Long Exposures are much easier with your iPhone

Long exposure photography has long been an interest of mine since I’ve been taking photographs. In particular I love taking long exposures at night to enhance the overall scene. However with the ever-so-advanced iPhone cameras coming out year after year, creating long exposures on my Nikon has become more and more tedious and sometimes more a task.

Nikon D800, 2.0 sec., f/18, ISO 100, 24mm, B+W 6-Stop ND filter and Polarizer

Nikon D800, 2.0 sec., f/18, ISO 100, 24mm, B+W 6-Stop ND filter and Polarizer

With my Nikon, I no doubt need a sturdy tripod that can withstand the weight of my camera and lens. Depending on the scene in front of me, I will need a Neutral Density filter to filter out enough light so that I can get a reasonably long exposure during the day. Otherwise, I will have to wait until the light goes down to be able to take any sort of decent long exposure. Once the shooting scenario is found, I then need to ensure that I don’t move the camera throughout the duration of the exposure. This includes any external camera shake or vibrations from the slap of the shutter, which often yields in the use of a shutter release cable, and the “Mirror Up” mode.

With my iPhone however, I only need a simple lightweight tripod that can fit in my shirt pocket, and a single app. That’s it! No filters, cables, or large and heavy tripods. Often times, the long exposures coming out of my iPhone are very impressive even though I will admit these are not true long exposures per se (iPhone long exposures are created by overlaying a number of photos on top of each other, rather than truly leaving the shutter open for a long period of time).

The quality of the resulting photo, however, is still a big factor in why I like to use my Nikon for photographs. An iPhone, no matter how advanced the app or camera is, still cannot compete with the quality of a dSLR camera. And that’s why when I travel, I still carry around my heavy and bulky Gitzo full sized tripod, cable release, filters, and multiple lenses so that I am prepared for any long exposure photos.

When will I eventually succumb to fully relying on my iPhone for photography? Only time will tell, but for now, I still do admire my Nikon and its ability to take fantastic photographs.

A Monochromatic Sunrise

Nikon D800, 1/20sec., f/9.0, ISO100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/20sec., f/9.0, ISO100, 70mm

For whatever reason, I really feel that this faded monochromatic look works for this photo. The foreground silhouette is nicely contrasted by the shimmering lake Ontario in the backdrop, coupled by the light fog floating above the water. The sunrise contrasts nicely within the open sky. This somewhat nostalgic feel I get with this photo warms me up even though its in black and white.

Is it just me, or do you feel the same way?

Chasing waterfalls

Nikon D800, 70mm, f/10, 2.5 sec., ISO 400, B+W 6-Stop ND filter

Nikon D800, 70mm, f/10, 2.5 sec., ISO 400, B+W 6-Stop ND filter

No matter what the season, waterfalls always seem to be a great photo opportunity. In the winter, the ice around them gives a whole new emotion to the summertime rush of the flowing water. The rushing water here created such a large haze over it, making it almost surreal.

While I don’t live nearby any waterfalls per se, I am fortunate enough to be able to see some gorgeous falls within a 30min. to 1 hour drive to Hamilton and surrounding areas.

This one, however, wasn’t taken in Hamilton, but at a State park in New York State. The park was absolutely gorgeous, especially in the autumn season when I went there. I can’t wait to go back another time to experience the scenic vistas and natural waterfalls that Letchworth State Park provides us.

Cold mornings

Nikon D800, 70mm, f/14, 6.0 sec., ISO 100, B+W 6-stop ND filter

Nikon D800, 70mm, f/14, 6.0 sec., ISO 100, B+W 6-stop ND filter

Did everyone enjoy the cold mornings over the weekend? While I wasn’t crazy enough to go out for a sunrise shoot this past weekend, I did shoot this during a sunrise one early morning last winter. I don’t remember what the exact temperature was, but it sure felt like it was -40C.

The morning colours were fantastic that shoot, as the sun rose silently but gloriously from the east. Using a B+W 6-stop ND filter, I was able to increase my exposure time to 6 seconds without blowing any of the highlight details out of my image.

This version of the photo was edited in Lightroom and with Topaz Lab’s Clarity app, which is something that I’m trying to test out these days. When you know what to do, Lightroom is quite a powerful editing tool—although it still won’t be replacing the things that Photoshop can do.

