Friday, May 01, 2015

I wasn't going to do it!

Why use Lightroom?

I just wrote the following in response to one of our club members' question about why use LR when you already have Elements.
As far as editing is concerned, all three: Lightroom, Photoshop and Elements share the same processing engine, known as Adobe Camera Raw or ACR. But each program does other things outside that function.
■ Photoshop contains all the tools you'll ever need to manipulate a photo. You can edit right down to a single pixel with precision, if you can imagine it, you can do it in Photoshop. Twelve different ways, I might add. If you have the time and patience, that's the program to use. It has a steep learning curve, but you don't HAVE to use all the tools if you don't want to.
■ Elements contains a subset of the most commonly used, the more simple tools in Photoshop. And it's presented in such a way that you don't have to be as schooled to understand them. You can pretty well get to where you want to go but it might take some time to get there. Using Elements is sort of like using your camera on "Automatic", it's a 'Point-and-Shoot' editing program.
■ The downside of both of these programs is that they are designed to work on one picture at a time. Lightroom is designed to help you work with multiple images. Its forté is organizing your images and workflow by letting you import, file and flag and label a card full of images, edit them, let you switch out to PS to adjust them if you need more in depth manipulation, then you can export them for whatever purpose you have in mind, whether it's for print, for the web, for a slideshow, whatever. 
The point of Lightroom is that it takes a fraction of the time to process images compared to the others. I can import 200 pictures, mark and select which ones to work on, do basic editing on those and get them ready for export in 30 minutes: which is about the same amount of time it takes to manipulate one single image in the other programs. It's a workflow machine.
What it DOESN'T do is work with layers or combine multiple images (except for the new HDR and Pano functions in LR 6/CC). Personally I spend 85% of my post-processing effort in LR and only go out to PS when I need to go above and beyond.
Make sense?

Speaking of Lightroom

I told everyone I wasn't going to upgrade to LR CC (Lightroom 6) until I could see what kind of experience others were having with it. I gave in. I actually held out for... oh, I don't know, 8 hours? LOL. I downloaded and installed it on one machine that night.

First problem I had was getting it to run. To make a long story short, it wouldn't work – wouldn't even open – until I logged out of the Creative Cloud and logged back in. Then it worked seamlessly.
One weird thing: it decided that my F: drive – my external master image storage drive – should henceforth be known as the G: drive, which messed up a bunch of relationships! I simply renamed it and was back in business.
The first thing I did, after making sure everything was still there (and it was), was to do an HDR merge using the new function in Lightroom 6. Here's the first image I processed:

Two clicks made this image. Well actually I had to adjust some sliders afterwards, but really basic stuff like exposure and black and white levels and shadows. From zero to done in two minutes flat.

The resulting image in Lightroom is a natural, not heavily manipulated picture, that even people who say "I Hate HDR" can't find fault with. But the best part is, different from all the other HDR programs I have, the merged file is a RAW file (DNG) with a virtually infinite scope of what I can do with it afterwards. I understand the new Pano function is similar but I don't have any test images to try it on right now*.
Now I do! See below.
The main advantage of the upgraded program is supposed to be an order-of-magnitude improvement in speed. Apparently they worked hard at optimizing how it processes images. Time will tell.

The other big thing they're touting for LR6/CC is Facial Recognition. Not something I care about since I'm primarily a landscape shooter, but you never know. The other thing is seamless integration with Lightroom Mobile that allows you to edit images on portable devices. But if I want to edit images I want to do it on my 26" monitor with my Wacom stylus in hand and an i7 quad-core processor slaving away in the background, so it's not for me. By the way, I have limited internet speed and bandwidth so I don't use any kind of cloud storage.

So far Lightroom 6 seems to be a seamless upgrade. We'll see...

Lightroom 6 Pano function

It's brilliant. Almost seamless. Check this out:

This is a giant pano. It's made up of 12 images automatically stitched together by Lightroom. Each image is 36Mp and the finished composite is almost 300Mp in size! Go ahead, click it. You still can't see it in all its glory! It's 32,273 pixels wide! Why? Look at this: 

This is a tight crop out of the pano above. I've shot large format: 4x5, 8x10... I think digital just caught up.  

