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Inside Facebook Canada and Instagram Headquarters

For those that follow me on social media, you’ll know that I love to take sunrise photos. So when Facebook Canada invited me and a handful of other Instagram users for a #SunriseEmpty look into their new headquarters in downtown Toronto, I took to the chance immediately.

Inside Facebook Canada and Instagram's headquarters

Inside Facebook Canada and Instagram’s headquarters

The event, which expands on the #empty movement pioneered by American Instagrammer Dave Krugman, brings together photographers in the city to capture various locations after-hours, often yielding in a different mood to the location.

Having to get to the offices of Facebook Canada and Instagram before sunrise meant waking up shortly before 5am. Thankfully I’ve been used to getting up early for my Toronto Sunrise Series shoots—although I have to admit, this time was a little more difficult.

The sunrise light as seen from within the Facebook Canada office space.

The sunrise as seen from within the Facebook Canada office space.

Their office almost took over an entire floor, providing a sweeping 270 degree view of the city. With windows all around, there would have been plenty of light coming in—had it not been overcast during the sunrise hour.

The sunrise as seen from a window of Facebook Canada.

The sunrise as seen from a window at Facebook Canada.

Far into the distance though, the clouds opened up to let the sun shine though, bringing with it some strikingly red-pink glow throughout. It was short-lived, and you had to act quickly to capture this moment. I hear the reflection of this light off of the city buildings were quite nice; although I wouldn’t know as I only captured a sliver of this light off of this building.

The reflection of the morning sun on a building.

The reflection of the morning sun on a building.

Facebook Canada opted for the open-concept office space, making it a spacious and inviting place to work in with murals spray-painted by a local artist giving it a boost of colour. I was told the office furniture was selected to complement the colourful murals.

The open-concept office space of Facebook Canada and Instagram.

The open-concept office space of Facebook Canada and Instagram.

Each room has an association to something Canadian and is proudly displayed beside the door, adding to the playfulness of the office.

Each room has a unique Canadian reference to its name.

Each room has a unique Canadian reference to its name.

And for those that follow politics, here’s a room just for you too.

A nod to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The name of this room gives a nod to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Scattered throughout the space, I spotted various items of inspiration (?) like stuffed Sesame Street dolls dressed in Facebook tees that were randomly placed on sofas, hover boards (now I know where all the banned hover boards went), and vibrantly decorated booths.

Elmer wearing a Facebook tee.

Elmer wearing a Facebook tee.

A pillar and booth are colourfully decorated. If only I knew what these booth were used for!

A booth and pillar covered in artwork at Facebook Canada's headquarters.

A booth and pillar covered in artwork at Facebook Canada’s headquarters.

Along one side of the office were eight pillars all decorated by a local artist. Up in the fully stocked cafeteria, one pillar tells us to “look” with an arrow pointing outward, giving us a great view of the CN Tower when we look there.

Look!

Look!

And along the walls were various posters with words of inspiration to help you work through the day.

Words to live by.

Words to live by.

The morning wouldn’t be complete without a barista on hand to make you a hand-crafted cappuccino, mochacchino, espresso, café au lait, or even a chai tea latte. I was told he is not always there, and was present for this event only. The staff can enjoy the Starbucks machine on the counter, with three different Starbucks roasts to please their palette.

A barista was on hand to make hand-crafted espresso and cappuccinos.

Edward (@edwardrow) enjoys a hand-crafted espresso.

While the invitation mentioned a “light” breakfast, it was anything but, with freshly squeezed orange juice and blended smoothies, sandwiches, scrambled eggs (and egg whites!), mini-scones, potatoes, thick-cut bacon, pea meal bacon, and fruit. I don’t have pictures of this though—I must have been too busy eating it all up.

Besides enjoying the space, it was also a great chance to meet new Instagram faces and catch up with old ones. I knew a handful of people there, while many were new to me. It’s always nice to be able to meet the faces behind the accounts you follow, further enhancing that #CommunityFirst experience.

Kael (@punkodelish), made it to the event despite her busy travel itinerary.

I wonder if Kaele realizes her iPhone case matches the colour of the benches.

I wonder if Kael realizes her iPhone case matches the colour of the benches.

She even brought another fellow Instagrammer along for the ride. Here she is with Christoffer Collin (@wisslaren).

