Posts

How could this minimalist image be even more minimal?

Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 200mm

When I took this picture, I intentionally composed it so the sailboat was the only thing in the frame. I really liked how the sky and water almost seamlessly blended with each other. This further gives more emphasis to the subject, which is the sailboat.

Despite the simplicity of this image, there is one thing that I don’t like about it though.

When I took a closer look at this photo on my computer, I zoomed in closer to the sailboat only to find out that there were actually two sailboats: one staggered in front of another. This may not be as evident when looking at the photo from afar, but is more obvious when it’s pointed out.

The vibrant colours were coming from the two sailboats and not the one. Because the two sailboats were staggered with each other, the all familiar shape of the sailboat is no longer visible in this photo. In fact, if it weren’t for the coloured sails, you probably wouldn’t have known that this was a sailboat.

To simplify the mess of sailboats, I would have much rather captured the photo with just one sailboat in the frame. I would sacrifice the extra colour that the sailboat adds to the photo, for the sake of simplicity.

If you think otherwise about this photo, feel free to let me know what you think!

Try different approaches to the same view

When you’re confronting a view that is all too familiar with you, try something new and different. Look for different angles that may highlight the view even more, or give rise to more uniqueness. It’s important to be able to see a view from many perspectives in order for you to be able to take the picture from the absolute best vantage point.

If you never look around, you’ll never know if there’s an even better view than the first one you fall in love with.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO100, 14mm

Let’s take the Scarborough Bluffs for example. I went there not too long ago and took the photo above from a vantage point that I really liked. Ir really gave the feeling that you were high up. After some wandering around, I tried some new angles to see if I can get a whole new feel to the image.

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 24mm

The photo above is the first one I took. I decided to get down low and incorporate the ground to give more of a sense that you are standing on top of a cliff. By seeing the sand end right in front of you, and the water in the background, I thought it did a great job of making you feel like you are real close to the edge of the cliff.

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 24mm

To reduce the clutter of the surrounding grass, I cropped in tighter so you get less of the distraction, and hopefully making you feel even closer to the edge. It was an improvement, but I wasn’t too happy with the stray branches on the left hand side.

I got up and moved around and found a clear opening near the edge, and this is what I came out with.

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 24mm

With no distractions what-so-ever, it really does feel like you can fall right down the edge in front of you! Perhaps a tighter crop may work well with this too, emphasizing more of the backdrop, but overall, I’m happy with the look and feel of this image. What do you think?

The next time you go out, be sure to grab your subject from different angles and perspectives than what you would normally do. It will give you a variety of shots and one of these may end up to be your favourite amongst your shoot!

A little perspective changes everything

In my last Periscope, I did a quick tutorial on how a slight change in camera perspective can dramatically change the view in front of you. If you missed it, you can catch the broadcast here for the next 20 hours or so.

A Little Perspective Change Goes A Long Way

A Little Perspective Change Goes A Long Way

When many people go out to take photos, their first instinct is to bring the camera up to their face and take a picture. That is fine, since eye-level is what everybody is used to seeing. However, if you would like create a more dynamic image with a slight flare to it, all you have to do is change the camera’s perspective by lowering it to the ground a little more, or bringing it higher above your head.

Here’s an example:

Eye-level Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 24mm

Eye-level Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 24mm

The above photo was taken at eye-level. It is your typical view that most people are used to. Now, let’s lower the camera to about a foot above ground-level and see what different it will make in our photo.

Lower Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 24mm

Lower Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 24mm

Can you feel the different it made in the photo? The ground is so much closer, bringing you more of its details. It almost feels like you are laying right there on the ground, while giving you a more interesting angle to the view in front of you.

Now, let’s see what the view looks like from just above my head.

Higher Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 24mm

Higher Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 24mm

Taking this photo with the camera above my head gives yet another different feel to the image. You can tell that it is not eye-level, and it almost feels like you are floating above everybody else on the ground.

