Category Archives: Travel

Exploring Spreepark in Berlin

Since I put my photos from a recent photoshoot on Facebook , lots of people have been asking about getting access to Spreepark, so instead of replying 100 times, I thought a post would be more helpful.

The fence and getting in

In the last few months, a new fence has been erected all around the park. Rumour says that it cost €1 million!
There are now only 2 ways in…
If you are fairly lightweight and fit: Over the fence
Climbing the fence at Spreepark

Otherwise, under the fence through one of the many holes. Although the new owners seem to be blocking many of the holes with cement and concrete slabs!

Some people have suggested that it’s safer to enter from the forest side as there are less people, but we had no problem getting in from the lake-side. We just waited for a quiet moment.

Once inside, we only saw security a couple of times. Once there drove past in a van, the other time on a motorbike. They didn’t see us.
I have been told that if they do catch you, they will make you delete any photos you have, and maybe call the police if you don’t have ID on you.

What is left?

In August 2014 there was an arson attack which damaged the ‘Old England’ themed part of the park. The mammoth and a couple of dinosaurs also went around that time. However most of the rest is still there, in one state or another.

The dinosaurs have had their heads chopped off
Headless dinosaurs in Spreepark

The water ride boats are there
Water ride at Spreepark
although the ride is pretty grungy now
Water ride at Spreepark

The Ferris wheel is there, but there is an extra fence around the base of it
Ferris wheel at Spreepark

There are still some swans there
Swans at Spreepark

The rollercoaster track seems to be all there, and nicely overgrown
Rollercoaster track in Spreepark
and the boarding station is there, with the train in it
Rollercoaster station in Spreepark

The “psychedelic cat” or dragon’s mouth is there
Cat or Dragon mouth in Spreepark

The dragon boat (near the Ferris wheel) has lost its head.

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Creating the Llyn Idwal photo

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This picture of Llyn Idwal in Snowdonia seems to have generated a lot of interest on my Facebook page. And sparked some debate about personal taste. But among the comments, I was asked what my workflow and settings were for this image. So here we go…

Shooting

Firstly, I always shoot RAW.

Secondly, with the exception of shooting concerts (when I shoot Manual) or helicoptors (when I shoot Shutter-priority with a shutter speed of around 1/60th), I almost always shoot in Aperture-priority mode, with -0.33 exposure compensation.

The first thing I do (these days*) when confronted with a high contrast scene is take a quick shot at default aperture priority settings to see what the dynamic range really is.

Hist1

Looking at the histogram, showed that the dark parts of the image were just about OK, but that the bright parts were totally overexposed (clipped).

So I took one shot exposed for the landscape and another with 1 stop less exposure compensation, for the sky.

Processing with Adobe Bridge

Some people are fans of Lightroom, others of Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) in Bridge. The process is pretty much the same in either.

My default settings always apply “Enable Lens Profile Corrections” and “Remove Chromatic Aberration”.

First I opened the lighter of the 2 images.

Image1 Basic

I increased the Clarity slider to bring out the details and texture in the grass. But using the Clarity slider will alter the brightness of the image, so I then compensated for this by reducing Exposure slightly, and increasing Shadows (which brings back some light into the darkest areas).

Image1 Curves

I then fine tuned this ever so slightly on the Curves tab.

Image1 Luminance Image1 Saturation

Most of the work went into the Saturation and Luminance changes on the HSL tab. Lightening the orange, yellow and green of the grass/straw, whilst darkening the blues in the water. A side-effect of lightening a colour is it gets desaturated slightly (and vice versa), so I compensated for this by boosting the saturation of the yellows and greens.

That was it, so I clicked Done. This saves the changes without opening Photoshop.

 

Next I opened the darker of the 2 images.

Image2 Basic

The exposure was already perfect on this for the sky, so I only increased the Clarity slider to bring out the detail in the clouds.

Image2 Curves

On the Curves tab, I darkened the shadows area of the image to add more drama, whilst adding a control point in the highlights to avoid changing them.

And that was it, so I clicked Done for this image too.

 

Photoshop

With ACR in Bridge being as powerful as it is, I very rarely need to use Photoshop these days. The only things I normally use it for are:

  1. Adding a watermark/signature
  2. Merging images to form a panorama
  3. Removing large/complex objects from the image

I now needed to merge these two images. So I selected them both in Bridge, then chose Tools->Photoshop->Photomerge…

This opens a dialog where you can choose how to merge the images.

Photomerge dialog

This feature is brilliant for aligning images, even when handheld. But as I wanted to control which parts of each image I used, I deselected the option “Blend Images Together”

PS layers  PS layers cropped

This brings both images into a Photoshop document on separate layers. After cropping I then selected the parts of the brighter image that I wanted to replace.

