Aller Huset in Copenhagen

A fisheye lens lets you do some pretty wild things, like this close-up, of a tall building. Even standing very as close as I was, I was able to include all of the building. I shot this photo of the Aller House in Copenhagen, using my Sony A7R and my sweet old Nikon 16mm fisheye lens. The Aller Building is one of the more spectacular new buildings in the Harbor of Copenhagen. It's located right next to the shopping mall Fisketorvet. Read the full blog post: SurlandArt sale as limited prints only. Photo by Jacob Surland, Licensed Creative Commons non-commercial v4.0. No Derivative Work. Protected by

Aller House in Copenhagen shot with a fisheye lens.

Bo Nielsen (from and I went shooting in the area around Fisketorvet. We were rewarded with quite a lot of great clouds and a rainbow, and a short but intense shower. Some people says rainy weather is not for photography, but I do not agree. Of course, you have to be careful with your equipment. Some equipment is more water resistant than other, but using a piece of cloth and a plastic bag you can do quite a bit in rainy weather if it’s not too intense.

A fisheye lens lets you do some pretty wild things, like this close-up, of a tall building. Even standing very as close as I was, I was able to include all of the building. I shot this photo of the Aller House in Copenhagen, using my Sony A7R and my sweet old Nikon 16mm fisheye lens. The Aller Building is one of the more spectacular new buildings in the Harbor of Copenhagen. It’s located right next to the shopping mall Fisketorvet.


On the way home

This passage goes under the connection between the old and the new stage of The Royal Danish Theater (Det Kongelige Teater) in Copenhagen. In 1931, the new stage opened, but it had several impractical constructions, like the audio studio wasn't sound isolated. It remained problematic until it was closed in 2008. Photo by: Jacob Surland, Licensed creative commons non-commercial v4.0. No derivative Work. Protected by

A man on the way home on a cold winters eve.

This passage goes under the connection between the old and the new stage of The Royal Danish Theater (Det Kongelige Teater) in Copenhagen. In 1931, the new stage opened, but it had several impractical constructions, like the audio studio wasn’t sound isolated. It remained problematic until it was closed in 2008.

The roof under this passage is fantastic, and you have to use a wide angle lens to shoot it. This is shot at 16mm.

This photo is made from 7 exposure bracketed shots ranging from -3 to +3. The man walking by is present in only in the -2 exposure. I had to wait until the right moment to catch him. The exposure time is 0.4 seconds, which makes the man slightly blurry, but that’s what makes it to a kind of mysterious a stranger in the night.


Steampunk Balloon Wagon seen from a low vantage point

Steampunk is a cool fantasy world. What if the world hadn't evolved into the modern Information Technology world, it is today, would it have evolved into Steampunk? You can find this particular Steampunk balloon car in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, a fairytale amusement park. The second oldest in the World. Photo by: Jacob Surland, Licensed creative commons non-commercial v4.0. No derivative Work. Protected by

The fairytale amusement park Tivoli Gardens, in the center of Copenhagen, holds many small wonders, like this fantastic steampunk car.

I always carry a camera around with me and a small tripod in a very small bag. On a daily basis my normal or even my travel tripods are too big to carry around, and I just have a small Manfrotto tripod. If used carefully, it can be used  even by my Nikon D800 and the huge 14-24 mm lens.

I must admit, that from time to time, I get shots, I wouldn’t have thought of, but are provoked by my small tripod, and these couple of photos from Tivoli Gardens are fine examples of this.

This small alley is my favority part of Tivoli Gardens, not only because the 'Kissing Bench' used to be there. Actually, I don't know if it's still there, maybe it is. Photo by: Jacob Surland, Licensed creative commons non-commercial v4.0. No derivative Work. Protected by

A small alley with a beer garden, small shops and great candy. Is there anything better?

Notice how small lines suddenly play a huge part in leading the view up through the alley. Had the camera been higher, the lines would have been less obvious. Using these lines can be really powerful, and this is a stronger example of using very small lines.

Going really close to objects, can change the perspective, and make things seem different tham they are. An optical joke. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

I arrived too early at work, the day after they had changed the alarm, and I couldn’t get in. Instead I took out my camera and the small tripod, and started shooting. It is the Tivoli Hotel right in the middle. The hotel is placed close to Tivoli Gardens, but not in the garden itself.

I did cheat a little bit on the hotel in the middle. It wasn’t symmetric to begin with, and it seemed wrong. And by a simple mirroring trick I made it symmetric, and it was a dramatic change. Now every line in the image points to Tivoli Hotel.

Using Sony A7R with Nikon Lenses

I got up early to walk along Christianshavns Canal in Copenhagen. There are some of the very nice spots, and some of the best restaurants in Copenhagen there. It may look like smoke from the chimney, but in reality it is a hole in the sky, that just fits the chimney.  Photo by: Jacob Surland,

Christianshavn Canal in Copenhagen shot using Sony A7R and Nikon 16-35mm VR and the Metabones adaptor.

