Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fantasy Worlds

I was looking at the bubble pictures and they looked like little worlds. Well worlds need a sun, and a moon, and stars... and sometimes the life forms on the world try to escape... a Haiku write, I will!

Strain, ungainly wings!
Space-time warped by bubble worlds
Unlikely escape 

Gales of November is back!

If you missed it last year, here's your chance! The Gales of November is a long weekend at a five-Star lodge at Wawa on the North shore of Lake Superior. A maximum of 12 photographers will enjoy the landscapes, seascapes, rocky shores and wild weather of the Gales of November on Lake Gitchigumi (the native name for Lake Superior) along with great accommodations, home-cooked foods and take their photography up a level due to interaction with the others and some gentle guidance and workshops from me.

The Rock Island Lodge. A 360° pano from the lake side. 

You don't need to be a pro, you don't have to have thousands of dollars of gear, but it's a good idea to be intimately familiar with whatever camera you bring. Let's talk!

Did you know the Munich Oktoberfest is held in September? That's because they can't wait! So we can't wait: the Gales of November workshop will be held October 26th through October 29th!

The 2016 crew! Picture courtesy of Jim Camelford. 

Lake Superior's unique weathered rocks
Visit the website at But also be sure to tell me if you're interested so I can get you on the list for updates and new information about the workshop. Don't worry: no spam will come your way.

Book now! Don't miss out again!


I was thinking about hardware and people's obsession about brands and ever-increasing technology. 

I was sitting here editing my Algonquin pictures from yesterday and at the risk of making a heretical statement, I was basically shooting on full Automatic.

Now before you jump on that, I'm not talking about the camera settings! "I" was on full auto, not the camera! My message is that you have to know your equipment well enough so that you hardly have to give it a thought. Here's what I mean. Consider the "Icing Sugar" image below. 

I knew that the detail and texture of the frosted trees were the subject of the image. To capture them, I needed high resolution. My D800 is a high res camera (but I REALLY want a medium format Hasselblad or Phase One!) but to get higher res, I wanted to stitch multiple images together. So I left the Tamron lens on. 

I know that with this lens, I need a high shutter speed for sharp images. Even though I was only shooting at 150mm, I left the camera at 1/800 second. I knew that if the lens was wide open, it wouldn't be as sharp as stopped down a little, that's why I went to f/7.1. I know that the camera performs very well at high ISO and I wasn't concerned about noise in this image. 

So I was able to make these images without giving it much conscious thought.

Every image, whether it's a landscape or a portrait or a tabletop macro, needs to be composed properly. I knew that I could crop (since I was going to end up with an ridiculously high res image) so I wasn't as concerned about the edges as I was about making sure that tree just left of centre – which was my main subject – needed to be all there and in the right place. I knew that the colour accents of the orange oak leaves were needed to grab the viewer.  I knew that the horizon had to be level but not in the middle. 

THAT's what I needed to concentrate on, not the mechanics. So in a way it didn't matter what camera I had in my hand, as long as I knew it intimately. That's my message: you can't let your right brain loose unless you put your left brain on fully automatic. 

Here's the image:
From a visit to Algonquin Park on a dreary day in January. Algonquin is beautiful in ANY kind of weather.

I spent a lot of time post-processing this image. The final image is somewhat close to what I previsualized. The basics:

■ this is nine images stitched together. The image size is close to 130 megapixels and the TIFF file is over 2Gb in size before compression. Stitching was done using Microsoft Research's "ICE".
■ The images were shot with a Nikon D800 and a Tamron 150-600mm lens (at 150mm). I deliberately did not mount my wide angle to shoot this because I was planning to stitch multiple images together to get the detail level. Exif: 1/800 sec at f/7.1, ISO 2500.
■ The pictures were taken early afternoon on a dreary day in Algonquin Park, somewhere near the west end of Highway 60.
■ I had to remove some ugly hydro wires and a pole. I did most of the heavy lifting with careful use of Photoshop's spot healing brush 
■ I experimented with a number of plugins and effects. In the end I discarded most of them but Topaz Clarity and a hi-pass filter in PS were needed to retain the detail. But it wasn't until I applied Topaz Impression 2 with the "crayon scratch" preset as a basis that the image gelled for me.

Of course what you see here on the blog is a mere shadow of the real thing. I actually reduced the image size to 20 Mp before producing this framed version.

More Images of Algonquin Park

Yesterday, Larry Murphy and I trekked up to the Park. We didn't stray off the 'corridor' so we only saw the usual denizens, but we had a great day and got some super pictures. So many that it was hard to pare them back, so here's a selection for your enjoyment:

As we came into the park, it looked as though the trees were coated with rime ice, but on closer inspection, it was more like snow. I think the snow on the branches melted and re-froze in place. 

You know me, I can't leave well enough alone! Brightened with LAB colour then a Topaz Impression treatment to make this magical shot. My favourite of the day, I think! 

Our friendly Pine Marten at Mew Lake. I had lots of shots, this one was one of my favourites because of the eye contact! 

On to the Visitor Centre. Park staff had dragged a moose carcass (car collision kill, I think) out behind the centre and it attracted all kinds of predators from wolves to fishers and martens, foxes, ravens... It was really far away. This is a full-frame 600mm shot, not cropped.  

At the bird feeder behind the Visitor Centre. The blue jays and chickadees were there in force, as well as these Evening Grosbeaks and American Goldfinch 

American Goldfinch in non-breeding winter plumage.  

Back West we went. We drove up our usual road but it was only plowed up to a certain point. And right there, at the end, was papa fox waiting for us!

Again, I like this picture of him because of the eye contact. This fox is too accustomed to people. We went for a walk up the road and Papa walked along beside us like a dog! 

The sugar coated trees were mainly in the western part of the park. We went as far East as Opeongo Road, where it was much less obvious. I thought it might be because it was melting during the day but this shot was also on the way home mid-afternoon.  

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