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 photography@faczen.com!


...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, 1and1.com. 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, cleardarksky.com 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!

Wintergreen

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:
http://faczen.smugmug.com/FineArt/New-and-Featured-Images-1/i-BZ7TdFS/A (12½" sq. image)
http://faczen.smugmug.com/FineArt/New-and-Featured-Images-1/i-n4gmHfF/A (12½" sq. image)
http://faczen.smugmug.com/FineArt/New-and-Featured-Images-1/i-SfJVZ9M/A (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:
http://faczen.smugmug.com/FineArt/New-and-Featured-Images-1/i-vdzT4Bx/A (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!


— 30 —

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Good guys, bad guys


I don't get sick very often (well, colds, flu...). Flu every few years, colds probably once per year. But I get cranky when I do! As I write this, I'm on day 5 of my cold and we all know that if you take care of yourself, the cold will last 7 days. If you ignore it, it takes a week...

I wrote that I was really grumpy and sneezy, the meds that Doc gave me made me dopey and sleepy, I've never been bashful and in a little while I'll be happy again. Mr. Disney got it right...

...from the sporadic musings department...
Live Long and Prosper, Mr. Spock
Leonard Nimoy passed away yesterday. A character if there ever was one and if you look up "typecasting" in the dictionary, you'll find his picture there. He wrote a book entitled "I am NOT Spock" but well, yes he was.
Turns out he was a passionate photographer too. Something you didn't know unless you were connected... and he had an Orthodox Yiddish upbringing in his native Boston. Google where that Vulcan greeting gesture came from!
Coincidentally, being under the weather, I finally got around to watching "Star Trek: Into Darkness" a few days ago. Nimoy had a cameo role in this and, unless I'm mistaken, in ALL the Star Trek movies.  
It occurred to me that of all the people I could think of, it would be most appropriate were his remains lifted into space. Well him, and Steven Hawking when his time comes. Hope someone thinks of that. 



While shooting smoke in the light tent at the camera club meeting this week, I got this shot. If you look at it for a while, you might be able to pick out Nimoy's face. He's looking down, the nose is quite prominent. I'm displaying it here small, click to blow it up: sometimes things appear differently at different sizes. Eerie, don't you think?

Good Guys, Bad Guys

I seldom talk about merchants and customer service (OK, I do from time to time. Humour me). I had two notable dealings that I thought deserved comment, one good, one bad.




2150 Steeles Ave W
Thornhill, ON
905 669 6355
I normally clean my own sensor. But I had some persistent spots on my D800 and really didn't want to do a heavy liquid cleaning so I phoned Sun Camera from the car on the way into Toronto last Tuesday. I was prepared to explain that I was from out of town, only in for part of a day, was getting ready to whine and cry... I started by asking if they still cleaned sensors and whether they could do it while I waited.
"Well, sort of: if you drop it off and go get a cup of coffee, it'll be ready when you get back". A far cry from Nikon service's, "send it in, give us two weeks and we'll send it back when it's done".
Perfect job, only $60 (vs. Nikon's $80), personal service with a smile. By the way, Sun is an authorized Canon service depot, but apparently Nikon Canada has been sending work their way recently. 


Canadian Tire
8081 Dufferin at Highway 407
Vaughan, ON
This is the email that I sent to Canadian Tire this morning. Let's see how they respond. 
This is a HUGE customer service complaint relating to the store at 8081 Dufferin in Thornhill, ON. I hope this is not a CT-wide thing, just a local store problem.
Let me start by going on record that I generally like dealing with Canadian Tire. Especially the one up here in Minden where you get personal service and they go out of their way to help people out. I've had lots of good experiences with them and I can't believe they would treat a customer like I was treated at the one on Dufferin at Highway 407 yesterday. I even use your credit card services. Let me set the scene.
I'm a senior citizen, not officially disabled but at my age... I live up in Minden but was visiting in Thornhill. It was Sunday morning. I had bought some stuff at Walmart, went out to the car (Subaru Forester), put the stuff in the back and started to close the tailgate. The hydraulic closer arm on the right side broke off at the bottom but it was extended out and I couldn't force it back in so it kept the tailgate from closing all the way (it was sticking out). All I had to do was unscrew the top two bolts holding it on but I had NO TOOLS in the car. All I needed was a pair of pliers or a Philips screwdriver and 30 seconds to remove it so I could drive home. Imagine driving 200 km in sub-zero temperatures with the tailgate open.
I went to the Canadian Tire. I went inside to the service department and politely asked if I could borrow a tool for a second and was told in nasty terms, "the mechanics do not lend out their tools". "Then could someone come out for a second and unscrew the thing so I could drive home? I'm from out of town". "You'll have to make a service appointment and complete a workorder (they had no customers in the shop and the mechanics were standing around), and there will be a charge".
I decided to go in the store and buy a pair of pliers, figuring I'd use it then bring it right back. The cheapest one I could find was $20. At the cash I explained I'd be bringing it back. They said if I opened the package, I owned it. I left it there.
I went to the garage bay and approached a mechanic. I was told in no uncertain terms to perform an anatomically impossible act.
This story ended when I drove into the PetroCan station at Dufferin and Centre street and asked if I could borrow a pair of pliers for a minute. "Sure. Want me to help?" "No", I said, "I can do it myself" and proceeded, arthritis and all, to remove the offending part in less than a minute (while holding up the tailgate with my head!).
I get why you have that policy. I get why the mechanic’s time has to be paid for. What I don’t get is why nobody had the common courtesy to help out someone in obvious distress with literally 30 seconds of their time. I want Canadian Tire to explain to me why I should continue doing business with your company.

