Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'm not a Virgin any more!

I finally dipped a brush in some paint. A real brush. Real paint. All these years I've wanted to paint and I've taken the first baby steps to learn how. I've never held a brush in my hand, I've often said I can't draw (I can't make a straight line even with a ruler!) but Harvey says you don't have to draw straight lines to paint!

Harvey Walker teaches a weekly class at the Minden Cultural Centre and I started this week. I bought an easel and some supplies and showed up bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed (well sort of: it was Monday morning, after all!).

So I'll occasionally bore you with some reports of my progress. But since this was my first time, well, here goes!

You start by making an underpainting or a wash to block in the light and dark areas. Here's the reference photo we chose (something easy!) and my first attempt. 

I Had the feeling I should have stopped there. Framed it and put it up as my first sketch. But I couldn't leave well enough alone, so when I got home, I started painting it.

Not very good. OK, really bad! But hey, my first attempt. Oil on canvas.

Now imagine owning the very first painting that Pablo Picasso did. You now have the opportunity to have the very first original "Glenn Springer" which might be worth orders of magnitude more when I'm gone! Bidding is now open, email your bid to!

...from the sporadic musings department

I'm not going to say it yet, but I am tempted to use the words, "winter is done". I'm writing this on March 17th (happy St. Patrick's Day). It's been above freezing for several days and although it looks like the nighttime temperatures are going to dip again on the weekend, I think we're done.

Thank God. It's been a particularly vicious one this year, temperature-wise. January and particularly February were frigid with temperatures in the -30°C range for days on end. Even though I went out of my way to burn a lot of firewood, my heating oil usage in that month is the highest it's ever been since I moved here 8 years ago. I can't imagine what it would have been had the oil price not dropped this year.

We didn't get a lot of snow this year in the Highlands. I can't recall a snowfall over a few inches and the total had to be in the one meter range (the first year I moved here, 2007, we had almost 4 meters of snow!), but it sure was cold!

So it's on its way. Spring, that is. Spring is not a pretty season up here, it's my least favourite, since the pristine, crisp white of the snow gives way to a world that is soggy, muddy, brown, but there will be green things poking up soon!

Why does someone think it is so important to tell me that Matt Damon cured his blurry vision by eating grapes, that they send it to me not once or twice but FIVE times? From different email addresses. The person who cures the scourge of email spam gets my vote, I'll tell you!

That said, those messages and 29 others were trapped this morning by my ISP, I have it set up so that I see the headings of the spam messages just in case a real one gets routed in there and I can retrieve it. That's all due to the fact that my email addresses are published on my websites. 
The question is, when you get messages that say "click here to unsubscribe", should you? Or are they using that to find out whether they've hit a real email address or not? Mine (on my newsletter) is perfectly safe, you just get removed from the mailing list (I use MailChimp) but I will admit that I get a message that says "so-and-so unsubscribed" so I suppose I could do something with it if I was mean and nasty!
Outstanding picture

Have you ever seen a picture that you can say, "I wish this was mine"? I have to share this one with you but without getting their permission, I won't post it on my blog. Instead, here's the link. Click on it and enjoy:

This was on the "North of 49 photography" site. I can't say enough good things about this shot, it is outstanding. Check it out.

I was researching a visit to the Raptor Conservancy, I saw some pictures from two friends and was reminded. I'd like to make another visit there, say sometime in the Spring. We need about 10 people to make it pay, If anyone is interested, let me know. It's about 2 hours Southwest of Toronto.

Aurora Hunting

When you hear that there's been a class G-4 solar storm and people in wonderful places like Alaska and Norway start posting pictures of curtains of fire in the sky, you search online to find out whether there's any chance that you will see something! All indications were positive: the weather forecast was for cold and clear, showed great possibilities and the Northern Lights Forecast said we were due for a biggie. Nada.

Well not much anyway. I girded my loins (with fleece and down) and headed out after the camera club meeting and saw just a hint of green on the horizon for the hour and a half I was there. I spent the time shooting star trails: 160 images (15 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1000, F=17mm). Here's the result:

Schuyler's Island Causeway on Horseshoe Lake. Merged with StarStaX using Lighten/comet mode. Some Lightroom adjustment to the foreground. A hint of green at lower right.

Here's the Topaz Impression version

I used the "Smudged" preset for the sky and the "Impasto" preset for the foreground. 

A little hint when you're out doing star shots. When you put the camera back in the car, make sure the shutter release cable is not hanging out when you close the door! Good thing they're cheap ($1.69 from China, shipping included on eBay. I don't know how they do it but not complaining!).

