Old MTL – In the Dark

PT.2 – Some night and interior images from a recent photo excursion to Montreal. Fuji X20 technical note for those who care about that stuff: When I first brought the RAW files from the Fuji X20 into Lightroom, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the noise in images at or above ISO 400. However, once I reduced the colour noise, the luminance noise that remained spoke volumes to the detail that Fuji has been putting into their sensors/cameras. Especially once converted to Black & White, this is the closest thing I’ve seen to traditional film grain come out of a digital camera. So much so, that I will use higher ISOs on this camera for creative purposes. It’s that good.

Place D’Armes

Bank of Montreal


Statue in the Square




Ominous Entrance


Cobblestone Alley


Notre Dame Basilica – Exterior


Notre Dame Basilica – Interior


Candles and Crosses – Notre Dame Basilica


Heavenly Light – Notre Dame Basilica


Light & Symmetry – Notre Dame Basilica


From the Cheap Seats – Notre Dame Basilica


Flickering Prayers – Notre Dame Basilica


Gospel from Above – Notre Dame Basilica


Grandiose – Notre Dame Basilica


Low Light Fun @ Nuit Blanche

We had some fun with our new gear at Nuit Blanche last weekend. We wanted to test out the high ISO capabilities of our new camera bodies, so we didn’t bring a tripod with us. Here are a few shots, all taken handheld between ISO 800-6400.

Show some Motion!

One thing that new(er) photographers think is out of reach for them is taking pictures of moving subjects. What they don’t realize is that the end result doesn’t necessarily have to be totally sharp or in focus. Playing around with slower shutter speeds not only teaches you how your camera works, but it can create some of the most exciting and interesting results for novices.

Take the example below. To show motion like this, it is simply a matter of choosing a slower shutter speed (recipe after the pic)…

Show some motion!

To add interest/contrast to this pic, I placed the tree in the foreground so I would have something sharp in my frame to offset the blurriness of the moving train.

Recipe for this shot:

  • Shutter Priority mode (S or Tv)
  • Dial in a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second or slower
  • Use a low (100-400) ISO value to retain detail
  • Stabilize your camera (a tripod is preferred, but anything that will prevent camera movement can be used)
  • Turn on your camera’s 2 second timer to avoid unintended camera movement when you press the shutter button down

Get out and try this, it’s easy and fun. It doesn’t have to be dark out, but try to avoid experimenting with this in bright sunlight, as it can result in overexposed images.

Feel free to leave some feedback below if you try this…

Don’t Hate, Compensate!

When it comes to getting great exposures, the more you leave up to your camera to decide, the more your camera will likely get it wrong. The more you take control, the more you’ll learn and the better the results will be. This is why most Pros shoot in Manual mode, so they have full control over their exposures. If you aren’t quite there yet, here is a tip to start compensating for your camera’s shortcomings when shooting in P, A/Av, or S/Tv modes.

Exposure Compensation allows you to adjust for your camera’s metering system when it gets the reading wrong (although technically, right). This happens most often with an overly bright or overly dark scene, and sometimes it does this as if on a whim. If the camera sees too much dark, it will automatically compensate for it and make it brighter. And if it sees too much brightness, the opposite will occur, you’ll get a darker exposure. Oftentimes the easiest way to correct for this is to use exposure compensation to trick the camera into getting it right.

Example: Have you ever taken a picture only to have the resulting image come out with what seems to be a grey wash over the entire thing (like the image below)? Well, this is your camera’s metering system getting it wrong (although technically, right). It “sees” so much brightness that it figures it should darken it in order to achieve a “middle grey” exposure… Camera Fail! To compensate for this, you’ll want to use some + exposure compensation to brighten it up. How much should I use, you ask? Well, that depends on the overall scene, but a good starting point would be +1. Not enough? Add some more. Too much? Take a bit off. That is the beauty of learning on a digital camera… You don’t have to pay for each exposure like we had to when we shot film.

The camera saw so much white in this shot, that it darkened it down to what it thought was the proper exposure...

To compensate for the fact that my camera got the light wrong in my first shot, I dialed in +1 EV (i.e. Exposure Compensation) on my camera and it brightened it right up.

Another example: Have you ever tried to take a picture of the moon? How did that work out for you? Big, bright, blown out white blotch where that nicely detailed moon was supposed to be? Black sky now kind of grey-ish? Yup. Thought so. Usually this is an exercise in frustration for new photographers, but if you can learn to think like your camera, you’ll be able to balance out its shortcomings. In this case, the camera is seeing an abundance of black (the night sky) and a smaller bright spot (the moon), so it thinks the scene is too dark and wants to brighten up the exposure. The fix? Simply use some negative exposure compensation to right the ship.

Night HDR

A lot can be said about HDR Photography, good and bad. If done properly, it can elevate an image from ordinary to extraordinary. The problem is, too many photographers get caught up in what is considered “the HDR look”. IMHO, a good HDR image shouldn’t really stand out as an HDR image at all. It shouldn’t jump out and slap you in the face and scream “I’m HDR, Beeatch!” Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and I have seen some fantastic images that employ the often heavy-handed use of HDR. However, technically speaking, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, which means that your image has good tonal value throughout, from shadow detail to highlights.

Take the following image for example (click for a sharper look):This was taken on a tripod with a 1/8 of a second Shutter Speed @ f16 (to get everything sharp from foreground to background) with exposure compensation set to -0.7. Not bad, right?

But now let’s compare it to the image below (again, click for a sharper look):Compare the sky in these two images and buildings at the bottom of the CN Tower. This image is a combination of 5 different bracketed images (-2.0 | -1.0 | 0 | +1.0 | +2.0) that I then blended/enfused using a great donationware plug-in for Adobe Lightroom called LR/Enfuse. Doesn’t look like your typical HDR shot, does it? But the tonal range is there, giving it a nice subtle punch that you wouldn’t be able to get with a single shot.

I find that this style of HDR suits my taste more than the heavy-handed style that is prevalent right now. But hey, that’s just my two cents. Besides, I’m too cheap to fork out the $99 for Photomatix (arguable the most popular HDR Software on the market today).