Agnes Caruso Photography

Photography


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10 tips to help you take pictures on the move

Taking pictures, especially great ones requires time, patience, great eye but also some luck. However, when traveling luck may not always be on your side. When you are driving in a car, you see this amazing view but there is nowhere to stop a car, if you are on a train it will definitely not stop for you. What should you do? Be prepared for unexpected. This way , when you see a great view or wildlife in the distance or by the road, on the road you can be ready to take a picture.

You ask how to do that? Here are some pointers from my trips around Ireland and Iceland:

  1. Always have a camera with you and ready for taking pictures. Obviously, not possible if you are driving, so…
  2. Explore a place with someone, who will be happy to do the driving
  3. Clean the windshield, dirt can make it hard to autofocus

In many places in Ireland and Iceland it was impossible to pull over and stop. Mostly because the roads are narrow, they have no shoulder and traffic is unpredictable so stopping is not an option. Just check out the images below, both from Ireland. Even if the road seems clear do not stop to take pictures if there is no space to pull over.

Now, how can you prepare and what should you do to make those images look the best you can?

  1. Mount a fast lens on your camera, it could be your primary or secondary camera
  2. Using a zoom lens is preferred as you can end up with nice pictures of the dashboard, also being able to zoom in on objects further away can actually get you a nice image
  3. While sitting in a car test the light you get through the windshield and remember that you may be going in different directions or light can change, so adjustment may be needed
  4. You want to use high shutter speed, settings above 1/800 will be preferable, but you could get away with slightly slower speeds too
  5. Use high ISO, that can cause some noise in the images but using ISO 100 is just not a viable option when taking pictures from a moving car or train
  6. You have to use autofocus, manual focus is just not going to do it and best setting is AI Servo setting allowing you to photograph moving objects
  7. In order to make your life easier, you can use Shutter-Priority AE mode if you wish and set your shutter speed to upwards of 1/800 and your camera will adjust the rest when you are taking a picture

Here are some examples of pictures taken through the front windshield of a road ahead. Probably the most classic images you may see also probably the easiest to take. I use a manual mode only, which is a bit more challenging but gives me more control over how I want the image to look.

In most cases if you are driving in a car, you will be in a front seat with your seat belt on and with your primary view being forward. Technically, you can also take pictures to your side, through an open or closed window. Those can be a bit more challenging to get the speed correctly set for the photographing an object of interest. The closer the object is to the car the more likely it will be fuzzy. You can see that effect in the image below, with flowers closest to the road are fuzzy. If you do not get shots you want the first time just keep trying. It is worth it to just practice so next time you can get a great photo.

One other interesting point is that when you taking pictures from a car your horizon can get skewed, so more than likely you will need to do a little bit of rotation of your images.

 

 

This last image was actually taken with a Zeiss camera on my Lumia 950, amazingly sharp and beautiful picture of the clouds clearing up. With a phone camera the rules are the same as with a real camera. Do not be afraid to take photos out of a car or train, just remember to set up your camera correctly and practice. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 


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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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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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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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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.

 


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Newfoundland – Gros Morne National Park

Newfoundland is a home to some amazing scenery, fjords, fauna and flora. There are a few national parks on the island. Gros Morne is on the west coast of Newfoundland, not far from Deer Lake, which is a host to a small regional airport. Flight into Deer Lake from the mainland will take you over the Cabot Strait. As you reach the island, there will be numerous lakes down underneath you. Forest and water are the main things welcoming you to Newfoundland.

Route 430 north will take you towards the Gros Morne National Park. The main part of the park is located along route 430 north, however, you can also turn towards Woody Point, which is the south side of the park. We headed north all the way to Parson’s Pond, located just outside the northern border of the park. We stopped there at a Sunrise Bakery & Cafe for a snack and then headed back towards Rocky Harbour. Weather is unpredictable in Newfoundland and we started the day with fog and rain, heading south still into the fog.

The big stop on route was Western Brook Pond. Currently a lake but before it got cut of from the sea it was a fjord. It is a beautiful hiking trail, taking you across the bog and forest. A bog is wetland area accumulating moss, primarily sphagnum. There are other plants growing there too, irises, orchids and fly traps. Trees growing too close to the bog are dying, creating an amazing landscape with old tree trunks along the path. Higher lying ground boasts a beautiful but relatively sparse forest.

Once you get to the end of the trail leading from the parking area to the edge of the lake, you can sit down relax, take a boat ride on the lake or walk some more along the lake. There is a little snack bar with some warm food and drinks. The view that opens up in front of you as you approach the lake is amazing. This is the widest part of the fjord, to see the narrow part, you need to take a boat or walk some more. Poor weather can be a problem on this trail as most of it is exposed and in parts takes you across open wetland with water splashing onto the trail. Do have this in mind when getting ready for this hike, raincoats and proper footwear are essential unless you want to get wet.

The road south will then take you along the shore and you can enjoy a walk on a beach. However, due to construction one of the entrances was closed. As a result we only walked a little bit to explore just a part of the beach. This part as you can see was pretty stony but offered a great view.

 

Eventually, we reached Rocky Harbour with its beautiful lighthouse at Lobster Cove Head. You can see some of the images on the video above. In addition to visit inside the lighthouse, you can also walk around it with some spectacular views.

If you want to do some more exploring, head further south to Norris Point. This takes you to Bonne Bay. At the very end of the peninsula in Norris Point you can catch a boat tour on Bonne Bay. However, the views are spectacular even without getting on a boat. As you drive back towards Rocky Harbour, you should stop at Jenniex House. The views from outside the house are spectacular.

While Gros Morne National Park is beautiful, the weather in Newfoundland is unpredictable and you can be faced with rain, fog, fast changing conditions, so plans do not always turn out perfect. Take it easy and have some spare time set aside so you can see the area without rushing.

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