Monday, June 29, 2009

Photographing Fireworks with your Digital Camera

July 4th fireworks in PhiladelphiaOn Saturday, we in the US celebrate the birth of our nation. If you've traveled to Philadelphia, America’s birthplace, immediately after the Independence Day Concert in front of the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, more than 500,000 people who will have come out to watch Sheryl Crow headline the free concert, will enjoy one of the largest and most spectacular fireworks displays in the nation.

That’s my segue for my tips for photographing fireworks. Here’s what you need to do to capture them this July 4th.
  • Arrive early — Before the show, scout the location, determine from where the fireworks will be launched, and try to find an unobstructed view where you can compose your photos successfully. Consider topography, lenses, zoom capability, and how high the fireworks will go in the air.
  • Consider the location wisely — If you’ll be among lots of folks viewing the fireworks, you must choose a position which won’t have people wandering in front of the camera or accidentally kicking your equipment. Stay away from streetlamps and such, to avoid light flare, and look out for tree branches and other objects which might sneak into the photos.
  • Always use a tripod — Fireworks photography requires long exposures to capture the light trails and full bursts together in a photo. Long exposure times require camera support to ensure sharp exposures, regardless of what camera you’re using, so use a tripod appropriate for your equipment. Don’t have a tripod? If you must, place your camera on a makeshift solid platform, such as a fence post, a railing, or lean against wall.
  • Use a remote shutter release — If you can, use a remote shutter release to increase your camera’s stability. That way you won’t have to touch your camera, shaking it, to snap the photos.
  • Bring extra batteries — It’s always good to be prepared in case your battery(s) give out during the display.
  • July 4th fireworks in PhiladelphiaBring a flashlight — You’re going to be shooting in the dark. A small flashlight will enable you to see your camera’s controls and settings.
  • Bring extra memory cards — I try to take photos of almost every fireworks burst. So my excitement at the beginning of the show doesn’t fill all my memory cards before the grand finale, I have plenty of them with me.
  • Use manual focus — The fireworks, presumably several hundred yards/meters away, will be difficult to focus on due to the darkness, so if you can, use manual focus and set your lens for infinity. Digital Point and Shoot cameras generally don't have a manual focus mode. Set your Point and Shoot to landscape mode, if it has one, as a “work around.” It's essentially the same as setting a DSLR to infinity.
  • Use the Highest Quality for your photo — I shoot fireworks exclusively in RAW format. If you take your photos in JPG, chose the best quality and the largest size (least compression). This is especially important for fireworks photographs because JPG compression artifacts are often created when the photograph has a high range of luminance and color contrast, like the bright colored light of fireworks bursting against a black sky.
  • Reduce noise in your photos — Long exposures and high ISO settings, can cause noise in your digital photographs. Noise (colored pixel artifacts) will mostly be visible in the very dark areas of your fireworks photos. Therefore choose low ISO for your camera (50–200).
  • It’s night, it’s dark, so you might think you need very long exposures — On the contrary, the fireworks are very bright lights, which cause many to overexpose their images. To control my exposures I use my DSLR in manual mode. I expose my photos from 1 to 4 seconds. Shorter exposures could miss the full burst and longer exposures produce washed-out images. I use my DSLR’s B (Bulb) shutter setting to control how long my shutter is open. It’s hard, but try to anticipate the beginning of the burst and open the shutter, then close it immediately after it reaches its peak. Anticipating the explosion is difficult, but not impossible. If your Point and Shoot camera doesn’t have a B setting, choose a fixed setting, such as 2 seconds. Since the shutter speed must be long enough to record the burst, control the exposure by choosing the correct aperture. Using one of the suggested apertures listed below, you can use your preview to test and then compensate the aperture accordingly.
  • The aperture you use will be based on the ISO setting — A good starting point would be ISO 100 – f/8 to f/16 or ISO 200 f/11 to f/22. Check your photos as you go along and adjust the aperture as necessary.
  • Frame your photo well — Generally a vertical format is better as the trail of a skyrocket is usually upward and not wide. For my final framing decision I will consider the crowd, my position, and how the fireworks will be deployed.
  • For my DSLR I use a normal to wide angle lens — My position relative to the fireworks bursts will determine the exact focal length I use. I frame my image so I have a good sized foreground and "head-room" above the topmost fireworks trails.
  • July 4th fireworks in PhiladelphiaGenerally you should turn off your flash —  For photographing the fireworks themselves your flash is useless, but it can be useful if you’re trying to light something in the foreground to give your photo context and extra interest.
  • Consider adding foreground subjects to your fireworks photos — Consider including a statue in the foreground, or silhouettes of the crowd, a tree or bridge or building. Note how I used the river in my photos. Watch your horizons to keep them straight, especially if you have foreground subjects in your photos.

