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.

When the sky looks like liquid fire – sunset

When the sky looks like liquid fire – sunset

I fussed around with my camera during the heatwave earlier this week and captured a spectacular sunset. There was something about the insane heat here in Toronto that sparked a few jaw dropping visuals.  Instead of using 100 ISO as I usually do, I bumped it up to 400 and 800 respectively. I figured I could deal with a bit of noise if the overall photo was sharper.

Monday’s sunset 

Photo of the intense sunset over Toronto Sept 25 2017

The sky looked like it was on fire

That’s an unretouched photo.  All the photos today are as they came out of the camera, except for a bit of cropping on a couple. The above was 800 ISO with my Canon Powershot SX 130. Despite being a bit old and pointy shooty, when set up correctly, does a surprisingly good job balancing the colours. I switched to evaluative measuring and I’m not sure, but the overall colours looked better across the sky.  This was one of the last photos I took as the sun moved below the buildings. It shows the variable colour palette in the sky well.

When I was standing on the balcony, I couldn’t help but notice a section to the west that looked like the sky was liquid fire. I tried to zoom in and see if I could highlight the intensity of a small portion.

Molten sunset

Photo of the intense sunset over Toronto Sept 25 2017 photo 2

Toronto Sept 25 2017

Again, I haven’t retouched it. The sky looked like it was boiling. The most shocking orange I’ve seen. This was a peculiar photo. I’ve taken this shot dozens of times while experimenting with different settings, but this time I struggled to get the skyline looking horizontal. There’s something about all the competing lines, the clouds and shapes that threw my sense of perspective off a bit. I ended up just leaving it. Again 800 ISO with evaluative measuring. There is quite a bit of noise in some areas, but at least the photo came out far sharper than I’d hoped for. I balanced the camera on the balcony railing to steady it and the results were good.

The next photo was taken a minute or two before the above, using ISO 400. I did have to crop this a bit and straighten it out. The wider skyline made it far easier figuring out what the horizon was.

Photo of the intense sunset over Toronto Sept 25 2017 photo 3

Photo 3 as the sun sinks lower

Jet stream and a skyline

Photo of the intense sunset over Toronto Sept 25 2017 w/ jet stream showing

The jet stream at the top left stands out

The Jetstream at the top left adds something to the overall photo. Same settings just focused on a different section of the sky. The next photo looks like the sky is a mass of liquid fire rolling around the clouds. The edges of the building and crane came out on this shot with just a slight halo, but I can live with that. Incredibly happy with it.

The skyline is on fire

Photo of the intense sunset over Toronto Sept 25 2017 last shot

Liquid fire

Lots of noise, but I shot it 800 ISO. The highest setting on this Powershot is incapable of capturing dusk or night without an excessive level of noise. 800 ISO offered up an acceptable level for me.  This was an interesting lesson in being flexible in how I shoot. Play with ISO more, steady the camera against something and don’t be afraid of a bit of noise if it means grabbing an image you may not see again.

Apologies for posting so many photos without cutting them down, but I wanted to showcase the colours. I usually post low rez photos to speed the page up, but when I decreased the quality, they lost too much of the fiery look.

I’m waiting for the Black Friday sales to upgrade to a DSL camera. I’ll likely go with a bundle package with an extra lens to play with and a decent tripod. Although a big expensive setup would be amazing, it isn’t really practical for me. I’m aiming to get a remote, 2 lenses, tripod and hopefully monopod, hood and maybe a macro filter or two. The one I have bookmarked has a decent telephoto lens that would be fun to have but I won’t hold my breath. The kit lens that comes with the Canon will be good to learn on. The extra lens (44mm? 55?) will be the upgrade to try for sharper images.  Nothing really high end, but perfect for an amateur to explore with. I can always grab  a good used lens later. There are some great camera stores in town that have a steady supply.

We have a lunar eclipse coming in January, so I want plenty of time to play with the camera before I head out to freeze my ass off to take photos. I’ve also been casing my neighbourhood looking for the perfect spot and found it – the parking garage a street over. They have a perfect, unhindered view of the surrounding area and are open 24hrs. When I get the DSLR, I’ll trot over there to test drive settings. Should be lots of fun.

