nythroughthelens

nythroughthelens:

Museum of Natural History - First Ever Sleepover for Grownups - New York City

There are a few places in New York City that are almost more New York City than New York City itself.

The American Museum of Natural History is one of those places.

Say its name in certain late-night conversations and you are bound to encounter a wide spectrum of responses most of which are accompanied by a starry-eyed look usually reserved for times when people think back to beloved childhood memories.

Even visiting the museum on frequent school trips during my own childhood, the museum seemed to be a portal into an alternate New York City reality tinged by nostalgia.

The museum started having sleepovers for children and their parents around a decade ago. But it wasn’t until last week that the museum decided to host its first ever "sleepover for grownups".

The allure of an adults-only sleepover was strong, of course. The sleepover’s tickets sold out within the first three hours that they were up for sale.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the 150 adults who got to attend the sleepover. It was a fascinating night.

Here is some of what transpired…

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Sleepover guests were greeted by live jazz music inside of the museum courtesy of the 12th Night Jazz Ensemble

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The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life was the setting for the actual sleeping part of the sleepover. Guests were guided to the hall to pick a cot under the 94 foot blue whale or away from it (I met quite a few people over the course of the night who seemed to share a fear of having the giant whale fall on them in their sleep).

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There was also a champagne reception followed by a three course meal where sleepover guests nervously contemplated how the evening’s adventures would unfold.

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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was happily surprised to find that there was an in-depth itinerary provided for us:

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All 45 museum halls and the entire Rose Center for Earth and Space were open for free exploration. Some of the hallways were completely empty.

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I took an empty elevator up to the 4th floor. I knew what I wanted to see most of all.

The dinosaurs, of course.

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It was a stellar moment when I realized that the dinosaurs were lit up in a special way at night.

I had T-Rex all to myself for a good 10 minutes.

It was *spectacular*.

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This night was also the first night I got to use the Sony A7S which has insane low-light capability. You can basically shoot up to 50,000 ISO with little noise. For those who don’t know what ISO is, ISO is the measure of how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. For reference, my first DSLR could only ever really shoot up to around 800 ISO. Anything greater than that and the photos would be extremely noisy.

This next photo was taken at 25,600 ISO with the A7S. It’s straight out of camera. If you want to view it really large, here it is: T-Rex at 25,600 ISO

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I can’t wait to take this camera out on the dark streets of New York City at night.

Back to the sleepover though.

There were a lot of events on the itinerary. I took a break from the dinosaurs to go and attend a presentation about toxicology in the Power of Poison exhibit.

The exhibit was fun to walk through. Here is a representation of the witches from Macbeth.

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This is the table at the presentation with all sorts of ominous things like a giant cell display, a tea kettle, a skull, and Arsenic.

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And here is the curator of the Power of Poison exhibit who is an author and one of the world’s top leech experts, Dr. Mark Siddall. He is demonstrating the effects of Arsenic. :)

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Before the next event on the itinerary, I ran back to the 4th floor to gawk at the dinosaurs again for a few minutes. If this is what the kids at the sleepovers have been experiencing for years, I am supremely jealous. I love these exhibits even more at night.

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I also took a little detour and visited a new exhibit called Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs. There is a simulation game where you can flap your arms to fly like a pterosaur on the screen in front of you. You can then fly over the ocean and try to catch fish, or fly through a forest and try to catch bugs. It is surprisingly (or not surprisingly) hard to catch fish or bugs while flying around with an enormous prehistoric wingspan.

This is another museum guest attempting to fly like a pterosaur.

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My dinosaur visit was short-lived since I had to book it to get to the Live Animal presentation. No one really knew what live animals would be featured but the speculation was quite amusing over dinner. My dinner table guests nearly lost it when someone suggested that there would be sloths. Sloths!

Alas, there were no sloths. But that’s ok because there was an owl:

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…and a lemur eating a banana.

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There was also a bird of prey, an alligator who urinated all over the trainer and the stage, and a Burmese python.

Before the midnight showing of the current space show in the planetarium, I quickly made my way to the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda. When I was really little, it was one of my favorite places in all of New York City. It’s really hard to beat. Not too many other places can boast a trio of large dinosaurs in action poses.

