How to Find the Best Photographic Vantage Point


Jordan-Hare Stadium at NightJordan-Hare Stadium at Night

Jordan-Hare Stadium at Night

Isn’t this an amazing time to be interested in photography. Whether you’re a fan of the hype or not, the announcements of new tech are almost never ending. This week Apple announced the iPhone 7 Plus. With this Apple showed off the first dual camera on an Apple smartphone. This was something I had been anxiously awaiting. Just the technical achievement in having two different camera sensors, two different focal lengths, in your pocket, brings a whole new life to what’s photographically possible.

Nikon, Canon, Sony, Samsung, and all the big tech names in photography have been working diligently on that steady pace of incremental advancements that we often scoff at in tech reviews, and perhaps some would say boring. While we always want to see giant leaps from one year to another, the slow steady incremental advancements in technology are usually how innovations are made. This has been said for a long time over the history of technology. Walter Isaacson took a fantastic long look at this concept in his book The Innovators which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the topic.

Another camera company currently working on multiple sensors I’ve been eagerly following is Light.co who have been developing a camera called the L16 which uses 16 different sensors. Light.co is taking a different approach to multiple sensor from Apple and LinX. The new iPhone uses two sensors to house two different focal length lenses where the user can choose to use one or the other. Light.co is taking a 16 images from 16 different sensors and stitching them all together for a final 50mp high res DSLR-like image. But none of those advances alone can create beautiful or successful images. After watching the progress on the L16 for a while I was thrilled when they asked me to explore the aspect of  finding a good “vantage point” for photography here on my blog.

There are so many elements to photography which come together to make an image “successful,” and when it’s done really well it’s hard for the viewer to even put their finger on why, they just know they like it. One of those elements is the vantage point of the image, and that’s what I’m exploring here today.

The Jordan-Hare Stadium Vantage Point

A “vantage point” is a “place or position affording a good view of something,” and it’s not always the most obvious place. What’s unique about this vantage point at Jordan-Hare Stadium is how well it tells the story of this particular night. You can see so many visual elements within the frame, thousands of solum fans milling around from edge to edge, the blackness of night soaking down all around the stadium, except inside where everyone’s left. Even the trash around the grounds tells part of the story. Then you have the stadium itself. A solid, strong, towering creation stretching endlessly around the block, patiently waiting for next time, the next game.

Since we are now full-force into the college football season in Auburn the image I decided to start with is this photograph of Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn that I took after the Auburn vs LSU game. While I’m offering a few suggestions from the perspective of Jordan-Hare Stadium as the subject, this will work well in any large venue. So, to find the best vantage point for any given image I would offer up these three suggestions.

1. Explore All Possibilities

It took me years to find some of the obvious locations to capture the best images of Jordan-Hare. And it took exploring the stadium for all possible angles, from all possible vantage points 365-degrees around the stadium grounds, and at all given times night and day. I’ve shot from the ground, from the top deck, on the walkways, from Plainsman Park (the baseball stadium next door), from the basketball arena (both of them), from super far away, super close up, and all points in between. Some I like more than others, but I keep coming back to this one spot on the south side of the stadium.

In fact, the vantage point where this image was taken wasn’t even possible years earlier before “the night the barn burned” to the ground during the 1996 Auburn vs LSU game, and more unique vantage points have grown up over the years as Auburn has grown. I finally found one of my favorite spots after a very dejected loss to LSU as fans slowly sulked out of the stadium. I ran up to the top floor of the parking deck on the south side of the stadium and captured a few images with my camera perched on the concrete wall.

2. Always Have a Camera With You

As security at big events has become tighter and tighter it’s been more and more difficult to get high quality pro gear in or near sports venues. Auburn implemented a no-DSLR rule a while back (though I would argue not for security reasons), and now they have a restriction on the length of lens you can bring into the stadium (i.e. have with you because you aren’t going to walk back to the car once you are there). So, the compact cameras have now become my go-to cameras when it comes to shooting scenes like this, but you never know when you are going to find that perfect vantage point, so always have a camera with you. This shot was taken with a Nikon D700 (a 12mp full-frame DSLR, which at the time was huge) and the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens, neither of which I could get in with today, but it was what I had with me that night. As Chase Jarvis has famously said, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” For secure venues like this almost any compact camera will do. I love the Fujifilm X70, and the iPhone, both fantastic cameras to take this very shot. Once the L16 openly available in 2017 it will probably fit the bill in an amazing way.

3. Ask the Local Photographers

This is something I think many of us are hesitant to do. We photographers can be very competitive, threatened by anyone with a camera self-conscience types, always questioning our own work and hunting down the best vantage points. So the thought of giving up your sacred secret spots was once taboo at best, but has since vanished (for the most part) with the proliferation of photography in our digital age. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen, they don’t respond or say no, but any time someone asks me where I took this or that shot I’m more than thrilled to point out the specifics. So my suggestion would be to hit up the locals wherever you are on Twitter or Instagram and just ask. Most likely they already know where the best vantage points are, and are happy to share them with someone who also has a love for photography.

