Agnes Caruso Photography

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Waterfalls of Iceland

If any of you were waiting for my continuation of my Icelandic adventures, here is the next installment – waterfalls. Pretty much everywhere you have rocks, hills you see waterfalls from very tiny to huge ones. Iceland has lots of waterfalls and I mean a lot. Some like Gullfoss or Dettifoss are extremely popular with tourists, some a little less and others are not seen much at all. The biggest correlation I found was an accessibility of the site to large tour buses. So if you want to see some less traveled part of Iceland be prepared to take some side roads and add some time to your trip. It is worth it as you will see.

So let’s start with the most popular waterfalls – Gullfoss. The popularity is increased by the fact that these waterfalls are easy to reach by bus from Reykjavik, making it a nice day trip. The waterfalls are located on Hvítá river, span two tiers and flow into a deep canyon. The size of waterfalls is frequently measured in volume of water flowing through them per second. Gullfoss in summer has an average flow of 140 cubic meters per second. Just imagine that the biggest flow rate recorded is on Boyoma Falls in Democratic Republic of Congo with 17000 cubic meters per second. Three other well known waterfalls – Niagara, Iguazu and Victoria falls have flow rates of 2400, 1700 and 1088 cubic meters per second on average. This gives you some comparison scale if you have seen any of those waterfalls.

Here are some of the images from Gullfoss. Starting with one of the more iconic views showing the tiers of the falls.

When you continue on route 1 around Iceland, you will be able to see a lot more waterfalls, the next one is located close by the road and it is called Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This one is pretty amazing as you can walk around it, just ensure you have a raincoat with you and your camera is well protected. You will get wet! This waterfall originates from the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull and drops some 60 meters down.

Not that far from Seljalandsfoss is Skógafoss. Waterfall is visible well from the road and it does not take long to get there. A diversion well worth it just as it was for Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is located on Skógá River and you can walk on the river bed if the flow is not too big. The cliffs on which the waterfall is located, used to be coastal cliffs, now located some five kilometers or three miles away.

Weather in Iceland does not always oblige and pouring rain has made some of the picture taking a little challenging. When we arrived at Godafoss or Waterfall of the Gods, the rain was pouring as much from the sky as it was from the waterfalls. OK, not quite but very close, combined with strong wind, it was not fun to walk a short distance to the falls and back. When you stop to see Godafoss, you should walk across the little pedestrian bridge and see both sides of the waterfalls. The view is completely different and amazing from both sides.

All of those waterfalls are pretty popular and you will find lots of tourists stopping by, hiking and taking pictures. The reason is that all of them are very close to the main road and buses can easily stop to drop people off. I found that at least one of the sites away from the main road is definitely worth visiting. Kolufossar falls on Víðidalsá river are spectacular and while there will be visitors the numbers are nothing compare to Gullfoss. Views are just as breathtaking but judge for yourselves.

The last waterfalls I will show you are Hraunfossar waterfalls. They appear from under the lava rocks and are springwater in origin. It is a spectacular view and really different from any other waterfalls you will see.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of Iceland adventures. There is still more to come. Iceland has amazing places to see and even if the weather is not the best, you can still enjoy the trip and take some pretty great pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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How to make a video from photos?

Have you ever taken pictures and then thought that you should have taken a video? Films and animation has always been a great medium and currently videos are considered a very important medium to be shared on social media. However, you have not taken a video but have a set of images. Not all is lost. In the past slideshows were all we could do with those images and they were awkward to share with anyone even on a computer. The technology has gone way forward and we have no ways to create a video which has similarities with old fashioned animated films.

I am going to focus on two tools I have been testing for creating videos. The first one is AdobeSpark, the second is Microsoft Photos App. Those of you who read some of my previous technical blogs know that I use Microsoft Windows 10 platform. What I decided to do was to create two videos based on the same exact images. My choice was easy, it is about the Diamond Beach in Iceland.

Let’s start with AdobeSpark.

When you select to create new, you are presented with options.

