Sunday, April 16, 2017

It was a rainy day...

It was a rainy day... well it is April!

The power of advertising. Who among you doesn't finish the title of this blog entry with... "in Pizzaville..." What do you think of when I write, "two all-beef patties..." or "It's the real thing" or "Gales of November"? Repetition is the key! Just sayin'...

Sometimes a new piece of software adds a new dimension to one's images.

It was a rainy day... 

This is the case with Seven Styles Watercolor actions for Photoshop. I saw someone else using it, got interested and purchased the action for the princely sum of $6.

Here's the thing. You can get carried away and use it endlessly, in appropriate and not so appropriate cases. The effect is intriguing but like HDR, not all the time! I'm looking forward to using it on some of those pretty outports in Newfoundland and maybe the odd landscape.

In this case it worked well: the original photo was ugly, all the powerlines, garbage cans and complicated foreground details. The building in the background jumps out at you in the finished image, and although I've lived here for 10 years, I never noticed it before!

The original image. 

Here's another image I processed with this interesting software:

While we're on the subject of software, if you're really quick (the sale ends tonight at midnight), Topaz Labs has everything in their program on sale for 40% off. Here's the link, and enter "SPRING40" in the discount field on checkout.

They have a new product in the works: called Topaz Studio. It's designed to let you access all their plugins and more, much more, with ease. It's in Beta-testing right now, a bit buggy, but they'll work it out soon! Stay tuned.


There was another thread in the Algonquin Park group on Facebook deploring the behaviour of many of the selfish and thoughtless tourists who stop dangerously on Highway 60 and who pester and annoy us, and feed the wildlife, and get in our shots and who are not there for the quiet enjoyment we are. I responded to that thread as follows and would like you, my readers, to think about what I meant. 

" ...stopping is NOT prohibited. In fact I often stop (safely) along 60 for photographs. Like you, I deplore people who do so unsafely or do not get right off the travelled lanes when they stop.
I too avoid the Park on a holiday weekend (or any weekend in the Fall) because of the hordes of busses and tourists, many of whom come from a culture where the concept of personal space and courtesy is different from mine (and presumably yours). But this IS a Provincial Park and it is intended, among other things, to be enjoyed by the public.
It's been discovered by many more people now, some of whom have never seen wildlife or even fall colours and as much as they sometimes inconvenience and annoy me, I'm not about to deny them their enjoyment of this fine example of Canada's natural splendor.  
Sure, I'm in favour of increasing education and enforcement of the laws and regulations, but let's have some tolerance for people who are not as privileged as we, who want a chance to enjoy this beautiful park."

Newfoundland Update:

I'm working on my agenda as we speak. It's back to a solo trip, and I'm still looking at late June/early July, for 3-4 weeks by car.  East coast, primarily: the drive up the Western peninsula, as attractive as it looks, is a LOT of extra miles. That could possibly change...

I'm going back to my painting classes this week. I really want to bring my oil paint stuff and sketch pad with me. I'm very frustrated by my inability to paint what my mind sees, but I'm determined not to give up just yet. 

Gales of November update:

It's filling up, only a few spaces remaining. For those who are procrastinating, it's that time. And yes, it's a long day drive up to the Soo from Toronto but really worth it! Last time I drove up, I decided NOT to turn on the radio or listen to music the entire trip: instead I focused on what was going on around me, and I turned it into a Zen experience.  Try it, you'll be pleasantly surprised. I drove all the way to the Soo in one day last time, but if you want a shorter day, stop for the night along the North Channel, in Thessalon or Iron Bridge... the drive from the Soo to Wawa is only 200 km.

Here's the link, if you forgot!

Parting shots

I took two trips out to shoot pictures this week. One was to the White Water, where we met the fisherman above and where I took this image of rushing water and rocks:

If you're a member of the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club, we (the exec) are undertaking to have multiple outings for our members. Informal ones, like the visit to the whitewater last weekend, as well as more formal trips. Watch the Facebook group for meetup information. 
You don't need to be an HHCC member to access the group, you just have to be a legitimate person interested in photography, not someone trying to sell Sensy products or sunglasses, or give away some of the money being held for me by someone who knows a Nigerian prince. Visit and ask to join, it's an interesting group.