Lightroom also automatically created this pano merge:

I shot this upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right. Lightroom AUTOMATICALLY put them together in the right way. It's a 120Mp file. I'm impressed.

By the way, this is my latest painting. It's Ritchie Falls, as you saw in last week's blog.  

New Header

I created the new header for the blog using the pano feature in Lightroom 6/CC. It's a bit taller than I usually use, wish I didn't have to cut the top off that tree! By the way, it's 20 merged images: I merged four 5-shot HDR's, then put them together as a pano. And there's a little touch of Topaz Impression, Rembrandt 1 preset in there.

You win some...

I had high hopes for these images. But they didn't go where I wanted them. I'm posting this as a reminder that sometimes what you see in your mind is not what you can capture with the camera or even produce in post-processing.

I was practicing what I preach. As I drove past this hillside on a rainy Monday, the little water rill caught my eye. I was on my way back from my painting class, without my camera in the car (OK, that part I didn't do as I say...) so I marked the spot, drove home, picked up the camera and came back. Here's what I originally saw:

This is straight out of the camera except for a minor exposure adjustment. 

I liked the colour palette. Something I'm paying more and more attention to these days (I'm finally catching on, Rosa, if you're still reading my stuff!). The beech and oak leaves still hanging on the trees added a brilliance to the scene. And of course, the rushing water... you can probably see what made me stop. But when I got it home, I wasn't excited.

I did shoot a 5-shot bracket so the first thing I did was to merge them to HDR. Really a waste of time: this is NOT a high-dynamic-range scene, it was overcast and raining. And if you looked at the histogram, there was nothing blown out or filled in. But the HDR merge did increase the detail level some. Then I increased saturation and got this:

I thought vertical worked better.  
My next thought was, "too much going on". So I tried to lose some detail, using various tools like Topaz Simplify, negative clarity... nah. Another attempt, using Topaz Impression with an impasto preset (but multiplied in to enhance the tone of the shadows, not so much the texture):

Now I ran "Simplify" on the image again, and masked out the river and the yellow tree, and here's the image closer to what I envisioned:

Not really what I was after, and not my favourite image ever, but it has its points!

I looked around before getting back in the car. "Working the Scene". I shot a closeup of some weeds, but didn't get much (I really have to get a macro lens!). Then about 100m to the right, I saw the scene below. Again, the colour palette was what attracted me and also, I had just spent a couple of hours learning how to paint rocks on canvas with oil paint, and I thought this scene had potential:

When I paint it (and I am planning to!) I can leave out some of the distracting brush in the foreground and get rid of that green leaf at right. I know I don't have the painting skill to make this come out the way I want, but it's worth a try. Wish me luck!

One more...

I took this picture yesterday, after coming out of the endodontist's office. I'd just had a root canal (doin' fine, thanks for asking!). I'm pretty sure this is his car... he did great work and deserves to be well paid! Well, maybe not THIS well...

This is a Tesla Model "S", P-85. All electric. Look it up! Over $100 Grand...

5-shot HDR, processed with Photomatix, tweaked with Lightroom 6/CC. 

Next week: images from the Carden Plain. The new header picture comes from there.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

I'd be lying...

...if I told you that the reason you haven't read a blog post from me since April 4th is that I've been too busy out there taking pictures in the burgeoning spring weather. Not true. Fact is, I'm going through somewhat of a dry spell, photographically. There are a few reasons, maybe by writing them down they might go away.

While it might be Spring on the calendar, it's just getting started here. I'll admit that the last few days have been nice but where I live, the grass is still brown, where you can see it through the melting snow piles (not fair, I suppose. The snow's mostly gone, but the ground is brown and soggy, muddy). Just not interesting...

In Toronto, spring has sprung but they don't believe me when I say the lake here is still mostly ice covered. This winter, the ice was thicker than most people can remember – my neighbour said over 30" thick in places where it's usually half that – but I wouldn't be venturing out there, it's paper thin in places! 

