Tag Archives: Toronto
This was taken while walking around downtown Toronto a few weeks back. I noticed a little covered entrance to a building and decided it would be cool to shoot the stained glass. It was hand-held using 3 exposures (-2\0\+2) and blended together in Photomatix Pro 4. Final processing was done in Lightroom 4. Without HDR this shot is not possible (even with LR4′s enhanced features). I wish I had my tripod when I shot this and could have rattled off 5 or 7 exposures.
The photo itself is replete with compositional elements which is why I like using it as a demo image. We have leading lines, we have double framing (the buildings frame the window and the window in turn frames our view of the buildings..trippy man). There are strong geometric elements, a repeating pattern and unique perspective. By any objective measure it should be a damn masterpiece!
Too bad art isn’t judged on how many rules you include. Oh well, it’s still kind of a fun picture, especially for hand-held.
One problem I had, that I never Really was able to fix was getting the window centred properly. In order for the photo to work, the diagnel lines need to bisect the corners and the horizontal\vertical components of the window need to be straight. Since this was hand-held that was difficult given the angle. I spent a fair amount of time tweaking in Lightroom 4. It would have been so much easier to get it right in the camera. Cest la vie…
PS this is an image that seems to very a bit depending on my monitor. When I print it everything looks normal but on the laptop it seems a bit washed out. Time to recalibrate.
I love cool street art. It amazes me how talented people are. I “discovered” this one walking around China Town in Toronto. I love the imagery and the details that went into it. I was happy I had my 10-24mm lens with me to try and capture it all.
Not every shot needs to be breathtaking. Sometimes it’s just capturing an unexpected bit of serenity that makes me smile. After my disappointment with the skyline shot on Monday, I started walking to my car a bit dejected. Then I noticed the sun filtering through the trees in this quiet little urban oasis. Thanks to HDR I was able to capture the full range of sunlight and shadow the proper way.
Scenes like this are often tricky for a few reasons even with (especially with) HDR. First you need to be very concerned about ghosting. A slight breeze can really make a mess when you are dealing with leaves and flowers. I was lucky the wind was calm, but there were a few areas I had to touch up. I’m also lucky version 4 of Photomatix Pro handles slight movement much much better than in the past.
The second issue is trying to create natural color. This really depends on having a monitor calibrated properly and instinct on what “natural” is. I have a tendency to push saturation a bit at times, but for this scene that would not work. I sacrificed a little of the yellow in the sky for more natural light on the ground. I could have selectively added it in, but then you have to really blend well. In this case I just erred on the side of reality and moved on.
Oh – one other thing. I mentioned having a calibrated monitor. Well I have one, and you may have one, but that doesn’t mean what you see will look right to you. My colors are adjusted correctly for my printer but getting right for every computer screen out there is impossible. It’s the age old dilemma.
Great pictures rarely just happen. They take planning, patience and timing. They also take a little luck. I try to drill this lesson into the heads of my students so they understand those great photos you see on 500px or Pixoto don’t just happen – they are anticipated and planned for.
I thought this weekend I was right on track for shooting sunrise over the Toronto skyline. The day before I shot the skyline at noon in harsh bright light and thought it would be a good way to illustrate why getting up in the morning really was important. The problem was when I shot at that day, I was on a boat. I needed to find a similar location that didn’t require a vessel or me learning to walk on water. So I started researching.
I found a location I thought would work. There is a large set of silos on the western edge of the waterfront (the Canadian Malting Co silos for all of those interested) that jut out into the water at an angle that was close to what I had on the boat. I saw pictures taken from a small sculpture park right on the edge of the water. Bingo I now had my location.
I checked the weather and sunrise times. I’m still getting used to how early the sun rises here compared to Florida so I almost said no when I realized I’d need to leave my house at 4:20 AM to be there in time to set-up. But the weather looked great and it was a holiday so I packed up my bag the night before, went to bed early and left right on time.
So far I had anticipated the shot I wanted. I had planned the shot I wanted. I had researched the area to bring the plan into vision. Everything was lining up nicely. Only that never seems to work exactly like you hoped. Enter patience timing and luck.
Problem number one hit the moment I made it downtown. I needed to find a place to park but there were no nearby places that weren’t 20 dollars, cash. I should have planned my parking – in a city like Toronto you really need to have a clue where you are going to park or you end up walking for miles or paying a fortune. I figured 5:30 AM on a civic holiday would be easy. I figured wrong. I drove around so long I missed the “night” shots of the city.
I finally found a place, paid my 20 dollars and ran like mad (ok walked briskly) to get to the silos. Here’s were bad luck and insufficient planning kicked me in the ass. The silos are under construction and the only walkway I could see was fenced off. Now my timing was off and my location was wrecked. I had to make a choice – I could walk around the silos and see if I could get in from the other side or I could go the other way and get the skyline from a less than desirable angle. I had to pick quick because the sun was already climbing.
I picked the safe route. I found a spot nearby that worked reasonably well and shot. It wasn’t what I had planned for but it came out OK. I got lucky that the clouds were in a good position over the buildings to add some interest to the sunrise. Having a plan to start with though help me make the choice whether to go safe or not. My goal was about light, not view. If I wasn’t sure what was important I may have debated so long that I missed both.
So in the end we always have to think on our feet, adapt to our surroundings and live in the moment. We can plan all we want but once you are there be flexible. Sometimes all the planning in the world can’t anticipate life. Could have done more research – sure. Would I have been happier with that photo? Who knows. I’ll try again someday. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the picture I did get.
Tuesday is my Monday so I’m in a rush, but this was a quick shot I took down town Toronto yesterday morning. The morning was a disaster, the planning was poor, and the location ill-conceived, but the tug boat looks cool.
