Category Archives: Sydney

New Angels on New Albion – aka Sydney

I have to apologise for not blogging much for the past month. I have ideas for articles and tutorials but haven’t found inspiration. Time has somehow slipped through my fingers, and winter depression kills my otherwise strong urge to write. So I’ll just stick to sharing a few photos this week and am even reusing a title and a few of the photos, talk about writers block!

Sydney was originally named New Albion which works with New Angles as a title – and I am always looking for new angles. I have visited Sydney 5 times and this gorgeous city always offers new light and new opportunities. Here’s a few from my visit in September 2008. The first two shots are from across the bridge (obviously!) at Kirribilli Point, a superb spot for sunrise. It is a wonderful feeling to stand in a city of millions at 5am in the morning witnessing first light – with not a single soul anywhere! Just you and the light, as if you’re part of this big secret and no one else is awake to know this is the best and most beautiful part of the day!

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

First Light in Sydney
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Morning in Sydney
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay in duotone
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Finally; as you get to know a place your images always improve and I reckon I made my favourite Sydney image ever on this, my 5th visit, and I think I even succeeded in capturing a New Angle on New Albion:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sydney Opera House and Cityscape from Harbour Bridge
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The story behind this shot is here and a few more new Sydney shots are in my Sydney gallery. Enjoy the photos as I will work on unblocking the writer block!

Sydney; From Dawn till Dusk

Although it is a freezing cold 15 degrees as I write this; Sydney has warmed up to me and I to Sydney. Saturday and Sunday were very warm and summery, just as I like it and just as I apparently need it as I am a cold blooded reptile desperately in need of the sun. I still very much miss “my country” the outback, but after the culture and climate shock has settled down a bit then a little sun and fun goes a long way.

Still have to get back to “my country” soon. Feels like part of me is missing. Strange feeling. Like finding my home and knowing things will never be the same again. I keep looking at those Hawk Dreaming shots and dreaming.

Waking up the world

I spent Saturday with a friend and fellow photographer who lives in the Sydney suburb Manly and was shown this beautiful place she is fortunate to call home. We began the day at 5am on Manly Beach for a lovely sunrise; this shot is the beach at dawn:

Manly Beach at Dawn. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

No clouds this morning so just a normal beautiful Manly sunrise and a quite ordinary shot by me; but some good colours and the photo is a nice memory of a brilliant day. It is far from every day I get to stand on a beach and witness the sun rise out of the ocean; it is always a humbling and thrilling experience.

New angles on New Albion

In my quest to get a few cityscapes of Sydney (originally called New Albion) from new angles I also finally got a dusk shot of the city, shot from the Harbour bridge. I’ve had that shot in my head for a while and finally got around to shooting it. Took a bit of effort as the next story will tell, but the results I reckon are worth it. The duotone version is very nice but decided to post colour version for this post:

Sydney at dusk. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I like this new angle on Sydney as it has a very nice 3D effect to it and will look impressive printed big.

If it was easy everyone would do it

Sydney Harbour Bridge shootIt was a nice very warm Sunday but late afternoon the wind changed, it cooled down and it started blowing a gale. Very strong winds. But clouds looked interesting. I wanted a dusk shot of Sydney shot from the bridge and decided this was the day – the shot you see above is the end result. I vaguely remembered that it should be possible to manoeuvre a tripod into place shooting through the fence on the Harbour bridge. It was. Just. On the right you can see the result of 10 minutes of cursing the fence and finally getting the tripod legs stuck in the wire just right so I could have my 17-40mm lens peaking through. May look a bit flimsy but was very steady.

harbour bridge shot uncroppedThe camera is actually way over my head. Standing on my toes and jumping (kept me warm!) I could see through the viewfinder and kept shooting and adjusting till I had my composition. But wait. They fired back with a massive light cannon underneath the bridge shooting straight at me! Lots of light bleeding into my shot. So I use the lens cap (no room for lens hood) and hold it in place to shield the light – see uncropped shot on the right. Jumping to peak through the viewfinder, holding the lens cap into place, shooting using cable release and almost getting blown off the bridge in very windy conditions – sometimes ya gotta put in a bit of effort! I don’t mind battling Mother Nature’s crocs, mossies, rocks, snakes etc. but why oh why can’t the design of the Harbour bridge include a little shooting hole in the fence for photographers!

