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.

Toronto Sunrise

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.

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

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

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:

The video is embedded below as well.