Andrew Stranovsky Photography: Blog en-us (C) Andrew Stranovsky Photography (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Mon, 17 Jul 2017 10:48:00 GMT Mon, 17 Jul 2017 10:48:00 GMT Andrew Stranovsky Photography: Blog 120 120 Sunrise Blend During a weekend trip to Florida last year, I set up on the bridge to Fort Myers Beach over Matanzas Harbor early in the morning.  I liked the view and I thought I would plan out a blending shot of the blue hour and sunrise.

I ended up taking a bunch of different exposures and shots over several hours in the same location.  I wanted to try and get a composition of both the river itself, the buildings on both the left and right, and the boats in the foreground.  What I found most difficult with this setup was forcing myself not to change my mind with the composition.  After running around on that damn bridge, getting different perspectives of the harbor, I settled on a composition, realizing that if I didn't set up soon, I'd miss the blue hour and would be unable to blend it into the sunrise shot if I kept moving around.  I grabbed these frames from Lightroom and took a first pass.

Started off with the sunrise exposure as my base layer.  I liked how the two lines of boats somewhat lead the eye to the sun and the town on the right.  After the sun came up, the building lights turned off, and looked like your typical beach town waiting for its morning coffee before waking up.

The buildings and boats during the blue hour were lit up nicely and gave off a warm glow, so I tried blending this shot into the main base layer.

Finally, I took this layer and blended in some of the sun into the base layer, to take care of some of the sky and sun that was blown out in the original exposure.

Sunrise over Matanzas Harbor, Fort Myers Beach, FloridaSunrise over Matanzas Harbor, Fort Myers Beach, FloridaView of the harbor at sunrise from the bridge going to Fort Myers Beach, Florida

After getting my base blend together, I added some contrast and curves adjustments, and settled on this as a first pass.  The blending might be a little too much for some, but in my opinion I think it captures this sunrise as it transpired over the course of a few hours.  I would have liked to blend in some of the boats from the blue hour into the final shot, but they moved around too much and masking them in proved to be too difficult for my Photoshop skills.

I have a bunch more shots of blue hour which I think look nice, so I'll develop one or two of those next.  I wanted to take an attempt at blending first.  Not sure why, but this Florida set has been sitting in my Lightroom catalog for a long time and it's been bugging me that I haven't finished going through all the pictures yet.  I recently finished a first pass at my Norway collection and the whole time I was going through them, this blend shot was stuck in the back of my mind, unfinished, and driving me nuts.  Glad I got through a first pass at this finally, to maintain my sanity.  I think now I can at least open my catalog from my recent trip to the Czech Republic and Slovakia and try and get through a few of those.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) florida fort myers photography travel Sun, 16 Jul 2017 11:30:00 GMT
Chef's Table I've recently become obsessed with the show Chef's Table.  By far the best documentary series I've seen on Netflix.  Made it through Season 1 and the first few episodes of Season 2 so far.  So much more than a show about cooking and restaurants.  Each episode can stand out on its own as it's own story.

Food is a big part of why I like to travel so much.  I have to experience the local cuisine wherever I go.  You'll never see me flying half way around the world to Taiwan and seeking out a TGI Fridays to get an American burger and fries.  So a series that showcases chefs and restaurants from all over the world is naturally appealing to me.  And the food photography is amazing.


My favorite episode so far is the one showcasing Magnus Neilsson's Flaviken.  A restaurant and chef, in the middle of nowhere Sweden, considered one of the best in the world.  How such a place can exist in the Arctic where nothing grows for 6 months out of the year is amazing to me.  I may just have to start a restaurant bucket list soon.  My google maps list of "want to go" places in NYC seems weak at this point.


The episode following Flaviken is about Grant Achatz's Alinea, the opener for Season 2.  While the food and restaurant in this episode blew my mind, I couldn't help but notice the differences in my appeal between this place and the previous place.  Alinea is located in a huge American city, easy to get to, with a well know restaurant scene.  Flaviken is located in a tiny town in Sweden, in a hard to get to area of the world, not really known for anything.  I think most, if given the choice between the two restaurants, would choose the latter, I think I'm always going to naturally gravitate towards the former.  Looking forward to finishing Season 2 and 3.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) food Sun, 09 Jul 2017 22:30:00 GMT
Norway Drone Footage

Thought I'd share a short film by William Wei, a photographer who I traveled with in the Lofoten Islands.  He took some great footage with his drone and put together this awesome short video of the area (and yes I even make an appearance in the video).  While I'm still resisting spending the money on a new drone, this video did not help things...

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Lofoten Norway photography travel Mon, 03 Jul 2017 10:00:00 GMT
The Cliff

Tried a small breakfast/lunch spot that recently opened in Jersey City Heights, right up the hill from where I live.  I'm happy to see places like this opening in the surrounding areas.  Small locally owned businesses still hopefully can survive here with the rising rents and real estate, and the last thing I want to see is another chain taking over.

Good coffee.

Small place, but they have a nice outdoor patio, and a small bar with a few seats right in front of the kitchen area.

They have plenty of healthy options on the menu, from oatmeal to acai bowls, but sometimes a good omelette is needed.  I really like the fact that they include a salad with breakfast.

The Cliff in Jersey City.  Looks to be a nice coffee shop addition to the area.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Hoboken Jersey City food Sat, 17 Jun 2017 21:30:00 GMT
Winter Photography in the Lofoten Islands Now that the temperature is in the 90's here in New Jersey, I figured I'd sit in my air conditioned apartment and finish up a first pass at my Lofoten Islands pictures.  Full gallery is located here and below, and I wrote up my field notes from my trip in the post.  Yes, a lot of food and beer pics, but what trip to the Arctic isn't complete without whale meat and beer.  I had an incredible time meeting new people and trying out winter landscape photography for the first time, and already am planning more trips back to that area of the world.

