Photography Blog

Photography blog for Washington DC Photographer Pavlos Karalis

ISO Versus Aperture

When it comes to photographic styles for wedding photography, there is a common practice which many professionals employ that can prove problematic from a technical standpoint. While low aperture photography can certainly produce interestingly blurred backgrounds in portraiture, it is not something you want to use for an entire event, as moving subjects become difficult to capture and details end up becoming obscured. Furthermore, a low aperture should not be the go-to solution in low-light situations, since high ISO grain is easier to correct for than a blurry focal point. With a raw file, one is able to increase the luminosity of an image and thus blur together densely concentrated areas of grain. However, if an area is out-of-focus, there is no simple way to completely restore its detail. This is not to say that grain reduction is perfect, as it can result in overly smooth surfaces, but rather that it is more time efficient.

Perhaps unnoticeable when viewed at the small resolution above, the zoomed in versions below reveal first hand the effects of a high ISO or a low aperture. The first set offers a before and after glimpse of grain reduction, while the second set attempts to restore sharpness as best as possible. If nothing else, these images should at least make a case for avoiding low aperture settings for grouped subjects.


Venue Lighting

In this blog post I aim to address a technical challenge commonly associated with event photography and wedding receptions. The issue which I allude to is that of on-camera flash's inability to light large venues, thus yielding under-exposed backgrounds or unevenly distributed lighting. While the extent of how problematic of an issue this is largely depends on the client's preference and the photographer's personal style, one aesthetic solution worthy of consideration is venue lighting: the placement of multiple, wireless flashes around the venue.

More specifically, these flashes are strategically setup in order to brighten key areas of the reception, such as the dance floor, though are placed far enough away as to not obstruct other parts of the event. Essentially, the goal is to find an allocative middle ground which does not drain battery power. Lastly, the flashes themselves are secured via clamps and/or lighting stands at an ideal height of 12 ft. While there are a handful of vendors which manufacture such gear, I currently employ Canon's Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes, and Manfrotto's stands and clamps. The 600EX-RT is without a doubt the core of this operation, as this specific model acts as both a master and slave flash, emitting a wireless signal that is effective through physical barriers.

 

In regard to coordinating the flashes, when paired with Canon's 5D Mark III, the 600EX-RT is capable of creating multiple group modes which allow for each flash to be adjusted separately. The on-camera flash, which acts as the master, is automatically assigned to group A, and should be placed on ETTL mode for an accurate variable reading. All other remote flashes should however be placed on Ext. A and adjusted to best light their target location. Ultimately, the desired effect is to attain a dynamic lighting situation in which important areas are evenly lit in both the foreground and background, while at the same time provide a subtle rim lighting for added flair.

Understandably, it takes time to master the use of this setup, as it may produce unwanted glare or shadow if improperly angled. With practice however, one can learn to manipulate these flaws in a way which enhances a capture. In the end, the most beneficial aspect of venue lighting is that it reduces editing time by eliminating the previously mentioned issues of working with a single flash. Ask any photographer, and they will agree that spending less time toiling in front of a computer screen is a very good thing. 

Kefalonia Wildlife Photos

As a followup to my recent post on Kefalonia, Greece, I wanted to highlight how strikingly different the island looked in comparison to my mother’s island of Naxos that I visited the year before. What accounts for this difference is that Naxos is located on the Aegean Sea, resulting in a very dry climate (think southern California), while Kefalonia is located on the Ionian Sea and is thus sprawling with plant life that gives the island its wild feel. Ultimately, I took an interest in this wildlife and made sure to capture images of some of the more striking plants, while at the same time allow glimpses of the overall setting to peak through the background. 


Kefalonia Photography

This past summer I returned to Greece once more, though this time to my father's island of Kefalonia, which is situated off of the country's western coast. If the colors blue, white, and beige embody life on the Aegean islands, then surely blue, orange, and deep green epitomize the Ionian islands and Kefalonia. To view the trip's full gallery visit: https://pavloskaralis.smugmug.com/Travel/Kefalonia-2015/.

From the moment I stepped off of the plane I could sense Kefalonia's untamed nature, as I observed the sun dying the sky red-orange in stark contrast to the surrounding patterns of overgrown plant life. Furthermore, unlike the direct routes experienced in Naxos, the way to the hotel was full of twisting roadways and hidden turns. In hindsight, it was well worth it given the resort's prime location along a beach with aquamarine waters, and a massive cliff face.

The first day - and not surprisingly each following morning - was spent enjoying a breakfast buffet and then walking to the beach for a relaxing swim. Afterward, I headed up into the mountains to explore the ruins of St. George's Castle: a Byzantine fortress once used to safeguard the island. From there, I went back down to coast to discover more scenic views at Argostoli's harbor (the island's capital).