But here's the good news: the birds are back. The other day I saw (for the first time) a pair of sandhill cranes in flight, 'way too quick to get the camera out but Gawd, those are elegant birds in flight! All the usual suspects are back, turkeys galore, robins, osprey, mourning doves, American goldfinch, and the usual blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers and grackles. I'm looking forward to heading down to Carden Plain in a couple of weeks.

Speaking of birds, this snowy owl was still hanging around last week. Guess he'll be heading up North soon.  

Also speaking of raptors like owls, our outing to the Canadian Raptor Conservancy is now booked and full up. Looking forward to that too!

I find myself looking at images online for inspiration and not getting much. After a while they all look alike. I want to make my work stand out from that crowd, so I'm waiting for the creative juices to flow. 

You ever have so much to do that you don't know where to get started? That's where I'm at right now... I'm on deadline for both a presentation and judging a large  competition... I really have to stop saying "yes" to people! I'm working through some other issues too, which leaves little time for writing (I really want to get back to my creative writing!) but I'll be back, so don't go away mad. 

Johnny Ferreira photoshoot

I did get out to shoot one assignment last week that I thought I'd share. My friend Styles called and asked me to do a headshot for a musician he's working with. I only had an hour to shoot, but spent a day so far on post-processing.

This is the image he wanted. The original, straight-out-of-camera is on the left so you can see that I did a little retouching work in addition to swapping out the background. I used a technique called "Frequency Separation" which did a good job of NOT turning him into Barbi (OK, "Ken"). It's technical, but not difficult, so if you're interested, go to YouTube and Google it. The tutorial I found most useful was by Frank Doorhof, here.  Notice the teeth and eyes, by the way.

Just for fun, here are some shots I liked for ME, not necessarily for him. 

I shot this while I was setting up the lights, just as a test; but I really like the feel. By the way, I used an off-camera strobe with a Gary Fong Diffuser on it, and later, a reflector disk (but not in this shot). I told Johnny just to do what he wanted, I was only setting up. Have to do that more often!

This was an interesting sketch created from one of the images. I added some layers with the guitar in different positions, then ran it through a complicated Photoshop action from John Stevenson in Colorado that makes use of Topaz Impression. 

I did a colour version too. Click to blow it up! 

But this is the image I liked the best from the shoot. Styles said they might consider it for a CD wrapper on an upcoming album:

I just liked how he was framed by the neck and headstock of the guitar. I added a textured background from Flypaper textures within Photoshop, as well as the retouching tools I mentioned above. 

The other thing I've been doing is painting. Here's one that's almost done, using a technique called 'sgraffito' which entails scratching off a fresh wet paint layer to reveal what's beneath it. 

I did take the easel and paint stuff out to Ritchie Falls the other day. It's a LOT more difficult than I'd imagined! I took some photos from the same spot, which I'll show you when the painting is a bit further along.  

— 30 —

Saturday, April 04, 2015

It must be Spring...


No surprise, or it shouldn't be. I've seen snow coming down as late as early May!  Last night there were flakes of the fluffy white stuff that accumulated a few inches but the temperature is hovering around the freezing mark and it's melting. The maple syrup people aren't happy, nights are still getting down to the -10°C area and the sap isn't running, but it will get there.

Today I saw the first American Goldfinch pair at my bird feeder. Robins shouldn't be far behind. And a Cackle of Grackles is out there making a ruckus and scaring off all the other birds. The chipmunks haven't come out yet but the gulls are back at the landfill, competing with the crows for the delectable morsels of disgusting garbage... we've had bald eagles there all winter but I haven't seen them in a few days.
There was a red-winged blackbird at the feeder this morning (April 3) but he was too shy to let me take a picture. Remarkable because (a) it's the first one this year and (b)the red patch was outstandingly brilliant – almost fluorescent,
The ice fishing huts are off the lakes. Well, off our lake anyway... law says today is the deadline for removing them. My neighbour Jim Walker stopped by to chat, he says there's 30" of hard water in spots! That's a LOT. It's been a rough winter, very little snow but very cold.

