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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!