Ioneanu Photography: Blog http://www.ioneanu.com/blog en-us Ioneanu (Ioneanu Photography) Sun, 08 Oct 2017 11:35:00 GMT Sun, 08 Oct 2017 11:35:00 GMT http://www.ioneanu.com/img/s5/v130/u635635166-o54814905-50.jpg Ioneanu Photography: Blog http://www.ioneanu.com/blog 120 80 Shooting with Nikon 14-24 and Haida filter system in Spain http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2017/10/shooting-with-nikon-14-24-and-haida-filter-system-in-spain

Gueirua beach, Santa Marina shot with Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 lens, Haida filter system with Haida ND 3.0 and Haida GND 0.6 soft

Some time ago I was reviewing the Haida system for my Nikon 14-24 lens. A wonderful lens, but so heavy and bulky that is  uncomfortable to cary it around in the bag for a whole day, therefore I leave it at home more frequent than not during my shooting trips. For this trip in Spain, I decided that my shoulders need to roughen up and Carmen needs a wider lens than her 20mm prime, therefore I was using the 14-24mm quite intensively; as a result Haida system came into play a lot. This time in real shooting conditions: sunrises, sunsets, close by the water, in growing tides and rough waves. 

San Juan de Gaztelugatze, Bakio  shot with Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 lens, Haida filter system with Haida ND 3.0 and Haida GND 0.6 soft

So how my conclusions evolved ? First of all using this kind of filter system is a bit awkward for me because I have small hands, so handling a 150mm square filter without leaving fingerprints all over it can be quite some challenge. But my years of practice piano and violin helped:-) Obviously this is not something Haida specific, but more of a challenge for 150mm filters in general. The system behaved very well in the field. Just to remember what we are talking about,the system consists of 3 pieces:

- the holder itself with 2 spaces for filters (if I mount the third slot for filters, the holder will start appearing into the image especially when shooting at 14 or 15 mm or when focusing closer then infinite)

- a lens adapter that gets installed on the built-in shader of the lens

- a locking ring, that needs to be inserted from the rear of the lens and that gets screwed with the lens adapter, to lock the system on the lens

I kept the adapter locked on the lens all the time. Last time I was mentioning the fact that the lens cap does not fit well anymore on the lens if the Haida adapter is mounted. I solved this issue by simply taping the petals of the builtin shader with some paper band-aid, so that the lens cap fits a bit tighter; the problem was easily solved. The filters holder can be put in/ taken out very easy on the lens as well, but please note that two hands are needed for this (you need to make sure the whole holder slides in the adapter correctly), to make sure it is mounted correctly). A small heads up is about the fact that this part has a designated position for putting it in or taking it out, marked with a white dot on the lens adapter. However there are two other similar position that can be used instead. So if you are rotating your filters through such an extra position, make sure you gently press against the lens so that it doesn't partly sleep out and leave room for light leakage. It happened to me once or twice and since then I learned my lesson. Also in a very specific condition, with very strong sun on the side, the white dot on the holder was not very visible anymore, so probably I will mark it in a more obvious way. These were small comments that don't take anything from the quality of the product, but I think they are good to know practical information, in order to avoid some mishaps. The  strong metal build of the holder was very helpful when I dropped the front element on a  few times on a shingle beach (without filters). Only few minor scratches, still perfectly usable. Its good to have sturdy equipment that you don't have to worry about.

Castro de las Gaviotas, Naves shot with Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 lens, Haida filter system with Haida ND 3.0 and Haida GND 0.6 soft

Regarding the compatibility with other brands, on top of the Haida ND 10 stops and a Haida GND 0.6 , I used as well a Lee little stopper (ND 1.8) and a Lee ND 0.9. Despite the fact that Lee filters are compatible with Haida holder, it is quite a challenge to insert and especially to remove the little stopper due to its gasket that make it a bit too thick for the holder. I tried this with water up to my knees and  strong waves coming and splashing every few seconds and it was not a fun experience.  So my advice is to stick with Haida filters or at least avoid other filters with gaskets.

About the quality of the filters, i will start by saying that i haven't tested many of the brands in the market. When I started with long exposure photography, there were only very few players and it was difficult to get hold of good quality ND filters. Nowadays, the competition increased (Haida being one of the relatively new players in the market) which is more the ideal for the photographer that have plenty of options. In my 100mm system, I am using Lee filters for quite some time and few Hitech ones from previous generation. The Haida filters are up there with Lee in terms of quality and way much better than the ones from  Hitech (thats a bit unfair for Hitech as they improved a lot their line lately). I am not a pixel peeper so I am just looking for the overall good quality of the image. There is no point in zooming to 400% and analysing every single pixel of your shot as the chances of having it printed in a huge billboard are extremely thin. Anyway, bellow is a with/without comparison, zoomed at 150% to see how the Haida filters are behaving in terms of sharpens (both cases featured a Haida ND 3.0  and a Haida GND 0.6 soft edge. You can notice a very minimal loss of sharpness when using filters, but since the causes for loosing sharpness in a long exposure shot are multiple (not so sturdy tripod, wind, photographer touching the tripod, cars and other people passing close by, touching slightly the zoom or focus ring while mounting the filters), it is very difficult to quantify how much is due to filters and how much is due to something else. 

Detail of image shot in Bilbao, featuring Guggenheim museum. First image is without filters, the second one with. Zoom 150% in Photoshop

Detail of image shot in Naves Asturias, featuring Castro de las Gaviotas. First image is without filters, the second one with. Zoom 150% in Photoshop

As I mentioned in the previous review, the Haida ND 3.0 is producing a very slight blue tint. Personally I found it extremely easy to get rid of it, either in Camera Raw or using Match Color filter in Photoshop (using a non long exposed image as source). The filter is a bit more than 10 stops (somewhere between 10 and 11 stops) so I normally compensate slightly when calculating the exposure time (if lets say the math tells me that I should expose 45 seconds, I will just round it up to 1 whole minute) . Other time I just like my image to be slightly underexposed, so then exposing for an exact 10 stops ND filter achieves the effect.

As a final conclusion about the Haida system and filters is that they are  very good pieces of gear that allows me to get the best out of my 14-24 lens. They are not perfect, but is there any photo equipment that is ever perfect? Some things that I like can be something that another fellow photographer might hate. They have minor shortcomings (or things that can be slightly better in my view) but getting to know them well lets you minimize or even remove the effect. And because I plan to use my 14-24 lens more (on a trip in Brittany in a bit more than a month time) I decided to increase this system with some new Haida filters (ND 3.6, ND 1.8 and GND 0.9). And who knows, maybe give a try to Haida 100mm system when the time will come to replace some of my well trusted Lee filters.

Playa del Silencio, Castaneros, shot with Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 lens, Haida filter system with Haida GND 0.6 soft and Lee ND 0.9

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(Ioneanu Photography) architecture asturias bilbao castro de las gaviotas filters guggenheim haida landscape long exposure nikon photoshop playa del silencio playa gueirua review san juan de gaztelugatxe spain sunset travel http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2017/10/shooting-with-nikon-14-24-and-haida-filter-system-in-spain Sun, 08 Oct 2017 11:34:48 GMT
Japan - photographer's obstacles http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/12/japan

I am writing this post few weeks after coming back from a great trip in Japan. We experienced lots of visually amazing places, especially in Kyoto, a city full of history and spirituality, however it was extremely difficult to achieve the images that we were looking for. 
Before the trip we did our share of scouting, unfortunately not as extensive as we wanted to; we had a quite clear idea of which should be the sunrise locations and which should be the sunset/blue hour locations. And few mid-day locations too. But things were not actually going as expected. We ended up shooting 3 early mornings, one sunset, one late evening (way after blue hour) and scheduling a day trip to Kobe for shooting its spectacular marina instead of fighting for a spot close to a temple at not so right moment of the day. But which were the reasons for not being able to fulfill our plan? 

Japan 2016Japan 2016
1. First of all most of the temples close at 16:00 or 16:30. This was 20 minutes before sunset and almost an hour before blue hour. We could have tried to force a shoot right after closing, with a security guide screaming at us to leave, but this is not really a productive type of photography. We decided of course to avoid this kind of locations or shoot during the day like in the case of Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji).

Japan 2016Japan 2016 I am not blaming anybody here. We should have done our homework better and be aware of this scheduling issue and maybe pick up some alternate locations. 


2. Tremendous amount of people. Obviously shooting in the middle of the day in one of the major attraction is most of the time not working. If you plan to include in your shots street, stairs or highly used gates, you might not only get tones of people in your shot, but you can also have someone bumping into your tripod and risking to have you camera knocked down. Using very long exposure might work in case of a moving flow of people, but some of them simply stay in the frame forever, very preoccupied to look well in their selfies. 
Also, large group of people tend to take shots in all possible combination, each of them alone, in groups of two, three and so on, so if you are unlucky, some might happen in front of your camera for 5 minutes or more. And, especially, if the scene requires a wide lens, they will try everything possible, just to fit grandma and the castle/temple in the screen of their phone, no matter if it's technically impossible.   

Fushimi Inari TaishaFushimi Inari Taisha
3. Security guards not permitting the use of tripods. We had some funny experience with those guys. They could barely speak any English, but they are on a mission. They come and yell something at you.  After a moment of puzzlement in which the brain starts a language recognition process with no luck, you kind of get a feeling that it must be English and things get more clear. This had happened with a guy that came next to me and started yelling: "Nooo stttandd. Phottoo Okkk!". It required him to point to my tripod to figure out what he means. Stand is tripod, ok? I thought you want me to sit. I was thinking of playing the angry Japanese and yell back at him "Stttandddd Okkkk!" while getting red faced and a vein on my forehead almost popping off. But since there was not something extremely spectacular to photograph I gave up. Like the saying "The smart one always gives up" 

So what have we done to overcome all of those? We were just waking up before 5, grabbed a snack early in the morning and a coffee from the selling machine (big mistake, don't do that, that sugary warm liquid with a vague hint of coffee will spoil your taste for coffee forever), took the earliest train/metro and be there as early as possible. Or took a taxi if no train/metro/bus goes close enough or early enough. That's what we did in Kyoto 3 mornings in a row, shooting at Fujimi Inari, Gion and Arashiyama bamboo grove. 

