Sunday, December 29, 2013

A New Year's Resolution I intend to keep

We all make New Year’s Resolutions we can’t keep: stop smoking, lose 50 pounds, but this year I'm making one I'm determined to follow up on. I thought I’d share it with you so I don’t have any excuses, and perhaps to inspire you.

I'm shy. That’s why I shoot rocks and trees, not people. One of the most difficult things for me to do is to walk up to someone and ask, “Can I take your picture?” I've rehearsed it a thousand times: “you have such an interesting face, can I photograph you?”; “I'm with the local press”; “I always wanted a picture of someone eating an extra-large Kawartha Dairy ice cream cone”… and I never do it. And yet every time I screw up my courage to ask, people say yes. On top of that, the shots are fantastic! So why not do it more often?

You can do what I do, hide behind a long telephoto lens and take candid pictures of people who don’t know you’re photographing them, or pretend to be taking a picture of something else (sometimes you get caught: that’s embarrassing!). Or you can walk up to someone and say, “can I take your picture”? What’s the worst thing that can happen? They could say “no”. But if they agree, and you get the chance, why not talk to them a bit and find out their story? People are so interesting and there’s always a story!

Here's a candid I shot in the Byward market in Ottawa a couple of years ago. Long lens, she had no idea I was shooting her. I love how her expression (and even her hairdo) matches her sweatshirt! But wouldn't it have been a better picture without the lady in red? I could have gone up to her and asked. 

Everything I've read says to be successful shooting people, you have to relate to your subject. A couple of years ago, I met a street photographer down at the Toronto Distillery District. He walked right up to me and Linda (the friend I was shooting with), and struck up a conversation. He took dozens of pictures and although I hate having my picture taken, after a while I didn't notice. I want to try that. 

Some time ago, in upstate New York, I met George, the bearded guy in the picture here. Like I said, I screwed up my courage and asked him to pose for me. I took exactly one shot so I wouldn't inconvenience him. This image won portrait of the year in Toronto in 2009. But there’s more to the story: I tried to find him so I could send him a print, only to discover he had died in the meantime. His colleagues asked me for a print for a memorial they were making. Tell me that isn't a great story. 

This is George. It's a digital painting of the original image. 

So that’s my New Year’s Resolution. Now what about you? Are you ready to give it a try? Remember, the worst thing that can happen is someone will say “no”. But more likely, they won’t. If you see me on the street, and I ask you to pose for me, please say “yes”!

Tell me a story!

One thing I have been doing is trying to tell stories with my images. If you've been reading my blog you'd know that. They're more successful images when they communicate something! Here are a couple of my favourite examples:

At the Highland Yard last summer in Minden. Dad raced his son to the finish line. Did he let him win? 

But this is my favourite one at the same event. I think this is mom and son, they were coming in from the 5K run, jogging side by side until the last 100m. Then the boy looked at mom and TOOK OFF, doing everything he could to beat her. You could almost read her mind when she reacted, "oh no you don't!" Did she beat him? Did he win?

Here's another example. This guy got in trouble during the Open Canoe race at the Minden Wildwater Preserve last summer. A second after this shot, he overturned his boat. I actually posted a timelapse video of the incident, but a little creative editing resulted in this shot that tells the story. 

One for the road!

I was driving along Bobcaygeon Road north of Minden when I spotted this scene. Truth be told, the sky was just a dull grey but I saw the fence line and wanted to use it in a composition. I tried it from a few different angles but I actually shot this from the driver's seat of the car without actually getting out!

When I got it up on the computer, I thought there was 'way too much detail in it, but I knew how to reduce that using Topaz Simplify. I cleaned up a couple of things, then thought I would drop in a sunset sky. I used Adobe Paper Texture extension in Photoshop to add it. I liked the grungy textured look and posted the image in the Photoshop and Lightroom group on Facebook for critique. Among others, Gudrun in Calgary thought the contrast between the grungy sky and the smooth foreground was jarring.

So two choices (three: but you ignore Gudrun at your peril! LOL) and I chose to remove the texture but keep the colour in the sky. Suddenly I love this image. I hope you do too!

Contact me for a fine art print of this image.

