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

 

More Toronto wall art – bright city lights

More Toronto wall art – bright city lights

I’ve been digging through older photos of wall art, looking for something a bit cheery to blow away the winter blues. My mom often reads through Bitter Grounds, offering ideas and advice. Around Christmas she looked over her glasses at me (never a good thing) and told me to lighten up the content. I took that to mean my passion of construction sites was a bit too much. Not sure if the photo below will pass muster, but I love it so, sorry mom.

I forgot about a short trip I took to Budd Sugarman Park last summer. It’s a wee slice of green, squished between the Rosedale subway station, Aylmer Ave and Yonge. There really isn’t much to see down there, but Sugarman is a nice little spot to sit and relax. The park hosts an amazing piece Toronto wall art, or in this case, utility cover art.

On the south side of Aylmer is a utility box that showcases a stunning piece of art.

Photo of art on a utility box depicting a twighlight scene in the city

The colours are so vivid, the photo doesn’t do it justice. I’m not sure who the artist is, which is a shame. I’d like to see more.

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The power of colours in Graffiti Alley

The power of colours in Graffiti Alley

I’m a  bit embarrassed. Since the eye opening lesson on manual control last week (see Photography experiments with highlights & shadows) I’ve been working with all sorts of settings on my camera. I’ve been wowed by the sharpness and brilliant colours that have been falling out of the camera.

The embarrassment stems from falling into the old trap of “maybe I need a better camera/lens” belief. It wasn’t the camera – it was the camera user that was at fault. Granted I’m using the kit lens that came with my Rebel, but it does the job. I simply needed to learn how to optimize the settings to get the results I wanted. I’m still itching to get my hands on a prime lens or two, but the lesson I’ve taken away from this is, I need to keep working on the basics and worry about a prime lens later. The best lens in the world can’t compensate for poor skills.

Graffiti Alley

I took my new found cockeyed optimism about photography and wandered down to Graffiti Alley for another kick at the can. Graffiti Alley is exactly what it sounds like – a long lane, backing onto businesses –  slightly odorous, shadowy and the location of magnificent wall art. It’s a bit grubby in parts and the aroma of garbage can be a bit over powering in spots, but worth the trip. The explosion of colour and intense shadows/highlights that play long the alley make it a fun challenge for amateurs.

Previous attempts produced some pretty shoddy photos – blown out highlights, grossly bad exposure, off colours and shadows that were overwhelming. I relied too heavily on letting the camera dictate settings. I know what I want my photos to look like, the camera doesn’t. By grabbing onto full manual, I can change settings needed. I experimented a lot and took multiple shots from the same position, using different shutter speeds/ISO/aperture settings. I also worked on where I was focusing. Like the trip last week, it was illuminating.

Putting to work photography lessons at Graffiti Alley

Photography - Photo of long street view of Graffiti Alley with young man sitting in one of the windows

Originally wanted the shot without a person, but whoever he is, he helps pull the scene together

Not sure who the man in the window is, he hopped up there for his friend just as I was setting up the shot. Decided to take the shot anyway and I think he really shows the length of this stretch nicely.  He added a nice dimension to the photo.

Large mural of a tiger like mask

Tiger Mask

Some of the murals just leap out at you, like this tiger mask. (Check out Censdbs’ Instagram page to see more of his art.)

Graffiti Alley art - wall mural of a samuri warrior coming out of the wall

Sharp shadows worked out with the manual settings

The colours is sharper than most of the work I’ve done to date. Instead of the usual frustration at the lack of detail crispness, most of the photos came out like the warrior above. I think some of the sharpness came from a better understanding of depth of field as well.

Photo - wall art showing a Zeus like figure

What alley is complete without Urizen rising from the dark. I airbrushed a bit of garbage away but left the flaws on the wall.

And finally a door

And finally the door to nowhere. The contrast and exposure on this one isn’t quite right. I played with it quite a bit in post production, but the shadows aren’t balanced so the colours aren’t as vivid as they should be.  Maybe I should focus more on getting the highlights right and let the shadows take care of themselves for a bit.  I’m still forcing myself to lighten up photos because I tend towards underexposing too much.

Photo of a art covered door opening onto another door

As I improve, I’ll make a couple more trips down to Graffiti Alley to test things. It may sound tedious taking the same photo over and over, but it’s an interesting lesson. I like to spread them out and compare the various settings, see what worked, what flopped. I have a little note book I’ve started that I’m using as a cheat sheet of settings to help out until understanding how the three settings interact with each other. In the meantime, much fun!