It went just fine with Fujimi Inari - took the first train from Kyoto station on Nara line (it helped that our hotel was located 5 minutes walking from the station) and we were there way before sunrise; we shot when the lights were on (although I personally liked more the shots from 15 minutes later with the lights turned off). There were few people, some early birds like us, some locals that wanted to enjoy the spirituality of the place in the morning and one annoying Asian girl that after asking if she can take a shot next to me just jumped right in front of my camera to take a phone selfie, right after I started a 30 seconds exposure.

Everything was perfect with Gion. There was a bit of misunderstanding with the taxi driver between Yasaka - jinja (the shrine one kilometer away) and Yasaka - dori (the street where we wanted to go), but all turned out fine after he got the right place. We have done the scouting the day before, we were at the exact place before morning blue hour, no other fellow shooter being there. Just few locals that greeted us with a "Konichiwa". 

The bamboo grove on the other hand was almost a miss. We were there 3 days before, and we only found a small circular area, with nice lighting were a Japanese wedding shooting was taking place. However, we missed the famous path, photographed by million and million of people. So we arrived in the morning and the round area was behind a big lock; a group of Indonesian people (I think) came right after us, waiting calmly outside. We thought it will gonna be opened soon, so we decided to wait. But while waiting we googled on the phone, finding out that actually the place we were after was a different one, so we headed there as quick as possible. We could hardly managed to get few shots (not the exact scene we wanted to shoot, due to other photographers shooting from the end of the path with longer lens) before the group of Indonesians found the path as well and spread all over like they owned the place, screwing up everybody's chance to photograph anything anymore. But we got some good shots at least so the morning was not totally wasted. 

Arashiyama Bamboo GroveArashiyama Bamboo Grove

 

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(Ioneanu Photography) Arashiyama Fujimi Gion Golden Inari Japan Kinkaku-ji Kyoto Temple architecture bamboo city grove interesting landscape must photography places scenes see tips travel http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/12/japan Mon, 19 Dec 2016 18:04:55 GMT
Japan - In the land of Fuji-san http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/12/japan---in-the-land-of-fuji-san Mount FujiMount Fuji
Mount Fuji, affectionately called Fuji-san is a symbol of Japan. It erupted last time in 1707-8 but is considered a still active volcano. It was a common subject in Japanese art, inspired many poets and painters and these days photographers too. It was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site . 
Actually our trip in Japan was centered around Fuji. The first hotel we book was the one in Kawaguchiko and the rest of hotels and plane tickets just followed up. We arrived in the area after 4 days in Tokyo and it was a well deserved break from the urban rush. We also got a hotel with a room much larger than all the other from the rest of the trip cumulated. And with a beautiful view of Fuji, so we spent the morning in balcony admiring and photographing the mountain. On the practical side, the hotel is called Regina Kawaguchiko. It's located slightly outside the city but they provide a convenient shuttle service to and from Kawaguchiko station. However, if you are planning early shooting, this is not exactly the place to stay. 
Our whole stay in the area was about getting good shots of Fuji. I had two images in mind: one with the mountain framed by the autumn foliage and another with the Chureito pagoda.Luckily, I got both of them and few others extra. 

Chureito PagodaChureito Pagoda

 

The Chureito pagoda was the first evening adventure. We went by taxi as it is about 5 kilometers away from the hotel and we wanted to be very early in the location. And it was a good idea as soon after we set our tripods, many people started to come. Soon the whole area was packed, with tripods standing way too close to each other for my liking. Everybody was waiting for a magical sunset, which unfortunately didn't happen. A bit of orange in the sky but luckily Fuji was visible all the time. The way back was quite an adventure. It was dark and the taxi took a very complicated way, so we had to rely on Google maps to bring us back. And the way took us through a cemetery, few small streets, on the side of a highway and under a bridge, finally arriving to the hotel. 

Japan 2016Japan 2016
The next morning the sky was totally clear and we got a quite boring sunrise with some colour on Fuji but nothing on the sky. We put our cameras on tripods in the balcony and we waited patiently, but nothing spectacular happened. We got the two day pass on the hop-on buses, covering all 4 lakes in the areas (1500 JPY for 2 days) and we started to explore Kawaguchiko lake. It was a beautiful day, with clear sky, few white clouds and a total visibility to Fuji. Few good images followed with Fuji framed by red autumn leaves, few nice shots with an Indonesian couple, bride and groom, that came in Kawaguchiko for their post wedding photoshoot and with the pink boats laying unused on the beach. But in the afternoon, heavy clouds covered the horizon and Fuji-san was invisible, like not even being there. We waited in vain most of the afternoon and sunset to see it back, but it just appeared for few seconds couple of times, to be covered back in clouds afterwards. 

 

Japan 2016Japan 2016
The second day, and last one, we decided to explore the less popular lakes Shojoko and Saiko. We shared a beautiful red maple tree with some older Japanese people, using it as a foreground for other shots with Fuji, we got a weird mono-directional conversation with an angry old man in a bus, who turned out that he needed badly to go to a toilet and got a pretty nice spot for sunset at lake Saiko.

 It was quite beautiful day, few good shots and a bit of stroll around the lakes. We ended it up in a quite popular Tempura restaurant enjoying the fried seafood and vegetables. The next morning we started the long trip to Osaka, involving a private train, a slow crowded train where we had to stand half of the way as we didn't have time to reserve our seats and a Shinkasen. Our minds were still dreaming to the beauty of Fuji and the time when we will going to return in the area again. 

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(Ioneanu Photography) Chureito Fuji Fuji-san Japan Kawaguchiko Mount Pagoda autumn experience foliage lake landscape photography travel http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/12/japan---in-the-land-of-fuji-san Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:34:08 GMT
Chureito pagoda - two workflows http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/12/chureito-pagoda---two-workflows Inspired by how different images Carmen and I came up with after shooting together at Chureito pagoda in Fujiyoshida, I decided to write this post to show our workflow and how we achieved those results.

Chureito PagodaChureito Pagoda

For my image I chose a horizontal frame (I was wider with my 16-35mm lens) and very close to sunset, when the sun was down behind the hills on the right of mount Fuji. We were not lucky with tremendous amount of colour that evening so the purpose was to accentuate that orange that you can see close to the horizon.


I am a big fan of Sleeklens Photoshop actions for landscape and I am using them quite a lot recently in my workflow. So I started with an "BASE expanded Dynamic Range" combined with "ALLINONE Subtle sunset" (both of them turned down to 20 and respectively 25%). The colours where suddenly begin to pop, especially the oranges in the foliage and on the sky).
After that I decided I want to correct the perspective a bit (I know, I am quite a mess regarding the order of my steps) and I enhanced the highlights to be warmer (another Sleekslens action - ENHANCE Warm Highlights).


I applied a bit of Orton effect to give a more dreamy look to the image and I did an extra overall colour pop (Tone colour Pop action) . In the end I did some Details enhancer (I was using an action from Jimmy McIntyre), I decreased the midtones a bit using a levels layer and I corrected the sensor spots. That's pretty much it. I got a colourful vivid image, showing Fuji-san surrounded by tints of orange complementing nicely  the red-orange from the foliage and the dark red tints of the pagoda. 

Carmen on the other hand had a portrait composition due to shooting with a 20mm Nikon prime. She also chose an earlier moment of the day, when the sun was higher up in the sky, producing beautiful star (the 20mm prime is extremely good at handling direct light in the frame, transforming it into beautiful star shapes).  

She started with a Pro contrast in Color Efex Pro 4 (it used to be my every image tool as well before I got into Sleekness) and then she straightened the image.

Carmen is a big fan of VSCO presets in camera raw, so she used Kodak Gold 100 Vibrant to pop up the image.

After that, it followed a very tedious work of correcting small details, cloning out unwanted elements and fine tuning various parts of the image: cloning out the wire that was hanging from the pagoda's top, removing some flares, correcting the white balance of the snow on the top of Fuji, doing various colour adjustments using curves or hue /saturation layers in Photoshop. In the end, she removed the noise the sky (using Topaz Denoise and sharpened the image with an overall high pass filter.

The final result is a powerful image putting the focus on the beautiful sun star that balance well the pagoda and the majestic mount Fuji.

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(Ioneanu Photography) Chureito Color Efex Fuji Japan Kawaguchiko Photoshop Pro VSCO action pagoda sleekness sunset travel http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/12/chureito-pagoda---two-workflows Sun, 04 Dec 2016 09:35:25 GMT
Japan - a dive in the culture of the rising sun - first impressions http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/11/japan---a-dive-in-the-culture-of-the-rising-sun---first-impressions We started the trip to Japan with a long flight from Copenhagen: 11 hours with Scandinavian Airlines. We were not really in holiday mood due to all the stress with moving in the new apartment and especially the scares caused by Carmen's strong allergic reactions. The scouting process was also rather quick, done in rush, started when we got the ok from the doctor to travel. But we were ready to have fun as much as possible during these two weeks, to enjoy a new culture and to explore exciting places. 


We arrived on Narita the next morning, quite tired after not being able to sleep in the plane. The immigration and customs check went rather fast, we collected our luggage and we picked up the rental mini wifi modem and sim card. We decided to rent both a sim card and a mini wifi modem, but in the end it turned out that the sim could have been enough to have internet on the way, especially because, if kept open, the modem battery is dead in a few hours. There are plenty of choices to rent those items, and we decided to use a rental company called Global Advanced Communications, Everything went smooth with them, no issues in the process. The JR pass ( train pass on all the lines operated by JR) is also quite handy as you can travel as much as possible with some Shinkansen trains ( not the fastest and more frequent ones like Nozumi), local trains and some JR operated buses, and to reserve seat in advance. Hyperdia app on the phone has the ability to search for connection that use JR pass as much as possible, avoiding the large amount of private trains and metro companies whenever it is possible. However sometimes you can't really avoid paying even with a JR Pass but in the end, if you have few relatively long train rides (like Tokyo to Osaka) and few smaller ones, JR pass is a very convenient choice, saving quite a lot of money. As an advice, I would recommend that you purchase it way in advance. We bought ours the weekend before travelling and we had to pick it up from the office of the tourist company that is allowed to sell it in Denmark. Also when you buy it, you only get a voucher that you can exchange in airports or main train stations to the real pass. 


