Monday, August 29, 2016

Good news and Bad News

...musings

First the bad news. This is my last blog posting... before I turn 70. That's happening in about 10 days as I write this. Everybody says, "70 is the new 50"; "you don't really look your age"; "you're only as old as you feel"... well guess what? I'm starting to feel old.

It's worse since the last surgery. My sleep patterns have been disrupted, I have some issues with eating and swallowing, and did you ever stretch in the middle of the night and wake up with a cramp? All the time now and not just the legs, my stomach, my back... anyway, I shouldn't complain, I'm still on the top side of the grass!

I made some life choices over the years that were probably not the wisest. But at this point, I guess I have to accept what I have and don't have, and my life style. Wishing I were 10 years younger won't make it so. So be it. That said, I look back and I've done a Hell of a lot of things in my life. More than most people, I'll warrant.

Equally annoying is that I now accomplish so little every day. Some days I say, "I have to take the garbage to the dump and go buy some groceries", and that fills my day. I don't have the energy or desire to pursue the tasks I really should be doing. But I think I can fix that. It's a question of motivation. Too bad I don't have someone to help me stay on track.

It ain't over yet: I still have a lot of things to do (remember the bucket list I wrote about a while ago?). Anyway, lots of people are telling me I should have a celebration of this birthday, that it's a significant one. Frankly I'd really rather let it slip by unnoticed. Just one more trip around the sun.




Now the good news: today I bought myself a birthday present.



It's quite an old Starcraft Bowrider, with an Evinrude 85HP outboard. The interior is refurbished (new/old seats and some of the padded vinyl trim being redone).Hull and trailer in good shape. Motor runs well and as I write this, Bob, my ATV/boat mechanic has it and we're putting it in the water this morning (Sunday, August 28). I wanted something inexpensive but reliable. 

What am I going to use it for? A little fishing, and just an opportunity to run around the lake. I've lived here for 9 years and never been outside my little bay on 12-Mile Lake! It'll be great for viewing fall colours and just getting out and doing something different.

I'll start by docking it at my own dock but it gets pretty shallow there: yesterday I checked it out and I have 2 feet of water off the dock — knee deep. Hope it's enough. If the lake level drops, I'll have to move it to the Red Umbrella Inn's dock which they've agreed to let me use (for a price...). In winter, it'll go back on the trailer which I'll move into my garage. I'm just going to put a tarp over it — out on the dock as well so it won't fill up with water when it rains!
Update: we tried to put it in the water today. The battery was dead. Then we got it going using a Power Booster at the marina but the engine didn't settle down to a proper idle so it wouldn't run without stalling. Back on the trailer, and back to the mechanic until we get it running right. Hopefully only a couple of days.


I've also shelved painting for a little while. I'm frustrated because I can't seem to render what I see in my mind with brushes and oil paint, but I can with my computer, Photoshop and some of the high end plug-ins like Topaz Impression. I will get back to it – just today I saw something that I want to try to paint – but for now I need to take a break from the regular weekly art class.


This was originally a picture of a purple clover, but Impression helped me make it look like what my mind saw. 




Nice visit

My daughter and her two kids came to visit the other day. It was a little boring for them, we tried a little fishing but there was nothing biting... then just hung around the house for a while. I didn't take pictures, I preferred to be with them rather than documenting their visit! I did do a couple of iPhone shots, though:



Kelly's a beautiful 13 year old, super smart and precocious and going to break some hearts when she gets older! She's very much an actress.



Ryan will be 17 by the time you read this. He definitely doesn't have my physical genes: every time I see him he seems to be taller and taller. Somewhere between 6'2" and 6'3" now, I get a sore neck looking up to talk to him. Size 13 feet, and he thinks he isn't through growing. An "A" student too, he plays hockey and is on the swim team (really has a swimmer's body!).  

Neither Ryan nor Kelly play the guitar, they were just goofing around with mine. Ryan was able to play a version of "Smoke on the Water", though.





I wrote the following for the group who are joining us up in Wawa for the Gales of November workshop at the end of October (link: www.photography.to/gales). I thought it might be interesting for others to read here.

NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTERS 

I'm seeing a number of ads for this new kickstarter funded company, just in business since May. What I'm reading is all good. If you read through their website, you'll find that neither the B&W filters (warm) or the Lee system (cool) are really neutral*. Here's the link: http://breakthrough.photography/about



I HAVE NO AFFILIATION WITH THIS COMPANY. 

Pricing is higher than B&W (a 77mm 10-stop is $179 vs. about $100 for the B&W). Lee is of course more, with all the hardware you need. Both the Breakthrough and B&W are made from Schott glass.

If you want to shoot long exposure moving water or even clouds or smooth out landscapes, you need some sort of ND filtering. The variable ND's will lay a diffraction pattern (that looks like a huge "X") on your images at anything but the lowest densities; using a cheaper brand would be like smearing the front of your expensive lens with vaseline. Trust me, you don't want to. I went through all that until I settled on a B&W 10-stop in 77mm (which fits all my lenses with stepdown rings).

