Group photography session pay off

This beautiful print of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street was just one of the photos taken during this fun outing to the New Orleans French Quarter.

New Orleans gives up great fine art prints

I have a love-hate relationship with the New Orleans French Quarter. On the one hand, I hate the traffic and drunks that pack the city’s famous district. But on the flip side, I love the feel of the Quarter, with it’s centuries-old Spanish architecture and slow pace of life.

And, of course, I’m a sucker for Cafe Du Monde‘s chicory coffee and beignets.

New Orleans is always a great location to capture some fantastic images, so when I was invited to join three other photographers from Houston on a two-day shoot, I jumped at the chance. It would be a good opportunity to expand my portfolio, but just as importantly the trip would allow me to pick the brains of other photographers and learn new techniques.

I had met David Morefield through Fine Art America, where we both offer work for sale. We had talked on the phone and emailed each other several times, but had never actually met. David and I would be joined by fellow FAA members Tim Stanley and Jeremy Mancuso for a group photography session.

What I didn’t know when I signed up was that David and his crew were hardcore — the itinerary for the trip included a 3:45 a.m. meet time in the French Quarter. That meant I would have to wake up at 2 a.m., something I haven’t done in years and, if I’m honest about it, wasn’t looking forward to.

But I was so excited about the shoot I literally couldn’t sleep the night before. With everything packed and ready to go, I laid in bed staring at the dark ceiling until about midnight. And I woke up 13 minutes before the alarm went off. I’d like to say I hopped out of bed ready to go, but man I was tired!

Twenty minutes later, with a travel mug full of coffee, I was heading to the Big Easy — and some of the best images I’ve captured to date.

David, Tim and Jeremy have known each other for the past several years, and have spent a lot of time driving around Texas shooting images. When I arrived, they took me in and acted like I had been a part of their merry band of photographers from the start.

By 4 a.m., we were set up on the plaza overlooking Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral. The lights of the square and old Catholic church lighted the scene beautifully, and we all began shooting. And right from the start, I learned something new.

I looked over, and the other photogs had their cameras on their tripods. That was no surprise. But instead of looking through the viewfinder, they were staring at the backs of their cameras at the live-view depiction of the scene. I have to admit that, although my Nikon D300s has this capability, I had never once used it. In fact, I always considered it beneath me — that was for point-and-shoot cameras and hobbyists. But David quickly shared why they used this technique with long exposures: It allows the photographer to zoom way in on the scene and tweak the focus. I couldn’t get over how well this worked, and it is particularly needed since my eyes are getting old (and I could probably use glasses).

That turned out to be only one of the many lessons learned over the weekend. The four of us fed off of each other while we walked around the French Quarter, constantly looking for new angles and new subjects. I even found a new church (St. Joseph Church) that gave up some incredible images. Along the way, we shared marketing ideas, sales experiences and generally networked to help each other improve the visibility of our work.

One of the biggest leaps forward in terms of my skill sets was when we hunted down the perfect spot on Algiers Point to capture skyline images of the city. Once I set up my tripod, I dutifully pulled out my Tokina 12-24mm lens that I have always used for similar images. And I did capture some nice shots. But as the sun disappeared behind the horizon and the light turned magical, I looked over and saw David doing something I always had wanted to try: He was taking timed exposures, carefully turning his camera on the tripod to generate a series of images from the Marigny District on the right to nearly the Crescent City Connection on the left.

We discussed how he set up, and soon he was pushing me to give it a try. It took me more than 10 minutes to get the camera just right — and I was convinced it still wasn’t correct. But when I got home that evening and copied the day’s images to my hard drives, I went straight to that series of 11 images and set up the script to stitch them all together. Even before I fully processed the resulting 1.3 GB file, I was stunned at how beautiful the scene was.

The fully processed image is one of the best of my career as a photographer, and the technique is one that I’ll use in the years to come. And I’ll definitely be looking other opportunities to be involved in another group photography session.

I will be adding images to my New Orleans gallery as I can weed through and process them. Please feel free to check them out, and I’m always honored when someone chooses to hang a piece of my art on their wall.


About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.