Day #126 @ Photography Project 365

This is my brother-in-law. As mentioned in my previous post, he's doing his national service in the army at the moment.

I used my white curtains as the backdrop for this shot. The window, which is on the right has allowed the light coming through it so slightly over-expose this shot. I dialed exposure compensation up a little bit to blow out the background.

I used a "vintage" Lightroom preset that I downloaded for free from the Internet here. It really does make the photo look old.

For this shot, I used my splendid Nikon AF-S 35mm f1.8 lens.

Day #125 @ Photography Project 365

My brother-in-law is visiting us for a few days. There's a Christian event going on in Munich this week and he decided to join it and visit u.

My brother-in-law's doing his national service in the army at the moment. Of course, his lovely sister, my wife, decided to try on his beret and learn to salute. Pictured here is one of her earlier, not so successful attempts.

I used a Lightroom preset I downloaded in post-processing to enhance this shot.

Day #124 @ Photography Project 365

I caught a beautiful sunset again for my picture of the day. In fact, I think that today's shot is a whole lot better than yesterday's. This photo was taken from our north balcony (our south balcony faces the Alps).

This panorama was created from a set of about five photos. I stitched them together in Photoshop and then made some necessary edits. First, I cropped. I made sure that the unwanted elements in the photo were removed. Then, I increased its contrast a lot. I wanted to a silhouette foreground against the bright sunset. Finally, I increased saturation and vibrancy to accentuate the colors.

Day #123 @ Photography Project 365

We had a beautiful, yet daunting sunset today and I managed to catch it on camera. In the background are the Bavarian Alps as seen from our apartment.

If you look closely, there are some streaks coming down from the clouds. I don't know what they are though. I presume it's rain, but I could be wrong.

This isn't a stitched panorama but was taken from a single shot. I merely cropped it to be a panorama.

Day #122 @ Photography Project 365

You probably wouldn't be able to guess what this is. I wasn't able to until I asked my wife. It's actually a wax stain on our grass carpet (carpet grass is real grass whereas grass carpet isn't).

I think my Nikon AF-S 35mm f1.8 did a good job here. I used a large aperture to create a shallow depth-of-field, making the grass seem to go on and on beyond the horizon. In Lightroom, I used a preset I recently downloaded for free. The preset included a vignette, reduced saturation and boosted contrast.

Day #121 @ Photography Project 365

We've been having some really crappy weather here in Munich lately. It's been raining a lot and there is almost no sign of spring.

Having said that, the weather today was fabulous. It was a little cloudy, which is great for photography (my wife would have preferred a cloudless sky though). I often have the problem that my photos either have a plain, white, cloudy sky or a plain, blue, cloudless sky as its background. Neither are really good.

So, I decided to take some photos of the sky today to be used as backdrops for my Photoshop edits.

Day #120 @ Photography Project 365

I'm not exactly a fan of plants but we did make it a point to get some for our balcony last year. Don't ask me why, but they didn't last long. Perhaps it was the cold winter, insects, excessive sun or simply the lack of love.

However, to my surprise, the story didn't end there. Like a Phoenix emerging from the ashes, a new plant has emerged from the old. Now, we have no idea if the new plant is the same as the old one or if it's some wild, parasitic plant - only time will tell.

Anyway, I decided that this mysterious plant would be the object of my picture of the day. This photo was taken directly above the plant and looking down at it.

Day #119 @ Photography Project 365

I took this photo from our balcony with my Nikon AF-S 35mm f1.8 lens. This is a great, little lens to have. Mounted on my D60, it serves as a normal lens and it produces lovely bokeh.

Pictured here is a garden light that we have mounted onto our balcony railing in the foreground. In the background, we have the city lights creating a pleasant bokeh for this shot.

Day #118 @ Photography Project 365

I got my complete Lumiquest Pro Max flash diffuser kit today. First, I ordered the Pro Max accessory kit on eBay thinking that the diffuser itself would be included. To my dismay, the accessory kit did not include the diffuser but only the additional accessories to be mounted onto the Lumiquest 80-20 diffuser. So, I had to order the Lumiquest 80-20 additionally.