Quick Link:

I just came across this excellent video by Terry White from Adobe on the ten things a beginner needs to know to use Lightroom. If you are not a Lightroom user (or if you're a new one and want to get started right!), or you haven't decided why people think Lightroom is great (like me for example), watch this video. Here's the link!

By the way, I disagree with a couple of his points, "Convert to DNG" and not making a second copy to another drive on import, but that's what makes the world go 'round!

Best of 2013

On TIF (you guys know that stands for "The Imaging Forum" so it would be repetitiously redundant to say 'The TIF Forum', right? You should join. It's a small and really friendly place), someone started a thread that said, "Post the best image you made in 2013". That started the brain cells churning.

That's really hard! Find the ONE IMAGE you consider your best for the year. What criteria??? The one I worked hardest on? Most technically correct? Most artistic? Best image...

So I cleaned out my Quick Collection in LR, and started selecting images to put in there that I thought might be candidates for this honour. On the first pass, there were about 40 to consider. Then I looked at them together and started eliminating. Two hours later I ended up with 14 images. And today, I added one more. Then I took it down to 4. And finally, I chose one.

Here's the link to the SmugMug gallery I put up with the top 15. And here's my final choice as my best image for 2013.

1965 Shelby Cobra. This car was parked at the Inn across the road for a couple of days last fall. It was actually in the sun so it took a considerable amount of post processing work  to reduce it to what you see here. But this picture speaks to me because it is closest to what I envisioned before I pressed the shutter release. It goes without saying that a fine art print of this image is available.

My current project is a coffee table book featuring these 15 images and some of their siblings. Watch for it...

That's it for 2013. Have a healthy and prosperous 2014, folks! See you next year.


— 30 —

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

'tis the Season

You'd think that with everything spooling down at this time of year for the holidays, there would be more time to get things done. Just the opposite, I'm afraid. I'm playing a continuous game of catch-up!

First of all, I've been in-and-out of Toronto for some family and some medical stuff (which will hopefully work out OK, it's hard to concentrate when you have things on your mind). I had to write three newspaper columns in one day and I'm still struggling to catch up on the promises I made to the new Camera Club.

Then it snowed. My ATV's having some difficulties (the 4WD only works when I'm curving to the left. You can't plow heavy snow – with or without a rime of ice on top – without 4WD. YOU try plowing a straight driveway in curves! That said, I have it easier than my Toronto friends, some of whom are still without power since Saturday's massive ice storm (it's Tuesday as I write this), and it's supposed to go to 20 below tonight. I hope they're all finding ways to stay warm.

I shot this in Toronto on Saturday around noon, BEFORE the big ice storm.  

I said people were welcome to come up here. I have power (as I write this!) and a fireplace to keep warm. By the way, ISO 6400, the only other light a small lamp off to the right that just provided the rimlighting on my head. I painted this with Topaz Simplify. 

Family shots

It was great seeing my son, daughter-in-law and 1.75 of my grandkids last weekend (Jamie and Maria were in from New York, with Leah and a new little one due in about 6 weeks!). I only took a few pictures, Leah wouldn't hold still for a second and refused to pose for pictures, so I grabbed what I could.

Nothing does my 92-year old mother's heart more good than a visit from her great-grandchildren. Simple North-facing window lighting. 

It was hard to choose which image of Leah to use. I kept hitting "Pick" as I went through them. I've always said you can't take a bad picture of your kids! I chose this one because of her expression, and included her favourite "Princess" doll.  

Back Home

I said we got snow up here, not ice. This will give you some idea. There was about a foot of fresh white stuff, more after I shot this, and more to come tonight!  

I did venture out with the camera and took a few shots across the lake. But I've shot so many of these, I thought I'd try to make it a bit different, so I painted and textured this sunset shot. By the way, that's not open water, just darker ice. Certainly not enough to walk on yet, let alone drag ice-fishing huts out! 

Again, I have a lot of pictures of the Red Umbrella Inn, so I painted this one to make it a bit different. It's a 3-shot HDR, rendered with Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, then painted with Topaz Simplify.

You may have noticed the grey drop-shadow framing on some of these images. I'm experimenting with how to present my pictures better online. Please let me know if you have a better idea!

Weekly Blog

My goal is to blog once/week. This is #45 for 2013 (I had exactly 52 in 2012, and 48 in 2011). So there will be one more, #46, but I also wrote 6 technical blogs on the other site this year, that I'm going to count, so that adds up to 52! Let's see what 2014 brings!