I was surprised to find the room totally empty. If you have visited this museum, you will recognize this room as one of the main entrances. It’s usually full of people since it’s one of the places you can enter the museum and purchase tickets to the exhibits. To experience it empty was truly sublime.

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I always thought that the dinosaurs looked a bit like they were dancing.

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That tail…

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The planetarium show ended somewhere between 1 am and 2 am. I had lofty goals of sleeping under the giant whale but I wanted to visit the Lunar Lounge first.

The Lunar Lounge was the name given to the adult-sleepover-decked-out Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth. It was a space for those adults who preferred to skip sleep. With non-stop films, electrical outlets to charge devices and dim lighting, it was a pretty cool place to hang out for a bit.

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At around 3 am, I decided to make my way back to the whale.

Decked out in an oversized hoodie and leggings (the instructions were to bring comfortable clothes for sleeping in sleeping bags but no pajamas: one of the most puzzling requests related to the event), I marveled at how eerily beautiful the museum was at night.

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And as I nestled into my sleeping bag under the giant whale, I knew this would be a night I would never forget.

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Some notes about the sleepover:

1. Sleep was but a dream. As I mentioned, I had lofty expectations that I would be able to sleep. In truth, they remained lofty expectations. We were warned that the cots would be extremely uncomfortable. That was an understatement.

But it wasn’t the cot that did me in sleep-wise. And it wasn’t the noise or low-level of light in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. As a travel photographer, I travel with ear plugs and an eye mask and I had both in my possession for this sleepover.

It was the bone-chilling cold.

I guess something that you never really think about when you think of museums is how incredibly cold they get at night. While I had my comfy sleeping bag and I was wearing a hoodie and leggings, I was still uncomfortably freezing for the few futile hours that I attempted to sleep. In retrospect, I should have just kept roaming around the museum. If I were to do the sleepover again, I would actually bank on not sleeping at all.

2. The crowd. I was actually a bit surprised at how restrained the guests were throughout the night. I think I expected that there would be more…revelry. Everything was very, very subdued though which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was shocked when I entered the sleeping hall at around 3:30 in the morning to find many people sleeping soundly (how did they sleep in that cold?!).

There seemed to be many couples and groups of friends. I was solo on this adventure and so perhaps I was just keenly aware of how paired-up everyone else seemed to be. It’s a great event to attend with someone special, that’s for sure.

3. The itinerary. As I mentioned in the photo-set above, I was pleasantly surprised to find there was a planned itinerary with events and presentations. The presentations and events were pretty fantastic. The only thing I think could be improved would be to space the events out a bit more to allow for more free roaming of the museum. If you wanted to attend all of the events, you would have been left with only a little over an hour to explore the museum.

4. The price. The price was quite steep. At $375 per person, it definitely wasn’t a budget-friendly choice of an NYC outing. The price seemed to cover quite a bit in terms of events, food, and drink (unlimited wine at dinner, champagne reception). One quibble I had in regards to the food was that I felt that the breakfast could have been a lot more than muffins and juice for that price.

The children’s sleepover price is $145 per person. Of course, the children’s sleepovers don’t come with unlimited wine at dinner, a champagne reception and quite a bit of live music, I would assume. It will be interesting to see if the price stays at $375 per person for the adult sleepover in the future. The museum already indicated that they will try to host more of these adults-only type of events so time will tell.

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I hope you enjoyed my museum sleepover recap!

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Looking for these (and more) photos of the museum sleepover for adults to view larger? Here you go (click or tap on each photo to view larger):

Museum of Natural History - Sleepover for Grownups

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P.S. - Information about my New York City photography book which is releasing in stores and online in the autumn of 2014 (including where to order it):

NY Through The Lens: A New York Coffee Table Book

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View: My New York City photography portfolio, My Travel Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.

Photo labs are getting increasingly rare as film becomes more and more of a niche market. We still have a couple of locations with minilabs in them, and our business has remained fairly steady in that department since the initial dropoff as the masses switched to digital— as film labs become rarer and rarer, customers are coming from farther and farther afield to have their film developed at our labs. 

So we’ve finally put photofinishing services online, through our Etsy shop. It’s still something we’re working the kinks out of, logistics-wise, because we’ve never done processing through the mail. We do mail-order digital prints, sure (go to cameraspot.com, you can order them there), but film is another animal entirely. 

