Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nikon Issues

I'm camera-less.

As many people know, Nikon has had some issues with the D600, revolving around dust (or actually lubricant) that gets thrown on the sensor. They won't admit it, but that's why they came out with the D610. My camera has been back three times. I sent it in again this week with a recurring case of the dust measles.

I'm going through withdrawal, but it's easier the third time around. Besides, I have so many images in my computer that I haven't worked on yet, who has time to go out and shoot? Actually, I was thinking about honing my skills by using nothing but my iPhone or my P&S for a while. Guess I have no choice!


See? The little Nikon S6000 point-and-shoot does a pretty good job. I turned the clarity down on the first shot in Lightroom, used the radial filter on the third one, did nothing to the middle shot. My house is basically ready for winter. That firewood has now been stacked, gazebo roof stored, maybe I will have to cut the grass one more time. Two more things to do, but I won't for a couple more weeks: put the snow tires on the Subaru and the snow plow on the ATV. 

but Nikon is doing the right thing

They're replacing it.  Too bad they can't do it directly, they have to support their dealer network and not sell directly to consumers.

There is now a cheque in the mail to me from Nikon for my full purchase price. I'll go out and buy a D610 next week. However in my discussions with Nikon, I told them that I would rather have a D800 or D800e and I would accept an exchange for a factory refurbished one. The bad news is, they don't have any on hand. The good news is, I have a written open agreement that when and if they do get one, they'll take the D610 in an even swap.

So I'm a happy guy, anxiously watching for the mailman...

It's a bad time to be without a camera. Here's an oil-painted image out of the point-and-shoot when I rode up into the woods today.

Another one. I love the contrast between the yellow maple leaves and the bare aspens and birches. 

I also did an iPhone video while riding one-handed through the trails. Too big a file to keep, unfortunately.

Did you  upgrade to Photoshop CC and do you run a Windows 64-bit system?

By default, the link that gets installed into LR5 when you install CC goes to the 32-bit version of Photoshop CC. That can only access a limited amount of memory and will crash on you with big files. You need to go in and point that to the 64-bit version.

Also by default, Photoshop CC installs a shortcut icon on your desktop that in my case (and in others on TIF, apparently) links to the 32-bit version. Toss it in the trash can, go to the c:/Program Files/Adobe folder and find "Adobe Photoshop CC (64 Bit)" and drag a shortcut to the Photoshop.exe file in THAT folder to your desktop and you're good to go. By the way, in the same folder you'll find a subfolder, "Plug-ins". Drag copies of your Topaz, Nik (Google) and other plugins from your previous version (assuming it was also 64 Bit) into it and they'll appear in your filters menu in CC.

PS: I was the one who caught that. Hold your applause... nah go ahead. Make my day.

Mechanic in a Can

One of the advantages of writing a blog, especially one that contains "the sporadic musings..." in the subtitle, is that you can write about anything that strikes your fancy. It doesn't have to be photography related but it has to be interesting, or at least of benefit to the readers. This is a case like that.

Many years ago, word of a product was passed around the Vulcan Riders and Owners Club. It was touted to be the solution to all problems mechanical. Unfortunately, it was only available at select locations in the US and the occasional visitor to Canada was kind enough to bring a few cans up with him (the main player in this ongoing play was – is – a Canadian ex-pat nicknamed "Kudzu" (all VROC members have nicknames. It's a biker thing. Mine is "Guns"*) from North Carolina who regularly visits family up here.

* It was supposed to be "Gunslinger", a play on my name and what I used to do before I turned back to photography, but there was another guy with that nickname. Although he died a couple of years ago, I've not changed mine in his memory.

The product in question goes by the unlikely name, "SeaFoam". They make more than one product, it's the 'motor treatment'. I'm here to tell you that if you own ANY machines with internal combustion engines, especially small ones, get some SeaFoam and put the recommended amount in the gas from time to time. I've used it in all my motorcycles over the years, but had forgotten about it until a couple of months ago when I couldn't get my ATV to start. Now you turn the key, it starts instantly. First bang. Every time. The same thing is true of a snowblower that hadn't been started in 2 years (for sale: I have the ATV and don't need it any more), a lawn mower, ANYTHING.

