Friday, February 12, 2016

Are we having fun yet?

From the 'sporadic musings department


Just expressing some outrage about a comment on Facebook, not even directed at me. The discussion was about ice fishing in Algonquin Park (not allowed, it's a fish sanctuary in winter according to the ministry) but someone posted that it probably doesn't apply to (various racial and ethnic groups I don't even want to type the list here.) One phrase he used was 'colored people' (note the American spelling...). He also disparaged Syrian refugees. I took issue.

I said I was a 'coloured person'. I said my skin is mostly pink but some people call it white, but why does that matter? I got fried by at least one person supporting him, who said they were of native origin and they didn't take offence, so why should I? And also that "you don't live here" (well, actually I do...).

So I'm outraged. I probably should have a thicker (pink) skin, then again NO! It's 2016, not that that should make any difference either, but what really got me was that Facebook said his message didn't contravene their 'social standards'. Bullshit.

I also watched a news item about a Detroit suburban cop who was sentenced to 1-10 years for tuning up a guy just because he was 'driving while black'.

OK, rant over. Share the link to this blog if you agree. You can now resume your regular programming.



Just for fun!

My D800 with Opteka 500mm mirror lens
and 2x teleconverter attached. 

Some years ago, I had a 500mm mirror lens for my old D70 (I just had it for a short time and it got lost in the mail but that's a whole other story!). They're not very good, they're fixed aperture (f/6.3 or 8), manual focus, the glass isn't up to Nikon standards and due to the geometry, the bokeh is pretty ugly.

Why did I buy it? Because I can't afford a long super-telephoto from Nikon (unless I sell my car!) and I wanted a chance at reaching out for some long distance birds. I'm sure I'm not going to get any images I can print 20x30, but maybe something acceptable at web- or projection-size. With the teleconverter, it's a 1000mm f/10 lens! Why did I buy it? $150 delivered to my door. Canadian dollars. From Amazon, by the way.

So a few hand-held tests the day I got it confirmed my impression: I don't think I'll be blowing anything up to 1:1


This is an uncropped picture of an ice fishing hut 1/4 of a mile away across the ice. Yes, I did some post-processing to try to get the maximum
sharpness out of it. 1/1000 second, 1000mm, ISO 800.


I'm going to need to shoot at 1/1600 second handheld with the teleconverter, and probably 1/1000 second with it attached: but the beauty of the D800 is its low noise at high ISO, so I just may be able to get away with it.

When I get a chance, I'll try it on the tripod. A good test would be to shoot the same image with the Nikon glass an crop it to the same size to see a comparison. I will when I get some time. Meanwhile, hey! 1000mm for $150!  Just for fun.

OK, update. You get what you pay for. After a week or so of trying, I couldn't get a reasonable picture out of this lens no matter what I did. BUT: I bought it on Amazon, and guess what? They're taking it back and giving me a full refund. Not only that, they're paying the postage! Kudo's to Amazon for great customer service. 


When life gives you lemons, you know what to do, right? Use Topaz Impression! That's the blurry door handle on the ATV shed at the Red Umbrella Inn, uncropped, 1000mm handheld. 1/2000 second, ISO 2000. Now a fine art impressionistic piece!


Once again, the original was unacceptably blurry so I made lemonade in post-processing. I tried all of the sharpening tricks, still not good enough, so Topaz Impression to the rescue! This is a male house finch that dropped into my feeder today with his significant other. Last sequence I shot with the lens before packing it up for return. 1/800 sec, ISO 1800, 500mm, f/6.3.



Trying out a mirrorless camera


Sony Alpha A6000
picture borrowed from the web 
A friend of mine has too many cameras in the house and decided that this one – almost new and still under warranty – has to go. Since I've put aside a few dollars for such eventualities, I thought I'd have a look at it. What I'm writing here is my first impression, after about an hour of playing with it. My intention is to add to this as I go along and render my decision whether to buy it by the time I finish this article!