I wrote up a few posts previous to this final one as I developed these pictures, listed below, which go more into a few specifics of the trip, but I think this post summarized the trip for anyone interested.  I have a few more pictures that I'd like to add to the gallery, and plan on doing it eventually once I'm in the mood, but for now I think this is a good first pass.


After my last trip to Bhutan, which was my first photography workshop, I was determined to take another class as soon as possible.  Usually I take photography trips to new places during the spring, summer, and fall months, and leave the winter months for ski trips, but this time I decided to take a trip specifically for some winter photography.  I had been following Daniel Kordan’s site for a while, looking at the tours that were posted, saw that there were some spots left on the Lofoten Islands itinerary, and decided to go for it.

Spent the first day and night in Oslo, since the flights to the Lofotens was an early departure from the airport.  The overnight flight was empty, and I slept well, but I think I scratched my cornea again as my eye was bothering me.  Spent the day in Oslo drinking espresso, wandering downtown, and picking up a travel adapter to charge my batteries.  I’m usually pretty good about packing up all my camera gear, but this time around I forgot to bring a travel adapter.  Oslo is a great city and I would have liked to spend more time exploring, but it was freezing, I was exhausted from wandering around, and I preferred to go to a nearby restaurant with giant viking-like fireplaces Norwegian food, and beer.  Spent the night at the Cochs Pensjonat.  Simple rooms but warm and clean, and I got a good night's sleep for the mile walk back to the train station and ride to the airport.

Flight to Bodo was slightly delayed, so we had to run to make our flight to the Lofotens.  Almost everyone on the plane was there for photography, as we were all scrambling for overhead space to stash our gear.  Meeting the group was exciting.  We had a good group of people who had already traveled the world, and again I was probably the only one in the group with the shortest list of destinations.  Daniel and Alban explained to us that the forecast was snowy, which was good in that it would make for much better winter landscape scenery, but would not be great for northern lights hunting, something that I was desperately hoping to see on this trip.  It was cloudy and snowing pretty good when we landed, so we decided to make our way straight to the cabins where we would be staying for the next few nights.

These tiny little fishing cabins were perfect for a winter trip.  Cozy, bare bones, with heat and hot water.  My roommate for the trip brought a nice bottle of Akvavit, which definitely helped with warming up.  After a few pics from the bridge of our cabins, we all met for dinner at the only restaurant in town.  I got along just fine with the two Australians on the trip, as we decided then that we would have to try every Norwegian beer the place had available during our stay here the next few days.  The chef was awesome, and the Minke whale steak was excellent.  I slept well until about 1 am when we were woken up for some potential northern lights shots, which turned out to be somewhat of a bust.

Spent the next morning getting some shots of the town of Reine.  I couldn’t believe how many cod drying racks there were, waiting to be filled up at the start of the fishing season.  The light wasn’t that great, but we still got some good pictures.  Once we wrapped up shooting, we headed back to our Krambua Restaurant for a surprisingly nice breakfast spread.  Daniel gave us an overview of the plans for the tour the rest of the week, and showed us a few of his pictures from past tours.  Once the weather cleared, we gathered our ice spikes and waterproof boots up and headed out.

First stop was the town of Å, a long drive south from where we were staying, known to the Norwegians as “the end of the world” as there is nothing really past that town to the south except uninhabited islands and Arctic seas.  Got a few city pictures when the snow would clear, and it was fun exploring.

Towards the end we got some good light as we headed to our next destination, Skagsanden Beach.  It was a lot of fun walking around an Arctic beach in my new waders, trying to get wave and ice shots.  I had never pictured myself ever standing in an arctic ocean in the middle of the winter.  Even saw some crazy surfers out in the water.  It was surreal thinking as I stood there on the beach that the only thing north of me was the Arctic.  Clouds broke a few times to reveal some nice light, and I think I got a few keepers on that beach.  Dinner included great food again and more beers, and as the clouds closed in we looked forward to good sleep instead of northern lights in the sky.

Next morning we decided on a hike up a hill overlooking the town of Sakrisoy.  It was cloudy, freezing, and the snow and hail didn’t help anything, but I was determined to get to the top and get some shots overlooking small town filled with yellow cabins.  Light was nice, but I didn’t get too many shots due to the wind and hail.  Got a few more shots of the cabins at the bottom of the hill, but I didn’t really like any of my compositions after I went through all of them.  We stopped by the town of Reine to shoot the famous Reine mountain peak and bridge, then headed back out to Å to get some sunset cliff shots.

Dinner was entertaining and the Australians and I were no longer limiting ourselves to two beers for dinner.  They both happened to be miners, and have taken some amazing trips with their time off.  Cory and his wife live in Vietnam, and have already convinced me that I will have to visit sooner rather than later.  The three doctors on this trip have evidently done the northern lights thing many many times, and as they shared their galleries of past shots, those of us who had never seen them were getting more and more worried that we might miss out on the experience this trip as we looked at the forecast predicting another cloudy night.

Headed back to Reine the next morning for some sunrise pictures.  I was a little disappointed that we were going back to the same location again.  I would have been much happier going to another beach.  Didn’t really get any shots that I liked, however this time one of our group members decided to break out his drone.  I’ve seen these things before, but never really took any interest in them.  This Mavic Pro was amazing.  So small and compact, it fit right in his camera bag just like another lens, and the shots that he was getting were pretty amazing.  As something else to waste my money on that seems safer than a motorcycle, I knew I’d be looking into drone options when I got back home.

Heading back to our cabins, we had a couple hours before breakfast.  I had picked up some instant coffee at the lone grocery store in town.  Not the best coffee I’ve ever had, but certainly not the worst, and I was happy my dad’s habit of taking free coffee packets and more importantly, the cream, sugar, and stirrer packets, from hotel stays rubbed off on me, as I had brought some with me.  Drinking coffee on the balcony of my arctic fishing cabin made me thankful I had forced myself to do more trips like this.