For the record, I didn't get upset, I didn't get angry. I generally don't do that: my style is more to "get even" after the fact. I was especially perturbed by the attitude of the mechanic who was intimidating and aggressive, when all I did was to ask him if he could do me a favour for a second.

Followup: I got a generic response from Canadian Tire: the classic "bug letter". As I said, I don't get mad, I get even. My first step is to stop using Canadian Tire as my go-to place to shop. My second is right here, to encourage my Canadian readers to do the same. {shrug}.
I'm also waiting for my ATV to come home. It's been out of service for weeks! It suffered an electrical failure (both the stator and the CDI module, apparently). I saved $700 by finding an aftermarket stator: Polaris wanted almost $800 just for the factory part (eBay. California. $50). Hope they bring it back today, although I won't give in to the temptation to take it out until this cold is gone!

Some Photos

It's been a busy week: sick, teaching, meeting, Toronto trip... so I haven't shot much. I did do a little Photoshop work, though.



I shot this on Tuesday enroute home from Toronto, stopping for a quick look for more Snowy Owls (I did find and photograph one, but nothing really different). This array of trees caught my eye, just as it did the previous week. I made a sketch out of it and painted in a couple of birds for mood and balance. Hope you like it! 



Stuck in the house with my cold, and preparing for the HHCC meeting where we were doing a tabletop workshop, I broke out the light tent, set the camera up tethered to the laptop in Lightroom, and shot a series of images of my old carry gun, my Colt .45 (I was a combat pistol competitor and instructor in another life, long ago). Topaz Glow helped me bring out the well-worn character of this piece. I can't tell you how many times it's been in and out of a holster but you can see it. 



At the club meeting, I threw my watch in the light tent as something to focus on, then I experimented with some lighting options, just demo-ing how to do it 

Then with some time on my hands (still stuck in the house), it occurred to me that I didn't have an image for the Richmond Hill Camera Club Creative/Altered Reality competition, so...



A little warp, some liquify, some digital painting and Impression/Chiaoscuro and voilĂ ! 

Dog Sled races next weekend! Stay tuned!


— 30 —

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Winter Games

...from the 'sporadic musings' department...

Gearing up

As I write this, the Intellicast site displayed this (8 am on Monday):



I admit that's Celsius but damn, that's cold. For our American readers, that translates to -30°F. My weather station says 63% R.H. which makes it feel even colder. Thank God there's no wind. 


It's been cold this winter (so much for "Global Warming"). I'm going to say 10 days so far in the -30°C or colder range. There's only a foot or two of snow on the ground up here so far: we missed all the fun that Buffalo and the east coast has had. And we didn't have much of a summer. I actually own 5 different pairs of longjohns, ranging from the heavyduty level 4 stuff from XPS that I bought at Bass Pro, through my old merino wool, polyesters and the cotton weave that I'm wearing right now sitting in my living room. Life's a challenge in God's Country...

Thankfully it's supposed to get a bit warmer later in the week but I really don't want to go out. That said, I watched the guy across the road start and warm up a snowmobile with plumes of smoke and vapour coming from it (I told you. I'm not going out to take pictures!), all bundled up against the cold. Then I have to comment: a pretty, young, blond girl who was likely a guest at the inn, dressed in a slim, stylish snowmobile or ski suit, stood outside and chatted with him: no gloves, no hat, out for a cigarette. You have to be nuts.



