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iPhone 6 Plus Vs. Nikon D800 Sunrise Shootout

Here’s another comparison photo from my iPhone 6 Plus and my Nikon D800. They may not be a fair comparison per se, but it’s always fun to see the difference in quality between a mobile photo and that from a dSLR.

I posted the square cropped version of the iPhone 6 Plus photo on Instagram. But this is just one example where square just doesn’t cut it. The full version, as seen here, us much more dramatic and screams for attention.

The long exposure was done through Slow Shutter Cam app; I believe this was either a 4 or 8 second exposure. I believe I edited the colours in Instaflash Pro, and then put it through VSCOcam, where I applied the M4 preset to get this overall faded yet colourful look.

iPhone 6 Plus edited in VSCOcam

iPhone 6 Plus edited in VSCOcam

The Nikon D800, shown below is a 1 second exposure. It was edited in Lightroom where I enhanced the colours near the horizon, added a saturation gradient to the sky, and sharpened and brightened up the buildings a touch. The composition is very similar to the iPhone 6 Plus, but you can see that it is zoomed in much closer to the skyline.

Nikon D800, f/9.0, ISO 100, 1.0 sec., 70mm

Nikon D800, f/9.0, ISO 100, 1.0 sec., 70mm

I personally like the Nikon D800 version better with the vibrant tones to the sunrise. I love the subtle mixture of blue, yellow, and orange half way up this photo. The sharpness of the buildings can’t be matched by the iPhone either.

Still, it’s amazing what a mobile phone is capable of accomplishing in a matter of minutes. The edit oh my iPhone took a lot less time to do than the edit in Lightroom—and I could change the look and feel of the photo in seconds with the tap of a filter.

That’s the payoff with mobile photography!

Sunrises are easier to photograph

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been getting up early to catch the sun rise above the horizon on the shores of Lake Ontario. It wasn’t easy waking up at 5am some days, but let me tell you, more often than not, I find it easier to take photos of sunrises than sunsets. And here’s why.

The horizon

The glow of the morning sun just above the horizon

In order to take any photos of sunrises or sunsets, you have to be present at that time. I’ve often heard many photographers say that they like to take sunset photos much more than sunrise photos because of the sheer fact that they are always awake at that time. Well, for the most of us, that’s true.

I can’t however, always say that it’s easier to take sunset photos because that means I have to schedule my day around this time. If I’m out and about running errands or doing something else, I may not necessarily be able to make it to that sunset shoot. And as our schedules get increasingly busier and busier, we are often left wanting more time to just relax to ourselves, making it even harder to want to go to that shoot to begin with.

Sunrises, however, are a completely different animal. Why? Because 99% of the time, we are always doing the same thing before the sun rises: sleeping. What do we need to do to go take those sunrise shots? Wake up! It’s really that easy. No need to reschedule appointments, rush traffic, or miss dinner.

Admittedly it does take that extra effort of waking up extra early but I find it very rewarding to see that sun rise amidst the cool morning breeze. In fact, there’s nothing more eye-opening than seeing Mother Nature at her best.

The sun rise

The sun rises at the U-Turn

 

Over the last few weeks I made it an effort to catch those morning glows. Some days I was more successful than others—weather-wise. During heavily overcast periods you don’t get that brilliant glow of the morning sun. Instead if you’re lucky, you’ll get some dramatic clouds rolling in with a hint of the sun behind it. But other days I’ve witnessed some magical moments that I hoped I was able to show with my photography.

The white rise of the sun, fog, and clouds.

The white rise of the sun, fog, and clouds.

Next time, why not wake up just a little earlier and see what surprises await you?

Concrete Jungle

Nikon D800, 14mm, f/8.0, 1/30 sec., ISO800

Nikon D800, 14mm, f/8.0, 1/30 sec., ISO800

Why is it that people are always fixated by cityscape overview shots? Are they bewildered by the amount of buildings the city has? Or perhaps it’s the lack of? Is it the wide expanse the view provides us, or the fact that you can see the horizon in the far distance mixed in with the buildings in the foreground? Our curiosity is what strives us to go further with our photography and that’s always a great learning experience.

This shot was taken from the CN Tower right before a storm was approaching the city. The ominous clouds coupled with the sun trying to peak out from them made for a great photo opportunity. The CN Tower offers a great observatory for photographers, and while you are not allowed to take your tripod with you, you’re still able to get some nice shots with the advent of the latest technologies in dSLRs.

B&W landscapes can be dramatic

iPhone 6 Plus, 4 second exposure

iPhone 6 Plus, 4 second exposure

I’m not the one to make black and white landscape photos, but when I see one that works, I stick with it. This photo that I took with my iPhone 6 Plus is one such example.

