Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Two Days to go 'till the Show!

It's Wednesday and the Haliburton Home & Cottage Show starts on Friday! Two days to go!

Am I ready? Hell, no. I will be, though. As I write this, I still have to create about 25 more greeting cards, bag them all, make one or two more signs, a couple of signup and register sheets, finalize the course agenda for my basic photo skills workshops, frame and re-frame several pictures, run into Toronto tomorrow to go to Staples and Costco for last-minute stuff, buy groceries because my fridge is empty and Linda and Bob will be here for the weekend...

I'm quite satisfied with the images I've produced for the show. I hope I didn't guess wrong about what people would like to buy and I've kept the prices affordable so that hopefully I won't be taking them all home with me! It's a bit of a gamble.

I have 3 goals for the show:

  • to sell some images
  • to book some workshop students
  • to increase the readership for my blogs.

To accomplish the first two, I will be getting out in front of people and they will at least be more aware of me. I've created some show special prices and I'll let my images do the talking for me.

Special offer for my loyal readers: if you come to the show, I'll give you an ADDITIONAL 20% off any print you buy (not the cards. They're cheap enough, at $5 or 3/$10, just check Hallmark's pricing!). So if you see a fine art watercolor image marked at $175, show special $140, your price would be $112. 
All you have to do is tell me you read about it here, and as a skill-testing question, tell me what animal is featured in the header photo of this blog. 
But wait, there's more!

AFTER the show, for the entire month of June 2013, you get the same deal! If you buy art images by going to my gallery and emailing me (I don't have a shopping cart set up yet), and you tell me you read it here, I'll price accordingly. 

To accomplish the third one, I've decided to give some stuff away. If people sign up for my Newsletter, I'll enter their names into two draws: one for a free fine art picture, and one for a free workshop session. 

You can get in on this too! I want you to sign up for my newsletter. Don't worry, if you're not happy, there's an "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of every newsletter. 
Here's the deal: sign up for the newsletter by clicking here or scanning the QR code to the right and I'll automatically enter you in the draw for the picture. If you also want to be considered for the free workshop, leave me a comment at the bottom of this blog post. Make sure I have your name and I can find you in the Newsletter list.
And if you click here in the next 5 minutes... a set of Ginzu knives! Nah, nothing. But I had to say that. Humour. Arr, arr.

Want to see the images I'm exhibiting?

Go to my photo gallery to check them out. Everything you see there is available as an exhibition quality display print, either on fine matte or on fine lustre papers, lovingly printed by hand one at a time! They're all available at very reasonable cost, especially if you read about it here!

The white water is such a great venue...

I ran a DSLR course last weekend (not enough students. Hope that changes!). I heard that CanoeKayak Canada was running the team trials at the MWW (Minden Wild Water Preserve. I'm tired of typing that all out!) so we went over to practice shooting pictures. The winners were chosen for Canada's National Team, for competition in the World Cup and other races in Europe and elsewhere. I was busy with the course, but did manage to capture a few images:

This is Zachary Zwanenburg from Cornwall, Ontario who competed both in the Canoe (C1) and the Kayak (K1) classes and who will represent Canada in the Junior and under-23 teams in both classes. This is a kayak, by the way, if you don't already know. 

 The above image shows how WILD the Wild Water is right now, with record high water levels and flow after the Minden floods a few weeks ago.

Another WILD water shot as  Samuel Primeau from Quebec battles the boiling waters in Earl's Hole during one of his kayak runs.

Haley Daniels from Calgary, Alberta scored at the top in Women's C1 and was named to teams for World Cups, World Championships and Under 23 World Championships. 

20-year-old (I think. I know the year but not the month of birth!) Alexandra McGee from Ottawa placed second behind Daniels in C1 and was named to both the Senior team and the under 21 teams. 

Although 16-year-old Maxime Leboeuf from Valleyfield, Quebec didn't place in the top 3, he will be representing Canada as part of the junior team in Slovenia this summer. 

