Saturday, September 06, 2014

September. Bummer.

I love September and the colours are coming, the colours are coming, but, hey, did we have summer?

It's Labour Day Monday

Mondays have always been my day off. That started about 20 years ago, when I used to teach the firearms safety courses on weekends (wow, has it been that long? Started in 1994!), then the motorcycle course for 12 years starting in 2001. I always felt a little guilty when others would bemoan the worst day of the week.

Now it's photography courses, and of course, photo events which  are often on weekends too. Yep, Monday's my day of rest. So I thought I would share my to-do list for today. FWIW, the sun is shining, it's 23°C now, going to 26.

  • Stacking firewood. I do a little at a time, and I have about 2 or 3 days more work to do until it's finished. Yesterday was tough because a whole row of wood collapsed and I sweated to get it re-stacked.
  • Mowing the lawn. Haven't done it in a month. Really need to, figuring there will be one more opportunity after this before fall sets in.
  • Posting bills. There's a big stack on the table that needs to get in the computer. Don't ask me about paying them... I also have a couple of small orders to process.
  • Doing my monthly hard drive backup. Shouldn't put this one off.
  • Cleaning the house. Yeah, well...
  • Writing my September article for Haliburton County Living. It's a day late...
  • Working on my Black Background Flowers Photoshop tutorial. So far I've written the intro and preface, taken some workflow screen captures, thought about what I'm going to write...
  • eMail catchups. I need to send the results of the last competition to the judges, gather the troops for the scheduled shoot at the Wilberforce firehall on Thursday, 
  • Try to put some time in on the Blurb book I was going to do called, "The Best of 2013". Not 2014... maybe this one is for rainy days.
And here's a couple more things to do:
  • Going for an ATV ride, to get some pictures in the woods. I could continue over to the Whitewater to see what's going on there, although there's no formal event scheduled for today.
  • Going for a boat ride. I cleaned the spilled gas out of the boat yesterday, checked the motor and attached the steering arm extension. Should I take the camera, or a fishing rod?

Stay tuned, I'll tell you tomorrow what I actually did today!

Update: I made it a two-day affair. I went for the boat ride, stacked firewood, posted bills, did my email catchups. Running my backups as we speak.

Here's the firewood situation as of yesterday. 9 face cords down, one to go! The area behind the "firewood wall" to the right is my little working cave, where I split the wood to make smaller pieces to burn and kindling. The 'wall' keeps the snow out. Last year it collapsed, so I added those "X" braces and stacked more carefully. We'll see...  
OK, Update: 
  • Firewood got finished two days later
  • Mowed lawn
  • Did backup
  • Posted some bills & stuff
  • Went for ATV ride and boat ride.
Yeah well...

Big Surprise

Last week I mentioned that I went out shooting stars one night (there has not been one single clear, cloudless night this entire summer. Bummer). I went to the Island Causeway location I've tried a couple of times now. When there are clouds, or moisture in the air, the light pollution from nearby towns is visible. That's what I figured I was seeing  when I set up and did a couple of test shots. this is what I saw:

Facing South-west, that's probably the lights of Minden. No great shot of the milky way tonight. So I turned around to try to do a star trails shot.

I read a tutorial on shooting the Milky Way and saw that the author's original image wasn't much better than the one I had. So I thought I'd try using his methods. Here's the result.

Not that happy with it but I can see the potential. Here's the link to the site where I found the tutorial: 

It wasn't until I got home and uploaded the images that I discovered it wasn't light pollution after all, it was the aurora borealis! The camera saw it, the eye 'almost' saw it!

This was one of the first images in the sequence. I did quite a bit of enhancing to bring out the contrast and details. 

And here's the combined stacked star trails image:

This is a merge in StarStaX of 144 sequential images, each one 30 seconds at f/4, ISO 800. It took a lot of work to render this image, the glowing aurora interfered with the blending process in StarStaX.
Before I left (at 3:30 am) I tried a few other shots.

I did this by zooming the lens while the shutter was open. Like the 3D effect? 

Then brought to you via the magic of Photoshop,

And here's another one, with the addition of Topaz Star Effects and Simplify. Don't forget you can click any image to blow it up.

Enough "Stars" for a bit. Although the weather forecast is FINALLY showing some clear nights coming up next week so I'll probably go out and shoot some more. 

In an"Art" mood

Sometimes you take pictures with the expectation that they'll be what you're looking for SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) and sometimes not. I've been shooting some images with the intent of post-processing them further. For example, I did the following one just to capture the cloud movement using StarStaX.

Bonus! I didn't expect StarStaX to do what it did to the tree to the right (it was moving in the wind between frames). Not enough of it in the picture, so I did some work in Photoshop to expand its presence. Then I thought the image needed some texture so I used the Paper Texture Pro extension in  Photoshop. 

When I was out on the ATV the other day, I came across this iron and wood bench. I thought it might be a suitable subject for putting on a black background (still writing the tutorial!), so I shot it and post-processed it using techniques I'll share in the eBook. The chapter will be called, "It's not just for flowers" and it's giving me some ideas about other subjects to seek out!

And finally, this one. I saw these great clouds while driving to Haliburton the other day, and the first thing I had in mind was a StarStaX merge. I remembered this spot on Highway 118, stopped and got set up. Then along came this paddler.  This is a 5-shot HDR merge, colours masked back and muted and again, painted using the Topaz Simplify plug-in. The StarStaX merge? Didn't work, but I know why...

PS: when I did that shot, I discovered that I had developed some dust spots on my sensor. Time to try the new Sensor cleaning gel stick I bought. I've been using a sensor pen until now. We'll see how it turns out!

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