Sunday, November 01, 2015

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

I went out to the Haliburton Zombie Walk. Last year I got some great Zombie pictures; not so much this time. First of all, there were a couple of hundred participants last year, this time only twenty or so. That's partly because (I think) (a) it was at Pinestone instead of Haliburton Head Lake, (b) they made it an all-day affair, with a party at night (which I skipped), (c) if you went to they hadn't updated it from last year and it still said the walk was on November 1 instead of October 31 (in the promo videos on the home page. The correct date was inside the site), and (d) there was at least one other competing event. I know there was a party at the Red Umbrella Inn too, and I heard "lots of zombies were there".

So I didn't find anyone taking the event seriously; makeup and costumes were a shadow of what they were last year. Frankly, I couldn't find much that I felt like shooting.

Zombies don't live in the same space-time continuum we do so they're hard to photograph since they move in and out of another subset of the 11 dimensional multiverse. In-camera multiple exposure with a single one overlaid. 

However what they did do right was the "Terror from Wonderland Road" setup underground at Pinestone. Really well done! Photography was somewhat of a challenge, since it was DARK in there! I did get this one, though:

Bloody Terror from the Deep. As I said, it was dark. This shot was with my wide angle (objects are closer than they appear!! Bwa-ha-ha). For my photographer friends, 1/15 sec at f/2.8, ISO 6400. Some Lightroom and Photoshop, including added textures, then I was fortunate to have Topaz Glow and Impression to bring out the details. 

That's going on my Top 25 gallery page today. Now I have to find one to delete!

Musings: the retiree's dilemma

I read a couple of articles recently about "the best places to retire". It's a dilemma and I don't know what to do. I perceive that eventually I will probably have to move, but don't know where.

For many years I had a dream of sitting at a computer, writing the great Canadian novel while looking out the window overlooking a beautiful lake. What I have is not perfect: the window could be bigger, the lake could be closer, the novel...well I'm still working on that. I didn't envision being alone. I didn't think that photography would figure into my life to the extent that it has. But essentially I have realized my dream. Realistically, I have to start thinking about some other factors, health and mobility needs to be considered.

If you don't know me personally, I currently live in an almost-lakefront-property (I'm across the road) on 12-Mile Lake, just North of Minden, Ontario in the Haliburton Highlands. I moved up here from the Toronto area in 2007. I like the area, but I'm not too fussy about the town: it's small, has limited resources and except for emergency services, has no hospital facilities. There's a huge arts community up here, though.

I despise the thought of living in a city. I won't go "South of the 401" unless I must. But I may be forced to do so because medical facilities and services are non-existent out here. Is it inevitable that I'll need them? Well there are really only two possibilities, if I drop dead, then no. If I get sick or if creeping ailments get worse, then yes. By the way, NOT YET. Maybe I'm just being paranoid. But I should think ahead.

Suburban Toronto is probably prohibitively expensive, with even a small condo apartment going for $400K. Unless I just rent... which is not totally out of the question.  Ditto Niagara-on-the-Lake, Kelowna BC. Or anywhere outside of Canada (medical insurance issues). Some towns with good facilities are not appealing: Lindsay, Elliot Lake, etc. Five years ago I might have thought about Newfoundland (I love the place) but realistically, winters... and if I'm less able to enjoy nature? I'm thinking about Huntsville. Maybe... but I'll need to do some on-site research.

As I re-read what I wrote above, it comes across somewhat fatalistic. It's not like that: just musing about what my next step might be.

It's a dilemma.

SmugMug Gallery Update

I watched a video stream from Terry White (Adobe, Lightroom guru) and he gave me an idea. He has an online gallery that shows his favourite images. "Why not," I thought. "I'll make one too". I did, and put it on my Smugmug site.

