Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Everyone has a Dream

Twice in one day! I didn't know I could blog twice in one day! It's been years since... never mind.

I did get out to shoot some different pictures on Sunday so I thought I'd share some of them here. We'll get to the meaning behind the title of this Blog in a minute, but first this story...

Frantic Biker

If you ever see a motorcyclist by the side of the road tearing his clothes off, and you're not a biker, you wouldn't understand. However if you ride you would get it instantly. I was riding back from the Whitewater Preserve on Saturday, took a detour down a nice dirt road and came out on Highway 35 just below Carnarvon. I felt a sharp pain, but just a little one on my back below my left shoulder blade. Sort of like a sharp itch. I was a couple of minutes from home so I figured I'd wait it out.

Just as I turned off on Red Umbrella Road, another one. This one was more intense: no mistaking it this time — I had a wasp in my jacket. I IMMEDIATELY parked, jumped off the bike and started to take off my jacket, but my gloves were in the way so they had to go first. Then the jacket, then it stung me again! I couldn't get my shirt off with the helmet on, so that took a minute which felt more like an hour, then I ripped the shirt off and saw a telltale black and yellow mote fly away out the corner of my eye.

I've been stung while riding a few times before. Once multiple times on my abdomen — I undressed in a church parking lot in the Elk National Forest in Pennsylvania that time and reduced the little bugger to a smear of yellow paste under foot. He might have stung me, but he was dead, dead, dead. Another was a single bee sting just below my collarbone (I actually dropped the bike that time, but that's another story) and once above my eyebrow when one got in my helmet.

For motorcyclists, there's an old saw: "if you've never dropped your bike, you will". Change that to "if you've never been stung while riding, you will be". You won't be a real biker until that happens.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

So after getting dressed again, the pain being tolerable and reducing to a simple annoying itch (which persists even now, 3 days later. I can't reach the spot to scratch, so you'll find me rubbing up against doorframes and trees like a mangy bear), I decided to drop in on my neighbour, Vic. He comes walking by from time to time, and often stops in for a chat and a coffee. He lives a little ways down Pleasant Point Road, which is a dirt road just off Red Umbrella, and although I've been past his place, I never seemed to be there when he was, and wasn't sure which was his property. A couple of days ago I verified his "911" number (they've replaced all the lot numbers with a real address), and I knew he was there so I had told him I would drop in.

Dream Home

Vic is a former pharmaceutical executive, retired, and he bought his property with just a couple of rundown structures on it 20 years ago. He has spent that time building a dream estate, which you can't really tell from the road. When I grow up, I want a place like Vic's. It'll never happen — short of a lottery win — and for another reason: this man does magic with wood, and can turn his vision into reality. I got the $5 tour (I would have said 5¢ tour, but not in this place!). VIC DESIGNED AND BUILT THIS HOUSE HIMSELF (well he used trades, but it's entirely his concept and most of the woodwork is his).

I told Vic that I would take some pictures of his place. He graciously agreed to let me. He wasn't home on Monday evening, so I only got some outdoor late day shots, but I'll be coming back to do more. Especially interior shots looking out at a spectacular sunset from his outstanding open living room. Watch this space. If he lets me, I might even do a Blurb book for him.

Here are a couple of images for now: there are more on Smugmug. Outstanding.

View of the house from the lakeside. I was about halfway between the dock and the house for this shot. It's a multi-image HDR, gently treated just to bring out the texture of the wood and the dappling of the setting sun. The living room I mentioned is the cathedral-ceiling'ed area to the left, there's more house hidden behind the trees! Click on the picture. It's worth looking at full-screen size.

This is the "gazebo" he built at the water's edge. You have to go inside it to see the flawless design and construction, the warmth of the golden pine and oak he used, the massive posts and beams. Again this is an HDR shot, somewhat 'spicified' using Topaz Adjust 4 to bring out the textures. Again, click on it to appreciate the detail of the image.

To the right of the gazebo, facing the lake, is this spot. If you look further to the right, there's a hemlock grove populated by hundred year old trees. The pine tree on the left in this image leans out over the water and Vic tells me it is about 200 years old and is called "Lone Pine". This point of land was named after this massive tree a hundred years ago.

And as you may have guessed, this is yet another HDR treated shot, with a whole bunch more technical work, like a gradient map across the bottom and some levels work to bring out the texture in the pine tree. I wanted to show the detail of the forest floor as well as the sunset colours. Perhaps I got a wee tad carried away, but I like it!

More to come of this outstanding estate. I wish one day I could have one like it! {sigh}.


