12 February 2016

Vibrant Street in Chania

Posted in: architecture, Chania, street|

Vibrant Street in Chania

Today I would like to share street photo I captured last year in Chania town, Crete. I mentioned numerous times that I really loved that place as not only it is really picturesque with beautiful Venetian port, lighthouse and all those colourful houses located in the port but the place is also really vibrant, full of life and positive energy. This image was taken during midday and although I normally prefer to shoot during sunsets and sunrises (to get better light and also to have fewer people in the frame) I think that this one shows true nature of this lovely town. Despite the photo is quite busy with all those tourists and street artists, I also find it quite appealing to look at.

Vibrant Street in Chania (more…)

3 February 2016

Get out of your comfort zone!

Posted in: black and white, Copenhagen, street|

Get out of your comfort zone!

As you know I’m landscape and HDR photographer occasionally shooting cityscapes as well. I’m not very good at portraits nor at macro photography. Sports photography is not my thing. And probably I will never be good at it as it is something completely different, requires different kind of skills and sensitivity. Even post-processing techniques are different.

However, I think that one of the best things any photographer can do to improve his work is to try something completely new, to get out of his comfort zone and shoot subjects or photography styles he normally avoids. Not only it is refreshing in a way but it also helps you develop additional skills, discover new options. And then you can use these skills in your typical type of work.

Railway station in Copenhagen

Below photo is one such experiment with getting out of my comfort zone. It’s a street photo I took in Copenhagen in the Copenhagen Central Station (Københavns Hovedbanegård), which is biggest railway station in Denmark. I’m quite pleased with the overall look but most important was actually getting the shot I normally wouldn’t take.

Railway station in Copenhagen (more…)

3 November 2014

Mayan Dancer

Posted in: dance, mexico, portrait|

Daily photo – Mayan Dancer

Today I would like to share portrait of a performer taking part in a dance show I watched in Mexico. I really liked his look – vibrant red contrasted with white.

Photo showing dancer during performance in Xcaret in Mexico

Camera Info

Finally some EXIF info:

Technical details:
Camera: Sony NEX-6 (read my review here)
Lens: Sony E 55-210 f/4.5-6.3
Focal length: 84 mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure time: 1/250 s
ISO: 1250
Number of exposures: 1
E.V. Step: n/a
Flash used: no
Tripod: no
Filters: no
Technique: long-exposure
Software: Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC, Topaz Clarity
18 June 2014

Post-processing Wednesday: Crazy Mayan Dance

Posted in: before/after, dance, mexico, people, post-processing|

Time for another post in my Post-processing Wednesday series. For more posts from this series go here.

Note: if there is particular photo (from my blog) you would like me to present in this series, please leave comment under this post.

About photo

Today photo will be different than in the recent parts of the series. Normally I share post-processing for my HDR photos but… I don’t take only HDR photos. So today photo is non-HDR one. What’s more this photo was Editor’s Choice in Camerapixo We Inspire Vol. 3. – you can read more about it here.

There is one more reason I decided to share this image today. A lot of my photos take me even a few hours to process. Sometimes, however, post-processing is much simpler with just a few steps but the photo still looks very good afterwards. Crazy Mayan Dance belongs to the second group.

For more details about this photo, including exact location and EXIF metadata, please read this post.

Generally speaking processing of this photo was quite easy. It was mostly about correcting colours and improving contrast a little bit. I also increased saturation to make the scene more vibrant, more lively and more dynamic.

At high level, post-processing of this photo involved following steps:

  1. Apply some basic adjustments in Lightroom.
  2. Load image into Photoshop CC and increase contrast and saturation.

In this case Before image shows unedited image and After shows finished image after applying adjustments mentioned above.

    Editing in Lightroom

    Adjustments in Lightroom were rather subtle and here is the list of them:

    • I brightened the image a little bit by increasing Exposure to +0,20.
    • At the same time I wanted to preserve highlights so I dragged Highlights slider to -33.
    • However, decreasing Highlights has the effect of lowering the contrast in the image so in order to maintain it, I increased the Whites to +25.
    • I also increased Vibrance to +31.
    • I also enabled lens corrections to reduce any lens vignetting and get rid of distortion.

