Jan 112014

Niagara is a bit of an odd place. It’s an unashamed, huge, neon tourist trap stuck on the landscape next to a natural wonder. It’s definitely a different experience than that of visiting Victoria Falls. At Victoria, I watched a taxi driver aggressively chase away an angry looking baboon that had crashed down on the hood of his car and blocked my path. At the same time though, there is some sort of charm to Niagara’s dated gaudiness.

Neon-signs and the ferris wheel at night in Niagara Falls

Aug 312012

I saw this scene and really liked the way that the tree separated the bench and the sun drenched Old Fort Niagara across the water, in the US.  It makes the bench feel nicely isolated but gives you an idea of the expansive view. The lines, framing the scene the way they do, were what drew me into the scene. I’ve tried to process this numerous times, employing my usual HDR process and was never happy with the results. Whatever I did it always felt too busy.

Tonight, I had a bit of an epiphany. I’ve often thought to myself that I should be careful about only photographing scenes that strike me as good for HDR and make sure that I recognize when I’d be better off not using those techniques. This photo, was a prime example. The lines are very nice and the branches in the trees make for wonderful patterns. there’s enough going on that by bringing in the detail of the bench and tree the whole image gets far too busy.

I’m glad I’ve realized this and will try to stay sensitive to when I should just look to capture a silhouette. I am very fond of this technique. My first successes in photography involved snapping silhouettes, in Bolivia and Peru, with a little Olympus point-and-shoot ten years ago.

Bench and tree in silhouette with the sun drenched Old Fort Niagara across the water in the USA from Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada


Jul 182012

Discovering my photo of these lights on My Modern Met has inspired me to process the other photo I took of them, with the casino in the background. It’s funny, if the mist hadn’t been so thick that I couldn’t see the falls, I probably never would have taken these two shots. I’m glad I did.

Multicolor spotlights in front of the casino at night in Niagara, Ontario, Canada.

Jul 022012

A beautiful, sunset in a quaint Canadian town, provided the perfect backdrop for this calm scene on the shores of Lake Ontario. This was taken just as winter was turning to Spring. It was an early Spring, hence the boats are on the dock rather than in the water chomping at the bit. The serene surface of the lake provided a perfect mirror to help show off the sky.

Only a chain-linked fence threatened to ruin the shot. In a panic, as the light looked ready to fade, I figure out how to use the fence in concert with my tripod to get the shot. You can read more about how I did that here.

Beautiful sunset on the shores of Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake with a boat house and sail boats are on the dock with the lake reflecting the sky.

Jun 172012

Where in Iceland is Johnny (hopefully)?

Today should be my first full day in Iceland. We’ll be picking up our jeep and making our way through Reykjavik to the entrance of the Westfjords. If we have enough energy, and leave early enough we may be able to take a detour to look around the Snaefellsness Peninsula on the way. After checking in it will be time for a nap before a full night of shooting. My plan is to drive along the south side of the Westfjords all the way to the bird cliffs that mark the most Westerly point in Europe. On the way there I’ll be stopping at a really big beach that looks pretty interesting on Google maps. On the way back to the hostel I plan on stopping at the Dynjandi Waterfall.

Today’s Photo: Winter Vineyard

After visiting Niagara Falls I drove the road running alongside the river towards Niagara-on-the-Lake. As I drove along the golden glow of the sun on these barren vines caught my eyes and I decided to stop to try to capture it. In the process of taking this photo I discovered that my camera was unhappy with the amount of water it had contacted while under Niagara Falls. It started firing off at will, the only way to stop it was to turn it off. This made taking my bracketed photos a challenge, and sifting through the multiple unnecessary shots the camera decided to add even more difficult. It was this incident that made me decide to buy a backup camera body. My Canon 7d‘s first big outing will be to Iceland where I expect it will first come into its own while photographing the puffins in the Eastfjords.

Barren grape vines in vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario

Something Interesting: Road Between Small Norwegian Islands

As it’s going to be my first day of driving in Iceland it seems fitting that I’d post this video of a drive, in Norway, that I’ve recently added to my to do list. This road looks absolutely insane! Especially with the waves crashing over it later in the video. Click here to view this amazing road.

