Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Can you fit creativity in a formula?

twisted and convoluted musings... if you have no idea what I'm trying to say here, well me too! If you do, please share it with me!
I'm trying to come up with an explanation why I've fallen behind on my blog posts. I know that thousands of people wake up every morning and are disappointed that there's no new article posted here. I can't tell you how many people have written to wonder what's going on! Well I could tell you, but then I'd have to...
Some of you haven't gotten around to clicking that "Newsletter"button at upper right. Please do so I can give you a heads up when a new article is about to appear. Once a week or so. You can unsubscribe with just one click, so don't be scared!
It also helps me get the word out about deals available: for instance the 33% discount on Topaz DeNoise going on until the end of June. Click this link and use the coupon code, "JUNEDENOISE". 

I've developed a theory so here it is in all its glory. Please try to follow my convoluted thinking!  It's about a function called "Ж", pronounced "Zheh".

Someone said, "The Sum of a Man's Sins is a Constant". Unbelievably, Google doesn't know who said it! If I were guessing, I'd say Robert A. Heinlein, who also said one should grok life in fullness.

The implication is that if you decrease one indulgence, the others increase to compensate for it. Smoke less, you drink more. If you don't drink, you enjoy carnal pleasures. Or any of the other sins. You grok?

I eat.

I think it's not really a constant, it bears a topological relationship with age and life experience and one needs to do a differential analysis to define the function.
Let's call the function "Springer's Sigma". "ς"

I think creativity works the same way. The Sum of one's Creative Expressions is a Constant. If you get interested in one creative outlet, the others will decline. Make sense?

For example, a while ago I decided I really want to try putting a paintbrush on canvas. A real paintbrush, not a digital one. The creative spirit that was directed towards creating photographs has been partly redirected. So has my writing drive. Similarly, listening to Tommy Emmanuel's virtuoso guitar has really revived my interest in expressing myself musically. I bought a decent guitar and play it every day. But I haven't turned on my piano keyboard in months, that creative drive has also been redirected.

I'm slowly getting better at both of those things (guitar and painting). Although I've hit a plateau in both, which is really frustrating. And at the same time I'm shooting pictures, and I'm still writing but each day I have to decide on which endeavour I should concentrate that day.

I'm calling that function,  "Glenn's Zheh" or "Ж"

ς is obvious.  It's the lower case Greek letter Sigma (when it's used to end a word). Sigma is usually used to express "sum" and the word Sin begins with 'S'. 

Ж is a Cyrillic letter. It's a voiced palato-alveolar sibilant that has no equivalent in Western alphabets but it has "alvar" in it and I've been shooting bird pictures in the Carden Alvar, so there you go.

The total amount of energy one has to devote to creative pursuits is mitigated by one's perceived age and general state of health and can be expressed as:

Ж = f(λ)/π²•η

where lambda represents laziness, pi is perceived age and eta is health.

So I have a decreasing Zheh which has been spread over several disciplines so that's why I haven't written my blog in a couple of weeks. Make sense?

PanAm Games

And I'm gearing up for the PanAm Games. I did get my press credentials, it's really exciting!

Apparently with this I can go get my actual press pass and the vest they're issuing to photographers and journalists, without which you don't get in to any venues. The bad news is that I have to trek down to the CNE to pick it up next week.

The more I learn about the Whitewater venue, the less happy I am! They've sold 500 spectator tickets (yeah, where are they going to stand?) and they've closed the east side of the river to everyone because it's too dangerous. Press positions will be limited too, and spaces are first-come-first-served but I'll bet CTV and CBC and SportsNET will be hogging all the good spots! I guarantee it's going to be a challenge!

I might also try to go to the Shooting venue in Innisfil one day (I think it's the old "Toronto International Trap and Skeet" club). I just read that Susan Nattrass is leading the Canadian team: she shot in the 1976 Olympics! I worked with her brother Brett at one point. Also Don Kwasnycia is coaching. I knew him back then too.

Speaking of the Carden Alvar...

