Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Colours and other exciting stuff

I've lived up here in the Haliburton Highlands for 4 years now. You would think I'd be getting bored with and tired of the scenery up here. Think again. Every year there are new and exciting things to capture. This year in particular, now that my eyes are open in a different way, there are some awesome images out there.
First of all, the colours this year are outstanding. I don't think I've ever seen reds as rich and vibrant. And it's early! Still another week to go before the colour peaks. I feel sorry for those who live in places with less variable seasons, they don't get to see this:

This was at Wren Lake just south of Dorset on Highway 35. This is an HDR, but only to enhance the sky! This is how it really looked.

I did use HDR for this shot (same place) but believe it or not, to TONE DOWN the bright colours. They make your eyes hurt!

Janie's dock up on Kushog Lake. at sunset.

At the Minden Wildwater Preserve. I will admit to manipulating this one, I applied the "Indian Summer" filter in Nik Color Efex Pro to enhance the golden glow

This is an extra special photo. It was magic. This is NOT MANIPULATED, it was the way we saw it. Driving by on 35 enroute to Toronto around 9am, I looked left and there it was. As the car rolled 30 feet more, it was gone. You had to be looking directly up-sun to see the rimlighting on the trees.

If you're a photographer and you want to know how to do this kind of pictures in the middle of a sunny day, click here to go to my technical blog and learn how. If you're NOT a photographer, click there anyway: there are some more interesting images for you to see!
This weekend, we're going to Algonquin Park. Look for more georgeous fall photos next week!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I've never been skunked...

Ha! Well I got your attention, didn't I? But it's true! You just have to let me finish my sentence! I'll do that in a couple of minutes, a bit further down.

New Stuff
I'm getting a couple of new goodies! Well it was my birthday, and I decided to buy myself a few things. One of them is the Wacom Intuos4 Digitizer tablet. I've been using a tablet for a couple of years and can never go back. But the one I have is the little "Bamboo" and while it's excellent, it doesn't live up to the professional standard that the Intuos does. The second thing is a fixed 10-stop Neutral Density filter which will allow me to do waterfalls and other moving water long time exposures. If you've followed my blog, you might remember that I bought a variable, adjustable ND filter and I was being a cheapskate and bought a lousy one. This time I didn't compromise, and I got the German-made B&W filter brought to you by the wonderful folks who make glass for Leica (I think...). I also ordered a proper sensor cleaning kit — I've been rather negligent in that area up to now. And finally, I'm going to buy a new TV. I don't need a big fancy one, just a regular $400 flatscreen. I thought my eyes were going on me: but Rosa was watching TV with me a couple of days ago and asked if I realized that my TV was all fuzzy! It's that time — I've had this Sony Trinitron for probably close to 20 years!

I do need a new laptop computer, but I decided that would have to wait a bit. Ditto those lenses I've been looking for. I've squirrelled away some money for the lenses, but not enough. I'd still like to sell my studio strobe lights, that would help! Anyone interested? Send me an email.

What else is new?
Not that much. As I said a couple of posts ago, I've been trying to participate in life instead of just observing it, if that makes any sense. I'm trying to do some meaningful things with my photography. Rosa (she's the artist friend I mentioned a while ago) bought me a couple of wonderful art books and I'm diligently but slowly working my way through them. That said, my images aren't art yet... by my definition. I'll get there. I'm still stuck in HDR mode but there's the occasional flash of other stuff seeping through. I am working on a couple of new Blurb books, hopefully I'll be able to get something printed before Christmas. I'll tell you more in a little while.

So here are a couple of images from the past couple of weeks (still waiting for the 'skunked' thing? Be patient!)

This is a really old image. It dates back to 2007 but I reworked it a few days ago, after looking at that F800 rider's Montana picture (I still haven't been able to get in touch with him). I used the "cutout" filter in Photoshop CS5 to simplify it.

This is a digital painting from an image shot a couple of weeks ago on the Lake. The sky was plain white, so I added the textures (and the matching reflection in the water) and then did the whole thing as a watercolor in Photoshop. Technically it was an HDR at one point...

Last weekend I participated in the NAPP September Rally competition. Two of the categories were "Low Key" (underexposed) and "High key" (overexposed) and my submissions are above. I actually like the second one a lot and you'll see it in my book on the Haliburton Highlands!

All right, all right. The "skunked" thing. No, I didn't get sprayed, it's an expression that comes from Cribbage and Backgammon. It means to lose, big time!

Whenever I drag myself out of bed and go out to shoot at dawn, I ALWAYS come back with at least one image that I like. I've never been skunked. It's an effort to get out there but it's worth it every time. Last night I heard that there were supposed to be 'fog patches'. So even though I didn't go to bed until after 2am, I happened to wake up momentarily at a little before 6:30 and I said, "what the Hell" and got up.

I drove over to Janie's house on Kushog Lake. She said I could shoot there when I wanted to (thanks, Janie!). And here are a few images from this morning, hot off the presses!

"Red Canoe on Dock". Kind of an overused cliché, but it works! HDR done with Nik HDR Efex Pro.

A few minutes later, the sky coloured up. Not as intense as this, but hey, that's what Topaz and Nik Color Efex Pro are for!