Anyway, as I headed home, I decided to detour to another star shooting spot I knew, pulled over and... there they were! Not brilliant and impressive, but definitely there, in the Northern sky. 

This is after a fair bit of enhancement in Lightroom: they were barely visible to the naked eye. Highway 118 where it crosses between 12 Mile Lake and Boshkong Lake. 

I took a few shots and as I was walking back to the car, I noticed a green streamer behind a hill to the West. Again, with some help from Lightroom:

So there you go. Who needs sleep anyway?

This is a rework of an image I captured last fall up in  Algonquin Park. With a little help from Topaz and from some Lightroom presets I got from David Kingham that I was trying out. 

You may have noticed that I like shooting at night. I ran two tutorial workshops last summer on shooting stars; I'll do it again if anyone is interested. Send me an email and let's talk!


Last week I told you about Wintergreen Maple Products. I was there again for breakfast on Saturday (Shhh. Don't tell my doctor. Pancakes or French Toast smothered in maple syrup... and really good coffee!) and went upstairs to shoot some pictures. It was really cold up there so I didn't stay long. I understand they'll be starting to boil syrup this week if it warms up, more shots next weekend if I can!

I usually use Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 for my HDR merges but for some reason, this one didn't render well. I tried it again in Photomatix Pro and liked it much better. Since I can never leave well enough alone, I added a layer of Topaz Glow (just lightly blended in) and some Topaz Star Effects just to highlight some, well, highlights! For you techno-freaks, this was a 5-exposure bracket, two stops either side of about ½ second at f/8, ISO 200. The bottom half of the picture wasn't square with the top part so I used Perspective Warp in Photoshop to bring it into line. I was going for the symmetry, deliberately breaking composition rules. 

While I was there, I noticed at least one other interesting photo (work the scene, folks!). 

"Abused"There was a pile of old construction boots that struck me as interesting. The main treatment is with Topaz Impression "Da Vinci" preset but I did extra work to enhance the worn toes of two of the boots.  

The camera club is going to have a get-together at Wintergreen in May and they're having an event we're going to shoot in June. Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The Sounds of Spring

or late winter! Here in the Highlands... at least at my house: "Drip", "Drip", "Drip". I thought when we redid the roof, I'd be immune but my front door doesn't fit again and there's a perennial drip near it, and even one in the bathroom. Really should get the roof shoveled off, there's about 18" of snow up there. Oh, well. As long as it doesn't get worse!

It's a balmy -3°C today! Time to break out the shorts and sandals!
Update: it's a few days later and it actually got warm! +8°C yesterday, about the same now. The snow is melting on the roof, the front door works better and the dripping stopped. Yahoo! Now that it's gotten warmer, the next challenge will be the sump pump. If it doesn't kick in, I'm going to be in doo-doo... ah the joys of living in the country!
Actually this is getting tiresome. It went down to -25°C last night and it was -19 when I got up this morning (I write this over several days, you realize). I've had enough winter. To top it off, I went to start my expensively repaired ATV yesterday and... "click". That's it. Battery now? Anyway it's on the charger, let's see what she does this morning. But it's 19 below and I don't feel like going out right now.

I know, I know. "Do you want some cheese with that whine"?
OK, weird. The ATV didn't start again that morning. "Click". I arranged for the mechanic to pick it up today. Went out to give it one more try. Brrrrrmmmmm. Started right up. This is a mystery. Cleared my driveway and walkways, ran like a Swiss watch. Wish I trusted it!
On the good side of the ledger, my sister and brother-in-law are cruising in the Gulf of Mexico, my friends Styles and Niki just came back from their cruise, Dr. Ron is a brand new grandpa and will be celebrating his milestone birthday in a couple of days in sunny California with his new granddaughter, the Raptors won last night, nobody cares what the Leafs did, and I get to shoot some dogsled races this weekend with some friends in hopefully less frigid weather.  My cold is just about gone, listened to some great music last night (Tommy Emmanuel, where have you been all my life? Astonishing talent, check him out on YouTube), delivering a picture I sold today... Have to look on the bright side, right?

Reflecting on my Blog

I read a note on Facebook yesterday from a colleague and fellow blogger who said he had over 10,000 hits on his blog last week. Hmmm. What's he doing that I'm not? He has much less content than I do, photography and tips about on a par, but he gets an order of magnitude more hits than I do. So what can I do to increase my following?

It occurred to me that perhaps my blog posts are too long. Do people want to read a quick tip and carry on? What do you think, dear readers? Please leave a comment here, or perhaps on Facebook (link to my page). Now if you would each tell two friends about my blog, and they tell two friends and...