Competitor names and stats and other information courtesy of Ian Miller from CanoeKayak Canada. Claudia van Wijk from Whitewater Ontario also helped me identify the competitors from their bib numbers.

Nothing to do with white water...

On Saturday, there was a motorcycle ride to raise funds for the flood victims and they started and ended up at the Red Umbrella Inn. This bike was parked out front (and in fact was there overnight). During the DSLR course, I told Dawn to shoot 15 pictures of the bike, all different (trying to get her to work the scene). At the same time, I took a few but I knew what I had in mind.

I took the opportunity to write up how I created the image on my Technical Blog, for those of you who are photographers and interested in Photoshop. Here's the finished image, ready for print. I think it will look fantastic on Epson Cold Press matte paper... you know what to do if you want to order a print! 

So back to work on the show stuff. I hope to see some of you there! Come by and say hello, and bring your wallets...

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Friday, May 17, 2013

It's been an exciting week!

I've spent 4 days of the last 6 on the road. The other two stuck in front of the computer! Two days in Southwestern Ontario for the Birds of Prey shoot, and two days with Linda in Ajax learning how to cut mats and frame prints, and sharing some Lightroom and Photoshop knowledge in exchange. Linda and I are co-exhibitors at the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show in a little over 2 weeks and we had a lot of logistics to discuss. First of all, I hope some of you are going to come to the show. To make it worthwhile, here's a bonus for my faithful readers:
just tell me you read about it here, and get a 20% discount on any of my art prints.

Today I spent 11 solid hours at the computer, preparing these images to be printed. I have 22 prints in hand now (printed on Epson Cold Press Natural which is a spectacular cotton textured matte art paper) and as I write this, Jim's got another 22 to print on Epson Premium Lustre 260. I still have about a dozen to get to him, then I have to work on a couple of hundred going to Costco for 4x6's and 8x10's. My clear bags are here, well at the Post Office anyway, Lots to do before the show.

Cutting mats and framing is a lot of work. The first batch of prints are not a standard size, but the next ones are going to be: you can buy pre-cut mats for 19x13's in 24x18 frames. Now I understand why people go with standard sizes. I have to tell you, that matte paper is so nice, it's a shame to hide it behind glass.

Also I have my first DSLR workshop of the year next weekend. I still have space on the course, so if you're interested or you know someone who is, go to for info or to register.
New plugin from Topaz
There's a new plugin for Photoshop coming out, called "Clarity". I'm beta testing it, and at first glance, I'm very impressed. It does a lot of the things you can do in Lightroom or in Adobe Camera Raw, but much faster and with considerable precision. I did this picture in about 5 minutes, and that included the time to clone out the leather straps on the bird's ankles in Photoshop:

In fairness, the focus/blur was in the original shot. What I did was increase the clarity and sharpness of the face without negatively affecting the rest of the image. I also spent another 5 or 10 minutes enhancing the catchlight in the owl's eye. By the way, this is a "Barn Owl". 

Topaz Clarity lets you adjust clarity and sharpness (LR and ACR users know what I'm talking about) in a bunch of neat ways without having to exit Photoshop (well technically you do when you run the plug-in but it's just one click) and you can paint masks at the same time with effective controls and brushes. You can also do HSL adjustment (Hue-Saturation-Lightness) and make a separate set of masks at the same time. Very neat. I'll report more later, after I participate in the Webinar tomorrow and spend some more time with the program.

I'm told the final version will be available next week, for under $50. Watch this space for a link where to get it.

Birds of Prey
The venue was the Canadian Raptor Conservancy in Vittoria, Ontario, just west of Port Dover. They bring out several birds to be photographed on a perch or in flight. It's a great experience and I understand that Les Palenik is arranging another session later this month. Contact him if you want to attend. Les posted some images from various attendees on his blog, here.

I want to say right off the top, that anyone who can reliably shoot birds in flight in focus and good timing, have my undying respect. It is difficult! I got some pictures but threw away hundreds of frames that were out of focus, had motion in them, or were composed horribly. Les told me 1/800 second was too SLOW a shutter speed and I didn't believe him. I will for next time, and there will be a next time! So here are some images for your enjoyment.

