“Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~ Elliott Erwitt
As a photographer, I spend most of my time photographing the city of Santa Barbara and its surrounding areas. I must admit I really enjoy photographing this beautiful place. However, I have a passion for traveling, exploring new cities and capturing photographs of different places around the world.
Most recently I had the opportunity to visit the city of Toronto, Canada, a great city that combines the look and feel of the old traditional world, in combination with new and modern architecture
Pre-trip research and planning
Every travel destination has its own charm, landscape, culture and history. In order to capture the essence of a new place you must prepare. I strongly recommend you do some preliminary research about the place you are planning to visit as well as checking its weather forecast. Take the time to learn about its iconic locations, their accessibility, distance between them and the best time to photograph them. To help you with your process you can read travel guides at your local library, do some research online or use my favorite visual resources Instagram and Google Image Search.
After doing my research, I create a rough photo itinerary or shot list, with the places I would like to photograph. I say “rough” because with photography we must leave room for the unexpected, for the spontaneous moments that happen once you are walking the streets of your new travel destination.
Start early and stay out late
Most photographers would agree that the best times to take pictures are early morning and sunset. Plan your day accordingly and your chances for finding really good lighting will increase.
My visit to Toronto was at the end of winter, beginning of spring. The hours of daylight were short and I knew it would be cold and cloudy most days so I bundled up, grabbed my camera and tripod and off I went to photograph the city.
First stop, the Royal Ontario Museum, an architectural gem with very modern and unique architecture. I decided to start early in the day with this location because it is located on a very busy street. I wanted to capture it with the least amount of cars traveling up and down the street. My intention paid off, because I was able to capture it before it was time for rush hour traffic.
Use a tripod
Next stop was the Humber Bay Bridge. I love the abstract lines playing against the sky and cityscape. I was hoping to capture the contrast of the white structure of the bridge with blue sky as a background, but it was still cloudy and the wind was picking up, so I set up my tripod to stabilize my camera under the windy conditions and tried not to freeze. I’m happy with the results, but I would love to go back in the summer time to capture the bridge against blue sky.
Photographing indoors – Adjust your camera settings
It was time to go indoors to warm up and wait for the wind and clouds to pass. I decided to visit the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, a total contrast from the first couple of locations. It is considered a city landmark and this hotel is located at the heart of downtown, minutes from the city’s biggest events and attractions including: The CN Tower – which was my next shooting location.
Photographing indoors is very different from shooting outdoors. You can’t rely on your camera to make the exposure decisions for you, if you want to capture the ambient light as realistically as possible without having to use the camera flash. The interior of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is warmly lit and it doesn’t have lots of natural light.
Here are the settings I used to take pictures inside the hotel:
- White balance was set to Tungsten
- ISO was set to 1500 ISO, this way my camera sensor would become sensitive enough to the available light, without the need of flash so I could capture the ambient light as my eye saw it.
- Camera was set to Aperture Priority F8 so I could get good the depth of field with sharp images without having to use a long shutter exposure.
- Shutter was set by my camera.
Once I had the correct settings in my camera, I was ready to take some pictures of the beautiful lobby.
Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO combination
Then it was time for the grand finale. As the sun was going down it was time to capture Toronto’s Skyline from Polson Pier at sunset. To capture this location, I knew I would need to set up my camera aperture at F22 to guarantee the greatest depth of field which will translate in a sharper image all through out. The ISO was set to a 100 to reduce the amount of digital noise. This combination of a small aperture of F22 and 100 ISO will result in a slow shutter and/or long exposure of 1/2 to a full second as the sun kept going down. A tripod was required to eliminate any blurry images resulting from the slow shutter setting.
These are the images that I captured that evening. They were taken about 30 min apart from one another. As the sun kept going down the exposure (shutter speed) kept getting longer from 1/2 a second, to 1 second to 1.5 seconds.
I look forward to another visit to Toronto in the near future. If it was beautiful to visit during this cold season I can only imagine how beautiful it must be during the summer time.
Until next time Toronto!
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