Sunday, January 25, 2015

Don't Leave Home without It!


1. Are you cooking your steaks wrong?
This has absolutely nothing to do with photography!
A friend of mine (Sean, I think it was) sent me a link to an article asking that question. I tried it and came to the conclusion that they were right, I've been doing it wrong for 50 years.
Follow this thinking:
If you sear the outside of the steak first and then BBQ or broil the steak (the way I've always done it), you will end up with only the centre of the steak correctly cooked (your call: rare or medium-rare. If you like your steak well-done please skip the rest of this story and click here for a tasty treat you'll enjoy).
Now for the rest of us: that means that most of the meat will be overdone. The article suggests to slow-cook the steak over low indirect heat until it reaches an internal temperature of 115°F. NOW sear it at very high temperature to give it that crispy outer crust. Note that it will continue to cook internally so the done-ness will be right. There's another reason too – it will melt in your mouth! How do you make a tough piece of meat tender? You cook it slowly, at lower temperatures. That's why crock pots work.
This also works for lamb chops, roasts (I've been doing them that way for a long time) and even hamburgers. For what it's worth, that's how high end steak houses cook. Try it!
2. Unsubscribing from junk mail
You know those "unsubscribe here" buttons at the bottom of most junk mail? Should you or shouldn't you? It's possible that they're waiting for you to click on it so they can verify that you are legitimate and gather your email address for additional spam. What does everyone think? 
By the way, the unsubscribe on my Newsletter is totally legitimate. I use MailChimp and by clicking it, you get totally removed immediately from my mailing list. Not that you would ever want to do that!

Press Accreditation for Pan Am Games

My Press Accreditation application has been approved as a photojournalist for the PanAm Games this summer. Specifically, I've applied for the Canoe and Kayak slaloms to be held at the Minden Wildwater Preserve July 17-18. I'm looking forward to photographing and reporting on this marvelous event. If you are in the media (or know someone who is: please pass this on), I am shooting as a freelancer and would be delighted to submit images to your publication(s). Please contact me directly via


Some sample images

By the way, I would like to borrow or rent an extra camera body for the event. Nikon, of course, minimum D7100 (or D4s or D800 or...). A crop-sensor body would be useful for the extended tele capability, but I have enough reach with my present gear. Please get in touch if you can help!


It's time to start thinking about 2015 workshops. I still have to rewrite my workshop pages ( but here's what I have in mind. I have three or four basic introductory sessions that last half-a-day and cost $50. Basic photography, Lightroom, Photoshop, specific topics. All of them can be expanded to two day sessions ($150) at the end of which the student will have a working knowledge of the topic. Photography workshops can include a field trip as day 2. All sessions are designed to run up here at my house, but I can also travel if it makes sense.

My schedule is pretty open, so I don't want to set firm dates at this point. Not in the July 11-20 window, though! (PanAm Games). So this is a preliminary heads-up and anyone considering moving up to the next level should read what's on the site above (remembering that I haven't updated it for 2015 yet) and contact me (pardon the anti-spam attempt. I'm sure you understand).

Star Light, Star Bright

The other night, when I got home from the camera club meeting I looked up and actually saw stars.They looked pretty crisp, it was one of those dry winter evenings, temperatures hovering around 0°F (-18°C). Unfortunately I have some local light pollution (one day I'm going to take a .22 to that all-night hydro light in the Inn parking lot next door!), which you can see in this shot, illuminating my garage.

It was the first clear night in a long time: in fact I can't remember a cloudless night since last summer when I did stars workshops! (there may have been some but not predicted more than a day in advance). For fun, I thought I'd include the garage in the foreground and shoot the Eastern sky above it. Besides, Venus was up there blazing brighter than anything else. Besides, I got to set the camera up in my driveway and go inside where it was warm!

This was one single frame, before stacking but after doing lens correction to remove the distortion you get by pointing a wide angle lens upwards. Lightroom did a neat job of straightening everything up.

I took a total of 162 exposures over 81 minutes (the arithmetic isn't tough: 30-second exposures!), tweaked them in Lightroom and exported them to StarStaX. As usual, too many stars! So I took them back to Lightroom and darkened them down, then I used the lens correction tool.