Spent the morning driving out to the town of Nusfjord, a UNESCO protected fishing village in Norway, and the oldest harbor in the country.  Stopped along the way to grab a few more lake and beach pictures.  Lots of snow prevented us from really getting any dramatic coastline village pictures, but it was still nice walking around the town.  Even met a couple, Niko and Joska, who have been driving around the world for the past 4 years.

It ended up being too cloudy for sunsets at the harbor, so we headed back to the beach to see if we could catch any light coming through the clouds.  After getting stuck in a two and a half hour traffic jam due to a snow plow catching fire, the beers at dinner were more than satisfying.

Woke up early for a hike to get a few sunrise pictures over the town of Reine.  Hike was worth it, and we got the best light of the trip that morning.  Headed back to the hotel to check out, and spent another hour getting pictures around the area.  I was starting to get sick of the same cabin scenery, but the skies were clear that morning.  Driving to our next location, we finally started asking why the same locations over and over again.  Evidently there are a lot of tourists that visit the Lofoten Islands (obviously) and due to the small roads throughout the country it is illegal to stop on the side of the roads (to take pictures).  We had to choose our destinations carefully.  

We had a couple hours of driving to our next hotel in Leknes, when all of a sudden our bus just tipped over.  Apparently the markers on the side of the road indicating where the ditches were located, were incorrectly placed.  When we drifted to the right, the snow just gave way and we tipped over.  We ended up making the best of it.  There was a rocky beach on the other side of the road, and we wandered down there with our gear trying to get a few pictures in the middle of the blizzard.  After 4 hours, a taxi finally found us and was able to get the last of us to the hotel.  Our van was towed out later.  Afternoon was a complete bust, but we were rewarded with good news that the skies were forecasted to be clear that night.  We charged up our batteries, dressed warmly, and left for the beaches at 10:30 pm.

I’ve never had so much fun standing out in the cold in the middle of the night until 5 am taking pictures and watching green and purple lights dance around above me for no reason.  Epic experience.

I ended up sleeping for only a few hours.  Couldn’t get back to sleep so I just went to breakfast in the morning.  It was a snowy day again so no real opportunities to take pictures, so Daniel decided to hold a photo editing class.  I stayed for the first hour, but ended up leaving as I wanted to wander around Leknes instead.  After last night, I added boot dryers, toe and hand warmers, and instant coffee to my list of things to bring on my next winter photography trip.


Last day of the trip before our afternoon flight, we were rewarded with some really nice sunrise light.  I ended up getting some of my best shots during this time, along some random Straumsbukta Fjord.

Honestly, this trip wasn’t as nearly as exciting as my Bhutan trip, but it was nonetheless very memorable, as I had never been to any place like this before.  The northern lights were incredible, the Norwegian people were friendly, and I met some more amazing photographers on this trip that I will definitely try and keep in touch with.

While I found the workshop through Daniel Kordon’s work, I learned a lot about composition and technique from Alban Henderyckx, the other professional photographer guide, who was very helpful.  Being based in Iceland got me thinking of my next potential trip destination.  Coincidentally, as I finally landed in Newark and turned on my phone to begin the painful process of reconnecting to the real world, I received a message from my previous photographer guides about a new trip to Iceland they were planning for November.  I took this as a very good sign, and send them my deposit as we were taxiing to the gate….

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Lofoten Norway food photography travel Mon, 12 Jun 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Lofoten Scenes: Northern Lights Northern Lights over Uttakleiv Beach in the Lofoten Islands, NorwayNorthern Lights over Uttakleiv Beach in the Lofoten Islands, NorwayThe Northern Lights were weak this evening and came in waves, but still cast a nice reflection along the coastline of Uttakleiv Beach in the Lofoten Islands of Norway

One of my goals this trip was to try and get a few pictures of the northern lights.  Prior to this trip, I knew nothing about the northern lights.  I had seen plenty of pictures and knew that you had to get closer to the Arctic circle to see them, so I figured I'd just go to Norway and they'd be there.  Once we arrived, our guides told us that the weather had drastically changed from the week before.  It was snowing when we landed, and they were predicting lots of snow during our week in the Lofoten Islands, which would make for some nice snowy landscape scenes.  The prior week had been rainy and there had been no snow on the ground.  Unfortunately with snow comes cloudy skies, making it impossible to see any lights that might appear in the night sky, so our guides were not very hopeful about seeing the lights this week.

During our second night in our fishing cabin hotel, our group decided we would keep a lookout for anything that appeared in the sky.  It was snowing, but the forecast for lights was there.  We were all pretty tired from our first day of shooting, so when we were woken up at midnight by banging pots and pans and yelling for everyone to get out and shoot, I wasn't really sure what to make of it all.  I threw on my clothes and ran outside to set up my tripod.  It was still snowing and I didn't really see anything, but started taking my 30 second exposures.  Eventually we saw some very faint green behind some clouds, but honestly I wasn't too impressed.  After an hour, we all just went back to sleep.

Next day at breakfast, I better understood why we had to be ready at short notice to take northern lights pictures.  Their appearance is unpredictable, and may not last very long, so when they appear you want to be ready.  Our guides told us stories of guides pulling fire alarms in hotels to get groups of tourists up to see the northern lights.

Over the next few days, other members of my group shared their stories of seeing the lights, and shared some of their pictures.  This only got me more frustrated that I hadn't seen any yet, and with the weather forecasts I might not see them this trip.

On the fourth night, we were finally rewarded with a forecast of a clear night sky, so we decided to head out with our waterproof gear and headlamps at around 10 pm to Uttalkeiv Beach.  I wore pretty much every piece of clothing I had brought with me, since it was probably going to be cold standing in the Arctic ocean all night.