One thing Apple did was bring photography to the masses, a fundamental shift in the world of photography. That didn’t make everyone an award winning photographer, but it removed biggest barrier, owing an easy to use camera. Whatever the camera, constantly trying to improve my own photography is one reason I’ve spent so much time studying photography on every level I can find, the #VantagePoint being one of those areas. I especially love deep thick philosophical photography books, and one of the absolute best I read this summer was The Road to Seeing by Dan Winters which I’d highly recommend. Until next time, happy hunting that unique vantage point.

Photos of the 4th of July Fireworks in Auburn from AUO

4th of July Fireworks in Auburn

The Grand Finale of the 4th of July Fireworks in Auburn from AUO

Each year we have come into Auburn to watch the fireworks, but this year we changed locations to the new Auburn University Municipal Airport (AUO) terminal building, and it was a fantastic spot. The airport ended up being a nice quiet spot, for the most part, and we didn’t have any of the chaos around the concert in the park stuff either, which we don’t normally go to anyway. The temps weren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were going to be, so it was just an overall nice evening in Auburn this year.

I’m always fascinated how each year is always different. The circumstances of life are different, the location, setting, and the fireworks, all make for a unique experience each year. For some of the previous 4th of July displays in Auburn and elsewhere that include fireworks you can go to those listed below.

Previous 4th of July Displays We Had

Here are some other shots from the Auburn fireworks display, as shot from the roof of my car at the airport terminal. You can click on any of the images below to see the super high res size.

 

Not One is Missing Among 10 Billion Trillion of Them :: Isaiah 40:26

The Milky Way Galaxy and Jacob

I have been walking, and sometimes running, through the book of Isaiah over the last week or two. There are so many incredible passages in Isaiah, but this morning I came across something that made me stop, it was just one phrase, just four words, “not one is missing” (Isaiah 40.26.d). This passage, in context is Isaiah 40:25-26, is talking about the pagan worship practices, many of Isaiah’s contemporaries had failed to resist, which now surrounded the Israelites. They often worshipped astrological phenomena, but Isaiah here is saying that Israel’s God is the only thing worthy of worship, and he created the stars themselves.

Apparently astronomers say there were about 5,000 stars visible in ancient Israel, so saying that God created these stars would have been an awe-inspiring thing (and it reminded me of the star images above from last summer).[1] What is always so awe-inspiring to me, in a time and culture where not many people worship the actual stars, astronomers now estimate there are more than 400 billion stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, there are 125 billion galaxies in the universe, making the total number of stars 1×1022, or about 10 billion trillions. If this isn’t mind boggling enough to contemplate, Isaiah says God knows all these stars by name! In His own strength He created, controls, and sustains millions upon millions of stars, each one of which He, amazingly, has named (cf. Ps. 147:4).[2]

I’m not even sure I can fully understand what 10 billion trillion is in a numerical order. The only thing I could think to compare a number like that to is something huge, like our national debt which is around 15.6 trillion. Even something we are told is as huge as the national debt looks absolutely minuscule when compared to how many stars God has created. The point being of course, if God knows the name of every single star, such a God will surely never forget even one of his own people. After all, there are only about 7 billion of us for God to remember!


[1] See EXIF Data of Star shot above on Flickr

[2] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-), Is 40:25–26.

cf. confer, compare

Good Friday Confessions at the Cross :: Photos

Good Friday Confessions at the Cross

Last night was our Good Friday service, one that contained a combination of worship and examining confession at the foot of the cross. It’s hard to put into words what that means, and Brian said it best when he told everyone that the cross speaks for itself, and it does. There really aren’t words that are sufficient enough to describe the power of the cross and what Christ did on that day. So, in keeping with words aren’t needed, I’ll let the photos here speak for themselves as well, which is one of the reasons I love photography as much as I do.

Good Friday Confessions at the Cross

Good Friday Confessions at the Cross

Good Friday Confessions at the Cross

Good Friday Confessions at the Cross

Good Friday Confessions at the Cross

Good Friday Confessions at the Cross

Good Friday Confessions at the Cross

Christmas Eve, Where Christ Lights Up the Darkness

It was a wonderful night at Cornerstone tonight celebrating the coming birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. I always love the candles, it is such a reminder that Christ is the one who brought light into the darkness of this world, and walked among us as well. Merry Christmas everyone.

The Friday Night Lights Live Album Recording :: Friday Feet

Today’s Friday Feet comes from a live album recording here at Cornerstone Church in Auburn. I will probably post a few more photos of the shoot tomorrow but for now, here is a smattering of feet and music from the night. The live recording took place over two nights, last night and tonight, and was the first live worship recording for an album our band has completed.

I love the privilege of getting to worship throughout the week and not just on Sunday, or at least in the manner we do on Sunday. This was a special night in many respects, and I enjoyed the unique experience of getting to shoot and worship at the same time. The shot of the guitar 3 images down serves today as my Project 365 [Day 3] image (see the rest of P365.me :2012 here). Have a great weekend all.

