Monday, April 28, 2014

Are you kidding me?

Big Bang Theory

It's your fault. You subscribed, so you have to put up with my ramblings. I was thinking about shooting star trails, so I got on the train of thought about why the night sky is dark, not uniformly white.

In 1823, Heinrich Olber postulated that if the universe is infinite, then there would be no direction in which there would not be a star, so the sky should be completely white. Think about that for a second. Interestingly, the first person to come up with the correct answer to that was not a scientist, it was Edgar Allan Poe! He pointed out that if the universe was so large that light from the most distant points had not yet reached us, the sky would be black.

In 1901, Lord Kelvin calculated that for the sky to be light, the universe would have to be hundreds of trillions of light years broad. It isn't, so the universe must be smaller than that, so it had to start somewhere, and that led to the Big Bang Theory! Not the TV show (which arguably is the most brilliant show on TV ever), the theory of the origin of the universe.

I mentioned Dr. Michio Kaku on an earlier blog. He is a theoretical physicist who had a lot to do with the development of string theory. I don't know how he is regarded in the scientific community, but he has written a number of popular books that discuss such weighty issues. He is definitely worth a read.

If you're intimidated by mathematics, read his "Physics of the Future". It talks about what our world is going to look like over the next 100 years. And it does it without the technical math. Do you have any idea of how many Star Trek concepts have already come to be, and how many others are in development? Nanobots? Transparent Aluminium?

If mathematics and theoretical physics concepts don't make your eyes glaze over, Read "Parallel Worlds". You'll be amazed what you will learn about Einstein and Hawking and black holes. You can gloss over the tougher parts and still know more about our universe(s). Links to both books on Amazon are above.

OK, let's get on to some lighter stuff!

So why does Steel Wool burn?

You had enough science for today. Google it.

But burn it does!

James was trying to do a face! Missed an eye... but tres cool! 

Thanks to Cheryl Smith for organizing it and to James Keller who actually did the burning and mentoring! Great job, guys, a credit to the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club.

Originally I had planned to shoot "people shooting burning steel wool" but it's so cool, I got carried away in the moment! Great fun, we have to do this again!

Are you kidding me?

I happened to click on my Google+ profile and right there it says that I've had 459,141 views! Are you kidding me? If I'm so popular, why ain't I rich?

I clicked on Vincent Versace's profile: he's over 14 million views. Scott Kelby's at 62 million. Trey Ratcliff's at 5 Billion. Feelgood numbers, right?

Cheap stuff

When it comes to the important things, I don't buy cheap stuff. Camera. Lenses. Tripods. Software. Even my Barbecue.

That's not to say I don't shop for a bargain. Once I decide what product I want, I'll search for the most economical and trustworthy vendor, which is why I deal with B&H Photo and sometimes with Amazon. Personal shopping, I favour Costco because of their no-questions-asked return policy. You know that if you have a problem, they'll take it back. Best example: an external hard drive failed, I didn't have the bill but they took it back instantly. My GPS stopped working after a few months, and not only did they take it back, but I was able to buy the same model from them on sale for $25 less!

But I have been known to purchase a few things on eBay that are clearly not original equipment, shall we say. With mixed results.

I go into a transaction prepared to lose. But the prices are so low, it's worth the risk. And except for one or two cases, I've been very satisfied. Those two: (1) I bought an Eyelead sensor cleaning kit from China, all the official sources were backordered and this was about $10 cheaper. Turned out it's a copy not the original. That doesn't mean it doesn't work (haven't tried it yet!), but it's clearly not the original and it didn't say so on the listing. And (2) I wanted a cellphone holder for my car, windshield mount that would hold it in any position so I could use the dash-cam function. It says it's 360°, which to me means it will hold it in any position: it won't. But how can I complain? It cost me $1.99 INCLUDING SHIPPING!

I don't understand how they do it. The lowest cost for shipping a package here in Canada (bigger than a letter envelope) is around $7.00 and that's domestic! Triple it if you want to ship to the US. But these people in the Far East will ship you a $2 product for free!

