Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pay it Forward

Pay it Forward

Time for a story. Let me preface it by, (1) it wasn't my fault, (2) the photos in this part are not mine, and (3) those who know me know that I've been writing creatively for many years (to wit, this Blog!) and the Great Canadian Novel is eventually going to come out, if I live that long! Enjoy.

"Trailer-hitch" Larry and I were looking for snowy owls to shoot. With cameras, dear reader, not guns. We could have gone to the Barrie area where we know there are some because this guy Len baits them with store-bought mice and charges tourist wannabe photographers an arm and a leg to photograph them close up. But it's more satisfying to find them in the wild. We've seen them in the Glenarm area before, him more than me because he can actually see out of his eyes. His nickname hearkens back to last year when an old beat-up Toyota sitting behind us, held together with duct tape and baling wire, suddenly sprouted a 2" hole in his front grill, exactly the size of Larry's trailer hitch ball. Come to think of it, we were snowy owl hunting that time too, with Dr. Ron...

This time it was just me and Larry. I was driving because I figured we'd have a better chance if Larry was the spotter. Amazing how he sees stuff. Kathy's got that talent too, but if a moose walked into my front yard and started grazing on the raspberry bushes right in front of my window, I probably wouldn't see him. I always kid Fred about how many deer he sees when driving up here in Haliburton, even when were going to the same meeting, I never see one and he posts dashcam video by the time I get home. I never see one, they're probably there but I just don't spot them.

I'd say, "Hey, Larry, look. A bird just flew over".

He'd say, "yup it was an immature male merganser and it looks like something is wrong with the second toe on his right foot".
"What kind of tracks are those?"
"Looks like a coyote tracking a flock of wild turkeys. Not chasing them, the tracks are too close together so he wasn't running".
I hate Larry.

"Snowys nest along this fenceline", Larry says. "They hunker down under the roots of those fallen trees. Sometimes you'll see them sitting on the ground in the field, or on a fencepost where they can spot prey".

Sure they do, Larry. White birds with camouflaged black patterns sitting in the snow 100 yards away under broken black branches. Don't get me wrong, I've seen Snowy owls. Sitting on top of a hydro pole or on the roof of a barn or church or house. But only when someone says, "hey, look! There's a snowy owl!".

He saw 10 bald eagles and a herd of deer at the landfill the other day. Not just a story — I talked to the guy who works there. I said, "Larry told me he saw 10 eagles and a bunch of deer".


Did I tell you I hate Larry?

Anyway, Trailer-hitch and I are driving the back roads south of Glenarm, looking for snowys. We come to an intersection, and lo and behold, an Amish buggy crosses our path. That I can see: it's big and black and there's a horse towing it and it has one of those dayglo orange triangles on the back to warn motorists. Google will tell you the difference between "Amish" and "Mennonite". The former are more strict and eschew modern tools, like cars and machinery. Go ahead, look it up. I'd recently seen a great picture featuring one and thought I'd like to try to get a shot, so I turned the corner to follow them. That's where the trouble began.

Picture one of those big old highway snowplow trucks, where the blade extends out wider than the truck itself, especially on the right side, where they drive down a highway lane and clear the lane and the shoulder too at the same time. Now picture what happens when he turns a corner: the plow blade clears a beautiful swath around the inside of the corner so it looks just like a nice, flat, cleared road. But underneath that smooth surface is... a ditch. That's what i figure happened, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I turned the corner. First inkling of a problem was Larry saying, "uh-oh" and the second was this tilting feeling.

Sometimes stuff happens in slow motion and you know there's nothing you can do about it. It's like if you're a motorcycle rider and you get off the bike and forget to put the sidestand down. Or you're making a u-turn on the crest of a hill and you come to a stop mid-turn with the bike leaning too far over and you KNOW what's about to happen. I'll leave you to guess why I chose these examples.

