Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lazy but Talented...

Shooting people on the street

I've had a lot of positive feedback on my Old Montreal shots, particularly the old guy walking. John called it "The Traveller" and I love that name. Thanks!

As a very shy person, I have a very hard time going up to someone and asking them if I can take their picture. I don't know how people do that, and I wish I could. Some people even go the extra step and say, "please sign this model release"! I can't even begin to think how to do that.

I get that the Traveller was in a public place and therefore I have the right to photograph him, and probably to use his picture for non-commercial purposes. And there's no question that I can say what I think about him as long as it isn't outright slander (a street performer in Ottawa has taken offence that while I thought he was an adequate saxophonist and I even thought he should be in a more prestigious place, like New Orleans; but I said he wasn't "outstanding". Every week or so he writes a rambling ranting, sometimes profane comment on my blog, so I've had to block him).

Paradoxically, the few times I have asked, the people have said "yes". I don't know why I don't do it more often. How do others deal with this?
As an aside, I once took some pictures of kids eating HUGE ice cream cones at Kawartha Dairy. A parent came up to me and told me to ask permission first. I get that (we live in a sad society where you would have to!). A lesson before you point the lens...

Here's another image from Old Montreal last week.

On the way to Ottawa there were some abandoned Cessna 150's at a fuel stop.  

I wasn't the only one photographing them. Ahh, Lightroom's local adjustment brush... 

Got my Filter Adapter!

Very, very slick. This is a product I recommend. It works just as advertised: attach the adapter to your lens, screw each of your commonly used filters into a holder, then when you want to mount a filter, it simply magnetically clamps to the lens.

The magnet is pretty strong: I don't see the filter falling off, although I wouldn't rely on it riding a motorcycle at speed or banging through the brush on my ATV. To remove it, just lift it off at an angle (magnets work like that...). I tried both the 10x ND filter and the circular polarizer on my 17-35mm wide angle and they work perfectly. Note that Xume points out there might be vignetting on ultra wide angles, after all, you're adding an extra ring on the front of the lens, and they're right. Here's a test shot with the polarizer on board, at 17mm

The vignetting disappears at about 20mm. 

I bought the starter kit for $53, for my 77mm diameter lens(es). It comes with one lens adapter and two filter holders. Down the road, I might buy another kit so I can use other filters and put an adapter on each lens (and my lens caps: you can't click a lens cap into the adapter, you have to use a filter holder. That said, I don't use caps when the camera's in the bag, I have a cleaning cloth up against the front of each lens).

Shipping to Canada was only $4, it arrived in about 3 days. There's a little video on their site, click the link!

D600 dust 

I have my D600 back and yes, there are some dust spots again. Only 2 or 3 that I can see, a manageable number for now, and they only really show up at small apertures or when I do an HDR (the merge process seems to enhance them). Les Palenik has reported that he's seen some too.

But as Les points out, "...amazing IQ. Sometimes, I can crop a 24MP image into 4-6 different pictures. Or if I don't get it sharp in camera, then I downrezz it to 6-12MP which makes it sharp enough."

I think it comes down to that. The image quality is so high you see EVERYTHING. Anyway, I'm convinced the D600 is the right camera for me.

I should point out that Les is a prolific micro-stock shooter and the stock sites are very discriminating about image quality. In fact I didn't qualify when I tried a couple of years ago (I'm going to try again). So he knows what he's talking about.

D5100 for sale

 Unfortunately, I can't afford the luxury of having two cameras at this time. I bought the D5100 factory refurbished from Nikon to use while my D600 was in the shop. It has a spiffy fold-out LCD that I'm going to miss, the reach of an APS-C sensor (16.2Mp), it's light, it's fast, it has some neat built-in effects. It handles high ISO situations really well, too. Check this out:

My grandson, Ryan, with low available light. 1/125 at f/8, ISO 6400. I adjusted the exposure a bit in LR, tweaked the eyes and a bit of skin softening, got rid of some visible background in the right corner and cropped it slightly. NO NOISE REDUCTION (well I always add a touch of sharpening and NR on import for all shots, but just a touch)
Here's the deal: $425 (OBO) gets you the body and all the stuff that came with it from Nikon, including warranty. The camera sells new for $565 tax in.  If you want, I have a small MF lens, and I'll discount a DSLR course if you want to learn how to use it. Contact me. Hurry, I think this is going to go fast.