Here’s one more example to show you the difference between putting your camera lower to the ground, shooting at eye-level, and shooting above your head.

Eye-level Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/1600 sec., f/5.0, ISO500, 36mm

Eye-level Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/1600 sec., f/5.0, ISO500, 36mm

The above is a typical eye-level shot looking down a street in Toronto. Nothing really strikes me as being different or unique in this photo.

Lower Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 36mm

Lower Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 36mm

However when I put the camera about a foot above the ground, you can see the cracks of the ground, and the yellow line acts as a visual guide to the viewers, and brings the viewer in to the rest of the image.

Upper Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/2500 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 36mm

Upper Perspective: Nikon D800, 1/2500 sec., f/5.0, ISO 500, 36mm

With this photo above, you can sense that you are floating above others and get a slightly different feel than when viewing at eye-level. The yellow marker is no longer as intimate as it was when taken at ground level.

These two examples are taken within the city. But whether you are out in the wilderness, higher up in the mountains, or just walking the streets, a little perspective change will go a long way in changing the overall feel for your image.

If you shoot with an iPhone or other mobile device, it’s even easier to change your perspective since the phone is so portable and much easier to lower to the ground or raise above your head.

Say goodbye to boring eye-level shots that everybody is used to seeing, and say hello to more dynamic, and interesting angles in your photos! The next time you are out taking photos, try changing the location of your camera and see the difference it makes.

What other interesting angles have you shot in?! Please let me know in the comments below!

Sakura at dusk

When you’re out taking pictures of the same thing day after day, try something new. Whether it be from a different angle, perspective, or even better, at a different time of the day.

The quality of light will change throughout the day, so going to the same place at different times of the day will yield different feelings and emotions to the same subject matter.

Nikon D800, 1/1000 sec., f/2.8, ISO 400, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/1000 sec., f/2.8, ISO 400, 200mm

Take this photo for example. I was here in the same park yesterday before sunset, taking pictures of the sakuras. However, when I came today, I found myself wandering the area just as the sun was setting closer to the horizon. This golden aura made all the difference in my photos, making them moodier, giving them more warmth, and a little bit of sombreness, some may say.

Envision your shot

I intentionally shot this photo with the sun in the background, so I can get that sun flare and warm glow on to the flowers. Admittedly, this photo focuses more on the environment than the actual details of the cherry blossoms, but I can live with that. I shot the details the day before with the daylight.

It’s moments like this that make it worthwhile to stick around until the sun goes down. Just remember: Just because the sun is setting and the light is fading, that’s no reason to pack your camera up and leave the area. The light is what makes the difference and gives your photos a whole new feel to them.

How to take photos of sunrises and sunsets

Sunrises and Sunsets

Sunrises and sunsets are one of the most favourite times of the day to photograph for many landscape photographers. The colours are warm and golden, the quality of light is just right, and really, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the first light or the last light of the day pass the horizon. Taking photos during this time is not very difficult, but there are a few things you should consider when doing so. This post will give you some tips on how to shoot that glorious sunrise or sunset.

How to take photos of sunrises and sunsets

How to take photos of sunrises and sunsets

Suggested Gear

I’ve listed my gear suggestions for shooting a sunrise or sunset below. While not all of these are requirements, each one serves a purpose and should be considered. I’ll explain each one in detail further below.

  1. Camera with RAW capture capabilities
  2. Tripod
  3. Shutter release cable
  4. Variety of lenses to meet your creative needs (bringing both a wide and a telephoto lens is ideal)

Shooting Tips

1. Always plan ahead

Sunrises and sunsets don’t last forever. In fact, the light changes so fast during this time that it’s crucial that you know what you’re doing if you don’t want to miss that golden moment. Planning ahead of time will always prepare you for the least expected and that’s always a good thing. Scout the location of your shoot well before your shoot. This will give you a good idea on composition and what’s around the area. If you want to find out exactly where the sun will rise or set on any particular day, there are several apps that will tell you this: Photopills, The Photographer’s Ephimeris, and more.