Our impressions about Japan were quite mixed, between things that are good and things that we didn't enjoyed that much. All the major cities are over populated, especially Tokyo with its 36 million people in metropolitan area. There are millions and millions of people, going to work every morning in an endless stream, all of them either with their eyes stuck in their phones or napping while standing or sitting in the train (and some of them even while walking). However most things work quite well. The cities are extremely clean (Tokyo looks impeccable from this point of view, although, surprisingly there are very few trash bins in the public areas). The trains are always on time. There is some kind of well defined order in the chaos, a plethora of rules that makes things going alright although coming from outside it seems overwhelming and sometimes confusing. Last year we visited Bangkok, another overpopulated Asian metropolis that is far as clean and efficient as Tokyo. You could notice an obvious difference and appreciate the Japanese capital. 


Japan is also the most service oriented country that we ever seen. The consumerism is at home here, there are tones of malls, shopping centers, department stores, convenience stores, fast foods, restaurants almost everywhere. From the cities we have visited, Osaka seems to be the highlight for all of these, with its kilometer long roof covered and pedestrian shopping streets, featuring all the major brands, luxury boutiques, small cake shops, pastries and ice cream stores. And again the endless stream of people, from dusk to late in the night, carrying huge shopping bags and enjoying it like a second job; or a main one for most of them. The Japanese are very good at decorating their stores (and gardens and many other places). The Christmas decorations in Japan look much nicer than in most of the European country, a bit odd given that Japan is not at all a Christian country.  And the variety of products is overwhelming. Comparing to Denmark, probably you could find at least 100 times more products in Japanese stores. There are pet stores with hundreds of outfits for your dog or cat. The cake shop makes you drool immediately and it is always a very difficult decision when you have to choose. There is also a culture of cute little things. Pokemons and other small cute figurines, wearing pink and light blue are depicted everywhere. Almost every women is wearing one hanged on her bag or backpack. The dogs are all  small and cute, with their fur trimmed and wearing nice clothes. Nicer then a lot of people in the world. There are so spoiled that they refuse to walk and they need to be carried in the hands of their owners or in small dedicated prams. The Japanese have less kids but they invest all this affection into their pets, treating them with dedicated spas and cafes. 

Japan 2016Japan 2016
The food in Japan is very varied. There are many thousands of restaurants in Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, from small street stands selling all kind of different fried things to expensive sushi or Kobe beef stake restaurants. However we didn't resonated that  much with the Japanese food. We enjoyed very much Thai food, however we will not really miss the Japanese cuisine. During these two weeks we tried few weird ( by our standards) things: raw tuna ( sashimi) , octopus dumplings, fried maple leafs and some jelly balls stuffed with different fillings, just to name a few. Some of them are acceptable but we can't say that we overenjoyed any dish. Another thing that made us feeling uncomfortable is the lack of English menu in the most of the restaurants. We are simply not ready to order food just by looking at a picture, and knowing that most Asian countries are using all the parts of the animal while cooking does not help with this feeling. As an example, one street stand was selling yakitori (skewers) made of chicken ovary. We don't know if it was true or just a translation fuck up (like many others), but it sound really gross.  Japanese seem to have a quite strong snack and sweets culture. The offering is endless from rice cakes with different taste, nori sheets, many different things on skewer, dumplings, pancakes, biscuits and many others. We randomly tried a few but there are so many more to try. We also had an interesting experience in a British pub operated entirely by Japanese people. We enjoyed some great cheese honey snacks together with our favorite Guinness, but we were amazed on how much the dozen of barmen and waiter can scream. Each time a customer is entering, exiting, ordering something, maybe even returning from toilet, at least 5 members of the stuff were screaming something in Japanese either same words all of them or different stuff in the same time. There was a terrible noise, that does not let you enjoy a pint with your partner of friends, but its typical Japanese way of showing the politeness towards the customers in a loud and very visible way. 
Japan 2016Japan 2016
The hotels are another interesting experience. We booked mostly business hotels in the cities, without doing too much research and we were surprised how small the rooms are. You could hardly find place to keep one large suitcase, yet alone two of them as in our case, so you have to be creative in rearranging stuff in the room to find space for your possessions. Imagine a 5 square meters room, maximum 3 square meters bathroom and a very thin entrance to be shared between two people and their luggage. That is quite claustrophobic isn't it? Doing some reading on the internet we found out that this is quite normal, with people often being able to touch the opposite walls of their room with their hands, and this is not because they have long arms. They have skills of using every single corner and centimeter of the available space, stuffing as much as possible content in an unimaginable small area. The toilets are very complicated pieces of electronic equipment, with many buttons and a long page of instructions. The toilet seat can clean your arse, letting you choose the pressure and the temperature of the water, it can be warm so that you don't freeze and can play some music. And this is not only in hotels but also in many of the public toilets. 


As a photographer Japan is not very friendly. First of all , the major landmarks are incredibly crowded. Its very difficult to place a tripod and if you do so, you will get a lot of angry looks from the big army of selfie amateurs, willing to immortalize their faces with every single available spot. Most of the attractions close at 16 or 16:30 so no chance of sunset or blue hour shooting and they also don't open before 9 am. The tripods are most of the time banned by the security guards which are present as a small army at each landmark ; some temples ( like Tofukuji in Kyoto) banned photography entirely during foliage season to preserve the sacred spirit of the place. Which doesn't stop them to charge an entrance fee in a very sacred way. 

The level of English even in hotels and restaurants is very low. I was complaining about Thailand, but Japan is worse. They have hard time to understand even the simplest question and some Japanese, even if above average in their English knowledge,  seem to be very nervous and stressed when dealing with foreigners. One receptionist was sweating a lot during a 3 minutes conversation when we asked for some directions and to call us a taxi. Lots of street posters and announcements have very obvious and hilarious mistakes when translated in English, the most funny one being something like "if you want to eat a staff member, please contact a pork", written just outside of a restaurant in Osaka. 
Japan 2016Japan 2016
To conclude this post, it was an amazing trip and we would like to return to other parts of Japan in the future. We were aware that we were visiting a totally different culture and we were expected to be stunned by it. These comments and impressions are coming from our western preconceptions and I am pretty sure that a Japanese visiting Europe might experience same feelings. This is the beauty of getting in a plane and landing to the other side of the world, getting the chance to know a culture so different than yours. And we should experience this as much as possible before globalization will turn all of us into identical clones on the altar of the capitalism. 
Japan 2016Japan 2016

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(Ioneanu Photography) Japan Kyoto Osaka Tokyo culture experience travel http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/11/japan---a-dive-in-the-culture-of-the-rising-sun---first-impressions Wed, 30 Nov 2016 11:28:26 GMT
Sleeklens - Landscape adventure workflow - Review http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/8/sleeklens---landscape-adventure-workflow---review Few days ago, I was contacted by Jane from Sleekness, offering the chance to review their Landscape adventure workflow for PS.  Sleeklens are having a large collection of actions for Photoshop and Lightroom.

Sleekness Landscape adventure workflow for PS is a collection of Photoshop actions, containing a lot of helpful adjustments covering most of the steps that are normally part of post-processing workflow for landscape photography: exposure, contrasts,  tones, temperature, details, Orton effect, clarity, sharpening. There is a similar collection for Lightroom as well, but since I do most of my work in Photoshop, I opted for this one.

The collection is organised in logical processing sequence, following steps that combines multiple action of the same kind: exposure, base (global adjustments), tones, enhancements, temperature and web preparation of the file. There are two other categories available among them, that are breaking somehow the sequence: "All in one" and "Specialty" which are more complex actions that achieve a particular look for the image, rather than steps in a workflow. The actions can be applied in any particular order, but the image needs to be flattened before applying any new action. Some of the effects are pretty strong, so it is recommended to decrease the Opacity of that layer / group of layers. Other effects start invisible (0 Opacity or Black mask) so it requires to dial up the Opacity or paint on the mask to reveal the effect of the action. 

Bellow is an example of a very quick image processing, using 4 actions in a sequence, popping up a sunset shot in Iceland:
- BASE Dramatic Contrast
- TONE Sunset colors
- TONE warm highlights
- BASE Clarity

Before After Another example is a northern light, shot again in Iceland. 5 actions, applied pretty fast and you can notice how the image is getting way much better in a matter of minutes.

- BASE Dramatic Contrast
- TONE Cold shadows
- ALLISON Expand Dynamic range
- ENHANCE Detail Enhancer
- BASE Clarity

Before:

After

Carmen also give it a try with one of her images. She used:
- BASE Dramatic Contrast
- BASE Clarity
- BASE Morning light
- TONE Cinematic
- ENHANCE Dramatic sky
- ENHANCE Detail Enhancer

Before

After

I particularly like the way  the actions are dealing with colours in specific demanding light/colour conditions(sunsets, night shots with aurora) when it is pretty easy to enhance the colours only by applying an action instead of dealing with more complicated channel adjustments or colour curves manually in Photoshop. Being Photoshop actions, you can fine tune the different layers that form the action as well, getting more versions of the same adjustment.

I need to mention an important negative point for Sleekness workflow:  the image needs to be flatten after each action applied. If trying to apply one action on a document already containing multiple layers, some of the actions are managing to mess up the existing layers. During my normal workflow, I like to work as much as possible in a non-destructive way and I keep all the layers I worked on, so that I can always come back to a previous step to fine tune it. However this is unfortunately is not possible. A possible workaround is to keep in parallel another document containing the same image (back-up) and always duplicate the layers corresponding to a particular action to the back-up document; but this is of course a bit over the hand and requires some change in working habits in Photoshop. 

