Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's C-c-c-cold out there! I'm inside, working on the computer with the fire going in the fireplace behind me. I've had it going all night which was nice until I went to bed and discovered that the thermostat had been fooled into thinking it was warm in the house... how's 13°C for a bedroom temperature? Brrr. I fired up the portable heater and dived under the covers!

Tastes Change
My cousin requested some of the pictures I did for him and his band last fall, so I revisited the folder (Lightroom lesson: really easy to find if you take the time to keyword your photos when you first put them in!). While looking through the images, I came across some that I hadn't discarded but hadn't remarked on at the time. Changed my mind. Maybe I'm more into 'mood' and 'emotion' and 'character' now than I was.

Here's Steve, with his harmonica (he plays harp, slide guitar and sings. I'm jealous envious!)

The above shot was a lucky accident. I had been using my Speedlight off-camera with a Gary Fong diffuser, but by mistake I took 2 shots in a high-speed burst and the flash didn't fire in the second one. Talk about great lighting!

This shot was at their Hugh's Room concert last fall. Lead guitarist Steve Weimann has that "Leonard Cohen Look" going. I told him the only difference is that Cohen is younger... good thing Weimann doesn't own a gun: I hope!

So these are shots I hadn't considered before but they're going in my portfolio!

Back to the "it's cold" thing...
You know how a 10°C (50°F) day feels in March? You take off your coat to enjoy the warmth? But in October, it feels frigid? Same thing here, maybe. It's the first real cold snap of the winter and it feels really icy out there. Windy, actual temperature -30°C, probably -40 with the wind chill... nah. IT'S COLD!

It wasn't that bad out on the ice on the weekend, probably around -10°C but windy. I wasn't cold, bundled up in my down coat, ski pants, snowmobile mitts, balaclava under my helmet... so I was able to get some pictures without shivering (the first lesson in my Winter Wonderland eBook!). Taking the gloves off to shoot was another issue, though!

Does this look cold?

I found out that these people actually did have a shelter, but didn't set it up until they decided where they wanted to be. They were in no hurry because they were wearing these very expensive expedition suits.  

On Saturday, it was actually quite a bit warmer. Some people go out without a lot of fancy equipment and shelters, just augur a hole and sit on a pail to fish.

These guys came up from Coboconk, looked for a likely spot to fish and just plunked themselves down. 

Their dog was gorgeous. He was intensely interested in the goings-on in the minnow pail and they had to constantly drag him away to get some minnows! I offered to take him off their hands, but they politely declined. Dogs have facial expressions...

This is what he looked like when he wasn't so intense!  

Back to Frosty Sunday

See? That's a pop-up shelter behind the guy on the left. They also had a power augur and an electronic fishfinder. This is a guy and a girl. I'm just imagining him saying to her, "so for our date, let's go out ice fishing!" Wouldn't go over very well with any of the women I know!

This is an HDR, by the way, just to get the background and sky exposures better. I actually had to tone DOWN the colour of their fluorescent orange suits. Using de-ghosting, the area around them is from just one of the three exposures.

Here's their buddy about 20 or 30 feet away. Looks like he caught something! I ask you again, "does this look cold"? 

A couple of days earlier, I caught this shot:

It's also an HDR, but I used the oil paint filter in Photoshop CS6. This was just at sunset and you find unexpected colour in the sky in all directions: this was looking North!

On Saturday, these guys were on their way home. No fish, but "a bad day on the ice is better than a good day in the office any time"! 

Here's an image taken in my back yard on Sunday morning.

I didn't think the colour added to it, I was more interested in the textures, so I converted it to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro. It's an HDR too, if you hadn't guessed. 

By the way...
Two things. First of all, as I'm writing this, some emails arrived notifying me that people had purchased my Winter Wonderland eBook online. Among them was one from Colorado and one from France! Exciting! That was precipitated by me posting some images on Google+ and on Facebook, along with a link. Looks like I'm really going to have to get into this Social Networking stuff.

