Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spinning Wheels and Traction

Have you ever had a period of time when you feel like you're making no progress whatsoever? Silly question: we all have. When you wake up in the morning to the same to-do list as yesterday and you go to bed with the sense that you've done absolutely nothing proactive all day? It's been like that for me for a while now, but I'm beginning to get some traction, I'm on the cusp.

Something has to click to get you moving. Sometimes it's not just one thing, it's a combination of circumstances and inputs, but today I feel like I've begun to get under way. I think the problem I had up to now was too long a list of things I want to do, so in the end I did nothing.

Some people work doggedly away at tasks, little bites at a time until eventually it gets done. I don't work that way — never have. I like to develop a concept mentally, then when I grok the gestalt, I leap into action and do the whole thing all at once. I was going to say that's the wrong way, but I don't think there's a right and a wrong, it just "is". Am I making any sense? Especially given my mixed usage of terms from different genres?

So for me, spinning my wheels is when I'm stuck on a concept (how's that for mixing a metaphor?). One or two of them have now come unstuck. (1) I know how I want to teach photography workshops and (2) I know how the course material should look (well not "look", but "be"). Now I can move forward with it and my goal is to be ready to start teaching by the end of April. Watch this space to see how I do.

What got me unstuck? Not just a single thing, several. The main one, though, is engendered in this word: "simplify". On the surface, it contradicts what I said two paragraphs ago, but not really. I see the whole concept but instead of taking a parallel approach, focus on one thing at a time. I learned this when I came across an eBook by +Anne McKinnell called "Before the Shutter" (it's a free download, you can get it here). She devoted 28 pages to one topic: "Plan before you Shoot". This isn't a comment on the topic; it's about her approach to it. By the way, it is a terrific concept and worth reading, It's also worthwhile visiting her site and reading about her lifestyle, something that I'm only one lottery win away from emulating!

Why did I write all this? Two reasons: if I write it down I have to do it or someone is going to call me on it, and maybe it will help a couple of my readers who are also stuck. Oh, and it plants the seed that if you are a beginning photographer or you teach novice shooters, I may have something for you Real Soon Now.

Early Adopters:
why I'm not one or at least want to avoid being one.

Every time I do it I kick myself. You'd think I would have learned by now. Not only is it an incredible waste of time and resources, but it generates a whole new level of frustration. So the watchword is "be patient".

I did NOT install Lightroom 4 Beta. At least I did that right. But when Adobé (I spell it that way because of the very funny spoof, "Fotoshop by Adobé" which you should watch on YouTube) came out with the full Lightroom 4.0 release, I bought and installed it. For me there were more bugs in it than there are mosquitos in Tuktoyaktuk in late spring, and it was totally unusable. I had to find convoluted ways to revert to LR3.6 without losing any work. At this writing, I've installed the LR4.1 Release Candidate, which seems to be working but I'm not doing any serious work in it until they make it official.

"So let it be with Photoshop". There are all kinds of new and wow! tools announced in CS6, but I'm not jumping in yet. I'll wait until the final release is out, even version 6.1 if I'm smart. Besides, I don't think I'm going to be able to run it on my antiquated dual-core-Vista 32- 2Gb RAM laptop so it's going to be an expensive upgrade. That said, if you're new to Photoshop or if you are still running an older version, you should probably upgrade to version CS5.5 now, because it comes with a free upgrade to CS6 when the time comes. Here's the link. It's an especially good deal if you qualify for the Educational pricing.

Besides, I'm saving my nickels (not pennies any more: they've done away with those, finally!) for a Nikon D800. Again, though, I'm waiting (OK, that has more to do with the $3000 price tag and lack of availability!). For instance, I'm not sure it's supported by the software yet, and besides, think about the file sizes with a 36Mp sensor! One of my backup 1Tb drives is already full! Logically, it'll be my birthday present to myself in September if nothing untoward happens between now and then.

