Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's a small, small world

A basic tip

I don't usually post photography tips here but I keep seeing the same questions and the same errors time after time, and it's bugging me. So if you're not a photographer, or if you're too advanced for these tips, feel free to skip ahead. I have a few of them I want to share, what better place to do so?


The #1 reason for rejecting photos is that they're out of focus. You can fix a lot of things in post processing, but you can't fix out-of-focus, or "OOF". Unless there's some extraordinary reason to keep an OOF picture it's going to end up in the trash.

The thing(s) you want in focus in your picture have to BE in focus.

Cute pine marten but no way to save this picture. The focus was on the branch above him and he is out of focus. Good thing I got another shot in focus!

Branches in the foreground can be a challenge. Your camera WANTS to focus on them. The other shot is a better composition, but which one would YOU keep?
Your camera is smart. But it can be fooled. Suppose you're shooting two people against a background, but there's a space between them. Unless you're careful, the camera will focus on whatever's in that space, not on the subjects. So how do we solve that? How about locking in the focus on one of the subjects, then moving the camera to recompose the image correctly? What about increasing the depth of field by stopping down the aperture* so that you have a better chance that the subject is in focus?

Your camera has a variety of ways of focusing: manual, continuous, single; you can use one point in your viewfinder or a bunch of them, you can average, you can preset your focus to a specific distance. It can track moving subjects, or not. You can use the shutter release button by pressing it halfway down or you can program a button on the back of the camera for focusing (it's called "Back Button Focusing". Look it up. Google is your friend). The best way to learn how to focus your camera is to RTFM.


Do it. You'll learn something. But that's not enough. It's like learning how to swim by watching YouTube videos. That's great but what you really have to do is jump in the water. Same thing here: Shoot pictures. Lots of pictures. Think about your focus while you're doing that until it becomes part of you.

When you're looking through and vetting your images (throw away the bad ones, folks. Ask yourself, "will I EVER want to look at this image again?), pause on that OOF one and ask yourself, "Why is this OOF? What should I have done differently"? That's how you learn.

* But if you stop down the aperture, either your shutter speed has to decrease or your ISO has to increase, which creates problems with camera shake or added noise. Camera shake is a whole other subject, watch for a future tip. But I will say one thing about using high ISO: you're DEFINITELY going to throw out an OOF picture but the ONLY people who care about noise are other photographers. Get over it.

Do you print your pictures?

If you print yourself, you fall into three categories:

■ You're fussy and you know what you're doing
■ You're not that fussy, you're just happy to see prints
■ You're fussy but you don't have a clue.

If I printed, I would fall into category 3.
I don't print. I send them out. I'm still mostly in category 3.

I'm lucky, I have friends who print and who are in category 1. Occasionally I'll go to Costco or someone like that for "category 2 prints", but if I have prints to sell, I'll go to a professional lab and pay the big bucks. Or call in a favour from one of my really talented friends.

I decided that I wanted some canvas prints, especially from my Newfoundland trip, and there was a vendor offering great "Black Friday" deals so I thought I'd give it a try.

Now I do have a LITTLE knowledge of what it takes to prepare a file for printing. The main thing I learned was this: if I prepare an image so that if it looks onscreen or online like I want the print to look, I'm going to be very disappointed. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, I edit in the ProPhoto colour space because it gives me the biggest gamut of colours to work in. I'm careful to do that in both Lightroom and Photoshop. But I know that when I export an image for printing (or for anything else), it needs to be converted to sRGB and it WILL LOOK DIFFERENT.

Second, I know it is important to calibrate my monitor and I do that with a ColorMunki device regularly. However I'm guilty of the same thing that almost everyone else is, my monitor is too bright. It just looks prettier when you're looking at a picture onscreen. Also when I'm judging images for a competition, or just looking at them online, 90% of them have been edited on someone's monitor which is also too bright and to see what the maker is trying to portray, you need to turn up the brightness. 

