Winter Landscape at the River (Montreal)

Here in Montreal, we had only one day of warmer weather before the next arctic front hit us again. I knew it was my only chance to test my new equipment. With the temperature around freezing point and no wind I could take my time and try various settings of Sony a6000 and 2 new lenses (10-18 mm and 16-70 mm) without any rush.

Travel Photography Blog - Montreal. Lachine

Canada. Montreal. Lachine
Loc: 45.428043, -73.679239

The weather was good for testing but not ideal for shooting. It was overcast afternoon without any clouds.

Everything looked grey and dull. I knew, this type of landscapes usually make decent black & white photos and my initial intention was exactly that.

I started to process it as black and white but since I am person who loves colors, just before photo was ready to be saved and posted, I stitched to color. To make it more interesting, I added some blue color to the ice and some orange color to the trees.

The big difference I saw, compare to my old camera, is the quality of the image. Sony 24 Mp sensor produces very lean images with very little of noise.

 

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Travel Photography Blog: 3 Bracketed Shots (  -1; 0; +1) [Read more...]

Burn Tree at the Desert View (Arizona)

This is the last photo I took at the Grand Canyon last year. Just before leaving the national park and taking the drive towards the North Rim and Kanab, I stopped at observation point at Desert View.

The weather was great for the photography, with the blue sky and fluffy white clouds. When I was planning this shot I wanted to emphasize incredible colors and variety of textures of the canyon and I left out they sky out of the composition on purpose.

Processing

Before processing any of my photos I always have to decide first, what technique to use. In this case it was easy decision. I chose Photomatix to tone map this shot to HDR because it does amazing job to bring out details in pattern and textures.

Travel Photography Blog - California. Yosemite National Park

Arizona. Grand Canyon. Desert View
Loc: 36.043481, -111.824713

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Travel Photography Blog: 3 Bracketed Shots (  -2; 0; +2) [Read more...]

Top Reason Why I Switched from Canon to Sony

After 10 years of shooting with Canon, I finally switched to Sony. I say “finally” because I was contemplating the move for a long time. Many of my readers, friends and fellow photographers keep asking me why I jumped the ship.

Here is my long answer.

Flashback

It all started 10 years ago. After I spent almost a year shooting with a DSLR-like Fuji camera, I realized that I had a passion for photography (check my post A Trip Down Memory Lane: Photo Which Changed My Life Ten Years Ago Today) . After spending a few nights on photography forums trying to figure out what camera to buy, I was completely confused with contradicting advice from forum “gurus”.

[Read more...]

Colorful Winter Sunset at Saint Lawrence River (Montreal)

This is my contribution to winter photography. Even though I do not really enjoy cold weather, sometimes it results in unique landscapes.

Travel Photography Blog - California, Morro Bay Beach

Canada. Montreal. Lachine
Loc: 45.429813, -73.690427

Shooting

Once again, I went shooting to my favorite place in Montreal (Rene-Levesque Park) which happens to be not far from where I live. I setup my tripod and waited for the moment when sun was about to hide below the horizon. The light was fairly dynamic and in order to cover entire range I shot series of 9 shots using Magic Lantern firmware add-on. I knew that 9 bracketed exposures was total overkill but I just wanted to cover all my bases. The amazing light lasted 3-5 minutes at most and then it became ordinary and dull.

Processing

Because of the dynamic light and variety of details and textures in my composition, I was planning to merge bracketed shots to HDR using Photomatix. Normally, Photomatix does the great job to emphasize details and textures but in this case I just could not get it right in Photomatix. If you check image on the left, this is the best result I managed to achieve and I was not happy with it. The final image looks too contrasted and “cold”.

Since I have few tools in my arsenal for creating HDR photo, I gave up on Photomatix and decided to use luminosity masking technique. This technique gives you more control over the entire process but tends to be more time consuming.

I picked only 3 shots (-2, -1, 0) and blended them together in Photoshop using transparency masks (for more details check my Review: “The Art of Digital Blending”).

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Travel Photography Blog - Montreal. Saint Lawrence River
[Read more...]

Saint Lawrence River Double Sunset Reflection (Montreal)

This is another photo that was challenging to take and even more challenging to edit. Below is the outline of my workflow.

Travel Photography Blog - California, Morro Bay Beach

Canada. Montreal. Lachine
Loc: 45.429813, -73.690427

Shooting

I am an Android user (Nexus 5) and I use app called Exsate Golden Hour to calculate astronomical conditions for every location I am planning to shoot. It calculates Golden Hour, Blue Hour, Dusk, Down plus it graphically displays the directions of the sunsets and the sunrises overlayed over Google Maps. It is priceless app for any travel and landscape photographer. It is absolutely free.

I used Exsate Golden Hour to plan this shot, I knew in advance where exactly sun would be setting and what time.

I was shooting on a tripod (FEISOL Tournament CT-3442) pointing camera directly into the sun. I was not sure if 5 bracketed shots would be enough to cover the entire dynamic range of the scene. I took test shot of 7 brackets first and I could see that +1EV and +2EV were way too overexposed and all I needed was 5 shot only.

Also, I wanted to achieve “starburst effect” around the sun so I set aperture to F20.

Processing

Originally, I was planning to tone map this image to HDR using Photoshop HDR Pro (check my tutorial Natural Looking HDR Photography Guide)  but it did not work out the way I expected. The area around the sun looked very unnatural and dull so I jumped to Photomatix. In Photomatix I had different problem; the transition from golden tones of sunset to blue colors of the sky looked muddy and way too contrasted. After wasting another 20-25 min in Photomatix I decided to try something different.

First, I edited 3 brackets (-1, 0, +1) in Lightroom (see image below), using standard workflow (check my tutorial here) and then I loaded 3 images to Photoshop and blended them together using luminosity masks.

