2 more night photos – streets of Toronto

2 more night photos – streets of Toronto

Here are a few more photos I took along the streets of Toronto last week. Was it last week? Time is melting into one big mess at the moment. Anyway, after looking through the photos I took at dusk, I realised some of the ones I thought were great, weren’t, but a little work with Photoshop brought them back to life.

The work I’ve done in understanding the camera’s histogram and using it to avoid blowing out the highlights and blacks has paid off. I was able to tweak the photos and bring back the colours and balance. It’s all a learning experience.

Picking over the photos, I realised even with a tripod, I still have issues getting a photo straight. No idea how I managed it, but I had to correct quite a few. They weren’t as bad as usual, but I think I’ll have to start paying closer attention to that little bubble on the tripod’s level. Sigh. I’m planning a trip out later this week, so fingers crossed I manage to get things right.

Streets of Toronto – Looking south on Yonge

Photo of streets of Toronto - looking north on Yonge near Front St

Yonge near Front St

I enjoy playing with cropping. Adjusting the length and widths changes the focus points dramatically. This was an ok photo on Yonge, but when I cropped it, the focus shifted from all the buildings and glass to the lights rushing along Yonge. The eye immediately hits the red lights and then follows up and down the street. I love narrow views like this. I’m eager to go out again and try more street scenes.

What got me the most are the lights in the corner building. The windows look crisp and warm, just the way they were that night.

Looking South on Yonge

South looking view of Yonge and Front

Looking South near the hockey hall of fame

This one was ok. I’m a bit unhappy with the overall sharpness, so that’s another area I’ll have to focus on. I’m not a fan of soft-focus photos, I prefer HDR stylings. I used a mix of AV settings and full manual for all the shots. I did a couple of tests with full auto and was not impressed. The streaming lights weren’t captured, and the camera focused on all the wrong light centres. I guess that’s what it’s about. I know what I’m trying to say with the photos. Automatic is just a mindless function and doesn’t share a vision.

I wish I’d waited a little longer so the lights at the bottom left were moving. The glare is too much and spoils a bit of the balance. But I’m content with it.

Last shot – another look at the Hockey Hall of Fame

Photo of the hockey hall of fame from the north east corner of Yonge St

Hockey Hall of Fame

For some reason, the Hockey Hall of Fame has been my white whale. I must have close to 200 photos of it, taken over the years. None, until this batch, were satisfying. The balance was always off, the lighting and shadows were wrong. It became a mind-numbing experience, but I couldn’t stop trying. Not sure why everything clicked this time. I suspect it’s because I was far more patient than previous expeditions.

I did play around with this photograph in Photoshop before I was satisfied. I used the software’s autocorrect to bring a better perspective to the image first. After that, I pulled down the amount of yellow. I need to explore the camera’s settings a bit more to understand why everything was so yellow and how to prevent it in the future. Once the colour balance was corrected, the building’s shadows popped out.

The sharp lines and clarity in this photo surprised me. I must be brutally honest; I didn’t expect it. I’m used to slightly fuzzy edges in any of my night photos. The lesson is clear – tripod & patience are the keys.

Don’t forget to look at my previous post on night photography. These are more from the same batch of street photos so enjoy.

2 Streets of Toronto photos – dusk in the city

2 Streets of Toronto photos – dusk in the city

2 Streets of Toronto photos – dusk in the city

Finally, some new streets of Toronto photos. I was on a job downtown yesterday afternoon and thought, what a great chance to try out a few new techniques I’ve been reading about. I wasn’t disappointed.

The secret to improving is to keep reading and examining photos from accomplished photographers. I often tear apart components in a picture, trying to figure out what it is about that image that I find attractive. I love night photography – the warm, yellow glow coming from buildings, the changing colours of darkening sky, the way headlights streaks offer a sense of motion to the evening.  But it’s frustrating to capture. One site I’ve been studying made a recommendation that set all sorts of bells go off in my head.

Use the camera’s histogram.

I know I’ve read this before, and I use it extensively with Photoshop, but this time, it made resonated. Not sure why it did, but we’ll just enjoy the epiphany for a bit. I’ve prepared two of the photos to show. One I converted to black and white, the other I left in full colour.

Streets of Toronto photos

After setting up the tripod, I fussed with a number of settings and just watched the histogram bounce around. Adjustment, after adjustment and a couple of test shots and I was good to go.

