black and white photos of new york sunrise, zeiss 50mm f1.4 lens

This is the first of a triptych that I call “drama by light”. I have the good fortune of a stunning view of the sunrise over the cultural expanse that is Queens, so I decided to capture a few of the most striking.

This particular photo strikes me as ‘contrast’, which I love in photography. What the sun does to our world fascinates me to no end. Deep shadows. Sparkling glare. Illumination of minute details that otherwise go unnoticed. The drama that early morning and late afternoon sunshine creates is amazing, but also very hard (at least for me) to capture on a camera sensor in a meaningful way. Most of my images end up being nothing but partly too bright and partly too dark, and it always takes quite a bit of adjusting to get the image I’m looking for. The reason I’m particularly fond of this image is because morning light like this moves so rapidly, and you literally have 10-15 seconds at most to get the shot before the light completely changes the scene and you’ve lost your shot forever.

I used a Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.4 lens set at f/5.6, -0.3EV here. The Zeiss 50mm 1.4 is a lens that gets so much criticism in online reviews, but I honestly don’t understand why. People bash it endlessly for being “soft” and for having “terrible optics”, but I think those opinions are mostly from people who expect every lens to be capable of every thing, and that’s just not how lenses work. Each lens is like an individual paintbrush, and no artist would ever use a single brush for everything they do. Just like brushes, lenses have solitary characteristics and solitary strengths and weaknesses. Learning what those are is part of the “art” of photography.

Stay tuned for part II and III of the drama by light series, and let me know what you think.


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