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Toronto Sunrise

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/22, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/22, ISO 100, 70mm

Even though I’ve been going out on several Toronto sunrise shoots these past few months, they never bore me. Each one is different and unique in their own way. Even if the skies are clear with no clouds to reflect the sunshine, seeing that first light come up above the horizon is reason enough to wake up at 5am and drive to the lake.

The morning I took this Toronto sunrise, I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t the most dramatic of sunrises as the sun just came up with no spectacular showing of colours. There were no clouds to reflect the lights, and the water was surprisingly calm with no swans or ducks. I took a few random shots anyway hoping to get some sort of memory from the day. I’m glad I caught the birds in the sky as that adds a little more to the picture.

A few days later, I came back to this photo only to realize that it was a rather nice looking sunrise picture with the right amount of sun spikes, perfectly positioned behind the trees, emitting that warm sunrise glow. After tweaking some colours and cleaning the image up, I have to say it’s one photo that I’m really happy with.

The takeaway here is that even if you think you didn’t come out with something good on a shoot, don’t discount all of your photos just yet. Wait a few days and let your photos “marinate,” as I mentioned in this previous post. When you see your photos after a few days later, you’ll see them in a new light, so-to-speak, and will appreciate it differently.

Composition dilemma

When post-processing a photo, deciding on the proper composition is key in creating the feel of an image. You can evoke different feelings for the viewer based on where the horizon is placed within an image, or where the subject is placed within the frame.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

This photo is pretty interesting as I could have gone a number of different ways in terms of placing the horizon and placement of the subject.

I decided to place the horizon on the top third of the image because it then allows us to get more intimate with the water by seeing more details of the water. Further, the water in the foreground acts as a guide for our eyes to move towards the paddler. Had I placed the horizon on the bottom third of this picture, like in the image below, I wouldn’t have achieved the same effect.

Placing the paddler directly in the centre of the frame can also change the mood as well. I have her centred which balances things throughout the entire photo. If I placed her one-third from the left edge of the frame, we would get more negative space on the right, allowing our eyes to head directly to the subject.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Can you feel the difference between the two images above? With the horizon in the bottom third of the photo, we get an open view of the sky, making the entire landscape look more grand and spacious.

There’s not really a right or wrong way about this; it’s just a matter of what you’re trying to achieve in the photo.

The takeaway here is to always be conscious about the cropping of your photo. You may not think about it, but what you include or take away when cropping a photo will make a big difference in how people interpret the image.

Before and after editing of a sunrise photo

It’s World Photography Day today so I shared with the people on Periscope some of my editing techniques for one of my sunrise pictures that I took earlier this week. This post is a follow up to that broadcast where I changed a regular looking RAW image into one with vibrant colours to match what I witnessed in front of me.

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/18, ISO 100, 165mm

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/18, ISO 100, 165mm

Bringing the photo above into Lightroom, I envisioned in my mind what I wanted out of this particular photo. I wanted the silhouette of the Toronto skyline to be against the bright orange-red-yellow colour of the sunrise. This was easily achieved by tweaking some of the tonal curves, white balance, and sharpening enough to further accentuate the edges of the skyline against the smooth sky. I tried to not over-edit the photo as it can easily become unrealistic this way. The final image is below.

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/18, ISO 100, 165mm

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/18, ISO 100, 165mm

For those of you who are interested in seeing this live demonstration, please feel free to catch the replay here on my Katch page: www.katch.me/theSmaku.

The video is embedded below as well.

The view at the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs Park

I frequent this place every so often when someone I meet wants to see something unique in Toronto. It’s a little far away from where I am, but I don’t mind going here because I find something new and interesting to shoot here whenever I come.

The last time I went, I decided to do something different myself by walking as far as I could on to the narrow ledge. While this may not seem as daunting as it looks, it’s quite the opposite—especially on the way back!

Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/4.5, ISO 100, 145mm

Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/4.5, ISO 100, 145mm

With a mind of an explorer, I often like to go places to get that best shot. Clearly in this case, I wasn’t thinking as I went on to the ledge with my full gear in my backpack, and I was carrying my Nikon D800 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 in my hand! I didn’t go all the way to the edge like this adventurous person here, but I did go just about 2-3m away from the edge. That was far enough for me to be able to take the photo I was after. It wasn’t until I finished taking my photo and realized, I couldn’t easily turn around standing up because my backpack kept shifting its weight on me.