— 30 —

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


New Blog Header picture

Some newsreaders don't show the header picture and whenever I change it, the old one is lost. So here's the current picture preserved in the body of the blog as well. This is a rendering of a snowmobile track on the ice of 12-Mile Lake just opposite my dock. I shrunk it proportionally; the original is much taller. I was going to leave it black-and-white but I really liked the tonality of this version.

Contact me if this speaks to you as it does to me. Picture the image (without the text, of course) as a
48" by 12" canvas or matte print on your wall.


No, not the Christian holiday. A "Leap of Understanding". Wikipedia defines it as,
An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation, striking appearance") is an experience of sudden and striking realization. 
 In my humble opinion, they're rare, and they should be, otherwise they wouldn't be significant. And in my case, stating them can be a bit embarrassing. Because it feels like you're restating the obvious. Cognoscenti will stare down their noses at you and say, "Yeah, and? This is something you didn't know?"

The last one I can recall had to do with motorcycling. For 12 years I taught the motorcycle course at Humber College. There was one really, really basic concept that all motorcycle students had to grasp. I must have used the words 10,000 times. But it wasn't until one day, riding my bike down at Deal's Gap (The "Tail of the Dragon". Google it if you don't know what it is) when I had an epiphany: "You have to look where you want to go". Motorcyclists will understand this, the rest of you probably won't. I can hear my friend George thinking, "like what are you, new?"

Do you understand what I mean? Yes, you know it but do you KNOW it? Robert A. Heinlein coined a word that applies: GROK. (From his book, Stranger in a Strange Land, and if you haven't read it, you should).

So here's my epiphany for today:
"The only people who care how a picture was made are those who are trying to figure out how to emulate it". 
People who don't have that agenda, flat out don't care. They either like it or they don't like it. They either see and appreciate the maker's vision or they don't. Am I restating the obvious?

Look at that banner picture up top. Do you care how many pixels wide it is? Is it noisy? Is the colour balance off? What's that dark lump about 1/3 in from the right? Do you care what technique I used to make it? WHO CARES? It's an expression of MY VISION.

During the time I spent with Rosa, I think she tried to tell me that 1000 times. I didn't hear it until now. She also used to disagree vehemently with my premise, when teaching composition, that "you need to know the rules so you can know when to break them". I still don't get that – she was probably right but I don't Grok it.

How does that change what I do? It's a bit of a sticky wicket, as my British friends like to say. On the one hand, I'm teaching, and that involves giving people ideas and examples of what to do and what not to do. On the other side, I'm trying to express my vision in my art and that involves none of the above. I've stopped submitting images for competitions and yet with the new club, I'm fostering that learning vehicle. What to do, what to do...

So here are a couple more quotes for your enjoyment.
"I'm succeeding admirably in my rôle as a starving artist!"
"Everything hurts. Except the things that don't work anymore."
Attribute the last one to my father (Robert Springer, 1920-2010), who also coined "female dark chocolate" (no nuts!) in his later years! The other two are mine.

You know what would be cool? If years from now you entered these quotes in Wikipedia and they came back attributed appropriately!

Haliburton Highlands Camera Club

We have, as they say, Liftoff! After a snow-delayed launch, the inaugural meeting of the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club took place on a memorable date: Friday the 13th of December! There were 26 people in attendance (good thing, that’s all the chairs we had!), and at this writing, 17 of them have joined the fledgling club. I find this an auspicious number. For one thing, there are no snowbirds or cottagers in the group, imagine the headcount had we done this in the summer! And a lot of people wrote to say they wanted to be there but couldn't make the last minute schedule change.

I have an amazing 55 names on my HHCC list, from a population that would be dwarfed by the number of residents in one city block in the 'Big Smoke'. My assumption that there is a need for a camera club up here in the Highlands seems to be true. The next step is to make the promised programs happen, and we're getting a start at it. First step is to assemble a team to coordinate our activities, and that's in the works.

Part of the group at the inaugural Camera Club meeting. 

So if you're in the Highlands and you haven't joined yet, have a look at our web page and contact me for more information.

