’t it? Well, actually, it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong — the facilities were lovely; however, I didn’t actually go to relax. I went along with a friend, Beth, who was giving a talk there, and while she was working I planned on working on several book projects that have looming deadlines ahead. When I wasn’t writing, I was taking as many photos as possible for these same projects.

Beth has been a very kind fan of my work, and has flatteringly used the word “soulful” to describe my images. One afternoon, she asked if she could follow me around with her camera, to have an impromptu photo lesson. As we set off, she said, “Okay, so show me how to take photographs like you do.”

“You want to know the trick?” I asked, smiling.


“Okay. The trick that every good photographer knows: before you take the photograph, look for the light.”
“I have no idea what that means,” she said.

The concept is actually very simple, and really can mean the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph. The trick is to forget all the “rules” that you’ve learned in photography before — how you always have to make sure the sun is behind you when you shoot, that sort of thing — and then actually pay attention to what the light is doing, even more than what your subject is doing. Often, when I shoot, the actual subject is of secondary interest to me than the light.

I’m not making any sense, am I?

Okay, here are some examples that will make my point:

The shot below was taken early Monday morning, as my friend was going out on morning kayak adventure. As she was putting on her life vest and getting her kayak ready, I looked out across the lake, and noticed that there was mist rising from the calm water. Looking down one end, away from the sun, the mist, while discernible, was hard to make out. However, looking into the sun, the mist was easily seen, seemingly giving the lake actual life.

“Would you mind paddling out toward that direction?” I asked my friend.

She did, and then I composed the shot. The mist and the golden rising sun, combined with my friend’s solitude and the stillness of the water, gives the feeling of total peace. It was easy to capture the feel of the morning, as a result.

Later in the day, when the sun is high in the sky and at its brightest, it becomes imperative that attention is paid to what the sun is doing: even though intuition would indicate that a bright sky is best when taking a photograph, the truth is that a brilliant sun can cause harsh shadows and stark contrasts — it can be challenging, for example, to take a decent portrait in bright sunlight, because noses and hairlines can cause strange shadows. However, bright sunlight can be beautiful for emphasizing colour and texture, as shown in the images below.

If, however, the light is really, truly bright, and is making for some ultra-harsh contrasts, sometimes you just have to make that work for you. Water is a great way to show how bright and harsh the light is, while still producing a story-telling shot.

See? Even though it’s hard to make out the boat and the water skier (not to mention the foliage in the landscape behind them), the point of this image is to show how bright the sunshine is — which it does, to maximum effect.

The rule to look for the light isn’t just for outdoor shots: it works for indoor shots as well. Natural light indoors is often filtered through windows and drapes and blinds, giving it a much softer quality of light, but still adds to the general mood inside. And if the light happens to rest on reflective surfaces, more’s the better. A great example is how the light is falling on the glassware on the restaurant table, below:

Again, the story in the above shot really isn’t the flowers, or even the glassware — it’s all about the light.

In addition, sometimes, when you’re looking for the light, all that you really notice is the shadows — the depth that the darkness can add to the final image. Don’t be afraid to capture that as well, as shown in the following shot:

Notice how in addition to the light on the tops of the petals of the above flower, what really brings some depth to the images are those parts of the frame which are in shadow. Again, just pay attention to what the light is doing.

And finally, to dispel the myth that you shouldn’t shoot into the sun: there comes a time, usually during the Golden Hour (that time before sunset, when the light turns all lovely and golden), that results in all objects in its path getting a lovely halo effect, as shown below:

The trick in getting a shot like the above is to not actually shoot directly into the light — otherwise, the flowers would’ve been in total silhouette — but to angle your camera so that it points slightly away from the light. That way, you still get some colour from your subject, but you can capture that lovely halo.

Another example:

Again, notice how the camera isn’t aimed directly at the sun, but still allows the sun to halo the details of the long grasses. Using the light in this manner totally enhances the mood of the photo.

