Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sometimes you're in a different place

Life's all about change, right? Some things have changed for me, in my approach to my photography. Maybe it's just temporary, but when I pick up my camera, I have something different in mind. Let's see if I can explain what and why.

I'm planning to take a booth at the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show, to sell pictures. The show is at the end of May, I'll send my commitment in this week. A lot of planning goes into this effort, from the design and construction of the booth, to the choice of images for sale, framing, how to display non-framed pieces, what sizes and media, what price points, finding a device to accept credit and debit cards, lights, and so on. I'm working on all of those things.

The choice of pictures to sell is a major component, also size and quality. I've pretty well decided that most of them will be in the 12x18 size range, and most of those will be printed on lustre paper and priced quite reasonably under 50¢/square inch (so a 12x18 would be nominally $100, unframed). This is, after all, a cottage show. However I plan to have a couple of more expensive pieces there, such as this one:

This is a triptych which I plan to print on canvas and do gallery wraps. The vertical size will be around 18" and the price will be set around $450. The image, by the way, was shot in the fall of 2008 with the D300. It's an HDR and I used the oil paint filter in CS6 to complete it.  

Another image that I plan to display for sale is this one:

I want to print this one on watercolour paper, mat and frame it normally. $350 framed, $250 unframed, 12"x18". I shot this image yesterday (Sunday) with the D600, it's also an HDR. It's the Trent-Severn waterway, with Balsam Lake in the background. 

So here's my dilemma. I'm searching for images in my archives that are suitable for printing. I've come up with about 100 candidates, but some of them don't make it for various reasons: usually because I've cropped them too tightly and there aren't enough pixels left to do a large scale print. Here's an example of that:

I love the oil paint filter in CS6. Some people don't: what do they know?? LOL. It's only about 1600 px wide, so I MIGHT be able to get an 18" print out of it, but only because it's painted and small detail is irrelevant. 

I really like this image. I can picture it as a large scale print, say 24" x 36" flush mounted, or at the very least 18x24 in a mat. But it's never going to happen, unless there's some magic way to go from 1600 pixels to at least 5400 pixels without losing essential detail or introducing artifacts. So as I said, perhaps I can get it to a 12x18 but even then I wonder.

I haven't thought about printing before, really. Among other things I did in the past couple of weeks was to visit a professional print shop, where they specialize in archival and exhibition quality prints. I spent an hour picking the production manager's brain and sitting with some of my own images on their large screen. The conclusion was, if an image isn't originally 4000 pixels on the long side, don't bother. Yes, there are exceptions: the filtered oil painted image above might work because all the detail has been smeared out (his words) but certainly not as a large scale picture.

Incidentally, there's a fantastic print mounting method out there called "acrylic face mount". It's by far the best presentation I've ever seen for saturated, detailed images, they literally "glow". It ain't cheap: I was quoted almost $1 per square inch, just for printing and mounting. But it's beautiful. Google it...

So I've started thinking about composing my image in the camera so I don't need to crop. I'm paying much more attention to detail, to lighting, to textures and nuances of shading (love the snow in the above image, by the way). I've started making images with printing in mind. And that's a whole other mindset. This is stuff that other people have been saying to me for years, but I just haven't listened.

The good news is, I now have a 24 megapixel full sized sensored camera. I can still crop, but only "some". If I want images to look at onscreen, it's still OK to crop up to 100% size: but don't be tempted to print them.

I was out pretty well the whole day on Sunday and while I clicked the shutter about 150 times, many of them were 3-shot bracketed bursts, some were variations of the same image, trying to get it right (about 50 exposures of the Trent-Severn, above for example). And I was in 4 different venues.

By the way, if you want to buy prints, drop me a note and let's talk! If there's a picture you've seen here on the blog that you'd like to see hanging in your house, let me know and I'll figure out if it's do-able, size wise, then let you know how much it will cost. For now, until the business is established, prices will be not much more than the cost of printing and shipping. So a 12 x 18 could end up in your hands for under $40, for example.Send me an email

That said...

I haven't taken a lot of images in the last month, and certainly not snapshots. Well there are some exceptions, after all that's what a point-and-shoot camera is for! Here's one:

Four generations of women, and my brother-in-law. My mother, my sister, my daughter and my granddaughter. North-facing window light.  What's technically wrong with this shot? Well to start with, my daughter is in my sister's shadow. I should have had everyone swing around a bit to their left so the light would be more even. There are lots of other things that make this a less-than-professional portrait but (1) it's a snapshot! and (2) as I've said often in my workshops, "you can't take a bad picture of your family". Because there are memories, not just pixels, embedded in the image.

So what else is going on?

