Thursday, September 05, 2013


I love music.

Not all kinds, mostly blues and jazz and, it occurs to me, most of the artists I listen to are dead. Oscar Peterson, Janis Joplin, Moe Koffman, Jimmy Smith, Paul Butterfield... and SRV.

There are exceptions, of course: Barbra Streisand, Eric Clapton, Gordie Lightfoot, the Eagles, Leonard Cohen, Rhoda Scott, lots of others, of course. Almost nobody contemporary, though. The nearest I come to that is Casey Abrams (and Haley Reinhart). I love their rendition of "Hit the Road, Jack" and "Moanin'". I have about 10 different versions of that last song by various artists.

I consider all the artists I've mentioned to be virtuosi. Not just lucky accidents, people who have skill and talent and have taken them to the pinnacle. Yesterday there was a Labour Day event at the Inn across the road and they had live music going all afternoon. Sitting here, I suddenly heard what sounded like a B3 (the Hammond organ I'd kill for) so I wandered over. The keyboard player was "just OK", as was the group he was in. 10 minutes later I was home, put on some Rhoda Scott and some Tony Monaco...

I'm writing this because this morning, a thread about Stevie Ray Vaughn showed up on Facebook and of course I had to fire up iTunes and play some tunes. I listened to "Pride and Joy" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and as I'm typing this, "Voodoo Child". Sometimes I listen to a cut and want to try to learn to play it on the keyboard or guitar or harp. Lately I just listen and enjoy, recognizing I'll never be able to play like that, even if I had a hundred more years to practice.

What's this got to do with photography? It occurred to me that you get your inspiration from experiencing what others have done. When I see images that move me, I think one of three things: (a) I wish I could do pictures like that, (b) what a good idea, I think I'm going to try to use that technique, and (c) I can do and have done better.

The other day, Lance Gitter, a photographer I met about 10 years ago at the Richmond Hill Camera Club, posted a new book he created, called "Gitterized". More about it down further. As I viewed it, thoughts (a) and (b) went through my mind. Lance inspires me to try harder and do better.

PS: iTunes, in its infinite wisdom, picked a random track from my library to play next. How is it possible that I forgot to mention Ray Charles. "Georgia on my Mind" is playing now...

In my next life, I want to come back as a musician. I think that's the best medium in which to express and share your emotions. Sounds odd, from a left-brained person but as I approach my 67th birthday in a few days, I realize that my priorities have changed. My goal in photography is the same: to express emotion and mood, not just technically correct images. Thanks for those who have inspired me in that direction.

Maybe this has inspired you to think about what you're trying to accomplish with your photography. Or painting. Or music. Or writing. Or...

Here's a story with emotion in it

I rode over to the MWWP yesterday. I was actually going to shoot some landscapes enroute but forgot my polarizing filter and Xume adapter at home, so I just shot some kayakers. One caught my eye: different from the usual bearded old guys and grungy characters, she was young and blond and cute and very photogenic.

At first, I couldn't figure out why she was sitting for such a long time off to the side, concentrating on the Otter Slide (a feature in the MWWP waterway). She'd get partway in, then turn around and back out. Another kayaker would be coming down the river but well above, and not actually going to enter the slide yet... it reminded me of a motorcyclist I knew years ago who wouldn't come out of a gas station because she was afraid of the traffic, even though it was light... I figure that she's not that experienced a kayaker and was not confident she could actually do it.

Here she came halfway across, figured she couldn't make it, and struggled to get back to safe water. She did this a few times while I watched.

Finally, she gave it a shot. Here's the sequence I shot as a burst

Check out the facial expressions from left to right! You can click on the image to enlarge it. From 'worried', to 'OK, I can do this', to 'I'm doing it!' to 'yesss!' to 'Yahoo!'  Can you tell from the last two shots below if she was having fun?

I heard her talking with her mom afterwards, it was the first time she actually managed to negotiate that white water (and by the way, the water flow was quite high yesterday, the Otter Slide was wild!). I sent her dad a copy of this image, I know his name is Keith, but I don't know her name...