My motivation to look at it was the announcement from Sony of the A6300 a couple of days ago. In many ways it could even be considered to be an upgrade from my D800: higher ISO capability, faster burst rate, lightning fast autofocus. It does 4K video but I don't do video but you never know... then I remembered that my friend had the A6000 and I called her and asked if I could try it before buying it.

Clearly the other reason was the gradual accumulation of lenses and accessories for my D800 putting me at the point now where I have to decide which lenses to take with me since I can't take them all! I haven't actually weighed my basic bag (camera plus three lenses and accessories) but I'll bet it would exceed airline carry-on limitations, not to mention my back. It's got this great swiveling LCD that might save my knees, and of course it's relatively tiny. 24Mp APS-C sensor, by the way.

It took me a little while to figure out the menu system and start to set it up. At one point, it wouldn't take a picture even though it autofocused and appeared ready to shoot. I still don't know why. I have it in manual but can't figure out yet how to vary the aperture without going into the menu. I know, I know: RTFM. But there really isn't a printed manual, there's an online "manual" that really just says what the controls do, I've just started working through it. I'm reading that you can buy a decent manual from third parties.

So here's a photo I took on the way home from picking it up.


This was with the 55-210mm lens at 210mm. Cropped a little, otherwise nothing special done in post.  


I shot this image with the same lens, zoomed out to 88mm and some post-processing. Too bad the sun had disappeared.

By the way, off-topic, it got warm and rainy last week. Those ice fishing huts are sitting on Mountain Lake and the ice surface is covered with water. You couldn't pay me enough to go out there although clearly the buildings haven't fallen in yet. Maybe in a hovercraft, wearing a dry suit and floater coat, with a helicopter standing by...

Anyway, that's day 1 with the A6000. Battery life seems to be a problem since the LCD/Live View is always on, but we'll see. Stay tuned.

On the way home from Toronto on Saturday, I wandered over to the spot where some Snowy Owls have been seen... nada. So nothing to shoot with the 500mm lens. A little later I stopped for my "mid-drive nap" (better than having one while driving!) at the York Regional Forest on Ravenshoe Road. Got out for a stretch and saw an interesting little trail through the forest, so I got out the Sony camera, put on the 16-55mm lens and took a few shots.
This fellow came along – his name is Jay and I think he said his brother had something to do with building this refuge many years ago – and he was riding this trail bicycle with studded tires (needed because the trail was slick with ice). He cycled away for yet another lap around the forest. He subsequently emailed me a picture of himself cycling in Moab, UT 'way up high on a ridge.
Anyway, I hope you like this photo, Jay:



I've decided NOT to buy this Sony A6000 mirrorless. Although it's a great little camera and I'd likely use it a fair bit, there were a couple of reasons for my decision. (a) I'd be forever trying to decide which camera to take with me (and probably end up taking both!); (b) the 'operating system' is very different from my Nikon DSLR. Some things that I take for granted are much harder to implement, but admittedly a lot of it would simply be learning curve. Rico (whom I ran into on Saturday night and who has an A6000 to complement his Canon) put it well when he pointed out that it's very menu-driven where, he guessed, I would be more comfortable with a camera that controls more via external controls.

The biggest argument in favour of buying it was the fact that I would have been able to just toss it in a pocket for a hike down the trail instead of carrying a 50 lb camera bag (and STILL not having the right lens with me when I came across something I wanted to shoot)!


I'm not ruling out going mirrorless. I actually see it as inevitable but I'm not ready for it yet.




Gales of November workshop update



The October 20-23 weekend is FULL so we opened a second session the following weekend: October 27-31. That's already starting to fill up so if you're thinking about it, you'd better get in touch! 

We may have a space or two on the first weekend because a couple of people are thinking about switching to the second session. Contact me!

The web page with details is at www.photography.to/gales.