Once you choose a video, there are some potential content options for you to choose from or you can create a video from scratch. This is what I selected and here is the workspace AdobeSpark presents you with when you start. You can add new slides and content to the ones you have. Content added can be a video, photo, text or an icon. You can add images or videos from your computer, Adobe Cloud, Adobe Stock, Dropbox, Lightroom, Google Drive or Google Photos. There is unfortunately no way to re-arrange the slides so you may need to think hard ahead of time or be prepared to move content around.

Once you added all your content, you can add music to your creation from the available files or upload your own. There is also an option to edit your theme or change layout of slides. After you are finished with editing, there are two options. First to download the file, second to share it directly from within AdobeSpark to Facebook, Twitter, email, embed into a site or copy the link. You can create a standard (6.04Mb) or square (3.75Mb) video but both of those come only in one file size. File size will depend on your content, more or larger files will create bigger final file. Another factor affecting the size is how long each frame is shown. Considering this, your ability to make a smaller file are very limited to non-existent.

Now let’s look at Microsoft Photos App. Definitely, not a first choice for most people and not a natural choice – a photo app to edit or create videos? Really?! So what can you expect from this strange solution? When you open an app, it will show you large screen with choices available for you. albums, collections, videos, people and most importantly – folders. It is through folders that you can access your images most conveniently. On the right side you select “Create“. You will have three options presented to you:

  1. Automatic video with music
  2. Custom video with music
  3. Album

I always use custom option as it is easy and gives me lots of freedom to create what and how I want.

At this stage you select the source of your images. I used my Folders and selected folder “Diamond Beach”. All images in the folder were added to the storyboard and a default video was created based on all images in a folder. You can now add or remove photos, add text or movement. Adding text to a photo blurs the image and you can use it as a title screen. Movement can be a little surprising and annoying, so I would suggest checking what movement was added to your images and removing it if you wish or altering to the one you want.

Unlike AdobeSpark, you have quite a lot of freedom with images in Microsoft Photos and even at this stage you can do some basic editing. Obviously not meant to be a replacement for any proper job that should have been done before. Once you are happy with the layout, it is time to add music.

Music in Microsoft Photos App will adjust the length for which each frame is displayed to the music you selected. If you do not like this, it can be changed to your particular settings, just select time and alter the length. Music selection is different than in AdobeSpark, but you also can add your own composition if you wish. Your video can come in two formats – widescreen 16×9 or 4×3.

When exporting files out of Microsoft Photos, independent of aspect, you can get the final file in three different sizes: small (for this video it was 1.7Mb), medium (2.45Mb) and large (4.66Mb). The size depends on how you will use the final video. Your options when exporting are to save to OneDrive, computer or open in App. I strongly suggest not opening in the App, but saving it to your computer.

Now it is time to summarize and compare the two options.

AdobeSpark:

Pros: Wide selection of input images, can import directly from web services

Cons: Web-based app limiting access to when you are connected, no connectivity to OneDrive, no image editing capabilities, no way of rearranging the image order, workspace is overly simple, making it hard to plan your project, one  size file download

Microsoft Photos App:

Pros: Easy access to your OneDrive stored images, existing albums and collections on your computer, well designed workspace allowing for planning, ease of adding or editing images,ability to add 3D effects to the videos or images, multiple sized downloads

Cons: no connectivity to services beyond OneDrive, image editing still too basic, requires Windows 10 computer

I have tried Microsoft Photos video editing just because it is there but ended up liking it quite a bit. Its capabilities were actually a nice surprise and for a free software it is pretty good. The fact that it is a downloaded application on my computer, laptop or phone helps me create and edit videos everywhere, and the process does not require internet connection. So if you are after an easy and simple tool to edit or create your videos, give Microsoft Photos a try. The videos created for this blog are available to be viewed on my website. The medium sized Microsoft video can be viewed below.


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45th Virginia Scottish Games

Virginia Scottish Games take place every year in The Plains, VA. This year was 45th Anniversary of the games. It was packed with entertainment, competitions and fun for two days. There were athletic events, music and dancing competitions, Clan Parade, Band Parade, and lots more. The day was filled with lots to do, with special events for children to keep the youngsters occupied.