I really need to join this century. I absolutely refuse to join FaceBook or Twitter, but a new eBook by +Guy Kawasaki called "What the Plus" has convinced me to at least TRY Google+. I'm pretty sure I'm not doing it quite right, but at least I'm getting my Social Networking feet wet. If you're on Google+ you can find me by searching for "Faczen"or just clicking here. Now if I understand correctly, you're not supposed to ask people to add you to their circles, so I'm not (wink, wink!).

New Stuff to photograph!
People have commented that they're amazed how I come up with new things to photograph within a few mile radius of my home. Especially considering I've been here going on 5 years. I did it again yesterday!

I ventured over to Horseshoe Lake Road where the Minden Wildwater Preserve is. It was cold: just around the freezing mark, but there were people already out there in their kayaks! I'm looking forward to another great summer shooting there, and I took this one picture yesterday as a reminder:

Kayaks on the Gull River in Early Spring. I wanted to capture the fluorescent bright colours of the kayaks and still convey the feeling that the river is freezing cold, just after ice-out. So I used Lightroom 4.1's effective clarity controls, then took it into Nik Silver Efex to finish it. First I made it monochrome, using some tone controls to bring the rocks and river to where I wanted them, then I dialed the colours back in by adding in a series of control points. I thought it deserved a rough border to match the water texture, also in Silver Efex. Back in Lightroom, I adjusted the colour temperature. I like it more every time I look at it!
There are a couple of working farms on Horseshoe Lake Road. There were 4 or 5 horses grazing quietly in one field, and I thought I'd practice with the 400mm lens, in anticipation of the moose workshop in Algonquin Park scheduled for June. You know the expression, "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me"? Yeah, well I did it again. Camera on Manual, not Aperture or Shutter Speed priority. I wondered why my pictures were all over-exposed! But the big thing was: 1/125 sec shutter speed with a 400mm lens doesn't work well handheld.

That said, I did pretty good.

Equine Portrait. I didn't initially go for the black-and-white look, but in a brainstorm, I brought it into Silver Efex again and started working with some other effects. I love the tonality of the animal. This shot wasn't that simple: I had to clone out some stuff (like a post right under the horse and some fence wires) and there was nothing in the sky so I added a graduated screen and then rendered a cloud layer to add interest. This is a 'keeper' for me!
As I stood there, one horse, for no apparent reason, decided to go for a sprint! I rattled off about a dozen frames (sure wish I had been at a higher shutter speed!). By the way, I have to learn to burn more frames with moving animals. Good practice for June.

Feeling his Oats 1. By panning, you can maintain sharpness even at theoretically too low a shutter speed. I've written about this before and it takes practice. Anyway, I love sharpness and texture, so I used Topaz Adjust 5 to enhance it — not excessively but just enough. Then some other tricks in Lightroom, like selectively bringing up the greens (it's still early spring here!) and I used Nik Color Efex, 'reflector effects' to warm it up and Viveza to bring up the exposure on the face and flank. Too bad he wasn't running towards me instead of across!

Feeling his Oats 2. This took a bit more work. The legs were blurred by the slow shutter speed and the whole thing needed sharpening and his fur (OK, 'hair') needed texture. So using masked layers, I did selective hi-pass sharpening, then blurred the background and legs. Not enough, I added a heavy motion blur which gave it the dynamic I was looking for. Some final toning and an enhanced catchlight in the eye and I was done. You like? I do!
So let's see what I can come up with next time. And a progress report on the courses/manuals!

— 30 —

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Published again!

OK, hold your horses. You know that I'm going to make you read through some irrelevant drivel before I get back to the topic in the heading and any pictures that I have for you to look at are down at the bottom of the post, but that's like the grocery store who makes you walk through all the food aisles to get to the milk cooler, on the off-chance that you might spot something else on impulse and throw it in your cart.

You know who's the master at that? Costco. Who has actually gone into Costco and left with only the items on the list they brought in? Not me. Go in for coffee and toilet paper and come out with 27 items totalling $350. And every one of them a great deal!