I hope this helps! Remember, light first, object second. I guarantee it will help the feel of your shots immensely. As always, if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.your

Through the Gadling Lens: inspirational nature shots from our Gadling Flickr pool

As you know by now, today we’re bringing attention to climate change and ecotravel here on Gadling. Personally, climate change and taking care of the environment is an issue that I’ve thought about a whole lot since becoming a parent — and to be honest, my daughter has become pretty passionate about it herself (“Mom, you forgot to turn off your computer! You have to save the environment!” is not an uncommon admonishment from her 5-year-old mouth). While I’m not perfect, we do try to do what we can in our home to help reduce our carbon footprint, and when we travel, I’m careful to be mindful of making eco-friendly choices — still, I figure we could all do with a bit of inspiration. And so today, I thought I’d post some of the finest shots I’ve found in our Gadling Flickr pool that feature this big blue marble we call home. Because this is a seriously beautiful planet that we get to live on.

On with the show.

Anyone who has ever visited my site knows that I’m a sucker for a good flower shot, and happily, the wonderful photographers who contribute to our Flickr pool did not disappoint. Here are some of my favourites:

This beautiful photograph of Hawaiian plumeria (or what we Trinidadians call “frangipani”) was shot and shared by vyxle. What makes this shot so stunning is how clear and sharp the texture is — because of the detail of the edges and surfaces of the petals, you can imagine exactly how they would feel between your fingers. Looking at this image, I remember the flower’s smell so vividly. Awesome.

I’m pretty sure that I featured this stunning image of a Thai water lily shot and shared by RedHQ before, but I can’t help myself: the colour palette of this image is stunning. Besides, who can resist the bee in mid flight, about to land on the centre of the flower with all of his friends? Awesome.

Finally, I love the simplicity of this image taken by Emerald2810. The perspective is so unique: by shooting upward, we get the impression that the flower is reaching toward the sun; in addition, by shooting in this manner, the sunshine really highlights the translucence of the petals. Lovely.


In addition to my daughter being paranoid about me using way too much energy at home (read: spending too much time in front of the computer), she’s also become obsessed about endangered animals: how they become endangered in the first place, and what we can do to save them. She’s also become concerned about where meat comes from, and since I’m a vegetarian, she has asked me several times in the past about why I made the choice to stop eating meat. One recent day, she made the decision that she was going to be a vegetarian, too, so she could, you know, “help the environment.” “Except for hot dogs,” she said. “I’m going to keep eating hot dogs. Oh, and chicken. And bacon. Ooh, man, and sushi …”

Well, anyway. At least she turns off lights.

Here are some great shots of some of the beautiful animals that grace our Flickr pool:

The movement in this shot of snow geese taking flight by MistyDays/CB is breathtaking, isn’t it? With the entire frame filled with their flapping wings, you can almost feel the breeze caused by their movement, and the energy of them all leaving en masse. Fantastic.

And how about this stunning shot of a green lizard by Fiznatty? What makes this image so spectacular is his clever use of bokeh, or shallow depth of field: notice how the lizard’s eyes are in sharp focus, while the rest of him fades to a soft blur (if you remember, this can be achieved by setting your aperture to a low number). Beautiful.

And finally, I love this shot of “George” shared by ohad*:

This is apparently George, a blue peacock who lives in New Mexico. ohad* did a great job of capturing the curious and not-entirely-pleased expression on George’s face, to very amusing effect. Well done.


Finally, a feature celebrating nature and all its beauty wouldn’t be complete without some of the stunning scenery shots captured by the photographers who share their work with Gadling.

This amazing image was captured by the very talented Buck Forester, whose work I’ve featured here before. The blues of the water, mirroring the blues of the sky are truly breathtaking, and a great reminder to be mindful of the colour palette available to you as you look through the viewfinder, checking for complementary colours, and framing the shot to maximize accordingly.

I will admit upfront that I’m drawn to this image shared by Andy Bokanev because I’ve actually stood in this very spot on Cannon Beach in Oregon. What I love about it is how unusual the image is, however: rather than the typical-white-sand-blue-sky type of shot, this image focuses on the moodiness of the sky, the clarity of the beachwater, and the austerity of Haystack rock. A great reminder to look for alternative perspectives when shooting.