At this time we’re just doing color (C-41 process) and black and white, 35mm and 120, as well as APS. (Not much of it around, but as long as our winding machine works, we’ll keep doing it!) 

So:

color 35mm processing

black and white 35mm processing

color and black and white 120

APS

If that’s something you’re in need of, or if you know someone who needs it, kindly pass this along? We like film and want to keep doing it as long as possible. 

natgeoyourshot

A Seamless Way to Build Your Own Studio

natgeoyourshot:

Becky Hale is a staff photographer for National Geographic. She is also the mother of two children who often become her photographic subjects.

Most people don’t have a studio at their disposal, but shooting a head-to-toe portrait on white seamless is a lot simpler than you may imagine. It’s a great way to capture the character of your subject by isolating them on a clean, simple background and you don’t need a lot of gear.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Camera

2. Tripod

3. Roll of super-white background paper

4. Roll of heavy-duty tape

5. A flat surface (like a driveway) that’s in open shade

6. A tall friend or a ladder

7. A willing subject

Step 1: Location

You want to shoot this portrait in open shade, so finding the perfect spot is important. My small one-story garage casts a shadow on my driveway, but the rest of the driveway is in the sun. The light hitting the driveway (and houses across the street) fill my subject’s face with even, soft light. There is no direct light hitting my subject and my background paper is completely in the shade.

Step 2. Setup

Unroll your paper. The big roll end should remain on the ground. Pull the paper up as high as you can and tape it straight across a flat surface. In my case, I taped it to the top of my garage door. It doesn’t have to be pretty as it won’t be in shot. Roll the paper out a few feet, so that your subject has about two or three feet of paper to stand on.

Step 3. With your subject standing against the background and with their body completely in the shade, start shooting and expose for the white paper. This is really important as you want the paper to go white, not gray. If can be very easy - especially if you’re shooting outside - to be fooled by your camera display and accidentally underexpose this shot. Sometimes I’ll even zip inside to look at the image out of the bright sun to be sure my exposure is ok. You can always tweak exposure and contrast after-the-fact, but like all scenarios, you want your in-camera image to be really strong.

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A few tips:

•  I use a 53” background like this. If you want to shoot more than one person, you’ll need something wider.

• I like using a tripod. It allows me to set up the shot and then step away from my camera a bit, make eye contact with my subject (especially if they’re my kids) and keep the shoot feeling fun and less formal. 

• If you’re shooting outside, keep your surroundings in mind. If your lawn is just beyond your subject, it could be casting green light onto their faces. It’s best to have a pretty neutral color reflecting into your paper.

• It’s fine to put your white balance on “Auto”!

 Happy shooting! 

On Product Photography

I have mastered the lighting, I have mastered the backdrops, but I also have learned this terrible truth about myself:

I am constitutionally incapable of holding the damn camera straight.

I have to rotate every photo at least four degrees counterclockwise when I crop it. Except the ones that I have to rotate clockwise. 

Another truth about myself: I do not know the difference between clockwise and counterclockwise until after I have clicked the button. 

For summer, we’ve marked down all the lenses in our Etsy shop— all vintage manual-focus lenses— by 20%. Check it out! See if you find anything you like. Selections include a lot of Canon FD mount, some Pentax K mount, a selection of Minolta MD mount, and a few Nikon F mount, along with a couple other oddballs like Konica and Petri, some Olympus OM... a Ricoh or two… 
We have adapters to mount them to digital SLRs too. 
Manual-focus lenses like this are phenomenal for use in freelensing. I haven’t tried this technique yet myself, but I plan to— manual-focus primes with accessible aperture rings are easy to use as manual budget tilt-shift lenses for special effects. So we’ll see if I come up with anything cool along those lines!

For summer, we’ve marked down all the lenses in our Etsy shop— all vintage manual-focus lenses— by 20%. Check it out! See if you find anything you like. Selections include a lot of Canon FD mount, some Pentax K mount, a selection of Minolta MD mount, and a few Nikon F mount, along with a couple other oddballs like Konica and Petri, some Olympus OM... a Ricoh or two… 

We have adapters to mount them to digital SLRs too. 

