Daily Photo – On a Wire

As I was exploring Lake Erie's coastline in the summer of 2008 I came up  on a boat launch that was steaming with what had to be 500+ birds flying around. I was on one of my photo drives that I like to take when I have time and had all my photography gear with me. I stood at the entrance of the pier leading out to the Lake and snapped this shot with my 70-300 non IS Canon lens. It took me around 40-60minutes to get in a groove and figure out where these birds were landing. Do professional nature photographers like Moose Peterson have to wait minutes or hours or years to figure out the grooves of their subject? Is that one of the underlying prerequisites for being professional? I spent a total of 5 hours at this pier that day in the summer of 2008 and what I wouldn't give to do that every days. For this shot, it was a waiting game. I knew these birds were landing on that line of cable, and I knew they would stay there for a few seconds before taking off again for food or a quick bath in the lake. I locked in my focus on one specific section of the wire. I was using my gitzo tripod and remote trigger and stayed there for a considerable amount of time waiting for the shot. I'll be honest, the shot didn't come easy, especially at the time I was using a Canon XTi which has a slower fps shooting speed. I have a lot (really, a lot) of shots that are useless because I didn't time the landing right. Finally after a good chunk of the afternoon was gone, I snapped a shot right at the right time - where the bird is coming in for a landing, wings extending and seemingly looking at the camera. Worth every second of waiting that afternoon. I'd really like to know what professionals go through on a daily basis when shooting nature photography. I know from twitter that some will wait all day to shoot one location. What do the guys who spend days in one location go through? I'd be interested to know.

Daily Photo – Golden Grains

Not a cereal, just an abandoned grain mill along Lake Erie in Buffalo. I processed this in Aperture with a Preset that I will be posting for download tomorrow (so look out for that). The image was originally very flat, so I thought I would grade it to accentuate the feeling of amber/grain and amplify it. I think it's slightly successful, is it?  Stay tuned for the plugin.

Daily Photo – Po Ice Station

While wandering around Buffalo's east side I cam across an old Buffalo police precinct that was no longer being used, at least on a consistent basis. As I've mentioned, 'till I'm blue in the face it seems, I'm absolutely fascinated by the story behind the photo's I take. Unfortunately I haven't been able to dig up much about this police station, the decision or the politics behind closing it. I converted this raw image in Aperture using Nik's Silver Efex plugin, which is pound for pound the best black and white converter I've used. I'm half fascinated, half bummed when I see run down and deteriorated building in Buffalo. I instantly think what could have been done to keep the building up or keep that business open, and so on. On the flip side, the market demands everything in a life of capitalism. Perhaps twenty or thirty years ago it made sense to have a precinct in that section of the East side, but now the area is depressed and there aren't a lot of residents in the area. I'm not exactly sure why the building is just being left there to decay, but someone thought locking it up would be better than using it for something else. The other aspect of the photo that intriques me is the typeface used for the Po Ice Station sign. Buffalo is full of really unique typefaces used for signage, which has prompted me to begin document several them for a project I'm working on. Spoiler alert - the project is about typefaces used in signage around Buffalo. Nb

Daily Photo – Greetings from 1962

Quite frankly, I wasn't born in 1962, and this lighthouse sitting along Lake Ontario on the seaway trail was built in the 1800's. I only mention 1962 because when I processed this HDR the end result reminded me of old Kodachrome or Fujichrome film from the 60's. Yes, despite what you see on other websites this is an HDR image. Only, in this case, I did not over process or grungify it to look like a scene from a Tim Burton film. I don't detest much about photography, I respect almost every form of photography that is possible. That being said, I truly detest over-processed HDR images, and all of you know what I'm talking about. True to form they look like  a surreal setting in one of the several remakes of Edward Scissorhands. For me, HDR should (is) replicate what your eye sees, not much more. The human eye is naturally better then a camera in so many ways and can distinguish layers of shadows and so on. What HDR allows us to do is process true to life images and show more tones throughout a photo without having to heavily edit a single image. I processed this using Nik's HDR software, no additional editing in Aperture. I was blown away by Nik's HDR software. It provided quite a bit of flexibility to adjust everything one would wont to without having to jump back and forth between software and plugins. I'll write up a more in-dpeth review of the HDR software, for now I'll stick to the photo. This lighthouse sits at Thirty Mile Point, NY  on the shore of Lake Ontario along the Great Lakes Seaway trail. Thirty Mile Point is quite isolated from any major city or port, even to this day. The original purpose of the lighthouse was not to guide ships into port, instead to warn them of the shoreline and guide them along the coast of Lake Ontario. When originally built in 1876, coastal erosion to the building was a significant problem. Sometime after the turn of the 20th century large boulders were places on the shoreline in front of the property to reduce the amount of spray that was lifted into the air from waves. Based on photo's from around that time, these boulders have reduced in size quite a bit due constant bombardment from waves. I took this in July on a near perfect day. The summers along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are pristine and I'd ideally retire there in four or five years. More tomorrow. t