If you want to see more photos, check out my Instagram account – https://www.instagram.com/bittergrounds2016/ I try to throw photos onto it daily, many that don’t make it onto the Magazine so it’s a fun option. Often, I’ll post something I did on the fly and thought you’d enjoy. As well, catch my Facebook page where you can drop in a comment or two about any of these articles (or post below in the comments section).  I also share articles that catch my attention on FB, including friends’ pages or interesting articles ranging across a variety of topics – https://www.facebook.com/bittergroundsmagazine/ 

 

Scenes from my balcony – no not a Romeo story

Scenes from my balcony – no not a Romeo story

I’m going to start a new series titled “Scenes from my balcony”.  Every week something chaotic, silly or fascinating seems to play out below and I have a perfect perch to watch the drama unfold.  A notification went up earlier in the week warning Yonge would be blocked Friday night and Saturday for a construction crane installation across the road. Didn’t think much of it beyond I might get a few cool photos. Last night when the equipment was moved into place I took a few ok shots. In the wee hours of the morning I briefly stuck my head out the door to see what the “beep beep beep” was about. Workers were already rustling about down there. I thought way too early for this, crawled back into bed and threw a pillow over my head.

When I woke up and stepped out onto the balcony, I had a “HOLY SHIT” moment. This greeted me:  Photo of a construction worker hanging off crane hitting it with a sledgehammerI’m pleased with that shot. Not at all bad for a little Canon Powershot.  It did a servicable job on the photos throughout the day. It’s weak spot is night light so most of the night photos are a wash. I’ll likely end up tossing them. I still came away with some great photos.

Attaching the last piece on the crane

I guess this is what happens to the kids who play with building blocks and Lego – they grow up and find bigger Lego kits to play with.

Photo of crew waiting for concrete blocks to be lowered onto crane The crew was still climbing around when the sun began to set.

Photo of late evening sunset over the workers on the crane. It’s 9:30 pm now, the sun has set and the workers are putting away the equipment. The crane is completed and Yonge street should open up by 10:30pm. I can hear banging and motors still going, so they’ll be a while yet. Long, long day for the crew. Fascinating one for me.

 

Toronto skyline & a bit of Photoshop fudging

Toronto skyline & a bit of Photoshop fudging

Not a clue how I managed to create this:
Photo showing north skyline @ Yonge and St. Clair looking west Toronto

It’s a view from my balcony – north skyline of Toronto, last summer. I fussed with it a bit off and on during the winter, trying this and that. Problem is, I wasn’t keeping any notes on what I’d done. I simply created it, saved a copy and moved on. I found it while culling photos and thought “cool”. I like it but for the life of me can’t figure out everything I did. I vaguely remember using it to experiment with saturation and highlights. I enjoy tweaking saturation for a specific effect to draw the viewer’s eyes to a feature I’m interested in.  I also remember thinking St. Mike’s cemetery should standout. It’s one of the oldest cemeteries in Toronto, surrounded by highrises and condos. Not a lot of people realise it’s nestled where it is.

I think I was trying to make some of the architectural features pop out as well. I’m endlessly fascinated with how highrise buildings change neigbourhoods and how simple design elements can radically change the view. To the left of the photo, the blue building (not that bue in real life), has a cool pattern that shows up if you adjust the highlights a bit. I’ve noticed that in a couple photos. I suspect that was the intent behind this work – trying to make the balconies and windows reveal their patterns.

Kind of cool. It’s now my desktop background. I do have notes on what Photoshop elements I was experimenting with around Christmas so maybe that will clue me into what I did.

Life is conspiring against me … and an update on the building demo across the road

Life is conspiring against me … and an update on the building demo across the road

I’ve been so busy lately, I’ve not had a lot of time to do anything but go back and forth, back and forth…. The subway sucks by the way. I’ve not had a lot of time in the past month, especially the past 2 weeks, to do anything but rush around trying to get things done. Which means … Bitter Grounds has suffered a bit. By the time I get home, all I want to do is poke around reading silly stories on the internet. Thinking has been too much work. I’m working on a couple of articles and now have a backlog of photos etc to post for the next few crazy weeks. Hopefully things won’t stay this way much longer.

In the meantime, the construction work across the street is moving along at a steady pace. The old CHUM building is gone, just a bit of brick and rubble left. This morning they started digging out the foundation. I have to admit, I’ve become fascinated with the entire process. It’s pretty impressive to watch. 3 big diggers clawing away at the dirt. I have dozens of photos of the work at various stages and have cherry picked a handful that will turn into stunning pieces of digital art. I was on the balcony about an hour ago and noticed the basement levels are starting to peak out of the ground. It’s going to be interesting to see how they dig out the walls.

And finally, it’s definitely fall here: View of the ravine from balcony

Cold … ugh … I’m never ready for it.