The other visit was to the rookery in Georgina where I got some pictures of Herons nesting last year. I chatted with the landowner and learned that most of the land around there is below the level of Lake Simcoe and it would be flooded if it weren't for the berms and the roadway. Most of the landowners rent out their land to companies growing 'asian vegetables' which he couldn't name. They use the same water for irrigation in the summer. He was there maintaining the berm and bringing in pipe for irrigation. I also learned from another source (the "other" Glenn S, I think) that the land on which the rookery sits has been donated to the township as a conservation area. 

This was cropped somewhat tightly from a shot with the 600mm lens. He was somewhat far away – not all the nests were occupied yet, including the closer ones. 

— 30 —

Friday, April 07, 2017

Last Gasp of winter

The past several days up here in the highlands has been that ugly, muddy, wet, soggy time of year when everything is melting. I have a "pond" on the north side of my house. It's not very deep but the bottom is so soft that you sink in a few inches, resulting in a 'soaker' every time you go out for some firewood (taking it around to the front door for now). The driveway is all rutted at the back, although the 10 or 12 little trailerloads of gravel I spread last year at the entrance has worked. It's a muddy mess back where my garage is (and where my sump pump line exhausts!). So I parked my car in the driveway last night, not wanting to drive over it.

So of course, this is what it looked like when I got up this morning! Last Gasp.

iPhone pano. But it's all mud under that white frosting. I heard Algonquin Park got 15-25cm of the white stuff. Tempting to take a drive up but, nah... 

I did get one more trip into Algonquin Park before the end of March. Still snowy up there, but spring is on its way (I wrote this before I got up to the white stuff this morning!).

I culled my images back to three favourites as I promised (I know, should only be one. But it's better than the NINE I wanted to post here!

This young fox was in the Spruce Bog. Too accustomed to the presence of Man, s/he  followed us around in the hopes of a handout. The late day lighting was perfect. BTW I had a shot I liked better but there was a leaf or something stuck on the fox's nose! (if you subscribe to my blog you'd see that picture. I always send an unpublished picture to my subscribers! Click the "Newsletter" link at the top of this blog to subscribe. No spam, one click to unsub.)

This is a mink, making its way along behind the creek. I don't think it wanted to go in the water like the otter. I had a shot of it at full gallop, but chose this as one of my three! 

And here's the otter, snacking on frog's legs. I had closer shots but thought showing the environment tells a better story. 

This was created using a Photoshop Action called "Seven Styles Watercolor" (Google is your friend!) which I purchased for the princely sum of $6. I don't normally buy actions or presets, but this one was so intriguing when I saw it in the Topaz forums, that I had to try it. It could add a new creative dimension to my post-processing.

It was a rainy day... practicing for Newfoundland

When I'm in Newfoundland this summer, there are going to be a lot of photo ops shooting colourful little outports overlooking the ocean, with weathered, textured fishing stages and probably less-than-perfect weather conditions. I want to work up some techniques for shooting under those conditions.

Karen was visiting from Toronto so we decided to go out and shoot some pictures despite the rainy weather.

This first shot was overlooking the lake from my dock area. Um, the sun wasn't there and the duck was in a different place! I was showing Karen some post-processing techniques. Also my "blogframe" action (I wrote this one myself!). It needs updating, it doesn't work right on the Mac, especially since the fonts aren't available. Next time I get ambitious. 

One thing you need to do is work the scene. Sometimes you shoot close, sometimes more landscape. This ice fishing hut had lots of texture in the weathered wood but I decided that it competed with the graphic nature of the picture, so I smoothed it away. 

Then I thought that this scene might be typical of an outport in the rain, so I gave it a painterly treatment, bringing out the colours, especially in the reflections in the muddy foreground. This was actually a good test: I had the wrong lens, so I shot 6 images and stitched them together using the merge to pano function in Lightroom. I resized it before working on it, it was almost a 100 megapixel file!

I have two trips to look forward to: Newfoundland in July and Lake Superior in October. I can't decide which one is going to be more fun! Anyone want to come along?

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Friday, March 31, 2017

'tis the season

'tis the season

This is one of my least favourite times of the year. I've really had enough pictures with white stuff in it. And when the white goes away, we're left with ugly brown mud. I don't know about you, but I just want to stay indoors and hibernate a bit. Still, the Doc says I have to walk (I'll start any day, now Jeff!) and, well, I am the picture-taking-man. It occurred to me last night that it will be less than a month now, and I'll be looking for birds at Carden Plain, watching trees and flowers bud... "come on, spring!"