You need to turn it WAY DOWN if you want to match what a print is going to look like. For one thing, your monitor creates colour by projecting a mix of red, green and blue light; a print's colour come from light being absorbed by cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks (simplistic, I know), so it's different. You can turn up the brightness on a monitor, but the more ink you add to a print the darker it gets!

as an aside: don't even think about converting your image to CMYK, if that last sentence put that in your mind. The printer takes RGB input and converts it inside the machine to the inks it uses. The only time that's not true is when you're printing on a printing press.
And third, if you want to see onscreen what your print is going to look like, you have to do something called "soft proofing", which is available in both Lightroom and Photoshop. You're telling your computer "show me what my picture is going to look like if it's printed by this specific printer on this specific type of paper". And that's going to be very different from what it looks like normally onscreen.

Some images are tougher than others. Here's an example. On the left is what I wanted my print to look like. It's a screen capture of the image under normal conditions. But I knew it wouldn't, especially after converting to sRGB for the printer. So I turned on soft proofing and I edited the image until it looked right for print. The right image is what it ended up at onscreen with soft proofing turned off. 

You might think it looks pretty good here, but the bright lights are WAY too bright, they have a halo around them they're so bright, the sky is too saturated and the soft nuances of the reflected city lights in the hillside are too strong. You don't want a print to look like that (at least I don't!). It won't: it'll look more like the one on the left.

If you're going to print at a pro lab, they should be able to send you the ICC profile of the printer and paper combinations they're using. Pop those into Photoshop or Lightroom and soft-proof to them and your prints should come out as expected.

The resulting print turned out excellent. I had this printed on canvas and I didn't have the ICC profile, but I figured that using the profile for the Epson 7900 on matte paper, I would get close. It looks almost exactly like the image at left (in hindsight, a little dark, still). Some images are more difficult than others. I know that the blacks are really going to fill in and the colours are going to be much less saturated.

I now have 6 large format canvas prints ready to hang on my walls. And two others hanging on other peoples' walls that I've sold. I also had two others: they helped me heat my house by burning them in the fireplace. Literally.

Here are a few. The two landscapes at the bottom are 20x30. The piping plover is 16x24

This abstract is called  "Sunset on Lake Superior". It's 24x36

These canvas prints are all available for purchase. They're all digitally signed and will be marked as "Artist's Proof"s to distinguish them from any limited edition prints which may follow. Contact me.

I will have more prints made. There's something about seeing your work on something other than a computer screen. Even though I still have about 30 or 40 printed images left over from a show I did a few years ago, but new stuff comes up. I do not plan to start printing myself because it's a ton of work to get it right, and a good printer (say Epson 7900) is about $5000. You can get away with a lot less if all you want to print is 4x6's or run-of-the-mill 8x10's but I know I wouldn't be satisfied.

Lens sold

Almost every wildlife picture I've shot in the past year or so has been with my

Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens

which I have just sold (I first started writing this a few days ago at which point it was "for sale").

"Why?", you might ask. Well, because I'm ready to step up to the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED lens which, new, would be almost 8x the price, and weighs twice as much. I've been very satisfied with the Tamron but it's time. By the way, if you have one of those for sale, let's talk.

It took some practice to learn to use this lens effectively. Especially if you put it on a crop sensor body (did I say it has a Nikon mount? It has a Nikon mount!), where it's effective focal length is about 1000 mm. At about 68 oz, you can actually handhold this lens but you have to watch your shutter speed if you do.

So I've probably shot about 10,000 images with this lens (and kept half of them!). I had the firmware updated at Tamron last year, and I added a LensCoat neoprene cover to protect it and make it less visible when shooting birds. The lens is in great shape; there are some 'brassing' marks on the lens mounting foot, and no scratches on any of the glass. Somewhere, I have the box and all the goodies that came in it with the lens.

(I told you I wrote this when it was still for sale!)

Here's a link to a quick web gallery of sample images shot with this lens. All of them were at the maximum focal length of 600mm. Click on any image to blow it up.

Contact me if have or you know anyone who has that Nikon 200-400. Or a 400mmf/2.8 prime!

A couple more from 'Gales'

I forgot to post a couple of pictures in the last blog, so I thought I'd add them in here. Neither one is from Wawa, both were taken on the drive up.

I shot this along Hwy 141 in Lake Rosseau on the way up to Wawa. Spectacular rockface. 

