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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.

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!

The sun shines in Ikebukuro

I was out shopping one fine early evening in Tokyo when I came to this roadway with people walking down it. Normally it would have been just a regular pedestrian-filled road, but I soon realized the sun peeking out of the clouds every-so-often, shining its glorious rays right down the centre of the street. The golden light it emitted when it did shine down the street was magnificent.

I only had a few short minutes to try and capture this golden light because the clouds would cover the sun after a short time. It was just one of those days where I was happy I had my camera with me that day.

Nikon D800, 1/4000 sec., f/2.8, ISO 400, 56mm

Nikon D800, 1/4000 sec., f/2.8, ISO 400, 56mm

What do you bring on your walks?

When I go out travelling, I often like to take my full gear with me because you never know what to expect. Even on casual walking days like when I took this photo above, I always loved to carry my Nikon along with my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at a minimum. This combination, however, isn’t always so portable, let alone light on my shoulders.

With the advent of mirrorless cameras though, I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a better option for me to take on these casual walks. It’s something to consider one of these days.

What camera do you bring on your photo-walks? What lenses do you like to use? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to suggest any great walk-around cameras that you like.

People watching season has begun!

Nikon D800, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 640, 62mm

Nikon D800, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 640, 62mm

For some of us, people watching can be a real treat. Just pick a random location, sit down, and watch what goes on in front of you. If you’re at a relatively active location, you can sit there for hours on end just enjoying the time pass you by.

It’s those lazy Sunday mornings that make you feel like just taking the moment as it comes. The Spring season is good for that, as people start to make their way out of their homes and into public spaces. The sun starts to shine brightly warming the outdoors, and the overall aura of happiness floats about.

When I went to Japan last year, I took a few days off to just walk around and enjoy the moment around me. Taking random snaps along the way, I meant to post a whole series on these snaps at one point on my blog, but that never came to fruition.

This picture was taken at the Tokyo Forum, in the Ginza district. It’s a great place for photographers any time of the day, with its striking architecture, criss cross patterns all around, and muted colour palette. If you come here to take pictures, you won’t be alone.

As the Spring season unfolds here in Toronto, I look forward to more outdoor adventures to come!

Morning Fog Over Toronto

Nikon D800, 1/6 sec., f/13, ISO100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/6 sec., f/13, ISO100, 70mm

One early morning I came to Humber Bay Shores Park and noticed a lot of clouds over the city. I wasn’t sure what I would get in terms of photo opportunities since heavy clouds like this often prevent the sun from showing its colours anywhere. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see the actual sun itself with all of these clouds so I waited until something interesting came about.

A few short minutes later the area right behind the CN Tower began to glow an intense orange and yellow. This happened quite quickly and got me off guard. Fortunately my camera was already set up on a tripod and all I had to do was compose and shoot. The streaks of light you see look like they are emanating from the CN Tower, and these were just magnificent. I didn’t know what caused this since the actual sun was rising just to the right of this picture, which is still quite far away.

This scene with its intense colours didn’t last long as it disappeared after I was able to get only a few clicks of it. When you’re out shooting, always come well before you need to so you can set up and be ready for that moment.

I’ll have my iPhone version of this shot coming up in another post shortly.

A full recap of Toronto’s Pillow-Fight Day

Nikon D800, 1/1600 sec., f/5.6, ISO 200, 14mm

Who’s the champion of this pillow-fight?

I was heading downtown today to run an errand and as luck would have it, I found out before leaving that it was International Pillow Fight Day today, and Toronto was participating. I didn’t know anything about this event, nor had I heard anything about it before, but I figured I’d take my camera with me anyway just to see what all this pillow-talk was about. It was a little bit of a cool day, but the sun helped out with the warmth, most likely bringing in more people to the event.

Spectators of the event

Spectators of the event

Starting promptly at 3pm, it really was just a massive city-wide pillow fight at city hall. At first the crowd looked large. But a closer look revealed that there were a lot of spectators on the sidelines—almost to the point that I thought there were more of them than actual participants. But as time passed by, more and more people came—some dressed in their PJs, or some other interesting costume of choice.

