Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ready for winter?

I'm ready!

There's a whole checklist of things that had to happen to get ready, and I'm done. Today, my neighbour Jack came over to help (wrong word: he did the work!) by sweeping the chimney and removing some trees that had grown too close to the house. The other day I got my ATV back from the mechanic, it now sports a dedicated 4WD switch (electrical problems. It was intermittent) and the battery from my boat is now mounted on the back of the ATV to help power the winch that controls the snowplow. The car's been serviced, the furnace people were here three times to iron out issues with the heat, I've split and stacked all the firewood, snow shovels are by the doors. 
The boat's parked in the garage, the gazebo and lawn furniture are in storage. I'm done.

Let it snow! 

A few more Lake Superior pictures

I still have lots more to process, mostly "people pictures" from the weekend. Here are a few more landscape shots from my trip

I didn't record exactly where this was. It was somewhere south of the Montreal River Harbour, maybe Alona Bay? 

Another shot in the same location 

Commercial fishing boat at Mamainse Harbour. 

Algonquin Park

I managed to get a few days at home early in November. I woke up one day and decided I'd drive up to Algonquin Park to see what there is to see before winter sets in. It was certainly a lucky day! I got there early and saw this cow and calf moose. I took a bunch of pictures, then decided to move along, to see what else I could find. I really wanted to find a bull moose!

 A couple of fellow photographers were there (Jerry and Dave from Barrie) and one of them said, "a bird in the hand, you know..." so I stayed a bit longer!

Yearling male. You can see the nubs of his antlers coming in.

My favourites are the last two; they're "environmental portraits" which tell of the animal in its surroundings. Closeups are fine, but I prefer to tell a story
Eventually they moved on, and so did I. Next stop: check out if the Pine Martens were back. I wonder where they go in the summer...

They were – or at least one was – but the backlighting was horrendous and it was really dark where he was. Still, I got a shot or two! 

Continuing east, I drove up Opeongo Road to see if I could find that elusive Bull Moose... no such luck, but I did come across a couple of spruce grouse!

Check out the gorgeous colours of this male bird! 

The spruce and ruffed grouse share a defense mechanism: they freeze and they're very hard to spot in the bush — are you kidding me? Maybe for the Ruffed grouse and the female Spruces... I think they were handed a short supply of brains. It's a wonder any of them are still around! Dig the bright colours and contrasty feathers!

I decided to hold off on the foxes until after I turned for home (no, I'm not going to share where they hang out... don't ask!).

This is "Papa" fox. He's been around for a while and he's really good at posing for a shot! 

So all in all, not a bad day... kidding! It was an awesome day.

The next day, at 11:30 at night, after I had posted a few pictures, my phone rang. It was Dr. Ron. "I'll be there at 7 am, we're going up to Algonquin. {sigh}. SURE!  Up we went!

While we were waiting for the foxes to show up, this blue jay entertained us. 

I think the Blue Jay should have been named Canada's National Bird instead of the Grey Jay or WhiskeyJack. This name is a variation on Wisakedjak, a benevolent trickster and cultural hero in Cree, Algonquin and Menominee mythologies

Right on schedule, our furry friends showed up. This is either Mama or one of last year's kits. 

Off to look for Pine Martens. Again, we found birds to shoot:

A fearless red-breasted Nuthatch comes down for a treat! 

Hard to see, as I said earlier. Here's a Ruffed Grouse hanging out in a pine tree. Dr. Ron spotted this guy.

And our friendly neighbourhood Pine Marten came for a visit. There was a bit more light than the previous visit, so I managed a decent picture. 

Parting Shot

That was a long couple of days! Rewarding, wouldn't you say?

Then there was all that hype about a "Super Moon". Folks, the super moon looks exactly like any other full moon, except it was (wait for it) 7% bigger. Whoopie. But I was duty bound to go out and shoot it. When I got back to the computer, as I said, it looked just like every other moon shot. So I decided to play with it and came up with this:

Super Moon Rising over Horseshoe Lake. This is a composite image, the foreground is from a shot at the Shuyler's Island Causeway, looking for Northern Lights last summer. 

A lot of people on Facebook liked this image and asked for it as "wallpaper" for their computers. So I made a 1920x1080 pixel version and uploaded it to If you want it for your computer background image (wallpaper), just go to the link, right click and save it, then follow the procedure in your operating system. Enjoy!

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Monday, November 07, 2016

Gales of November

Please forgive my long hiatus. I've been dealing with some serious family medical issues that have kept me away for the last month. Frankly, I wasn't motivated to pick up the camera even once in that time, except for my trip up to Wawa but I did keep up with my Facebook friends and enjoyed the pictures and stories, especially those in Algonquin Park. I'm so jealous of all those great moose pictures!