I really have a love and hate relationship with my Sony A7R. I love the size of the camera, and the sensor is fantastic. What I am missing is proper lenses. I have the 24-70mm lens, which I am pretty happy with, and then I have the Sony 10-18mm. The 10-18mm is designed for APS-C sensor cameras, but I can use it as a full frame lens, from 14-16mm or so. However, I do find it so bad used as a full frame lens, that I don’t use it like that. It’s terrible soft in the corners, and it gives me mustache distortion, which is next to impossible to get a decent result from. I use it ‘cropped’, which leaves me with 15.3-megapixel images, which I, of course, can use, but I really want to use the 36 megapixels I have in my camera.

Since I don’t have a money tree in my garden, I haven’t bought the Sony 16-35mm, but it is on my wish list. Instead, I end up using a Metabones adapter and my Nikon lenses if I want to go really wide. In theory, this works very nicely, but it is not perfect. I have no auto focus, this I can live with in most cases. What’s worse, is that I don’t get the EXIF information transferred from the lens to the camera. While this may seem less important, at first, it still is very frustrating.

A photo like this one from Christianshavns Canal in Copenhagen, I shot in November, but I don’t recall the focal length or the f-stop anymore. I do remember that I used my Nikon 16-35mm VR lens. This lens has a pretty strong barrel distortion, which I have to fix on photos like this. But I can’t use automatic lens correction, neither, instead I have to do it manually. What I have done to make things easier for me, is to make this a Preset in Lightroom, with a manual lens correction. This is a good start, but at different f-stops and focal lengths, I have to change the settings slightly.

I always carry the A7R and the 24-70mm and the 10-18mm lens in my bag, because it’s so small that I can have it in a very small bag. But when I go out shooting for real, I have not used it a lot. This particular morning I only brought the Sony A7R and the Nikon 16-35mm, to force me to use it. But I really prefer to use my Nikon D800 for serious shooting.

But there has been a turn lately. I found a super clamp from Manfrotto, which I can screw on my tripod, and that allows me to use TWO cameras at the same time. And that is something. I now have my Nikon D800 mounted on the primary ball head and on the Manfrotto Super Clamp I have the Sony A7R, and then I have two different lenses and different compositions. This is awesome:



I got my Manfrotto Super Clamp at B&H, and it’s really not that expensive. It’s called a Manfrotto Super Clamp 035 with a stud.


Jackpot on an Early Morning in Copenhagen

These crazy clouds are almost straight out of the camera. This sunrise, is one of the craziest I have ever seen, and the weirdest part, is that I never saw the Sun itself. I saw it shine on the city behind me, but before it got clear of the horizon, it disappeared behind clouds. I shot this photo from Skuespilhuset and it shows Operahuset (The Opera House) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by: Jacob Surland, Licensed Creative Commons, Non-Commercial, no derivatives v4.0.

A wild sunrise at the Opera House of Copenhagen photographed at the very climax of it’s stunning beauty. Processed using Photomatix and Photoshop.

Getting up really early can be hard, but I find that I am often rewarded by unique experiences, worth getting to experience. A particular morning like this morning started with a drizzle. It was close to pitch dark, and pretty overcast when I started out. The first images I shot, I assumed to almost just dark clouds. But as I processed them in Photomatix very interesting colors appeared in the clouds. The first colors of a wild sunrise, already played around in the clouds.

One of the major sites in lies in the heart of Copenhagen. It's called Nyhavn and means New Harbor. This is just before sunrise, before the neon lights are shut off. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

I thought it was almost pitch dark when I shot this image of Nyhavn in Copenhagen, but tone mapping provides wonderful surprises, by enhancing even the smallest hints of colors. In this case traces of purple and pink in the clouds.

Continue reading “Jackpot on an Early Morning in Copenhagen”

Thoughts on finding your own style

The Japanese Tower in the Tivoli Gardens is the home of a Sushi restaurant. As a lover of Sushi, I frequent this place, whenever budget and time allows it. It has a very special place in my heart, as it has been used for several celebrations. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

As an Apprentice of The Arcanum we get presented all sorts of tasks and exercises, on our journey to become better artists. At my current level, I have to focus more on what is “me” and “my” art in what I do.

Even before I got the assignment from my Master Robin Griggs Woods, I had started down the road of ‘who am I’? It’s not as easy as you might think, realizing who you are, and what you do, which is uniquely you.

Truth is, that I find myself most creative, when I am sitting in front of Lightroom and Photoshop, not when I am out shooting photos. I get ideas on processing techniques, combining techniques in new ways, trying out all sorts of things. Some photos are fairly straightforward, while others are much more time-consuming, and require that I used my creativity.

