Photo Walk Tips

 iPhoneography / Along the East River | photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg

Upper Manhattan Photo Walks, New York City

Upper Manhattan Photo Walks, New York City

1)- make sure you have plenty of charged batteries on hand; charging takes a minimum of two hours. Bring extra batteries to photo safari;

2)- sd cards – 16gb, 32gb are both good; avoid cards with too much storage 

3)- 18-55MM; 35-200MM zoom lens – (your telephoto);  Read up on your lens and get to know it well; do tests with manual v. automatic focus. Get to know the focal lengths for each lens you own:                   

 4)- When shooting experiments, say, use wide angle to telephoto 18mm – 35 mm = wide angle zoom (for landscape); 50 mm lens = portrait lens (people); longer telephoto zoom for details that are not so close up and personal

5)- ISO = 100- 6400 / 100 great for outdoors / 6400 low light/night setting (watch out for noise or       pixilation); experiment with the iso: shoot from 100 – 6400 + see how ISO affects both shutter speed and     aperture;

6)- F-stop or Aperture = 3.5-4.5 (most wide angle zooms) / 5.6-6.3 (telephoto zooms); I prefer fixed prime lenses (focal length is fixed and aperture opens up to min 2.8)

 -- shallow depth of field = smaller number, wider opening, i.e 2.8, 3.5, etc

 -- deep depth of field =  larger number, smaller opening / above f11 – “nicer” depth of field / f16 is wonderful        for distance

-- 5.6 is a versatile depth of field for street photography;

7)- Shutter speed: do not go below 1/60 (slow shutter speed) with hand held camera; to freeze motion the starting point is 1/500 (fast shutter) + above. Night photography = high iso, or use a tripod (best!) or strobe (flash). Times Square at midnight: try camera mounted on a tripod, exposure 4-30 seconds, f-stop f16. Beach (extreme light) expose at 1/1000 or above. You get the idea where to begin!

8)– Photography is all about light, measuring it, using ISO, shutter speed, aperture proportionately for balance time/motion (shutter speed); depth of field (f-stop); available light (ISO). Play with the three: try low IS0 (100); low shutter speed (1/60); middle-ground aperture (5.6). What happens when you bump up the ISO to 400, 1600, 3200, 6400; and/or use a faster shutter speed (1/250); or increase the f-stop to f11 or higher?

9) For greater creative control, have your camera set on Manual Mode; if the going gets tough Aperture Priority (you select the f-stop/ camera selects the shutter speed) works; Likewise, you can choose Shutter Speed Priority (you select the shutter speed/camera selects aperture). Finally, Program Mode will select all (aperture and shutter) in a pinch. (This tip is less applicable to night photography.) 

10) Enjoy the experimentation; let reason and inspiration -- left + right brain guide you to spark your creativity. As part of the session, post your art on SPY's Facebook page -- we want to see your work!


Portaits made with iPhones surpass the number of images made with point and shoots. iPhone images can be posted to social media sites right away -- immediate gratification -- and are more readily available than digital files from any other camera. Needless to mention: a new generation of smartphones is being produced with camera sensors as large as 41MP (Nokia 808). Small but powerful cameras can get many photography jobs done not only efficiently but also in style.

I have always enjoyed photographing people: the iPhone is making it easier for me as a photographer to ingratiate myself -- gaining access to any stranger, anywhere, anytime. Because of the low light the iPhone capture lends a softness to skin tones at low shutter speeds (no flash); the resultant images and digital noise can be very artistic.

I'm loving the sultry subject, the wallpaper, and pitcher of beer at Earl's Beer & Cheese...

  Earl's Beer & Cheese East Harlem | photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg

East Harlem Photo Walk, New York

East Harlem Photo Walk, New York


One way to change it up is to photograph yourself -- after all, you are a willing and available subject. I like to experiment during night photography -- when I photograph myself while wielding an LED flashlight and waving it in the direction of the camera, poised on a tripod, with a 20mm lens stopped down at F16 for a 30-second exposure. Try it out: The exercise becomes one in self-portraiture at night and in light painting. Making pictures remains a series of experiments, both analog and digital, day and night.

Experimental night photography, Lower Manhattan 

Battery Park at night / self-portraiture | photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg   

Photo Diary

Keeping a daily photo diary is very easy with iPhoneography: think of the process of taking pictures with an iPhone as making visual notes to yourself.

In response to the quote “No art exists that isn’t autobiographical” (from Quaderni Azzurri, or Blue Notebooks, by Aldo Rossi, an Italian architect and poet of the visible), I encourage you to create your own visual notebooks. Go on day and evening photo safaris to photograph people, places, and things with any type of digital camera, including iPhones, with an eye on spontaneity. What kinds of photographs, art, or statements do we make when we surrender to chance? Reviewing your visual notebooks made in the moment may surprise you.

