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.
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.
Today’s photo is a bit more abstract than my usual shots. I’d just finished getting soaked under a waterfall when I spotted the water rushing over this log that seemed to be almost glowing beneath the frothing foam. There wasn’t much in the background so I decided to zoom right in and get a closeup. I processed this differently to most. I had tried running my three photos through Photomatix but wasn’t happy with the results. In the end I decided that the scene didn’t actually have that high a light range so processed as is. I still used Topaz Adjust to boost up the details though.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This time next week, I’ll be arriving in Iceland, quickly dropping my suitcase at the hotel and dashing out to photograph a lighthouse under the midnight sun. So, I’m getting prepared. I’m not checking my bookings or thinking what to pack like a normal person would be. Instead, I’m spending my weekend frantically trying to get photos processed and blog entries written in advance as I’ve reached the conclusion that, although I’ll have access to the internet at the majority of my accommodations, I won’t have the energy to process a photo and write something every day. On top of this I resolved to stop offering up one line posts, which would be inevitable if I tried to maintain them in Iceland. My time will be pretty well allocated with running around taking photos, driving from place to place, and other distractions. The plus side of this push, though, is that I’ve realised something. I actually really enjoy setting aside whole days and nights (admittedly more night than day) to working up photos. I get into a real groove processing photos one after the other and they seem to take less time to complete than if I worked on them individually. I think going forward I’ll be focusing on having photos ready to pick from for the daily post and just keep replenishing that selection. It should also up the quality of photo I produce as I’ll be working on them when I’ve made time for them, rather than rushing to get one done before going to the pub.
Today’s Photo: The Dawn of Spring
Today’s photo is a simple one, taking advantage of the patterns produced by a longish exposure and flowing water. When I first got into photography, I used to take my rebel down to the beach in Bermuda and spend my whole time playing with shutter speeds to smooth out the water. So, whenever I spot fast flowing water I have to stop and grab a photo.
This was taken in Bruce County in Ontario. It was March and it was hot. I had expected I’d be figuring out how to take photos of still frozen waterfalls, instead everything had thawed and Spring was coming early. I paused here on my way to Indian Falls to grab this shot.
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.
CLICK HERE To Buy a Print, e-mail HERE for licensing info.
It’d be pretty easy to spend all of your time driving around Bruce County photographing the farms that dot the landscape. They’re all the stereotypical barn and silo combination. Most of them are positioned in the middle of flat areas. I particularly like this one, nestled at the bottom of a hill, with a lone tree to the right at the crest.