I would conclude by saying that this collections of actions is definitely very useful in the toolbox of a landscape photographer, offering most of the building blocks for enhancing  an image. The negative point mention earlier can make some photographers thinking twice, so I would suggest the guys from Sleekness to try to correct this (it is absolutely fine to request a stamp, but not a flattened image). With this correction I see myself using Sleekness for 80% of my workflow, relying on other tools only for adjustments that are not covered in this workflow (digital blending using luminosity mask, colour painting, noise removal). 

 

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(Ioneanu Photography) Iceland Photoshop Sleeklens action adjustment landscape lights northern review sunset http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2016/8/sleeklens---landscape-adventure-workflow---review Sun, 28 Aug 2016 15:59:46 GMT
Testing Haida holder for Nikon 14-24 f2.8 lens and 150mm 10 stops ND filter http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/12/testing-haida-holder-for-nikon-14-24-f2-8-lens-and-150mm-10-stops-nd-filter Since quite some time, even before buying my Nikon 14-24  (the famous ultra wide lens),  I was looking into a filter system for this lens. There are few options in the market with their pros and cons and very contradicting reviews. Some people say one is perfect while the other say it really sucks. So its very difficult to make a proper decision without giving a try to a system or another, and given the price that is usually quite steep, any decision would involve substantial risk taking.

 

 

For the "normal" lenses I am using a Lee system with lee and Hitech filters and I am extremely happy with their quality. But the 150mm Lee system, on top of being hugely expensive also had some major light leakage problems: there is some small space between filter and the holder that is not properly cover and allows light leaking in and reflecting on to the sensor. While doing my research on this topic I stumbled into a new player in the market, the Chinese producer Haida. I contacted their support to ask if it is possible to test their system and after few emails they kindly agreed to send me the system and a 150mm 10 stop ND filter for free, to test and review it.

 

First impression was extremely good. The filters arrived less than 48 hours after they have been send using DHL express and when they were delivered, Carmen called me extremely impressed by the build quality and the way they were packed: nice box for the holder itself similar to the ones you get for phones and a metal box for the filter. They clearly know how to present their products, which is always a good start. To make the impression even stronger, during the same period I received a reversed grad filter from Hitech: a cheap plastic pouch between 2 pieces of carton for protection. Far from the nice packaging of Haida although Hitech is the one that lots of people are praising loudly in the online medium.

 

 

The opportunities for testing the system and filter during end of November and December were very reduced due to a string of hostile factors: the day is currently very short here i with no light  when I am leaving work, lots of rainy days (especially wekeends), our holiday to Thailand where we couldn’t carry this system due to fact it is not complete (still missing some gradient density filters and smaller NDs), me catching a cold right after the return to Denmark.So I got the chance to test the system and filter in a window of clear sky, one week before we left for Thailand, plus a bit of indoor testing, especially for light leakage.

 

What I am interested and wanted to test are the following things:

1 light leakage between the filter and the holder. 

2 sharpness of the image due to filter added on the lens

3 flare resistance of the filter

4 color cast 

5 vignetting, caused both by the holder and the filter

 

So here are my conclusions after the tests I performed so far. I know they are not very comprehensive because I haven’t covered lots of shooting conditions, however I am planning to add more informations to this review when more testing will be performed.

 

1. During the test I have performed, having sun on the side, in the back or in the frame, I haven't noticed any light leakage in the image.  To stress the holder even more, I have shot indoor and pointed a flashlight right between the holder and the filter, where the light usually leaks. Still no leakage visible in the image. The cause of this is the nice padding on the holder that seems to fill nicely all the space. The guys from Haida also provided some additional padding that can be attached if it turns out that more foam is required to fill the gaps.

 

2. No loose of sharpness was noticed during the tests and no decrease of image quality.

 

3. Shooting into the sun, the flare patterns look very similar with or without the filter, so I can’t say that filter is flare prone

 

without filter:

 

with filter:

 

without filter:

with filter:

4. A slight bluish tint was noticed in few of the images, while no visible color cast was observed in the rest shooting with the Haida 10 stops filter. The image looks very natural and the little blue cast is not really important as it can be removed easily in post-processing. More, all the 10 stops ND filters (and some 6 stops) have a blueish/radish cast. 

 

5. Some vignetting when using the filter comparing to image shot without it (holder on the lens in both cases, so definitely the filter is producing the vignette). I rotated the filter, to make sure it is not uneven, but the vignette is still there However, my Lee Big Stopper filter is also vignetting when used on my 16-35 lens and this is rather normal optical effect hen using ND filters on wide lens, because of the way they are optically built. The light from the corners is hitting the filter in a different angle than the one in the center, hence the amount of light reducing is different in the ND filter. To avoid completely this effect, the filter should be convex and not flat.

 

The filter seems to be somehwere between 10 and 11 stops according to my tests, but once you know the exact factor, you have no problem using it correctly.

 

A few words about the holder and the way it sits on the lens: it consists of 3 pieces: the holder itself with 2 spaces for filters (the package is coming with screws and plastic parts for adding an additional space for filters), a lens adapter that gets installed on the mounted shader of my 14-24 lens and a locking ring, that needs to be inserted from the rear of the lens and that gets screwed with the lens adapter, to lock the system on the lens. The locking ring requires taking the lens out of the camera or keeping it there all the time (since I am not using the system with any other lens, I would probably leave the lens adapter and locking ring on the lens and attach the holder when needed). This looks overwhelming at the beginning but the package comes with a assembly instructions (English and Chinese) with detailed pictures. 

One extra thing that needs to be mentioning, is that the lens cap will not sit correctly on the lens if the adapter ring is on. This could be a problem for the protection of the lens front element, however I am planning to use some rubber and an old lens pouch to engineer some tool to keep the lens cap in place. That (or a custom lens cap) would be an extremely cool addition that engineers from Haida could design and add to the package, reducing the stress of the photographers using 14-24 lens. I know that photographers using other holder systems are having the same "issues", so solving this problem could add up to an already excellent product and help Haida stand up from the crowd.

The conclusion of this review is that , despite the limited testing time, I am very satisfied with the holder and filter from Haida. The holder is extremely well thought and professionally built, with all the small details being considered. It can be used with other 150mm filters as well. The filter is on par with other 10 stops filters in the market; I have no complains about it after the tests I have performed, although I am usually very picky in terms of my photo gear.

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(Ioneanu Photography) Copenhagen Haida Nikon Nikon 14-24 filter holder long exposure photography review ultrawide http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/12/testing-haida-holder-for-nikon-14-24-f2-8-lens-and-150mm-10-stops-nd-filter Sun, 27 Dec 2015 11:02:01 GMT
Thailand, a love & hate affair http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/12/thailand-a-love-hate-affair We are back home, after 2 weeks in the sunny Thailand. 2 weeks with good and bad experiences, with lots of impressions and observations about the country, its people, culture, and customs. With a lots of things that we enjoyed but also with lots of things we hated. With over 150gb of images and a hard task ahead of us to select and post-process them. And a real love and hate affair.The itinerary started in Copenhagen with a Thai Airways flight in the middle of the day, that arrived in Bangkok ahead of schedule at 5:30 in the next morning. We spent 4 days in the capital city, but we had a day trip to Ayutthaya, the former capital of the kingdom using the services of a local agency: BKK tours (very happy about it). After the period spent in the capital, we moved to Krabi region and we selected three different locations, providing quite a lot of variety: Railay beach, the most famous beach in Krabi, Phi Phi island, an island renowned for its night life and huge amount of backpackers and Ao Nang, a more traditional touristic place in Krabi, probably the first one in the area that opened to the high volume tourism. The return was quite long, starting in Krabi airport with a short flight to Bangkok, continued with a long layover there, 4 hours that turned into 5.5 due to some issues with the airplane and arriving home in Copenhagen next morning after almost 12 hours flight.
So here are out conclusions, as honest as possible reflecting the positive and negative points of the trip. We discussed those points on or way back to Copenhagen, when everything was still fresh so the post was mentally sketched since then, but it took a while to write it and select some images for it. So 6 ideas with pluses and minuses are listed bellow:
1. Its almost always sunny. But also hot and humid. Coming from a country like Denmark, you will definitely appreciate the nice hot weather, the sun that shines every day. You can spend day after day at the beach if you have one close by. People are usually more happy when constantly seeing the sun and more depressed when deprived of light for a long period of time. However, the weather in Thailand is too "nice". When we got off the plane we were hit by a jet of hot air, although it was only 5:30 in the morning. And when we moved to Krabi area, the humidity also kicked in, adding some level of discomfort on top of the heat. I was humid and sticky all day long; taking a shower brought a bit of comfort for a while, but soon, the sweat will regain its place on my body.
 
2. The people are nice and friendly. Most of the Thai people are polite, helpful, always giving an unconditional smile. There are few that try to milk all the money out of the tourists using various scams, but they are not the majority of the Thai people, so I don't consider them representative. I noticed that normal guys on the street are always helping old people or women carrying heavy luggage, they seem to have a very good civic attitude. But the level of English is so low, that sometimes, unfortunately you cannot really use this help that is offered to you. Even in some hotels, you could hardly communicate with receptionist or other stuff. There was a lot of gymnastic language and we used gestures to make ourselves understood. But because of this, we always had a feeling of uncertainty 
whenever we had to rely on the information provided by the locals.
 
