Wednesday, August 28, 2013

There are good weeks and there are...

... if you finish other peoples' sentences, you possibly completed the title of this post with, "...and there are bad weeks." Then there are those people who have this irrepressible optimism, an intractibly positive attitude, who would have finished it, "...and there are magnificent weeks." If you fall in the latter group, I envy you and I want to grow up to be just like you.

This week has had its moments, on both sides of the pendulum. One of the things I like about writing is that it can be cathartic, especially when you focus on the good stuff. So let me do that this week, and not talk about the possibility that my eye problems might not be so trivial and...

I haven't travelled in a while. For various reasons, things just haven't worked out that way in the last couple of years. I'm hoping that next year will bring some possibilities for me. In the meantime, I'm living vicariously through some good friends' trips to Alaska, to Newfoundland, to Israel and so on. My birthday is coming up in a week or so, and my bucket list is getting longer and longer, not shorter and shorter as it should. Maybe that has something to do with my challenging week.

Why do I like teaching so much?

This is going to sound odd coming from an admitted recluse like myself, but it's because of the interesting people I meet. In the last month, I met someone who has won an Emmy and who is off to Africa for a while, an historian, a fellow who has taken pictures of grizzly bears in the wild from so close he could touch them (OK, he's nuts!), some people so new to cameras they didn't know how to look through the viewfinder, a dog breeder, and more. Every one of them has stories and life experiences to share.

My favourite thing about teaching is watching that light bulb come on. It doesn't always happen while they're here, sometimes later, but when students call and thank me for helping them see the light (pun intended), well that makes my day. With that in mind...

A call to my students and print customers

Students: please send me pictures. Please share images that you've made that you're proud of, and please give me permission to reproduce them here. Not to be critiqued, just for me and my readers to enjoy! And so we can live vicariously and enjoy the things you've done and places you've been. You have my email.

Fine art print customers: are you enjoying the artwork on your walls? Please let me know! Any suggestions? A wish list?

Both groups: testimonials would be great! I'd love to put some up on my web site and especially, I'm trying to figure out how to make this social media stuff work, so please 'friend' me on Facebook, add me to your circles on Google+ or invite me as a contact on LinkedIn.

Algonquin Park Photowalk

I'm going to be in Algonquin Park on the last weekend in September, to shoot the fall colours at their peak. Who wants to join me?

I plan to shoot at a great venue at dawn on Saturday and at another spot that will probably include a waterfall (or at least some moving water!) during the day. On Sunday I have an early morning and other commitments.

What's a Photowalk? Just what it sounds like. The walk leader chooses a venue and preps the participants what to expect. Then a bunch of people come out and shoot whatever pictures they feel like. People cooperate: they share their techniques, look at each other's work, get ideas from one another. There's no formal workshop training but the more experienced photographers usually help out.
Afterwards, there's usually a coffee shop kind of meeting where people exchange contact information. The walk leader will often make a website available for people to post their pictures. 

The benefits of doing a photowalk are (a) meeting and shooting with and exchanging ideas with other photographers and (b) an excuse to get out and shoot some pictures in a place someone else has scouted out! It's a bit like being in a camera club where you've been given an assignment, it stirs up the creative juices.

It's FREE and it's FUN.

Why am I doing this? It's NOT for the money: in fact I don't expect ANY payment of any kind for this. Go up and read point (a) in the paragraph above. If this gets me any students for my courses later on, or sells any of my fine art pictures, or kindles interest in local (Highlands) residents in starting up a camera club, then "bonus".

You should know that the Richmond Hill Camera Club will also be in the Park that weekend, along with a thousand other photographers who can't pass up the opportunity to shoot the colours at their peak. I plan NOT to interfere with them and to avoid being at the same venues at the same time (I'll join them privately on Sunday).

If you want to join me on the Photowalk September 28th, you have to subscribe to my newsletter. Here's the link. All the details will be in the newsletter or by email to people registered for the event. How do you register? Read the newsletter.

Picture time!

Everyone knows by now that my favourite venue is the Minden Wildwater Preserve. Here's a whitewater canoeist challenging the river. This colour sketch is SOOC: "straight out of the camera"! The D5100 has an effects mode that's really fun!  

Here's another one. I call this "Planning Ahead". The kayakers were thinking through their approach to the white water. I'm not sure, but I think this was at Earl's Hole, a feature on the river. By the way, by the time you read this, the D5100 might be gone. I'm torn about whether I should sell it, it's a lot of fun and has some great features I'm going to miss, not the least of which is the swivelling LCD. And the Effects mode! 

