Sunday, September 16, 2012

What's Goin' on?

Well for one thing, summer appears to be drawing to a close. We usually get an "Indian Summer" period where daytime temperatures approximate high summer, but the nights are definitely getting cooler and, "the colours are coming, the colours are coming"!

I've extended an invitation to several friends to come up and visit at the end of the month or first weekend of October. We'll be going out shooting the outstanding panoramas of Fall in the Highlands. I hope we can get up to Algonquin Park too. If you want to come along, send me an email so we can figure it out.

What else is new?
I don't want to jump the gun, but I've ordered my new Nikon D600. Faithful readers will know that I had to pass on the D800 I had my heart set on, but I've been saving my shekels and I can do the D600. Like I said, I don't want to jinx anything, but when you read the NEXT blog entry, I expect to have the camera in hand.

Now although I'd really like to have a backup body, frankly I can't afford it right now. And I have a superb lens that's DX and I need an FX one for the new camera. So my D300 is for sale, complete with a Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 lens. More than 20% of my keepers (the images I really really like) were taken with that lens. The big winner, by the way is the 70-200 f/2.8 with over 40%. You can't take a bad picture with it. So if you're interested in a deal on a great camera/lens combination, contact me. I'll cut you such a deal!

Absolutely Outstanding Customer Service
I'm impressed. I've written this up elsewhere (on the TIF forum) but the story deserves repetition here. A while ago I wrote about a new funky tripod made by 3 Legged Thing that I bought. It's got some incredible features, from the fact that it's only about 2 lbs and will support up to 17 lbs of camera/lens due to its carbon fiber construction, it extends up higher than I can reach on my tippytoes, folds down to 20" and costs half the price of a Gitzo. I've been using it for a few months and have a few quibbles. I sent an email to the manufacturer in England and to my surprise, I almost immediately got an overseas phone call from Danny, the CEO of the company.

First we walked through me trying to make him understand what the issues were (my terminology was flawed) and he immediately acknowledged them without argument. Then he said, "I could send you a few parts and tell you how to fix it, but I'd really rather just send you a new tripod". He asked me to be patient for a few weeks because their new model is being introduced at Photokina next week and he wants to send me the new one. He assured me that I wouldn't be out of pocket one cent (or farthing, I guess!).

This tripod is worth a look. You can buy it at B&H (here's the link). We even talked about his need for a retailer in Canada, and I've forwarded some contacts to him. By the way, the manufacturer's website is as funky as the tripod itself and you can see it here.

You didn't think I'd finish without some pictures, did you?
I was out shooting for a couple of days after quite a dry spell. But I'm going to start with the most recent pictures, from last night. OK, well technically from early this morning, not last night. I was on my way to bed and realized I forgot something in the car. When I went out to retrieve it, I happened to look up. O–M–G! The night was so crisp and clear, the stars were like light bulbs and the Milky Way was like a carpet of mist. I HAD to go out and shoot some pictures. So here are a couple:

I had a small flashlight with me so I painted the trees with light during the 30 second exposure. I did need to do some work in Lightroom to enhance it, but nothing fancy. I've often wondered what that cluster of stars is, in the upper right corner. Anyone know? That really really bright one has to be a planet. 

Beats me what that glow is across the lake. The lights from a house illuminating the bottom of a cloud? It was barely visible to the naked eye, but a 30 second exposure at f/4, ISO=3200 can see EVERYTHING. I can't wait to shoot some of these with the D600 fantastic noise performance! 
I decided, "in for a penny, in for a pound" and I prepared the camera (and of course my 3 Legged Thing "Brian" tripod for a long time exposure. At 2:45 am, I set it up (by the way, ISO=100, f5.6, 12mm focal length) and went back inside with the shutter locked open, intending to spend an hour editing images before going out to retrieve the camera. Well I fell asleep in the computer chair, so the actual exposure was 102 minutes! Probably should have stopped it down a bit more, I've had success at f/8 but working on the RAW file in Lightroom, I came up with this:

Hope it reproduces well on your monitor. 
Let's go back in time to Friday. I went out for an hour or so to try to get the images for the monthly TIF rally. The 3 categories were "Yellow", "Motion" and "Fuzzy", set this month by yours truly. I didn't cheat: I went out with fresh eyes looking for images. I won't post the ones I'm going to enter here, you'll have to go over to the TIF forum to see them. You need to register (to keep out the riff-raff) but there's no risk or associated spam. Look for "September Rally" under "Battlefields".

Anyway, here's some shots I will not be submitting (unless I change my mind!)

Macros are fun, but really challenging! This is a focus-stack of 5 images, enhanced with Topaz Adjust 5. 

I've been trying for a month to get a bee in focus! 

This is a tiny bee-like insect. These guys are more interested in the pollen they're gathering than in the lens less than 2" away, or in the delicate, vulnerable hand holding that lens! 
La pièce de résistance!
After filling up my water jugs at the Maple Lake mountain spring (it was running really slow, so I took the bee pictures while I was waiting. And the leaf at the top too), I went in search of another water source a local told me about, at Stanhope Airport. Nothing doing there worth photographing, but there was a sign saying "Open Doors Ontario" on the church at the corner, so I popped in (be patient, I'm getting there!). Nothing caught my eye in this 111-year-old church but in chatting with a lady there, she told me that the Twelve Mile Lake Church was also open for visits. She said it was tiny, and completely off the grid: no electricity. It was built in 1890, which makes it 122 years old. I wandered inside, and the décor wasn't spectacular, but they had a manual antique pump organ that had been built in 1888 and was still in use! According to them, the natural wood carving and finish are original. Can you say, "HDR"? So I asked and received permission to photograph it, and here it is.

I decided to also use the Oil Paint filter in Photoshop CS6, after rendering the HDR. I spent a lot of time reconstructing the top step on the left in Photoshop and think I did a creditable job, shadows and light nuances and all.  
So that you get a feel for what the Oil Paint filter can do, here's a 100% crop from the image:

So that's it for now. I'm going to head out in a few minutes, have to drop into the garbage dump and pick up some groceries. I'll be bringing my camera with me, of course. TTFN

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