This week in review
Where was I? Oh yeah... it's been an eventful couple of weeks, some good, some bad. I haven't been shooting a lot of pictures because I've been spending time responding to a 'request' from CRA (that's the "Canada Revenue Agency" and for my American friends, think "IRS"). Yes, folks, I'm being audited. Fun, eh? OK, it's not all that bad (I hope!) and I should come out OK, but what a waste of productive time and I dread the bill from my accountant. I also had a wicked stomach flu last weekend and I put those events on about the same level of enjoyment.

On the good side of the ledger, we had our "Re-certification Weekend" at Humber College last weekend — it's "train the trainers" time for us motorcycle instructors, and the season is starting anew. I really have to get out of this computer chair and back into exercising on the parking lot. I promised one of my friends I'd lose 10 lbs by the end of April. Let's see if I can! The weather last week was incredible: many degrees above normal for this time of the year, and I unlimbered my motorcycle and rode a couple of hundred kilometers on the dirty sand-covered roads up here. I enjoyed every minute.

The water on the lake is wet again, instead of hard. I didn't see any incidents here, everyone seems to have retrieved their ice fishing huts safely. There was an interesting image or two that I captured.

Someone, or something made this path of raised footprints out onto the lake. Here's what I figure: wherever they walked, they compressed the snow/ice which made it melt later than the untouched surface of the lake. So it looks like a path of raised 'lily pads' heading out across the ice.

This mallard drake was wading in the shallows. That's ice in front of him. Another male landed nearby, and our friend Daffy here decided to defend his territory (and his hen, who's not in the photo) and steamed through the water in attack mode. I did enhance the image with Topaz to bring out the detail in the water and I actually added the sky because the existing one was boring. He let me get pretty close: it's a 400mm shot but he wasn't paying me any attention.
I was in Toronto last weekend as I said: and it's starting to 'green up'. Not here, yet though. You can see the odd daffodil plant beginning to show itself in protected sunny spots, but I ain't taking the snow tires off the car yet. However it did remind me that the time to shoot trilliums is not that far off, and I've sent out invitations to the usual group of characters who come up to enjoy a weekend here. I did repair the barbeque — replaced all the rusty innards with shine new stainless steel. Interesting how much better it is to eat food that's brown instead of black! I debated replacing it instead of fixing it but now that money can be earmarked for a new camera (if CRA leaves me any!).

What else... Adobé (see how I spell that? Tongue implanted in cheek...) has acknowledged the latency/slow problem in Lightroom 4 and said yesterday that there will be a fix released this week. I'm not holding my breath... they also announced a public beta test for Photoshop CS6. No thanks. After the LR4 debacle, I'll wait until the early adopters have already debugged the program. Then they announced that if you buy CS5 now, you'll get a free upgrade to CS6 when the time comes. Worth considering if you need the program.

I want to revisit a link to a site that I brought up last September. It's called "" and you can link to it here. I look at a lot of pictures on the web: friends, NAPP portfolios, etc. but on 1x the photos are to such a high standard, sometimes I feel like throwing away my camera and taking up needlepoint. It's a 'curated' site, so only the best images are approved. I've submitted 2 images, my best, and they were both rejected. I sent in another one today. If I ever get accepted there, you'll hear about it, big time. But looking at the images there is inspiring and as I said, a bit daunting. Go look, it's worth it. You can look at everything in that link or you can choose a genre that interests you.

I need to thank Lance for this one. He sent some links to a magazine publisher who was looking for images to use to illustrate the goings-on of various camera clubs, and the magazine chose my "Boat on a Dock" image to publish. As soon as I see it in print, I'll share the name of the publication here, but I'm honoured and excited to have been chosen to represent the club. But wait, there's more!

OK, this isn't the same thing — remember I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I won the Blurb book contest at the Richmond Hill Camera Club? (by the way, if you're not an RHCC member, you won't be familiar with the talent in that club. Click here and watch the slideshow of winning images from the last competition. Some of the talent there will blow you away). Anyway, I finished the book and sent it in for printing. While I was there, I learned that you can now create an eBook designed to work on an iPad or iPhone and I converted both the new "Winter in Haliburton" book and the previously unpublished "Pathways" book. You can preview both books here and here, or via the widgets at right, and you can download .ePub versions to your iPad for a nominal fee. Very exciting.

