Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Busy with other stuff

I've been busy with other, non-photo related stuff so I haven't posted here much. Did you miss me?

Taxes, Revenue Canada, working on my First Aid Kit business (you should all have one in your cars and homes as well as your offices and businesses. Check out the new eyewash stations! Visit my company website here). Also as I write this, we're in the middle of a bathroom renovation:

This is in the middle of the renovation. What triggered it is the visible hole in the ceiling where water had been coming in and the ceiling was coming down. Wet insulation was pulled out, the ice damming that caused the leak has been addressed (not solved yet but doesn't need to be until next fall). CS5 HDR toning and monochrome treatment, masked colour layer added.

I did wander out last week and took this picture of the ice huts sitting in the parking lot after they were retrieved from the slowly melting lake. HDR, processed in Photomatix 4 and Topaz.

I set up this table as a bird feeding station. I'm going to build one using a screen and wooden frame on a post, but in the meantime, I wanted something that looked natural so I could get bird pictures without anything artificial in them. I stuck a tree branch in the middle of the table to give them something to stage on before they went down to feed. They use it, but not much yet.

A variety of songbirds visit the feeder.

This is a male 'common redpoll' (carduelis flammea). Not that common, I never saw one here before! With the table about 15' away and the 200mm lens inside the door, he was pretty small in the image so this is a tight crop and blowup.
I'm still working on modifying the HDR presentation I had created so that it works in my technical blog. I had built it as a PowerPoint presentation, so it needs some more reformatting and a bit of a rewrite to get it up on the site. I'll get there soon, after I get through this busy period. Keep coming back!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Photo Workshop Survey

But first... has anyone been tuning into the new Kelby show, “The Grid”? It’s on live on Mondays at 12:30 noon, but I’ve missed it each time. A day later, it’s up on their site or iTunes (feh. Ptui, ptui).
The first one, two weeks ago, was entertaining and fun to watch. The one last week was really interesting. They talked about DSLR HD Video and I’ll let you watch it to see what they said; but they also talked about HDR and that was interesting. RC Concepcion pointed out that the real problem with HDR is that a lot of it out there is badly done. And that there’s a lot of post-processing to be done after you’ve created it and tweaked it. At one point they talked about it being a fad and I almost shouted out loud that Ansel Adams invented it, then RC said, “and guess who invented it? Ansel Adams!” I had that written in my HDR presentation BEFORE watching this. Ask Bob Fowler! We talked about it at a club meeting weeks ago!

They said a lot of good things about NIK HDR Efx Pro. Guess I have to add it to my shopping list. I'm waiting for my Humber College Staff ID so I can get my educational discount...

Go watch the Grid. Here: Episode 3 should be up there tomorrow, and they’re talking about microstock (Les..)

You don’t have to be a NAPP member to watch it. You really should be one, though: use this link if you’re thinking about joining.

I'm preparing some multi-part content for my technical post that will be directed at people who want to try some HDRs but don't know how to get started. It's not really difficult but you need to understand some basic concepts. I expect that will be ready, at least the first part, within this week. Stay tuned!

Photography Workshops

I've mentioned several times that we're working on some potential photography workshops and/or destination trips. Who's "we"?

Well I'm one of 'we'. I have some colleagues with whom I'm working, people who have considerable experience and skill sets both as photographers and as educators. We are like-minded: we think that we have a lot to offer to photographers of all levels, and that we can put together teams to present valuable sessions.

We have some ideas about what we'd like to do, but it would be really helpful to find out what our potential customers want. So to that end, I've put together a quick survey that should take you only a few minutes to complete. Please take a second to fill it out. Answer as many or as few questions as you wish.

PLEASE be honest. I know how tempting it is to be humourous or engage in wishful thinking, but we really would like to develop some workshops based on your responses.

We will NOT record your email addresses nor contact you because you filled out the survey, unless you want us to (one question is, "should we contact you?")

One of the questions on the survey asks if you know anyone else who might be interested in a workshop. We're particularly interested in finding out if there are as many people out there as we think there are, who have gotten into digital photography and have no idea how to use that nice DSLR they just bought. So should we run a basic course for these people?

Again, please take a moment to answer a couple of questions for us. Here's the link to the survey:

Have you ever known me NOT to put a picture up in a blog post? I can't set a precedent here! I've been rather busy the past week or so, what with writing the presentation on HDR which has now been cancelled, and with one of my rites of spring for the past 10 years, which is re-certifying as a motorcycle instructor at Humber College (take the course. You will love it. You may never own a bike or you may catch the fever! Go to the Humber website for more info. And if you sign up, tell them where you heard about it!).