When I stopped in the Soo for a day on the way up, there was continuous heavy rain and strong winds.  This is what it was like in downtown Sault Ste. Marie that day 

GALES 2018 dates have been announced! Mark your calendars.
This year, the primary instructor will be Ben Eby. If everything goes well, I plan to be there too, to help out.

We're just starting work on the event and the web links, etc. If you want to be kept up to date as it develops, CLICK HERE.

There's also a Facebook group called "Gales of November". Up to now it's been restricted to people who were participating in the workshop but we've decided to open it up to people who are interested in perhaps joining us next October. It's a place to see pictures from previous years, see discussions and comments, ask questions, and so on.
It's a closed group: only people who are members can see the content. But if you're interested, if there's a possibility you might attend, by all means, join the group. Just search for "Gales of November" on FB and you'll find us!


I'm thinking about going back to Newfoundland this summer and about guiding some photographers and artists to some outstanding spots. I'm thinking about providing accommodations and finding local experts to help out. I'm thinking that it should not cost $4000 to participate.

If this interests you at all, please send me an email or contact me privately. This is really preliminary, but I need to find out how much interest is out there.


It's time for some pictures.

After procrastinating for a long time, I finally got around to buying Helicon Focus Pro software. It's primarily intended for focus stacking when you're shooting macro. I've recently seen some awesome insect photos and needless to say, if you want to shoot snowflakes properly, you have to focus stack. 

Since I bought it, I haven't found even ONE insect to shoot. Dead or alive. It's just not the right time of year. So to test the software, I had to find a variety of other subjects to shoot. I set up my light tent and got to work.

I went outside and found some little berries. This was my very first effort.

Then there were some water drops, on a pebbled plastic surface

Here's a closeup of a dead leaf

My diamond ring... I did add a little post-processing to this one in Topaz.

Here's another leaf, with a drop of water on it. Learning, learning!

So I need to find some insects to shoot. And snowflakes! The challenge is that I have to be tethered to my laptop, so I have to figure out the logistics of doing that out in the cold. Watch this space!

— 30 —

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Tales from Gales

Again, the last blog was some time ago. Life has a way of getting in the way sometimes! As a retired old guy, I can't claim I've been too busy, but as age slows you down, somehow you achieve less and less every day! So what's new and exciting?

As I said last time, Subaru is being really accommodating! My new engine is going in in a few weeks, the appointment is scheduled for the first week of December. When that's done, I think I'm going to find someone to do a detail job on the interior of the car... it's showing its 200K km age and I haven't been one to get it cleaned regularly. Almost like getting a new car!

My D800 is back in the shop. Something is wrong with how it recognizes the connection with a "D" lens (you're supposed to set it to minimum aperture when mounting. It's giving me an error and won't let me shoot with it).  Sun Camera, again: they're very good and very accommodating. I should get it back next week when I come in for Ron Goodlin's Antarctica presentation in Thornhill. If you're in the area, you should come!

Boat's safely tucked away in the garage, ATV is prepped for winter (except I haven't mounted the plow yet), sump pump line is freshly repaired, firewood is stacked and ready... bring it on. For those of you hating me right now, hey! We live in Canada. If we didn't love winter we wouldn't live here. Right? Right?

You'd think this was a picture from last year... but you'd be wrong! Keep reading. 

I have a list of subscribers to this blog. Whenever I put up a new post, I send them a heads-up email via MailChimp. In that email I always include a photo that I have not posted anywhere before. So they get to see stuff nobody else sees.
You can get on this list by clicking the "Newsletter" button over on the top right of the blog. No spam, and you can unsubscribe with one click at any time.
 Here's the picture I sent them last week:

I was sitting at the computer composing the MailChimp email on October 19 when I looked up and saw this AMAZING sunset. I grabbed the only camera within reach (my iPhone) and ran out to the dock. It took me about 3 minutes to get there and the sunset had DEGRADED to this. I shot a pano, uploaded it to LR and then opened it in Topaz Studio. I applied the "van Gogh" preset in Impression, dialed back the effect a little and this was the result.

People ask me why I live up here...

The big thing is the successful conclusion of the Gales of November 2017 workshop up in Wawa. With travel and some other appointments along the way, it was a bit more than a week's trip for me. I came back with a head cold which slowed me down a bit last week, but I'm back in the swing.

