Saturday, February 22, 2014

Do as I say...

...AND as I do

My computer died. I took a break from working on a spreadsheet to watch the Canadian Women's hockey team steal a stirring gold medal victory from the US squad, then walked back to the computer to see a blank screen with the message, "no boot drive available. Please insert a bootable disk and press Enter to continue".

Short story: my "C" drive failed, on an 18 month old laptop. James Keller, a fellow photographer and HHCC member up here was here within an hour, saved my bacon by recovering the data from the other drive, and we agreed on a plan to repair the computer by installing a very fast SSD drive to replace the faulty HD. If you're looking for someone to repair or build you a computer, he's your man. That's his business.

Because I've been reasonably diligent with backups, I won't lose any data. I'm not as organized as I'd like to be but what I have, worked. I can only tell you that ignore this issue at your peril. It's so true that it's not IF your hard drive will fail, it's WHEN. My next purchase is going to be a proper RAID system, I've been procrastinating about that for some time.

That said, it's going to be much more difficult to restore my programs. I probably have 50 or 60 programs installed, not all of which I use regularly, and even if I could remember them all, I'll never get back to where I was. The important ones are MS Office (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint), Photoshop and Lightroom, InDesign, DreamWeaver, Quickbooks, my Wacom drivers... Mac users have a program called Time Machine that can restore programs without having to reinstall. I know there are utilities available for PC as well but they're more cumbersome and not free.

But PLEASE, do as I say about making backups. Every now and then you read about someone who permanently lost all their photos and imagine how that would feel if it was you.

The Sounds of Spring

Most people like the annual February Thaw, that burgeons the eventual coming of Spring. I don't.
"Drip, drip, drip on the nice wood floors, Oh Roof..."
Going to have to do something about it this year, I think.

Wrist Update

I don't want to sound like I'm whining, but this is frustrating. When I wake up in the morning, or if I don't keep using my hand, it's so swollen it resembles a baseball (knuckles? What are those?) and I can't close my hand. Some painful exercises free it up somewhat.That said, it seems to be a bit better every day.I couldn't move it up above level or squeeze a foam rubber ball two days ago, I'm starting to be able to now. Takes time.

Club News

Here's the new logo for the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club:

Design notes: James did the initial concept and typography, I did the graphics. The tree was a freehand sketch using my Wacom tablet and stylus. I found a camera graphic that I liked online and I used it for the basis of the drawing I did: I didn't incorporate the online graphic, I sketched with it in the background and then warped and twisted it using Photoshop filters and tools. 

I think the logo would look great on the side of our new Aerion Supersonic Business Jet:

Airplane photo from
Hope nobody minds me using the picture in fun.

For your Viewing Pleasure

Just one picture to show you today. I'll get out and shoot some more when things settle down. Next weekend for sure!

I ventured out on the ice at sunset, looking for some colourful skies. I was disappointed. But I had set up the camera so I did a few shots and this one worked out! It's a 5-shot HDR with very little post processing other than the HDR toning in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2. I did have to remove some spots: I shot it at f/18 for the depth of field, and the HDR process also emphasizes dust spots. Also a bit of ghost reduction and haloing..

When I looked at the image, I thought "aurora"! So I played with it, adding some colour in the sky and equivalent reflection on the ground. One day I hope to have a chance to shoot real Aurora Borealis.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

It's Winter

On a personal note...

On February 11th 2014, Amalia Rose Torres Springer arrived! My new granddaughter was born at 11:31 pm February 11th to Jamie Torres Springer and Maria Torres Springer in New York. Mother and daughter are fine, Jamie survived too, judging from the 2-word emails we got! Yahoo!

Big sister Leah meets her new day old sister Amalia for the first time. Photo credit Jamie Torres Springer

Back on the Ice

I took the ATV out on the ice for the first time since my injury. It's a little uncomfortable: I can't stand up and drive (which you need to do for better traction and balance sometimes) because my wrist won't bend enough to reach the throttle when I'm standing.

I wasn't really inspired. Struggling a little with the camera one-handed... still I did get a few shots.

Wonder what it's like inside the ice-fishing huts? It's toasty warm despite the icy floor! And how great is North-Facing-Window light? 

Here I combined the wide angle lens, a polarizing filter and an HDR blend to capture the feeling of this bright day. By the way, I use Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 for my HDR blending, and five images with the D800, which only allows one stop between brackets.

Topaz has a real winner with their "Simplify" plug-in. I've been using it a lot as my readers can tell, It can add a real painterly flavour to your images. Sometimes you need the edginess of high detail HDR processing and sometimes the smoothness of a simpler image is called for.