Selecting the exact point for a photoshoot

Selecting the exact point for a photoshoot using The Photographer’s Ephemeris

2. Focus

It’s important to keep your subject matter crisp, especially during this low-light period. If you have your camera set to automatically focus within a designated area of your frame, make sure to turn that function off and switch it to auto-focus single. This will make your camera focus on one specific area within your frame, wherever you choose it to be. This is much better than having the camera choose the focus point for you.

Your camera may have a hard time focusing if there’s not enough contrast within your frame. If this happens, switch to manual mode and focus yourself. Or, use Live View mode to see if you can pinpoint the focus that way.

3. Change your white balance from auto

If you have your camera set to Auto White Balance, take it off, and set it to something else so you can control how the image looks, and not rely on your camera. If you shoot in JPG, you won’t be able to change this afterwards, so it’s even more important for you to change this before shooting. For RAW shooters, you can change this after in post, but why do that when you can start off with the right white-balance mode? Typically for sunrises and sunsets, I like to use the Daylight mode. This gives the right amount of warmth to my images. If you really want to warm things up, try changing it to Shade or Cloudy. Experiment to your liking.

4. Speed up your camera

Cameras have many advanced features that are great for certain purposes. However, sometimes these settings can slow your camera from processing these files. For example, if you like to take long exposures, you may have the Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting turned on. This will increase the amount of time needed to process each shot, preventing you from taking the next one. Turn this feature off.

5. Use a tripod

I always use my tripod during sunrise and sunset shoots. It stabilizes my camera and helps me get sharp images. The period surrounding sunrises and sunsets are quite dim so a tripod is highly recommended, especially if you’re going to use a telephoto lens.

Using a tripod for both my Nikon and my iPhone when taking a sunrise photo

Using a tripod for both my Nikon and my iPhone when taking a sunrise photo

6. Use a shutter-release cable

A shutter release cable hooks into your camera’s 10-pin connector if you have one. This is a separate cable that allows you to release the shutter without having you press down on the shutter button itself, further eliminating any blurriness in your photos from camera shake. It’s not a necessity, but it does help in many cases.

Composition Tips

1. Horizon placement

You can refer to my previous post here on the difference your placement of the horizon makes on your photos. It does make a big difference so get to know when you want to place the horizon in certain areas of your picture.

As a summary:

  • Placing the horizon on the top 1/3 of your picture will evoke a sense of intimacy with your subject matter as the foreground takes precedence in your frame.
  • Placing the horizon in the centre of the picture works well when done right, giving a sense of symmetry and balance.
  • Placing the horizon in the bottom 1/3 of your picture will give a sense of vastness and emptiness as you fill the frame with the sky and clouds.

2. Change focal lengths

While changing lenses during your sunrise and sunset shots may take you away from taking photos for that moment, it’s worth experimenting with various focal lengths to get a little variety in your photos. I have a number of lenses in my collection, but the two I always use are the 70-200mm f/2.8 and the 24-70 f/2.8, with the 14-24mm f/2.8 coming in a close third.

Using a wide angle lens on the left gives a different feel than using a telephoto lens, as seen on the right.

Using a wide angle lens on the left gives a different feel than using a telephoto lens, as seen on the right.

Taking a wide shot gives a great view of the entire scene letting the viewers see the effects of the sun within the rest of your photo. In contrast, zooming in on the subject gives you more details so you can fully appreciate the sunlight shining on your subject. Or, if you zoom in right on the sun, that will also make for some dramatic imagery. Just be careful not to stare at it for too long!

Exposure Tips

I once read that during a sunrise and sunset shoot, there is never really a “correct” exposure. What the person meant by this is that many different exposures can work during this time—it all just depends on what you want to evoke from your image.

1. Silhouettes

A common thing to do is to make your subjects a silhouette with the glorious colours in the backdrop taking centre stage. Expose for the brighter areas of your image to get this effect.

