Sunday, May 21, 2017

Food For Thought

My goal today is, as usual, to showcase some of my recent images and thoughts, but particularly, to give my readers, especially those photographers among you, some ideas and food for thought.

That's always my goal. Nothing pleases me more than when someone writes and says, "I tried what you talked about in your blog, here's an example of what I was able to do". I get those messages sporadically, but not often enough!

I don't specifically come out and say, "here, try this...". But I demonstrate by example and sometimes a reader will think, "that's cool, I wonder if I could do that". Yesterday that happened when I showed a focus-stacked image. I try to give enough information with the images or story, but I don't want to bore people with excessive detail, so if you want more info on anything, don't be afraid to write. My email is

A few random things to think on and perhaps contact me about:

  • anything you see here you're not sure how to do? I'm always happy to help with advice or perhaps even a workshop if you're interested.
  • I know where to get really high quality custom business cards very inexpensively
  • I'm going to Newfoundland in a month.  Does your office or living room wall cry out for a specific picture from there: a seascape, blue hour or golden hour shot, wildlife, colour abstract? Tell me in advance and I'll look for that shot for you.
    • for that matter, what about any of the images you've already seen here? Would you like a print (or a tote bag or a pillow or a coffee mug...)?
  • The Gales of November workshop isn't full yet. October 26-29th in Wawa, a chance to share time with a dozen photographers or so in one of Canada's most scenic places for very little money. Here's a link (I have to work on this page to update it but almost everything is there)
Talk to me!

"Spam, spam, spam, spam...."

Anyone else seeing a jump in the number of spam messages? I used to get about 20 per day and it's jumped to over 100 in the last week or so. It's annoying. A ton of messages offering me a free $50 Costco gift card...

That said, I have them well handled, or at least my ISP does. I'm set up so that they get blocked at the server and I never have to see them, except that I have a list of them dumped to a single daily email from the ISP, just in case something real slipped into that group. It takes me a minute to scroll through the list just to make sure.

But it's annoying. My email address is spread around a fair bit: I could change it but that means informing a lot of people, printing new cards, etc. Guess I'll just let it be, but it is annoying.

Speaking of cards...

I've gotten some compliments on my new cards. I didn't change the back, but I did create a new front side. Here's what they look like:

Front of card 

Back of card 
One of the biggest compliments was from a professional graphic designer who commented on the extreme readability of the text, especially on the  white side. That's the purpose of the card and it was my goal. The only negative was the multiple fonts on that side: I had to because switching over to the Mac, I couldn't use the original fonts and the FacZen Photography logo is a graphic, not type. 

I mention this because cards are very inexpensive today. What vendors do is to gang a large number of customers' cards onto a big printed sheet, then cut them out: they all have to use the same inks, stock and coatings and then it's very economical. Vista Print is a tempting supplier but the quality of the vendor I use (my account with them goes back to the '90s when I was doing graphic design) is much better. I can do a box of 500 cards for $20 plus shipping. So if you want cards, using your own art or mine, get in touch

Topaz Labs has something new in the works, to be released at the end of May. It's a platform that might let you do some quality post-processing without having Lightroom or Photoshop... but if you do have those programs, it will enhance your workflow and give you some great new tools!
I'm not allowed to talk about it yet in detail. But watch this space for more information. Click the "Newsletter" button at top right if you're not already a subscriber and I'll give you a heads-up a few days before the public announcement. 

Bird Photography

I am a mere grasshopper (so I have to be careful around some of the birds!). A few weeks ago, I proudly stated that I had counted 21 species on one trip to Carden. Only to discover that there are people out there who count over 150 species in one day! There's a pin out there somewhere to celebrate that achievement, in conjunction with Canada's 150th birthday. Crazy.

I still can't identify most of what I hear out there, or see. I do know a little more than I did before, though — by the time I'm 100 maybe I'll be more knowledgeable. FWIW, I've ticked off species I've seen in the back of my Peterson's book and my total is... drumroll... 105 species. 

I'm missing a lot of warblers. They're loud and fun to hear but damned hard to see! Patience, patience. Taking a whole day to cover the 8 km of Wylie Road at Carden Alvar is not enough... but I've never NOT enjoyed a day there!

Algonquin Park

Speaking of patience and enjoyable days... I could say the same thing about Algonquin Park. Obviously if I were physically more able, I'd enjoy it more but I honestly love just driving slowly along Highway 60, stopping occasionally, seeing what there is to see. I went up again last Friday, got to the Park around 9am and left around 4:30pm.

What did I NOT see? A moose. I was really hoping to but I think you have to get there a bit earlier in the day. Also "papa" fox (the guy with the pink frostbite spots on his nose) and his family were not around (it's a open secret where he hangs out but I'm not going to be the one to publish it!). I didn't even see a grey jay on Friday although I did hear some. I think everyone's working on starting their families at this time of year. 

Here's what I did see.

I jotted them down on my iPhone and took a screen grab 
Here are a few pictures.