PHO–TO–GEN–IC (fəʊtəˈdʒɛnɪk)

"A photogenic subject (generally a person) is a subject that usually appears physically attractive or striking in photographs". Another definition is, "Attractive as a subject for photography".

So can an event or a venue be termed "photogenic", or is that term reserved for models with high cheekbones and symmetrical features? I'll leave the semantics to you.

I think that Whitewater Kayaking is a photogenic subject. It has everything: fast-flowing water which you can smooth out with a large f/stop and slow shutter speed or stop in mid-air with a big opening combined with a high ISO and resulting fast shutter; bright colours because the kayakers favour psychedelic paint on their boats and gear; incredible physical action and skill which can be captured in pixels; and a gamut of emotions from "the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat".

Last weekend was a fun event at the Minden Wildwater Preserve, continuing this week with the Canadian National Championships. I took a bunch of pictures, but tried a few different things so that I didn't simply duplicate the shots from last year's event (last year I focused on faces. I have a two-page spread in my "Pathways" book just of competitors' faces). This year I played with motion, colour and perspective. I got a few good images.

And now a video (if this works) for your viewing pleasure!

The first picture was one of a series in a burst of about 5 images i took at high speed (the D300 will do 6 frames/second without the external battery pack).

The second shot was taken during a race event called a "Boatercross" where half a dozen boats came over the dam simultaneously with a goal to be first at the bottom. A wild and crazy event.

Next is an image taken with the 400mm lens. I love the long distance perspective.

Fourth is a lucky shot. I slowed the shutter down to 1/6 second and panned with the boat. The wild water movement, and the brightly coloured boats in the background were even further enhanced by using the Topaz Adjust 4 filter "Spicify", not once but twice!

I came back today without my main camera, then got the idea that I could shoot video with my little Nikon Coolpix, so I tried it out. What do you think?

Unusual for me, I shot 430 images on Saturday afternoon. I brought them back here, uploaded them to the computer and processed them in Lightroom. First pass was a quick "keep it or toss it out"decision, and 90 images bit the dust. Then I went through and marked the ones I wanted to work on with a coloured flag and stars. As I write this, I've only gotten around to looking at the 3-star and up images!

By the way, there were lots of photographers there: this guy was set up across the river and I think was working for the organizers. I thought I got a good picture of him. He had set up a couple of strobes on tripods at the side of the river and was triggering them remotely with the transmitter on top of the camera. If it had been a Nikon, I would have tried to mess with him by selecting the same Commander channel, but alas, he was stuck with Canon gear.

Check out my Smugmug site for more pictures.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Love Thunderstorms!

I feel sorry for people who grew up afraid of thunderstorms.We had a country place just North of Ste. Agathe, Quebec. I grew up in Montreal. We called them "country places". "Cottage" was reserved for a two-storey house in the city. Not like Torontonians who go away to the "cottage in Muskoka or the Kawarthas". There's an urban legend about a transplanted Montreal kid (I swear it was my daughter!) who said to her parents one day, "one day I'm going to see this fabulous resort called "The Cottage" that everyone goes to"!

Anyway, our house was up on the hill, across the road from the lake. My grandparents owned "the big house" which was on the water. It was a lonely spot, only 5 or 6 families on the whole big bay (Lake Manitou, we called it "Ivry" for some reason), and the property declined over the years until it was sold for a song many years ago. Of course it's now worth millions, and the whole lake is filled with "cottagers" and people who have retired. Torontonians: can you imagine — 500 or 600 feet of pristine shoreline on a clear, unpolluted lake only 45 minutes from the city?

Back to thunderstorms. My mom used to take us kids into the centre of the living room during a storm. She'd even take the bobby pins out of my sister's hair, I'm told, because she was afraid we'd get hit by lightning. Didn't rub off on us, though — a thunderstorm was a time we'd sit huddled in blankets and play games, having a great time!

A little older, I remember watching the storms through the picture window in the living room as they would track across the lake. The advantage of living up on the hill was, of course, the great view! I remember being in my grandparents' sun porch — it ran the full length of the lake side of the house and was screened in — you know what I remember most about being in there during a storm? That special smell of the rain through the screens. Every time I smell that smell, I go back to those idyllic childhood days.

I love thunderstorms. I was hit by lightning one time, while operating a Ham radio station on a "Field Day" at the top of Covey Hill sourh of Montreal. Blown through the wall of the tent. I have no lasting effects (right, don't say it!) and it didn't make me afraid. Later, I used to go to our garage in our "cottage" (two-storey house!) in Unionville and open the door and sit in a lawn chair protected from the rain except for the splashes that came in, and watch the storm.