    Post-processing in Photoshop

    After finishing developing my image in Lightroom, I opened it in Photoshop CC and applied a few more adjustments.

    In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom up they are:

    1. Source – this group contains some operations done on the source image.
      1. Topaz Denoise – even though this shot was taken at ISO 100 it contained a little bit of noise in the darkest parts (by brightening the image, this noise became more apparent). Using Topaz Denoise plugin I got rid of it.
      2. Topaz Clarity – I used Topaz Clarity to increase clarity in the image.
      3. Camera Raw Filter – in Camera Raw Filter I increased saturation and vibrance slightly. I could do that in Lightroom of course.
    2. Midtones contrast – I slightly increased midtones contrast by using Curves adjustment layer.
    3. Topaz Detail – Topaz Detail is one of the most effective ways of enhancing details and sharpening. As I found one of the performers (the one standing in the middle) to be a little blurry I decided to sharpen him a little bit. I applied sharpening selectively only to him using layer mask.
    4. Darken stone – stones in the scene were quite bright and I found this very distractive so I decided to darken them. I used a simple trick here – I created new layer, filled it with 50% gray and painted with black brush the areas I wanted to darken. Then I just changed the blending mode to Soft Light, slightly reduced opacity of the layer and voila! I achieved darkening effect I wanted.
    5. Dodge & Burn – I used dodge & burn mainly to model muscles of two still performers.
    6. Global contrast – I decided to use Levels adjustment layer in order to apply some additional global contrast. I dragged White Point slightly to the left (249 instead of 255) and Midtone to 0,96.
    7. Correct colour cast – I reduced green/aqua colour cast using Color Balance adjustment layer.
    8. Reduce vibrance – finally I decided to make the image slightly less saturated so I used Vibrance adjustment layer and dragged both Saturation and Vibrance to -10.
    9. Sharpening – I then applied sharpening using Smart Sharpen filter.
    Post-processing in Photoshop

      9 June 2014

      400k views on 500px & Meet Bruce

      Posted in: london, portrait|

      400.000 views on 500px 🙂

      Another day and another milestone reached on one of my accounts. Just yesterday total number of views of my photos on 500px went beyond 400.000 🙂
      You can view all of my photos on 500px here.

      Daily photo – Meet Bruce

      Meet Bruce. Bruce is made of wax and is one of the many men figures in Madame Tussauds in London. In general going there was a nice experience as otherwise I probably wouldn’t have a chance to meet so many famous people, especially in one place 😉 Not to mention taking photos of them. During the day the museum was very crowded with waiting time to get inside of about 2 hours. So I decided to visit it an hour and a half before it closes… and you know what? It was almost empty at that time 🙂

      Below photo was taken with high ISO (3200) because tripods aren’t allowed inside. However, this photo is a proof of what I wrote in this post, i.e. with modern cameras you don’t have to be afraid of using high ISOs anymore. This turned out to be very useful in London museums as most of them don’t allow tripods.

      Back to Madame Tussauds. Despite the fact I really enjoyed it, I was a little bit disappointed by a few things. First of all there aren’t that many famous people there as I hoped (maybe my expectations were just too high 🙂 ?). Instead there is now collection of comics heros (Marvel and alike) which is not something I’m really keen on.

      Another thing which I myself found a little tasteless or even sad was figure of Hitler (aren’t there people that deserve being “portrayed” more?). I understand that he was part of 20th century history but given how much evil things he did I find it really strange that he is in the same room as people who are positive characters. What’s more he’s standing next to figure of Churchill. Finally a lot of people visiting the museum take photo with him (during my visit, more people took photo with him than with any other figure in the room). That’s really sad that so many people don’t understand history and don’t remember it.