Broad-winged hawk. #105 on my lifer list! I saw two of these: one first thing in the morning and this one on the way out late in the afternoon. He was actually singing – or what passes for singing for a hawk!

A couple of roadside waterfalls. I'm not that happy with the resulting pictures so I need to work on technique a little more.  Jesse Villemaire posted this one from a few days before and I managed to find it. The water flow was a little less than he saw.

A Loon at Tea Lake. I used another shot of this guy (and his lady friend) as the header on this blog. 

A Ruffed Grouse. I've got better shots but I liked this one anyway. 

All in all, a nice day in the Park. To quote Ahnold... "I'll be back"!

Carden Plain (Alvar)

I said I've always enjoyed every time I've been there. All true, but some visits are more productive than others. I was there twice this week (Tuesday and Friday). Tuesday was more productive.

Virginia Rail. Actually I found this on Prospect Road, about 10km south of Carden.  

I got three 'lifers' that day: the Virginia Rail, a Least Flycatcher and a Warbling Vireo. I got so many good shots that I decided to create a web gallery in Lightroom rather than post so many pictures here, and you can find it at Go ahead, click it. I think you'll enjoy the images. Not all are birds: you'll see why you shouldn't take your Ferrari to Carden!

There's a similar gallery of pictures of the Minden Flood 2017. Here.

Carden isn't just about birds. There are flora there as well, and some insects. Some of whom you don't want to meet:

This is an American Dog Tick. Fortunately not the kind that carries Lyme disease, but it can also host other serious diseases. I found him crawling out of my hair when I got home. As far as I could tell, he didn't have any of his little buddies with him and didn't bite me.  I'm careful to wear long pants, tucked into my boots when I go out in the field.

Parting Shot

I shot this after the Camera Club meeting on Wednesday. My goal in Newfoundland is to get some of these "Blue Hour" shots, inspired by the work of Ray Mackey (whose page you can find here). Ray gave me some post-processing pointers. I hope to spend some time with him in Newfoundland in July. 

Aside from the lighting and exposure, I was really careful with the composition and I reduced some of the clutter in the background in post-processing. It was cloudy, stars would have improved this image for me. I have to wait for an appropriate night to work on that.  

— 30 —

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hi. My name is Glenn...

Seek, and ye shall find...

My name is Glenn and I'm a coffee-o-holic. It's been 2 hours since I had a cuppa...
Seriously, I'm addicted. In fact if I don't have a cup of coffee before bed (my wife and I used to lie in bed and watch the Johnny Carson show with a cup of coffee!), I wake up with a low grade headache, cured only by a cup of Joe.
Now I'm not a gourmet. I'm an equal opportunity coffee-o-holic. I don't like weak watery stuff and it should be fresh, but (don't think less of me, now), I even like Tim Horton's. I generally buy darker blends for brewing at home. The MacDonald's stuff is pretty good too.
I like Latté's and cappucino's but, like, they have milk in them. Coffee should be drunk black. Espresso is good from time to time, and Starbuck's occasionally has a good blend but you can't get the same thing there two days in a row, so I don't go there.  I buy beans and grind them just before brewing.
I know there are many ways to brew coffee. I prefer a drip machine but it has to have a conical filter. Or a single brew.
So what's this story about? I have a Tassimo machine. I like it. It's quick, the coffee is always fresh, it's super convenient. But it's big and bulky and has a water reservoir. When I was in a hotel in Montreal last December, they had a coffee machine in the room that took the Keurig K-cup pods. It was small, had no reservoir, one-button easy. I managed to find it online, but believe it or not, it was $140!
As you may know, I'm planning a month-long trip to Newfoundland and I want something to take with me. The Tassimo is too big and one-cup drip things make lousy coffee...
I asked my sister to look for me in the US. And she found one: made by Proctor-Silex, around $25! I found it on Amazon and bought one. It's coming with me to Newfoundland. So is my cast iron frying pan. How can you live without these things?
That said, it's not as good as the Tassimo. I find the coffee comes out a bit muddy. But it's better than a generic hotel coffee maker or {the horror} instant. 

PS: after writing this, guess what I need? I'll be back in a moment...

PPS: it's Sunday now and I'm re-editing the blog. Guess what I need? Right back...

The RAW vs JPEG argument popped up again, as it often does. FWIW, here's what I wrote:

So when you're looking at a JPEG, you're looking at a baked cake, one that you bought in the supermarket for $2 because it's the cheapest one they make . It was made by a machine. Once the cake is baked, there's not much you can do to change it. 
When you're looking at a RAW file, you're looking at a bunch of ingredients: eggs, flour, all that good stuff but before the cake was baked. You can custom make that cake any way you want, or you could bake cookies or muffins, or... whatever your heart desires.

How can you make your RAW file look like a store-bought cake? With a lot of work and practice. But why would you want to? If you want ordinary pictures, take JPEGs. If you want images made with love and care, shoot RAW. 
Make sense?

May I ask a favour?