First thing I remember once the bus stopped and everyone started running towards the beach to set up their tripods was how freaking dark it was.  I picked a spot away from everyone else, set up my gear, and was ready to take some damn pictures when I realized I couldn't see anything.  How the hell do you manual focus your lens when you can't freaking see anything?  I tried a few test shots at close to infinite focus, but when it's pitch black out a "test shot" usually is a 1 minute exposure at high ISO.  At this rate, it was probably going to take me all night to just figure out how to focus, and I would probably miss the whole show.  I think there were a few others in my group who had the same thoughts as me.After a while, I remembered one piece of advise from the photographers was to try and focus on a distant star and manually set your white balance to something around 2950K.  I eventually zoomed in via live view, found a star, and got my setup in focus.  Once I got that figured out, I remember thinking ok yeah I'm not moving here for the next 4 hours because I'll never get this thing in focus again.

Focus frustration aside, my nervousness melted away as the lights began to appear.  They just sort of materialized out of nowhere behind the mountains, and came over us in waves of green and purple.  Apparently they were pretty weak, but it was still amazing to see.

I even took a camera phone picture of my DSLR's LCD screen of one of the shots I had taken, just to show people that this was what I was getting straight from the camera, with no post processing in Photoshop.

We ended up staying out in the cold, getting northern lights pictures until around 5 in the morning.  I'll be honest, towards the end my feet were starting to get super cold.  I think some water had gotten past my waterproof slip-ons, so that night's sleep in a warm hotel room was one of the better ones I've had.

I took a bunch of shots (hundreds), with the hopes of getting at least one keeper from each location.  You can even see here where I finally remembered to manually set my white balance.

Northern Lights over Haukland Beach in the Lofoten Islands, NorwayNorthern Lights over Haukland Beach in the Lofoten Islands, NorwayThe aurora was weak this night, but still put on a nice show over the calm waters of Haukland Beach.

Northern Lights over Uttakleiv Beach in the Lofoten Islands, NorwayNorthern Lights over Uttakleiv Beach in the Lofoten Islands, NorwayThe Northern Lights were weak this evening and came in waves, but still cast a nice reflection along the coastline of Uttakleiv Beach in the Lofoten Islands of Norway

These are my favorites from each location.  I think I was a little too paranoid about changing my setup once I got everything in focus, so I didn't move around a lot.  Learned a bunch my first time around shooting the northern lights, and I've already planned another trip in November to try and shoot them again.  Seeing these appear overhead in person for the first time was an experience I will never forget.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Lofoten Norway photography travel Wed, 07 Jun 2017 10:00:00 GMT
ROKC Ramen and Drinks  

I'm really not sure how this one ended up on my list, but I finally caught the A train up to ROKC in Hamilton Heights to try out a few of their cocktails and ramen.  I read somewhere that these were some of the best cocktails in the city.  Oysters and ramen were a plus.  Walked right by the place the first time.  Small and very low key, tiny on the inside, but I was early enough to grab a seat at the bar.

Started off with the Smoke.  Burbon, ancho reyes, cynar, house bitters.  Had a great cinnamon taste to it.

Switched to the Beets.  Reposado tequila, beets balsamic reduction, dill.

The seafood broth ramen was surprisingly good for a cocktail bar.

Bartender recommended that I try the Thai Tea to finish things off.  Cachaca, Thai Tea, Condensed Milk, and absinthe.  Part of it is served as a shot in an egg shell and birds nest.  Wish I had gotten a better picture of this.  Presentation of this drink was pretty nice.

There were plenty of other drinks that I wanted to try, from the ones that came out on fire, to the ones served in a conch shell, but after 3 drinks and some ramen, I was done.



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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) New York City food Sun, 04 Jun 2017 15:00:00 GMT
Lofoten Scenes: Sunsets Sunsets are always awesome to see, especially in foreign places with new backdrops.  Photographing them is a different story.  In general it usually doesn't work for me pointing the camera straight at the sun and clicking away.  Hurts the eyes, and the camera sensor doesn't really have a clue what to do.  I have some Lee Filters that I've played with, but adding additional layers of glass or resin in front of the glass in your lens tends to cause lens flare and affects the sharpness of the picture.  With that in mind, I ended up taking advantage of my digital camera's auto-bracketing feature and lots of memory cards.

Started with the +2 exposure to get the foreground exposed correctly.  Obviously the sun was blown out completely in this one.

I could see some of the blues in the sky around the edges of the standard exposure, so I blended some of it into my base Photoshop file.

Finally I blended some of the -2 exposure into my my sky to get the look of the sunset that I wanted.

Sunsets over Haukland Beach, Lofoten Islands, NorwaySunsets over Haukland Beach, Lofoten Islands, NorwayBest sunset of the trip. Clear skies and no snow while the sun was setting.

Final edit is with a correctly exposed sky blended into a better exposed foreground.  I think it still looks natural and not overly "processed" in PS.

While, I still have a lot of practice to do with blending exposures into Photoshop, I do like the technique and the setup.  I don't have to mess around with filters while I'm trying to get the shot in the short timeframe the sun goes down, and as long as I take enough exposure brackets, I will always have enough raw files to work with during post processing.  I still like the way filters get you closer to your final edit that you're probably looking for, which helps to reduce the time playing around in Photoshop, so those will still be in my camera bag while I travel, but so much can be done in Photoshop that I'm excited to continue practicing.

Sunsets over Haukland Beach, Lofoten Islands, NorwaySunsets over Haukland Beach, Lofoten Islands, NorwayLandscape turned blue as the sun made its way down behind the mountains near Haukland Beach in the Lofoten Islands, Norway

Bridge to LofotensBridge to LofotensIt is illegal to pull over on the side of the road to take pictures in the Lofoten Islands in Norway. Roads are narrow, but luckily we were able to find a wide spot to catch the sun over the mountains and lake in the distance.