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Travel Photography Blog - California, Morro Bay Beach
[Read more...]

Slow Steep Grade Sign at Marin Headlands (San Francisco)

Hawk Hill in Marin Headlands is one of my favorite spots in the vicinity of San Francisco. I’ve already featured it in my Photo Location Guide article  What to See and Photograph in San Francisco If You Only Have 2 Hours. During my trips to San Francisco I try to visit this spot every day, even if I have only few minutes to spare. The main reason for that is the complete unpredictability of the weather; the cold air from the ocean clashes with warmer continental currents which always causes changes. Sometimes change in weather is good for your photography and sometimes not, all you have to do is keep trying.

Processing

The main challenge I had with this shot was the guy who refused to move away from the side of the road, ruining my composition. When I was planning this shot, I waited for 10-15 min for guy to leave. He kept standing, I kept waiting and the light kept changing. I had two choices: to start throwing rocks at him or to take my shots and to “exterminate” him later in Photoshop. I chose later. I used Stamp Tool to mask unwanted presence.

Travel Photography Blog - California. San Francisco. Marin Headlands

California. San Francisco. Marin Headlands
Loc: 37.826281, -122.499935

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Travel Photography Blog: 4 Bracketed Shots ( -2, -1; 0; +1) [Read more...]

Fallen Tree at Cook’s Meadow (Yosemite)

When I visited Yosemite National Park first time couple of years ago I had two surprises waiting for me there; one is pleasant and another not so. The first unexpected surprise was the weather. I did not really know what to expect in the beginning of May in the mountains of California. According to the online research I could face anything from heavy snowfall to summer-like weather. I got +24 C with some clouds, the best possible weather for travel photography. 

Unpleasant surprise was that even in off season, the valley was full of tourists. It was crowded. If you check today’s featured photo you can see in the distance the string of cars parked on both sides of the road.

Processing

I never managed to processed this photo earlier because it had 2 flaws and I was too lazy to deal with them. The first flaw was the strong blue color cast over the mountains. I fixed it by changing the color balance, making it warmer, in Lightroom before tone mapping 3 images in Photomatix.

The second flaw was the composition. There was big hole between top of the mountains and the clouds. To fix this issue I had to replace the sky. I used sky from the photo I took from almost the same spot but from wider angle. You might call it cheating but you would not guessed it if I have not told you. That’s my defense.

Travel Photography Blog - California. Yosemite National Park

California. Yosemite National Park
Loc: 37.741633, -119.592415

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Travel Photography Blog: 3 Bracketed Shots (  -1; 0; +1) [Read more...]

Sculpture in the Frozen Park (Montreal)

Testing my New Sony Equipment

This is a very special photograph to me. This is the first photo that was taken with my new equipment from Sony. After 10 years shooting with Canon I finally switched to Sony. Just before Christmas I sold all Canon stuff and ordered Sony A6000 with 2 lenses: Sony 10-18 mm and Zeiss 16-70 mm lenses.

So far I love it. The size and the weight are unbelievable, I can keep my spare lens in the pocket, there is no reason to bring camera bag. Love the EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) but I still have to learn a lot. It is completely different animal compare to my old Canon.

Since a lot of people asked me for the reason I switched, I decided to put together dedicated post where I can try to explain myself.

Processing

For this particular image I used a bit unusual processing workflow. I tone mapped 2 separated HDR images in Photomatix: one is very warm and another much cooler, later I blended them together in Photoshop using luminosity masks.

Travel Photography Blog - Canada. Montreal. Lachine

Canada. Montreal. Lachine
Loc: 45.428043, -73.679239

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Travel Photography Blog: 3 Bracketed Shots (  -2; 0; +2) [Read more...]

Greyhound Rock Trail (California)

This is another beautiful spot along California State Route 1. Just a few miles after Santa Cruz, while driving towards San Francisco, you pass beautiful  Greyhound Rock Beach.

As you can guess, the main attraction of this location is Greyhound Rock. When you look at the beach from the distance, the rock looks like enormous sea creature laying close to the shore.

I took this photo while walking along the steep trail down to the ocean.

This was very challenging photo to process. I was shooting directly into the sun with the strong wind bending pampas grass violently from left to right. I was not sure if it would be possible to avoid ghosting effects when processing it for HDR.

It took me more than an hour to get everything right except for the sky. It looked muddy with the strong bending effects. I created new layer, filled it with blue gradient, from darker blue at the top to the lighter at the bottom and I used Blue Channel as the base for my transparency mask which allowed me to hide everything except sky region. This way I could get my sky exactly the way I wanted.

Travel Photography Blog - California, Santa Cruz, Greyhound Rock Beach

California, Santa Cruz, Greyhound Rock Beach
Loc: 37.078437, -122.267168

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Travel Photography Blog: 3 Bracketed Shots (  -1; 0; +1) [Read more...]

My Most Challenging Photograph of the Year – Montreal City Lights

This cityscape was by far my most challenging photograph of 2014. It was not easy to take it and I had some difficulties to process it. I think it deserves a dedicated post with the detailed outline of my workflow.

Travel Photography Blog - Canada. Montreal

Canada. Montreal. View from Jacques Cartier Bridge
Loc: 45.522815, -73.546170

Shooting

That was the day when I spent entire evening taking aerial photos from the tallest bridge in Montreal - Jacques Cartier Bridge. Without planning, I was rewarded with some amazing city views when luxury cruise ship Seabourn Quest was leaving port of Old Montreal.

My idea for this shot was to wait until sun completely disappears behind the horizon and take long exposure bracketed photos to be able to capture light trails of the passing cars on the freeway below me. [Read more...]