Newsletter Issue 3 (1:1 Interview with Billy Dinh @billydeee) (August 20, 2020)
We’ll keep this one brief! Get an exclusive look at my shots from a recent helicopter flight with FlyNYON, and read an interview with one of the most talented creators I know, @billydeee.
Also, I do apologize in advance if the spacing/formatting of this newsletter looks weird. Google Groups recently updated their interface, and I’m still learning!
Michael Silverstone is a photographer based in New York City. He specializes in train, landscape, and city photography. Michael currently shoots with a Sony Alpha A7RII, alternating between four lenses. On any given day or night, you can find him capturing one of NYC’s iconic landmarks, or shooting from a subway platform deep in Brooklyn.
A hiking trip to the Canadian Rockies in June 2017 (specifically a starry night over Pyramid and Patricia Lakes in Jasper, Alberta) was the inspiration for Michael’s photography journey. Upon returning to NYC, he purchased his first camera the very next day.
Michael’s work has been shared by the marketing organization NYC & Company, and has been featured on multiple local cable news outlets, including Spectrum News NY1, FOX 5 New York, and ABC7 Eyewitness News. He also serves as a mod for the popular Instagram photography hubs @NYCPrimeshot and @USAPrimeshot. These hubs feature the work of local and national creators, and organize and run photography meet-ups/networking events around NYC in collaboration with other hubs, and with the participation of sponsors.
Michael enjoys playing guitar, attending concerts, and studying New York City’s bizarre and captivating history.
Sony Alpha A7RII
Tamron 17–28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD
Tamron 28–75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD
Sony FE 85mm f/1.8
Sony FE 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6 G OSS
Yesterday, I had the pleasure to do my first helicopter tour over the city that I’ve spent my whole life in. 30 minutes. Doors off! The flight was operated by FlyNYON, and I went up with fellow NYC photographer and Phish fanatic, Jamie Huenefeld (@killahwave).
Because you can’t switch lenses mid-flight (for obvious reasons), I brought two camera bodies. I decided to go really wide and really zoomed, so I took along my Tamron 17–28mm f/2.8, and Sony 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6 G lenses. Everything happens so quickly, so it’s important to stay on top of your game, be alert, and keep shooting!
Here’s an aerial over One Madison Ave., my former office building! Did you know that the neighboring Madison Square Park is the location of the first Shake Shack?
Here’s not one (but two) trains on the approach to Queensboro Plaza in Long Island City. The train above the Silvercup Studios sign is a 7, and the train on the far-left is either an N or W. One of my goals on this helicopter adventure was to capture some scenes that most people don’t think about. For much of the 30 minutes, I was looking east at Queens and Brooklyn.
But yes, I did have to get some of the classic shots, too.
Here’s an aerial of Stuy Town.
The iconic One Centre Street in excellent light. A lot of people mistake this building for City Hall, for some reason.
Directly over the Brooklyn Bridge with DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn in frame!
The skyline in all its glory. How many buildings do you think are in this picture?
Plenty of more aerial shots to come, but I figured I would send you all off with another train shot. Here’s the Q approaching Parkside Station in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Earlier this week, I took the opportunity to explore some of South Brooklyn’s subway lines, something I haven’t done since right before the pandemic began.
To see all prints for sale (including all the images above), check out my shop site!
Featured Creator Spotlight
I spoke with NYC-based photographer Billy Dinh (@billydeee). Billy is easily one of the most unique and talented creators out there, and scrolling through his gallery will make you feel like you’re in a movie.
You capture some truly remarkable street scenes. Are your shoots typically planned or spontaneous?
Thanks! Mostly Spontaneous. I would scope out places, scenes, compositions I like, and then come back when the conditions are right. I’d hang out for a while until I capture the right scene or story I want to tell. Lots of time it’s just a lot of walking around. I do like planning stuff with models/people to capture things I can’t capture through street photography. All of that feeds into the story I want to tell.
What are the perfect outside conditions (weather and all) for a @billydeee shoot?
Anything that adds more emotion or intensity to a scene. Rain, snow, fog, and low contrasting sunlight typically works well.
In all your travels (either international or domestic), what’s been your favorite place and why?
Always a tough question, but if I had to only choose one place, it would have to be Tokyo, Japan. It just felt like another world… as if I was in a Final Fantasy game. It’s photogenic, the food is great, and there’s plenty to do. There’s lots of hustle and bustle. It’s clean, safe, people are nice, there are robots everywhere, and the toilets are capable of cleaning your a**, what’s there not to like?
I’m pretty sure since I met you in late 2019, your Instagram following has quadrupled. Besides meeting me, is there something that you can attribute this growth to? Was it a specific viral moment, or was it more gradual?
I think I owe a lot of it to meeting you. I think the IG algorithm knew that we needed to meet in order for my work to be recognized. haha. No, I think I just found something that works for me that other people seem to like as well. I’ve been shooting for 2 years and a few months now. The first year was a lot more exploring. I’d been shooting street on the side up to that point, which came naturally, but didn’t fully embrace it until spring of 2019. By the time we met in Oct/Nov, I was already at a point where I had just started to have clarity in the things I wanted to shoot, the types of stories I wanted to tell, the mood that fit my imagination, and, overall, what I wanted to present to the world. So when 2020 came, I just did my thing. The growth thing seemed to just happen along with it.
What’s some advice you would give to new photographers?
1) Work your a** off. Honestly, I shoot and edit ALL the time. If you want to be good at anything, you really need to constantly think of ways to improve your craft and come up with ideas (i.e. composition, places you want to shoot, stories you want to tell). Even when you’re not shooting and editing, think about it. If you don’t know where to begin, pick up a book of some master photographers and study. Understand why they shoot, what they shoot, and how they go about doing it.
2) Be yourself. I’m sure you hear it all the time but don’t let these social media platforms dictate what you need to be photographing, and don’t let these numbers determine your worth. Yes, social media growth has its benefits, especially if this is your main source of income, but it has to happen gradually. Your first priority is to be true to your craft. If you are, you’ll most likely eventually distinguish yourself from others and be more proud of what you do. Now isn’t that not one of the best ways to grow?
3) Experiment, Experiment, Experiment. I’m still doing that now and am learning new things everyday from it. A lot of what I do will never see the light of day, and believe me, there is a lot. Do this to explore different ways of capturing different subjects, environments, lighting, candid vs. posed, city vs. nature, etc. It’s another way to constantly challenge yourself. It will keep you well-rounded and will ultimately help you find what you should be sharing with the world.
Final Remark: Stop asking other photographers what camera they use. Most cameras these days will do just fine especially if you are just starting out.
You’re a co-founder of the feature hub @tonesofnyc and have hosted quite a few successful meet-ups in the city. What are some of your goals for that page?
There’s a bunch of cool things we have planned that we will be sharing soon. The main goal has always been to separate ourselves and fill in the gaps of what other NYC meet-ups are currently doing. I don’t want to give away too much but come follow us at @tonesofNYC. Exciting announcements are in the near future!
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!