Lazy but Talented

My sister bought me a t-shirt a while ago, it says "Lazy but Talented". I wear it all the time and she knows me. There's a message here... wait for it!

My grandkids were up for a few days this week and Ryan, the 13-year old who is now taller than me, had my D5100 for a bit, while I shot with the D600. We stopped at the Stanhope Airport and there was a helicopter parked there. I took a few shots, but Ryan, who is NOT as lazy as I am, climbed up on top of a storage tank (wonder what's in it!) for a different perspective. On his own, I might add... no prompting from me.

Single frame Nik HDR EFEX toning, in case you were wondering! 

His picture was better than any of mine. The message I alluded to is, "don't be lazy. Find that unusual perspective. Make the effort".

Ryan's picture. Again toned and tweaked in LR. 1/200 at f/9, ISO 500. He was in Aperture Priority, by the way, not Automatic. Take a course

While we're on the subject of the D5100 (I'm starting to have second thoughts about selling it!)

This Ruffed Grouse was on the road to the Haliburton School of the Arts (the Haliburton pioneer museum is worth a visit). I grabbed the D5100 and shot out the car window. He did a little dance and fanned his tail for us! 

I mustn't forget my granddaughter Kelly. She's the "Fish Whisperer". She does everything wrong by the book, but she's the only one who catches fish! Deliberate silhouette and I was looking for the rimlighting on her hair when I shot it. This was actually shot with my point-and-shoot, so it's not the camera...

This was really tough!

I've shot waterskiing/wakeboarding from Janie's boat before. It's a real challenge! You're bouncing around, it's hard to keep the camera steady, and tougher still to keep the subject in the frame, never mind in the middle where you can autofocus! In hindsight, I should have pre-focused at his distance (the rope isn't going to change length!) and I should have put the "Active" VR on, something I forgot completely about until this very moment. Next time.

Waterskiers have their eyes closed a lot. With water streaming in their faces at 30 or 40 kph, I'm not surprised! They also get weird expressions when they're exerting physical effort or focusing on what they're doing:

David (Janie's son) is concentrating on a wakeboard trick. You probably can't see the facial expression unless you blow the picture up (click on it). 

You can see it in this one, though! Sorry, David. 

Sometimes things don't go entirely as planned... 

So here's the shot David's probably going to put on his FaceBook page...

I'm going to hop on the ATV and head over to the white water to see what's going on. TTFN...

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Get your A$$ out of bed

...but before we get to that, some other stuff...

Still some openings
I'm doing an introductory lesson this Saturday morning and could use more students! If you're in the Highlands, you're reading this and you want to get started learning to take better pictures, please click here.
Also on the PhotoWalk on Sunday morningRead the previous blog: I'm shooting Furnace Falls at Dawn, then the Irondale Church, then maybe a visit to Kinmount on the way home. See how it's done and get some pictures of some really interesting venues! Click here!
I've also been asked to do a DSLR course in the GTA (in Vaughan). They want a mid-week session, which is OK with me except I would have to stay overnight in Toronto, so it only makes sense if I have more students. Some time in August. Send me an email if you're interested.

Someone else asked me to do a twilight shoot in Toronto (city lights, just at dusk, HDR, cityscape...). Again I'd like to do it if I can get some more interest from my adoring public. Send me an email

Been Looking for this for YEARS!
Screwing filters onto my lenses is a real pain in the butt. Especially the circular polarizer, because when you try to take it off, it's stuck. The outer ring of the filter turns (as it's designed to do) but the body is seemingly permanently screwed on the lens. I started carrying surgical gloves around to try to get the thing off.

Same thing is true of my Neutral Density filter, although that comes off easier. But the problem is, I can't see through it when it's installed, so composition and focusing is a time-consuming operation. Set up...put the filter on...shoot a test shot...decide to recompose...take off the filter... recompose...put the filter back on... and so on.

Well these guys came up with a system where you put an adapter on the lens that has a super duper magnet in it. You put your filter in the mating adapter, snap it on and off. Bingo! There's a little video on their site, click the link!