Photography Exhibition: The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984

The Pictures GenerationThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City, is one of the premier art museums in the world. When they have a photographic exhibition, you can be sure of its extremely high quality and its careful composition and construction.

This is the first major museum exhibition to focus exclusively on “The Pictures Generation.” Educated in the self-reflexive and critical principles of Minimal and Conceptual art, this tightly knit group of artists brought those lessons to bear on a return to recognizable imagery, exploring how images shape our perceptions of ourselves and the world. Featured are 160 works in all media by thirty artists.

This exhibition will run through August 2, 2009
Young artists who came of age in the early 1970s were greeted by an America suffused with disillusionment from dashed hopes for political and social transformation to the continuation of the Vietnam War and the looming Watergate crisis. The utopian promise of the counterculture had devolved into a commercialized pastiche of rebellious stances prepackaged for consumption, and the national mood was one of catatonic shell-shock in response to wildly accelerated historical change, from the sexual revolution to race riots and assassinations. Similarly, the elder generation of artists seemed to have both dramatically expanded the field of what was possible in the field of art while staking out its every last claim, either by dematerializing the aesthetic object entirely into the realm of pure idea or linguistic proposition as in Conceptualism, or by rivaling the cataclysmic processes and sublime vistas of the natural world itself as did the so-called earthworks artists such as Robert Smithson, who died in 1973.
The exhibition includes works from John Baldessari, Ericka Beckman, Dara Birnbaum, Eric Bogosian, Troy Brauntuch, Sarah Charlesworth, Jack Goldstein, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Richard Prince, David Salle, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Michael Zwack and others.

If you’re in the New York City area through August 2nd, I strongly suggest you take in this amazing exhibition.

As I travel, I love seeing the work of other photographers as I hope you do. If you know of a new photographic exhibition which you think the Blog should publicize, please contact me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tips for urban photography (Part 2)