      Wax figure of Bruce Willis in Madame Tussauds in London

      Finally some EXIF info:

      Technical details:
      Camera: Canon 5D MK III (read my review here)
      Lens: Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 L IS USM
      Focal length: 99 mm
      Aperture: f/4.0
      Exposure time: 1/30 s (“middle” exposure)
      ISO: 3200
      Number of exposures: 1
      E.V. Step: n/a
      Flash used: no
      Tripod: yes
      Filters: no
      Technique: HDR, tone-mapping, luminosity masking
      Software: Magic Lantern, Lightroom 5.4, Photoshop CC, Topaz Clarity
      28 April 2014

      Mr Death

      Posted in: dance, mexico, people, portrait|

      Daily photo – Mr Death

      I already shared some images from that ancient Maya dance show before, for instance here and just a few days ago here.

      Today I would like to share one more image from this very show. Meet Mr Death himself! From what I understood he was some kind of shaman, doing all the magic during the show.

      Maya Dancer

      Finally some EXIF info:

      Technical details:
      Camera: Sony NEX-6 (read my review here)
      Lens: Sony E 55-210 f/4.5-6.3
      Focal length: 180 mm
      Aperture: f/6.3
      Exposure time: 1/250 s
      ISO: 2500
      Number of exposures: 1
      E.V. Step: n/a
      Flash used: no
      Tripod: no
      Filters: no
      Technique: n/a
      Software: Lightroom 5.3, Photoshop CC, Topaz Clarity
      24 April 2014

      The Maya Dancer

      Posted in: dance, mexico, people|

      Daily photo – The Maya Dancer

      I already shared some images from that ancient Maya show before, for instance here. It was the first time I photographed any show in fact. Any. It’s just not my kind of photography you know (I’m dedicated to landscapes… even cityscapes are not what I really like). But I quite liked it although it was very difficult for me – the scene was very dynamic and rather crowded most of the time. It was also full of various colours, shapes and symbols that were quickly changing and transforming. There wasn’t much time for thinking so I needed to trust my intuition. And I think my intuition was good as I captured some really nice and quite powerful images that I’m really happy with 🙂

      Today I would like to share image of one of the dancers performing in that show. He was wearing bird mask and wings and looked really monumental especially in that magical colourful light.

      I used Sony 55-210 tele zoom lens and was quite positively surprised by image quality. Of course the image isn’t as sharp from my beloved Canon 70-300 L, but still is very good.

      Another interesting thing is that this image was shot at very high ISO (3200) and still the image is completely usable with very low levels of noise. Of course I needed to apply some denoising but it’s still pretty surprising how good sensor in this small Sony NEX-6 performs in low-light conditions.

      Maya Dancer

      Finally some EXIF info:

      Technical details:
      Camera: Sony NEX-6 (read my review here)
      Lens: Sony E 55-210 f/4.5-6.3
      Focal length: 123 mm
      Aperture: f/5.6
      Exposure time: 1/60 s
      ISO: 3200
      Number of exposures: 1
      E.V. Step: n/a
      Flash used: no
      Tripod: no
      Filters: no
      Technique: n/a
      Software: Lightroom 5.3, Photoshop CC, Topaz Clarity
      22 March 2014

      Tack sharp photos in 10 easy steps

      Posted in: dance, people, tutorial|

      Crazy Mayan Dance in Xcaret park

      Razor sharp, tack sharp, ultra sharp or simply sharp. Whatever you call them – sharp photos are great and attractive to your viewers (and a proof of your technical expertise!). As a few people asked me for this, in this tutorial I will give you some general tips on getting sharp results. Please note that applying a single tip from below list won’t change your photos from a little soft ones to tack sharp ones. If you want to take razor sharp photos you need to follow all of them (or at least majority).

      If you want to learn more about sharpening you can read my sharpening tutorial: part 1, part 2 and part 3.