I'll leave you with a few pictures. Enroute to Toronto last week, I drove through the hamlet of Argyle and stopped to take a few pictures. I shot some 5-shot bursts and came away with these high-key HDR style images. After the fact, I noticed that there was a huge spiderweb in the door window of the old truck: hope it's still there next time I'm through!

See you next time!

— 30 —

Friday, March 16, 2012

Before & After

BEFORE we get into our subject topic, I want to talk about a couple of other things, then AFTER we'll get to it.

NAPP Membership
I must sound like a broken record but by now you must realize I'm a huge NAPP convert. You do not have to be a Photoshop Professional to be a NAPP member: most are not. You just have to want to learn more about digital photography, and the programs that you use after you've taken the pictures. There are so many features and tutorials and community help resources that I can't count them. Plus discounts galore, conventions and workshops, and to top it off, Photoshop User Magazine (PSU) that comes your way 10 times per year with incredible tips and techniques.

For the first time, you can get a discounted membership, through a partnership between Kelby Training and B&H Photo. One year of membership, with the digital edition of PSU is now only $89. Click this link to take advantage of the discount: I'm not sure how long it's going to be around!

Spring has Sprung
It's amazing. It's as if we didn't have any winter this year. As I write this, it's well up in the double digits (in the 50's, for my American friends!) and there's spotty fog where melting ice and warmer air meet. Everyone loves spring: except me, I guess. I like it later on, but right now it's ugly out there, with mud and bare trees and pools of water everywhere. That said, the birds started chirping yesterday and that promise is in the air. I shot a few pictures yesterday, but no real keepers.

Another sign of spring is the fact that the recertification weekend for motorcycle instructors at Humber College is only a week away! I look forward to seeing everyone, and to the challenge of trying to come up with a group photo of 100 people that's different from the shots of the past several years. A couple of years ago, Dr. Ron came out to help: anyone from the camera club interested it giving it a try this year? It's next Sunday, March 25th. Drop me an email, I'd love some creative input!

Lightroom 4 issues
When Adobe released the production version of Lightroom 4, and especially when they cut the price to $79 for an upgrade, I bought it. I did NOT participate in their Beta because I really didn`t have time to work through all the bugs. Guess what? They missed some. For me, and for many others, the big issue is something called "latency". When you click on a slider or try to do something in the program, there's a delay before the program reacts. Each and every change is accompanied with a couple of seconds delay, so the program was essentially unusable. Adobe didn't acknowledge the problem for a long time, but eventually did. As I write this, they still haven't figured it out (or told anyone about it).

If you're a Lightroom 3 user, I'd hang in there before upgrading, until this is solved. Ditto if you're a new user. Although it doesn't seem to affect everyone. Both Mac and PC people seem to be affected. The good news is, when you install it, it makes a copy of your catalog as it upgrades it, so your original LR3 work is still there, so maybe it's worth the risk. LR4 has some powerful new tools and once it works, it's worth buying.

You can buy it at B&H. The full version is $149, and both the upgrade and student/teacher editions are $79.

Reading Material and Learning Opportunities
I read 6 or 7 or 8 blogs on a regular basis. Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, Patrick Lamontagne, TipSquirrel, Everyday HDR, John Nack (Adobe), Joe McNally... often these are ways to keep up on what's happening out there but in some cases, it's an opportunity to view others' images and learn from them. I've also read RC Concepcion's HDR book and others, to learn new techniques and brush up what I already know.

Today I came across a new one (to me). Scott Kelby mentioned Ben Willmore's blog, Digital Mastery and an article he posted about shooting waterfalls. I love shooting waterfalls, so I wandered over there. Well worth a look! Click the link and enjoy.