In Part 1, I listed my first 9 of 19 tips to meet the challenges of taking photographs in urban areas. Here are the last 10 tips to consider when taking photos in cities:
  • Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, PAContext — This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about context in this Blog. It’s really a reoccurring concept which is very important to learn. When I take pictures in a city, my goal for the shot is to convey a sense of place and show the local atmosphere and way of life. It’s not easy to do this, but if you can, it can lead to an outstanding photograph.
  • Most every landmark offers a myriad of potential views and unusual angles to capture its image, which allow you to express different aspects and qualities of an already well-known monument. When you arrive at a landmark, don’t just start snapping photos, don’t just stand in front and “call it a day.” Walk around and see if there are alternate views which are better at showing off the landmark.
  • Gargoyle at the cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, FranceSometimes the beauty, design and mystery of outstanding architecture is best achieved  by taking close-ups of the buildings. Consider a Gothic cathedral like Notre Dame in Paris. The details of the great cathedral really display the greatness of it. What better way to show off the details such as its incredible Gargoyles than via close-ups. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take the wide-angle shot showing the entire church. I’m suggesting don’t stop with the wide shot found in any travel guide. Take additional photographs so you can really see a building's architectural details and sculptures.
  • Chinatown, San Francisco, CALook for bold vivid colors as you walk the streets of urban areas. They can make the basis of some wonderful photographs, really showing off the city. Don’t just look for colorful art either. Look for brightly colored walls, doors, shops, textiles on display, foods at an outdoor market, floral decoration of buildings and more. At the “golden hours” these colors are often markedly enhanced.
  • An interesting way to photograph a city’s over-shot landmarks is to use marginal weather; a dark cloudy sky, rain, snow, ice, etc. Weather can give a completely different look to landmarks, buildings and cities.
  • I like to take night shots of cities. At night, cities under urban lights have a completely different feel and mood. Think about how Las Vegas looks during the day, versus with all those neon lights in the evening. When taking night shots, don’t overlook capturing the moon in the sky too. It can make for incredibly interesting photographs.
  • Paris Metro, Paris, FranceDay or night, don’t hesitate to capture movement in your urban photographs. Among classic photographs are night photos of high speed highways which show the taillights of motor vehicles as red blur lines showing where the vehicles have been driven. While taking photographs in Paris, I took some of the Metro. Some of the photographs were taken of the subway pulling out of the station. The motion shown greatly enhanced the photos.
  • One of the major challenges of city photography is not taking pictures of famous landmarks and sites, but portraying the local atmosphere to create a sense of place. Cities consist of much more than beautiful and/or historic buildings, cathedrals, castles, and modern buildings; skyscrapers and low risers. They include urban congestion, traffic jams, crowded sidewalks and squares, stores, sidewalk cafés, art, fountains, parks and so much more. Not just that, amid all the hustle and bustle of the city are many intimate subjects to photograph which reveal a city’s mood, style, and life. Take photographs of children at play, animals, and pictures of the local population engaged in their daily activities; shopping, drinking coffee and eating a bagel and schmeer at Starbucks or sidewalk cafés. The diversity of life in cities should result in unlimited photographic opportunities, as long as you’re willing to seek them out, and keep your eyes open to the myriad of possibilities cities hold.
  • Bar in Olde City, Philadelphia, PAOften the best travel city photographs are not of the landmarks we see in travel brochures and web sites, but photos taken off the beaten path showing a particular facet of the city’s life. Don’t be afraid to explore the outlying neighborhoods of cities, instead of just staying in their central core and historic areas. Think about photographing markets, fairs, cafés, and overlooked public art.
  • The weather and lighting conditions will have an impact on your photography. Shadows from nearby buildings can ruin a shot, and aiming the camera in the direction of the sun can cause your subject to be a dark silhouette with no detail. If you spend several days in a city, consider revisiting areas at different times of the day which might open up tremendous photographic opportunities you might have otherwise missed.

Photography Exhibition: Williams College Museum of Art - Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, 1923-1937

Edward Streichen: In High Fashion, 1923-1937The Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography puts on some of the most exceptional photographic exhibitions all over the world. The Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, 1923–1937 exhibition at the Williams College Museum of Art is no exception.

This exhibition will run through September  13, 2009
Steichen was already a famous painter and photographer on both sides of the Atlantic (possibly the most famous photographer), when, in early 1923, he was offered possibly one of the most prestigious and certainly the most lucrative position in photography’s commercial domain – that of chief photographer for Condé Nast’s influential and highly-regarded magazines, Vogue and Vanity Fair. Though it meant a break with the high-minded art-for-art’s-sake ethos espoused by his mentor Alfred Stieglitz (a break viewed as treachery by Stieglitz and his friends), he leapt at the chance, having come to the conclusion that photography’s natural -- and therefore true -- function was utilitarian: a thoroughly modern means of human communication. For the next fifteen years, Steichen would take full advantage of the resources and prestige conferred by the Condé Nast empire to produce an oeuvre of unequalled brilliance, putting his exceptional talents and prodigious energies to work dramatizing and glamorizing contemporary culture and its achievers -- in politics, literature, journalism, dance, theatre, opera, and above all, the world of high fashion.
If you’re in the Williamstown, MA area through mid September, I strongly suggest you take in this outstanding exhibition.