Some of my photos, I spend weeks, months, even years before I get the final idea. The images may pop in my head, and then I think of ways to process them for a while. Forget about them, and then come to think about them again. Try some stuff, it might not work, and I shelve the photo again for a while. And then suddenly one day, I have the idea. This photo stars above London is a great example of this process. It took me months and many failed attempts before I finally made something I was happy with.

London City Hall with the London Tower Bridge just after midnight. Only a few people hovers around the area. The stars are peaking out from the skies. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

What I have come to realize is, that I see a difference in ‘just’ processing a photo, into something nice. The other day I processed two nice photos from London, but I didn’t get the kick out of, that I wanted. I thought about it. Why was it, that two perfectly great photos, full of city lights didn’t turn me on? It should be my favorite sort of photos. After thinking about it for a while, I came to the conclusion, that making the photos, only required Craft and Skills, not creativity.

The way I had shot the photos, and the light I had shot them in, didn’t leave much room for processing creatively. And because it was a standard processing technique, I could do in my sleep, it didn’t turn me on.

This fact has changed the way I see myself as a Fine Art photographer. I need room for creativity, in what I do. I get bored by doing the same routine stuff every day.

I have known for quite some time, that I do like to play with the viewers mind. I add elements, enhance elements beyond what is realistic. I may over enhance shadows, add light sources or change colors. This way I can play tricks on the viewers mind. His sub consciousness will detect, that something is not right and some even see what it is. What happens, when I do that, is the image will get an artificial look to it, maybe like a painting or at least border lining to surrealism.

In the photo in the top, of the Japanese Twoer in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark, I have enhanced the shadows cast by the group of people. The shadows are far stronger than the original photo showed. Another thing I have done is to remove almost all color, in the lower part of the image. There is quite a lot of colored light, and it shows on the ground.

I find these elements very much me, other people may do it too or do similar things, but it is something that I like to do, and that I have found out on my own and integrates into many of my images.

On the London image, I added light beams on top of the London Tower Bridge, even though there are no light beams.

While these small techniques do not dictate a style, they are a part of me and my art. I use them in many different kinds of photos, but they are a part of my images, in general. I have some other techniques, which I also use, to make my own style of photos. It does not necessarily mean that my photos, end up looking the same, because they don’t, but you will find elements in each, that come from the same core.

What I am beginning to realize, is the elements in what I do, that make my photos into ‘my art’, as an expression of me. I like to tease and be surreal, I always loved surreal artists and texts, and, therefore it is a part of the photos that I make.

No fool on the hill – only stairs up there

An old mound just outside of Roskilde. The stairs leading up the the top of the grass covered hill with trees on top. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

Just outside of Roskilde there is an old mound dating back to the age of the vikings. Back to the age of the Vikings. Roskilde used to be a center for the vikings, and viking kings lived here in periods.

To this day the Cathedral of Roskilde is used to bury the Kings and Queens of Denmark. The second of Denmark, was named Harald Bluetooth, is also buried here in Roskilde. The modern bluetooth technology is named after him.

About the composition in this photo

I got out of the car, with the intention of climbing the hill, to take a landscape up there. But when I saw these stairs I just had to shoot them. But what composition to chose? For some reason I find staircases difficult to nail, unless shot straight on from the center, either from the bottom or the top.

These stairs are not really large enough to do a dead on shot. Instead I got really close and placed the lover step approx a third into the image from the left,  and the last step a third from the right and the bottom.

No fool on the hill compositionThis makes the stairs work well in the composition. The trees I have placed on the horizontal third.

I use the golden ration, rather than the rule of thirds. They are almost identical, but I prefer the golden ratio, because I find it more tight.


Return from Art Monaco 2014

One of the major sites in lies in the heart of Copenhagen. It's called Nyhavn and means New Harbor. This is just before sunrise, before the neon lights are shut off. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

I have just returned from the Art Monaco 2014, the fifth Art Monaco to be held. It is one of the most prestigious art fairs on the French Riviera. I was invited by Mona Youssef Art Gallery and was a part of a great team, with great and beautiful artists. It was so great to be a part of a team, because you can help each other in many different ways. Not only the practical stuff, that is at an event of these dimensions, but also sharing knowledge and experience.

Artists doing different kind of arts, with different perspectives and aspects, still have common ground. Digital artists, share the media and printing, even if some paint digitally, and others, like myself, are photographers. And landscape painters, share compositions and thoughts of how make a landscape image. It really was a very great experience, from which I learned a lot and gained a lot of great new friends, I surely hope I will meet again.

I presented two artworks from my Realism Digital Art collection. The first was the “The Old Houses in New Port” (above) and then the “Tower Bridge and London Bus” (below). And they were received extremely well – better than I had hoped for.