So we come to a stop. I look at Larry. He looks at me. I try to put it in reverse and use the 4WD. But I know. And he knows. And he says, "looks like I'm going to have to climb out the window or crawl out your side". And I can't get out either because I'm using my legs to hold the door from falling closed and can't get enough leverage to lift myself out of the seat. Probably also has something to do with me being 'short for my weight' and in great shape if I were 100 years old. Hey, round IS a shape... I tell Larry to push on my back. He does and I fall out of the tilted car. He crawls after me.

We ain't going nowhere. I knew I hadn't damaged anything but we're stuck. And I had let my CAA membership lapse, so my first thought was, "this ain't gonna be cheap". Neither one of us is a Canadian Winter newbie: we both have thick winter coats, hats, gloves, boots. I was actually in full camo because, well hunting clothes are made to be warm, dry and more importantly, to fit people in great shape like me.

Larry says, "I think I saw a tractor at that farm back there. Let's try them before calling a tow". We went traipsing off down the road and sure enough, there's a huge John Deere in the farmyard, only problem is: nobody home. "Let's try the farm where we saw the buggy turn in. Bound to be someone there".

We walk into the farmyard, trying to look needy and contrite. There were about 3 men there; the closest one a young lad I'd guess in his late teens or early 20's, clean shaven, red face from working out in the cold, a second man somewhat older, with a dark and straggly beard and the third your stereotypical Amish elder with a long grey unkempt beard and a lined face that has obviously seen many harsh winters. All three were dressed in rough farm clothing with rubber boots, heavy pants and dark, sturdy coats. All of them wore variations of those kind of hats that they've probably had for years, weathered and hard-worn the kind of thing Yuppies look for in high end stores and would pay hundreds of dollars for in a heartbeat.

There was also a sledge in the yard, with a team of two large, sturdy draught horses hitched to it. The kind you'd see in a beer commercial but without the hairy Clydesdale hoofs. We explained our situation, and stepped out in the road to point out my vehicle clearly captured by the false promise of smooth hard snow. Someone said, "well let's get to 'er". They said they had towed another hapless motorist out of the ditch across from the farm entrance, and someone mentioned that a snowplow had gotten stuck in the same spot we were in a couple of years earlier. 

They all came out to help! Picture by Larry

Suddenly, there weren't just 3 of them. We turned around and started walking back to the car, accompanied by probably 10 more men. The horses and sledge quickly overtook us and on the sledge were perhaps another half dozen men and a couple of young boys. Everyone had those great hats! By the time we got to the car, the sledge was parked, men were unhitching the horses and a couple of them were crawling under the car trying to figure out where to attach a chain. The only visible hooks were on the front, so it was decided to pull it out that way. Subaru, by the way, has hidden places where tow hooks can be attached, we learned later and there were hooks in the spare tire compartment. I know... read the f'in manual!

The whole family came.  The big guy in the middle came out of that F-150, I think. Now that I look at this picture, I guess they didn't ALL have those great hats. I'll bet they do, but it's winter... Picture by Larry

These folks didn't mess around. I realized this was going to happen like, right now. So I dived into the car to start the engine and take the transmission out of Park. I didn't make it! Those huge, living, one horsepower creatures had already started effortlessly pulling my car out, locked wheels and all! I managed to get it into drive eventually, and a few seconds later, I was safely stopped in the middle of the road. 30 seconds later, the horses were hitched back up to the sledge, they had turned around and everyone had piled on board for the ride back to the farm.

That has to be more than one horsepower! Picture by Larry 

They pulled me out like it was nothing! Even before I got it out of Park. Picture compliments of Sam Tallman from Haliburton. She was in that black F150 that came to help. That's Trailer Hitch Larry

I got out and shook hands with 3 or 4 of them, as many as I could get to. I went to the elder gentleman and thanked him profusely and I asked if there were some other way I could express my appreciation. He looked at me and said, "No thank you. Pay it forward." 

And off they went, horses chuffing and the sledge grating on the road surface, chains jangling and a silent score of unassuming heroes getting back to their chores. Back in the car, we thought about how "help thy neighbour" is a lost concept in the world we live in, but not in their world. It's like that in Newfoundland too, that's one reason I love the place so much.