This stuff cleans out the carbs or injectors, it'll double your gas mileage, you can stop on a dime and get 9¢ change, it takes moisture right out of the gas (so you can use it when you're storing your bike over the winter) and I'm told it tastes like fine single malt scotch and will make your digestive system completely regular. OK, that last one was a joke. Don't drink it.

I thought it was a big secret: but the word's getting out. I mentioned it to the mechanic who's looking after my ATV and he says, "Yeah. It's magic. A mechanic in a can". And guess what? It's available at Canadian Tire now. Pass the word, but on the QT. You wouldn't want everyone to find out about it!

Here's a shot of my ATV from last week. Remember I wrote about increasing the colour temperature to 10,000°K? Oh yeah, that was in my newspaper column! If you do, it really changes the look of forest shots! OK, technically that's not what I did here, in camera, I did it in post-processing. 

Speaking of my newspaper columns... I've written 18 articles now. They're all up on the site (click on the "Tips" button). Taken together, they'll make a dandy eBook, so that's my next project. It's tough coming up with a new topic every week: years of writing this blog have helped. The other thing I'm going to work on is another printed coffee-table book, so watch for it! I'm going to try to do it in Lightroom 5.

This week's Feature Photo

When this immaculate 1965 Shelby Cobra showed up at the Inn across the road, I knew I had to photograph it. And I also knew what shot I wanted to achieve.

The trick was to get rid of everything except the rim-lighting and the orange signals. It started with a shot that was 5 (yes, five) stops underexposed. And then a lot of careful Lightroom and Photoshop work. I think it would look fantastic as a poster or a large scale print. Click to blow it up to full screen. Interested? Let's Talk

I'm going to try to do a featured image whenever I post to the blog. I've sort of been doing that, but not specifically. Let's see!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Challenge Yourself!

In the past few weeks, I've felt myself getting stale. The fall colours should be inspiring, but you know the expression BTDT (Been there, done that...)? I've lived up here for 6 years and there's no doubt that this is a spectacular place to be this time of year, but I had the feeling that I needed to find a new approach, to shoot something different.

The message here is the trite phrase, "Get out of your Comfort Zone". Do something you're not used to doing. Try some new stuff.

I wasn't really successful. Like I said last week, I'm in a bit of a flat spot. That's not to say I didn't get some images I liked: I did (see below). But I want to find something different. This isn't over: I'm going to look for some stuff I haven't done before.

I did three things this week that I don't normally do: I went out on an ATV ride with some neighbours, experiencing some more challenging riding than the usual, I stopped at a high school football game to shoot some pictures, and I did a small indoor studio shoot for a client.

In reverse order: shooting jewellery without a macro lens and without proper lighting is an exercise in frustration. I was able to produce the image he was looking for, but not up to my quality standards. There are a couple of reasons why I can't show you those pictures here, but trust me, it's all about the light and I didn't have it.

I was driving back from Haliburton and came across a football game. I got there with half of the fourth quarter remaining, so I only had about half an hour to shoot. Now I know that the goal in football photography (and other sports too) is to capture the emotion of the player(s), some outstanding physical effort, and tell a story. And try to get both a face and the ball in the same shot. My excuse is, I didn't have time. I got a few shots I liked, though:

I used some of the new features in Lightroom 5 to enhance the lighting in this shot. If you're shooting sports, set your shutter speed to something REALLY high to freeze the action. This shot was 1/1600 second at f/5.6, F=400mm. He was running right towards me and I just held down the shutter release, using AF-C focus tracking. This was the best of the burst.
I know it's not my place to comment, but I will anyway – this is MY blog, after all! The Red Hawks were the home team in Haliburton, the Griffins are from Peterborough. So as a Highlander, I tried to get some good shots of the home team:

The Red Hawks quarterback was an able passer. And this shot shows an offensive lineman doing what he's supposed to do in a classic position protecting his quarterback. A second later he fended off a charging defensive player. 
But you could see the difference in determination between the two teams. I commented to a Red Hawks coach (he coached the younger team that was playing next) that what I missed, as a long-ago player, was the sounds of pads clashing and the almost reckless giving-up-of-the-body, the concept of running through someone, not at them. His comment? "Oh, the game has changed. It's all in the hands now". Nonsense. You've got to want it.