Shot through my picture window from the comfort of my computer chair. I think they were heading out to the ice fishing huts on the lake. Certainly not for a long sled ride without face masks. 

I'm getting ready to shoot the Ontario 55+ Senior Winter Games on Wednesday and Thursday. We got some volunteer photographers together, divided up the sports as best we could and we're going to do our utmost to capture some images. Since I was helping to organize, and did what I could to convince people to volunteer, I had to let them choose which sports they would take: so I ended up with the exciting, Badminton and Table Tennis (I ended up shooting others! See below).

Nobody ever accused my mother of having stupid children. These are both INDOOR sports!

Stay tuned, I can't publish other people's pictures  (without specific permission) but here are links to the Ontario55+ site where they're being posted:



Thanks (in no particular order) to Gord Sheehan, Fred Pyziak, Kathy McKelvey-Brown, Sarah Bell, Rob Stimpson, Amanda Virtanen, Debbie Bradley and Scott McDonald for volunteering.



Debbie Bradley in FRONT of a camera for a change! 




Sidebar: We know that many people in camera clubs in the GTA cottage or visit the Haliburton Highlands regularly. Unlike most camera clubs, we do NOT shut down for the summer: in fact it's our high season! Cottagers are more than welcome to join! If you are reading this, please bring this to the attention of your members at your next club meeting. Forward the link to this blog and/or the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club website (www.highlandscameraclub.ca) to members of your club, or suggest they contact our membership chair via the website. We will have TONS of events and outings for members in 2015!


Here come da Judge.

I tried to remember who made that line famous: it was Flip Wilson in the late '60s. But I learned that he didn't originate it, it was Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham (whom no one's ever heard of! Google is your friend).

I want to encourage all of my photographer friends to take a judging course. I took it five or six years ago and have since judged in dozens of competitions, ranging from local clubs to the TCC International Salon. I admit that I didn't intend to become that involved – I just wanted to learn what the judges were looking for so I would score higher in competition.  However it has done four things for me.
  • It has helped me in my own photography. By judging competitions, I get to look critically at hundreds of images and it becomes obvious very quickly what works and what does not. So I take ideas and concepts and techniques from what I've seen. No artist is an island unto himself. While your brain is fertile ground, you have to plant seeds for anything to grow.

  • It has helped me in my teaching. Of course, knowing what to teach... but also how. It is equally important, if the goal is to encourage rather than discourage, how you say things. The CAPA judging course stresses this but like anything else (especially for me) it takes time for these things to sink in. It's improved my communication skills.

  • I've been exposed to genres in which I had zero expertise (and I'm still but a grasshopper) but I've learned more about them and I'm not afraid to try. Birding. Street Photography. Photojournalism. Sports Photography. There are some where I'll admit to no knowledge but an interest has been kindled: Printing. Portraiture. 

  • I've met and dialogued with some very interesting people. Photography legends like Philip Sun, Lance Gitter, Harvey Rogers, Stu Freedman, Hilarie McNeil-Smith, Rob Stimpson and many others. Not all of them through judging, it's true: but I feel somewhat more elevated by the practice of adjudicating others' images.
I don't know about other jurisdictions but in Canada we have CAPA and more locally in Toronto, the GTCCC. I'm sure there are equivalents around the globe. Take the step. Contact your local club for information on judging courses.

Shooting the Ontario 55+ Senior Winter Games

An argument for staying in shape. These folks do stuff that I didn't do even 30  or 40 years ago. They should be very proud.

Shooting the games was quite challenging. For one thing, they had 10 different sports in about 17 different locations and we ended up with about 7 or 8 photographers. The toughest part were the medal ceremonies which all took place on Thursday afternoon, all over the map!

I got to shoot a variety of sports, filling in the gaps where others couldn't be there. Here's a look at some of the shots I did:




Alpine skiing at Sir Sam's. I shot at the bottom of the course, needing a long lens and very high shutter speed to freeze the action. Exposure was relatively easy because there was lots of light. 



Curling was tough to shoot. There was enough light but the ugly arc lights were a weird colour.  



The two iconic curling shots were people sweeping and someone throwing a rock. I tried a different treatment on this one to make it interesting. 



I tried an artistic rendering of the rocks and a broom. 



