Friday, December 28, 2012

Blast from the Past

Fifty Two for Fifty Two

I did it! A year ago, I promised myself I'd post weekly and I did. This is the fifty-second post in 2012. One per week. I've made 220 posts since starting this blog. Yahoo!

It's all my fault

Toronto got 6" of snow. Niagara got 9". Peterborough got 6". Barrie got 6". Montreal got 18" of snow in the biggest one day snow fall in years. Ottawa is still getting snow. The snow was knee high in Bancroft. I got an ATV with a snow plow. We only got 2". I plowed both of them.

Rosa at her brother's place north of Bancroft on Saturday afternoon BEFORE it snowed! They got another 6" or more overnight on Saturday.
Photo by her friend Galya.

Another shot by Galya. Again Saturday before the big snowfall. Damned powerlines...

On Red Umbrella Road Christmas night.
No snow pictures to show you, so here's an out-of-focus Christmas tree...
A blast from the past

So because there didn't seem to be anything interesting out there to shoot, I decided to finally set up my slide scanner and digitize some old slides. You listening, Bob? I did it at last! I promised Bob the slide scanner when I was done with it! What held me up was people telling me that it wouldn't work with Windows 7. Google is your friend... I found a workaround and even installed the new version of the Nikon Scan software.

So I thought I'd share some pictures from a "few" years ago. All of these pictures were on Kodachrome 25, 35mm. Depending when, I either shot them with a Nikkormat FTn, a Canon AE-1 or a pocket Olympus camera I carried in my ski pack!

They did have snow in December on top of Mt. Whiteface in New York. Oh by the way, this was in 1976! 

I took this in Arizona in August 1972. Yes, 40 years ago! 

A macro shot from 1971. I believe I used extension tubes and an 85mm lens for this one.

This is the glacier from near the top of Mont Blanc on the French/Swiss/Italian border. I shot it in August 1971. It was hot and sunny at the base of the mountain and bloody cold, I remember, after taking the cable car to the top! BTW this one has no border because I cropped off a fence railing at the bottom. All the other ones are full frame.

Somewhere in Colorado in 1972.  

One more picture from the past to share with you:

Another shot from the Painted Desert in Arizona in 1972. This is actually better than the original because I was able to open up the shadows in the foreground in Lightroom, something you couldn't do back then. You got what you got, shooting Kodachrome and mailing the film in to Kodak for processing! I'm guessing this was shot with my Nikkormat and a 50mm lens, maybe with a polarizing filter on it.
Happy 2013 to everyone!

My wish for everyone for next year is that it exceed your expectations. I wish you all health and happiness in the new year.


— 30 —

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The year is coming to a close...

And at last, it's snowing outside! The forecast for Thursday night (it's now Saturday) was for up to 11" of snow here: I think we got 11mm! I could still see my grass. But it's snowing right now and the guy across the road is plowing his parking lot. Guess that means I get to take my ATV out and do my driveway! I think I'll let the township pass down the road first so I can clear the "cone" they make at the head of my driveway. Anyway, "Yahoo!" Winter.

(PS: it's later in the day. I went out and plowed with the ATV, the whole 2" of snow that we got! Having some issues with the switch that controls the winch (and the plow blade), I hope that's all it is. Up works, down doesn't always.)

Need I remind you that making quality winter pictures requires some forethought? Look over on the right to see my Guide to winter photography, and download it!

People try to take advantage

I read an ad in the local paper this morning calling for entries to the Haliburton Tourism photo contest. I'm not entering. I went to their website and discovered

  1. You have to be on FaceBook or Twitter to submit images. 
  2. It wants to install an app on your computer and you have to give it permission to "post on your behalf" which to me means I would allow them to pretend they're me and post on facebook as if it was me doing so. I'm not paranoid, that's what it says on the subtext.
  3. No manipulation, no composites. I get it, but that means you can't even clone out a power line or do an HDR.
  4. Here's the biggie. They ask for "a royalty-free, world-wide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media now existing or subsequently developed, for any County of Haliburton purpose, including, but not limited to advertising and promotional materials, its website, exhibition, and commercial products, including but not limited to County of Haliburton publications. The County of Haliburton will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses".
It's the 'commercial products, the "derivative works" and the "not limited to.." aspects that bother me.

I wrote them an email saying I'd be delighted to contribute to Tourism Haliburton, and I have some worthwhile images for them, but under my terms. I said, instead of the fancy legal terms, why not say something like, "we have the right to use your pictures on our website and even on our printed advertising, but if there's going to be any other use made of it, we will ask your permission first."