I've lived here for almost 6 years and I've shot hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures from my dock or the corner where Red Umbrella Road and Pleasant Point Road meet. I went out two nights in a row to get this shot. My goal was to capture the nuances of subtle colour at sunset. I eliminated all the detail by exposing as a silhouette and by using the 10x ND filter to extend the shutter time. This is 8 seconds at f/8, ISO 1000. This image is available as a large format art print, check it out here.

On Sunday afternoon, I shot this image at the same spot. Again I used the ND filter to extend the shutter time (15 seconds at f/8, ISO 200). By the way, I LOVE the Xume filter adapter. I shot about 15 different images in about 10 minutes. Without the adapter, that would have been over an hour.  Click the Xume link at right for info. I'm going to work this one up as a fine art print too, just haven't finished it yet. 

Chipping Sparrow. I saw this fellow in the pine tree outside my front door, grabbed the D5100 (sigh!) and the Sigma 12-400mm lens and got this shot. The D5100 has a cropped sensor so you can get more up close and personal than you can with the D600 Full Frame.  What makes this image for me is the fact that the bird stepped out into the light which gave me the texture I was looking for.

1/800 second at f/8 (see a pattern emerging?), ISO 900. I had auto-ISO on to hold that minimum shutter speed, which I need for sharp images at 400mm focal length. 

That's it for today. Watch the newsletter for Photowalk information, it's exactly a month from today as I write this!

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

And the beat goes on...

Did you notice the new banner up top? Every now and then I feel the need to change it up. And when I do, I post the previous banner in the body of the blog because otherwise it disappears completely! So...

I chose the new image because (a) I had to find something that would fit in the footprint, an extremely wide pano, and (b) I like the smooth tonality and colour blend of this image. It is a picture taken from my dock on 12 Mile Lake. I've taken hundreds of pictures from the same spot but occasionally one stands out. I like how the shape of the shoreline and its reflection on the left creates a virtual arrowhead that causes the viewer's eye to move from left to right across the image and back again to pick out the structures and detail.

For those who care, it's an HDR merged in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 from 3 exposures, shot with the 17-35mm lens at 17mm and f/8 on the full-frame D600. For what it's worth, here's the original image (well, the merge!) minus a few pixels for better framing.

I will make this available as a fine art print. I think it would look outstanding on a matte art paper. Check out the gallery link at right to find it and email me to order a print. It also makes a fine wallpaper image for your computer. Two sizes, one for normal and one for wide screens. This wallpaper image is FREE for subscribers to my newsletter, so click here or on the link at upper right to subscribe.

I'm going to start today by nagging you.


Some of my readers are diligent about doing their backups. Some are not. Some people need a subtle reminder to do it. This is intended for you!

Do your backups. My backup strategy isn't perfect but at least I do them. Today I sync'd my two external drives so I have two up-to-date copies of my photo archives. I also copied my Outlook data files to an external drive. Don't forget those, they're in a weird location (on a PC) and you don't want to go through what I did when the original got corrupted...

On a personal note, I have to sit down and create a new Lightroom catalog that contains all my "Keeper" images, then copy the whole shebang to another drive. Reason is, my external drives are getting very full and I'd really like to have a third copy of the important images, at least. 
Update: I just did that. It took about 8 hours for Lightroom to percolate and copy a little over 500Gb of data. FWIW, I have over 15,000 keeper images (ones which I had flagged earlier as 'not unacceptable')! I should have sent it directly to the external drive because now it wants another 7 hours to do that. I feel better, though. Now I have a third copy of my "keeper" files and it's going to be stored off-site.  

Anyway, do it today. I don't know what your backup strategy is, but do it. Just imagine your house burning down to the ground and in addition to everything else, losing all the images you've ever shot.

Emergency Medical Card

If for some reason you have a medical emergency, the important information about you should be available if you end up in an ER and can't tell them everything, or can't remember. You should also have contact information, a list of meds, all that stuff in your purse or wallet JUST IN CASE.

Years ago, I created a .pdf document that you could fill out (on your own computer, you don't send that out anywhere) and put it up as a public service. At one point I had a hit counter on that page and recorded over 50,000 hits: I lost it, so I'm going to start it over again.

Anyway, go to this page: and fill out the form. You simply type your info into the page, print it out, then run over to Staples and get it laminated if you want, and carry it in your wallet or purse or camera bag...
Note that this is absolutely FREE and we don't record any information about you including the fact that you downloaded the document or visited the page (except that we count how many people have done that). No worries.
You may be one of the rare people who don't have any medical issues or take any prescription drugs or have any allergies, but at least you should carry your doctor's name and contact info and who to call in case of emergency. Please do it now. And if you think it's a good idea, please tell your friends and loved ones.

