Behind The Lens – Sunrise on a Rock Self Portrait

I have had this shot idea in my head for a while. A couple of things had to come together in order for this shot to work. The first is low water levels that allow me to see and use the rock. The 2nd is a dramatic/colourful sky.

When shooting a sunrise/sunset sometimes the exposure can be a bit tricky. This is why it is best to shoot in manual mode. For the longest time I had been shooting in aperture priority mode. I found it difficult to get an exposure that I liked. With manual exposure mode I am able to get a more precise exposure. This allows me to be able to not overexpose the sky, while still maintaining a little bit of detail in the foreground.

 Trying Different Composition’s and why certain composition’s work better

When shooting the sunrise sometimes the colour last’s for a long time which makes it easier to try out multiple different composition’s. Other times the colour in the sunrise doesn’t last as long, so you need to hustle to get different composition’s in.

1st Composition

This is was the first composition that I tried the morning of the sunrise. While I like this composition I thought that I was a little too centre in the frame and that the sky needed to be a little more interesting.

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2nd Composition

So I decided to re-compose the shot with the rock in the left hand portion of the frame. After taking a couple of shots I looked on the back of the camera and noticed that I was lost in the image. Meaning the silhouette shape wasn’t as nice as it had been in the first image. I tried this composition with me standing on the rock and it worked much better that way.

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3rd Composition

The next recomposition ended up being the shot I liked the best. I ended up putting myself close to the middle of the frame. I think this composition works the best. It enables me to get the right shape in the silhouette. I notice the ripples in the water and the semi-circle that the ripples were creating. I ended up moving the camera over slightly to include the ripples in the water. I like the way the ripples in the water mimic the curve in the clouds. The curve of the clouds also adds another element to the image. It allows your eye to follow the curve through the frame.

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4th Composition

I love the colour that was happening in the clouds. I recomposed to move the rock into the right hand side of the frame. To me this image missed the mark slightly in the fact that I am facing the wrong way. I think the image would be a stronger image if I was facing with my feet pointing towards the left side of the frame instead of the towards the right. I ended up liking the landscape version of this shot more then I did the self portrait one.

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Keep in mind these are my options on what I think works best and another photographer might have a different option.

*Always make sure you are safe when out shooting. I ended spraining the tendons in my wrist getting this shot. While I don’t regret it, I do wish I had taken the time to get myself off of the rock in a safer manner.

Behind the Lens Series – Northern Lights Self Portrait

One of my favourite things to photograph is the northern lights. I was lucky enough to photograph them the weekend of Sept 29th, while I was at the cottage.

I knew there was a chance for the northern lights to be active, so I kept my phone on. I get email notifications from NOAA (http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/content/subscription-services) that tell me when the lights are going to be active. I had gotten up to use the washroom and had trouble falling back asleep. I heard my phone buzz so I decided to check it. I saw that the lights were active, so I decided to check out the patio doors. I saw the lights so I decided to grab my gear and head down to the beach. I also woke my Aunt up as she had wanted to join me.

There was a south wind again which was pushing the water off shore to reveal some amazing textures in the sand and sandbars. The sandbars protected the water close to the shore from the wind. Which allows for beautiful reflections to be captured.

I had an idea of a self portrait. The idea was me on a sandbar with the reflections of the northern lights in the water. Since the pier had been taken down the only way to get to the sandbar was to walk in the water. Since it is fall time in Manitoba I would need to get my rubber boots. I went back and forth about whether or not I should go to my car to get my rubber boots. Luckily I ended up deciding to go and get my rubber boots.

In order for this shot to happen a couple of things needed to come together. Due to the fact that I had to walk out to the sandbar, an intervalometer is a must. This allows me to get take multiple shots without have to go back to the camera. The next thing that I needed was a flashlight to be able to see where I am walking. The last thing I wanted to do was for me to trip while walking in the lake. I had to make sure that I placed myself in the correct spot on the sandbar to get the nice reflection in the water. I knew I had to place myself on the thinnest part of the sandbar, this placement helps give the illusion that I am sort of walking on water.

Before I headed out to the sandbar I needed to make sure that my focus and exposure were correct. Focusing in the dark is always tricky. You want to have your focus set to infinity. This will make the stars in the shot nice and sharp. I have used my lens a lot for night shooting, so I know where the infinity focus is. Once I have set the focus I always zoom in on a star to make sure it looks like a pinpoint. If you haven’t done a lot of night shooting the best to focus in the dark is to use your live view and zoom in on a star and focus. For night photography you also have to use manual exposure. I did a couple of test shots before I headed out to the sandbar. My final exposure that I used for this shot was aperture – F/2.8 shutter speed – 10 seconds and ISO 2000. I made sure to set my intervalometer to shoot 10 shots. I would have to make sure that I stood still for at least 10 seconds. What I always do is count to myself. I ended up counting up to 20 to make sure that I had a least one shot that was nice and sharp.