The challenges of Country Living

A couple of nights ago I woke up around 2 or 3am hearing noises outside. When you live in the country, it's quiet. I hear when my sump pump comes on. Or the water heater. I figured this was some kind of animals, although I remember thinking it can't be bears because they're hibernating. I went back to sleep.

Next morning I looked out my kitchen window and saw this:


What the Hell? My property is surrounded by these pine trees, all big and healthy. Why are all these branches down? Have I been feeding the squirrels too much in my bird feeders? 

Near as I can tell, we had freezing rain in the night that coated the branches, thick enough to break them (we've had ice before... never broke like this!) when a burst of wind came up. It warmed up in the morning so the ice melted. That's my best guess. I asked around, some other people had some damaged trees too, but nothing at the Inn across the road or down the road, as far as I could tell.

Big healthy branches.



It took me about 3 hours of work to drag these to the brush pile behind my garage. I used the ATV, couldn't have done it by hand.


Anyone want some fresh pine boughs? Smells great! Free for the taking. This is my brush pile. 

Here's a Topaz Impression sketch:



By the way, the first two pictures were done with the iPhone, the second two with the Sony A6000. I also did a video with the Sony of me dragging the brush to the back but it's 78Mb, so I haven't put it up anywhere.



Speaking of the challenges of country living, there are good things and bad things that happen when the temperature wanders down to around -30°C. First of all, I fully expect my sump pump line to freeze up – it has every year. When it does, I have to go out and disconnect the line, and connect up a temporary outside line, or the pump will keep going continuously. That always happens between 2am and 3am...

The other day my smoke detector started emitting low battery beeps. Naturally, at 2:30 am. Since it's up on a 12' ceiling, I had to go out to the garage to get the big ladder. Then I climbed up to discover it was the OTHER one beeping. And only one spare battery.

City folks generally don't heat with firewood. I do (I have oil heat but the fire is better and cheaper). So today, my job list included chopping some kindling and bringing in three loads of firewood (I load about 25 pieces on my snow scoop and drag it to the door). One of the three loads was wood I bought this year, it'll burn OK if I have a hot bed of coals going. I also plowed the driveway , then found the trickle charger for the ATV battery because it'll be tough to start when it's 30 below. I also cleared the snow off the satellite dish with my extending snow rake.

Here's the good side, though. As I write this, I'm looking out at a beautiful bluebell and gold sky sunset over the lake. The snow is a clean, beautiful white. I've had blue jays, chickadees, two species of woodpeckers, nuthatches and house finches at the feeder. And the ubiquitous red squirrels. It's crystal clear at 25 below zero and the snow squeaks when you walk on it. I might sojourn out on the lake tomorrow if I'm not feeling too chilly after my trip to the landfill and the post office. And there are no mosquitoes!

Also I live less than an hour from Algonquin Park. Maybe I'll drive up on the weekend. Oh wait, 30 below...

I could shoot stars tonight... nah. Too cold. Well, we'll see...

Here's something else most of you city folk aren't used to. I've been using my cast iron skillet (and saucepan – you can see it at the top of the picture with the other little skillet) constantly. I've finally got it to the point where nothing sticks to it, it's perfectly seasoned. My trick for keeping them that way? Rinse it out while it's still hot, and occasionally brush a tiny amount of oil on it before it cools. I just use a paper towel.


Cheesy chicken and rice and broccoli casserole hot out of the oven, made in my cast iron skillet. The beauty of it is, you can start on the stove then just throw it in the oven to keep baking. Try doing omelets that way! Awesome. This is just a quick iPhone photo.

— 30 —

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winter at last!

from the 'sporadic musings' department...

I love photography but I think I love music more.

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as a musician. How to explain...

There's a certain joy you feel when you see a painting or a photo but hearing a piece of music that moves you is a whole other thing. Pictures don't bring tears to my eyes or that feeling in my heart that music does. Perhaps these are the ramblings of an aging man but I wish I could have expressed myself with music more. I can't play any instrument well. Not keyboard, guitar or bass, all of which I've had flings with over the years, and I haven't been able to sing since my surgeries a decade ago affected my vocal cords (come on. You've heard of "Simon, Garfunkel and Springer", haven't you? So now I just listen and try not to imagine playing.