It's the "Ugly" season for us landscape photographers. If you don't like muddy brown vistas, naked trees and wearing rubber boots that keep you dry when you step into deep gooey mud puddles, you'd best be patient. It'll get green again soon! And the flowers and buds will be out, bringing with them that sneezy drippy season if you have allergies and those itchy lumps cheerfully provided by our national birds, the blackfly and the mosquito!

T.G.I.S. !!

Painting is HARD!

Some people make it look so easy, but it's not! My regular readers will know that I've finally, after all these years, picked up a paint brush and started putting pigment on canvas. But it's really not easy.

I have a decided advantage over some of my other painting newbies: I get composition. I have a feel for light and how it affects the subject. But what I'm struggling with is putting lines and shapes where I want them, in the way I want, and mixing colours.

I've learned that you can make any colour out of Red, Blue and Yellow paint. You can tint it with white or shade it with black (frowned upon: you want black, you "make" it!), but I haven't been able to make the same colour twice! You mix up some, then run out and want to make more... good luck matching it!

So far. Not finished yet... I need to add some more bright colour and texture. And fix the edges of the leaves. I took some artistic license with the colours and with the composition (the leaves are supposed to be sitting on a log...)

Here's the original photo 

and here's sort of what I had in mind. This is courtesy of Topaz Impression and I haven't figured out how to emulate those brush strokes. Or colours! 

Thing is, I ruined this painting. I'm trying to fix it but it's not like rolling back the develop instructions in Lightroom or removing offending layers in Photoshop. Either I have to paint over what I've done (after it dries) or add to it, or just throw it away and start over.

I paint (and photograph) in an impressionistic mode. Two reasons: I haven't figured out how to paint fine lines yet, and I'm lazy and just want to stand back and throw paint at the canvas. I haven't got the nerve up yet to try a complex subject like a tree, but that's my next step.

It's fun, but it's hard. My goal is to be able to go out and paint "plein aire" some time this spring. Stay tuned...

Birds of Prey field trip

Shot in 2013 

These pictures were taken at my last visit to the Canadian Raptor Conservancy on Lake Erie just West of Port Dover. I've booked a return engagement for Sunday, May 10th for a group of 10 photographers. Cost is just $50 each plus tax (Right now I have about 7 people confirmed and a bunch of "maybe" folks. If you want to go, you need to send me an email RIGHT NOW.

Understand that this is NOT a teaching workshop: I'm not making anything, just facilitating the field trip. Priority goes to Haliburton Highlands Camera Club members.

Here's one I haven't previously published from that visit a couple of years ago. Great Horned Owl coming in for a landing. 

One final bird picture for today. I know, just an ordinary black capped chickadee staging on a twig near my feeder but I really like the sharpness and the "velcro" as Dan Busby calls it. And the diagonal lines, the lighting... I used Topaz Impression and started with the "Palette knife and Oil" preset for the painted texture.

— 30 —

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'm not a Virgin any more!

I finally dipped a brush in some paint. A real brush. Real paint. All these years I've wanted to paint and I've taken the first baby steps to learn how. I've never held a brush in my hand, I've often said I can't draw (I can't make a straight line even with a ruler!) but Harvey says you don't have to draw straight lines to paint!

Harvey Walker teaches a weekly class at the Minden Cultural Centre and I started this week. I bought an easel and some supplies and showed up bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed (well sort of: it was Monday morning, after all!).

So I'll occasionally bore you with some reports of my progress. But since this was my first time, well, here goes!

You start by making an underpainting or a wash to block in the light and dark areas. Here's the reference photo we chose (something easy!) and my first attempt. 

I Had the feeling I should have stopped there. Framed it and put it up as my first sketch. But I couldn't leave well enough alone, so when I got home, I started painting it.

Not very good. OK, really bad! But hey, my first attempt. Oil on canvas.

Now imagine owning the very first painting that Pablo Picasso did. You now have the opportunity to have the very first original "Glenn Springer" which might be worth orders of magnitude more when I'm gone! Bidding is now open, email your bid to!

...from the sporadic musings department

I'm not going to say it yet, but I am tempted to use the words, "winter is done". I'm writing this on March 17th (happy St. Patrick's Day). It's been above freezing for several days and although it looks like the nighttime temperatures are going to dip again on the weekend, I think we're done.