I don't want to bore you to death with endless pictures of exotic flora and fauna. If you're interested, I put images up on a SmugMug page here: If you click any image and hover your mouse over the lower left corner, you can see a description.

Here's one of my latest shots, it's a barn swallow shot at the blind on Wylie Road. Click here to see more images.

I thought I'd try a couple of the new features in Photoshop CC 2015. All this has is multiple strokes on the text but I thought it would make a good header picture. There's one really hot new feature – dehaze – but I'll show you that next week

I attended the Mud Bog last weekend. Last year I got my camera all muddy and it took me hours with Q-tips and other cleaning tools to get it clean. This year I was more careful!


If you don't know what a "Mud Bog" is, check out this video. Shot with the N70-200/2.8 on my D800.
This guy makes it look easy! It isn't.

A couple of my favourite shots from the event. 

They also had a "show and shine" and I should have stayed around but instead, I went to another event, the Food Fair at Wintergreen's.

Our host, Tom, was smoking a couple of turkeys. If this doesn't get your salivary glands working, you must be a vegetarian or something! 

Here are a few flower pictures for your enjoyment!

I'm waiting for the mailman to deliver the set of extension tubes I ordered. In the meantime, these were shot with my N70-200 f/2.8 and cropped a little bit.

This is a poppy-to-be, at my next-door neighbour's. 

An Iris, same place 

At my house, I have more plants than flowers. This is a Hosta (I think!) 

On the side of Highway 35 there's a Lupin patch. Some Topaz Impression gave it that painterly look.

One for the Road

We did a mini-food photography workshop at the camera club. This was a setup I styled, and I shot it using some continuous lights and a light tent, plus an off-camera strobe to soften the shadows. Again, Topaz Impression for finishing, using one of the Georgia O'Keeffe presets. 

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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

I'm Famous!

I'm Famous!
(not rich yet, though)

PhotoLife Magazine has chosen my image, "Dahlia Impressions" for their June/July 2015 edition. And printed it... not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES!



On the Index page and in the story inside

It's quite an honour to be chosen as the lead image from all the photography clubs in Canada! As I write this, the original print is on display at the Agnes Jamieson Gallery in Minden and you can purchase this original image, impeccably printed and framed by contacting me directly.

Seriously. It's for sale. After this original sells, I'll start a limited edition of prints and prices will go up. Hurry.

There are matching prints of other floral subjects available as well.

Start, or expand your collection of Glenn Springer fine art prints now!

This is for the photographers in my audience.

Topic #1: A place to hang out on Facebook
I've long been involved in some discussion forums online, back to the old NAPP days and then when that died, to a smaller group called "TIF — The Imaging Forum", which still exists but it's pretty quiet (Here's a link to the forum itself. It's free to join...). That's because everyone seems to have migrated to Facebook, where it's harder to organize and maintain an ongoing multi-threaded discussion, but much easier to get a dialog going on a specific topic, to share images and get constructive criticism.

So I helped create a Facebook group called, well, "TIF — The Imaging Forum" and I've included a hyperlink to it here. It's different from the huge FB groups like 'Photoshop and Lightroom' which has over 100K members, but it's got some very friendly and helpful people in it that go back to the old days, as I mentioned. These are people who want to learn, share or help: some are new or novice and others are very knowledgeable and it's not limited by geography, we have people from all over the world! It's kind of like a "Camera Club in the Cloud"!

You need to join the group to participate: it's a closed group so 'anything you post in TIF, stays in TIF'! which means it can't be directly shared outside the group.  Click "join" and the moderator (me!) will approve you.
Note: this group is ONLY for friendly, helpful people. If you're a sh1t-disturber, you'll get kicked out right away. 
If you're on Facebook, have a look. It will take a while to get a critical mass of topics going, so be patient. That can be a good thing, too: you won't get overloaded with messages!

Topic #2: My new preferred shooting mode!
A few weeks ago, I started experimenting with auto-ISO, with the camera mode set on Manual. It's changed my shooting style some, so it's worth talking about.

Some background. I watched the following video from a fellow named Steve Perry.