Yesterday, we had a storm here. I grabbed an umbrella and went out to the gazebo in front of the house and just enjoyed the cataracts of  rain and the occasional thunderbolt. There was a smattering of small hail, and the sound of hail and rain on the canvas top of the gazebo was overwhelmingly beautiful. One lightning bolt hit somewhere out on the lake, couldn't have been more than 500m from where I was with an earsplitting blast of sound. Only one — too bad. I didn't have my camera with me because first of all, the gazebo is screened in and second I'm surrounded by trees so I couldn't get a great picture anyway. But I ran in the house as the storm slowly passed and took this photo out the doorway through the rain.

That's a closeup of the roof of my car.

I love thunderstorms.

Writing that took me back to great times growing up. I do have a photo somewhere of multiple lightning hits that I took out the window of our 15th floor apartment many years ago. It was a 35mm slide which I scanned, but I'll have to go find the DVD somewhere on which I stored it. I'll post it here when I do. If you have a picture like that, I'd be happy to share it, just send me an email and tell me where it is!

Last time I mentioned Intellicast. Here's an image I captured onscreen just after the storm passed.

but I went back in time to just when the storm was overhead. I'm right where that big orange and purple splotch is. I changed to look at the cloud view instead of the precipitation, and saw this screen: It's very cool.

That "Revolver Map" spinning globe on the right

Looked very cool, but it doesn't do what I thought it did. I doesn't show you who HAS visited your site, it shows who's visiting the site RIGHT NOW. Yes, there's a counter at the top, but... so when I look at it, all I see is one visitor — me. And it has my location wrong, as "Markham, ON". Still, it's fun so I might leave it there for a while.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yippee, no HDR's!

For once, I didn't shoot any HDR's this weekend. I love the technique, and it's hard not to like the dramatic colours and precise lines, but there's a lot of it out there. Whenever I browse the NAPP site, it looks like every second picture is an HDR. Overdone. But fun.

Anyway, I went to the Haliburton Sportsman's Show for two reasons: OK, three. One, it was something to do, a good destination for a ride on a beautiful weekend (the WeatherNetwork was wrong: no rain at all until the middle of the night last night!).

Non-Photographic tip
There's a site called that has interactive weather maps online! You can see precipitation, cloud cover, all kinds of stuff and you can see it tracking across a map, or satellite picture. It's really cool. Check out the link, click the purple "full screen" box upper right, then click "play" to watch the weather move across the screen. It's almost realtime: the weather pattern is only 5 minutes old! As you can see, the rain has already passed here. Very cool site.

Two, my old hunting buddy Pete was delivering a lecture on how to keep whitetail deer on your property (Pete is the author/owner of Ripple Outdoors. He's a noted writer and photographer, specializing in fishing and hunting). I had a coffee and a catch-up with him.

And three, I read that Yamaha was going to be there with demo rides (my friend André from Humber who manages the motorcycle program for Yamaha was there) and with the Yamaha Rider Academy which gets 6- to 10 year old kids scooting around on motorcycles. Clinton, the owner of Canadian Motorcycle Training Services wasn't there, but Bob Island was, an interesting guy who is also a photographer and is the editor of Snowmobile Magazine. I figured, a good photo-op and I wasn't disappointed.

Reincarnation of Ricky Carmichael? Actually there was another kid there who also buzzed around fearlessly but was older. This little guy looks like about 6 years old! I might take some time to clean out the background on this shot.

Then there were these 3 little girls — sisters, I'm pretty sure — who lined up for a picture from their dad. I thought the 3 colourful helmets made an interesting shot: I called it "R-G-B" (if you're not into digital, you may not know the significance of that. Google it). I cheated, though. It was "R-Y-B" when I shot it. A quick fix in Photoshop and voîlà!

This Yamaha WaveRunner was scooting around on the lake. I knew the 400mm lens was good for something! I was going to crop it tight but thought the image might be more interesting composed like this.
There are more pictures from this weekend on my Smugmug site.

Photo Tip

My friend Pete writes and photographs for Ontario Out of Doors and other magazines. In the course of the conversation, he told me he could sell lots more pictures to them if he had taken the trouble to get MODEL RELEASES signed by recognizeable people in the pictures. He's right. And I've been lazy and don't have releases with me. You should always carry some in your camera bag. You never know when that super shot is going to come along!

I have one somewhere on the computer. I'll go find it, print up a handful of copies and stick them in my bag. If you want a copy, let me know (I think I said this before and never followed through: if I can't find the one I made a while ago, I'll make a new one. We need them)!