However, some kids were proudly taking part in the main events. This little fellow in the picture on the left, marched proudly with the bands across the big field.

Opening Ceremony was preceded by the Clan Parade. This year it looked a little different than in previous years as the narrow entrance to the athletic field became even narrower with bands gathering to enter the field after the Clan Parade. However, nobody seemed to mind and everyone found their way.

As the clans were leaving the athletics field, the bands entered marching up to the top of the field.

The bagpipers and drummers marched up and then down the field  after doing an elaborate turn in the middle of the field. And as you can see above, the little bagpiper is marching on with the band! Keeping up with the grownups could not have been easy but he did not seem concerned or distracted.

Music was all around even after the Band Parade finished. There were bagpipers practicing, playing, bands were practicing some more for the competition.

There were also live music performances and included Glengarry Bhoys, Chambless & Muse and Glencoe Lads and Friends. For the lovers of fiddling, there were fiddling performances as well in a fiddling tent not far from the Highland dance competition.

Dance competition was tough with the sky clearing, and temperatures increasing, it got very hot very quickly. Dancers were sweating it out on and off the competition floor. Below are just some of the images from the competition. While waiting for their turn come competitors were going over the steps in their heads and moved hands in the air as if they were the feet.

I tried to capture dancing action from the competition. These are just some of the shots I took, trying to illustrate a range of movements on the dance floor.

As Athletics is an integral part of the games there was lots of action on the field: heavy weight toss, light weight toss, caber toss and sheaf toss. With so many events going on, I did not get around to all of them but here are some of the images from the weight toss events.

You can see more images from the Virginia Scottish Games on my website. If you are interested in using any of the images or if you like your own photos please contact me.

 

 


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Jökulsárlón – Glacier Lagoon and the Diamond Beach

There are many amazing places in Iceland but none like the Glacier Lagoon near Höfn just off route 1. It is a place impossible to miss as you drive on route 1 and only about an hour away from Höfn. The lagoon got created when the glacier receded from the ocean. Currently, the icebergs breaking off the glacier fall into this glacial lake. Most of the large ones stay in place till they get small enough to move freely in water. Smaller icebergs slowly drift out into the ocean. As they travel, icebergs break up and smaller pieces wash out on the black sand beach in Jökulsárlón, known as Diamond Beach. So when you are visiting the lagoon, you also have to take a short trip across the bridge to the beach.

In the images below you will see amazing blue ice. This is the natural color of the ice from the Breiðamerkurjökull, which is an outlet of the Vatnajökull glacier. The first time you see it, the blue hues are amazing and it feels a little surreal but soon you start seeing the different colors of blue, as well as white and grey.

The icebergs are dynamic and they break occasionally into smaller fragments. We witnessed the arch in the photo blow to collapse with a loud bang into the two floating blue pieces above.

One of the attractions in the lagoon is a boat ride. This will take you close to the icebergs and you can admire them from a completely different perspective.

If you do not feel like taking a boat ride, there are two trails, one close to the water and one higher up. They both give you a different view of the lagoon and both are beautiful. So take your time and walk around a little enjoy the views.

Diamond Beach is a black sand beach with ice crystals washed on it. These crystals melt slowly once they wash on shore. Everyday they will be changing and never be quite the same, so pictures taken on any day will be unique. We have seen mostly smaller pieces but occasionally there will be quite big chunks of ice on black sand.

And this is how you get to take those photos, I am the one in purple vest, lying on the beach. Thanks to my husband, Tom for taking this picture.

The spectacular beauty of the lagoon inspired some of the Hollywood directors to use it as a backdrop in their productions. Four movies have been shot on location and those are”A view to a kill”, Lara Croft: Tomb Rider”, “Batman begins” and James Bond “Die another day”.

If you are intending to take pictures in the lagoon, it is good to have a tripod, ND filter, and lots of time. Summertime is great for visiting Iceland but may not be the best for taking images with low setting sun, at sunrise or sunset, so depending on your preferences and plans this could be a factor for you to consider. No matter what, you will enjoy the spectacular views in the lagoon.

