Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Persistence Pays in Photography

Sep 6 2011

Santa Monica Pier at Sunset

Canon 5DMKII + 24-70mm f/2.8, 43mm, f/16, 10s, ISO 100.

After my big move out of my San Francisco apartment, I thought I’d take myself and my wonderful mum, who helped my move, on a little California photo vacation before heading back East. It’s always been a dream of mine to shoot the Santa Monica pier after seeing it in a number of movies/tv shows, so last night I trekked out onto the sandy beach and snapped this shot.

This shot was all about persistence. When I arrived at the beach, it was quite foggy and the light wasn’t great. The colours were muted, the sky was grey and there were a lot of pesky tourists parked right in the middle of my shot. After waiting for almost an hour, the sky suddenly turned a gorgeous shade of purple with a misty pink horizon. So, I had my sky. Next, I needed a great reflection of the lights on the pier.

My shoreside set up. About to get drenched!

I tried a number of different angles on the beach and levels on my tripod. Unfortunately, the sweet spot for the reflection and composition was very close to the shoreline which meant that when a large wave came in, I was calf-deep in salty ocean goodness. I also had to time my 10s exposure just as the waves were pulling out so that the sand was wet enough to create the best reflection.

Santa Monica Pier

Setting up the shot.

Next came the ferris wheel spin. Much to my chagrin, the ferris wheel spun very sporadically and with numerous lighting patterns. It was hit or miss, so I had to take a lot of shots. I took over 100 shots waiting for the perfect combo of tide out, good reflections, and ferris wheel spin and this photo was my very last shot. Needless to say, my mum was not impressed that this whole process took nearly 1 1/2 hours of “one more photo”. She had long since put her tripod and camera away and was hopping up and down to keep warm.

When we got back, she wasn’t really happy with the photos she took. She lamented about the fact that her less expensive, Canon XSi (450D) couldn’t take as good pictures as my 5DMKII, but I said that the difference between our photos wasn’t the fact that I had the better camera, but that I persisted longer to get the shot.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve taken almost 30,000 pictures with my 5DMKII. My first shot was out of focus. My 100th shot was over-exposed. My 1607 shot was completely black. My 3056 shot needed a lot of post-processing. But, this shot, my 29,604 shot was great straight out of the camera. Why? Because I had 29,603 shots to practice my skills, so that when I finally got to this beach to take a shot I dreamt about for years, I knew what camera settings to use, how to compose the shot, and to wait an hour and a half for great light.

The bad news is you can’t skip the steps it takes to learn how to use your camera settings, compose great shots, and perfect light. But, the good news is that anyone with a relentless determination and passion can go to this exact spot and take an equally great photo.

In honour of the Royal Wedding…

Apr 28 2011

iPhone 4, Camera+, Clarity, HDR, Cross Process, thin black frame.

I’m Canadian, but I have two British parents. In my mind, this makes me mostly British, so I thought in honour of the Royal fever sweeping over the entire interwebs, I thought it would be fun to post a few pictures from my trip to London earlier this year where I visited many famous spots. :)

Harrods Double Decker Bus & bokehHarrods Double Decker Bus Bokeh.
5DMKII+16-35mm. 1/60 at f/2.8, IS0 2000.

Westminster Abbey HDR, LondonWestminster Abbey.
5DMKII+ 16-35mm, 4, 8, & 15s at f/8.0, ISO 100 using Photomatix.

Golden Jubilee Bridge & the London EyeGolden Jubilee Bridge & the London Eye.
16-35mm. 6s at f/8.0, ISO 100.

iPhone 4, Camera+u, Contessa wi/ Vintage Frame.

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, UKHouses of Parliament.
3 shots combined in Photomatix 8s, 10s, 15s, f/8.0, ISO 100.

London Eye.
iPhone 4, Camera+, Clarity + Cross Process + Vibrant.

Buckingham PalaceBuckingham Palace.
5DMKII+16-35mm, 15s at f/9.0, ISO 100.

While I’m not too keen on watching the wedding itself, I’ll be really interested to see both the official wedding photos and all the unofficial photos of the celebration. If you happen to be in London town, make sure you get out and get some shots and share them with all of us!

5 Tips for Taking Great Vacation Photos

Nov 27 2010

Mostly Lisa on Paradise Pier, California Adventureland

I just finished processing my snaps from my fabulous Disneyland birthday weekend and I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for getting great vacation photos.

As a die-hard photographer, I understand the tendency to want to capture every single moment of life, rather than experience it. While this will result in more photos of your trip, it may not result in the best photos. After a day of continuous snapping and being asked to smile and pose, even the most enthusiastic subjects will look like annoyed-looking grumps in your photos.

