Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Goodbye Mr. Green Square, Hello Mr. Aperture Priority!

The day I left the green square behind was the day I started to get serious with photography.

You know the full auto mode on Canon cameras that is indicated with a green square or what I call the dummy mode. That may sound harsh, but why spend hundreds of dollars on a DSLR camera so you can operate it like a simple point and shoot? That is why we have smart phones with cameras.

I soon discovered other modes like “AV” (aperture priority) and “TV” (shutter priority) which would open the creative flood gates.

The AV mode led me to the expressive world of “blue hour” photography, that certain time of the day that creates a surreal environment with natural light. The blue hours provide photographers with fantastic overcast lighting across a scene, giving your photographs deep saturation of colors and great detail. The time just before sunrise or after sunset, also known as twilight, gives off a blue/purple hue that is truly unique.

I started to photograph cityscapes during the “second” blue hour. I love it when the light in the sky would balance out with the light of the office buildings. To get longer exposure times and depth of field I had to say goodbye to Mr. Green Square and hello to Mr. Aperture Priority.

I always wanted a clean composition so I hated it when people would walk into my frame or refuse to get out of it. Most of the time it wasn’t a problem since I would shoot at long exposures (20-30 seconds) and they would “disappear” into the night, but there were always those people who for some reason would stand still and end up in my frame.


Many years later I would find myself standing on the edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon freezing and waiting for the sunrise. I finally hit a brick wall with landscape and cityscape photography and wanted to try something new.

Photographing strangers on the street always frightened me, so of course that was the direction I wanted to go!

Cityscapes aren't just about buildings, but also the people who inhabit the city, besides National Geographic says photos are always more interesting with people in them. Who’s going to argue with National Geographic? I now photograph cityscapes with people in them to tell more of a complete story.

Now that I want people in my cityscape photos I can’t get seem to get them in my shots. In Guanajuato, Mexico I wanted to take a blue hour photo of the city cathedral, but I also wanted to portray the nightlife of this exuberant colonial town.

I set up my camera tripod at this sidewalk cafe hoping to get people in the foreground with the city cathedral in the background.

Easier said than done.

Every time people would walk by they would either stop and stare at my camera or duck down and apologize for walking in my frame and then quickly run off. It took ten shots to finally get this one.

The waitress in the doorway was courteous to stand still long enough to “freeze” her in the frame. Once she turned around and saw my camera she apologized for disrupting my photo and went back inside the restaurant.

Putting my camera in aperture priority, the exposure was set just long enough to take in those saturated colors and to blur the passing people to give a hint of the vibrant nightlife of Guanajuato, Mexico.

Now take your camera off that green square and take some blue hour photos.

Happy Travels!

Text and photo copyright by ©Sam Antonio Photography

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