I'm sure it will fall on deaf ears but it was cathartic to write it.

Moving forward in 2013

There are some things I want to do with my life going forward. I'm going to be 67 this year. It's now or never! This isn't a New Year's Resolution, simply a goal to make some of the things I've been considering and preparing turn into concrete actions. They include:

  • Consider where I am as an artist. I had a great conversation with Rosa yesterday in which I tried to convince her that by practicing and studying and reading and learning what the rules are (whether you follow them or not) you gain technical expertise and can therefore devote more attention to your art. She responded that all of that was horse manure, just go out and do what your passion tells you. I still think I'm right, in the sense that you can't do that if the technical stuff isn't instinctive but I do get what she's saying.
  • Commercialize or monetize. Don't get me wrong, I hate blogs that are constantly and transparently trying to sell you something (the ones written by NAPP staffers come to mind), but at this point I do need some income from this stuff. Again I don't mean the blog... I mean training courses and materials, marketing some photographs, teaching.
  • Explore other media. Writing: there's that novel that really wants to come out of me. Painting: despite my best intentions, I haven't tried it yet. Music: I'll never be any good (not in this life, anyway!) but I get passionate listening to great musicians. 
  • Travel. I want to go places I can experience some of these things before it's too late. I haven't travelled in a long time. I need to.
  • Relationships. I don't want to talk about that here, but it's something I need to address.
It's going to be a busy year.

February is already a busy month: there's an art show I plan to attend (The Artist Project 2013), I'm doing a presentation to the Richmond Hill Camera Club on HDR techniques, and I'm judging a competition at Toronto Camera Club. More to come!

Killer deal from B&H

If you're reading this before the end of 2012, you have to go to the B&H site and see this offer for a Nikon D600 outfit at an $850 discount. I wish it had been there when I bought mine, but then I wouldn't have 3 months of pictures with it under my belt, would I?

There's also my D300 outfit for sale:

If you're interested, I shot this in the light tent with one single off-camera Speedlight (SB600) pointing up. I overexposed it on purpose to blow out the background and I enhanced the detail in Photoshop using Topaz Adjust.

Everything you see here. What a great Christmas gift! Now in my Kijiji ad, I say $1200 (someone else is offering just the camera and lens for $1350 firm! Look at all my goodies!) but if you're reading it here, let's talk. Check out the Kijiji ad for more details or contact me directly!


The world out there hasn't inspired me to shoot much in the past weeks. Maybe with snow on the ground, I'll feel more like getting out there. But in the meantime...

Winter's on its way! But it's not here yet... the lake isn't hard! Here's an unusual shot, you can only get at this time of year (actually you can see this in the dead of winter in fast water).

Iced Cap

The water washing over the rock froze in place. But the lake is still liquid! 

I went back and got my 10x ND filter so I could shoot this 15 second time exposure. The red colour snuck in there: I think it was the sun reflecting off the ND filter. So I emphasized it. Again, the rocks have a cap of ice. 

This ATV was sitting in the parking lot next door. HDR + Oil Paint filter makes it surreal.

This guy was working in the parking lot. He works at the Inn and I don't think I've ever seen him without a cigarette hanging from his mouth. This a really tight crop out of a long telephoto shot.. I just liked the character study. 

I drive past this sculpture all the time: it's on Water Street, one of the main roads into Minden. It's very 'kitch' but I thought it was quite cool in the snow. I fixed the eyes in Photoshop because they were covered with snow, but they realistically match the eyes the sculptor put in there, you can see it in a bear further down.
That's it for this weekend: it's more interesting out there now, let's see what I can come up with for next time!

— 30 —

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twelve twelve twelve

It's the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012
I actually posted a message on the TIF forum at 12:12:12 today, just "because". Someone came back and said, "oh, great. It's the end of the world..."

I've got to stop...
With the lousy weather over the past few weeks, I haven't been out shooting many pictures. As I said earlier, it's hard to get motivated. Add a level of stress on top of that over some personal issues and I've been doing what I do best: eat.

So you understand the labels better, my late father came up with this one. When he was in hospital, I asked if I could bring him anything. He said, "female dark chocolate". When I shook my head and asked what that was, he said, "NO NUTS". Not bad for a guy of 90. Anyway, I come by it honestly. "Hi, my name is Glenn and I'm a choco-holic". This is only PART of my stash...

Anyway that has to stop today, for at least a little while. And getting out for a walk every day. 10 lbs by Christmas?

Get my eBook!

56 iPad sized pages chock full of hints, ideas and examples of how to improve your winter pictures! A fully featured PDF book for only $2, with a 100% money-back guarantee! How can you NOT get a copy? Click here...

