One of the things I found most invaluable when I first started learning photography was finding out how photographers captured their beautiful images.

I felt that if I could learn how they worked and what settings they used, I too would then be able to capture the images I always dreamed of. I realise now that it’s more than just settings though. ‘Behind the Image’ is a series where I can share with you how I captured a particular shot. I will, of course, share the practical stuff but I hope to go a little deeper in these posts too and talk about my favourite subject, the soul of a photograph.

I call this shot ‘Liberty Girls’, for obvious reasons! It was captured on the Staten Island Ferry in New York City in October 2016. The hubby and I were at the beginning of a 2 week road trip covering New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and north New York State. For me, this was the first trip I had made to New York with a decent camera and more than basic camera skills, so I was excited to take loads of photographs. Every time I’ve been to New York I’ve done the Staten Island Ferry. It has some great views, gives a different perspective of the city and is totally free of charge! Bonus! However, in my ten year absence, it seemed everyone else had also discovered what an asset the ferry is and trying to get a prime spot to take photographs was next to impossible!

The Technical Stuff

I was shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III and my 35mm f/1.4 L lens (my go to lens for pretty much every scenario these days!). Settings for this image were:

  • ISO 250
  • f/1.8
  • 1/2500 sec

Here’s a straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) version of the shot, before I applied my edit:


Lightroom is my go to editing suite of choice and will be for the foreseeable future, I reckon!

I kept things relatively simple with this edit, using my favourite VSCO preset and tweaking the exposure to light up the girls a bit more. One of things I love about this shot is that it is not technically perfect, not by a long stretch of the imagination. Focus is off, it’s poorly exposed and damn if it’s not bloody wonky! I always shoot wonky, especially when there are straight lines! Here’s a side-by-side comparison so you can see what I did…

The Soul

Despite it being a bit of a throwaway shot, despite it not being “technically perfect”, there’s something about this shot that I love. I had gone on the Staten Island Ferry with the intention of shooting a great photograph of the Statue of Liberty (like everyone else there!) but when I realised I wasn’t going to get a good viewing spot, I had to re-think what I was doing. I wandered about the cabin and that’s when I saw these ladies with their interesting headgear and I knew that this was my shot instead. We were pushed for time, the girls looked like they were about to move on and it was crowded and warm where we were standing so, without thinking about settings, I just took the photograph. I love that the 3 girls with blonde hair are all looking out at the water (and actually at the Statue of Liberty that we were passing at that moment) while the lady on the right looks at the back of her camera. And the arms of the tall guy on the left show a little of how crowded it was at that moment.

Normally I’m not a fan of ‘back-of-head’ shots but this one I think works because of the interesting silhouette created by the spiky headwear. All in all, it was probably one of my favourite shots captured on the ferry that day!

I’d love to know what you think. Drop your thoughts in the comments below.