You only need to look at the faces, folks. Looks like the Griffins' running back is about to get levelled, right? Nope. The Red Hawk tackler tried to armtackle him from behind instead of getting his shoulder in front of him and low, and the result? He missed the tackle and 20 yards later, TOUCHDOWN!  

I know. Not my place. And my time on the field was almost 50 years ago. But hey, it's MY BLOG and these are my "sporadic musings"!

PS: Griffins 48, Red Hawks 41.

PPS: Griffins guy: switch the ball to your left hand when you're about to get hit on the right. Just sayin'...

An ATV Ride

For once I went out to do something OTHER than take pictures. I have to get back to doing things instead of just observing them. I met Bill doing a photo workshop here a month ago. He owns 100 acres not far from here and is an avid ATVer, and he invited me to come over for a ride. My neighbour Jack also joined us (by the way, Jack, if you're reading this, I need lessons in barbecueing ribs. Outstanding!).

So although I had the camera gear with me, I only stopped twice in the entire ride, to grab some pictures. And they were just snaps... I was having a lot of fun riding, challenged by the fact that I'm an inexperienced rider and by my OLD ATV that could use some service: I didn't want to break anything!

Here's one spot we stopped for a breather, out in the open on a hydro cut. A snapshot, like I said! Most of the ride was on some narrow, forested trails but I didn't shoot them!
In hindsight, there were a couple of spots I should have taken the time to set up a shot. One was a stream crossing and afterwards I thought I should have set the camera up on a tripod and set it to shoot a timelapse. I think I'll study how to do that more readily, it'll take some figuring out), or maybe a video. There was a second spot going over a little bridge Bill built, over another stream.

Anyway, I hope Bill knows what he has there. His property is extra-special, especially at this time of year. Here's the other spot we stopped for pictures:

Having Bill in the picture adds a sense of scale. The trees are huge and gloriously coloured. Bill was actually standing about 10 meters further away, on the left side and with his ATV. Through the magic of Photoshop... why did I do that? To magnify the scale of the trees and to get him out of the middle.

I also turned the clarity down a LOT in the image (an Adobe Camera Raw function available in Lightroom, Photoshop, and Elements for my newer readers). The purpose was to emphasize colours instead of textures.

This image is available as a large scale art print. Click here to see it full sized.
By the way, here's the link to Bill's Smugmug gallery. Do take a minute to visit it: and check out the bears! He got some AWESOME pictures. I was particularly taken with the Spirit (Kermode) Bear which I originally took to be a light coloured grizzly but it's really a differently coloured black bear!


I have a bunch of inventory of art prints. I want to sell these by the year-end so I'll make a special offer: $50 buys a large scale art print on lustre or on beautiful matte Epson Cold Press paper. That includes shipping to normal locations: I'll roll them in a tube for mailing. The prints are all on 18x24 sheet, archival quality, with keylines and digitally signed.

Buy two for $75.

And if you act now, I also have a quantity of 8x12 prints in plastic sleeves and they are only $10 each. AND some 5x7 greeting cards with 4x6 pictures for only $3.33 each if you buy 3 (so three for $10). Shipping included!

The large format prints are here:

I still have to get the smaller ones up on a gallery somewhere, watch for it in the next blog or ask. Many of the same images are in that group too.

These prices are for existing inventory only.

Email me here.

D600 going back to Nikon for the third time

Sensor dust has raised its ugly head again. I admit I'm pushing the edge of the envelope, doing a detailed HDR at small aperture but if the dust were not there, I wouldn't have the problem.

This is a screen capture of this 3-shot HDR in Lightroom after I spotted out the dust spots. Admittedly everything combined to produce this: it's an HDR, f/16, detail turned up... This was supposed to be one of 6 images I was combining into a large pano. 