Auto-ISO HDR's
I mentioned shooting bracketed shots for HDR, setting the camera to auto-ISO.

To learn more about why and how, go to my tech blog for a short tutorial...

A few images from this week
I did get out to shoot a few images this week other than the HDR's.

This was shot by opening the aperture all the way and focusing short, on something not even in the picture. 

Here's another one. The nice soft round light shapes is called "Bokeh" and the 70-200 lens has a very pleasing one. 

Winter's on its way!

There are icicles hanging on the rock faces where the highway was cut through.  
Some more wallpaper for you!

If you want a new background to look at on your computer, here's one for you! The wallpaper versions of this image do not have the watermark in the corner. I've prepared two sizes, this one for a widescreen monitor and this one for a regular monitor. Just click the appropriate link, then right-click on the image to download it. 

If you do use the image, please let me know by email, or just click the Google +1 icon at the bottom of this post and reference +faczen (I think that's how it works!) If there are any other of my images you'd like to have as wallpaper, drop me a note and tell me which one(s)! And you can get a large sized art print as well! Just send me an email.

I should have some more for you by the weekend. At the very least, I have to shoot for the December Rally on The Imaging Forum (TIF). You can too! It's a great group of 100 friendly, motivated people with lots of tips and discussions and images to share, so come on over! It's free and easy.

— 30 —

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Announcing... my new eBook!

Hot off the presses! Final version (OK, well unless I find more typos!) uploaded 5 minutes ago.

56 iPad sized pages chock full of hints, ideas and examples of how to improve your winter pictures! A fully featured PDF book!

This book has content for everyone from the novice shooter on up: with one caveat — you have to go one step beyond being a point-and-shoot snapshooter and read the manual you got with your camera.

Here's a couple of excerpts:

I’ve deliberately NOT written this in the typical “Tutorial” style. I’ve tried to make it more conversational because I think that you’ll get more out of it if I don’t tell you HOW to do something and I don’t focus on WHAT to do. Instead as you read this, you should understand WHY more, which leaves you free to find your own solutions.
That said, it’s pretty basic. Read the text, look at the images, and you’ll see what I had in mind when I made the pictures.
Unless you’re comfortable, you’re probably going to give up and go inside BEFORE that perfect shot appears, because you’re too cold to sit there and be patient.
Oh, and don’t run with scissors. Your mother told you that. That’s a rule you DON’T break. All the others are fair game.
 I'm excited for several reasons:

  • I met my deadline, it's out in time for the season, just before any serious winter has set in (here, anyway!)
  • It worked out really well! I created it in InDesign and the layout works on the iPad or on the computer, and
  • Everyone who has read it so far LOVES IT!
Is it FREE?

Well... almost. Price of a cup of coffee. $2. And if you're not satisfied when you get it, I'll refund 100% of your money! Just send me an email and tell me you want your $2 back and it's done. Sound fair? (You be fair too, and don't give away free copies...)

How do I get it?

You go to this web page: and click the link button to the Winter Guide. On the next page is a "buy now" button that takes you to Paypal. Once you complete the order, the next page contains a download button. Once you download it, you can right click to save it.

Someone showed me that if you download it in Safari on an iPad, just tap on the document and a pop-up menu will let you save it to iBooks or whatever your reader is. 

Tell your friends, it's a great stocking-stuffer! 

It's still not quite winter

Still rough taking pictures out there. I did see some likely shots on Friday while driving to Toronto, but I was in a hurry and couldn't stop. I got home after dark. I'll try to get out again tomorrow: there's ice crusted on the rock cuts on highway 35 — I've shot them in years past but they make great images so I want to get some fresh ones.

It did snow a little today, here's the result:

Not much snow yet, but I was intrigued by both the texture and the colour contrast of the pine needles. I used Silver Efex Pro to do some selective colorization and to add a funky border.
I commented a while ago that we had a family of Mallards living on the lake in the bay just off my dock. They're still here: who took the "migratory" out of the "migratory birds"? I'm told they'll leave when we get hard water, and then they go to the Toronto Islands where the fast flowing water doesn't freeze. Can you say "global warming"?

This shows what kind of a day it was today. Snow mixed with rain and fog.  
That's it for pictures. I've been too busy writing and editing and publishing and... more to come!

And buy my eBook!

— 30 —

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Spinning Wheels

The title of this week's blog post is allegorical. No, I'm not out there on the ATV, spinning wheels in the ice and snow... I'm in here, biding my time, waiting for winter.