I’m also drawn to scenery shots which capture movement caused by nature, and this shot of the Reynisdrangar (or basalt sea stacks, as I’ve come to learn) captured by t3mujin, totally fits the bill. I love how the mist (sea spray?) swirls around the gigantic rock formation, adding movement to the entire image. Breathtaking.

And finally, because I’m a sucker for a good aurora borealis, I love this shot by, again, fiznatty

This was captured over a bathhouse in Sweden, and the result is amazing. Personally, I wouldn’t even begin to know how to capture a shot like this; however, happily, fiznatty shares some of his secrets in capturing the aurora in the comments of this image. It is one of my life dreams to see the northern lights, so if I ever make it far enough north, I’ll definitely keep these tips in my back pocket.

So! If these images don’t inspire you to take care of the Earth (or at least capture some amazing images of it), then I don’t know what will. As always, if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: shooting cities at twilight

This week, I received the following rather detailed email from reader Jason:

I love your columns and have learned so much from them, thank you! I do have a couple of questions that I hope you may be able to help me with please. I am bouncing-off-the-walls excited to be traveling to New York City for my first (and likely only) visit next week. Unfortunately my only free time will be one late afternoon / evening in Midtown. I am most interested in capturing the details of well known landmarks, especially the art deco skyscrapers and Rockefeller Center, with what little natural sunlight I will have (i.e. low angle between full sunlight and when street lights start coming on with darkness), especially if clouds are present. I have my gorilla tripod already packed but expect the crowded sidewalks to make set-up difficult and time consuming and want to try and cover as much ground as possible. I have read and re-read your columns on night and cave photography and will be putting those tips to work of course, but wonder if there is anything more I can do to give myself a better chance at capturing the unique, but distant, details of these structures during twilight.

Secondly, can you tell me how to both achieve and avoid the “starburst” effect of individual lights at night while using a tripod, specifically skyscrapers at night (i.e. Empire State Building) and neon lights (i.e. Radio City Music Hall, Times Square). Is it more a function of aperture or exposure? I am practicing with available lights but the tallest building in my hometown is all of three stories and there’s not much neon to practice on unfortunately.

Thank you again for your kind reply and best wishes.

Well, Jason, congrats on your first trip to NYC! You’ve certainly given me some tough questions — I did a bit of research to try to answer them, and with a little help from the Gadling Flickr pool (not to mention a good friend), I thought I’d share what I came up with. Hope this helps, Jason.
So I started with Jason’s second question, mostly because I was interested in knowing the answer myself. I love images where streetlights show that amazing starburst, and I had no idea how to achieve it. So to find the answer, I instant-messaged my friend Josh, also known as Modern Day Gilligan, who is my personal photographer-idol:

me: Gilligan — you have a quick second?

Joshua: yeah!
:-) No worries!
Just culling through photos.
me: I just got a question from someone who reads my gadling lens posts.
and I have NO idea what to tell himJoshua: Fire away, maybe I can help.

Joshua:With the second question: Tip #1: Pull off any lens filters – especially your UV filter. Light entering the lens at odd angles has a tendancy to cause odd ghosting/flare on long exposures.
Joshua: Tip #2: To give that ‘starburst’ look, stop down your lens as far as you can. An f/4, f/5.6 simply will not be enough to give the desired effect. Start at f/8, f/9 and work your way up until you get exactly what you want.
Joshua: The starburst effect is caused by the blades of your aperture.
me: so you’re saying a smaller aperture would create the starburst?
me: right. so f, like, 16 would give you the starburst, and f 1.4 wouldn’t?
Joshua: Exactly, as the aperture tightens the blades will be visible in the light sources.

Clear as mud?

Okay, here’s a different way to look at it: you remember how aperture works, right? It controls the total amount of light that enters the camera (while the shutter controls how much of that entered light actually gets to the film, or sensor). The last time that we talked about apertures, it was mostly around “depth of field” — the larger the aperture number, the more detail you’ll see in the background. The smaller the aperture number, the less detail you’ll see in the background.