I so enjoy virtuosity. Your list probably won't agree with all my choices (yeah, you probably WON'T if you're younger than I, as most of you are!) but can you argue when I mention Oscar Peterson? Or Barbra Streisand? What about Stevie Ray Vaughan? Or Tommy Emmanuel? Or specific renditions of certain songs, like Neil Larsen on the Hammond B3 behind Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"? Haley Reinhart doing "House of the Rising Sun" (here) (or "Moanin'" with Casey Abrams), or Jena Irene covering Elvis's "Can't Help Falling in Love" on American Idol (here). I'd better stop now or I'll be listing songs and artists forever!

You realize that writing these paragraphs took HOURS, of course. I had to take time out to listen to some of these songs (I even invested an hour watching a Streisand concert on YouTube, here).




I love/hate Facebook

There are lots of reasons to hate it. Many of them obvious. I'm not going to dwell on those. I think I've minimized them by limiting my "friends" list to people I know or fellow photographers whose work I admire. I'm active in several groups, but only a handful of them where I've enabled notification, so if I understand it correctly, the bulk of what I see in my newsfeed comes from those. Again populated by people I know or respect (major exception: the Photoshop and Lightroom Group where there are people whom I can help). For the most part, I've learned to simple scroll past posts that I consider nonsense and noise. Occasionally I get drawn it, which is why I hate it!

But Facebook is a resource for knowledge and information. There are countless people out there researching and finding and sharing things that you wouldn't find on your own. Great music and images and stories and learning. One case in point is an article I read today, written by Tavis Leaf Glover and shared by Vincent Versace who has a lot of insight into making pictures.

Here's a link to the article itself. I encourage you to read it, especially if you're a photographer.
http://petapixel.com/2016/01/30/10-myths-about-the-rule-of-thirds/

Here's the comment I made after reading the article:
Good article. ALMOST makes me want to turn on my left brain again, Although I agree that the rule of thirds is hackneyed and there are other ways to compose an image, it serves the purpose of making the photographer at least THINK about composition before snapping the shutter. 
 It's easier to deconstruct an image than to construct one. One has to wonder if the classical artists were consciously using various composition rules when they created their art: I think not. I think they unconsciously or subconsciously recognized how to achieve the desired effect, that's what makes – made – them artists. Today we have the opportunity to see tens of thousands of images and create a mindset that subconsciously tells us what we like and what we don't like and we apply it to our vision as we look through the viewfinder. 
 The article did make me think. It made me finally go out and order Michael Freeman's book "The Photographer's Eye". It reminded me to think about balancing elements and gestalt theory. It put me back on the path of pre-visualization. Give me another 70 years and maybe I'll be an artist. 
One of the things I don't necessarily agree with is Glover's caveat, "get it right in camera, don't crop and waste valuable pixels..." (paraphrasing). That's why I bought a D800. It has loads of pixels to spare. Often I don't have time to compose images in the field (certainly not when it involves living moving things!) so I try to include all the essential elements to extract later.

Now I'm almost afraid to post pictures since I'm doubting my composition ability! Not every picture has to be a piece of art, though. However they all have to tell a story!




Gales of November



This is another rendering of the pano that I shot in September. This time I edited it using the new "Boundary Warp" feature in Lightroom CC 2015.4. It rendered quickly and beautifully but only from the middle exposures in my bracketed shots.