3. The nature is great and so diverse. The resorts are surrounded by vegetation, you have plenty of species of trees and flowers, especially orchids. If you are an outdoor guy you will feel in heaven surrounded by so much nature. There are plenty of natural park where the vegetation is even more diverse. In lots of places you can arrange elephant trekking (we avoided this as we don't want to encourage the animal exploitation). However this variety of nature comes with a price: the insects, our biggest enemy while in Thailand. They come in every size and flavors: mosquitoes, flies, ants, spiders, chiggers, cockroaches and many other that I don't know and I call generically bugs. We were bitten like hell by all of those.I returned home with around 100 bites in the groin area, itching like hell, thanks to some insects called chiggers, that I discovered later with the help of google. An insect that I was not even aware it exists until now.
4. The landscapes are great. The beaches are amazing, surrounded by rocks or with sea stacks coming out of the water. The sand is soft and the water is usually clean. But like everything that is beautiful, it needs to be shared with others. There are tons of tourists everywhere. And the speed boats and long tail boats are really spoiling the beauty of the place and are polluting the clear water, decreasing the quality of the beaches  gradually destroying some nature heavens. I know, that the  usual scenario: everything that's beautiful don't last forever, so we are happy to see these places while they are still there.
 
 
5. The foods are so diverse and intriguing. There are plenty of ingredients used in cooking, all kind of meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits and spices. A lot of things look so yummy and tempting and I would have liked to try more. Food is a cultural thing in Thailand and a lot of energy is spent with cooking and eating. However the level of hygiene is pretty low. The street food is cooked in horrible condition while the kitchens in some of the restaurants are dirty and improvised. If you want to enjoy the food in Thailand, you should better not think about how it was cooked.Having sensitive stomachs and moving from one place to another, we tried to play safe and avoid "risky" experiments.
 
6. The Thai culture is very rich and interesting, based on a lot of history of freedom, Thailand being the only country in the area that was not a colony. You should admire those places for their bravery and ability to stay under control all this period. The live of the people is centered around two major sources spiritual inspiration but also control: the monarchy and the religion. The king is 88 years old and is ruling the kingdom for 69 years. He is extremely rich, having a fortune of 30 billions dollars. And while the governments changes very often , sometimes after a coupe d'etat, the king is a central figure of the country. We arrived in Bangkok one day after his 88th birthday  and we were surprised to see the huge installation carrying his images in every street corner, intersection or building. On top of this, millions of flags and decorations were placed everywhere. Religion is also an integral part of thai culture. The  temples are very frequent in Thailand, placed very close to each other. Huge statues of Buddha sometimes made of gold or at least plated with gold,  monks living from people donations, trees made of donated money. While didn't really bothered us that much, we couldn't stop noticing that while there are people living on the streets, under the subsistence level, huge amounts of money are spent for both monarchy and religion.While in Denmark most people are complaining about the Queen spending to much from our taxes, in Thailand, people are happy to have so much money spent on the king celebrations. And again, some unfortunate ones are sleeping on the street or on the benches under a bridge, surviving from the pity of the more lucky ones. 
7. Thailand is supposed to be cheap. Really cheap. And indeed, if you live like a local, you don't have to spend much. You can have a meal with around 50 baht (1.25 EUR), a long ride with the boat along Chao Pharaya river is 20-25 baht (0.5 eur). However, Thailand can be very expensive too. Most of the tall hotels in Bangkok are having roof top bars. So we visited the one in our hotel, aiming to have a beer. Surprise, surprise: one 0.33l Hoegaarden was 430 baht (about 11 eur). More expensive than in Denmark. Even the local beer was about 300 baht, about 7 times more expensive than in a 7Eleven store. Also please be aware that in most of places in Bangkok, the prices are displayed without service fee (10%)  and VAT (7%). 
 
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(Ioneanu Photography) Ayutthaya Bangkok Beach Island Krabi Leh Phi Rai Railay Thailand documentary photography http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/12/thailand-a-love-hate-affair Thu, 24 Dec 2015 15:09:07 GMT
How to have your healing Brush tool reusable again http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/11/how-to-have-your-healing-brush-tool-reusable-again
Lofoten - panorama (2)Lofoten - panorama (2)
Ever since installing CC 2015 I started having problems with the Healing Brush tool. Once an essential tool in my workflow, used especially for correcting out the sensor dust spots, I noticed that the tool seemed broken in the Mac version of CC 2015. Carmen was complaining too on her Windows version. I was in the situation to keep a CC 2014 as well on a different OS on my machine and use it for dust spots. After many complains especially from retouchers who are highly dependent on this tool, Adobe released an update. However the update is not working automatically but required a small trick, described in 5 simple steps on https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/enable-non-realtime-healing-brush.html
 
1. Install the Photoshop CC 2015.0.1 update.
2. Use Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac OS) to create a plain text file.
3. Type the text LegacyHealingBrush 1 into the text file.
4. Save the file as PSUserConfig.txt to your Photoshop settings folder: 
    Windows: [Installation Drive]:\Users\[User Name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CC 2015\Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 Settings\
    Mac OS: //Users/[User Name]/Library/Preferences/Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 Settings/
5. Restart Photoshop. The changes will take effect.
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(Ioneanu Photography) Photoshop Photoshop CC 2015 adobe dust spot healing tool post-processing tutorial http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/11/how-to-have-your-healing-brush-tool-reusable-again Wed, 04 Nov 2015 19:57:36 GMT
Great print and a surprise giveaway from CanvasPop! http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/10/canvaspop_review Few weeks ago I was contacted by Liam from CanvasPop with an interesting offer: they would offer me a free large framed print, in exchange for an honest review of the product. I agreed immediately and I started to think which one of my images would look nice on our living wall. This is quite a difficult process as everyone tends to be so emotionally attached to their own work. In the end we decided to go with the classical view of Hamnøya village in Lofoten islands, an image so dear to us due to the memories that evokes: an amazing holiday in one of the most photogenic places on earth, where Carmen and I had such an amazing time. So I emailed the large format file to Liam and patiently waited to receive the print.

 

Lofoten

We got it on Thursday packed nicely in a big cardboard box, covered with bubble wrap to avoid any damage due to the transportation. And the packaging fulfilled its mission as the print arrived in very good conditions, without any damage. The box contained the print itself and the nails and some supports to help hanging. I already had the nail on the wall ( under an ugly painting that was already there in our rental apartment) so we haven't used those nails, but it is nice for CanvasPop guys to think about it. The hanging process went very fast, the print having a wire on its back that we easily placed it on the existing nail.

 

The print is looking great. The paper itself is very good quality, the print is done well and respected the colors of my original image, without the strange tints or artefacts that cheap printing services tend to produce. The passé-partout is well cut, 2.5" wide, in white color that contrast nicely with the black frame. We opted for a black frame and we were impressed by the quality of it. I was checking some framing services here in Copenhagen in the past and I was not totally satisfied with their offer, but this frame is really great and we like it a lot. The print is covered by plexiglass to avoid collecting dust.

So to conclude this review, I must say that we were really impressed by the quality of the product. It was very carefully crafted "with love" as it was written on a small label placed on the box. It will definitely be an option for us in the future, whenever we will consider printing an image in large format, with the purpose of hanging it on a wall. Thank you guys and keep up the good work!

Liam also prepared a nice surprise for the readers of this blog: everyone who is a resident in EU, US and Canada has the chance to see their favourite image printed and framed for free in professional quality. It is as simple as clicking the bellow image and registering your name and email address in the form and if you are the lucky winner, you just get to send your image in large format and CanvasPop will take care of printing, framing and delivering to you. Sharing the link on Facebook gives additional chances to win! Hurry up, there is only one month left to win a beautifully crafted print of your favourite image!

One more thing: you can use the coupon code: IONEANU35 to get a 35% discount to any purchase on CanvasPop

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(Ioneanu Photography) CanvasPop Hamnøya Ioneanu Lofoten Norway contest giveaway print http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/10/canvaspop_review Mon, 12 Oct 2015 16:17:49 GMT
Copenhagen Carnival 2015 http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/5/copenhagen-carnival-2015

Last weekend, on the streets of Copenhagen, there was a lot of music, dance, colors and fun: Copenhagen Carnival. In danger of being cancelled, year after year, this nice event always managed to find the resources to live one more year. And it is worth it as it is a spot of color in the danish late spring. Weather was very good, so it was a real pleasure to be part of the event and to photograph the participants. 

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(Ioneanu Photography) 2015 Copenhagen carnival dance girls music parade portraits samba http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/5/copenhagen-carnival-2015 Sun, 24 May 2015 16:20:00 GMT
Ultra wide for night photography http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/5/ultra-wide-for-night-photography Starry night, LofotenStarry night, Lofoten
 
Carmen was suggesting me to write a post about how I decide to buy a new important element for my photo gear. 
So today topic is : finding a solution for shooting night/aurora images.
I have Nikon 16-35 F4 which was decent in the recent trip in Lofoten but a bit too slow. I ended up taking 15-30 seconds exposure at ISO 3200 or 6400 and  I would have definitely liked an extra stop too keep the iso at 1600 or to have shorter time during moving Northern lights. Other options that I have and I could are NIkon 24-70 F2.8 which is fast enough but not wide enough or Nikon 28MM f1.8 which is even faster and can be a decent solution if I can take 2 or more shots and combine them in a panorama. So the new lens should be good quality, sharp across the frame, with good control of coma and vignetting. F2.8 is a must as well.
 
