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Looking at a photo shoot with a critical eye…

February 16, 2022, 11:28 PM

Recently, I made a post to Instagram sharing a photo that I took on a trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania back in November.  This is the photo that I shared:

The Pennsylvania State Capitol

This photo depicts the Pennsylvania State Capitol, photographed from the northeast, somewhere in the middle of the State Street Bridge.  This was inspired by the March 2020 visit to Harrisburg that Elyse and I took, where we went over this bridge on the way to somewhere else.  I had no intentions of photographing there at that time, but I put it in the back of my mind for later.  Then on the November 2021 trip, I finally made good on that idea, and photographed there.  I shared it with the caption, “In my catching up on Flickr, I’m now working on a trip to Harrisburg that Elyse and I did in November.  I remember that trip as a very long cold walk across a bridge at night, and getting results that were ‘meh’ at best.  My drone photos of Three Mile Island from earlier that day were much better.”

I then got comments from various folks saying that they liked it, which served as something of a reminder that what I like and what others like doesn’t always line up, mainly because we’re coming at it from different perspectives.  I suppose that when I look at a photo of mine, a lot of things go into my consideration of it that the average user might not.  In other words, I’m not just looking at the photo.  I remember what I was thinking while I was shooting the photos, and I remember what adjustments I made while I was shooting, and why I made those adjustments.  I remember my physical and mental state at the time of the photos.  I remember the weather conditions.  I remember a lot of things that the average viewer would never think about because they would have no reason to ever consider them.  And all of it affects my perception of a shoot.

In this case, I did the bridge towards the end of a relatively busy day.  We left the house just after 11:00 AM, stopped at two Harley places (Elyse collects the poker chips), photographed a siren that we had spotted on a previous trip to the area in late 2020, flew the drone around Three Mile Island, went to Colonial Park Mall to see a closing Sears store, went to Sharp Shopper back over by Three Mile Island, and then went to photograph the Capitol from afar.  Elyse waited in the car while I went out with the tripod and did my thing.  Based on the timestamps, I was working on it for about an hour, shooting the Capitol from various distances away along the bridge, standing in the median.

I remember being disappointed with my performance as I was shooting.  I felt like I could do better.  I was disappointed with myself in how the photos came out.  I suppose that it’s because I’d been running for about ten hours at that point, had done other photo shoots already that day, and Elyse was getting on my case to hurry up with it.  In this instance, one thing that bothered me was those large stone columns at the end of the bridge.  They were blocking the shot that I wanted, and I would have loved nothing more than for those to disappear.  If I went in close enough to get them out of frame, then the shot didn’t look right.  So that was annoying.  But also, nighttime long-exposure shoots aren’t necessarily something that I do as well as I would like to, and that’s because I don’t get a whole lot of practice with them.  Nighttime shoots typically end up coming in two different flavors: winter and summer.  In the winter, it gets dark earlier, which facilitates scheduling, but then I have to contend with the cold.  And since I don’t have as much body fat as I used to, it doesn’t take much for me to become very cold.  And then in warmer months, it gets dark much later, which makes it harder to schedule, especially in further-out areas where I would need to drive home at the end of the day.  Thus I don’t get to do them that often.  I did them a lot more back in the early days of Big Mavica, but I got out of practice in the intervening years, as my style has evolved and my publication standards have changed, I have a much more sophisticated camera these days than I did back then, plus I have a much lower tolerance for the cold.  In any event, I often find the results of my night work to be less than satisfying.

After freezing my tush off on the bridge, we went downtown and I shot some more unsatisfying shots from the median of State Street on the other side of the building.  Whether any of the photos taken from that side of the building make it to publication is yet to be seen, but I have my doubts.  They also felt incredibly uninspired, and I feel like it shows in the results.  I haven’t really had that great of luck with Harrisburg photography in general.  I think that out of all of the times that I’ve photographed in Harrisburg, I’ve only gotten one really nice day.  The other times, it’s cloudy or it’s raining, which affects my photography.  Though nature clearly loves when I photograph Three Mile Island.  I’ve photographed it twice, and both times that I’ve done it, the weather has been perfect for photography.  But then after the first Three Mile Island shoot, it clouded right up after I was done there and headed downtown.  Nature is a cruel mistress like that.

So I guess that’s why I take a different view of my work than other people might.  You take a different stance when it’s your own doing vs. when someone else did it.

In any event, I have plans for Harrisburg in the future.  I want to fly around the Capitol with the drone in order to get good aerials of it, plus get a few other buildings.  It’s not a restricted zone on account of being the state capitol building, but LAANC requirements in that area limit me to 200 feet of altitude, which could make for lower shots than ideal.  But we’ll see.  Hopefully the weather cooperates, and I get outstanding shots.

Categories: Harrisburg, Photography