Kaele and Phillipe looking at a picture.

Kael and Christoffer…’gramming?

The clouds moved away, bringing in more sunlight to the floor. This allowed for some more “fun-in-the-sun,” although it seems like I just relegated to taking silhouettes of people.

Here’s Taha (@tahaphoto) in the sun.

Taha in the sunlight.

Taha in the sunlight.

And Taha (@tahaphoto) contemplating life on the bench.

Taha contemplating on life.

Taha contemplating life.

I also caught a quick snap of Victor (@veeceecheng) doing what he does best.

Victor taking a photo at sunrise.

Victor taking a photo at sunrise.

A couple of reps. from Facebook Canada joined us and gave a few words on their new headquarters.

Joelle tells the group a little about Facebook Canada's new headquarters.

Joelle tells the group a little about Facebook Canada’s new headquarters.

It was an enjoyable morning filled with some great city views, great company, good food, and good times at Facebook Canada and Instagram headquarters. Thanks for the tour!

Oliver the dog, courtesy of Holly Sisson (@hollysisson), Monica Sisson (@monicasisson), and Pitterpatterfurryfeet (@pitterpatterfurryfeet).

Meet me for a sunrise

It’s never easy waking up early to take sunrise photos, but it’s often quite rewarding. I’ve had some spectacular results in the past, with many of you asking where and how I took these photos. If you’re interested in joining me for a sunrise shoot, I welcome anybody and everybody on this particular day when the sun will rise near the CN Tower—and it will do so only from this location! It will be a great way to see the morning sun as it peaks behind the Toronto skyline, and crosses behind the CN Tower.

Meet me for a sunrise shoot

This will be a casual meetup where anybody who is interested is welcome to show up—I will be there shooting even if nobody else shows up. Many people have expressed interest in coming along with me in the past, so hopefully those people may want to join in on this special day.

The sun will rise above the horizon at 6:55am. However, that doesn’t mean you should arrive at that time. The golden hour happens before the sun actually rises above the horizon, so if you’re interested in seeing some beautiful colours (pending Mother Nature’s cooperation!), then it’s best to be at the park at least 30min. before sunrise. I’ll be there for 6:30am.

What Happens During a Sunrise?

Don’t know what happens during a sunrise? First, you’ll get the blue glow behind the skyline, like you see below. And if it isn’t cloudy like it is in the photo, you’ll get a much more pronounced blue throughout.

Blue hue before sunrise.

Blue hue before sunrise.

What happens next is why you made that effort to get out of bed so early! However, what you see really all depends on Mother Nature. Some days you’ll get the yellow-orange glow accompanying the blue.

A sunrise with clear skies and few clouds.

A sunrise with clear skies and few clouds.

While other days you’ll get some spectacular display or reds, oranges, yellows, and maybe even pinks.

A sunrise with vibrant colours.

A sunrise with vibrant colours.

As the sun rises above the horizon, the light reflecting off the buildings will continue to provide for some great photo opportunities of the skyline.

The light reflecting off the building is magical.

The light reflecting off the building is magical.

And after the sun rises, you can still get some good shots with a little creativity.

Swan spanning its wings during sunrise.

Swan spanning its wings during sunrise.

How Do I Take Sunrise Photographs?

That’s a good question. You can read up on my blog entry here about how I take my sunrise photos. It lists what you’ll need and what planning typically happens for each shoot I go to.

While I typically don’t use many props, you’re more than welcome to bring whatever props you may think you’ll want to use for sunrise photos.

The Details

The location of the sunrise shoot is near the Sir Casimir Gzowski Park, along Lakeshore Blvd. West. You can see the Google Map of where this is, below. For those of you taking the TTC, you can get off the lakeshore streetcar at Windermere and walk down to the park.

Location of the sunrise shoot, marked by the red marker. Park where the red car is.

Location of the sunrise shoot, marked by the red marker. Park where the red car is.

Where: Park where the red car is above, and walk down to where the red marker is.

When: Sunday April 3, 2016, 6:30am

Why: Sun will rise near the CN Tower.

For additional sunrise inspiration, feel free to check out my # on Instagram: #TorontoSunriseSeriesByTaku!