This is Don, his son Ben is in the background. I met Ben up in Wawa a couple of years ago at the Gales of November workshop and it was great seeing him again. Topaz Adjust is responsible for the toning of this image.  

The owl in the picture above was perched, of course, but we did get to shoot him in flight.

No, this isn't him! It's a "Great Horned Owl" and the wings were blurred because the shutter speed was too slow. So I helped it along by using the Radial Blur filter in Photoshop.  

We got to shoot the Great Horned Owl's younger twin siblings while perched. They're pretty photogenic!

These birds are only 7 weeks old and can't fly yet. The sun peeked out of the clouds momentarily and backlit them! I must have taken 50 pictures of them on this perch and it was hard to choose which one(s) I liked best! 

Here's another shot, playing with the radial blur filter again.  

George was there too, a friend from Humber College. That's Don and Ben in the background again. We were shooting one of the most exciting birds at the CRC, the Bald Eagle, in flight. Ben's camera (I think it's a Canon 1D Mk III? I'm not that familiar with Canon stuff) sounded like a machine gun in comparison with my D600 and George's D800! 

This was pretty well the ONLY good image of the eagle in flight that I got. I need more practice. I had to Photoshop out the restraints and tether ropes around his ankles.  

Here's a posed shot of the bald eagle (I think his name was "Uncle Sammy"), sharpened using Topaz Clarity.

After the morning session at the CRC, we headed over to Port Dover for lunch. The specialty of the house is either the locally caught perch or pickerel and it is a treat. As we came out of the restaurant, the rain that threatened all morning finally started. George and I went down to the pier and I tried to get a long exposure of the lake but failed because despite George's efforts, the raindrops on the lens messed up the shot. Just before we left, I pulled out my point-and-shoot and grabbed one shot:

The Port Dover pier and lighthouse. The rain was just coming in. Processed with the oil paint filter in Photoshop.  

Until next time!

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Workin' my buns off!

I wish that were literally true... my buns could use a little working off. OK, more than a "little". I thought I'd start with a short 'show update'.

The Haliburton Home & Cottage Show
It takes place on May 31-June 1-June 2 in the Arena in Haliburton. There are supposed to be about 150 exhibitors, ranging from log house contractors to furniture suppliers to dock and watercraft providers, clothing, gifts, sports and activities and yes, photography! I don't have an exhibitor's list, but I think that Linda Cresswell and I are going to be the only photography exhibitors there. We're working together in Booth #204 and we hope we're going to see you there!

We'll be doing two things: selling prints (and cards), and talking about and booking students for my one- or two-day workshops on learning to take better pictures.

The process of getting ready for the show is quite involved. For Linda less so than me, because she's done them before and already has a body of work printed and ready to go; but I have to spend a lot of time on that aspect!

I've decided NOT to compromise on any of my larger prints. I will be displaying and selling high quality exhibition grade limited edition art prints. I'll have two finishes, Lustre, printed on Epson Premium Lustre Photo Paper 260 gsm, and matte, done on Epson Cold Press Natural 340 gsm. They will be printed by guru Jim Camelford on his Epson Stylus Pro 7900. Not only are the papers and inks archival quality (image lifetimes advertised exceed the human lifespan!) but the gamut and precision of this printer and its media will ensure outstanding image quality.

As I write this, about 1/3 of the prints have been done. In the next few days, I'll be preparing the next batch for printing and that's quite a chore, to do it right! I'll write the process up on my tech blog in a week or so, after I shake the bugs out.

My go-to size for images is a sheet size of 24x18. Images will typically be 19" wide by 13" high, centred on those sheets. Each print will be supplied in a crystal clear bag with a stiffening card, so that the customer can easily mount it in a standard frame. I'll have about a dozen framed prints on hand as well. Here's an example of how the images will appear:

"Reeds" has had an oil paint layer applied to add texture and smooth out the silhouettes. The keyline around it is designed so that if someone wants to frame the print, they don't need a mat. It is printed on the matte watercolor paper and will be on sale at the show for $150. Readers of my blog can buy it for $99! Send me an email...

