Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trip along Yonge St - some long views

I've started carting the camera about on calls around the city. Yesterday was another gloomy old day in Toronto, which turned out to be excellent for testing settings. I walked along Yonge St. heading west and took lots of photos. Lots and lots. Different settings, different angles, different subjects. Oh boy, I'm such an amateur when it comes to DSLRs. But, it will come with practice. I'm struggling a bit with getting things in sharp focus. The framing is ok, but I haven't mastered the art of staying still while taking the shot. Sigh. The pros make it looks so easy. Once I have that irritating part of photography mastered I think I'll invest in what's called the "nifty fifty" prime lens. Looking at the 50mm Canon lens, it seems like it might bring a new sharpness to my images. No sense getting that until I figure out how to stand still while clicking the shutter. 

I'm still working on a good gallery sequence to use. But none so far tick all the boxes for me. I'll keep looking. I'll also set up a new section for the Mapping Toronto project. I'll keep this section for random shots I want to share and the new section specifically for documenting each neighbourhood so the work flows better. I'm thinking of a different name for it as well, not sure what to call it. Any ideas? 

Now, to yesterday's photos. While scooting through them I noticed 2 that stood out because of the composition and contrasting content. 

Lunch Break at Varsity Stadium 

Photo of people eating lunch outside Vasity Stadium


Crossing at the Bata Museum 

Photo of women waiting at lights by Bata Shoe Museum

Something about the colours and long view with each person doing their own thing against a coloured backdrop intrigued me. I remember taking each photo, but didn't see the connection until I blew both up on the screen and looked at the content carefully. After seeing these side by side I had one of those bingo moments and cropped them to match sizes. Yea, I'm pleased. I left them a bit underexposed primarily because it really was an awefully goomy day and wanted that reflected in the photos. 

Check out my previous posts if you want to see how my work is slowly progressing. And stop by my patron to support Bitter Grounds.

Mapping TO - a quick trip around Yonge & St Clair

I pottered around the neigbhourhood setting out a formula for the Mapping Toronto project. In case you missed the earlier post, I'm going to visit every neigbhourhood in Toronto and photograph elements from each area. Some areas will take multiple visits; some won't require more than one or two because they are so tiny. This is a long term project, one that will likely take about 2 years. Why so long? Well it takes time to process photos and pick the best to showcase. And, lets be brutally honest, Toronto has 140 neigbhourhoods, even if I visit one a month (which I won't), that spills over into 2 years worth of work. Read a bit more about the project here Mapping Toronto.  

I took a quick trip around my neigbhourhood - the Yonge & St. Clair area - yesterday with my shiny new Canon DSLR to test drive a format I think will work. I'm still figuring out the details so, come back to see my progress. What I finally realised is how many fricking photos a person can take in a short trip. I dumped most of them and kept enough for about 2 articles which made me stop and rethink my approach. It's not going to be as straight forward as I originally thought.  I'm thinking of posting the best shots and write about a handful and then set up a photo gallery you can flip through at your leisure. I figure each neigbhourhood should have enough material for about a month or two worth of posts. I'll reserve the best for this page and throw up random extras on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I'm also working on converting the best shots into free wallpaper. I'm experimenting with different sizes now and will have a link up soon. Check the Memoirs section for that link. I'll also post mutterings about the project over there in the future. 

Anyway, here's some of the results from yesterday. 

Watching Traffic   Photo of woman watching traffic on Yonge St

It was very overcast and chilly when I started out. Very grey kind of day. Took the chance to grab this shot of a woman watching traffic zip along Yonge. When I processed it, I decided to enhance the grey cast. 

Read more: Mapping TO - a quick trip around Yonge & St Clair

WOO HOOO - guess what I have? Here's a hint - it's initials are DSLR

Well, I took the plunge this week. After much muttering and internal debates, I now own a nifty Canon Rebel T6 DSLR. I opted to go with a T6 bundle - the body, kit lens and then purchased a decent tripod to go with it. I've spent months working on my bad case of point and shootitis, breaking all sorts of bad habits.  I've been working on framing, looking at what I'm shooting and understanding how various settings affect a photo. But .. there really is only so much you can do with a standard point and shoot camera. Don't get me wrong, the Powershot is a fun camera but  I outgrew it pretty rapidly. Initially I was really pleased with the shots, as time rolled along, I became pickier and harder to please. The colours weren't right, the shots were too soft and fuzzy, the tone mushy. I spent more and more time pissing around with Photoshop in an attempt to either hide the flaws or push the photo around so it looked a little more like what I wanted. That's no way to do photography!