Thank God. It's been a particularly vicious one this year, temperature-wise. January and particularly February were frigid with temperatures in the -30°C range for days on end. Even though I went out of my way to burn a lot of firewood, my heating oil usage in that month is the highest it's ever been since I moved here 8 years ago. I can't imagine what it would have been had the oil price not dropped this year.

We didn't get a lot of snow this year in the Highlands. I can't recall a snowfall over a few inches and the total had to be in the one meter range (the first year I moved here, 2007, we had almost 4 meters of snow!), but it sure was cold!

So it's on its way. Spring, that is. Spring is not a pretty season up here, it's my least favourite, since the pristine, crisp white of the snow gives way to a world that is soggy, muddy, brown, but there will be green things poking up soon!

Why does someone think it is so important to tell me that Matt Damon cured his blurry vision by eating grapes, that they send it to me not once or twice but FIVE times? From different email addresses. The person who cures the scourge of email spam gets my vote, I'll tell you!

That said, those messages and 29 others were trapped this morning by my ISP, I have it set up so that I see the headings of the spam messages just in case a real one gets routed in there and I can retrieve it. That's all due to the fact that my email addresses are published on my websites. 
The question is, when you get messages that say "click here to unsubscribe", should you? Or are they using that to find out whether they've hit a real email address or not? Mine (on my newsletter) is perfectly safe, you just get removed from the mailing list (I use MailChimp) but I will admit that I get a message that says "so-and-so unsubscribed" so I suppose I could do something with it if I was mean and nasty!
Outstanding picture

Have you ever seen a picture that you can say, "I wish this was mine"? I have to share this one with you but without getting their permission, I won't post it on my blog. Instead, here's the link. Click on it and enjoy:

This was on the "North of 49 photography" site. I can't say enough good things about this shot, it is outstanding. Check it out.

I was researching a visit to the Raptor Conservancy, I saw some pictures from two friends and was reminded. I'd like to make another visit there, say sometime in the Spring. We need about 10 people to make it pay, If anyone is interested, let me know. It's about 2 hours Southwest of Toronto.

Aurora Hunting

When you hear that there's been a class G-4 solar storm and people in wonderful places like Alaska and Norway start posting pictures of curtains of fire in the sky, you search online to find out whether there's any chance that you will see something! All indications were positive: the weather forecast was for cold and clear, showed great possibilities and the Northern Lights Forecast said we were due for a biggie. Nada.

Well not much anyway. I girded my loins (with fleece and down) and headed out after the camera club meeting and saw just a hint of green on the horizon for the hour and a half I was there. I spent the time shooting star trails: 160 images (15 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1000, F=17mm). Here's the result:

Schuyler's Island Causeway on Horseshoe Lake. Merged with StarStaX using Lighten/comet mode. Some Lightroom adjustment to the foreground. A hint of green at lower right.

Here's the Topaz Impression version

I used the "Smudged" preset for the sky and the "Impasto" preset for the foreground. 

A little hint when you're out doing star shots. When you put the camera back in the car, make sure the shutter release cable is not hanging out when you close the door! Good thing they're cheap ($1.69 from China, shipping included on eBay. I don't know how they do it but not complaining!).

Anyway, as I headed home, I decided to detour to another star shooting spot I knew, pulled over and... there they were! Not brilliant and impressive, but definitely there, in the Northern sky. 

This is after a fair bit of enhancement in Lightroom: they were barely visible to the naked eye. Highway 118 where it crosses between 12 Mile Lake and Boshkong Lake. 

I took a few shots and as I was walking back to the car, I noticed a green streamer behind a hill to the West. Again, with some help from Lightroom:

So there you go. Who needs sleep anyway?

This is a rework of an image I captured last fall up in  Algonquin Park. With a little help from Topaz and from some Lightroom presets I got from David Kingham that I was trying out. 

You may have noticed that I like shooting at night. I ran two tutorial workshops last summer on shooting stars; I'll do it again if anyone is interested. Send me an email and let's talk!