I was somewhat skeptical but you know what? It works. He very clearly tells you off the top that (1) it works on pretty well all modern Nikons, but only some Canons and other cameras, but he tells you in the video how to find out if it works in your camera. And (2) it's not for everyone and certainly not for every situation. I find it useful when shooting any kind of action – could be wildlife, could be sports – but turn it off when shooting static subjects or landscapes, situations where I have time to reflect and don't have to shoot on the fly.

Now if you care about what ISO you're shooting, you have to be careful to preset the maximum ISO limit in your camera. When don't you care? Well, when you're shooting those action or quick shots and the image story or content is more important. I've found that the high-ISO performance of my D800 is awesome: I can get low noise images even as high as ISO 6400. But you don't have to go that high!

So what's the big advantage? I've long taught that what makes or breaks the quality of a picture is the aperture: you choose the depth of field you want to select the feel of your composition. So I recommend Aperture-Priority mode in most cases. But when you shoot action, the shutter speed is equally important – maybe even more so if it involves freezing (or on the other side, allowing) motion. And shutter speed is a consideration when you take camera shake into account.

So this gives you the best of both worlds! You can go into manual mode, choose both the aperture and the shutter speed you want, and let the camera choose the ISO! Like I said, it's not appropriate ALL the time, but it's now my go-to mode when shooting anything that moves.

Don't take my word for it: watch the video and try it. And let me know what you think! The best way to do that is on Facebook: link to the "TIF — The Imaging Forum" page as I mentioned above.

More from Carden Plain

First of all, I get why you need a big mother lens when you shoot birds. I've managed to capture some presentable images with my 70-200 + 1.7x teleconverter but you really want to have a 500mm or 600mm lens for this. I'm fortunate in that (a) I have an outstanding camera in the D800 that allows me to crop tightly and still have enough pixels to make an acceptable display image and (b) I have a lens good enough to retain the acuity that I need, but for the large format print work I'd like to do, it isn't enough. Someone suggested I trade in my car for a lens. If only I could!

That said, it's not only about taking their pictures, it's about SEEING the birds in the first place! I'm really not very good at that, which tells you that you really should think about visiting the Carden Plain because you're sure to do better than me.

Carden Alvar is not just about birds, it's about other indigenous wildlife as well, and flowers too. I hope to get back there to shoot some more before they're gone.

This is called "Prairie Smoke" and it is ubiquitous in Carden Plain. Hope they're still around next visit.

 The Scarlet Indian Paintbrush is hard to photograph effectively. I had to resort to Topaz Impression
(Palette Knife/Oil Painting) to get one that I liked.

Here's a few birds...

Pretty common Song Sparrow, doing his thing on a fence. I like the framing of this shot. BTW there were some out-of-focus weeds in the foreground, minimized by a large aperture.

American Bittern, not common here, in a typical stance. He's saying, "you can't see me! I have great camouflage and  I'm going to hold still"! Works better when you're not on a green background, dude!

The story on the bittern is that as I headed down the trail on the Sedge Wren Marsh Walk, a birder coming the other way said, "there's a heron just to the left when you reach the river". Guess she wasn't a birder either, I was expecting a great blue heron, far more common! I watched him feeding in the river, I got a few shots of him with a minnow in his mouth, but nothing spectacular. Another photographer joined me, someone with one of those humongous lenses and he got the same shots I did, but closer. I don't think he knew what it was either.

In mid-swallow. 

Yellow Warbler, singing his little heart out! I'm not an expert birder, but I think this is what you're going for
when you shoot "birds on a stick"! 

Whitewater Action

As my loyal readers know, I have received press accreditation to shoot the PanAm Games this summer. I'm still waiting for my press card from the Olympic Committee and I have to take it down to Toronto to get it validated and pick up my vest and press kit. I'm SO looking forward to this! We were told, "no vest, no get in". I'm feeling privileged. It better arrive in time!

Last weekend was the CanoeKayak Canada Slalom Team Trials and the winners of this event were seconded to the team representing Canada at the PanAm Games. There were a few foreign competitors trying their mettle against the wild waters of the Gull River, some of whom did very well!