As I travel, I love seeing the work of other photographers as I hope you do. If you know of a new photographic exhibition which you think the Blog should publicize, please contact me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tips for urban photography (Part 1)

Los Angeles SkylineTaking photographs in urban areas has its own particular challenges. Often there’s little room to get back far enough from your subject. Vehicles, poles, wires and other distractions seem to be everywhere. Often there are crowds of people blocking access or certainly not allowing you a clear shot. Lighting is often difficult.

Here are the first 9 of 19 tips to consider when taking photos in cities (The next 10 are in Part 2 which will be posted next Monday.):
  • Like landscapes, each city and town has its own look and feel. Cities have distinctive settings, architecture, and skylines. Cities may be known for a particular place, dress, food, site, or history, etc. There's always seems to be something unique which literally names your destination. When photographing an urban area you need to accomplish three basic things, if at all possible:
    • capture the sense of the area as a whole, which can be effected via a wide shot that shows the skyline, or other view that describes your destination,
    • capture landmarks which in essence name the city,
    • capture the life of its inhabitants, possibly with photographs of the city at work or play.
  • Pay close attention to details and distractions in the background of your photos and especially behind the heads of your subjects. A telephone pole or tree sticking up behind your subject can ruin the shot. Move around to get an angle which reduces the background distractions.
  • You never know when that “money shot” will reveal itself, so be prepared to shoot at all times. I usually keep my camera in “aperture priority” mode, with a reasonable ISO setting for current conditions, rather than manual, so I don’t have to worry about setting the exposure, as I turn the corner and see a great shot which could vanish in seconds.
  • Philadelphia Skyline at DuskUse the “golden hours,” which are the times just after dawn and just before sunset. Just after dawn has the additional advantage that most people are still in bed. Shadows are long and pronounced during this time, so look for angles that feature these contrasts. Perhaps your hotel is near a cathedral or any other interesting building. Make a point to check out the light early or late for a special photo opportunity when the light gives a golden cast to almost everything.
  • Shoot signs. I use a GPS connected directly to my DSLR whenever I’m shooting outside, so I know exactly where I was when the photo was taken. Even so, I take lots of photographs of signs to help identify and document my photographs. Signs can sometimes give me extra background material to help describe the photos.
  • Often in cities you won’t be able to take a photo of an important statue, work of art, person or other subject, with the sun illuminating it directly. Instead you might find the sun shining on it from behind. In that circumstance, use fill-flash to “fill-in” shadows and illuminate the front of your subject. Fill-flash can remove shadows when the sun is overhead too.
  • While you generally have the right to take photographs throughout urban areas, the right is not absolute. In the US, you normally can’t take photos of Department of Defense or Homeland Security installations, and other government owned buildings or land where photography is banned. You can’t take photographs of buildings from private property without permission, but you can take photographs of buildings from public property. You can take photographs of people in public where there is no expectation of privacy, but not otherwise. Elsewhere in the world, such as in France, photographs of people are normally not permitted without their permission, even in public. In locations such as the Middle East and South America, the issue of photographs of people is even more sensitive. Frankly, I don’t take photographs of anyone, unless it’s incidental to the photograph, without their permission. Moreover, before taking photographs in any country, research, not just their laws, but their customs as well. You don’t want to run afoul of the law, or rile the local population.
  • One of the reasons I normally have my DSLR in aperture priority is it permits me to set the depth of field of my photographs. Normally in urban photographs I want most everything in them in focus. Controlling the aperture in the photograph permits me the focus control I desire.
  • In front of Christ Church, Philadelphia, PAPut kids and old people in your shots for context. While including anyone in your urban photographs will add context and interest, if you think about photos you’ve seen of cities which are in travel magazines, and get smiles and “oohs and ahs” it’s one of kids and seniors. Getting them in your photos with a simple background will produce real winners. Think about a landmark photo at Ellis Island, New York City. Catch a shot of the main hall there and you have a snapshot of a historic building. Catch the same shot with an older person in the foreground, and you have a photograph.