Jun 122012

Niagara-on-the-lake is a really pretty little town with a great location on the banks of Lake Ontario. That being said, I found it really difficult to photograph. Granted I didn’t give myself a lot of time there, but I found a lot of potentially good shots on the main street that were, unfortunately, ruined by cars parked along the road. If I were in charge there I’d ban parking of any motorized vehicle on that street to maintain the old small town feel. Unfortunately, I’m not in charge.

As it got closer to sunset I started getting a bit concerned about failing to get any photos for the evening, particularly as the sunset was getting interesting. I went down to the lake, but felt like every spot that looked like it would offer up a good vantage point was behind a fence. I feel like this a lot here in Bermuda. All the best viewpoints are on private property. It makes sense that people want these spots for their homes, but it’s really frustrating!

Eventually I found this spot. Initially, I got irritated trying to find somewhere to get a view over the fence surrounding the marina. Then, I had an epiphany. I attached my camera to my tripod and used it in a somewhat unorthodox way. The fence was chain-link so I opened up one of the legs and inserted it into the fence. It was a pretty flimsy support and made it pretty difficult to frame my shot. I had to wait until I was sure the camera had stopped bouncing around and then use my cable release to fire off three shots.

Sunset over a marina with sail boats on ground and masts reflecting at Niagara-on-the Lake in Ontario, Canada


May 202012

If you’re interested in finding this “secret” viewpoint, I provide a few clues as to its location in Niagara Skyline. It’s a pretty cool spot to  find, even if you’re not looking to photograph the area. It’s definitely a different view compared to what most visitors to the falls get to see. Once up there I decided I had to try to capture the whole scene. So, I framed up four different shots and bracketed each for HDR. I wasn’t positive at the time how I’d go about stitching them together.

It turned out it was pretty involved. I had a total of 28 photographs to work with. These 28 images could have produced 4 HDR photographs to then stitch together. This approach caused me all sorts of problems with ghosting. Another significant problem was setting the sliders in Photomatix so that they’d be optimized for all four images. I kept ending up with dark areas in the final result. So, I changed my tactic.

In order to get this to work, I wound up grouping the exposures for each image together – meaning that i had seven sets of four images ranging from -3 stops to +3 stops. I stitched each of these together to create 7 huge images that I could then run through Photomatix. Unfortunately, this pushed the limits of my computer’s capabilities and I kept encountering error messages due to insufficient memory. I had been trying to use Photomatix’s deghosting tool to clean up people and vehicles that had moved through the frame. Eventually, I decided I’d have to do this in Photoshop after producing the tone mapped image. This reduced workload appeased my computer, and I had an HDR image to work with!

I went into Photoshop and layered the seven original exposures under the tone mapped image and masked away any ghosting I could find. It was pretty time-consuming and I’ve spent ages trying to figure out how to do it, but I’m happy with the results. I’ll be producing more stitched panoramic images going forward. I’ve got an idea for another shot at the top of Horseshoe Bay using this technique. I’ll give it a try once the weather decides to behave itself again.

Cityscape panorama of Niagara Falls in Canada taken above and showing surrounding roads.

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Apr 262012

I saw a great photo of the falls lit up at night and decided to come back to take advantage of this opportunity. When I got there I discovered that the spray that had drenched my camera, when I was at the base of the falls, was so thick that the spotlights couldn’t reach the falls. It still looked pretty cool watching the lights in the swirling mist and I enjoyed finding ways to photograph them. The Skylon was positioned pretty perfectly for me to get a shot of these spots with it in the background.

Colored spot lights reflected in the rain at Niagara Falls and lighting up the Skylon

Apr 122012

It’s amazing what you can find when you leave the road and set off on foot. I pulled over because I saw a lone tree standing at the end of a dirt lane surrounded by dried up grape vines. The sun was setting behind it. I kept walking closer, trying to find a picture. I fired off a couple and then decided to continue on past the tree. It looked like it was at the precipice of a hill and I thought there my be a view out over the landscape from there. As it turned out, the elevation wasn’t as great as I’d expected. Despite that though, I’d stumbled upon this scene and quickly set about trying to capture it.


A pink and yellow sunset just before night falls with a serene lake and a row of tall fir trees reflecting in the water in Ontario.