Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Where there's smoke...


I promise, I'm not turning this into a "food blog". But I had a great dinner the other night and so I was thinking about it and so...
Do you like sushi?
I do. I'm a little picky, though, I won't eat squid or eel or anything really exotic. But I love salmon and tuna and butterfish and shrimp and crab and... since I'm a 'healthy eater' (which means I eat a lot, not that I eat healthy!), I'm an "All you can Eat" kind of guy. I like trying a whole bunch of dishes.
If you're ever in the Thornhill or Aurora area (OK, this is for my local readers! The rest of you will have to experience this vicariously), I have a couple of recommendations.
First of all, there's a place in Thornhill, on Centre Street just west of New Westminister, with the unlikely name "HOCKEY SUSHI". They have learned to make OUTSTANDING 'kamikachi rolls'* (spicy salmon rolls), my favourite. They don't have sashimi at lunchtime but they do at dinner and they know how to buy quality ingredients! Also at dinner (I was there last night) you can get some more traditional oriental dishes such as their General Tao Chicken which I couldn't stop eating!
* I was first introduced to these at Ginza Sushi at Yonge and Clark in Thornhill but they've changed a lot over the years and we don't go there any more. I mention it because the owner's name is Alice and we were regulars and got personal service. They opened a number of additional places and it isn't personal any more. By the way I gave them a CD of Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" to play on their sound system but I guess they didn't appreciate his music! You might, though, so click the link! It's better if you're high. Just sayin...

Don't knock the iPhone shot. Besides I was more interested in eating than in photographing.  You can tell by the fact there are only 3 spicy salmon rolls left on the plate! The dish in the back is beef udon which I also enjoy.

In Aurora, there's "SUSHI DEN TEPPANYAKI" on Wellington Street just East of Yonge. I first went there with Dr. Ron and absolutely love the quality of the place. Their food melts in your mouth!
Let me know if you want to join me when I'm next in the area. I don't need a lot of arm-twisting as an excuse to go there!
What does this have to do with Photography? We should all take a lesson from the Sushi houses who pay a great deal of attention to plating and presentation. They're doing "Composition" right there on your plate! Worth considering next time you're setting up a shot!

Aurora Presentation

I did a presentation last night to the Aurora Public Library Camera Club, invited by Ronen Grunberg to speak. It's hard to turn down a chance to show off your work!

Unfortunately, there was a timing misunderstanding. I thought I had more time and was taken aback when I had about 15 minutes of presentation left and the guy walked in from the library and said "we're locking up the doors and kicking you out in 5 minutes!".

So I didn't get to the "meat" of the presentation, and skipped through the Composition portion much, much too fast. So today, I took the presentation, annotated it a bit (since viewers wouldn't be there to hear me speak), converted it to a PowerPoint Slide Show (you don't need PowerPoint to watch it) and posted it online here: It's about a 75Mb download. Feel free to watch it, just don't steal any of my images, they are copyrighted, OK? Near the end you'll hit a slide that says "My ECLECTIC Mix". When you exit that, there's a 5-minute automated slideshow with one of my favourite music tracks, Moe Koffman's "Swinging Shepherd Blues".

Facebook: the good, the bad and the ugly

I hate to admit it, but I've become a Facebook addict. I have a couple of hundred people I've "friended", either they're people I actually know or photographers I've had dialogue with and am impressed by their work. 

The frustrating parts are (1) the "Ugly", FB really does degrade the rendering of images, and (2) the "Bad", which has two subgroups: (a) stupid people who make stupid comments, some of them mean-spirited and (b) people who seek validation and are so insecure of their own vision that they put up things like, "does this look better in black and white or colour?". 

On the "Good" side, first there are some absolutely OUTSTANDING images posted. Both for viewing (I'd love to have that on my wall!) or for learning (how'd s/he do that? I'll file that away next time I'm shooting that kind of subject, or "that gives me an idea, I'm going to try that!"). There are also new people who are stuck and looking for help, although sometimes typing their question into Google would get 650,000 answers... 

It can be educational: where do you think I learned about back-button autofocusing? My black and white flowers on a black background came from FB when Antony Northcutt posted his images. I've been in touch with him, even suggested some alternate techniques. I've tried skin softening using Frequency Separation and it's filed away in my toolbag next time I need it. Today I saw a Milky Way shot much better than mine and in a dialogue with the maker, I learned his approach is different (a little) than mine and I'm going to try it next time.

It can be inspirational. I read some of the street photography groups because I'd really like to learn how to do that better. There are some really great studio shots out there (and some bad ones: what "not" to do!). And people posting Icelandic landscapes and aurora borealis shots that make me go and stare at my bucket list.

