Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Back in the real world

...from the sporadic musings department
Do you remember your dreams?

One weird thing that's been going on since my surgery is that I'm not sleeping well, consequently I seem to fall asleep with no notice right in the middle of things (unfulfilled REM sleep, according to my cousin the psychologist!). Maybe I'm a Narc. Narcoleptic, that is. And I have dreams. I'm writing this now because here I sit in my computer chair and I just woke up from an unplanned nap, in which I had a vivid dream.

I was facilitating some workshops, others were teaching them but they were my program. I was in some sort of teaching facility – maybe a hospital – and although I had pre-booked classroom space for three simultaneous sessions, I couldn't find the third one, the one that I myself was supposed to be teaching. Not only had they moved it to a different room, I learned that it was not even in the same building and nobody could tell me where it was! I asked them to point to the building on a map or just give me the street address and they couldn't. Then I woke up really frustrated.

I had another dream the other day, in the car when I had pulled over on the side of the road for a nap, and I dreamed about being high on a mountain side and in a hurry to get down, so I basically flew down a trail being pulled along at speed by my walker (you know, the thing that my mother uses to help her get around) except mine was powered and  it was very fast and the trails were twisty and narrow and dangerous. I had to descend several flights of stairs and I found myself jumping whole stair sections like Jackie Chan. I remember being somehow stymied and frustrated when I woke up.

This morning, I dreamed I was in a college dorm room and with me was this very tall, very beautiful blond girl and we were just starting to explore some of the physical differences between us when I woke up. I really, really tried to get back to sleep into that dream!

There's this disorienting moment when you wake up and you think you're still in the dream. Very weird, I never experienced that before with the vividness I am now. Let me try to go back to sleep now. There's this college dorm I want to visit...

Practicing what I preach

A couple of years ago, I borrowed a phrase from a Scott Kelby video, "Work the Scene". I Grokked the concept (stole that one from Robert A. Heinlein), and part of it ties in with the old Norwegian fable by Hans Christian Anderson, "The Billy Goats Gruff". Marrying concepts is what I do and whether I communicate them well is for you to decide.

I went out yesterday to shoot some pictures. It's been a few weeks, I'm still recuperating so a day-long trip was pushing it. I went over to the Minden Wildwater Preserve for an hour to see what I could see. It's an ugly time of year here, brown melting snow and mud, no colour out there other than grey and brown and white, it was a dull day. But, I said, that doesn't mean there isn't something to photograph, there are a million things out there in Nature, from the very small to the very large (Oh dear. That one comes from DeWitt Jones! It is said that "...great artists steal". Stole that from Pablo Picasso.). However, I only had my long telephoto lens with me, or at least that's the only one I took out.

So when I got there, I saw that the Gull River had overflowed its banks, there was an incredible cascade of rushing water and there were little ice caps everywhere because the temperature was still below freezing. So that's what caught my eye and I spent some time trying to make some images of the crystallized waters. With a little success.

But I wasn't done. This is where working the scene comes in. I'm here, there's more to shoot, work it. Find something else interesting.

A spot o' colour on a dull day 

More colour. This was the only natural thing that I found that was colourful! 

By the way, except for the screaming tree below, everything was shot with the Tamron 150-600 lens. Mostly at ISO 6400.

My photo of the day wouldn't have happened if I hadn't kept at it.

I liked the original too, before post-processing. But when I looked at this image I saw the possibility of doing it as a painting, so I used Topaz Impression, Impasto preset as a starting point.

It's also interesting to note that the first pass had too much detail in the lower left corner. So I took the original image into Photoshop and used Content-Aware-Fill to change that area and only then took it into Impression. I also did a charcoal version to play with later using real charcoal pencils on sketching paper. 

On the way home, I drove down Horseshoe Lake Road, a road I've been on a thousand times  over the 9 years I've lived here. As I came over a rise I spotted something interesting but I kept going for a bit until it registered. Here's where the "billy goat" thing enters into it. In the past, I've driven along and saw a nice sunset, then figured if I kept going I might find a better foreground for a shot. You never do: by the time you find something, the peak is gone, the light has changed. So I've learned not to drive by and hope for something better to come along, I've learned to stop. So I made a u-turn. Here's what I had seen:

A tree stump that looked like a screaming figure! Like I said, I've driven this road many times before, how come I never saw it? 

I took several shots. I remembered that the 105mm lens was in the bag so I changed to it and kept shooting. I tried an HDR bracket, I changed the colour temperature, I wanted to make this guy stand out!

So many options. Adding fog, duo-toning... but in the end, here's what I came up with.

The "Screaming Tree on Horseshoe Lake Road". Rendered with Topaz Impression and Texture Effects.

The lesson? If you see something, if it catches your eye, STOP and SHOOT IT. It may not be there later!

It's about a week later now. Writing this thing over time... when I re-read what I wrote I realize that "I woke up today..." isn't exactly right. Forgive me!

Cops for Cancer

Last Saturday I did the Cops for Cancer headshave thing. Bottom line: they raised over $60,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society. Proud to have been a part of it. I saw a lot of really nice and dedicated people, talked with a bunch of them, saw my old friend Sean and Dr. Ron was nice enough to come down as well to take some pictures (which I haven't seen yet!). Had my head shaved, took a few pictures myself, it was a worthwhile event and I'm glad I did it.

More importantly: a number of my friends and colleagues donated to the cause, so I raised almost $1000. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We will beat this thing.

So here's a short photo sequence, of my shots and Sean's iPhone pix of me!

Deputy Chief Mike Federico gives a welcoming and big thank you speech


and then takes his turn under the clippers 

Karen (I think that's her name) donated 10" of her waist length hair last year and another 8" this year, for wigs for chemotherapy patients. 

For some, it was a family affair, a dad and his two boys did the shave and raised substantial donations 

He said he'd been growing his 'Bon Jovi' hair for years! Yeah, well the wig came off, and then so did his real hair 

Here's my buddy Sean, one of the most imposing cops you'll ever meet at over six-and-a-half-feet tall. He looks mean when he wears his motorcycle duds but he's much too nice a guy!


...and after! I think this could be the poster-boy shot for next year's event. Sean was in fact on the committee that made this happen. The radio reporter in the foreground was one of the many media types on site. 

Now it's my turn. This and the next two photos courtesy of Sean Shapiro 

Ahhh! Feel the wind in my (non) hair! 

"so what are you doing later, my dear?" 

I plan on going back next year. Expect me to bug you for donations again!

(PS: Wendy – you were right – it does feel cold! I even wore my Toronto Police watch cap to bed that night!
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