To leave you with something special here are the two short videos.

Diamond Beach

Boat ride

 

 

 

 


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Icelandic geothermal pools – the Blue Lagoon

Iceland is a land of ice, fire and geothermal energy. This series of blogs will show you the beauty of Icelandic countryside, waterfalls, ice, black sand beaches, craters, lava fields, amazing geothermal pools and more. The world you will see is beautiful but also fragile. Icelanders have learned how to live in this not always most welcoming environment. They also make the most out of the natural resources of the island, such as the geothermal pools.

Geothermal pools or hot lakes are not exclusive to Iceland, they are found also elsewhere. Water in those pools is heated by the energy coming from the earth’s crust. Temperatures in some pools is too high to be used for bathing, but in others it is just perfect for relaxation. The one I will show you today – the Blue Lagoon, is between Reykjavik and Keflavik International Airport. In contrast to some others, those pools are are man-made, the water comes from close-by Svartsengi power station. It is also one of the most frequently visited geothermal spas in Iceland.

The Blue Lagoon is a great place to visit, especially when you are tired from a long flight. You will be relaxed and refreshed in no time at all. There are different packages or tickets you can purchase and you need to pre-purchase those selecting your preferred time of entry at the time of purchase. There are secure lockers you will be able to leave your stuff in, there is also a luggage storage by the parking if you want to leave your large suitcases. Basic package includes a towel and a drink but remember that the outside temperature in Iceland is pretty low, even in summer so an upgrade to next package with a robe can be a good solution.

Once you are ready to enter the pool area, you can check out the temperature in the pools. It is handy but you are unlikely to remember details once you are in the water. Do not worry though, water is comfortable, not too hot. You can swim, walk or just soak in the pools. As you play in the water, you may get thirsty, to take care of that there is a drink bar in the lagoon. It offers a selection of drinks, from water, through healthy juices, smoothies, soft drinks to wine or beer. Do not worry about money, at entrance you will be given a band to put on your wrist and it is used to record all of your purchases while inside the spa.

There is also a second bar. It is a mask bar, where you can get your free silica mask or get an upgrade to one of their special masks. Putting it on can be fun but avoid getting any of the masks into your eyes or on your hair. In this part of the pool you can see plenty people walking with the masks on their faces, shoulders and even backs.

Another option at the Blue Lagoon is to get a special package with in water treatment included. In a separate area of the lagoon, there are in water massage beds. And if all this is not enough for you, there is also a wall of waterfall, steam rooms and sauna. You can also stay on-site in a hotel. Rooms are definitely expensive but you will get a lot for your money. Some of the rooms include even a private lagoon. Yes, your own geothermal lagoon! Staying at the hotel on site lets you enjoy the spa when you want and pick and choose what you like. Being close to Reykjavik, it makes it possible to go there for an evening if you wish as well or spend your evening in a warm pool under the stars. This obviously not in the middle of the summer, when there is no real night to talk about.

As you can see area surrounding the lagoon is pretty surreal with the black volcanic rocks everywhere. In the distance you can see green grass on the hills surround the lagoon as well as the power station itself. The mist over the pools is hot water mist, as the pools are much warmer than the air around you. The moment you get out of the water is memorable, you suddenly feel cold, this is when it is great to have a robe to wrap yourself in it.

 

Relaxing in the water or outside water is great. You can get pampered in the water, you can also use relaxation lounge and sitting area inside, grab a snack or drink. Once you are too hungry to carry on relaxing, there is a snack bar, as well as full restaurant. And you do not have to get changed, just go right in, get seated and enjoy a meal with a view of the lagoon. Food is local and delicious.

Once you have relaxed enough and had some food to get you going, there is a shop, which sells cosmetics to keep your skin perfect once you are back home. As you are leaving the spa it is also good to see the surrounding area, which will take you close to the other pools which are not a part of the lagoon and offer views of volcanic rocks, delicate moss growing on their surface.