2013 Workshop Schedule

The Spring 2013 workshop schedule is up at www.photography.to. Check it out. I reworked the landing page to clean it up as well. The workshops are designed for beginner and intermediate DSLR users, they're 2 days long and run up here in the Highlands, although I'll come to Toronto to run sessions on demand.

If you're an advanced photographer, I have two things to offer you: one would be to give someone you know (perhaps your SO or child) a step up, when they're ready to inherit that DSLR of yours (an excuse to get that new Nikon or Canon body you've been wanting?)  The other would be an opportunity to get out of the city and spend some time shooting up here in the Highlands. Talk to me.

Some new and exciting news!

But I can't tell you about it yet. Watch this space...

There be eagles there...

A couple of weeks ago, someone told me there were bald eagles on Horseshoe Lake Road, coincidentally, right at one of my very favourite dawn shooting spots. So I wandered over there one afternoon and got lucky:

These were shot with the 400mm lens on the D600, then cropped drastically because they're about 400m away! I spent 2 hours there on Sunday, didn't see hide nor hair of them. I'll be baaaack... 

Lastly, I was testing the light pucks I told you about a while ago, in the light tent. Not a wonderful solution but it works. Here's a test shot of a wedge of Mandarin Orange on my frosted background.

I got all extreme on this shot, playing in the NIK plugin set. Just for fun! 

See? Not everything is print- and exhibition-ready.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'm Baaaack!

Did you miss me? I missed you...

Nikon update
I got my D600 back from Nikon. They kept it about 10 days. I have to admit that I haven't shot with it yet, though. Just a couple of test shots, but I need to reset all my presets (they dumped them. I should have saved them but I forgot to). A couple of notes:

  • Nikon messed up and SHIPPED my camera back to me, even though they knew I was making a special trip to pick it up. I was not happy because I was going to miss a weekend of shooting until I got home. They made me happy when they handed me a demo D600 to use and ship back to them when I got mine.
  • The demo D600 had at least one big fat dust spot on the sensor...
  • They shipped by Purolator (for you non-Canadians, that's sort of like saying they shipped by FedEx. Sort of). Here's the problem: I have an arrangement with Purolator that if I'm not home, they'll leave packages on my deck for me, providing a signature wasn't requested, instead of taking it back to the depot and leaving me a card. I use that all the time for my low-value First Aid kit shipments. Nikon did NOT request a signature for my $2000 camera. So Purolator just left it there. For 3 days, by the way. Here's the catch: if it had been stolen, I would never have been able to claim for it, because they have a signed "Signature not Required" agreement. How can Nikon ship a $2000 camera and NOT request a signature at the other end? I have a call in to them to ask that question.
  • Now the burning question: what did they do to my D600? The invoice says they cleaned the low-pass filter (sensor) AND THEY REPLACED THE SHUTTER MECHANISM! Was that related to the dust issue? Who knows. My advice to anyone with a D600/dust problem? Send it in to Nikon.
While I was there, I bought a refurbished S6000 point-and-shoot camera. How could I not, for $65? Now when I teach new shooters, I have a frame of reference to what they're used to. I also have another reason, but I'll share that with you when the time comes.

The point-and-shoot's pretty good. Here:

Tulips. Painted with the Oil Paint filter in CS6. 1/10 sec at f/3.5, ISO 400, F=28mm in FX equivalence. Vertical crop. The little camera's got built-in VR, believe it or not! Colour me impressed.

Here's another shot, through the car window while I was waiting for Rosa outside the flower shop. The magenta reflection at lower right is from the window. Oil painted again, a little bit of Photoshop tweaking. 

Rosa took this shot with the P&S inside a gallery in the Distillery District.
One day when I grow up, maybe I'll be able to see light like she can! 

Here's another one of Rosa's. This has more potential than you see here,
I can't get my head around the post-processing. 

I took a few pictures with the borrowed D600 and my 17-35mm lens. 

You know how you're not supposed to take pictures in a public washroom? My bad...
3-shot HDR, toned in Topaz Adjust.

This shot was in a gallery in the Distillery District. Incredible use of open space. They weren't too happy with me taking pictures in there, even after I explained I wasn't shooting the artwork, I was shooting the architecture.
Same thing; 3-shot HDR processed with HDR Efex Pro and finished in Topaz and Lightroom.  

My least favourite time of year
It's pretty ugly out there, the snow is melting and brown, it's grey and snowing or raining lightly, pretty dull. I hope it picks up soon. The ice fishermen are taking their lives in their hands, with the surface melting... I'm not going out there again!

This is at Miner's Bay, about 25 km south of me. The slushy surface of those plowed ice roads
don't look too safe to me!

Oh well, back in business. I heard a rumour that there are some bald eagles roosting on Horseshoe Lake, feasting on duck, so if the weather picks up, I might venture out to see what's what. 