Or more correctly, waiting for this crummy weather to end. I LIKE winter. I revel in crisp, white, squeaky snow. I enjoy getting out and walking in it, I have fun clearing it, shovel and snowblower last year and ATV this year, I like putting on a down jacket and boots and hat and gloves and seeing my breath. Or watching big fat snowflakes fall.

What woke me up this morning was the sound of rain on my roof. The snow on the ground is gone, there's a steady downpour going on out there. I DON'T like cold, damp, rainy days, the temperature hovering a touch above freezing, a cold rain, gloomy days even at 11am (when I'm writing this). I said I'd try to do something more upbeat this week, but it's really hard when it's so ugly outside.

The trick is to stay inside. So the other day (yes, it's been going on for a while), I threw another log on the fire, made a fresh pot of coffee, and sat down to catch up with some of the stuff that needs doing. I find myself forgetting things, or not doing them because they're not top-of-mind, so I made a "To Do" list and posted it on the fridge. Not for short term things, but for projects and the like. There are actually 16 items on it (18 now, I thought of two more and pencilled them in). Daunting. Do I do them one at a time in prioritized sequence, or try to multi-task? In the 3 days since I wrote it, I've addressed exactly ONE of the items, and that because I had to. Today might be the day...

Speaking of staying inside

What's a more welcoming assault on the senses than a cheery roaring fire? How about the smell of freshly baked bread?


...and after!  

I forced myself to go out and shoot a couple of pictures this morning, in the rain. The Inn across the road still had their Christmas tree lights lit (see? Daylight, and they're still bright!), so I thought I'd try again for a mood picture. Pictures don't have to be pretty all the time, do they?

I took a few frames, not liking what the metering was giving me when I looked at the back of the camera, then when I got inside, I put them together in HDR Efex Pro. I chose a monochrome preset, then masked out the lights with a couple of control points. A vignette in Lightroom 4 finished it off.  

In contrast, the same scene a couple of days ago looked like this. See what I mean about winter?

Not quite there. Wait until the snow's a foot deep and there's some structure in the sky! There's more processing in this image, an HDR, masked layers in Photoshop, and a white vignette this time in Lightroom. Although it's colder out, there's a sense of warmth and invitation in this image.

Automatic ISO revisited

While I was at it this morning, I shot a few frames on Auto-ISO. I still haven't done it right for testing and reporting purposes, though. I was on "A" (aperture-priority) and the camera bumped up against the upper limit I had set, so I didn't get true ISO bracketing, it selected a slower shutter speed for the lighter shot, while maxxing out the ISO at 6400.

It works pretty well, actually. The 3 exposures were at ISO 1400, 5600 and 6400 and although there is some noise in the composited image, it's not bad and Lightroom took care of a lot of it. I used a couple of control points in Nik HDR Efex to bring the red flag saturation back in.  


As some of you know, I run a First Aid supply company. I also have some medical issues including two persistent cancers. Back in 2006, I created a free Emergency Medical Information Card for myself and then posted it for other people to download.

I believe that everyone should carry an Emergency Medical Information Card in their wallet or purse. Maybe you don't have any allergies or medical conditions that emergency staff should know about, but shouldn't you have something that tells them whom to contact in an emergency, that tells them who your doctor is?

So here's the link to an interactive .pdf form. You open it and fill it out (nothing goes out online, it's completely private), then print it out. You can laminate it at Staples like I do. I strongly urge everyone to print one out for themselves and all their loved ones.

Here's the link again. Cut and paste it to an email to people you care about.

There is absolutely no cost asked or implied. All that I ask is maybe that you visit my blog from time to time and tell others about it.

Some Wallpaper for you

On a cheerier note, I decided to emulate one of the other bloggers I read regularly (Anne McKinnell. She and her husband are embarking on their second nomadic year in a motorhome, and posts great images from the wonderful places she visits that put you vicariously there I have to figure out how she managed to build up 30,000 followers!).

She selects the occasional image and makes it available as wallpaper (the computer kind. I have a very eclectic mix of followers here...). Many people like to change their background images from time to time, and I thought I'd offer some of mine occasionally. Here's the first one.

The wallpaper versions of this do not have my watermark in the corner and you are free to use them non-commercially. I prepared two sizes: this one is for a wide-screen monitor, and this one is for a regular monitor. Simply click the appropriate link, and right-click the image to download it 

If you do use the image, please let me know by email, or just click the Google +1 icon at the bottom of this post and reference +faczen (I think that's how it works!) If there are any other of my images you'd like to have as wallpaper, drop me a note and tell me which one(s)!

One last thing...

