Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fall is coming. Do you know where your pictures are?

Fall Colours are coming!

We all have our favourite spots for taking fall pictures. And we all know of spots we'd like to visit, Every year I say "I'm not going to shoot the colours again" and yet every year I do!

Obviously, the bright colours are the most addictive: but why? Bright colours are all around us, what is it about the autumn leaves?

Obviously I used Topaz Impression 2 (my favourite preset is "Impasto") on this image, but there's more to it than that! I did a lot of extra technical work to make this picture look like what I had in mind when I shot it. For one thing, it's an HDR merge of 5 bracketed shots so that I could work with the full dynamic range. And I used some secret sauce (see below) to bring out the colours of the foliage which were not anywhere near that intense so early in the season. I actually muted and blurred the background just a bit to enhance the foreground subject. 

I think the answer lies in the colour palette. I don't know enough about colour theory but from my painting experience, I know that the basic fall colours all come from the same set of basic pigments: reds and yellows and greens. They're balanced by the skies and the water. I wish I could achieve this look with brushes and oil paint. I've taken a sabbatical from painting for a while to get past this frustration, but looking at scenes like the one above is tempting me to take them out again.

So: two things. First, a few years ago, I wrote a "Guide to Shooting Fall Colours" and I published it as a pdf book online. Here's a free link to the guide: Enjoy. All I ask is that you find me on Facebook (search for "faczen") and tell me what you thought of it. Feel free to share: I've given up trying to make any money from these publications, I share them in the spirit of education! (well, if you decide to donate something, you could follow the link at the beginning of the book!). And if you're not a subscriber to my newsletter, do the right thing! Click the link at the top right of this blog.

The second thing: I watched a presentation by Scott Kelby that he gave a few years ago at B&H Photo. Towards the end, he did a segment on enhancing fall colours in Photoshop. He demonstrated a simple technique which really works, although I don't really understand why! It's only 4 steps: here goes!

You need Photoshop for this. Do it on a copied layer (ctrl-J or cmd-J on a Mac) so you can change the intensity easily later. Here's the starting image:

Remember you can click on any image to blow it up full size 

  •  convert your image from RGB to LAB colour

  • Apply the image

  • Change the blend mode to "Overlay" (you can experiment with other modes, like "Soft Light" for more and less intense effect); and select the "b" channel. This menu pops up when you click "apply image" in the previous step.

  • Now simply switch back to RGB so you can continue editing, or output a normal Jpeg. If you did this on a fresh layer copy, you can now change the opacity or blend mode, or you can mask areas as you wish.

Here's the resulting image after those four steps. 

I used that brilliant free stitching program from Microsoft that I wrote about last week, again (what a convoluted sentence!). This is another shot from the marina where I dock my boat, like the first picture on today's blog.

This was carefully cropped and straightened up using the perspective cropping tool in Photoshop (People don't seem to know about this tool. It's simple to use and so effective!) . The original image was an amazing 266 Mp in size; this crop is almost 60 Mp! Again I used Impression/Impasto, and I added some texture using Topaz Texture Effects.  

Here's the link to that Microsoft stitching program, "Image Composite Editor" or "ICE":

Here's the blog banner I just replaced. I need to do this so that the old one doesn't just disappear into cyberspace:

Gales of November: less than a month away and I'm excited because (a) there are some outstanding people attending and (b) we have some fantastic venues to shoot and some great programs planned!
Despite several last-minute inquiries, we still have two spaces available in the first weekend (October 20-23) AND a lodge room has opened up. Also there are still 4 spaces on the second weekend. Jump on it, folks! YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO BE THERE
Visit for details and if you want the first weekend, email me directly. The October 27-30 session can be booked directly online. 

Open Canoe Races

The open canoe event took place on the Gull River at the Minden Wildwater Preserve last weekend and several camera club members came out to take some pictures. Here are my two favourite shots from the event:

A picture is worth 1000 words.I don't need any words for these pictures, do I? 

Parting Shot

Here's a fall sunflower on the side of the road that called out to me to have its picture made. 


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sleeping like a Baby

sporadic musings...

Good News! I'm younger than I thought!

I hadn't taken exchange into account: 70 Canadian is less than 54 US! So I'm actually younger than I thought.

Consider this, though: my sister, who's two years younger than me, has lived in the US for more than half her life. I think she moved around '75 so 40 years in the US is like 52 Canadian so she's actually considerably older than me in Canadian years. I always knew it, Barbi!

I don't want to harp on the fact that I feel old: driven by both the number and how I feel and my habits. There's a litany of physical things... and the daily habits... wait! I typed them then realized that's "TMI" (too much information)! Let's just say that one day you wake up and discover that you ARE your father! They announced the iPhone7 today – who cares? Every day my current phone nags me about upgrading the O/S and every day I say, "leave me alone. Later". I can still make phone calls. I can listen to music and read my emails. Go away.

I have never played "World of Warcraft" and never have and never will look for a Pokemon, whatever that is. I tried FaceTime once, don't remember how, don't care. I am my Father!

By the way, where did the expression "sleep like a baby" come from? I sleep like a baby. I wake up at 2 and again at 4am. I get up because I have to go to the bathroom or something hurts. My father used to say, "everything hurts. Except the stuff that doesn't work any more". I know how he felt.

But I still know how to write, although I'm at a loss for some words I can't remember from time to time, and I know how to make pictures, and I know how to share my knowledge with others.

