Re-processing Images In Lightroom

I have been using Lightroom since Lightroom 2 came out. I have also been taking photos for quite a few years now (since 2008). Over that time, I have made a lot of captures and archived thousands of images.

What I have started doing lately is revisiting my image archives. This is not only to see where I was with my technique back then but also to see if there were any images that were worth re-processing with fresh eyes and with a more advanced image processing engine in the latest version of Lightroom that I am now using (which for me at this time is Lightroom 4 even though version 5 is currently available at the time of this post — I just decided not to upgrade yet).

This time around, I discovered these images that I took at a nearby park back in March 2010. The left image (the before) is how they looked after being processed with Lightroom at the time (I believe it was Lightroom 2). The right image was my reprocessed version in Lightroom 4.

Milliken Park Landscape Re-processed  1

When I found the image in my Lightroom catalog, I liked the composition but did not really like the bland, dirtiness of the sky. Using the processing engine of Lightroom 4, I decided to pump up the Black levels and increase the Contrast a slight amount. I increased the Shadows to see what kind of detail it would reveal but it introduced too much noise for my liking so I brought it back to the default. I really liked the sky but wanted to see how I could make it more interesting so I decided to play with the White Balance sliders, specifically, the Tint slider to introduce some magenta into the image.

Even with some adjustment to the Tint, the sky was still pretty blue, which was nice, but really wanted to see a bit more magenta in the sky. Some would say that this might be over-processing, but I still wanted to push it a bit. I added a Gradient Filter extending from the top of the sky to just below the horizon line. With that, I applied some more Saturation, Clarity and a move in the Tint slider again in the affected area to bring the changes to the sky only. From there I was satisfied with the results and felt it was a huge improvement over what I left in the archives 4 years ago.

After settling on these modifications, I noticed I had another similar but dead looking image in the archives with a slightly different composition. I copied all of the adjustments from the first image re-processing above and applied them to that other image resulting in the image on the right-hand side below.

Milliken Park Landscape Re-processed 2

I was quite happy with the difference the new processing approach took and that it allowed me to breathe some new life into some images I had long forgotten.

IPhone Photo Recipes: Little Gerberas

Gerbera Flower Snapseed Edit Variation 2

Here is a shot that I took just outside my home. They were late bloomers but we had some gerbera flowers that started to come up along the edge of the walkway to our house. They are so bright, colourful and attention getting that I decided this would be a great IPhoneography subject.

The Composition

I tried a few different angles and a few different instances of the flowers to see what are the best shots I could come out with. Normally, you want to avoid centring a subject but there are times where that rule can be broken and it works. This was such a case.


Keeping the camera steady is always a challenge, but added to this instance was the wind which would at times blow the flower around. No HDR shots here as the result would have likely been blurry. The good thing is that it was very bright out so I had the advantage of having a high shutter speed to freeze any slight swaying of the flower.

SOOC (Straight Out of Camera Shot)

Gerbera Flower Straight out of Camera

Snapseed Recipe

The colour coming out of the camera for this shot was already great. Just wanted to add a bit or polishing to finish off the image.

1. Tune Image – Made mild increases to the Brightness and Contrast, added some Ambience, a little bit of Saturation and then left the Warmth slider alone.

2. Detail – This image was able to take a lot of sharpening but I did not want to over sharpen it. I sharpened successfully to about 80 percent without any destructive kind of artifacts on the image.

3. Center Focus – Started from the Vignette present and then pinched inward to close the circumference of the affected vignetting area to be tight around the petals.

4. Export – Stopping there I exported the final image that you see below.

Gerbera Flower Snapseed Edit

The resulting image is sharper, has more punch and contrast in colour and a a stronger vignetting effect to draw more attention to the petals. This image allowed me to play around with a couple of cropped variations seen below which adds even more interest to the flower. Whenever you want to make something more interesting or mysterious, show only a portion of it.

Gerbera Flower Snapseed Edit Variation 2

Gerbera Flower Snapseed Edit Variation 1

Everything about the post-processing was done on the iPhone using Snapseed from Google. Keeping it that way is like a challenge to me to see what can be accomplished with just the mobile tools available. But I personally love the results.

Duck At Dusk – Milliken Park

Duck at Dusk - Milliken Park

A duck grooms itself in the evening golden setting sun at Milliken Park in Toronto

It is funny how you can go back to same place over and over and still come back with a unique photograph. Every now and then I will take a walk over to the park near my house to do some leisurely shooting with my walking. Evening and morning are generally the best times to shoot and one evening, I was able to snap this image with the golden sun about to set in the background.