Second thing: I came across a very neat product in Costco on Monday: a set of 6 "Light Pucks". I'll write a quick post on the technical blog, but I'll have to update it later after I finish unpacking and setting them up. They look PERFECT for use with the light tent!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Quiet out there...

I read 20 blogs on a regular basis. That is, I subscribe to 20 blogs, via RSS feed on my iPad. Sounds like a lot, right? But not everyone is a "relentless blogger" like me. Sure, there are some but there are at least two of them that haven't been updated in 3 months, and a couple that have dropped from 2 or 3 times a week to weekly, to monthly... it's quiet out there.

For what it's worth, it's an eclectic mix, biased towards outdoor photography of course, but I also read Dilbert every day, and try to take the time to watch the TED talks regularly. I dropped into FaceBook the other day and found a couple of the 'missing in action' types had rekindled their activity there; Google+ has a bunch of people on it, I'm going to have to figure out how to develop a presence there.

The other thing that annoys me is that blogs that used to contain interesting images and great educational resources now are out and out sales blogs. "We have a new book out... if you use this discount code you'll get 20% off but the offer's only good for the next 2 days... this course is free for the next week... but that's not all! If you buy now, you'll also get a set of these fine Ginsu knives!... just pay the postage and you can buy one, get one free...". Does this bug anyone else?

I'm not going to name names, but there's one formerly educational site that now puts up interesting content about once a month and four or five commercial posts in between. Time to unsubscribe...

No Snow!

If you're in this geographical area, you know we had a huge thaw last weekend and there's essentially no snow. Too bad, because the Haliburton Dogsled Derby this weekend won't be happening. Not sure about the ice racing. It was warm for a couple of days but it's cooling down again now.

Picture ice fishing huts out on the lake in +10°C temperatures! Kirk, from the Red Umbrella Inn, told me he pulled the Inn's huts back to shore just in case, but others left them out. Fortunately nothing fell through, but you won't catch me riding out there for a bit longer. Apparently the weekend cost them about 2"of ice but what was left behind was solid black ice. My neighbour Larry told me there's a good 7" of hard water now, and it'll get cold tonight, maybe another two more. Larry was out on his new Polaris ATV:

This is NOT an HDR. The dynamic range of a RAW file is wide enough to draw detail out of all areas of this image. I burned in the sky, dodged the ice and retoned the ATV and Larry, all in Lightroom. Didn't even go into Photoshop. Notice: no snow! Look between the wheels of the ATV. 

OK, ok. Maybe tomorrow. We'll see...

By the way, this was the first time I put the 12-24mm DX lens on the D600. You see a vignetted view through the viewfinder but the camera's smart enough to output a rectangular cropped image. I REALLY love the wide angle view... have to get a 14-24 or 17-35mm FX lens one of these days. My 12-24mm is for sale, I'm asking $1100 and throwing in a Nikon D300 body and all kinds of accessories for free! If you act within the next 2 hours, I'll include a stack of Photoshop User magazines and a variable ND filter! Contact me...

Art Print

While we're talking about selling things, I'm trying a different approach. I've carefully finished one image and prepared it for sale as an art print. This one:

Ice Fishing on 12 Mile Lake

...without the watermark, of course. The finished print is 18" x 12" and is available loose, matted, or mounted in an 18" x24" frame. Contact me for pricing. The print will be exhibited at the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show in a few months.

And finally, the non-commercial part of this blog. There will ALWAYS be one, I promise.

Can you do pictures like this?

Not retouched. Right out of the camera except cropped, a slight adjustment to exposure and clarity in LR. BTW I know it needs some touchup here and there, the scratch on the crystal, the dirt on the bezel, etc.

And can you do it without fancy studio equipment, lighting gear, and so on? Yes you can. All you need is a Light Tent. $35 everywhere. Go read my technical blog to find out how. Lots of other pictures there, go have a look!

Until next time!

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Yahoo, Winter!

It's finally winter!