1. The first obvious choice is Nikon 14-24 - a giant in the world of ultrawide lenses. probably the best ever made. I know Canon people buying this lens and using it with an adapter, and that is saying a lot about the reputation and the quality of 14-24. Optically, you can't go wrong with it. Amazing sharpness and very well corrected aberrations. The two negative points are the price (about 1650 Eur in Denmark) and the ability and easiness of using filters. Of course, using it for night photography does not requires filters, but...its a shame to buy such a monster and use it only few times per year, given that Denmark is not exciting enough in terms of night photography opportunities. In terms of filter, there are 3 choices and you could read this good article of Ian Plant listing them in a blog post. Its a bit old post and some things have changed since then (like the Lee 150SW mark II) but it clearly states the 3 solutions existing in the market with pros and cons. They are all expensive, they are all bulky but the main criteria for me are the leakage of light/flaring and the filters available.The winner in my opinion seems to be Lucroit system from Hitech which scores pretty well at light leaking and has a very good selection of Hitech filters available (although I have seen lately some images shot using this system that clearly show a huge amount of flaring : here and here
 
2. Second choice is the new Tamron 15-30 F2.8, a very welcome addition to this market. According to the guys from LensTip, it is a great lens, on par with Nikon 14-24. The price is also about 25% cheaper (1250 eur in Denmark) but I would still wait for the DXO Mark review of it and more reviews from seasoned pro before bitting the bullet and buying it. It has the same problem with filters as 14-24 and it seems that  Lucroit-Hitech guys thought about it and it is fully supported by their system. Some minor negative points when comparing it with Nikon 14-24 is that sometimes, with third party lenses, you need to return few copies before you get a good one; also a classic lens like Nikon 14-24 hold better resale values over year if properly taken care of.
 
3. A cheap but still very decent choice that I cosider is the Samyang 14mm (or Rokinon how it is marketed in other places, and especially the second verison of it). Price wise is by far the most attractive, costing around 400 Eur in Denmark. It is a good compromise for night photography having decent sharpness, especially in the center of the frame and quite good correction of coma (again Lenstip guys turned out to be quite helpful. Also comparing it with the 16-35 mm lens I currently own, I can see that it is definitely not  worth in terms of sharpness but lacks a bit in transmission and is much worse in terms of distortion according to DXO Mark in depth review. On the negative side: it requires manual focus (but its definitely acceptable for night photography) and it cannot take filters at all. The sharpness is also not so good at corners when shooting wide open.
 
So tough decision and a problem I do not have a solution yet. Please feel free to comment using your experiences especially regarding filter systems for Nikon 14-24 and/or Tamron 15-30.
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(Ioneanu Photography) 14-24 14mm 15-30 Nikon Rokinon Samyang Tamron aurora dxomark f2.8 lenstip night photography review ultra-wide wide http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/5/ultra-wide-for-night-photography Sun, 10 May 2015 11:10:52 GMT
Lofoten http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/5/lofoten Hamnoeya (2), LofotenHamnoeya (2), Lofoten

More than one month ago we returned  from one of the most amazing holidays of our life: a week in Lofoten islands, an archipelago belonging to Norway and located above arctic pole. We opted for a private photo tour with Alex Conu , who moved a year ago in the nordic archipelago. Lofoten is located above arctic circle, offering perfect location for observing (and shooting) Northern lights, the fantastic visual phenomenon caused by solar activity. We decided to go in the middle of March, for a milder temperature, quite large day time and of course high chances of aurora due to the equinox. 

Lofoten pastel - panorama (1)Lofoten pastel - panorama (1)
Reaching to Lofoten it takes changing three planes from Copenhagen, even if the map distance is not that big. Wideroe are the only one flying till there (Leknes airport) and we had stopovers in Trondheim and Bodø (respectively Bodø and Oslo on the way back). Flying with the small  turboprop airplanes gave us a strange feeling of returning in time to a place were nature is still in full control and only those people that accepted this are welcomed. And nature was really the queen there, showing us her full strength: sunny days, strong winds, rain, snow showers, hail and beautiful aurora in 5 nights out of 7.

Northern Lights (6), LofotenNorthern Lights (6), Lofoten
We got the chance to see aurora for the first time in our lives in our first day there. It didn't meter that we left our home in Copenhagen around 5am and we were dead tired. We were excited to stay out and enjoy the show. Green arch over the sky, followed by a dance of patterns and colours. Finally the child dream came true. Shooting it was quite difficult in the beginning due to our lack of experience in doing night photography, but by the end of the trip we got pretty decent technique and we started to enjoy it.

Northern Lights (2), LofotenNorthern Lights (2), Lofoten
During the day we visited the idyllic villages of Lofoten with their colourful houses and the wild beaches, providing great foreground for the mountains in background. We were not lucky to get fantastic sunsets, but we got amazing lights during the day between snow showers episodes. It was a real pleasure to shoot the beautiful landscape of Lofoten but also to be in the middle of a nature that was not yet affected by the people destructive touch.
The location we stayed was in the very scenic village of Hamnøya, and a great view over the fjord surrounded by mountains was enchanting our eyes when we waked up in the morning. The private tour included everything: accommodation, three meals and many hours of guidance during the day and night.

Before storm (2), LofotenBefore storm (2), Lofoten
Coming back from such a nature paradise in a big city is a somehow sad experience. Even though both Carmen and I agreed that is pretty tough to live in a place like Lofoten with cold and capricious weather, there were still a lot of regrets when the trip ended and a strong wish to return one day. And aurora gave us some kind of addiction, a strong wish to meet with her again. As result we started to arrange a trip in Iceland for next year, in almost same period :-)

Northern Lights (5), LofotenNorthern Lights (5), Lofoten

Starry night, LofotenStarry night, Lofoten

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(Ioneanu Photography) Alex Conu Hamnøy Hamnøya Lofoten Norway Widerø aurora beauty landscape nature phototour private scenery tour wideroe http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2015/5/lofoten Tue, 05 May 2015 05:31:47 GMT
Magic Tower - Tutorial http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/11/magic-tower---tutorial Magic towerMagic tower

 

This is the tutorial that I wrote for 1X some time ago. 

The plan was to photograph a famous building while paying homage to the well-known architect who designed it. Everything was perfect, except for the stark, uninteresting sky. Don’t let a barren, blue sky ruin your otherwise flawless image. Here’s what to do, before and after you take the photo.
Turning Torso, the tallest building in Scandinavia, is a famous architectural landmark in Malmö, Sweden. Renowned architect, structural engineer and sculptor Santiago Calatrava designed it, and it was inspired by his own marble sculpture of a human form called “Twisting Torso”. The spiraling, residential skyscraper is fully powered by locally produced renewable energy, and it twists a complete 90 degrees clockwise from top to bottom.
I live in Copenhagen, Denmark, and because Malmö is just on the other side of Øresund Bridge, I was inclined to include Turning Torso in my long-term photo project “Geometry in Motion.” I am a big admirer of Santiago Calatrava’s architecture, so I very much wanted to make a standout image that served as a photographic homage to his masterpiece.
 
When I photograph a building, I am usually in constant motion, always in search for the best angles possible. I move around the structure so that I see everything, shooting from a distance, and then moving in closer for a very different perspective. My goal on this day was to capture the unusual spiral shape of the building and to create a dynamic composition. I wanted the image to have an almost three-dimensional appearance while portraying the building’s distinct prominence. I decided to highlight a dominant diagonal that stretched from the bottom-right corner to the top of the building. It would become the leading line that guides the viewer up and around the winding structure. I also wanted the sky to be as uncomplicated as possible: the negative space surrounding the building enhanced and complemented the unique shape and structure.
 
POST PROCESSING
 
I usually shoot a long exposure to create a dramatic sky, but there were no clouds that day to produce the effect I wanted, so I decided to replace the sky with another photo in my archives. I needed a sky that was fairly dark to contrast with the white structure, and one that would provide some light areas around the top of the building since it was the main point of interest. I first process my images in Adobe Camera Raw and then export them to Photoshop CC. When I convert my photos to black and white, I use Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 plugin.
 
1) I opened the image in Adobe Camera Raw and increased the Clarity to 10. This makes the RAW file pop a bit as they usually tend to look quite dull. In the Blues, I increased Saturation so that I could more easily select and remove the original sky in Photoshop.
2) I exported the image to Photoshop CC. My first step was to crop the photo, maintaining a standard 2:3 aspect ratio.
3) In order to separate the building from the sky, I first used Color Range to make a general selection of the sky. This works well when the sky is solid blue. I then refined the selection using the Polygonal Lasso. Although it’s not the fastest way to make a selection, the Polygonal Lasso gives me very good control when deciding which pixels to include and exclude in my selection. I always analyze the edges of the selection at 200% to make sure it is as accurate as possible. After selecting the entire building, I divided the selection into two parts so that I could process the left and right sides of the structure separately.
4) I used the Clone Stamp tool to remove some imperfections on the facade that are distracting.
5) I selected a sky that complemented the building and then added it to the image. It became a new layer in the Layers Panel.
6) I made separate black and white conversions for the building and the sky using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, producing two new layers. Having different layers gives me the freedom to enhance one of them at a later stage without affecting the other. I usually try to find a preset that is pretty close to what I need and then customize it if necessary. In this case, I wanted full tonal range for the building — the Full Tonal Range preset is often a good starting point — but an underexposed effect for the sky, so I used the Low Key preset.
7) I blended the two layers, and this became the basis for my light painting; in other words, lightening and darkening various areas of the image. I worked separately on the two facets of the building. One step of the light painting consisted of creating an adjustment layer — Levels, Curves or Exposure, for example — adding a negative mask to it (a mask filled with black), loading the selection for the desired element and then applying a Gradient inside the selection. In this way, the effect of the adjustment layer is gradually applied to the element within selection. I then lowered the Opacity of any adjustment layer to about 20%. The Gradients that I applied flow from the top to the bottom-left for the left side of the building, and from the top to the middle of the right side for the right side of the building. In this way, the light simply fades away as your eye travels from the top of the building to the bottom.
8) To lighten the sky around the top of the building, I created a layer mask for the sky, used a large Brush set to 5% opacity, and with white selected, I dodged the sky.
9) Once I was satisfied with my light painting, I merged all of the layers. This created a new merged layer at the top of the Layers Panel while the rest of my layers remained intact. At this point, I checked the tonal quality in my image using Nik Silver Efex histogram based on Ansel Adams’ Zone System. I prefer to see that my tonal range has covered as many of the 11 zones as possible, and at the same time, that I have no clipped areas at either end of the histogram.
10) I used Topaz DeNoise plugin to reduce noise in the photo and to add grain as well. Even if I had shot this image at IOS 100, the post-processing still would have created noise. Since the sky and the building were processed separately, I had to apply Noise Reduction to them separately by loading their selections that I made in the beginning and creating two new layers. The Overall Strength slider for these layers was set to about 10. I also added grain at this stage. Increased contrast in post-processing has a tendency to create banding artifacts, especially in the sky; by adding grain, the effect can be minimized. For the sky, I set the Grain slider to 30.
11) I sharpened the building using a High Pass filter with a low Radius of 1.5, emphasizing the very small details of the facade.
12) I saved the file as a PSD so that I could work on it again if necessary. Then I flattened it and saved it as a JPEG for posting online.
 