Flat Iron Building In Toronto

Flat Iron Building, Toronto, ON

Flat Iron building at dawn in Toronto, ON

It was just over a year ago that this photograph was taken as a part of a Meetup group with the Toronto Photography Collective. It was absolutely freezing that day, but we braved the cold to get up early for some long exposure shots. It would have been nice to have some sun that day, but sometimes the reality is that you never really know what you are going to get as far as weather!

Beauty In the midst of the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

With Christmas literally around the corner, my city, Toronto, and the surrounding areas (Mississauga, Brampton, Vaughn, Markham, Pickering, Whitby, Ajax and beyond) experienced the most crippling and catastrophic ice storm since 1968. This happened over the weekend of December 22nd, just as many are finalizing their holiday plans and shopping. Many of us who live here automatically think back to the huge snow storm in our city back in 1999 when former mayor, Mel Lastman called in the Canadian Forces to help restore the city. However, Toronto has not seen an ice storm this severe since 1968.

As a result, the storm has unfortunately and literally changed the landscape of the city forever with trees that have buckled under the weight of their ice laden branches. Check out this photography by Martin Brown to see what I mean! It is one thing to hear about it but a completely different experience to actually see it. Hundreds of thousands of homes lost power at the height of the storm, and even as I write this, there are still hundreds of thousands still out despite the progress that has been made in restoring many people’s hydro. We were down for nearly 2 days but we are grateful to have our power back. Unfortunately there will be many that will still be without power through Christmas day and possibly a few days afterwards. Extreme conditions like these pose challenges for many with extenuating circumstances like the elderly, sick or people like me who are on crutches.

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Despite the negative aspects of this storm and the destruction left behind, there was also much, much beauty to be seen. The sights can be particularly amazing when the sun is shining and reflecting off and through the ice on the branches of the trees and everything else that has been frozen by the storm. Even though I currently have mobility challenges, I could not resist the beauty any longer and I was able to carefully get out down the path from my front door and capture a few images of that beauty left behind. I wish I could have gone further but here is some what I was able to capture.

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Beauty in the Toronto Ice Storm 2013





Threatening & Glorious Skies at Scarborough Bluffs

This images was taken this summer while lounging along the Scarborough Bluffs one Sunday evening with some friends. It was a beautiful and humid day so it was no surprise that there were clouds threatening a downpour. This was the formation that was evolving. Thankfully, no form of precipation materialized that evening while we were out and about, but the sight of the sun breaking through the clouds was glorious.

Threatening & Glorious Skies at Bluffer's Park

This is the first in a regular series of posts of images that I have captured and edited entirely on my iPhone. All mobile devices nowadays have really stepped up the game as to what can be accomplished. For me, this is my personal little challenge and assignment to see what I can come up with. And it is fun. Hopefully you will enjoy the images that are posted.



The Best Camera…

A shot of the falling sun behind a massive shelf of clouds on a September evening

“The best camera is the one that’s with you.” ~ Chase Jarvis

I was reminded of that today on my way to a meeting with the creative arts team at my church. I have been on a sort of “photography hiatus” since I had a surgery on my leg 9 weeks ago. I have not been able to get out and do any shooting. But inspiration, anticipation and beauty was unveiled before my eyes in an instant. It was getting towards the late evening as I was on my drive to the meeting and there was an unbelievable and massive shelf of clouds that had formed in the sky setting things up for what would be a spectacular sunset.

I was already in my car when I pulled out of my street. I began to regret and kick myself that I did not at least have my Nikon D40 body with me in the trunk of the car. I had promised myself a while back that I would do this in case there were spontaneous moments in nature like the one that was happening now!

Then I remembered that quote above by Chase Jarvis and decided to put that into practice. I had my iPhone with me. Unfortunately, I was not able to wait out the falling sun behind the horizon to completion or else I would have been late. However, I was able to pull over onto a side street on the way to grab the shot above (post processing in Lightroom 4).

I don’t know about you, but I often find that part of the fun is to see what you can capture with the resources that you have at hand. Many times it can result in pleasant surprise and satisfaction!

How To Get Out Of Your Photography Comfort Zone: My Lens Challenge

Lens Challenge: Shooting with 35mm F1.8 only

Have you ever done anything specifically to challenge yourself in your photography? Here is what I did just for fun and explore a different spectrum of my skills.