Jacob Surland at Art Monaco

And it was a wonderful experience to see the amazement in peoples eyes, as they were scrutinizing the details of the photos, to make sure, it wasn’t paintings. Both are signed and numbered artworks.

This is an HDR photo of London Tower Bridge combined with a long exposure of a  exposure of a double decker London bus passing by. Photo by Jacob Surland. See more at

How does lens diffraction come in to the picture?

On The Sunny Side in Nyhavn is one among many restaurants and cafes in Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark. Even on a winter's day, you find Nyhavn beautiful and full of warm light. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

In my last post “How to get sharp Landscapes and what is the hyper focal point?” I received a question on lens diffraction. A term I wasn’t overly familiar with and had to research, but I have tried to gather an answer.

The question addresses the sharpness at f/22. Apparently some one has said, that you can get only 4 megapixels at f/22. My first reaction to this, was that, that couldn’t be true, and I decided to figure this out.

Let’s have an example, luckily I had one perfect test on the shelf. A photo from Lake Matheson in New Zealand. I took the exact same scene at f/8 and at f/22.

Let’s compare:

Lens Diffraction

Click to enlarge

It is clear that something has happened from f/8.0 to f/22. The photo on the right is much less sharp. And this is the lens diffraction that comes into play, but is this something that can be saved?

In Lightroom I tried to increase the Clarity and the Sharpness, and I was actually able to bring back the sharpness into the f/22 version of the photo.

Lens Diffraction with sharpen

Click to enlarge.

As you can see in the last example, sharpness is about the same and absolutely usable.

I took this photo using a Nikon D800 with 36 mega pixels. So the postulate that, at f/22 you only get 4 mega pixels isn’t true. The postulate is probably given within a specific context, that I do not know of. However, some details are lost and there may be cases, where it is not possible to get the sharpness, that you really want.

Why is the lens less sharp at f/22?

That is because of the lens diffraction, but what is lens Diffraction? When the light passes through the lens, the light is registered on the sensor. The smaller f-stop, the smaller a hole the light passes through. You can say that less light particles comes through the whole.

Lens Diffraction f-stops

The smaller the hole, the more diffraction of the light happens, and the more difficult it becomes to register the precise information. And when the lens is stopped down, it will reach a level, where the sensor can’t register more detailed information, simply because of the laws of physics. This makes sense to me.

On a 36 megapixel full size sensor, the physics dictate, that diffraction will be noticeable at f/22. This we can do nothing about. But if the lens is good enough, the problem is not worse, than it in many cases can be saved using sharpening software.

But there is another aspect in the other end of the f-stops. When the lens is wide open, it lets in a lot of light from a wider angle, and this allows the light to spread out. A photo shot at f/1.4 will be less sharp too, but for completely different reasons. And that is why a lens has an optimal sharpness in the mid range, like f/7.1 to f/16 or may be even more narrow, like f/8 to f/11. The exact numbers you will have to test for your self, using the lenses that you have.

About the photo above

It’s another one from Nyhavn (New Harbor), one of my favorite places in Copenhagen. I really love this restaurant “On the Sunny Side”. I have taken many photos of it, this is the first published one, though. And it comes in my collection of Realism Digital Art.

How to plan photo trips?

Churches in Denmark are usually small white churches, but once in while you come by a red one. This one is in Gershoej on Zealand. Photo by: Jacob Surland,

One of things I really find myself spending a lot of time doing, is planning where to take photos. Location, location, location. This particular HDR photo I shot some 30 km from my home. And even though I had planned, what I wanted, I ended up with something completely different.

The crop had just been harvested, and hay lay in the fields, either as huge rolls or as long piles of hay. I wanted to shoot some photos of that and I got up real early. Way before sunrise. But I realized, when I stood in the field, that hay really doesn’t do well before sunrise, and the fields I had picked, really wasn’t that interesting for photography. They were Just too flat I think.

I started driving north, more or less along Roskilde fiord, hoping for some better fields. I stopped a few times and tried a few shots, but not really happy with what I got.

And then when I got to Gershøj, I remembered a little harbor and an old Inn. I drove down there a couple of really drunk guys hung around, but they seemed peaceful enough. The harbor and inn was not as picturesque as I remembered them. I did shoot a little, but not really happy, and the sunrise was almost there. I made a quick decision, not to hang around and wait for the sunrise, ran to the car made it for one last chance to get something I liked.

And lucky I was. I had got up on the road, turned right, and then I saw this gorgeous little red church, and the sun just rising above the horizon. I threw in the car and got out.

I drove home happy! Had I not been stubborn, I would not have got anything that morning.

Lessons learned: Even though you have something particular in your mind, it’s not necessarily that you will bring home. And keep your eyes open! You might just, come across something quite wonderful!