I have always found it very interesting to learn how a photograph was made, how the photographer felt when taking it, what he (or she) intended to achieve and what challenges he was facing. In this mini series about photographs and the stories behind them I will try to describe some of the circumstances around making and post-processing some my own favourite photographs. The first one I would like to write about is this:
I took this photograph last year in Toronto, Canada. More specifically, in the Art Gallery of Ontario or ago. As I’ve never been to Toronto before and I used the free time I had to explore the city and of course I had my camera with me. When it comes to modern cities, we have all seen tons of the usual, and mostly boring, ‘cityscape’ and skyscraper shots. But that’s not the kind of work I wanted to do. I wanted to capture Toronto differently. I wanted to show a different, perhaps less public side of this busy city. And that’s how Toronto Unknown was born. The photograph above is from that series.
I was passing the ago and its impressive ship-shaped façade attracted my attention so I entered the building and bought the ticket. When I got to the first room one of the attendants pointed at my camera and said firmly: ‘You can use that here!’. I thought I misheard and started to explain that I understood and that I would put the camera back in the bag. But she repeated: ‘No, you CAN use it here!’ ‘Ah, thank you’, I replied and walked in feeling a little bit confused but also happy that photography is allowed.
The gallery’s interior is as impressive as its exterior. I wandered around and looked for interesting perspectives and compositions. Clearly, one of the highlights both from a photography and architecture perspective is the spiral staircase designed by Frank Gehry. I was walking around it for a while before spotting this view. I was immediately amazed by the contrast between the wooden floor, the structure of the stairs in the background and the arch over it. As I was travelling light, I did not have my tripod with me and the museum was also pretty busy so there was very little time to plan the shot. As it was getting darker I was also concerned that the a lack of light will make this shot almost impossible. In the end, I needed to use iso 1600 to compensate for it. My D300 is not great with a high iso, but luckily I had my wide angle Tokina with me which meant I was able to use a relatively long exposure time without compromising the overall sharpness too much.
In terms of post processing, all I had to do was to crop the image, adjust the exposure and do a little bit of dodging and burning here and there. Nothing too complex or time consuming. After all, I don’t like to spend too much time in post processing. To do all that, as with almost all my photos, I used Aperture 3.0 and Silver Efex Pro with a custom B&W conversion filter. I also played with the noise reduction settings in a attempt to get rid of the noise completely, but at the end I felt that the noise somehow adds a little bit of natural ‘drama’, so I left it as it came out of the camera.
If I had another chance to take this picture, I would love to have a tripod to be able to use a low iso and ideally also a lens with perspective correction to straighten some of the lines. Perhaps I will get back one day…
Finally, for the tech nerds, the “parameters” of this photo are:
- focal length: 11mm
- aperture: f/5.6
- shutter speed: 1/25s
- iso: 1600