Fireworks above Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Disneyland

Instead of continuously shooting throughout the day, pick three or four times for posed family photos in front of main landmarks, and casually snap candids the rest of the time. Know when to put away your dSLR and just enjoy the day.

Disneyland Lollipop Bokeh
Taken while Pete was distracted by brightly coloured sweets. :)

All this goes out the window if there is amazing light. In that case, give your kids $10, point to the nearest ice cream store, and say, “Yay!! Ice cream!!” I find I can capture a lot of great shots when people are distracted with food or shiny things. I call it the “distract and snap” method.

Pete & Mickey PretzelOh look! A Mickey pretzel!

2. Pack the right gear

Oh Hai Disneyland!
5DMKII + 16-35mm + 430EX with an Omnibounce

On this trip to Disneyland, I brought minimal gear with me to the park because I knew that I would be trekking around a lot and going on bumpy, wet and generally gear-unfriendly rides. I brought my 5DMKII with the 16-35mm f/2.8, 430EX flash, Canon SD 1300 point & shoot, and my iPhone 4.

Pete in front of the Matterhorn, Disneyland
Pete waiting for the Monorail in Tomorrowland.

I only brought one lens because I find that I can capture great scene shots at 16mm and great people pictures at 35mm. Plus, it’s relatively small and unobtrusive. A 35mm, 24-70mm or a 18-55mm kit lens would work as well.

View from the Grand Californian
View from my hotel room at the Grand Californian.

If you are missing a zoom lens or wide angle, use a point and shoot or phone to grab these shots. Remember it’s all about about capturing moments, not perfect photographs.

2. Bring extra memory cards & batteries

Esmerelda, Main Street, Disneyland
Esmerelda, Main Street, Disneyland

I usually have 4 X 8GB cards and an extra battery for my dSLR on me at all times. I tore through all of these on this trip, especially when I was taking video. So depending on what you are shooting, I would recommend having at least 4 cards with you, if not more. Always pack an extra battery and make sure you charge your phone the night before.

Woody Vinylmation
Toy Story’s “Woody” in Vinylmation store.

3. Capture the story

While it’s great to capture the big breathtaking scenic moments of your vacation, try to capture all the seemingly mundane moments in between to connect all your images into a story of your trip.

Mickey Mouse Waffle

Snap a picture of your breakfast, the view from your hotel window, your family getting ready to go out, your boyfriend checking his feeds during dinner :-|, or any little candid moment you’d like to remember.
Pete Cashmore getting his RSS on :P

I find that these shots are the ones I really cherish, because they remind me of my experience, rather than the place itself. I love this shot of my epic R2D2 “Mostly Lisa” Mouse Ears getting made.

My R2D2 Mickey Ears getting made

MostlyLisa's R2D2 Mickey Ears

4. Capture the entire scene

Paradise Pier, California Adventureland
Paradise Pier, California Adventureland

Always take a step back and capture the full scene. It’s a good opportunity to actually focus on your photography for a moment. I usually try to grab a few good shots when I’m waiting in lines for food, transport or Space Mountain :)

Space Mountain, Disneyland
Space Mountain!

To maximize your photo taking, set your camera to burst mode, so you can fire off a bunch of shots really quickly. Another way you can increase your chances of getting a great shot is by bracketing the exposure to +2 and -2 EV. This way when you fire off three shots in burst mode, you get three shots of varied exposure: 1. Over-exposed; 2. Normally exposed; & 3. Under-exposed.

Mark Twain Riverboat, Disneyland
Mark Twain Riverboat, Disneyland

5. Don’t forget to get in the picture too!


Cotton candy & magic hour in California Adventureland.

There are so many times when I come back from a trip and realize there are no pictures of me, almost as if I wasn’t there. I know most photographers hate being photographed, but your loved ones and demanding Facebook friends will appreciate a few pictures with you in them :P Before you pass of your camera, make sure it’s set up correctly so that anyone can just click the shutter. I usually set up the frame and settings on someone and then swap with that person, so all my settings are correct.


Point and shoot shot of Pete & I after a ride on Indiana Jones.

I’m not keen on strangers handling my dSLR, so if I want a shot with me and someone, I’ll either set up my point and shoot on a little gorilla pod and use a timer or just hand hold it. NB. Hand holding a dSLR is not recommended unless you’ve got the guns to support it :P

Mickey Mouse Toys at Disneyland

I look forward to seeing all of your shots of the upcoming holiday season!!!

Two days in the life of Mashable CEO, Pete Cashmore

May 26 2010

Last week while I was in San Francisco for Google I/O and the MashMeet SF After Party, I shot a short little “day in the life” documentary of Pete.