Fun story. I'm glad I caught it!

Speaking of Inspiration

I remembered a video that I had watched a few years ago and even embedded in my blog (with permission) in 2011. When I went to revisit it, it comes up as "Forbidden". I looked a little further and found it again on a different site. So I thought I'd post a link to it here (not embedding it, just linking to it so copyright isn't an issue).

Possibilities: "Celebrate What's Right with the World" by DeWitt Jones, former National Geographic photographer. It's worth watching again (although the image quality is lacking but the message is still there).

OK, Adobé. NOW you got my attention.

Adobe just announced that the price of Photoshop CC + Lightroom 5 will be an ONGOING $9.99 per month. John Nack specifically said on his blog,,
To reiterate: the intention is not to get you in at $9.99/mo., then crank up the price after a year. $9.99 is the expected ongoing price.
NOW you got me. No hurry to sign up, you have until the end of 2013. This offer is for those who own CS3 or up. I'll give you the link later, you can't do it yet anyway.

Topaz deal available on Monday

REMINDER: I got an email from Topaz Labs that they're putting Topaz Adjust 5 on sale for 50% off ($24.99) from September 9 to September 30th. It's very rarely on sale, so mark your calendars and jump on it next week! Topaz Adjust 5 is my go-to plugin in Photoshop and in Lightroom, it's absolutely my favourite. Go to this link, and enter the promo code "septadjust" (without the quote marks) when ordering.

'tis the season to be jolly! Fa la la la la... never mind!

Get Gitterized

There's an outstanding book available, written by my friend Lance Gitter. It's titled, "Gitterized". Here's what Lance says about it:

This is a collection of my creative images from the last number of years. I have finally accomplished the goal of putting them together in a format where I can share my creativity, who and what inspired me to make some of my photos and what tools and/or techniques I used to come up with these creations.
Lance's work is incredibly creative. Here (with permission) are two images from the book:

Shot on the Rideau Canal last winter 

This montage is a self-portrait. What vision! 

Whenever I see Lance's work, I'm inspired. And not only do these images appear in the book, but also some of the thinking and techniques that went into their creation.

Lance has generously made the entire book available for viewing on-screen but you would be remiss if you didn't buy the book and enjoy the full experience of seeing these images in print. The link for viewing or buying the book is here.

Sometimes you win

And sometimes you don't.

I spent the better part of an hour at the landfill (polite way of saying "garbage dump") this afternoon. They had the giant chipper going — technically I was told it wasn't called a chipper, but that's what it does. It turns big pieces of garbage into small pieces of garbage. This was construction material, so what they do is to bury the wet waste, the household garbage, and cover it with this stuff. Eventually the deep stuff composts, but I learned that they dug up a Sears catalog from 1950 and it was still readable. "That shiny paper takes a long time to decompose".

Where was I? Oh yeah. I tried my damnedest to "isolate the subject". I wanted to make sense out of the chaos that was there. And I couldn't. So these pictures are failures, but a valiant attempt, don't you think?

They dump big garbage in the top of the chipper and little stuff comes out the conveyor belt to the left. Mountains of it. Then they move the big orange thing (the operator of the big excavator has a remote control) and build another mountain.  

Another attempt to isolate it. Here I did three things:  I put the Neutral Density filter on and shot long exposures (around 2 seconds) to give it a sense of motion, I combined about 4 exposures as layers in Photoshop using "darken" as the blending mode between layers, and I ran Silver Efex Pro 2 and put in a bunch of control points for selective colorization.
You win some, you lose some. I gave it the ole college try.

This is Leonard. He works there. He spent part of the day trying to keep the people dropping off garbage and the bears apart. There were two males there today, but not the big one-eyed boar they often see. f/2.8 on the 200mm and Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 (one image only) helped to separate him from the background.

This is Big John. He drives the tractor that makes mountains out of mole hills. Captured his character, I think. He told me his beard used to be down to "here" but it kept getting caught in the tattoo gun. Tough guy. But a pussycat deep down, I think (don't tell him I said that!).

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