Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It's Photoshop season!

With the frightful weather out there, some days are best spent indoors, allowing your creative spirit to soar in front of your computer or with an indoor camera setup. A beverage of your choice, music playing in the background, and now that it's legal, some mind-altering chemistry, these things enhance your creativity. It's what I call "Photoshop Season".
Caution, though. Always wait until the light of day before sharing your images. Sometimes they don't look the same when viewed through less 'altered' eyes!

A "sporadic musing moment".

I just figured out basketball.

Up 'till now, basketball has been a bunch of really tall skinny guys running around randomly and exhibiting fabulous gymnastic ability with a goal to put that ball in the hoop. The commentators always talk about 'plays' and 'screen and roll'  and 'dribble drive' but it took a long time for me to figure out that it really isn't random.

The plays are all designed to get the ball in the hands of a shooter who is not defended properly by drawing the defence away somewhere else. Thing is, it all happens in the blink of an eye.

I've been a Raptors fan since the team's inception.  I don't like baseball because I tend to fall asleep easily and it's boring. I love watching football because I played many centuries ago and I understand the game. I don't watch CFL football because that's like listening to your little sister practice the viola (sorry, Barbi) when you could be listening to Tommy Emmanuel or Eric Clapton or Oscar Peterson or...

For me, basketball is different. For one thing, I have never had a dream in the middle of the night where I was beating Magic Johnson to a spot or shooting over LeBron James. I'm short. I'm fat. I can't jump high enough to get my toes off the ground. And it's been over 60 years since I tried shooting a basketball at a hoop. Does anyone still shoot free throws underhand from between their legs?

Football (sorry, my non-North-American readers, our kind of football, not yours!) is like a chess match. You plan in advance what you're going to do and then you execute to the best of your ability. The defence tries to anticipate your move and move forces in place to prevent it, being careful not to leave any other options wide open for the offense. When I watch football, I do so vicariously. I could be that offensive or defensive lineman, or nose tackle. I love to watch the offensive guards, especially when they 'pull' (run ahead of the ball carrier).

Basketball is the same, except it's like speed chess, everything happens on the fly. On offence, you try to find a path for the ball to get to the basket which is not covered by the defence. If you drive into the paint, the defenders are forced to bring their manpower in to prevent it, but that leaves the guy in the corner with a wide open 3-point shot. If they try to cover the 3-pointers, that leaves the middle open. If you have players capable of hitting shots efficiently from the mid-range, the defence is screwed, they can't cover everything.

The players are incredibly skilled. Their reaction times are unearthly fast. Their body control and especially their hands are unbelievable.

The Raptors are a good team. Maybe even the best on the planet this year, we'll see. At this writing, they are 20 and 4 and if they stay healthy, it's hard to see how anyone can beat them. The skill levels of the individual players is outstanding: Lowry's vision and long range accuracy, Leonard's offensive skills, Siakam's dexterity and sheer speed, Ibaka and Valanciunas's power and presence... I especially like watching Steady Freddy VanVleet as he explodes from zero to 100 in a microsecond.

But it's not just about these individual skills. It's about forcing your opponent to deploy their forces to react to a perceived threat and then executing something completely different. It's about playmaking and the coaching staff are the ones making these moves. Yes, the players are exciting to watch but they're merely the chess pieces on the board, not the GrandMaster making the moves.

What's this got to do with photography? Nothing.

Time to start thinking about next summer?

Newfoundland again? Maybe...

But an idea has arisen. What about a bunch of us getting together and flying up to Whitehorse or Yellowknife or both for a couple of weeks? We could rent a couple of motorhomes... or we could engage a local guide...
Who's interested? eMail me.

Another 'sporadic moment'

Does anyone else get muscle cramps in their inner thigh? The muscle in question is called the "sartorius muscle" and it runs from the knee all the way up to the hip joint. Cramps in this muscle are excruciating. I've been tempted to call 9-1-1 when I get one and it's interesting that when I Googled it, other people have said exactly the same thing. One person said he'd broken bones and had less pain. A woman said natural childbirth hurt less.

My doctor had no suggestions. Other than lose weight...

I know that too much exercise causes me to get this cramp. Those who know me know that "too much exercise" might be getting off the couch too many times on the way to the refrigerator and back. Seriously, for instance if I mow the entire half acre lawn in one shot, I know I'll be hurting that night. Or a long (for me) hike.