The entire Lumiquest Pro Max kit comprising of the 80-20 diffuser and Pro Max accessory kit came to a staggering 80 EUR. This was way more than I had expected and more than I was willing to pay at first (the accessory kit was 50 EUR and that was actually my limit for a diffuser). While I probably could have returned the Pro Max accessory kit, I decided to keep it and get the 80-20 diffuser in addition.

I haven't played enough with it to draw any conclusion but as of the moment, I feel that 80 EUR is way too much for it.

Day #117 @ Photography Project 365

We didn't play UNO today but I felt that the shuffling of cards would make a good picture of the day.

I used a relative slow shutter speed to catch the motion of the flipping cards.

Day #116 @ Photography Project 365

Now, since the positive-exposure-compensation-on-white-background trick worked so well for me, I decided to try the opposite: negative-exposure-compensation-on-black-background.

How did it turn out? In two words: very well.

I looked around for anything that would serve as a good black backdrop and finally settled for the cover of a box that I got from IKEA. Actually, the cover did not have a very deep black tone, thanks to the dust that has been accumulating over time. However, by dialing exposure compensation one step down (-1EV), I was able to push the pixels into "pure black" category.

Day #115 @ Photography Project 365

After my experience with my photo-of-the-day two days ago (day #113), I've been looking at white backgrounds from a whole new light. I used to see them as dull and boring but with the new trick I learned, white actually can make a spectacular background. After all, it's similar to using a light tent (here's the link to my tutorial / pictorial on building your own light tent / box).

We have a white table in our balcony and I figured that it would play a good backdrop. Additionally, I decided to try a different perspective today - taking the shot from above. So, I placed the bouquet of flowers on the table, stood on a chair to get sufficient elevation, dial up two stops of exposure compensation (+2EV) and took the first photo here.

The second photo here was taken with only one stop of positive exposure compensation (+1EV).

I find the second shot to be more subtle and realistic. On the other hand, the additional stop of exposure compensation in the first photo gives it more glow and to a certain extent, more glamor.

Day #114 @ Photography Project 365

We had a beautiful, full moon today. As soon as my wife saw it, she reminded me to take my photo of the day.

I set up my tripod on our balcony, mounted my camera, focused and used my infrared control to release the shutter. The final step was necessary to avoid camera shake since I had to use a rather slow shutter speed.

Because it was night and the background, dark, I dialed down two stops of exposure compensation (-2EV). This was necessary because the camera's light meter would have automatically over-exposed the shot to generate a gray tone for the photo.

In Lightroom, I increased blacks, exposure, contrast and saturation. Additionally, I bumped up clarity, which is something I usually do not do.

Day #113 @ Photography Project 365

These photos are the result of a new technique that I learned from a photography magazine recently.

First, I placed the plant by the window. Then, I placed two sheets of blank, white paper behind the flowers to serve as its background. I switched my camera to Aperture Priority, dialed in two stops of positive exposure compensation (+2EV), focused and snapped away.

The results are actually quite captivating. The bright, colorful flowers are set against a clean, bright background that serves to accentuate its glow.

Day #112 @ Photography Project 365

Here you see my new RF flash trigger at work. I mounted my Nikon Speedlight SB-600 flash on the trigger, and the trigger on a tripod. I placed my strobe to the left of my guitar while stood to its right. As you can see from the shadow, the light source (my flash) and my camera were not parallel (i.e. they were both facing the guitar from different directions).

With the RF trigger, the flash has to be set manually - there is no TTL functionality available. Because of that, things do get a bit tricky. I've never studied my flash's guide number table but if I intend to really make use of this trigger, I'll have to. In fact, I probably need to take it along with me whenever I plan to use my flash in manual mode.

