Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I'm really bad at multi-tasking!

How do people do it?
I think if one has to admit to a failing, my inability to multitask is a big one for me. Iris, my SO for a few years a while ago was a master (mistress?? LOL) at it. To the point that it would be annoying, she would constantly be doing several things at once. I could only concentrate on the task at hand. Those who believe in horoscopes say it's predictable: Virgos have that characteristic. I'm not a believer, I only know it's true of me.

I've been working on my presentation on HDR techniques, scheduled for next Monday at the Richmond Hill Camera Club, to the exclusion of pretty well everything else. I want to do it right, and since I don't do them very frequently, I spent a lot of time in PowerPoint (one annoyance: I haven't been able to find text styles on any menu bar. Sure would be nice to have a place to click to make text the same throughout the presentation). Writing it was easy: preparing it for presentation was not. Anyway, it's almost done and I think people will like it. I plan to publish the talk as an eBook right afterwards. I still have to finish my presenter notes and reference material links, and I'm done.

If you're an RHCC member, see you there! Or if you're in the North Toronto area and you want to attend, I'm pretty sure I can get you in as a guest. Drop me an email.

I'm a bit behind schedule on other stuff, I had to spend a few days in Toronto last week on personal business, but I expect to get caught up in the next couple of days. The preliminary schedule for photography workshops is at the top of the list after the HDR thing is done.

Winter at last!
I know a lot of people hate winter, but I don't. Sure, there are some things about it I don't like (short gloomy days being one of them) but with the huge weather variations we've been going through, it hasn't seemed like winter here, really.

We got a significant snowfall a couple of weeks ago so the world is white, as it should be. Snowmobiles are buzzing around, ice fishermen are patiently hunting those elusive icecubes and Bergy Bits (I know, I know. They SAY they're actually trying to catch fish, but the fish aren't stupid: they're all spending the winter in Florida!), and I get to go out on my ATV and plow the driveway. My neighbour, Jim, did his in about half an hour, then stopped to say hi as he drove by, saying "you're STILL out here?". I was having fun! I can do a basic job in about 20 minutes, but if you want to smooth out every little bit...

Anyway, it's nice to look out the kitchen window on a pile of snow in my neighbour's driveway taller than I am, and at heavily laden pine tree branches drooping so low you can't walk under them. As I write this (Tuesday morning), it's snowing heavily, and it's reasonably temperate at -3°C  (it's been cold at night. Down close to -30°C, crisp and clear. I've had a roaring fire going behind me as I toil away at the computer). Oh, goody! I can go out and plow the driveway in a little while!

Here come da Judge!
I had the honour of being invited to judge a photo competition for Toronto Camera Club last week. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take their photography to the next level. Looking through and evaluating hundreds of images, all of which are meaningful to the makers and represent their best work, you learn where you yourself place in the grand scheme of things. Sobering, sometimes, and, I have to admit, somewhat encouraging.

The other good part was to be able to work with some real pro's and get new insights. Thanks, Lance and Nella and Anthony and the rest of the TCC support staff. If any of you want to get involved in judging, take the CAPA course. You can probably track one down through your local club. CAPA is Canadian... I'm sure there are equivalent organizations everywhere in the world.

I don't shoot for competition any more. I seem to bend the rules more often than not. I created a composite clipart image for my HDR presentation, that says it all:

A new lens!
New to me, that is. A bit of a story (there always is... LOL). My old buddy Pete is an outdoor photographer/writer and we're in reasonably frequent contact. Turns out he had an FX wide angle lens that he was using on his DX-sensor camera that wasn't wide enough... and we agreed that a great swap would be my D300 package with the great 12-24 DX lens, for his FX, 17-35 f/2.8 lens.

So we agreed to swap and did it via Canada Post (it is winter, you know! And we live about 400km apart!). I shipped my package to him, and he did the same. The lens arrived first. Turns out that Canada Post will deliver to my door when a signature is required, but will only leave a card and I have to go to the post office if I don't have to sign for it. Makes sense, right? Not to me either...

