TomOnTheRoof Photography Blog The photography of Tomasz Bobrzynski. Photography techniques, lighting, creating images with vision and passion. Mon, 28 May 2018 21:38:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Omeco and Lewis Thu, 27 Aug 2015 21:03:13 +0000 Photographs of Omeco and Lewis, shot on a sunny afternoon in a park in London.











'Omeco and Lewis

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Street Photography in London Sun, 18 May 2014 21:03:51 +0000 London is one of the best places for street photography. It is a vibrant and young city, offering fantastic photographic opportunities. All you have to do is tune in to the rhythm of the street and click in the right moment.

People on Peter Street, London

Peter Street

My favorite locations for street photography in London are in the West End, south from Oxford Street. That street is often very busy and it may be hard to find a good composition in the chaotic flow of the crowd. But lose yourself in the network of the side streets and you will see many compelling scenes.

People on Berwick Street, London

Berwick Street

In particular I like Berwick Street which has always attracted interesting people, writers, actors and musicians. It is a real paradise for fashion designers. And of course ? an amazing place for street photography.

Dog walking in London

On the streets of Soho

It is also worth visiting the ever-fashionable Carnaby Street, a symbol of the Swinging London of the 60s. It contrasts with the nearby luxurious New Bond Street. These are really cool places to photograph people and geometric forms.

New Bond Street, London

New Bond Street

Another interesting place is London’s East End, especially the graffiti-decorated Brick Lane. This street is the heart of Banglatown, a home to the Bangladeshi community. Let me know if you can think of other great places for street photography in London. I love exploring the streets of this exciting city.

The Photographers' Gallery in London

Ramillies Street, a few steps away from Oxford Street

I shot these images with the Fujifilm x100s, an ideal camera for street photography. It is small, quiet and inconspicuous. The x100s has a relatively large sensor (APS-C size) and a brilliant 35mm wide-angle lens (full frame equivalent). The 35mm focal length is classic for street photography (as is the “normal” 50mm). With a prime lens you’ve got to zoom with your feet.

Typically I set my x100s to automatic shutter speed and automatic ISO. In the Auto ISO settings I set a maximum ISO to 6400 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 s (or 1/60 s if I want that bit of motion blur). I adjust the aperture for the depth of field which I like and to the level of light, and play with the exposure compensation dial to fine tune the exposure. I also use the autofocus and occasionally set the camera to manual focus mode for zone focusing.

There is a learning curve to the Fuji x100s but after getting used to the camera street photography becomes a pure joy. Could there possibly be a better choice? And are there any better places for street photography in London?

'Street Photography in London

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Waterfall (video and photos) Sat, 30 Nov 2013 01:53:01 +0000 There is something magical about waterfalls. This is just a small waterfall on a stream, not far from home, but I really like this place. See for yourself how beautiful it is.

Yes, this video is simple and short, but hey, these are my first steps in filming with a DSLR camera. I tried to achieve a cinematic look by using a shallow depth of field (which is apparent in the first capture), by setting the shutter speed to 1/50 s for a smooth flow of water, and the frame rate to 25p (I am in a PAL region).


For these shots and the video I used a 70-200mm f/4 lens with a polarizing filter to cut the glare and to saturate the colors. It was an overcast day and my shutter speed was long enough to blur the water without the need for additional filtration (about 7 s for the photos).


I shot the above image with the lens zoomed to 85mm. To get the first plan reasonably sharp I closed down the aperture to f/22 and focused manually.


It was chilly and drizzling but I certainly don’t regret going there with my camera. I am happy with the pictures and glad that I also tried shooting video. I think it worked pretty fine.


Do you shoot video with a DSLR? What are your settings?

'Waterfall (video and photos)

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Lit with a Beauty Dish Tue, 29 Jan 2013 12:04:26 +0000 If I could have only one light modifier it would be a 22″ white Beauty Dish. If I could have two – it would be a Beauty Dish with a grid. Nothing quite replicates the look.

Model lit with a Beauty Dish on white background

1/160 s at f/5.6, ISO 160, 100 mm

The key (main light) for these shots was a 600 Ws strobe with the Beauty Dish and a honeycomb grid, placed on a boom frontally and overhead, approximately 4 feet away from the model. There is something magical about a Beauty Dish – it gives light which is not really soft, not really hard, yet focused, edgy and “three-dimensional”. It is a distinct look, different from what can be achieved with a softbox or with an umbrella.