I entered the Vistek "Capture Canada" competition. It's hard to choose a picture that says "Canada" but I think I did. Here it is:

A warm sanctuary on a quiet lake in the wilderness shows the peace and serenity that defines Canada

The way it works is they choose the 10 most popular images and select the winners from amongst that bunch. But to be popular, I need votes. Please go to this link and vote for my image.  I need your help.

I'm given to understand that you can vote once per day: I know it's asking a lot, but if you could bookmark it and click the link and vote from time to time? Thanks! 

Oh, and tell your friends. Give them the link to this blog and let them read it for themselves. They might enjoy the blog...

Speaking of things coming with me to Newfoundland...

The car's going to be pretty full! How do people travel by air? Just my camera gear would exceed my luggage allowance. Then there's my clothes, kitchen stuff, bathroom stuff, computer stuff, rain gear, hiking boots, knee pads, oil paints and easel and canvasses and sketchbook and charcoals and of course, my wallet.
Do the math. Driving 8000 to 10,000 km (gas!), the ferries, staying in cottage/efficiency accommodations for 30 days... 
Why Newfoundland? Three main reasons: (1) I love the place. I've been there two or three times before and I'd really like to go again, (2) I might even be convinced to buy a place there to spend my summers there in future. Not winters. Gawd. and (3) I can't really travel outside of Canada. I've been turned down for travel insurance by all of the carriers I contacted, including CAA who initially said yes but who now say "no" (the killer question: "have you been treated for metastatic cancer"). I especially can't go to the US, and I doubt I could even safely go to Iceland or other foreign destinations. So Newfoundland it is!

I've booked the first three weeks plus, I've booked the ferry, all good. Can't wait!

I bought a backup camera body. A D5500, got a good deal on a used one. The main feature I was looking for was the articulating screen to make it easier on my knees.  I had this picture in my mind of my D800 failing and me there for a whole month without a camera. It also has a crop sensor so it'll be interesting to compare using it with the big telephoto lens vs the D800.

File this under, "I'll believe it when I see it".

I was on the phone with Bell tech support today because my DSL modem goes down 3 or 4 times a week and it's annoying. They're sending me a new one (update: "you should have it by Monday or Tuesday". It's now Sunday, a week later. No sign of it, so back to the phone tomorrow. Grrr.)

Sickening. Especially the Upload speed. But then again, I look out the window at the lake...

But in the conversation, when I deplored the awful speeds available here (I was asking if anything changed or do I still have the max available to me) he said "Bell is working on your area and EVERY CUSTOMER will get FIBE services in a few months". 


Documenting my day.

I thought my readers might like to know what to expect and to do if they go down to Carden. I wandered down again yesterday. It was a nice day, and the weather forecast said "rainy and cold" for the next three months (OK, not three months. But it sure feels like it).  

This is what Wylie Road looks like in early spring. What you don't see in this picture are the huge water-filled potholes. Some of them are the full width of the road, maybe 15 or 20 feet long and as much as a foot deep. Except for a section in the woods down the road, they're hard-bottomed (it's an Alvar. Look it up). But you want to have all-wheel drive and substantial road clearance, and take it slow. Don't bring your Ferrari. 

I've learned a lot of patience while birding down there.  I got there a little after 9 am and the first real picture I took was just before 11 am. I had already walked a couple of km on the road, and decided to hike down the Sedge Wren hiking trail before I saw anything worth shooting, and it wasn't even a bird! 

People wonder why I wear camo's at Carden*. This guy paid me no attention as he sedately munched away on some kind of stick for lunch. I watched him for about 10 minutes until he finished it and calmly swam away. 

* I wear them for other reasons too. They snap at the ankle and fit under my boots, so ticks and other nasty insects can't get at me, they're Goretex lined so they're completely waterproof and breathable and they're windproof so worn with suitable undergarments (wool blend) they're comfortable over a wide temperature range. And they fit! Cabela's is a great place to shop.

I met an interesting guy who worked with the Conservancy. We chatted for a while, I learned that one of the things he did was to arrange a port-a-potty at the blind on Wylie Road (thank you, David!), he maintains the hiking trails,  he's fully aware of the condition of the road (he's working on the township to get them to run a grader down the road. We both think that may be a mixed blessing since it would allow people to access the area in their Ferraris and the place could turn into another Algonquin Park weekend zoo). He could see things I couldn't see (two bluebirds mating, a Loggerhead Shrike in a bush far away). Of course Stevie Wonder can see better than me...

I ran into David again on the Sedge Wren trail, after shooting the beaver pictures.  He flushed an American Bittern but of course it flew away from me, so I never got a shot. Then a Northern Harrier flew over, hunting the marsh, and all the birds went into hiding! I didn't get a good picture of her either, but for what it's worth...

From there I went to the Cameron Ranch because I heard that the Shrikes have been known to hang out in the Hawthornes there. None I could find, of course, but I did find this field sparrow playing hide-and-seek

That's a Hawthorne, by the way. Emphasis on the word "thorn". You don't want to go in there... 