Sunsets over Haukland Beach, Lofoten Islands, NorwaySunsets over Haukland Beach, Lofoten Islands, NorwayAs the sun got closer to disappearing over the horizon, the skies turned a nice shade of blue just before the sun set over Haukland Beach in the Lofoten Islands, Norway

A few more basic blends.  If it's not on your bucket list yet, sunsets in the Lofoten Islands in the winter are worth the trip.

Getting closer to finishing up a first pass at my Norway album, then onto some post processing from my trips to Austin and Florida.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Lofoten Norway photography travel Tue, 30 May 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Bagel Cravings Wandering around the river to get sunrise light got me hungry one morning, and I realized I hadn't had a breakfast bagel in a while.  Decided to try out O'Bagel on Washington Street in Hoboken.  Haven't been there since they took over the old Sullivan's bar space.

Freshly baked bagels early morning smell great.

Lots of options.  Guac, egg, turkey, and cucumber on an everything bagel hit the spot.

O'Bagel in Hoboken.  Not bad for something on my side of the river.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Hoboken food Fri, 12 May 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Pinch Dumplings I spent a lot of time in Taiwan for work in the past, and developed a serious addiction to dumplings.  Some of the best I've ever had were from the famed Din Tai Fung soup dumplings, as well as a street vendor making his homemade versions at 8 for $1.  Got a tip that Pinch Chinese in Soho has some good soup dumplings so I decided one night to swing by and try them out.

Plenty of bar seating to grab small plates and drinks.

The "This is Not Milk Tea" was strong.

Cumin ribs were outstanding.

Pork soup dumplings were very good, but just made me miss Taiwanese food even more.

Pinch Chinese is worth a visit if you're in the mood for soup dumplings and some drinks.  A little expensive though, but that's to be expected in this part of the city.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) New York City food Wed, 10 May 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Candy Factory

Got the chance to visit my cousin's studio for the first time.  I've been to one of her shows, and have seen plenty of her paintings around at family's houses, but I had never been to the place where she spends all her time painting.  My other cousin from the Czech Republic was in town as well, so we made it a small family event before going out to dinner.

Her studio is located in a place called the Candy Factory.  Think colorful!

I was not sure what to expect, but all I know was that I liked it.  Paint was all over the floor, adding to the ambiance of the place, and the swing was a nice touch.  Totally random.

Always cool to see her portraits and subject at the same time.

Recently, she published and launched a book detailing her life as a painter.  The book launch was a lot of fun.  Even had the Swiss ambassador there.  Showing us the spot on the floor where they got the details for the front and back covers was pretty cool.

Book is a nice read, and makes for a perfect addition to your bookshelf.  I can always help to get your copy signed as well!

I'm somewhat familiar with her current drip style of work.  I did not know she was starting to do more texture based works.  Really thick paint textures bring an almost 3D effect to the painting, and I'm curious to see how more of them turn out.

Great family studio visit.  I hope to be back soon, and this time I'll bring my flash.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) New York City photography Mon, 08 May 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Lofoten Scenes: Panoramic Hiltop Views One of my goals this trip was to plan for at least a few panoramic shots when the opportunity presented itself.  With good vantage points and sprawling Arctic landscapes, I planned out my first attempts at capturing frames for some panoramic development when I returned.

I've seen plenty of panoramic shots, but never really understood what went into developing them.  I figured that people were getting really wide angle lenses and getting everything in one shot.  Evidently not the case, as I started to learn.  I got an eye opening lesson at post processing during my last trip, and learned a lot from the people I was traveling with.  Plan out your shots from left to right, and use the various options out there to develop and stitch together the frames into one large shot.

Well the plan was good, but unfortunately I didn't really remember when I had actually attempted to take panoramic frames after I got back.  Going through the thousands of garbage shots I took, I eventually started with the three above as my first attempt at stitching something together.  It was an early morning overview of the fishing village of Reine.  After hiking up a hill to get a better vantage point, we were rewarded with one of the better sunrises we had on the trip.  Tripod was set up, and I started "spraying and praying" hoping I would get something good.  Only thing I had really remembered from others who were more experienced with this was to shoot from left to right, and try to overlap frames by about 30-50% for easier stitching during post processing.  Ideally, I would have liked to shoot more frames in the portrait orientation, but I didn't have an L plate with me for this trip.

Early mornings in Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.Early mornings in Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.Hiked up a hill to catch an overview of Reine Village and harbor during a sunrise.

After making a few edits on the three frames in Lightroom to sync the light and colors, I exported all three frames to PTGui and stitched them together.  After a few attempts at stitching, I exported the final PSD to Photoshop and finished editing.  I was pretty happy with my resulting first panoramic (click for a larger view).

Another suggestion by the photographers this trip was to do vertical panoramics when trying to capture more of the foreground with your main subject in the background.  Still working on my earlier pics from the trip, I tried doing a vertical stitch with the above pics.  I liked the view of the mountain in the distance during a snowy morning blue hour, but wanted to get more of the houses in the foreground.

Snowy mornings in Reine, Lofoten Islands, NorwaySnowy mornings in Reine, Lofoten Islands, NorwaySnow was coming down pretty hard as the town of Reine began to wake up.

While I'm somewhat happy with the stitch, I think the shot could have been much better with less massive snowstorm and better light (click for a larger version).