This is a 360° pano image that consists of 6 original images shot with a 17mm lens on my full-frame D800. I was able to increase the coverage of this picture by about one-third by increasing the boundary warp to 100%. By the way, it's 94 megapixels in size, 22k x 4.2k pixels. LR rendered it in about one minute. I pixel-peeped at 100% and I'm unable to find a visible seam. Colour me impressed. When you blow it up, you can see every grain of sand, every pine needle. That's due to the superb lens and of course, the D800. Obviously you're not seeing the detail here on the blog! I toned the image in Lightroom and used Topaz Clarity to bring out the clouds. No cropping, no other edits.

If you click on the image it blows up only to the 800 pixel width that I rendered for this blog. However I have also uploaded a larger version here. Still only 4000 pixels wide (to keep it a reasonable size) but depending on your browser, if you click in the picture, you can see some of the detail.

The October 20-23 session is FULL. Amazingly fast! So fast that planning is under way for a second session a week later, October 27-30 (we still can't wait for November!).

It's an inexpensive outing in a spectacular place. Check it out.

As I write this, I haven't yet updated the web page to reflect that fact, and David hasn't put the booking page in place for the second weekend. I need to know who's interested in coming so we can make it happen, so please take a moment to email me and tell me if you're thinking about it. I'm giving some thought to gearing the second session more to 'intermediate' than to 'advanced' photographers, so more tutorials, more hands-on coaching. What do you think? Tell me!

Most of the information, other than dates, is exactly like the original weekend session, which you can read about here: www.photography.to/gales.


update: It's official and the site is up! Go have a look!


Winter's here

I was going to say it's a weird winter, but it's just a little late. Last day of January as I write this, and  ice fishing – the mainstay of the winter economy up here in the Highlands – is just getting underway. Another snowmobiler died yesterday when he went through the ice so we all have to think about being careful out there.

Ice racing is happening in Minden. I spent an hour or so there yesterday and if you can, you should drop by. It's at the fairgrounds on Bobcaygeon Road. It's hard to capture the feeling with still photographs, you have to experience these guys driving faster on an ice-covered track than most of us can on dry pavement.



The lines on the ice surface give this a sense of motion, even though the shot was taken at 1/1000 second to freeze the action. 



The driver in the orange and black car at right was head-and-shoulders better than anyone else on the ice. In fact, he held back at the start line, giving everyone half-a-lap lead and not only won the race but pulled over near the end to let people catch up and unlap themselves. I'm told it was Tom Prentice, but I don't know for sure.



Some drivers weren't as good, or at least were driving beyond their abilities. Good thing they had snowbanks! I saw one car climb halfway up an embankment but nobody had an accident while I was there. 


Fender benders don't count. Imagine driving 100kph on a pure ice track, competing for position and trying to pass (or not be passed) in a chicane, while sliding sideways in a full 4-wheel drift. These are street studs, by the way, not racing studs (which are much longer). It's interesting that these are the exact winter tires I have on my car (less the studs)!



This is one of the drivers. I'm sorry, I didn't get his name but I thought the picture is compelling. So I don't know who he is either! Made you look. He said, "I thought you were taking pictures of my car, not me!" I was... He said, "be careful not to scratch the paint on my car!" LOL 



Picture of the week

I ventured out on the ice on 12-Mile Lake a couple of days ago, on my 4-wheeler. I was assured by people who seem to know, that there's an 8" (20cm) thickness of hard water, almost enough to support a car, but some spots are thinner than others, wherever there's moving water. After 8 years here, I basically know where that is, but still I was being cautious. That's my ATV in the photo.



I want to comment on the composition. As you'll see below, when I shot the image I had the horizon in the middle but that's because when I shot it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to add drama by including foreground or feature the sky. So I left room to crop. 

This is one of the original images, SOOC ("Straight out of the Camera"). This was one of five, in fact it was the darkest one because I had my exposure comp set for +1. The finished one was an HDR merge in LR, some toning adjustments including de-haze, small crop to move the horizon, graduated screen toning and colour temperature/saturation adjustment on the sky, some spot toning on the ATV and hut, burn in on the bottom ATV tracks, that's pretty well it. Oh, and a small vignette because Ansel Adams said that a picture isn't finished until the edges are burned a little. About 15 minutes in LR, never took it to Photoshop. 