Photomatix Pro 5.0

HDRsoft has released version 5.0 of their signature Photomatix Pro software. The world seems to be divided by the three big HDR generating products, Photomatix, Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop HDR Pro (there are other tone-mapping products out there, notably Topaz Adjust). Photomatix is the only one that can run as a standalone, without requiring Photoshop or Lightroom.

HDRsoft has always provided free upgrades to their existing customers, and there seems to be no exception here: I went to, downloaded and installed it over Photomatix 4.2.2 and it never even asked for a serial number. They didn't send me a heads-up, though, so if you're a customer, get thee over to the site for an upgrade. Kudo's to HDRsoft for this policy.

I've spent a total of 5 minutes on it since I installed it. I opened a 3-shot/2 stop burst and played with it briefly. It appears to run smoother that before and with more subtle control over the effects. I'll have to do some more testing. My normal go-to has been the Nik product and the one thing it has that Photomatix doesn't is Control Points, although you can do much the same thing with layer masks in Photoshop.

Here's that 3-shot image I ran. All I did to it after returning from Photomatix was to dodge out the bottom of the dirty door a bit, and straighten/crop in Lightroom.

I really should have cleaned the spider webs off the side of the building before winter. Then again, I wouldn't have gotten this shot! 

Topaz Star Filter

If you hurry, you can get the new Topaz Star Effects filter for half price (until year-end). It does really neat stars, but it also does glows: I learned that by watching their Webinar last week, then I tried it on this image:

The glow makes a big difference in the feel of this image. 

I used the star effect on this photopainting of the snowplow after the first snowstorm of the year. 

Go to this link and enter decstar as the coupon code at checkout.

Winter in the Highlands

A day in the life... here's what you have to do when you live up in the Highlands!

...and this

He had no problem with me taking his picture! That's $300 of heating oil being pumped into my tank! I must say the D610 delivers spectacular performance at ISO 6400.

It's not even winter yet officially until Saturday. Looks like we're in for a long one.

— 30 —

Sunday, December 08, 2013

"May you live in Interesting Times"

When I looked up this phrase to see to whom to attribute it, I discovered that it really is NOT an ancient Chinese curse and Confucius did NOT say it. However it is appropriate to the past couple of weeks for me.

This is actually a complete rewrite of what I penned yesterday. It all sounded like I was whining a lot but that's not my style. Let's just say it was an eventful time, and move on.

In the past couple of weeks, I've had some dental issues (by the way, if you EVER feel you need a new dentist, Ron is the best there is, anywhere. It's a bit of a drive to get to him, but worth it. Go to, there seems to be a nerve thing going on in my ear and I don't know, I'm just not feeling right. I think it's a 'time of year' thing. I've said before, I don't really like these "shoulder" seasons, waiting for winter to really set in.

Then I had some big car expenses, plus my ATV's just back from winter service and my desktop computer's exhibiting signs of being on its last legs. {sigh}.

That said, I was at THREE parties last weekend, had a great time with wonderful friends, I was interviewed by two newspapers (link to the Highlander article here).  and I'm working hard on the inaugural meeting of the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club next week (in 3 days, actually!).

So rather than bore you with lots of words, I thought I'd just show some pictures and restrict myself to a couple of lines of captions.

Spectacular sunset. The lesson here is "don't procrastinate". Remember the Norwegian fable about the "Three Billy Goats Gruff"? I saw this sunset (no colour treatment here: this is how it looked!) and thought, I need to find a better foreground, I'll drive a bit further. I passed up much better shots than this. I finally pulled over when I realized it was going to die in a couple more minutes. It was much nicer earlier. Next time: stop right away!

Last ATV ride in the bush until spring. I've got the snowplow blade mounted now and it doesn't have the clearance for trail riding with it on board. This was on my way in to the service shop (not allowed on the highway). I had to winch out a fallen tree that was blocking the trail (top shot). 

After a blustery cold day, the lake left its signature on the shoreline. Waiting for hard water... 

Matt Desrosiers, the editor of the Highlander, shot this picture of me with my camera and he gave me permission to use it as I wish.
By all rights, this shouldn't have worked that well. Handheld, 1/60 sec at f/8, F=116mm, ISO = 6400.
But I did some Photoshop and Lightroom magic and I really like this shot. 