With the use of the gradient filters, I increased the saturation of the blue and orange bands on the horizon. If I really wanted to, I could have made the entire Toronto skyline a silhouette by painting in black throughout, but I wanted to keep a little detail in there to show some of the sunlight reflecting off the side of the buildings.

For the bottom part of the photo, I wanted to show the texture of the water and ice. To achieve this, I brought the photo into Topaz Lab’s Clarity app, which does a great job in increasing contrast at different detail levels. It’s worth playing around in this to get the exact look you’re after. After I was happy with how the water look, I simply combined the top half of the image that was edited in Lightroom, with this bottom half, using Photoshop.

That’s all there is to this image!

Almost abstract

Nikon D800, 8.0 sec., f/14, 58mm, ISO 100

Nikon D800, 8.0 sec., f/14, 58mm, ISO 100

I never thought about this until a few months after taking this photo, but this long exposure photo seems almost surreal and abstract. There’s no special effects applied to it, just some simple colour enhancements in Lightroom and a little bit of smoke removal from the horizon.

If you look at this photo for a while, you almost convince yourself that you don’t really know what you’re looking at. The dark blue areas within the water are merely waves caught in a long exposure while the beautiful gradient of the sky is smooth because there wasn’t a single cloud that morning.

This photo is in fact a sunrise photo taken just before the sun rose above the horizon, in front of a lake. The long exposure makes the water in the foreground blurred and surreal, while the overall colour of the photo enhances this feeling. The full 8.0 seconds was achieved with a 6-stop ND filter (B+W) attached to my 24-70 f/2.8 lens. Otherwise, I would have easily blown out the highlight areas of the photo.

I’m almost tempted to go back and do this with a 10-stop ND filter. Now, if it wasn’t for the cold!

Street scene in Tokyo

iPhone captured street scene in Tokyo.

iPhone captured street scene in Tokyo.

This may be one of those photos where it may not seem like anything special but somehow strikes me as being something. It’s another black and white street scene from Tokyo, but this time taken with my iPhone 6 Plus camera.

It was a blind shot in that I aimed the camera in the direction I wanted, and shot—hopefully getting the person I wanted in focus. The biker is the sharpest subject while the people all around him are blurred by their respective movement.

The grain comes from the fact that it was shot at night, and converting it to black and white also adds to the mood of the photo.

For the longest time, I was trying to edit this photo as it was in colour, with all the street lights in the background. But for some reason, the edits never satisfied the photographer in me. Finally when I converted it to black and white, it all seemed right.

A little B&W goes a long way

People who know me, know me for my colour photography. I was never a guy for black and whites. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them at all. They have their own beauty to them, when done right.

Today I thought I’d bring to you some b&w that I edited from a little photowalk that I did in Shinjuku, Japan a while back. At night, the area is filled with guests filling the small restaurants that often seat no more than a handful. Each place has their own specialty and charm. I went there during the day, so I managed to catch most of the shops closed, or if I was lucky, the owner preparing for their evening menu.

Shinjuku photowalk

Soba, Udon

Shinjuku photowalk

Prepping for the evening.

Shinjuku photowalk


Shinjuku photowalk

Empty seats.

City Hall at Doors Open 2013

This past weekend saw many of Toronto’s finest buildings and architectural wonders open their doors to the public. Doors Open Toronto, now in its 14th year, saw locals and tourists come out over the past weekend as the sun was shining bright, and the temperatures were just so right.

Although I only had a brief moment to enjoy the event, I was able to go to City Hall where I took in the scenery from the 27th floor observation deck, and also made it down to 3C to the council chamber.

City Hall grounds as seen from the ramp.

Here’s a black and white study on the City Hall twin towers.

Doors Open Toronto

And lastly, a panorama taken from the 27th floor observation deck, facing southeast.

Doors Open Toronto

The National Gallery Goes B&W

The National Gallery of Canada in downtown Ottawa is filled with priceless works of art. But perusing through the gallery one summer day made me realize that the art inside isn’t the only thing to admire.

The structure itself is quite unique and is filled with great photo opportunities for the budding photographer. It’s a wonder why not many others fully appreciate this building.

The photoset below gives you a glimpse of the unique architecture.