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 http://www.photography.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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