I promised the group, "there will be weather". There was. Not what we expected, mind you. No wind, no waves, but we got SNOW! Interestingly, it's as if someone drew a line about halfway between the Soo and Wawa: snow to the north, none to the south. The photo above was taken on the way home on Sunday.

I can't say enough about David and the staff at Rock Island Lodge. They made it comfortable and friendly for everyone. And Judy shared her recipe for her homemade granola which I made a few days ago with some success!

Smallish batch in a big mixing bowl. I have some idea now about how to make it, so I'll play more with the next batch. More dried fruit and seeds for one thing! Someone called me "Mr. Suzy Homemaker", but hey, I like to eat!

Since we had more people than the lodge could accommodate, many of us stayed at High Falls Cabins which was a great place to stay as well. Anna and Zen really know the area too!

What I didn't talk about yet is Ben Eby. He came up and joined me as co-instructor. As ever I'm impressed by his talents and knowledge. He brought with him a set of complementary teaching skills: while I claim to be "right-brained" I realize that I'm really not, but he is! I know he spent a lot of time biting his tongue listening to me go on and on, and then he turned it around to easy learning sessions for people. And he has the energy of a younger man...

So we agreed that next year, Gales is going the be the "Ben" show, not the "Glenn" show. Hopefully health and other things will let me come up and be his assistant in 2018.  Bookmark for a heads-up on next year's encore!

I didn't shoot a lot of pictures, my role was to facilitate the workshop not take pictures for myself. Here are a few... admittedly there are more I haven't gone through yet, watch for them here or on my Facebook page (you're my friend, right? is where you'll find me. Oh, and a special offer for those interested in Gales if you're a subscriber to this blog.

Without further ado, some pictures, but these are just the ones before the weekend workshop! We traveled up a day early to do some scouting and for a chance to enjoy the splendour of Lake Superior's North Shore.

Ben and Dave and Amin and I were convoying up on Wednesday and we all had to stop for this shot. Do you wonder why I like to spend the better part of a day getting from the Soo to Wawa? 

another stop at a little beach just North of Agawa. I like to add a sketch texture to these rock pictures but this is really how they looked to my mental eye. 

Pretty well the only waves we saw the whole weekend. Also at that little rocky beach

Same spot. Ben, Amin and Dave, from near to far. 

If you stop at Katherine Cove and take the little trail through the woods to the next cove south, you might see this...

We stopped at a few other places, like the Sand River and Chippewa Falls, but I don't want to take the fun out of finding these views yourself and discouraging people from coming up to the Algoma District.

During the weekend itself we modified the schedule to try to take advantage of the weather and lighting conditions. For instance, we headed over to the badlands a day early because of the heavy snowfall, figuring it would lead to some interesting textures and landscapes.

A winter wonderland? I think if I posted this a few weeks from now (or you're reading it and it's getting closer to Christmas), this picture wouldn't have the appeal it does now. Later, I expect people to think, "I hate winter"! But since this was the first snowfall of the year... this was taken on the way out of the Badlands.

Pretty well everyone took pictures of these snow-covered berries. The only spot of colour anywhere

Faced with a monochromatic landscape, what do you shoot? Karen Young contemplating that very question!

Here's what I shot. Not distant mountains, snow-covered piles of rock with trees in the background, not sky. I liked it enough to use it as the header on this blog. 

The next day we headed out to High Falls. They had turned off the water (closed the dam) but there were still some spectacular cascades down the rock face.

Later in the day we found a bald eagle but he was quite distant (I saw eagles three times during this trip. I got pictures but nothing worth sharing). Later, we went up to White Sand beach on the First Nations Reserve. 

I did a high resolution pano of this island then decided to paint it with an impressionist vision. 

The sun peeked out at sunset but I used Topaz to enhance the colours and add the star effect on the light. (PS: I had to include this photo of "The most photographed Michipicoten River Light in the world"!)

In the evening, we shot burning steel wool. This image by Amin Shivji was so different from the usual 'ring of fire' shot that I asked his permission to reproduce it here.  

Unexpectedly, the stars came out for a short visit later. I did a short seminar on how to shoot it, then a number of us went outside to try our luck. Ben Eby was particularly good at coaching people and from what I saw on the backs of cameras and on our dedicated Facebook page, many had considerable success. 