  1. I did some basic balancing edits in Lightroom on the individual frames
  2. Exported the shots as 16 bit TIFF files into PTGui
  3. Tried a few different auto stitch options in PTGui, then ran the "optimize" option to get the error pixels down to "very good".  Computers are smarter than me, so if mine tells me I'm very good, I listen.
  4. Exported the stitch to a 16 bit PSD file into Photoshop
  5. Didn't save my stitch, so I redid steps 2-3 about 4 times before finally getting a stitch that I liked.
  6. Final crops and edits in Photoshop.
  7. I'll save the final PSD, as well as the three RAW files.  Next time I'll save the side text file for the stitch so I can reduce my rework stitching time.

As always, questions critiques and comments are always welcome.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Lofoten Norway photography travel Fri, 21 Apr 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Asian Food and Ice Cream I do not consider myself a picky eater.  I do draw the line at fried pigs ears though.  Bad experience in Spain where I overate during my first real tapas experience, forced down the pigs ears, then ended up hallucinating while I slept and had one of those dreams where I died (my plane crashed into a mountain).  So no more pigs ears.  Line drawn.

I do like trying new places that serve different food.  I still love Asian food and am on a cocktail kick, so I decided to check Pig & Khao off my list.  Asian places are easy, as they usually have small plates and plenty of bar seating.

Plenty of small plates to choose from, and a great drink menu.

Stuck with the Bangkok Fire.  All drinks should have Thai Chili.

Baby Octopus Paksiw

I love places where you can sit right in front of the kitchen and watch them cook everything.  Makes deciding what to get that much more difficult when you see all your options being made.

The chef recommended I keep going with the Pork Belly Adobo with a side of coconut rice to soak up the sauce.  The poached egg oozing into the gravy was perfect with the rice.  I don't think I even chewed this meal, I ate it so fast.  So good.  One more drink and I called it quits.

Unfortunately I am a sucker for dessert.  Literally no restraint.  And even more unfortunate for my high cholesterol problem, I walked by the Wowfulls right around the corner on Houston and couldn't resist.  Got the "Home Sweet Home" with Captain Crunch Cookies and Cream ice cream, took this shitty picture, and inhaled it.  Ended up walking some of this off all the way to the Christopher Street Path station.


Pig & Khao's and Wowfulls.  Maybe try these two on two different days.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) New York City food Tue, 18 Apr 2017 10:00:00 GMT

Finally got to try Mimi's, a tiny French restaurant in the West Village that came highly recommended.  Being that this is more of a sit down place rather than my ususal sit at the bar and order food type place, I dragged my sister along who always humors me when I want to try a new restaurant.

Lighting was not great for food pictures, and I am way too insecure to brave the flash for a hipster food pic in a nice restaurant.  Drinks were perfect.  Never knew I liked blood orange in my negronis, but I do now.  Scallops and blood sausage was perfect.  And yes I secretly ordered it hoping my sister wouldn't like it, so I would have to eat all of it.  But she did.  I went for the Ris de Veau, sweet breads, for my main course which was topped with oranges and blood sausage.  It was amazing.

We decided to stick with the hot appetizers, although the cold ones looked delicious.  I was lucky to grab a picture of this Gnocchi Parisian, topped with cream, cabbage, peas, and ham, before we inhaled it.

Apple tart topped with ice cream was a perfect way to finish up an amazing meal.  The two glasses of generously poured wine definitely helped me stomach the bill.

Mimi's in New York's West Village.  My favorite restaurant so far.  Small venue, great food and service, and has made me a guaranteed return diner.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) New York City food Fri, 14 Apr 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Lofoten Scenes: Fishing Cabins Evidently one of the most picturesque things about the Lofoten Islands are the small fishing villages comprised of red and yellow cabins that decorate the Arctic landscapes.  As usual, I didn't do any research before booking this trip, other than making sure I could pay for it.  I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that most of our overnight stays would be in one of these cabins.  Growing up, my dad taught skiing on the weekends and our family rented a tiny winter cabin for the ski season from a family friend.  It was a no thrills place, with only a wood stove for heat, but we all grew to love it, and I definitely miss the weekends we spent there.  Staying in a waterside cabin at the Eliassen Rorbuer in Hamnoy brought a comforting sense of nostalgia that I didn't expect when booking this trip.

Mountain Peak in Reine, Lofoten Islands, NorwayMountain Peak in Reine, Lofoten Islands, NorwayA snowy blue hour in Reine, Norway. Early morning lights made for some nice reflections around the bridge towards the peak.

Weather wasn't the greatest, but I still got this bridge shot that everyone gets.

Hamnoy, Norway: A view of the Eliassen Rorbuer cabins from the bridge crossing over to Hamnoy in the Lofoten Islands in Norway.Hamnoy, Norway: A view of the Eliassen Rorbuer cabins from the bridge crossing over to Hamnoy in the Lofoten Islands in Norway.The cabins, restaurant, and location are a popular destination for photographers visiting the Lofoten Islands in Norway in the winter.

Stayed in the cabin in the center of the picture.

Hamnoy, Norway: A view of the Eliassen Rorbuer cabins during blue hour in the Lofoten Islands in Norway.Hamnoy, Norway: A view of the Eliassen Rorbuer cabins during blue hour in the Lofoten Islands in Norway.The cabins, restaurant, and location are a popular destination for photographers visiting the Lofoten Islands in Norway in the winter. Accomodations are simple but perfect for a cozy winter setting.

Yellow fishermen cabins of Sakrisoy, in the Lofoten Islands in NorwayYellow fishermen cabins of Sakrisoy, in the Lofoten Islands in NorwayBetween the snow, wind, and even some hail, the light broke through the clouds over Sakrisoy occasionally and made for some nice water effects with the yellow homes in the background.

Yellow cabins were a nice change and looked nice with the green and blue waters surrounding this village.  I was amazed how clear the water is up here.