— 30 —

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Gales of November site is LIVE!

The Gales of November site is LIVE!

We've settled on the weekend of October 20th, 2016. There's room for a dozen photographers and as I write this, I know of 5 who have already booked, and Rock Island Lodge implied that there are a couple of others they haven't told me about yet.

So if you want to attend, you'd best hop to it. First come, first served.
 (I COULD do a second weekend if enough people want me to.)
Here's the link: check it out!





Revised Banner shot

If you check out the banner picture at the top of the blog, it's an abstract rendering of a shot I was trying to make on New Year's Eve but then I experimented after the fact in Photoshop. The original was an attempt to isolate the dead tree against the snowy background... it was "OK", but needed something.




Here's the old blog banner that I replaced (I post the old ones in the blog so they don't disappear forever):






Haven't tried it yet...

I mentioned a few weeks ago that when doing timelapses using my iphone to drive the camera through TriggerTrap, the phone battery was the limiting factor. I could only do about an hour and a half, the camera battery lasted longer. So I searched eBay for an external battery pack and paid the princely sum of $5.88 US including shipping for this one:



not my picture. Screen capture from the eBay page. 

The specs say it's got about 3x the capacity of the regular iPhone battery so it should do. Now I need to wait for some clear skies for a chance to give it a try. It was a little confusing at first because the cable didn't match the new "Lightning" connector on the phone (which I like because you don't have to worry about which way around it is, it plugs in both ways, but I dislike it because none of my old charging cables will fit!). Then I realized you use the regular iPhone charging cable and plug it into the USB connector on the power pack.

If I want to do serious day-long timelapses, I'll have to look into external power for the camera too. On the list...

It comes in various colours. I was going to buy pink but then I though...


I wrote that a few days ago. I have tried it now and it works... but I haven't pushed it to see how much power it's providing. I ran about 200 images for a timelapse and had 93% power left on the iPhone. I'll do more later.



More Pine Marten pictures!

They're so deceivingly cute. I went up to Algonquin Park yesterday with Ron Goodlin and Rob Kline in search of wildlife, and I'm glad they weren't disappointed! Neither of them had seen Pine Martens before and the machine gun sound of Ron's D4 at 11 fps or whatever was more or less continuous!


I commented to someone that I was tired of seeing someone's endless cat pictures (s/he shall remain nameless). Cute enough, if you like cats – which I don't – but the're all the same. The response was, "yeah, should we talk about Pine Martens"? Guilty as charged!

Frankly, I don't understand how he does it. I went with the pressure and when I got home, discovered that I had shot 340 images. But as I culled and rated them there were so many identical. It was hard to decide which to keep and which to discard. I ended up throwing out about 200 shots. That said, there was one sequence where s/he opened and closed his or her mouth and I might have missed this shot if I hadn't been shooting in burst (my D800 only does about 4 fps — enough for me!).




I opined that these animals (Pine Martens are members of the weasel family. They may look cute but they're really mean like minks and fishers. They're carnivores, but these particular ones have become too accustomed to humans and our garbage.





Still, they make fine photo subjects, so here are a few more shots.



I suspect these are siblings from this year's litter. I posted this image on FB with the caption, "OK, here's the plan, sis. I'm going to run that way and stop and pose for the cameras every now and then. You go the other way and see if you can pick up some food for us without them spotting you. Ready? On 3...."




I think this is my favourite from this batch. I've long known that wide angle shots which include more of the environment tell a story better than closeups. I took some artistic liberties with the background to make it stand out less.

By the way, some people preferred to shoot other things. To each his own...



Ten feet away from where the Pine Martens were playing, this was set up to photograph chickadees. Sorry, I don't get it! There are a million of these around everyone's bird feeders, why go to Algonquin and ignore the martens to shoot these. Bird photographers are quirky! 