And off we went, to a nearby rural bakery for a 'slice' and a coffee. We bought pies to take home. We messed up making change paying for them and I ended up giving them $10 too much. That's OK, they needed it more than me. 

Homeward Bound! Picture by Larry 

I will. Pay it forward.

Ice Fishing is a "Thing"

Tourist season in the Highlands is of course in the summer. The population increases by an order of magnitude, the likelihood of meeting another car on the road is actually higher than that of encountering a deer. Then comes the fall; after the leaves are down people batten down the hatches and prepare for the onslaught of winter. But among them are those who spend their time figuratively sharpening their fishing rods and getting ready to wander out on the ice in search of finny food. And there are actually people who come up here in order to sit out on the ice, braving the wintry chill or in heated huts, in the off-chance that some frigid fish might swim by and grab a wriggling minnow. The Inns and B&B's actually have customers in the winter!

Of course that presumes that they actually go out there to fish. When I've visited ice fishing huts in the past, one can attain a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.8 just by breathing. But these people are obsessive about getting out there. To the point where, well, all their brain cells have fizzled and died.

Listen. It was +7°C and raining last week. Obviously the ice was thick enough for him to get out there (he's about 150m away from shore) and that's surface water you're seeing but just behind him is fast flowing water from the 12-Mile Lake dam which NEVER freezes, and he's fishing through an opening in the ice. A candidate for the Darwin Awards. I drove by an hour later and the red hut was there but he wasn't.

I got to thinking what would happen if he fell in? All I would be able to do would be to dial 9-1-1 and watch as he drowned. That's all anyone could do. Folks, let's not be stupid out there. 

Now when it gets colder, and there's a foot of solid ice out there, it's another story. This is on 12-Mile Lake opposite me — half a dozen huts are out there now.  I haven't been out to visit yet but I should be able to this weekend. 

Algonquin Park

I do go there a lot. Some days you don't see anything interesting to photograph but a day in the Park is better than a day at home (or in the office) ANY time. Dr. Ron and a group of people were up for the weekend, staying in a beautiful cabin (OK, "house". 'way bigger than mine!) in Dwight. I had a commitment for Sunday, so I just came up to visit for the day on Saturday, and Amin came with me. 

My "Sunday" commitment was to go to Toronto and pick up that 200-400 f/4 Nikon lens I told you about last week. Got it! Yahoo!

Ron has one of these lenses. He's a good friend and he let me use it for the day before parting with all my shekels for the one I was buying. With the usual caveat, "you drop it, you own it". Actually, I took it to mean, "you SCRATCH it, you own it". I was really careful!

It is an AWESOME lens. Here's the very first shot I took with it:

Dr. Ron. Straight out of camera, not even cropped. Wide open at f/4. I love it.  

One of the first stops we made to photograph was along Hwy 60 — the cycle of warm, wet and cold has created outstanding frozen water cascades along the rock surfaces on the roadside. The colour variations in the ice are beautiful, a watercolour painter would kill for that effect. As near as I can figure it out: thin ice structures are basically white, while the thick ones have more colour. If the water has dragged bits of earth down with it, there's a yellowish-brown tinge. But once that has cleared, new water dripping down will take on a blue or green cast due to trapped gasses or the way ice crystals refract light. Icebergs display similar characteristics but even more pronounced. 

I enhanced this painted image to illustrate the colour variations 

Luba Citrin trying to decide what to shoot.  Choices are almost infinite, from sweeping wide angles to textured surfaces and details, down to plants trapped in the ice or even macro shots. 

Here's a sequence of three shots I did of a lonely alderberry twig trapped in the ice.  I still don't know how to crop it! 

Then I decided to turn it into an impressionist image using both the Seven Styles Watercolour action (which doesn't work perfectly in the latest 2018 Photoshop, have to work on that) and finishing it with Topaz Studio, starting with the Impasto preset in Impression and modifying from there.

This should make a dandy canvas print. My walls are getting full, though! 