Photography Exhibition: The Department of Interior Museum - A Sea of Tallgrass: The Konza Prairie

The Department of Interior Museum in Washington, DC, periodically has compelling photographic exhibitions. "A Sea of Tallgrass: The Konza Prairie," photography by Judd Patterson, should be extremely interesting.

This exhibition will run from July 18th, through September 12, 2009
The exhibition explores the Konza through 28 photographs taken by Judd Patterson, who earned a master's in geography from K-State in May. Patterson, a 2001 graduate of Salina Central High School, also earned a bachelor's in natural resources and environmental sciences from K-State in 2005.

The exhibition's curator is Deborah Wallis Wurdinger, who earned a bachelor's in anthropology from K-State in 1993. Wurdinger is a museum technician at the Interior Museum.

K-State's Konza Prairie Biological Station is a native tallgrass prairie preserve that spans about 8,600 acres. It is owned by The Nature Conservancy and K-State, and is operated as a field research station by the K-State Division of Biology. The station is dedicated to a three-fold mission of long-term ecological research, education and prairie conservation. The Konza's virgin ecosystem provides K-State and Department of Interior scientists, as well as other scientists and students from around the world, with opportunities to study how plants, animals, soil, water and climate interact.
If you’re in the Washington DC area during this exhibit, I suggest you take it in.

The museum is on the first floor of the department's main building at 1849 C Street NW between 18th and 19th streets. The museum is open to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 1-4 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month -- except on federal holidays. Admission is free but all adults must have photo I.D. to enter the building. More information is available by calling 202-208-4743 or on the Web at:

As I travel, I love seeing the work of other photographers as I hope you do. If you know of a new photographic exhibition which you think the Blog should publicize, please contact me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

HDR (High Dynamic Range Imaging): An Introduction

HDR Image of Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PAHigh dynamic range imaging (HDR) is a set of techniques which allows a photographer to produce a photograph displaying a greater dynamic range of luminances between light and dark areas, of  the scene to be photographed, than normal digital imaging. The idea behind HDR is to be able to accurately represent the wide range of light intensity levels found in the real world ranging from direct sunlight to shadows.

OK, so that’s what HDR is, but what we’re really seeing when we see an HDR image on a monitor, or in an HDR print, is a tone-mapped image of an HDR composite image.

Tone mapping is a technique used to process an image where we map a set of colors to an alternate set, to approximate the appearance of HDR images in media with a limited dynamic range, such as computer monitors, projectors, and printers. Each of these devices, and our digital cameras have a limited dynamic range which is inadequate to reproduce the entire range of light intensities present in many natural scenes which the human eye can discern.

In HDR/Tone Mapping the problem of contrast reduction from the scene to what can actually be displayed is handled, while preserving the image’s details and general color appearance.

So that’s the technical definition, but if you’re not familiar with HDR, I know you’re asking what the heck does that mean.

Independence Hall HDR ExampleWe often, as photographers, especially on bright days, come across a scene we’d like to photograph which has light intensities ranging from dark shadow to very bright whites. The photograph above is an HDR rendering of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA. Please note in the photo, that throughout the range of luminances (light intensities) the scene’s detail is preserved, from dark through light.

Take a look on the right. The three photos you see show the range of luminances which make up the HDR composite photo at the top of this article. In each photo, some detail has been lost.

When creating the final photo, I used the three photos on the right, plus two more, one exposed between the dark and center exposures, and one between the center and light exposures.

In order to create the five exposures I put my DSLR on a tripod and bracketed the exposure. I started with an exposure for the brightest light in the scene and kept increasing the exposure by decreasing shutter speed, until I had the right exposure for the darkest part of the scene.

