Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Life in the Fast Lane

What's the definition of being "retired"?

I know that some retired people can't find a way to keep busy and bemoan the fact that their days are not productive, but I think a good retirement is one where you do the things you WANT to do, not the things you HAVE to do. I think it's important to continue to strive towards goals. The problem is, the word "retired" has the word "tired" in it. That's how I feel a lot of the time and I wish I had taken better care of myself physically, but I've certainly found enough to challenge me mentally and emotionally. 

I don't mean to lecture (OK, maybe I do...) but if you don't have something you feel passionate about you're going to be bored and unfulfilled when you reach that point in your life. I know several people at my age and beyond who continue to challenge themselves. My best example is 90-year-old Stu Freedman who's still shooting bird pictures down in Florida. 

My passion is to express my creativity, whether in photography and digital art, or painting or music. I practice my guitar every day and paint at least once/week, although I'm really bad at it and trying to learn! And sharing my experiences through teaching and through my writing. The physical stuff – the motorcycling, the skiing, playing sports, these can all go away at some point when you can't do them any more. I'm glad I have some things to fall back upon and I hope you, my dear readers, will think about it and plan accordingly.

Enough proselytizing. Just something to think about.

The Fast Lane

Living up here in the Highlands cannot be considered "Living in the Fast Lane" by any stretch of the imagination. I grow more and more frustrated by the frenetic pace of the big city – it took me 10 hours to go down to the CNE (actually the "CIBC PanAm Sports Park" to get my press credentials validated and pick up the famous photo vest, without which I would not be able to get in to any of the Games venues. Good thing I went when I did – the roads are now completely closed: when I went I could drive in but not park anywhere (I won't tell you how I managed to park outside the Media Centre! Let's just say a little extra limp in my walk didn't hurt). And the signs "No Left Turn" and "HOV Lane Only" were the bane of my existence that day. But I got it:




I'll shoot the Canoe/Kayak slalom event for sure. If I have enough energy, I'll possible go to the shooting venue in Innisfil as well. But I have ZERO desire to go to any of the big sports events in Toronto. OK, I shouldn't say "zero": it would be fun to shoot some of those, but you won't see me going down to that frantic city.

Up here in the Highlands, we have more rural activities!

For instance, there was a Miniature Horse Show and a Rodeo in Minden!

Here are three different horse pictures, all shot at the Minden Fairgrounds.



This one was at the Miniature Horse Show a week or two ago. I didn't know that these animals existed. That's not a young 'un, it's fully grown.  

Forgive me, Cathy, but every time I think of the words "miniature horses" I can hear Amy on Big Bang Theory telling Penny about her pretend boyfriend, "Armin the Miniature Horse Breeder". Funny episode...




At the Minden Rodeo yesterday. This rider was practicing her skills in the corral in preparation for the event later in the day (which I missed due to another commitment. I also didn't go on Sunday because it was pouring rain!).

I painted over the existing background (fence, people, trailers, stuff) with dust from the lower part of the image. Then I applied Topaz Impression's "Cave Dweller" preset for the texture and added the horse and rider back in (using Topaz Remask to select them), also with a weak Cave Dweller treatment so it would blend in better. 



Here's what it looked like before I processed it




I didn't know these existed either! The're Belgian Draft Horses and yes, that's how big they are. These guys weigh in at over 2000 pounds each! They hooked them up to a weighted sled which they had to pull over a 20' distance. The sled weighed upwards of 6,000 pounds.

This image was a 5-shot HDR blend using NIK software. The background was toned back using several techniques, including the new deHaze filter in Adobe Camera Raw.
Time for a new banner! 

As usual, to archive it in the blog itself, I'll reproduce the new one here. Some can't see it (on mobile devices or through RSS feeds), and it goes away retroactively every time I change it. 



I shot this at Carden Plain a couple of days ago. I was there with Dr. Ron, Linda Cresswell and Cheryl Goff (although Ron had already left for Algonquin Park. Linda and Cheryl and I were on the "Sedge Wren Marsh walking trail" when we came across this "Fritillary" butterfly sitting on a milkweed flower (thanks, Linda!)

I shot this with my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 mounted on a TC17e 1.7x teleconverter. I can't wait for the extension tubes I ordered to show up so I can do real macro shots! 

Speaking of Carden Plain

I'm hooked. I love the place. I go there every chance I get: and since it's right on the route between Minden and Toronto, that's at least once/week! I'm stuck in a rut, photographically, but it's a good rut! I wish I had one of those king sized lenses – someone suggested I sell my car and buy one! My birthday's coming up in a few months, that 500mm f/4 looks pretty good. I saw one on eBay for only $6000...

I don't want to swamp this blog with Carden bird pictures, so I've created a gallery on Smugmug where I'm accumulating images. It's here: http://faczen.smugmug.com/Carden-Plain/. I have a little under 100 images on there as I write this. Go have a look, I'll wait right here until you get back! Here's a couple of samples from Sunday:



Bluebird with Spider. S/he was bringing it to the nest for the young 'uns. 



And this Eastern Phoebe was doing the same thing with a grasshopper for her kiddies. Her nest was inside the blind so our presence made her wait, posing, outside until she could get in! 

By the way, it's not just birds at Carden. I met this fellow and his buddy when I was there last week. Keep your eyes open...



Black Rat Snake. Well over 4' long. Not venemous but I heard they bite when provoked! He was sunning himself on the little bridge on Wylie Road. 

Photo Assignment

The group "F.O.G." (it stands for "Four Old Guys") has recorded their second CD "Goin' Slow", and I shot some images for the CD cover. This one won't be used, it's too 'serious' but I thought I'd share it because it was technical:



I stacked four images, focusing on each of the faces. Then I added the blur effect, toned it and added some grain to give it a vintage feel. From near to far, that's Francis, Steve (my cousin), Al and Weiman (also a "Steve"!) 

The CD will be out soon and it will be worth adding to your collection. I'll tell you where you can get it as soon as I know.

Parting Shot...

Last week in Minden, I came across this Model "A" Ford Racer.



It took about an hour to finish this image. First, I had shot 5 bracketed images and merged them to an HDR. I selected out the car for separate processing, then I added texture to the background, and then brought the car back in and used Impression/Palette Knife and Oil preset to finish it. There was a lot of detail to clean up, including removing the "For Sale" sign that was on the car.

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