The next day was again spent going up into the mountains, only this time much further and higher to see my father's childhood village of Kornellos. Afterward, I headed down the backside of the largest mountain to the coastal town of Poros, where I enjoyed a fresh seafood lunch. Ironically, these were the same species of fish as the ones which occasional nipped me while swimming at the beach.

 

On the third day, I visited two spectacular natural sites, as well as the remains of my grandfather's village (Latavinata). The first location was that of Drogarati Cave, which if my memory serves correctly, is equal in size to that of Luray Caverns in Virginia. The second location -- admittedly more frightening given my inability to swim -- was Melissani Lake, which is accessible only from a man made tunnel or . . . a 120 foot plunge into cold, brackish waters roughly 40 feet deep, and full of indiscernible sea life.

 

After the drive to Poros, I assumed that I had experienced the worst of the narrow roadways, though was proven wrong the following day with the long drive to Assos. Similar to Poros in its architecture, Assos is discretely tucked away on Kefalonia's northern peninsula. The landscape here is far more wild and rocky with its numerous cliff faces, atop of which another of the island's fortresses is situated.

 

On the last day it was time to say goodbye to Kefalonia, though not without a final stop at Argostoli's colorful market district and historical museum. Overall, while the island is admittedly far more difficult to get to than Naxos, given the unsettling 10 hour layover involved, I have to say that I prefer Kefalonia's rocky, vegetated landscape as it resonated with me on a much deeper level. 

7 Hazards of Real Estate Photography

I can say with confidence that at this point in my career I have photographed over 2,000 properties ranging from dilapidated, renter occupied town homes, to luxurious, 12,000 square foot mansions. Along with the numerous styles of decor and architecture that I've encountered, there have been some surprisingly reoccurring behind-the-scenes findings. Without further ado I present 7 things that you wouldn't expect of a house that was just placed on the market.

Creepy Basements

There's no worse feeling than having to find all the light switches in an empty house, except for when that house also has an outdated, creepy basement. From animal rugs to scary work rooms, I've had to find my way through a lot of strange places.

Clowns

Happy or sad, clowns just shouldn't be part of the staging process. To make matters worse, it  seems as though whenever I do come across a clown, it exists as the sole object of focus in the room . . .

Fake Hands

This is one I truly don't understand, but have come across more times than I can count on a real hand. I open a cabinet, and there's a hand. I go to straighten a towel and there's another hand! I think the only thing worse was the time I opened a closet to find a mounted deer's head peering back at me.

Dolls

Like clowns, dolls have presented themselves to me in a variety forms, some Chucky grade and others funny, but nonetheless an all too common occurrence. Also like clowns, dolls just shouldn't be a part of the staging process.

Creativity

Moving into somewhat positive territory, I've come across a lot of creative home owners in my time photographing real estate. I've also come across a lot of forgetful homeowners, and should the two traits clash, sometimes the creativity gets left behind in the move . . .

A home made, gold painted toilet plunger displaying the words "Golden Asshat Award" and wearing a mustache with googly eyes.

Pets

From fish to dogs, I simply love animals, and for the most part they love me back. Once in a while though, I encounter an animal that asks for a little too much of my attention.

History

Some homes have been around for a while, so it is understandable for them to come with their fair share of odd features. Admittedly, it would be kind of interesting to have an early 20th century engraving in your back yard. As for the guy from the early 20th century buried in the front yard . . . not so much.

And there you have it: 7 things to watch out for when you're searching for your dream home, or: 7 things to hide when selling people their dream home, although the list is bound to grow.

Sea to Sky Highway

Saving the best for last, this final follow-up to my Vancouver post displays images from our ambitious journey up Highway 99. Also referred to as the Sea to Sky Highway, this route is well known for its cliffside views overlooking the Howe Sound, and has numerous attractions situated between North Vancouver and Squamish.

The first spot we visited was Lighthouse Park, which is situated behind a very beautiful North Vancouver neighborhood. Once there, we walked a short trail through the woods to see the lighthouse overlooking the water. Afterward, we headed further up to Whytecliff Park and Horseshoe Bay Park. Whytecliff was very scenic, though had a strong scent due to the thousands of mussels beached on the shoreline. Nearby, Horshoe Bay Park offered a serene harbor view and a sneak glimpse of the fjords situated further upstream.

Without a doubt Porteau Cove Provincial Park was our favorite attraction, as it offered stellar panoramic views of the Howe Sound from its pier and stony beach. The water here was an impressive aquamarine hue, and surprisingly slightly warmer than our hotel pool. Further up the road was Brittania Beach -- a small town best known for its mining museum. Once there we opted for an underground tour of the abandoned mine, followed by a peek inside the enormous, peculiarly shaped sorting facility.

