One of the shots from my visit to the DC Metro. The architecture and lighting of the DC metro system is some of the most interesting I have seen. The lines and curves lend themselves perfectly to photography and what better way to celebrate it than with a light trails shot. The trick to getting a great light trails shot here was to shoot a series of bracketed shots, 1/2 a stop apart as you hear the train arriving. To keep the light trails clean, choose an aperture between f7 and f11 otherwise the lights (especially stationary ones will) start to show a lot of diffraction.
I was lucky to get this shot as I was kicked out just seconds after the train left the station. Apparently photography in the metro is prohibited for whatever reasons so be prepared if you decide to do some shooting of your own.
Editing was a bit lengthy on this one as I selectively blended 3 exposures in Photoshop (not an HDR), grabbing the best parts of each one. I then selectively adjusted curves, saturation, smart sharpening and levels and removed a rather ugly greenish color cast on the roof by desaturating it. I then brightened the red lights by selecting them using “Select color range”, duplicating the selected content to a new layer and blending it using the “Linear Light” blend mode at 60% opacity. Some highlights were selectively boosted by creating a duplicate layer with “Screen” blend mode and masking in the desired areas at 30% opacity. Finally the contrast was boosted using Color Efex Pro 4 and some areas of the tracks were sharpened using a high pass filter blended in “Overlay” mode at 20%. The image was finished in Lightroom 3 by making the white balance a tad cooler, increasing recovery, fill light and doing some slight cropping.
Finals were Nikon D800 with a Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens at f8 for 8 seconds, ISO 100.
Even bad pictures lead somewhere - most often to better pictures.
This is a more abstract piece than I would typically shoot but the nature of the building certainly lends itself well to these types of images. The picture was taken at the Ontario College of Art and Design. The building is essentially a rectangular cube that sits atop a number of large pillars and appears as though its floating in the air. The shot was taken by resting the camera against one of the pillars and shooting upwards. Because a tripod couldn’t be used so close to the pillar, the building was captured with 3 handheld shots, 1 stop apart and the sky was shot separately. The camera in question was a D800 with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens.
Post processing involved merging the images in photoshop and applying distortion correction. The white portions of the building took on a rather ugly yellowish green color cast as a result of the reflecting light. To eliminate this, I selected just the portion of the building that had the color cast using “Select color range” - ensuring that the nice yellow highlight in the corner is not included - and creating a B&W copy of the selection. The black and white layer was then blended in using the Linear Dodge blend mode at 60%. Final tweaks included levels adjustment, smart sharpening, selective color adjustment on the yellow pathway (which is originally an ugly reddish color) and contrast adjustment in Color Efex Pro 4. The image was finished in Lightroom 3 where I adjusted the crop and rotation to provide a nice balanced feel.
Always carry a camera, it’s tough to shoot a picture without one
As noted in my previous entry, shooting the interior of the Art Gallery of Ontario proved to be impossible, so I decided to make use of my extra free time by shooting a bit of the exterior.
This is a shot of the protruding staircase on the buildings south side. Although it’s an interesting piece of architecture, very few angles actually photograph well. An ideal shot would be from below the staircase, however; the area is gated so it’s not really an option. This was taken from the west side of the building with a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII lens at 180mm.
The image is 3 exposures one stop apart for the actual building, plus another exposure for the sky that was merged in using Photoshop.
Additional processing included some dodge and burn, smart sharpening and contrast enhancement and cross processing in Color Efex Pro 4. Finally, the image was desaturated by blending it with a black and white layer at 65%. Final curves and clarity adjustments in Lightroom 3 to finish it all off.
A Warning to Photographers at the AGO
The Art Gallery of Ontario has done an excellent job of incorporating a great deal of interesting architecture on the buildings interior, just don’t expect to photograph it.
I pre-purchased a ticket online (as they encourage you to do) but from the moment I arrived I was treated as a pariah for wanting to take pictures. I brought a small camera sling bag with me that contained my Nikon D800, a few lenses and my tripod. As soon as I walked in I was told I have to check my bag before going in. After an argument with the “welcome” staff, I relented and decided that I would pull out the lenses, attach my tripod (folded) to the camera and effectively carry everything with me and just check the empty bag. Naturally this is terribly inconvenient, but leaving thousands in equipment at the coat check was not an option. Once I proceeded to the coat check I was berated for wanting to take pictures at all, then told that I can’t take the tripod in with me. Once again, refusing to check a $500 tripod, my only alternative was to forfeit my ticket and leave.
Ironically, it would appear that the AGO doesn’t recognize photography as an art, or at least not one that they want to participate in creating.
If you shoot what you love well enough, somebody will eventually start paying you to just keep doing that which you gladly do for free
Over the next few weeks you’ll be seeing a series of shots from my latest excursion to Washington DC.
My goal was to capture the city in an atypical manner. To show some of the more interesting details that are overlooked and present it in a new light. Overall, Washington is an excellent city for photography with the caveat that most of the buildings are government owned. As a result, you have to be careful what you photograph and expect that you may be approached and asked to delete the photos. Despite shooting a number of shots on a tripod I personally didn’t have an issue with this in the city itself (more on this later) but I’ve heard that others have. I do however recommend that you visualize your shot first, dial the settings into your camera before you start shooting and bracket your shots to ensure that you get a good result as quickly as possible so that you’re not hanging around for too long.
The shot you’re seeing here is a capture of the Eisenhower Executive Offices near the White House and its surrounding lights. The building was surrounded by guards so I prepared a pithy comeback should one of them approach me. “Actually, I wasn’t taking a picture of the building, I’m photographing the lights and the building is in my way”. Still not sure if that would have worked or not.
The photo itself is a blend of 3 exposures taken 1 stop apart. The sky was shot separately so that a long exposure could be used for it which is simply not possible with the f2.8 aperture that I wanted in order to throw the building out of focus. The two images were merged together in Photoshop CS3 after which I proceed to do the following:
- Selective dodge and burn via a 50% grey layer blended with soft light
- Selective sharpening using smart sharpen around the lamp
- Applying a selective Gaussian Blur to the globes of the lamp as the HDR process created harsh color transitions and ugly gradations
- Perspective corrections using the distortion filter
- Global curves adjustments using a mild inverted S curve
- Added contrast and cross processing through Color Efex Pro 4
- Finished the whole image in Lightroom 3 by adjusting exposure, clarity, cropping, etc.
The finals on this shot were: Nikon D800, on a tripod using a 24-70mm f2.8 lens. The non compensated exposure was 1/50, f2.8, ISO 100 at 56mm.
Stay tuned for more DC pictures and my thoughts on photographing this impressive city.
The lighting on this self portrait was kept simple. One 400w Elinchrom strobe was placed at 45 degrees camera left and 30 degrees down on me. The strobe was fitted with a 3’ x 3’ softbox and placed just out of frame. I stood at the edge of the softbox to get nice soft feather light. No background was used as ambient light was not a factor given the exposure settings so it was just going to go black anyway.
Finals were: Nikon D300 with 24-70mm f2.8 lens at 70mm, 1/200th, f22, ISO 125, 400w strobe at half power.