Hopefully Nikon will do the right thing. Their policy is to replace the camera after the third return. We'll see...

...and I gave in

How can you NOT go with Adobe's $10/month offer? Lightroom plus Photoshop CC. So I gave in despite my misgivings. The concern is what happens if I let my subscription lapse. Oddly enough, I'm less worried about being able to open my Photoshop .psd files (I get that if I revert to CS6, for which I own a perpetual license, I'll be able to open the layered file but that the tools from CC won't be available to me), than I am about Lightroom. I no longer own a perpetual license for the latest Lightroom (5) and the catalogs are not backwards compatible. Hmmm...

A couple more images

I woke up to a foggy morning and my first thought was, "have coffee later. Go to Vic's place and see what the mist looks like on the lake". So I did.

I made a valiant effort to shoot a multi-exposure panoramic HDR. I failed. But while doing the 18 shots I needed for it, I caught this series. OK, well not strictly true: the 18 shots were 6 bursts of 3 bracketed VERTICAL images. Then I turned the camera horizontal and shot this one. I have a few others I want to come back to another time. 

Vic has a stand of very old Hemlocks that I spent some time on.  

After the mist lifted, the morning skies were so interesting and I was captivated by the reflection on the calm water. I also have a vertical version of this image, can't decide which one I like best!

And finally, on my favourite ATV trail, I liked the sun peeking through the trees. I did enhance the birch trees on the right to make them stand out.  

Until next week! TTFN

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Been there, Done that, Grokked.

Restating the obvious

I'll tie this into photography in a minute, but first... I'm going to use motorcycling as an example.

If you don't ride a motorcycle, you may have trouble understanding this. Bear with me while I try to explain it. One day while riding in a place called "Deal's Gap", or "The Tail of the Dragon" (Google it and watch some videos. You have to see it to understand what "318 turns in 11 miles" means). I pulled over at the end and said to my friend, "I just figured out: you have to look where you want to go!". That's probably the most basic skill in motorcycling, you have to grasp that to ride.

I taught the motorcycle course at Humber College for about 12 years. I had literally thousands of students over that time. But I'm not ashamed to say that teaching was (is) my forté, not riding. I'm the perfect embodiment of the expression, "those who can, do. Those who can't, teach" (there's another phrase on the end of that, "those who can't teach, write about it" but we won't go there!).

"Look where you want to go" was a litany that we repeated time and time again. If you didn't get it, you couldn't pass even the basic motorcycle skills test for your license. I taught it to thousands of people. So I should know it, right?

But it was like an epiphany for me. I finally grokked in fullness what that meant. That day, it finally sunk into my head, like an explosion in my mind. Am I making any sense?

So how does this relate to photography?

I visited the Ansel Adams exhibit at the McMichael museum earlier this week.

Ansel Adams

What can one say about him that hasn't already been said? Not much. I've seen his images in books, online, reproductions... but there's something about looking at a print that the master himself made with his own hands. And while I was there (for much too short a time: I didn't know they closed at 5:00 pm!) I had an epiphany.

More than one thing made him the Master. You know all the theories, you've studied and practiced the Zone System but how the HELL does he get those deep, rich blacks? The smooth, perfect tonality? Adams' skill in the darkroom is legendary. But when I looked at the works that were exhibited, something struck me like a thunderbolt.

"It's all about the Light".

Adams' composition skills were exquisite. But when I looked at his prints, "Redwoods, Bull Creek Flat" and "Birch Trees", what struck me was the lighting. In the Redwoods, especially, Adams intent was to get the viewer to look at the texture of the trees and he did that by shooting in perfect light. Now I grok.

Here's my attempt at replicating an Adams-type image:

I shot this in front of the McMichael Gallery after they closed at 5pm.  

Here's another shot from that afternoon, nothing to do with Adams but I think the landscaping at McMichael was done with the photographer in mind!

It's an HDR, of course.This is about textures, and drawing the viewer's eye from lower left to upper right. I'm not that happy with the sky so I may come back and rework it.  

