BETTER LANDSCAPE PHOTOS - two simple tips

There are a lot of things you can do to that will help you take better landscape photos, but I am going to suggest that there are two simple things you can do today that will start to have immediate impact.

1.  GET OUTSIDE FOR SUNRISE AND SUNSET
Have you taken a close look at the landscape images you like the most?  You may have noticed that many of them (if not all) are taken at either sunrise or sunset.  It's not a coincidence.  These times of day serve up some beautiful light.  So why not stack the odds in your favour and plan to take your landscape photos at these times.  They don't call it "magic hour" for nothing.  The trick though is not to just arrive at sunrise ... the hour or so right before and the hour afterwards can be really lovely.  It's all about the light.  I find it has a "softness" to it that can almost be felt... that's when I know the time is right for making good photos.  There are reasons why these hours make produce good results and if you are curious about understanding it try a google search of "magic hour photography" - loads of better folks than I can tell you all about them.

2.  DO IT OFTEN
So this is old advice - no secret here - just a reminder really.  Get out and take photos at sunrise and sunset or whenever you can, as often as you can.  Getting good at something requires practise.  I've looked back at my images from even just a year ago and it's shocking to see the effect practise has had.  I can barely stand some of my earlier images now.

Time is the key.  My two tips are all about time; showing up at the right time and repeating that many times over.  And while I claim these are simple, I mean simple in concept. In practise is a whole other thing.  Trust me, I have no illusions about how difficult it can be to find/make/claim time.

I've recently managed to free myself from parental commitments to photograph the sunrise one morning a week.  Sunrise (and sunset for that matter) occurs at a very civilized hour here in the winter but unfortunately those coincide with my mom taxi hours.  Some day my kids will have a great laugh recalling how often their drives to school were punctuated with "Look at those clouds over there!" and "Do you see those colours? "

But now I have one day a week to capture those clouds and colours.  Of course the clouds and sunrise don't seem to know that yet.  In the end the image I was hoping for this week didn't materialize.  But no matter... for now I will take what I can get.  I am out and I am practising. 

So my friends, a whole weekend stretches before you now.  May you find yourself inspired to get out there and chase down that goal - of making better landscape photos or something else - all it takes is time.

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WHY PLAY IS IMPORTANT

Play.

I wonder what image comes to mind when you read that word. For me it's a small child with a red bucket and shovel crouched in the sand at the beach.  A child.  I picture a child. Do you? 

Play is something that I find I have to remind myself to do now that I am an adult. Especially when I'm creating images.  Setting aside time to experiment and create art without worrying about the outcome. That seems to be when I have the biggest break-throughs and produce the most satisfying work.  I wonder... is it because I lower my expectations? Or perhaps I raise my creative power? Many would say it's because that's when the muse visits (hey Karen Hutton)!   

Whatever the reason, I find the most interesting things are found when I'm not looking and are created when I'm not trying too hard. 

Recently I've been having a lot of fun playing around with my iPhone photos lately. Turning them into watercolour art!  So fun!  Some are recent photos - like the one below that I snapped just this week on the sunrise photo shoot down at the lake.  And then there are others that have been sitting quietly waiting for their big debut.  I've a new column right over there on the right that displays some of them but if you hang out on instagram and want to see the latest you can find me there.  Elle_Bruce... if you search or use the easy link button at the bottom of this page.

Have a great weekend everyone.  Get out there and play a bit!

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HOW TO CREATE A MAGICAL IMAGE OF NEW YORK CITY

The thing I love best about a city is the lights!  A city at night is a magical thing... the grit and grime gets washed away by the shadow of night and bathed anew in the multi-coloured glow of lights.  Alright, I admit -  that's a bit pollyanna but you know what I mean right?  I was in New York City a while back and couldn't help but snap a bunch of photos of all the lights.

I've been working on this image (which is looking towards the epicenter of lights at Times Square) for a while.  It's the result of my attempts to blend photos that are related to create a new image with greater impact. In this case I took several photos of the same thing - 5 focused exposures tone mapped in Photomatix, and 2 out of focus images of the same thing with nice round bokeh of the lights. I played with the with bokeh to get the right intensity on the colours, then created a tilt filter effect on the in-focus HDR layer using Topaz Lens Efex and and finally stacked them up and used the lighten blend mode in photoshop to give the feel of a double exposed image.

If I've lost you now, my apologies - go ahead and skip down to bottom of this post (below the video).  BUT if the last paragraph got the wheels spinning in your brain... read on to find out what inspired all this plus a cool how to video.

My new experiment on this New York image was inspired by several things - a love of bokeh lights, tilt shift and double exposed images.

I've been playing around with creating bokeh images for a while now.  Between holiday time and the ice storm I've been served lots of opportunities lately to experiment.  You might remember images from some of my recent posts - like this one? And this one?

Add to that my recent discovery of takashi kitajima, who's tilt shift, bokeh, city lights photos I find nothing short of captivating. Go ahead - google him, circle him, plus one him or follow him - I'll wait.  Just make sure to come back here afterwards. :-) 

Then layer on the idea of making "double exposure" images.  Yes - I came across some beautiful examples of this recently made by Dylan and Sara Photography and then found their video below of how to do this in camera!

So I got wondering what would happen if I combined all these things I loved.  Bokeh, tilt shift and double exposure ideas.  My image posted here is a first crack at it.  It's not 100% there yet but it's moving in the right direction... it has the right feeling... a little bit magical.

Which is exactly what I wanted - 'cause that's what I love best about cities.  

What about you?  Do city lights captivate you?
Have you ever tried to blend a few different techniques on a single image?  Did it turn out the way you had planned/ hoped?

Go ahead and let me know in the comments below, and have a magical weekend everyone!

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WINTER'S ICY GRIP - a forced time of reflection

Nature has thrown some fierce winter weather at us here in Southern Ontario.  Freezing rain storms, snow squalls, sub zero temperatures - all this and the season is less than a month old!

With the weather conspiring to keep me inside the result has been a forced pause in "doing" and a distinct increase in "thinking."  I don't usually do my dreaming/ scheming/ planning at this time of year. Normally I'm like a kid in school and break out the goal setting in September.  

But who am I to argue with Mother Nature?  She has her icy grip on me and I am frozen - stilled.

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PLAN A SPARKLING NEW YEAR

We are still only a few days into it. I hope that before life in 2014 starts to gather momentum, you have a chance to take a deep renewing breath.  That you get some space to consider, dream and plan something wonderful for the upcoming year. 

Here's to making 2014 spectacular.

PHOTO DETAILS:

Like many areas of North America, the part of Ontario I live in has seen some pretty intense winter weather lately.  The photo above was taken in December 2013, two days after a terrible ice storm covered the land in up to as much as 15 mm of ice.  The tree damage has been significant.  Downed power lines knocked power out for 15 hours for us and unfortunately much longer for many others.  But always there is a bright side. When the storm had passed, the setting sun lit up the trees in my backyard as if they were decorated with sparkle lights.  The beauty was awe-inspiring - I fear my image only hints at it.  

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