 If I didn't have the B&W, I'd probably go for the Breakthrough 6-stop. I would add a Xume magnetic adapter. When you shoot a dark ND, you have to take off the filter to see through the camera, to compose or to focus... try doing that 10 times, unscrewing the filter without moving the camera, getting the threads jammed, etc. The mag mount lets you snap the filter on and off. The downside is you do get some vignetting with your ultra-wide angles; I get it up to about 20mm (full-frame) on my Nikkor 17-35 f/2.8. The Xume starter set at B&H is here: http://goo.gl/K7jeBu

 Dr. Ron Goodlin will be doing a talk on shooting long exposure water on the first night of our workshop (I'll do it in week 2). If you don't already have some ND capability in your bag for our trip, you're probably going to want some.
* Yes, I know you can compensate for white balance when shooting in RAW. Sort of. Sometimes. Without degrading anything else?


Picture Time!

I haven't been shooting much in the past couple of weeks: busy with other things, including spending time working on the upcoming "Gales of November" workshop (it's going to be great! Still some spaces on the second weekend, check it out!).

At a club event, a "scavenger hunt" kind of evening, I wanted to practice with off-camera flash. Jack didn't bring his camera (tsk!) so he became my VOLS (voice operated light stand)!




I added Jack into this picture in post-processing. Is he inside looking out, or is it a reflection? 
 I did a couple of people pictures:



Here's a head shot of Dianne. I used a Westcott diffuser on the flash, still pretty contrasty.  I used a couple of techniques I read about from Peter Hurley. Still doesn't make me a people photographer!



This woodstove was on the scavenger hunt list. But I added some Topaz Glow to make it more interesting. 


A few days later, I took out my light tent and spent a couple of hours working with my 105mm lens and off-camera flash.



I started with this shot: no flash but I had some fresh-picked tomatoes and they needed to be in pictures!  



Next I set up this still life. I thought it was a little boring so Topaz Impression to the rescue 

While shooting the still life, the batteries in the flash gave up, so I changed them. PROBLEM. Now it doesn't work right. Sometimes it flashes, sometimes it doesn't: and sometimes when it does flash, you can't see the light from the flash in the image. It's like it's not syncing with the camera. I still can't figure it out.




The flash should have fired in this shot but it didn't. 



And yet it worked when I shot this juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird at the feeder.  





{big sigh}. I wrote all of the following stuff several hours ago and though I thought it saved, obviously it didn't or I wouldn't be complaining and having to do it all over again. 



So even though I said I hadn't shot much, everything is relative. My camera is always with me and it's very rare that a day goes by without some sort of pictures. In the past week or so I've shot 3 times: two events and a day with the light tent.

Here's the second event: I went into Toronto with a group of people (Fred, Chris, Dianne and Larry) from the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club to repeat our outing last year, shooting street photos. This time (a) four people are easier to herd than seven, (b) we added the Distillery District to the Kensington Market venue and (c) despite following each other bumper to bumper, Larry got lost, then couldn't find his car. I did hear that he got home eventually!

For me, this wasn't my best outing. I wasn't seeing the pictures I wanted, especially in Kensington Market where I wanted to focus on "stories", not individuals. However I did manage to test a couple of concepts, and I did get a couple of keepers. Ansel Adams stated, "twelve significant photographs in a year is a good crop"!

We started in the Distillery District. 




Notice how nice and square everything is. Something like a good tilt-and-shift view camera might record it. That's not an accident, that's carefully done in post-processing, primarily using an often-neglected tool in Photoshop called "Perspective Cropping". Also there are only 2 people in this picture – there were a dozen (left there because, (a) they provide a place for the viewer's eye to go and (b) they were too hard to remove!). There's a technique in Photoshop called up via Scripts→Statistics→Median which I tested but you need probably a dozen images taken over time and on a tripod for it to work well. This was only 3 images. For toning, I used Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 and a touch of Topaz Impression2, with the "Cezanne" preset as my starting point.



Another shot along the way was this one where again I removed some people. I liked the way the flowers and the receding pavement lead the viewer's eye to the distant building, but there was 'way too much detail in the shot. So I used Topaz Simplify  and Impression to make it more abstract.



We don't have a lot of graffiti or graphically painted walls up here in the Highlands (although there's the odd tastefully done wall like the Minden Library or the old beer store...). Check out this hugely creative basketball court wall near the Distillery District!  Also check out the perfect form on this young lad's jump shot. Yes it went in. Nothing but net. His ball handling skills were also awesome: bet we see him in the NBA in 10 years or so!



Is that his sister? Coach? Mentor? She knew what she was doing but couldn't keep him from getting around her and scoring! Click the photo to blow it up.

I was struck by the fact that EVERYONE has a smartphone. Did Rodenberry foresee this on Star Trek? I'll bet he didn't think about "Selfies"!




This girl took several shots of herself in front of the big heart, fluffing and fixing her hair, posing and making a pouty face for each one. Bet they're for her Facebook profile! (you can click any picture to blow it up to see it better).



Lots of Selfies. Everyone was doing it. They're everywhere, they're everywhere!

But MORE ubiquitous were the people who were so involved in their smartphones that they completely ignored the world around them. I think this picture really tells that story:



I don't need to caption this. These self-absorbed people (who happened to be synchronized in step, good capture, Glenn!) were not even aware of these musicians playing 6 feet away. And they were good, too.

This was a carefully processed image, lots of photoediting time to make it right. It's what I saw.



Here's another shot from the same spot. This one's about the colours. Maybe THIS is what I saw.

OK, 'till next week. Boating pix, I hope. Sign up for "Gales", you know you want to! And Happy Birthday to my dear friend Lori who just keeps getting younger and to my favourite grandson Ryan!



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