I participate in 3 or 4 groups, I thought I'd share some here.
  • the "Photoshop and Lightroom" group which just passed 90,000 members. There are inspiring images and ideas there.
  • Topaz: both the "Users" group and the "Impression" group, to see what others are doing and get ideas
  • of course the "Haliburton Highlands Camera Club" private group for members only, as well as a few other local groups, and
  • The Big Bang Theory because I love that show (although not as much since Kaley cut her hair! OK, I'm shallow. I admit it).
The trick is to simply scroll past posts that make you shake your head or anything with a cat in it. Move on to the interesting ones and the things your friends are posting. It's a great way to keep up with what's going on in their world.

Now that I've written this, I've got an idea for my next newspaper column (you think it's hard coming up with stuff to write here? Try writing general, not-too-technical photography articles every week!). 

Speaking of my Bucket List

Mine is mostly about places I'd like to go (and photograph) rather than things I want to do. Partly because that sentence usually ends "...while I still can..." and that's beginning to be a little in doubt by now.

If you've been reading me for a while, you know that I want to start painting (like with real brushes and paint). Yesterday I bought an easel. Next week, some paints and brushes, but I'm going to drop into the Cultural Centre on a Monday because they have painting classes there an I want to pick peoples' brains. Technically that's not a "I want to do this before I die" thing, though.

Again if you've been around here for a while, you know I want to do Iceland. And New Zealand. I've been to Newfoundland three times and want to go back again. Africa and Alaska are there too, but further down the list. And I've never been to New Orleans. Photography and music combined.
Speaking of New Orleans: I'm thinking "Road Trip", maybe late summer. Gas is cheaper now. Anyone interested in coming along? Contact me...
I've been a lot of places and done a lot of things. But as Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over until it's over".

Published again

The GTCCC (Greater Toronto Council of Camera Clubs) has posted a short version of my tutorial on High Contrast Black and White images on Black Backgrounds on their website. Check it out here. You can find the full length version on my technical blog here and I'm available to come out to clubs to talk about it and other topics live. I'm scheduled to go to Bancroft next week, FWIW. 

GTCCC also put up some images from our club in their gallery and one of them is mine. Just so you know, our club executive chose the four images but I recused myself from voting for my own image, so I'm honoured that they liked it.

Some pictures...

Fun with Cows! Reworking an earlier image using Topaz Glow. Just for fun! You can get a 15% discount on any Topaz product by using this link (or the one at right) and entering "faczen" in the code field on the order page. 

Does anyone want me to write up how I do my signature (lower left of the picture) or the grey 3D frame and title on my images? I can do a short tutorial and post it on my tech blog, but not if people don't ask me for it. Comment here, or send me a note and I'll do it.

I'm in a bit of a lull. Busy with other things so I've not gotten out to shoot much in the past couple of weeks. This is just about the only shot I liked, done today (February 2):

It's an Impression-edited image of a snowbank. I just kind of like the way it flows from lower left to upper right. I left the blue in the shadows on purpose because it could also be clouds. FWIW, I used the Monet-Impasto preset.

Here's another reworked image from a while ago, using Impression:

 A couple of people said, "Wow! How'd you get that shot of Leonard Cohen?".  But some of you know who this is (Steve Weiman, lead guitarist for FOG) and where I shot it (Hugh's Room in Toronto). Shooting in concert lighting is challenging, but Impression helps a lot. I used one of the Chiaroscuro presets to focus the light on his face and guitar, then one of the Impressionist presets (could have been Monet) to give it the painterly look.

Where there's Smoke

And finally, Mark Girard posted some work he'd been doing with smoke. I didn't feel like copying his setup, besides I didn't really have anything that would give me continuous smoke: I had to light and then blow out a candle to get some! Here's one setup attempt:

I thought of trying this oil lamp. When you crank the flame down it gets really smokey at one point. But I had to be really careful not to set fire to the nylon tent! (I'll bet you were thinking that's what I did, right?)

How's this for a neat lighting setup? I haven't worked on this image yet... 

However i did work on this real surprise image. Believe it or not, this is basically straight out of the camera!

This was in my light tent, but with a black background. Illumination came from my ringlight which I had dismounted and was holding off to the left. This is the original shot SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) except I cranked the blacks and shadows and then straightened it up a bit.  

I tried a bunch of edits and crops and in the end, I like the original much better! Even the lumpy cloth at the bottom. I couldn't do this again if I tried! Going in my "Best of 2015" list, for sure!

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