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Jan 15 / 2015

15 on the 15th for 2015 (January – Mexico)

by Laura

Category : Adventures, Personal



Those of you who have been around here for a bit know that last year I was heading up a 365 project.  One single photo, taken every single day, for a full year.  I am beyond thrilled to have completed it, but will be honest and say that I’m not up to that level of commitment again this year with all the other things I have going on.  However, it makes me a bit sad to not have a continuing daily documentation of our lives like that.  Thus, this year, I’m doing a new project that is a little easier on my time but still will serve as a reminder of this part of our lives, and still keeps me doing what I love – shooting!  Myself, and six other very talented ladies from literally around the globe, are joining together in a blog circle to each share 15 photos on the 15th of every month for the year of 2015.  We will be linking to each other’s shares at the bottom of our posts, so that you can follow the full circle around if you like :).


I feel like I got off a little bit easy for my first share.  My husband and I were on a much-needed, all-inclusive vacation near Cancun, Mexico, for the last 10 days, so you can guess where all 15 of my photos came from!  It was glorious.  We slept, and ate, and swam, and then slept, and ate, and swam some more!  We didn’t even mind the torrential, tropical rains we were hit with mid-week as it gave us a couple days in our room with our laptops, alternating between watching copious amounts of downloaded shows, working through almost 6 novels between the 2 of us, and napping.  I’ve only been back in Canada for one day and I already miss napping, haha!  Hope you enjoy the little glimpse of Mexico below!


(All photos taken on 35mm, 1.4 lens.  Gorilla pod and small remote used for all long exposure shots)


#1.  Starlit Beach  (see behind-the-scenes at end of post)


#2.  Night Sky  (ISO 1600, f1.6, 4.5 seconds)


#3.  Moonbeams  (ISO 500, f3.5, 39 seconds)


#4.  Deep-Fried Ice Cream  (ISO 2000, f2.2, 1/250 second)


#5.  Scuba Diving  (a still taken from a Go Pro video clip)


#6.  Scuba Diving 2  (made from 2 stills taken from Go Pro video clips /  see behind-the-scenes at end of post)


#7.  Fire Dancing  (ISO 2500, f2.2, 1/320 second / see behind-the-scenes at end of post)


#8.  Evening Show  (ISO 3200, f2.2, 1/320 second / see behind-the-scenes at end of post)


#9.  Nocturnal Turtles  (ISO 3200, f.1.4, 1/100 second  –  pond lit so no external lighting needed)


#10.  Jungle Senote  (ISO 2500, f.5, 1/100 second)


#11.  Hamilton (Nick insisted I name him.  Yes, he let me get THAT close with only my 35mm on!)   (ISO 500, f.5, 1/800 second)


#12. Illusive Sunrise  (see behind-the-scenes at end of post)


#13.  Night Lights  (ISO 400, f2.5. 30 seconds)


#14.  Star Trails  (see behind-the-scenes at end of post)


#15.  Goodbye, Cancun  (ISO 5000, f1.4. 1/60 second)



Thanks for looking!  If you’re interested in some behind-the-scenes information, please keep reading below.  However, if you just want to keep looking at some more pictures, feel free to head over to Jennifer Bogle’s blog, and see her 15 on the 15th HERE.





Photo #1. is actually two photos combined (top right and bottom left).


Step 1:  Take a long exposure shot of the beach at night, using a gorilla pod (small, portable tripod), and a remote control.  Settings of original photo (bottom left) are ISO 1600, f.1.6, at 2.4 seconds on my 35mm.

Step 2:  Take a shot of the night sky – just enough to see the stars.  Settings of night sky photo (top right) are ISO 400, f2.5, at 4.8 seconds on my 35mm.

Step 3:  I cheated a bit here.  My intervalometer broke, so I couldn’t sit under the stars for hours and let the camera record the night sky’s rotation like I normally do, so I took the night sky photo, brought it into Photoshop, and used approximately 300 layers on a lighten blend mode, rotating each layer 0.10th of a degree to make a circle, after selecting my pivot point (which if I had done this in real life, would have naturally happened as the sky rotates around the North Star).  To save a bit of time, I made an action for this.  See bottom right for finished Photoshop file.  Yes, those are the REAL colours of the stars that night!

Step 4:  I took the original photo (bottom left) into Photoshop and brushed the clouds out of the sky to have a clean blue canvass to work with.  Then I layered my star trail file on top with a blending mode and meticulously masked it off the foreground.


Photo #2. is also two photos combined.  Our Go Pro has waterproof casing, so we took it with us snorkling and took some short video clips.  I took a couple frozen frames from the video and combined them into one photo below in order to have the sky, the top of the wave, and underneath the wave all in one picture (finished photo is far right):



Photos #7. and #8. are also composites (more than one photo blended together).  The stage lights around the arena area provided the wonderful red and blue fill light (otherwise you would only see silhouettes of the actors).  However, at the fast shutter speed (1/320) I was shooting at to freeze the actors’ motion, the shutter wasn’t open long enough to actually let the stars in.  Thus, I grabbed my night sky shot from Photo #1. and layered it onto the photos in Photoshop with a lighten blending mode to give the sky some character.



Photo #13.  Confession time.  This picture was the sunrise I had FULLY INTENDED to get.  I even stayed up for the ENTIRE night until 7a.m. to shoot it.  Guess what?  It poured rain.  So I completely cheated and replaced a daytime shot I took with a fake sky that I had, and warmed up the foreground with a peach colour to make it match.



Photo #14. is actually all just one photograph (top left).  Settings are:  ISO 400, f2.5. 30 seconds.  I pulled it into Photoshop, and then cut out the sky in its entirety and opened it as a separate file.  I used the same approach with Photo #1. above and used a TON of layers to slowly rotate the sky around, starting at 0.10th of a degree, and moving up to 0.50, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 as I went along to speed up my workflow.  When I was finished, I took the sky (bottom panel), and pasted it back on top of the original photo and carefully blended the edges in with a mask.

night sky

8 thoughts on “15 on the 15th for 2015 (January – Mexico)

  1. Nothing like a vacation to get the most amazing images from Laura… not that you needed a vacation or anything. lol! Stunning!!!!!

  2. What an amazing vacation! And gorgeous pictures to go with it!!! Seriously stunning! I love your ‘Behind the Scenes’ – seriously so inspiring!! And who knew you could get something that amazing with a GoPro- I need to break mine out more! Amazing Job!!

    1. admin

      Thank you, Ashley! You should know that taking video stills from a Go Pro (in hindsight) is NOT the way to go, though! Next time I’m putting it on photo mode and just shooting. Those fish swam way too fast for the individual video frames to not be riddled with motion blur.

  3. AMAZING photos!!!! Amazing vacation!!! The explanations were so worth posting because yes I would have been one of many to ask about the photos and “how in the world” 🙂

  4. That sounds like a dream vacation! I’m so impressed with your PS skills. I love how you made it possible for us to experience the magic of your vacation. The moonbeam picture is my favorite one, it feels so otherworldly!

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Image of female photographer looking back at camera with ocean behind her showing a back tattoo

Hi! I’m Laura, a coffee-loving, outgoing introvert with a passion for motherhood and photography. This blog is an extension of who I am. I’m a mommy to three little boys, and I love to create and write. I’m also loud, tend to over share, and am a type-A personality in the extreme. I’m a little pensive and can be a lot sarcastic.  I believe that motherhood is something more than just to be survived! This is both a space where I share glimpses into my business and the photo shoots I do, and also my personal space to just write about whatever is on my heart. So grab a cup of coffee, come stay for a while and let’s get to know each other. 🙂