Snowstorm Over a Red Fisherman's Cabin in the Lofoten Islands, Norway.Snowstorm Over a Red Fisherman's Cabin in the Lofoten Islands, Norway.Caught some good light as a snowstorm swept in and whited out the area. Had about 5 minutes of the light trying to peak through the clouds and reflect on the water and coastline rocks.

In general, landscape photography involves chasing light.  With the amount of snow we were getting on this trip, we stopped any chance we had when we caught the sun popping through the cloudy skies.

Early mornings in Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.Early mornings in Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.Skies cleared during the sunrise, so we were able to see the mountains in the distance from our vantage point above Reine Village.

We were guided to some excellent vantage points above the surrounding towns, and when the skies were clear the sunrises were amazing.  This was the first trip I tried to take some panoramic shots with the idea of stitching them together in post processing.  Got through developing these that shown here, so I plan on developing the panoramics next.  Hoping I get at least one that I can keep.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Lofoten Norway photography travel Wed, 12 Apr 2017 10:00:00 GMT

I'll always have a thing for tacos.  So quick and easy and tasty.  I've been a fan of Goa Taco for a while now.  Hadn't been in a long time, and noticed they are expanding....

One of their new locations popped up in the West Village, so naturally I stopped in and grabbed one.

It was already noon on a Sunday, so naturally they sold out quick.  Grabbed the last mojo beef one they had before they called for more ingredients from their main East Village location.

Small spot, perfect for grabbing a quick bite if you don't want pizza.  They use this Indian flatbread that works perfectly for a shell.  Go for the pork belly taco, their signature taco, if they have it.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) New York City food Sun, 09 Apr 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Breakfast Spot

After some more travel and trying to catch up at my day job, I finally had some time this weekend to try out a new breakfast spot that's been on my list.  I work strange early hours during the week, so sleeping in and waiting for the typical brunch spots to open around 10 or 11 is difficult for me on the weekends.  When I saw that a new place, Sam a.m., opened up near me and was open early on the weekends, I added it to my list.  After a 10 minute ride on the Lightrail near me, I was sitting at the counter drinking coffee and reviewing the menu.

Coffee from Stumptown is always a plus.

A small place in a nice area of downtown Jersey City, they have much more than your standard coffee shop offerings.  I was there early, but I can see why this place filled up really quickly.

Stuck with "The Classic", as I feel that's always a good judge of how the rest of the food will be.  It didn't disappoint.


Sam a.m. in Jersey City, NJ.  I'll be back on an early weekend morning to try the rest of the menu.  So far so good.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Jersey City food Thu, 06 Apr 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Lofoten Scenes: Skagsanden Beach and Arctic Sunsets Got a late start going through the pictures from my most recent photography trip.  I think I've seen pictures from everyone else from the group posted to their various websites and social media outlets.  In all honesty this last trip motivated me to finish a first pass on all of my pictures from my previous Bhutan trip last year.  Couldn't start going through these and leave those unfinished.

At the end of February, I took a photography workshop with Daniel Kordon and Alban Henderyckx in the Lofoten Islands in Norway.  Again, after my photography workshop in Bhutan, I was hooked on doing something like that again.  I've never traveled to a "winter" destination specifically for photography, so this was another first for me.  Amazing trip.  Met a lot of great people that I will make an effort to stay in touch with, and I learned a lot more about landscape photography.  While only a week long, my field notes journal still has a bunch of notes that I need to transfer over to here, however I decided rather than go through a bunch of posts for each portion of the trip, I'd tackle the pictures first.  For now, I am trying to grab one from each day before moving on to the next.

Skagsanden Beach, Lofoten Islands, NorwaySkagsanden Beach, Lofoten Islands, NorwayLong exposure to capture the patterns of the arctic waves on Skagsanden Beach off the coast of Flakstad in the Lofoten Islands, Norway. First time standing in an arctic ocean during the winter.

Found ourselves at Skagsanden Beach as the sun was going down.  We had been told to bring waterproof waders for this trip by our guides, and mine were definitely used whenever we were along the coastlines.

Took several exposures using my new RRS tripod (I love this thing).  Started with this one in Lightroom.

Adjusted the color and white balance, and warmed up the scene a little.

I used the water from this exposure.  I think it looked the best out of all the shots that I grabbed.  I blended the water into the other exposures in Photoshop.  Added some sharpening to the rocks, and in the end I decided to crop out the house on the right.  I thought it was too distracting.

Sunset in Å, the "End of the World", a small town in Moskenes, the Lofoten Islands, NorwaySunset in Å, the "End of the World", a small town in Moskenes, the Lofoten Islands, NorwayAs the clouds moved in, a snowstorm turned the visibility to zero, but not before we caught some nice light during the sunset viewed from the cliffs around Å, a small village in Lofoten, Norway.

I took several pictures from this location near Å, the "End of the World" according to the Lofoten Norwegians, but I started off with this one.  I really liked the light rays around the mountain islands in the distance.

Started off with the shot with the mountains exposed correctly.

Then adjusted the underexposed version to blend in the sky and the reflections in the water.

Any questions, critiques, or comments are welcome.  EXIF information for my pictures is always available once I post the gallery.

This blending of exposures is still new to me and I have a ways to go with my post processing skills.  But practicing this is fun for me, and a nice break from the work side of my life.  I avoided using filters in this scenario as I zoomed into the sunny area, as dumping more glass in front of my lens tends to cause lens flare which can be tough to get rid of in post processing.  Hey, it's a first pass.  I'm glad for this trip that I planned on doing this type of post processing by getting myself a good tripod and taking a lot of bracketed shots.