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Behind the Image – Sunrise Matlock Beach

I thought I would share with everyone my thought process when I am out shooting.

Scouting

A big component of photography is scouting the location that you are planning to shoot. I have done a lot of shooting at Matlock Beach and I know that beach like the back of my hand. I find it challenging to come up with new compositions and new images. Make sure you walk around and look at every angle possible. Some angles will work better then others.

Conditions

Being able to adapt to changing condition when out shooting is a must. Being patient is another must when shooting landscapes. I had waited all summer to have a south wind. When there is a strong south wind it pushes the water away from the shore. It ends up revealing beautiful patterns in the sand, as well as sand bars. Having light winds in the morning is also helpful but not guaranteed. The beautiful part about a light wind is that you are able to get nice reflections in the water.

How the shot comes together

Sometimes I envision the shot before I go out shooting and other times I come up with the idea when I am in the field shooting. I had hoped that some of the sandbars would still be visible. I knew that the wind direction had changed overnight but it was a light wind. Sure enough when I got to the beach that morning the sandbars where still visible. I knew the area that I had wanted to shoot in so I headed there and waited for the right conditions. There was some clouds over the lake and I wanted to wait and see if any colour would develop. I always do a test shot first. This allows me to make sure that I have the correct exposure and composition. When I took my test shot it felt like something was missing.

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It needed a human element, so I decided to do a self portrait. In order for me to take the self portrait I needed to use my intervalometer. I set up the meter to take 10 images 2 seconds apart. This allows me to take multiple shots without having to go back to the camera. I am also able to do multiple different poses. Making sure that I placed myself in the correct location is a challenge. I knew I had to be close to the waters edge in order to get my reflection in the water. So I made sure to walk along the edge of the sandbar. I also knew that I had wanted to place myself at the very edge of the sand bar. I did try and see if placing myself in the middle of the sandbar would work but to me the image wasn’t as strong as the one below.

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Journey to the Arctic Circle – Photographing the Northern Lights

My journey started in Winnipeg, from there I flew to Montreal. Being a photographer I love having a window seat in case any great photo opportunities arrive.  The sun was just setting as we landing in Montreal and I couldn’t help but snap a shot with my iphone.

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The next flight was from Montreal to Paris an overnight flight that was about 6 hours long. I didn’t sleep much on this flight maybe I shouldn’t have started to watch the new James Bond Movie! Once I landed in Paris I had to take a shuttle to get to the next Terminal. It was a very small terminal with not a lot of things to do or see. I had a 5 hour layover there and ended up falling asleep for about an hour. I ended up using my camera bag as my pillow and I wrapped my laptop bag around my wrist so it wouldn’t get stolen. My next flight was a short 2 hour flight to Stockholm. I slept most of that flight as I had another long wait before the next part of my journey.

I took the train from Stockholm airport to Stockholm central. This was the first time I had been on a train in Europe and I loved it. It took about 20 minutes to get to Stockholm Central station. I had a 6 hour wait for my night train. I couldn’t wait to have a bed to sleep in. I ended getting myself some dinner at McDonald’s and had a nice chat with a Swedish lady. She was nice enough to let me sit at her table.

Stockholm Central is a very interested place on a Saturday night. It was a cooler night in Stockholm; it was 2 degrees so for me it was nice!  It was a very interesting place to people watch but the station also has some beautiful architecture features. I didn’t take out my big camera because I was carrying too much stuff at the time but I managed to capture a couple of images with my iphone.

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My train ended up being delayed by a half hour.  Once the train arrived I had the fun task of getting my luggage on the train. As a photographer I don’t travel light I had a suitcase with all my winter gear including -150 rated boots, laptop, and camera bag. Getting it onto the train was the first hurtle, the next was getting it down the tiny aisle that led to the private sleeping cabins. I managed to get everything into my cabin and settled in for a long journey but at least I had a bed to sleep in! Below is an iphone pano shot of what a private sleeping cabin looks like. It’s not very big but at least you have your own bed and bathroom.

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I woke up to snow! I had a half hour layover in Boden and then it was a 5 hour train ride to Abisko! As the train was making its way to Abisko we passed a sign that said now entering the Arctic Circle I had wanted so badly to get off the train to take a picture but that wasn’t possible.