Nikon D5/D500

Nikon has announced the new D5 ($6500 US) and D500 ($2000 US, same processor and sensor, but DX not FX and "Prosumer" not professional build. It's the successor to the D300). Available in March. OUTRAGEOUS ISO capability: ISO 3,480,000 and 1,280,000 respectively. I remember thinking you could shoot 1/1,000,000 sec at f/16 in the dark!

I haven't yet seen any images posted of any high-ISO shots, other than a sneak peek someone caught of an LCD at the Consumer Electronics Show. But I'm just imagining the noise performance at more "normal" levels like ISO 6400 or 12,800. I think these cameras are going to mitigate the need for big aperture lenses for certain applications – I'm thinking about those $15000 monster telephotos. You'll be able to shoot at f/8 all day.

We live in interesting times!



...speaking of Snowy Owls...

We were, right? My bad, I guess not! 



Only one I've seen so far this year  


When I came across this ladybird, there was a group of conservation types hanging around. They were there, banding the owls. I asked how! They use traps baited with pigeons. I hung around for a while (until it was too dark!) hoping they would capture one so I could photograph the affair: that would be awesome! Too bad they didn't.

While I was waiting, the setting sun illuminated these greenhouses behind me. Check it out!


It actually looked even BETTER through the viewfinder but this was the best I could do, with a multi-shot HDR and Topaz software.

One for the road.


Snowflakes are TOUGH! There's quite a bit of post-processing work in this one and I haven't yet really nailed the focus. Thought I'd share anyway! 


— 30 —

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy 2016 to all my friends!


My 2016 wish for all of you:

HEALTH

Because if you don't have that, nothing else matters.




When I read what I wrote, I realize that I must really be an old man. Those ubiquitous wishes for prosperity and happiness in the new year ring hollow when one has had brushes with problems of health. As I get older, I realize that you can get past the engine in your car blowing up, your basement getting flooded, your business failing or losing your job and none of that matters if you don't have your health.

I'm a cancer survivor. I had surgery for metastatic cancer in 2004 and again in 2007 and several radiation treatments and medications since. It's been 12 years and I'm still here. One day it's going to jump up and bite me but I'm still here. My father had the same cancers I do and he made it to 89. That's a long way in the future. Maybe I'll make it that far, maybe not.

But that puts a perspective on one's life: sure, I want to be fulfilled and content and not lack any of the necessities but mostly I want to not have to worry about my health for a while longer. Because if I have that, I won't sweat the small stuff.



Speaking of the years going by...

I've been writing this blog since 2006. TEN YEARS! This is my post #345, so about 3 posts per month for 120 months! I don't have a huge audience, a couple of hundred regular readers, more when I have something significant to say. As I look back, I've been pretty consistent and it's pretty clear that my photography, my art, has matured and grown over that time.

It occurs to me that in all that time, I have never made ANY statement about politics. I'm about to break that.

When asked what my politics are, I say that I am APOLITICAL. That means I don't care, one way or another, I have better things to think about. Another way of looking at it is that they are all cut from the same cloth, one is just as bad as the next. But at the risk of alienating some of my readers, I feel compelled to step out and say something now. And the reason is a fellow named Donald J. Trump.

Nothing scares me more than the possibility that this bigoted, racist fascist might get elected President of the United States. At the beginning, you could laugh about him: he wasn't seriously running, he's a joke... but then so was Rob Ford. The scary part is that so many people are taking him seriously – even people whom I otherwise respect – and not only the threat that he might get elected, just the fact that he is running, is probably the most serious threat to world peace since Germany in the 1930's.

The man colours all Muslims with the same paintbrush, all billion-and-a-half of them in the world. He equates them all with violent fanaticism, analogous to Hitler's beliefs about the Jews. The words that come out of his mouth are born in hatred and fear and worst of all, disdain for what anyone else thinks: it's as if no one else's opinion matters. He will cause – he IS causing – a backlash and as some have mentioned, he's probably ISIS's best recruiting tool right now.  