Nikon D200, 200mm, 1/500 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100

Nikon D200, 200mm, 1/500 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100

2. Don’t expose directly into the sun

If you set your exposure directly to the sun, you’ll get an image with lots of dark shadow areas, and the ball of sun, a muddy gray colour. We all know the sun is a big bright ball of light so having this as the brightest part of your final image is reasonably acceptable in most cases. Instead, expose somewhere just slightly darker than the brightest part of the sun so the shadows don’t get too dark and the highlights aren’t all blown away.

3. Bracket your shots

Use your bracketing mode to automatically create different exposures. If you let the camera decide the best exposure, use your bracketing mode to create another image 1 stop under-exposed or 1 stop over-exposed. It’s a quick way to get three different types of images without fiddling with your settings so much.


 

There may be a lot of information here, but if you take things one step at a time and think through your shots, you’ll learn to quickly adapt accordingly and things like horizon placements and exposures will come naturally.

Do you have any additional tips you can add for taking sunrise and sunset photos? Let me know in the comments below!

Horizon Placement Matters

Horizon Placement Matters

You may not have thought about this, but where you place the horizon makes a big difference when taking landscape photos. The feel of the image instantly changes, so it’s important you place it knowing the effects it makes. This post will outline the three most common areas to place your horizon so you can get a better feel for it and make a conscious decision the next time you’re out shooting landscapes.

Where to place the horizon

Where to place the horizon

Horizon placements

In any given image, there are three areas where you can place your horizon in a photo:

  1. Top half of the image
  2. Centre of the image
  3. Bottom half of the image

But as I’ll show you below, the three primary areas that you will want to place the horizon in a photo are below:

  1. Top third of the image
  2. Dead centre of the image
  3. Bottom third of the image

Let’s take a look at how each one of the above makes us feel.

Placing the horizon in the top third of the image

In the first list above, I said the top half of an image. I rarely place the horizon just slightly above the centre mark because I feel it doesn’t make a strong enough impact to the viewers. Placing it in the top third separates the effect enough from if you were to place it at the centre point, creating more of an impact to the image.

The horizon placement here doesn't make it clear enough to the readers what you want to convey in the image.

The horizon placement here doesn’t make it clear enough to the viewers what you want to convey in the image.

Let’s look at another photo. What do you feel?

The houses and streets seem much more closer to you with the horizon up in the top-third of the image.

The houses and streets seem much more closer to you with the horizon up in the top-third of the image.

Do you feel a sense of closeness? A sense of intimacy perhaps? That’s because with the horizon being so far up in the image, the foreground objects (houses and streets) become more the centre of attention, giving you much more of an intimate feeling to it.

In the photo below, I love how you can sense the choppiness of the waves as that is what is highlighted when you bring the horizon up in the top third of the image.

The waves are highlighted here in the foreground.

The waves are highlighted here in the foreground.

And here’s a few more so you get the feel of the effects of having the horizon in the top third of your photo.

The snowbank looks like it's right in front of you with the horizon in the top third of this photo

The snowbank looks like it’s right in front of you with the horizon in the top third of this photo

You can feel the closeness of the rocks under the water here with the horizon in the top third of the frame

 

You can really sense the closeness of the water here  with the horizon on the top third of the photo

You can really sense the closeness of the water here with the horizon on the top third of the photo

Placing the horizon at the centre of the image

This is an all too familiar shot where the horizon is placed right at the centre of the image. It brings us a sense of balance as it divides the image evenly. But be warned, if the horizon is not completely centred, it may look a little jarring and even worse, make it look like somewhat of a sloppy edit (see first landscape photo above).

Reflections look great with the horizon at the centre as it creates a nice divide and balance from the top and bottom half. Also, make sure that the horizon is clearly visible, otherwise the subject matter in the photo can get a little confusing.