Another thing I've been enjoying over the past few days are time lapse videos from the spectacular aurora borealis displays that occurred because of the solar flare activity last week. Many of the best images have come from Alaska and Iceland and Norway. I'm not going to post a link here, just to tell you to Google "aurora borealis" and watch some of the videos. Prepare to be amazed.

Scott Kelby's come out with a new book in his Digital Photography Library series. I don't have it yet, but if it's anywhere near the other 3 books, it's definitely worth getting. Link. The only problem I have with Kelby is that he assumes that everyone has the resources to acquire tons of studio lighting equipment. He`ll say things like, `this softbox is a steal at only $289`, neglecting to mention that you need $1000 of strobes and stands and power supplies and... to use it. But you can get some great ideas out of his tutorials. One he did just recently was ``Lighting Recipes`, which is a FREE app for iPad. From it, I got an idea I wanted to try, without investing in new equipment.

Cheap and dirty...
A lot of his shots are on pure white backgrounds: high key. So here`s what I tried: I set up my SB-600 flash on a stand and precariously balanced my light tent on top of it. I pointed the strobe off to the side so it wouldn`t flash directly at the camera. I set the camera to `commander`mode so that the popup flash would trigger the SB-600. Then I put my subject (OK, me!) between the camera and the strobe so that I would get some backlighting and hopefully a rimlight (that didn`t work, I have to try that part again). Of course with no light on the front of the subject, all I would get would be a silhouette, so I put a reflector off to camera right and sat facing it. Here`s the basic setup

You have to imagine the reflector, off-camera to the right, sitting on a chair. That`s what`s providing the lighting on the face. The only light in the shot is from the single strobe in the background, although I experimented with allowing the camera to see a little bit of the popup flash`s light for a little bit of fill. None in this shot, though.

Here`s an un-processed image, just cropped. There are some problems: notably the contrast due to spill from the heavy backlight, and I don`t like the way the glasses look.
I did some work in the new Lightroom 4 (after getting around some of the teething problems with it). You could do the same in Photoshop, not so much in Lightroom 3 because of the new color adjustment sliders in the adjustment tool. What I did was to paint the glasses with the adjustment brush, then added contrast and saturation and as I said, a bit of colour shift. There are other ways to do that but I was experimenting.

Next I took it into Photoshop, just to do some sharpening and to remove the background stuff, and also to use content-aware fill to expand the lighted background to the corners of the frame. I wanted the gritty unshaven look to stand out. I brought it back to Lightroom and did some spot removal on the glasses and tweaked the exposure a bit more, and a little teeth whitening..
I`m really not unhappy with this image. All with ONE light, my light tent (you could use a white sheet!) and a reflector.

I decided to play a bit more. I wanted to create a new Avatar, and brought it back into Photoshop to add a line-art layer, and then took it into Topaz Adjust 5 for an extreme gritty HDR-like effect. Works great as an Avatar at thumbnail size, but it`s a bit extreme for anything else. Here it is:

Cropped more, rotated a bit, extreme toning and sharpening, and I also painted more keylights in the eyes.

Another Before-and-After
I was going to give up on this shot. Rosa and I were in Unionville last weekend. Great weather but still naked trees! Anyway, two girls stopped us and asked Rosa (not me!!) to take their picture with their camera. Of course I took the opportunity...

Do as I say, not as I do! A long time ago, I preached the you should always reset your camera to default settings when you put it away. I forgot. It was on manual, not aperture priority, and the shot I took was WAY overexposed.

Ouch! At least 2 stops overexposed.
That's the beauty of shooting in RAW: there's more information in the image than you think. So I took it down a couple of stops.

Now EVERYONE knows that shooting in bright sunlight in the middle of the day is a total no-no. Awful lighting, even had it been exposed correctly. Fortunately, there are lots of post-processing tools to use, and I thought I'd try a couple, because I was fascinated by the really soft skin, especially on the girl in the Hijab and wondered what I could do with it. Here:

I used a lot of tricks. Notably Nik Color Efex to add a "glamor glow" and the vignetting, and Viveza to work on some extraneous colors in the background. Then I actually mixed in a line art layer (see my tech blog) to bring some definition back in, some dodging and burning and some painting, notably in the eyes.
I really like the effect, especially on the girl on the right. And it was shot in bright sunlight in the middle of the day!