A cool place to hang out

There's a great online forum that welcomes new and experienced photoenthusiasts alike. It's a small group, but there are members from all over the world! We especially need new people who want to make use of this great resource. If you're ever stuck with a question you can't answer, or looking for a better way to do something, this is the place for you!

A little history: some time ago, a bunch of us became disgruntled with the way another forum we belonged to was being run. What had been a friendly place had become uncomfortable and commercially motivated. No point in identifying them...

So we left and started a new place to hang out. The activity level has become a little low and we were trying to come up with why. Someone pointed out that the old forum was a busy place because a lot of people asked advice about photography in general, Photoshop/Lightroom, even such topics as copyright issues, suppliers, etc. They went on to point out that the members of the new group are all experienced and knowledgeable so these questions didn't come up. We need new members who have questions about stuff!

So we have a place where there are about 100 experts (and me. I'm not expert...) who love to share their knowledge and their work, who are all friendly and non-judgmental, who would like nothing better than to help answer any and all questions. Who love to see people's work and provide gentle critique (if it's asked for) and suggestions, who like playing photography games like the ongoing "Battle" where you start with a common image and do whatever you want with it creatively, or the monthly "Rally" (soon to resume) where you have a week to shoot and submit pictures on a specified topic, or even "Where is this?" where you do whatever you have to, to answer that question about a photo submitted. Marco is quite devious, but they're all solvable!

So you're all invited to join. It doesn't matter about your experience level, whether you want to ask questions or try to answer them, or just join in the banter and fun, and enjoy images from the members in the "Show and Tell" threads. You don't have to post, you can just sit back and read but it's more fun if you do.

Here's an example:

Remember the picture of "The Angels & Mini-Me" that I put up last week? I really wanted to do something like this with the face image on the wall but couldn't remember how. So I asked on the Forum and got a quick response from Philm Phalm that reminded me how to use "Displacement Mapping" in Photoshop. 

So where is this forum? What's it called? How do you join?

The forum is called "The Imaging Forum" or "TIF" (you can't say "The TIF Forum", that would be repetitious redundancy!)

You access it here: and joining means just registering and supplying a login name and password. All you have to agree to is to be friendly!

See you on TIF?

While we're at it, there's a monthly "Rally" that I host on TIF. Basically you are given three topics or categories, you have a week to shoot the pictures and then submit them, then everyone votes on their favourites. The winner gets the undying adulation and respect of their peers, and gets to choose the topics for next month. Go to TIF, then look for "Battlegrounds and Rallies".

A great weekend shooting!

We had 8 or 10 people show up for the Photowalk in Algonquin last weekend. The dawn shoot at the Frost Centre was outstanding, here's one of my shots from there:

That's Ben and George. A misty sunrise on St. Nora Lake. By the way, this will look different in different browsers, the foreground is supposed to have no detail in it, just a silhouette. I have to do some more work on it before it's finished.

And here's a completely different treatment, shot by my friend George who ventured all the way up from Toronto for this photoshoot:

Reproduced with permission. This is an outstanding image, a full 36Mp frame from the D800. It certainly won't look as good here as an 800px wide image, but you get the feeling. I'm encouraging George to make a large scale print, this is a real winner! 

The Photowalk went really well, with one or two glitches. The bakery we intended to go to wasn't open that early so we had to find another place: then we got confused and split up and a couple of people couldn't hook up with us later. By the way, Algonquin Park was a real zoo as expected. When we drove out around 2pm, there was a lineup of cars at least 5km long at a dead stop, waiting to get in the West Gate. Fortunately we were going the other way!

I didn't have my "A-Game" with me. I hit a bit of a flat spot and was really not happy with my images that day — I predicted it, though: I don't like shooting in bright sunlight. No excuse, I could have done better.

The next day, I went out on the morning "Loon Excursion" with Mike Bertelsen. I'm going to save some additional pictures for the next blog post, but here's one for your enjoyment.

This is a 3-month old Loon chick about to take off on his very first flight. I have some shots of that epic inaugural voyage, but you'll have to wait until next week to see them! 
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