Friday, September 20, 2013

More Inspiration

Every time I look at this site, I'm blown away. What better inspiration can you get than to look at the work of some very talented photographers?

I'm talking about the home page for the Richmond Hill Camera Club. This is not news to many of my readers who are members of that club, but to others, I draw your attention to the site. At the top of the home page is a slide show of winning images from recent competitions. Go ahead, click the link above. I'll wait right here.

See what I mean? Every time I look at this, I'm blown away. And by the way, I've watched the development of this club and the work of some of its members for about 10 years now, it's incredible how they've grown. Bravo, RHCC.

I ask myself what do the images that stand out as extraordinary have in common? If I could come up with one single word to describe the, it would be "SIMPLICITY". The subject stands out. There may be other things in the image but the subject is presented to you in its simplest form. That's the inspiration I want to take into my work.

By the way, I'm more and more convinced that we need a camera club up here in the Highlands. I'm going to put some work into making that happen. If you're up here and want to help out or join, let me know.

The Richmond Hill Club membership is full and there's a waiting list. If you live anywhere in that area, get on the list.

Smugmug Galleries

I've been working on my Smugmug galleries. Their new interface is very powerful but like anything else on this computer, if you don't do it regularly, you have to go through the whole learning curve again!

You can basically do anything you want, but first you have to KNOW what you want! My big concern was not to fall in the same trap I was in last time, where I had literally hundreds of galleries and not only was it confusing for outside visitors, but for me too! So what I've done now is to create a few master "folders" and only show selected ones on the home page. For now, I've got my fine art images in one, and other stuff (which for now are the Whitewater images from this summer) in another. Eventually I want to create another one for "portfolio" and take the Whitewater stuff off the home page and link directly to it.

I spent a couple of hours (you know how time flies when you're doing this stuff!) redoing the layout, pop over for a look-see. Oh, and if you see any images that would look fantastic on your walls, drop me a note and Let's Talk!

Credit Card Reader 

Before the show last June, I acquired a credit card swipe reader from a company called "SQUARE", or "SQUAREUP". I didn't use it much but I was not dissatisfied with it, in fact I thought it was pretty slick.

It plugs into your iPhone or iPad and lets you accept and process credit cards. It works through your cellphone or wifi connection. They only charge for transactions, there's no monthly fee, and the money goes directly into your bank account. Simple, effective.

Today a friend of mine tried to get one and was not approved. Some silly reason about not being able to verify his ID (likely his fault, I'm sure he won't mind me saying his computer skills are a little limited). When he tried to contact them it turns out that they do not have any telephone access numbers. I mean literally, you can't contact them except via anonymous email or contact form on their site.

I am a little (OK a LOT) uneasy about them having access to my bank account, without knowing the most basic information about them: who are they, where are they. So I tried to find a way to delete my account with them and the banking access as well. YOU CAN'T. At least I couldn't find it. Tomorrow I'm going to the bank to close the account I gave them access to (update: that was a few days ago. Done, that account doesn't exist any more).

They may be totally legitimate but I'm sorry, something smells fishy. I thought it was a great solution to mobile credit card processing: what is it they say? "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is".

There's something wrong when you can't find out where they are or who they are and talk to them. I don't trust them and I don't think they understand about customer service. Just a heads-up.

Annoying Spam...

I am surprised it took this long, but the fact that I publish my email address here and on various other websites, or printed in newspapers and so on has finally caught up with me (again). Like I said, it's been a couple of years, but the spam is rolling in with a vengeance.

Almost all of it goes to the junkmail folder in Outlook, some of it is blocked at the ISP (if I give them the email sender or domain to block), but because I don't know all the people who legitimately want to contact me, I can't just block whole TLD's like ".biz" or ".us". I'm getting 100 or more a day now. And even if they have an "unsubscribe" link in the email, it invariably goes to some paragraph long alphabet soup URL and I'm not about to click on it.

So I get why people hesitate to subscribe to my newsletter, they don't trust the site or the unsubscribe utility. Just so you know, my list is hosted at MailChimp and their unsubscribe is REAL. One click and you're deleted. People only get added to the list if they do it themselves. The exception is that I sometimes add people to the list whom I've met in person or with whom I've corresponded directly.

Next step, unfortunately, will be to stop using the offending email address and install a web form link for email contact, protected by a Captcha. Hate to do it, but I might have to if this persists.

As long as I'm complaining...

I rebooted my laptop on Wednesday morning in preparation for the workshop this week, and it crashed. Not a BSOD, but half the applications didn't work, including my Wacom tablet. So annoying...

My desktop is about 3 years old (that's what, about 140 in Dog Years?). The laptop is much faster so I actually use it with an external monitor and keyboard for most of my photoediting.  Anyway to make a long story short (too late!) I tracked down the problem to an automatic Mickey$oft Windows "Critical Update". I couldn't even open my control panel to do a system restore, until I rebooted in Safe Mode. It worked fine after that.