I shot the video with the same set-up I used at the Olympics, my 5DMKII, the RØDE VideoMic, and a Litepanels Micro LED light. The neck strap I’m using is the BlackRapids Rs-5 (perfect for storing my iPhone and extra memory cards).

I shot most of the party shots at 6400 ISO and used the LED to light people’s faces when they were talking. Next time I’m going to put a CTO (orange) gel on the LED to give people a nice tan, instead of the ghostly whites. Cuz let’s face it, us tech peeps need all the tan we can get. :P

Photo by Ken Yeung.
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New York City through the lens of my iPhone

May 8 2010

Lisa taking iPhone shots in Little Italy, NYC
Video still by Eric Fischer

NYC: A city that is dead serious about yellow taxis, car horns, smoking, noise, fashion, firemen & late night diner food.

As soon as I step out of the plane in Newark, NJ, I am in full sensory overload.

Arriving in Newark, NJ.

The stifling, muggy heat is a shock to my system. It reminds me of Toronto in mid-August during an unbearable heat wave.

Pete Cashmore being hit with the muggy air outside of Newark Airport.

The city is sticky. My flip flops slap against the side walk and actually stick for a fraction of a second, until they get a dunk in something wet. I’m hoping it’s left over rain water. *crosses fingers*


Sex & the City sign in Chinatown.

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5 Ways to Fall in Love with Photography Again

Apr 27 2010

Lisa with SF Heart in Union Square

I’m back from a quick trip to San Francisco. Although I brought my 5DMKII, I actually spent most of my time shooting with my iPhone. I found myself really enjoying snapping hundreds of pictures with wild abandon, shooting things I would have never “wasted” shots on with my 5DMKII.

This experience was a valuable reminder of what I love about photography: The act of taking pictures. The sheer joy of capturing a moment is such a powerful feeling as a photographer and one that I’ve been missing in recent months.


Team Cheer at the SF Heart, Union Square, SF.

I find that many photographers, especially the perfectionists among us, feel a huge pressure when it comes to their photography. Gaining good editing and photoshop skills, as well as pushing yourself creatively is an important part of becoming a better photographer, but when you start feeling perpetually unsatisfied with every picture you take, you start to lose the passion and love for the thing you love to do.

I’ve noticed this with my attitude towards my own photography, so I thought I’d share some tips to help you generate a little bit of heat between you and your camera.

1. Fill up your memory card.

Union Square, SF, iPhone.

Never limit the number of shots you take based on digital space, just line your pockets with memory cards :) Memory is cheap. Buy plenty of memory cards and don’t be scared of filling up your cards. I carry 2x8GB, 2x4GB, & 2x2GB CFs plus 2x8GB SD cards for my P&S with me all the time.

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Secrets of the 2010 Closing Ceremonies Revealed!

Mar 1 2010

Did you see the Closing Ceremonies and wonder how the crowd experienced it?

Well I’m gonna take you behind the scenes of the Closing Ceremonies pre-show and gives you an inside peek at all the pre-show activities including, learning the ins and outs of moose antler props, gettin’ groovy with the “Sochi Snowglobe” wave, packin’ on pounds with the hospital poncho and the good and bad of blinky, flashy buttons.


iPhone snap.

The video was shot with two 5DMKIIs & a Canon PowerShot 980 IS (for the reverse angles during the show). I was shooting with a 16-35mm f/2.8 & the LensBaby Composer (at the end) & my friend, Scott was shooting with a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. Niiiice piece of glass.

Best. Train. Ever.

Feb 28 2010

I take a ride on the luxurious Alberta Train up to Whistler to experience the snowier side of the Winter Olympics. It was definitely the highlight of my Olympic experience so far!

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Corporate Fun times at the Coca-Cola Pavilion

Feb 26 2010


Music credit: “How You Like Me Know” The Heavy.

Coca-Cola is Corporate Olympic Sponsorship at its very best. Free Coke, free interactive games, free picture of you with the Olympic torch and the shiniest, happiest PR people ever. Although, come to think about it they did seem a bit disgruntled when I asked if I could get Pepsi instead.

Ignite the Dream 2010 at Robson Square

Feb 22 2010

One of the most uplifting nighttime highlights at the 2010 Olympics is Robson Square’s impressive light and laser show, Ignite the Dream. Situated right in the heart of the downtown buzz, this amazing light show captivates thousands of eager on-lookers everyday.

There are two nightly shows starting at 9:30pm and 11pm. Arrive 30 minute early to secure a decent spot and to avoid the drunken rowdies, who, in their own way add a whole new dimension to the Olympic experience.