In the big smoke. Miss my country.

I am quoting Bill Neidjie again; writing about his country and why he loves the bush in his book ‘Story about Feeling’ he says:

“We like white man alright. We like im city.
But city make you sick of it. Better this…”

I am now hanging out with friends in the big smoke; in Sydney. It is a culture and climate shock indeed coming here from Darwin; Kimberleys and Hawk Dreaming. Sydney is gorgeous but I don’t really like it anymore. Too big, too busy, too narrow streets, too claustrophobic, too many cars, too much traffic, too many people. No aboriginal presence like in Darwin, no history, no art etc. It is not Australia to me. The real Australia is the outback. I think I am going more and more back to my roots. Have no need or use for cities anymore. Just want to go back to “my country” – the outback. City make you sick of it.

It is also bleedin’ feckin’ cold here! Only about 20 during the day and 10 at night; I am close to being in suspended animation. I am used to 35-40 during the day, 25-30 at night. I can deal with the high temperatures; I actually love it. I can’t deal with the cold. Used to walk around in shirt, shorts and thongs (flip-flops). Now I wear 4 layers of clothes. For the people back home that know me: Yes you read right. I wear thongs (known as flip-flops in rest of the world). I have the photos to prove it. I love ’em! I certainly still hate sandals with a passion! And Crocs shoes! Hate ’em even more! But thongs good!

I am here for a few days to hang out with new and old friends. I am actually staying in a super nice house with friends who are not here. I’m housesitting while they’re in Europe. Ironic! I will shoot a bit here; but already have lots of Sydney images so trying to capture something different this time like this one:

Sydney Duotone Panorama. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I shot a stitched version of this, this is just a single shot so I’d have something to post. I find myself more and more seeking some sort of art angle on my shots and becoming less and less interested in reality. It’s reality but not as we know it. I capture the data and already have the final image in mind when I shoot the photo; I visualize the end product before shooting; an end product usually quite different from the actual scene. I capture data; but the end product is created in the digital darkroom – in this case quickly thrown together in Lightroom 2.1. The original data is still the most important though. Garbage in means garbage out!

I spent a lot of time sitting in the sun in the back garden of the unit I live in. It’s very relaxing and quiet, you wouldn’t know central Sydney is a 10 minutes walk from here. There are small lizards in the garden I play with. Until I get cold. I still wake with the sun, meaning 5.45am here in Sydney. Miss my country.

Perfecting your stitched panoramas

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about stitched panoramas that focused mostly on all the little tricks you need to remember when you are shooting the soon to be stitched photos in the field. The shooting part is still essential. Get everything right in the field and you’ll be laughing come stitching time!

This post focuses on stitching the shots and is a tutorial showing you how I get from these 4 developed RAW files:

Sydney Panorama 4 tiff files

to this final photo as seen in my previous post:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sydney Skyline at Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

It’s a long tutorial, so I split this post in two; click the “Keep reading” link to, well, keep reading!

Continue reading

An Observer’s view of Sydney

I sometimes feel claustrophobic and stressed walking around Sydney. Not enough sense of space not enough  breathing room. Too many people. It is too big a city for me to actually be in; as always I am much more comfortable photographing and observing from a distance. In every city I instantly need to find spots with few people where I can see the horizon and observe from a distance.

Fortunately Sydney provides some very good spots to escape from the chaos and shoot some photos of one of most beautiful and picturesque harbours in the world. The Botanic Gardens is a perfect spot to escape and get a nice view; Kirribilli is another. Sitting directly opposite the city watching the sun rise or set is a lovely peaceful experience and a perfect place for Observers like me. And one of the best views of Sydney you will find and this is where we get to a panorama I recently dug out of the archives and stitched together:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sydney Skyline at Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This panorama is stitched in PTgui from 4 horizontal raw files developed in Rawshooter; then polished in Photoshop. I had originally planned for this post to feature a complete and detailed run through of how I take the above panorama from 4 separate raw files to a final stitched panorama in PTgui and then apply the finishing touches in Photoshop.