The horizon is clearly visible, doing a great job at dividing the top half with the bottom half

The horizon is clearly visible, doing a great job at dividing the top half with the bottom half

The horizon in the middle works well here with the balanced water and clouds.

The horizon in the middle works well here with the balanced water and clouds.

Placing the horizon in the bottom third of the image

Similarly to placing the horizon on the top third of the image, I prefer to place the horizon within the bottom third of the image to give it more of an impact. This placement yields a spacious feel as you see the sky open up above the horizon. It gives a sense of freedom or openness that is completely the opposite of placing the horizon on the top third.

The horizon placed in the bottom third of the photo gives way to a more open and spacious feel.

The horizon placed in the bottom third of the photo gives way to a more open and spacious feel.

And here’s a few more so you can get the feel of the openness when the horizon is in the bottom third of the photo.

The clear blue sky screams openness with the horizon on the bottom third of the photo

The clear blue sky screams openness with the horizon on the bottom third of the photo

Horizon on the top third

Even in a portrait orientation you can sense the openness of the sky here with the horizon in the bottom third of the photo

 

The sky takes centre stage in this photo with the horizon on the bottom third of this photo

The sky takes centre stage in this photo with the horizon on the bottom third of this photo

I hope you get a sense of how different landscape photos can feel depending on where you place your horizon. It makes a big difference so the next time you go out, be conscious of where you place your horizon, and you’ll be able to maximize the impact the photo will have to your viewers.

Why you should be sharpening your images

So you’ve taken a bunch of photos one day and you post them online. Do you sharpen these images? You should. And here’s why.

Your images may look fine at first, but after seeing them sharpened properly, you’ll be surprised at how much better they will look.

Why You Should Sharpen Your Images

Why You Should Sharpen Your Images

Sharpening can be done in three primary places within an image editing workflow: Capture sharpening, selective sharpening, and export sharpening. I won’t be going into detail about the latter two in this post, but will give you an option that you can do for capture sharpening using Adobe Lightroom. This is a basic sharpening tool that should be taken advantage of. Photoshop offers much more advanced sharpening methods, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Digital cameras—point and shoots to dSLRs and everything in between—almost always yield slightly blurred images thanks to its sensors. Only recently has digital SLRs come out with models that omit the Low Pass filter that essentially blurs images to reduce moire. Nikon’s D800E and Canon’s recently announced EOS 5Ds R do just this. To alleviate any sort of blurring done, some proper post-processing sharpening can bring these images back to life, emphasizing textures and subject matter.

Let’s look at some samples I’ve prepared with my Nikon D800.

I took this off my balcony window from one of the Marilyn Monroe towers in Mississauga. The original photo is below, resized for the web and edited for colour, but no Sharpening applied.

The green rectangle is where we will be focusing on.

The green rectangle is where we will be focusing on.

The above looks like a fine picture but when we look at the photo at 100 percent before it was resized, we can see that the edges are not as sharp as could be. Look at the balcony edges and hand railing to see this.

No Sharpening applied.

No Sharpening applied.

I typically use Lightroom as an initial fix for most my images, so I’ll show you the sharpening panel as seen in Lightroom 5. By default, Lightroom will apply an initial sharpening as seen below, for any RAW images. You can leave it as is, or look for a more suitable setting to match your photos.

Lightroom standard sharpening settings

Lightroom standard sharpening settings

With the sharpening settings you see above, you get the results as seen below.

Standard Lightroom Sharpening for RAW images.

Standard Lightroom Sharpening for RAW images.

Just this setting alone makes a difference. You can see the balcony edge, and the railings are slightly sharper after the default Sharpening settings have been applied.

Sharpen with your own settings

Each digital camera behaves slightly different from one another so rather than relying on a default setting, many photographers like to apply their own settings to their photos. For my Nikon D800, I apply an initial sharpening with the settings below.