There's a canvas print supplier I've been working with who is offering incredibly discounted prices. I can happily sell stretched, wrapped canvas images up to 24 x 36 inches at surprisingly low prices. This is a time-limited offer, anyone interested should contact me ASAP. If you are a subscriber to this blog you will have received more detail (see below)

We stopped at the Visitor Centre to shoot birds at the big feeders around back. I was motivated to test that borrowed 200-400mm lens and I gave it a good workout. Literally: I did not pull out the tripod and gimbal mount so I shot handheld, albeit braced on the balcony railing. I've had tendonitis in my left wrist ever since! 9 pounds doesn't sound that heavy but when it's jutting out cantilevered from the camera...

Here's a female white-winged crossbill shot with the 400mm. Cropped a bit... and I got lucky with the sun on the bird and the dark background.  

This is a goldfinch in its winter plumage, puffed out to insulate itself against the biting cold (it was -22°C and who knows what the windchill was!). This was at 650mm because I had mounted the 1.7x converter for a few shots. I love the bokeh of the background in this shot, wide open at approximately f/6.7 (1/1000k sec, ISO 450). I edited two versions of this shot, the other one with added clarity and detail and sharpening done in Studio but this one is only basic Lightroom edits, so this is what came out of the camera. Or the lens.

La pièce de résistance. This is an immature male red crossbill. I had no idea they were so colourful! This shot has earned more "likes" on Facebook than any other picture I've put up. Originally I said that I didn't see what the front of the bird looked like, until I went through my images and found a couple of others, which I had initially rejected for focus and other reasons.

If you follow this blog (click the Newsletter icon at top right), you will have received a heads-up email with one of those frontal pictures included. I always include a picture that I haven't posted anywhere else. 

Two final comments before we close for today: 

  • Kudo's to Subaru who, as my readers already know, replaced my engine because it burned too much oil, even though I had over 200,000 km on the car. I did end up paying for some service — my oil pan was leaking and my rad had a crack in it, and I needed new brakes all around — but now I have a car I can continue driving for much longer. Eddie and the crew at Minden Subaru are the best, and
  • I really am seriously considering Newfoundland for the entire summer. If you want to come to Newfoundland, I'm planning to rent a 2-bedroom place so that some of my photographer or artist friends can visit. I'll guide them to some of the best spots and I've already been in touch with one or more of the premier photographers on the Rock to provide guiding services as well. But it's time to start looking at who might be coming and when; you need to get in touch with me if you'd like to talk about it.

— 30 —

Monday, January 01, 2018

Starting 2018 right!

It's that time of year again

It doesn't matter who you are, somehow on this day or this week, you wonder where you're going to be in 12 months. Last year you probably set some goals: how did that work out for you? Are you richer, smarter, have more skills, happier, have better relationships? Did you write that book, get that job, take that trip? I hope you did.

The definition of how successful a year is depends a lot on how old you are. Not necessarily physically, in your spirit. If you're young at heart (yeah, I know: trite, overworked phrase!), you have ambition, things you'd like to accomplish. If you're not, your goals revolve around things you enjoy. None of us are 100% in either of the young/old camps. There are, for all of us, things we would like to learn to do better and the satisfaction of doing them. And each of us wants to experience the warmth of things that impact us, whether it's the growth of relationships or the people around us or more mundane things that touch us emotionally or intellectually.

Not making sense? The young want to DO things; the old to EXPERIENCE them.

I'm not young any more. 2017 was not a great year for me because I finally came to that realization. Sure, there are things I want to accomplish, but on a daily basis, they take a back seat to what I want to experience. Music touches me, for instance: but I finally accept that I can't MAKE music as much as I can feel the music others make. I get carried away, sometimes, listening to music until the wee hours. I did go to Newfoundland again: but I accept that some of the other places I always wanted to visit are beyond my reach now.

I'm not going to write about my regrets. Because I don't want to admit them to my self nor do I want to expose them to the light of day.

Making art — with my camera, my paintbrushes and pencils, with my computer — that's been a success, although I feel I've learned more and I'm poised for a breakthrough, as opposed to having accomplished something this year. Ditto, writing. And sharing my experience with others, that's really my passion. These things are what my life's about now. Will I be healthy enough (that's the elephant in my room) to take any of those things to a higher level next year?