Daily Photo – Tora, Tora Tora

I took this on my way back from Zoar Valley near Evangola in the late Spring 2009. I was pretty frustrated that day because nature in general was still budding at this point and not in full bloom. Thus, my hour long drive on the seaway trail specifically for a hike in Zoar Valley was somewhat of a waste. Until I stopped briefly at a boat launch before Evangola State Park. I noticed a lot of water fowl in the sky so I wandered over to investigate and I was able to snap this shot along with more of some fowl diving in for small fish. I'm very fond of this shot because I'm using relatively "amateur" gear - in the eyes of gear snobs that is. I was shooting with a stock 75-300 F5.6 lens with no image stabilization. This bird is easily diving into the water at 20-25mph and I was able to fire a shot at 1/160sec @5.6. The shot is very crisp and I have not run it through any sharpening plugins or any photoshop trickery. It's one of those pure luck shots. I knew I was getting properly exposed shots/crisp shots at 1/160-1/200sec that day so I hovered around those settings. I had my AF module set to center and tried my best to keep any birds in the center of my viewfinder. I'll be honest when I say it's very nauseating following birds through a small viewfinder trying to keep up with them, especially ones that will randomly dive into the water for food. I've had the luck debate with photographers before, some believe in luck and some dont. For me, this was a lucky shot. I knew what technical skills I needed to deploy to attempt a shot at a bird that flew so quickly, but it was up to a greater power to decide if all the stars would align in oder for me to get the shot I wanted. I knew I didn't want to leave there without getting a shot of a dive into the water and 4hrs and a hundred plus shots down the drain I was quite happy with the end result.

Daily Photo – Niagara Silhouette

I was the group leader for the Buffalo group in the 1st annual Scott Kelby photowalk in 2007. Earlier in the summer I had done a photo shoot that had basically paid all my bills for 4 months. I was still finishing my BFA at the time and hadn't found a summer job yet so I budgeted all my earnings and lived very stingy that summer with my fiance (while stingy, I was still able to save and purchase her a schnoodle for her birthday). I spent most of my days in July and August walking around Buffalo absorbing the city as much as I could. I had just moved there in January of 07' and was still getting a feel for the town. As it turns out I walked in area's most people don't walk unless in groups. I really never had a problem walking around Buffalo - except one minor incident - and I think because I didn't have a concern for where I was going that I was able to capture some really interesting moments in Buffalo. Fast forward to August 07' and Kelby had announced his walk and I signed up as a leader. We had about 15 Buffalo photographers in our group, different ages and different styles but we were bound by our affair for photography. The sun was quickly setting on downtown Buffalo and I was able to snap a silhouetted image of Buffalo City Hall and the Niagara Square Monument (which I believe is for President McKinley). I shot this at 1/8000sec with a 10-22mm lens at 14mm f3.5 I didn't have to do much in post, I adjust the exposure 1/10 of a stop down and saturated the blues around 8%. Because I'm shooting wide angle there's a bit a 'fisheye' bulge in the center of the pillar, but not enough to make it bothersome. I really enjoy the 10-22mm lens because you can get just enough angle out of it to get a new perspective on familiar subjects. The 10-22 is really great for portraying great depth as well - I have a Central Terminal shot at the platform and shot it with my 10-22mm and it looks half a mile long, yet not distorted. The low angle of this shot combined with the wide angle, for me, creates this very surreal and overpowering shot of human engineering into the heavens. That's as far as my college level analysis will allow me to dive into this.
Silhouette of City Hall & Niagara Square, August 2007

Daily Photo – Buffalo Loves Wonder

I love finding these little gems in Buffalo. Having not been born in Buffalo I still find myself finding these little treasures popping up every once and a while. While out on a photo walk one day I happened upon the old Wonder Bread plant that was once functional in Buffalos industrial side. Through some preliminary investigating I've churned up several businesses that came into the plant after it closed but subsequently have left the premises. I think little gems like this are part of the greatness of Buffalo. I think it tells such a rich history of American industry, it's rich history in our communities and it's ultimate conclusion. I'm a student of history through photography. I believe that photography is a physical representation of our highest highs and lowest lows. I think there is so much we can learn from photography if we simply believe in what we're seeing in a photograph. For me, photography gives us a chance to make things right. I'm a firm believer in Buffalo's future, and I think documenting our past will help us develop the future - whether that be in business or politics.

