Postcard Intellect

Travel photography for the uninitiated….



Long Exposure Workshop


Long exposure is a photographic method in which you use a filter on your camera to lengthen the time of your exposure – usually up to several minutes in length. The result is a photo similar to the one above. I’d dabbled in this before, but I decided to learn from the master and took a weekend class with Flickr’s very own Vulture Labs. And suffice to say, I learned a TON.

Continue reading “Long Exposure Workshop”


Anybody still out there?

Man, no one told me having a kid takes up so much time!

Family fun in the pool

Despite the fact that I haven’t written a damn thing for 2 and a half years, rest assured that we HAVE been busy….very busy in fact!

Continue reading “Anybody still out there?”

We had a baby!

I’m a Dad!

On January 10th my beautiful daughter Isabella was born at 11:23 pm, which is actually really cool because it’s also my Grandma’s birthday (she was 91 on that day last week!)

So needless to say the photography has begun! It’s a lot of fun – I love taking pictures, and now I have a model that doesn’t mind having her picture taken (granted I do have to work around her schedule) and of course everyone loves seeing pictures of a new baby so everything works out!

It’s hard to describe the feeling of being a new Dad.  It’s almost strange to me that this is something that many other people the world over experience in their life – it feels like something so incredibly unique to me personally, but it’s a common occurrence in a human’s lifetime.  So far we’re still in getting to know each other mode, but having never had a baby before I think she’s very well behaved, seems very aware, and has a general happiness level that’s high on the charts!

Over the last few days I’ve been taking some photos and I promise that once I get my act together I’m going to do some tutorials.  I believe many of the tutorials going forward will be on particular photos and also what to do with photos once you’ve taken them.  Today I’m going to share a few photos that I just took.

The photo above is one that I took this afternoon and one that I’m very pleased with. I took this in natural light of Adriana holding Bella with a 50 mm f/1.2 lens.  I set this to f/1.2 to allow maximum bokeh (and minimal depth of field, which you’ll remember from the aperture post).  This creates an image where just the back of the head and Adriana’s fingertips are in focus, the rest of the image fading into blur.  I then took the photo from Lightroom into Silver Effex Pro, where I converted to B&W and very gently reduced the clarity to make sure the lines weren’t too harsh. I wanted the photo to have a gentle look to it and I think it’s achieved here.

The next two photos are similar and were taken in a similar way.  These were also taken with the 50mm f/1.2 lens, but I used a smaller aperture (f/3.2) to make sure there was enough focus on both the baby and Adriana. The photo at the bottom used an aperture of f/1.6; I wanted to create a photo where the baby is the focus and Adriana’s smile is in the background. I think this is well achieved here, and the images lend themselves to B&W not just because of the ugly flannel shirt my wife was wearing (haha!) but because I really believe some images were simply meant for B&W.  I then had a post crop vignette to all of the images to give them a slightly more concentrated focal point, bringing the image out from the frame.

Finally, I leave you with a video that I took.  Some of you that read my blog regularly will remember that I got some video equipment – especially a slider.  This is a tool where I can put my camera on it, then “slide” (as the name implies) to create a different type of image or view. Right now my playing around with it has been very limited, and Isabella’s sleep schedule is so sporadic that I never know if it’s worth getting the equipment out to try and take a video before she flips out.  Anyway, I put together a very basic and rough first video using some of the slider footage; I look forward to working on more of these in the near future.

I hope you enjoy these photos and the video, needless to say I’m extremely busy now trying to learn how to take care of my daughter and meet her needs, but at the same time I also have some time off work so it may be that I’ll be able to get some more posts up in the next week before having to return.  So please keep stopping by and you can see more images of my beautiful daughter!

2012 Travel Photography Year in Review

Well I know I’m about a week late, but I put together a collection of my favorite photos from my travels with Adriana over 2012.  I’ve recently joined Vimeo so am starting to post some videos there – this will be where I post videos that I’ve really worked on, whereas YouTube will still be my dumping ground for random outtakes and what not.  Kinda like Flickr vs. 500px but we’ll save that post for another day.

