Thursday, July 03, 2014

New Beginnings

Canada's new anti-spam legislation came in force today — I'm writing this on July 1, Happy Canada Day to all my Canuckistanian readers, and Happy Independence Day to my American Friends — and it is forcing a big re-think by everyone who maintains a mailing list. Those who are located in Canada, anyway: most of my spam comes from more obscure places who aren't going to pay attention to our laws.

In the past, I added names to my mailing list of people whom I thought MIGHT be interested in reading my blog, friends and acquaintances and people I met or had dealings or communications with. You can't do that any more. All I can do is send them an invitation to subscribe, and the link to the subscription form (if you're reading this, and you're not a subscriber, PLEASE click the "Newsletter" link at upper right. The newsletter is simply an alert that there's a new post on the blog and a hint as to what it contains. One email a week).

So as I write this, my list is only 1/10 of what it was: I'm only a couple of hours in, people are away and haven't read their email yet, there's this whole world of apathetic people out there, and lots of people who are inundated with email and don't want more. On a positive note, that means that everyone who is reading this is doing so because they want to! (update: it's July 3 and I'm up to 25%)

I'd really like to build it back up again, so please forward this to your friends and colleagues, whom you think would enjoy this weekly blog.

Something else new...

Is the header picture. As my loyal longer-term readers know, when I replace the blog header, the old one is gone forever, so I take a second to post it here.

This is the previous header, posted in May 2014. I like to keep them seasonal. Not looking forward to putting next year's winter one up! 

So a note about the new header: the background picture is a composite of 50 exposures, married using StarStaX (it's a free software utility, available here, that's designed to merge images to create star trails). It works on clouds too!

The bear was a photo I took at the Landfill (OK, the "Garbage Dump"!). The background was really ugly, to say the least. So I thought I'd try the new "Focus area selection tool" in Photoshop CC 2014 and it really works! After using the refine edge dialogue, it really rendered even the hairs of the bear! So after a little tweaking (and a flip, I like him facing this way), I composited him into the shot.

Here's the original bear picture, after I selected him and applied a heavy Gaussian Blur to the ugly background! 

This is the original cloud shot. After I merged the 50 images in StarStaX (I actually had 135 images but after 50 the effect seemed to downgtrade), I laid a masked version of the tree on the left on top because the wind was blowing and the moving trees didn't render well. 

New Toy

For starters, those following the blog should know the Sigma 120-400 lens has found a new home, someone who will enjoy it as much as I did. I find myself these days trying to travel a little bit lighter and I found I left this lens at home a lot. Just too many lenses to carry! So I decided to give it up and acquire a Nikon TC-17e II teleconverter. It only gets me 340mm focal length, at a slightly bigger aperture (f/4.8) but it fits easily into the bag. I haven't shot much with it yet — the bear above was one example — but I'm quite pleased with its performance. Here are a few more shots:

Nice and sharp, good bokeh (I suppose that comes from the lens) 

A different approach! I came in close for this one, then I used the new version of the Paper Texture Pro extension in Photoshop CC 2014 for the textured background.  I'll bet this will make a gorgeous print! Contact me.

Good Canadian source for the teleconverter? In the US, B&H Photo. By the way, it only works on selected lenses like the Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR, so be careful.

Speaking of long lenses

There's a phenomenal deal out there. The 600mm f/4 is arguably the best long lens Nikon has ever made. The only problem was the price tag: over $12,000. Dr. Ron had one trashed by an elk (here's a link to the story in case you missed it) and although in the end it was repaired, it isn't perfect. The autofocus is working, but more slowly than it should. Optically it's perfect. He wants to get rid of it, insurance has replaced it, and is asking an unbelievable $1800 for it. If you're interested, drop me a note and I'll put you in touch. Move quick!

Another friend has gone over to the dark side. He has a bunch of immaculate Nikon gear for sale, including two D800 bodies, a 70-200 f/2.8, a 300mm f/2.8, a 400mm f/2.8 and a bunch of other stuff. These are NOT going at fire sale prices, they are spotless but I'm sure you can make a deal. Again, I'll put you together if you write me. Where's the lottery fairy when you need her? If you want to know what to buy me for my birthday, well I'd find a way to cart around that 300 or 400 f/2.8!


Here's a deal from B&H Photo: If you've been meaning to get a calibration device for your monitor, they have the Datacolor Spyder4PRO on sale for $70 off! It's for July the 4th, so I don't know how long the discount is on, but here's the link. And Elements 12 is $60 here

Here's a sad picture

Other people get great pictures of beautiful wildlife. I'm not so lucky. Neither is this mangy, emaciated fox who has obviously seen better days. I think he was injured, somehow, or sick. He limped, and likely wasn't able to hunt. I'm guessing he didn't have long to live and I wish I had been carrying so I could have put him down. This is not a happy shot, so don't click to blow it up if you don't want to. 
On another note...

Candid Camera

I caught this shot at the Minden Wildwater Preserve. These were campers on the Preserve side who had come down to the river to bathe. This young lady was washing her hair and did this to rinse the shampoo out:

This was entirely candid: if she knew I was there, she was ignoring me. I enhanced the contrast and motion using some Photoshop filters but this is how it looked! 

FWIW, I cropped this out of a bigger shot. Her boyfriend was in the background doing the "pants on the ground" thing but without underwear and I didn't think it belonged in the picture. Here:

Kind of on the edge of "PG"... 
So that's it for the first post in my new generation blog. Not a ton of change in style or content, I like sharing pictures and stories and giving an insight into goings on in my world and up here, linking up to interesting things and events. Stay tuned!

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