The premise is this: I have thousands of images, and obviously I have favourites. These are not necessarily my BEST shots, they're the ones I like the best right now. So I created a gallery called "Top 25" (actually it's the top 24 images plus a little video: so it's my "Double Dirty Dozen plus One").  When I take another picture that I like as well or better, I'll upload it and delete one picture to keep the number the same. That's going to be tough...

Anyway, pop over and see my favourites. Here's the link. I'll wait right here.
I dare you...

Can you stand another fox picture?

I chose to show you this one despite what some people think is a distracting branch because I think it tells a story and it frames the animal. The more challenging branch was actually the one that passes in front of his ears, which I gently cloned partway out. The other fox pictures are more like 'portraits'. To me, this one says (a) it really was shot in the wild; and (b) the fox thinks he's hiding from me and then as he realizes he's been seen, he gives me "the stare". Although his stance doesn't say it, his expression says that he's poised to run away.

I rendered this one a little dark in order to draw the viewer's eyes to the fox's muzzle. I brought out as much texture in his coat as I dared. Almost all the editing was done in Lightroom, just a little Photoshop to do the cloning and add some clarity.

Custom iPhone case

Remember I said I had to fiddle with the iPhone 6 Tough case I had ordered, in order to accommodate the audio plug? The new one arrived, with the same problem. This time I tried using my Dremel tool but those who know me know that I'm useless with tools, and I made a mess again.

Here's the new case. I love it! 

But the audio plug doesn't fit right. 

And this is the mess I made. 

RedBubble acknowledged the fault this time, sent me a credit, and said they would address it, but made no promises. Fair enough.

PS: my pillow arrived too. It's awesome! I'm going to order another one with a fox image on it. One for each end of the couch!

I really have to give props to 3 Legged Thing, the company in England that made my carbon fibre tripod. If you've been a longtime reader, you might remember that I tripped and almost fell, saved by the tripod which isn't really designed to support 270 lbs! So I broke a couple of bits. The tripod still worked, but not perfectly. Then I did a stupid thing, putting Ron's 600mm f/4 on a gimbal mount on this lightweight tripod. I broke the column. Full disclosure: MY FAULT. It's strong, but that was way overboard.

So I wrote to them and I got a surprise overseas phone call from Danny, 3LT's president. They then shipped me the parts I needed, free of charge. Despite the fact that it was my fault. I fixed it up but not perfectly because I hadn't recognized that I had bent another segment. I wrote again a couple of days ago asking if I could buy a whole new leg assembly. They refused to sell it to me. They're sending it to me for free.

This is the kind of company you want to deal with. Not only do they make OUTSTANDING products, but I can't think of any outfit I've dealt with that is so responsive to their customers. You can buy 3LeggedThing tripods via their website (if you're in North America, choose their US store at the top). You can contact them directly here. Do it. Tell Dave I sent you.

By the way, 3LT's stuff isn't cheap. Not the most expensive, either, but the Brian (named for Queen's Brian May – look up the story on their website. Bit of a search but worth it!) carbon fibre tripod and AirHed will set you back about $500. But then it's virtually weightless, super strong and made by photographers for photographers. My only quibble is that you have to be diligent about locking all the friction nuts and there are lots of them, the price you pay because it folds down from 'this' small to 'this' tall (higher than I can reach!).

If money is no object, then the names "Gitzo" and "ReallyRightStuff" are the way to go. But 3LT makes as good or better tripods. If you want an inexpensive field tripod, look at the MeFoto products. But the build quality isn't the same. And then there's the customer service...

Everyone should watch movies

And TV shows and commercials... as photographers, it's humbling to see what the REAL cinematographers (and photographers) do. We all seem to try to emulate them, and of course most of us are doing it on our own, with limited equipment and budgets and resources. But not only do they have perfect lighting and attention to detail, but the use of composition to convey a message or mood is inspiring.

The other night I watched "Road to Perdition" (again!), with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. The photography was mind-blowing, especially some of the black-and-white special effects scenes. It's a good movie, but by all means, watch it for the cinematography.

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