The grid tightened the beam of light and added some contrast and drama to the look. I also used a small white reflector, camera left, for just a touch of fill light. There is a big light falloff from the Beauty Dish but I actually like it in these shots.

Black and white portrait using Beauty Dish lighting

1/160 s at f/5.6, ISO 200, 105 mm

A white seamless paper background helped me draw attention to the model. To eliminate any texture and shades of gray from the background I illuminated it evenly with two hot shoe flashes set to 24 mm zoom and sitting in two 43″ silver umbrellas (I chose small flashes mainly for portability, though more powerful lights would let me shoot at a higher aperture / lower ISO). All the flashes were set in manual mode and fired with PocketWizard radio triggers.

Portrait of a woman lit with a Beauty Dish

1/160 s, f/5.0 ISO 250, 120 mm

My camera settings killed the ambient leaving me only with the light which I controlled. I adjusted the background lights until I was seeing a spike in the whites region of the histogram on my camera, and the key light simply until I was happy with the results – maybe a third of a stop more than for a typical portrait.

Model lit with a Beauty Dish

1/160 s at f/5.6, ISO 160, 95 mm

In case you are wondering how much post-processing I did, below is the first shot right from the camera (a preview of a completely unedited RAW image after importing to Lightroom).

Unedited photograph

Unprocessed image

Unlike this RAW preview from Lightroom, a JPEG preview at the back of my camera was already contrasty and sharpened by the ?Standard? Picture Style (in-camera Styles do not affect RAW images and only get baked into JPEGs). But I prefer to take things in my hands and adjust the settings to taste.

So I pushed the whites a bit until the background was pure white, tweaked the tonal curve for a better contrast, added a pinch of clarity and sharpening, and slightly desaturated the skin. Oh, and I removed that reflector.

The Beauty Dish with a grid and the white seamless background were my primary tools for achieving this look. Previously I used a Beauty Dish in a different setup for overpowering the sun. Be sure to check out that post!

'Lit with a Beauty Dish

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A Simple Portrait Mon, 21 Jan 2013 17:21:06 +0000 The idea was to create a simple natural-looking portrait. The model is an actress and I hope these photographs will be a strong accent in her portfolio.


1/80 s, f/1.6, ISO 100, 50 mm

I shot these images in a bar and used mostly ambient light with a little fill from a small softbox.


1/80 s, f/2.5, ISO 2000, 85 mm


1/160 s, f/2.5, ISO 100, 135 mm

For the above photo I lit the model with a single speedlight in a medium size Lastolite softbox.


1/200 s, f/4, ISO 100, 135 mm

Here I used a white shoot-through umbrella and a silver reflector for fill in a butterfly configuration (note the catchlights in her eyes).


1/200 s, f/4, ISO 100, 135 mm

For the last photo I used the softbox again. To add tonal transitions to the walls I lit them with a second speedlite pointed to the corner behind the model.

Initially this background light gave a spot which was too hot for my taste. To tone it down I used a Sto-Fen diffuser and covered the diffuser’s front surface with a piece of Gaffer’s tape.

'A Simple Portrait

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Wedding in Krakow Thu, 06 Dec 2012 19:08:43 +0000 Photographs from a wedding of Ewelina and Bartek. Shot in Krakow, Poland.












'Wedding in Krakow

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Soft Light, Hard Light Thu, 06 Dec 2012 11:58:39 +0000 Softness is an important quality of light and depends on the relative size of the light source. The larger the light source appears, the softer the light. For example the sun on a sunny day is a hard light source, but a cloudy sky and a northern window are sources of soft light. Hard light results in harsh shadows and soft light gives diffused shadows.


1/60 s, f/4, ISO 160, 100mm (Macro)

For the first three photographs I underexposed the ambient slightly and used a soft light on the subjects – a flash in a 60″ (150 cm) white shoot-through umbrella. The photographic umbrella, positioned as close to the subject as possible (in this case camera left and above, just outside of the frame), increases the size of the light source and softens the light significantly. In a way it emulates a northern window.