The f/stop and iso remained constant for the photos which were taken within the span of just a few seconds. I set my white balance manually to the correct color temperature of the scene using an ExpoDisc.

By making these exposures, each one keeps the scene's detail for which the exposure was made, from dark to light.

To get the best results from your HDR processing, your exposure sequence must include photos which correctly expose highlights, and photos which correctly expose shadows. Exposing the shadows properly is especially important to avoid noise showing in the processed HDR image.

Then it’s off to the digital darkroom. I’m currently using Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended for my general photograph editing and retouching. For HDR work, I use Photomatix Pro from HDRsoft, which integrates with Photoshop. I use the stand alone version of Photomatix, not the Photoshop plug-in, as it’s more powerful.

There are two steps involved in creating and processing HDR images:

In step 1 the software merges your photos taken under different exposure settings into a single 32-bit HDR image. Because of its high dynamic range, the 32-bit HDR image will not display properly on conventional monitors.

In step 2 the software processes the 32-bit HDR image via its Tone Mapping tool. Tone Mapping will reveal the dynamic range captured in the HDR image and produce an image that can be properly displayed on conventional monitors and can be properly printed.

Once the HDR/Tone Mapping processing is complete, the composite photo is ready for final editing in Photoshop.

You can surmise from the 3 photos on the right, the luminosity range limit of the DSLR’s sensor. Clearly the range of luminosity in the scene is well beyond the capability of the camera’s sensor. It’s clear that without using HDR to create the photograph of Independence Hall with such a large range from dark shadow to bright white in bright sunlight, the photo could not include all the detail of each tonal area of the scene which our eyes see.

Without the use of HDR, I would have had to use the middle exposure, which isn’t a bad snapshot, but doesn’t include the richness of the final composite photograph.

Photography Exhibition: The Getty Museum - Jo Ann Callis: Woman Twirling

Jo Ann Callis: Woman TwirlingThe Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, regularly has extraordinary photographic exhibitions. Jo Ann Callis: Woman Twirling is no exception.

This exhibition will run through August 9, 2009
Since she emerged in the late 1970s as one of the first important practitioners of the "fabricated photographs" movement, Jo Ann Callis (American, born 1940) has made adventurous contributions in the areas of color photography, sculpture, painting, and digital imagery. For her, photography is another studio tool to be used, along with the sets she creates and the models she directs, to render the sensual tones and textures of fabric and food, or to animate clay figures of her own making. The persistent inventiveness of Callis' work has made her a force in Southern California art and in recent photographic practice.
This exhibition covers a wide range of Ms. Callis’ work.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area through early August, I strongly suggest you take in this terrific exhibition.

As I travel, I love seeing the work of other photographers as I hope you do. If you know of a new photographic exhibition which you think the Blog should publicize, please contact me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Museum Photography: Ten Tips

The Louvre, Paris, FranceIf you’re like me, you enjoy traveling to new and interesting cities. One of the wonderful things great cities have to offer is the chance to view and experience outstanding and occasionally extraordinary art, and sometimes you have the chance to photograph it.

Often cities also have natural history, science and other museums dedicated to some industry or sport, or other specialized subject, such as the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s aircraft and space vehicles. All can have great photographic opportunities.

Here are some tips for you, for museum photography.

  • To start, you’ve got to know the museum’s ground rules. You need to determine if photography, in the museum and on its grounds, is permitted. While most museums do permit some photography, often with limitations, such as no flash photography, there are still many museums in the world which ban photography all together.

  • The Napoleon III ApartmentsEven if there are “No Photography” signs as you enter the museum, it won’t do any harm to ask at the information desk whether the signs mean no photography whatsoever, or just no flash photography. I’ve been pleasantly surprised many times, especially in Europe, to find they just want to prevent all flash photography, as the light from many close-up electronic flashes can damage some art work, and flashes can be very disconcerting to museum visitors.