My workhorse lens for the past 4 years has been my 18-200mm 3.5-5.6 DX VR lens. The reason I love it and use it so much relates to my shooting style. I like to shoot “tight’ and love the flexibility that this lens gives me to frame up my subject just the way I want to, quickly and all without having to change lenses or run close or further away to make an image work.

However, early in my shooting journey, I had a slight case of what Zack Arias terms G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and had a few other lenses added to my collection. Lenses that I later realized that I did not use nearly as much as my 18-200mm. I had picked up a couple of fast lenses that I thought I would have used a lot more.

Well, in the last couple of weeks, I challenged myself to take out one of those lenses that I barely ever touch and challenged myself to use it instead of the 18-200mm, just to see what I would be able to do creatively with it and to see the difference it would make in what I would produce.

The lens that I chose to challenge myself with was the 35mm F1.8 DX prime. It is a fast lens and the rule was simple: I just had to use it for the entire event I was using it for and not give into the temptation to fall back to the 18-200mm. I was excited to use it because I wanted to see what kind of shallow depth of field images I would be able to create with it. The discomfort for me, was that it was a prime lens. Fixed in its focal length. So to get the image and framing I wanted would mean that I would have to  move my feet a great deal more rather than relying on the zooming in and out that I was used to.

I ended up using it for three different events: a shoot for the grand opening of the new children’s centre at my church, for taking photographs at a wedding for which I was a guest, and also for taking shots of my god-daughter’s birthday party this past weekend.

Lens Challenge: Shooting with 35mm F1.8 only - Wedding Details 2

How the 35mm F1.8 Challenged Me – The Results

The result of limiting myself to this lens was fun and rewarding. It forced me to think even harder about my composition and the shot that I was going to take. I already do give great thought to my composition and that is why I love the 18-200mm so that I can frame things out so that they are not distracting to the main subject of the photo. However, with this lens, I had to make a decision on the style of shot I was aiming to get and then move into position faster in order to catch important moments that would never happen again.

At the children’s centre grand opening, it meant being comfortable with the wider angle shots than what I was used to and still make them interesting according to my style of shooting. At the wedding, getting images like portrait shots of the bride and groom meant getting a lot closer in order to fill up the frame the way I desired. At the birthday party, it meant being ready to move to catch the fast pace of the 6 and 7 year-olds that were running around, chasing each other, playing on the jungle gym, playing “Just Dance 4″ on the Nintendo Wii as well as musical chairs.

Naturally, the unique characteristics of a lens like this also shone through. The lens has a fast F1.8 aperture which was very beneficial shooting indoors in the lower light situations like at the children’s centre grand opening and also at the wedding reception.

Also, as expected from a prime lens, the 35mm lens produced some really crisp and clean shots. I make it a practice to always shoot in a way that I don’t have to crop and I am able to achieve this 95-100% of the time with the 18-200mm lens. However, there were a few occasions with the 35mm lens in which I decided to crop a photo in order to  make it a stronger composition. When I did have to, I was amazed at the quality and detail that was still contained within the final cropped image.

Finally, I was also able to get some nice shallow depth of field shots while shooting with the 35mm f1.8 lens for things like the detail shots that you see here.

Lens Challenge: Shooting with 35mm F1.8 only - Birthday Party

As photographers, it is easy for us to get excited and tempted to get that next great lens or piece of equipment. Growing in your photography skills, however, ultimately comes down to knowing how to use what you have in your arsenal. I definitely do not regret picking up this lens when I did, but this exercise has helped me move a little more out of my comfort zone and expand my understanding of other scenarios when it might be beneficial for me to use this lens. As many other wise pros have stated, having more gear or lots of gear does not make you better at photography. But you do well when you have the technical skills and know-how to use what you do have.

Is there a lens that you rely heavily on? Which lens are you most uncomfortable using that would be a challenge for you to shoot with?

Now time to head over to the B&H website to drool! :)

SOOS Orchid Show 2013 Photography Shoot

SOOS Orchid Show Shoot 2013 | Phenom Life Images | 01

This weekend, I had the opportunity to try out a different style of photography I have not really attempted until now. That was to shoot orchids at the Southern Ontario Orchid Society’s (SOOS) Annual Orchid Show held at Toronto Botanical Gardens at Edwards Gardens in Toronto. Orchids are a very beautiful and varied type of flower.  I am actually amazed how different they can look from flower to flower.

