night photography … the wrong(ish) way.

This photo required a lot more post-processing than I normally do on an image, mostly because I have this dreamy, idealized vision of what a snowy city night looks like and I really wanted to re-create that in this photo.  But, another reason I had to be extra particular with this picture is because *sigh* I don’t practice what I preach.

Every time I teach a photography course I explain how vital a tripod is:  how crazy you will make yourself trying to get tack-sharp photos in low light conditions without one, and how much better your image quality will be if you can leave your ISO nice and low instead of cranking it up to avoid camera shake.  I didn’t have a tripod with me this particular evening.  I’ll beg a bit of understanding because I was on my way home from work, and, while I love to carry my camera with me everywhere to catch that perfect moment it’s a lot harder to force myself to also carry a tripod.  Eventually I do plan on adding a gorilla-pod to my gear arsenal, and then I will no longer have excuses.  But, in the meantime, I am forced to do things the hard/stupid way.  Which means shooting 8 – 12 frames of every composition with the shutter on continuous, holding my breath and trying to balance against a tree-trunk … just praying that 1 frame will come out clear enough to use.  So believe me when I tell you:  tripods are a must for an enjoyable night photography experience.  (But, if you’re as stubborn and determined as I am, you can make it work … although it’s not nearly as efficient!)

One of the trickiest things about this photograph was matching the colour to my mind’s memory.  When I see a city on a winter’s night, particularly when it’s snowing, the sky seems almost purple to me.  Of course, when you photograph the scene, odds are, you’re going to get something more like this:

City lights are often an overwhelming oxide orange and completely kill any other colour that you might see in the scene.

A more “accurate” white balance leaves the photo looking like this:

We’ve got white snow, but none of the magical orangey-purple contrast that I imagine.

In order to combine the two images, I opened them both in Photoshop and then placed one image on top of the other.  I used the luminosity (brightness) of the image to mask out darker areas of the orange image so that the blue sky would show through.  After tweaking the saturation and curves, I have an image that more closely fits the night as I remember it.

My favourite part about this image is the background:  the ice on the tree across the street was reflecting the street lights and it created some magical bokeh when pulled out of focus.  Definitely waiting for the next snowy night to go on another photo walk … this time WITH my tripod.


it’s the new year, so of course, it’s time to make some resolutions!

Well, it is the beginning of a new year, and like so many of my fellow humans, I find myself once again resolving to improve my life and creativity in a variety of ways.  One of the main things in life I’d love to spend more time on is my photography (and my art in general).  I tend to say this a lot, but I’d like to think I get a little bit better every year … and I’ve already got a couple of creative projects lined up that lead me to believe I will be even more successful this year!

One of my main goals for this year is to further streamline my image library.  I bought my first digital camera in 2007 and since then I’ve managed to shoot over 17,000 images.  I’ve been slowly organizing and tagging them recently, but it is a rather arduous task for a slightly obsessive girl like myself.  (Once you start keyword tagging, it can be hard to know when to stop!)  Up until now, I’ve been saving almost every image I shot, but when I had to go out and buy a second hard drive to store my photos I decided it was time to do a serious culling.  Some of these images will never see the light of day, and while a couple of bad images are a great resource for a photography instructor, I certainly don’t need this many!  A good review of my current image library should also act as a great learning tool:  I can look more closely at the subjects I am naturally drawn to, and pinpoint the areas where I can tighten up my technique a bit.  I’m hoping to find some hidden gems, as well as inspiration for some new subject matter.

With all the photography courses I’ll be teaching this term, it would be an easy thing to set aside the camera in favour of lesson planning (or another Stargate marathon!), but I’m hoping to expand my own craft at the same time by shooting some new example images for each of our topics.  I’m excited to get out of my comfort zone and get even more comfortable manipulating my equipment.  Teaching has been such a wonderful adventure – I’m pretty sure I’m learning almost as much as the students!

Creatively speaking, I really want to get the most out of my 50mm  f1.4 lens – seriously addicted to the bokeh and shallow depth of field I can get with it – and get some new images shot for my eye candy and see Jane series.

I’m hoping that, by writing my creative resolutions down and posting them for all to see, I’ll be forced to keep myself on task and actually make a real go of this … wish me luck!