Here's my view of the lodge from the beach down below. At least two other people had similar shots (Dave and Ben) because we were all standing in the same spot! 

On the way home I stopped in the Agawa Bay area and found this image of leaves frozen in a puddle skimmed with ice. 

Gales this year was challenging. We were hoping for wind and waves and got none of that, but each and every one of our participants told us that they succeeded in finding ways to express their creativity and find quality images. A dozen people in a sharing and learning and catered environment. That's what it was all about. For some, it was their first exposure to Lake Superior's North Shore and several echoed the same sentiment: "we'll be back"!

As I said above, if you're interested in perhaps joining us, bookmark the web page or email me or Ben and we'll give you more information when the dates are firmed up for 2018.

— 30 —

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Under the weather

I hate being sick.
Then again, who doesn't?

I've had the flu, bordering on pneumonia, for the past 4 weeks or so. It went to my lungs early on, then a few days ago popped up to my sinuses and nose, now I'm finally finished coughing stuff up and it feels like I'm getting out of it. I had nightly fevers – not a huge amount, peaking at 38.5°C once (101°F) – but difficulty breathing and hugely congested. A chest Xray was not conclusive about pneumonia.  Totally out of energy, sleeping 12 hours instead of 6, no appetite.

That's unusual for me. I've always lived by "Feed a cold, Feed a fever". This time I've lost 10 lbs!

This flu is a bit of a mystery. If you know me, you know I'm a big-time hermit. I haven't been out of Minden more than twice since coming back from Newfoundland and the few people I've actually been with, haven't been sick. So where did this come from? A number of my Facebook friends and fellow photographers have had this too... what's the vector?

Oh, my God. Could it be that you CAN catch a computer virus? But I have a Mac. They're supposed to be immune. 

The bad news is that I've been so lethargic I couldn't even concentrate on my photo editing. And Topaz Labs has come out with some great new stuff I haven't been able to spend any time on.  Well, I'm back and I want to clue my readers in on what's going on.

Topaz has come out with what seems to be a new concept but they're plagued with a haphazard strategy. It's confusing (to me anyway) but I'll try to lay out the concept here.

Bottom line: it's got a very effective FREE component to it and if you have a computer that can handle it, you should take advantage of that, if nothing else. 

Here's a link to where you should go to get the free Topaz Studio platform. Or you can use the box at right. Go there, check that it'll work on your machine and download it. Don't buy anything yet, I'll explain.

Topaz Studio works as a standalone program (although you can also call it from within Lightroom or Photoshop, etc). You don't need to have those programs, or Paint or Gimp, or Aperture, or Affinity or.... it works by itself if you want it to.

Topaz Studio has a set of free tools and some premium ones. The premium ones have a bunch of presets you can use, but you can't unlock the control sliders unless you buy the "Pro" version. For many people, especially those who don't do a lot of post-processing, the free version is more than enough.

Update: Topaz has put their paid adjustments on sale until the end of October. Use this link and enter "Fall25" as the coupon code at checkout to claim your discount. 
Another update: yesterday, Adobe announced the new upgrades to LR/PS — now there's a computer-based LR (called Lightroom Classic CC) and a cloud-based version (Lightroom CC). the "Classic" works like the LR we know and love. The other one stores your images in the cloud so you can access them from other devices as well.  That doesn't work for people with slow internet connections like me.

The price is still the same, but you can buy 1Tb of cloud storage for $10/month more. You can also get a version with LR CC and 1Tb of storage but no PS for the same price.

I'm not installing it until I come back from Wawa.  Just in case...

Sometimes the Gods smile on you

I just got off the phone with Minden Subaru. I drive a 2011 Subaru Forester and it has 202,000 km on it. I got a letter from corporate Subaru a while ago saying that some vehicles with the Boxer engine exhibit excessive oil consumption. Their standard is 1 L per 10,000 km max.

In Newfoundland this summer. I used to drive as far as I could before I ran out of road in order to get the best pictures. I think this was on a hiking trail outside Brookfield, NL 

I've been complaining since day 1. When I got the letter, I went to Minden Subaru and they started an oil consumption study. Today, after 4,000 km, I had consumed almost 1.5 L.