Last week there were some dogsled races: just enough snow to make it happen.

That said, I did make it up to Algonquin Park twice in the last two weeks. Here's an image from the first of those visits. I put a lot of thought and effort into the making of this image. I get most of my concepts from seeing other people's work and most of my techniques by researching then trying them myself. But I think one needs to understand not only what the maker did to create an image, but also why he made the choices he did.

You may dismiss it as "just another landscape shot" but from the toning of the sky to deliberately leaving the distant hills slightly soft to provide a sense of depth and carefully balancing the colours to match my vision, this shot came out just the way I wanted it and the uncropped version will make an excellent large scale print.

I could easily have removed the road sign: should I have? Where does your eye go first? Then where? How does it get there? Does it want to leave the image or explore other things? 

I cropped this image as the banner header for this blog (reproduced here for when I change it next time):

It's hard to find an image that works well as a 3:1 or wider pano. This does, and carries the same ambiance as the original without the story.

I added a new hit counter to this site. Not that I don't trust the stats from Blogger... and I removed the revolving globe that doesn't tell me anything new. If you could zero it, it would be more useful, but a full map of hundreds of pins that cover North America and other countries isn't too informative.

Since Blogger told me I'm over 100,000 hits (105k today) I decided to start the counter at 100,000. So let's see what's really happening.

By the way, I used

That's what I figured. The big 7K and 10K hits a couple of months ago were an anomaly. Not even 300 hits in the last week. Of course, I haven't posted anything new...

...while we're talking about internet stuff...

In a conversation with someone the other day, she told me where her website is hosted and how she "could count on one hand the times she had a problem or her site was down over many years". It got me thinking about where I'm hosted, at a big international ISP called "" and I've been with them for close to 20 years and I've talked to their support maybe 6 times over that period of time. Usually to make a change I couldn't figure out but I remember the one time when my site went down for a few hours — it turned out the computer in their server farm that hosted my site went down. Fixed with one phone call. So problem-free.

So if I bored you while skimming that paragraph, let's get to the bottom line:
  • if you need a web presence of your own, 1and1's a great place to go [by the way that's "one-and-one" not "L-and-L"!). It's amazingly cheap, they have all the tools to let you build your site or they can do it and a live person answers your call if you phone their support.
  • If you still use Hotmail or even Gmail or, God forbid, AOL as your email address, it's time to join the 21st century. Let me tell you how easy it is to get your own email address. Still want to keep the old address so you don't have to tell people it's still valid? NO PROBLEM. Let me walk you through it.
Step 1 is to create a new domain. You might want to use your name, like "". Cost? $0.99 for the first year, somewhere around $10 per year after that (depends if you want .com, .ca, .biz, etc). OK, now you own your own domain! But it needs to be hosted somewhere.

Step 2 is to set up a hosting contract. 1and1 has it set up so you can do all of that in one swell foop. Get the domain name and a basic web hosting package for $1.99 per month for the first year, $10/month after that. That's pretty well all you need: as many email addresses as you can eat (one for you, one for your spouse, one for each of the kids, the dog, the cats, the fish...), several domain names and your very own website that you can build for free! Even if you don't want the website, you have those email addresses! Here's the link and just scroll down to where it says "Create your own website" and click the yellow "find out more" button.

Step 3 is to set up email address(es). You have two choices: you can set up a whole new address, which you can access via webmail online or send and receive via your email package (if you use Outlook, or Mail or...). Or you can set up the new address to forward to your existing one! So if someone sends a message to your new address,, it will automatically appear wherever you get your mail now! You do that all at the 1and1 site, no charge.

I just set up a new address as a forward, to test it. Took me less than a minute.

So it's time. If you still think having an email address like "" is for you, then ignore this. If you think it's more professional to be "" or "" then follow this link.

Is 1and1 paying me to say this? Sort of... I get a small referral fee for new accounts, but I wrote this because I think people should get away from those hackable email addresses and join the 21st century. (I just got a virus spam email from my own doctor, who uses an AOL address. I didn't actually get it: I had a message from 1and1 that said, "virus detected" and they blocked it. Another advantage!)
I've also terminated my SmugMug account because I only used it sporadically and I don't sell images from there: it's a wasted expense for me. That said, I need to find another vehicle. Working on it.