So what have I bought that I'm happy with? A shutter release cable for my D800 for $4. A replacement battery for my laptop for $17. Two EL-EN15 Nikon batteries (OK, not OEM) for $20 each. A couple of lens caps for $3. And most recently, the keyboard I'm typing on right now for $25. The keyboard is a great example. It's illuminated (sometimes I don't want to turn on the lights when I'm at the computer). It feels pretty good, although I have to get used to it, just got it yesterday! The one complaint: the card that came with it is in Chinese and it took me a few minutes to figure out how to turn on the illumination (it's the Scroll-Lock key. Damned if I know what that does, anyway)! My old keyboard had worn-out markings, I touch-type so it didn't matter much, but the big thing was the intermittent spacebar. The same keyboard at Staples is $70, plus tax so really $90!

Anyway, I won't be buying any external hard drives or Nikon lenses at discount  prices from the Far East, but for the little stuff? You can't beat them. And if something isn't perfect, just throw it out! It cost next-to-nothing anyway!

How do you like your Pines?

I like mine tall, and straight up.

A little zoom action while dragging the shutter for 1/10 second. 

Shooting Stars

The Lyrids meteor shower peaked on April 22. It was cloudy but April 23 was clear so I went out to look for meteors.

So my interest in shooting star trails and star fields was rekindled. There are a couple of images here, but really I'd like to send those of you interested in shooting star pictures to my technical blog where I posted more of the story and lots of pictures. Here's the link.

I went out twice that night, the second time just after midnight. That's when I captured this image (remember, you can click on any picture to blow it up):

Photo details: D800/17-35 f/2.8. Exposure 30 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 800, F=17mm. The golden glow is from the lights of Minden, some 10km away. Now to let the cat out of the bag: the meteor? 5 minutes in Photoshop. A simple brush tool on a fresh layer with black background, with pressure sensitivity, and an extra bit for the head, then a Gaussian Blur and Lighten blend mode. Another duplicate layer flipped and set to low opacity gives the almost invisible reflection in the water.

I shot this on Sunday night.  Completely different technique, merging multiple images using StarStaX, a freeware program that helps you do these merges and has some neat tricks up its sleeves! Check out the Tech Blog to learn more and where to get it. 


Somebody posted on FaceBook that he was having trouble autofocusing on a subject, but because his lens didn't have an AF-M switch, so he couldn't focus manually. He was using a Nikon D3200. I took pity on him, downloaded the D3200 manual to see where the AF-M switch is on the body: there isn't one, you do it in the menu. It was right there in the manual, on page 55 and again on page 62. Took me 2 minutes to find it. Now if he had just read the manual... you don't have to memorize everything, you'll remember that you saw something and know basically where to look. Just sayin'...


* If you don't know what that means, Google it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Times, they are a-Changing!

You know how it says, "sporadic musings" on the header? Today is one of those days!

Today I read a short post on Facebook by someone commenting about how it used to be when we were kids: how we would go out and play, ride bikes without helmets, play games with sticks and other sharp objects and have our mothers yelling at us that "you'll put someone's eye out" and somehow we never did...

It evoked a train of thought I've had on and off, even in the middle of the night when I have been literally scared to death and filled with wonderment and hope all at the same time. There's been a lot of change since those days... and

Our world is on the cusp

There's a new technological revolution coming. No one can argue that there have been new products that have changed the world we live in but when there are a number of advances that occur at the same time, a confluence will occur that will bring about a massive shift in the way we live. Here's a small example.

I saw a clip where they showed some kids a Walkman and they were dumfounded. Another one with a dial telephone. 20 years from now, kids will be interviewed and shown, I don't know, an iPhone and they'll have a hard time grasping what it was for. That's a given, But I was reflecting today on a number of things going on right now:

Personal Drones

I just watched a video on John Nack's blog that was really impressive. If you're going to Africa, take a GoPro camera and a quadcopter with you! Check out this clip shot in the Serengeti: Link Here.