A year from now, I hope you look back at 2018 and say, "that was a pretty good year".

Printing revisited
If you're not a photographer and you have no interest in printing tips, feel free to skip this section. Go ahead. I won't mind!
Last time, I talked about preparing your images for print, and the problem that what you see onscreen — even on a calibrated monitor — is going to look different from what you see on a print. 

Every printer lays down ink slightly differently from every other printer. Every printing paper absorbs ink and handles it differently from every other paper. Fortunately you can simulate that on your computer using the "ICC Profile" of that printer/paper combination. Any decent professional lab will send you their ICC profiles — even Costco does — and after installing it in your computer you can "soft proof" your image before sending it to the lab. You turn on soft proofing (it's available in both LR and PS) and adjust your image until it looks correct on your calibrated monitor. Generally you can copy those adjustment settings to a group of images but of course if you're fussy, every image is different. So ask your lab for their ICC Profiles. Make sense?

If you print at home, same thing. You should be able to get the ICC profiles for the printer and the paper from the manufacturer's websites.One caution, though: if you use aftermarket inks, you're on your own. They'll be different, of course, and the printer manufacturer certainly isn't going to support it.

Camera and Computer Gear

Who among you have acquired new equipment this year, or have changed directions? We live in this material world, so my guess is, "lots of you"!  The trend, of course, is to move from DSLR to mirrorless. Sensors are awesome (Sony makes the big sensors for Nikon. It figures that their own lead the pack too). Optics are great, maybe not quite up to Nikon (or grudgingly, Canon) Pro standards, but with advances in computer controlled machining, they exceed most of what was available back in "the day". Mechanically they are faster and more precise and of course smaller and lighter. To use a word banished from the Queen's English, these new little mirrorless wonders are "Covfefe".

Sometimes heavier is better. It's true with rifles, for instance. You want accuracy over a mile, you go .50cal. Benchrest rifles have humungous barrels that weigh 20 or 30 pounds. And it's true with the big light-gathering long super telephotos like the Nikon 600mm f/4. Or, I hope, with the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 which weighs almost as much. I said "I hope" because I'm about that far away from buying one.

Not my photo. Soon my lens! I hope.

So I've gone in the opposite direction. I figure I'll go mirrorless when I get old and I have to! Sort of kidding: those who know me, know I'm a dinosaur.

When my desktop computer died, it didn't owe me anything. It was time. I decided to finally go to the Dark Side and buy a Mac. But then, the screen on my laptop died. So I converted it to desktop use and ended up buying a Macbook Pro. I don't want to foster a huge debate but I've been using it for a year now and the only conclusion I can come to is, well, it's like comparing an Audi with a VW. They're both essentially the same thing, the Audi is more expensive but it's just better.

By the way, the PC laptop finally gave up the ghost last week. I still need a Windows machine to run my old accounting software, so I found a used one for next to nothing. It works. It ain't pretty, but it works.

On the software side, I bought Helicon Focus which automates focus stacking. I've just played with it until now but it's something I want to work with more in the new year.  Stretching my senses. Pretty left-brained, though, I have to admit.

So which direction are you going this year?

Want to come to Newfoundland this summer?

I'm planning another trip to Newfoundland. The basic concept is to spend the entire summer there in two or three places. I'd like to rent some 2-bedroom places so that I can invite friends to spend some time there with me. And I'm working on lining up some experts to take people to the best spots and events. Think icebergs, whales, puffins, gannets, night shots, outports, seascapes... 

If you are possibly interested in coming down for a week or so, let me know. I need to get the planning under way. And if you happen to know of suitable accommodations in Newfoundland, please contact me too!

Enough words. Time to share some pictures.

Tied up with other things, I didn't shoot much this month,. And it's been c-c-c-cold so I didn't really feel like getting out either. I did a little, though.

Snowflakes are tough to shoot! When you don't get them right, you can always get artistic, right? Makes a dandy Blog Header photo, though!