Here's the problem: this morning I rebooted and sure enough, the update had installed itself again and same problem! I knew what to do, but that's 45 minutes out of my life that I can't get back and I don't want to have to do it every day! I've disabled automatic updates, but now what?

It occurred to me that I've had my iPad and my iPhone for a few years without even one incident. Sure wish I could afford a Mac.

White Water

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I live 6 Km from one of the finest whitewater kayaking venues anywhere. The Minden Wildwater Preserve will be the venue for the PanAm games in 2015 (don't know where everyone is going to park: the lot holds maybe 8 cars!). So I shoot a lot of kayaking pictures. And I include whitewater canoes in that too.

Last weekend was the annual Open Canoe Race (mark your calendars: it's the weekend after Labour Day every year). On Saturday, they predicted rain (it didn't) but it was cloudy all day. On Sunday, bright blue skies. If you're a photographer, you're way ahead of me: cloudy is MUCH better for pictures, especially with brilliant, reflective water!

I shot an equal number of images both days (300-400). I can count the keepers from Sunday on one hand. Saturday was another story

Remember the girl from last week? This is her again. Now I got some facts wrong last time (serves me right for not talking with her. I did on Saturday). Her name is Morgan Nunn. Her dad is Keith, her brother is Liam. I don't know exactly how old she is, but she's in High School. Rumour has it she's going to run for Mayor of Toronto next year! Anyway, she wasn't "afraid" of the Otter Slide as I thought last week. She was concentrating hard on how to approach a certain wave for the competition and was elated when she nailed it! Here she is in the Open Canoe race, coming into Gate 16, on the Otter Slide.

BTW, if she does run for Mayor, I have a picture of her father in a dress (people wore costumes on the Sunday). I'll bet that will be worth some money to her opponents! LOL

In case you're wondering about the green and white barber poles, they are the gates. If you miss a gate, you get a 50 second penalty. If you touch one, it's 10 seconds. Red and white gates have to be negotiated UPSTREAM, in other words, you have to turn around and paddle against the flow of the river.

Here's another image from Saturday:

Story. The guy in the green canoe lost his paddle during his run.. The fellow in the yellow canoe retrieved it for him and brought it over (he was hanging out in a calm eddy above the fast water). Then they ran down the river together, not actually racing, just trying to get to the end of the rapids. 

Here's a little animation that I shot at the same gate (hope this runs OK in your browser!):

This is a burst of 15 exposures at the 5.5fps frame rate on the D600. Not everyone was able to negotiate that gate without mishap! FWIW, I couldn't create the animation at full resolution, the computer choked when Photoshop told it the gross file size was 2Gb! So I reduced it to 800px wide before merging the frames.

There were a couple of great images (OK, "I" think they're great!) in the middle of that sequence. Here's one of them (this was done at full size):

Obviously, I added some effects. The graduated fog and the grain and the border. This is going to make a dandy large scale print! Watch for a version of it in my gallery. RHCC, watch for a version in competition this year!

Speaking of the gallery, I'm posting images of the race. There are two galleries showing: "Selects", which are shots that I've post-processed, and "Open Canoe September 2013" which contains images before I've done anything to them. Contact me if you see one you like, if you're in one of the picture and you want a copy of it, or if you want a print. Here's the link:

A few pictures

Just to round out the blog... I did a basic DSLR course this week with some very interested students. I was explaining how "North-facing window light" was the greatest, and Jen willingly posed so I could illustrate the point. Then we got to playing with a few images in Lightroom and Photoshop and this was one of the resulting shots.

Clarity turned down and then a Topaz Clarity layer was added as well starting with a preset called something like, "Flawless Skin". Didn't need much, Jen's skin is pretty good anyway. I finished it with a little vignette. I played them the "Fotoshop by Adobé" clip on YouTube (Google it) and we all had a laugh. 

We then went on to talk about composition. With that in mind, I did this one:

Use of negative space?  Breaking the rules? Leave the viewer wanting more! I dunno, it was just fun. I was just thinking I might composite the other half of her face into the right side of the image!

We spent some time learning about the effects of shutter speed and did a little session on panning with a slow shutter speed. They all caught on and produced some neat images. This is one of mine, though:

It also illustrated what you can do when you shoot in RAW. This was hugely overexposed because I bumped up against the limits when I locked the shutter speed to 1/15 second and had the ISO at 1000 and the aperture at f/2.8! there was lots more to recover, but I liked the tonality of this one.  

And finally, the pièce de résistance: the Angels and Mini-Me.

Someone (I think it was Sandi, on the right) suggested that we do a "Charlie's Angels" shot. Then I stripped in a background from the Old Brick Works in Toronto (who knows what I changed?). That's Cheryl and Harper in the middle. I have some other shots of "Mini-Me" that I'll save for later! 

It was a fun and productive two days! I can't wait to see some of their work down the road!


— 30 —