I have always been right-wing. OK, right of centre. I am a firearms owner, I'm very pro-police, the only reason I don't hunt anymore is due to physical limitations. I rode motorcycles, I still drive too fast, but seriously, my American friends and relatives? Seriously? Hopefully you're just having fun laughing at him too, but enough! 


Minden Wildwater Preserve

Everyone knows my favourite place around here is the whitewater. I dropped by there on Christmas day and again after the ice storm on Monday.

It's a very spiritual place. I often go there and take in the serenity and majestic beauty of the rushing waters. Today, Christmas day, I saw this guy at the river's edge. He was lost in prayer, didn't even know I was there. I watched him kneeling motionless for several minutes and took these pictures to capture the feeling. 




There's a Zen word for this. It's "Shikantaza". Look it up.

Then I discovered what he was really doing... as he reached over and took the Neutral Density filter out of his Lee filter holder (in case you don't know what that is, it fits over your camera lens and lets you do long exposures among other things)! Fooled me. Good story? But without the explanation, I find this a very emotion-filled image.

Of course the white water never freezes. But it creates remnants of ice on the rocks and twigs and trees. I call them "Ice Caps" (sorry, Timmies. Different spelling!)


That 105mm Nikkor lens is pretty sharp! 


Same lens. This was handheld at 1/5 second, sitting really, really still! My long range rifle skills came back to me, control breathing, relax muscles... 

This was one of a series of long exposures (tripod this time). All shot in the same place and all different!  

On the way home, I got this image behind my house


A little post-processing went into this one: it's a 5-shot HDR blended in Nik HDR Efex Pro, then treated with Topaz Impression, then I used Topaz Star Effects to bring out the reflections of the ice coating the trees and grass. Click it for a better look.


Algonquin Park

I'm blessed. Not only because Algonquin Park is an hour away but because I can still just go up there when the mood strikes me. It did on Sunday, so I hopped in the car and went. I didn't know what to expect to see: not much landscape for me this time of year, but I thought maybe I could find some foxes to shoot and I was really jealous of the pictures I've been seeing of the Pine Martens. A couple of people told me where I might find them. As you will see below, I did.

The other interesting part is the people you meet. John Marshall was someone I hadn't met before, with his friend Charlene?? (bad with names!). Steve Dunsford, whom I've met before: he owns the Mad Musher in Whitney and does some phenomenal photography in the Park. I'm struggling to remember the bearded guy's name, whom we met while shooting the Pine Martens... and his friend Laura (John just told me: Jesse Villemaire). 

Some of the animals are too unafraid of humans. That makes it possible for people like me to get pictures but it makes me uneasy about whether their reliance on people to feed them will prove their downfall. The story I heard yesterday about the foxes on Arowhon Pines road is that they (or their ancestors, I guess) were sick with mange a few years ago and someone left medicated food for them to nurse them back to health. They got used to people feeding them, which I hear many people do (but have never witnessed).

I saw some photos later of the fox kit I photographed and a sibling playing with one of the photographers. Great shots. I don't think that road is plowed in winter. We got snow today so I wonder if anyone will get up there until Spring. Hope the foxes survive. Here are some pictures:



 




And now... a Pine Marten. I'd never actually seen one until that day! Exceedingly cute, and very very fast! S/he scampered through the trees, occasionally posing for a photo.





Not so "cute" when s/he was showing her teeth, upset at the blue jays who were stealing his/her food! 





I was just going to post one or two pictures but I got carried away. They're so damned cute! Prints are available, so are cellphone cases, tote bags, pillows, even shower curtains if you want! Email me and I'll link you to where to get them.

I just realized I updated my watermark a day or two early! Oops.

Anyway, see you all in 2016. Come join me up in Wawa in October. Details will be on the web page at www.photography.to/gales.htm (if I ever get it finished!).

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