Saturday, May 17, 2014

If you go out in the woods today...

New Banner

Time for a new banner for the blog! This is what the forest looks like as spring arrives in the Highlands. If you're not seeing the banner because you're on an RSS feed, you need to open the blog in a browser. Clicking here should do it!

As usual, here's the previous banner displayed in-line to save it for posterity (it disappears as soon as it's replaced in the header).

Topaz Special

Topaz Labs plugins have been my go-to suite of image enhancing tools for some time now. Some of their products (like Clean, Clarity, DeNoise, InFocus...) add technical improvements to your images, and some (Adjust, Simplify, StarEffects...) add artistic effects, all much easier than trying to work them from grass roots in Photoshop, Elements or Lightroom. "Clean" is on sale right now for 50% off if you use the link below and enter "mayclean" in the discount field at checkout.

But Topaz Labs has recognized my contributions by extending a special 15% across-the-board discount for all products NOT currently on sale, if you enter "faczen" in the discount field at checkout! That's more than $50 discount on the complete bundle!

By the way, you can always try their full suite and check out all their products for 30 days before you buy, at the bottom of their main page!

Here's the link: TOPAZ LABS

The Future

A couple of weeks ago I talked about some developments that will colour our world in the near future. Turns out I wasn't the only one who noticed.

For instance, Yosemite National Park has banned the use of RC drone copters! Check out this link. I think that's the first thing that's going to happen: drones will be banned in many places. Then the next phase will be the introduction of fully computer-controlled drones (no testosterone-fuelled teenagers wielding joysticks!) and that will be the impetus that will make these vehicles ubiquitous in our skies.

There was a news story about a drone that almost collided with an airliner. The photo was faked, and I'm just guessing that the artist was thinking military drone but the actual event involved a small RC copter (they commented that the incident occurred at 2300 feet, "higher than the normal operating height of the drone"). Regulation is coming.

And driverless cars and the flying cars I mentioned are already here: read this! And go ahead and Google "Google driverless cars". They are actually predicting rolling them out to the public in 2017. That's less than 3 years away...

Combine the two technologies I've just mentioned and add in developments in power technology. I read that Quantum Entanglement might be the driving force behind releasing energy levels orders of magnitude higher than present day batteries can deliver. Large scale computer-controlled flying vehicles for personal and cargo transport suddenly doesn't seem so far off.

Can't stop thinking about this stuff!

Remember, you read it here first!

The Past

A discussion came up recently about why they're putting GPS's in cameras. I don't see why you need them, or even why they'd be useful. But here's an interesting factoid. I can't remember people's names, what I was going to buy at the grocery store or why I went into my living room for something; but I have over 100,000 digital images in my database going back 15 years and boxes of negs and transparencies going back 35 more years and if I look at any image, I could tell you where I was when I shot it. I also used to remember phone numbers but I can't do that any more.

I could also probably find the hotel I stayed in for two nights in Rio de Janeiro in 1985 or that great inn in Blowing Rock North Carolina, but since I got a GPS, I can never remember which road to turn on to go to my cousin's cottage 12 km from here. I could show you which seats we used to sit in when we watched the Montreal Alouettes play football in Molson Stadium in 1954, but if I didn't have a reminder pop up on the computer tomorrow morning, I'd probably forget the appointment I made to have my snow tires changed tomorrow.

The big one for me is words. I'll be in a conversation with someone (whose name I can't remember!) and want to say something but just won't be able to think of the word I want to say. It happens when I'm writing, too. I'll write something knowing it's the wrong word, hoping that I'll wake up in the middle of the night and remember what word I wanted to use. Sometimes I do. Don't ask me for an example: I can't remember any! (actually there's one word that's eluded me all my life, since the Debating Club in High School 50-odd years ago: "articulate". Whenever I want to say articulate, all I can come up with is "eloquent". Now if I stop to think about it I can come up with it after a few minutes. Odd).