So they called corporate: then they called me.
For Free.
New Engine = (almost) New Car.

Now THAT is a good car company. My next car will be a... Subaru.

(PS: they said they'll inspect and re-machine the cylinder heads and upgrade any necessary parts. Too bad I don't get a new air conditioning compressor out of it (not complaining, not complaining!).


Here's an interesting stat (OK, interesting is subjective...)!
 ■ I have about 80,000 clicks on my D800.
 ■ I kept 14,000 of the RAW files for possible post-processing (mind you that also included bracketed files for compositing and a few star sequences... so let's round it down to about 12,000
■ I've edited 3000 of them
■ of those 3000, I've rated 500 of them with "4 stars"
■ of those 3000, I've rated 77 images with 5 stars That's in 3½ years so that exceed's Ansel's 12/year. I need to get more selective.

PS, I just looked at those 77 images and there are about 23 duplicates or variations from the same frame (purposes) so the net is really 54 images in 3½ years.

Gales of November

It's here! I'm typing this on Thursday morning, and in a couple of days I'm on the road for Lake Superior! I still have a ton of things to do before I leave (one of which is putting the snow tires on!) but I'm really getting excited. I'm looking forward to meeting some new people and sharing some fantastic experiences. There's still one space available if you're a last-minute type person. Visit to get on board.

So being sick for almost a month has put a crimp in my photo time. I did get out a few times, including a day outing with the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club, so here are some pictures.

Out in my boat "loon hunting" on 12-Mile Lake. These guys are so much fun to shoot. BTW my boat's going to sleep for the winter after one more trip out before I leave. 

A quick trip to Algonquin Park (coughing as I drove!) for some fall scenes. Sadly, no moose spotted but the colours were starting to pop.

Topaz to the rescue. The colours are not as brilliant as previous years but still it's a grand place. 

This picture got a TON of hits on Facebook. I'm really not sure why... 

A black-and-white rendering to bring out the contrast of this stand of birch trees at Costello Lake. I added some Topaz techniques to give it a more ethereal look. 
The Club outing. Here's a selection of a few of the shots from that day. A dozen of us toured some waterfalls and moving water, and generally just hung out and had a great day!

The day started at dawn, on Horseshoe Lake 

Roots at Ritchie Falls.  

then breakfast in Kinmount. Now THAT's a phone! 

Across the river at Three Brothers Falls. I might print this one... 

At the Minden Wild Water Preserve 

Again at the Wild Water Preserve. Has anyone noticed, no waterfalls, no moving water in any of my pictures that day? Hmmm... 

Last weekend I was in Montreal and came across this scene on the way home, just west of Renfrew, Ontario. It was on-and-off pouring rain but it held off long enough to grab a shot or two. 

Trouble was, I didn't have the right lens on the camera. This was as wide a shot as I could do with the 105mm. Enhanced with Topaz Studio and Impression (free, remember! Scroll up for the link). 

In order to make this image, I shot 12 separate frames with the 105mm and stitched them together within Lightroom. The resulting file was HUGE, over 150Mp. Handled by Topaz with ease. I will print this one as a large canvas.
See you in a couple of weeks with pictures from the Rock Island Lodge in Wawa on Lake Gitchigumi (also known as "Lake Superior"!).

— 30 —

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Playing "Catch-up"!

Since getting back from Newfoundland a month ago, I've been playing "catch-up". Not so much on things, more on my 'headspace'. My month on the Rock was about photography, mostly. I didn't go anywhere without the cameras. For the record, I took 9,700 pictures and I kept almost 7,000 of them — a very high percentage for me. I also drove 10,600 km, spent about $1300 on gas alone. Add ferries, accommodations and food and it wasn't a cheap trip.

I had to do it, though. I had to get away. People ask me, "Why? You're retired, you live on a lake in God's Country, you have a nice house, a bunch of toys (ATV, boat...). What are you getting away FROM?".

I know a lot of people who are of retirement age or getting there. You have to understand, I need a purpose in my life. People envy me, that I can choose to go up to Algonquin Park on the spur of the moment, because I heard that there might be aurora borealis tonight, or friends have spotted bears gorging on blueberries at Mew Lake airfield. That I can stay up until 4 am or sleep in until noon (no I can't, but that's another story!).