After Cameron (I walked a total of about 6000 steps — that's over 6km. Dr. Jeff made me get a fitbit thing and although it doesn't DO anything, it makes me more aware and I try to walk more. Only hit his magic 10,000 steps once, though!), I drove down to Prospect Road where there's a designated marsh. Now I was there for at least a couple of hours and I didn't actually SEE anything (other than red-winged Blackbirds, Geese and some more hunting Harriers), I heard a ton of things.

I was stopped in one spot when I heard an odd sounding call and figured out that it was a Virginia Rail. A woman stopped by (Theresa from Bobcaygeon? You know I'm bad with names!) and she hung out for a while. We definitely heard the Rail again, and also at least three different Sora (I played the call on my iPhone and they called back!) It's rare to actually see one. Another guy stopped by who really knew his stuff. He said he was going back to Carden, so I decided the day was shot anyway, I would too!

On the way up Prospect Road, I heard a Sandhill Crane. I stopped, got out the camera but they were so far away I couldn't get a usable shot. With apologies...

This will give you an idea how far away they were. There's a meadowlark in this picture. Can you find it?  600mm, uncropped. Hint. It's in the middle... 

Back at Carden, we were hanging out near the blind when I said, "a bird just landed on that fencepost over there". The guy from Prospect Road said, "that's a bluebird". I hate people who can see.

Digitally painted 

He also said there was a Meadowlark in a tree near the road. Not when I got there.

Time to leave. It's 6:30pm, time to go home. As I'm driving up Wylie Road, near the end, I see this:

A gaggle of Greater Yellowlegs! There were three of them, hopping around but behind the wire fence so it was hard to get a clean shot.  I couldn't get closer to the fence (giant foot-deep puddle) so I had to wait until they moved away, then shot through the holes.  

It was worth waiting. I saw one of these the week before on Prospect Road in the distance, but otherwise, this is the first time I managed a picture of them. 

So this was a great day. Listening to birds, talking to nice people, putting miles on my feet. It would have been better if I had noticed that it was a police cruiser I was driving behind on Highway 35 and had slowed down a bit... but this should tide me over until the rain stops next year!

Carden Plain, Algonquin Park... which one should I go to next? It's bird season. It's moose season. What to do, what to do...

— 30 —

Monday, May 01, 2017

It's Spring. But not everywhere...

I was in Toronto the other day. What a difference from here! Apple and cherry trees are masses of flowers, people's gardens are blooming, grass is green. Here in the Highlands, not so much. In fact that's an understatement. Some green shoots here and there, the forest floor is still covered with dead leaves. The ATV trail I like to ride is blocked with a fallen tree (Jack, if you're reading this... chainsaw & winches. Call me)

That said, the trilliums at the Wild Water Preserve are coming out. There are actually flowers in some of the sunnier spots.

This is a focus stack of about 8 or 9 images. In theory you can control the background better this way. I also did a single shot at f/22 just for comparison:

not much difference in this case. Slightly different treatment and some extra Clarity added in this one. 

I used one of the DaVinci presets in Impression as a basis for this sketch, then added some colour back in. This is another focus stack. 

It was a nice day Saturday. When I went to the landfill, I decided to get some practice shooting birds on the wing: what better location? Hundreds of gulls and crows and turkey vultures to shoot. I concluded that the Tamron lens is too slow autofocusing: you needed a few seconds for the lens to lock in and if it lost focus, sometimes it wouldn't get it back. Still...

A face only a mother could love. But the Turkey Vulture is majestic in flight.  

Not my favourite bird but again I was practicing and using the Tamron at 600mm handheld. Sometimes you get lucky — I have to turn that into more of a regular occurrence.  

I need a lot more practice before Newfoundland!

Speaking of Newfoundland

All booked! Things could change but my itinerary looks something like this:

I'm planning to take 3 days to drive out, including a loop around Cape Breton. The ferry leaves at midnight on the 27th, arriving early in the morning. It's a long drive the next day to Twillingate. I'll spend a week in each of three locations, and I left a few days at the end to go to the Cape St. Mary bird sanctuary. The ferry from Argentia is expensive but it would save me a couple of days and about 1500 km of driving.

I'm skipping two places I really should visit: the Gros Morne national park (it's halfway up the west coast) and L'anse aux Meadows which is the very Northern tip. The former because I've been there, I'm not a hiker, and it messes up the schedule and the latter because it's FAR. 700km up the coast (and another 700km back). I do want to go to Fogo Island (been there too) but if I do it'll be a day trip out of Twillingate. And a must-see is the Puffin colony at Bonavista.

The places I'm staying are all cottages or efficiencies because I really don't want to eat in restaurants all the time.

I'm working on a shot list. I plan to make the record of this trip into a story. I came across a new piece of software called Adobe Spark which looks promising to create such a record. More on this later.


As promised, I'm holding it down to a few. Only my better images should be here, I think. I still have to work up a portfolio... not enough hours in a day!