See y'all next time!

— 30 —

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Finding your Niche

My photos are all over the place. I think the word "Eclectic" was invented for me. I haven't found my niche yet. Or have I?

The National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) rolled out their new website a couple of weeks ago and although the old 'portfolios' will be available for a few more weeks, members have to recreate their portfolio from scratch if they want a continuing presence. For now, they've removed the limit of 24 images and some people have gone nuts and uploaded dozens and dozens. But I think (a) nobody's ever going to look at that many pictures and (b) that's a place where you want to post only the best of the best.
I still haven`t found the correct link syntax so that non-NAPP members can see your portfolio. I`ll post it when I find out. In the meantime, you have to take it on faith. If you ARE a NAPP member, you can see my portfolio here.

Update: it seems it does work. Try it if you`re not a member and let me know if it doesn`t link to my portfolio. 

So in the process of creating a new portfolio, I looked through my keepers and chose the pictures I thought best represent me. So far I`ve uploaded 16 images. It`s interesting that of the 16, 11 of them are landscapes, 2 are architectural, there are 2 of sled dogs and one shot of the band `FOG`. All but two of them are either HDR`s or have been toned in programs like Topaz Adjust 5.

I`ve shot some portraits. Some journalism. I`ve done tabletop studio work. I`ve shot wildlife and I`ve created some abstracts. I`ve done action — whitewater kayaking, hockey, motorcycling — none of these have made it into my top 16.

What that says is, I have found my niche. It is `Post-Processed Landscape Photographs`. These are my favourites. That`s not to say that I won`t put some different work up: in fact I want to add a couple of action shots and some abstract art but clearly my main thing is landscapes and I enjoy making textures and detail stand out. For that reason, I`m seriously considering upgrading to the Nikon D800 in the upcoming months because that camera is dedicated to what I do best.

Speaking of Wildlife photography

John Reed is a friend of mine, whom I met through the motorcycle instructor program at Humber College. He`s also a dedicated photographer but is so low key about it that I haven`t truly appreciated the images that he creates. Recently, John was on a workshop in Yellowstone Park and the images that he brought back are truly outstanding. He gave me permission to publish a link to his online album here. I especially love the wolf pictures towards the bottom of the portfolio. Click on this link for one of my favourite shots, then be sure to click the word `Yellowstone`at the top of the page to view the whole gallery. His other galleries are worth a look too!

John hooked me up with Mike Bertelsen and I`ll be doing a two-day workshop with Mike in June, shooting moose in Algonquin Park. Maybe I`ll have my D800 by then...

More news

A week or so ago, I posted about a Blurb book that I had created in response to a call for entries in a competition at the Richmond Hill Camera Club. It seems that I WON! The committee judged my book the most worthy (and there were some very fine entries so I feel very honoured!). I`m still not ready to put up a link to the book because it`s not yet in printable form, there`s some polishing to do, but I`ll post it soon.

The National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP)  Forums

I`ve mentioned NAPP several times in my Blog over the years, and I HIGHLY recommend joining the organization to anyone who is into digital photography in any way. The learning resources are phenomenal and the subscription to Photoshop User Magazine is more valuable than the $99 annual membership fee (I`ve gone digital: I don`t get paper magazines mailed to me any more). Click here or on the link at right to peruse the site or to join.

As I said at the beginning of this post, NAPP has revised their website. There are many interesting and valuable areas but none more compelling than the Member Discussion Forums. Non-members can browse the forums, but you need to be a member to post messages or replies there. The link is the same (here): members should then create a login (it`s separate from the main site). It`s amazing how many questions about Photoshop, Lightroom, even the plug-ins, printing and general digital photography are answered by the gurus who hang out there. If you`re a NAPP member and you`ve not visited the forums before, please do!