Of course I can remember that an Oberflechenwellenfilter is a Surface Acoustic Wave filter and I could still recite the Schroedinger wave equation for the energy level of a photon emitted when an electron jumps from one quantum state to another (h nu equals minus two pi squared e to the fourth en zed squared over h squared times one over n one squared minus one over n two squared) but I can't for the life of me remember what any of that means.

All great, but where the Hell are my car keys?

Ah, the sporadic musings of a demented mind...

Mechanic in a Can

I've mentioned this stuff before. I was reminded yet again when I took my old lawnmower out of hibernation. This stuff is totally MAGIC.

It's called "Seafoam" and it probably got its name as a marine engine treatment. I was introduced to it by friends at VROC (The Vulcan Riders and Owners Club), because I rode a Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 for many years. It wasn't available in Canada but a ex-pat by the nickname "Kudzu" who visited from time to time, used to bring a case up for his friends.

Put some in your gas. Your motor, whatever it's in, will run 100 times better, cooler, smoother. Trust me...

I had a snowblower that wouldn't start. I put some Seafoam in and let it sit for a day. Pushed the button and it started instantly. I couldn't start my ATV last fall, probably due to a tank of bad gas. I had even booked a mechanic to come take it away and fix it. Then I remembered Seafoam. Next day it started and ran perfectly all winter (OK, it won't fix the leaky tire or 4WD electrical problem, but hey...).

The reminder yesterday was the lawnmower. I was worried because with my broken wrist, I couldn't pull the starter properly. I reached over with my left hand, gave it a half-hearted pull and... it started INSTANTLY after a long cold winter.

It's about $12 at Canadian Tire. NAPA sells it too, that's where Kudzu got it originally in the US. Get some.

Lens For Sale

Last week I showed you a picture of a female rose-breasted grosbeak in my pine tree. The male was more than elusive, I think he just didn't want his picture taken and as soon as I cracked the door to step out, he was gone. Even if I left it open, he knew I was there! I don't have a photo blind, that would probably have worked, but patience paid off and I got him! It was windy and his feathers were fluffed out.

Cropped out of a frame shot on my D800 at 1/800 second at f/5.6, ISO 2000 with my Sigma 120-400mm lens at 400mm, handheld. By the way if you think taking his picture was tough, try getting him to sign a model release!

I'm thinking about selling the lens I used to take that picture. I want to go in a different direction.
It's in mint condition, it sells at B&H for $900 US, at Henry's in Canada for $1050, so any way you go it's going to cost you $1200 to get it in your hands. Let's talk $900 Canadian, net. Contact me.

By the way, I got one image accepted at the GTCCC Inter-club competition 2014 and it was shot last fall with the same lens. Here it is:

Loon feeding chick. Shot on Lake of Bays in September 2013 on a D600 at 1/800 second at f/8, ISO 800 with my Sigma 120-400mm lens at 400mm, In a boat with Mike Bertelsen and others, using tripod as a monopod for stability
In Print

It's always nice to see my work in print. This time SunCorp (the Minden Times/Haliburton Echo) used one image on the cover of their Spring County Life insert (on display for free for the next two months!) and several shots inside. They also published my monthly column last week in the Haliburton County Living publication.

This is the cover shot they used. The last time one of my shots was on the cover of a newspaper was, um... 

Picture Time!

I took the 4-wheeler out for a little ride on the trail the other day. The forest floor was just starting to green up but the trees were bare. I originally did an HDR here but discarded it because it lost the feeling of serenity in the original. 

Almost in the same spot, this dirtbiker came buzzing by. My camera was set for a really slow shutter speed because I was doing motion-blurred tree shots so all I could do was grab a snap. Also I had the wide angle lens on, so this is a pretty tight crop. I was going to throw it then noticed how nice the motion blur looked and how it added to the dynamic feel of the picture! 

This was on Friday, May 15th and the trees are starting to show signs of life. I waited for this guy to come back the other way and managed to get a few shots. There's something about the feeling of the trees in this spot that I find rather compelling. The image was treated with Topaz Simplify, except for the biker himself which I masked out and then used Topaz Clean on him to bring up the detail. 
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