TIPS
 
1) Sometimes the weather does not cooperate, or there is not enough time to attempt a long exposure. For these reasons, shoot a good collection of long-exposed skies for your archives so that you can easily change your background when necessary.
2) Avoid shooting on sunny days if your subject has other tall buildings around it. The sun produces very harsh shadows, and they are pretty difficult to remove unless you are a retouching expert.
3) Think in advance about what you want to achieve with your image before you start postprocessing, then work in small steps towards your goal as you process.
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(Ioneanu Photography) 1X B&W Calatrava Malmo Nik Nik Silver Efex Photoshop Sweden Turning torso architecture long exposure photography tower tutorial http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/11/magic-tower---tutorial Thu, 27 Nov 2014 20:25:50 GMT
While running http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/11/while-running  
In the last few months, I have developed a new habit, the one of running every weekend a distance between 10 and 15 km. Recently I associated this healthy practice with listening to podcasts on my iphone, and the photography related ones are a natural choice This post (and hopefully a series of posts that I plan to write on regular basis) is not about reviewing various podcasts, but its more about the ideas that I hear mentioned there and that I found interesting and worth elaborating about. Or ideas that kept me thinking as while running, my brain is relaxed and I have time to reflect, to make my own opinion and to agree or disagree with the speakers or podcast host.
This Sunday, while improving my longest distance to 15km, I had the chance to listen to two episodes of "Photography Tips from the Top Floor "(. The two main ideas that Chris Marquard was talking about in these two shows were:
 
1) is the digital photography a way to avoid risky decisions during out creative process?
2) why passion for photography is lost and how to regain it back?
 
MetzMetz
 
I started directly with digital photography (the few films that I shot analog many years ago does not really count). So all those technical advantages of being able to shoot countless of frames, without having to change the film, the ability to change ISO from one shot to another without sticking with one setting for an entire film), ability to shoot multiple exposures  and decide later on during post-processing which one works the best, all of these points were there taken for granted from the very beginning of my photographic journey. And I can't even think about going down the road and shooting film as I am so much used with the benefits of digital photography . But thinking about all those differences and advantages is a dive back into the romantic period of photography, into the work of the classics, into a period when photographers were more courageous in their decision (and I am not talking here about some one like Robert Capa who was shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers during the wars that he was covering). Some say that limitation can make you better. Having one camera and one lens, preferably a prime one, makes you work your frame more, getting closer or far as it needs, removing the lazy instinct of zooming in and out. Its the risk to miss some shots due to being too far or close when the interesting scene is happening. Its the risk of making mistakes, but the mistakes are the ones that move us forward in the learning process. But its also a new intimate relationship that you develop with your gear, knowing it very well and using its strong points. 
These days we are spoiled on so many levels. Those big zoom lens (like 18-300) move you 50 meters with only a slight hand effort, from wide to far away. You pay indeed  at image quality, but its a compromise that you agree or not. The cameras are featuring more and more pixels so you can virtually crop any part of the frame, getting a totally new image. The dynamic range is getting better and better, the ISO sensitivity is improving a lot. We are leaving in exciting times in terms of photographic technology, we delay or remove the risks almost entirely, but which are the drawbacks? 
I could list quite a few: we are getting pixel-pipers and technology obsessed (me included), we are always looking for the shiny new toy, for the extra step and extra reach, but sometimes we forget the emotion out of our frames. The cameras are getting more and more affordable and the cheap entry level ones are offering extremely good quality, so the amount of photographers and photographies out there is huge. Millions of images are taken, processed and posted every day and even if many can be selfies or simple holiday snapshots, the amount of high quality pictures is amazing. We are overwhelmed with this quality, we compare ourselves with people that are in the top of the craft, we aim for the best tools thinking that only the lack of glass or too small sensors are between us and out photographic success, and sometimes we kill the passion. And loosing the passion is exactly the second topic of the post. I can't say that I lost it totally, but I must admit that it fades a bit from time to time. If nothing excising is happening in my life photography-wise, no new photo trip, no new feature in a magazine or contest award, I feel like I am loosing motivation and I find it harder and harder to go out there and shoot. It could be also because Copenhagen at this time is a big construction sites so all the nice photogenic places are full of cranes and and green fences masking the work being done inside. And also coastline around Copenhagen is not extremely attractive either. Or its just because of me getting used with surrounding and failing to find anything it worth carrying a camera and a tripod. But thats how I loose motivation and how the passion fades away. Its not something total, I still shoot at least once per month, I still consume a lot of photography through the social networks I am part of. 
But how do I get the passion back, how do I get motivated again?  I have noticed that trying something new helps for this meter. First there were cityscapes in a period where I was only interested in modern architecture. It opened new perspectives and it diversified my interests. Recently I picked up again street photographic and I love moving around with a small mirrorless camera and a prime lens. I did some still life work in the past with not so exciting results. I am planning to do some food photography with the raw cakes that Carmen is preparing. I like trying new things and I think they keep the passion fresh as it is always fun to explore, to experiment and why not to succeed in a new field. Sometimes a new gear is bringing as well the excitement required to revive the passion; don't just buy something in the hope that you can gain back your excitement but more if you are willing to try something new and that piece of equipment is something essential for being able to properly experience that something new. I would love to rent equipment rather than buying it, but here in Denmark it is not  something that common and convenient (renting a lens for a week might cost half of its price). 
So if your loosing the passion for this wonderful craft and you feel less and less interested in producing new work, it might be because you are repeating same old subjects that does not turn your inner creativity anymore. So pick up new subjects, new techniques and new approaches and of out there exploring and having fun. It will do wonders for your motivation,
 
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(Ioneanu Photography) B&W ISO analog cityscape craft digital experiment explore exposure film motivation passion photography risk http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/11/while-running Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:47:06 GMT
Tonality Pro review http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/11/tonality-pro-review  
 
 
 
Recently I heard about a new tool for Black and White conversion called Tonality Pro. It is on of the interesting product produced by the guys from MacPhun and it addresses only to Mac users. Tonality Pro can be downloaded and tried for free for 15 days. I will write this informal review having as a reference Nik Silver Efex Pro which is what I currently use for my black and white work all time. As Nik Silver Efex is generally recognised as a market standard and a product of high quality and maturity in the world of photography plugins, I must admit that the bar is very high for any competitor.
 
Tonality Pro comes as standalone application or as plugin for Photoshop CC/Lightroom/Elements/Aperture. I am going to test it only as plugin for Photoshop as my workflow is entirely in CC, so going out in an external application and importing image back to CC does not really make sense for me.The first think I must say is that it is a bit slow. Both lunching it and applying some preset to the image seems to take a bit more then other plugins on my Mac Book Pro. The interface is looking very good and intuitive with presets at the bottom, controls in the right and a bunch of quick access tools at the top of the screen. Presets can be toggled on/off to allow a much larger view of the image. One funny thing is that the presets are shown in landscape format, even if the image is a portrait, but thats just a minor issue that doesn't bother me too much. There are quite a lot of presets, so everybody can find something interesting and useful and start from there doing his/her conversion. They are grouped based on  type of image (Street, Architecture, Outside) or by type of effect they want to achieve (Vintage, HDR, Film Emulation). 
Tonality pro offers layers. You can easily stack up various adjustments, with different opacity and even more, you can mask in/out various parts of the image using the brush mode. If this is vary handy for standalone mode of Tonality Pro or for the Lightroom/Aperture plugin; even for a user of Tonality Pro from Photoshop it can be very helpful because as you can stack up multiple presets directly in Tonality Pro without having to go in and out of it multiple times and then have to use Photoshop masks to combine effects. One very cool feature is the fact that a layer can be applied either on top of the previous layer or on top of the original image. Of course applying a layer on top of original image with full opacity will ignore the effect of previous layer.
 
 
The plugin controls offers pretty much the standard functionality of a B&W conversion tool plus some creative effects that are usually found in different plugins for other vendors: 
-Exposure (standard and adaptive) and  Contrast (standard and smart - according to their online help, it ads a glow to the image when increased and flattens the image when removed)
- Highlights, Shadows, Midtones, Whites and Blacks
- Clarity and Structure - that offers controls on both Structure and Micro Structure (take care with the later as it seems to amplify the noise as well) 
- Color filters and Highlights/Saturation for each colour channel. Here I can notice that colour saturation can help bringing back some colour in some of the channels, and I could see a usage for muted colors processing 
- Tone curve
- Split toning that allows you to colorise highlights and shadow with different tones for split effect
- Glow for creating a soft feel to the image
- Lens blur
- Texture overlay for adding one of the many predefined textures
- Vignette
- Grain 
- Photo frame
- Opacity - in order to apply a smaller opacity to the current layer
 
 
In the end, I must list a few observations and conclusion based on the quick review that I did:
- Tonality Pro offers lots of predefined plugins, much more then what Silver Efex has. Running through them, I can find a few of them that I can use in my processing. I could say that it will be always something from everyone.
- The amount of options that are available in Tonality Pro is higher then in Silver Efex Pro, however there are things that are absolutely useless for a black and white photographer like me (like textures or glow) . My impression is that the guys from MacPhun tried to hook up many different categories of users with this plugin: both the classic photographers like me that are looking for another powerful black and white conversion tool and those artists that are more touched by glow, blur or texture
- the interface is working ok in general , but I could see some glitches. However there is nothing that makes it unusable or that cannot be workarounded and I am pretty sure those issues can be easily fixed.
- the Film presets are quite cool, something that I could use for my street photography work
- A nice cool feature is that if you apply some adjustment from some particular setting (lets say Contrast Smart) and the collapse the contrast controls, you will gonna see highlighted the Contrast section , as a reminder there is something that you have used 
- Overall Tonality Pro positions itself right next to Nik Silver Efex and can be a good alternative for it. As a Nik user I will probably stick with it as I am very used with Nik and I have my preset collection in there.  But keeping in mind that Tonality Pro was released this summer, its impressive how it positioned itself as a strong player in the market and depending on the future plans of the guys from Macphun, I can see a bright future for it. I will definitely keep an eye on it and take a look at the next version when it comes
 
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(Ioneanu Photography) Aperture B&W Elements Lightroom Macphun Photoshop Tonality pro conversion plugin review http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/11/tonality-pro-review Tue, 04 Nov 2014 12:33:00 GMT
Hello Ello http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/10/hello-ello These days I am playing with the new kid on the block of social networks: ello.co. I got an invite from my friend Baber Afzal and decided to dive into what is supposed to be a fresh approach in the social networking concept. 
 