I found myself to be in an awkward position where I couldn’t blindly walk backwards because it was too narrow, and I couldn’t easily turn around in a safe way. The only way to go about it was to get on my hands and bent knees and slowly crawl back to the point where I felt safe enough to stand up and turn around. That’s exactly what this fellow above did before me.

Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/4.5, ISO 100, 135mm

Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/4.5, ISO 100, 135mm

With my Nikon in one hand, I had to slowly shimmy my way back to safety. My lens and camera got a little sandy being dragged on the ground, but hey, anything for safety, right?!

Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/4.5, ISO 100, 130mm

Nikon D800, 1/1250 sec., f/4.5, ISO 100, 130mm

These girls were waiting for me to come back so that they could in turn take their selfies. They walked as far as they are in this photo, and walked back without any problems. She is standing at the point where I felt it was comfortable enough to stand up, turn around and walk back.

Needless to say, do this at your own risk. It’s not the best thing to do if you’re afraid of heights or if you easily get vertigo. This park offers great photo opportunities no matter when you go so make this a definite place to visit the next time you’re in the area.

Fireworks photography 101

Fireworks Photography 101

You may think that taking pictures of fireworks is as easy as pressing the shutter button—and sometimes it really is that easy—but if you’re really keen on taking some great shots, there are a couple things to note in terms of settings and equipment.

Nikon D800, 1.2 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1.2 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Go early to claim your spot

There’s nothing worse in going to see and photograph fireworks only to have your view blocked by a few heads in front of you. You have to go early, scout the area for the best vantage point, and stay in that spot until the fireworks start. There’s really no other way around this unless you have some sort of special access that the general public does not have.

Setting up your equipment

Once you claim your location, be sure to set up your gear well in advance of the start of the event. This will ensure that you’re not fidgeting with your camera settings when the fireworks are going off in front of you.

Ideally, you should have a tripod, cable release, and if you’re trying for an extended exposure, a black card to block light from your lens while the shutter is open—I’ll explain more about this below.

The cable release comes in handy because it prevents you from shaking your camera by having to press down on the shutter button.

Start shooting

There are a couple ways of shooting fireworks. But whichever way you choose to go, be sure to keep taking those photos because fireworks go fast, and they don’t wait for you to ready your camera!

A simple long exposure of about 1-2 seconds will give you a decent display of fireworks that will work for the most part. The photo above was an exposure of 1.2 seconds on my tripod using a cable release.

Given the long exposure nature of fireworks at night, you may instinctively think to set your ISO to a high amount because of the amount of ambient light available. The higher your ISO, however, the more noise you bring into the photo.

My settings above brought in just amount of light without yielding too much noise. My ISO of 200 yielded in a fairly dark image at first, but I was able to open up the shadow areas within Lightroom without producing too much noise. I much prefer to do it this way than increase my ISO from the beginning as it almost always tends to produce cleaner images.

I mentioned a black card earlier in this post. This technique can come in handy if you want to stack multiple fireworks over each other by leaving your shutter open in Bulb mode, and covering the lens with this black card when you don’t want any exposure. You only take the black card away from the lens when you want to capture the fireworks. The photo below is a 4.6 second exposure where I used the black card method. This is why you see the coloured explosion on the top, and the white fireworks from the bottom.

Nikon D800, 4.6 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 4.6 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

You really have to be careful with this though, since you can easily over-expose certain areas of your photo, like you see in the photo below. You will have to figure out in advance how many seconds will give you a properly exposed photo.

Nikon D800, 12 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 12 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 14mm

A little post-processing helps

When you’re done shooting your photos, no doubt a little post-processing will help give your photos that extra oomph. This particular photo was editing completely within Lightroom CC 2015. I opened up the shadow areas while reducing the highlights. I boosted the saturation slightly, and added some overall clarity. And finally, the new dehaze feature of Lightroom really worked well in this case to remove some of the haze produced from the smoke of the fireworks.

The level of post-processing is always different for each photographer, so you do as little or as much as you want to make the final image what you envisioned.

Nikon D800, 0.6 sec., f/5.6, ISO 1250, 14mm

Nikon D800, 0.6 sec., f/5.6, ISO 1250, 14mm

One final note

Remember to enjoy the fireworks while you are there! They happen very quickly so try not to be totally consumed with getting that perfect shot. You can easily be distracted by fiddling with your cameras while the beautiful colours explode above you, preventing you from actually enjoying the evening. But with a little bit of preparation, you should be able to fully enjoy the event and take decent shots that you are happy with.