The Blue Lagoon is just one of the geothermal spas in Iceland and you can enjoy many others even around Reykjavik. Once you get into the countryside, there are some spas with fantastic views. So whatever your choice might be, you need to see at least one of those spas, they are unforgettable. It is a true experience in healthy lifestyle and relaxation. Perfect moment in time to enjoy.

 


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12 Essential Photo Equipment Items for Travel

Packing up for a trip can be difficult even when you are not taking your photography equipment. However, if you are planning holidays and want to take some of your equipment it can become even more difficult. So let’s look at what you may need on your trip. I will try to divide items into must have, good to have and nice to have. Many items are very basic and you will wonder why I even mention them, but trust me they can be forgotten. The more obvious something is, the more likely we are to forget it. In order to ensure you pack all that is needed you can make a list and follow it when packing the gear.

The lists below are intended for general purpose trip, family holiday or sightseeing trip not a photographic expedition.

Must have items:

  • camera body of your choice, ones with swivel back screen have an advantage as you do not have to crawl on the ground in mud, water or some other enticing place to take low angled shots
  • zoom lens allowing you to take decent distance and close up pictures, e.g. 24-105mm lens
  • charger for the battery and if you have spare, charged batteries; for overseas trips pack also an adapter for the power points
  • rain protector for the camera and lens, they come in different sizes depending what lens you are using
  • memory cards with a hard shell case for storage, if you use mini cards, they can be shared between your camera and phone
  • tripod, a mini one such as GorillaPod works in a number of situations fairly well
  • backpack or a bag and a lens case, good to invest in ones with rain protection
  • lens cleaning solution and a cleaning cloth
  • camera manual – Yes, you may need it

 

Good to have items:

  • a set of filters – UV filter, circular polarizer and at least one ND filter, while some people swear against filters, I found them useful to keep sand and dust away from the lens while shooting in poor conditions
  • second camera body, so you can attach your second lens to it as changing them while shooting pictures becomes tiresome and can lead to problems, especially in windy and dusty conditions
  • second lens with a lens case, depending on your interests and destination – macro lens, wide angle or a powerful zoom lens
  • actual tripod – good size, sturdy and lightweight. Yes, such things exist but you may need to spend some serious money if you want a top line tripod. Yet, it is one of the most important items you need in your bag

Nice to have items:

  • remote release
  • speedlight, can come handy in full sunshine when taking portraits or in dark interiors
  • third lens for any special objects
  • closeup filters, while not a substitution for a macro lens, can help you take close-up pictures without a need to change lenses, make sure they fit your largest diameter lens

When choosing lens for travel, you need to consider the weight of the lens as well as its optical quality. I have a Tamron lens 18-270mm, covers a perfect zoom range, takes good quality pictures in bright light, it is light, has a lock to prevent is extending when it is carried around. If I am forced to take a small photo bag and only one lens, due to luggage restrictions, it is a good choice, but a heavier lens with a low aperture f/2.8 or so can give you fabulous images at low light or inside buildings. The choice is really depending on where you going and what you like photographing.

When traveling on holidays, you may need to carry your gear with you, so weight is a big consideration, as is ability to quickly pull it out or put it away. Leaving your gear in cars or hotel rooms can end up with it being stolen, so having only what you can comfortably carry around a city or on a hiking trail is very important.

I have also created a travel checklist which you can download from the Resource page on my website.


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Focus on sunsets – Part 3. Travel or not to travel?

A not so unusual question is “Travel or not to travel?” to photograph beautiful sunsets. I will hope to give you some idea of what you can achieve from your own living room or for that matter close by where you live. And before you say “my view is nothing like that”, there are still tricks that can let you photograph sunsets by just walking a few minutes down the street, up to the top floor of the building, into a garden or park… I hope you get an idea. If you live in a city take a look around see where the sun sets and how you can get a good view. If it is from your apartment, it makes it very easy.

The below series of images are from a living room of an apartment complex. My camera is always ready to be picked up for a photoshoot, so if you are serious about capturing moments in life make sure that yours is also.

The second set of two images show quite stunning texture of the clouds, fabulous color and light. There was no travel involved and the pictures turned out very interesting.