I did struggle a bit in making this – it seemed that the image quality degraded when I built the movie in iMovie.  I looked around on the web and this seems to be a somewhat common occurrence with iMovie.  But I’m not yet willing to invest in a better movie editor until I can justify the cost.  So for the time being this will do.

Anyway, without further ado, please have a look back at 2012!

Pregnancy photo shoot in London

Happy Holidays!

It’s been a long time since I posted so one of my new years resolutions is to get this blog going again.  I really enjoy writing in it but my motivation tends to ebb and wane (as it does with almost anything else, not just blogs).  But lately I’m on a pretty big photography kick and I’m looking forward to a big life-changing event in the coming weeks so I think this is as good a time as any to start writing again.

And what’s the life changing event?  I’m going to be a Dad!  And that’s the topic for today’s shoot.  I took a couple pics of my wife Adriana a few weekends back so wanted to include them here.  I think these pictures are just fantastic and really show the “pregnancy glow” that you so often hear about.

Taking these pics also got me thinking about using flash and how important it is to understand it and use it well.  These photos were generally “back-lit” meaning that the sun was pretty much behind Adriana (actually in some cases it was also to her right depending on which way she was facing).  So I had to make sure to use the flash and that it was turned up to the appropriate amount, but I don’t want it to overpower her face and I want to make as much use of the daylight as possible.

One of the things I learned about flash many years ago that I always keep in my mind is that it’s not impacted by shutter speed – a flash unit doesn’t care if the shutter speed on the camera is set to 1/10 sec or 1/200 sec (most can’t flash faster than 1/200 or 1/250 sec though).  But flash does care about the other two components of exposure – Aperture and ISO.  So if you’re taking a picture and the flash isn’t enough (or it’s too much) you can make adjustments to Aperture and ISO to impact the flash, but changing the shutter speed won’t have any impact.

So in the picture above I wanted to make sure Adriana was fully in focus and that the background (Big Ben) was also in significant focus.  I wanted it to be a bit blurry so as not to be the focal point of the photo but also in focus enough so it was obvious we’re in London.  I found that f/11 was the perfect aperture for this photo.  I set the ISO up to 200 to give the flash a bit more “oomph” and the shutter speed turned out to be 1/100 (I was shooting in Aperture priority mode).  I left the flash on ETTL (automatic) but I often times shoot with the flash in manual to give me that much more control.

When the photo was completed, I did some basic editing in Lightroom.  I normally tend to bump up the clarity in Lightroom but with this photo I was careful not to do that overall.  If you bump up the clarity on a portrait it tends to make the faces pretty rough and gritty – not the look I’m going for in a pregnancy shoot.  So instead I used the adjustment brush, bumped up the clarity on Big Ben, the bridge and the water, and then was careful not to touch her face or body with the clarity brush.  I then shifted the adjustment brush to sharpness, and sharpened Adriana only.  Big Ben is ever so slightly out of the focal plane so it doesn’t make much sense to sharpen it.

Below there’s a few more pictures of Adriana that I took on the day, including one of me with her.  Anyway in the future I may do an actual recording of how I edit these photos (again it’s pretty basic stuff).  I hope you find this useful, I hope you have established some great New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 and I hope they have to do with taking more pictures!

A few days in Singapore…

This was my favorite picture from Singapore, and I created a “How-To” on it.  To learn how I took this picture, check out the Tutorials section above or click here.

After our great weekend in Bali it was off to Singapore for a few days before moving on to mainland China.  Singapore is a place I always wanted to visit; my company’s APAC operations are based there, I know it’s a haven for people on secondment, and I had always heard a lot about the place.  And one of the myths I had heard was that it was “illegal” to chew gum in the city.  While I cannot confirm or deny that myth, I would say that you can’t buy it there.  I stopped in several 7-11’s and took this picture below – no gum!  Only mints 🙂

We arrived in the afternoon and stayed in an area of the city called Little India at a hostel called the Arianna Hotel.  It wasn’t much, so if you’re looking for a luxuriant place keep looking.  Unfortunately while we were in Singapore I got hit with a bug of some sort – leave it to me to travel through China and Bali, but get hit with a 24 hour virus in arguably the most Westernized city in all of Asia.  So I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked, but I think there’s another reason for this as well – Singapore really does resemble most cities in the US or England, places I’ve been for most of my life.  So as far as taking “travel photos” I felt the opportunity was a bit limited, and I think it’s shown in the pictures I took.