I think these drones (let's call them that for brevity) are going to represent a real revolution in our world, not only the photography game. We've all read about Amazon playing with using drones for deliveries, but seeing videos like the one above, and with all the other technology coming into place like YouTube-like capabilities, increasing bandwidths and storage, remote controllable electronics, makes it clear that we're going to see a real change coming.

Just on the photography front, since the payloads of these RC copters is getting up there, and since cameras are gaining a lot of remote control capabilities, I could see a huge proliferation of aerial images. Put a new generation mirrorless camera with some good optics under one of these.

Imagine, if you would, a world in which there are not just a handful of these flying machines out there, but thousands of them. You're standing at the south rim of the Grand Canyon in a few years. Or Yosemite or Yellowstone or, closer to home, Algonquin Park. Think you'll be getting calm wilderness landscape shots? Not unless your Photoshop skills are honed and you're able to clone out those sky machines. Imagine the traffic jams in the sky!

There will come a point in time when manually controlled drones will not be allowed. Everything will be computer regulated. Sure, the kids today with the skills they're honing playing video games will be able to fly these things but when there are thousands of them in the air at any given time?

This is an invention that is going to revolutionize our lives. Mark my words! Maybe you didn't read it here first, but I'm definitely hopping on the bandwagon. Am I going to get one? No, not yet. I'm not really into video and it's not there yet for me, but I probably will in a few years! I know a couple of people who should be getting into this right now, though (talking to you, Howard, and Gary, and others... you know who you are!).

You can buy this DJI Phantom Quadcopter complete with a GoPro Hero3 camera for under $800 at B&H Photo.

Fuel Sources

There's a rumour about an experimental VW that gets 300mpg. Apparently it's a diesel/electric hybrid. And I'm sure there is a breakthrough out there involving quantum entanglement to step up the power available to us by orders of magnitude. There will be a day when fossil fuels will no longer be needed although I think we'll be in a hybrid state for quite some time to come, but it's coming.

Driverless vehicles

Again, the technology is on the cusp of being there. There are only a few out there, being developed by the Googles of the world, but it won't be long. Safety concerns will rear their ugly heads, politicians will lobby for and against the technology, there will be accidents, but slowly when computer reliability approaches 99.99999% or even more decimal places, it will become a non-issue
There will be roads on which you will not be able to drive without onboard computer control. More and more of them... And you KNOW the next step will be the world of the Jetsons. How long will it be before people will be scooting around in the sky? Yes, you need training and a pilot's license to do it today, but add computer control into the equation and a child will be able to control a vehicle, whether it's on the ground or not. The first time I saw a hovercraft, I realized that the days of our reliance on smooth surface routes are numbered.
Here's a scary thought: would you fly in an airplane built by Microsoft? The "Blue Screen of Death" might take on a whole new meaning! Today I had another one of those on my desktop computer, imagine if it was controlling your flying car! 

Direct computer connections

Google Glass is a fleeting fad. The next step will be contact lens technology where images can be both captured and viewed without external eyewear, but the step after that will be direct connection to the brain, where the sensor will be the eye itself and images will be transmitted directly to the optic nerve.

There's a TV series called "Intelligence" where an agent with a microchip implant is directly connected to the cyber grid. Far fetched? I don't think so. We're almost at the point where if someone can imagine something, someone else can make it real: look at Star Trek – except for warp drive and the matter transmitter, pretty well everything is out there or on its way (did you know that Transparent Aluminium exists?)!

So how will it all come together?

I'm not a futurist. There are far more qualified people out there who can predict where we're going – Dr. Michio Kaku comes to mind, read his "Physics of the Future" (which was written in 2011 so it's already obsolete!). I don't know. I think if we all sat down and thought about what the world will be like, even in as little as the next decade, we'd all come up with different answers.