'Tis the season to go to Carden Plain (or as I've been told, to call it "Carden Alvar". When I remember...). I'm there at least once a week. So far not all the birds are back, but here are a few shots I'm proud of:

I shot this at the 'blind' of course. Not an unusual or particularly difficult bird to shoot but I like the pose and I absolutely NAILED the sharpness and focus! 

This is a "lifer" for me (non-birders — it means I've never seen one before). I decided to try the Seven Styles Watercolor action on this one and I like the effect! I can't claim to have found him: Bruce Carmody, whom I ran into at Carden ALVAR, spotted it. I'm really not very good at seeing things... 

It's all about the light, isn't it? You know it, I know it... how come I don't remember that more often? 

... and finally, my "parting shot"

I've been wanting to shoot a composite that includes the Milky Way arch. So it was frustrating to see cloudy skies every night. On Saturday, the skies cleared but I knew clouds were coming in. So I went out to my usual spot only to discover no Milky Way (covered by clouds or I don't know where to look). But I had set up to shoot composite pano's so I did one: a full 360° in fact. This is part of it, a 5-shot merge — the actual file is over 70Mp! I did not replace the sky or foreground, it's 5 portrait-orientation images 15° apart merged together. I took my time and edited this the best I could. Smooth tones, one of the best landscapes I've done suitable for large scale printing. 

Again, the intent of this shot was practice for Newfoundland. I want to do night and dusk shots like this of the landscapes and seascapes.

Time to go: painting class in half an hour! 'Til next time.

— 30 —

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It was a rainy day...

It was a rainy day... well it is April!

The power of advertising. Who among you doesn't finish the title of this blog entry with... "in Pizzaville..." What do you think of when I write, "two all-beef patties..." or "It's the real thing" or "Gales of November"? Repetition is the key! Just sayin'...

Sometimes a new piece of software adds a new dimension to one's images.

It was a rainy day... 

This is the case with Seven Styles Watercolor actions for Photoshop. I saw someone else using it, got interested and purchased the action for the princely sum of $6.

Here's the thing. You can get carried away and use it endlessly, in appropriate and not so appropriate cases. The effect is intriguing but like HDR, not all the time! I'm looking forward to using it on some of those pretty outports in Newfoundland and maybe the odd landscape.

In this case it worked well: the original photo was ugly, all the powerlines, garbage cans and complicated foreground details. The building in the background jumps out at you in the finished image, and although I've lived here for 10 years, I never noticed it before!

The original image. 

Here's another image I processed with this interesting software:

While we're on the subject of software, if you're really quick (the sale ends tonight at midnight), Topaz Labs has everything in their program on sale for 40% off. Here's the link, and enter "SPRING40" in the discount field on checkout.

They have a new product in the works: called Topaz Studio. It's designed to let you access all their plugins and more, much more, with ease. It's in Beta-testing right now, a bit buggy, but they'll work it out soon! Stay tuned.


There was another thread in the Algonquin Park group on Facebook deploring the behaviour of many of the selfish and thoughtless tourists who stop dangerously on Highway 60 and who pester and annoy us, and feed the wildlife, and get in our shots and who are not there for the quiet enjoyment we are. I responded to that thread as follows and would like you, my readers, to think about what I meant. 

" ...stopping is NOT prohibited. In fact I often stop (safely) along 60 for photographs. Like you, I deplore people who do so unsafely or do not get right off the travelled lanes when they stop.
I too avoid the Park on a holiday weekend (or any weekend in the Fall) because of the hordes of busses and tourists, many of whom come from a culture where the concept of personal space and courtesy is different from mine (and presumably yours). But this IS a Provincial Park and it is intended, among other things, to be enjoyed by the public.
It's been discovered by many more people now, some of whom have never seen wildlife or even fall colours and as much as they sometimes inconvenience and annoy me, I'm not about to deny them their enjoyment of this fine example of Canada's natural splendor.  
Sure, I'm in favour of increasing education and enforcement of the laws and regulations, but let's have some tolerance for people who are not as privileged as we, who want a chance to enjoy this beautiful park."

Newfoundland Update:

I'm working on my agenda as we speak. It's back to a solo trip, and I'm still looking at late June/early July, for 3-4 weeks by car.  East coast, primarily: the drive up the Western peninsula, as attractive as it looks, is a LOT of extra miles. That could possibly change...

I'm going back to my painting classes this week. I really want to bring my oil paint stuff and sketch pad with me. I'm very frustrated by my inability to paint what my mind sees, but I'm determined not to give up just yet. 

Gales of November update:

It's filling up, only a few spaces remaining. For those who are procrastinating, it's that time. And yes, it's a long day drive up to the Soo from Toronto but really worth it! Last time I drove up, I decided NOT to turn on the radio or listen to music the entire trip: instead I focused on what was going on around me, and I turned it into a Zen experience.  Try it, you'll be pleasantly surprised. I drove all the way to the Soo in one day last time, but if you want a shorter day, stop for the night along the North Channel, in Thessalon or Iron Bridge... the drive from the Soo to Wawa is only 200 km.