If you do travel to some of the most amazing National Parks, there are sites which are recommended to see at sunsets or sunrises. Look at the maps, ask the rangers, check on the web. While travel photography and landscape photos are frequently astounding, remember one thing, the photographers frequently spend a few days trying to capture this one perfect moment you are admiring now. When you travel, most often you may not get a perfect weather, too many or too few clouds. So can a beautiful photo be taken during a normal family travel? Yes, just try to focus on what and when to photograph. Plan ahead of time where you want to go and explore some photos online to try and figure out what would be the best spot to get the view you want. Once you are on site you will probably change your mind, as to what you want to photograph.

Before my trip to Arches National park I knew of two locations I definitely wanted to photograph. The first, perfect for sunsets – Windows at Arches and the second, for sunrises – Delicate Arch. Sunset was quite interesting with few clouds over the arches but the setting sun changed the illumination of the rocks, altering the color.

 

 

The moment of the perfect light on the rocks. Stunning color lasted just a few seconds.

This image was taken while waiting for the sunset light to focus on the windows. Colors are very different, partly because of the angle of the sun but also due to the clouds in the sky.

Within minutes sun is hiding beyond the horizon, beautifully colored windows become dark and uninteresting. At the same time cloudscape on the horizon is capturing everyone’s eye.

In order to finish this sunset series, I wanted to share one more image with you. This one is a Lumia 950 image of lake Champlain in Vermont. Great destination for those from outside Vermont. However, if you live close by, this can be your perfect sunset location. The sun is going down behind the mountains on the west bank of the lake but the light is still visible in the sky.

Enjoy taking pictures of sunsets and if you take any, you can tag me in your images on instagram.

 

 


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Focusing on sunsets – Part 2, sunsets in California

I hope you enjoyed the first part about sunsets. This time we will head out to California for some really stunning sunsets. My two favorite places in California are San Diego area and Malibu beach. Both offer really amazing sunsets as you will be able to see.

Let’s head to Malibu beach with its great views. The beach is quite long and on both ends enclosed by a hill. What you can visualize on a photo will depend on the position of the sun, especially if you want to capture it going down over the water. Taking a wide angle lens can be helpful as you can create a very unique view. My favorite subject on this beach are the lifeguard towers, creating  beautiful silhouettes on the orange to red sunset light.You can also capture birds in flight as in the second image.

San Diego area is definitely great for photographing sunsets. You will meet lots of people coming to watch the sunsets in La Jolla, Del Mar or Solana Beach. They are different every day and very beautiful. The golden sea of one day turns into a dark red sunlight disappearing beyond the horizon.

Solana Beach is another great place to see sunset and the difference is that you can capture a very tropical image, complete with the palm trees. View of the beach is relaxing and peaceful.

You can see most of those images on my FineArtAmerica site or on Picfair in the landscape collection. They can be licensed or purchased from both sites.

The last of the Sunset series, coming soon, will focus on some unique shots of sunsets from Virginia and from Arches National Park. It will show that even when you do not travel far you can still take amazing shots of sunsets.

 


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Focusing on sunsets – Part 1

Sunsets are probably one of the most photographed subjects. What makes sunsets so attractive? Obviously colors and light, but frequently there are also clouds and their texture or shape that makes the images unforgettable. Many tourist attractions or scenic views attract crowds every day to admire the setting sun. It is often hard to find a perfect spot to pick for taking pictures.

What makes a spot perfect? A place allowing you an unobstructed view of the sky, a city skyline or another particular feature. Remember that moving along your location may reveal a very different view. Also turning a camera slightly from the same point can deliver a very different image. Therefore, even if you have been to a particular spot before, every day and every sunset is different. You can see below how different are the four sunsets. All are taken in Arlington, from the same spot in a little different direction to best capture drama in the sky.

 

Framing your view is important, what do you want to show in the image besides the changing color and light. Are there any shapes, buildings, trees, anything interesting that can play a central role in your photograph? Remember that each sunset only happens once and what you are trying to convey is a particular moment, one that cannot ever be reproduced. It is important that if someone looks at your picture they can relate to the moment you captured. There has to be something that makes it unique.

