- Bryan Peterson's Understanding Composition Field Guide
- Bryan Peterson's Understanding Photography Field Guide
- Understanding Flash Photography
- Beyond Portraiture: Creative People Photography
- Understanding Close-Up Photography: Creative Close Encounters with Or Without a Macro Lens
- Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second
- Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Workshop students always want to know how you go about capturing an image, so for this month's tip I wanted to share an image I recently shot on assignment. I was hired to capture a scene of Lombard Street in San Francisco - best known for its one-way section on Russian Hill (between Hyde & Leavenworth Streets)- eight sharp turns (or switchbacks) that earned Lombard the distinction of being "the crookedest street in world (part of The Presidio and Cow Hollow neighborhoods).
I traveled to the city one day after scouting some locations on Google Earth (that's right, sign of the modern age) and spent an afternoon picking the best spot to shoot from. Knowing the light could look nice at sunrise yet most likely devoid of vehicles, I choose to shoot in the late afternoon - not only to catch the hill in shade, slightly backlit, but also hoping the sun would reflect off of the street to help it stand out.
I shot from a few locations, one close to the actual street, others miles away. Using a 300mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter and my digital 35mm SLR, I was able to crop the street nicely from one of my vantage points on Telegraph Hill. Although I mounted my lens on a large Gitzo tripod, I still set the mirror lock feature and shutter timer to keep the camera as steady as possible - afternoon winds blowing atop the hill made me worry about camera shake.
I shot all the way until twilight, finally documenting this scene below - the perfect time to capture a long exposure of the moving cars combined with the waning light of the day, which turned out to be my favorite. No filter was used and the final exposure turned out to be: f/11 @ 30 seconds using ISO 100. I wanted a long enough exposure to capture vehicle headlights curving down the street, but not so long that the lights would shine too bright or be overexposed, or the wind would eventually shake my camera.
The magazine didn't end up using this image, picking another I photographed during the afternoon. Although I'm partial to this capture, an old editor of mine sent me an email after seeing my image in the magazine - he wrote, your picture of Lombard St in VIA magazine is probably the best I've seen. It's so difficult to make a different shot of a famous place, and yours gave a new perspective. I can't imagine how you got it without cars, and of course a nice touch with the cable car at the top. Once again proving photography, as all art, is subjective.
So when you decide to capture your next scene, consider visualizing it, researching the location, choosing the right time of day, as well as the right exposure.