FC Buffalo – For Our City

When I first moved to Buffalo from Auburn I was amazed at the volume of peoples voices when preaching the city. The passion folks have around here about all aspects of their city is astounding. There's a true do it ourselves spirit in Buffalo that is unmatched anywhere else I've ever been - granted I haven't been far. It's fascinating to me that a city with so much history in economic decline, sports curses and weather that will hair lip the governor  that the people are so passionate. Over time, as I've tried to get established with folks and organizations in Buffalo I've observed these sermons of Buffalo first hand and can tell you that its' really great to be apart of it all. Last summer I was able to be on the sidelines for a few FC Buffalo games at Rich Stadium. Aside from sideline duty for the high school yearbook, it was the first legit sideline gig I had. From shooting those games I've been partnering with FC Buffalo on a few projects. I like being apart of organizations that I can lend my craft to that promotes them in a new way or enhances their product. I like being apart of organizations that I believe are doing good things for a community and put the benefits of a community before their own. I'm currently working on a series of promos with FC Buffalo to get the hype started for their upcoming season. Please check out FC Buffalo's website. Pick up some season tickets, and some merch. These folks are not billionaire owners. They're local folks that work with us in the community, that go to the same bars and shovel the same snow. Like us, they're in it for our city - not themselves. http://vimeo.com/19054522

Graffiti of Buffalo’s Central Terminal

In the four years I've lived in Buffalo, there has been one spot I've been absolutely obsessed with as a photographer - Buffalo's Central Terminal. It's very cliche to live in any Rust Belt city to document the urban decay that is persistent, however I feel as though I'm not documenting decay and neglect - instead documenting a piece of history that is updating daily. Aside from the neglect of owners past Central Terminal has suffered, the property has gone through extensive vandalism outside the main tower (which is going through a hearty restoration by a great group oforganizers). For years the homeless, pistol packing punks and drifters had made the platforms and abandoned buildings of Central Terminal temporary housing and spots for illicit activities. With all that, Central terminal has garnered an extensive collection of graffiti throughout the grounds. Some of it very thought out and stunning, some of it vulgar and some of it nonsensical. What I find interesting about all the graffiti at Central Terminal is its relationship with the signage that's deliberately placed there when it was a functional station. Countless signs about checking packaging and watching ones step intertwined with graffiti splashing political commentary or simple fifth grade humor. There are several relationships worth noticing with the Central Terminal. The relationship between the grounds and nature is an obvious one. As with most buildings that have been put into despair through the years it's an easy connection to make through photography. My purpose for documenting the Terminal was never to look at the relationship between the building and the street art, but as you explore the grounds you can't help to not notice how much vandalism the grounds have suffered throughout the last twenty years. As you dig even further into exploring, you being to notice a timeline of social and political strife not just in Buffalo but in the United States as well.  There are instances of graffiti  and vandalism highlighting every President since Reagan and commentary on most major incidents that have occurred as well. All this being said, the more I ramble, the less time I'll have to have folks actually look at the work I've been accumulating. Take a look, feel free to provide feedback.

Mass Appeal 2010 Partial Recap

On Friday November 5th, I had the privilege of photographing all the models that participated in the Elmwood Village Mass Appeal Fashion Event (Sponsored by Sorrento Cheese). As far as I could tell the event was pulled off without a hitch and all the volunteers, make up artists, hair designers, models and other staff did a fantastic job keeping the day organized and fulfilling. For me, it was the first time I had photographed that many people in one day and I shot over three thousand studio shots on a makeshift studio that was positioned in a stairwell. There's a lot of material that I'm going to write about from this event but for now I want to get the shots up because I know people are looking for them. I'd like to thank Rasheeda Phillips for keeping  very structured 'behind the scenes' and keeping everyone on time, with that many models it's very easy to get behind quickly and she didn't run into any major issues as far as I'm aware. I'd also like to thank her for recommending me to Erin the producer, had she not I wouldn't be writing this post. Thanks to Erin for bringing me on board and giving me free reign to do what needed to get done. I'd also like to thank the assistants I had that day, Frank and Anna. They did an amazing job keeping my files organized as I shouted them out and keeping the line of models calm and relaxed. By staying so organized and thorough they save me several hours of work at my office. Thanks again guys! Now, on to the models. These photo's are not edited, they are straight from the camera, with the only addition of a watermark. I was so impressed by how cooperative these 100+ models were and how much fun they seemed to have had. The day could have easily been very stressful but everyone was cool and having a good time.  If you are one of the models, hair designers, makeup artists or involved in the production and want to obtain more images please contact me (info((at))natebenson.com). Please tweet this or share on facebook, or snail mail your friends this link. I want to make sure everyone involved gets to see a product of several different art forms.