Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Getting Ready for Fall Foliage 2010!

In about 10 days, we're having our Fall Foliage 2010 workshop! I'm having fun preparing for it, from logistics to curriculum. It's turned into a smaller group than I had hoped, but if the numbers hold, we can call ourselves "The Group of Seven". Catchy, no?

It's a well-known fact that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. One of the exercises we're doing is "Follow the Rules". So I guess I have to know what the rules are! So when I went out to shoot a few pictures, I deliberately paid attention to them. Interesting results.

Oh, in case you think our workshop will be rigid and directed, another exercise is "Break the Rules". Should be fun. Check out the photography.to website.

Anyway, I went out and found some great venues, I got permission for us to shoot on several private properties, and to top it off, I found out there are a couple of events going on in Haliburton that weekend. The leaves should be peaking... even if you can only make it up for the day, come on up and get some killer shots! Email me if you're thinking of coming.

Stuck in a rut?

I am. I noticed that most of my images in the last weeks have one thing in common: they're extreme. Extreme colours, oversaturated, wild textures. HDR's. Topaz enhancements. Take this shot for example:


Afternoon Sun
Sunset on Horseshoe Lake. This is a 5-shot HDR with some Topaz enhancement. I masked the sky and the left hand chair and used a different adjustment. I painted on the mask to bring out the texture and colour of the wooden dock.

I looked at a regular exposure of the same scene, but it looked boring to me. I'm really hooked on the detail and textures possible using these techniques.

So I tried a couple of other things I haven't done for a while. For example, an abstract::



Autumn Patterns
Tight detail from a slow shutter speed zoom of some mixed fall foliage.
I was shooting the chair picture above and had changed to the big 70-200 lens for some sunset shots. Then I looked at the house behind me and wanted to record an architectural shot. Wrong lens: I couldn't back up enough to get it all in and was too lazy to change lenses. I remembered reading that Adobe had improved their photo stitching algorithms in CS5, so I thought I'd give it a try.


CS5 is amazing! I took 6 images, 3 left-to-right of the top of the house, then 3 right-to-left of the bottom. I clicked "create Panorama in CS5" and voila! I can't pick out where the seams are, can you?

This is the original merge, but I added a red background layer so
you can see what I did.

And here's the final image after cropping and straightening. I dodged some bright spots and warmed it up a bit, but that's all. Needs a bit more 'air' above the house, though. The finished image is over 11,000 pixels wide!


Non-Photography item

My sister put me onto a device/service called MagicJack. I've tried Voice-over-IP system before — with an adapter between the modem and the DSL line or cable connection. The old system caused all kinds of problems, sound quality was lousy and it was unreliable.

Looks like things have come a long way. This unit plugs into a USB port, you plug a phone into it (or a headset into the computer) and it works! I've only had it a couple of days, but already saved money because I can now phone the US for free.

It's supposed to be only $39.95 (apparently less if you buy it at an "As Seen on TV" store) but in the end, it cost me about $60 because I had to pay duty when it came in and because they want $10 for a Canadian phone number. It works, though. Check it out — Google MagicJack.

Next time, I should be able to comment on Lightroom 3 which I've been trying to find the time to install, and maybe I'll show you some "back to basics" type images, no HDR, no fancy stuff. We'll see...