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Thursday, March 07, 2013

This will make you cringe!

... if you're a photographer, that is.

Here's the story of the elk and the camera, direct from Dr. Ron who gave me permission to post it here.

On my recent trip to Yellowstone 2 elk were fighting. I ran over with my camera around my neck leaving the other body and the 600mm lens on the tripod beside the river where I was shooting another Elk in the river just moments before.

The Bull elk that lost the fight was forced onto the road. He saw me,  and I saw him….

He charged me and I ran up the hill hiding behind a tree.  (not very brave but I am still here in one piece) That is when he spotted the tripod with the Nikon D3s and the 600 mounted to it.

He went over to investigate….
I yelled at him…he charged me again…still not brave I chose the same tree! 
BTW My heart works very well, I could feel it beating out of my chest!

 An angry elk looks into the camera (for a sense of scale, that 600 mm lens is more than half a meter long - ed.)

The 12 point bull (6 per side) standing about 6 feet at the shoulder (the height of my extended tripod) ,  returned to the tripod. Stuck his nose into the end of the lens….I held my breath….hoping he would get disinterested and walk away. He stood there for a moment looking at the gear deciding what to do.

He charges the camera antlers first 

No such luck, he was frustrated and looking to take it out on something. He lowered his head and charged. As his antlers pushed the tripod over, it slid down his antlers making a scraping noise, then the camera strap got caught in his antlers and that really freaked him out. After it finally hit the ground he began kicking the camera and lens now scattered in several pieces into oblivion. I must not be a good photojournalist because I was too shocked to take any pictures of that…..

He kicks the camera for good measure 

Some other photographers saw what was happening and jumped into their car, drove towards the elk honking and screaming and he just looked at them indignantly….almost daring them to come closer, took a step towards the car in a mock charge daring them to come closer….he finally turned, gave one last kick to the downed lens almost to say F. You and trotted off down the slope towards the river.

When I retrieved the gear, the body was useless, the inside mounting ring was bent and the outer housing cracked. The lens had a very serious and gut wrenching crunching noise when you attempted to turn the focusing ring, the 1/8 of a turn it had left in it…kind of like a final gasp before slipping into a coma!

The good news is that both are repairable, a testament to the ruggedness of Nikon.  I do however have a new tripod on order. I tried to find one that is elk proof. No such luck.

I have a new found healthy respect for Elk, Moose and Bison….they look fluffy but they pack a punch.

Gotta love Nature photography….not for the feint (sic) of heart!

Followup: good news!

I spoke with Nikon service today. The service department is very familiar with the story, the tech I spoke to knew exactly what I was talking about! We agreed that the fact that the camera and lens are repairable is a testament to the ruggedness of the Nikon product. Obviously there's a price tag attached, but it's MUCH less than a new lens and body!

Ron, they told me your camera and lens will be ready for pickup in 5 working days!

The bad news is, that means Dr. Ron can't justify buying that new 800mm f/4 that Nikon just announced!

Another (non-related) piece of good news: my D600 is ready for pickup, I'll be at Nikon tomorrow morning! In uncharacteristic fashion, Nikon told me, "the technician found it necessary to replace the shutter mechanism, in addition to cleaning the sensor filter". Hmmm...

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Still going through withdrawal

{whine}. My camera's still not ready. I'll be in Toronto on Friday, so I hope I can pick it up from Nikon  then. In the meantime, the only camera I have is my iPhone.

I took a pano with it: how cool is that? I'm not posting it here because I was just playing, but it works well. Just so I don't leave you without pictures (I wouldn't do that!), here are a couple:

I woke up the other morning to a sugar-frosted world. Not ice, but snow, that stuck to all the branches. About half an hour later, it was gone! Beautiful, though. This is the view from my driveway towards my dock. 

From the same spot, I took a shot of the Red Umbrella Inn. I used the oil paint filter in Photoshop CS6 and I LOVE what it did to the trees at right. iPhone. Who would have thunk it?

... until I met a man who had no feet...
You know the old saw about feeling sorry for yourself because you don't have any shoes... OK, so I had a few dust spots on my D600. That doesn't compare to the pain Dr. Ron felt when a bull elk TRASHED his D3S and 600mm f/4 lens in Yellowstone. I'm trying to get his permission to reproduce the story here. I get mine back from Nikon in a day or so. I think he has to wait a bit longer.

Web Presence revision
I'm working on revising my web presence. I've taken ALL my Smugmug galleries down, they were really silly. I intend to have one gallery for limited edition exhibition quality prints for sale, a gallery for wallpaper images, and a portfolio, and that's it. So far I created the print gallery, and put one image in it, more to come!

Next comes the www.photography.to site, which needs revamping and the 2013 teaching schedule, then my main site, then... it never ends!

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