Taking a portrait of Montreal

Best sunset of the year

Well I was sure glad to have found my way towards the old port for this amazing sky. Finally the conditions where perfect especially for a shoot in Montreal where only a week ago I missed out on another spectacular sunset.

Zeis 55mm f/1.8 fastest lens ever!

At least that I’ve ever owned. I was looking to take pictures of the city and sometimes the wide angle just doesn’t cut it. You want to zoom in and for that I’ve found to work perfectly is the 55mm portrait lens. The amount of detail and sharpness it can capture is something I’ve never seen before.

How to get the most out of the lens

Coupled with the Sony A7R you’ll get the best of both worlds. Here’s a trick to get the details you want. Keep the aperture at the highest (f/1.8) and use focus peaking (built in the Sony A7R just change to manual focus) this way you can have the focus at the maximum exactly where you want. Afterwards just move the aperture to a lower value (usually between f/10-22 for cityscapes). This ensures you will get the sharpest possible image at longer exposures.

best sunset in montreal

Always make sure it’s screwed in right

This day I decided to go out to the old port for some day time long exposure tests with my brand new B&W 10 stop filter which I almost lost. More on what happens to it bellow.

Sometimes you’re at the right place, at the right time.

My first stop was in front of the Bonsecours marketplace since the weather was pretty interesting with the dark clouds forming overhead. As I’m passing on the sidewalk to my next angle, I notice a nice horse carriage heading my way. I had mere seconds to prepare and frame the shot before the horse could arrive. Happy to have been able to capture it!

Luck runs out

Next stop, the Clock Tower. One of the worlds most beautiful clock towers according to CNN. I do a couple of shots while being crammed between passing tourists and as I finish my last shot and raise my camera to walk away, low and behold the brand new ND filter decides to fall off the lens hood, through the prison bars and down the ledge of the clock tower where it is pretty much unreachable. After several failed attempts to get it with my tripod.. there was only one way to get it back. Needless to say as you can see from the new pics, I have it back now.

horse carriage old montreal

New gear, new perspective

Sony A7R initial impression

It was hard to say goodbye to my first DSLR as it has served me very well in all aspects but it was time for a full frame. In comes the Sony A7R. Things that jump out right away, are picture quality and MP size thanks in no small part to the 36.3mm sensor it sports in a smaller body than just about all full frames. Since the sensor is basically the same one used for the d800 at almost half the price, it was a no brainer. It feels like the first time I got my DSLR as I’m going through the process of learning and testing new grounds.

A bit of flavor

It’s a nice stark contrast noticing the hot Havana Club bottle on the shores of an otherwise cold skyline. Also puts into perspective the need for a real beach in Montreal where people can have a good time without worrying what they can catch from the water.

Havana Club Montreal

Testing limits, saying goodbye

Crop-frame for Performance shows?

Up until now I’ve been shooting all the photos you see here on my trusty Nikon d5100 with the kit lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 that came with it. That’s all I’ve ever needed to create everything you see in the galleries before you. Well I’ve figured I’d give it a test for the JFL Sister Act show and see how things turn out.

What I’ve learned

Shooting interiors is a whole different ballgame where frame speed and ISO sensitivity is the most important factor. You can still get good results but you need to keep your ISO at the highest you are comfortable with until too much noise takes over. In my case I went up to 1250 and that would be with a lot of post ei: smoothing of the skin etc. You will get best results when the performers are still, especially if you plan on combining exposures into HDR. If you are going to combine to HDR, the trick is to find a frame that has no ghosting, tone map it and blend it on top with Photoshop.

Just for laughs Sister Act

3 tips to capture water flow

The fun part about shooting water shots is you don’t have to adhere to one method.

1 – Smooth water: this is the one with reflections you can get from anything over the horizon. You want to keep your ISO at the lowest (100) and shoot later on during the day when the sun is about to go down. The less light you have the longer you can keep your exposure on. You can use manual mode and have some very nice effects anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds.

2 – Rough water: to capture the action of the water such as waves and jagged water flow, you simple need to use a faster exposure setting. You’ll need more light for this, so make sure the sun is still visible. Set your ISO from 100-400 and snap away.

3 – Mixed: Sometimes you want to keep it smooth in the background and have some waves showing in the front. This requires taking multiple shots and blending them with layer masks in Photoshop until you get the desired effect.

Rapids Park Lasalle

This is a nice corner of Lasalle where you’ll see a lot of tripods and big lenses. Most photographers go there to capture birds, as there is a bird sanctuary island near by. People visit the park to enjoy some time by the water, surfing/kayak or even fishing. Although the later is at your own risk as water quality is questionable.

Lachine rapids

Storm over Montreal

For those of you here in Montreal, you must have heard the crackling of the skies as the thunder storm is passing over our city. It’s been long overdue and I gotta say, I do quite like this type of weather. First it’s great for pictures (only wish it would pass by a little later during the 8-9 oclock timeframe for optimum lighting), the heat is greatly subsided and the water pouring down means I don’t have to water the garden later!

Here is a picture from a while back as I happened to be at the right place at the right time to catch this oncoming storm.

lighting lighthouse

Old photo of Old Montreal revised

Double tone map action

As the title implies, you first process a 3 exposure tone map image as you would normally do for an HDR. Then you would process it again. To do this prior to version 5 of photomatix you would need to just press tone map again after processing the image. Now with the new version there is a button for that “Double tone map”. This brings out greater textures and makes it look a bit surreal. I would advice using it lightly and only on architectural/heavy textured shots.

Old Montreal in the rain

Here is one of my first photos when I just began taking photos about 2 years ago. It was a rainy day and I was excited to take pictures with my new camera and see how they develop in this weather. Turns out HDR works quite well, giving the type of textures and mood that I was looking for.

Fast track about 1 year later and I just had to see what it would look like given the techniques that I know now.

old montreal hdr

Wallpapers now available

Download free wallpapers

Hey all! You can now download high res versions of each image you see in my gallery. Simply hover over them and click the download icon. Enjoy!

Tied up

I’ve captured this one night by the old port as the big merchant ships where docked right next to the walkway. The walkway is open for pedestrians to pass through but if you’d like to capture a different angle, well that requires a bit of ingenuity.

Ship anchored

Keeping it Fresh

Finding the right angle

What I find it’s come down to, especially when shooting in the city where many people shoot, you must find something unique and interesting to differentiate. It’s not an easy task but a fun one! Take into account the light of day, the angle of the shoot and anything moving. When you combine the three you are sure to have something different than the usual.

From the top

This was shot at one of the most popular public destinations in New York, the Empire State building. The lineups and journey up are a little long but if it’s your first time, worth it. At the ticketing checkpoint, they do not allow tripods to be taken up. First I was a bit surprised but as we got up I started to understand why. You could barely move through the sea of people making 86th floor a total mob scene. Luckily I was able to squeeze into a couple of spots and take a few shots. Total time spent at the top 5min! If you go I suggest opting for a different time slot, when there is not as much traffic.

New York looking down

Week of celebrations

Processing night scenes

You’ll notice that as you combine your 3 exposures in photomatix, the saturation is greatly increased and people start to look more like ghosts since it’s a longer exposure than day shooting. Two easy fixes for that. Select “remove ghosts” (I suggest with ‘the selective deghosting tool’) from the menu before processing. After the process simply decrease the color saturation and you’ll start seeing more details.

Happy 4th of July to my friends down south

This is actually a picture I took on the first of July, here we call it Canada day. But the mood is all the same. Everyone is out celebrating and having fun. Don’t be fooled by the picture, we don’t actually have real beaches in Montreal.

Night beach montreal