Thursday, March 27, 2014

Enough, already!

This is the winter of our discontent.
Not much to do with the John Steinbeck classic novel, a lot to do with the excruciatingly long winter we're having. And as I write this, guess what? It's snowing. It's March 27th and the temperature outside when I got up was -20°C, right now it's windy and just zero, but it's snowing again, dammit.

That said, it's supposed to warm up a little during the day tomorrow, although the nights are still going to be below freezing and the words, "a mix of rain and freezing rain" are never welcome. When will it end?

This is my friend Janie's cottage on Kushog Lake, shot yesterday. I sent her this picture and her response was,  "Are you kidding me? I cant believe all the snow... I guess spring may be a while away. See you in July. LOL" 

I've been hibernating, I'll admit. I just don't feel like going out there much. I was in Haliburton on Camera Club business today, didn't even bring my camera, what am I going to shoot, more snowy scenes? To top it off, it appears that when I fell and broke my wrist in January, I also injured my rotator cuff, so my shoulder is really sore. My hand hasn't healed yet either so I'm really not that comfortable. It would really help to look out on a world that wasn't deeply buried in the white stuff.

I know, I know. "Do you want some cheese to go with that whine"? Yeah.

I revisited this little house when Myrtle and Joe came up last week and captured this image. You have to admit it's pretty.  

Here's a shot of another house down the road. Both of these pictures were processed using Topaz Simplify, it adds such a great painterly feel, don't you think? This is one of my favourite Photoshop plugins. You can buy it here for $39.99. Sometimes it goes on sale, keep watching my blog to find out when! I'll give you a heads-up.
I thought I'd add a couple more pictures from my visit to Sir Sam's last week. The Magic Carpet ski lift is so photogenic! 

Cool facial expression! You have to wonder what she was thinking! At least some people are enjoying winter. 

OK, Jim is too! He's my neighbour and came by with this 10 lb lake trout he caught ice fishing the other day! I understand this put him in second place in the tournament going on this week. The ice fishing huts are slowly coming off the lakes, the law says they have to be in by the end of the month.  

So I guess it hasn't been a bad season for those who enjoy the outdoors.

Travel Plans

I'm really thinking about going somewhere this summer. I saw some fantastic pictures from Iceland last weekend that made me want to go there but I think it's too expensive. The idea of going to Newfoundland again is rattling around in my mind. Perhaps driving out, going up the East Coast and crossing over to Labrador this time. Anyone want to come along? What with the cost of gas... get in touch if you're thinking about it.

Here are a couple of shots from last time I was there:


Something off the wall

I thought I'd close with something completely out of my normal comfort zone.

"Thou Shalt Not...". I used a star trails shot I did last summer and started playing with textures and colours and warping and liquifying things, then I thought about sending a beam of energy in the direction of the North Star. Then I thought maybe we're not supposed to do that and someone up there was delivering a stern warning...

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

An Eclectic Week

I know the word "Eclectic" is an adjective (well it could also be a noun...) but but I wonder if you can use it to describe a week! Oh well, I just did. So there.

I spent a lot of time this week on business and administrative tasks (especially with the new Camera Club) and it was nice when some friends came up and dug me out of my computer chair to go out and shoot some pictures. A day or two in Toronto and Uxbridge with family and spending some time with a friend who's a bit under the weather (me too, for what it's worth), then back home and at the keyboard again!

Although it's a nice day out, I don't feel like going outside. I think the most commonly heard greeting here lately has been, "so had enough of winter yet"? I have. Been a Hell of a year.

At least I have a ton of pictures to write up here. But before we get started...


Do you have a Nikon and an iPad? there's a free app out there called "Nikon Manual Viewer 2" that lets you download any Nikon manual and view it, formatted perfectly for the iPad. Very slick. The more you read your manual, the better you know your camera. Not only DSLR's, but also mirrorless and even P&S cameras, plus all the Nikon Speedlights. Thanks to Moose Peterson for the find.