Next blog post – Night 1 in Abisko!

Beautiful Beginnings Photography on TV!

Last month I received a message from a friend and fellow photographer asking me if I would be interested in doing an interview on CTV. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity, so of course I said yes! I was put in contact with one of the producers of the morning show and she explained to me what they were looking for. They wanted me to provide 4-5 tips on capturing better landscape images!

 

Here are the 5 tips that I came up with.

 

1. Shoot when the light creates the best affect.. Early morning after sunrise and evening just before sunset. The light at these times is a beautiful golden colour that adds warmth to the images. It also creates longer and less harsh shadows making the image more appealing

 

2. Look for different perspective. Take the image at a different height level – try shooting down low from your stomach. It’s ok to still shoot at eye level but looking for that different angle or perspective will give you a different take on the location that you are taking images at. You will come away with images that other people might not have.

 

3. Where to place the horizon. Placing the horizon in the upper or lower 1/3 of the image often gives the image more balance. When I am deciding where I want my horizon line. I look at the scene that I am shooting and decided whether I want more sky or foreground in my image. Sometimes when you are shooting on a beach and the lake is like glass, you have a gorgeous reflection. Then I would place the horizon in the centre, that way you get that mirrored image.

 

4. Don’t be afraid to shoot in the rain. Raining days can make for some amazing images. The rain helps to bring out the colours in grasses, flowers, buildings etc.  Always protect your camera when out in the rain. A cheap alternative to an extensive rain cover is to use a shower cap.

 

5. Know your location that you are taking your pictures. Go out and scout the area before you take any images. Check the area in various light situations. Time of day could be the key to a great shot.

 

Here is the link to the interview!

 

http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=654007

A Bucket List Shot

Like every photographer I have a bucket list of shots that I would love to take. I recently was able to check one of those shots off of my bucket list. I have always wanted a shot of a shelf cloud over Downtown Winnipeg.  On Sunday Jun 7/15 I got my wish. What I didn’t expect was that I would have to take that shot with my iPhone and the other thing that I didn’t except was how popular that shot became.

I knew I had a good shot the moment I took it and I liked it even better when I did my editing that I normally do with all my shots. I prefer to spend as little time behind the computer as possible, so my editing of this image took me no more then about  1 minute.

For me this image just proves that you don’t need a top of the line camera in order to take great shots. You need to learn about photography and develop your eye. A big expensive camera isn’t magically going to make you a great photographer. In order for me to get where I am today I did a lot of reading, failing, and practicing. image (5) copy

 

 

Recent Publications!

I am very happy to announce that October was a great month for Beautiful Beginnings Photography! I know this announcement is a little late but figured better late then never!

I had two images published in October one in a national photography magazine and the other in a book published by the local bookstore. Below are the two images.

Published in Photolife Magazine’s Oct/Nov issue as part of there best of photo clubs contest

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Published in McNally Robinson’s Winnipeg by Winnipeg book

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Nova Scotia – Peggy’s Cove Day 1 & 2

My journey started at 900a in Winnipeg, my flight to Halifax left the airport at 1000a with one stop over in Ottawa. The layover in Ottawa was a little longer then planned as the flight was delayed by 20 mins. I arrived in Halifax shortly before 600p after picking up my luggage I headed down to the parking garage to pick up my rental car for my journey.

After getting my rental car I headed out to Peggy’s Cove. My goal for the trip was to maximize my shooting times by staying on site and or near the areas of interest that I had wanted to shoot. The bonus of staying in Peggy’s Cove was the easy access to the village and lighthouse during the golden hours which is the best time to do landscape photography(plus you avoid the bus loads of tourists that come during the day) I arrived shortly after 730p and check into the Peggy’s Cove B & B. After a long day of travelling it was time to head up to the restaurant to pick up what was the 1st of many lobster rolls on the trip!

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The next morning started out with me getting up just before sunrise to head out to do some shooting in and around the village. The one thing that I forget to consider was that Peggy’s Cove isn’t flat like the prairies so the golden light just after sunrise doesn’t happen just after sunrise you have to wait for the sunlight to crest over the hills. The best part about shooting at this time other then the light was that it was low tide. I had an hour to do some shooting before breakfast was to be served at the B & B. There are so many things to shoot in the harbor area of Peggy’s Cove that I made sure to focus on the details.

