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Thoughts, Projects and Stories from our Travels


Beating winter at its own game

As of late, the northeast has been being ravaged by temperatures in the teens and twenties and as a result I have not left my apartment in over a week.

Cabin fever set in quickly but I told myself to hold out for a nicer day. Brutal arctic weather usually doesn't stick around long in the city for whatever reason.

The weather hasn't warmed up yet and feeling the effects of cabin fever and a disastrous lack of inspiration, I decided I had enough. I wanted to get a new photo for my daily Instagram photo challenge I came up with. So, after lunch I garnered enough motivation to put on my long-johns and about 25 other layers and get out and brave the bitter New York wind.

It didn't take long before I began to question my own sanity and decision to torture myself like this. My face began to freeze from the constant head wind blowing from every direction. My eyes were dry and my nose was running down to my sneakers. But surprisingly the rest of my body began to overheat! I layered too much. But I was better off sweating then being too cold, since the walk to the park from my apartment can take up to 20 minutes.

Finally I reached Prospect Park. "Now what," I asked myself. I decided to meander my way over to the Boathouse through the patches of mud and black ice. I've never been to the park during the day in the winter time and I was honestly surprised at how few people were there. It looked like the apocalypse just happened. Here and there I'd see someone jogging or walking their dog but I took pleasure in the quiet of the crisp cold day. Occasionally I'd hear the wind whistle through the trees or the gentle creaking of those wooden fences, bending and stressing in the cold air. Needless to say I was pretty happy to be out of my 650-square-foot apartment despite the frigid 28 degree air.

On may way to the Boathouse I decided to warm up my skills by taking a few shots around the picnic area. As expected, those shots were less then exciting. 

Walking through the woods towards Center Street, I notice a duck taking a bath in a small patch of unfrozen water. Since I was using my 24-105 at 105mm this was a tough shot to get at all. 

The duck

The duck

I ended taking the photograph with an iso of 800 and cropping it quite extensively in Lightroom. I'm still not totally thrilled with the end product even after grain reduction. A 70-200mm would have done the job quite nicely but alas that's still a lens in my dreams. 

Emerging from the woods I passed under an old arch bridge. Being a fan of high contrast color and texture, I set up my rig on a tripod and took three manual HDR shots.

Just look at those colors!

Just look at those colors!

I was quite impressed with the various colors that emerged. This image only went through a little post processing. It's all in the HDR when it's done properly.

Just a matter of feet from the brick arches I couldn't help myself but to shoot the isolating moment I was in. Here I am, basically the only person in the biggest park in Brooklyn, a park I've only ever known to be packed with moms and dads with their kids, teens and people my age, BBQing and enjoying the summer sun, and it's empty. 

Normally this area is packed with food trucks and BBQers

Normally this area is packed with food trucks and BBQers

It was a very surreal feeling.

Thankfully, by now the wind had died down and my final destination was just around the corner.

At this point I decided I wanted to focus my creativity on on macro photographs of ice or snow (if I could find any). I knew there was a small waterfall leading to the lake the Boathouse is built on so I made my way over.

I made it!

I made it!

The first photo I shot wasn't really meant to be anything remarkable. I was just doing an exposure and focus check but figured I'd use it anyway to give you a sense of location.

The falls aren't really much to behold. Maybe 8-10' of what's probably just drainage runoff. But I had to make it work since the lack of inspiration over the previous week had taken quite the toll on me.

I affixed my 100mm macro, set it to f32, my camera to iso 50 and began to shoot a series of HDR's at varying shutter speeds from 1/4 second to about 4 seconds.

Reverse Icicle
Silky Water
Mini Glacier
Ice Bubbles
The Things

I got to say, I'm fairly pleased with the outcome of these shots. I've never photographed ice like this before but that high f-stop makes all the difference in clarity. I wish I had shot a few more under-exposed images for the HDR in a few of them though. For instance, a lot of detail was lost in the highlights of the second shot. An ND .6 or .9 would be beneficial as well. I was lucky that it was a cloudy day. Had it been a bright sunny day I wouldn't be able to capture the moving water so smoothly.

With my 100mm lens still equipped, I spun around to photograph the Boathouse in all it's wintery glory.

Just look at that place!

Just look at that place!

Again, this shot was accomplished utilizing a high f-stop and a series of various exposures to create an HDR. Quite the contrast from the photo I took in the same spot this fall.

The day was getting late and my equipment and I were beginning to freeze to each other, so I decided it was best for both of us to start the (very) long walk back to the warm, claustrophobic space of my apartment. But not before snapping one final, wonderful image of the Boathouse.

Stop the madness!

Stop the madness!

I rounded off my icy excursion with a hot cup of tea and a turkey melt.

Some times you just need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to get the inspiration flowing again. Don't let winter slow you down.