There are three images from last weekend that reflect my mood. This is my favourite. I chose to do a soft rendering of Renée, a tight crop from a reception hall image, lit with my flash and Gary Fong diffuser.

One of the musicians at the Bar Mitzvah. I struggled with how to crop this but settled on this 8x10. Square works too, but it cuts off the top of the instrument. The composition works for me, as does the black-and-white and painted treatment. What do you think? (Please comment). I held the flash off-camera to the left, again with the Gary Fong diffuser on board.

Best Friends Forever. Talk about making lemonade from lemons: THERE WAS NO LIGHT! This was handheld, 70-200mm lens at 130mm, 1/4 second at f/2.8, ISO 6400. Read that again, photographers, this should not have worked! High key, Topaz Simplify, some work on the background, sepia treatment with Nik Silver Efex Pro. Make your own story here: are they dancing? Looking at something scary? Sharing some gossip?
— 30 —

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wow. It's hard to stay motivated!

I've said this before, but it bears repeating. I love living up here in the Haliburton Highlands, but there are certain times of year that are better than others, and this isn't one of them. A neighbour and I were talking and we're of the same mind: November and March are the worst months.

Right now It's damp and cold. The ground is muddy and monochromatic. The songbirds are gone and the only creatures that are stirring are the people getting ready for the winter. Actually, there's a skiff of white snow on the ground, the lake is active in the wind and although it's created an interesting rime of ice where water has splashed up on the land, and it could be photogenic, everything is too grey to be interesting, and anyway, I'm chilled and don't feel like going out.

My neighbour said he prefers November to March/April because "I have the winter to look forward to"! Fascinating. You'd think it would be the other way around. But he's right: winter is a magical time up here in the Highlands. I know that those of you in other climes (and especially those in the Big Smoke we call Toronto) think we're crazy, but that's your problem.

Still, I can't wait for those crisp white days. And I created a book a couple of years ago to celebrate Winter in the Highlands, there's a link at right to Blurb where you can see the book and enjoy it.

Several projects on the go

I'm working on my next book. I have about a week to get it off to Blurb to take advantage of their huge Black Friday sale (30% off!). Being the procrastinator that I am, I don't know if I'll make it. My big hangup is to create a theme and select images that work well together. I've segregated about 250 images so far, maybe I have TWO books to create!

The Haliburton Highlands Camera Club is taking a lot of my attention right now. We're a couple of weeks away from the inaugural meeting (Wednesday, December 11 at 7pm in Minden, see the website for details). I hope that's going to work out — it will if enough people come forward to help out. I can't do it alone.

I also have an eBook in the works. As regular readers know, I've been writing a weekly photography column for the Haliburton County Living (Weekender) newspaper for almost half a year now, without skipping a beat. Off-topic, it's hard to come up with new material now. As I write this, I have two days to come up with something for next week's column and I'm a little brain dead. Anyway, the column is mostly tips for novice and intermediate photographers, and I want to consolidate them into an eBook.

So I'm busy, but it's hard to stay motivated in the ever-shortening days of November.

D610 vs. D800

Hmmm. I wrote earlier that I'm waiting for Nikon to contact me with the news that a refurbished D800 is available and I have a promise of a swap for my D610 when it is. But I've not been proactively going after them about it because, well, I like the D610!

I used to like the D600 until the dust measles became untenable. So the D610 is the same camera without that problem. It's pretty well everything I need... so if Nikon calls, I'll have to decide.

Black Friday Deals

There are some HUGE deals out there. All of them end on December 2, though, so no procrastinating, hear?


The biggest one is from Adobe. ANYONE can get in on the Photographer's package from now until December 2, regardless of whether they've been Adobe customers in the past. Here's the deal: you get Photoshop CC – that's the FULL Photoshop program – and Lightroom 5, both for the amazing price of $9.99 (US + Taxes) per month. You need to sign up for at least one year – that's a $120 commitment – and they have categorically stated that the price will not jump up after the year (although they give themselves a legal out...).

Considering that Photoshop used to be a $700 product, and that the regular price for Photoshop CC ALONE is $20/month, and that they're throwing in Lightroom which is a $150 product, this is an amazing deal. Go to to take advantage of it but don't wait!

