THINGS

SLOW MOTION PERSPECTIVE

I've been thinking about time this week.  Partly because I was working on a photo challenge with that theme, but also because I found the slow motion video feature on my phone and have been trying it out.    

It's amazing how your perspective changes when you slow things down. You suddenly see stuff you never noticed before. Like snow. Falling up. 

The music that plays here is a track called Rolling Stone by Passenger (Available on iTunes and Soundcloud).  It's on one of my favourite playlists right now and when I watched the way the snow was falling in slow motion, the music and words of the first few lines just seemed to fit perfectly.

Sometimes I feel I’m going nowhere
Sometimes I’m sure I never will
She said it’s ‘cos I’m always moving
I never notice ‘cos I never stand still

Sometimes I feel like I’m falling
Falling fast and falling free
She said my darling you’re not falling
Always looked like you were flying to me

I look forward to exploring more of nature's beauty from this new perspective.  How about you?  What could you see differently if you slowed down?

I wish you a beautiful weekend with extra time my friends.

 

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PHOTO TIP - FUZZY DETAILS - using shallow depth of field to make subjects pop

A bit of spring for you today.

I pulled this image out of my archives.  It was taken two years ago in March. Spring was in full swing this time two years ago.  Not so this year.  Although my allergies seem to be saying otherwise.

I remember we ran some errands that Saturday morning and I thought I saw a large bunch of willows go by in a blur as we drove across a bridge over a ravine.  Later that afternoon I decided to take a walk with the camera in tow and check it out.

Turned out it was a group of pussy willows, and since the sun had finally come out, the colour on them was lovely and golden.

For this image I wanted to really emphasize the fuzzy nature of the pussywilow. And though the big bunch made an impressive sight, the wide shots I took were busy and the buds were so little that the fuzzy detail was getting lost.  So I isolated one of the nicest branches, opened my shutter up (small f-stop number) and used that shallow depth of field to get the one branch to pop against the blurred background. 

I was using an old lens that came with my first Nikon film camera - a Nikkor AF 35-70mm 1:3.3-4.5.  It was not the lens of my dreams, but it seemed to do a fair enough job.  Though there was always something odd about the way it blurred backgrounds.  They were never as “creamy” or “fuzzy” as I wanted. But that was easily remedied in post - I just added a blur filter to the background of the images to get them the way I like.

If you are waiting on spring like I am, I hope you see some signs of it this weekend.  And if you do spot some consider capturing it up close in way that highlights all the fuzzy detail.  Have a good one my friends.

Feeling out of your depth with depth of field?  Here are a few links to articles I found that you might find helpful.

http://jaypatelphotography.com/tutorials/aperture-and-depth-of-field-a-simple-comparison

http://www.lightstalking.com/dof/DOF.pdf

 

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SIMPLE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPY - get it straight

A STRAIGHT HORIZON LINE CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE

This is an issue I had with some of my work.  I look back now at my early photos and see many images with great potential that leave me feeling a bit off kilter.  UGH!  If you want an easy way to improve your landscape photography, straighten things out and ensure that people are focused on the beauty of your image and not on a crooked horizon line.

There are two ways to do this; either avoid the problem by getting it right in camera or fix it later in post processing.

GET IT RIGHT IN CAMERA
Some would argue that it’s easiest to start by getting it right in camera.  Many of today’s cameras have a menu function that overlays a “level” right in your viewfinder.  On my Nikon, I will often set up the shot and then before I start snapping I quickly flip to “live view” which places a funky flight simulator type level meter on top of my rear view screen and lights up green when I have got things level.  Check out your camera’s capabilities in the manual or do a quick google search online… I would bet many have this feature buried someplace in the menus.  

If for some reason your camera doesn’t have this feature, you could pick up one of those nifty little green cubes (link) which fit into the hot shoe on the top of your camera.  They work just like a traditional level - line the little bubble up between the lines and you are good to go.  These little gadgets are generally not expensive and they look intriguing which has the added benefit of being a great conversation starter.