This is a little better, but nowhere near what I want to do. It's too cold to shoot them right now (two reasons: even if it does snow, you don't get neat crystals at these temperatures; and I ain't going out there to shoot them. An hour-long session at -30°C? My mom didn't raise any stupid children!). Don't worry, there's lots more winter to come. 


Frozen soap bubbles, on the other hand, work better when it's colder.  The complexity of the crystals in the bubbles is a function of the chemical composition. Sugars form the crystals: the top one is from maple syrup, in the bottom one I added some brown sugar to the mix.  More to come! 

I had a great day trip to Algonquin Park  with Amin Shivji and Kevin Beer. We didn't see much wildlife, other than a variety of birds, some beavers and otters (but they were really far away) and a quick glimpse of a pine marten. I kind of liked this shot of a blue jay because of the composition and the complementary maple leaves. 

This blue jay decided to pose for a portrait atop a pine tree. Some post-processing using Topaz Studio helped out here. I've actually ordered a large canvas print of this shot! 

But I realized I couldn't let 2017 get away without doing some landscape shots. 

I wanted to remove the complexity from this shot, to let the patterns of the weighted branches and virgin white snowy path speak for itself.  

While looking for landscape shots, I happened to turn around in this driveway. The setting sun added a golden glow (enhanced by choosing a really warm white balance) and again I simplified the shot. After posting the picture on Facebook, i got a message, "Hey, that's my house!". A dynamite canvas print is on the way.

Parting Shot

I've used that quote from Pablo Picasso before: "Good artists copy, great artists steal".  I saw an image on Facebook that gave me an idea, and I went back to my June visit to Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia to borrow the concept of a silhouette against a colourful sky with a moon for counterpoint. I have a similar, less posed image, from Old Woman Bay on Lake Superior and a shot from Stephenville in Newfoundland. Here's what I came up with. I'm going to be looking for more of these!

I promised myself I'd get back to painting. I'm planning to paint from this image. Wish me luck!

Have a super 2018, everyone!

— 30 —

Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's a small, small world

A basic tip

I don't usually post photography tips here but I keep seeing the same questions and the same errors time after time, and it's bugging me. So if you're not a photographer, or if you're too advanced for these tips, feel free to skip ahead. I have a few of them I want to share, what better place to do so?


The #1 reason for rejecting photos is that they're out of focus. You can fix a lot of things in post processing, but you can't fix out-of-focus, or "OOF". Unless there's some extraordinary reason to keep an OOF picture it's going to end up in the trash.

The thing(s) you want in focus in your picture have to BE in focus.

Cute pine marten but no way to save this picture. The focus was on the branch above him and he is out of focus. Good thing I got another shot in focus!

Branches in the foreground can be a challenge. Your camera WANTS to focus on them. The other shot is a better composition, but which one would YOU keep?
Your camera is smart. But it can be fooled. Suppose you're shooting two people against a background, but there's a space between them. Unless you're careful, the camera will focus on whatever's in that space, not on the subjects. So how do we solve that? How about locking in the focus on one of the subjects, then moving the camera to recompose the image correctly? What about increasing the depth of field by stopping down the aperture* so that you have a better chance that the subject is in focus?

Your camera has a variety of ways of focusing: manual, continuous, single; you can use one point in your viewfinder or a bunch of them, you can average, you can preset your focus to a specific distance. It can track moving subjects, or not. You can use the shutter release button by pressing it halfway down or you can program a button on the back of the camera for focusing (it's called "Back Button Focusing". Look it up. Google is your friend). The best way to learn how to focus your camera is to RTFM.


Do it. You'll learn something. But that's not enough. It's like learning how to swim by watching YouTube videos. That's great but what you really have to do is jump in the water. Same thing here: Shoot pictures. Lots of pictures. Think about your focus while you're doing that until it becomes part of you.

When you're looking through and vetting your images (throw away the bad ones, folks. Ask yourself, "will I EVER want to look at this image again?), pause on that OOF one and ask yourself, "Why is this OOF? What should I have done differently"? That's how you learn.

* But if you stop down the aperture, either your shutter speed has to decrease or your ISO has to increase, which creates problems with camera shake or added noise. Camera shake is a whole other subject, watch for a future tip. But I will say one thing about using high ISO: you're DEFINITELY going to throw out an OOF picture but the ONLY people who care about noise are other photographers. Get over it.