By the way, Students and Teachers can get the entire Creative Cloud suite – ALL of the programs, not just Photoshop and Lightroom – for $19.95/month but just until November 29th. Same link, don't delay!


Topaz is offering their entire collection – a $379 value – for $199 if you sign up in the period November 28 – December 2. That's all 14 Topaz products, complete. I'm a big proponent of Topaz products. I've used Adjust for quite a while now, and more recently Clarity and Clear and InFocus and Star and Detail... I love their products.

You have to wait until November 28th to pull the trigger. Click on this link or the one at right,  and you need to enter the promo code blackfriday2013 at checkout.


Yep, that's me. I've got THREE deals going on. Both of them are valid between now and Christmas. Oh, all right, until the end of 2013. Happy?

Deal #1: Any fine art print that I have in stock: $25 plus a flat rate $5 for shipping unless you pick it up. I have to compile a list of what's in stock, but almost all of the images in my Smugmug gallery are available, subject to prior sale. These make superb Christmas gifts! And pretty well any image is also available as an 8x12 or 8x10 lustre print for $5. On top of that, we can make any image into a folding Christmas card, 3/$10. You need to contact me for particulars!

Deal #2: A two-day DSLR workshop for $100. And it could be 1 on 1! Where else can you get personalized instruction for under $10/hour? Prices are going up in 2014 so don't delay! Again, contact me for particulars and check the website for details!

Deal #3: This one's only good until December 2. My eBook, "Take Better Pictures in a Winter Wonderland" absolutely FREE. eMail me for the link.

If I hear of any other hot deals I'll send them out on my newsletter. If you're not yet subscribed, click the link at the top right corner of this blog. (or this one!)

Some images

Not a lot to show you this week. I've been busy getting my tooth pulled and other nasty stuff so I haven't shot a lot. I was cold the other day, and it was miserable out, so I stayed in and set up the light tent to play a little.

This is the battery that came with my D610. In the light tent, illuminated by a bounce flash, on a flexible plastic surface. A little Lightroom, a little Photoshop, some Topaz and Voilà!  

The original is the one on the left. It's Cranberry Juice. I decided it should be a 1977 Robert Mondavi Select Cabernet Sauvignon. It was more difficult than it looks, to get the colour and density right, plus if you look carefully, the glass was slightly tilted so the liquid surface wasn't level! I used "Puppet Warp" to fix it.  

While I was at it, I decided since I didn't have any Abelour A'bunadh Cask Strength single malt left, and since you can't get it in Canada,  I needed to make some. Believe it or not, this is THE SAME CRANBERRY JUICE! Ah, Photoshop!

My neighbour Jack dropped by to talk about the Adobe deal and learn a little about Photoshop, so I obliged him. I needed to find a picture to use as a demo, so I opened the abandoned gas station shot from Coboconk that I posted last week. At one point he said, "how about adding the sun to that picture", so I did. A really, really easy process if you know Photoshop!

I ended up liking this much better than last week's! This will be available as a large format art print, on Epson Cold Press matte paper. Talk to me if you want a museum-quality archival art print for someone you love! 

— 30 —

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times

I'm struggling with trying to find something to say about it being the Best of Times. This is one of my two least favourite times of year, the other being in March. The thing is, in March we have the summer to look forward to...

It's cold and damp. As I write this, I look out at intermittent snow flurries, mixed with rain. At least when I got up this morning, there was some white on the ground, but right now it's a depressing state of wet. I have to go out and split some firewood, chop some kindling and bring wood inside (I keep about a week's supply in my 'mud room'), but it's so yucky out (that's a technical term for 'feh') that I don't wanna. I also have to dump and refill the bird feeders, even the bluejays are disgusted with the soppy mess that's in there now.

These things are great. They don't heat the room, they heat YOU. Costco... 

Technically it's not cold in the house but I'm chilled. Wearing sweats, I have the heat dish going, pointed at me here at the computer desk, my hands are cold and I just finished a bowl of soup. And a pot of coffee. If it were winter out there, I wouldn't be cold. But it's not. Bring it on!

Here's a load of kindling. The bad news? That's not from today, I still have to go out and chop today's supply!

Multiple exposure using the self-timer in the D610. Background texture added and a little "liquify" weight loss program! 