Disclaimer: I haven't got mine yet so I haven't tested it. It popped up a couple of days ago and I haven't even had time to get my order in. Looks amazing, though and the starter set is only $50 or so.

Highlands Living
People ask me all the time how I live up in the Highlands full time. "Don't you feel isolated? Especially in the winter?" The truth is, that's a downside to living here. I don't get enough company. But the winter is wonderful, probably my favourite time!

The good far outweighs the bad. I stayed with a friend in downtown Toronto last week and I was in Montreal last weekend and I wouldn't live in the city for all the money in the world (OK, wait a minute... that's an expression, not a statement of fact!...). So many people. So many cars. It took me longer to drive on Tuesday morning from Toronto to Mississauga and back to the 401/Allen than it would have to drive all the way home. And back. You can keep it.

But again, there's good and bad on both sides. For instance, I touched bases with a whole bunch of people I don't see very often (in one case, it's been almost half a century! Gary actually introduced me to photography that many years ago. He's a fine photographer himself, I hope we'll get to shoot together soon).

Also cities are full of photo ops. You'll see in a minute.

But it's been 33°C (over 90, you Yanks!) and I have something you don't: a lake. I was in the water 3 times yesterday and I'll be in there this afternoon after I finish this blog post! Last week, my friend Ilana visited me for a couple of days, 'way too short a visit, I hope she comes back soon! We did get some waterfront time in...

I took this with the D5100. I wasn't that impressed with the original shot, the lighting was rough in the middle of the day, but Lightroom and Nik Color Efex Pro (Polaroid Transfer filter) saved the day. Very little retouching is needed when you have such a beautiful model!

I posted this for a couple of reasons. There's something to be said for photographing people instead of rocks and trees and it's high on my list to learn to do better. By the way, to quote Dr. Sheldon Cooper, "she's a friend, she's a girl, but she's not my girlfriend". Oh, to be younger...

That's my lead-in to the first picture below:

Old Montreal
Some background, then I'll tie this back into the title of this post.

I was in Montreal on family business and we took an afternoon drive through Old Montreal (don't get me started on the traffic...). I immediately said, "I have to come back here tomorrow morning at dawn". So I did... well sort of! I woke up at 4:30, said, "I can sleep another half-hour or so", then promptly fell asleep until 6am. By the time I got downtown, it was 6:30. The sun was long since up, but I'm going to count that as a dawn shoot.

I have NEVER gotten up for a dawn shoot and been disappointed. NEVER. You'd think I would have learned that by now. I'm going to get my a$$ out of bed early much more often. This was no exception. The only things moving in Old Montreal were the street cleaning crews, a few vagrants, and the cute blond girl in the little red City of Montreal Parking Enforcement car who seemed to follow me around and take out her ticket book every time I pulled over to take some pictures! When I shot the picture below, she was just pulling up behind my car.

I processed this picture 6 different ways and loved them all. This is selective colour using Silver Efex Pro, a little toning in HDR Efex Pro and a Glamor Glow added in Color Efex Pro. A testament to the Nik Plugins!

I'm not sure if this fellow was a vagrant or just a visitor. He had a bedroll on his back, walked with a laboured limp, and I saw him several times as he walked along the full length of St. Paul St. He didn't know I was taking his picture, I used the "I'm chimping, not taking pictures" trick I read about recently. Shutter speed was only 1/40 sec, OK for camera shake with the 35mm lens on the full frame, but not quite enough to freeze his head movement. Nik saved the day.

For your enjoyment, here are a few more "Old Montreal early in the morning before anyone else was up" pictures.

This isn't actually Old Montreal. It's Ste. Catherine Street, closed for a festival. My camera was doing some funny things: not sure why. 2- or 3-stops overexposed, nothing set wrong that I could find. Lucky shot. By the way, first shots with my newly returned D600.

This IS Old Montreal.

Same spot, colour version.

Always turn around and look behind you

It was worth getting my a$$ out of bed...

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

To talk of many things.

...of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax..

That's what came to mind when I first started to pen this article. But really not so much, so I'll save that first line for another blog title down the road.