Day #111 @ Photography Project 365

I ordered one of those RF flash triggers (a.k.a. eBay triggers) a couple of weeks ago - before I left for Helsinki. Thanks to the photography magazines I purchased in UK, I've recently been having an urge for flash photography. The amazing samples displayed and relatively simple tutorials illustrated really made me want to be a "strobist". While I'm not prepared to make any huge investment in that area yet, I felt that an RF trigger is the least I could do.

I bought a Blazzeo SLT-4 trigger for about 25 EUR on eBay (incl. shipping). Perhaps I was expecting too much but I'm a little disappointed with them. They don't work perfectly with my Nikon Speedlight SB-600 flash. The Blazzeo SLT-4 causes my flash to misfire a lot. I eventually found out that leaving the flash unlocked reduces misfire significantly, although it still does happen occasionally.

I surfed the Internet looking for fellow comrades who were suffering from similar issues but didn't really find any. Based on the information I found, I eventually came to the conclusion that these triggers work very well with third-party "manual" flashes such as those from Vivitar and Nissin but tend to be less compatible with automatic flashes (those with TTL).

Web album of my journey from Helsinki to Munich via sea and land

This web album comprises of the photos I took during my 53-hour journey from Helsinki to Munich via sea and land. I took the Viking Line ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, the X2000 high-speed train from Stockholm to Copenhagen and the ICE high-speed train from Copenhagen to Hamburg and on to Munich. I spent a night in the ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm and another in a hotel in Copenhagen. I was forced to take this route due to the volcano eruption in Iceland that basically grounded all flights in Europe.

Day #110 @ Photography Project 365

I arrived in Copenhagen Central Train Station at about 6 pm yesterday. I took the high-speed train from Stockholm, known as the X2000, which made it to Copenhagen in just over five hours. The train ride was pleasant and comfortable, and I even had a Internet access on board - I only had to pay 10 EUR for Internet access throughout the trip.

Having been to Copenhagen twice before, I am pretty familiar with the place. From the Central Train Station, I walked to the Scandic Hotel where I had a room reserved for the night. After checking in and freshening up a bit, I went out for dinner. I decided to call it a night pretty early because I still had the final leg of my journey home ahead of me.

This morning I went back to the Central Train Station to catch my train back to Munich via Hamburg. I made my ticket reservation while I was still in Helsinki and didn't have to worry about getting a ticket anymore. However, there was a long queue of people trying to get tickets - as shown in the first photo here. Many of them were probably in the same situation as I was - stuck in Scandinavia and making their way back home.

I soon made my way to the platform where the train was scheduled to depart from - shown in the second photo. There weren't that many people waiting at first but the number kept growing. The train, which was a German Inter-City Express (ICE), arrived punctually. Boarding was pretty easy and organized in spite of the large number of passengers.

There were many passengers without seat reservations and who were not able to get seats. They actually had to rough it out for about four hours until we reached Hamburg. Fortunately, I was still able to make a seat reservation when I purchased my ticket.

Day #109 @ Photography Project 365

As soon as I boarded yesterday, I began exploring the ferry. First, I had to look for a place to store my suitcase. Fortunately, they have storage boxes where guests can put their belongings in for 2 EUR. Since I didn't have too many things with me, I was able to make do with a single box.

By the way, I got a ticket for the ferry but wasn't able to get a cabin when I made my reservation - everything was sold out. So, I was planning to either stay awake or loaf around the ferry all night along. However, I decided to try my luck and approached the information counter to inquire if they still had any cabin free. They put my name on the waiting list and in about 15 minutes I actually got a single cabin! The cabin I have is really comfortable, fits two persons and has an attached bathroom. I couldn't have asked for more. I slept very well last night.

The view from the ferry is fabulous! It's not everyday that I travel be sea and I've been using my time on board to improve my photography (although I only have my little IXUS with me). There's no shortage of opportunities for a picture of the day here. When I got up this morning, I decided to take some photos. While I wasn't up early enough to catch sunrise, the first photo here was caught about an hour or so after sunrise. It wasn't exactly the golden hour of the day but I think it turned out pretty OK.