Sharpening panel in Lightroom with my settings for Nikon D800

Sharpening panel in Lightroom with my settings for Nikon D800

You can tell that there is a significant amount of sharpening done compared to the original non-sharpened photo above. You can also see that the sky areas have also been affected by my sharpening settings (finer, mottled dots start to get more recognizable). The sky in this case doesn’t have too much detail to begin with, so I don’t need nor want to sharpen this area. For this, Lightroom provides the Masking option.

Sharpened after setting to my initial settings for my Nikon D800.

Sharpened after setting to my initial settings for my Nikon D800.

The masking option allows you to mask out areas to be sharpened. It does this by finding edges of objects and reducing the amount of edges as you move the slider to the right.

Masking sharpening in Lightroom

Masking sharpening in Lightroom

It may be hard for you to see the effects of the Sharpening option, so if you press OPTION on a Mac, or CONTROL on Windows, as you drag the slider, the image and preview will turn black and white, as seen below. The black indicates areas where there will be no sharpening applied. The whiter the area, the more the sharpening will be applied.

Masking the areas to sharpen. Black areas will remain untouched.

Masking the areas to sharpen. Black areas will remain untouched.

You can see that the edges of the balcony and handrails are very white, indicating most of the sharpening will be done there.

After the setting has been applied and edited to my liking, the final image is seen below. The image looks much better than the first image above, where there was zero sharpening, don’t you think?

Nikon D800, 1/80sec., f/6.3, ISO400, 20mm

Nikon D800, 1/80sec., f/6.3, ISO400, 20mm

This is the reason why you should always consider sharpening your images. All of my images undergo some sort of sharpening throughout my workflow, making them stand out a little more.

Do you sharpen your images? If so, how you do go about doing them? If not, do you not find the need to? Let me know in the comments below.

Shoot out of your comfort zone

If you’re ever in any kind of photography rut, try something new. Try something that you normally don’t do, or maybe are afraid to do. Getting out of your comfort zone may yield something unexpected.

Shoot Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Shoot Out Of Your Comfort Zone

This photo was taken last year at an impromptu shoot with some local Instagrammers. We didn’t meet to come here, but decided on a whim to do so.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO200, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO200, 24mm

Pictured above are Laura (@laura.mcc) and Silvia (@sbroudelande) of Toronto!

While others directed these two to freely play with the scarf, I watched from behind seeing how they took command of the situation. Being a landscape photographer, I don’t get to direct my subjects all too often so doing so puts me a little out of my comfort zone.

I didn’t do too much directing during this shoot, but I did do a little more on this studio shoot that I went to just a few weeks back.

It was a good time had by all, and even if we didn’t come back with any fantastic photos, the important thing is we went out and tried something new.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO200, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO200, 24mm

Pictured above are Laura (@laura.mcc) and Patrick (@candidcameraman) with the Blue Jays hat.

iPhone long exposure trickery

Here’s a little trick to deceive your eyes when doing a long exposure on your iPhone. This was brought to my attention by another fellow iPhone photographer, and I thought it was a great tip to have under your belt.

Tracks and ground are blurred but the bridge and buildings look sharp

Tracks and ground are blurred but the bridge and buildings look sharp

When you are on a moving object and you take a long exposure looking out, be conscious of what you’re taking a photo of. If your long exposure is short enough, the foreground objects will blur as intended, but your background objects that are so are away will look like they are still.

The photo above, for example illustrates this tip. I was standing inside a subway car, looking out the window. I shot this at probably 1/2 sec. or maybe even less. The tracks and ground are all blurry, but the bridge and buildings in the background aren’t blurred as much because they are so far back from the camera.

The photo below is another take on this tip. I was standing very far away from the boats in the water so while you see the water all blurry, the boats stayed sharp. It worked out great in this situation too.

Water is blurred but the boats stay sharp

Water is blurred but the boats stay sharp

Be on the lookout for what you’re shooting the next time you do any long exposures, and you may be able to trick your friends in wondering how you were able to achieve this without Photoshop!