Let’s Play Dress-Up

A few people really got into the event by dressing up in costumes or their PJs—including a mock CTV anchorwoman who got pummelled by pillow-fight enthusiasts. Hopefully this event made for some interesting footage. I was also happy to see that Prime Minister Harper joined in on the fun too, although he was quickly brought down to his knees.

He was quickly whacked from all directions

He was quickly whacked from all directions

The Pillow Fight

The pillow fights came in waves as people no doubt needed a break from whacking everybody. The rules stated not to hit people without pillows, or those with cameras, but who follows these with all the excitement around you? I had to protect myself and my camera from getting hit but there’s only so much one can do when you’re concentrated on taking action shots. I did get bumped around here and there, and on the occasion, hit in the head with some pillows. It was a rude awakening…hehe…

The event wasn’t just for adults either. Kids of all ages participated as well, most of them being piggy-backed by their parents. People being piggy-backed actually make for some great photography, since they stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Pillow-fight Toronto

Kids of all ages joined in the fun

Let’s Focus Here

Focusing at events like this where the subject can be hard to keep track of can be challenging. This is exactly the moment where you can take advantage of your back-focus button. While I’ll leave the details of this technique in another post, as a summary, this allows you to pre-focus on a range, and then just fire away. As long as your subject stays within your range, you’ll get tack sharp images that you can be happy with.

Pre-focus, then shoot so you get these precious moments

Pre-focus, then shoot so you get these precious moments

The Aftermath

I didn’t stay until the very end, so I captured the ground of city hall, right before I left. There were lots of cotton balls and even a sunglass, that was probably not the best thing to wear to an event such as this.

Remnants of pillows.

Remnants of pillows.

There were pillows flying in the air too, did I mention that?

Pillow in the air!

Pillow in the air!

My Favourites

I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite shots from the event, followed by a gallery of photos at the end of this post.

Pillow-fight Toronto action

Pillow-fight Toronto action

Pillow-fight Toronto

She was having a good time!

Goggles is a nice touch

Thanks for looking at me!

Pillow-fight Toronto

Ooh, that’s got to hurt…or smell?

Pillow-fight Toronto

Stop horsing around!

 

The Golden Pillow!

The Golden Pillow!

Shooting with others can be refreshing

Shoot With Others To Refresh Your Mind

Shoot With Others To Refresh Your Mind

Nikon D800, 1/5000 sec., f/2.8, ISO400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/5000 sec., f/2.8, ISO400, 24mm

It’s been a while shooting with other photographers, but it’s never a dull moment when you’re out and about with others. In fact, it’s a great way to be social, get inspired by different perspectives, and just have fun. Last Sprint, I took to the streets of Mississauga with other local photographers and just took pictures for the fun of it all. Not a lot of landscape photography going on here, especially in the city, but having a human element in photographs is always a warm welcome. The shot above is of the skating area at Celebration Square in Mississauga’s City Centre.

John, Neil, and Jacob Instagramming their photos of the day.

John, Neil, and Jacob Instagramming their photos of the day.

These are the three troublemakers that were up to no good that day. With all of us living in the West end of town, we childishly dubbed ourselves, The Westenders. Or was it The West End Boys? From left to right, are, John (@hagow), Neil (@Neil.Nofuente), and Jacob (@Jamenyo)

Troublemakers shooting me shooting them

 

Had it not been for this day, I would likely have never even come up to this building. It was a great find with some unique shooting opportunities.

Neil doing his thang

Neil doing his thing.

Neil seeing something that I obviously didn’t see…or don’t see. That’s the beauty of shooting with others; we each have our own ideas and perspectives that shooting the same subject can yield completely different photos.

The Jacob stare

The Jacob stare.

While we spent most of our time indoors, the outdoor also proved to be photo-worthy as well. Jacob being photographed by Neil and John, and apparently not liking his few seconds of fame.

Living Arts Centre

Inside the Living Arts Centre

The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga that day was host to some wedding-related event with a runway and wedding booths set up in its lobby. Jacob is practicing his wedding photography skills here.

Busted!

Busted!

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Neil smile so much as he is in this photo. What ever was he thinking? John peeks over his shoulder and finds me shooting the three of them from across the window.