OK, I found it. If you want a copy of the modelrelease.docx file that I created and use, send me an email and I'll shoot it to you... Glenn

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hi, I'm back!

Due to somewhat of a cascade effect, I haven't posted here in a while. When my dad was hospitalized and then passed away last month, a lot of the time I spent doing other things was, um, spent doing other things. That included work time, and creative time, and play time. A lot of that time became "family" time. So there was no time left to spend taking pictures, blogging, even riding my bike (I did 'force' myself to go out for a short ride from time to time. (how many times did the word 'time' appear in this paragraph? There will be a test at the end...).

I decided to simplify my blog postings. I plan to post reasonably frequently, make the posts shorter and the topics fewer. I'll post pictures, of course, because that's what this blog is about, and new techniques and tips to give you ideas, but I'll try to make them more succinct and organized. By skipping some of the fancy formatting and stuff, preparing a post should be more painless, and therefore somewhat more frequent.

A couple of years of doing this has not caused me to standardize the look and feel or even topic list since when I write it I generally write what I'm thinking at the time. Hopefully you will still continue to find it interesting and worth reading. Please feel free to pass the link on to others ( and if you haven't already done so, please click on the "Follow" button over on the right so I can see how many people are following the blog. It doesn't mean you will get junk mail or have to check in all the time, it just helps me keep track.

Non-photographic tip of the day
This is an important one. Please read this.

My dad was meticulous, almost obsessive about maintaining his "Bible" which is what he called his 'just in case' binder. It contained instructions on what to do, who to contact, where to find things, in case he died. Without it, we would have been totally lost. However my sister and I are still struggling to do the things that we need to. There are a million of them and many of them are not obvious and were not listed in the "Bible". For example, what steps does one need to take to advise the various branches of government (motor vehicle bureau, health department, social security, and (God help us), Revenue Canada) that he's passed away?

Fortunately he took steps to ensure that all his financial vehicles — bank accounts, investments, etc — were in both his and my mother's names. Did you know, for instance, that Power of Attorney ends when the principal dies? Did you know that a bank will not accept a legal, notarized Power of Attorney unless it's written on the bank's own form? That the Motor Vehicle Bureau is giving us a hard time about transferring ownership of their car (jointly owned) into our mother's name so that it can be sold, without a signature from my father (which might be a little difficult to obtain)?

So. Here's my tip. If you don't have a will, MAKE ONE. If you don't have a set of Powers of Attorney (for health and for property), MAKE THEM. You need a lawyer for this and I know a good one — email me for the name. Prepare a DETAILED "What to do if I'm not around" binder and tell the people who matter where it is. Keep it up to date. Make it complete.

Now some photo stuff.

As I said, I haven't done much in the last month. But there are a few pictures, and it's worth visiting my July Smugmug gallery.

I've become somewhat enamoured with HDR techniques. Some things work, some don't. I said before that Photomatix Pro is the defacto standard, but Photoshop CS5 has awesome HDR capability and I've been using that first. If I'm not satisfied with the results, THEN I'll go to Photomatix. Hasn't happened much... anyway, here are a few images to make you think.

Leafy Abstract At the Minden Wildwater Preserve. Slow shutter speed and camera motion.One of my better abstracts, I think. Watch for this image in the revised "Pathways" book.
Exploring While exploring a dirt trail in the woods west of Minden on the KLR, I stopped for some shots along the road. I wish I was a better rider, I'm still a bit nervous on this kind of surface. That's a pretty steep hill. HDR/Topaz treatment. Go to the smugmug site to see some images taken along this trail.

Wild Orchid Thai Restaurant and Antique Shop in Minden. The bright yellow truck screamed "do an HDR!" to me so I did. A 5-shot bracket and Topaz filtering resulted in this image.

The Minden River Cone Natalie owns the "River Cone" ice cream and takeout place in Minden. Their burgers and shakes are excellent, they have a wide variety of ice cream products. Be sure to drop in when you're in the area! The "Cartoony" effect is a result of some creative processing with Topaz Adjust. Blow up the picture to X3Large on SmugMug to see it better. The clouds were stripped in from another picture, as was Natalie in the window.

Cloudscape A mundane sky made spectacular through the magic of HDR. From my True North back yard. A beautiful day and these dramatic clouds made me run back in for the camera. It's a 5-shot HDR but the main effect comes from the Topaz Suite, "Spicify" filter.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Rest in Peace

I haven't written in my Blog nor taken a significant picture for some time. The reason is below.

Robert Arthur Springer. August 14, 1920 — June 14, 2010.
Rest in Peace, Dad.

I didn't take this picture, just added a few effects.