But every month on the NAPP forums, there's a challenge, called the "Photo Rally". Someone -- the winner from the previous month -- chooses 3 categories. You have 72 hours to shoot a picture in all three and submit them. This month's categories were, "Keys", "Patterns in Nature", and "Things that Stick". I won't bother showing you my 'patterns' shot because I hate it, but here's the other two.

"Things that Stick". That's Maple Syrup!
The forums are another reason to join NAPP. Where else can you get the kind of advice that you can from this great community. You can view the forums here but you can't post anything if you're not a member. Look in the "Digital Photography" forum for the Photo Rally but browse through the other ones!

In anticipation of the upcoming series of HDR posts on the technical blog, you may be interested in reading this commentary.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I smell a PHOTO-SAFARI in the works

The Japanese Tragedy
Before we get started, I'm writing this on March 15th, a few days after the disaster in Japan. I've been looking at the devastation in the many images and videos posted and I'm torn between marveling at the great photojournalism and touching images, and the horror of what has occurred.

I can't help thinking how it would be if that happened here. When you see a video of a tsunami sweeping in and with irresistible force tossing cars and buildings around as if they were toys in a bathtub… I keep looking at the thousands of destroyed cars and homes thinking, "I just got a new car, how would I cope if it were destroyed beyond all recognition? What about my house? More importantly, what about all the people who lost their lives, who were injured, who lost everything?". I also wonder who's going to pay for all that and how people will get back on their feet, those that lived, anyway.

Here's a thought: with all due respect to the friend who was fortunate enough to have bought a new Nikon DSLR yesterday, before the price jumped by some 20%, there are some opportunistic vendors out there who won't be seeing any of my business if I can help it. At least one vendor that I looked at on eBay, modified his "buy it now" prices at 10:00am this morning. It reminds me of the gas price jumps on inventory already in the tanks. Seems a little crass to me. I would have bought one too if I could have, but I'm holding out for an H4D-40!

At this writing, the Nikon high end DSLR factory (what's left of it) in Sendai is shut down. Hopefully their people survived and they'll be back at it in a little while.

What do you think of when you read the word "Safari"?
Right. So do I. Africa. What about when you read "Expedition"? Yup, Antarctica. I have friends and colleagues who have gone to both places. It would really be nice, but let's get realistic, folks. I can't afford (a) the cost of the trip, (b) the time, or (c) the additional equipment I would need - ok, should have - to make such a trip.

So the word "photovacation" doesn't roll off the tongue as well, but that's what I'm looking at this summer. Phototrip? Photodrive? Now, where?

I've looked at a whole lot of choices. Since Northern Japan is now out (sorry, bad joke), I'm thinking one of two destinations:

  • New Orleans. I've ALWAYS wanted to go there. For the jazz and the ambiance, and the photo ops and
  • Newfoundland/Labrador. I've been to Newfoundland three times. I LOVE it there. Nature at her best. Phenomenal people.
I also had Scotland on my list but that's not happening either. I'm leaning towards Newfoundland.

Both of those destinations are in driving distance - albeit long, but if I did Newfoundland on a motorcycle, I could do it in a car, right? This time, I would like to go up to Labrador and repeat some of the outports I've visited in the past.

I'm thinking the end of May, for about 2 weeks.

Here's some pix from last time.

There's a ProShow slide show at I've posted it before, but it's worth watching. You have to allow the Photodex viewer to run (it's safe) and make sure your speakers are on!).
Anyone want to join me? Send me an email.

My camera is fixed
Here are some pictures I did a few days ago after getting the camera back from Nikon

So the focus sensor seems to work...

HDR Presentation
As many of you know, I'll be presenting a seminar on HDR techniques at the Imaging Conference, April 8-10 at Boynton House. RHCC members can register now (go to the RHCC site) and everyone else next week. More information will be available then. Among other sponsors are Henry's school of imaging, Costco and the Town of Richmond Hill. We'd love to see you there. I'll be talking about the 5 steps you need to take to create HDR images. See you there!

This guy actually drove his truck out on the ice when the snowmobile they were using was unable to drag the hut out through the slush and standing water. This image was created from 3 shots, merged and toned in Photomatix Pro 3.2 with an added touch of Topaz Adjust.

Friday, March 11, 2011

All right! I got my D300 back!

Whew. How do you spell "RELIEF"?