But you have to be blind not to see that our kids and grandkids are going to live in a technology-driven world that we can't imagine. I may live long enough to see it but like my 92-year old mother who uses her iPad to play solitaire and nothing else, I imagine I'll be a relic who will only be able to gape with wonder at what the world has become.
Another reflection on computer crashes: remember when you first got your latest computer (or in fact, when you got any computer in the past)? My recollection is , "wow, this is so fast!" and "look how great everything runs". What happened? Why do we get Blue Screens, why do we have endless issues? It's usually not the hardware: it has to do with installing updates and upgrades. Why can't we just leave well enough alone? Set up a computer to run program "X" (let's say Photoshop), then block all updates, especially from Mickey$oft and Apple (if that's the way you go). Won't it continue to run great, just like when you first got it? 

Updated Fine Art Gallery

Since my laptop computer crash, I've been restoring programs and utilities one at a time. Today I set up the SmugMug link in Lightroom and took the opportunity to update my Fine Art Limited Edition Prints Galleries. Here's the link: there are two galleries, "New and Featured Images" and the archive that shows all the prints I have available.

Enjoy the images, and if you want a fine art print, prices start at $1000. Just kidding, they're reasonably priced and would look fantastic in your home or office!

Speaking of upgrading...

It's that time of year! Spring has sprung and visions of making pictures that don't involve snow are dancing in your heads! Time to learn about how to use that camera better, or to get a handle on that incredible program known as "Photoshop" or penetrate the mysteries of Lightroom. Come do a workshop.

I've updated my workshop pages at I changed a couple of the courses to reflect what people seem to want, but I still  don't show any dates because I'm very flexible (Although I did publish some course dates because they needed it for the Summer Guide in the Highlands). The most popular course has been the 2-day DSLR, but I'm now showing a 1-day basic skills session and coupling that with an optional 1-day field session.

Because I teach to small groups, even one-on-one, you get to choose what you want to learn and how long you spend doing it. Just want a theory session? Or would you prefer to do a field trip and get some real-world experience? I'm easy, I can make the time if you can. Let's Talk!

If you don't feel the need, I'll bet you know someone who does! Please share!

Lots of words, not a lot of pictures!

Yeah, well... time to fix that!

While dinner was cooking, I thought I'd try to capture the essence of the small prime rib roast I was cooking on the BBQ. I used my flash off-camera (about 1m to the left and slightly above, with the Gary Fong diffuser). I tried a couple of shots using a reflector to add some light to the dark areas, but I thought this simple version had a better feel to it. I turned up the burners momentarily to show them, and even cloned in an extra strip to see it better. For the record, it was delicious, properly medium-rare!

So there was this blue jay in the tree. I've taken so many pictures of them, I thought I'd try to make this one a little different. I used a Topaz Simplify preset on this one. One day I'll put all my black background images together somewhere! 

Out near the white water preserve, there's this old church cemetery. Now I think this is the original old church itself, although there's another building across the road that seems to be more current (but still old and rustic). This is hand-hewn log construction and seems to still be weathertight. This is a 5-shot HDR and I used the 10x ND filter to make the exposure times range from 1 to 30 seconds, to try to get some motion in the clouds.  

Generally speaking, this is my least favourite time of year because of the almost monochromatic browns and beiges that paint the landscape. So drag the shutter to 1/10 second and move the camera while the shutter is open and voilĂ , a really nice abstract emerges, ready for large scale printing on canvas or matte paper! You want one. I know you do. Let's Talk!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Odds 'n Ends

Did you always want a dash-cam?

Fred, from the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club, put me on to this one. If you have an iPhone, you can have a dash-cam for the princely sum of $1.99. He pointed out that you can also buy a dedicated one at Costco for a couple of hundred dollars, but it doesn't do anything your iPhone can't!

The iPhone app is called "iSYMdvr" car recorder. You can find it in the apple App store.

Oh yeah, it also cost me an extra $15 for a suction cup mount for the iPhone. Good to have anyway, to turn it into a legal hands-free.