OK, finished nagging...

Heads Up!

I'm going to be announcing an Algonquin Park Fall Colours PhotoWalk in the next week or so. My initial concept is that there will be no charge for my students and subscribers to my newsletter, just trying to put it together. Watch for the announcement on the Newsletter.

SmugMug has a new look

There are lots of places you can put your photos up on the web for free. Everyone's doing the "cloud" thing now, but most of the free sites have some down sides. Every day, I read about how someone's pictures were stolen on FlickR or on 500px... I've been a SmugMug subscriber for years and because that's the only thing they do and because it's not totally free, they care about you.
I had a "Professional" account there because I wanted to be able to sell images through them with a markup. They had links to a couple of really great labs, like Bay Photo in San Francisco, and you could easily order directly. I stopped doing that because, well, it wasn't a good way for me to market my images (that said, I haven't found one yet!). Anyway, I downgraded my account to something called a "Power" account which costs me $60/year. If you're interested, here's the comparison between the different accounts they offer.
A couple of weeks ago, they totally revised their interface and look-and-feel. It's really, really slick now, IMHO. Check out my site at Go ahead, I'll wait right here...

If you clicked on "Browse", you would have seen some other galleries that I've put in place (works in progress...) but what I like is they are for special purposes and the casual visitor doesn't have to be distracted by them.

So one of the other things I like about SmugMug is that when you send an email to their helpdesk, a real live human being responds in short order. And it's someone who actually knows about things, not some CSR in a foreign call center (Hi, I'm Rajesh, and I can certainly help you with that problem...).

One more thing: Lightroom has a plug-in where you can sync with SmugMug. Just drag photos into it and click "Publish" and you're done. Nice. I just added the image at the top of this post to both my "New and Featured Images" and my "Fine Art Prints" galleries with a couple of clicks.

Anyway, I'm happy to recommend them to all my readers. Go to You can play with it for free for 14 days, then sign up. If you mention me in the referral box when you sign up. Two ways of doing that: put in my email address (glenn dot springer at faczen dot com. You know what to do with that, right?) or just cut and paste in this code:  16NrueyZ8KPmc. You'll save $5 on your first year subscription.

Speaking of new looks...
Business Printing

Tell me how this strikes you:
■ 1000 double sided business cards, printed on both sides in full colour, full bleed, on heavy (16.5 point) card stock with an aqueous coating, all for $20 or so.

This is the front of the business card I printed for myself (no black border. It bleeds right off the edges of the card). By the way, shot from the same dock as the banner up above!.

■ 1000 postcards, similar to the above, 4x6 size, both sides full colour for about $50. All superb quality. That's ONE THOUSAND CARDS, folks!

Here's how it works: the supplier I deal with gangs up print jobs so he prints hundreds of cards at a time and trims them out of a big sheet. So each individual card is inexpensive and the printer is happy because he's making money. As long as everyone uses the same inks (4-colour process) and paper, he's laughing.

If you're interested, I'll send you a template. You fit your art in the template and send it back. We print it. Or you can use, for example, my photos for the background. If you want me to do layout and design work, I can, very inexpensively. Starting to sound interesting?

Have you ever seen prices like that for full colour high quality printing? This is a no-brainer, folks. contact me...

Don't say I didn't warn you!

I shot this a couple of days ago. It is coming... 

On to some images!

Kind of an unusual casual portrait... this was a mistake. For some reason I had a HUGE exposure compensation set: more than +3 stops. I think I turned the dial the wrong way. But when I saw the image onscreen, I liked it! I had to do a little work on the faces to bring them back, and it's at ISO 6400 (the D600 is amazing!). I need to try more of these high key images! Rita and Ray Felson are relatives, visiting my mother. 

Internationally renowned photographer Stu Freedman, visiting with the Felsons at my mother's. Stu's wife and my mother are related, haven't seen each other in 80 years or more. Stu is 90, he founded the Toronto Guild about a million years ago, and is still shooting pictures! Don't criticize my background, OK? It was a casual shot while chatting. At least I got the lighting right! (North-facing window, behind the Felsons above, if anybody cares). 

I know, it's just a seagull (Herring Gull, larus argentatus, if anybody cares!). But the 400mm Sigma lens can be really sharp when it wants to. And it's on the cropped sensor D5100 too, so effectively 600mm! I did some birds-in-flight too, that day. I practice on them sometimes when I'm at the dump. 

While riding my ATV on the trail near my house, I came across these giant fungi on a fallen tree stump. I didn't have anything with me to give it a sense of scale, so I put my Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 in it. If you're not a photographer, that's about 9" long... if you are one, it's still 9" long but you know that!  

