Monday, August 01, 2016



Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.

Michael at Red Umbrella Inn across the road from me just got a brand new drone. He was showing it to me then the phone rang and he handed me the controller. Argh!

Damn. You can even tell it where "home" is and it will land itself right there. You can set it to follow you as you drive or ride in a boat. It climbs up to 150m in a few seconds. We couldn't even find it in the sky up there. Take hands off the controls and it hovers motionless. You can rotate it. You can tilt it. You can look through its camera on your iPhone. You can send it to map coordinates or just to a spot you choose on a map.
Thou shalt not give in to temptation. Thou shalt not give in. Thou shalt not...
I didn't. I handed it back to him two minutes later.


It's interesting that every now and then something pops up in the photography community – especially on Facebook – as a trend. I suppose that has something to do with the groups you hang out in, but lately, everywhere I look, people are posting images of the Milky Way.

Some of them are quite spectacular, or they would be if I wasn't seeing dozens, if not hundreds of them. Digitally enhanced pictures of the galaxy with a well-composed, dramatically lit foreground. They set a standard that I sometimes can't reach, since I don't have desert rock arches or fabulous sea formations in range, but they do set some goals.

Hopefully the Weather Gods will cooperate and we'll be able to shoot some star fields up in Wawa during the Gales of November workshops! (Still some space on the second weekend! Visit for details).

Other trends? 360° SmartPhone shots. Long exposure shots of waterfalls and rapids. Fox kits in Algonquin Park and elsewhere. Focus stacked macro shots. And in my case (I'm guilty as well), images altered with plugins like Topaz Impression.

Back to the basics

It's time to get back to the basics. That's really easy to say — when going off in the artistic direction is as easy as clicking the mouse. But it's that time. I'm going to try!

Last week, I spent a pleasant couple of days with Bruce Peters, a Mississauga photographer friend of Hilary McNeil-Smith. We shot various venues around the Highlands. His presence inspired me to get out and take a fresh look at some places and times I've shot before. 

One of those places was Horseshoe Lake at Dawn. We didn't get a spectacular morning, but the mist on the water and the subtle pastels of the sky were interesting as usual. Here are three images before, during and after sunrise.  I'm never disappointed when I make the effort to get out early!

We visited another spot I like, where Highway 118 crosses Boshkong Lake. I gave into my desire to turn a photo into a piece of digital art...

Topaz Impression 2, Impasto preset (modified). I'm going to try to reproduce this in oil on canvas. Wish me luck! 

We went to some other spots I favour, including, of course, the Minden Wildwater. Then we went to Ritchie Falls. In both places, I mounted my 10-stop ND filter to smooth the water...

Here again I admit to doing a "little" post-processing!

The following morning my attraction to basic landscapes continued and I got up early to shoot this image behind the Red Umbrella Inn. I had actually shot a series of brackets intending to merge them as an HDR but I liked this one on its own, so there's very little processing done here. 
Back to the basics.

The Highland Yard, 2016 edition

I don't know the actual count, but I'm guessing there were about 150 participants at most, although it looked like there were as many as 50 runners in the 10K race. And that total included a whole bunch of smaller kids in the 2K. Still, it was a nice event and there were some photo ops! I hoped to do some different shots from previous years... at the start, I shot the runners coming at me with a telephoto lens, hoping to catch some good body positions and bright colours. When they returned to the finish line, I shot two ways: wide angle shots from a low point of view, then I switched to a long telephoto to capture faces and expressions. Here are a few images.

 I'm addicted to Topaz Impression among others... here's an image from yesterday's Highland Yard 10K event. However the plugins are so popular now that using them might make you part of the crowd as opposed to showing your individuality. Sort of like Harley Davidson riders who want to be different but they all look alike! 

I want to use my Impression-generated images for inspiration. Maybe I can express myself that way. However, I suck at painting.Harvey has said to be patient... when I have 50 years painting experience, like I do in photography... only problem is, I'll be 120 years old! 
I was a little disappointed this year. With one or two exceptions, there was nobody who had dug deep to run this race. No sweat-stained shirts, no agonized expressions, no ecstatic arm-pumps crossing the finish line. Just a bunch of people jogging in, checking their iPhones or their wrist-mounted stopwatches for their times, smiling and waving to their friends. I'm not sure what that means. Anyway, here are some more images:

Another "artsy" shot that just spoke to me. Candidate for a book cover?

Old man's leg, young man's shoe! 

There were some exceptions. Someone who was proud of her achievement and wanted to shout it out to the world! 

Another exception. This guy crossed the finish line, took one step and collapsed. Race staff hydrated him and he was OK later. 

File this lady under "Perseverance". She should be on a poster with that as the title. She came into the finish line running, not walking and with a look of commitment as you can see. Kudo's, lady. I couldn't do what you did. 
I just thought these two ladies made interesting photo subjects. Remember, you can click on any picture to blow it up.

Focus Pyramid

I bought this "Focus Pyramid" for the club and spent some time micro-aligning my lenses. The 70-200 Nikkor was the closest to zero and the Tamron 150-600 showed the most deviation. Interestingly it was different when I set it to 600mm and part way, around 400mm. I chose the 600mm alignment adjustment because that's the most critical point.

As you can see, you have to look very carefully to see where the lens is actually focusing. This shot was at a setting of +10 and I finally chose +8 as the setting (the range was -20 to +20). HHCC club members are welcome to borrow this focusing target to align their lenses. Contact Gord... 

Speaking of exercise...

Dr. Ron & Rob K came up for the day on Friday with the intent of bicycling the Rail Trail from Haliburton to Kinmount. I dropped them off in Haliburton (nice car, Rob. Embarrassing how long it took me to figure out that you need to press the brake to start it!), then went home to take a nap while they sweated their way down the trail. When I picked them up about 3 hours later, I didn't join them in their celebratory milkshake/icecream because I felt I didn't deserve it!

The intrepid road warriors, leaving Haliburton. The weather cleared up and it was bright and sunny when I awoke from my nap a couple of hours later! 
Then we went back to Ritchie Falls. It's tough shooting in the bright sun, so I chose to do some abstracts using my neutral density filter. 

A tree at Ritchie Falls that will need a few more visits with camera and sketch pad in hand! 

So that ends another July in the Haliburton Highlands. Lots of stuff going on in August, so stay tuned. And if you're thinking of booking the Gales of November workshop ( better get going, only 4 spots left!

PS: A whole blog post and not one bird picture! Don't get used to it!

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