Here's what I'm waiting for. By the way, there was no light in this old shack, credit Photoshop. I call this image "Golden Sanctuary", it works well as a large format print and I have a canvas of it on my wall.  

No, I'm not talking about the illustrious mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, whose antics are providing tons of material for both journalists and for late-night talk show hosts. I'm talking about something that happened yesterday.

I was in traffic and a car pulled out beside me into the pull-out left turn lane and stopped somewhat short of the intersection. The driver got out and was walking uncertainly around and looking somewhat distressed. Either something was wrong with the car, or... I rolled down the window and asked if he was OK. He put his hands on his chest and said, "Call 9-1-1". I pulled ahead of him, parked my car to make sure nobody would run into him, got out my cellphone and did exactly that.

I talked to him, tried to get him to sit down but he wouldn't. Even the 9-1-1 operator talked to him too. In the end, he said he was experiencing palpitations, knew he was prone to panic attacks, said he was feeling better and refused treatment, even though the ambulance was dispatched. Some minutes later, he got back in his car and drove away. But that's not what this is about.

This is about the several – more than one – drivers who rolled down their windows and made rude, angry remarks because they had to go around us (as if there was somewhere for them to go, we were stuck in traffic anyway). Do they think people park their cars in the turn lane and get out to have a friendly chat for no reason whatsoever? I can't believe how stupid some people are and had to get this off my chest.


Rhymes, so I had to write this. It's good to have a dentist for a friend. One who will see you when you need him. I broke off a tooth, long story short the remains need to be extracted and other stuff to follow. Should be an interesting couple of weeks. However that leads to this:

If I knew then what I know now

There are at least two things I would change in my life back when I was younger. OK, more than two, but these come to mind this minute.

  • When I stopped working for a company that provided a pension, I should have diligently put money away for my retirement. If you're reading this and you're 20 or 30 or 40 or even 50, you're probably saying "yeah, yeah". Especially if you're young: you think you're immortal and you don't have to worry about retirement, that's way too far in the future. Well guess what?
  • I would have taken better care of my teeth. Growing up, especially in Montreal in the '50s and '60s and '70s, in their infinite wisdom the Government did not believe in fluoridation, so everyone from that era has a mouth full of metal fillings. But if I had done at least SOME of the things the dentist told me to do, I'd probably not be where I am today.
In the point above, I said "you think you're immortal and you don't have to worry about retirement". Anyone catch that? If you're going to live a long time, retirement becomes MORE important. Who's going to take care of you when you're 90? Will you have teeth to eat with? 

This is a picture of my mom, age 92. She still has all her teeth! And her faculties, thank God. This is supposed to be a photography blog, so... I took this by natural window light. Considering that the light levels was pretty low and ISO was 4500, the D610 handled the noise rather well, don't you think? Vertical crop from a landscape image.

Featured Images

I couldn't decide which one, so here are both. They were both shot in Coboconk, one is the same abandoned gas station and the other is at the Gull River behind the fireplace store.

You're going to think I went off the deep end but... I actually visualized this image when I shot it. It wasn't night, it was daylight and I saw that patio stove or whatever it's called silhouetted against the sky and thought of painting fire in it. And I thought how the composition had the leading lines from the stairs and the triangle shape upper right and... this image is going on my wall. 

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

True North. What's it all about?.

There's a VISA ad campaign around the phrase "Good Busy". Some people think that although I'm busy almost all of the time, I'm "Bad Busy". But my take on it is that being good busy is spending your time productively. It all hinges on your definition of "productive".

Some years ago, I attended a seminar where the speaker introduced the concept of "True North". He said to envision everything you do as a vector on a compass rose, with your main goal straight up, True North. Your actions could either be taking you towards that goal, or away from it. Sometimes things you do have no bearing on your goals, consider them "East-West". That's OK, but anything headed the least bit South is unacceptable.

I took it to heart. I named my property here in Minden, "True North".

I tried never to do anything that took me away from my goal. The hard part is realizing that your goals are a moving target so staying pointed in the right direction isn't so easy. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what my goals are. Without success, sometimes, I have to admit. So if you don't know what your goals are, how can you know if you're moving in the right direction?

This is a roundabout way of saying that my goals are not the traditional ones. Money, successful business, close relationships... that's not what they are. If I were to try to state my goal right now, it's to be able to express myself artistically.