Do you print your pictures?

If you print yourself, you fall into three categories:

■ You're fussy and you know what you're doing
■ You're not that fussy, you're just happy to see prints
■ You're fussy but you don't have a clue.

If I printed, I would fall into category 3.
I don't print. I send them out. I'm still mostly in category 3.

I'm lucky, I have friends who print and who are in category 1. Occasionally I'll go to Costco or someone like that for "category 2 prints", but if I have prints to sell, I'll go to a professional lab and pay the big bucks. Or call in a favour from one of my really talented friends.

I decided that I wanted some canvas prints, especially from my Newfoundland trip, and there was a vendor offering great "Black Friday" deals so I thought I'd give it a try.

Now I do have a LITTLE knowledge of what it takes to prepare a file for printing. The main thing I learned was this: if I prepare an image so that if it looks onscreen or online like I want the print to look, I'm going to be very disappointed. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, I edit in the ProPhoto colour space because it gives me the biggest gamut of colours to work in. I'm careful to do that in both Lightroom and Photoshop. But I know that when I export an image for printing (or for anything else), it needs to be converted to sRGB and it WILL LOOK DIFFERENT.

Second, I know it is important to calibrate my monitor and I do that with a ColorMunki device regularly. However I'm guilty of the same thing that almost everyone else is, my monitor is too bright. It just looks prettier when you're looking at a picture onscreen. Also when I'm judging images for a competition, or just looking at them online, 90% of them have been edited on someone's monitor which is also too bright and to see what the maker is trying to portray, you need to turn up the brightness. 

You need to turn it WAY DOWN if you want to match what a print is going to look like. For one thing, your monitor creates colour by projecting a mix of red, green and blue light; a print's colour come from light being absorbed by cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks (simplistic, I know), so it's different. You can turn up the brightness on a monitor, but the more ink you add to a print the darker it gets!

as an aside: don't even think about converting your image to CMYK, if that last sentence put that in your mind. The printer takes RGB input and converts it inside the machine to the inks it uses. The only time that's not true is when you're printing on a printing press.
And third, if you want to see onscreen what your print is going to look like, you have to do something called "soft proofing", which is available in both Lightroom and Photoshop. You're telling your computer "show me what my picture is going to look like if it's printed by this specific printer on this specific type of paper". And that's going to be very different from what it looks like normally onscreen.

Some images are tougher than others. Here's an example. On the left is what I wanted my print to look like. It's a screen capture of the image under normal conditions. But I knew it wouldn't, especially after converting to sRGB for the printer. So I turned on soft proofing and I edited the image until it looked right for print. The right image is what it ended up at onscreen with soft proofing turned off. 

You might think it looks pretty good here, but the bright lights are WAY too bright, they have a halo around them they're so bright, the sky is too saturated and the soft nuances of the reflected city lights in the hillside are too strong. You don't want a print to look like that (at least I don't!). It won't: it'll look more like the one on the left.

If you're going to print at a pro lab, they should be able to send you the ICC profile of the printer and paper combinations they're using. Pop those into Photoshop or Lightroom and soft-proof to them and your prints should come out as expected.

The resulting print turned out excellent. I had this printed on canvas and I didn't have the ICC profile, but I figured that using the profile for the Epson 7900 on matte paper, I would get close. It looks almost exactly like the image at left (in hindsight, a little dark, still). Some images are more difficult than others. I know that the blacks are really going to fill in and the colours are going to be much less saturated.

I now have 6 large format canvas prints ready to hang on my walls. And two others hanging on other peoples' walls that I've sold. I also had two others: they helped me heat my house by burning them in the fireplace. Literally.

Here are a few. The two landscapes at the bottom are 20x30. The piping plover is 16x24

This abstract is called  "Sunset on Lake Superior". It's 24x36

These canvas prints are all available for purchase. They're all digitally signed and will be marked as "Artist's Proof"s to distinguish them from any limited edition prints which may follow. Contact me.