This was in fact a long exposure of about 4 seconds, which is why you can see the rocks so clearly. The exposure was long enough to smooth out any movements from the water.

I was standing on the edge of the icy area so I was restricted in where I could place my camera and tripod, but I knew somehow, this place would work well. While I was pleased with the coloured version, as soon as I edited this in black and white, I knew instantly this was the version I wanted.

When you have an instinct for a photo, go with it and take it. The same can be said about your editing!

Snow and sun

Edited in Lightroom and Topaz Lab's Star Effects

Edited in Lightroom and Topaz Lab’s Star Effects

Two very difficult things to photograph, all in one frame!

As much as we love photographs with the warmth of the sun in there, the sun itself is never a flattering thing to get, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The sun being so bright, basically over-exposes in most photographs, yielding in an unsightly white blotch in your photo. People may know that it’s the sun, but your eye is immediately attracted to it, rather than the intended subject of your photo, making it an unnecessary evil.

As for snow, that is well known for throwing your camera’s metering off. The pure white fluffiness that we all love in the wintertime fools the camera sensor in thinking that it must make it a neutral grey to prevent over-exposure, yielding in an under-exposed picture.

So, while it may not seem like it, this photo went through a number of edits to make it look more natural-looking. The original image straight out of my Nikon D800 is below—reduced to size.

I exposed the photo just enough so that I wouldn’t blow out the details surrounding the sun too much. Otherwise, there would be too large a white spot in the middle of my frame. This in turn under-exposed the snow in my foreground, but retained all the details that I wanted, like the shadows of the bumps throughout.

I did a large part of the post in Lightroom because I was able to edit non-destructively on my image. I have to admit, I shot this in JPG rather than in RAW—the latter being the better way to go as it allows you to maintain your image quality with a non-destructive editing process. I bumped up the saturation of the blue, and the orange bands using gradients, and increased my exposure to brighten the snow. The snow took on a very blue hue since I shot this in JPG and had it on auto white-balance. To fix this, I painted over just the snow areas with my paint brush in Lightroom, and changed the temperature of it to reduce the blue and increase the yellow, in addition to slightly desaturating it, which removed any colour casts that were remaining.

Then, with the clever use of Topaz Lab’s Star Effects, I added in those sun spikes, emitting from the white blob I had from overexposing the sun. At the very least, the unsightly blown out spot looks a little cleaner and more representative of an actual sun. I made sure to balance the colour of those sun spikes with the orange band in my photo.

That’s pretty much all there is to this image. What was a rather bland image (shown below) that I originally didn’t even bother to rate, now looks more like a usable winter wonderscape.

Nikon D800, 24mm, f/9.0, 0.5 sec., ISO 100 on a tripod

Nikon D800, 24mm, f/9.0, 0.5 sec., ISO 100 on a tripod

This time last year

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/7.1, 24mm, ISO 250

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/7.1, 24mm, ISO 250

This time last year, I went to Lakefront Promenade Park in Toronto to see what it was like. It was white, frozen, and cold. But that’s no surprise given last year’s winter in Toronto.

This year, however, isn’t fairing much better as the cold temperatures just keep sticking around, giving us more snow day after day.

I think it’s about time I visit this park again sometime in the near future to see how different it can be from one winter to another.

Stay tuned.

Sunday Selfie?

Photo taken straight out of the iPhone 5s camera with no editing

Photo taken straight out of the iPhone 5s camera with no editing

I’m not the one to take photos of myself, but now and then, when my wife is with me, she candidly takes photos while I’m doing my thing.

Here’s one that she took of me during one of our early morning sunrise “walks” where we went to the park to take pictures and then walk around the shores of the park.

This is straight out of the iPhone 5s with no editing done to it. It’s great how it still manages to get the sunrise and some of the details in the shadow areas too.

You can see my iPhone on the bottom left of the frame perched on a tripod. I don’t remember exactly what it was doing, but perhaps it was doing a timeless of the sunrise.

What to do with a photographer’s block

So you’re a photographer or a photography student, and you feel unmotivated to get out there and shoot something. Even worse, everywhere you look you feel like there’s nothing to shoot. What can you do to make those creative juices flowing again?

Nikon D800, 1.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 26mm

Nikon D800, 1.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 26mm

The photographer in me has always been keen on seeing things through the lens. I’ve caught myself a number of times thinking how this view in front of me would look as a photograph. But when this curiosity to shoot fades away, you’ll be surprised at how little effort you need to make to rekindle that fire in you to shoot again.

For me, all it takes is a little bit of searching on the Internet to find new places to go to near my area. I don’t remember how many times I’ve google-mapped an area to look for possible places to shoot. Google also conveniently provides images for most places that you search for, allowing you to see what the area looks like even before you step out your door.