So the lens was delivered. I eagerly tore open the package. A Nikon box, and a hard lens case inside it... rubbing my hands together, I opened it, only to find a Nikon 28-70 f/2.8 lens inside! Pete shipped me the wrong lens! My first reaction was to Google the value of that lens, but then I decided to call him and straighten things out. I finally got the right lens yesterday (more to the story, but I've bored you enough!).

Of course I threw it on the camera and went out in search of pictures! Didn't find much yesterday, but I did do a couple of shots.

Not a serious shot, just trying to see how wide it actually is. This was shot from around 3 feet away from the ATV and it's a 3-shot HDR (as if the cogniscenti can't tell! Don't criticize the halo, I was just playing, OK?). 17mm, f/8, ISO 100, Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, Topaz Adjust 5. Focus was on the back wheel and you can ALMOST read the fine print on the label on the back of the plow!

By the way, there were a lot of sensor dust spots in the sky... they come out to play when you do an extreme HDR. I thought my sensor was clean... going to have to look into that.

Here's a more serious shot, I visited my friend Vic and took an HDR sequence inside his living room. THIS is what a wide angle lens is for!

Heavily edited, of course. That's what I do! Vic said one of the things he loved about his house was the rich glow of the woods and I agreed with him. That's what I was trying to achieve in this shot. The room is fairly big: there's about 6' between me and the back of the chair in the foreground, but that's a full width, 12'-ceilinged window wall. FWIW, I metered on the wood in the centre, opened the middle exposure up about 2/3 of a stop and did a 2-stop differential burst. f/4 at ISO 640. NIK HDR Efex Pro and again Topaz Adjust, but I used a preset that emulated a retro film effect which added saturation, glow, some graininess and the vignette. 

I convinced Vic to let me take his picture too. I sat him on the couch on the left and used available window light with the 70-200mm lens at around 100mm.

Serious look. I have to get him moving around a bit next time. You have to love the lighting! Tack sharp, considering it was 1/80 sec at f/4.5, ISO 640, handheld.
Great Deals from B&H Photo
If you have a hankering for a new lens, Nikon is discounting many legacy pro lenses individually (up to $350 off!) for the first time in many years. The sale is valid until March 2, 2013. Here's the link.

For Canon-istas, there are some other hot deals right now at B&H, check it out here!

A rare visitor
The other morning I was treated to a rare visit from a Pileated Woodpecker. She graced me with her presence at the suet feeder long enough for me to (a) put the freshly charged battery in the camera, (b) change to the 70-200mm lens, (c) select "U1" as the closest usable camera mode preset (auto-ISO, AF-C focusing, spot metering), (d) shoot a few frames through the glass door, (e) open the door a few inches and (f) shoot a couple of frames through the gap. Then she flew off. So here she is:

Female Pileated Woodpecker (dryocopus pileatus). Males have red under their chins too. Technobabble: 1/250 sec at f/4.5, ISO 6400. Cropped from D600 image.
For what it's worth, I've got a constant flow of black-capped chickadees, white- and red-breasted nuthatches and the smaller hairy woodpeckers at this and my other feeders. I used to get a lot of blue jays but I haven't seen one in literally months! I wonder what happened to them?

Here's a chickadee (poecile atricapillus) enjoying a black sunflower seed from my other feeder. (S)he took it to a branch in the pine tree, held it in its claws and pecked to get at the meat inside.

A Hairy Woodpecker  (picoides villosus) waiting her turn on the feeder. She showed up just as I was typing this! Females don't have the red spot on the head. The Downy Woodpecker is similar but with a shorter bill. Your wildlife education for the day. 1/400 at f/8, ISO 6400.

And finally, here's a red squirrel hanging out on the split-rail fence on my deck.

Red Squirrel (tamiasciurus hudsonicus) Pretty common, but he came out to watch me take pictures of the chickadees so I had to take his picture too, since he obligingly posed for me! 

Until next time!

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