Devin McEwan and Casey Eichfeld from the USA powered their way through the waters just below the "Otter Slide". 

Ben Hayward will represent us in the Men's Canoe Singles. Normally I discard shots where the paddle blocks the athlete's face but in this case the athleticism and power sold me on this shot.

Jazmyne Denholland is our Women's Kayak hopeful on the Canadian Team. 

This is a composite of six images showing Canadian team member Haley Daniels (Women's Canoe) navigating gate #10 on the course. Competitors have to pass through the gates: missing one costs a 50 second penalty and just touching one costs two second. I hope I can get this vantage point during the PanAm's! 

Here's a shot that says to me what this sport, and this river is about. I'm thinking about printing multiple copies of this one for sale during the Games. I'll probably do one original print on museum quality paper, frame it and sign it and make it available for sale as well as a set of limited edition prints. Any interest, speak now before the original is gone!

PanAm Games 2015 at the Minden Wildwater Preserve in Ontario, Canada 

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Spring Fever

Spring has sprung, but I'm feeling a bit uninspired these days. Does it show? I'm a little distracted. One of the reasons is that I'm investing a lot of creative energy in other media: painting, and re-learning to play guitar. When I pick up the camera, I feel like I'm 'phoning it in'. Time to get motivated again!

Topaz Labs just announced that TOPAZ SIMPLIFY is on sale for 30% off, reducing the price to $27.99 for the month of May. Use this link and enter the code "MAYSIMP" at checkout.

Turtle Power

As I hinted last week, I finally managed to get some turtle shots! For some background, there are eight species of turtles in Ontario and all but one of them are on the endangered list. The one that isn't is the Painted Turtle:

Every spring, the turtles venture out of their marsh homes in search of food, nesting spots and mates and often cross roads to find them, where they often meet with untimely ends at the "hands" of car and truck tires. In Haliburton County, organizations are in place to monitor the populations. Other people see turtles all the time, but I never actually have... despite driving around on appropriate roads in search of them. Until last week, when I came across this hefty Snapping Turtle specimen:

I should have added something for a sense of scale, but this guy's shell is probably half a meter long. I was tempted to remove the piece of grass on his head. Only for a second, though: it would be a good way to lose a hand! 

Birds of Prey

I also mentioned last week that I had visited the Canadian Raptor Conservancy with a group of 10 friends from here and from Richmond Hill Camera Club. We had a great time, weather was good, the birds were cooperative! And impressive as usual.

Others got better shots than I. Sometimes you're not in the 'groove' and that was me that day. I succeeded in getting many in-focus, well-exposed images but my timing was off, especially when they flew a bald eagle over the pond, and several of my colleagues got great shots where the bird's wingtips brushed the water. Mine weren't so exciting.

So I don't bore you, here are a couple more and that's it.

Baby Great Horned Owl 

Aplomado Falcon showing off 

We went into Port Dover for lunch (worth it! The pickerel and perch at the Erie Beach Hotel is worth the trip) then headed home. Along the way there was an apple orchard that had caught many of our eyes, so we stopped. Again, I was a bit disappointed. I think I was more concerned with the long drive ahead of me and didn't give it the time I needed. However I did get a few 'keepers'.

This is what caught our eyes. You'd think there's be some killer shots here! 

A bit of a painterly treatment from Topaz Impression helped this one 

This was what I had in mind when I stopped 

And here's a shot of John Kot doing his thing, with a little help from Impression/Monet. 

I also stopped at a wind farm, with the intent of doing a slow shutter exposure. That didn't work out, but here's a composite shot that didn't look too bad:

Half a dozen exposures blended in Photoshop

More Birds

To close for today, here are two more bird shots from Carden Plain (I was back there on Saturday) that I liked. I was wearing my springtime fragrance, "eau de Deep-Woods-Off". Yep, the black flies were out!

Eastern Phoebe 

Barn Swallow 
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I shot a LOT of pictures over the past couple of weeks!