You can go through the options yourself. I have it set up to record 5-minute clips. Once it fills the space you've allocated (I can hold about 30 minutes worth) it writes over the oldest one. You can click the camera icon onscreen to take a still at any time (that's how I did the shot below). You can easily transfer any video to the camera roll in the iPhone and it even has a utility to turn the phone into a server if you're wi-fi connected and upload directly.

So if something happens enroute you have a video recording of it. It's a very neat application. By the way, it has built-in GPS capability so it can automatically record your speed, and you can set an alarm to go off when you exceed the speed limit. How cool is that! I don't really want it recording my speed (don't ask me why and I won't tell you) so I turned that off.

I uploaded a video for your viewing pleasure to YouTube. Just after taking the snapshot below, I drove through the standing water, but was driving really slowly to look at the water levels, then into my driveway.

For my photographer readers

Want to know your shutter count? I've addressed this topic before by suggesting you download and use PhotoME but in a recent thread on FaceBook, I learned that there is an incredibly detailed source of data within Photoshop itself (why am I not surprised?!).

  • Open a RAW file in Photoshop (disclaimer: I'm using CC, I don't know if this exists in earlier versions but I'll bet it does)
  • On the File menu, click on "File Info" (or use the shortcut ctrl-alt-shift-I if you have that many fingers!)
  • Along the top of the resulting popup window there are a bunch of tabs. Select the "Advanced" tab. If it's not there, click the downward facing arrow on the right side of the tab navigator to find it.
  • You'll see this window: select "Schema"

Here it is! In this example, my shutter count is 3102. 

I'm curious whether Canon and other cameras have all of this info. Last time it appeared as if this line is not in the EXIF information. Leave a comment at the bottom of this blog if you tried it. Ditto with other brands of cameras.

While you're in the File Info, look through the other tabs. You'll be amazed at the amount of information collected in the EXIF data with each image.

A few personal notes about life in the Highlands:

Will it never end? It's April 16th as I write this and I'm looking out at a blinding white vista, the ground covered with a fresh blanket of snow about 10cm deep. It's cold, too, around -5°C. It was the same temperature yesterday but it was windy and damp and the cold just seemed to bite right through you. Maybe in July we can finally look back and laugh.

Yesterday I drove into Haliburton to teach a workshop at Fleming College (OK, more ostentatious than it sounds: I was hired to teach a session to a Real Estate company and they rented a classroom at the college). Nice facility, by the way. When I got on the road, I was glad to have my all-wheel-drive Subaru, it was greasy and slushy as Hell. People were driving 40 and 50 kph on the highway if they didn't have 4WD.

Water levels in the lake are not high, but the melt a couple of days ago has had a huge effect on the low-lying ground just south of me. Helped along by runoff from the Inn parking lot, no doubt. Here's a snapshot taken with my dash-cam. This is right opposite my dock

That water is about 6" deep. It's running out of the woods on the right into the lake on the left. There's a seasonal cottage just to my right where I'm parked: every year I'm amazed it hasn't floated away or rotted out, it's under several feet of water. The plot of land to the South is for sale, any takers? 

The other thing is, the ground is really soft underneath due to the melt. So my car leaves deep ruts (as do my feet!) in my driveway. The Inn has wisely taped off their parking lot to prevent people from making an ugly mess by driving in. For the same reason, I'm not taking my ATV out to plow this snow, it'll make a real mess of the ground. Hopefully it'll melt soon.

Here's a fantastic product

I don't know why I waited so long to get these. It took falling on the ice and breaking my wrist to make me finally do it. My neighbour, Dorian, is the power-that-be behind Kador, the importer of this and other interesting products (Kate, if Dorian wants to think he's the MAN, let him!). Actually Dorian came over and gave me a set of these. I've permanently mounted them on an old pair of hiking boots that I can slip on whenever I go out.