I remember my dad used to say the same thing before he died. He and mom lived in a senior's home and he used to spend his time working on his financial "bible" because he had nothing else to do. I used to think that would never happen to me, I have too many hobbies and interests, but you know what? It did.

I took up painting. That's frustrating when you don't have built-in talent. I gave up trying to play music, except sporadically when the mood hits, because although I appreciate hearing great music, I really suck at playing. I took a week-long creative writing course at Fleming College in order to re-awaken the desire to write fiction: I've always wanted to and have started dozens of books and stories over the years, and never finished one! More on that later. I have my cameras and computers, they take a lot of my time and are vehicles for expressing myself.

Family and friends? I'm really bad at keeping up relationships. It's easy to say that's something to work on and get better at, a lot harder to do. The bulk of my guilty conscience is related to this but it's hard for me.

As I write this, I'm on the eve of my 71st birthday. I've been living with cancer for 14 years. Who knows how much longer? I have an overwhelming desire to make a mark but I haven't figured out how. Writing this down and especially sharing it, is cathartic, and maybe, just maybe it will spur me into action.

I was doing a DSLR course this week and we were at the Minden Wild Water Preserve yesterday. This guy landed 10' behind us and wouldn't leave, even though I had only arranged for him to be there for a short visit (when I do a camera workshop, you get more than you expected! LOL ). We got tired of shooting him after close to an hour! We left before he did.

This is straight out of camera with a minor crop for composition. Spot metering and exposure compensation, class!  Great Blue Heron, if you didn't know.

Did you know that TopazLab's "Studio" is free? 
Do you know what it is?

Topaz Studio is a Photographer's editing toolbox. It works independently of other platforms — you don't need to have Photoshop or Lightroom or... (although it does operate as a plugin within those programs if you want it to).

Studio contains a whole lot of adjustment tools that you can use for free. But Topaz also offers extra full-detailed control of some of those adjustment tools if you want, at nominal cost. You can get some or all of them but you don't need to.

Studio also supports the Topaz plug-ins and they're gradually being ported over to the Studio platform. Topaz Clarity was offered on sale last week and this week, it's my FAVOURITE plugin, Topaz Impression. So you can call up Impression from inside Studio and it will knock your socks off. The Puffin sketch was done in Impression.

Click the image to go to full-screen. Look at the eye. I painted the keylights on the eye using techniques that Hilarie McNeil-Smith taught me many years ago. They were also sketched over but I decided I wanted to see the eye in all its glory so I masked the sketch out (also a little of the blue and yellow areas). All in Impression, called from within Topaz Studio.

If you already own Topaz plug-ins, they'll appear in Studio. Or you can purchase them individually and as I said, Impression is on sale at 40% off through September 29th.

Here are some links for you.
For all the details, answers to pretty well any questions you have, and to download the FREE Topaz Studio platform, go here:
For the Topaz Impression plugin (which will also work with your existing platform) at 40% discount, go here:

From the "Sporadic Musings" file. A Rant...

This was prompted by the backlash from a story about how an order issued by a McDonald's manager in Yellowknife forbidding the employees to speak their native language while on the job was rescinded by the franchise owner.

Imagine you lived in a place where you were not allowed to speak English.

I grew up in Montreal. I left there in 1983 (would have been earlier if I could have) because the Quebec government legislated that it was illegal for me to speak my native language — English — in the workplace and indeed that it was only because they were doing a special favour for those who were educated as Anglophones in Quebec, that they allowed my children to be educated in English.

So you can see that I have a strong aversion to any government (or other group) interfering in how I live my private life. I should be able to speak whatever language I wish, I should be able to practice whatever religion I prefer and I should be able to express my sexual orientation any way I want to. It's nobody's business as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else..

A similar policy was put in place at the Senior's home where my mother lived before she died: workers had to speak only English on the job. There was no practical possibility of moving her elsewhere but I would have had one presented itself.