Just to remind you, my focus sensor went South on me. Nikon won't say whether it was a mechanical failure, a software failure or just dirt. They said they "cleaned and adjusted it". They also "adjusted" my 70-200 f/2.8. Total cost was just under $300.

On the way home, I stopped by the roadside and shot some test images which I plugged in when I got home. You be the judge (all images converted to jpg and reduced in size to reproduce here):

This is a 2000px x 1300px crop out of the frame. I deliberately shot it at f/2.8

This is 3000px x 2000px approximately, shot at f/8 which is, I figure,
the sweet spot on the lens

This one is a tighter crop: about 950px x 650 px, so it's almost 1:1. I shot this at f/2.8 and the tractor was coming at me at about 50kph. I shot at 200mm, when he was about 200m away, using the continuous focus function.

I also have an image of a barn (tack sharp) and a police car going away from me at about 100kph (you don't think I would be dumb enough to point my camera at a police car coming towards me, do you?). When I shot the car, he was at least 300 or 400m away and I can tell you that his license plate renewal sticker says "JUN 12".

I'm a happy camper. I don't think my camera/lenses have been this clean EVER: even when I got them! (I really don't want to put the UV filters back on, but I guess I have to!).

I highly recommend sending your stuff in for a general cleaning/adjustment from time to time. It's worth the money. Read more in my tech blog here. By the way, I don't know what they did, but even the white screened paint on my lens (where the VR switch and others are) is fresh and new: they must have replaced that piece because the paint was worn by usage!

Good customer service deserves recognition. Nikon Canada: you have my vote!

PS: the lens hood on my 24-120 wasn't latching on because it was worn. I asked to buy a replacement. They GAVE me one.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Well I woke up this morning...

You weren't on my mind. Yesterday (Saturday) was an ugly day but when I looked out the window this morning I was greeted with a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow (you notice how I keep working song lyrics into my posts?). I did all the stuff I need to do when I get up (I'm into sharing, but that's TMI) then I said to myself, "Self, you need to go out and take some pictures". The snow was particularly beautiful, clinging to the trees, blanketing what was an ugly mess yesterday with a pure white blanket.

I still don't have my camera back, I've got a borrowed D70 with a 28-105 lens. Time for a walkabout, though.

The D70 was, and still is, a quality piece of equipment. Sure, it's slow in comparison to the D300, the LCD is a rinky-dink little one and it's only 6Mp but you can still get some good pictures with it!

Here are a few images I did Saturday with the D70.

Like I said it was really an ugly day, this shot across the lake shows you what it looked like.

The two guys on the ATV are soaking wet from the rain and notice the deep water-filled ruts out on the lake ice. The ATV shot is a single-image HDR -- created from only one shot.

And here's a shot of my woodpile, more traditionally done from 3 images (OK, and enhanced with Topaz. What can I say? I like that program!).

For you non-photographers or new-to-pixel-bending (post processing on the computer) types, HDR stands for "High Dynamic Range" and it helps you produce images from scenes that contain more light levels, light to dark, than your sensor or your monitor or printer can handle. There will be a series of HDR articles on the faczentech blog, but not until after April 10th. Why April 10th?

I've been asked to do a presentation on HDR techniques at the Imaging Conference at Boynton House on April 10th. I'll review the 5 steps you need to take to make HDR's, and I hope many of you will find the time to attend. I'm writing the presentation in "Pages" on my iPad and haven't decided yet if I'll present it using "Keynote" and the iPad or PowerPoint on the laptop. I'm leaning towards the iPad but I have to learn how Keynote works, and make sure I can connect successfully to the projector.

I'll publish the presentation afterwards online. Hang in there.

Both of those shots show some of the extreme effects you can get with HDR, but here's one where I just used the technique to bring out some details.

HDR toning has many uses and you don't have to go to extremes.

I started writing this on Saturday, but didn't finish. So today (Sunday) is nicer. Among other things, I did this mixed-media shot and captured a nice sunset.

All with the D70 and a mediocre lens. Huh. Monday I get my D300 back from Nikon! Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Celebrate What's Right with the World (TM) Preview

Motivational video from DeWitt Jones of National Geographic.

This is probably the best motivational video for photographers that I've ever seen. I watched it a couple of years ago on YouTube but then it was taken down. I found it again on and they clearly give permission to use it as long as it is not for commercial purposes. In fact, they linked and uploaded it on my blog (they put it on my tech blog and I moved it here. Hope that's not a copyright violation).

Whether you're a photographer or not, you need to watch this video. It's in Flash, so I'm sorry, iPad users, you have to watch it on your computer.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.