Topaz DeNoise promotion

Topaz is running a 50% promotion on Topaz DeNoise until the end of March, their image noise reduction plug-in is designed to fix heavy image noise and grain.
"Other NR software tend to strike a good balance between processing speed and quality. By contrast, DeNoise focuses entirely on the quality of the results you get. (The trade-off is that it takes longer to process an image in order to get better results.) For example, notice below that the books stay sharp and that there's no soft edges or smudged details:"
This technology makes DeNoise useful for "tough" cases of image noise. It can save photos that photographers might otherwise throw away.
Use this link to go to the DeNoise page where there are great examples and even a tutorial at the bottom: 
To get the 50% discount, enter the coupon code 'mardenoise' when ordering. You can also do a 30 day free trial.

Here's a shot where I used Topaz DeNoise. Indoor hockey arenas are notoriously difficult to shoot in. This shot was taken at 1/800 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400.

In this shot I did NOT use DeNoise, I did the best I could with the Noise Reduction in Lightroom 5, which is generally very good, but not as good as DeNoise! By the way, the title of this picture is, "If Looks Could Kill". Coach not happy. 

So who takes photos of referees at hockey games? People whose grandsons ARE referees! He works really hard at it. And it's hard to be unbiased: he penalized the home team in this championship match with less than 3 minutes left in the game. Fans not happy!

By the way, Ryan PLAYS hockey too. He played in this game and 15 minutes later was refereeing in the other rink. 14 years old, almost 6' tall, work ethic... hmmm.

He promised me a goal. Didn't keep his word :( . Can't say he didn't give it a try, though!

Some wildlife

I actually shot this one last week.

I was asked whether I got these deer to pose for me. Of course I did. You don't think they'd line up perfectly like that without a little direction, do you? 

In almost the same spot, a week later. This wild turkey tom was a bit less cooperative, I couldn't get him to 'display'. In fairness, Maureen and Jon feed these critters in winter, so they do hang out around their house.

Myrtle and Joe came up for the day last week. We tried to get the deer but weren't successful, but we did get to shoot some other neat stuff. 

I've been away from skiing for many years so I shouldn't be shocked at innovation on the slopes. First of all, there are kids doing things on skis and snowboards (which didn't even exist when I skied) that aren't natural. These shots were all taken at Sir Sam's Ski and Bike (they do crazy stuff with bikes in the summer!) near Haliburton.

And I bet these kids never even HEARD of a rope tow! Now they have something called a "Magic Carpet" which they stand on like a moving sidewalk, sheltered from the weather, no less!

Everyone wears a helmet, some cooler than others!

I took my camera for a ride up the magic carpet, then Joe and Myrtle did too. 

In case you're wondering, I walked down that walkway on the right. I miss skiing, but my knees certainly do not! 

One more shot. This kid was too cute...

I have other 'keepers' but I don't want to bore you too much!

OK, that's enough for today! I have to save some stuff for next week, you know!

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Monday, March 03, 2014

Busy, Busy weekend!

New Header Photo

Every couple of months I like to change the header picture on the blog to reflect the season. Today's new header is wishful thinking, I think! Last night it was almost 30°C below and we have a ton of snow on the ground. The theory is, "if you think it, it will happen". Think warm thoughts!

The new header is actually an old photo that I took with my D70 back in 2006 on the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. It's amazing what quality a 6Mp camera delivers, even in today's terms. I enhanced it within Lightroom and Photoshop, then I applied the excellent "Paper Textures" extension in Photoshop CC. It's free, and if you install it, note that there are TWO versions, "Paper Textures" and  "Pro". Install both.

When I replace the header photo, I put the old one here for reference or it's gone! So here's the header picture that was up to the end of February.

The ongoing New Laptop saga

Strictly speaking, not a new laptop, just a new boot drive. The old one gave up the ghost, so I had a new drive installed. We put in a 256Gb SSD drive and loaded the operating system and programs on it. Data resides as it always had, on a second internal drive, backed up to various plugged in external drives.

By the way when I say "we" I mean I paid for it, and James Keller did it. He really knows what he's doing and is starting a fresh computer services business in Haliburton. He has my vote.

So my data was safe but I have to reinstall all of my programs. There are probably 20 of them that I use regularly, and a bunch of others that are more sporadically required and lots of support stuff. Today I discovered that I didn't have a PDF reader installed, for instance, or Dropbox. I've got the critical ones done but there are 7 or 8 of the main programs left to do and who knows how many of the utilities. What a pain.