We haven't gotten a single big snowfall, just an inch or two at a time over the past week or two. There's probably 5 or 6 inches on the ground now, and some foolhardy people have also put their ice fishing huts out on the lake. Now that we have some snow here, I changed the header photo to a winter picture. For the record, here's the old one (they disappear from the blog as soon as they're updated):


It's Friday morning and the weather Gods have seen fit to rain on our parade. It went well above freezing yesterday and today is supposed to get almost to double digits: that's +10°C or 50°F. You know what that's going to do to our snow, right? Also the ice on the lake: but in talking to several locals, that will have less effect than one would think. Ice thickness is more dependent on night time temperatures and they said if the white snow melts, leaving black ice visible, the next nighttime freeze will thicken the ice substantially. Some people say there's as much as 9" of ice thickness now.

That said, the dog sled derby is scheduled for next weekend, as is the first of the ice racing sessions, both of which I want to photograph; I hope they come to pass. Also the following two weekends are the Pond Hockey championships, for which I volunteered as a photographer; they're more likely not to be affected because there's time. More on this next time.


Ice Fishing on 12 Mile Lake

I don't know what it is about this image. I shot it with the 400mm lens in a snowstorm, there was nothing there. I added a threshold adjustment layer in CS6 then selected the subjects and expanded the selection edges and inverted, then filled with white to clean up. The border is from Silver Efex Pro. I see it as a large print. Does anyone else? Sorry about the watermark, please try to ignore it. 

I picked up my ATV from the shop yesterday (needed a new switch for the winch that controls the snow plow). It was so warm that Jason was washing their snowmobiles with a bucket and hose, not something you normally can do in January! Their little excavator called out to me... can you hear it? "HDR me. HDR me!" so I did...

Your classical grungy overprocessed high detail, high saturation HDR. But come on. I had to... 
That's it for now. Off to Toronto for a couple of days, have to see how the city folk are making out! 'till next time!

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Thursday, January 03, 2013

New Directions?

As I sit writing this stuff, I get to wondering why I write what I do. Two reasons, I think: to document my travel along this mortal coil, and to share my experiences so that others may learn something by it. Sometimes what I write is trivial to all but one or two people but I like to think that if one looks at it as a gestalt, there's a consistency that others might take as a learning experience.

It's like the concept of ongoing TV series'. A number of people I've talked with recently say they don't 'get' the Big Bang Theory show but you have to watch it enough to get into the characters before you can appreciate it. Or reading the first page or paragraph of a novel: you can't know if you're going to get something out of it until you read a bit more. 

So, dear readers, thanks for sticking with me. My goal is to share ideas and directions so that you'll go off exploring on your own. I've had over 15,000 discrete hits this year: substantially less than I hoped for but more than I expected. Please share the link to this blog with those you know. Maybe they will also enjoy this smorgasbord of ideas and images as they taste it one small lighthearted bite at a time. 

If you don't already receive my "blog update" email, or if you want to add someone else to the list of people who get a quick notification that there's something new posted here, please click on this link.

New Directions

Like your birthday, New Year's day is just another way of benchmarking time. You know: "I'm 'x' years old today and here's how I'm going to change my life in the next 12 months". Or "it's 2013 and I'm really going to make this an awesome year".  Why should that start today? What's the significance of the first of January or in my case the 8th of September (I give you permission to note that date in your calendar if you want to wish me happy birthday. OK, I'm a hypocrite!)?

What I'm really saying is, "why wait until a coincidental orientation of dates to improve your life?" The world is FULL of people who make and then virtually instantly break, new years resolutions. Every year, people say "I'm not doing that this year". And every year, like clockwork, they do. The gyms and fitness clubs LIVE for those resolutions. People join a gym and, I heard yesterday, 80% of them stop going within 6 weeks. If I owned a gym, I'd find a way to rent exercise machines for a couple of months, then close down and go on vacation for the rest of the year!

So did I make a list of things I want to do this year? Of course I did, like everyone else! I mentioned some of them a couple of weeks ago.
  • Consider where I am as an artist
  • Monetize
  • Explore other media
  • Travel
  • Work on relationships
Nice list. It reads more like a "To-Do" list than resolutions, though. Good, because I won't keep resolutions. I have a better chance of achieving something with a To-Do list. I've already started creating a hierarchical breakdown in some of the categories.