Questions? Concerns? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunrise, Seagull, and Spring

You would think that with the arrival of Spring, we should expect warmer temperatures, but that was hardly the case when I went out to shoot the sunrise on the first day of Spring. With temps nearing -10C, it was far from the Spring weather we are more used to.

With each sunrise shoot I go to, I always make it a point to come out with at least one decent shot that I’m happy with. If I come out with more, that’s a bonus. That morning the skies were relatively clear with just a spotting of clouds here and there. Overall, this didn’t make for any particularly interesting display of light.

A sunrise with clear skies and few clouds.

A sunrise with clear skies and few clouds.

This particular morning my interest quickly turned from the skyline to the seagulls that just wouldn’t go away. There were a number of them flying about where I was stationed (perching myself and my tripod on top of one of those corrugated steel pipes may have piqued their interest), while one particular seagull decided to show me what it could do.

Seagull flying with the sunrise colours in the background.

Seagull flying with the sunrise colours in the background.

In a display of pure wilderness, it eyed beneath the water and once it saw something, it quickly flew up and nose-dived into Lake Ontario, coming back up with its prize.

A seagull nose-dives into Lake Ontario in search of food.

A seagull nose-dives into Lake Ontario in search of food.

His first catch was a crayfish of some sort, although he soon realized with its hard shell, it would require much more work for a tasty breakfast.

A seagull catches a crayfish from Lake Ontario.

A seagull catches a crayfish from Lake Ontario.

While I was surprised to see a seagull capture this, I was even more surprised to learn that we had living crayfishes in Lake Ontario! After capturing the crayfish, it flew back onto the pipe I was standing on, trying to get at the crayfish. It picked and picked to no avail and eventually let it wash away into Lake Ontario again…but not before showing me who was boss.

Seagull grasping a crayfish in its beak.

Seagull grasping a crayfish in its beak.

The seagull’s second round under the water yielded in a small fish, which I’m sure he was able to enjoy much easily. Unfortunately the only photo I have of this was blurry as I was focused elsewhere at the time.

Seagull captures a fish in Lake Ontario.

Seagull captures a fish in Lake Ontario.

While I was following the seagull’s adventure, another photographer approached me and asked if he could take my photo silhouetted against the rising sun. He later emailed me the photo, as seen below. It’s a great shot since you can see where I was standing, and it includes the seagull I was eyeing all morning.

A silhouette of Taku taken by photographer David Allen

A silhouette of me taken by photographer David Allen, with his iPhone 5c.

You can check out David Allen’s site here, where he’s accumulated quite the collection of photos from High Park.

The above photo was taken shortly after I took the skyline photo below.

Orange and blue on a clear sky.

Orange and blue on a clear sky.

It wasn’t the most dramatic of sunrises, but I’m happy to have come out with some interesting shots of the seagull and its breakfast adventure. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from shooting sunrises for the past two years, it’s that you can never predict how things will turn out. And if the sunrise turns out to be a dud, then you’re better off turning your attention to something else that may make for a more fruitful photoshoot.

A victorious seagull cries.

A victorious seagull cries.

The making of Serenity Sunrise

Reposted over 10 times on Instagram alone, and with more than 25,000 likes combined, this Serenity Sunrise photo is my most reposted image on Instagram. Today, I thought I’d share with you the post-processing that went into making this image. While most of my images will go through a number of processes in Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop, you may be disappointed to know that only minor adjustments were made to this photo to make it look the way I posted it on Instagram. This post will describe to you how and why I went through processing this image.

How I Edited Serenity Sunrise

The Origin of the Name Serenity Sunrise

Before I get to the post-processing, let me tell you how the name Serenity Sunrise came about. I’m not really the one to actually name each of my images, so why did I name this Serenity Sunrise? The name actually spawned from a repost and comment made from @Umbra_ltd. They reposted my photo mentioning that the photo was captured in Rose Quartz, one of the Pantone colours of the year. This thought never even occurred to me when I took this, and for someone in the print industry as well, I should have known better!

PANTONE Colours of the Year 2016

PANTONE Colours of the Year 2016

For those who do not know, every year PANTONE chooses what it deems will be the next colour of the year. This colour is thought to trend in different industries like fashion and interior design for the upcoming year. For this year (2016), Pantone chose not one, but two colours of the year: Rose Quartz, and Serenity.