I also discovered that I was missing some important pieces of the puzzle. For example, my Lightroom and Photoshop preferences and presets! So if I were you, I'd go look for those and make sure you have a backup somewhere. Also your Outlook file if you use that client. It's usually in some obscure location!

FWIW, the laptop sure boots up quick now! And since the swap files are on the SSD, I imagine Photoshop will fly much faster when working on some of those huge D800 files!

How's this for an HDR location?

I came across this old building last week. The sign on it says "Ontario's Coolest Building".What an awesome HDR site, especially if we can get inside (which we might be able to do after the winter). And across the road is a larger structure that had collapsed, so there's just some brick walls and framework left. Ill try to set up a shoot there!

This is a 5-shot HDR, then I added a Topaz Simplify layer.  

This is the yellow sign on the building (click to blow it up if you can't read it), shot through my car window. Hey, it was cold, OK? 

It was a busy weekend

It started with Ron Goodlin's wildlife presentation on Friday night, attended by almost 50 people. A wonderful program, turns on the 'envy' genes, both about his skills as a photographer and speaker, and his ability to travel and his great equipment.

Forgive the lousy iPhone photo! 

We went to the dogsled races on Saturday. It was a snowy, flat day, that got even worse later on. Sunday was clear but Saturday was a long day and I didn't get there the next day until much too late (someone told me the 8-dog race STARTED at 3pm. In fact it ENDED at 3pm. {sad face}.

It took a bunch of editing to make a useable shot out of this one. Really flat lighting and snow falling made it a difficult capture, especially since it was with my 400 mm lens. By the way, that looks like a GoPro camera on her chest: they're really ubiquitous. This was the 6-dog race on Saturday afternoon. 

This is an 11-week-old puppy. I tried to steal her to take her home, but couldn't get away with it. This has to be one of the cutest puppies I've ever seen. Her name is Nyx, after (Νύξ), the Greek primeval goddess of night. Apparently she will be bred in 18 months, so I gave her my card and said to call me in 18 months and 8 weeks! Do you think she bought the jacket to match the dog's eyes?

Dr. Ron, lying down on the job as usual! Ron, your camo isn't working! I SEE YOU!
I tried getting down on the ground too. It took 3 people to help me get up. {sigh}. 

The lighting was MUCH better on Sunday. This shot is only lightly edited. Could have used a touch more depth of field... 

But that's not all. I decided to drive home via Bethel Church Road, which leads to the white water venue on Horseshoe Lake Road. First thing that made me put on the brakes and grab the camera was this seasonal home.

It's a log building, boarded up for the winter, with a fastidiously applied coat of pastel blue and green paint. I thought it lends itself well to this painterly treatment. I had to climb up a snowbank to get this vantage point. Then one more step and I was in up to my hips. I didn't expect that, and didn't bother to take gloves with me, and couldn't use my healing right hand to help get up... you should have seen me floundering around!

That's still not all! As I got to Horseshoe Lake Road, I saw a herd of deer at a house on the right. I quietly got out, changed lenses, walked over to the driveway... and they ran off. I went to the white water, scouted around a bit, nothing doing, headed back. The deer were back again. This time I managed to get some shots. Even better, this one youngster was too curious to be frightened and I got to within about 15 feet!

Love his expression and the pink tongue sticking out! Notice his ears aren't even up! He's going to have to learn some caution or he won't make it through hunting season next year! He was trying to wind me, but I was cross-wind to him. 

An eyeball shot.Told you I was close! 400mm and cropped, but hey... 

...and you thought I was done for the day! When I got home, I saw these great clouds, the sun was about to set... I thought I'd get that colourful sunset I had missed last week. Again it didn't materialize. By the time the sun went down, it was cloudless. I spend two hours waiting for it out on the ice, to no avail. I sat in a fishing hut (no heat, but out of the wind) for an hour or so. Anyway, I took this burst while setting up the camera for later.

7-shot HDR and I painted in the lights. Then I added the stars. If those clouds had hung around for another hour it would have been more spectacular! I'll get one yet! 

So I figure that's enough for one weekend. Until next time!

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