1/60 s, f/4, ISO 160, 100mm (Macro)

This soft light blended well with the light diffused by the canopies of the trees, and there are no harsh shadows. Soft light partly fills in its own shadows (and often appears to wrap around the subject).


1/60 s, f/4, ISO 160, 100mm (Macro)

Soft light can be achieved in many other ways – with a softbox (like in this photo shoot) or by bouncing the tilted flash from a large surface (like in this wedding shoot). These modifiers and techniques allow to shape and control the light.

For the below image I used a hard light source – a flash with a 7″ (18 cm) parabolic reflector, positioned camera right and above the subjects, with a 20° grid to constrain the light. The flash was relatively far from the subjects and the shadows are harsh.


1/125 s, f/3.5, ISO 200, 85mm

These two light types – soft light and hard light – give very different looks. None is good or bad per se and both can be used effectively. Typically soft light is more flattering for portraits and hard light can define the subject better, bring out the details, and may create more interest by casting shadows.

One of my favorite light sources is a Beauty Dish. It combines the characteristics of soft light and of hard light and gives a unique look. I used it in the Overpowering the Sun shoot.

'Soft Light, Hard Light

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Always Know Your DOF! Thu, 29 Nov 2012 19:20:04 +0000 I found an easy way to estimate the depth of field (DOF) when shooting portraits ? a useful rule of thumb which I would like to share.

Shallow depth of field with pleasing bokeh

f/2.0, 135 mm, full frame, DOF ? 40 cm (guesstimated)

I shot these portraits with a shallow DOF, meaning that only a shallow area appears sharp. DSLR cameras have a DOF preview button but when it comes to very shallow depth of field it may not be even possible to see the true DOF in the viewfinder (in particular with apertures wider than f/2.8 the viewfinder becomes a limiting factor and you would have to use Live View mode in combination with the aperture closed down in real time). Yet DOF is a very important factor in portraiture.

Engagement portrait

f/2.0, 135 mm, full frame camera, DOF ? 10 cm

For a particular camera DOF depends on the aperture, the subject distance and the focal length. In the past lenses had DOF scales which were useful but are rarely found on the current models, perhaps because many lenses can be mounted on cameras with different sensor sizes. Telephoto lenses give more flattering portraits, a more compressed perspective and more “zoomed-in” and creamier bokeh, especially on a full-frame sensor. But even with a wide-angle lens, which gives a large DOF, if you get close enough to the subject you can throw the background out of focus.

Portrait with an extremely shallow depth of field

f/2.0, 135 mm, full frame camera, DOF ? 4 cm (perhaps a bit more)

To know the DOF you would have to use a special chart or a DOF calculator program, or just make a guess based on experience. When shooting with a particular camera and fixed focal length combination the DOF depends on two factors: 1. how much you are filling the frame (e.g. a full body portrait or a head and shoulders shot) and 2. the aperture.

Portrait with an extremely shallow DOF

f/2.0, 135 mm, full frame, DOF ? 4 cm (compare to the first image)
I really had to make sure their faces were on the same plane.

Below are approximate total DOF values when shooting vertical portraits with a full-frame camera. I determined them by making life measurements of camera to subject distance with different lenses and using the excellent DOFMaster Depth of Field Calculator.

For head and shoulder portraits the depth of field values were:

f/1.4 ? 2 cm
f/2.0 ? 2 cm
f/2.8 ? 3 cm
f/4.0 ? 5 cm
f/5.6 ? 6 cm
f/8.0 ? 9 cm
f/11 ? 13 cm

So for head and shoulder vertical portraits DOF ? 1 cm × f-stop (or 0.4 inch × f-stop). This is simple to remember.

For full body portraits the depth of field values were:

f/1.4 ? 0.27 m
f/2.0 ? 0.39 m
f/2.8 ? 0.55 m
f/4.0 ? 0.8 m
f/5.6 ? 1.1 m
f/8.0 ? 1.5 m
f/11 ? 2.2 m

So for full body vertical shots DOF ? 20 cm × f-stop (or 8 inches × f-stop). This is also simple to remember.

For horizontal portraits the DOF is approximately 2-fold larger, as you will have to stand further away (for 3/4 shots it is in between the head and shoulders and the full body shots). And for APS-C sensors you would still need to multiply the DOF by the crop factor (e.g. by 1.6). These simple rules help me easily guesstimate the depth of field when shooting portraits.