If neither of these suggestions will work for you then I recommend that you just be aware of the issue as you prepare to take the shot. Take a few extra seconds to scan for the horizon line in your viewfinder and see if it looks straight.  If you are shooting on a tripod (which I recommend for landscapes) then sometimes a small tweak will do it.  If you are hand holding the camera sometimes it’s just a matter of adjusting your stance and shifting your weight more evenly.

USE POST PROCESSING
But maybe you don’t have either of these tools and/or time and are stuck with a great shot that lists to one side.  No problem.  Most importing and processing software gives you the ability to straighten things out - either by your own hand within the cropping or rotating tool or automatically, so be sure to take advantage of it.  In my own workflow, straightening the horizon line is one of the first items on my initial processing checklist which I do in Lightroom.  Yes - it's still an issue for me a fair bit.

ADD STRAIGHTENING TO YOUR WORK FLOW
Of course there are lots of times when a skewed horizon line is chosen on purpose for artistic effect and that’s great.  But if that’s not your intention, then give this simple tip a try.  Add straightening the horizon line to your photography workflow. I guarantee that ensuring your images have a straight horizon line will help you keep your audience focused on the beauty you were trying to show instead of wondering why they feel slightly seasick.

Hope this helps.  Keep it on the straight and have fun out there friends!

 

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DO YOU EVER CRAVE SOLITUDE?

Do you ever feel like sometimes you just need a bit of alone time?  Maybe a few moments to unplug.  This little fellow and I seemed to be on the same wave length (yes - I know - pun intended).  On the beach one evening, we were both enjoying the company of our own shadows when we crossed paths.  We stopped, I took his photo and then we each moved on.

If a bit of solitude is what you seek this weekend, then I hope you find it or it finds you.

TECHIE DETAILS:

I was travelling light that evening, carrying my Sony A7r paired with the nearly as heavy Nikon 85mm 1.4 lens (which is still a lighter combo than my Nikon body with any lens).  I was having a tough time learning to love the 85mm lens at first, (earlier post on this here) but lately it has been my go-to.  On the Sony I have to dial the aperture manually on the adaptor and as you can probably tell from the shallow depth of field in this case it was wide open (or small f-stop).  Nailing the focus (also manual) I still find quite tricky - even with the focus peaking on.  The number of keepers is still pretty low but every now and then I get one good enough to get me trying for more.

As for processing - I started out with some minor adjustments in Lightroom - lowered the highlights, upped the shadows, lowered the clarity to get a softer look.  Then moved it into Photoshop and used Noiseware and Color Efex Pro.  Also ran a blur filter on the ocean and sky to further soften them so they would be less distracting. Finally sharpened up the bird a bit.

 

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WINTER'S ICY GRIP - a forced time of reflection

Nature has thrown some fierce winter weather at us here in Southern Ontario.  Freezing rain storms, snow squalls, sub zero temperatures - all this and the season is less than a month old!

With the weather conspiring to keep me inside the result has been a forced pause in "doing" and a distinct increase in "thinking."  I don't usually do my dreaming/ scheming/ planning at this time of year. Normally I'm like a kid in school and break out the goal setting in September.  

But who am I to argue with Mother Nature?  She has her icy grip on me and I am frozen - stilled.

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PLAN A SPARKLING NEW YEAR

We are still only a few days into it. I hope that before life in 2014 starts to gather momentum, you have a chance to take a deep renewing breath.  That you get some space to consider, dream and plan something wonderful for the upcoming year. 

Here's to making 2014 spectacular.

PHOTO DETAILS:

Like many areas of North America, the part of Ontario I live in has seen some pretty intense winter weather lately.  The photo above was taken in December 2013, two days after a terrible ice storm covered the land in up to as much as 15 mm of ice.  The tree damage has been significant.  Downed power lines knocked power out for 15 hours for us and unfortunately much longer for many others.  But always there is a bright side. When the storm had passed, the setting sun lit up the trees in my backyard as if they were decorated with sparkle lights.  The beauty was awe-inspiring - I fear my image only hints at it.  

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DECEMBER - A MONTH OF SHADOWS AND MAGIC


There is something magical about December.  Perhaps it's because here in the northern hemisphere the days are getting shorter.  Or rather more to the point, night comes earlier and lasts longer.  