So aside from the booth design and construction, preparing prints and getting them made, writing descriptions for each print for the accompanying card, creating a database and followup file for my mailing list, making marketing materials and forms, rewriting my basic DSLR course so P&S shooters will benefit, updating both my and SmugMug websites, I have nothing to do...

...tomorrow I'm off to the Birds of Prey workshop on Lake Erie, so hopefully I'll have some new and exciting images available for the show too!

Pictures from the past

I came across this image while looking for something in my archives. OK, actually, I was looking for this very image, to post on the newly created site for the MRHS Class of 1963 reunion coming up in September, 50 years. Gawd, I'm old... this image hangs on my wall near my computer and it brings back great memories of that trip and other ones, and motorcycling in general.

This is me, riding my ST-1100 back in 2005 at the Tail of the Dragon in Deal's Gap, North Carolina (or Tennessee, depending where I was on Rte. 129 at the time). 

By the way, this set of pictures was taken by a company known as "Killboy" who used to set up in the Gap and diligently photographed and posted pictures of every one of the thousands of bikes that rode through on a weekend. I bought these images from them so I can publish them here. I miss riding, but it was time to move on.

Here's another older image of me, taken by Iris during our motorcycle trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2007:

At the top of Grandfather Mountain, near Boone, NC. When I look at pictures like this, I realize I really should lose that weight I've put on since those days! 

Some Wallpaper for you

Here's a new FREE wallpaper shot for you. It works well as a background image on your computer.

Wild Water. There are two versions of this image, one for regular monitors at and the other for widescreen monitors at The watermark is not on either file. Help yourself to them; just go to those links, right-click and copy them to your computer. They are for your own personal use only, not for reproduction or resale. "Creative Commons" copyright protection. If you do download it, please drop me a note: it's interesting to know how many people are using it!

If the icons on your screen have white labels on them, they will be hard to read on this background. Here's how to change the font colour to black (Windows 7. You're on your own with other O/S's!): go to Control Panel → Personalization → Window Color → Advanced Appearance Settings. Change the "Desktop Color 1" to white if you want black type, to black if you want white type. They do make it tough, don't they?

By the way, this image, "Wild Water", is also available as a fine art print on matte watercolour paper, like the "Reeds" image at the top of this post. $150 at the show, $99 here.

A few more pictures

Here are a couple more shots that I took on the way home last weekend, just for your enjoyment!

Every time I drive past the Wessel farm on Highway 35 south of Minden, I look for these horses. I'm always in a hurry, somehow, but I stopped on Saturday. I'm guessing these are young horses, mom & dad are behind the fence in the background. 

I'd love to get them running towards me, wind in their manes, instead of standing there curiously wondering what I'm doing! Next time, maybe. 

This is the dam at Lock 44 on the Trent-Severn Canal, just West of Bolsover, on Canal Road. I used the 10x ND filter, so I could take a 30 second exposure, then I added some Topaz Adjust to bring out the water detail. 

And finally, light painting with a flashlight during a 1-minute shot on a starry night up at 12 Mile Lake. the wide angle lens, wide open at f/2.8 allowed this to happen. Looking at it at 72dpi on the computer is less than ideal, though! Click on the picture to blow it up.
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Friday, May 03, 2013

Spring has Sprung at last!

I have a bunch of new pictures, so I thought I'd get this post up. Heading into Toronto today. Spring has finally sprung, though: to my friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin, chin up: it'll get to you eventually! I had lunch al fresco yesterday!

A lot of people up here are still under water. I feel for them and I hope that the Government and insurance companies come through. That's why we pay them all that money!

Working on the Dam

Parks Canada was working on the dam at the South end of 12-Mile Lake (the water flows into Mountain Lake, the headwaters for the Gull River. The Gull is the waterway for the Minden Wildwater Preserve, then the Hydro Dam, then Minden, then all the way down to the Trent-Severn Canal).

Remember, you can click on any picture to see a bigger version of it.

