Aerial Tribute in Light – 9/11/16

Posts, Uncategorized

The tribute lights displayed each year on 9/11 in Lower Manhattan are beautiful, yet they are a remembrance of terrible tragedy. No one should ever forget that terrible day 15 years ago.

I have photographed the tribute display for several years and try to get different perspectives each year. I had taken a couple of helicopter flights the last year and decided to try photographing the lights from a helicopter this year. FLYNYON offered flights at night for this purpose and I’m glad my friend Bob Tullis joined me for this experience.

I had never tried helicopter photography in such low light before, so we were unsure of the shutter speed and other variables that would work given the movement, vibrations and wind during the flight. Bob asked for suggestions on a photo forum and the idea of a stabilizer came up a few days before the flight. We looked at a few options from Kenyon and hurriedly rented two KS-4×4 gyro stabilizers. We experimented with the stabilizers before the flight on flat ground just to see how they felt and handled movement. I found the weight was too heavy and didn’t like the corrective movements when the stabilizer dealt with motion. I decided not to use the gyro stabilizer and just used the in body stabilization of my Sony A7Rm2.

I shot in manual with aperture at f2.8 (wide open on the Sony FE 24-70mm GM lens) and auto ISO (capped at 6400). I shot at 1/125 to start, but I dropped down to 1/80 and 1/60 when the helicopter felt relatively still. ISO never went below 6400 during the flight. A few shots came out sharp at 1/80, but the 1/125 shots had a higher rate of success. The shots in closer proximity to buildings had higher rates of success than shots farther away. Times Square was the easiest area to get sharp images as there was so much light in a concentrated area. At some point early in the flight, I adjusted the aperture to f3.2 by mistake, but it didn’t seem to be a detriment to the images.

On my last helicopter flight at sunset/twilight, I shot two cameras with a prime lens on each body (Zeiss Batis 25mm f2 and Sony 55mm f1.8). It was awkward switching between the cameras during the flight and I ended up using the 55mm more than the 25mm. Despite the primes having a speed advantage, I found the Sony 24-70mm f2.8 GM lens to work better for me as I was able to change the focal length as we moved closer and farther away from subjects.

It definitely was an exciting experience. I have to say the most memorable part of the flight was getting close to the Empire State Building. The red, white and blue colors were so vibrant. My photos can’t do justice to how brilliant it looked.

I hope you enjoy the images.

Aerial Tribute in Light – 9/11/16

Doors Off Helicopter Photo Flight


I took a photo flight on FLYNYON with Claire and David last October during the day. See the photos here. We wanted to try a blue hour shoot and waited for the weather to get  warmer so the doors could be off for the flight.

We finally got to take that ride on March 15. We took off right at sunset from Kearny, New Jersey and the light changed dramatically during the half hour flight. I took my Sony A7Rm2 with Zeiss Batis 25mm f2.0 and also rented a second A7Rm2 and FE 55mm f1.8. I ended up using the 55mm lens most of the time. We weren’t sure about the best camera settings to optimize our shots. I decided to shoot manual with auto ISO capped at 6400. I set the 55mm to f2.5 and the 25mm to f2.8 to get a bit more depth of field and sharpness. Both cameras had shutter speed of 1/200 and AFS with wide AF mode.

The ride had quite a bit of vibration, motion and wind. If I did this more often, I probably would be able to slow down the process and recognize where I could increase or decrease shutter speed or aperture.  Early in the flight, when there was more residual light in the sky, we could easily have shot with higher shutter speeds without going to very high ISOs. When it got darker, I reduced EV on both cameras, which compensated for some of the brightly lit buildings in Manhattan. This also kept ISO lower. Overall, 1/200 only gave me a success rate of about 15% with shots in sharp focus. That sounds low and I’m sure can be improved with more experience, but I took a lot of shots and still got a lot of keepers.

With the negative EV compensation, ISO never exceeded 3200 and that only happened near the end of the flight when it was darkest. Most of my shots had ISO under 2000.

I’d definitely like to do this again.

A gallery of shots from the flight is here.