Candles, twinkle lights, fire light  - they all owe their enchantment to the dark.  Without shadow the light would would be undefined.  It's the contrast that makes things interesting.

The Christmas Market in Toronto's Distillery District is charming.  We arrived around 4pm and wandered around enjoying all the displays and poking in the stores.  But as night fell and the shadows grew, the lane ways lined with glowing gas lamps and twinkling lights morphed into a more captivating world.  Even the horses on the brightly lit carousel seemed to come to life.

As  photographer, I find I'm always paying attention to the light... but my newest discovery is that there is magic in the shadows.

Of course I'm not the first to consider this.  I recall Trey Ratcliff talking about this with regards to processing HDR photos.  A side effect of producing photos with a high dynamic range of light is that often the shadows can be completely eliminated.  This is what allows one to see greater detail in an image.  Trey cleverly recommends making adjustments to bring some of that shadow back into your image.  And I agree it makes a big difference... you need a bit of shadow to define the light and to bring the magic.  (By the way if you haven't already - check out Trey's latest magical endeavour www.thearcanum.com)

So embrace the shadows of December my friends and have a magical weekend.  


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ONE IN ONE HUNDRED - the photographers learning curve

I took some advice and purchased a new 85 mm lens a few months ago.  I am a landscape photographer for the most part, but occasionally I find myself dabbling in portrait work. I had high hopes of making dreamy images with this new lens. The man at the camera store assured me as I paid for the lens that I would not regret the purchase. But I have to admit - I am suffering some buyers remorse - just a little bit.

Perhaps because despite practicing with it, I just can't seem to make those beautiful images I see in my mind. I'm back to getting one keeper out of 200-300 shots taken. Ugh. It's so disheartening and now I'm in this terrible self fulfilling cycle - I don't get good shots with the darn lens, so I don't use it, so I don't get better - you know how it goes.

The easy solution would be to just sell it and use the money to buy number two on the lens list but I don't give up easily.  So the other day I decided I would try a new approach with this elusively fabulous lens and use it only when the pressure is off - when I can just play.  And bam. I got one. One. Out of one hundred. Just enough of an improvement to convince me I can't give up yet.

Have you got a stick with it story? I'd love to hear it!  I could use some inspiration.  Or maybe you've already been down this path with an 85mm and you could share the secrets to unlocking its potential. 

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not forgotten


It’s been a long time since I’ve been here.  My sincerest apologies. Life throws curve balls, and while you are sorting out the fall out, time marches on.  Quickly it seems.

My mother unfortunately suffered a stroke in April and while she is doing well now, things have been anything but normal. Ironically the first thing I gave up when the time crunch hit was my photography.  It brings me such joy, yet I dropped it like a stone.  A curious thing.  One I am still pondering.

In the mean time, my first post “back at it” is of a long time beloved subject - flowers.

The photo above was taken this week on a hike at Kelso Conservation Area.  We have had some lovely cool weather (much cooler than normal for this time of year) which not only made the trek up the escarpment quite comfortable but has also meant a later spring and delayed bloom times.  This bank of poppies growing near the old Alexander farmstead at the foot of the hills were nearly finished but still lovely enough for a photo. I just adore the vibrant colour and tissue paper texture of the petals.  And the purple black colour of the stamen... the perfect accent.

Of course poppies always make me think of  Remembrance Day, and ironically today is the 69th anniversary of D-Day.  The turning point of World War II.  How fitting then that the photo I chose to process and post today would be of a poppy - the symbol of remembrance.

So time may pass, and change may cause a distraction, all is not forgotten.  I’m thrilled to be back. Hope you’ll join me again soon for more posts.

 

IMAGE DETAILS:
Poppies
Halton Regional Museum, Kelso Conservation Area
Ontario, Canada
June 2013

GEEK DETAILS:
Nikon D700, 28-300 mm, f/3.5-5.6Single raw, hand held,  processed in Lightroom then over to Photoshop for polishing with Color Efex Pro & Noiseware.


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