On the last leg of the drive we stopped by Murrin Provincial Park to see Browning Lake and its encompassing trail. Based on the amount of people swimming in the lake, the location is a seemingly popular spot for Vancouver residents. Nearby, Shannon Falls Provincial Park also boasted large crowds who wanted to get a good look of the one-hundred story tall waterfall. Lastly, we visited the adjacent Stawamus Chief Provincial Park to witness its 2,300 ft high granite cliff-face. The location also had an interesting overpass walkway that allowed us to stand above Highway 99 and peer out in both directions.  

And with that, my Vancouver series comes to an end, though hopefully leaving you feeling inspired to visit for yourself!

Iona Beach

For the second follow-up post of my Vancouver trip, I will be highlighting images taken during my visit to Iona Beach Regional Park. Summarily, the location is a must-see hidden attraction, though admittedly was not on the initial itinerary. That being said, we are very fortunate to have decided to include the beach not once, but twice, and walk along its two distinct jetties: North Arm and Iona. Our first visit was spent exploring the base of the each jetty, where we discovered two barges along the marshy terrain, as well several beautiful flowers.

Intrigued by the scenery, we decided to return to walk the entire 2.5 mile Iona as our final activity. To our surprise though, the park looked entirely different as a result of the low tide exposing acres of seabed, and recent forest fires creating an enveloping haze. Nonetheless, we proceeded down the jetty in order to feed our curiosity of what was at the end,  spotting various plant life along the way and even a bald eagle perched on a distant structure.

After an hour's worth of walking, we finally reached the end to find a sewage related facility covered in graffiti, and past that, an observation deck overlooking a hazy seascape with no land in sight in any direction. Perhaps a bit anti-climactic, but definitely a worthwhile experience.




Vancouver Aquarium

As the first of 3 follow-ups to my Vancouver Photography post, I chose to highlight the Vancouver Aquarium for being one of the most impressive that I've ever visited. In addition to its scenic location at the center of Stanley Park, the aquarium showcases a wide array of Pacific and Canadian wildlife, ranging from tiny tree frogs to hard-to-miss beluga whales. The aquarium also hosts unique animal encounters for some of its exhibits, allowing guests to get up close and interact with an animal of their choice (in my case sea otters).

However, of all the exhibits at the Vancouver Aquarium, I found the jelly fish species to be the most interesting due to their strange variety, and the way that their translucent skin became colorfully back-lit:

Vancouver Photography

Once again I've ventured to the west coast bringing back several photographs, though this time I traveled even further north to the city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. The trip's full gallery can be viewed at https://pavloskaralis.smugmug.com/Travel/Vancouver-2015.

Given the amount of activities that were packed into the schedule, this was without a doubt my most ambitious trip to date, and as a result, I will be posting 3 follow-up posts as opposed to the standard 1. Overall, this just goes to show how beautiful a city Vancouver is with its numerous wildlife attractions. It's also worthy to note that the residents there were among the friendliest I've ever encountered.

 

 

 

Since our arrival was the night before Canada Day, we thought it would be appropriate to spend the first day venturing downtown. The drive from the hotel was an interesting 6 mile straight shot down Granville Street, which at one point transforms into an overpass overlooking the downtown skyline. Once there we stopped by the Vancouver Art Gallery to see an entire floor dedicated to the collage work of a local artist, Geoffrey Farmer, and afterwards proceeded to the top of the Vancouver Lookout Tower for panoramic views of the city.

After spending the rest of the afternoon walking around the waterfront, we decided to add a beach near the hotel onto the itinerary: Iona Beach Regional Park was by far one of the trip's best surprises, though I will save the details for 1 of the 3 highlight posts. The following day was again spent downtown, though this time we visited the Vancouver Aquarium at Stanley Park, followed by the enormous Vancouver Library, and lastly the cobblestone Gastown District. Like Iona Beach, the Vancouver Aquarium is worthy of its own follow-up post.

Our 3rd day was reserved for an ambitious drive along the cliffside curves of Highway 99, where we stopped at a total of 8 locations between West Vancouver and Squamish. The details of this venture will be shared in the final follow-up post. Moving on to the 4th day, we started by visiting Spanish Banks Beach and were surprised to find that the tide was low enough where we could walk out hundreds of feet and still be in knee deep water. Afterward, we went to the Museum of Anthropology and the nearby UBC Rose Gardens, and then took a calming walk through the enchanting trails of Pacific Spirit Regional Park. To end the day, we decided to go to the Richmond Night Market which boasts the title of "Largest Night Market in North America."

The 5th and final day of the trip was the most laid back, and began with one last visit to Tim Hortons for donuts. Afterward we headed down to the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary, where we managed to hand feed dozens of bold ducks and geese, while spotting an occasional sandhill crane. The rest of the day was spent with a quick stop at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Playland Amusement Park, and lastly returning to Iona Beach to reach the end of its 2.5 mile pier. All in all, a very fast paced agenda in a city that has lots to see.