...I don't just mean I ran my shutter count 'way up, I shot a bunch of different venues:
  • I was at Carden Plain twice, first with Dr. Ron and Mark and Dan Busby and Bill Bunn, and then on my own on my way into Toronto the following weekend.
  • Ron and Mark had a "concept shoot" in mind. Wendy Evenden from the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club volunteered as a model. I admit I was exhausted and couldn't concentrate on this one by the time we got out there to shoot.
  • The HHCC had an outing to Wintergreen for brekkie then on to some interesting venues. I haven't even LOOKED at those pictures yet!
  • I drove around during the week looking for those elusive turtles that are supposed to be on the roads. 
  • I was at the Canadian Raptor Conservancy in Vittoria, Ontario (north shore of Lake Erie, near Port Dover). I've looked through some of these pictures but I'm not done yet.
  • On the way home, I set up a shot at a wind farm south of Hamilton.
Phew! I'm going to break this into more than one blog post so I can do justice to some of the images. But before we start...

A different Medium

OK, look at the trees on the left in the header picture. Then look at this:

Painted with my own hot little hands with a brush and oil paint on canvas.   

Big thanks go out to Harvey Walker who is a great artist and an able teacher! Anyone who could teach me to paint has to be good. Obviously I didn't achieve the nuances of shape and shadow that he does but every artist does things his or her own way, right? I still need to do the sky (without messing up the trees!) and I might add a rock in the lower right foreground for balance. the bush on the right was added out of my imagination. See, you can do that when you paint! Artist's license...

Birds, birds, birds!

You know those photographers you see running around out there wearing camo and toting howitzer-sized lenses and heavy duty gimbal mount heads on sturdy tripods? There's a method in their madness. It's hard to get those shots without all that gear. When I went to Carden Plain with Ron & Mark et al, Mark loaned me a Tamron 150-500mm lens and I have to say, I'm sure the lens was better than I was but I didn't get much usable stuff. You need practice with these long lenses.

You also have to know how to spot the birds you're hearing. I didn't do too well! Nevertheless, here are a few shots from that day, all at 500mm.

Male red-winged blackbird making himself heard 

Here's another one (not at Carden, on Highway 48 near Bolsover) catching his lunch. I normally wouldn't post a blurred image but what a great story! He took off from a power line in pursuit of this bug.

Same bird, after his snack, making his presence known to the ladies. 

We were at the Osprey nest on Highway 48. Weird things going on there: THREE birds, not two. Odd... 

I got some tree swallow shots but not much else that day. Dan's pictures blew me away, I'm not posting mine! When I came back the next week, there were a few more birds around: I noted a total of 12 species. Here are some pictures:

Tree swallow. Nowhere near Dan's but this is unedited, straight out of the camera. 

Wilson's Snipe. It's a pretty tight crop, I only had my 70-200mm plus 1.7x converter and I shoot full-frame. 

Barn Swallows. I shot from inside the blind on Wylie Road (all the shots were on Wylie Road). They weren't quite so close together, I used content-aware-scale to bring them in. The guy with the twigs hung onto them for the longest time. In hindsight, I wonder if the nest was in the blind and he couldn't come in because I was there. 

This Spotted Towhee was down near the end of the road. According to the book, the Eastern Towhee is uncommon (saw some of those too, but no usable photos) and the Spotted one is even rarer. Again, a pretty tight crop, he was far away. 

Carden Plain, or the Carden Alvar is not just about birds. This is Wylie Road about 5 or 6 km in. A charcoal sketch done with Topaz Impression. 

On my way out, I spotted this Kildeer. He was closer but flew off when I brought up the camera, so this distant shot was the best I could manage. Apparently there were Bobolinks in the same field but I couldn't spot them. 

Ron's Concept Shoot

As I said, I was really tired and couldn't buy into the concept shoot Ron (and Mark) were trying to achieve. A musician in the woods. Anyway, I did a couple of shots while we were there:

Wendy, Mark and Ron. 

Perhaps as Leonardo da Vinci might have envisioned it 

Stay tuned until next week! And just as a teaser,

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