Artist stuff

I'll be the first to admit that I still haven't figured out where I am, artistically. Every time I think I've discovered my 'style', I change my mind. And I'm really fickle and impressionable. HDR's, for instance: for a while I really liked kitchy, cartoony images with huge saturation levels and detail coming out of the yin-yang. While I still think that technique has a place, I'm ready to get much more subtle. 

A couple of people whose opinions and knowledge I respect have commented on my work recently. My art is starting to overshadow pure technique, which is one reason I'm not turning in winning images to club level competitions any more. That's good. That's where I want to go.

I'm doing a presentation on digital HDR at the Richmond Hill Camera Club in February. If you're a member (or even if you're not!), come on out. I've not completed it in detail yet, but you can expect me to talk about the 16 Zones that negative film can give you (yes, 16. Maybe even more. Not 10), how to approach a shot, how to process it with several different programs or plugins, what to watch out for. Should be fun. If you're not a RHCC member, email me for details.

Great Book:

I'm reading and re-reading a book I found as an eBook at the library: The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum. Then I bought a hard copy of the book because I was so impressed. Here are links to it on Amazon:  Canada USA When I first started reading it, I thought there was a lot of inapplicable stuff because a good deal of the book focuses on (a) traditional negative-and-paper photography (and I've been purely a digital guy for 15 years) and (b) black-and-white. But almost everything the author says is applicable to digital, so don't skip those sections when you read it! Also there are some absolutely outstanding images in the book (much bigger and better than on the iPad!). Each one leaves you thinking, "boy, I wish I could do that!". Read it.

A little recognition...

If it's still January while you're reading this, wander over to "The Imaging Forum (TIF)" where they selected my image for the banner. I used the same shot for the cover of my Winter Wonderland eBook and was going to use it here on the blog, but since they chose it, I decided not to. I'll find another image (hard to find stuff that fits in 950 x 200 px!)

Pet Packaging Peeve

You know exactly what I'm talking about. You buy something and take your life in your hands trying to open the damned blister packaging. First of all, the plastic they use is so stiff and thick that you need a sharp knife to cut it. And once you do, and you don't cut yourself doing so, you're almost guaranteed to bleed when you try to pry the product out, unless you cut all the way around.

Here's the WORST example I've ever seen. I bought a 32Gb Sandisk Ultra SDHC card at Costco (awesome price, $20! But 'Ultra' is slower than 'Extreme'. Transfer speed 30MB/s compared to 45MB/s. Still, $20...). Anyway, it came in a thick cardboard/plastic blister package that measures 10" x 15", and you know what size an SDHC card is: about the size of your thumbnail. Even worse, when I got it out of the packaging, I discovered it doesn't even come with a little plastic case! Just 3 coloured labels you can write on, which I wouldn't use for fear they would peel off inside my camera.

Bananas are there for size comparison. The packaging must have cost them $1. It has what looks like not 1, not 2 but THREE of those security anti-theft RFID tags in it. There has to be a better way. (iPhone photo)
A couple more scanned images

This was a shot of my ex-wife in May, 1973 (40 years ago!) just before my daughter was born. North-facing window lighting, what else? This one stands the test of time, in my opinion. The original is again, a 35mm Kodachrome 25 transparency. I made some slight adjustments because I could! All in Lightroom: dropped the clarity a bit to smooth the skin, spot-removed a couple of blemishes, whitened teeth and eyes, and got rid of Big Bird's left eye which was half-hidden and distracting. And the vignette.

Reisting, Northeast of Munich, was built by Siemens (my employer in the '70s) in 1967. Given Moore's Law, I'd imagine the technology would be laptop sized today! I thought the juxtaposition of the gigantic other-worldly Earth Station and the ancient church was worthy of this September 1973 photograph. I added grain and texture and converted it to black-and-white with Silver Efex Pro and Topaz adjust. 
Back to work on my HDR presentation!

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