The crownThe crown
 
 I started by reading their manifesto:
 
"Your social network is owned by advertisers.
Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold. We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership. We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.
You are not a product."
 
All of these sound very promising, as I hate those targeted commercials that appear in my facebook and other pages after I search some product on the internet. Ello was built by seven people, a blend of graphic designers and developers, as a private network and it grew beyond the initial intention, becoming public, accessible by invitation.
 
After three days of using Ello, I definitely see something beautiful being built here but there are some issues as well that need to be addressed before opening it for a wider audience:
- the interface is stylish, clean and quite intuitive to navigate (maybe due to the quite basic list of functionality being implemented at the moment). 
Lets see how it will evolve later. 
- the pictures are looking much better than on Facebook, they get a quite large space in the page and expecially the portrait orientation ones are displayed really huge. I must admit that the compression is handled much better then on Facebook
- the contacts are split into Friends and Noise, so your feed will be split into those categories as well. Maybe in the future there will be some customisable categories, similar to G+ circles
- I love the very large profile cover, that can be seen on almost the whole screen if expanded
- the posting can be a quite a painful experience in terms of mixing image and text (maybe it was just me, as I didn't hear other people complaining). I manage to do it in the end, but I would really like some improvements here. Those containers appearing inside the post can be very annoying
- there is no way to like/favourite a post, apart from placing a comment to it. Replying is not simple as there is no Reply button but just a normal 
post that you need to address to your commenter, by mentioning his/her user name which is not copy/pastable from his/her comment. 
- it behaves differently on different browsers. At the moment it works fine for me in Chrome and Opera but crashes the whole Safari on my Macbook
 
Due to how nice the images are displayed on Ello, I could see Ello being a big hit for potographers and photography lovers. Anticipating this, Miroslav 
Petrasko is mantaining a large list of photographers already on Ello: http://www.hdrshooter.com/photographers-to-follow-on-ello/
so its easy to fish in the pond and pick of few of your favourite artist to follow. 
 
If you want to network with me on Ello: https://ello.co/dragos_ioneanu
 
The image choice in this post is "The crown" - an image featuring the Tempodrom building in Berlin. As this is raising to the sky, I wish the new born Ello to raise to the heights of social networking, proving that something made with soul can compete with the big corporations.

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(Ioneanu Photography) Berlin Ello Ello.co Tempodrom review social network http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/10/hello-ello Fri, 03 Oct 2014 17:10:18 GMT
Isle of Skye http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/8/isle-of-skye  
The Old Man of StorrThe Old Man of Storr
 
The highlight of our summer holiday was Isle of Skye. The beautiful island  is the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides. It is quite easy to get there. We went by bus from Inverness in a 3.5 hours journey (a bus trip between Inverness and Portree costs 24 pounds). The first part of the way was rather boring along Loch Ness but after the road left the lake and continued through the mountains the view became much more entertaining. On the way back, we decided to take train from Kyle of Localsh, an alternative a bit more comfortable. 
 
QuiraingQuiraing
 
During our 6 nights in Skye, we stayed in a very basic bed and breakfast. Nothing fancy, just a roof on top of our head, a shower after a tiring day and a full Scottish breakfast with lots of fried eggs and bacon. There are plenty of such B&Bs in Portree and in other places on the islands. Skye can offer both the feeling of a crowd holiday place, with lots of people doing the regular stuff like boat trips, enjoying the good fish in the restaurants and buying the souvenirs but can also offer a very isolated break in the middle of nature in case of the ones who prefer a more quite vacation, as you can find accommodations totally isolated from the rest of inhabited areas. Its just a question of choice, and since we do not have a driving license, we opted for the major city of the island and obviously the most crowdy one: Portree. 
 
 
Portree is the major settlement of the island with a bit more than 2000 inhabitants. From here, there are bus services running to most parts of Skye (Troternish peninsula being pretty well covered), however the timing of the buses is not the best. They don't run early in the morning or late in the evening. So if you are willing, like us , to capture the morning and evening light in great locations, you have to either rent a car or use the services of a local photographer that provides photo guidance. And the good thing is that there are few photographers, located in Portree and other areas that can show you the places from the photographer perspective. We have worked with Tim Wilcock ( http://www.timwilcock.com/), a great landscape photographer and a very cool guy. Tim gave us the chance to shoot the Old Man of Storr at sunrise or Neist point at sunset and was a very good companion for discussion about the island and photography in general (he even recommended me the excellent Kirk ball heads and I already purchased one). We covered most of the interesting spots of the island in three sessions with Tim (one morning and 2 evening sessions of 4-6 hours): Old Man of Storr, Quiraing, Neist point, Elgol.  If you are ever in Skye and looking for someone for a photo tour or even showing you the basics of landscape photography, don't hesitate to contact Tim. 
 
ElgolElgol
 
In terms of other things you can do on the islands, we have to mention a very nice boat trip to Loch Coruisk, an inland fresh-water loch, lying at the foot of the Black Cuillin (I would recommend going there with one of the major boat trip providers in Elgol: Misty Isle and Bella Jane and being very careful about the bus schedule as it can be a bit misleading in regards to the last service to Broadford). Loch Coruisk is so beautiful and can be even more photogenic if the day is not  a harsh sunny one as we got.
 
Loch CoruiskLoch Coruisk
 
We have visited the Dunvengan castle which was a bit disappointing experience: quite boring interior and gardens; we would recommended the much nicer Eilean Donan , 1 hour away from Portree, next to the small village of Dornie.   The wildlife boat trips are plenty , but can be a bit random in terms of seeing the animals that are marketed, but with a bit of luck you can get close to a sea eagle or a whale. We were not that lucky unfortunately but we spent some relaxing hours scanning the horizon through binoculars.
 
Kyle of LochalshKyle of Lochalsh
 
Now talking about negative parts, the most annoying part were the midges, who are almost everywhere in the nature and that can be quite a nuisance with their itchy bites. Taking a spray against them from the pharmacy or outdoor store can be a good idea. Another think that we need to be more careful next time is walking on very boggy terrain. During our evening at Neist point, I managed to sink my foot into the mud 30 cm over the ankle having a smelly disgusting layer of mud over my pants and shoe. But it was just mud and it went away in the shower. 
 
Loch FadaLoch Fada
 
Overall our Skye trip was a good blend of active holiday with hiking and photography, a bit of relaxation and nice culinary treats at the harbour restaurants.As Skye is a heaven for photographers, we understood why so many people are coming back to photography the beautiful island, and we promised ourselves to come back there, maybe in the winter or early spring time, to get a different look.
 
Loch FadaLoch Fada
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(Ioneanu Photography) B&W Cuillin Isle of Skye Munros Old man of Storr Portree Scotland Sligachan The Storr Trotternish peninsula UK United Kingdom highlands landscape long exposure photography story http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/8/isle-of-skye Sun, 17 Aug 2014 08:00:38 GMT
The graduation http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/6/the-graduation This weekend was graduation again, tons of teenagers honking their happiness all over the city. And Strøget with its Storkespringvandet (the fountain with a stork statue) was the epicenter of their celebration, the place where they were cleaning all the unpleasant things form the high school years, stepping out ready for the new life as students. One after another, the opened topped trunks were bringing hordes of drunk teenagers that were diving naked in the fountain, immersing fully dressed splashing all around or just wetting their feet. After couple of minutes, they were back again in the fun caravan back to their large quantities of booze, honking and whistling, screaming and singing, jumping and dancing. A beautiful tradition, alive for tens of years, a very important moment in the life of those kids who are now becoming adults.

 

 

 

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(Ioneanu Photography) B&W Copenhagen Denmark Graduation day Storkespringvandet Strøget graduation happiness high school long exposure photography school teenager tradition http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/6/the-graduation Sun, 29 Jun 2014 14:17:54 GMT
Kayak Polo http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/6/kayak-polo  

 
4 years ago, I was there, in a plastic kayak, scared of being thrown into the cold water after a colleague of mine spent minutes to return into his boat. I was playing Kayak Polo, but most of us were not so skilled at that. It was a team building and someone decided to go for something a bit more unconventional. Which was fun for some of us, ok for most and very disturbing for the 65 years old guy, having problems to breath in the freezing water.
 
 
Last weekend, we attended one stage of the Danish Championship of Kayak Polo. It was totally unexpected, as we were just walking by the Hellerup area and heard some noises  that sound like a sporting event. The weather was so typically Danish: in about three hours, we got some nice sun, almost good for sunbathing but also cold luring rain that made the sportsmen not care too much if they are inside or outside of the water.
These pictures are done with Carmen's new D5200 and a 85mm prime.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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(Ioneanu Photography) Copenhagen Danish championship Denmark Kayak Polo ball championship kayak sport water water sport http://www.ioneanu.com/blog/2014/6/kayak-polo Thu, 26 Jun 2014 20:05:09 GMT