WTC Transportation Hub Finally Opens


After many years of delays and billions of dollars spent, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub finally opened on March 3, 2016. While partially open to the public, the facility is not nearly complete. Much of the hub’s space has been dedicated to retail operations, but there is no indication of work taking place in any retail space. The street level is also inaccessible because it is an active construction site for WTC 2 and WTC 3. As it stands, it is a giant walkway connecting Path riders from the train platform to Liberty Street.

I have added 9 images to my Calatrava  WTC Transportation Hub portfolio.

Calatrava WTC Transportation Hub

New York Snow – January 2016


I look forward to a bit of snow for photography. There are opportunities to use a flash to freeze the falling flakes in the air and sometimes getting relatively empty streets at night when a traffic ban is in place. I have uploaded a gallery of 40 images shot from just after midnight on January 23, 2016 (Times Square), early afternoon the same day (Astor Place and Washington Square Park), late evening that night (Astor Place to Flatiron District) and then afternoon the following day (Central Park).


Calatrava WTC Transportation Hub


I’ve been very interested in photographing the World Trade Center site for several years and I have many images spread through my Flickrstream and also in a Flickr album.

A subset of the WTC photos is the Santiago Calatrava designed Transportation Hub. I first shot the transportation hub in October 2013, when the West Concourse opened to the public, and I’ve gone back from time to time during the past 2+ years.

I’m curious to see how it will look when completed, although I don’t think “completed” will be for several more years until 3 WTC and then 2 WTC are completed as they are located on either side of the oculus.

This part of the WTC redevelopment has been many years in the making at the cost of at least 4 billion dollars. There will be a shopping mall and connection between New Jersey Path and many New York subway lines at Cortlandt Street and Fulton Center.

Here are some of my transportation hub images from the last 27 months, in chronological order.

Saks Fifth Avenue Winter Palace


I made an early morning visit to Rockefeller Center to get some shots without the teeming masses. While there, I also took some shots of the Saks Fifth Avenue Winter Palace themed windows. Unfortunately the lights on the facade above the windows were not illuminated at 5:00 am, but the windows were all dressed up.

Christmas in Philadelphia


I haven’t done much holiday shooting in New York this year. New York doesn’t seem to go all out like other cities with grand holiday decorations. It’s also more crowded than usual this time of year in New York.

My friend Claire invited me to join her group for a day trip to Philadelphia to shoot the holiday displays and that got me back in the holiday spirit. Maybe it’s the newness to me, but it seems that Philadelphia has more holiday displays than New York. It also was much less crowded than New York from a photography perspective.

Here are some of the sights from my quick day trip to Philadelphia.

Beaver and William: Making the Image

Posts, Show and Tell

It’s not easy to provide a lot of explanation or discussion of process in Flickr. It’s mainly for showing images, which is fine. I figure this would be a good place to go into more detail about how I produced an image.

I’ve been shooting a lot of Olympus Live Composite shots recently for what I call Architectural Stars, which basically place an architectural element in the foreground with star trails behind. I’ve mostly used longer focal lengths for these shots, but I tried a wider focal length for the image here.

I chose a spot at the corner of William and Beaver Streets in Lower Manhattan right outside Delmonico’s facing 20 Exchange Place and pointed the camera up toward the sky.

The following images describe my process.

Test Shot

This is a test shot at f5.6. There is visible lens flare in the shape of the aperture in multiple places.

Another Test Shot

I opened the aperture to the maximum of f2.8, which reduced the visibility of the lens flare. I then noticed a plane fly through the frame almost immediately after starting the exposure.


Here’s the straight out of camera base for the final image before any processing. You can see the color is too warm and there’s a lack of contrast. You can also see the plane trail on the right and the overexposed building in the upper right corner.

Processed Image

Here’s the image after adjusting color, contrast and clarity in Lightroom CC. I also applied a local adjustment to darken the shadows and add clarity and brighter whites to the sky.

Plane Trail Removed

The plane trail has been cloned out here, but that bright building is still there.

Replacement Image

This is the image used to replace the bright part of the building in the upper right corner.

Final Image

Here’s the final image with the bright part of the building in the upper right corner replaced. I brought the two prior images into Photoshop CC and aligned them as layers. I then erased the bright portion of the building to reveal the better exposed image below. That’s all folks.