Family Fun in Cambridge

My brother and his family were visiting Cambridge this past week. It was the first time my nieces had flown in an airplane, and they were bubbling with stories and impressions when they arrived on Friday evening.

The light environment where you sit down to post process your photos is important. You can probably tell that many of these photos were edited in the evening by the fact that they are all a bit dark.
This is a really old photo of me and my brother in Cambridge when we were here for the first time. Photo credit to Mum! We were dressed in matching blue. Cambridge looks the same as it did back then.
Here are the girls on the same bridge. Growing up we were three brothers that had so much fun together, and now they are three sisters who grow up together. One thought that I had earlier was to recreate the old photo with my brothers, what I did not think of was that now I had the chance to do the same shot with my nieces! I guess that means they have to come back again.
Before going to King’s College Chapel we stopped by a candy store and the kids each got their own lollipop, which of course they had to tuck away while in the Chapel. As a result they were all quite eager to do a speedy tour and exit the Chapel as quickly as possible. Here they just recovered their candy.
We had one umbrella between six people. I like how she is framed by the black umbrella. Also I feel the road to her right adds something to the picture.
Everything is not play and fun. Just because you are on vacation does not mean you can skip your homework. She finished most of her homework within an hour or so and I did not see her pick up the books any more during the visit.
The following day brought much better weather. They had rented a car at Gatwick, but in Cambridge bike is still the fastest way to get around.
We went punting towards Grantchester and somehow against Scudamore regulations we managed to get two paddles since the girls wanted to help out by paddling.
My nieces love ballet. The two oldest attended an evening class last year and as a result they spontaneously erupt into little dances now and then. So I figured it could be fun to do something on that theme. I asked my friend Clara if she would not mind showing the girls a few poses. They had so much fun. Some of you might have seen the short video clip I posted on Facebook.
This is a composite photo as the little one was better in the second frame. I used the auto align layers function, and then a layer mask to seamlessly combine the two photos. It is really quick, if you are curious how it is done have a look at my youtube clip.
Three little butterflies fluttering their arms and having a great time!

Jonathan filmed a few video clips while we were photographing the little dancers:

A fun family photo. I shot a lot of the photos at ISO 3200, with f/4.5 and 1/400s. My thought was that the short shutter would prevent motion blur and the smaller aperture  would give me more depth of field, so I would have them sharp in the photos. It worked, the photos were sharp, but the problem was that I got a lot of noise. For this static portrait I went to ISO 4000, f/2.8 and 1/125s. That is a 10 times brighter image, and it showed in the almost non-existent noise. I could probably have got away with those settings on the moving images as well.

The next day we had planned on going to Cromer, but the kids were not really up for a long car ride so we ended up going to Ely instead.

My niece wanted to take a romantic photo of her parents sharing a slush. I snapped this photo while she was directing them. She then borrowed my camera to take her photo. This was at Planet Zoom in Ely, which has a lot of bright distracting colours that kids love. I desaturated the photo, and removed some distracting elements in the background with Photoshop’s content-aware brush, to simplify the scene and bring the focus back on them.
“I’m just taking a shot to test the exposure, then you can have the camera.” This was the truth, but the photo turned out nicely so I ended up keeping it.
The girls have grown up with horses. I first shot this vertically, but then took a second shot horizontally because it worked better with the long horizontal lines of the fence.
This photo was taken by one of my nieces. I have changed my camera settings so that the shutter button does not change the focus, so you need to press AF-ON to focus (it helps with composing photos). She had no problem figuring it out, and she was also quick to learn how to hold the big camera properly. I am a proud uncle!

On the way to the dinner restaurant we passed by a playground. You would have thought that spending a couple of hours at that indoor play ground would have filled the daily quota of running around. One of the favourite games we play together is monster, and yes you guessed it, I get to be the monster.

At the end of the monster play session I took my camera and tried to get a few shots. To sharpen this photo I used the new shake reduction feature in Photoshop, with her face as the region of interest. The original image was quite sharp, but this added that extra bit of sharpness. I felt that taking her motion into account would be better than just using the regular sharpening.

They were staying with me for the first three nights. I had borrowed two air mattresses and bought some additional pillows. The last two they had booked into a hotel to mix things up a bit, and I guess as a precaution if it turned out to be a lot of difficult nights. However, everything went really smoothly. They could easily have stayed the entire duration at my place.

When I arrived at the hotel the girls had just finished their war painting. They had got hold of their mother’s make-up kit. Of course, the little warrior princesses needed to clean up before we could hit the streets of Cambridge.
She is not happy, her sister stopped pretending to clean, and turned on the cold water tap. If you did not guess it already it was their mother who did the real cleaning, the sitting in the sink bit was just for photographic purposes. I liked how the light from the window fell on her face. The next goal is to make sure I can reproduce this light consistently and at leisure.
Who needs mirrors when you have microwaves. I like my reflections, and I try to find them in all places.

Walking with kids is a lot slower than biking. We did not arrive in town until around lunch time, which could have something to do with us starting late and stopping at a play ground on the way.

There was a pirate themed playground, with a net leading up to the highest point of the ship. So I positioned myself under it to get this shot.
There is a lot of garbage on the streets of Cambridge. My niece does not approve. She started going around picking it up.
There was something about this attempt at a family portrait that captures day-to-day life with three little kids.
Jonathan’s second time punting and he is already starting to act like a pro.


I like that there are things going on in the background of the photo, and the more solemn face on my niece in the front. You have to be quick, because she has so many different faces.
A photo of me! Not every day you see one of those. Shot by Jonathan or Sandra.


It got really quiet here in Cambridge now that they all left. I am really happy that all of them could come. Let me just end with a group shot of all of us from the ballet evening. Photo by Clara.


– Johannes


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  1. Jonathan
    October 11, 2014

    Thanks for the hospitality bro and the lovely blog post!


  2. Josef
    October 17, 2014

    Great post. I especially enjoyed the reference back to you and Jonathan standing on the bridge. The three of us should stage more pictures.

    And I ought to come here more often. 🙂


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