Last week I told you about Wintergreen Maple Products. I was there again for breakfast on Saturday (Shhh. Don't tell my doctor. Pancakes or French Toast smothered in maple syrup... and really good coffee!) and went upstairs to shoot some pictures. It was really cold up there so I didn't stay long. I understand they'll be starting to boil syrup this week if it warms up, more shots next weekend if I can!

I usually use Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 for my HDR merges but for some reason, this one didn't render well. I tried it again in Photomatix Pro and liked it much better. Since I can never leave well enough alone, I added a layer of Topaz Glow (just lightly blended in) and some Topaz Star Effects just to highlight some, well, highlights! For you techno-freaks, this was a 5-exposure bracket, two stops either side of about ½ second at f/8, ISO 200. The bottom half of the picture wasn't square with the top part so I used Perspective Warp in Photoshop to bring it into line. I was going for the symmetry, deliberately breaking composition rules. 

While I was there, I noticed at least one other interesting photo (work the scene, folks!). 

"Abused"There was a pile of old construction boots that struck me as interesting. The main treatment is with Topaz Impression "Da Vinci" preset but I did extra work to enhance the worn toes of two of the boots.  

The camera club is going to have a get-together at Wintergreen in May and they're having an event we're going to shoot in June. Stay tuned!

— 30 —

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The Sounds of Spring

or late winter! Here in the Highlands... at least at my house: "Drip", "Drip", "Drip". I thought when we redid the roof, I'd be immune but my front door doesn't fit again and there's a perennial drip near it, and even one in the bathroom. Really should get the roof shoveled off, there's about 18" of snow up there. Oh, well. As long as it doesn't get worse!

It's a balmy -3°C today! Time to break out the shorts and sandals!
Update: it's a few days later and it actually got warm! +8°C yesterday, about the same now. The snow is melting on the roof, the front door works better and the dripping stopped. Yahoo! Now that it's gotten warmer, the next challenge will be the sump pump. If it doesn't kick in, I'm going to be in doo-doo... ah the joys of living in the country!
Actually this is getting tiresome. It went down to -25°C last night and it was -19 when I got up this morning (I write this over several days, you realize). I've had enough winter. To top it off, I went to start my expensively repaired ATV yesterday and... "click". That's it. Battery now? Anyway it's on the charger, let's see what she does this morning. But it's 19 below and I don't feel like going out right now.

I know, I know. "Do you want some cheese with that whine"?
OK, weird. The ATV didn't start again that morning. "Click". I arranged for the mechanic to pick it up today. Went out to give it one more try. Brrrrrmmmmm. Started right up. This is a mystery. Cleared my driveway and walkways, ran like a Swiss watch. Wish I trusted it!
On the good side of the ledger, my sister and brother-in-law are cruising in the Gulf of Mexico, my friends Styles and Niki just came back from their cruise, Dr. Ron is a brand new grandpa and will be celebrating his milestone birthday in a couple of days in sunny California with his new granddaughter, the Raptors won last night, nobody cares what the Leafs did, and I get to shoot some dogsled races this weekend with some friends in hopefully less frigid weather.  My cold is just about gone, listened to some great music last night (Tommy Emmanuel, where have you been all my life? Astonishing talent, check him out on YouTube), delivering a picture I sold today... Have to look on the bright side, right?

Reflecting on my Blog

I read a note on Facebook yesterday from a colleague and fellow blogger who said he had over 10,000 hits on his blog last week. Hmmm. What's he doing that I'm not? He has much less content than I do, photography and tips about on a par, but he gets an order of magnitude more hits than I do. So what can I do to increase my following?

It occurred to me that perhaps my blog posts are too long. Do people want to read a quick tip and carry on? What do you think, dear readers? Please leave a comment here, or perhaps on Facebook (link to my page). Now if you would each tell two friends about my blog, and they tell two friends and...