Friday Night Auburn Lights Photo at Jordan-Hare Stadium :: Friday Feet

It’s the Friday night before the first Auburn football game and it’s become sort of a tradition with Deborah and I to walk around downtown and eat dinner while we watch all the “out of towners” stroll in. Last year it was Hamilton’s on Magnolia, this year it ended up being a very crowded Mellow Mushroom. It’s always interesting to see our quiet southern town turn into a crazy madhouse, but that’s fall, and that’s what makes Auburn such a unique town. It also makes for some great photographic opportunities. At this point I’m not sure how many times I have shot Jordan-Hare Stadium (one of my favorites came right off my iPhone), but it always seems to have another look, another angle, or different colors that I haven’t found or seen before. What’s even better are the countless shots of Jordan-Hare on Flickr and other places that seems to find even more looks to this great stadium.

If you are in Auburn take a walk down to the stadium and see the new black and white banners that went up in the off season, they look great and once again they changed the face of Jordan-Hare. So here is hoping Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers have another fantastic season down here on the the plains.

Understanding Exposure is More than Just Point and Shoot

I thought I would do a little photography 101 slash book review for this Saturday’s post. Only one more week before Auburn opens the 2011 football season so today is sort of the last “free” day before the fall goes into full swing, so to speak. The changes in photography over the last 10-15 years has been amazing to watch, and I’m glad I started shooting when film was the only option. Just about anyone can pick up a digital SLR today that is capable of taking photos that weren’t even possible a few years ago. Thankfully, it still takes more than just a finger pushing a button to take shots that look like more than just vacation photos. It’s quite possible to take great shots with a point-n-shoot and lousy shots with a professional camera (my nephew who is 12 takes amazing shots with his $150 Canon PowerShot SD1300).

One of the aspects of photography that attracted me to the art years and years ago was how easy it was to take a photo, and how hard it was to master the art. Just like anything worth doing, it takes a lot of time, study, experience, and a determination to get beyond the basics. One of the very basics of photography, and also one of the most difficult to master, is exposure. There are three basic elements to exposure in photography that make an image possible. These have never changed since the very first piece of film was exposed to light. For a “proper” exposure you need a combination of aperture (lens opening), shutter speed, and ISO value (film or sensitivity speed). Today’s cameras all have what is called a “P” or “program” mode that automatically calculates all three of these in an instant and creates what it thinks is the proper exposure. The only problem with that is the meter always exposes for a “middle grey”, or average, which attempts to take every lighting situation in the frame, average it out for medium, and that’s the “proper” exposure. That not necessarily bad, or wrong, and it’s probably how about 90% of all images shot are taken, but it also doesn’t always make the most exciting photograph either.

The two examples above I shot in the fading sun over the Atlantic, and both are considered to be improperly exposed according to the camera meter at the time. One is significantly “over exposed” (too light or bright) and one “under exposed” (too dark). I took several shots back to back and the “properly exposed” shot was quite boring. I love how both of these shots show a different mood and many different details. What often determines a “proper” exposure is what you are trying to create when you take the shot. What story are you trying to tell often determines what exposure best portrays your vision when you pull the trigger.

If you are interested in learning more about exposure and how light is used in creating an image I recommend the updated edition of Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson. I have no affiliation with Peterson but I did read his first edition that came out many years ago and recently finished the updated version published last year. Peterson goes through an easy to understand explanation of how to best use exposure in your photography beyond just pulling the trigger. Anyone who is interested in improving their photography should start off with Peterson’s book and move out from there, it’s a great place to start.

Photos of the 4th of July Fireworks in Auburn

Yes, I know I’m a little late with the fireworks pics but oh well. The fireworks in Auburn were good as always, the only thing that just kills me every year is they don’t go high enough in the sky to get up over the power lines, and I have tried different locations every year. You can see from the grande finale shot above that Alabama Power just had to be front and center, otherwise, I love the shot. Each year they do this outdoor festival thing, which is more akin to thousands of people sitting around in the park waiting for the fireworks, but it is a great opportunity to shoot. It’s always a good show but hours of waiting and fighting the traffic afterwards for 10 minutes of fireworks has me thinking we might try a new show next year. Boston Pops would be cool.

Creation Proclaims the Milky Way Galaxy on the Summer Solstice

As I mentioned in my blog post last night we were going to try to get some shots of the Milky Way Galaxy, and these above are what I ended up with last night. There are so many different aspects of creation but this one always blows my mind. I love how Paul puts it in Romans 8:20-25

…ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

The lights at night out where we live are always interesting. Some nights it’s so dark you really can’t see your hand in front of your face, but most of the time we have a good bit of “glow” from Auburn-Opelika on one side and several other cities on the other side, but they are farther away. The shots of the Milky Way above (the first three) were taken when it was very low in the night sky facing south east. Turn around and you see the difference between the glow facing south and the glow facing Auburn. That last image still shows a good bit of stars, but nothing like the shots from the other side of the sky, and that shot was an entire f-stop longer (in other words the shot in the direction of Auburn let in twice as much light as the shots facing the Milky Way and showed less stars). Still, either way, the number of stars visible is always just amazing to me. Thanks goes to my nephew Jake who stood in and modeled for the first shot and explained to me what I was looking at in the night sky.