As the sun sets there is less and less light. So two things become important, having a fast lens and a tripod. Wide angle lens can help in capturing sunset or sunrise, many of those are also fast lenses. The above images were all shot without a tripod and through glass, so not under the best conditions. Using a Canon EF85mm f/1.8USM lens gives enough angle and allows to take pictures at relatively slow speeds.

City skylines and glass skyscrapers offer a great subjects to photograph at sunset. There are two ways of doing it.

One way of shooting a sunset, is to capture a moment when it happens and is spectacular. You can see examples of those types of shots below, San Antonio on the left and New York on the right. In NYC, a late afternoon stroll to Times Square was rewarded with this image of sky looking like a fireball. In this case I did not use any image enhancement for the NYC picture, it was extremely dramatic without a need for any additional changes. On the other hand, in San Antonio, I was strolling back towards the hotel, when the reflection in the windows captured my eye. You can see how different floors of the building reflect different colors of the sunset. When I turned around, the sunset was spectacular with amazing colors and textures. Finding the right angle and putting a camera on a tripod was a race, which I think I won with the below image of the sunset in San Antonio.

 

 

The second way, is to pre-plan your sunset trip to a scenic location around the city, set up and wait till the sunset starts happening. This is a well tried approach and beautiful shots can be made, especially when there are clouds in the sky. Skyline of Seattle and New York show different lighting conditions and directions of the shots. In Seattle, Kerry Park is one of the best places to see a sunset, as it offers an unobstructed view of the city. A panorama image taken from Long Island towards Manhattan shows just one of the great places to photograph a sunset in NYC.

As this story draws to a close, I wanted to share an image from Durham, NC, taken from the parking lot of the Southpoint Mall. I am sure you are thinking why this location? An explanation is simple. As I was driving along the road I have noticed the most gorgeous sunset one can see, colors, clouds everything so perfect. There was just one problem, I was on a highway, no way I can stop and take pictures. By pulling into the mall parking lot I was able to capture at least some of the beauty of this evening. It is not the perfect image one might want but it captures a unique moment in time.

The bottom line is do not get discouraged when it looks like you may miss a beautiful moment, try to capture it. If you are lucky enough to not be a driver, you can attempt taking pictures from the car. This requires a bit more than just a good eye, it needs a steady hand, good road and a bit of luck. Taking pictures from a moving car that is a separate topic, that I hope to get to later this year.

And to leave you with something actually not accidental for a sunset, here is a sunset in Toronto, Canada, over the lake. Enjoy and I will be back with more images of sunsets.

 


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Story telling with photos – using BookSmart editor from Blurb part 2

Today we will concentrate on the second part of creating the book, finishing it and uploading for publishing.

Let’s start with the cover of the book. There are three different types: soft cover, hardcover with image wrapped on it or a linen hardcover with dust jacket. The only important thing to remember is that not all sizes of the book are available in a soft cover version. Softcover books less than 80 pages will also not have any text printed on the spine.  If you have picked a large size book with only hardcover options and now want to change to a soft cover, you will need to resize your book. Just click on the change size icon and follow the prompts. Changing size may require adjustments of the layouts.

As you can see in this example the dust jacket was created with the title and author on a front page and on the spine of the book. However, title does not appear clearly in the image and font is a bit awkward. This is pretty normal in the first version and it is easy to change to your liking. Changing colors and font may take a few tries before it looks just right. It is easy to reposition the text boxes in Edit Layout just as we did before. If the decisions on text, color and font are too hard to make, you can print a few examples, show the options to family or friends, get a second opinion.

Adding extra text to the flaps or back of the book gives you more space to tell the reader about yourself and the book itself. While text on single color background is not a problem, adding it to a photo with varying colors can be a bit tricky, just like the back page above. Just because the layout allows you to add text, it does not have to appear there at all. As you would have noticed the book pages and the cover are white, there is an option to change the theme of the book to a dark or a patterned one. You can check options under Themes icon. If you do not like it just undo it to return to the previous version.