This little island was quite far away, so it's a bit of a crop. By painting it, I minimized any unsharp effect due to the finished size.

And finally, down on Janie's beach, I wanted to capture the mist in the distance, the dock and boat, and the detail of the sand and rocks on the beach. The wide angle lens is ideal for this. I used Photomatix Pro to render the HDR toning, then Nik Color Efex Pro and a bunch of control points to achieve the effect I was looking for.

So that's it. I'm going to bed early tonight! Only 4 hours of sleep last night. The fall colours are starting up here (we're at around 20%) and next week is our trip to Algonquin Park! Watch for some cool seasonal shots.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Milestones passed

I'm officially a senior citizen. Yes, folks, I am now in my 66th year on the planet and while trips around the sun should not be of any significance, I do feel different after this one. Imagine! The Canadian Government is going to pay me every month, as long as I keep breathing!

Other People's Stuff.
In a bit of a departure for me, I'm going to show you some other people's stuff. Now I won't post anyone else's pictures, especially without permission, but I am going to point you at a couple of websites that I know you'll enjoy.

The first one is a website gallery called "1X.com". Go there. Look at the photos.  There are literally THOUSANDS of outstanding images. When I first looked through it, my immediate reaction was to sell my camera, because I'll never be that good. Any category, I dare you (BTW there is a "fine arts nudes" category which requires you to read a disclaimer to see the images. You can turn that off in 'settings' after you join).

You don't have to join 1X to see the images. But you have to if you want to submit images for their consideration. They specifically say that 95% of submitted images are rejected. A free membership entitles you to upload one image/week for consideration: I sent them my wasp picture last week and haven't heard back.

There's a bit of a story behind the second site. I was surfing around in anticipation of the Gales of November workshop in a couple of months, and I went to Google Images and searched for "Michipicoten River Light". We were staying at the Rock Island Lodge which is located at the mouth of the Michipicoten where it empties into Lake Superior at Wawa. Anyway, my image came up first but as I looked further, the 14th image looked familiar: it was a shot of the boathouse at the lodge, so i clicked on it. It took me to a web forum called f800riders.org, which is for BMW F800GS motorcyclists. Coincidence! I almost bought one of those but ended up with a Kawasaki KLR650 (much less expensive!).

Anyway, that picture is part of a Twitter trip journal from 2009 by a motorcyclist/photographer whose nickname is f800gecko. I've tried to contact him, without success so far. I invite you to read his journal by clicking this link. "Why?", you may ask. Not only are his photographs outstanding, but the man is a talented writer. Each post is one or two sentences long — necessitated by the Twitter format — and each one is poignant and well phrased.

Scroll down to a little below the halfway point. You'll find a post, "Once I crested a rise and felt my mouth fall open at the scene before me. It is a place that draws an ancient human feeling from within one's depths and puts the taste of it on your tongue..."
and below it a picture taken in Montana that I find incredible. One day, when I grow up, I want to be able to take pictures like that. If anyone knows who this person is, please send me his email address.

Anyway, here's a mixed bag of some images I took last week and weekend. Enjoy!

15-shot panoramic at Grass Lake, Highway 118 on the way to Haliburton. The sky really did look like that so I stopped for some pictures. I took 5 bracketed photos, then moved the camera to the next position and did it again. And again. Then I created 3 overlapping HDR images and merged them in Photoshop. They didn't want to merge correctly, so that portion took some effort!

While I was there, I took this single burst of 5 images and merged them in Nik HDR Efex. After importing into Photoshop, I opened Nik Color Efex Pro and looked through the presets. This one is called "Indian Summer" and it did an amazing job of converting green vegetation to fall colours. This is what it's going to look like in a few weeks!

Last weekend was the "Open Canoe" whitewater race at the Minden Wildwater Preserve, one of my favourite venues. I used my 12mm super wide angle lens and got up close and personal with the competitors. I was about 4 feet away when I shot this image. I used Topaz Adjust to bring out the details.

This was taken standing on the rock to the left of the previous image, looking down on the canoe. Same lens. However I told Lightroom that i had a Sigma 8mm fisheye lens on the camera so I added some distortion to give the shot an interesting perspective.

My real estate agent emailed me about a house that had come up for sale. It sounded interesting, so I wandered by after leaving the whitewater on Sunday. The bank is about to foreclose on this one, so it's likely going to go for a deal! It's a custom built log house, 2 stories, 3BR/2B with a full basement, covered deck in front, fireplace on 3 acres of nicely wooded land. Outbuildings include a storage shed, a gazebo and a sauna. There's a pond and a stream... water is very low right now so the pond is a bit stagnant and the stream is barely a trickle. If this house were on a lakefront or a riverfront, I'd be making an offer. Beautiful property, well-maintained. This is an HDR processed in Photomatix Pro.

Here's the sauna, about 50' from the house and right on the pond (to the right). Very, very nice. Again I ran the HDR image in Photomatix Pro, then took it into Photoshop and used Nik Silver Efex Pro to do the black-and-white conversion. Then I painted the colour back in on a layer mask.

Anyway, that was my week in pictures. Catch you soon!

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