Lightroom Tip(s)

At the request of an admin on the Facebook "Lightroom Q&A" group, I posted a tip on improving LR's performance by managing your previews. Since I wanted to show several screen captures, I posted it on my Tech Blog. Here's the link.
It astonishes me that people do not understand the concept of making their images the same shape as the paper they're trying to print on. Every day there's at least one person who says, "how can I print a 4x6, a 5x7 and an 8x10 without cropping off some of the picture?" I'll try to get that written up (again!) as a tech tip. If you subscribe to this blog, I'll send you an email when it's up. Click this link, or the "Newsletter" button up at the top of this page.
Prints for Sale

I have the following three images left over from my recent museum exhibition, all perfectly framed and ready to go (forgive the poor iPhone shot).

I also have a fourth frame that simply needs a new mat, and dozens of other unmounted archival quality prints available. I want to make space and move these images out, so I'm open to offers.

Here are links to the images in order to see them better: (12½" sq. image) (12½" sq. image) (12½" x 19" image)

They are stunningly and lovingly printed on Epson Cold Press Natural paper. Each one is hand signed but not numbered because they are Proof Editions. You owe it to yourself to start collecting these now before the prices go up!

You know what would fit nicely in that fourth frame? That astounding Snowy Owl shot that I showed you a few weeks ago. This one: (12½" x 19" image)

But you'll have to wait for it: the Proof Edition of this image won't be printed until April. Order it now if you want the unique proof copy...

TOPAZ B&W Effects on sale

Starting March 10th, Topaz is offering B&W Effects at 1/3 off until the end of the month.

It's a really great program. When I do my black and white flowers (actually ANY black and white conversion) I've found three ways to do it that give me control over how the colours and toning map into grey: Nik Silver Efex, the BW adjustment layer in Photoshop CC 2014 and arguably the best one of all, Topaz B&W Effects. It's on sale for $39.95, great price!

To get the discount, use this link, then at checkout, enter "MARBW" in the coupon code field. You can also get a 30 day free trial at that URL but be sure to put the purchase through before the end of the month to get the discount! By the way, you can get a 15% discount on ANY of the Topaz products by entering "FACZEN" in the checkout field. Use this link for their main product page.

A very cool place

I had breakfast and a tour at "Wintergreen Maple Products and Pancake Barn" on Sunday. What a cool place! First of all, breakfast was awesome: specialty is pancakes or French toast or... all with, you guessed it, maple syrup! (here's their FB page!)

Diane (she and Tom own the place) told me they have over 1000 maple trees on tap. Sap will start flowing in a week or so: once it starts they can't stop boiling or they'll be inundated when the vats fill up! I'll go try to shoot some pictures when that happens.

Their building is a huge barn, relocated from Minden (by the numbers!) and wonderfully decorated. They cater, have a store with lots of exotic stuff, very cool place.

If you're ever in the Highlands, drop in. You won't be sorry!

Dog Sled Races

The 2015 Dog Sled Derby took place last weekend. We had about 20 visitors from the Richmond Hill Camera Club, who stayed at Pinestone and enjoyed the weekend. I took hundreds of pictures, too many "keepers" to share here, so I put them in a SmugMug gallery. (LINK)

Here's a selection of a few I liked. It's hard to differentiate them after a while so I tried to select some 'different' ones for your viewing pleasure!

Here's your iconic dogsled shot. Grizzled musher, 8-dog team of purebred huskies, and even a red jacket! 

Here's the same guy, coming right at you! 

How's this for an unlikely team of sled dogs! Kid's race, I think. You have to know these guys were having a blast!  

People feel bad for sled dogs... DON'T! First of all, if you know dogs, you know they love the security of being in a "crate". Second, these dogs are born to run! It's like feeling sorry for an exhausted marathon runner: they do it because they love it! 


Everywhere you look there are GoPro and other cameras. The times, they are a-changin'! There was even someone flying a drone quadcopter chasing the dog teams around!

A little different perspective. 

Sled Dogs as Cezanne might have painted them! 

And finally, I'm always a sucker for a pretty girl, so here are a couple!

My friend Liz from Richmond Hill. Would you believe she's 75 years old? No? OK, what about 30?  

Cheryl, a friend from Oshawa Camera Club (I have cute friends!). Wading through a meter of snow to get that perfect shot!

This was a ski-joring competitor at the start line. Your kids won't get rosy cheeks like that sitting on the couch playing with their X-boxes! 

'till next week!

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