Using Google maps to locate your future shooting location.

Using Google maps to locate your future shooting location.

I tend to navigate towards natural landscapes for my photography, so my googling often starts near the waterfront, or other areas of nature that are interesting to shoot, like waterfalls and gorges. You can see above that most of the green spaces near the waterfront are parks that are open to the public. Just drive to any one of those and start photographing!

Just seeing the location on a map starts my creativity juices by thinking how the picture may look if I stand there at that location. It really is a super easy way to find new places and get excited again about taking photographs.

Casa Loma caught in the sunset on my way home from work.

Casa Loma caught in the sunset on my way home from work.

Shooting nearby

If you’re not in a position to go too far, simply take your local transportation to somewhere you’ve never been before! This could be a subway stop that you don’t normally get off at, or just take the bus to the other side of town. Get out and explore the area. Everything will be new to you, giving you a refreshing look at your city. I’ve often found that new places tend to jumpstart our creative juices, since you’re not familiar with the area and you’re looking at everything with a fresh perspective.

Hitting even closer to home, I usually take the subway on my way home from work. But those days when I feel like shooting something, I forgo the subway and take a little walk instead. On my walk, I often find a number of interesting places to shoot, and to think I go by the area on a daily basis!

When all else fails

When all else fails, see what your peers are doing. See where they’ve gone and what they’ve been shooting. There’s no shame in taking photos of something that other photographers have already taken. You’ll be adding your own take to the scene and will inevitably come out with something different.

During one of my photography workshops at Luminato Festival, we took the students to the Distillery District. For those of you who don’t know the area, it is a set of historic red-brick warehouses that are now transformed into event spaces, galleries, restaurants, and small shops. It’s a great place to take a walk and even better place to photograph. The whole point of going there was to get the creative juices flowing for the students as they explored the historic grounds. I approached one student who didn’t seem to be taking many pictures, and asked why. She responded, “there’s nothing to take around here!” I was quite taken aback at that comment when everybody else was busy snapping away. I told her all her friends were taking photos so why not have a look at what they were doing and perhaps get some ideas from them.

Hopefully these ideas will give you a start on something to do when you’re stuck for ideas to shoot. It’s a great way to get outside instead of staying in all day long and wasting a perfectly good shooting day.

How I Edited White Nature on my iPhone 6 Plus

Today’s iPhone Post Processing technique is of the high-key image that I took one cold and windy day at Colonel Sam Smith Park in the west end of Toronto. I wanted to capture the winter scene along with the colours of the sunset, so I took to the park to see what I could find.

The photo below is what I captured from the native camera of my iPhone 6 Plus. You can see how the plant in the foreground is quite dark, but I still managed to get the subtle pink and blue of the sky in the backdrop. The overall photo is underexposed on purpose so that I can simply brighten the areas to my liking.

As shot from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus

As shot from the native camera app on my iPhone 6 Plus

My first step was to open up the shadow areas in Instaflash Pro. I wanted to get some colour in the plant so using that app, I was able to significantly open up the shadows without adding too much grain or degradation in image quality. I also sharpened the image a bit, added a little bit of glow to it using the Orton filter, and increased the saturation slightly to bring in that colour of the plant.

Opened up the shadow area using Instaflash Pro

Opened up the shadow area using Instaflash Pro

The image was brightly lit now, but I wasn’t happy with the colours within it, so I brought it into Snapseed where I’m able to selectively edit areas of an image using their Selective Adjust tool. That tool is a pretty powerful one as it lets you adjust the contrast, saturation and brightness of certain areas of your image. The photo below shows you how many points I’ve edited for this photo. My goal here was to make the snow more white, since it had quite a blue cast to it from all the editing I’ve been doing. For each point you see, I’ve adjusted its saturation and brightness.

Selective editing in Snapseed to adjust certain areas of the photo.

Selective editing in Snapseed to adjust certain areas of the photo.

The resulting photo was ok, but was still looking a little too dark for my liking. So, also within Snapseed, I used the Drama filter to brighten up the entire image. I used Bright 1 with a strength of 66, and boosted the saturation to really bring out the colours, as seen below.

Using Drama to brighten up the entire image.

Using Drama to brighten up the entire image and boost saturation.

The image was now more to what I wanted it to look like. My last step these days has always been to bring it into VSCOcam, where I adjust anything I want for the final look. For this particular image, I was more or less pleased with how it looked, so I didn’t add any filters to it. Instead, I increased the saturation (+1), warmed the temperature by +2, and cropped it for Instagram. The final image, uncorked is below.

Bringing in the image to VSCOcam, I did some final tweaking.

Bringing in the image to VSCOcam, I did some final tweaking.


 

Apps used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

VSCOcam

VSCOcam

Snapseed

Snapseed