Capturing the Movement and Energy of NYC

By John Walrath


At the end of every October, thousands of photographers and videographers descend upon the Javits Center in New York City for the PhotoPlus Expo. For those attending, it’s an exciting time to learn about recent product announcements. For those of us who work in the industry, it is an excellent opportunity to connect with and educate customers.



The 2017 PhotoPlus Expo marked my 5th year attending. I am accustomed to the hectic nature of the show but I have also become familiar with Manhattan. When I was asked to share my experience at PhotoPlus on Datacolor’s Instagram I was thrilled. To have the opportunity to not only provide an inside look at PhotoPlus, but to share New York City how I see it was very exciting!


My Approach


Knowing that I would need to make photographs daily to share, I wanted to have a common theme binding them together. I sought to capture images that unmistakably represented New York City. However, that isn’t very challenging since New York has so many recognizable locations. I wanted to go beyond the obvious.


When I think about New York, the words movement and energy come to mind – I used these words for inspiration. I recently completed a series of images where I intentionally incorporated selective motion blur. I decided this would be a good approach to demonstrate the movement and the energy of New York City.


With my assignment set and my camera in hand (a Fuji X-T2 if you are curious), I hit the ground running as soon as I finished setting up the day before PhotoPlus Expo opened.



Camera Technique


To create selective areas of motion blur without a tripod, I needed to find a shutter speed that I could hand hold my camera but also slow enough that would not freeze the action within my composition. For this technique, I used a shutter speed of about 1/60 and adjusted my ISO and aperture to the point the image was exposed as I intended.


I love shooting from a tripod but this can be challenging in New York. I mostly shot hand held but I did use a tripod for some of the images I made. When using a tripod, all I was concerned about was finding a shutter speed that matched the motion blur I wanted to create in an image. I did not need to worry about balancing creative effect with a shutter speed that can be held by hand.


Compositionally speaking, I needed to focus on how the static subjects and the moving subjects interacted. For example, a composition where movement leads off the side of a photograph is less effective than one where the movement leads into the image to create depth. After some practice, I was able to anticipate where and how the movement would occur within my composition.


Below are some of my favorite photographs:



Making the Print


I find a lot of joy in printmaking. I love the moment when I first see an image on paper. I do not print every photograph I make but I believe that part of my role as an artist is to create physical pieces of art and not just digital files. Printmaking is part of a photographer’s heritage and I believe it should still be a skill that is practiced by every photographer.



One image that I was particularly happy with is the one above, on the left. I like the way the people and the cars move through the frame towards the Flatiron. The Flatiron is also my favorite building in New York City so I am sure that influences my fondness for this image. I usually end up with at least one image of the Flatiron every time I visit New York.


When I got home I fired up my printer. I chose to print this image on one of my favorite papers: Red River Paper’s San Gabriel Baryta.


Final Thoughts


Photographers embrace the challenge of creating a three-dimensional world on a two dimensional surface. Adding selective motion incorporates the element of time into a photograph. I enjoy the layer of depth it adds and its another compositional element I have to work with to make an image more dynamic. I feel it was an effective choice to convey the way I see New York City.