'Always Know Your DOF!

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Overpowering the Sun Mon, 25 Jun 2012 18:47:52 +0000 Overpowering the sun is one of my favorite lighting techniques and I will briefly explain how I use it. But let us begin with the camera setup.

Overpowering the Sun

Final image; 1/200 s, f/5.6, ISO 100, ND4, polarizer, 24 mm

I shot these images with the Canon 5D mark II using the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at its widest zoom setting. On a full frame sensor 24 mm is about as wide as I can accept for photographing people without distorting them too much. I love this lens for it’s great contrast and color. It is tack sharp when stopped down and very sharp when wide open.

normal exposure

Step 1

This is how the scene actually appeared on a sunny afternoon, shot at 1/200 s, which is my sync speed, ISO 100, f/4, and with an ND4 filter. I could have shot it at f/8 but I traded two stops of aperture (f/8 ? f/5.6 ? f/4) for the ND4 filter. This gave me an identical ‘proper’ exposure but with a more shallow depth of field as an artistic decision. You can see a hard shadow at the side of the car coming from the sun and overall the image is not appealing. Notice that I am shooting with the sun behind me and slightly to my side. Had I shot straight into the sun the sky would have been less saturated.

darker exposure without flash

Step 2

I stopped down the aperture to f/5.6, i.e. by a stop, to underexpose the foreground and darken the sky. I also stacked a polarizing filter to further darken the scene by approximately 2/3 of a stop and to cut down the glare and saturate the colors just a tad more. The sky looked good at this point but the side of the car was lost in the deep shadow. These images are basically straight out of the camera.

darker exposure with side light added

Step 3

To open up this shadow and to bring out the side of the car from the dark I added a Nikon SB-24 hot shoe flash pointed at the car, camera right and just outside of the frame, set to full power and fired with a Pocket Wizard. This added depth and dimension to the car.

darker exposure with side and key lights

Step 4

To light the scene and the subjects I used a 600 Ws strobe set to full power, with a 22″ (55 cm) white Beauty Dish as my main light. It was positioned just outside of the frame, camera left, in front of and above the car, pointed slightly down and fired with a Pocket Wizard. Notice that I pulled in the camera to exaggerate the wide angle perspective. The battery pack of my strobe run down, so I powered it from the battery of the car (hence the cable visible at the side of the car). The final image was retouched and post-processed of course.

And here is my second favorite shot from the day:

Overpowering the Sun with flash

Final image; 1/125 s, f/4, ISO 100, ND8, polarizer, 24 mm

darker exposure without flash

Without flash

This is a shot without flash. I deliberately underexposed the image to darken the sky and make it more dramatic. The ND8 filter allowed me to open up the aperture for a more shallow depth of field and even shoot at a slightly slower shutter speed to convey the motion of the barley in the wind. There is some darkening of the corners resulting from stacking of the filters on a wide angle lens, which I had to take care of later in post-production.

Darker exposure without flash

With flash

Here the scene is lit with a 600 Ws flash set to full power, with a 22″ (55 cm) white Beauty Dish, same settings as above. The Beauty Dish is my most efficient modifier, yet it gives a quality of light which I love (especially when used at a short distance, as described in my post on lighting with a Beauty Dish).

The lighting made the subject pop and also brightened the foreground. Additionally, I cross-lit the subject with a gridded off-camera hot shoe flash (the SB-24 at full power with a Honl 1/8″ grid) to give detail to the veil. In summary, by darkening the sky and lighting the foreground I compressed the broad dynamic range of the original scene. Again, the final image was retouched and post-processed.

Because of the sweeping perspective which I wanted to capture the light could not be positioned really close to the subjects. It would be difficult to pull out these shots with just small hot shoe flashes unless it was dusk or I would have to place the main light closer and clone it out in post.

Do you know of other techniques for overpowering the sun? Let me know.

'Overpowering the Sun

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Memories of Australia Sun, 19 Feb 2012 00:09:28 +0000

hopping kangaroo

Hard light isn’t always bad light

New article: Memories of Australia (in Polish, with photographs).

'Memories of Australia

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