Too Many Images.

I'm going to make a conscious effort to reduce the quantity and increase the quality of the images here. As I said to someone recently, I've been posting images that would score 7-8-9-10 out of 10 and I'm going to try to only post the 9's and 10's from now on (I don't have a lot of what I consider "10's" but beauty is in the eye of the beholder!).

So I'm going to cut back and post only images I'm really proud of (or that add to the story I'm telling). First step is culling the images that I'm archiving.

(OK, starting next time! It's hard to quit cold turkey.)

If you think the illiterate orange clown currently occupying the White House is God's gift to USA Incorporated, then you're probably reading the wrong blog. He's good for one thing, though: source material for comedy writers.

Here's a recent FaceBook post of mine for your enjoyment.
Someone told me that culling their photos after a shoot is a tedious chore.
But culling is a great activity. I mean, it's really fantastic. People who thing culling is bad are total scumbags. Total scumbags. It's great, it's really, really great. It's the best thing you can do. I've got all the best pictures, really the best. Some of them are tiny but they're great, really really great. And more people in the world have seen my great pictures than any other pictures in the world. I'm telling you. All the other photographers are worse than me. They're bad, so bad. Ansel Adams? A total disaster. Henri Cartier-Bresson, he's a fake. So fake, he has to have a hyphen in his name. Youssef Karsh? He copies my style. He knows my style because he tapped my phones. Someone told me he died in 2002. Fake news. So fake. He was an immigrant. Shouldn't have let him in the country, our country, the best country in the world.
So we sent him to Canada. Where we're going to build a great wall. It's going to be the best wall in the world, the best ever. And we're going to make them pay for it. Our photographers are the best photographers in the world. The best. You can hire them, you can pay them with opportunities for exposure, the best way to pay. And you can grab them by the lens. We're going to do that by banning all digital sensors, so we can go back to film and make Kodak great again. They're going to be so great and they're going to hire hundreds of thousands of people. Millions. It's time to make photography great again.
Feel free to share. If you share, more people in the world will read your posts. More than any other posts in the world. I'm telling you. It'll be fantastic. Think of all the exposure you'll get. Nobody shares posts better than you do. Nobody. It will be so big, it will kill the internet. Kill it. And we're going to make Mark Zuckerberg pay for it.

Update on Newfoundland

It's happening. I'm going for the month of July. And I've found a travelling companion so we'll be able to share both experiences and costs. It's not cheap – just getting there, by air or by car is expensive (if you fly, you have to rent a car there. That's a fortune!) – and you have accommodations and food and... to pay for, but it's going to be worth it.

The original concept has changed a little. Instead of finding a single place to stay for the month, we're looking at 3 or 4 place where we'll stay for a week.

We're working on our itinerary as we speak, and I'll share some of that here later. If you live in Newfoundland and you're reading this, I'd love to visit with you when we're there if we can. email me. Ditto if anyone is planning a visit during that time: let's hook up somewhere!

Something I really want to do for this trip is to make a list of my photographic goals. A "shot list" or "storyboard" kind of approach. When I review my images after a trip, I always feel as though I've missed important things. And I haven't captured the story. It's the old "work the scene" thing, applied to the whole trip, not just a photo-op.

I also need to work on some things. Here's an example:

Just an iPhone snap of the fishing huts from the Red Umbrella Inn in the parking lot
next to my house. Every little town in Newfoundland has weathered fishing stages,
old buildings, landscapes like this. I need to figure out how to give them that "wow" factor.
I also have terrible results shooting in bright sunlight (my last visit to Algonquin Park was a disaster in that sense). I'm trying too hard. I need to work on that Who knows, the sun might come out while we're on the Rock!

To my faithful readers: if anyone has always had their heart set on a specific image from there – a specific little outport, a puffin with a mouthful of capelin, waves crashing over a lighthouse, the milky way over the rocky coastline... a 6 foot pano or a 4 foot canvas for your living room or office wall – and you would like to commission me to seek out and make that picture for you, please contact me

What would one of my blog posts be without pictures? 