I went back yesterday to try again, this time I brought a tripod. Now do you see how big they are? It's weird because (a) I've never seen one that big outside of a rain forest and (b) there are no other ones around anywhere. Aliens, I tell you... 

Until next time! TTFN

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Monday, August 05, 2013

It's mid-Summer!

Well here in the Northern hemisphere, anyway. I suppose it's not technically mid-summer, but the August long weekend always feels that way. It would feel more that way if it was warmer! As I type this, it's 13°C outside (what's that, 55°F?). I know it will get warmer during the day, but what happened to the 25° days? I haven't been in swimming in over a week!

Anyway, you know what's coming, right?

Last year. It's coming... 

What reminded me was someone ordered my "Guide to Shooting Better Fall Colours", which prompted me to revisit the site to make sure the links are still working so that they were able to download it, and to read the eBook again.

As an aside, Einstein said that the definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. They didn't have the internet when he said that... of course that's insane anyway... But the reason I said it was because I didn't remember how I had set it up, a 'senior's moment'!

So yes, it is working and yes, I read it again. Listen, folks: I read a lot of training and "how-to" documents and I've written a lot of them. I have to say this is one of the better ones I've ever done (if I do say so myself!) and I'm going to tell you it's worth a read. Especially if you're relatively new to photography but even if you're experienced, you will find that it gets you to look at some things with a different perspective.

So if you haven't read it, go to and follow the bouncing ball to download it. And if you know someone else who will benefit from a quick overview on how to take better pictures (not just fall colours!), pass the link on to them as well.

I'll stand by my guarantee: it's all of $2.00. If for ANY reason you want your money back, I'll unhesitatingly send it to you. Just ask.

Xume filter adapter

I showed it to a couple of photographers (both named "Kevin"!) at the white water the other day. They were duly impressed and said they were going to order a set. I put a link over on the right: check it out!

Missed opportunity

There was a wedding at the Inn across the road from me the other night. They had a huge fireworks show! I didn't know about it in advance, so by the time I thought about shooting it, I figured it was about to end (do you know how much fireworks cost?), so I didn't set up the camera. But it turns out I was wrong. It went on continuously for over 20 minutes. So I missed the opportunity. Message to self:

   ■ when you see something is going on, go over and chat with them to find out what's happening,
   ■ take the chance, and
   ■ don't assume. That makes an ASS out of U and ME.

The Highland Yard

It's a running event that's been going on in Minden for the last 36 years. I shot some pictures last year and thought I'd go out and do some this year. I tried to make them less "ordinary" so I played around with angles and slow shutter speeds but I was drawn to people's faces and emotions. I shot over 500 frames (unusual for me) and flagged almost half of them as "keepers", or at least worthy of a second glance.

Just a few stood out. But for the sake of a story here, I'll sequence them chronologically...

Before the race. Here's the start/finish line on Minden's main street, which was closed down for the event.  

Waiting for the start. White bibs were 10K runners (shown here), red ones were 5K and the blue ones were for the shorter walk, mostly for kids.  

The kids, waiting to go. Some were concentrating fiercely, no response when I told them to wave for the camera! 

See what I mean? Does this kid want to win, or what? 

Cool shoes! I didn't have to do much to this picture in Photoshop, you need sunglasses to look at these shoes! 

...and they're off! Some motion blur to convey the action! 

Another action shot at the start 

While waiting for the runners to return, some spectators ran across the finish line. Did dad let him win? "Oh, no, you beat me!" 

This kid was the best! He ran the finish several times for the camera! 

Here they come for real! 

Mother and daughter? Remember, I was having fun shooting people! 

After 5K. Love the expression! 

This was the best photo story of the day. Mother and son? I'm guessing, but her name is Abbey McRae and his is Chris Marton. They were jogging in to the finish, side by side, when Chris decided he was going to beat her. And he took off like a jackrabbit! Abbey looked at him and responded, so this was a full blown, down to the wire sprint! The crowd cheered... and Abbey won by 67/1000's of a second! 

I have lots more images but I thought I'd post this one for my lady readers. According to his hat, this fellow is an OPP officer, out of uniform! Guys, I'll get you a shot or two next time, OK? Wait for it. 

Parting Shots

I haven't mastered the "Milky Way" shot yet. Here's my latest try, from last night.

Behind my house. For those who care, 30 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 6400, 17mm on D600 full frame. Polarizing filter on board (I forgot about it, frankly). What's interesting is the glow in the sky, not visible to the naked eye. Now there's really nothing in that direction (Carnarvon is to the left and Minden to the right. Nearest town is Haliburton about 25km away, that could be the orange on the left. I'm thinking the green is the Aurora Borealis...