Streets of Toronto photos showing Yonge street at night

Yonge near Front Street

This was fun. I found a good focus point and waited. Thank goodness for the remote clicker. Saved my hands from freezing off. This photo looked good in full colour, but the black and white brought out the mirror effect in the tall building. Instead of seeing just cars coming, my eye was drawn to reflections. I’m still working on the rest from this spot and will post more later in the week.

Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame

I’ve taken more photos of the Hockey Hall of Fame than I care to think about. It’s not easy to get. A lot is happening on that corner of Yonge and Front and that makes getting a good shot difficult. But, I have to say, this picture makes me happy.

Streets of Toronto photos - Hockey Hall of Fame from the outside

Hockey Hall of Fame with a truck whizzing by

This was epic. When I set up on the corner of Front and Yonge, suddenly the traffic evaporated. And I wanted to capture their lights. I waited and waited. Finally, cars and trucks appeared.

The warm yellows and deep blue came out so well in this series of shots. The building remained in focus and the street signs tie the photo together. I managed to capture the truck rushing by as well. I did a little happy dance on the street when I reviewed this one. So, yea, if you were down near the Hockey Hall of Fame last night and saw a small woman dancing around a tripod, that was me.

I shouldn’t be, but I’m surprised at the sharpness. It all boils down to using the tripod and watching the histogram. There were no blown highlights, so I had lots of room for adjustments in Lightroom. I think, this is the first set of photos I’ve taken that I’m truly proud of because of all the work I put into understanding the basics.

I have more photos to process, so check back later in the week for another round. Also, in March there will be a super moon, which is why I’m so hot on learning more. Fingers crossed the weather will cooperate.  Check out these earlier night shots I took in December and compare them to these new ones. Research & experimentation my friends. That’s the secret.

3 Toronto’s Skyline At Night Photos | Bitter Grounds Magazine


3 Toronto’s skyline at night photos

3 Toronto’s skyline at night photos

Past attempts at taking sharp night photos have been mediocre. Occasionally, a photo stands out, but that’s due to luck rather than skill on my part. And no, I’m not being modest. This is an area I struggle with. For the past couple of months, I occasionally trotted out to the balcony and tried figuring out what I’m doing wrong. Last month I admitted a large part of the issue is impatience and shaky hands. I get fidgety and do dumb things when frustrated. Dumb things like doing the same thing over and over or not waiting to get the effect I want.

Impatience is a night photo killer

It takes a lot of trial and error to get a good night photo. It also means paying attention to settings and making notes on what works. I’m a bit lazy and found myself repeating the same mistakes rather than reading past entries. I was chasing longer exposure times to get a certain effect but would often lift my finger off the button too soon. Or worse, my hand would shake just enough to create a blurry image. I decided to tackle these problems with a remote trigger.

Canon smartphone app vs manual remote clicker

Canon has an app that can be used to trigger the camera. While it works, it had a horrible lag time between shots. I’ve tried it on two Android smartphones and encountered the same problems. It also caused the camera to lock up occasionally, so I didn’t really use it much.  It is handy to scroll through photos on the camera and look at the details via the phone, but to act as a trigger, it wasn’t particularly good. You can check it out here Canon Camera Connect | Camera and Camcorder App. You might have more luck than I had.

I picked up a cheap little remote clicker to test. It cost all of $15 so I figured it was worth the try. It solved the lag issue as well as cleared up some of my impatience. To set up a long shutter speed shot, all I have to do is flick the button up to hold and the camera shutter stays open until I’m flick it back down.

I experimented with various shutter speeds and had more fun that a person should have with a little plastic clicker. It also cleared up the shake issue. Despite using a good tripod, I still managed to pick up a vibration on the photos when my hand remained on the camera button. This little clicker fixed it.

First of the night photos of the north skyline

Toronto skyline, north facing - night photos

I’m pleased with the clarity

Now that’s a good photo. I especially loved the car lights below on the street. The building lights came out warmer than any previous photos. Not sure That’s a combo of no hand jitter and a longer shutter speed. The skyline came out just about right. I’m going to lug the tripod and camera out to the parking garage roof to try a few new ideas this week. It’s supposed to be clear tomorrow, but we’ll see. Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate.

Second night photo

Night photography- skyline with a bit too much light

Left the shutter open too long this time.

I like this one because it’s an interesting combo of warm lights and chilly winter scenery. But I left the shutter open a bit too long and the parking garage is washed out. The reflections in the building on the left are great thought. They really shine.

