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Entering the "Danger-Zone" to get just the right picture

For several weeks I had been thinking about a certain location on the Tyler, TX downtown square; a place that I thought would make an exceptional photo-op. The problem was, the photo "point-of-view" (POV) I wanted would require me to set my camera in the middle of the busy downtown brick-street — the "Danger-Zone."

And then there was the hour; the picture would require filtered early morning light.

At 6:00 am I made my way downtown. Fortunately, there were no cars parked along the street to clutter my picture. That would have been a deal killer, unless I was prepared to Photoshop cars out of the image (and I was not prepared to do that).

Now, I would have to dodge traffic to get my "brick-level-POV." I wondered to myself if a policeman happened around the corner, what kind of "loitering" ticket I might get. These are things we do to get the shot.

You might be asking, why shoot so low? I like this low POV because the brick streets are iconic for downtown Tyler. The "Tyler" marquee sign balances the photo and instantly sets the location for viewers. The morning sun bathing the front of the buildings was an added bonus.

As I photographer, I have learned a few things about candid images; really good pictures are often taken from unexpected angles. This same advice applies to parents when photographing their children. The temptation is to grab your phone or camera and from a standing position, shoot down on those smiling faces.

But, that "looking down" angle is so expected. What if you got yourself down on "kid-level" and photograph your snaps from that POV. Changing your POV can make a huge difference in your family photos and create a "wow-factor" when you share your pictures.

While you are at it, watch your backgrounds. How many times have I brought a photo home and found a telephone pole growing out of the top of Aunt Harriett's head.

Okay, now for technical stuff. What were my settings for this downtown image. Before I share those numbers, remember, the early morning light was pretty scarce. Translated, that meant I needed to knock up my camera's ISO, use a more wide-open aperture and probably a slower shutter speed. Fortunately, I was able to rest my camera on the brick street and it acted like a tri-pod.

My settings:

ISO: 3200 (I used Topaz DeNoise AI to remove the high ISO noise in post-editing).

Shutter Speed: 1/60 second

f/stop: f/16 - I used a higher f/stop (smaller aperture hole) to lengthen my depth of field (sometimes called the focus plane) so that the bricks right in front of my camera and buildings in the background would all be in focus.

Lens Focal Length: 24mm (wide angle)

I used a Canon 5D SLR camera to make the picture, but this same shot can be photographed with a simple point-and-shoot camera or even a cell phone. To prove my point, below is a photo my son took one rainy night from almost the exact same spot. Creativity is not camera dependent for sure!

I hope you enjoyed this post and remember, change your perspective and go low!

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