This particular time of the shoot was open to photographers with tripods for a two hour period. After that, you had to go hand held to shoot. With that said, it was a pretty crowded shoot…really crowded…with all kinds of photographers showing up for the opportunity to shoot these flowers as “properly” as possible. You need to have patience and not make any sudden moves or you would be tripping over a tripod leg or bumping another shooters camera. I basically “planted” myself at one station and inched across slowly, offering to switch places with the photographer next me, in order to get in as many species of orchids as possible.

With that said, it was a great and productive experience and I learned a few things that I will apply to the next time that I shoot orchids. One of those things, is that it is handy to have a longer lens to get in as close as possible for detail shots. By nature, I do like to shoot close, tight shots. I do not have a macro lens but was using my 18-200mm today for the shoot. I believe that having a 70-300mm in my arsenal would also have been handy for getting in extra close on petals and other details of the flowers.

While I shot with off camera flash and had a standard flash diffuser, I could have tried using my Gary Fong collapsible diffuser to see how the quality of light might have differed. I did not use it partly because I was lazy to take it out and partly because I was happy with what I was getting for my shots. At least I was happy when I was there. While reviewing my captures on my monitor, I realized that some shots had room for improvement as far as lighting and the collapsible diffuser might have helped.

One really had to make due with the limited room to move and space amongst so many photographers in the place, but yet it was still a fun experience that I will do again in the future. Here are few of my favourite shots from the shoot.

SOOS Orchid Show Shoot 2013 | Phenom Life Images | 02

SOOS Orchid Show Shoot 2013 | Phenom Life Images | 03

SOOS Orchid Show Shoot 2013 | Phenom Life Images | 04

Blurb & 500px Distillery District Photo Walk in Toronto

I find photo walks to not only be very fun and relaxing, but they also help to stretch my photography skills in new ways each time. Last week, Blurb and held a 2-part photography and photo book event at the Distillery District in Toronto. It started with the photo walk itself that was lead by Dan Milnor, dubbed “Photographer at Large” for Blurb, a photojournalist that has captured many remarkable story-telling images in his travels around the world.

The photo walk was not just a random “spray and pray” event, shooting anything you could find. Dan challenged us to capture a series of photos that followed a certain theme. As a seasoned photo book creator, this is one of the principles that he follows so that there is some cohesiveness in the books that you create once you begin compiling your potential images.

Our Two Photo Assignments

It was a damp and rainy day for the event and many had umbrellas. It was not a downpour, though. So we were still able to get out and capture some compelling photographs among the participants. To exercise the principle of sticking to a theme of images, for the first part of the walk, Dan inclined us to capture images that reflect “what it feels like” to be there in the Distillery District that day.

Distillery District in Toronto on a rainy Tuesday

A normally colourful monument in the heart of the District, but trying to capture the feeling of the rainy day.

Half way through the photo walk, we met up with Dan for our second assignment which was to “make portraits” of each other and even strangers that agreed to it. Part of the stretch was to get us into the rhythm of capturing real people, with real emotions and stories as well as expose us to the potential that might be individuals that will say “no” to us. The point was not to be discouraged but to continue on to capture the stories of peoples lives. Even though this was not my cup of tea, this is a fantastic exercise for any and everyone. Especially those interested in growing in street photography or photojournalism.

Shirlene from Blurb

Shirlene, one of Blurbs event organizers, allowed me to make a portrait of her as part of the assignment from Dan Milnor during the photo walk.

Blurb and 500px Cocktail Hour at Cafe Uno

Held right after the photo walk with Dan, the second part of the event was a cocktail hour held in the heart of the Distillery District at Cafe Uno. Essentially, it was a time for attendees to relax, review the images they captured during the walk, discuss photography and review many, many excellent and real photo books created by individuals that Blurb brought along as samples. It was also a time where many questions could be answered by reps from Blurb and 500px. We were also provided incentives to get working on our own books with a discount provided by Blurb for $40 off of the first book we create with them. Excellent motivation to get going I think.

Blurb and 500px Cocktail Hour at Cafe Uno in the Distillery District in Toronto

At the cocktail hour, participants got to explore real photo books, have questions answered and discuss our passion for photography.

After a wet  but incredibly fun day, it was nice to be able to explore this passion with those that have the same interests. And there was plenty of free food as well which did not hurt a bit.

Below are some of the images that I captured that day. At first my theme started out as “signs” and then coupled that with the themes provided by Dan mentioned above, along with some other night shots.

You can find out more about Dan Milnor at his Smogranch blog and Milnor Studio’s site.