Sunset in one shot


Ndutu, Tanzania, Africa The sun was shooting towards the horizon, here I desperately searched for a giraffe to put in my silhouette shot, alas I did not find one in time. I have tried stalking giraffe as the sun sets in hopes of getting them in one of these shots, but even then the giraffe would not cooperate, I think they know what I'm trying to do. The funny thing is that the other safari vehicle got a similar shot but with the giraffe! They were listening when I told them I wanted giraffes in a sunset.

Photographic Details: This was shot on the way home, I used a high shutter speed simply because we were driving and I didn't want any motion blur. I took just one shot and processed it in lightroom 4 to bring out the details. This is something that may look like HDR but is nothing like it. To the unprocessed before shot look below:

Before raw processing


Camera Settings:1/800s f/4.0 ISO100 73mm

Processed in lightroom 4 see the before and after at www.kylefoto.com

The Perfect Exposure, Lyubov Orlova


Antarctica The Lyubov Orlova, this ship named after a famous russian star had it’s hey day, but it certainly isn’t now. I had taken many voyages on this bucket of rust and I’ve decided to post about it given it’s intimate history with the Antarctic. It has recently been bought for $275,000 in the hopes that it’s worth more than that in scrap metal.

My first impression venturing on board was doing life boat drills noticing to my horror that the life boats were not covered. Knowing if this ship ever sunk in Antarctic waters during a strong storm I would be floating but I would still be exposed. I remember formulating a plan to jump inside the much more appropriate inflatable covered life rafts with the russian crew where I would certainly be warmer.

Running my hands along the outside of the of the ship was a very textural affair, 30 years of paint caked on the hull seemed to weigh the ship down and crust off with a slight touch. The skin of the hull was sunken in except for where there were reenforcing bulk heads, sticking out like the exposed ribs of a starving horse. I imagined how many bumps and scrapes this ship had to experience to have so many panels dented and bent inwards and had to stop thinking of such things as I listened to the creaks and groans echoing through the ship at night if I wanted any sleep.

Despite her crotchety demeanour, the Lyubov Orlova’s hallways echoed with the sound of joy and laughter. Filled with the gleeful faces of passengers who just saw their first humpback whale surfacing beside an iceberg, giggles of the people in the bar reminiscing over the farts and sneezes of the elephant seals. If the outer decks could speak they would talk of the feeling of awe so many thousands of people felt as they saw their first iceberg and the grand view of antarctica opened up before them. Who knows what this ship has seen, I’m sure if the cabins could speak they might talk of many nights of love an passion.

After Raw Processing

Before Raw processing:

Photographic Details: With this shot I got “the perfect exposure” not so bright that the highlights are overexposed, not too dark that there are no details in the shadows, this is what one would consider a perfect exposure and all without HDR. Yet the original image looks like garbage, it’s flat, has no contrast and the sky looks grey. I was there, and that sky was not grey! That old ship wasn’t bland dark blue it was royal blue and bright orange, and despite it’s age the fresh coat of white paint was stark white.

Thank goodness I shot this one in RAW.

Of course in lightroom I increased the contrast and selectively brightened the ship with the brush tool set to exposure. With about 4 adjustments I’ve gotten a wildly superior image that is far more like being there than the original image expresses.

I was also experimenting with a wide angle fisheye lens, I really loved the extreme distortion but quite frankly it’s a little too much and quite gimmicky. I do like how the distortion leads your eye to the centre of the image, and how it adds a sense of drama, but use this lens too much and you might bore your audience, use sparingly.

See the original shot before processing at www.kylefoto.com to compare!

For #wideanglewednesday curated by +Asif Patel

Sun Tree


Ndutu Area, Tanzania, Africa Driving through the sparingly forested area, the sun was setting in the trees, the arid soil kicking up dust with the every movement, footstep, and breath of wind. As annoying as dust is, it lights up beautifully as the last rays of sunlight caress the branches of the trees.