Here's the link, if you forgot!

Parting shots

I took two trips out to shoot pictures this week. One was to the White Water, where we met the fisherman above and where I took this image of rushing water and rocks:

If you're a member of the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club, we (the exec) are undertaking to have multiple outings for our members. Informal ones, like the visit to the whitewater last weekend, as well as more formal trips. Watch the Facebook group for meetup information. 
You don't need to be an HHCC member to access the group, you just have to be a legitimate person interested in photography, not someone trying to sell Sensy products or sunglasses, or give away some of the money being held for me by someone who knows a Nigerian prince. Visit and ask to join, it's an interesting group.

The other visit was to the rookery in Georgina where I got some pictures of Herons nesting last year. I chatted with the landowner and learned that most of the land around there is below the level of Lake Simcoe and it would be flooded if it weren't for the berms and the roadway. Most of the landowners rent out their land to companies growing 'asian vegetables' which he couldn't name. They use the same water for irrigation in the summer. He was there maintaining the berm and bringing in pipe for irrigation. I also learned from another source (the "other" Glenn S, I think) that the land on which the rookery sits has been donated to the township as a conservation area. 

This was cropped somewhat tightly from a shot with the 600mm lens. He was somewhat far away – not all the nests were occupied yet, including the closer ones. 

— 30 —

Friday, April 07, 2017

Last Gasp of winter

The past several days up here in the highlands has been that ugly, muddy, wet, soggy time of year when everything is melting. I have a "pond" on the north side of my house. It's not very deep but the bottom is so soft that you sink in a few inches, resulting in a 'soaker' every time you go out for some firewood (taking it around to the front door for now). The driveway is all rutted at the back, although the 10 or 12 little trailerloads of gravel I spread last year at the entrance has worked. It's a muddy mess back where my garage is (and where my sump pump line exhausts!). So I parked my car in the driveway last night, not wanting to drive over it.

So of course, this is what it looked like when I got up this morning! Last Gasp.

iPhone pano. But it's all mud under that white frosting. I heard Algonquin Park got 15-25cm of the white stuff. Tempting to take a drive up but, nah... 

I did get one more trip into Algonquin Park before the end of March. Still snowy up there, but spring is on its way (I wrote this before I got up to the white stuff this morning!).

I culled my images back to three favourites as I promised (I know, should only be one. But it's better than the NINE I wanted to post here!

This young fox was in the Spruce Bog. Too accustomed to the presence of Man, s/he  followed us around in the hopes of a handout. The late day lighting was perfect. BTW I had a shot I liked better but there was a leaf or something stuck on the fox's nose! (if you subscribe to my blog you'd see that picture. I always send an unpublished picture to my subscribers! Click the "Newsletter" link at the top of this blog to subscribe. No spam, one click to unsub.)

This is a mink, making its way along behind the creek. I don't think it wanted to go in the water like the otter. I had a shot of it at full gallop, but chose this as one of my three! 

And here's the otter, snacking on frog's legs. I had closer shots but thought showing the environment tells a better story. 

This was created using a Photoshop Action called "Seven Styles Watercolor" (Google is your friend!) which I purchased for the princely sum of $6. I don't normally buy actions or presets, but this one was so intriguing when I saw it in the Topaz forums, that I had to try it. It could add a new creative dimension to my post-processing.

It was a rainy day... practicing for Newfoundland

When I'm in Newfoundland this summer, there are going to be a lot of photo ops shooting colourful little outports overlooking the ocean, with weathered, textured fishing stages and probably less-than-perfect weather conditions. I want to work up some techniques for shooting under those conditions.

Karen was visiting from Toronto so we decided to go out and shoot some pictures despite the rainy weather.

This first shot was overlooking the lake from my dock area. Um, the sun wasn't there and the duck was in a different place! I was showing Karen some post-processing techniques. Also my "blogframe" action (I wrote this one myself!). It needs updating, it doesn't work right on the Mac, especially since the fonts aren't available. Next time I get ambitious. 

One thing you need to do is work the scene. Sometimes you shoot close, sometimes more landscape. This ice fishing hut had lots of texture in the weathered wood but I decided that it competed with the graphic nature of the picture, so I smoothed it away. 

Then I thought that this scene might be typical of an outport in the rain, so I gave it a painterly treatment, bringing out the colours, especially in the reflections in the muddy foreground. This was actually a good test: I had the wrong lens, so I shot 6 images and stitched them together using the merge to pano function in Lightroom. I resized it before working on it, it was almost a 100 megapixel file!

I have two trips to look forward to: Newfoundland in July and Lake Superior in October. I can't decide which one is going to be more fun! Anyone want to come along?

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Friday, March 31, 2017

'tis the season

'tis the season

This is one of my least favourite times of the year. I've really had enough pictures with white stuff in it. And when the white goes away, we're left with ugly brown mud. I don't know about you, but I just want to stay indoors and hibernate a bit. Still, the Doc says I have to walk (I'll start any day, now Jeff!) and, well, I am the picture-taking-man. It occurred to me last night that it will be less than a month now, and I'll be looking for birds at Carden Plain, watching trees and flowers bud... "come on, spring!"