The next important step it to determine how your title page is going to look like. It can have an image on it or not, there are a few layouts provided. This page can be really creative to stand out or can mirror the book cover, the choice is yours. The following page is a copyright page. As I mentioned it before, when making a photo book it is important that you hold the rights to the images you are going to include in your book. If you are using someone else’s images or graphics or any protected content, you need have their permission and add their names to the copyright page. This is particularly critical when you will be wanting to sell your book.

Laying out the images of the main book content is the real fun. Any beautiful panoramic photos can be used to create a two-page spread. In one of my previous books I used the image of Windows in Arches National park as a spread. It makes a great impact when you open a book. In this book, I used Cliffs of Moher as a center spread.

Another feature, you might have noticed are headers on all the pages of your book. Headers can be easily edited to display content of choice: title, author, page number or custom content. In contrast to trade books, you can modify on which pages your header appears. Any changes to the font of the header have to be applied to either selected or all pages in a book. Page numbers will by default appear in a footer and again that can be edited in the same manner as a header. Inspect your pages and if the header or footer look awkward on a page, like in an example below, you can adjust that by removing the text.

Headers and footers cannot be edited in layout view, meaning their position cannot be altered, they cannot be added or removed. However, not all layouts have a header or a footer. Generally, any full-page images will not display a header and footer. If for whatever reason you want to alter that, select a layout with these features and create a full-page image box on it.

Now it seems that the book is ready for a preview and proofreading. On the right you will see a button to preview book. Once you click on it, a non-editable preview will appear. Now you will be able to see how your printed book will look. It is easy to go back and edit details as you review the book or make notes and then go back and edit all the parts needing attention. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, whatever works for you as long as you manage to catch all the problems.

Things to watch out for:

  1. Position of the images on a page, check which parts will be trimmed. Enable Trim Guidelines if the are off.
  2. Do your images need zoom adjustment to better show the photo?
  3. If there are any photos with a warning sign, this means that the resolution of an image is too low
  4. Check the right hand side of the software window labeled Issues. This triangle turns yellow with an exclamation sign and number of issues if there is a problem. Clicking on it will open up a dialog box allowing you to fix or ignore the problem. All the existing problems will be listed with page number and description.
  5. Remember selecting a font on the cover? You adjusted font size, type and color. Now you need to decide if the font inside the book is what you like or not. Keeping it slightly smaller, if you have lots of writing makes a lot of sense. However, you can also make text a feature by using a special font type, size or color. That said do not go crazy with it.
  6. Just because a text box shows up on a page, does not mean you have to use it. If you leave it blank nobody will ever know.
  7. Photo book is meant to showcase the images, tell the story with the pictures not words. Keeping your text spare and minimal will help you do that.
  8. Once the book seems complete, select preview and make sure you like the appearance of the book, story is what you want to convey. If you feel something should be changed experiment with it, ask for advice.

Once you are happy with the book, you are ready to order it. If you would want to change a size of the book, this is the last time you can do that for a photo book. Any changes of opinion later may mean resizing your content and going through the checks anyway all over again.

 

After clicking Order Book, a final checklist appears and you can use a spell check at this stage if you have not yet done it before. I strongly suggest to do it as there is nothing worse than printing a book only to find a spelling mistake in it. For those of you who do not have an account on Blurb there will be an option to register. For those of you using an older version of BookSmart, make sure that you upgrade to the latest version. If your version is old, book will fail to upload. Do not panic, close the software, download and install new version, then re-open the book and continue.

Once the book is uploaded you can create an e-book for different devices or a .pdf file which is accessible on nearly all devices. This is also the time to set up book for selling if you wish to do so. This is always possible to enable selling later. I suggest ordering a copy for yourself first to see how it looks all printed out, before setting it up for sales. You can market your book through Blurb, Amazon or Apple iBooks Store. You are not locked to a single distributor and books can be printed on demand, so there is no upfront cost or storage issue with boxes of books. Use Blurb guidelines for setting this up.

I hope you enjoyed making a book! Leave a comment or connect on social media to show off your creations. My book will soon be available as well.