Alleys of Apeiranthos

As a follow up to my post on Greece, I wanted to highlight the mountainous village of Apeiranthos for its mesmerizing and sometimes disorienting layout. The reason behind the maze-like city planning, however, is actually quite practical: in Venetian times it was meant to confuse and deter any pirates who sought to raid the village. Untouched centuries later, the beautiful marble pathways now establish this village as one of the most popular attractions on the island of Naxos. 

Greece Photography

Better late than never, this post highlights my September trip to Greece, where I visited the island of Naxos, as well as the capital city of Athens. The trip's full gallery can be viewed at http://pavloskaralis.smugmug.com/Travel/Greece-2014.

Overall, this trip was of great significance to me, as both sides of my family trace back to Greece, and it was my first time traveling to the country. The landscape and history are by far the greatest attractions, though sadly, it seemed as though many there had lost their connection to the past (at least within Athens). 

 

 

 

 

The first few days were spent on the island of Naxos, which is best known for the white-washed, coastal town of Chora, as well as the massive Portara -- a doorway to an unfinished temple of Apollo that is connected to the rest of the island by a long, narrow walkway. It goes without saying that life on the island is very laid back, with the weather and food being as expected: much nicer than it is here.

As a contrast to this environment lies the secluded village of Apeiranthos, where I got to see the childhood homes of my grandparents. The village is situated high up in the mountains, and its layout was designed to deter 15th century pirating, which made navigating the streets a surreal experience. Similar to Chora, nearby islands could be seen in the distance -- another unfamiliar experience for me.

The last leg of the trip was spent flying back to Athens, and touring its many ancient historical sites. A picture alone could not capture the full experience of seeing the Acropolis in person, and the feeling of being high above the city. Hiking up to the temple is like entering an entirely different world, as it takes one away from the chaotic streets below, and into a place which is far more ethereal and serene.

Out of all the pictures I took, however, my favorite two are the ones which go beyond a straightforward depiction of scenery, and instead highlight the act of traveling, and the feeling of being in a place where the past leaves such a heavy mark on a very diverging present day. The first image is of a group of tourists reflected off wet pavement, and the second is of highway lights illuminating through a hotel window.

 

Outer Space Illusion Gallery

Having photographed over 400 houses in the past year and a half, I've come across a lot of things . . . some funny, some strange, and others surprising. With this blog post I wanted to share a particular illusion I came across by accident while playing around with my on-camera flash. While these images may be reminiscent of galaxies and nebulae, they are in actuality just stove tops. Three of the photos featured in this gallery are also of the same stove top, but appear unique in their color and lighting due to the direction of the flash's bounce. The other two images were taken in a different house where the stove top reminded me of the previous images, presenting itself as an opportunity to add to my "galactic" photo collection.

Tree Photography Series

As an add-on to my Oregon post, I wanted to create a dedicated gallery to a characteristic of the Pacific Northwest and Portland that stood out above all others: the plant life. Even within one block of my hotel -- where these photographs were captured -- there was an abundance of moss covered trees, fern-like vegetation, and definitively rain-drenched scenery. The images shown below specifically focus on close-up views of tree bark, and are executed in a portrait-like manner (click on an image to open full-view).

Oregon Photography

I have recently returned from my first trip to the west coast, and brought back with me a lot of photographs. The trip's full gallery can be viewed at http://pavloskaralis.smugmug.com/Travel/Oregon

It goes without saying that Oregon is a very beautiful, yet rugged state, and that the city of Portland - where the trip began - has a unique, laid-back charm to it. 

 

After getting acquainted with Portland's layout, culture, and abundance of delicious food carts, we headed east on Route 84, which runs parallel with the Columbia River. On the opposite side, Multnomah Falls and several other waterfalls are situated against the towering cliff-side. We would also return a few days later, this time at night, to photograph the Vista House that overlooks the gorge. 

The next day of the trip was without a doubt the most treacherous, as our destination was set to Crater Lake National Park, located 300 miles south of Portland and through Oregon's Cascade Mountains. However, the journey was well worth it, as we arrived at the lake and above the cloud-line on one of the few days of the year with full visibility. 

As the weather continued to improve over the coarse of our stay, a visit to the coast was reserved as the final leg of the trip. Here we visited the peaceful coastal towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach, where I got to witness the monolithic Haystack Rock, and the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  

Once the sun set behind the horizon, we made one final trek north into Oregon's Ecola State park. Without a doubt, this was my favorite part of the entire trip, as the combination of a moonlit night and ocean waves gently reaching the shore created a very serene atmosphere that I hope to soon return to.