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

4 Construction site photos – Hardhats and diggers

4 Construction site photos – Hardhats and diggers

I love taking construction site photos. I was digging through my archive, looking for something interesting to share and remembered a series I took a few years back. St Clair W, here in Toronto, has had its share of building projects. I haven’t gone back to them lately to see the progress. Maybe when I stop feeling so lazy, I’ll check them out.

Learning to make do with a kit lens

Photo of a church on Avenue road undergoing a condo conversion

Church to condo conversion

I took this series in 2018 and didn’t do much with them. I did a better job than I thought on capturing the clouds. I had to do a little adjusting to bring out the brickworks and highlights, but other than that, this is the shot as it came out of my Canon. Not a clue how I managed to do it. The camera was still new and I just trying to master holding it steady. The details are outstanding. The photo is a little on the dark side, but when i tried to adjust lights and darks, the highlights blew out and destroyed the symmetry.  I like the light bouncing off the roof and windows. Without that, this would be a bit generic.

Occasionally I wistfully look at camera lenses and dream about buying them. I had budgeted to purchase a good quality lens, waffling between a 24mm lens or a pricier zoom lens but the lockdowns and mom’s death put the kibosh on that. Priorities changed.

After looking at these earlier photos, I’m not so disappointed. I need to continue working further with the basic kit lens and explore how I can get strong photos with it before obsessing about upgrading. It’s easy to get wrapped up chasing new hardware and neglect the basics. More attention is needed on gaining a stronger understanding of light and dark settings. Right now, taking a good photo is still hit and miss. Although I’ve progressed (despite the past few months idleness), there is so much more to master.

Diggers and hardhats – Construction site photos

Construction site photos - digger in a hole

Diggers and hard hats

I stood outside the fenced area to grab a bunch of shots of the site. I went so often some of the workers waved at me when I walked by. This was one of the better ones. Most photos were garbage – not in focus, askew or distorted, the usual sins. While looking at the 2018 photos, I realised how often I get a tilted image. I still do and I’m not sure how to correct the problem. Even the recent balcony photos have a noticeable lean. Everything looks fine in the window, but when I process the photos, they list to one side. It’s annoying, to say the least.

Photo of a gutted church being turned into a condo

Just a shell left and yes, I needed to straighten this photo

These photos were taken before I began to understand how the camera settings worked. Although I’m still shaky in my comprehension, I primarily use full manual now. Photos are crisper, more vibrant, still tilted, but oh well. The last couple batches of photos required fewer adjustments before posting them. I’m getting there.

Night lights on a crane

Construction crane lit up at night

Construction as art

Different construction site this time. The crane has long gone from the landscape and a nice-looking condominium replaced it. I do miss looking out the window to watch the work. It took about 10 photos at this spot before I got the light correct. If I’d used the tripod, the crane would have been sharper, but a decent shot none the less.

I get weirdly self-conscious when I use the tripod. Maybe it has something to do with the hassles I’ve had with officious types who have demanded I “move along, no photos in this area” (with no tripod, just my Canon) all the while people around me are madly snapping with their cell phones.  The idiocy of these encounters discouraged me for a bit.

Last thoughts

I bought a couple of filters over the last few months and hope they will mute the glares and increase colour intensity. I know what I’m looking for, what I’m trying to express in my photos. They aren’t just random shots; each has a reason. Sometimes it takes upwards to 20 attempts to get what I want, but it’s been worth the effort.

Want to see more? 4 Construction Site Photos – Hardhats And Diggers | Bitter Grounds Magazine

 

Toronto skylines and a bit of bracketing

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 below ↓ for links to my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. I throw up a few extra shots on these accounts, ones that don’t always make the cut here.

Went down to TIFF & took more photos of buildings – 150 King W

Went down to TIFF & took more photos of buildings – 150 King W

I’ve been watching videos by professional photographers, trying to learn how to correct what I consider bad photography habits. One piece of advice, that should be obvious but wasn’t, was “move around”. Basically, don’t just stand in one spot snapping away hoping to get a great shot. Look at all angles, move around and evaluate what you see. The second piece was don’t be afraid to correct lens distortion with Lightroom or Photoshop. So, I went out on the weekend with a mission to revisit a number of locales.

My favourite is the tower down on 150 King St W. I go by it quite a bit and have tried to take photos but, yikes, they aren’t worth looking at. I generally toss them in the trash bin. I now realise I was taking the same shot over and over. This time, I crossed the road (like I said, obvious tip) and walked around the building, looking at various angles. I took about a dozen random shots and sat down to look at them. I flipped through them – nope, nope, nope, distorted and unsalvagable, nope … now that one has potential. I went back to the spot and started taking photos from various angles, finally finding the right framing. Here it is: Photo of the building on 150 King St. W in Toronto

I almost fell on my ass bending back to take the photo. It’s dizzying looking up like that. But, I got the shot. It was important to grab the address as well. It makes the photo.

A little cropping and a bit of adjusting and Bob’s your uncle. One nice photo. I played with the tilt of the building and angles a bit, but undid them. There’s something about this particular tilting that helps fill in the sense of height and brings out the different angles in the buidling’s construction.

For a little point and shoot, my venerable Canon Powershot does a pretty fair job. The shot was a little grainy in spots for some reason, it has a habit of breaking down along defined edges, so I simply capitalised on it and used an HDR filter to emphasis the graininess. Can’t wait to get my hands on a shiny new DSLR, I’m already oggling some decent used lenses for the future. But, first, I need to get in the habit of framing the photo, looking at it from all angles and moving around more.

Digital art #1 – Berczy Park renovations Toronto, Ontario

Digital art #1 – Berczy Park renovations Toronto, Ontario

I’m working on a digital art series about street scenes in Toronto highlighting everyday life.  Kind of like street motions with a bit of digital artwork blended in. The first one, I’m still working on. I might rework it with a new style I’m happier with one. So … this is No 1 in the series:

Berzcy Park, downtown Toronto, Ontario - digital art

Berzcy Park, downtown  at Wellington and Front, Toronto, Ontario
Sept. 16, 2016

The park is undergoing a renewal and I’ve looked at it over the past few months wondering what to do with a shot of it under construction.  Well, on Friday, while wandering past on the way to a job an idea hit me. NIK few filters that make saturation pop, but I could control which areas I want to highlight. Then run it through a few filters, blending and adjustments and bingo: construction as digital art, so to say. Something about the iconic Flatiron building with the cement truck tweaked my attention. I’m happy with this. It’s now my desktop background.  If you want a larger version, pop me a line and I’ll load one up for you.

Look for more to come. I’m slow in doing them, it takes a lot of trial compositions before I’m happy with the texture and feel.