A few months ago, I mentioned that I have a source for full coloured, double sided, full bleed photographic business cards for $20 for 1000 cards. An incredible price. How about making some as a Christmas gift for someone (or for yourself!). Here's a link to the original post or drop me a note by email for more information. Time's running short!

— 30 —

Monday, November 26, 2012

Setting the mood

Photo ops are all around me (us). Although it can be argued that this isn't the most photogenic time of year (snow is finally sticking to the ground as I write this – YAY! But not enough to plow with my new ATV...) but up to today, just shades of grey and brown prevailed. The thing is, though, you also have to be in the mood and I'm not.

November is almost over and I have only about 300 shutter activations. I didn't go anywhere, but it should have been at least 5x that many. I've just been distracted by business and financial challenges. Without going into a lot of detail, anyone with an online business, who sees a change in their sales pattern, should go check what's going on. Turns out a software glitch at my shopping cart supplier prevented any but existing customers from placing orders and I was essentially down for several weeks before I caught it. There's a lesson here, folks: if something is different, find out why.

As I alluded earlier, I've been spending some time writing. My book is a little stalled (I go to bed dreaming about plot variations but haven't tied into one yet!). Anyone who thinks writing fiction is easy is dead wrong. And you can't start a book with, "It was a dark and stormy night...".

I've also been working on a companion photography guide to the Fall Colours eBook I put out a couple of months ago. "Winter Wonderland" is almost finished, I should be able to get it out this week. Watch for it: about 70 iPad-sized pages on how to take better winter pictures. It's actually written: but I've decided, at Jason Anderson's suggestion, to use Adobe InDesign to publish it. Since I'm an old (very, very old!) Quark Express guy, and there's an historical connection between the programs, the learning curve is somewhat shorter than it normally would be. Learning as I go, though. Trying to figure out how to make hyperlinks show up right now!

Almost a horror story

It could have been. Imagine losing ALL your photo archives. One of my two 2Tb external drives failed. Fortunately it did so 'slowly', so I was able to retrieve everything, but there were some scary moments. I have two 2Tb (and one 1Tb) Western Digital "My Book" external drives. I chose them because (1) I'm a cheap bastard and they were the most economical, and (2) I preferred drives with separate power sources (AC power as opposed to USB power) under the impression that they would be more reliable.

When I did my monthly SyncToy syncing between the drives (the 1Tb is full and retired), there were some signs that everything was not perfect. The "L" drive, the one I kept offsite (more on that in a minute) would sometimes not show up on the computer. I was able to get it back by unplugging and reconnecting the power cord. Hmmm. To make a long story short, I decided not to rely on it and I brought it back to Costco where I had bought it last April.

I know that because, even though I didn't have the bill, they had a record of my purchase and took it back for full credit, no questions asked. IMHO, Costco is a great place to do business. After some discussion with the tech guy at Costco, I decided to change to the WD "Passport" drive which was a few bucks more, but he told me, more rugged. I STILL need to buy a third one, though. Let's see what happens on Boxing Day, and I'd like a 3Tb unit since my 2Tb's are about 65% full.

So one leg of my backup strategy will be changed. Since I don't have a separate place to keep a copy (I work at home, only one physical location), I've kept the "L" drive in a padded bag under the seat of my car. Everyone knows not to subject a hard drive to vibration or movement while it's in operation, but I've come to the realization that it should be babied even when it's not plugged in. So my "L" drive is now going to my mother's apartment in Toronto. I'll continue to mirror the drives once a month, and I also keep copies of my uploaded images and Lightroom catalogues on the internal drive in the computer. And on the laptop.

The message here? If you don't have a well-thought-out and properly implemented backup strategy, you need to. What better time to put it in place than right now?

Early Adoption... good or bad?

Over time, I've avoided being an early adopter of either new hardware or software. Let other people find out about glitches and shortcomings. But you get sucked in...

I've "Early Adopted" three things in the past few months:

  • Lightroom 4. Almost a disaster. It worked sluggishly, AdobĂȘ (I use an accented 'e' when I'm saying mean things about them) didn't acknowledge the problem for a long time and still haven't, although they've fixed it. 
  • Photoshop CS6. Flawless. It did all the things that CS5 did and then some. There's a learning curve especially on the new stuff, but unless you're doing leading edge stuff, you can always do it the old way. My favourite feature? The oil paint filter.
  • Nikon D600. I hope I don't jinx things by speaking too soon, but this was a great move. Yes, there were issues early when AdobĂ© didn't support it in Lightroom or Camera Raw, but versions 4.2, and especially the 4.3 Release Candidate have addressed that. There are so many outstanding features, but the fact that I can bring up a 100% crop and have it look tack sharp onscreen is awesome. 
So should you be an early adopter? No. But on the other hand...