They were blocking off the West half of the dam (nearest the camera) but leaving the overall flow the same. You can see that there are 3 or 4 logs in the back not going in. The purpose was to retrieve a dock which the floods had driven under the dam by forcing it through the East channel. 

The old-fashioned mechanism still works. Step 1 is to remove the boards blocking the opening, then winch a log into position (it's 12" x 12" by whatever length). The guy in the middle has a hook that looks like a gaff to hold the log in place while they release the winch cables. When he lets it go, the log falls into place on top of the stack in the water. Then they do the next one. Once they're prepared, it takes them about 2 minutes to drop one in. Retrieving it is a similar operation, although I'm not sure how they get the winch cable attached when it's down under water.

The lad on the left seems to be the group leader. He was coordinating the operation. I must be getting old, but I swear he's too young to shave yet... 

Here they are actually operating the winch. Note the flotation vests around each of their necks. The fellow with the blue one (his name is Mike) is actually from the Peterborough detachment, on loan up here during the flood crisis. The young lad's name is Ryan.

I talked for a while with these guys about what caused the flooding in Minden and elsewhere. Their basic response was that it was due to the heavy rains that fell in a one or two day period before the ground defrosted enough to absorb it, coupled with the snow melt the very next day. They couldn't hold any more of it back because the lakes upstream were overflowing their shorelines and around the dams that were in place. The lowering of the lake levels in late summer has two purposes: to maintain the levels in the Trent-Severn and to prevent just such an occurrence by making room to accommodate the anticipated spring runoff. This year was just too much, in fact in my experience, the August lake levels were lower than I'd ever seen them.

See? You learned something!

First ATV Ride
I took my ATV out on the trail off Pleasant Point Road the other day, for the first time not on a road or on the ice. At first I was nervous, especially about what the clearance was like and for some reason, it feels like it falls off to the right. But I got a bit more used to it after a while and the clearance is awesome. I can put pretty big rocks in between the wheels instead of going around them.

I plan to be on this trail through the summer. I'm going to try to document the way the forest changes from month to month by taking pictures at the same spot on the trail. Here are a few images:

Looking South along the trail from the high point. The white spots are NOT flowers, they're dead leaves (beech, I think) 

Here's where my ATV was parked. It's an HDR, then I used Topaz Adjust "Glamor Glow" on the trees.  

Another shot of the bike. I like the high-key effect on the trees and may try to take some more like that. I had shot this as part of an HDR burst but didn't combine it. 

This is at the South end of the trail as I'm about to go back in. I was concerned about getting stuck in the mud but there wasn't even a hint of a problem. 

On the way back, I handheld my Point-and-Shoot camera and took a video while riding with one hand (there's one spot where I blip the throttle because my thumb slipped, riding one-handed!). Here's the link to the video on YouTube. The 6-minute video was 400Mb in size! I found a utility to reduce it and it ended up around 50Mb. Remember, this was my first time and I was being cautious. I didn't go through the mud/water because I was wearing sneakers and didn't want to get them all wet.

At the end of the video, you can see the level of the lake water over the road where Point Pleasant Road meets Red Umbrella Road. Normally there's a boat launch there that's at least 2-3 feet high, down into the water which is normally about 20 feet away from the shore.

Crispy Car HDR's

Credit Michael White (an HDR photographer from Florida who specializes in car images, see his work here) with the phrase "Crispy Cars", which he posted in a message on the TIF forum.

So when I got back from my ATV ride, I noticed this car in the Red Umbrella Inn parking lot. It had been quietly sitting there for at least a year, then apparently on Sunday, while I was in Toronto, it turned into a toasted auto. No discernible reason: it was wet from heavy rains and the Fire Marshall even said there was no trace of accelerants that would point to it being torched: a mystery! Anyway, HDR's of crispy cars are cool. Here are some.

This last one is also a "Paintograph" since I applied the Oil Paint filter to the HDR. Actually it's not; that would imply that I actually digitally painted it but all I did was click and move a few sliders around.  

Lots of pictures today: I'll stop here until next time!

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