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

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.

You can follow Bitter Grounds via Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. I’m working on setting up a subscription system, but time is a bit short so don’t expect it this month. I’ll do my best to get it going. Subscribers will get a few perks – voting on upcoming stories, give aways (modest little items, but fun) and a few other ideas I’m working on. If you’d like to support Bitter Grounds visit my support page to find out how.

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. 

_____________________________________________________

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 

 

Mapping TO – a quick trip around Yonge & St Clair

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.

Shopping on Yonge

Photo of man picking over fruits at stand on Yonge

There’s a great little fruit and veg shop just up the road. I was testing different apecture settings etc and accidently snagged this shot. Yesterday was mostly a test of various settings and what works best on a gloomy day and moving traffic. It came out a bit noisy so I took advantage of it and threw a grain filter onto the image. The shot was too good to waste.

Directing Traffic @ Yonge & St. Clair

Photo of cop directing traffic on Yonge and St. Clair

Pleased with this one. The northbound TTC subway was closed for repairs, which always causes traffic problems on the corner of Yonge and St. Clair. I left the camera on multi shot and just kept clicking. This was the best framing.

David A. Balfour Park Photo of David Balfour Park

This shot was a bit more complicated. I came home through the David A. Balfour park about 20 min before dusk and I looked up at the trees and thought “GREAT SHOT”.  I nipped home and grabbed my tripod so I could play with different exposures and ISO settings. I’ve been reading more on  bracket photography and fine tuning it and thought this was a perfect chance. The clouds had broken up into an extraordinary and diverse display and I didn’t want to lose them.  I still need to work on the exposure for the ground, it’s not quite there, but it works ok for this shot.

So, that’s it for today. My first real kick at the Mapping TO can. I’ll rethink how I’ll present things and take a bigger trip through the neigbhourhood this week. It’s not a large area, so I should be able to map out quite a bit of it.

If you’d like to support the Mapping Toronto project and Bitter Grounds Magazine subscribe through Patreon or donate via PayPal here. All support is appreciated. I’m working on gifts for various support levels, and hopefully will have something sorted soon.

 

 

 

More light effects on buildings

More light effects on buildings

I’m often amused with the way light bounces off buildings, creating interesting light effects. When you’re surrounded by glass encased towers, there’s always something to see. If you stroll south on University Ave, neal Adelaide, look to the west side. If you are there in the early afternoon, you should be able to catch the spotted building: Light effects showing reflecting spots on buildingsThe spots are quite bright and visible, hard to miss. This photo hasn’t been retouched, just cropped a bit. Depending on when you see them, the shapes morph a bit and shift along the building. Grab a coffee and watch.