We reached the Stockholm harbor at about 9:40 am. There was a bus from Viking Line waiting to take us to the city center. I had gotten my ticket from the ferry and was able to immediately board to bus. The drive took about 15 minutes.

The second photo here was taken right outside the Stockholm Central Train Station. I had to take the train to Copenhagen from here. As I had about two hours to kill, I decided to scout around Stockholm a bit and take some photos.

Day #108 @ Photography Project 365

It was announced this morning that the planned schedule for the reopening of the Helsinki airport had been shifted forward again. I decided I'm not going to wait anymore. As soon as I read the announcement, I planned my evacuation via sea and land.

I plan to take the overnight ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, which leaves this afternoon, the train from Stockholm to Copenhagen, spend the night in Copenhagen and finally take the train from Copenhagen back to Munich (via Hamburg). If all goes as planned,my trip home will take just over 48 hours. This whole debacle made me realize two things: 1. how isolated and far away Finland is from the rest of Europe 2. how dependent we are on air travel these days.

At about 3pm, I made my way to the harbor, where the ferry was. The first photo was taken from the departure hall - we were waiting to board the ferry at that time.

While we were waiting, the ferry service operator provided us with some entertainment. I think that the theme of the ferry service and correspondingly, the entertainment, changes every now and then. This time the theme was South Africa. So, they invited a group of drummers to play us a beat!

Day #107 @ Photography Project 365

So, I'm officially stuck here in Helsinki! The airport is still closed and they keep shifting forward the scheduled day and time they're reopening. I need to find a way out of here.

This is once again a photo taken in the underground metro station. In post-processing, I converted it to black and white and increased the contrast.

Day #106 @ Photography Project 365

I was supposed to leave for Munich today but unfortunately, due to the volcano eruption in Iceland, all flights from Helsinki (and most airports in Europe) have been canceled. There is a ferry from Helsinki directly to the north of Germany but as expected, it's fully-booked. Looks like I'll be spending a few extra days in Helsinki.

This is a photo of an underground metro station in the city center. They've designed the place to look like a cave. My colleagues and I were in fact wondering if the walls were natural rocks or made of concrete. We came to the conclusion that they were made of concrete and designed to look like natural rocks.

Day #105 @ Photography Project 365

This is once again a photo taken in Helsinki. In Lightroom, I added a Sephia tone to the image and increased exposure to blow out the sky a little. The result of the latter step: a statue against a clean, white background.

Day #104 @ Photography Project 365

I took this photo of the World Trade Center in Helsinki City Center. Ok, this is one of many World Trade Centers but I still found it interesting.

I've to say that the unprocessed photo was just a snap shot but I'm indeed very pleased with this version here - the post-processed version. I used a Lightroom preset to give it a metallic tone, increase the contrast and add a vignette.

Day #103 @ Photography Project 365

This is a photo of the Helsinki Main Train Station. I went out for dinner with some colleagues this evening and the 20-minute walk involved threading through this place.

The Helsinki Main Train Station is nice. It's clean, not too crowded (or at least I've not experienced the rush-hour crowd) and there is quite a number of shops for just about anything.

Day #102 @ Photography Project 365

This photo was taken in the hotel room where I'm staying here in Helsinki. The desk has a lid with a mirror on the bottom side. The lid hides the cables and power sockets, which would otherwise look messy.

In this photo is a reflection off the mirror on the lid. In Lightroom, I used a high-contrast black and white preset to finish the job.

Day #101 @ Photography Project 365

I'm in Helsinki this week on business again. We were initially scheduled to have a 5-day workshop but due to cost reasons, our management decided to reduce it to three. This allowed me to spend Sunday at home in Munich instead of traveling on the weekend.