These YAKTRAX™ give you absolutely PHENOMENAL traction on ice. They've saved my bacon a number of times! I know it's not the right time of year to think about these, but get some now before you forget. (they're no longer on the Kador website but you can email Dorian directly at this address). 

How's your wrist?

Thanks for asking! Not great. If you've not been keeping up, I broke it on January 16th, so 3 months ago today. I still can't close my hand completely and there's still some pain. I'd estimate the strength in that hand at about 30% of what it was before. I'm doing some physio (not as much as I should, I'll admit). But the big problem isn't the wrist, I hurt my shoulder at the same time but didn't realize it. Xrays and an ultrasound have determined that I did NOT tear my rotator cuff as I suspected, it's only bruised, but it's really painful especially at night and I can't raise my arm above my shoulder. Doc says "physio" but here's a Highlands problem: there's only ONE physiotherapist up here OHIP-registered (affiliated with the hospital) and there's a 140-patient backlog which means 2 months before I can get an appointment. If you know a physiotherapist who would like to live up in God's Country, it's a Hell of an opportunity!

The birds think it's spring

That's one of the joys of living up here. I managed to refill my bird feeders and it didn't take them long to figure it out. Yesterday, I added one to the species count when a mating pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers visited the Scotch Pine in front of my house:

I didn't get great shots of these guys. I haven't micro-calibrated the 120-400 mm lens to the D800 body yet, and I think I'm front-focusing a bit at this close distance. Male and Female yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

I really don't like Grackles. They're loud and raucous, they arrive in huge flocks and hog the feeders, scaring off all the other birds, and empty them in a day. But their iridescent head feathers are interesting.  This image was enhanced using Topaz Detail which is on sale at half price for the month of April. It does a fabulous job of enhancing images without injecting artifacts and noise. Use this link and enter 'aprdetail' at checkout to take advantage of the discount.

The ubiquitous Blue Jay. There are lots of these guys around. Although they're loud and aggressive too, I like them a lot more than Grackles because they don't arrive in huge flocks. Again, I used Topaz Detail on this shot. 

Here's a dark-eyed Junco. For some reason, I find it hard to get a sharp picture of these little guys, maybe it's the front-focusing thing again (actually, look how sharp the branch at the bottom under the bird is).  The only reason I put the picture here is so that I could say "Dark-eyed Junco". So there.

I'm no expert, but this seems to be a hoary redpoll. My book doesn't show that bright yellow spot on the lower part of the bill, though. NOTE: I've just been corrected! This is a American Tree Sparrow. Thanks, Jack! I guess I have to eat crow!

I also saw a pair of downy woodpeckers, some red-winged blackbirds, white-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, and I can hear robins chirruping in the trees. There are some mallards in that high water south of me. All in the space of an hour or so!

The Haliburton School of the Arts

This campus of Sir Sandford Fleming College is a rustic building surrounded by acres of forest, populated by dozens of outstanding sculptures. Worth a visit, and I'll go back in better weather for more pictures. I've been in the forest before but never in the building.

"Rustic" is the operative word. You can't see the open hemlock-beamed ceiling, but this is a typical classroom. This is part of the group of Realtors with whom I was doing a workshop on shooting better listing pictures. I brought my flash with me and this shot illustrated trying to compensate for excessive outside light using an off-camera flash (it's in the picture on purpose). There's motion blur because I dragged the shutter to illustrate blending the light sources. 

This metal sculpture is just outside the front of the school. Great detail when you get up close. I actually got an angle that I liked better that shows it in dynamic full gallop but I wasn't happy with the composition. 

This is the front door of the building. It's hard to see at this resolution, but there is a circular design inlaid in the wood (no, that's not a watermark!) and until I got it back to the computer, I never realized there were words carved into it as well. Look closely at the top. It says, "Within These Walls the Walls Within Disappear". Great motto!

PS: you know that "Thou Shalt Not..." image I put up last week? It took FIRST PLACE at the Richmond Hill Camera Club. Yahoo! Or maybe Google...
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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Springtime blah's

The sounds of Spring

Drip, drip, drip...

