I’ve been looking to shoot The Princes' Gates at Strachan and Lakeshore Blvd in Toronto for quite some time. But she was always under construction. The other day I drove by to take another look and there she was, in all it's glory. No scaffolding in sight. Great! I started to get excited. The Gates face south east so it would mean an AM shoot. I checked the weather and it looked good for the following Saturday. My friend and fellow shooter, Jerry Abramowicz, turned me on to a FREE piece of software called TPE. It allows you to type in a location and see it on a map with a graph of the sun’s direction during the day. So, with the help of TPE I figured I should get to the Gates by 6:15 AM. When I got up at 5:30 AM the sky looked quite clear, but once I arrived at the Gates, clouds had rolled in. I figured I’d just scout with the lens, as they say, and see what happens. I put on the Nikkor 24 – 70mm zoom (2.8) and set it to f11. I like to shoot handheld at 250th of a second to make sure there’s no camera blur. So the ISO had to be 1000. I walked around the Gates just firing off some test shots like the ones below.
I found an angle I liked which would be different from the ones you always see. That’s a little challenge I like to give myself when it comes to shooting places that are well known and have been shot a lot.
Suddenly the sun came out. Just a shaft of light hitting the left column and the angel. It was like the buildings across the street were acting like giant flags blocking the sun so it only hit a few sections of the Gates. I banged off a few like these.
I thought they were kind of cool. But there was that giant flagpole on the left of frame that wasn’t great. That’s when I started using the tree on the left to block it out. Also, it’s always nice to shoot through something or frame the shot.
Then the sun disappeared. After about 15 minutes it came back and this time it illuminated the entire Gates. Not for long though. I had to shoot quickly and I got the one below. It turned to be the shot I liked best. I spent a little time processing it in Photoshop. I also tweaked it in Photo Tools.
When I looked at the final image I saw that it has a lot of contrast so I thought it would convert to B&W quite well. I used a red filter to turn the blue in the sky dark and it came out like the one below. I selected the angel and then inverted the selection. I brought down everything in Exposure a hair. It’s pretty subtle but the angel is a touch lighter than everything else, just to draw your attention to it a bit more. It’s a more dramatic shot in B&W then in color I think.
So all in all I felt quite lucky because the sun never came back out. I got one that turned out pretty good. You never know what’s going to happen. That’s the exciting and challenging part.
I hope this was helpful. Don’t forget to download TPE and keep on shooting!