Suggested Reading

Not Quite What I Was Planning edited by Smith Magazine

Negative Space by Norma Bar

 iphoneography daily diary @MOMA | photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg  

Photographing street artist at the Museum of Modern Art, New York 

Photographing street artist at the Museum of Modern Art, New York 

Island Hopping

New York City is an island, which is all too easily forgotten as we walk north and south and east and west on a relatively small expanse of land. Manhattan is known as one of the most legendary metropolises in the world and participants of NYC Spark Your Creativity Photo Safari & Workshop experience the city waterfront and beyond the 34 square miles that make up Manhattan to go, in short, island hopping. With dozens of islands to choose from in New York waters, Governor’s Island, Roosevelt Island, City Island, Randall & Ward’s island, Riker’s Island, Coney Island, Ellis & Liberty Island, Staten Island, Broad Channel (Jamaica Bay), Breezy Point (Rockaways peninsula),  to name a few, they exist for photographic exploration.

Queensborough Bridge, New York 

Queensborough Bridge, New York 

iPhoneography at night / Roosevelt Island | photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg

Suggested Reading

Literary NYC

A Far Rockaway of the Heart by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Here is New York by E.B. White

Lunch Poemsby Frank O’Hara

New York: A Literary Companion edited by William Cole

Quirky NYC

Low Life by Luc Sante

The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky

Horn of Plenty

Infant breakdancer, 42nd St

Infant breakdancer, 42nd St

iphoneography at night in Times Square | photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg

With tiny cameras -- small but powerful 'point and shoots' of all generations run the photographic gamut as does iphoneography in the cornu copiae of image making, still promising to inform, entertain, enlighten, uplift, transform and now share instantaneously unlimited and uncontrollable image provenance and destination. 

The Best Camera is the One That's With You

 The keywords remain: small but powerful.

An iPhone 4 produces an image that is approximately 2mb while the iPhone 4S file weighs in at roughly 5mb -- files that are plenty big for both online and print editorial. The iPhone is more than a plastic camera -- it provides a Cornu Copiae of options (apps and more) in a compact package that allows a photographer to produce images in, seemingly, an act of spontaneous combustion -- in part magic , in part Surrealist dream -- from the creator's mind to digital file.  The results are 'mind pix' -- photographs -- products or byproducts of camera presets and by extension image makers' random thoughts, passing emotions, uncensored dreams, with the freedom of the unbridled five senses conspiring to create a plethora, or cornu copiae, of digital images that transpose and translate vision alomost supernaturally.

Do we still need  'pro' photo equipment to make professional pictures today? Like it or not, the democratization of the image defines photography in the 21st century. And, Hey, the iPhone 5 is soon available to all on the open market...

Sunday morning at Downtown Baptist Church, Malcolm X Blvd 

Sunday morning at Downtown Baptist Church, Malcolm X Blvd 

 iPhoneography in Harlem | photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg

Sapere Vedere

A Photo Safari Diary: May 13 (Mother's Day) A photo safari to the Conservatory Garden, 105 & 5th Ave, NYC, provides a look at an exquisite French-style, Italianate, and English garden, rolled up in one, in Central Park. The space is a designated quiet zone -- perfect for contemplation, meditation, and exercises in creativity, such as, shallow and deep depth of field exercises to test your hand and understanding of the sensitive relationship and resultant artistic possibilities that aperture, shutter speed, and ISO yield. Think highlights and shadows -- how to capture them -- to best render your vision.

Garden in Central Park, 105th St and 5th Ave

Garden in Central Park, 105th St and 5th Ave

Tilt Shift Lens / Conservatory Garden | photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg

May 5 (Cinqo de Mayo): A Photo Safari to Harlem, USA is as always an adventure in neighbohood discovery where a community of old timers, workers, artists, hipsters, professionals, and activists is continually in flux against a backdrop of colorful and historical brownstones. Harlem welcomes tourists from around the globe but my little group of 10 togs (student photographers) who come from NYC and beyond (as far flung places as Sydney, Australia) behave more like inquisitive travelers on a photojournalistic expedition for which the skills in learning the craft of photography and seeing ('Sapere Vedere' -- knowing how to see) are practiced throughout the day.


 iphoneography in Harlem                       photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg 

One method to grow photographically is to look at great work by other photographers. Here are a few women photographers whom I admire:


Alice Austen                         Barbara Kruger                   Jenny Holzer           

Berenice Abbott                   Diane Arbus                        Annemarie Schwarzenbach                       

Dora Maar                             Francesa Woodman            Helen Levitt

Lee Godie                             Lillian Bassman                     Ruth Orkin

Sophie Calle                         Tina Modotti                          Varvara Stepanova

Vivian Maier                          Inge Morath                           Gita Lenz

Ruth Bernhard   


While photo safaris satisfy a desire to go beyond the comfort zone, remember to stay engaged in practical photo exercises which encourage mastery of the camera and creativity. During photo safaris, you shoot practicing the rule of thirds, capturing negative space, and ultimately discovering novel ways to create compositional balance and harmony in your pictures. Focus on 2-4 new technical and aesthetic tips and tricks for shooting images of people, places, and things each time you go out... .

Grand Central.JPG

  night photography: Grand Central photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg


iphoneography at night -- Times Square    photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg

Pershing Square.JPG

 night photography: Pershing Square  photo: (c) 2012 roberta fineberg