Impressions, Old Town Waterfront

Impressions, Old Town Waterfront
Impressions, Old Town Waterfront. Nikon D810, Nikon 200mm f/4 AI, ISO 64, f/8, 6 sec.

Lights from the dock, restaurants, and boats shimmer in the waters of the Potomac River.  An exposure time of six seconds allows them to blur and become colorful patterns against the deep blue of the twilight sky reflected in the water.

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Coffee Beans, Misha’s Coffeehouse

coffee-beans-mishas-coffeehouse
Coffee Beans, Misha’s Coffeehouse. Nikon D200, Nikon 50mm f/2 K, ISO 100, f/11, 1/250 sec.

Everyone who knows me knows that I love good coffee, and there’s no shortage of it here in Alexandria. One of my go-to spots is Misha’s Coffeehouse and Roaster on Patrick Street in Old Town. I love that they are a small operation, and their coffee is excellent. If you have time to hang out, the vibe is cool and they always have great music on. I’ve posted about them before, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time either.

I don’t usually go in-depth here behind my process, but today I thought it would be fun to do that. I wanted to create an interesting product shot just for fun (I’m always working on my lighting anyway). One of the things I like to consider when shooting products is the company’s branding. Misha’s is well-known for their orange cups and orange labels, so I wanted to create a backdrop that would have an orange glow that would spill over onto the product. In order to create the glow and spill, it required an actual light source, as opposed to a simple colored backdrop.

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An orange-gelled speedlight in a stripbox served as the glowing backdrop

I used a stripbox with a speedlight gelled orange. Getting the power setting just right on the speedlight was critical in creating the right tone for the backdrop. “Right” in this instance is completely in the eye of the beholder, and I wanted deeply saturated color.

The key light was a gridded speedlight aimed right at the heart of the label. The grid was essential because it kept light from spilling onto the backdrop and washing out my saturated orange color. The subtle rim light is coming from another speedlight with a greenish-blue gel and a snoot (again to keep the light from spilling as much as to keep it from flaring into my lens). Check out the full setup shots below to get an idea as to the placement of each light.

Mural Detail, Mount Vernon Avenue

Mural Detail, Mount Vernon Avenue
Mural Detail, Mount Vernon Avenue. Nikon D200, 105mm f/2.5 AI, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/320 sec.

Living in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria has given me some new scenery on my walks with the kids, and the bold mural painted on the side of Cheesetique’s building is just one of the many sights.

I knew I wanted to photograph the mural ever since I first saw it, but it seems that to reveal the whole thing would make me some sort of photographic copy machine. So I’ve let the thought percolate for a while. Do I look for some interesting light? Light it myself? Use it as a portrait backdrop (keeping that thought in mind for the future)? What?

Then the other day it dawned on me, clear as day. Shoot some abstract details. Duh.

I took many shots of difference parts of the mural, which includes the Washington DC skyline, a train, and a derby horse with jockey. I figured the DC skyline made sense, and I knew that Potomac Yard used to be a huge railroad yard, but the racehorse?

I did a little digging into the history of Del Ray, and discovered that the St. Asaph Racetrack (closed since 1905) used to be quite the scandalous affair. The track no longer exists, but you can tell where it used to be from the diagonal streets that enclosed it (E. Mt Ida & E. Randolph Avenues).

 

Old Town Shoe & Luggage Repair, King Street

Old Town Shoe & Luggage Repair, King Street
Old Town Shoe & Luggage Repair, King Street. Nikon D200, 18-70mm 3.5-4.5 @ 50mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125 sec.

I’ve been on this architectural kick lately, photographing all sorts of buildings that I find interesting. I’ve always liked the curved element of the sign on this store, and just had to wait a bit to get the right amount of action in front of the store to make things a little more interesting.

Summer Window Planters, Cameron Street

Summer Window Planters, Cameron Street
Summer Window Planters, Cameron Street. Nikon D200, 18-70mm 3.5-4.5 @ 70mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/125 sec.

I’m not around Old Town as much anymore since I moved to Del Ray, but when I do go I end up seeing different things. I feel like when you pass the same things everyday, you tend to become blind to them. That’s definitely a major factor, but in this case it was as simple as having to park on a street that I didn’t used to walk quite as much.

I love the patina of the brick juxtaposed with the bright colors in the planters. Texture, color, line, form. A few of my favorite things.

Reingold Building, E Monroe Avenue

Reingold Building, E Monroe Avenue
Reingold Building, E Monroe Avenue. Nikon D200, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-S DX @ 31mm, ISO 100, f/8, 160 sec.

Having recently moved from Old Town to the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, I’ve had a change in scenery. Walks with my kids down brick sidewalks used to pass colonial and federal town homes. Now we walk the tree-lined streets of Del Ray, where bungalows and Craftsman revivals are more the norm. There are modern buildings as well, in the case of this building which is located just across the street from Swing’s Coffee.

I’ve been keeping an eye on architecture lately, and the numerous styles around town make for varied practice as I get more into this genre of photography. Time of day is an interesting thing when it comes to architectural photography. As always, early morning and late afternoon light is great, but I’ve noticed that you can get interesting shadows and light on buildings when the sun is higher in the sky. For instance, the shot above was made after the sun had been up for about 2 hours. Even later, midday sun presents its normal challenges but depending on the style of building, good architectural shots can still be made.

Sunset Over 495, Jefferson Davis Hwy

Sunset over 495, Jefferson Davis Hwy
Sunset over 495, Jefferson Davis Hwy. Nikon D200, 18-70 3.5-4.5 AF-S DX @ 70mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/160 sec.

Having driven Route 1 north into Old Town many times, I have always admired the view at sunset. Unfortunately, there’s really no good place to pull over and take a photo and I don’t usually have my camera with me in the car.

I decided to change that for good a few weeks ago and made it a point to have my camera with me. There’s a short stretch of shoulder between two exit/entrance ramps that allows for a really nice composition. So I pulled over, leaned out the window, prayed that no one would rear-end me, and made a few pictures.

Potomac Sunset, Riverside Park

Potomac Sunset, Riverside Park
Potomac Sunset, Riverside Park. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16mm 2.8, ISO 100, f/11, 1/3 sec.
I love photographing at Riverside Park, which is down on the southern part of the George Washington Parkway. There’s something exhilarating about scrambling down to the rocks and setting up while trying not to fall in the Potomac River. What follows is the serenity of listening to the waves while waiting for the light to change.

Long exposures are typically my favorites down there, showing motion in the water and, in this case, the subtle motion of leaves and flowers.

Repeating, South Washington Street

Repeating, South Washington Street
Repeating, South Washington Street. Nikon D200, 60mm 2.8 AF Micro, ISO 100, f/8, 1/200 sec.
When I started thinking about the premise of this blog, I told myself that I was going to be looking for images that conveyed great color, light, or texture. All three would be nice, and in this case I got it. This was shot mid-morning outside of a retail establishment on Washington Street. The sun was at the perfect angle to create this interesting array of shadows. I love the way they seem to interlock with the actual pattern.

It’s easy to pass these things every day and not notice. Keep an eye out no matter where you are—there are always great pictures to be made, even if only in your mind.