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Shortly before 830a I headed back to the B & B for a fantastic breakfast! After breakfast I had a great chat with all the guest and the owners of the B & B. Dan, Judy, and Sharon were wonderful hosts and made me feel like I was at home. I even meet a wonderful couple who enjoy photography and were from Steinbach, MB! We headed out to shoot the sunset later on that night.
After breakfast I decided to head out and do some scouting of the lighthouse area to find a good area to shoot the sunset. I also did some shooting at this time. It was time for lunch so I headed into Indian Harbor to a restaurant that was recommended to me by the B & B owners and that was Rhubarb’s. I had the fantastic fish and chips which were gluten free.

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After lunch I decided to see the Swiss Air Flight 111 Memorial. Swiss Air 111 crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia near Peggy’s Cove on September 2, 1998. Sadly all 229 people on board died. There are two memorial sites in Nova Scotia one of them near Peggy’s Cove and the other in Bayswater which is where the unidentified victims of the crash are buried. The memorial site is located at what is called the Whalesback and over looks the ocean with a direct site line to the crash site.

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I headed back to the B & B for a nap before shooting the sunset!

There were wispy clouds over Peggy’s Cove all day and it looked like it was shaping up to be a great sunset but what we got was fantastic! Before I headed to the lighthouse I took some more time to shoot the harbor.

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The clouds ended up being in perfect position over the lighthouse. I climbed some of the rocks to get a awesome advantage point!

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Day 2 in Peggy’s Cove was actually just the morning. I was heading out to Lunenburg but not after having another fantastic breakfast and doing some more shooting around the lighthouse and harbor. The morning was perfect as there wasn’t much wind and I was able to get some great reflections of the lighthouse in the pool of water that are on the rocks. I did some more shooting at low tide and was able to watch some of the tide come in which was pretty neat! Dan one of the owners of the B & B took a shot of me with the lighthouse in the background before I headed out to Lunenburg!

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Coming soon…… Lunenburg, Blue Rocks, and Mahone Bay!

Storm Chasing – July 13, 2013 near Pipestone, MB

On Saturday Morning July 13, 2013 Environment Canada issued a tornado watch for the Southwestern part of Manitoba. A group of fellow photographers had planned to head down to Northern Minnesota to shoot some abandoned buildings. When my fellow chase partner and photographer saw the watches we decided to change our plans and head to South Western Manitoba to do some storm chasing.

Four of us left Winnipeg around 130p that day. Storms were predicated to fire around 5p that day. We travel with a laptop that has GPS and radar. We use GRlevel radar it shows us the size of the hail and any rotation that maybe in the storm. One of the most useful things that GRlevel allows us to do is to have our GPS location in relation to where the storm is. This helps us stay out of the bear cage (this is the area of the heaviest rain and largest hail) on the other side of the bear cage is were the tornado would be. This is very helpful when out in the field.Once we arrived in Virden, MB which is an hour west of Brandon, MB we check the radar to see the progress of the storms. The 1st storm in the line of cells was the cell to watch at that moment but we had received reports of baseball to tennis ball sized hail so we wanted to stay away from the core of that storm. We decided to head south down highway 83 towards Melita this would give us the best advantage point as the storms were currently moving to the East (they started out moving North East). We found a nice canola field in between the towns of Pipestone and Melita. We stayed there for about 1/2 hour shooting the advancing storm. The images below are of a shelf cloud. Shelf clouds are at the front of the storm and have very high winds in there so we couldn’t stay in that location for much longer.

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After checking the radar there were 5 or 6 supercells all lined up in a row and the majority of them had rotation in them (meaning that they had the potiental to produce a tornado). The cell that was closest to Pipestone MB had the strongest rotation. We decided to head further south. We passed the town of Meltia and notice that the storm had started to head towards us. A quick check on the radar told us that the storm had change directions yet again this time they were moving southeast. We found another canola field and train tracks and starting shooting again. We notice a second storm coming towards us. We stayed in this location for about 20 mins and decided to head back North past the town of Melita to where the storm was weakest and ride out the rain.

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After we waited out the rain we headed back up highway 83 as we got closer to the Hwy 2 junction and the town of Pipestone we started to notice down trees on the highway. They were completely blocking the southbound lanes. We saw an RCMP officer near the train tracks and decided it would be a good idea to let them know. This is when I noticed the train track crossing lights had been damaged. The officer started to point out to me the additional damage and said that they believed a tornado had been through the area. There were pieces of a metal shed that had been crumpled into a ball and were stuck in a farmers fence.