For the tekkies: D800 full frame with Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 at F=17mm. 30 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 1600. That's a little bright, even for a single shot (ISO 1000 is enough) but you need much less when you're stacking them.One time I'm going to see what I get at ISO 400. Anyway, the sky was 'way too crowded so I took only 80 of the images into StarStaX and turned on "comet mode". I processed the images in reverse order to make it look like the comets were raining down instead of up.

Turns out it wasn't totally clear. The red you see at the bottom of the picture is from a cloud layer that moved in across the shot. The red glow probably comes from the village of Haliburton, about 20 km away. It was interesting to watch it develop so I took the same images and loaded them into MS Movie Maker and did a short time-lapse (15 seconds) which you can find here on YouTube.

Take your camera with you!

"What kind of camera should I use"? "The one you have with you"! Yesterday I was stopping off at the landfill (PC word for "garbage dump"). I almost left the camera at home, it was a grey, not very pretty day... but threw it in the car anyway. GOOD THING!

What is that huge bird? It's a juvenile Bald Eagle! And there's his sibling, and there's mom (or dad)! They just sat there while I took off the wide angle lens, put on the telextender and the 70-200. Still pretty far away... so I took a few shots, then started walking closer to them. Came over a little rise and startled a herd of 6 deer! And when they ran away, the eagles also decided to make themselves scarce. 

Still I got a few shots... and the message is, "Don't leave home without it"! You never know...

Not a great shot, couldn't get close enough and the lighting wasn't great. This was about half a frame. Mom and the kiddies. Actually it's probably Dad because the adult actually looks smaller than the juveniles and males are generally smaller than the females.

Of course the deer are so curious that even though I startled them, this guy came back to see what the fuss was about! Since they shed their antlers in the winter, I can't tell whether this is a buck or a doe but I suspect it's a male because my impression was that it was bigger and healthier than the others in the herd. Also I think he was leading them.

I used Impression (Impasto, brush 14 if anyone cares) on the deer and the background. I masked out the brush effect on the snow and burned in the slight shadows to give it a more realistic look. 
'til next week!

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Musical Interlude

Thought for the day
   by Tim Churcher on Facebook Photoshop and Lightroom Group, with permission
"Art is self-expression through making your own artistic decisions, as soon as you hand those decisions over to someone else, it ceases to be art and becomes painting by numbers. Making your own artistic choices is essential to developing as an artist, it is infinitely better to make your own mistakes than follow the 'correct' choices of other people. So if you have an artistic decision to make, you are the only one who can decide, if someone else does, it is no longer your art."
Tim was responding to an ongoing (to me, annoying) trend on the above-mentioned group, where people ask, "is this better in black and white or colour..." (dozens of times every day). I was trying to find a way of saying, "Dude, what does your vision tell you? What you think, is more important than what someone else thinks". I think he hit the nail on the head.

The other annoying thing to me on that group is the frequent plea, "what's the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop", or "I don't want to rent the software, where's the best place to buy Photoshop?", or "can someone tell me how Lightroom works". I've learned to simply scroll past those threads. They've now banned basic photography questions ("which camera should I buy...") but with close to 100,000 members there's a lot of traffic on the group. Check it out, though, if you're on FaceBook. It's a good resource, for Photoshop users of any level.


File storage
I just read a thread on Facebook where someone complained that there was no CD/DVD drive on their new computer. I'm pretty sure there's no floppy disk drive either... and I got to thinking about my archives of images going back 10 years or more, on CD and later, DVD. Even worse, my old company stuff (when I was in the desktop publishing business) is on 100Mb Zip drives. Haven't seen one of those in years!
Where's file storage going to be 5 or 10 years from now? Unless you diligently update your file storage to current technology, then do it again every few years, nobody is going to be able to ever retrieve or see your images. And yet, you can still see Leonardo da Vinci's pencil sketches from the 15th century and prehistoric cave paintings... what does that say about the disposable society in which we live today?
PS: I have copied images from 2006 onwards (and a few earlier ones) into my hard drive and imported them to Lightroom. But there's a ton more, including boxes and boxes of 35mm slides...
More Musings...