      So here are the tips:

        1. Use a steady tripod
          It should be self explanatory – tripod greatly reduces camera shake. When you’re shooting hand-holding your camera there is always some movement even if you have steady hands. Tripod lets you eliminate this movement completely. What you have to remember is to use a really sturdy tripod. Some I used in the past were shaking so they were a little useless.
          What’s more when you’re using tripod you don’t need to use faster aperture nor increase the ISO to get steady photos.
          BTW when talking about tripods there is one tip you can use when it’s very windy – make sure to attach some weight to the central column (many tripods even have small hook exactly for that purpose) to provide some additional balance to your tripod.
        2. Use manual focusing
          Although Auto-Focus is great most of the time it often doesn’t work that good in dim light (or no light situations) and these are the ones landscape photographers have to deal most often (sunrise/sunset, blue hour, evening).
          And even if it works, it might produce images that are slightly out-of-focus (due to slight back- or front- focusing).
          If you still prefer to use Auto-Focus make sure to use central point single focus. It’s the most accurate one in most cameras.
        3. Use your lens sharpest apertures
          This may surprise you but not all apertures are equally sharp. For most lenses, fastest and slowest apertures are usually the least sharp ones, with apertures between f/4 to f/11 usually being the sharpest. And the difference between sharpest and least sharp aperture can sometimes be really huge. To learn how to find sharpest aperture for your lens, read my tutorial about it.
        4. Disable Image Stabilization
          When using a tripod disable image stabilization system if your lens or camera has one. The way image stabilization works is by trying to find and reduce vibrations. If it doesn’t find any, it can introduce a little shake on it’s own – not much but it can still cause your photos to look a little softer than they could.
          Please note that it’s not true for all image stabilization systems. Some (especially newer systems) don’t introduce movement when mounted on tripod. To check if it’s the case for you, refer to manual of your camera or lens.
        5. Use remote shutter release
          Even using the most steady tripod under the sun won’t produce tack sharp photos if you will press shutter release button with your finger. Why? When you press this button you introduce vibrations that can result in a blurry photo. It might not be very noticeable when shooting with short exposures like 1/500s but when you will shoot with longer ones (eg. 1/8s or 1s), you’ll definitely notice that. For this reason it’s good to use remote shutter release. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – simple shutter release cable or pilot will work. You can get one for a few bucks normally. If you don’t have one, an alternative is to use delayed shutter release – most of the cameras allow to set 2 or 10 seconds delay.
        6. Use native ISO of your camera
          The higher the ISO, the more noise you’ll see in the image. This way details start to look fuzzy and what’s worse when you denoise the image you will loose even more of its sharpness. With sharpness of images in mind it’s better to use faster aperture (eg. f/2.8 instead of f/4) than to use higher ISO.
        7. Use good quality lenses
          Unfortunately not all the lenses will produce same sharpness (the price differences are about something more than “L” in the name or cool white look 🙂 ). Some are more blurry (or softer), other produce ultra sharp photos on their own. The problem is that most of the kit lenses, ones you get when buying your camera body, belong to the first category. So that’s the reason you should invest in good quality glasses. They are more important for image quality than camera itself. If you’re about to buy photo gear – it’s better to buy better lens with a bit worse body than opposite.
        8. Check sharpness on LCD screen
          Review sharpness on LCD screen just after taking a photo. I lost tens of potentially good photos for not doing this. I was happy after photoshoot, got back home, copied my images to hard-drive just to find out they are soft… To avoid this, after taking a photo zoom in to 100% and check its sharpness. If it’s not perfect, make adjustments and retake your image. This tip is especially important when you’re using manual focusing to confirm you set focus correctly. However, you should also use it when using Auto-Focus to confirm it was set correctly.
        9. Apply sharpening in post-processing
          Always apply some sharpening in post-processing, even if you don’t apply any other post-processing. It’s because your images won’t probably be viewed at 100% magnification and due to the way images are rendered on our computers, at smaller magnification (like eg. 25% or 33%) they will appear less sharp. One more thing. If you plan to post the images online and to downsize them, make sure to apply sharpening after reducing size! Not before.
        10. Avoid oversharpening!
          And the last tip which is related to #9: avoid oversharpening! Oversharpened photos don’t look good. If there are halos around the edges, edges have aliasing problems or there is too much detail you will ruin the illusion. Your photos won’t be tack sharp anymore. They will just look unnatural. For me oversharpened images are as bad as out-of-focus ones.