The Tripod story

I'm not going to give you all the details yet, because I'm waiting for one more email from Danny Lenihan, the president and CEO of 3LeggedThing in England, but I wanted to get this timely message out. (1) They have undoubtedly provided the best customer service I've experienced in years, and (2) their product is superb. It's half the price of the equivalent Gitzo, and it has features you wouldn't believe. I'll write another review when I get that email from Danny, clarifying a few points.

Now they've come out with a new generation, first introduced at PhotoKina in September, and I now have one. It's slick. Better than the old one, but that's like saying that a Bentley is better than a  Jaguar (I know, it's really a Ford, but, you know what I'm saying). You can buy the v. 1.1 Brian tripod complete with the AirHed for $329 at B&H until the end of November. That's $120 savings. I think the new generation one will be just shy of $500. Your call, and here's the link

Automatic ISO bracketing

I'm still playing with that feature, which I'm given to understand was made available by Nikon as early as the D200. But it's really useful with a camera like the D600 with which you can jump up to really high ISO numbers and still have acceptable noise levels. I also heard that Canons can't do it.

The trick is to hold a constant aperture and shutter speed, and achieve a 3-shot, 2-stop bracketed series by changing ISO. I don't have good results to report yet (or bad ones) because I haven't shot much for a while.

I'm experimenting but if you want to try it, here's the deal: go to manual so the camera doesn't screw with your aperture/shutter speed. If I can shoot my middle exposure at ISO 1600 or better, I can get the full 2-stop bracket I'm looking for. I'm holding minimum shutter speed at 1/500 for the 400mm lens and at 1/250 for the 70-200mm. Once I see how an HDR renders, I'll report on it here. 

Setting the mood

On to the title subject. I had a sort of funny discussion with Rosa the other day. Follow me here. Rosa is my artist friend and she really knows her stuff. She's a classically trained artist and sees things differently from you and I (OK, well me, anyway). The other day, she talked to me about balancing areas of light and darkness, the same way you would balance colours (yeah, like I really do that. {/sarcasm}). She hates the whole HDR thing, thinks pictures shouldn't be in tack-sharp focus from edge to edge, and holds up her hands in a cropping gesture a lot while looking at my images. She kind of sneers when I use the phrase "Rule of Thirds".

Anyway, the discussion went like this. She said to me that although some of my colleagues shoot technically better than I do (ouch!), she says what I do is capture moods and feelings and they don't. "Maybe they win competitions, but I like your pictures better". 

The funny part of the discussion was that she said to me, "you should shoot early in the morning when the light is better", as if it was a revelation from the Gods. It was as though she had never heard me say that or read any of my teachings! I've had the same kind of breakthrough in motorcycling: after years of riding and teaching, I remember saying and believing it as though a bolt of lightning suddenly came down from the sky, "you have to look where you want to go!". Non-riders won't get it, but one day it's as if something exploded in your head and you finally GROK (look it up) the concept. I don't know if this paragraph makes any sense, maybe you had to be there and hear the nuances, but 'yeah, ok...'.

So speaking of mood, here are a couple of recent images that she liked.

It was kind of a bleak day, but we both were taken by the surreal forest.
She said the light doesn't have to be dramatic all the time. 

I just thought I'd throw in a picture of Rosa I took on the same dull morning. I used the birch trees to frame her and I added just a touch of pop-up flash fill (-1eV, if I recall) to balance the light on her face.

This image is from a couple of days ago. I took the ATV for a ride and tried to beat the sunset to the end of the peninsula, to capture the sky across the lake. It was a bust: I was too late, and the sky wasn't that great, and the landscape was boring. However, there was this boat on a dock and the setting sun gave it a warm glow. I put the 10x ND filter on and shot a 15 second exposure which gave the water a smooth texture. I burned in the background a little to remove distractions, and increased the saturation a few percent.  

I knew I saw something when I shot this a couple of weeks ago, the first frosty morning of the season. The light filtered through the stand of trees in the background and lit up the tuft of reeds and grass. It was after seeing this that Rosa said I should seek out the dawn light. I hope this reproduces well: I'm going to try to print it. 
So kind of moody shots this week. None of them are HDR's, by the way. With fresh snow falling and the Christmas lights up at the Inn across the road, I'll try to do something more upbeat for next week. 

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Trying a couple of new things

Last week I posted that it had been raining pretty steadily and it was tough to get out and shoot pictures. This week too: although there was at least one nice day, Life got in the way and I didn't shoot much. I did go out... but didn't bring much back.