So time that I spend trying to foster recognition, that's not moving True North. At best, it's East-West, because after all, I do need to survive. Like putting images up on Facebook or Google+ or Fine Art America or Redbubble.  I consider teaching to be a North-West activity. I consider writing to be a North-East activity.

It's not about garnering approval or recognition. It's about expressing my art and sharing it. Sure, I have to get people to like my art enough to buy it, or at least share it so I can continue to eat, but in the end, it's about ME liking my art and ME thinking I'm making progress and heading in the direction of True North.

Did that make any sense?

That Said...

I've always been kind of a techno-guy. I'm a "User" now so I don't really want to know about nuts and bolts, but I like nice toys and cool software; but only if it takes me somehow in the Northerly direction. I consider spending time learning how to use the latest hardware or software to be Northeasterly or Northwesterly endeavours, but sometimes you can get sidetracked. The last week or so is a case in point. Here's what happened.

I got the new Nikon D610. Marvellous beast, not a big learning curve because after all, it's just a D600 without dust measles (I hope...). But then Adobé threw a monkey wrench in the works and I spent the equivalent of a full working day trying to figure out how to upload readable RAW files from it, then setting up the workflow to make it happen (I'm still shooting RAW + JPEG just in case. Remind me to fix that tomorrow!). I also wrote about it so if any of you are in the same boat, wander over to my TechBlog here to read how. When Adobé gets around to releasing a new version of ACR/LR, it'll be moot.

Then I read that Google (alias Nik Software) had released an update to the Nik suite and I didn't get it because, I discovered, I had disabled automatic update. Another couple of hours... I installed it and discovered that it killed my go-to HDR program, Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, when I tried to access it through Lightroom (it still worked in Photoshop, though). Instead of seeing a proper image, here's what I saw:

The new Analog Efex Pro looked similar when invoked directly from Lightroom:

More time, trying to figure it out. Then I tracked down a helpdesk at Google and sent them an email. KUDOS to Google: a real live human being (who doesn't say, "I can certainly help you with that problem" with a South-Asian accent) responded within a day and solved it. It has to do with how it accesses the GPU through Lightroom. If that's Greek to you, join the club. But he offered three solutions for me to try, and #2 worked. If you're in the same boat, I'm writing it up on the tech blog, but it's not ready yet so check over there later or email me and I'll share their email to me. Figure 3 or 4 more hours, what with rebooting and trying it and rinse and repeat and rinse...

By the way, go to to try the Nik Suite. 15 day free trial, $149 to buy the whole shebang.

Next, along came Topaz. I love Topaz Adjust and Clarity. I sat in on a webinar that mostly dealt with Topaz ReMask and decided I wanted it. Download (the whole suite), install... test... with the Webinar, another half day. Flawless, easy install. Topaz sells their individual products separately or you can buy the whole suite -- pricey at $379 but worth it. 30-day free trial, use this link so I can get my brownie points! (Once you're there, click on "B&W Effects". It's on sale until November 19th at half price. Enter coupon code novbw.

So how many days is that going, at the very best, NorthEast or NorthWest? But I'm sure these tools will help me express myself better. Next project? Another Blurb book. True North? I don't know...

I promised you pictures

Yes indeed. D610 pictures. With all this computer stuff and trips to Toronto and rain... I still got out and shot a few.

All the leaves are down. The starkness of the naked trees is brought out by the incredible resolution of the D610. I want to work on this picture more in a little while. Maybe a black and white... 

About halfway down the trail was this fallen tree, due to the heavy weather we've been having. I went home and got a saw and axe (I could have winched it out of the way but that would have damaged the trees it was resting on) so that I could continue down the trail. These two shots are HDRs but they need a bit more processing. 

Speaking of more processing, here's an abandoned gas station in Coboconk. Check out the detail. But I think it looks better like this:

"Grunge" courtesy of the new Nik Analog Efex Pro. Love the textures! 

Here's another "Before and After" from the same place.

More grunge. And a border.  
This week's Feature Photo

This is my new license plate, on the front of my Subaru Forester. I've had a ham radio license for 52 years! I remember we used to hear "old-timers" on the air when we were younger, and now I are one! When did that happen?
More to come. Stay tuned!

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