I was going to purchase the new camera in the spring, but I had a chance to scoop it this week. Since then, I've been playing with the aperture settings, fussing over shutterspeed and comparing various ISO shots. The tripod has given me a chance to test slow shots and up the ISO to a level I could never contemplate because of shakes. I downloaded the Canon smartphone app that allows me to control the camera remotely. I'll work on that later next month, right now I need to figure out which end is up with the camera. 

The ability to control the focus points a bit more sends my little heart beating a bit faster. The overall sharpness is exciting when I toss everything into Lightroom and Photoshop.  And don't get me started on RAW. I am already using a far lighter hand in photoshop and the photos are crisp looking. One thing that irritated me with the old camera was the need to oversharpen or mess around too much because I love strong tones and sharp lines. I threw out a ton of photos because they were, to reuse the term - mushy looking.

I picked it up on Tues, spent a few hours that night playing around with it and yesterday, I kicked off the training wheels and took it out for a spin around the block. I revisited a few locations I visited in previous expeditions and retried the shots. I'll be spreading them out here over the next couple of days but here's the pick of the mix:

TTC Musician and his Audience

Musician at the Yonge St. TTC

He was perfectly posed and I couldn't resist the shots. Nice contrast and tone, although it's underexposed. The second shot was better:

Read more: WOO HOOO - guess what I have? Here's a hint - it's initials are DSLR

Toronto skylines and a bit of bracketing

I've been fussing about with bracketing photos to create a crisp HDR skyline. I'm experimenting with exposure bracketing and keeping things as simple as I can, hoping to get a crisp horizon. My first attempts were pretty sad and we'll never speak of them again. I looked at the scene carefully this time and set everything up a bit differently, shrugged on my winter coat, setup the tripod and stood on the balcony in -10 windchill to take another stab at it. 

Well, here's the result:

Photo of Toronto Skyline using bracketing I'm blown away by the sharpness. I fussed with the vibrancy etc a bit, but the shadows and light playing off the buildings along Yonge street jumped right out on the bracketed shots. I've tried for months to try and get the reflections, but nothing worked until I was able to bracket the shots. When I looked closely, I could even make out details in the construction site across the street. This is the first time I've been able to get a fairly well balanced shot that isn't underexposed to such an extent, the shadows were hopelessly blown out.  

 I have a lot of fine tuning to do, especially leveling out the tripod before taking photos, but not a bad beginning. I'll lug the tripod off to other locations so you don't have to keep looking at the same skyline. I think it's time to start the Mapping Toronto project! Hopefully I'll start in the Yonge St. Clair area in the next couple of days. 

Look to the right -> for links to my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. I throw up a few extra shots on these accounts, once that don't always make the cut here.  

Fall colours in the Toronto ravine - plus a bit of editing

As promised, I've been working my way through the legions of photos I've taken over the years, looking for ones to play with. Most really aren't worth keeping and I've been purging scads of mediocre and downright bad photos. I'm paring down to any that have potential and dumping the rest. That's when I rediscovered about 20 I'd taken a few years ago and filed away for "future use". These are shots from a walk in the ravine that runs along behind the David Balfour Park.  It was one of those postcard perfect fall days that produced some spectacular opportunities. Funny I forgot about them for so long because I've been looking for certain types of photos to use with the artistic filters in Photoshop. The filters are great, but you have to have the right shot or the effect looks contrived.  

Here's the first one: Photo of ravine in Toronto

I used just a little dry brush to bump up the light effect on the trees. I didn't want too much of the effect applied because I still wanted the photo to look like a photo, not a painting, but give a hint of something more going on. The effect brought the leaves in the foreground out, giving them greater definition. That bright green spot up in the left was a leaf that flittered about and caught the light just as I snapped the shot. Because of the yellows and the way the light hit the leaf, the green looks over saturated. I played around with removing it but decided to against it. 

For the second one, I used smudge stick to bring out the intense light on the tree trunks. I tried the dry brush first, but the smudge filter did a better job in this case.  Second photo of yellow leaves in the ravine in TorontoBoth effects are interesting and bring a different intensity to the photos. It was fun to play with for a change. I usually move straight on to HDR because there's something about the high dynamic range that tweaks all the sweet spots in my brain. I gravitate to it like a moth to light.  But for something like the ravine, no. I fussed about with some HDR settings I like using but it destroyed the mood by creating a stark, cold mood. I even plunked a warming filter on them and then thought, nah, don't bother. The warmth of the sun and long shadows were stripped out so I went back to the original photos and did a bit of contrasting then applied the filters instead. Far better effect.  

I have a few more I'm looking at, if you want to see them posted, drop me a line on FB, Twitter or down below in the comments field.  As always drop by Instagram to see photos that don't always make the site. It's turning into a weird glimpse into how my brain hopscotches around subjects. 

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"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."

- Dorothea Lange

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