I've shot hockey before, in the same arena. So before I got there I knew where I wanted to shoot from: the penalty box. When I walked in, I discovered they had remodeled the place and EVERYTHING was glassed in, INCLUDING the penalty box. I only found a couple of spots where the glass was clean and undamaged enough to shoot through. So I have lots of shots of the same goalie and the same net (they didn't change ends between periods). 



Although it may look bright inside a hockey arena, you need really fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. I tried my telextender but because it uses up almost two stops of light, the best I could do was 1/500 sec at f/4.8, ISO 6400. And that was deliberately underexposing almost a stop. I switched to the 70-200 (which was enough from where I was shooting) and locked in the camera at 1/1000 sec at f/2.8, ISO 6400. 



Badminton was a huge challenge. It was like, "DARK" in there. And when they swing their racquets it's like squash or racquetball, the racquet is moving so fast you can't time the shots and it's just a big blur. I set up with the flash, but then got told it disturbed the players so I put it away. I got lots of shots of people standing there waiting for a shot. I did get other perspectives, but I thought this one told the story pretty well. 



Typical stance, waiting for a serve 




Table Tennis was another huge challenge. First of all, they were in a small venue (just room for two tables) and it was filled with people. Second, because any breeze disturbed the flight of the ball, they shut off the ventilation system and all the windows. Outside: -15°C. Inside: +30°C  and 100% humidity. Took over 30 minutes before I could shoot a picture through fogged-up lenses!

this gentleman is Andrew Kwan (Kwong Hon Kwan). He and his partner Sandy Chu were easily the best players there and took the doubles gold medal for the 65+ division. Look how the racquet and the ball are blurred, even at 1/500 second! I talked with him a bit: about 8 out of 10 serves are with heavy underspin so that the opponent has to loop the ball up to get it over the net, which gives the serving team a kill shot response. Every now and then they'd mix it up with a topspin ball, and if the opponent doesn't react to it, their shot will sail 'way long! Then there's side spin which leaves the opponent whiffing air instead of a ball! These guys were good!



I shot 3 or 4 award ceremonies. This was the bronze medal winning team in the 55+ division, one of my favourite shots. The coach on the left introduced himself as "Punch Imlach" and said his partner was "Toe Blake". I 'almost' believed them since their namesakes did dress like that for games! But they would have been 98 and 103 respectively and I knew they were gone... as an aside, I went to school with Toe's daughter, Mary Jane, when I was 12 or 13. 



The iconic handshake at the end of the Gold Medal game: the Ottawa Hawks were the winners. Hard fought physical games but lots of camaraderie.  




Gold medal winners got this handsome glass award. 



Local dignitaries making the medal presentations. All of the Games staff and volunteers wore these distinctive yellow scarves and matching laminated ID badges. 

Part of our mandate was to get pictures of the volunteers and staff enjoying their tasks.



Here's a bunch of them at the alpine skiing venue
 
The scarves were really distinctive. Games officials and volunteers really stood out in a crowd. 



You can't see the colour of the scarf in this black-and-white impression sketch. He was in charge of the hockey venue in Haliburton but I can't remember his name. 

This week's closing images

On Tuesday, I had to drive into Toronto (with a stop to see Dr. Ron in Aurora. If I had known when I was a kid how important brushing my teeth was...). Anyway I drove past the snowy owls venue and although I was looking for them, I didn't see any: until I was driving home the same way later in the afternoon. 



This guy was doing his thing, giving me the "evil eye" from atop a hydro pole. I used Topaz Adjust and Clarity to enhance the detail in this image. 



"Working the Scene" at the same spot, I saw this lonely tree and was captivated by the pastel beauty of the sky behind it and the snow in the foreground. I know snow is supposed to be white, but in this case it reflected the same colour tones as the sky.

I did quite a bit of work on this image, including adding textures to parts of it and cleaning up the foreground. Rendering the foreground was a bit problematic: but Hilarie McNeil-Smith (click the link to see her compelling images), whom I've known for a while since she taught a digital painting course I facilitated some years ago, suggested adding some blowing snow. Some of what she taught me stuck! I love the effect: I used an airbrush in Photoshop, lightly loaded with white and at low opacity to make it happen.

Click to blow it up to see it better. My friend Lori wants her entire wall painted like this. I know where to get 8 foot wide prints made! I think I'm going to get a fine art print made for myself (not 8'wide! I may go for 24x36", though). Want one?


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