Last photo of the Toronto skyline

Night photo showing a car in the parking lot

The car lights were an accident

This one came out better. I didn’t hold the trigger so long and accidently got a car pulling out of the parking lot at the same time. That arc of white to red lights was a happy instance. I stayed on the balcony a bit longer trying to get a few more cool car light effects, but my neighbours weren’t cooperating. But this gives me hope.

I had plateaued for quite a time with photography and was feeling frustrated. As I said earlier, I kept repeating the same mistakes and couldn’t seem to shake it off. But something as small as a $15 remote trigger seems to have invigorated me. Now I can’t wait for a night to go out and try different views.

If you’re interested in seeing some of my earlier attempts, take a look at the article below.

An interesting view of concrete and light – a little night photography



An interesting view of concrete and light – a little night photography

An interesting view of concrete and light – a little night photography

Ugg it gets dark early now. Is it too early to say “can’t wait for spring”?  Anyway, on my way home the other day and I had a thought. I’ve been reading up on taking sharper, defined photos which in turn led me to some ideas about night photography. When I came up off the subway I thought no time like the present and hiked up to the roof of the public car park I cut through on my way home. Ok, I’m exagerating. I took the convenient elevator to the roof.

MAN IT WAS COLD! I was shocked how cold it had become. I’d been inside all day and didn’t realise how the wind had whipped up. I wandered around the roof testing out shutter speeds, ISO etc to see what I could do. I was a little more than pleased with the results – I’ve posted a few on Instagram and Facebook. Didn’t take long and I decided time to go home for a cup of tea and warmth. For a Canadian, I’m a real winter wimp.  When walking towards the ramp to the elevator, I was struck how the light was playing off the concrete. Shadows, light and angles – all the ingredients for something that might be fun to play around with. I took four photos with different settings and toddled off home.

When I fired up Photoshop and looked them over, one stood out. I played around with it, switched one layer to black and white, bumped the highlights and shadows, increased the grain and fussed a bit. Then I blended it with colour layer until I had just the right feel. And here it is:

Concrete and Light

Photo taken at night in a parking garage showing light and shadows

What gave me the idea were a couple of photographers who stressed  “don’t be afraid of grain”.  So I used it to my advantage. If you’re the curious type, here are a few details – ISO 1600 F5.6 27mm +1.67 1/8. Who knew concrete parking garages could be so moody.

Quick note: I wrote this on the fly so if you spot an embarrassing typo please drop me a note in the comments section.

Check out my Instagram and Facebook pages if you want to see extras that don’t make it to the site (links below)

NIK filters and a mediocre photo

NIK filters and a mediocre photo

Yesterday I told you about NIK plugins for Adobe Photoshop (as well as Elements and Lightroom) being offered up free by Google.  I’ve been poking around with the plugins, seeing what they can do. I pulled up the rather mediocre (bordering on bad) photo I took the other night after the freezing rain storm we had here in Toronto. I grabbed a couple of shots that night, but didn’t put a lot of effort into them, which shows. They are slightly off focus, and the light didn’t do justice to the glowing halo around the tree.

I wondered if the NIK sharpen plugin would help. So here’s the original:

Ice storm 24 Mar originial image

As I said, it’s a not focused, slightly blurred.  I sharpened a little bit. I also brushed out the irritating little light spot just above the tree. It’s interesting how it keeps pulling the eye there first, rather than the tree. Using the Sharpener Pro plugin, I was able to clean up the branches, defining their edges.  I used a combination of Adaptive Sharpening, Local Contrast and Output Sharpening, nudged up just a little. Made the ice glary again.  The blacks are now much sharper as well.

After I finished with the sharpening I decided to have a bit of fun and fired up the Analog Efex Pro 2 plugin.  The first one was Classic Camera filter 2, which brought up the shininess of the road and sidewalk ice. Then I applied another filter to the original, Classic Camera 4 with a nice blue hue.

Ice storm 23Mar plugins OldCamera plainIce storm 23Mar plugins oldCamera

I like how the light breaks up on the sides now. I layered the filter 2 over the 4 filter and used multiply, then I adjusted the highlights and shadows and now it looks like it did that night:

Ice storm 23Mar plugin Shadows Highlights NIK filters

Lots of experimenting to do with the plugins. I’ll pull up different photos and see what I can do with them, but they certainly helped clean up the original photo.