A Beautiful Day

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On Saturday, May 3rd and Sunday, May 4th, I grabbed my camera and decided to learn how to do time lapse. Initially, I took a cable release and stood there as the sun started to set. I set my Nikon D7000 on timer with 9 photos per click and 3 second delay between photos. I ended up spending almost 50 minutes. While the sunset was beautiful, I’m sure there was a more efficient way to do time lapse as I’ve seen several examples of night photography with star trails. There are cable releases specifically made to have a timer on them. My camera can also do intervals. You can set how long you want it to run with x number of photos to be taken and how many seconds or minutes you want it to wait between each shot. This is far more effective as I went online to do more research. I was limited to the number of shots I can take since I only had a 16gb SD card and I shot in both RAW and Fine jpeg formats.

Uploading and doing minor edits took a long time but in the end I was happy with what I got. On the fourth try, I took a little more time in ensuring the camera was set perfectly, i.e. focus. It was an oversight. I focused on the subject and switched the lens to manual mode thinking it would help time lapse run smoother. I did learn how to do animated gifs over a year ago and tried to apply the same principles on Photoshop to create a time lapse. I also wanted to compare how much better, or easier it would be to create a time lapse on Lightroom. I found that it was a lot of work to manage all the layers on timeline in Photoshop. At the most for one time lapse, I had about 500 photos and at the very least, I had about 150. On the other hand, Photoshop has a lot of good editing features as well as having a lot of options when converting to a video for rendering. With Lightroom, there is a plugin to create a video. I did see online that there are some extra features if you have it. In this case, I did not. After completing my edits, I went to Slideshow, converted the photos to create a slideshow and exported it as a video. Here are the results:

Click on the links:
A Sunday in Mississauga

Mississauga After Dark

For more, check me out on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/greceln_ifoxygn/

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A Glowing Effect

I recently visited Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto and it was an awesome experience. I chose a non-holiday weekday to be sure I didn’t have to deal with a large crowd. If I wasn’t so tired, I probably would have taken more time to photograph and see every corner of the place. I’m sure I missed a few spots.

As a photographer, there were a lot of challenges, mainly the various lighting conditions for each aquarium. My Nikon D7000 goes up to ISO 6400, then H.03, H.07, H.1.0 and H2.0. Working at the lowest possible ISO is always best but you have to look at the situation and make adjustments. Indoors are often darker and you also have to see if the subject can sit still or not. The shutter speed has to be fast enough so the fishes won’t get blurred as it passes by. A minimum of 1/125 is good. I pushed my ISO to 6400 which is the max I’m willing to work with. It is grainy at this point but if I had gone higher, the quality would be far worse. In some situations, photos were darker but manageable in post editing.

I read on some tips and tricks on how to photograph at a public aquarium. Some suggest that you have to keep your camera flat up against the glass to reduce glare and reflections. Or block out as much light as possible. I’m sure all these are plausible…. if I can just make a request to management to shut off the lights outside of the aquarium to create a studio experience. Holding the camera right up to the glass was hard with the fishes swimming right up to it.

Another difficulty I had was photographing the jellyfish. Their edges were less defined. I did get some good photographs. While processing the images, I checked some examples of jellyfish photos. Many of them were glowing and I wanted to achieve that same effect. Here is how I did it:

Original

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Dark Version and Light Version

In Lightroom, I created two virtual copies of the same photo and changed the settings to create a light and dark version.

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Final Photograph

In the menu bar of Lightroom, I went to Photo – Edit In and chose Photoshop. I used Photoshope CS6. I opened both the light and dark versions. I selected the dark version and copied and pasted it onto the light version. There are now two layers, the lighter one being on the bottom in the layers panel. I closed the dark version without saving. I like to Layer from Background and name it Original. Then duplicate that and call it Edited. Then I lock the Original layer. I turned off the dark layer for now by clicking on the eye. I created a selection around the jellyfish and saved the selection. With this selection saved, I can also target the same area for other adjustments. I chose Refine Edge and adjusted the Smooth and Feather section. With the dark layer reactivated, I used the eraser tool and reduced the opacity to less than 50%. With the selection on, I erased the image to reveal the lighter jellyfish below. The image within the selection was only erased. With the selection still activated, I went to the Adjustment section and chose Brightness/Contrast. A mask was created. I kept adjusting until it gave the glow I wanted. Contrast helped the image to stand out more. To make the background darker, I chose the same selection and inversed it. I created a mask by going to the adjustment layer again for Brightness/Contrast and punched in a negative number. I’ve also used Vibrance on some of my images.

Here is the final image:

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This is one way of making something glow. If you Google how to make something glow in Photoshop, there will be all kinds of samples such as creating a soft glow effect of a scenery to making text glow.

Whatever Your Camera Can Do, My Camera Can Do Better

It’s been a few years since I picked up a DSLR camera and learned its functions. I wanted to know how to become better because the honest truth was, I was jealous of all those who took fantastic photos. DSLRs, yes, is expensive but I always felt that to produce the best you must choose the best. Since then, new hybrid point and shoot cameras have come out with interchangeable lenses.