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As we started driving towards the town of Pipestone we notice more damage. Luckily no one was injured or died in the storm. I believe the people of Pipestone played a big roll in keeping people safe. There were a lot of people that were staying in trailers and the residence took those people into their basements with them, which I believe prevented injuries.

We started heading back home down HWY 2 once we passed the town of Souris, MB we were treated to a beautiful rainbow and Mammatus clouds. A great way to end the chase day!

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As of the writing of this blog Environment Canada has yet to confirm whether or not a tornado had hit the town of Pipestone or if it was straight line winds(these types of winds can cause damage like a tornado would) There was one person that had reported seeing a tornado 20 km from Pipestone but I haven’t seen any photographs of it. The storm that went through Pipestone was consider a HP (high precipitation) supercell so if there was a tornado chances are no one saw. This is why theses types of storms are incredibly dangerous. Environment Canada has estimated from the damage that winds were anywhere from 100 km – 170 km/hr. Environment Canada is currently looking at the radar history to determine if it was a tornado that hit Pipestone.

I am an amateur storm chaser and my goal is to become much more knowledgeable about storms so that I can continue photographing the amazing structures that these storms have to offer.

Southeast Saskatchewan and The Andre Gallant Workshop

Our day started out really early on April 26 and when I mean early I mean 3:00AM! There was a group of us photographers that were heading out to the Andre Gallant Workshop in Assiniboia, SK. Four of us were carpooling together and the leave time was 4:00AM. We had hoped to be in a good shooting position for the sunrise but that morning the sunrise was pretty boring. We had reach the outskirts of Brandon, MB by that time so we decided to stop for breakfast.

We arrived in Assinboia shortly after noon. We check into our motel which was a very nice.  Assinboia is a very small town with 2 hotel/motel in total. After checking into our rooms we headed to the restaurant for lunch after that we heading over to the venue were the Andre Gallant Workshop would be held the next day. They had a beautiful venue as well as a really nice art gallery. Afterwards we heading down to the trail tracks and the grain elevators to scout out that location. A lot of small towns in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are farming towns so there is usually a grain elevator and rail tracks.

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On Saturday it was off to the Andre Gallant Workshop from 9a-4p with an hour and a half in between for lunch. They had a couple of door prizes to giveaway and I was lucky enough to have won one! It was an autographed Andre Gallant book and I got to pick which one. I picked his new book called Inspiration. I didn’t know what to expect out of the workshop as this was my first one and I was really excited. Andre Gallant is an excellent speaker and put on an amazing presentation. He has traveled all over the world and has some amazing images! He taught us a variety of techniques, of which I was able to try out when I got back home. I have to say that I was really inspired when I left his workshop to try out some of his techniques!

Saturday night we were planning on going to a abandoned church on a hill but it clouded over and it didn’t look like it wasn’t going to clear, but we were wrong! As we came out from having supper we notice the lighting, and then looked to towards the west and saw what had the making of a beautiful sunset. Not having enough time to make it to the church we ended up heading down to the train tracks and I managed to get a couple of really great shots!

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On Sunday (our last day in Sask.) we decided to get up early and head out to do a sunrise shoot. We ended up stopping at the church on hill and I am glad that we did! Below are a couple of my favorite shots of the church!

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This is a 20 plus shot pano of the church after sunrise. The lighting is beautiful as the sun is behind me and has just started to peak over the hill.

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Our next stop was this beautiful stone cottage with silos close to it.

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On our way back to town for breakfast we stop at this abandoned farm that was on a hill. We would have love to have gotten closer to it but the fields were wet and flooded. This is another pano shot of the abandoned farm on the hill.

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After breakfast we packed up and headed home. We stopped in the ghost town of Horizon, SK. on the way home. This place was a photographers dream. There are two abandoned silos on the track, a playground, and a couple of houses that were left.
The group had an amazing weekend at the workshop with a lot of laughs and we learned a lot too!

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The minute I saw this play structure I knew I had to shot. I had a image of my head of a post apocalyptic seen like something out of The Walking Dead.

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As mention above I learnt a lot from the Andre Gallant Workshop and one of which was how to do panning correctly. I managed to try this technic out when another photographer and I went to Fort Whyte Alive. The below shot is an image of dogwood. I then process the image using one of Andre Gallant’s editing technique called dreamscape. To create the dreamscapes I open the image in photoshop, then I duplicated the layer so that I have two layers that are the same. I brighten the first image and then I used the guassian blur filter that comes with photoshop. After that I went under the layers drop down menu and selected multiply to allow the first image to merge with the second. You may have brighten up the image after it has been merge as sometime it can be a little dark. This creates the dream look effect.

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