Our October 12 photography workshop to the New York Cloisters in Fort Tryon park was a huge success. We could not ask for a more perfect day with respect to weather, and our participant group was just the right size. Some arrived early, and together we walked through part of Fort Tryon park to explore the morning light along the Hudson Valley ridge. We found a small group engaging in Tae Kwon Do training and dogs out for their morning walks – all great photographic subjects in the soft early light.
At about 9:15AM we all met in front of the entrance to the Cloisters Museum, briefed everyone on some of the photographic concepts we would be working with throughout the day, and snapped a photo of our group, seen below.
The Cloisters is a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted entirely to the architecture and art of medieval Europe. The museum itself is actually a composite of elements from 5 separate French medieval cloisters. Sitting on 4 acres, including gardens designed and maintained according to medieval tradition, the building itself is a beautiful representation of Medieval style. The museum sits within the larger Fort Tryon Park on the Hudson, just up river from the George Washington Bridge.
The Cloisters is a beautiful museum that so easily lent itself to our in-depth, day long workshop dealing with lighting, camera settings and lens uses. Among the concepts which we set out to explore during this workshop were setting proper white balance using a white reference card, setting proper exposure by means of taking spot meter readings off of an 18% neutral gray card; adjusting ISO as necessary for photographing in low-light situations, and adjusting f/stop to find the balance between maximizing your light gathering versus achieving the desired depth of field for your subject. I made a multitude of fast zoom and prime lenses available to workshop participants in order for them to work in lower light situations and achieve an extremely shallow depth of field when needed. The following lenses were available for use:
Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS, Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF, Nikon 85mm f/1.4 & f/1.8, Nikon 35mm f/2, Nikon
28mm f/2.8 AIS, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, & Nikon 105mm f/2.5 AIS.
Did I mention all workshop participants were Nikon users? It was quite interesting how this worked out! Is this mandatory? Not at all. Canon, Pentax, and Olympus users are welcome at all Kaz Arts photographic events. It just so happened the cards fell this way, but I must say it made it quite easy with respect to having lenses available for use.
During the morning session, we concentrated on working with the white balance & exposure cards in the upstairs rooms, which receive some oddly-colored light in the morning. By shooting a white card as a reference target, a digital camera can then record all other colors properly based off of that reference data. Exposure too can be difficult within these mixed lighting situations, so by taking a meter reading off of a gray card placed in front of your subject, you can derive the proper exposure for your subject because your camera’s metering system is balanced precisely for 18% gray. Try this sometime – it works!
We finished the morning with attempting to balance the highlights and shadows within the gothic hall of the museum where back-lit stained glass (pictured above) illuminates two sarcophagi resting on the floor. This shot is very difficult due to the vast dynamic range of the scene. This is one example as to why RAW files are advantageous over JPEGs – they capture more exposure data to work with later on during the processing stage.
To avoid the harsh afternoon light, as well as provide an opportunity to review and socialize, we stopped for lunch at the New Leaf Cafe, which is nestled within the Fort Tryon Park, just a 5 minute walk from the Cloisters museum. The lunch was included in the workshop, and allowed all the participants (and us too) a chance to relax and enjoy each others company as well as discuss some of the concepts used so far. We all enjoyed our lunch and returned to the Cloisters museum by 2:00 PM.
The afternoon session consisted of photographing pillars and columns in such a way to present either very shallow or great depth of field. You can turn a photo into something very unique by isolating one point of interest in sharp focus and throwing the background and/or foreground way out of focus as a way to highlight only the main subject. Additionally, in an attempt to show the architectural quality of a set of pillars, a challenge was to work to get all of the pillars in sharp focus from front to back. As the day wound down and the sun got lower in the sky, colors from the stained-glass windows were projected onto the floor, walls, statues & carvings which made for something interesting color pattern images.
Everybody in our group enjoyed the oppurtunity to get out for the day and create images, while learning and refining techniques to create better photos. The skills we reviewed during the workshop will translate easily to a wide number of shooting situations. Look for more workshops being announced in the near future and please enjoy the images from workshop participants below!
See below for a gallery of images from workshop participants