Visiting Algonquin Park in mid-March, we came upon this icefall on Highway 60. I was with John Reed and Amin Shivji and we were all taken by the intense colour of this ice.  

looking straight up! 

The Visitor's Centre never disappoints. Although we didn't see a lot of wildlife except there, we were presented with some variety:

Evening Grosbeaks fighting over a landing spot at the feeder

The ubiquitous and aggressive blue jays loudly proclaimed their possession

It took some time to spot this Ruffed Grouse hunkered down in the discarded seed husks in perfect camouflage. John spotted it and spent a lot of time saying, "look along my arm at where I'm pointing..." before I could see it. Some photoshop work was needed to make it stand out.

Then look who popped out of the brush and posed for a photo! First time I've seen a pine marten here.  

While John was here, we toured some of my favourite sites. As we drove along Bethel Church Road on the way to Wintergreen, we saw at least 20 deer on and off the road. Good thing we were going slowly. I was driving so no pictures...

I captured a natural-light candid of the young lady who brought us our brekkie. OK, maybe not totally natural light and Lightroom had a little to do with the lighting! (Tom & Diane, is that your daughter?) 

We stopped at the white water on the way home, then I showed John the "Screaming Tree". 

I shot a huge pano merge, totalling over 80 Mp; then proceeded to throw most of it away to create this impressionistic image.  

The following weekend I ended up at most of the same spots, this time with Karen Young.  This is a tough time of year to find creative subjects (but not my guests!).

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Different Strokes...

If I'm so popular...

Why ain't I rich? LOL. I looked at my blog stats and discovered that I have exceeded 100,000 pageviews over time and more interesting, that I had almost 10,000 views in December, over 7000 in January. And about 3000 for half of February. Unfortunately, Blogger won't let me access details about anything older than a month, so I don't know why. Must have been doing something right!

I've also had over 22,000 hits on my technical blog. Almost all of it is on the article I wrote explaining about how you can't print a typical 2x3 shaped image on an 8x10 or square sheet without cropping or white space; and trying to demystify the old "you need to specify 300dpi" myth. I often see people on Facebook, especially in the Photoshop and Lightroom group, struggling with this concept. Here's the link: tell me what you think. And look for me on Facebook, search for "Faczen".

This is not a commercial blog. It's not 'monetized' although I do get some referral fees, especially from Topaz Labs (if people use the link here or on the right side Did you know that if you put "faczen" in the discount field at checkout, Topaz will give you a 15% discount?). I don't want to make it commercial, don't expect to get paid for people's visits, although it's nice. I promise to keep it that way but I encourage you to use my links and especially to subscribe (by clicking here or on the "Newsletter" icon at the top). No spam will come your way, I'll just give a heads-up when a new post has gone up. I also give my subscribed readers free access to my eBooks and I usually put a unique picture in the announcement emails which I haven't published elsewhere. So please click it: it makes me feel good to know that a number of people read my blog.

So go ahead. Click that "Newsletter" icon. You know you want to. I dare you...

New blog header

I replaced the blog header picture today. Here's the old one for the archive

By the way I created the new version of the header on the Mac... it doesn't have the same font selection as the PC did. That's annoying! But I guess I didn't choose too badly.

Gales of November 2017
(October 26-29. We can't wait!)

Exciting announcement re Gales of November 2017: Ben Eby is going to join us this year and bring along his phenomenal skill set making outstanding images. Ben is a photorealistic guy, I'm an impressionist, so whichever world you're in... I posted a few of his recent shots in my last blog post (scroll down) but you can see his work on his website at

If you want to attend Gales, you need to get going. As I write this there are still 5 spaces but I know what's going to happen, everyone's going to decide at once and some people aren't going to get in. At the risk of restating what you probably already know, Gales is an opportunity to get together with about a dozen other photographers in one of the most scenic areas in Ontario, in a resort with deluxe accommodations, service and food, all for less cost than a weekend on your own elsewhere. Yes, you have to get there, but even the drive up is worth it: I spent 2 days last year covering the 200 km from the Soo and got outstanding pictures.

I took this on the drive up, somewhere along Hwy 69 near Magnetawan

This was on the way back, on Hwy 17 north of Batchewana Bay. I could tell you exactly where! 

Click here to go to for more information and to reserve your space. A deposit only is required at this time. Do it. You know you want to!