I'm loving the D600

It's taking some getting used to. The quality is so good that you think you can get away with snapshooting, but the laws of physics still apply and so do the rules of photography. Handheld 1/20 second exposures don't work, even with this marvellous beast.

What I like about the camera is exemplified by these two less-than-wonderful shots. Let me show them to you, then explain.

This is about a 200% crop from the snapshot above. I did not do ANYTHING to it except crop it.

This is almost a full width shot, obviously cropped vertically. 

So what do I love? Look at the sharpness, the detail of these images. It takes me back to the days of shooting Hasselblads in the film days. I took the car shot because it's the first day of frost, the promise of winter to come. Boring snapshot. But when I blew it up and saw the incredible detail...

The ducks? I I startled them while walking along near my dock. Shouldn't have: I was wearing camouflage colours and walking quietly, but the ducks know it's hunting season. They were, I'd estimate, 200 m away and when they flushed, I brought up the camera and snapped a couple of frames, never expecting to see anything. Not even the 400mm lens, just the 200mm and on the full frame D600, that doesn't reach out and touch anywhere near as far as it did on the crop sensor in the D300. And yet look how crisp: you can even see individual feathers and water drops from their takeoff runs. Here:

The wing blur is because the shutter speed was 1/320 sec.  

This camera is a winner. Especially with the 70-200 f/2.8 VR lens.

Here's something else the D600 does

I'd have to check the D300 manual, but I don't know if it does Auto ISO. I started playing with that when I mounted the 400mm lens and was contemplating switching to shutter-speed priority because  I've yet to get a good shot with that lens under 1/500 sec. So I thought I'd try it: I set auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed of 1/500. Then I shot a 3-frame burst from my car window (open). Now admittedly, this wasn't at 400mm, but this is a new concept for me: bracketing shots using ISO instead of shutter speed.

Auto-ISO HDR. This seemingly abandoned off-road Jeep is called the "Mud Duck" (as above, you can easily read the name painted on the hood to the right of the duck decal). The lens was at 120mm. The three shots were at 1/500 sec at f/4.5, ISO's 1400, 5600 and 6400. A whole world of high-ISO shooting is opening up with this camera.

Windstorm takes down big tree

On Monday, we had some very unusual weather. Rain and strong winds, but from the South. Usually the winds here are from the West, across the lake, or from the North. The unusual South wind broke a huge pine tree beside my house in half. The tree fell in my neighbour's yard, and luckily it missed his house by inches.

With the help of my neighbour Jim Walker who lives two doors away (and who's going in for surgery tomorrow – today actually since it's after midnight. Kidney cancer. They say they'll be able to get it all. I wish him well), and his chain saw, we cut the tree up into chunks and tossed it back over my fence.

Now my intention was to drag the tree pieces over to the brush pile behind my garage, when I got my ATV back from service. New stator. It came back this morning, so I did my first meaningful job with it.

Using some heavy duty tie-down straps as a tow rope, it took about 5 trips to the back to bring the wood to the brush pile. Actually fun! 

While I was working on it, it occurred to me that I had read that the D600 did automatic in-camera timelapse. What happens is, you set it up and when it's done, it combines the individual shots into a video. I hope this works: I'm uploading the time lapse video here.

Then I thought, as long as I'm doing a video, I might as well do a real one!  So here's another one, not timelapse, shot as a full 1080p video from the D600!

Edit: pretty crummy quality. Here's a direct link to an uploaded version, much higher quality.

The full video was over 600Mb in size! So I imported it to MS Windows MovieMaker, laid a sound track over it and saved it as a smaller file. That gave me a .wmv file which I converted to an .mp4 at reduced quality, so this is only 19Mb in size. Hope it works!

Edit: pretty crummy quality. Here's a direct link to an uploaded version, much higher quality.

For some reason the videos don't run in Google Chrome, at least not on my computers. They work fine in IE9 and with Safari on the iPad. I'm not sure why, perhaps one of my readers might enlighten me.

By the way, the music track is my own. The first one with a harmonica and a blues backing track, the second one just me on my Yamaha keyboard. I recorded both with my iPhone and uploaded them to the computer.

Lots of fun! Lots of new things to try!

One last image

They replaced an old blocked culvert under Red Umbrella Road. It was a Rainy Day... I was taken with how the fluorescent colours on the workers' coats stood out, so I helped it along using Nik Silver Efex Pro and selective masking. Does that shovel look like it's about to scoop the guys up? 

That's all for now! Catch you next week.

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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Some featured images

Just a short post today. It's been tough to get motivated to get out to shoot pictures when it's been raining pretty well every day. And sometimes you have other things on your mind and keeping you busy.