Photography experiments with highlights & shadows

Photography experiments with highlights & shadows

I’ve been struggling lately. . I hit a plateau where my lack of knowledge became frustrating.  I kept fighting my camera trying to figure out ISO | shutter speed | aperture settings. The mighty trio baffled me.  I’ve been flipping between AV and TV modes, trying to get a nice balance but *shrug* everything was a big meh. Then I watched one of my favourite photographer’s latest YouTube video and the penny dropped.  

I like watching Sean Tucker’s photography videos. He uses lush shadows and strong highlights in a way that makes photos pop off the screen. But his Sunday video helped lift some of the confusion I’ve been wrestling with. “How to Nail Exposure using Manual Mode” encourages users to stop being afraid of manual mode and take the plunge.  I dabbled with manual in the past, but at the time I didn’t appreciate how the three settings interacted and switched back to AV. Sean’s description was illuminating. I watched the video 3 times and made a few notes, grabbed my camera  and walked down Yonge St over to King/University, to experiment.  I tend to underexpose, to a fault, and lose out on taking advantage of bright highlights to help set a mood. To break myself of that habit, I focused on capturing strong shadows as well as bold highlights. 

Did I capture great art? No, many photos were still unusable. Did I have fun? OH YEA! There was something so basic and clear about Tucker’s description, that the fear of full on manual vanished. It. Was. Fun.  I was surprised at how quick it was to make adjustments on the fly. The secret though was pretty basic – SLOW DOWN. Think about the shot and use the histogram to guide me.  I’ve been working with histograms extensively over the past month, using it to make micro adjustments, rather than relying on plugins to make broad, overwhelming changes. 

 I picked 4 photos from the day’s shoot. Two black and white, two colour. 

Photo of an old building with strong highlights and shadows

Paul Hahn & Co Piano on Yonge St

This one worked better than I expected. I took about 5 shots from the same spot. I think the colours are still a bit too harsh, but the project was to work with shadows and highlights. I tend to blow the highlights out so badly, the photos aren’t worth keeping.  One thing I noticed while processing the photos, I finally managed to get the shots fairly straight. I can’t tell you how many times I have to use the straighten tool because I find myself tilting my head when looking at the day’s work. It came down to slow down and think about the shot. 

Photo of Elephant & Castle showing strong reflections

Reflections on the Elephant & Castle on King

I can’t decide if I like this one or not. I waffle between loving the highlights and reflected light to hating it because the shadows don’t feel right.  On a positive note, using the histogram and manual helped me capture the blue sky correctly. Very few shots had that irritating fringing around the edges of buildings. I kept checking, adjusting and playing with angles over and over. 

Black & white photo of street musicians on Yonge & Bloor

Music on Yonge and Bloor

I loved the angles and shadows on this one but it wasn’t as sharp as I’d hoped for.  I rushed a bit too much because I was worried about losing the shot.  It’s also smaller than the others because in mid edit I decided I needed to work more on the highlights. I dumped a quick jpg onto the harddrive so I’d have something to post but didn’t check dimensions. So, this looks like the runt of the family, sorry about that.  

Black and white photo of corner King and University showing strong shadows

Long shadows on King & University

The highlights came out so well on the last photo. I even managed to capture the steam whisping up. The linear feel to the shadows came out nice and strong. I moved up and down a bit on the SE corner, trying to figure out a good angle. I wanted the eyes to travel along the cross walk and needed to get the cables above just right to grab the perspective correctly. Not bad. I can see where I went wrong with the shadows though but I’m not sure how to correct them. Make them darker?  Increase the shadow exposure? Don’t know. I’ve been playing around with it in Photoshop, trying to figure out a better balance. I am impressed with the Elephant & Castle on the far left. The light display came out nice and strong but didn’t overwhelm the sidewalk focal point. 

That was Sunday’s expedition. Tons of fun and I learned a lot. The big lesson? Don’t be afraid of manual. If I keep this up, I just may be able to graduate to a prime lens and ditch this kit lens. 

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Check out Sean Tucker’s YouTube channel for more videos on photography – Sean Tucker on YouTube His series on good light techniques and using reflections to capture vibrant street scenes are especially helpful. His calm, introspective approach has been eye opening to this happy amateur photographer. 

His website is an inspiration for photographers at all levels.  I especially love his street scenes.  – Sean Tucker Photography