PS sky selected

I used the Quick Select tool to select the bright sky (and held down the Alt key to remove parts of the selection when it accidentally selected the snow). I zoomed in and reduced the size of the tool for extra precision when required.

I then chose Select->Inverse, so that everything EXCEPT the sky was selected, clicked Refine Edge and feathered the selection very slightly.

PS layers Add layer mask

And then clicked the Add Layer Mask button. This automatically adds a mask to only keep what was selected. Using a small, feathered brush, I manually tidied up the mask slightly.

PS layers Add Curves Adj

To add even more drama to the sky I added a Curves Adjustment Layer.

PS Curves properties

In this I increased the contrast even more.

I increased the amount of blue in the shadows, but reduced it from the highlights, and ever so slightly reduced the amount of red in the shadows.

And that was it!

Scaled down for Facebook, added a watermark and save for web.

 

* Back in the days of film, I would use my wonderful Pentax Spotmeter V to take readings of different parts of the scene.

“Look Behind You”

No, this isn’t a post about a trip to the pantomime.

And with the title, I may have given away the answer to my next question…

But what do these two photos have in common?

_MG_7762 1200px_MG_5426

Not a lot, you might think.

But the real answer is that both of these shots were the result of me setting up to shoot something, and instead turning around and looking at what was behind me, which then turned out to be a better shot.

For the first photo, I was trying to take a shot of a waterfall in Snowdonia, but it just wasn’t working. I looked behind me and saw the glow coming from between the mountains and took the above shot  (Canon 5D Mark II, EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM at 16mm, f3.2, 30 secs, ISO1600)

The second shot was taken whilst I was waiting to take a photo at Birling Gap in Sussex. The light wasn’t right at the time, and while waiting for it to change, I turned around and saw this great contrast in the stormy clouds  (Canon 7D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 70mm, f5.0, 1/200, ISO160)

Day trip to Tangier with cameras

Driving along the Costa del Sol in Spain, the roadsides are littered with hundreds of Portacabins offering tickets for the ferries to Ceuta and Tangier. The problem with buying from them is that each one seems to only sell tickets for a specific ferry company, and so they may not travel at the times you want. Instead it is very easy to buy at the port itself.

09:00 We drove striaght to the port in Algeciras and bought our ferry tickets there, from the company which had a 10am departure. We parked in the “secure” car park for €18 for the whole day. Our open return ferry tickets cost €36. We were given our tickets and both a white and a yellow immigration paper.

What no one mentioned to us was what we were supposed to do with these papers. So we assumed we handed them to passport control on arrival. Big mistake!

10:00 We boarded our ferry and set off

11:30 (10:30 local) We arrived at the port, got off the boat, got in the queue  to show our passports to the police… and were detained because we hadn’t already handed in our white immigration paper in exchange for a stamp in our passport. We were then sent back onto the ferry to get the stamp. To do this we had to join a queue at the reception desk. This was such an inefficient process that the queue took 50 minutes.

12:30 (11:30 local) By the time we got off the boat again, the bus from the ferry to the teminal had gone, so we had to wait another 30 minutes for the next one.

At the terminal, we had to put our backpacks through their X-ray machine. They took an unhealthy interest in our cameras, and seemed very concerned that we might be there either “to make a porno, sexy film” or as journalists. We eventually convinced them that we were neither, and were allowed to enter the country. However by this time, the bus to Tangier had also left!

13:10 (12:10 local) We caught a taxi to Tangier which we pre-agreed a price of €20 each way. We arranged for him to bring us back at 4pm. The drive takes about 55 minutes.

14:05 (13:05 local) We arrived at the Medina in Tangier. After a quick look at the English church of St Andrew with graves of many 20 year olds who had died in WW2, we went for lunch, the highlight of which was a spicy chicken pie with icing sugar and cinamon. Bizarre, but the combination was delicious.

We spent a couple of hours walking around the Medina, looking in the little stores.

17:00 (16:00 local) We got into the taxi for the return trip. “Another €20 for the driver”. Err, no. We agreed the price in advance. This went on for a while until we were about to get out and find another taxi!

18:00 (17:00 local) Back at the ferry terminal, we went to the ticket counter for our ferry company and had our open tickets validated for the 6pm sailing. Then went through passport control. Then the X-ray machine again. And once again, a lot of questions as to whether we were journalists or not.

18:30 (17:30 local) We boarded the boat and waited for it to eventually leave, 30 minutes late. The sun soon set.

20:40 We arrived back in Algeciras, Spain and went for a well earned tapas in Estepona (keeping an eye out for any CIA agents taking a break from their local training base)