Long-time readers of my blog will of course have noticed that the format has changed. I got rid of the black background and changed the width and fonts a bit to make it easier to read. I haven't abandoned Blogspot yet: I tried Wordpress for a while a couple of years ago, but I'm comfortable with this platform and don't want to go through the learning curve. If this were a monetized blog, I imagine I would have to switch over, but this serves my purpose for now. Let me know what you think and if I should modify anything.

Hurricane Sandy hit with a vengeance this week, of course. Not here, thankfully, although the rain I mentioned is from the fringes of that storm. My son in New York city was affected, of course: but according to emails, his home is high and dry and has power, work is a challenge though because he works in midtown Manhattan. My sister lives in White Plains and was more affected: she sent an iPhone picture of the tree branch that came down and killed her power. As I understand it, the whole area is without power and I don't know how long they'll be down. They've found some space with a friend and they're safe, but not at home.

Pictures featured

One of my images was reviewed by Jason Anderson on his blog, last Wednesday. He liked the image, but his comments made me think about one thing I didn't consider while planning the shot (it was planned, as I told Jason). Read his blog to find out what that was: and for great ongoing photo tips and information. Jason's OK for a Canon shooter (LOL).

This is the image Jason reviewed. 
And one picture that I submitted to the Richmond Hill Camera Club did well, taking second place in the assigned category for advanced shooters:

Again, very much a planned shot. I shot this last May when on a photo tour with Linda Cresswell. She's got an excellent travel and nature portfolio up at worth visiting. We've shot together several times, including up in Wawa last November.

Speaking of Wawa, this is the week for the Gales of November Workshop, facilitated by Rob Stimpson. Take a moment to view his portfolio at His images are compelling and inspiring. They've had some challenges up there too, with the Trans-Canada Highway washing out. It's still out and the Michipicoten Indian Reserve is still cut off as far as I know. Greyhound bus lines have had to cancel their transcontinental service for a week: Rosa's brother was supposed to travel to Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands) in Coastal BC last week, but has been delayed. I think he's getting under way on Tuesday.

Four prize-winning images this month were taken by people accompanying me on mini-tours. I obviously can't take credit for their images, but I can for putting them in the right place at the right time! I'm working on more mini-tours, watch for details here...

My new (to me) ATV

As I mentioned earlier, I've swapped my motorcycle for an ATV. It was delivered last Wednesday. It's not perfect (we're addressing an electrical issue but Bob, the seller, is standing behind it and will get it fixed. I've had it out a few times now, but have to address some issues. It's a great platform for getting into the bush with my camera. I'm going to go easy and not push it, though. Although I'm an experienced motorcyclist, it's different and I need some time to learn how to ride it. Here's a picture I did the day it arrived (in the rain, of course!)

I couldn't decide whether to post the full coloured image or this selective coloured one. I like them both! This is a 3-exposure HDR with my D600, 2 stops apart. I'm beginning to get more comfortable with that option instead of the 5-shot brackets I used to do with the D300. It is a Polaris Sportsman 700, vintage 2002/3, with a snowplow as you can see. Although it's low mileage, it's lived an outdoor life so cosmetically it isn't great but the engine's strong and it's just what I need for clearing the snow.  

This HDR image was processed with Photomatix Pro instead of Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, which for some reason I've been using more frequently these past months. I find Photomatix works better for grungy subjects like this one. What's interesting is that I did NOTHING to this picture except to open it in Photomatix, and accept the default toning preset. The ATV shot worked better in HDR Efex though. Go figure.
Reworking an old image

I was looking through some old images and wondered if I could make them better with the software I have today, and with the knowledge and experience I now have. It's sobering to look at old stuff, that I thought was really great then but which wouldn't meet my current standards. That isn't to say that I didn't get some good shots then, but I feel like I've grown a lot since then. Here's one...

This shot was taken at Cape Spear in Newfoundland in 2006, with my D70.  I opened it in CS6 and used two different treatment layers, both with Topaz Adjust 5. I wanted to bring back the feeling of a foggy, rainy day, and yet spotlight my bike. By the way, it's parked on the left side of the road because it stands very vertically on the sidestand and I needed the camber of that side of the road to keep it from falling over.

This image was one of those featured in my Blurb book, "The Path of Least Potholes" which you can access on the right side of this blog. I'd really like to get back there again. Newfoundland is such an awesome place.

That's it for today. Please share my blog with your friends and colleagues, I'd appreciate an increased audience. More and more people tune in regularly — my hits are up about 50% in the last year, but more growth would be great!


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