Alas; not enough time in my world this particular Friday. So for now enjoy this view of Sydney and my next article will feature the Observer’s stitching tutorial!

8 meters of Sydney

A couple of months ago I sold an image file of my Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay Panorama to be used for an 8 meter wide display at the opening exhibition at the new Utzon Center in Aalborg, Denmark. The building is of course designed by the Danish Architect Jørn Utzon, famous for designing The Sydney Opera House. Last weekend I finally had a chance to visit the Utzon Center and see the print at the exhibition. It’s a very impressive building and wauv; the photographer who shot that 8 meter wide photo, he’s really something special, he’s a legend !!!

If you have a chance to visit the Utzon Center here’s what you will encounter:

Lucas and the Opera House

Well I doubt that my dear 2 year old nephew (who loves the camera!) will be there as he is in this shot, but get to the Utzon Center before 10th of September 2008 and the print will be there! Here’s a link to video of the photo (shot with my old crappy camera phone, sorry about the appalling quality).

They did a really impressive display, it’s mounted on a free standing custom built curved wall. The image pixel size was blown up 200% but when the print is viewed from two meters away the image appears sharp and the curved effect is like standing in the middle of Sydney (well, floating in mid air looking at Sydney actually). My original shot is here:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I was actually going to ask them what they planned to do with the print after the exhibition but after seeing how it’s mounted it wouldn’t really fit in my flat!

Sydney Harbour painted with light

Well, I did warn you dear reader that once I got my Wacom tablet I would be painting with light like it was going out of fashion! I guess I forgot to warn you that I would also be writing about it like writing was going out of fashion! Hence every second post now has ‘painted with light’ in the title and is about … painting with light (I desperately need a thesaurus!)

The latest RAW file to be run through my digital darkroom with newly added tablet is a sunset shot from Sydney from October 2007. It was a gorgeous sunset on a Friday night with some beautiful orange hues and a nice bit of cloud perfectly placed behind the city as seen from Milsons Point. I’ll kick things off with showing you the end result (click to see large):

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sydney Harbour Bridge Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I am really happy with the result. I used painting with light subtly but I think the effect is remarkable. More about that in a bit.

One positive side effect to using the Wacom is that the digital darkroom in Photoshop is suddenly a lot more fun and so I am more creative. I always gave up trying to draw with a mouse  (try drawing a circle with a mouse, impossible) and always had to stop short of how I actually wanted the photo to look. But with the Wacom I just put the tablet in my lap, lean back in my chair and draw like it was pencil on paper. I used to draw a lot many (many!) years ago so using the Wacom feels very natural to me. I find I use it for a lot of different stuff in Photoshop, lasso tool, brush tool, masking etc.

So what did my digital darkroom add to the Sydney photo? Here’s a screenshot of the photo from Pixmantec Rawshooter (one day I’ll switch to Lightroom but I so love Rawshooter, it is so blindingly fast compared to the sluggish Lightroom):

sydney-rawshooter

I composed this using the 17-40 f/4.0 L lens on my Canon 5D with a cropped panorama in mind – I always intended to crop the bottom. The exposure is spot on so I didn’t need to do much in Rawshooter. I have warmed the white balance, added a bit of contrast, saturated the colours, applied a bit of colour noise reduction and reduced highlight contrast. I created the crop I wanted and I then export the photo to a 16 bit TIFF file for further digital darkroom work in Photoshop – this is where the fun begins:

  • I normally like water frozen in motion better than “long exposure” blurred water but in this case the water is bland. So I smoothed the water on a separate layer with a mask using a combination of motion blur and gaussian blur.
  • I used the lasso tool (using tablet) to make some selections for creating vignettes. I added a 200 pixel feather and on it’s own desaturated layer I blended in the vignette to create a darkened effect. I repeated this 4-5 times with different size vignettes, different “lassos” and I have the vignette I want.
  • And now “painting with light” (get me a thesaurus please!). Using different layers I use the dodge and burn tool on the tablet (with pen pressure set to change opacity) and I … paint with light! (there it is again).
  • I specifically put some light onto the bright areas of the bridge structure where the sun hits and I also brightened the buildings, especially the Opera House.
  • The top part of the sky was too blue, looking too much like daylight so I darkened it with a gradient layer and also desaturated a bit.

