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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: 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.