If I start rambling about my age after this, call me on it. Stop me. You're not interested, dwelling on it just makes me feel ancient. Life goes on.

Gales of November: we had a cancellation from the first weekend (October 20-23) so there are two spaces available AND a lodge room has opened up. Also there are still 4 spaces on the second weekend. Jump on it, folks! This is going to fill up. 
Visit for details and if you want the first weekend, email me directly. The October 27-30 session can be booked online. 

I bought a boat!

If you read my last blog, you already knew that.

Photo credit: Jack March. It's a 16' Starcraft with an 85hp Evinrude outboard.

It's  quick, it's stable, it runs well... thanks to Bob Sully who brought the motor back to life after some preemptive tries. No thanks to me, I told him I'm his customer from Hell. Anything I touch with a motor in it... he had to visit at least twice before I could figure out how to start the damned thing! The electrical stuff isn't in that good a shape, I (ok "We") are going to have to work on that.

And today, I realized that I need to address something else. I muddled up throwing a tarp over it because it was going to rain last night and this morning. But I need to figure out a way to make a "tent" because now the tarp, sagging in the middle, is full of water! And one of the electrical things that doesn't work is the bilge pump... going to have to look at that!

Docking it is a challenge, since 12-Mile Lake is part of the reservoir system for the Trent-Severn waterway and the water levels are really low in fall. I'm docked for now at the Inn across the road because the water's only knee-deep at my dock. Also I've been warned to be careful, there are lots of rocks in the lake, it can be expensive hitting one with the prop!

Update: I've moved it to the Marina down the road. Makes more sense, although I have to drive to the boat instead of walking (well I could walk...). Very reasonable price and friendly folks.

As my friend Janie says, there's something about being out on the water. I'm only sorry I didn't do this sooner! I'm looking forward to Fall Colours!

Here's me in my Tilley hat. It's the only one that will stay on my head when I'm running in the wind... 

...and here's me fishing my Tilley hat out of the water. Guess I was wrong! 


Loons on 12-Mile Lake. Click to view larger!

Here are a couple of Loon pictures I took the other day on the water. I've shot better ones, but these were from my own boat!

Night Skies

Last week there was an alert about high solar flare activity and a prediction of active Aurora Borealis. It's been many years since I saw a visible display of sheets of aurora... and I'm still waiting! The camera can see better than my eyes.

This little video will show you what we actually saw. It's not particularly enhanced. By the way, I did this with a program called "LRTimeLapse", straightforward but lots of steps... and since I didn't know what I was doing, I had to start over a few times! I'll play, and figure out how to add music, etc later.

Anyway, I went out and a couple of camera club friends joined me. There was some activity which I was able to capture, but it took some post-processing to enhance the images. Nothing like some of the stuff I've seen from Alaska or Iceland, but still impressive and pretty.

A couple of nights later, I stopped on the way home to see if there was any sign of Northern Lights, but there weren't. I did manage to get a few shots of the milky way (last of the season: the galactic core doesn't rise above the horizon in winter) and a couple of other star shots for your enjoyment.

This is a merge of a few shots to get a little extra detail

I was struck by the warm glow of the lit-up cottage and by the splendour of the starry sky.  

Interesting free software

This is for PC people. You MAC guys have enough toys and good stuff to tantalize us with, so for once it's our turn. This one comes from Micro$oft themselves {gasp}!

This looks like an ordinary picture of a house under construction. If you look closely you can see some distortion, especially in the lower right corner.  But what makes it remarkable is that it's a composite of 25 separate pictures and it took me 2 minutes to assemble it. 

I wanted to document this new house being erected on our lake. Long story. But the short version is that I was there with one lens – my 105mm – and I could only get about 30' away from the  building. So here's the best I could do with a single shot:

What I did was to shoot 25 overlapping images, sweeping from side to side with 5 shots, then up a bit and 5 more, and so on. I tried to do a 'pano merge' in Lightroom but it didn't want to behave.

A few days later, I came across a picture of the Milky Way on Facebook produced by a 16 year old kid from Czechoslovakia. He said it was a merge of some 225 images, if I recall. Turns out he did it using a piece of software called "Microsoft Image Composition Editor" or "Microsoft ICE". MS calls it "an advanced panoramic image stitcher". It's for Windows, and it's brilliant. It even does RAW files, no need to convert to Jpeg first! It's fast, easy to use, it's not massive, and it's FREE. 

Rather than copy and paste what MS says about it, here's the link. I look forward to trying it for more exciting pano's. It says it will do Gigapixel images – the one I did is about 150 megapixels! In seconds. Brilliant. 

PS: I zoomed into the image and produced a 200% crop so you can see the potential.

This is detail from the same  composite image. Cropped really, really tight.

Nothing doing on Carden Plain

Looks like the migration is well under way. The only birds I saw when I was there a few days ago were some crows in the distance. A "Murder of Crows", probably 25 or 30 of them making a racket in some far off trees. And a couple of Eastern Kingbirds. Flowers are still there but showing signs of fading for the fall. I caught a few pictures with my 105mm macro lens.

Fall's not far away! 

Parting Shot

This was a 5-shot HDR which I then painted with Impression.  This one might get me back to my brushes and oil paints. I've been taking a sabbatical from painting for a while because I find it a lot easier to capture my vision with a Wacom stylus in my hand than with a paint brush. 

— 30 —