Manual-focus lenses like this are phenomenal for use in freelensing. I haven’t tried this technique yet myself, but I plan to— manual-focus primes with accessible aperture rings are easy to use as manual budget tilt-shift lenses for special effects. So we’ll see if I come up with anything cool along those lines!

I don’t think this photo would win any photo competitions (I should’ve cropped it so the pillar was straight, among other things), but this right here is an example of what a really wide aperture will do. Whether it’s an effect you like or not, this was taken at f/1.4 (a Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4), and that means that not only is the background blurry, but the figures in the foreground are slightly blurry. The only completely-sharp thing is the smartphone. 
(My 2-year-old niece, who can’t read yet but is VERY GOOD at touchscreens, helps my mother play Words With Friends.) 

I don’t think this photo would win any photo competitions (I should’ve cropped it so the pillar was straight, among other things), but this right here is an example of what a really wide aperture will do. Whether it’s an effect you like or not, this was taken at f/1.4 (a Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4), and that means that not only is the background blurry, but the figures in the foreground are slightly blurry. The only completely-sharp thing is the smartphone. 

(My 2-year-old niece, who can’t read yet but is VERY GOOD at touchscreens, helps my mother play Words With Friends.) 

Shooting used lenses to list on Etsy and eBay, I dumped one out of its box to discover that entombed along with it was this little fellow. 

I often do product photography with a macro lens, as we sell them in the store. This one is a Tamron 60mm f/2 macro, which is one of my favorites. I was shooting on a chunk of white countertop shoved up against a white wall, with a studio strobe behind an umbrella about halfway across the room pointed approximately at my ‘canvas’. I tend to be a little lackadaisical about the setup. 

But it was a decent canvas to investigate the details of this small visitor inside the lens box. Who knows how long ago he buzzed his last buzz? I gave him a decent burial in our garbage can after commemorating his brief Earthly sojourn. 

I’m just copy-pasting my Etsy description on here because seriously. Seriously. SERIOUSLY this thing is an APS SLR. FOR REAL. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. 
Remember Kodak’s last big push against the rising tide of digitization? They came out with the Advanced Photo System, Advantix, a computerized cartridge-based type of film slightly thinner than 35mm, that was loaded into these highly-automated little cartridges and compatible with advanced, complicated, expensive new cameras. 
Those who adopted it adopted it hard, and our film labs still see some diehards grimly hanging onto this format. Kodak seems to have dropped it from their roster of products, and Fuji recently discontinued theirs, but you can still find it online if you search hard enough. We try to keep it in stock in our stores, but it can be hard to come up with. 

(I don’t have any listed because our stock varies so much and I don’t want to be constantly listing and unlisting it, but convo me and I can probably get you some. I know a guy. Maybe.)

Well. Minolta dived right into this APS trend with their Vectis series of cameras, including a handful of SLR interchangeable-lens dealies. They were actually really good cameras, according to enthusiasts on the Internet. Which is probably the worst thing about all of this, really: it’s actually a really good camera. 

This one, the S1, was their flagship of the line. It’s splashproof, it’s hip, it’s trendy, it’s so so so incredibly 90s. Pearl gray and black with keen slanty graphics. Weirdly sleek yet clunky. Electronically controlled, but totally mechanical. It’s… it’s giving me flashbacks. (I was a teenager in the 90s. Everything was both awesome and terrible. You know precisely what I mean, I know you do or you wouldn’t still be reading this.)

This kit has the camera body, which totally works, the 28-56mm lens that was the basic lens, plus a sweet telephoto 56-170 complete with lens hood and back cap and trendily Minolta-branded front cap. The whole thing works. It’s in reasonable vintage condition, meaning some wear and discoloration on the rubber bits, but no cracks or dings or chunks missing. 

This thing is both the best and worst thing I’ve ever seen. Please, please buy it, because someone needs to have this. And use it. Please use it. If you can’t get APS film developed, convo me, because we can do that.

PSA

Please, please please, if your camera loses your photos, don’t randomly Google for recovery software. We get so so so many customers who come in with their camera disks that have been run through these “free” programs that are now demanding money to give them the files they’ve taken hostage. 

Please. Please don’t do this. Please be careful and don’t fall for these scams.