The coldest walk of 2015

Thought it’s a good idea to start reminiscing about the great winter weather we’ve been having this year. This way when winter strikes again I’ll be in a good mood.

This one is the coldest shot I’ve taken. It really goes to show how great the Sony A7R is working in these conditions. This is regularly a popular spot for joggers and people looking to take a nice walk by the canal. But this day the weather was -25 °C ADD in the swift WIND on top of that! Needless to say the two minutes it took to get to this part of the park from the car was a long and tedious one. The only parts of me exposed to the weather where my cheeks and nostrils and boy did they feel it. Like that stubborn kid that doesn’t listen to advice and got his tongue stuck on a frozen pole.

So here is the final result. It’s a vertical panorama.

Coldest day in Canada

Wintery woes over

This winter is something special. Not only does it take it’s toll on all us Canadians but some of the states have been feeling the sting as well. With record breaking snow falls in Boston to covering the desert sands of Texas. What we can be sure of is how the weather can be unpredictable.

Not all Bad

Not to despair, the winter brings in unique opportunities to the city landscapes allowing us to capture some of the marvelous scenery around Montreal and especially the old district. Here is my take on the overshot Basilica by winter night.

Montreal basilica

A step off the trail

The Crossing

This bridge is used by many to wonder into one of the few parks we have by the Lasalle waters. I usually prefer to go out shooting during the golden hour as the low sun creates some very nice colors. This time I went at noon when the light was at the strongest, the bane of photographers. The sky was full of clouds and the sun peaking out every now and then made for some great conditions to do a long exposure capture.

long exposure water

10 otherworldly photos of a fall day in Montreal

People living in Montreal are used to extreme weather changes but not many have quite seen it like this. In the middle of the fall season a cold front hit and with the winds blowing created something otherworldly.

I first had a glimpse of it from the other side of the canal. You could see the trees covered in ice and with the sun setting I knew it would be quite a place. So the next day I braved the cold and made my way there. The water sprayed through the air with the strong winds causing me to clean the lens every few seconds but I managed to get the shots. Sadly no frost giants found.

Angel's wings
ice pods
ice christmas tree
ice land
path through the ice
frozen wave
ice stingers
moon light
ice world
frozen arch

Water – Nature’s Mirror

Reflections appear better in smooth water

Lakes, puddles and generally any other body of water that is motionless is ideal to capture reflections. This fall day I was passing by the Lachine Canal and the waters where so still you could almost lose track if your looking up or down. That is an actual problem for pilots that fly over lakes as they can’t perceive depth and makes it almost impossible to land. Luckily we have it a bit easier. All we have to worry about finding the right angle for the shot.

Lachine canal

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