Lightroom Tip(s)

At the request of an admin on the Facebook "Lightroom Q&A" group, I posted a tip on improving LR's performance by managing your previews. Since I wanted to show several screen captures, I posted it on my Tech Blog. Here's the link.
It astonishes me that people do not understand the concept of making their images the same shape as the paper they're trying to print on. Every day there's at least one person who says, "how can I print a 4x6, a 5x7 and an 8x10 without cropping off some of the picture?" I'll try to get that written up (again!) as a tech tip. If you subscribe to this blog, I'll send you an email when it's up. Click this link, or the "Newsletter" button up at the top of this page.
Prints for Sale

I have the following three images left over from my recent museum exhibition, all perfectly framed and ready to go (forgive the poor iPhone shot).

I also have a fourth frame that simply needs a new mat, and dozens of other unmounted archival quality prints available. I want to make space and move these images out, so I'm open to offers.

Here are links to the images in order to see them better: (12½" sq. image) (12½" sq. image) (12½" x 19" image)

They are stunningly and lovingly printed on Epson Cold Press Natural paper. Each one is hand signed but not numbered because they are Proof Editions. You owe it to yourself to start collecting these now before the prices go up!

You know what would fit nicely in that fourth frame? That astounding Snowy Owl shot that I showed you a few weeks ago. This one: (12½" x 19" image)

But you'll have to wait for it: the Proof Edition of this image won't be printed until April. Order it now if you want the unique proof copy...

TOPAZ B&W Effects on sale

Starting March 10th, Topaz is offering B&W Effects at 1/3 off until the end of the month.

It's a really great program. When I do my black and white flowers (actually ANY black and white conversion) I've found three ways to do it that give me control over how the colours and toning map into grey: Nik Silver Efex, the BW adjustment layer in Photoshop CC 2014 and arguably the best one of all, Topaz B&W Effects. It's on sale for $39.95, great price!

To get the discount, use this link, then at checkout, enter "MARBW" in the coupon code field. You can also get a 30 day free trial at that URL but be sure to put the purchase through before the end of the month to get the discount! By the way, you can get a 15% discount on ANY of the Topaz products by entering "FACZEN" in the checkout field. Use this link for their main product page.

A very cool place

I had breakfast and a tour at "Wintergreen Maple Products and Pancake Barn" on Sunday. What a cool place! First of all, breakfast was awesome: specialty is pancakes or French toast or... all with, you guessed it, maple syrup! (here's their FB page!)

Diane (she and Tom own the place) told me they have over 1000 maple trees on tap. Sap will start flowing in a week or so: once it starts they can't stop boiling or they'll be inundated when the vats fill up! I'll go try to shoot some pictures when that happens.

Their building is a huge barn, relocated from Minden (by the numbers!) and wonderfully decorated. They cater, have a store with lots of exotic stuff, very cool place.

If you're ever in the Highlands, drop in. You won't be sorry!

Dog Sled Races

The 2015 Dog Sled Derby took place last weekend. We had about 20 visitors from the Richmond Hill Camera Club, who stayed at Pinestone and enjoyed the weekend. I took hundreds of pictures, too many "keepers" to share here, so I put them in a SmugMug gallery. (LINK)

Here's a selection of a few I liked. It's hard to differentiate them after a while so I tried to select some 'different' ones for your viewing pleasure!

Here's your iconic dogsled shot. Grizzled musher, 8-dog team of purebred huskies, and even a red jacket! 

Here's the same guy, coming right at you! 

How's this for an unlikely team of sled dogs! Kid's race, I think. You have to know these guys were having a blast!  

People feel bad for sled dogs... DON'T! First of all, if you know dogs, you know they love the security of being in a "crate". Second, these dogs are born to run! It's like feeling sorry for an exhausted marathon runner: they do it because they love it! 


Everywhere you look there are GoPro and other cameras. The times, they are a-changin'! There was even someone flying a drone quadcopter chasing the dog teams around!

A little different perspective. 

Sled Dogs as Cezanne might have painted them! 

And finally, I'm always a sucker for a pretty girl, so here are a couple!

My friend Liz from Richmond Hill. Would you believe she's 75 years old? No? OK, what about 30?  

Cheryl, a friend from Oshawa Camera Club (I have cute friends!). Wading through a meter of snow to get that perfect shot!

This was a ski-joring competitor at the start line. Your kids won't get rosy cheeks like that sitting on the couch playing with their X-boxes! 

'till next week!

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