We live in a country that runs under free enterprise. Sure, we lean a lot more left than we did when I was growing up, and we have a lot more socialist services than we had in the past (Medicare and Education come to mind first) but I'll tell you this: consumers in our system are free to choose where they do business. If you don't like the fact that people speak other languages or have other cultural, religious or gender orientations in the restaurant or shop or home where you live, then you are totally free to eat or shop or live elsewhere. Or start your own enterprise. If you own a business and customers start staying away in droves, you may want to rethink your policies, but it's your business, it's your call.

And by the way, you should think about that next time you go out for dinner and eat "har gow" or "maki" or "calamari" or "pad Thai" or "souvlaki" or "schnitzel" or "hummus" or "boeuf Bourgignon"... these are all non-English dishes with non-English names. Think about it.

I'm proud of the fact that I live in a country that celebrates diversity and makes it work in a non-confrontational environment. What's happening on the other side of the border, where the racist right is persecuting everyone who is not a white, straight, Anglo-Saxon male, echoing Germany in the 1930's is downright scary. We should build a wall...


600A Peak 15000mAh Portable Car Jump Starter

I put a business card in the picture to give you a sense of scale. The unit is 6" x 3" x 1", and weighs about a pound. The battery inside is Li-Ion.

I bought one of these things for $65CDN on Amazon. I have both a boat and an ATV with potential battery issues and although I didn't really believe that something this small (and inexpensive) would do the job, I figured I could always return it if it didn't live up to expectations.
I went down to the boat yesterday after several days absence and some on-and-off rain through the week. My bilge pump runs automatically if water gets in the bilge (my boat doesn't have a cover) and it can drain the battery. That's what I discovered. Trying to start the engine resulted in a resounding "click" and silence.
Long story short, I hooked this thing up to the battery and the engine started right away, as if I had a full charge in the 50lb marine battery. And the old 85hp 2-stroke Evinrude doesn't fire on the first crank, it takes several seconds of cranking with full choke, then close the choke and crank again to start it.
I was shocked it worked so well. The charge on the unit dropped to about 3/4, so it still had lots more juice. I plugged it into the USB in the car and it was charged up full in half an hour.
It looks like this particular one is out of stock at Amazon but there are lots more like it listed. I looked for high cranking amps and reasonably large storage, so 600 amps/15000mAh was what I chose.
Worked for me. It goes wherever I go (car, boat, ATV) from now on. PS, it can also power my iPhone forever, when I use it to drive my timelapse photos for hours.

Picture Time!

I put this picture up online as kind of an experiment:

I shot this in Trinity one foggy morning. Then in post-processing, I enhanced all the colourful buildings — colour saturation, clarity, sharpness... to my eye, there's something wrong here. The buildings don't blend properly with their surroundings. I put it up anyway.

 Here's my premise: most people don't care about the technical details. They like a picture or they don't. It's only other photographers (or retouchers) who care. And I was right. I got tons of "Likes" and "Hearts" and positive comments both in the Newfoundland FB group and on my own general timeline and nobody commented on the processing.

I took my boat out and went Loon hunting on 12-Mile Lake. Found one!

I went up to Algonquin Park, didn't see any moose and only one bear (no photo). But I did take the macro lens out, and I discovered that I could mount it on my teleconverter for a net 210mm. Less bending down!

Dewdrops on a spider web, Mew Lake Airfield, Algonquin Park

Hoverfly on a wildflower 

Wild blueberries at the Airfield 

I went back up to the Park a few nights later because I was hoping for Aurora. Nope, but I did take these...

At the Lake of Two Rivers beach. A little light painting with a flashlight, a little Topaz Simplify... 

...and this is at Opeongo. There's a hint of Northern Lights on the horizon, but nothing to speak of. This is a 162-image StarStax composite. 

As I mentioned at the top of the blog, I did a DSLR course last week and I invited a Great Blue Heron to join us at the white water. I'll close with a few more shots from the workshop.

Illustrating lighting, focusing, point-of-view and composition (centre is OK when you've got symmetry).  

North-facing window lighting, focus, spot metering 

And this is our group, at the white water, with our invited guest! The lighting was challenging, Lightroom to the rescue! 

Parting Shot:

Topaz Clarity, called under Topaz Studio. Minor crop in Lightroom. 

OK. I'm caught up. Back soon!

PS: Gales of November is full! Yahoo!

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