Architectural Images

In my sometimes-not-so-humble-opinion, architectural pictures need to be straight. That doesn`t just mean level, it also means perspective. A vertical wall has to look vertical, not slanted away from you which is what you get especially when you shoot with a wide angle.

On Friday, I shot some pictures for a friend of mine who, among other things, facilitates signage and storefront renovations (Corporate Imaging is their mainstay: everything from signage to t-shirts, from web design to printed literature and logo design. Check out `StylesQ` here). Their website is being totally revamped which is one reason I was out shooting pictures for them but their contact email is working fine). Now I love Styles dearly, he's a great friend (friends will help you move; great friends will help you move a body! LOL) but I think he takes a very unsophisticated view of all things technical, including computer and photography stuff.

He wanted a straight up image of a storefront he did. Here it is.

Everything's pretty straight. I shot it from about 20' in front of the store, straight on, making sure that my reflection was not visible (hidden by the doorframe). I did have to use a wide angle because there's a tree right beside me and I couldn't go back any more. It is what it is, I hate to use the word "boring" but, well, if the shoe fits...
But Styles told me he wanted this picture for his website, to show an example of his work. So I shot it a little differently and then used my post-processing skills to come up with this one:

When you shoot on a angle, things are no longer square. That was the case here, so I used the Lens Correction tool in Lightroom to square it up. I used it in the other picture too, but just a little bit.
I also did some other stuff to the picture: it's an HDR so you can see a broad range of detail. I mixed in a line-art conversion to give some definition and focus to the textures and give it more of a graphic feel; and the vignette keeps the focus on their store, not on the surroundings. Here's another store he did, across the road:

I'd like the opportunity to do more of this kind of work. It's quite a challenge and frankly, I like the results! So if you want to hire me...

Lightroom 4 is out.

Just announced today and it's already available at B&H. The full program is $149 and an upgrade from Lightroom 3 is only $79. How can you not???

So that's it for today!  See you next time.

— 30 —

Friday, March 02, 2012

Magic Time is not just at dawn

When we were in Niagara-on-the-Lake last week, I bought some new wind chimes. And on Monday it was really windy. Not only do they sound great, but they gave me the idea of shooting a long shutter speed flash-enhanced image. The flash stops the motion of the chimes but everything else has a motion blur:

It's a 1/4 second exposure at f/22, ISO 100. You have to stop it down big time to get the long exposure. For a change, I DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to this shot: it's exactly as it came out of the camera. It's not even cropped!

The next night, I went out for a walk. It was cold and crisp, there were stars out although it wasn't perfectly clear, and the moon was waxing gibbous (that means it was around half full, heading towards full. It would have been "waning gibbous" if it was on its way to being a new moon. And you thought you knew everything!). I saw the texture in the fresh snow on the parked car and decided to go back in for my camera. And the tripod, after all it was dark.

Time exposures are very cool and they bring out great and unusual lighting.

There's a car buried under this snowbank! It was really difficult to focus in the dark. I had to wing it. I knew ahead of time that there was going to be some colour in the sky because I've shot there before. It comes from the lights of Minden about 10km away. You can't really tell that this is low light: the exposure was 15 seconds at f/4, ISO 1600. There is a single halogen street light about 50m off to the right. I had to reduce the green colour of the light.
After taking a few shots here, I walked down towards the dock, not ready to go in yet... and I glanced up in the sky. Oh, my Gawd! — I did a double take! Here's what I saw:

I had to look this up. Google is your friend. It seems that ice crystals in the air diffract the light from the moon. The crystals bend the light by 22°, red less than violet so you get a rainbow circle effect that's 44° in diameter.Look it up. Wikipedia says this is not uncommon, but I have to tell you I've never noticed it before. Amazing. This is the same exposure as the previous shot — I tried about 20 or 30 different shots but it turned out that this was the best of the bunch.
The message is, it's not just at dawn and dusk that the light can be magic!

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