While Rose Quartz is evident at first glance, if you look close enough, you’ll see pockets of Serenity mixed in the shadow areas, particularly within the skyline. This inconspicuous addition of Serenity I thought really enhances the feel of the overall image. So in essence, this photo is a great representation of both PANTONE colours of the year: Rose Quartz and Serenity.

Rather than naming it Rose Quartz Sunrise, I thought the subtle representation of Serenity, and the name, lent itself perfectly for a sunrise photo. Hence the name, Serenity Sunrise. It also just rolls off the tongue smoothly, don’t you think?

The Before and After


If you look at the slider above, you can see the before and after image of Serenity Sunrise.

If you slide the middle slider bar all the way to the right, you’ll be able to see the original unedited image that came out of my camera. If you slide the bar all the way to the left, you can see the After image, after it was post-processed to my liking in Adobe Lightroom. There’s actually very little difference between the two apart from lightening up certain areas of the image.

The actual image I posted on Instagram was a portrait version of this, for which I’ll explain why I did that, a little later.

The Lightroom Basic Panel Adjustment

Lightroom Basic Adjustment Panel

Lightroom Basic Adjustment Panel

This is pretty much all that went into making this image shine. The adjustment that made the largest impact would be the White Balance. This will dictate the overall mood of your image. With a +10 toward Magenta in the hues, and a temperature that ‘s overall pretty cool (towards the blue), you can see how the Rose Quartz and Serenity would play into the image.

An Exposure boost of +0.3 brightens the image overall, which you can tell. The Shadows were also opened up with a +31. But I lowered the Blacks to -43 so as not to make the image too flat. Boosting the Clarity to +43 accentuated the shadow areas more by darkening the shadows and lightening the highlights. Believe it or not, boosting the Vibrance to +25 didn’t do a whole lot in terms of making this image more Rose Quartz. It merely heightened the subtle colour of Serenity within the skyline.

If you look at the Tone Curve, it’s pretty much linear with the exception at the Shadow areas. I lifted the Darks up a bit because I didn’t want the blacks to be truly black. It would have attracted too much attention otherwise.

There you have it!

As Posted on Instagram

The photo cropped to portrait orientation, and uploaded to Instagram.

The photo cropped to portrait orientation, and uploaded to Instagram.

Here’s the actual photo that was posted to Instagram. While the image itself is landscape, I post images to Instagram in portrait orientation because I feel it the image is more impactful. The portrait mode fills the screen more, allowing the photo itself to shine. However, when you post landscape images on Instagram, the width of the image is always shown in full, thereby only taking up a fraction of the screen on your mobile device, allowing for the comments below to overtake the screen. This detracts away from the beauty of the image, and I feel is one of Instagram’s weaker elements.


If you enjoyed this blog post, let me know in the comments below and I will continue on with this series on how I edit my images.

 

Bokeh effects the natural way

Nikon D800, 8.0 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 8.0 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 14mm

When you’re out shooting and you’re concentrating on your subject, it’s easy to forget about your surroundings. This is what happened one morning while I was busy shooting the sunrise. I loved the colours in front of me so much that I was too busy setting my camera and settings up when I didn’t realize the waves crashing against the rocks in front of me would be capable of splashing beyond the rocks.

It caught me by surprise and I had no time to react when a huge wave came crashing on the rocks in front of me, splashing water all over myself and my camera. I was lucky I layered myself so that only the outer-most layer got soaked. My second layer actually kept me dry for the remainder of my shoot that morning.

As for my camera and lens? Well, it was wet, but with the wind blowing hard, it dried the rain off of my gear in no time. I wiped the water off of the glass and was ready to continue shooting again.

I underestimated the weather that morning as I didn’t realize being at least 10 feet away from the rocks wouldn’t be enough to keep me dry. Every now and then I would get mists of water splash on my lens, forcing me to wipe the lens. It kept me from concentrating on taking more pictures.

The light was so magnificent that morning that a little bit of water really didn’t bother me. I took this shot above before wiping the mist off of the lens, giving me a natural bokeh effect from the drops of water on my front glass. You can still see the background sunrise and the great colour it was giving off, which makes this for a great photo despite the circumstance.

It’s these imperfect pictures that will tell a story year down the road, and will make you smile again at all the trouble you went through to get that golden sunrise moment.