So my questions are, (1) how do you prevent this cramp?  I've read all kinds of things about hydration, potassium, magnesium... they don't work. Anything else? And (2) when you get one, what works best to make it go away? I stand up, find something around stomach height (back of a chair, a dresser...) to take some of the weight off it, and remain motionless until it abates. Sometimes I try to find and massage a trigger point but nothing really works.

Anyone else suffer with these? Please let me know.

BTW I just did something to my shoulder. I can't remember any particular incident. I carried a load of firewood in yesterday but that was with the other arm... hurts like hell to raise my arm but if I force it, I can get a full range of motion and the pain eases for a minute or two. Frustrating: do you know how much stuff you do with your dominant hand?

Altered Reality

Here's an image I've been working on sporadically (I like that word!) for some time. The original image was from a "zombie walk" a few years ago in Haliburton. Then there was a "chamber of horrors" thing set up for Hallowe'en at Pinestone, a year later if I recall. That was a challenge because there was virtually no light in there so handheld long exposure! I merged the two pictures and did a lot of work on toning and colour, etc. Then I added some texture effects and a final cut/edit to use it for a challenge on the Photoshop and Photography Facebook group.

Last week I remembered that there was a flame function in Photoshop and since I wanted to play with it, I brought the image up again. The Guardian at the Gates of Hell can project flame from his eyes and he set the hair of the female zombie on fire. Without further ado...

I need to come up with a few more creative composite shots for upcoming competitions, so watch this space!

Here''s an image I spent some time on yesterday. As I said, it's "Photoshop" season, a good time to go through images I marked for editing from last summer.

Looking Northwest at the Twillingate harbour

I did some subtle editing here. When I first looked at it, I opened up the shadows on the boat/land to the right to see what was there: lots of detail. Shooting in RAW lets you do that. The sky was nice. I had 4 images and tried to combine them but it didn't help so I simply used Lightroom and later, ACR, to give the sky more presence.

Although it was a 1/4 second exposure, the water had too much texture for me. So I selected it and applied a motion blur to smooth it. There was a bright spot in the sky at upper left and I decided to try to enhance that by using Topaz Studio Texture Effects (I remembered one with some sun rays) and I like how that turned out. Finally I dodged and burned the right side to make it look like the boat and land were subtly lit by the sun peeking through the clouds.

This image 'tastes' like it did when I shot it. I think it will make an excellent print.

I've been in Algonquin Park twice in the last 4 days. Friday was cold: -22°C, Monday not so much, only around -7°C. I got a bunch of pictures I liked on Friday and I decided to put together a little Lightroom slideshow instead of trying to post them individually. I uploaded it to YouTube and you can see it here. It was disappointing to me, though, because I lost a lot of quality — nothing's really sharp. I had to reduce the size of the video file because of my lousy upload speed. Here are a couple of individual shots:

Seen on the way home later in the afternoon. And yes, too close (although it was with a 400mm lens). She walked towards me, I backed up , just a snowbank between us. She wasn't really being aggressive, I had the feeling she didn't care that I was there, this was just the way she wanted to go.

At Mew Lake, where the Pine Martens live, there's a flock of wild turkeys. They're totally habituated to man, who's ever heard of wild turkeys that root around at people's feet? Ditto Pine Martens that hang out under your car.

I'm starting to be a little disgusted by the photographers who spread peanut butter or cat food on the branches at Mew Lake for the martens (you know who you are and where I'm talking about). There are half a dozen living there and if you don't see one or more, just wait a few minutes. And if you don't see one today, well that's an excuse to come back to the Park another time.

When we were there yesterday it was hard to get a picture when the animal wasn't licking a tree. Yes, they run around fast and are hard to photograph but how can you be proud of a picture of an animal that was baited? Might as well go to the zoo.

Don't get me started on baiting snowy owls with store-bought mice.


Here's one that does NOT live in a garbage can. Yes, he's running across a road but he lives in the bush and lives on what he hunts, not on man's scraps. This was up on Opeongo Road on Monday.

Parting Shots

Here are a couple of images from Monday's visit to the Park. 


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Saturday, December 01, 2018

Getting Old Sucks

I wrote this section two weeks ago. I'm leaving it here because, well, it's true. But if you scroll down a bit, you'll see a little different perspective.

Getting Old Sucks, a rant.

I know, I know. Everyone's first reaction is, "the alternative sucks worse". I get that.

But it's true. You work all your life, then you retire and you want to do all those things you've been putting off. But... why do you think the word "retired" has the word "tired" in it. My get-up-and-go has got up and went.