This is a photo of one of the shopping malls in Helsinki city center. It's a good place to have some food. In fact, a friend of mine introduced me to two restaurants in and around the area that are Malaysian-owned and obviously serve Malaysian food. Trips to Helsinki are going to be a lot more fun from now on.

Day #100 @ Photography Project 365

I've no idea what the local authorities are doing here but it does look like some mine amphitheater (though I seriously doubt that it's one). This photo was taken right in front of the main entrance to the Frauenkirche, one of Munich's most important landmarks.

I used a Lightroom preset to add a vignette and a cooler tone.

Day #99 @ Photography Project 365

I bet you've never seen this in Munich. Well, you may at least recognize parts of it but you probably feel that it just doesn't seem to fit. Here's the secret: I superimposed the golden statue against from Marienplatz against the sky from Ammersee. Of course, I took both photos on separate occasions.

I've been trying to master layers in Photoshop for some time now. The (extremely) tedious part has always been erasing and getting rid of the unwanted parts (and pixels) in a particular photo. I've always thought to myself that there must be an easier way than to manually eliminate pixel by pixel. There are Photoshop plug-ins that apparently make this task easier but I've never tried them.

Anyway, I went through a "Photoshop Masterclass" DVD that was included in Digital Photo magazine recently and discovered some new tricks. Surprisingly, the lessons provided in the DVD always emphasized the manual pixel-by-pixel-elimination approach. However, they did indirectly highlight some tools within Photoshop that would make this task a lot easier.

Two very important tools are the magnetic lasso and magic wand. I've used the magnetic lasso in some previous photos before but this time I decided to go with the magic wand since the distinction between the object and its surrounding was pretty prominent. So, I used the magic wand to select a part of the background, right-clicked on the other parts that were not selected and chose "add to selection", and continued on until the entire background was selected. I then inverted my selection using the Select menu.

Now comes the new part, for me anyways. I clicked on the Refine Edge button towards the top of the window. By playing around with the feathering and expanding/contracting sliders, I was able to refine the selection (i.e. the selected object in this case was the golden statue). I chose the settings that looked ideal for me, copied the selection (i.e. the golden statue) and pasted it onto the image with the sky. Several further adjustments later, I got this photo.

Day #98 @ Photography Project 365

This is a photo of the New Town Hall in Marienplatz, Munich. It is a popular object for photography among tourists and locals alike.

We were in the city today and I brought my camera along to take some photos. As always, this magnificent building greeted me as I ascended from the U-bahn station. I have taken many photos of the New Town Hall before and I am more often than not pleased with the outcome.

The clouds in the sky today have played their role beautifully. They have given me much needed soft lighting and made a beautiful backdrop. I didn't have to do much in post-processing this time. I simply cropped the photo, and boosted saturation and contrast a bit.

Day #97 @ Photography Project 365

Spring is definitely setting in and I tried to capture its essence in this shot - from my apartment. I took an almost identically composed shot in the earlier part of this year when it was still winter. The dark bark of the tree against the bright walkway is still as captivating now as it was back then. Additionally this time, we have the blossoming flowers of spring, which gives the shot a more cheerful and pleasant setting.

In Lightroom, I increased the exposure to almost wash out the otherwise grayish walkway. I also increased the blacks to give the tree a dark tone that I wanted. Finally, I increased contrast further by adjusting its histogram curve to be more S-shaped.

Day #96 @ Photography Project 365

My wife recently ordered a Good News Bible from Amazon for a friend of hers and I have it photographed here.

To the get the red lighting effect, I used a colored flash filter - a red one. The result: a dark room effect.

Day #95 @ Photography Project 365

My wife was in the city today to get herself some niceties and pictured here in one of them - makeup.

I used one of the built-in presets in Lightroom to enhance this shot. I wanted to give it a 1920's look and feel, so I applied the antique preset. It made the photo warmer and brighter, almost to the point of overexposure. I guess most shots taken in the 1920's weren't perfectly due to technical limitation of that time but today we perceive some of these flaws as unique and almost enviable characteristics of photography.