More to come as I get through more pictures.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Lofoten Norway photography travel Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:00:00 GMT
End of a Journey Views from PunakhaViews from PunakhaPrayer flags and rice fields decorate the landscape in Punakha, Bhutan

Views from PunakhaViews from PunakhaPrayer flags and rice fields decorate the landscape in Punakha, Bhutan

Naturally I couldn’t sleep because of the excitement from the day before.  I was the first one at breakfast, but felt relaxed as we were nearing the end of our journey and didn’t have any more long drives ahead of us.  Grabbed a few more shots around the hotel before heading towards Dochula Pass and the western side of Bhutan.

Dochula PassDochula PassClear skies above Duchula Pass on the road between Thimpu and Punakha, Bhutan

Dochula PassDochula PassClear skies above Duchula Pass on the road between Thimpu and Punakha, Bhutan

Upon getting to the pass, we took advantage of the clear skies, and even got to see the Himalayas in the distance.

Tachog BridgeTachog BridgeA view of a small river crossing in Thimpu, Bhutan

Tachog Bridge: Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo was the man who built the iron chain bridges in Bhutan in the late 1300s, and is said to have built 108 of these bridges around Tibet and Bhutan. Many of them are still in use today, showing how strong and durable the bridges are.

Tachog BridgeTachog BridgeA view of a small river crossing in Thimpu, Bhutan

Attempted a few long exposures of the water underneath a bridge in Thimphu.  Our guides informed us that they had closed the bridge for safety.  Would have been a better angle standing on the bridge, but that’s if I could have braved crossing a rickety wire bridge.

Made it back to Paro that evening to conclude our trip.  After stopping by Yonten’s souvenir shop to pick up a few last minute trinkets (Got a set of Ara cups for my Ara jar), we all headed over to the pizza place to have pizza and beers with the owner of the tour company which had dealt with us these past two weeks.  I’ll be honest, at this point in the trip I was looking forward to anything but the standard tourist meals we had been served.  Yonten knew we liked our beer cold, so he had planned ahead.  The purveyors of Authentic Pizza took care of us.

The next day, the trip was over.  Couldn’t believe it.  We all packed up, headed to the airport, and once we landed, said our goodbyes in Bangkok.  A few of us vowed that we were in on the next trip that was put together.  Grabbed food at Din Tai Fung before getting up early the next morning and flying home.  After a canceled flight and a layover in LA from Tokyo, I was back in the real world.

Elia and Naomi Locardi and Dream Photo Tours couldn’t have put together a better trip for me.  This was my first photo tour, and the most exciting trip I’ve ever been on.  Met a lot of great people that I will definitely keep in touch with (eh I’m still scared of dentists), and I know I will do more trips like this in the future.  I even appreciated the hand written thank you note I received at the end of the trip.  It was so much more than a photography tour.  An experience that’s impossible to repeat.  The description on their website doesn’t do the trip justice, but it’s well worth it in my opinion.

Went through a lot of pictures, and tried to develop them as best as I could.  Elia’s post processing techniques are amazing, and I’m hoping practice will help me.  It’s still a learning process, but as I went through them and wrote up my trip notes here, I got to relive the experiences, and am thankful I finally forced myself to do something like this, outside my comfort zone.

Full gallery is located here.  Questions, comments, and feedback is always welcome!
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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Bhutan food photography travel Mon, 20 Mar 2017 10:00:00 GMT
Landslides Trongsa DzongTrongsa DzongDzong in Trongsa, Bhutan

Trongsa DzongTrongsa DzongViews from inside and around the Dzong in Trongsa, Bhutan

Trongsa DzongTrongsa DzongViews from inside and around the Dzong in Trongsa, Bhutan

Trongsa Dzong and ValleyTrongsa Dzong and ValleyViews of the Dzong in Trongsa, Bhutan. You can see a landslide blocking the road in the distance.

Trongsa DzongTrongsa DzongViews from inside and around the Dzong in Trongsa, Bhutan

Next morning, attempted a few more shots of the valley and Dzong.  We learned at breakfast that the landslide that we had experienced a few days ago turned out to be much bigger than expected.  The highway was still closed.  People had been stuck in the east for around 4 days.  Tour groups were running around trying to figure out how to rent emergency helicopters (only two in the country) to get back to the airport.  We weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do, so we took a few more pictures of the town and Dzong before heading over to the Yankhel resort for coffee and lunch.  Lots of uncertainty for the afternoon, as guides from many groups were trying to figure out what to do.  The country was essentially cut in half.

At around 4 pm, we got the notification that the road had opened up and that they were starting to let cars through.  It was going to be a long and bumpy ride.  Several hours later, as traffic inched towards the cleared blockage, we saw large crowds gathered on the side of the road through the pitch black, and even saw one construction worker being helped by four others limp down the highway, injured from falling rocks.  Evidently they were letting only small cars through, but Yonten managed to persuade the government official supervising the crossing to let us try to get our bus across.  As we all got off the bus and took a look at the steep muddy incline we had to get past, I don’t know what worried me more.  The fact that our bus stood no chance of making it up this hill, or the fact that the rocks above the cleared blockage seemed to be only being held back by the three flashlight beams constantly monitoring them for any potential signs of more slippage.

Our driver didn’t even come close the first two tries, but on the third with the crowds cheering and dozens helping to push the bus over the last 10 feet, it miraculously made it past the hill, and we all sprinted after it, as if worried that if we didn’t hurry it would somehow get stuck or turned around again.  Thanks to Rene Sorensen for taking a few of these pics!  I was too terrified of the 2000 foot roadside cliffs we were running alongside to even think about taking my camera out.

After hours and hours of bumpy roads, we finally made it to Hotel Lobesa at around 4 am in Punakha.  Huge rooms, hot water, and a comfortable bed.  We praised our driver, and we all agreed to sleep in the next morning.  I attempted to fall asleep, but was still too excited from the events earlier so I planned for an early morning breakfast in a few hours.

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]]> (Andrew Stranovsky Photography) Bhutan photography travel Fri, 17 Mar 2017 10:00:00 GMT