The Mac odyssey

Well it's not painless, switching from PC to Mac. I'm constantly finding stuff that I know how to do instantly on the PC but have to figure out on the Mac. For instance, special characters! The copyright symbol (©), for instance, is alt-0169 on the numeric keypad on the PC. On the Mac, it's option-G. The degree symbol (°) is alt-0176 on the PC and either it's option-K (a little one) or shift-option-8 on the Mac. How am I going to remember that? And some of them don't work in Photoshop...

I managed to find StarStaX for the Mac. That's good. But my favourite pano merge program – Microsoft Research's ICE – is not available unless I get Parallels (and then I have to buy another Windows copy). The good news is that the computers network really well, so I can work on both platforms.

It's annoying what happens when I disconnect the external monitor and turn on LR or PS. Actually, that works OK, the program just goes to the laptop screen. But it's getting them back on the big screen when you plug it back in! I shouldn't complain, it's worse on the PC. And when I plugged it into a projector, it was magic!

Enough whining! I used to be jealous when I watched an online tutorial or live feed when the presenter did something in LR or PS and it happened right away! The Mac does that. And I can actually edit on that 15" Retina screen. And I FaceTimed with my grandkids in New York. I know, I know... "what took you so long to switch?"


I want to go to Newfoundland for a month or so this summer. I think a number of my blog subscribers and readers have some ties to the Rock so I thought I'd post this here. I'd like to rent a small house or something in a picturesque area (I'm a Bay Boy, not a Townie). If anyone knows of one or has a suggestion whom to contact, please let me know.

I am in touch with one person right now but I'm waiting for a response. In case that doesn't work out, it would be great to have some options.

Price is a factor; so is accessibility and I really need internet access...

Please email me directly at

PS: if anyone is interested in coming along, for perhaps part of the time, get in touch.

Pond Hockey

I realized that I haven't posted any pond hockey pictures here, since the event last month. A couple of reasons: this is the third year that I've shot that event and, well, I didn't get any really exciting pictures that turned my crank. Well, except maybe this one:

Yep, I took a hockey puck right between the eyes. I was lucky: an inch left or right, right in the eye. An inch lower, broken nose. Two inches lower: an expensive dentist bill. 

I did end up with two beautiful black eyes. Some say it's an improvement... 

Iconic picture of Pond Hockey action.  How much more Canadian can you get? Outdoors, in the snow, on less-than-perfect ice, amateur players showing some skill, a few brave spectators not afraid of getting hit with a puck... 

Lacing up, out in the snow 

Pond Hockey uses these low nets which is great if you don't lift the puck (see my selfies above!) 

Some people like to be seen 

Creative costumes? Not what you think... 

Turns out that the habit-clad team was called "Team Fireball". Here they're administering Holy Water to a needy player... rumour has it that the formula for Holy Water has something to do with "Fireball" and "Red Bull"... just a rumour, mind you. 

Here they are in a losing effort against the "Things", despite some righteous hooking... Thing 1 is my friend Cheryl Smith who claims not to be a hockey player but was easily among the best skaters out there!  

Beautiful smiles from people having fun! I wonder what was in that odd-looking container of 'holy water'? 

What it's all about! 

Different Strokes...

Have a look at these two pictures:

Two different days but similar subjects, same location, about the same time of day, completely different treatments. Which do you prefer?

In the first one, I was going for the pastels of the sunset colours and I used a soft expressionist treatment that married the textures of the sky and the overall feeling of the image. It would probably look great as a large scale print or canvas hanging over a light coloured couch in a bright, airy living room.

The second image is gritty. I deliberately used a small aperture to get the sunburst effect, and a high contrast HDR treatment to focus on the details and textures. If I were going to hang this image it would be in a pine paneled country setting, on a glossy or metallic medium, surrounded by a rough-hewn frame.

One of these got a ton of Facebook likes. Which one, do you think?

One day earlier, just up the lake. A lot of work went into this one, two different post-processing techniques on the sky and the foreground (it's one picture, mind you). The sky is about colour, the foreground about texture, although I wanted to give them some common ground, not have it look like it was artificially constructed.  
Now which one?

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Thou Hypocrite


Do you want some cheese with that whine?

