Saturday, April 28, 2012


What's Going On?
As I usually do, first I write about what's happening for a bit, then I get into the topic of the day. Or of the week, actually. Let's see...

Computer and software-related stuff
Sort of slow times here right now and I've been trying to understand why. Then I realized how much time I've been spending on the computer (those who know me will say, "yeah, what else is new?") but it's even more than usual these days.

There are days like yesterday when a sticky printer problem took up most of my day. It's fixed, but don't ask me how...I've spent lots of time trying to get Lightroom 4 working. Adobe even thanked me publicly for a detailed report I posted on their forums. I don't think they've had their "AHA!" moment yet, with the solution.

I also installed a third external hard drive (WD 2Tb "MyBook" at Costco for $129). Copying my archive over took about 18 hours but I didn't have to sit and watch it, it ran overnight. I finally have an off-site backup.

My workshop/book project is still under way. I try to spend a minimum of 3 hours per day working on it, with some measurable results but I'm not there yet. All of this stuff has taken a lot of my time and attention.

CS6 is out
If you're a NAPP member, you know that. Also if you read industry blogs. Seems like that's all everyone is talking about, but I'm not jumping on the bandwagon yet. Wait and see whether it's another Lightroom 4 fiasco.

The Nikon D800
I've seen some reviews and pictures from people I know who now have one and I'm more than envious. I'm saving my nickels, maybe for my birthday in September. But a consideration has arisen: Imagine working with 40Mp files instead of 10Mp. You may even need a new computer to handle the load, certainly bigger storage drives. Plus FX lenses...  still the performance is spectacular, particularly high ISO images.

Upcoming Events
I've got several photography shooting events coming up.
  • Mid-May, there are a couple of friends coming up to shoot trilliums and whatever else here in the Highlands. Touch bases if you want to join them
  • June 10th is my friend Styles' motorcycle charity ride to benefit the Vaughan Hospital, for which I'm principal photographer. If you want to shoot interesting bikes and bikers, drop me a note and I'll arrange for you to participate as well.
  • June 13/14, the Algonquin Park Moose workshop with Mike Bertelsen. I'm really looking forward to that one but I need more practice with my 400mm lens!
  • July. I've set aside the first 2 or 3 weeks and would really like to go somewhere. I've been thinking Newfoundland again but the gas alone would cost about $600! New Orleans? I've ALWAYS wanted to go there. Maybe I'll just do that 'around Lake Superior' trip I planned a couple of years ago. I know where to stay in Wawa!
I read a bunch of other peoples' blogs on a regular basis. I use an RSS feed on the iPad. Lately, everyone's writing about CS6 but here and there, there are some gems and great stuff to look at. Look up +Anne McKinnell — she and her husband are RV'ing around North America and has some great stories and images. There's +Dan Bailey in Alaska with some great stuff and there's a fellow by the name of +David duChemin who travels to a lot of exotic places and whose images and tales are compelling. These people are all on Google+ — I hope I've got the hang of tagging them correctly.

OK, the topic of the week...
When I come across a scene or a subject that I want to photograph, I'm trying to discipline myself to visualize what I'm trying to make out of the image. Sure, a duck or other bird goes flying by and you just want to grab the shot and/or practice with your 400mm lens,

Majestic, or really ugly? This is a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and I think it's incredibly beautiful in flight, if you can ignore its ugly head! This was shot at 300mm, 1/1000 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800 and cropped. I wish I had been at 400mm because the head's not as detailed as I would have liked.
I was out for a walk down Pleasant Point Road (a dirt road around the corner from me) and spotted this old lantern that someone (my neighbour Vic, I think) had hung up as decoration on his signpost. I immediately visualized it as an HDR and took the appropriate 5 bracketed exposures.

Old Lantern. Edited with Photomatix Pro and toned with Topaz Adjust 5. I threw in some other effects with Nik plugins too. Over the top? Sure, but I think that's just what this shot needed.
A few meters further down the road, I veered off on a trail through the woods, where I saw an open area, dominated by the trees instead of the brush. The thing about forest scenes is that they don't seem to have a single subject that stands out, so that's what I was trying for with this shot:

Open Forest. It's in black and white because I found the colours distracting and they took away from the strength of the three trees. In hindsight, I should have moved a few inches to the right to separate the middle tree from the left one. Although I did shoot several bracketed exposures, HDR did nothing for this scene because it had a low contrast tonal range to begin with.
When I set up to take this shot, I thought about some of the rules I had learned. What I wanted to do was to balance the image, by taking the 3 big trees off centre and using the grove of smaller trees for counterbalance. There is a diagonal line there, but it doesn't draw the eye. I look in the gap in the big tree triangle. Right or wrong, I do like this image.

Next, I moved forward and to my left. Now I was trying to use the diagonal, to carry the eye into the scene.

Forest Glade. Again where does the eye go? In the grouping of trees at the right, not the left! Why? It's because of the light and because the diagonal draws you there. I made it black and white again, but I found the red tones of the leaves on the ground really added to the scene, so I put them back in. There's quite a bit of post-processing in this shot.
I find this image compelling. Next time I shoot it, I'll do it from lower down, to include more foreground, I think. To me, what makes this image is the light and the contrast between foreground and background, which was actually not there in the scene, which I created on the desktop! I enhanced the brightness on the forest floor behind the trees and I added the fog and the light streaming through the trees. Notice how the appearance of the light coming from upper right is created by the angle of the green branches on the trees at right!

What's my point? When I stood there contemplating how to shoot this scene, I thought, "I wish it was foggy" so the trees in the foreground would be separated visually from the background. What you see here was not what I actually saw, but rather what I VISUALIZED. Here's what I actually saw:

The original scene
The resulting toned image is what my MIND saw, when my EYES saw the original. I was fortunate in being able to enhance the picture to match what I wanted it to be.

When I wake up to a foggy morning, you can bet I'll be out there again. I'll post the picture here when I get it! But I'll be back...

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