In summary, get out there once in a while with others and it can be a great refresher for your mind. You can look at things differently and see things from other perspectives that you may not have even thought to do if you were shooting by yourself.

 

How I edited Ikebukuro Sunset on my iPhone

It was by chance that I experienced this magical location. I was shopping in Ikebukuro one evening when I came out from a store just as the sun was shining through this narrow walkway. I noticed that magical evening light and started taking pictures. It was overcast that day so the sun kept hiding behind clouds. As it peaked out from the clouds a number of times before it dipped below the horizon.

The picture below is what I captured with the native camera app of my iPhone 6 Plus. The area around the sun is fairly bright while the bottom half of this photo is somewhat dark. This was intentional as I wanted to get the details of the clouds in the highlights. I exposed for the highlights, making the rest of the image slightly darker. However I knew this wasn’t an issue as I could easily bring up the details in the shadow areas with a few clicks of an app.

IMG_7579

Original Ikebukuro Sunset image from my iPhone 6 Plus.

The first step in making this image was to create balance throughout the entire image. This entailed opening up the shadow areas and fine-tuning the colours. I did this with Instaflash Pro, which I like because it allows for individual colour enhancements. After some sharpening and selective colour boosts, the image below is what I came out with.

First edit with Instaflash Pro brings out shadow areas and enhances select colours.

First edit with Instaflash Pro brings out shadow areas and enhances select colours.

The next step, I dealt with the blown out highlight area on the left, where the sun was shining brightly. It was bringing too much attention to itself with the high contrast against the buildings. I added a warm glow surrounding that area to soften the harsh edges using my go-to app for just this situation: The Light Camera from Stuck in Customs. The only option I use in this app is the A Surprise Hug light effect—you can see its effect in the image below.

IMG_7583

Adding a warm glow to the sunset area to enhance the highlights.

This image may look pretty decent the way it looks now, but it could use a little more work. The white balance seems to be a little too cold to my liking, so I warmed the entire image. This final step could really be done in any app that supports white balance or temperature change, but my preference has always been to edit in VSCOcam. You can use any one of its filters to change the overall balance of the image, in addition to using the actual Temperature option.

Warming the overall image in VSCOcam.

Warming the overall image in VSCOcam, and applying a slight vignette.

Now, the picture looks much better than how it started. However, some may say that the colours look a little too over saturated. It could be the case, since adding filters to an image can saturate existing colours. If you feel this to be the case, use a different filter or desaturate the colour to your liking. I also cropped the image to a square format for Instagram, deleting parts of the image that does not enhance the overall look at all.

Changed filter to G1 in VSCOcam to reduce saturation of colours.

Changed filter to G1 in VSCOcam to reduce saturation of colours.

For me, I love the sun shining brightly and the crisp detail in the foreground. So my final preference was the B5 filter in VSCOcam to change the image to black and white. This kept the foreground details and sun glow that I like, in addition to bringing more focus to the shadows of the passerbys.

Changing the image to black and white with the B5 filter in VSCOcam.

Changed the image to black and white with the B5 filter in VSCOcam.

Apps used:

Instaflash Pro

Instaflash Pro

The Light Camera

The Light Camera

VSCOcam

VSCOcam


 

Toronto’s city hall is architecturally quite stunning

Nikon D800, 24mm, 1/250 sec., f/9, ISO 400

Nikon D800, 24mm, 1/250 sec., f/9, ISO 400

One thing I’ve always been meaning to do was to go back to Toronto’s city hall and take a closer look at the building architecturally. With all these curves, it’s quite the building to photograph. However, my goal isn’t just to simply take pictures of this building, I want to show its true beauty in these photographs.

Over the last little while I’ve seen some pretty beautiful urban photography done with black and white long exposures, and this is what I would like to do with city hall one day.

For those of you who know me, know that I love to shoot colour landscapes, so taking a b&w photo of the city is a stretch for me, but is a challenge that I’m willing to take. It’s also a good exercise to expand my photography portfolio and practice seeing things in a different light, so to speak.

First thing’s first though: I’ll need one of those 10-stop ND filters.

Any suggestions?