Last week there were some dogsled races: just enough snow to make it happen.

That said, I did make it up to Algonquin Park twice in the last two weeks. Here's an image from the first of those visits. I put a lot of thought and effort into the making of this image. I get most of my concepts from seeing other people's work and most of my techniques by researching then trying them myself. But I think one needs to understand not only what the maker did to create an image, but also why he made the choices he did.

You may dismiss it as "just another landscape shot" but from the toning of the sky to deliberately leaving the distant hills slightly soft to provide a sense of depth and carefully balancing the colours to match my vision, this shot came out just the way I wanted it and the uncropped version will make an excellent large scale print.

I could easily have removed the road sign: should I have? Where does your eye go first? Then where? How does it get there? Does it want to leave the image or explore other things? 

I cropped this image as the banner header for this blog (reproduced here for when I change it next time):

It's hard to find an image that works well as a 3:1 or wider pano. This does, and carries the same ambiance as the original without the story.

I added a new hit counter to this site. Not that I don't trust the stats from Blogger... and I removed the revolving globe that doesn't tell me anything new. If you could zero it, it would be more useful, but a full map of hundreds of pins that cover North America and other countries isn't too informative.

Since Blogger told me I'm over 100,000 hits (105k today) I decided to start the counter at 100,000. So let's see what's really happening.

By the way, I used

That's what I figured. The big 7K and 10K hits a couple of months ago were an anomaly. Not even 300 hits in the last week. Of course, I haven't posted anything new...

...while we're talking about internet stuff...

In a conversation with someone the other day, she told me where her website is hosted and how she "could count on one hand the times she had a problem or her site was down over many years". It got me thinking about where I'm hosted, at a big international ISP called "" and I've been with them for close to 20 years and I've talked to their support maybe 6 times over that period of time. Usually to make a change I couldn't figure out but I remember the one time when my site went down for a few hours — it turned out the computer in their server farm that hosted my site went down. Fixed with one phone call. So problem-free.

So if I bored you while skimming that paragraph, let's get to the bottom line:
  • if you need a web presence of your own, 1and1's a great place to go [by the way that's "one-and-one" not "L-and-L"!). It's amazingly cheap, they have all the tools to let you build your site or they can do it and a live person answers your call if you phone their support.
  • If you still use Hotmail or even Gmail or, God forbid, AOL as your email address, it's time to join the 21st century. Let me tell you how easy it is to get your own email address. Still want to keep the old address so you don't have to tell people it's still valid? NO PROBLEM. Let me walk you through it.
Step 1 is to create a new domain. You might want to use your name, like "". Cost? $0.99 for the first year, somewhere around $10 per year after that (depends if you want .com, .ca, .biz, etc). OK, now you own your own domain! But it needs to be hosted somewhere.

Step 2 is to set up a hosting contract. 1and1 has it set up so you can do all of that in one swell foop. Get the domain name and a basic web hosting package for $1.99 per month for the first year, $10/month after that. That's pretty well all you need: as many email addresses as you can eat (one for you, one for your spouse, one for each of the kids, the dog, the cats, the fish...), several domain names and your very own website that you can build for free! Even if you don't want the website, you have those email addresses! Here's the link and just scroll down to where it says "Create your own website" and click the yellow "find out more" button.

Step 3 is to set up email address(es). You have two choices: you can set up a whole new address, which you can access via webmail online or send and receive via your email package (if you use Outlook, or Mail or...). Or you can set up the new address to forward to your existing one! So if someone sends a message to your new address,, it will automatically appear wherever you get your mail now! You do that all at the 1and1 site, no charge.

I just set up a new address as a forward, to test it. Took me less than a minute.

So it's time. If you still think having an email address like "" is for you, then ignore this. If you think it's more professional to be "" or "" then follow this link.

Is 1and1 paying me to say this? Sort of... I get a small referral fee for new accounts, but I wrote this because I think people should get away from those hackable email addresses and join the 21st century. (I just got a virus spam email from my own doctor, who uses an AOL address. I didn't actually get it: I had a message from 1and1 that said, "virus detected" and they blocked it. Another advantage!)
I've also terminated my SmugMug account because I only used it sporadically and I don't sell images from there: it's a wasted expense for me. That said, I need to find another vehicle. Working on it.

Too Many Images.

I'm going to make a conscious effort to reduce the quantity and increase the quality of the images here. As I said to someone recently, I've been posting images that would score 7-8-9-10 out of 10 and I'm going to try to only post the 9's and 10's from now on (I don't have a lot of what I consider "10's" but beauty is in the eye of the beholder!).

So I'm going to cut back and post only images I'm really proud of (or that add to the story I'm telling). First step is culling the images that I'm archiving.

(OK, starting next time! It's hard to quit cold turkey.)