I will have more prints made. There's something about seeing your work on something other than a computer screen. Even though I still have about 30 or 40 printed images left over from a show I did a few years ago, but new stuff comes up. I do not plan to start printing myself because it's a ton of work to get it right, and a good printer (say Epson 7900) is about $5000. You can get away with a lot less if all you want to print is 4x6's or run-of-the-mill 8x10's but I know I wouldn't be satisfied.

Lens sold

Almost every wildlife picture I've shot in the past year or so has been with my

Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens

which I have just sold (I first started writing this a few days ago at which point it was "for sale").

"Why?", you might ask. Well, because I'm ready to step up to the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED lens which, new, would be almost 8x the price, and weighs twice as much. I've been very satisfied with the Tamron but it's time. By the way, if you have one of those for sale, let's talk.

It took some practice to learn to use this lens effectively. Especially if you put it on a crop sensor body (did I say it has a Nikon mount? It has a Nikon mount!), where it's effective focal length is about 1000 mm. At about 68 oz, you can actually handhold this lens but you have to watch your shutter speed if you do.

So I've probably shot about 10,000 images with this lens (and kept half of them!). I had the firmware updated at Tamron last year, and I added a LensCoat neoprene cover to protect it and make it less visible when shooting birds. The lens is in great shape; there are some 'brassing' marks on the lens mounting foot, and no scratches on any of the glass. Somewhere, I have the box and all the goodies that came in it with the lens.

(I told you I wrote this when it was still for sale!)

Here's a link to a quick web gallery of sample images shot with this lens. All of them were at the maximum focal length of 600mm. Click on any image to blow it up.

Contact me if have or you know anyone who has that Nikon 200-400. Or a 400mmf/2.8 prime!

A couple more from 'Gales'

I forgot to post a couple of pictures in the last blog, so I thought I'd add them in here. Neither one is from Wawa, both were taken on the drive up.

I shot this along Hwy 141 in Lake Rosseau on the way up to Wawa. Spectacular rockface. 

When I stopped in the Soo for a day on the way up, there was continuous heavy rain and strong winds.  This is what it was like in downtown Sault Ste. Marie that day 

GALES 2018 dates have been announced! Mark your calendars.
This year, the primary instructor will be Ben Eby. If everything goes well, I plan to be there too, to help out.

We're just starting work on the event and the web links, etc. If you want to be kept up to date as it develops, CLICK HERE.

There's also a Facebook group called "Gales of November". Up to now it's been restricted to people who were participating in the workshop but we've decided to open it up to people who are interested in perhaps joining us next October. It's a place to see pictures from previous years, see discussions and comments, ask questions, and so on.
It's a closed group: only people who are members can see the content. But if you're interested, if there's a possibility you might attend, by all means, join the group. Just search for "Gales of November" on FB and you'll find us!


I'm thinking about going back to Newfoundland this summer and about guiding some photographers and artists to some outstanding spots. I'm thinking about providing accommodations and finding local experts to help out. I'm thinking that it should not cost $4000 to participate.

If this interests you at all, please send me an email or contact me privately. This is really preliminary, but I need to find out how much interest is out there.


It's time for some pictures.

After procrastinating for a long time, I finally got around to buying Helicon Focus Pro software. It's primarily intended for focus stacking when you're shooting macro. I've recently seen some awesome insect photos and needless to say, if you want to shoot snowflakes properly, you have to focus stack. 

Since I bought it, I haven't found even ONE insect to shoot. Dead or alive. It's just not the right time of year. So to test the software, I had to find a variety of other subjects to shoot. I set up my light tent and got to work.

I went outside and found some little berries. This was my very first effort.

Then there were some water drops, on a pebbled plastic surface

Here's a closeup of a dead leaf

My diamond ring... I did add a little post-processing to this one in Topaz.

Here's another leaf, with a drop of water on it. Learning, learning!

So I need to find some insects to shoot. And snowflakes! The challenge is that I have to be tethered to my laptop, so I have to figure out the logistics of doing that out in the cold. Watch this space!

— 30 —