 Fall colours this year are outstanding. I missed it in the Park but came home in time to get some shots here in the Highlands. I used this one as my Facebook header photo:


Try this analogy: JPEG is like going to the store and buying a jar of pasta sauce. You can get it home and add some stuff to it to change it a bit but it's still store bought pasta sauce. RAW is like making it from scratch with tomatoes you lovingly grew yourself and garlic and spices and onions and other ingredients from your own garden. Much more work but if you know what you're doing... it can be much better than the store bought stuff. Using a preset in LR or a plug-in is like looking up a recipe and following it, not using one is like making it the way your mother taught you years ago, a pinch of this, a teaspoon of that, but it has a lot more of "you" in it. Let me add one more thing to the analogy: if you buy a jar of pasta sauce you can prepare it just by tossing it in the microwave. But if you make it from scratch, you need to have a real stove and pots and pans and knives to chop with and a spoon to mix with... in other words if you shoot RAW you need to have the tools – like LR or PS – to make those ingredients into sauce. Make sense?

While chasing fall colours, I ended up at Bob Lake just West of Minden around sunset. I saw this and HAD to stop to take this picture. 

I worked hard for this shot. This is one of those examples of "working the scene" to find the shot that made me stop. I had to climb down to get the proper angle, I tried different positions until I found the perspective I wanted. By the time I was ready to take it, the sun was long gone, but there was enough light left to do a 5-shot HDR burst. The middle shot was 4 seconds @ f/16, ISO 1100, for what it's worth.


The Gales of November workshop on October 20-23 was attended by nine very talented photographers. I had said that I promised them "weather" but didn't specify what kind... it turned out that it was much more benign than I had hoped. No "gales"! 

Group photo courtesy of Jim Camelford. I just did a tiny amount of LR tweaking.Shot with his Olympus E-M1 mirrorless camera. Very tempting... 

My rĂ´le was to facilitate. I chose some venues that had different challenges and tried to ensure that the participants had some knowledge of the techniques needed for each: an easy job because everyone was so experienced! For example we had scheduled a short lecture on using Neutral Density filters and long exposures. Ron (who was leading that one) asked, "who is not familiar with using ND filters?". Everyone said they were, so that was the shortest lecture ever!

I tried to challenge the group by focusing on the concept of pre-visualization. The intent was to highlight a technique that was probably in their toolbox but which can add to the way they approach their photography. I plan to create a mini-workshop on this topic for photographers of all experience levels soon. 

What I found fascinating was how differently everyone approached each venue. For example, there was a tree, reflected in a pool of water (I think in Katherine Cove), and I looked at it and failed to see anything interesting; yet at least four of the participants disagreed and got some outstanding shots. I'm hoping we can put together a slide show presentation of a compilation of their best shots and I'll link to it here. Also in the works is a Blurb book.

I shot a lot of "people" pictures. Sadly, I haven't gotten around to processing them yet, so you'll have to wait to see them. But here's a selection of landscape images I took that weekend. Most of them post-processed in my usual impressionistic style. 

Spectacular Fall colours! I took this shot with my iPhone on the way up. Just off Highway 69, south of the French River. Although it lack some of the quality of a similar shot I took with the D800, I think I like it better! Picture postcard perfect!

I took this shot a few minutes later with the D800. It's rendered using Topaz Impression with my favourite "Impasto" preset. 

Next day, en route between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa. Although the colours aren't as eye-searingly brilliant as those further South, the scenery on the shores of Lake Superior is incredible. I was thinking of renting a cabin up there for the month of October next year, just to explore and photograph this 200 km stretch of highway. Who's with me? 

One of the spots I scouted for the group was this blueberry field on the way to High Falls. I was really taken by the textures in the vegetation. 

We went to the beach on the Michipicoten First Nations Reserve where I did this impression looking out over the Michipicoten Bay. Because it was so calm, I felt the need to add these textures to make it match my vision. I used pre-visualization techniques to compose and render this shot.

This was shot on the last morning as I drove to the Lodge. It's one of my favourite pictures of the trip. I knew it the moment I saw it. This one will be printed for sure! 

Where to stop! It's such a spectacular area. I'm planning to do this again next year, if you want to come along, drop me a line and I'll put you on the list of people I keep in the loop!

To close this blog, here's an image I took in front of the Rock Island Lodge. 

I think it was Jim's idea to drag these Muskoka chairs down to the beach but it was someone ELSE's idea to provide this awesome lighting just after sunrise! Textures added in Impression.

OK, one more! 

Shoreline rocks worn smooth by millions of years of Lake Superior wave action. Pastel colours and textures enhanced in Topaz Impression. It reminds me of a Microsoft screensaver, only better! 

So many others! I've added these and other images on my 500px site (just getting that under way) where they are available for purchase. I'll be updating my RedBubble and Fine Art America portfolios as well. They provide prints and other products at very reasonable prices. 

More to come!

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