As I wrote earlier I am really happy with the result, I feel I accomplished what I wanted with this shot I actually made it look just the way I wanted. That doesn’t happen all that often, in fact that almost never happens. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my own work so there are always many details annoying me (why I stopped drawing years ago) but the tablet certainly is a new favourite tool in my digital darkroom. Now I just need a thesaurus.

World Panorama Stock & my new Sydney Panorama

As always, it’s a panoramic world for me!

wps-logo I recently became a Pro member of World Panorama Stock, a great stock site that specializes in high resolution, high quality inspirational, Rights Managed only panoramic stock imagery to professional photo researchers, graphic designers, advertising agencies, publishers. I am very happy to be working with them as I am a big supporter of the panoramic format!

Yes, I hardly need to reiterate that I love the panoramic format and World Panorama Stock is a great way to display and hopefully sell more of my panorama photos. Click to see my feature World Panorama Stock page with my bio and the images that I’ve submitted so far. There are many other fantastic panoramas for you to enjoy, check out some of the other featured photographers or use the category or search feature.

Sydney Panorama and the 17-40mm f/4.0 L lens

My latest panorama release is a stitched panorama from Sydney, shot from Kiribilli across the harbour. It is late afternoon and the sun is low and the strong sidelight lights up the Opera House. The panorama is 7 vertical images stitched in PTgui and then I did some post production in Photoshop, including a custom vignetting and some dodging and burning. PTgui did a very respectable job of blending a panorama shot across the harbour even with water in motion. This is the big drawback of stitching digital panos as opposed to a true panoramic 6×17 camera – motion! Especially water is really hard to stitch, there will be a big difference between shots when you have a bit of wind. I probably still have a bit of cloning to do in this panorama shot, but here it is – click the image to see 1000 pixel version on my website:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Sydney Panorama, Opera House, Skyline and Harbour Bridge

Like many of my panos it is shot with the Canon 17-40mm f/4.0 L lens and I really recommend this for landscape and cityscape work including panoramas. It is super tack sharp (a fair bit sharper than the 24-105mm f/4.0 L lens!) and the coating on this lens produces some fantastic colours even without polarizer (which of course you can’t use in a stitched pano!). Only problem with the 17-40 L – it’s actually too light so it doesn’t create enough counterweight, shooting handheld I always end up with slightly tilted horizons! Well, the weight problem will be cured when I get the 16-35mm f/2,8 L !

Super Wide Panoramas

Sorry for neglecting my blog and not uploading any new photos to my website, this flu virus has really taken it’s toll.

I did get around to stitching a few panoramas and that brings me to a problem with display very wide (more than 4:1) panoramas online. My “standard” aspect ratio photos I upload at 800 pixels wide/tall whereas wide stitched panoramas I upload at 1000 pixels wide. I want to show enough detail to customers on my website but I don’t want to upload at such a large resolution that my file can just be grabbed and used directly from my website (and I’m not a fan of big intrusive watermarks in the photo).

But even a 1000 pixels wide image is really just a thumbnail for these super wide panoramas, most of them are up to 10 images stitched and more than 10,000 pixels wide so at 1/10th the size you loose the magic. I wish I could show you the incredible clarity and detail of these original files! I am also looking for a printer where I can do a 3 meter wide print of these files without sending the file to an expensive lab.

Here’s a few examples of super wide panoramas, please click the image to see the 1000 pixels wide version on my website.