I get criticized a lot for the amount of post-processing that goes into my images. This might be construed as defensive justification, but I'm slowly coming to grips with why. It has to do with accepting my limitations.

I have friends who travel to exotic places and take pictures of awesome things. Penguins and Polar Bears and tracking moose and rare birds, come to mind. Or street photography in New Orleans, the Milky Way from remote hike-in locations in Arizona and Nepal, seascapes from the seat of a kayak, waterfalls from Iceland and the Northern Lights from Alaska.

I'm 70 now. I can't do that stuff (any more). I put "any more" in brackets because I never really did... I'm not a great physical specimen and I never really was. I've gotten old, and very lazy.

As recently as a year or two ago, if I read that the KP was high and there's a likelihood of aurora, or the sky is crisply clear and the stars shine like beacons, I'd be out the door. Admittedly by car, to where I don't have to walk much but I'd go out. Now? I'm chilled. Tired. Achy. I'll just throw another log on the fire and settle down in front of the computer and enjoy editing some pictures. Maybe just because it's February and it hasn't stopped snowing every day for seemingly weeks.

So when I get invited on a photo shoot, my first thought is, "how physically demanding is it"? I have two or three in mind for this year. NOT going is admitting defeat so I'm determined to do at least one. But I have to be careful.

"Thou hypocrite"

On a related topic... baiting animals and birds. I'll tell you how this ties in at the end. There are many arguments against the practice and only a couple of cogent ones in favour. The idea that feeding wildlife will reduce the number of starvation-related deaths in our harsh winter environment seems to me to be contrived. I know people who feed deer and wild turkeys and ducks, and everyone I know has bird feeders hanging. Is that OK?

Why are they here? Why aren't they soaking up the sun on a beach in Miami 

Deer at the landfill. Are they eating our garbage? 

At the landfill. They certainly seem to be healthy and well-fed but is it right? 

We have bears that live in proximity to our landfills (garbage dumps). And crows and turkey vultures and gulls, they all live on our waste. Even herds of deer. I'm not proposing a solution to that issue, if it really needs a solution. I will say that the bald eagle population around here is surging, because the ducks that people are feeding provide easy meals for them, even winter long (remember when ducks and geese flew south for the winter? They are called "migratory birds". Lots of them hang out here all winter, wherever there's open water). That's not really a bad thing, is it? We have a new ecological balance.

Juvenile Bald Eagle returning to his roost overlooking a landfill site. 

But all that stuff is not what I'm leading up to. Foxes and pine martens and snowy owls. That's what I want to address.

In Algonquin Park, there is a family of foxes headed by the old patriarch that many people know as "Papa". You'll know him by the pink markings on his nose. He is so tame that he will walk along beside you like a dog. People feed him constantly and he's smart enough to pose for the cameras and put on a show for the herds of photographers who come to take his picture.

I love photographing him too. I've even printed pictures, tote bags, iPhone covers, etc with Papa's picture. We should really be asking him to sign a model release.  

Papa was waiting for us on a snowbank last time we visited. He knew we were going to have to turn the car around at that point because the road was impassable.  

I don't think he's forgotten how to hunt. But you have to wonder about his kits and his vixen who might have a harder time surviving without human handouts. By the way I'm not disclosing where to find him, although too many people know and it's hard to keep a secret with that many in the know. Is it right to bait him and his ilk, to pose for your pictures?

Yes, that's my car. No, that's not me. 

Pine Martens. Again, I'm not going to say where they hang out, but they live on our waste. And I've heard stories of people who spread cat food on photogenic tree branches to bring them out to pose for the cameras.

Is Algonquin Park just a big zoo without fences?

At the big bird feeder behind the Algonquin visitor's centre. Just some random shots, there were literally hundreds of birds there, from chickadees and blue jays to evening grosbeaks and American goldfinch. 

So is it OK to feed birds but not animals?

Now here's what triggered this essay. Yesterday, Larry and Ron and I trekked out in the aftermath of a huge snow event, in high winds and freezing temperatures, in search of Snowy owls. Again I'm not going to share where. We found some.

Female snowy owl surveying her realm from atop a hydro pole. 

We couldn't get close (except the one on the pole) but these people did:

They were on a guided workshop to shoot (pictures!) Snowy's and they got that close because the workshop leader brought live mice with him to bait the owls. 