Nikon Stuff

As I write this, I have received "the phone call" to tell me that my repaired D600 is ready for pickup. I'll drop by Nikon in a couple of days to pick it up. According to the tech, they serviced the whole mirror assembly box, cleaned the sensor, and did a firmware update (I thought I already did that...). I asked if he thought that would solve the dust/lube problem and he said he thinks so. Time will tell...

I've been using the D5100. A bit of a false start: they shipped me a dud (wouldn't boot up). But they replaced it instantly when I came by on July 2. Unfortunately, I missed having a camera at Alison's July 1st party, but in a way that's OK, because I got to participate instead of observing.

I met a fellow at the party who was very much into Samsung cameras. His website indicates that he's a wedding photographer, although I got the impression in conversation that he actually worked at Samsung. Anyway, he had a Samsung Galaxy NX mirrorless camera that really looks spiffy, and a Samsung Smart camera with built-in Wifi. Both had huge 5" touchscreens on the back, huge zoom lenses... bears some further investigation!

The D5100 is a fun camera to use. I played with a bunch of settings; here are some pictures that I took with it.

You know I can't leave well enough alone, right? Yes, I did some Photoshop stuff... I stopped at this field of wildflowers (some would consider them 'weeds'!) and it was sort of boring, but some filters and effects punched it up a bit! 

I stayed there and looked around for other shots. I used the swiveling LCD display and LiveView to capture this one from knee height. That might be a godsend for my knee problems... however a problem that I have is "glasses on to see the scene, glasses off to see the LCD". Time for a visit to the ophthalmologist! 

Another shot from the same spot. These were all shot with the 17-35mm lens, by the way. I switched to the 70-200 later, but liked these better! You can do macro without a macro lens, but that's really on my list...

A couple of days later, I shot some stuff around the house. This is edited, of course but the acuity is a testament to the care I took with the lighting, using a reflector disk to block the direct sunlight. The sharpness is more a function of the lens than the camera body, of course. 

Spot metering and exposure compensation works well, although I feel it has a slight tendency to overexpose. Pretty good detail, enhanced with Topaz Clarity. 

The D5100 has some "Effects" modes. Here is one of them, called "sketch". This is exactly as it came out of the camera (except I cropped it). Hmmm... 

The next day, in Minden, I came across this restored 1925 Model A Ford. I thought it deserved a "vintage" treatment so I did an HDR and used Nik Color Efex Pro to make the image like this. 

So much for first impressions of the D5100. It's a worthwhile second body, and gives me the added advantage that it has an APS-C sensor so my telephoto lenses can reach out and touch further.

Field Trip to Irondale

I'm tentatively planning a field trip to the Kinmount/Irondale area for Sunday, July 21st. Here's the story:

I had occasion to visit the Irondale Church yesterday and was struck by the quaint and very photogenic interior. I've made tentative arrangements to shoot it on July 21st (date to be confirmed).

This is the Irondale Church, presently being restored. It sits at the back of a farm property, somewhat isolated, it has an air of quiet solitude to it. The building dates back to 1887, and the original bubble glass is still intact in the windows!

Another view of the exterior of the church, rendered as an HDR.  

Here's the plan: do a dawn MiniTour to Furnace Falls, about 10 minutes outside of Irondale. Head over to the church for around 10am to start shooting interiors and stay 2 or 3 hours to shoot additional shots. If you want to accompany me on the minitour, please sign up at The only restriction might be shooting the interior while services are under way from 10-11 am so we don't disturb the congregation.

Furnace Falls looks like this:

A 1/4-second exposure. I asked the young fellow to hold still so I could maintain focus. Enhanced with Topaz Adjust 5.  This is at 120mm focal length, cropped sensor but you can get quite close.

I'll be scouting it further before then; I think this camera position is facing East so it should be a good dawn location, weather permitting. If the weather's good, you can even swim like this lad is, which should make some interesting shots if we have some willing participants! Bring water shoes so you don't slip.

Kinmount Fish and Chips

On the way back, the skies opened up as I entered Kinmount, and there was quite a downpour. Still, the Fish and Chips shop did a booming business despite the rain!

Must be a really good place! People stood in line in the rain! Then I figured out why... 

Pretty girl, working the front counter. Could be why people stood in line! 

There's quite a bit of other stuff to shoot in Kinmount; a sawmill and a railway museum, some activity on the ATV trail... this could be a good day of shooting — join me!

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