Photographic Details: As each of these trees drifted by in the view of our safari vehicle I was ever hoping I’d find a giraffe at sunset so I could get a silhouette of both the magnificent animal and the iconic shape of the acacia tree. Alas there was no giraffe, although the other safari vehicle in our group managed that exact shot, needless to say I was extremely jealous when we recounted our experiences that night at dinner. My best option was to find a particularly nice tree and position ourselves so the sun was where we wanted nestled in the tree like a godlen egg in a nest, this was the final shot out of that little tree sunset exploration moment.

I took the photo and looked at the scene again and noticed how dull it looked in camera. The colours were nothing the way I saw them, we had a deep blue sky and beautiful orange light pouring out of a hole in the clouds, but when I looked at the back of the camera the colours were not as bright. Thank goodness I shot in RAW. I was able to shift my colours back to what they needed to be in lightroom, increasing the contrast so I have more dramatic blacks in the tree and more texture in the background.


Want to learn more about my safaris? Always wanted to see Kenya and Tanzania and wanted to get the most out of your camera? Check out my Photographic safaris!

Polar Bear Tracks


Svalbard, Norwegian Arctic Left on the sea ice from a polar bear that we could just see on the horizon in Svalbard. This is going to be a much rarer sight as the extent of sea ice is diminished every year, which is the important platform polar bears need to hunt for seals.

The fact that the bear has left his prints on the very surface that it depends on creates a very powerful narrative about the problem these animals face today.

Looking for a unique approach to polar bear photography I saw these tracks I knew this would help complete my polar bear portfolio as nobody really shares photos like these. So much about these animals is written in the snow: The long hair around the paws of the bear have brushed the surface of the snow and left streaks in exquisite detail, illustrating how the bear seems to shuffle across the ice. They can walk at great speeds on the ice but have to be careful not to overheat given the relative warmth of the Arctic summer and their great adaptations in conserving heat. The wide spread of the 12 inch paws act like natural snowshoes keeping the bear above the surface for optimal arctic travelling.

Photographic details: Taken with a 400mm lens shooting downwards from the bow of the ship as we parked ourselves in this ice flow. The tracks were actually barely visible with the naked eye given the flat light. I had to open the raw file and darken down the image considerably to get more detail out of the image. The results were far more detailed than I could have ever seen in real life, making for an image that actually captures the drama behind these animals.




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Larches of sunshine Valley before and after RAW processing


larches of sunshine valley, before/after

Sunshine Valley, Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Canada.

I will show you the before and after of my RAW conversion, it’s my hope to demonstrate why a camera requires a photographer and without human direction, the photos they take aren’t accurate, and hardly representative of the experience it captured.

It was a spectacular day in the Sunshine Valley. I was sick as a dog but the beautiful sight of the larches kept my mind off of it. As my mood improved the weather worsened, as if mother nature was trying to offset my enjoyment. The wind began blowing and dark clouds started rolling in as a wall of rain headed towards my direction. The view of the lake was soon framed by the dark clouds and now the plain vista behind the lake was the dramatic view I was looking for.

In real life these clouds had the drama I was looking or, and as my highly evolved human eyes took in the scene I could see the darkness in the sky, and the subtle highlights in the trees. Most people don’t realize how much of a gift our vision is, until they see how the camera sees the world. It’s limited range of view compresses the highlights in the sky so that they are almost white. I look at the camera and think, “that stormy sky is not white, I’ll be able to bring that back later”.

What we don’t realize is the sky is always super bright to the camera, and even though the camera shows a white sky, shooting in high quality RAW my camera has secretly stored the details of that dark sky in there for me to coax out in my RAW processing.




This was all accomplished in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, with the brush and graduated filter tools by selectively decreasing and increasing the exposure. This process is called dodging and burning, and has likely been applied to every professional photograph you’ve ever seen. This technique has been around since the days of film, largely unchanged, it’s just done on computers now. Every photo needs to be calibrated with a human eye, and this is how you show others what it really feels like to be there.