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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