  • If photography is forbidden, put your camera in its bag. Don’t try to sneak in any photographs. Don’t be the “ugly” tourist.

  • If it’s only flash photography that’s forbidden, don’t try slipping in a few flash photographs. If enough people do that, it might eventually move the museum to ban photography all together, taking away the privilege for everyone because of your thoughtlessness. If you have a separate flash, put it away. If you have a built-in flash, turn it off. (If you’re not sure how to turn it off, either ask a teenager how to do it, or put your camera away.)

  • The Mona LisaThe light level at many museums often means you need to open your lens, slow down your shutter speed, and/or use a high iso setting in your digital camera, or use high speed film. If you could use a monopod or tripod, that would certainly help combat those conditions and permit a sharp clear photograph, however, tripods and monopods are rarely permitted to be used in a museum, as they interfere with visitors’ movement. If you have a tripod or monopod, ask if you’re permitted to use them, before entering the museum. At a tour of Winterthur last month, I brought my tripod for outdoor garden photos. When I toured the museum itself, even though it was in a case, I was required to check my tripod. Lenses and cameras with “image stabilization” or “vibration reduction” are extremely helpful in museums.

  • Even at some travel sites to which everyone goes solely to take photos, tripods and monopods may be prohibited. Due to the crowded conditions no tripods and monopods are permitted on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York City.

  • Respect the art and respect fellow museum visitors. Many museums have ropes or some kind of barricade preventing you from getting to close to an especially popular exhibit or piece of art, such as the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris, but usually there’s nothing to prevent you from getting close. Even if you can get close, respect the art and the others viewing it by not monopolizing the space near the art. Let everyone have a chance.

  • Louvre, Paris, France - Ceiling in galleryThe museum’s collection might not be the only thing worthwhile viewing there. Sometimes the museum itself is spectacular. Parts of the Louvre in Paris, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia have amazing exterior and interior architecture. The photograph on the right was taken at the Louvre. It’s not a painting or even a mosaic. It’s a ceiling of one of the galleries at the Louvre and a magnificent work of art itself.

  • If you’re using an SLR or DSLR, don’t forget to bring a wide angle or wide angle zoom lens. It’s often needed in a museum for photographs of the museum itself or some larger sculptures or other exhibits.

  • Most lighting in museums consists of artificial light or a combination of artificial and natural light. As a result, the automatic white balance setting on your digital camera may not produce accurate results. You may be better off manually setting your white balance. To help you achieve the correct white balance, if you can create a custom setting for it in your digital camera, consider using a WhiBal card, or if you have a DSLR, and Expo Disc to assist getting the correct white balance setting. I have used both and consider them excellent products.

Photography Exhibition: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden - Directions—Walead Beshty: Legibility on Color Backgrounds

Walead Beshty’s The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, on the Mall occasionally has extraordinary photographic exhibitions. Directions—Walead Beshty: Legibility on Color Backgrounds is one such exhibition.

This exhibition will run through September 13, 2009

Los Angeles-based artist Walead Beshty creates photographs and sculptures that reconsider some of the fundamental premises of modern art. Beshty’s mesmerizing photographs blend an enduring fascination with modernist visual culture and an astute inquiry into the nature of photography. He often works with historical formats, including stereographs and photograms, but he also makes use of more recent technologies, such as color processors and digital printers. The resulting pieces reflect Beshty’s concomitant interest in the historical, conceptual, and formal premises of the medium. Moreover, his practice brings attention to the ideological underpinnings of aesthetics, the indeterminacy of viewing, and the ways photography shapes our understanding of both history and the world around us.

This exhibition combines Beshty’s photograms and sculpture in his own unusual and thought provoking style.

If you’re in the Washington DC area through mid September, I strongly suggest you take in this terrific exhibition.

As I travel, I love seeing the work of other photographers as I hope you do. If you know of a new photographic exhibition which you think the Blog should publicize, please contact me.