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:
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!
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):
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):
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.
As always, it’s a panoramic world for me!
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:
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 !
Posted in Australia, Panorama, Photography, Sydney
Tagged bridge, Canon, cityscape, harbour, lens, opera house, pano, Photo, ptgui, stitch
I reckon I can just post this sunset shot I took of two famous constructions and you will instantly know where I am (well maybe the title gave it away)
Sydney. Good old Sydney. Home to more than 4½ million people (you could almost fit the population of Denmark in here). What could I possibly write about the Harbour City with the famous Opera House and coat-hanger bridge that hasn’t already been written? As always Sydney is busy and chaotic, very tall glass and metal highrise monster buildings on very narrow streets blocks out the sun and leads to an almost claustrophobic feel and there are just too many cars, buses and people on the streets. You’re constantly either walking into people or almost getting run over by cars. Pedestrians here do not know a red light from a green one and are justifiably hated by drivers. Sydney is an actual mega-city experience, this is not Brisbane or Perth (or Copenhagen for that matter), this is more like London. The outback has never seemed further away.
But…it is also an extremely gorgeous melting pot of a multi-cultural city with a great climate, lovely parks and gardens and that harbour with that Opera House is just so spectacular and there are so many places to go, see, experience and photograph. Sydney is very hilly and from a lot of streets you will have a great view of either the harbour or one of the parks or gardens. You’d be hard pressed to find a greater spot to place a city, it is surely one of the most beautiful harbours in the world.
During the day I prefer the parks and gardens but at dusk the city lights up with a million lights (don’t wanna think about the energy consumption, oh well) and it is indeed very pretty (again a bit sci-fi looking to Scandinavian eyes). As gorgeous as all the lights are though, I still believe they should have kept the building height limit (like Copenhagen) and tried to restore more of the old buildings. In the brilliant Museum of Sydney they display some fantastic panorama photos of Sydney from around 1920-30 and it looks incredible, see here. Maybe it wasn’t possible, I know many of the old buildings were of appalling quality. Anyway, nowadays the highrises rule most of Sydney and here’s some of my shots of the light show that is Sydney at dusk, many more at my gallery and many yet to come in the following days. Click picture for larger size:
Opera House at dusk after a storm
Sydney skyline, Opera House and Bridge
Darling Harbour at night
Fortunately big lovely parks such as Hyde Park, The Domain and Botanical Gardens still take up quite a bit of central Sydney. This is from Ms Maquaries Point in The Domain, I reckon my favorite spot in Sydney with an outstanding 270 degree view of the harbour and no traffic:
One very sad part of the areas history is that Sydney is the spot of the original British First Fleet settlement (a lot of people would rather use the word invasion ‘cos that’s what it actually was). As a direct result the several thousand (maybe up to 10 000) aboriginal people living here took the very brunt of the invasion and were practically wiped out leaving very little of their history. Makes me incredibly sad when I read the stories of some 40-50 thousand years of aboriginal life here and how it was ended in no time. Sigh. Never underestimate stupid people in large numbers (or in this case – stupid people with guns).
Warning – biblical plague ahead, keep mouth closed!
A little word of advice if you visit Sydney during October – try and keep your mouth closed to prevent eating too many moths! Presently Mother Nature is having a go and fighting back – in biblical plague style! We’re apparently in the middle of the annual moth migration, where moths migrate to the Southern mountains. This year it is much worse than normal and there may be at least 4 and a half million people here but presently the moths have the humans outnumbered! They’re absolutely everywhere and some buildings (for some reason they particularly go after Government buildings near Circular Quay!) have practically been eaten by the moths! It is unreal, you walk past some buildings near Circular Quay and the buildings are just covered in 1½-2 centimeter large moths. See this news article for a picture and more explanation. Unless you actually like moths – keep your mouth closed as you walk the street or you will definitely taste quite a few!
- I don’t do any jogging in Sydney I must admit. I am so exhausted, the city is too big! To get around to all the spots I want to shoot I end up walking 15-20 kilometers every day in the hilly steep streets of Sydney (with heavy camera bag) and my feet and legs kill me every night!
- My energy level is back to normal after a weird Monday where I was so tired I actually fell asleep sitting in Hyde Park.
- Turns out an acquaintance of mine from Copenhagen is living here at the moment, so catching up with him will be fun.
- Weather here in Sydney has generally been good, sunny and 21-25 degrees most days. It’s Spring though so you have to expect everything. A thunderstorm can appear super quickly as it did Friday and Saturday. Tuesday it was 33 degrees and so warm, then the cold wind came in from the South in the afternoon and the temperature dropped like a rock. Today it has been a very chilly bloody freezing cold 19 degrees but it’s supposed to get warm again tomorrow.
- Here’s a question for you: Would you have done it? Let’s backtrack: I sit in Brisbane airport, a guy approaches me, he wears boots and work clothes and he has an envelope with some papers and this small metal registration plate with some text and license numbers. It’s for a delivery truck and he really needs this on the plane to Sydney and delivered to a guy waiting at the Hertz counter, he’ll pay me 20 bucks to bring it to Sydney. I chat with him, he seems cool and there’s no way the envelope can contain anything (visible anyway, I examine it, it’s a letter, a metal plate and an envelope, that’s it). I think about it and I say no. I simply cannot bring anything on a plane that isn’t mine I tell him. He understands and tries his luck with some other passengers. I felt a little overly paranoid saying no to him, but on the other hand it’s not a good idea to carry stuff that isn’t yours.
Would you have helped him, was I super paranoid saying no?