Well, the cool thing is that the same rule works with streetlights.

In other words, the larger the aperture number, the more detail you’ll see in the light — resulting in a lovely starburst. The smaller the aperture number, the less detail you’ll see in the streetlights, resulting in a fuzzy halo, or no starburst effect.

To test this, the other night, I decided to take a walk around my neighbourhood with my camera. I set my camera on “aperture control” — this allows me to play with the aperture, and the camera adjusts the shutter speed accordingly. I wasn’t trying to capture a beautiful shot, you understand — my neighbourhood isn’t exactly a tourist beauty spot — I just wanted to see if I could make the starburst happen.

Here are the results:

In this first shot, my aperture was set at 2.8 — a small number. Focusing on the streetlight to the left of the above image, you see that it looks just like a fuzzy light — nothing too spectacular.

But take a look at what happens when I set my aperture to a much larger number, 32:

See? That streetlight to the left now has a starburst. Like magic.

Now a couple of tips: you’re going to need a tripod — when you set your f-stop (aperture) to a high number, it actually means that less total light is going to go into the camera, so your shutter is going to want to stay open a long time, risking blur. Secondly, if you can adjust your “white balance” (which we talked about in this post here), then make sure you do — otherwise, the street lights will throw the colour of your image off (kind of like the images are, above).

And finally, for God’s sake, pick a prettier street than the one I picked.

Okay. Now back to your first question, about taking great shots in New York City, and “capturing unique but distant details of buildings in twilight”:

This is actually a much tougher question, because so much depends on where you’re going to be in New York City, what’s obstructing your view, and how close or far you might be to your subject. My best advice to you would be to go through the Gadling Flickr Pool (or the rest of Flickr, for that matter), and do a search for “New York City” and “twilight” or “nighttime” or “sundown” or “sunset” or the like, and see what turns up for inspiration. I always think it’s better not to go in with any set expectations about how I’m going to shoot a city, and instead just see what cool circumstances turn up (armed, of course, with lots of inspiration in my back pocket). And by the way, I have to tell you: as someone who has traveled quite a bit to New York City in the past, New York really does seem to come alive at dusk. They don’t call it the City That Never Sleeps for nothin’.

So, following my own advice, here are some of my favourites that I found:

Rush Hour. Since it’s a city that never sleeps, don’t be afraid of the crowd of people, embrace it! Capture the frenetic pace of the city by photographing the blur of rush hour. This shot, shared by nabil.s in Grand Central Station is a wonderful example:

Sundown. Rather than be too concerned about capturing the details of the buildings at sundown, consider instead capturing the mood of the city, as the light starts to filter through the streets, and the lights start to twinkle on. Two beautiful examples:

Sunset through the skyscrapers, shared by M_at:

and this beautiful shot of sunset from the top of Rockefeller Center, shared by morrissey:

Twilight. Twilight in the city is pretty magical, as you might imagine — particularly since that’s when all those fabulous lights start to come on. And of course, what better place to capture this than Times Square, as illustrated again by nabil.s (notice how the shot is taken from the perspective of looking up to the sky, rather than focusing on the lights):

Nighttime. Of course, at nighttime, it’s all about the lights. If you’re intent on capturing the details of the buildings, luckily, many of New York City’s buildings are illuminated at night to bring attention to them, as illustrated by this great shot shared by ohad* of the GM building:

But also, don’t forget that you can always go up — and shoot the wonderful nightlit NYC panorama, as morrissey did, here:

Silhouette. And finally, never underestimate the power of the silhouette. New York City has many beautiful parks that lend themselves to this sort of photography, and of course, when you’re talking about an iconic landmark like the Statue of Liberty, it’s really hard to take a bad shot — both concepts illustrated beautifully by swapnilbd and othernel, below:

So, Jason — I hope this all helps! More importantly, I hope you’ll come back and share what you shot. And for everyone else, as always, if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming
Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.