Saturday, April 13, 2013

Winter's last gasp

Before I get into the winter story, there are a few other topics to cover.

Printing Media
Last week, I took some time to review my thinking on various print options. I wrote it up over on my other blog, FACzen Tech tips. I said at the time that it was an open-ended article because I was continuing to research the subject and in fact had ordered some sample prints. Well they arrived.

I have three prints here to review: an acrylic mount, a print on matte museum-grade watercolour paper, and a lustre-finish image lovingly output on an Epson 7900. Since it's a technical topic, head on over to the tech blog to read about it. Bottom line? Three outstanding prints.

When you get lemons, make lemonade.
Those of you who read my ramblings on other social media (Google+, TIF and FaceBook) may have read hints I've dropped about an interesting development coming up. Unfortunately, it did not materialize.

I was in discussions with a local weekly newspaper about authoring a column on basic photography. The working title was "Through the Lens" and it was intended to comprise basic tips for new and inexperienced photographers. It's not happening at this time. But I had written several columns in advance and didn't want them to go to waste.

So I'm rewriting them as short eBooks and planning to give them away for free to anyone who subscribes to my mailing list. I've completed the first one and I plan to release it this week, with a new one every week. If you're not on my mailing list, look over here →→ and subscribe. I'll give you more details next week.

"Why," you may ask, "are you giving them away for free?" Two reasons: my goal is to expand my social network, and giving stuff away for free is a good way to do that; and I want to encourage people to consider attending my basic DSLR workshops.

The Haliburton Home and Cottage Show
Mark your calendars: May 31, June 1 and June 2 are the dates for the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show. I will be exhibiting there, along with Linda Cresswell. We both have prints for sale, from card-sized up to huge: Linda told me about a 40x60 print she wants to produce and sell, and I have some large ones as well (not that big!). We're trying to figure out how to display our work in that 10x10 area we've committed to, if anyone has an appropriate set of walls or a grid structure we can borrow, please get in touch!

Winter's last gasp
Every year, winter delivers a final blow in April. No one seems to expect it but year after year, there's a storm that reminds us we shouldn't have taken off those snow tires or put away those boots. 2013 was no different.

On April 11th, in its usual alarmist fashion, the City of Toronto issued a winter storm warning. They told people to stay home, watch out for driving and walking hazards, because a coating of ice was about to descend upon us. And as usual, it didn't happen. Sure, there was a storm. Heavy winds and rain... but the ice didn't materialize. That is, except for the Barrie area, about 60 km to the North. I drove home on Friday, the 12th through there. There was a band of freezing rain and further North, an accumulation of slushy snow, amounting to about 5cm or 2 inches. The big question is, was that the end of it or is there yet another storm to come?

I stopped for a few photos on the way home. Here's a little visual essay.

Just North of Toronto, on Bathurst Street in the King City area, there's a stretch of beautiful land. I'm sure it will be filled with wall-to-wall houses in the near future, but it's really picturesque now. I stopped at this spot on a misty, rainy day and took a few shots. The colours of this tree are exactly as they appear here. 

Here's another shot from the same area. Again, the colours and details are there, but this time I did a little work in Photoshop to prepare the image. Not much, actually... 

As I mentioned, there was an area of freezing rain just around and North of Barrie. I stopped for some pictures. This was shot with the venerable 200mm f/2.8 lens, wide open.  

Another view, in the same spot. I should have stopped the lens down to get more of the foreground in focus, but I do like the effect anyway.

Same place, just to the right, was this tree, all coated with ice. When I looked at this picture I realize that I missed something: it would have been a better composition with more of the farmer's furrows visible on the left. Can't go back...

This is the same tree, but a different tree-t-ment (sorry!). In fact this is a 3-shot pano, merged in Photoshop, and then I created the light effect from scratch. I had to add a shadow in the foreground as well. The sombre tones and border effect make this into a moody piece. The file size is huge and it will print really well as a 30" or 36" print. I'm thinking Watercolour Paper... 

In his lecture, "Crush the Composition", Scott Kelby reminds us to look around in other directions when you stop to shoot. This has proven helpful to me more than once and in fact I incorporate the concept into my workshops as well. This Maple Syrup facility was directly behind me, across the highway. Although the trees were coated lightly with ice, I couldn't capture that in this image. But there was a lot of work to make this one happen!

First of all, it's a 3-shot HDR. First I processed it in HDR Efex Pro 2, and before exiting, I added some control points to bring out the texture in the roof, and the tone in the wood pile. Next I took it into Photoshop CS6 and used perspective cropping to make the foreground railing and the building parallel. By the way, I was shooting across a busy divided highway. At one point I took my life in my hands and ran to the median (where the railing is), but I like this shot better.

Next I selected the foreground and added a motion blur to the roadway, and masked the posts back in. Finally, I added a light layer of Topaz Adjust to enhance the smoke and the wood pile. To me, this is a very Canadian springtime scene. Too bad about the car and truck, but you get what you get! Again, this will print up really well, probably on watercolour paper.

I saw this sign about 20 km down the road. A final taste of winter! 

And then I turned around and saw this scene off to my right! I just enhanced it a bit by running it through Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 as a single image. Full frame, full resolution image from the D600, again with the 70-200mm lens.  

When I arrived home a couple of hours later, this pair of Mallards was standing on the ice not far from shore. There was a bit of open water to the right. When the hen started to preen, I knew I had to shoot it! I can imagine all kinds of cool captions for this shot, like "Let's go, dear. We'll be late for the party!". Another very printable image.

Remember, if you want a limited edition art print of any picture in the blog, drop me a note, and let's talk! Preliminary prices are in effect.

— 30 —