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Cannon Hill at Hawk Dreaming in Kakadu National Park, Australia

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House at sunset

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Ubirr Rock in Kakadu National Park, Australia

I really hope the future has some exhibition in store for me where I get to display these as 3 meter wide prints so I can show you these photos as they’re meant to be seen! Until then you have to settle for viewing my 1000 pixels wide versions and trust me when I say that the originals I sell are fine art quality files so detailed you feel you can walk straight into the scene through the screen!

Shooting Cropped Panoramas

It is no secret that I love the panorama format, I’ve mentioned this in countless posts. Read this one for why I love the wide format. I don’t own an actual panorama camera like a 6x17cm Linhof or 2x35mm Hasselblad x-pan so I shoot panoramas in two ways with my Canon 5D. The first way is to use an ultrawide lens, compose the photo as a panorama and then crop the top and bottom of the raw file in post production. The second way is digital stitching, shoot several photos and stitch them in programs like PTgui. This post focuses on cropped panoramas, the next post will focus on stitching.

Cropped panoramas

It’s simple as…just crop your photo so the width to height ratio is at least 2:1 and you have a wide panorama shot! If you want a good result there’s a bit more to it though. Have a look at these panoramas from Sydney and Perth (click to see large):

Click to see large size on my gallery!

A sunset panorama view of the Opera House, The Harbour Bridge and a ferry.

Click to see large size on my gallery!

A late afternoon view of Kings Park, gum trees, bicycle and person on the left, the skyline of Perth in the top right 1/3 and long shadows leading your eye into the shot.

Both shots are shot very wide with my 17-40mm L f/4.0 lens (which is super wide on a full frame Canon 5D) and then cropped as I developed the raw file. The next two screenshots from Rawshooter Premium shows you the full photos with the crop mask in place:

sydney-blog-crop-pano

perth-blog-crop-pano

Notice how the Sydney shot needs almost every bit of the 17mm wide view to get everything in frame. Also notice how much dead space I have in the top and bottom of the shots? That’s intentional of course, I composed with a cropped pano in mind so the full shots are boring compositions with far too much dead space and the horizon dead in the middle – which leads us to:

Composing the cropped panoramas

Here is what I do:

  • Shoot at around 17mm on my full frame Canon 5D so I can get a very wide shot (equivalent to around 10mm on a crop DSLR camera)
  • Look through the viewfinder and visualize the 3:2 image as a cropped panorama at least 2:1 wide – this is the hard part, you have to compose the shot inside a panorama rectangle you don’t have in your viewfinder, only in your head.
  • Stick the horizon straight in the middle of the viewfinder (the actual viewfinder, not your imaginary pano viewfinder). I’m cropping the shot anyway later and having the horizon in the middle of the original shot greatly reduces the barrel distortion at 17mm.
  • Make sure you get plenty of dead space top and bottom of the shot and look carefully in all corners of your viewfinder to make sure you have your panorama composition inside your imaginary panorama viewfinder.
  • Shoot 4-5 slightly different versions to make sure you have one useable for cropping.

The hard part is visualising your panorama composition inside a 3:2 viewfinder, sometimes I use my hands to form a pano viewfinder (film director style) and sometimes I wonder if I should carry a piece of cardboard cutout as a pano viewfinder. If anyone owns an old Panavision viewfinder they’d love to sell me get in touch! 😀

Cropping the photo in post production

This is the good part about shooting cropped panos, it opens possibilities in post productions. You might not end up with what you imagined when you shot it (you might not even remember what you imagined) but you have lot’s of options since your shot has so much dead space. Remember to crop this dead space though and crop it tight, you want to create a photo with an exciting panorama composition that creates visual tension for your viewer.

Conclusion

I find this method of shooting cropped panos works very well after some practice. If you intend to sell these cropped files or print them at large sizes you need lots of pixels though since you’re cropping away so many of the pixels. I have 13 megapixels of high quality in my Canon 5D and that’s alright, poster prints at 100dpi at 120cm wide  look great. I could use more though and some day I might invest in the new Canon 1Ds MkIII camera with it’s amazing 21 megapixel full frame sensor.

Next time I’ll talk about stitched panoramas but until then, if you like panoramas as much as me – get out there and practice shooting cropped panos, it’s great fun!