I'm not an elitist, OK? However I have not been inside a McDonalds in 40 years. Or in the drive-through. I take that back: I did eat there one time on a motorcycle trip when there wasn't anywhere else to eat, and when my kids were little they had a great play area for someone's birthday party...
Anyway, I would never eat their fast food, 'way too many calories and grams of fat. Someone gave me some French Fries that tasted like pressure-treated sawdust. If I do eat at a fast-food place it's Wendy's (good salads) or occasionally Harvey's (flame-broiled burgers). But people have been talking about their coffee, so I tried some. Note: I did NOT go into a McDonalds, I bought a package of the Tassimo McCafé disks. I'm hooked.
Don't get me wrong: Tim Horton's is my staple (although I don't like their dark roast, I prefer the Nabob versions) and a pot of coffee dripped through a conical filter from freshly ground Kirkland House Blend beans is an almost daily occurrence, but I have to admit that the McCafé stuff is pretty good!

Free Wallpaper

Here's a background picture for your computer monitor. Enjoy. I'd love to know how many people have downloaded and used it, so if you have, please drop me a note. If you want a different one, something you've seen on my blog, again shoot me an email request.

There's a widescreen version here (1920x1080), and
there's a standard version (1600x1200) here.
Simply open the page, right-click and "save as..." to save the image on your computer.

I don't just shoot landscapes...

Wendy invited camera club members to come out and shoot at the Celtic Music Jam group on the weekend. Turns out I was the only taker... which was good in a way because it was about a dozen people squished into a living room! She said afterwards she was amazed at how I made myself invisible, to which I responded, "yeah, like the elephant in the room"!

There were at least 4 more people who didn't make it into this wideangle shot! For the tekkies, I used a Gary-Fong-Diffused-speedlight off-camera, pointed at the ceiling with the top open. Treatment was with Topaz Adjust and then Impression/Chiaoscuro preset. I warmed up the white balance on purpose.

I switched to the 70-200mm for this shot, zooming in as tight as I could. Finished with Topaz Glow/Fur & Feathers and Chiaoscuro again. I never appreciated the latter filter until now, it really focuses attention on the selected area (the hand and violin fretboard). 

I guess you don't call it a "fretboard" on a violin since there are no frets. This isn't my kind of music but it was fun! I'm pretty sure these people don't know who Stevie Ray was...

Speaking of music, my new favourite guitarist is Tommy Emmanuel. Don't know who he is? YouTube him or just click here or here (with Bob Littel) for a sample. (OK, if you liked those, try this one).

This musician was a study in concentration. I don't think he's as severe as his expression indicates but I think the high contrast black-and-white conversion suits this image. There are some painting effects, but minimal, just for texture. And I used a lot of my black-and-white flower techniques on this image. 

I haven't been out shooting much. It's winter and although I talk a good show, well... and my ATV is in the shop (apparently going to cost me a ton of money to fix. I should have bought a newer one... oh well, it is what it is). I've been busy with other stuff – related, because a lot of it has to do with the camera club, etc. Have to get back to it. 

OH: and if you're in the area, remember to visit the Agnes Jamieson Gallery in Minden for the Juried Photo Exhibition. It's on until February 7th. Bring your wallet! (just kidding. Sort of...)

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Friday, January 09, 2015

And so it begins!

A new year is upon us. What will it bring? 

It is winter in the Highlands... when the wise man stays inside to edit his images instead of going out in the -30° temperatures and vicious windchill to take more pictures. Nobody ever called me wise...

So there's a mix here, of musings and images! 

To start things off, here's the new banner for this blog (I change it every now and then). 

I took this from out on the ice, between my dock and the Red Umbrella Inn. After some other edits, I used the "Turner Afternoon" preset to capture this impression of the southern shoreline 

I came across this inspiring list the other day and saved it to my desktop. I spent some time searching for it so I could properly attribute the list, but failed. The deepest I managed to get was to an image on Pinterest. Anyway, here it is, "author unknown":

Rules to live by? I admit it's a lot easier when you don't have to go to work every day... 
Gallery Exhibit

As mentioned earlier, there's an exhibit at the Agnes Jamieson Gallery in Minden: on until February 7th. 25 outstanding photographic images, all available for sale but they'll be gone by the time the exhibit ends, so get there early. This is a juried exhibition, pictures selected by the Curator of the museum (Laurie Carmount). The gallery is located on Bobcaygeon Road in Minden, Ontario. If you're not from this area and you're interested in any framed (or unframed) images, let's talk...