If you think the illiterate orange clown currently occupying the White House is God's gift to USA Incorporated, then you're probably reading the wrong blog. He's good for one thing, though: source material for comedy writers.

Here's a recent FaceBook post of mine for your enjoyment.
Someone told me that culling their photos after a shoot is a tedious chore.
But culling is a great activity. I mean, it's really fantastic. People who thing culling is bad are total scumbags. Total scumbags. It's great, it's really, really great. It's the best thing you can do. I've got all the best pictures, really the best. Some of them are tiny but they're great, really really great. And more people in the world have seen my great pictures than any other pictures in the world. I'm telling you. All the other photographers are worse than me. They're bad, so bad. Ansel Adams? A total disaster. Henri Cartier-Bresson, he's a fake. So fake, he has to have a hyphen in his name. Youssef Karsh? He copies my style. He knows my style because he tapped my phones. Someone told me he died in 2002. Fake news. So fake. He was an immigrant. Shouldn't have let him in the country, our country, the best country in the world.
So we sent him to Canada. Where we're going to build a great wall. It's going to be the best wall in the world, the best ever. And we're going to make them pay for it. Our photographers are the best photographers in the world. The best. You can hire them, you can pay them with opportunities for exposure, the best way to pay. And you can grab them by the lens. We're going to do that by banning all digital sensors, so we can go back to film and make Kodak great again. They're going to be so great and they're going to hire hundreds of thousands of people. Millions. It's time to make photography great again.
Feel free to share. If you share, more people in the world will read your posts. More than any other posts in the world. I'm telling you. It'll be fantastic. Think of all the exposure you'll get. Nobody shares posts better than you do. Nobody. It will be so big, it will kill the internet. Kill it. And we're going to make Mark Zuckerberg pay for it.

Update on Newfoundland

It's happening. I'm going for the month of July. And I've found a travelling companion so we'll be able to share both experiences and costs. It's not cheap – just getting there, by air or by car is expensive (if you fly, you have to rent a car there. That's a fortune!) – and you have accommodations and food and... to pay for, but it's going to be worth it.

The original concept has changed a little. Instead of finding a single place to stay for the month, we're looking at 3 or 4 place where we'll stay for a week.

We're working on our itinerary as we speak, and I'll share some of that here later. If you live in Newfoundland and you're reading this, I'd love to visit with you when we're there if we can. email me. Ditto if anyone is planning a visit during that time: let's hook up somewhere!

Something I really want to do for this trip is to make a list of my photographic goals. A "shot list" or "storyboard" kind of approach. When I review my images after a trip, I always feel as though I've missed important things. And I haven't captured the story. It's the old "work the scene" thing, applied to the whole trip, not just a photo-op.

I also need to work on some things. Here's an example:

Just an iPhone snap of the fishing huts from the Red Umbrella Inn in the parking lot
next to my house. Every little town in Newfoundland has weathered fishing stages,
old buildings, landscapes like this. I need to figure out how to give them that "wow" factor.
I also have terrible results shooting in bright sunlight (my last visit to Algonquin Park was a disaster in that sense). I'm trying too hard. I need to work on that Who knows, the sun might come out while we're on the Rock!

To my faithful readers: if anyone has always had their heart set on a specific image from there – a specific little outport, a puffin with a mouthful of capelin, waves crashing over a lighthouse, the milky way over the rocky coastline... a 6 foot pano or a 4 foot canvas for your living room or office wall – and you would like to commission me to seek out and make that picture for you, please contact me

What would one of my blog posts be without pictures? 

Visiting Algonquin Park in mid-March, we came upon this icefall on Highway 60. I was with John Reed and Amin Shivji and we were all taken by the intense colour of this ice.  

looking straight up! 

The Visitor's Centre never disappoints. Although we didn't see a lot of wildlife except there, we were presented with some variety:

Evening Grosbeaks fighting over a landing spot at the feeder

The ubiquitous and aggressive blue jays loudly proclaimed their possession

It took some time to spot this Ruffed Grouse hunkered down in the discarded seed husks in perfect camouflage. John spotted it and spent a lot of time saying, "look along my arm at where I'm pointing..." before I could see it. Some photoshop work was needed to make it stand out.

Then look who popped out of the brush and posed for a photo! First time I've seen a pine marten here.  

While John was here, we toured some of my favourite sites. As we drove along Bethel Church Road on the way to Wintergreen, we saw at least 20 deer on and off the road. Good thing we were going slowly. I was driving so no pictures...

I captured a natural-light candid of the young lady who brought us our brekkie. OK, maybe not totally natural light and Lightroom had a little to do with the lighting! (Tom & Diane, is that your daughter?) 

We stopped at the white water on the way home, then I showed John the "Screaming Tree". 

I shot a huge pano merge, totalling over 80 Mp; then proceeded to throw most of it away to create this impressionistic image.  

The following weekend I ended up at most of the same spots, this time with Karen Young.  This is a tough time of year to find creative subjects (but not my guests!).

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