Oh, BTW those little specks of flying debris in the sun is a swarm of bugs. They got everywhere. Ah well, spring in Canada.
I think it’s pretty obvious I like HDR. If it isn’t obvious I’m not sure how the title “My Life in HDR” didn’t tip you off, but welcome. Anyhow I digress, The point is I really like HDR. It solves a bunch of technical limitations of today’s cameras and allows me some creative freedom I wouldn’t normally have. Plus I think when HDR is done right, it just looks cool.
However, HDR isn’t always great. For every problem it solves – it can create other. Ghosting, halos, overly dark clouds, “smudgy” skies etc are all problems that every good HDR artists struggles to eliminate. Sometimes this can take me hours, and even then I’m not always thrilled with the end result because the problems just can’t be corrected.
Still HDR was the best option for getting a decent exposure when you had extremes in range. HDR meant never having to choose between blowing out the highlights or losing all the shadow detail, unless I wanted to of course.
Enter Lightroom 4. I’ve shown on the blog how impressive Lightroom 4 is at recovering detail from shadowy areas and saving a poorly exposed shot. Today Iwant to show you why it might just be Better at creating an HDResque photo than HDR is.
Lets start with the base image. I think we would all agree this is a poorly exposed image. The highlights are too bright, hte shadows too dark. The colors are washed out. That’s what happens when you are shooting into the sun. That’s why I shot the shot as part of an HDR bracket set.
Now lets look at this same image when processed as part of an HDR bracket set. Originally I ran the photo through Photomatix but didn’t like the result. Then I re-ran the brackets through Unified Colors Float 32 and ended up with a similar set of issues. The picture below is the one from Float 32.
At first blush the photo looks better. You can see into the shadows, you aren’t blinded by the blown out highlights. A definite improvement. Now look closer and you can start to see the problems creep to the surface. Look at the sky. Notice the dark haloing around each of the bridge cables. Both programs struggles with the change in contrast between the steel cables and the bright sky. It makes it look dirty and slightly out of alignment.
Secondly, the brightest part of the water was bad after HDR processing There were hundreds of tiny “rips” in the waves. Not visible at first but the closer I inspected, the more distracting they became. There are lots of other tiny flaws, things you don’t always catch at first but that show up like a sore thumb when you print. Not a good image.
[NOTE: The image was further processed with Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to try to salvage it hence the color difference between image 2 and 3. It didn't work. So much for that 30 minutes of my life]
Finally this is the image as edited using just Lightroom 4. I was able to recover most of the important highlights, a lot of the shadow (I could have pushed it more, but liked it a bit darker), detail on the bridge and fix the colors to look more natural. I have none of the weird “dark halo” issues that I had in the HDR image – look at the difference in the cables – and the sky is cleaner. All in all it’s a better photgraph, took 1/10th of the time and only took 1 frame not 7.
Doest that mean I’m over HDR? No, not by a long shot. There are still times when I’ll use it as an artistic choice or to solve other issues. It’s just nice to know that Lightroom 4 gives me another viable option.
I posted this shot because after all the aggravation of taking the picture, I’m using it dammit! It is not a great shot and not one I’m likely to print and frame, but it IS going up on this blog out even if that’s just for spite. OK let me explain.
On New Years Eve we were going to dinner at this great little BBQ joint in Toronto. As we were driving along the freeway, I spot this really cool white building along the lake. “What’s that?” I ask. “Oh that’s the swimming pool and some park” I’m told. “Wow, I need to take a picture of that.” Silence…silence…”I mean some night when we are not heading to dinner with other people.”
So I planned to go back in a few weeks to shoot the building at sunrise. Only its an hour away, and sunrise is kind of early. Go figure. I tried 3 times and each time I woke up to rain or freezing temperatures. Finally, Saturday it was clear and bright. The weather wasn’t too cold (32 degrees F) and I had no other plans. Up at 5, out at 5:15. There in time for sunrise.
Helps if you know where to park your car. And how far you need to walk. And where the sun will rise in relationship to the thing you want to shoot. Oh…and it helps to know whether the building itself is worth photographing Before you head out for leisurely 5:15 AM drive…
It certainly looked cooler from the freeway. Not that it isn’t a neat structure, it’s just not one that was particularly inspiring up close. I got there and my first thought was Meh…Never a good sign. I took a few detail shots, some side shots etc but none of them jump out at me. So I’m posting the boring “stand in front of the building and shoot it” shot.
In order to get it all in, I had to stand as far back as the oncoming traffic would allow – which I should point out wasn’t very far back – maybe the width of a drive way and a sidewalk. Even at 11mm (on my D7000) the front was so wide I couldn’t get it in easily so I cropped in on the important bits. I guess it’s OK, just not what I was hoping for.
Oh well, you never find the great shots if you aren’t willing to risk a few bad ones.
Happy Tuesday everyone.
If Toronto has a Times Square type of place, this is it. Yonge and Dundas teems with activity all the time. Neon and LCD screens light up the sky, music concerts fill the air and people just keep shuffling by.
I shot this just as the sun was cresting the buildings and throwing a pretty harsh reflection off of the white facades. Even though I had my back to the sun, the light bouncing around was pretty blinding. I bracketed 9, used 8 and then played with the image a lot to get something I liked. There was a lot of masking needed on the signs – they changed between frames and that always looks a bit sloppy to me. The people setting up for some sort of show had to be masked in a bit too – for some reason they didn’t stand still while I shot. Go figure!
I tried a few new processing techniques to recreate the feel of the scene. It was bitter cold, incredibly sunny and a bit bleak because all of the trees are still dormant for the winter. It had a desert feel to me. I ended up with an image that almost looks like it was processed with a bleach-bypass filter but with a little more control over the colors saturation.
I can’t wait to head back at night when things are lit up nicely. It should make for some fun photos.