Category Archives: photo of the day

The Green and the Gray

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One of the hidden benefits of using so many advanced panorama and compositing techniques to quickly do the otherwise impractical or impossible is that it takes you back to the film days where you can be pleasantly surprised by a photo much later. The result of this tilt-shift pano of Central Park’s urban/pastoral view is exactly what I had in my mind, but it was great to see it take shape.

Lens: 45mm f/2.8 PC-E, 9-image panorama
Camera: Nikon D4


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From touched to terrified to thrilled in 60 seconds

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Oh, Varun … you mentioned me in your reception speech, saying that my work had made you start loving your work as a photographer again, and I teared up even as I blushed furiously (“I’m a documentarian! No one is supposed to notice me!”) And then you threw me a curve ball, “And now I’d like Ryan to take a really cool shot! Everyone get out your cameras!”

The idea was what you see here … a stylized take on the Uncle Bobism of a photographer’s wedding. But how do you make a bunch of flashes go off when they’re all from different manufacturers … and most of them are camera phones?

Very carefully.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6


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A New York Story

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I try to be a storyteller, but it’s an amorphous thing. We all have a story, sure, but what was the story of your today? Was it just some stuff that happened? Was it something you learned? Something you felt? What will the story be when you look back on it later?

They aren’t simple questions, and that’s just a random day … a Wednesday, even. How do you tell the story of a place like New York? There have been thousands upon thousands of attempts, and they scratch just the surface’s surface of the complexity and the dynamics of this crazy town. Last night I saw a beautiful woman walk by openly sobbing. That, I thought, was a New York story. In the small town I grew up in, we keep our tears and our strangers separate. In New York, people’s pain is in your point, and the pain itself is part of the point. The grind of New York life is perhaps the most pervading part of the story, a rock that we dash ourselves against and that either whittles or breaks us. There’s a reason that if you make it here you can make it anywhere, or as a more recent muse put it “8 million stories, out there in the naked city. It’s a pity, half of y’all won’t make it…”

There are reasons that shooting hundreds of weddings in New York have turned me into a problem solver. We have problems. It’s stressful enough just living here, even when you aren’t planning a wedding.

Or when you’re just trying to get around. Kate and Andy were married at the Top of the Rock today, and while the rain parted for their ceremony, it returned with a vengeance just after, right in time to deal with epic New York Rainy-Day Traffic. The limo driver, who had a habit of leaving us several blocks from our destinations in the pouring rain, also decided to drive right by Times Square and put us in the modern-day Bermuda Triangle of Lincoln Tunnel traffic (for out-of-towners, picture a parking lot, except with fewer moving cars). This is when it’s good for us to remember that you might not always be having fun when a photo session starts. Not only do you have the natural nervousness of being in front of the camera, you might have had to plan a complicated day, get waylaid by a limo driver, have to walk several blocks on shoes you swear are medieval torture devices … and then be happy?

But then you find your place. You hold on to the partner you crossed an ocean just to declare your love and devotion to. An iconic New York taxi drives by and reflects the American flag back into the camera. And then, at incredible odds another one drives by at just the right place as well. Yellow and red and blue all sorts of love cutting through the gray, rainy day. And you remember the most important part of the New York story: New York is hard … but man is it cool.

Thank you Kate and Andy for letting me share in your story today.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.4G


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The Moment Always Wins

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What we must remember as photographers that while we try our hardest to bring technical perfection to an image, there are other elements that are far more important: Emotion, storytelling, that perfect moment. At this moment, a groomsman was readying himself to jump into the groom’s arms on the dance floor. Connection, emotion, action.

This photo was taken at an adjusted ISO of 72,400.

I knew I wanted to get a lot of frames to tell the story of running and jumping, but I was shooting in a dark, hard-to-light area, so I knew my flash couldn’t keep up. I had my shutter speed at 1/250th to catch action, I had my aperture at f/2.5 so as not to be too shallow, so the only place to go up was ISO. I set my flash to a bit lower power setting to catch more frames, but still it had been working hard so it didn’t catch very many. And the adjusted ISO of the non-fired frames brings us to 72,400.

It’s a remarkable feat of the Nikon D4 and Lightroom that such an ISO even results in a recognizable photo. But of course there’s still plenty of grain. Did the guests mind? Does it ruin a moment between loved ones, an expression of years of fun and play and connection? Nope — whenever these shots came up on the same-day edit screen, people kept yelling “Guys, you have to see this!”

Yes, I’m a very technical photographer, and teach technique. Photography is both an art and a craft, and we do our best with both. But the moment always wins.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 28mm f/1.8G


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Worth the wait

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This image was a composite AND a panorama, but that wasn’t what made it so hard. No, it was the Universal Law of Shooting in NYC: When you have scouted a location, and the whole time you scouted there were no people there, and you really need no people to be there, right as you’re ready to shoot a hundred schoolchildren will flood the scene.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: 8-image “Brenizer method” panorama with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 42mm f/0.68 according to Brett’s calculator)


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