Autumn Photo Meetup

I went on an early morning photographer’s meetup at a park in Toronto to capture some of the autumn highlights. First thing in the morning, the light is warmed and the shadows more forgiving. The day’s first light basks your subjects, be they people, buildings, or nature, in a special glow that far too quickly gives way to the harsh, cold light of midday.

Cherry Blossoms 2011

This was the first time I had heard of and gone to see the Cherry Blossoms in Toronto’s High Park. The trees were a gift from Japan in 1959,  and every spring, they bloom forth in stunning pink and white, only to disappear as fast as they emerge. High Park posts daily progress of the blooming when the time comes.

For this photography meetup, we decided to meet before sunrise to capture the blossoms in the first available light. The extraordinary thing was just after sunrise, when professional photographers seemingly appeared from nowhere, lights and cameras in hand and set to action with models in gowns. Of course, we all flocked to take advantage of their pro setups.

By mid-morning, the park was bustling with people, and the fancily dressed ones still showed up.

Graffiti Alley HDR photo meetup

Meetup.com is a great place to meet others with similar interests and share knowledge, network, and improve your own skills. I joined meetups for songwriting, photography, and social get togethers. For this specific meetup, the organizer started with a quick tutorial on how to capture HDR, or high dynamic range, photos. This was the first time I had heard of it, and have been using it regularly since.

Normally in photography, and more so in the digital era, photos have an exposure that tried to balance the lightest lights and the darkest darks. In high contrast scenes, you tend to lose details in the shadows or in the highlights.

To shoot an HDR photo, you need to bracket your photos. That is, take one underexposed, one overexposed, and one in the middle. You can also do it with two exposures. Then, using special software like Photomatix, you can blend the multiple images to taste, and capture details in both shadows and highlights. It’s critical to use a tripod so your shots end up lining up perfectly. When I don’t have my tripod on me, I tend to hold my breath and shoot in high-speed mode, which gets the shots pretty darn close. Plus, Photomatix has a pretty good algorithm for lining up multiple shots.

The meetup organizer chose Graffiti Alley in Toronto to hold this shoot. Tucked in behind Queen Street West, it’s a popular spot for photographers to shoot cool urban models. Here, we focused on the graffiti itself.

Supermoon March 19, 2011

Every once in a (long) while, the moon gets a bit closer to the Earth, and appears up to 14% larger in the sky. This makes photographer go a little bonkers and get very upset if there’s cloud cover that night.

Fortunately, we had a clear calm night to take our photos as part of a meetup group. We ventured to the Humber River Bay area in Toronto. It’s not much darker here than the rest of the city, but the moon is nice and bright so urban light pollution isn’t a big an issue as when you’re trying to photograph the stars.

The final shot here is a composite of a zoomed in and wide angle shot, to exaggerate the size of the moon in the sky. I had to brush in the moon’s reflection in Lake Ontario to make it look convincing.

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