We began by walking around the Marina, where the dominant structure is the new Marina Bay Sands – this is a hotel/mall/casino that overlooks the rest of the city.  There’s a really nice promenade that you can use to walk around the entire area, taking pictures of the building from various angles.  This eventually led us to the famous Merlion, which is the symbol of Singapore and “the spot” to get the postcard image from the trip.  We took a few photos; there’s an excellent viewing platform and tripods are allowed, but we decided to come back later in the day when the light was a bit better.

Off we went walking through the city and eventually ended up in the Raffles Hotel.  This is one of the cities primary attractions, a colonial era hotel that’s been through numerous changes and refurbishments, and has all the history to go along with such a place.  The hotel is probably most famous for the Long Bar and more importantly for the famous drink that was born there – the Singapore Sling!  The bar is great – yes it’s long (although there’s a lot of confusion and debate about whether or not this bar is the original Long Bar) and the overall place has a great free-spirit environment.  They have roasted peanuts at all the tables, and you simply shell your own and throw them on the ground – my kinda establishment!  It goes without saying that we had a Singapore Sling, and yes it was delicious.

As for pictures in the hotel and bar I captured a few.  This is a picture of the actual Long Bar; I took this with my wide angle lens (10-22) to give a sense of the size and exaggerate the length of the bar while also giving a leading line into the image.

I also took some macro pictures of the peanuts as they were such an important part of the overall atmosphere and they have an interesting texture.

Then there’s the pic of the Singapore Sling with the bar in the background.  I used a large aperture here to blur the background while still maintaining a sense of place.  I also made sure there were a few peanuts at the bottom of the glass.  In hindsight I probably should have taken this pic before I drank half the thing, but once it hits your lips….

So what’s in a Singapore Sling?  Apparently the original recipe has been lost, but was rebuilt from some of the bartenders that worked with the originator.  Here’s the best version I could find:

1 1/2 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz sugar syrup
1 1/2 tsp powdered sugar
2 oz club soda
1/2 oz cherry brandy
lemon slice for garnish
maraschino cherry for garnish

And finally the picture of me and Adriana.  This is taken with my  Canon S100 and a flexible gorillapod on a timer.  We often take a picture like this when we’re together in a well known restaurant or for special occasions.  It reminds me that the most important reason that I enjoy photography is to capture moments in time, and this is a picture that I’ll now have to rekindle my memory of drinking a refreshing Singapore Sling in the Raffles Hotel.

After the Long Bar we went back to the Marina and took some pictures of the Merlion again with incredible light in the background.  Comparing the picture below with the one at the start of the post you can see what a difference the light makes; these were only taken 15 minutes apart.

Our next day we went to Universal Studios for the day – I was really not feeling well and didn’t take many pics, but once we were home we walked around the Marina and I took a few more images of the city at night, including the Marina Bay Sands.  Singapore definitely has a beautiful and iconic skyline, but much smaller than Hong Kong and Shanghai (which you’ll be seeing shortly in a future post).  At 8:00 and 9:30 they have a light show that lasts like 10 or 12 minutes; it’s why you see some “lasers” coming out of the Marina Bay Sands.

While in Singapore we also made it to the top of the Marina Bay Sands, where I took this panorama shot handheld and stitched it together in Photoshop CS4.  You can see a larger version of it here.  I also like the picture that I took of the docks, which are behind the city to the left from the Marina.  Just think, every single one of those “boxes” would fit on a semi-trailer and are loaded with goods and merchandise being shipped from one location in the world to another location.  For me it’s an image that really makes me think about how global our economy is and how far we’ve come from 5000 years ago when I would have given you a chicken for making me a new robe and sandals.

This concludes the entry for Singapore.  No map, as we never really left the city.  As always though I’ll close with a video of the trip.  Much of this was taken by my wife so there are some great shots here that are different from what you see above or in my Flickr stream so worth checking out.  My favorite part is us on the roller coaster 🙂

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