Understand, I am NOT sitting in judgement. Nutritionally, the bait is actually good for the owls. Are the owls inured to human presence? You betcha. Do they hang out in those locations because they know they're going to get fed? Sure. Does that hurt their hunting ability? I doubt it. Come spring, these birds are going to migrate back to the far North where they'll subsist on voles and other small game. Just the fact that they come back year after year is proof that their survival is not affected.

Here's about the best I was able to do. But this was shot with a 600mm lens, then cropped, from a few hundred meters away. Ron probably did better with his superior lens but neither one of us would have been able to get our shots without the guy baiting the bird with mice. In fact, would the birds have been there at all? I've shot snowy's in the past in spots where they have not been baited, but not as easily as here.

Do people who judge this controversial practice do so out of jealousy? (it's not illegal, by the way) Or is there some effect on the birds that I have missed? Am I envious? Well I can't afford the workshop prices and somehow having pictures taken this way seem somewhat tainted. As do raptor images taken at the Raptor Conservancy or other guided sanctuary. How much more proud am I of this image of a Ruffed Grouse taken in Algonquin Park in its natural habitat?

Now here's the tie-in I promised you. I don't have the physical ability or stamina to go into the wild and seek out photos of wildlife in their true natural habitat. Or the wherewithal to afford catered first-class expeditions. As much as I want to, I'm not going to Africa any time soon, or in search of Grizzly bears in Alaska or Polar bears in the far North or Penguins in the Antarctic (although it's entirely possible I might be able to return to Newfoundland and shoot Gannets and Puffins and maybe whales and icebergs).

Northern Gannet colony at Cape St. Mary's in Newfoundland 

Atlantic Puffins near Elliston, NF 

So if I'm going to get pictures of wildlife, it's going to be along the Highway 60 corridor in Algonquin or in Carden Plain or at other accessible spots. My view is that if it doesn't hurt the animal or cause long term harm to the species, there's nothing wrong with it. What's your view?

Beef with Micro$oft

I bought Office 365 for Mac because I'm used to Outlook as my email client, ditto Word and Excel and PowerPoint. I'm willing to give the Apple products a shot, but since I have a toe in both worlds, my documents have to work cross-platform.

So after installing it and cleaning all my stuff up, I decided not to bring the email archive over, just use the Mac as a backup and when traveling. After some struggles, I managed to copy my address book over, and my calendar (hint: it won't automatically go in the right places in 365. You have to copy them over then drag them into the built-in contacts and calendars). After all of that was done, I plugged in the iPhone, I had already configured iTunes to sync everything, and started it going.

Guess what? No contacts, no calendar. After some research, I discovered Microsoft Office 365 for Mac does not support syncing with the iPhone. You have to buy the upgraded industrial version for that to work and install an exchange server.

Nowhere on the Micro$oft site does it say that. Useless.

So I re-associated the iPhone with the PC laptop. All good except when I'm traveling: I'm going to have to figure out a workaround. 

That's the second time MS has done it to me. Last time involved upgrading XP to Win7: because I had a professional version of XP and wanted Win7 home, the upgrade I bought didn't work. After fruitless hours and a long conversation with their support, I was told, "there is no upgrade path for that". Fortunately I had bought the software at Costco and they took it back without any questions.

Microsoft is a pain in the royal ass. You can bet my next desktop will be a Mac, when and if I have to do it.

Ben Eby's Pictures

I met Ben Eby back in 2010 up at the Gales of November workshop in Wawa on Lake Superior. We've met and shot together a few times since then. 

You know that I run the Gales of November workshop as facilitator now, right? As I write this, we have only 5 spaces left and there are people on the fence about signing up, so if you're interested, stop procrastinating! A weekend at a first class facility in an outstanding scenic area at a price that you can't beat. Check out

I remember remarking on how sharp and clear Ben's images were, right from day 1. And his photographer's eye, grasp of lighting and composition were also remarkable. Ben took some images at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre that impressed me so much, I asked him if I could post some here. Without further ado...

Barn Owl 

Great Horned Owl 

Peregrine Falcon 

Ben has traveled extensively (he's just come back from the Antarctic) and he runs workshops here and abroad. If you're as impressed with his images as I am, check out his gallery and site at Click on "Events" to see what he's got coming up.

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