Note: my images are individually hand signed but not numbered: which makes them unique... 


From the "Sporadic Musings" department...

Early Adoption 
I was thinking about the pros and cons of being an "early adopter". I've been one from time to time over the years (less often now because I need to watch my pennies more).  As an "early adopter" you get in before they get the bugs out! But you do have the "latest and greatest"!
Take my iPad, for example. I bought a Gen1 really early and loved having it. But in their infinite wisdom, Apple decided to keep coming up with updated operating systems which won't run on the old iPad 1 (best I can do is iOS 5). Because the app suppliers follow suit, a lot of apps won't run on my iPad. Facebook crashes every time I click a video in it. Time for a new one, I think. But if I had waited for Gen2, I'd still be in business.
I also "early adopted" a Sony BetaMax VCR many years ago. 'nuff said?
I guessed wrong with my D600 too (insurmountable technical issues). I was lucky enough to be able to swap it for a D800. Of course 6 months later along came the D750...  
It occurs to me that one derives great satisfaction from having the latest and greatest, but only for a short time until the rest of the world catches up. Then the next generation comes along and suddenly you're behind! And no way to catch up unless you have bottomless pockets...
This is different from putting off buying something because something better is in the wings. There's always something bigger and better coming along if we're talking about technology: but if you wait until the absolute best camera or computer or car comes along, you'll be without one until the day you die.
PanAm Games

I drove by the Minden Wildwater Preserve the other day, site of the PanAm Games this summer. It's hard to imagine how they're going to accommodate so many people there. It doesn't make sense to enlarge the little parking lot for a one-week event. And there's room for MAYBE 100 spectators on the riverbank. (in fairness, there's the other side of the river too: but room for fewer people and physically quite challenging to get to, so I wonder about liability issues). 

I also heard that people up here are thinking they can rent their homes and cottages for the week for hugely exorbitant sums of money. Wishful thinking, I expect. 

My application is in for press accreditation, I'm sure they're going to severely limit the numbers. They responded to my email inquiry saying, "you should be hearing from the Olympic Committee shortly." Stay tuned...
Here's a pencil sketch of what the river looked like on New Year's Eve. Rendered using John Stevenson's complex action for Photoshop CC and Topaz Impression, with a bit of dodging and burning and tweaking.
And so it begins...

The ice fishing season is under way. As of yesterday, there was 8" of ice on 12-Mile lake. And because of the weather conditions in the past week or two, it's good, solid clear ice. This thickness is more than enough to support a car. Certainly I had no worries about driving my ATV out there this afternoon.

I had these two kids pose with the ice blocks their father had cut from under the ice fishing hut. I added some saturation to the blue of the ice so you could see it better, and the kids give it a sense of scale. You can see the real colour on the second block in the image.

Here's their vehicle, a Polaris side-by-side ATV. Some of my neighbours take winter seriously! 

Another neighbour has this beautiful ATV. I was struck by two things when I did this image out on the ice this afternoon. First of all, the smooth delicate colour transition in the sky (although I admit I increased the saturation for this shot) and the awesome vehicle my neighbour acquired for riding out to the ice fishing huts and clearing his snow. It's a Bombardier Can-Am side-by-side ATV with bogie-driven tracks and I'm guessing this can go ANYWHERE. 

I used a Topaz Impression "watercolour" preset selectively on this image, and added a motion blur to the background. I was trying to convey a sense of power out on the isolated ice surface of 12-Mile Lake.

UPDATE: I wrote the above a week ago. The banner image at the top of this post was shot today, and so was the following shot which I have repetitiously titled

"and so it begins"! There will be a couple dozen more Ice Fishing huts out there soon 

And last one for today:

I'm not sure why I'm taken with this picture.You have to blow it up to appreciate it (click on it). The subtle textures and brushstrokes of the Cezanne preset (modified) match the lighting and gradation of the scene. I'm debating printing this to canvas.

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