If I ever buy another house up here it will have a steeper roof pitch, better ventilation in the roof and be sealed better especially in the valleys. There's really only one bad spot, over my front entrance. Can't do much about it now, but it's going to have to be addressed after the melt!

It wasn't exactly Niagara Falls, but I had to empty the red pail every 4 hours or so.  This went on for a couple of days and then suddenly stopped! I have no idea why, because there's still 6"of ice over the door. Sorry about the not-very-fancy picture, but it tells the story...

When you get an email that starts with,
"This is the final notice regarding your inclusion within the 2013 Edition of Who's Who Among Executives and Professionals."
Don't you wish it was true? That it's the last time they'll annoy you with this? That's the fifth "final notice" I've received this week. You have to wonder why they keep at it...

I'm in a flat spot

I'm really not inspired to shoot picture, especially outside. The crisp, white, invigorating blanket of snow is really very tiresome now. I always have the camera with me but I've been loath to take it out. Nothing really exciting to shoot.

It was a nice day and the clouds were moving pretty fast, so I thought I'd try a long exposure showing cloud movement. Even with the 10x ND filter on, the slowest shutter speed I could get was about 3 seconds.  

Nothing, right? So I decided to shoot a 5-shot time exposure sequence, each shot 3 seconds and about 1/2 second apart. The D800 will do that automatically.Then I combined the 5 exposures as layers in Photoshop and set the blend mode to "lighten".

See the difference in the clouds? Not much. You need an even longer exposure than that, especially when shooting with a wide angle lens.

Yeah, well, still not exciting. So I added a bit more drama by adding a motion blur (masked so it only affected the sky). A little Topaz Simplify, some judicious dodging and burning, then some painting with the mixer brush, a little crop and cleanup and voilĂ !

Now we're getting somewhere! That's more like the look I was trying for.

Today's weather isn't as nice. It's above freezing but it's windy, grey and damp, so I don't feel like going out to shoot. Instead, I decided to revisit Corel Painter 11 so I installed it on the laptop and opened up a random image to re-familiarize myself with it. I think it's been almost 5 years since I used it last.

Here's the image I opened. I shot this at Furnace Falls last summer, in what I was hoping was good dawn light. Not really. Without further ado, I give you:

Painted with Corel Painter 11. I'm going to spend a bit more time with that program. While the Photoshop plugins like Topaz Simplify are interesting, you get almost predictable results, more visibly computer generated. This has more "me" and less "Photoshop" in it.
I revisited another image from last fall the other day. I had been out shooting the milky way late at night (last week's "Thou Shalt Not" image was based on another frame shot the same night). Anyway, I zoomed the lens while the shutter was open. Then I composited in a shot of my car with interior lights (shot at the same time), and did a whole bunch of technical stuff in Photoshop to arrive at this one:

I'm going to go to the Subaru dealer and see if he's interested in buying a print of this.

Speaking of revisiting things...

I was inspired by a couple of pictures I saw in the Photoshop & Lightroom group on Facebook (free to join, search for it. Also they have a sister group called "Photography Help and Share". Both worth joining). The maker did a light tent shot of a calla lily that was outstanding, and I learned he used focus stacking. So I dragged out the bellows and the el-cheapo focus rail that I have, to give it a shot.

First I did a single exposure of an old ball point pen:

This is almost a full frame shot. Specs: 2 seconds, f/11, ISO 400, Nikkor 28-80 at 80mm , with the bellows extended almost all the way out. 

This is three shots focus stacked. Depth of field is so shallow that only the head of the screw is in focus in the first shot. Again, full magnification, but at f/5.6. You can see that the far right side is not in perfect focus. This is a lot of work and tough to do! I need more practice. I don't know how people do macro, stacked shots of moving things like insects. Bound to be more interesting than a screw, though!
Paraphrasing the words of the immortal Dr. Sheldon Cooper,
"Now fetch me something interesting to shoot!"
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