Yesterday I fixed a loose towel hook on the back of the bathroom door. That was yesterday.

Today I did more. I brought in some firewood. I started a fire. I watched the mechanic fix the snowblower (I couldn't do it. That wasn't an 'age' thing, it was an 'I'm a numbnutz mechanic' thing). But then he started it by pulling the 'thingie' once. Later I tried and I had to plug in the electric start to get it going because I don't have the strength to pull the cord hard and fast enough.

I know I'm bitching. But back when, I used to work out and was proud that I built a body with a 56" chest and a 36" waist and I bench pressed 315 lbs and funny enough, I only weighed about 20 lbs less than I do now. I'm not going to say the numbers now, because it's embarrassing  but when I bought bird seed today (oh, yeah: I did that too. And filled the feeders!) I had to have them sell me half a bag because I couldn't lift the 50 lb bag. A couple of weeks ago, I couldn't pick up a bundle of shingles.

Part of it's due to arthritis. My hands cramp up. So do my legs, my abs, my side, my right shoulder... my knees are sore. So are my hips. They wake me up at night. 4 am, I get up, wander around the house for an hour then maybe get back to sleep.

My father used to say, "Everything hurts. Except the stuff that doesn't work anymore".

"Do you want some cheese with that whine"?

I heard about a couple more people who have dementia. Maybe they're lucky, they don't know what's happening.

I haven't shot a picture in 2 weeks, or even edited one. That stops now. Back to work. Right after my nap. I'm not ready yet, dammit.


Now to the main subject of this blog.

Does this Grandson make me look fat?
And short. And old.
Are we so sure that Genetics is a real thing?

That's what happens when you have a 6'2" slim grandson! All of the above... 

This blog post is not about me. It's about my grandson, Ryan Davenport.
That would be 2nd Lieutenant Ryan Davenport, Royal Canadian Air Force.

I had the privilege of accompanying my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter to attend Ryan's graduation ceremony at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School located at the Saint-Jean Garrison in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. He completed the Basic Military Officer Qualification course for Regular Force Officers and he now holds the rank of 2nd Lt. in the RCAF.

Lori and Rich, Kelly and Ryan, an iPhone shot the day before graduation.  

Rich shot this picture of Ryan with me and my daughter, Lori, so 3 generations! I stripped out the background and replaced it with this one.  Oh, and a little photoshop 'liquify' on my shape, because yes, this grandson makes me look fat!

Family shot.  Lori and Ryan and Kelly and Richard

It was interesting that Ryan had bulked up, building his fitness level and endurance before the course. We were shocked to see how much muscle mass he lost over the course of these months. He puts it down to perennial sleep deprivation and the fact that almost all of the PT was cardio-based, favouring endurance over strength. He says he can't wait to get back on the ice playing hockey or in a gym pushing weights.

As I write this, he is now posted to his permanent base but he'll only be there for a month or so before he leaves for his Phase 1 flight training. All things being equal, in a few months he'll be a qualified military pilot, then moving on to additional training leading to his goal of flying jet fighters. Soon, he'll get to fly the Harvard II, an 1100 hp turboprop trainer (for those familiar with the original ones, this isn't your grandfather's Harvard! Fully aerobatic, capable of pulling 7G's and topping out at almost 600 kph... be sure to click "more photos" on the linked page). From there he moves to jets: I heard that it's possible he'll do his jet training in T-38 Talons in the US instead of the CT-155 Hawk in Canada because he might be too tall to fit in the Hawk cockpit! These are both supersonic jet trainers! By the way, I know more but won't post locations or other details here.

The graduation ceremony was held in a cavernous building with terrible lighting for photography. An hour and a half or more of marching drills and mostly standing at attention or parade rest (under arms, with the C7 rifle). My feet hurt just watching them.

Ryan was at the far right end of his platoon, likely because of his height. The group behind them were non-commissioned recruits who go through similar basic physical training. 

All three branches of service (Army, Navy, Air Force) trained together here, hence the different uniforms. They must practice that facial expression.

Personal observation: I have to admit that because Ryan is just a kid to me, at the beginning I had the feeling that this was not serious. By the end, I realized these people are not 'playing soldier'. This isn't summer camp.

Some of the instructors 

I know that the job of a grandparent is to spoil the grandkids rotten. Now I also realize that the grandkids' rĂ´le is to make their grandparents incredibly proud.

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