Same day, just a few minutes earlier. Here I used the 200mm lens and Topaz Simplify to make a tonal watercolor-like image with a completely different feel. I love the textures in this image. This should work well as a large format art print on the Cold Press matte paper.

I actually combined HDR and Simplify processing to  make this smoothly textured toned image. The high resolution D800 is a real advantage here.

"Working the Scene"... four completely different looks on a short visit out on the ice. Change lenses. Shoot wide. Shoot long.  Shoot inside. Visualize.

New offer from Topaz

If you're reading this before February 28th, take advantage of the half-price sale Topaz is holding on the Simplify module. Use this link, then enter 'febsimplify' in the discount code field at checkout.

It's Winter...

...and even here in the Highlands, where we all adore our four-season outdoors, neighbours greet each other with, "so have you had enough winter yet?". I don't know if it's a record-breaking year but it seems like it's gone on forever. Huge snow levels, endless days with sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures. Although it's nice out there as I write this (-10°C, sunny), it was -27°C when I got up this morning.

Visitors from Toronto don't get that you don't drive your car – even if it's an Audi Quattro – on the snowmobile/ATV trail out on the lake. It may look easy, and it is when you're actually on the ice, thanks to the crew from the Red Umbrella Inn who clear it, but the entrance is tough, even for an ATV. CAA got the call.

Some people CAN drive on ice. Every weekend there's ice racing at the Minden Fairgrounds. Imagine racing bumper-to-bumper on a track surface made of ice!

Yes, Minerva, that car is really that colour! I used HDR Efex to bring up the detail level and Simplify for the painterly textures.

Winter's not over yet... coming up: the DogSled Derby on March 1/2. Then maybe, Spring. Just keep telling yourself that!

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Slowly back shooting again!

Another wrist update

There's still a ton of things I can't do one handed. Slowly I have more flexibility but the two things I can't do is twist my arm and to some extent, push. Pulling hurts less. That's partly because of a frozen shoulder that I must have injured at the same time without knowing it.

You don't think about things like putting on your seatbelt in the car (you have to push the thing in: but more disconcerting, you have to push the red button to release it! Can't do either). Fortunately I have a note from the doctor in case I get pulled over. As an aside, I've worn a seatbelt driving my car for at least 48 years (I remember a crash on February 13, 1966 where my seatbelt saved my life. Some dates stick in your mind). So I'm really uncomfortable without it.

Today my cousin Steve dropped in and helped me put the fitted sheet on my bed. You can't do that with a broken wrist! Don't get me started on shoelaces! I have been playing my keyboard a bit, some of the chords are tough but I think it's good to stretch a bit. 10 more days until the cast comes off. Oh, and thankfully, it's not that itchy!

Camera Club News

A couple of weeks ago I told you about an image I was entering in the Richmond Hill Camera Club "Geometric" competition. I was expecting a low score because I figured more than one of the judges wouldn't "get" it. Hmmm. I got a mediocre score from all three. I still think it's my best image of 2013 but that's just me. As I said, I've stopped making images for others, now I'm making them for me. At least important art images. I still shoot pictures of opportunity as you'll see in a minute.

But I'm incredibly impressed with the quality of images from RHCC. Take a minute to go to their webpage: the top of the page is a slideshow of pictures from the last competition (geometric, plus general pictorial images). Some phenomenal vision there.

The new Haliburton Highlands Camera Club (HHCC) is just getting rolling. I'll post a link to some images next week – they were out shooting the Pond Hockey Tournament the last two weekends. I shot a few images there myself:

I think this captures what it was like to be there. This is how hockey is supposed to be played, outdoors in the cold and the snow! 

Here's an action image painted with Topaz Simplify 

There were some really interesting people there, including Santa Claus relaxing after his December busy time! 

Also the "Bees Knees" hockey team. I took their pictures last year as well. Can't resist a pretty blonde! 

The D800 is an awesome camera!

Here's a couple of images I shot a couple of days ago. My friend Styles is running for public office and asked me to shoot a couple of images for him. Here's what I got:

A "serious candidate" image.  

Styles and his wife Niki 

My favourite shot. Styles has a real connection with his little Yorkie and let his hair down (figuratively speaking!) when he joined us in the photo session!
Some photo notes for these pictures. Lighting was primarily from an off-camera speedlight with a Gary Fong Diffuser , high at 45° camera left and a reflector low at the same angle camera right. There was also some window light from the left, and I dragged the shutter to incorporate the warm light from the lamp in the first shot. The radial filter in Lightroom helps a lot to isolate the subject.

The D800 resolution is so high that I had to spend some time getting rid of normally invisible blemishes and detail. And the 70-200 Nikkor lens helped too! The quality of these images reminds me of medium format Hasselblad days. I'm suitably impressed!

More to come!

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