When I first started, I went through the manual and did numerous tests to see for myself what it all meant. I took courses and workshops. I was then put to shame while on vacation because of my limited knowledge and just the kit lens. As we rounded the tip of South America on a cruise and saw Cape Horn, someone’s ultra zoom lens on her point and shoot managed to capture the lighthouse on the island with clarity. My aunt asked me why I couldn’t produced the same result. Since then, I’ve learned about the various types of lenses, how to take portraits in a studio, and worked with strobes. I have also learned about post production using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, Lightroom and Aperture.

I must admit, to become a professional photographer is a difficult choice. Everyone is buying their own cameras and editing software. It’s very competitive. I’ve heard of professionals who have been in business for years and then close up shop. I have even experienced being hired to do professional work and while I’m doing my job, everyone wants to jump in and get their own photos – whether it’s a DSLR, point and shoot, smartphone or even iPads.

If you are at an event where there is a professional photographer, please be considerate and allow them to do their job. They are being paid and want to deliver on the goods. Also, even if Photoshop is made available, we don’t want to spend hours editing people out from the background. I saw on T.V. how a guest at a wedding stood directly next to the bride and groom taking photos with her fantastic DSLR while the professional couldn’t get a clean shot.

Here are some things to consider if you are undecided on what to do. All you know is that you want better photos. Some of you don’t want to invest in such an expensive DSLR and don’t even feel like lugging around this heavy piece of equipment. That’s understandable. This information is a bit general but there is plenty of information on the internet and brick and mortar places like Black’s and Henry’s to help you make a more in depth decision.

• What will you be using the camera for? It could be any one of these things – hobby, family and friends events, landscape photography, action photography like sports, building a portfolio. Research the different types of cameras and what they can do. Forget the debate between Nikon vs. Canon. That will only limit your thinking. Know the difference between full frame sensors and crop sensors. Sony has even come out with mirrorless cameras. Just as you would research DSLRs, look at their line of lenses.

• How much are you willing to invest? Consider your budget. Even if you do have money to drop $3000 on a full frame camera, and that’s not including extra lenses, will you get a return on investment? Full frame cameras are fantastic for product photography and billboard advertisement. Essentially, if you are doing corporate work, you’ll get your money back on your investment. Consider reading your manual for the point and shoot that you already own because there are a lot of things in there that can help you take better photos. For example, you should be able to change White Balance (WB) for different lighting environments, change between modes – manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and program mode, and change ISO. As I previously said, there are point and shoot cameras with interchangeable lenses. This will also allow better zoom.

• What is your skill level? Some people just don’t put any thought into their photographs and assume that all you have to do is press the button. I have come across people who don’t even wait for people to stop and smile. I have awful photos of myself when I’ve given my camera to others. On those few occasions, the person didn’t even wait for me to look at him/her, even when that person has taken photos at least twice. If you can afford it, definitely take courses and workshops to improve your photos.

• After you have chosen your camera, you wonder why your photos are no better. Are you willing to invest more money and time into editing software? It’s a lot of work. Adobe Photoshop is great but it is expensive. Consider Adobe Lightroom because it is much cheaper and you can do basic editing. You can also watermark your photos and create slideshows.

I was once asked what’s better – a smartphone or a point and shoot? The honest truth is I’ve only owned a smartphone for less than eight months. It is convenient because I usually have it on me for phone calls, I can take a photo on the spot if I don’t have my DSLR on me. Plus, I don’t have the option of receiving calls on my DSLR. That hasn’t been invented yet. There are numerous apps for smartphones for photo lovers. I specifically like Camera Awesome and even purchased their extra filters. It’s limited in that I have very little control over what I can take. I’m sure most photo apps will allow you to increase/decrease brightness, contrast and zoom in. There is only so much you can do with it. The quality isn’t the best either. It is more evident where lighting isn’t great and you can see noise in the photo. Yes, yes, flash can be used. However, flashes can be very harsh depending on how close you are to the subject.

Below, I have some examples of photos I’ve taken with both an iPhone and my Nikon D7000 camera.

Hamilton Marina

iPhone using Camera Awesome

iPhone using Camera Awesome

Nikon D7000 HDR using Photomatix

Nikon D7000 HDR using Photomatix

It is a bit extreme. I did spend more time on the HDR photo. I could have given more effort to the iPhone photo.

Here are a couple of iPhone photos both taken in a dark environment. One shows more grain than the other. I attribute the ambiance to the difference in quality.

iPhone Photos

Everyday life

Ultimately, a good photograph is based on the skillful eye of the person. Even if someone has an excellent camera, it doesn’t make him/her any better. I’ve seen photos posted on Facebook where people have uploaded blurred photos, whether it’s motion blur or simply out of focus. In some photos, people are not aware of the background and there are things like poles sticking out of the subject’s head. Below are more photos I took using an iPhone and Nikon D7000. Very little editing was used on the iPhone photos while creating HDR from my DSLR took a little more work.

iPhone - Camera Awesome App

iPhone – Camera Awesome App

iPhone - Camera Awesome App with Hancock filter

iPhone – Camera Awesome App with Hancock filter

iPhone - Camera Awesome App

iPhone – Camera Awesome App

iPhone - Camera Awesome App

iPhone – Camera Awesome App

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000

HDR, Nikon D7000