Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rogers helps Canadians forget high data prices …

Canadians understand that we pay some of the highest rates in the world for internet and wireless services. It is simply a fact of life that we have to dedicate a pretty big chunk of our income to be connected to the rest of the world.

But Rogers have found a way to take our minds off of internet and wireless costs by distracting us with across the board increases in our digital television services.

P1050547-Edit_DMC-GF3_30 mm_ISO 400_1-1600 sec at f - 3.2

I for one am glad for the break … ;-)

Open Live Writer is the new Blogger gold standard editor …

It took some time to be ready for action this year, and in the meantime I had to give up on the photo a day project for several reasons:

  • I was sent to Texas for 8 days and it was both busy and exhausting …
  • Editing the blog directly on Blogger’s editors was too flawed
  • Editing the blog directly in HTML was working, but only when my brain was fresh

So that project collapsed under its own weight. Too bad …

Meanwhile, I went to blog the new Rogers increases and just for fun, I again tried Open Live Writer and OMQ it worked! It obviously upgraded itself in the background (Windows 10 seems to have brought with it much more automated updating of applications) and so I just launched it after typing “writer” in the search box and Bob’s your uncle …

So try it if you are a Blogger user … much better than trying to make Word function …

Friday, January 8, 2016

Photo A Day #8 -- Stonehenge Sunrise Inside the Circle -- 8 January 2016

Just squeaking this one in ...

I didn't think things could get crazier with this last minute trip, but I was apparently wrong. So I am again going to take the path of least resistance and reach back into time ...

This is from my third trip to London in September 2007. I was speaking at a Rational Software Developer Conference and had booked an extra day in London for a premium tour to Stonehenge, Lacock Village (think Harry Potter 1 and 2), and Bath. I had to take a taxi from the airport hotel to Victoria Station and board a seriously nice coach at OMG It's Early O'Clock.

It was something like an hour to Stonehenge and it was a foggy / cloudy day until we arrived. By the time we rolled up it was clearing and the sun was up. I got lots of great shots with the D2Hs and 18-200VR and the D70s and Sigma 10-20 ultra-wide ... one of those shots still amazes me.

On a premium tour, you can go inside the circle and touch the stones. This because you are either before or after the normal business hours. I really enjoyed the morning time, but then I got pretty lucky with the sunlight. I will reprocess this image one day, but not now as I am trying to get packed for Texas.

Other highlights of the trip include a wonderful breakfast at the pub holding the longest continuous license in all of England, the Roman Baths and thousand year old pavement that you can actually walk on, and Bath Abbey, which is a truly gorgeous sight.

You can see it all in this gallery page.

Photo A Day #7 -- Raised Tower Bridge in London -- 7 January 2016

Day 7, I'm late, I'm late. It is actually day 8 as I push the button to publish.

Things are crazy around here as I continue to prepare for Texas. I did not even get the chance to ponder what to shoot. I would have liked to shoot Jupiter, but alas it is cloudy right now.

I thought about putting nothing out there, but I will in fact include an image from the past -- something that pleases me and has some significance. I will also reprocess anything I post as that is at least some level of work. I may do this now and again over the year ... but I will try to avoid it.

In this case, I have chosen an image of the Tower Bridge being opened for a large ship to pass. This is not all that common an event since in five trips to London with a lot of time spent on the south bank, I only saw this happen once I believe.

This was shot on my first trip to London in May of 2007. It was a fantastic trip with great weather and we were walking along the bank after dinner one evening when the bridge opened. We stopped and I started shooting. This image is the first image where the bridge blocks a bit of the view of the ship going through, putting the ship squarely under the bridge. Unlike the others in the gallery, I put this one through Photoshop to extend the sky and fix the top of the left-hand tower, where the little cross had been cut off. Easy to do in modern Photoshop CC.

This was shot with my first dSLR, the Nikon D70s. This was a 6mp camera and I must say that, having not processed a 6mp image in a long time I can see why I moved up. The D70s was a wonderful camera and 6mp is enough for a decent 13x19 print, but in the end I much prefer the look of today's sensors and the ability to do a bit of cropping if necessary. But make no mistake, the images came out great for the limitations of the day. This camera remains a classic. The lens was the original Nikon 18-200VR, an excellent all-in-one zoom that was much-maligned by lens snobs. They were wrong in my opinion, as you could get great images from this lens.

I would go back to London in a heartbeat, but I am told that my next trip over has to include Paris, as I have not been there. I hope one day to photograph that city in all its glory.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Photo A Day #6 -- Beaver Close Up -- 6 January 2016

Day 6 ...

Things are getting busy around here as I prepare for a last minute business trip to Texas ... the clouds rolled in again this evening just as Jupiter was cresting the houses in the east, so plan B was a desperation shot again. I almost decided to do a series of older images just because I have quite a few that are worthy of a photo of the day, but for now I am going to try to shoot an image every day if possible.

So today's treat is one I thought about as I was shooting the zlotych note the other day. I have a wickedly shiny nickel that makes for a difficult but interesting macro shot. I did not have enough time nor the right setup to shoot this properly, which is something I plan to rectify at some point this winter, but for now I used the same daylight clamp lamp shining down onto a blue foam board, the kind you get in a multi-color pack at craft stores. They are small and can be stuck onto a surface by peeling the back.

In this case, I simply put the nickel on top of a blue one and aimed the light at it from an angle. That reflected into the lens and the shot was not bad. I did not have the space to set up the full tripod and get a perfectly focused image across the whole coin, so I went handheld and did the best I could to get the important parts in focus. The result is pretty good, but lacks contrast. I used a large roscoe diffuser panel between the light and the coin, which softened the light a bit too much, but I still think the image looks good and would be great if I shot it perfectly straight on. That's for another day ...

The parts to look at are the beaver's head, the maple leaf near his head and the "5 ce" characters. Great dimensionality ... also note how dark the blue came out. This is because the light reflected from the shiny nickel was so intense that I had to drop the overall exposure to get it to look good, and the background dropped almost out of sight. I raised shadows to get it back somewhat.

Next, I grabbed a black foam board and held it above the coin to block direct light and create a dark reflection in the shiniest parts. This looks terrific as a contrast to the beaver and lettering, but it dropped the exposure from 1/3200s to 1/125s ... almost 5 stops. The only light on the nickel came from leakage around the foam board. Black is also known to suck away light, which deepens shadows.

I did manage to get more in line with the nickel, making most of it sharp. But the head and 5 cents are less sharp than the previous one. Overall, not a great image for sharpness, but then this is a demonstration of tonality more than sharpness. Another change to note is that the coin and the background are now reflecting the same amount of light since it is all indirect. That means that the exposure of the blue is much brighter.

Have you ever argued with a Troll?

This is one of the funniest, yet incredibly perceptive, observations about the Internet in general and forums and boards in specific.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Photo A Day #5 -- Late Afternoon Sun on Snow -- 5 January 2016

Day 5 ...

I've been wanting to capture the snow in my yard in sunlight and today was a glorious day for that. So during lunch, I took 5m and stepped outside with the Panasonic GM1 and the Samyang 7.5mm 180 degree (corner to corner) fisheye.

The first thing I noticed was the presence of small animal tracks near the steps down to the patio.

Not too many barbecues in the near future ...

The table I built a few years ago shows off its structure ... I am very impressed by the quality of the blue in the sky. Gorgeous.
The animal tracks are set off against the low winter sun ...
Love the flare from the ultra wide lens ...
And finally a view of my front yard in the beautiful sunlight ... the first shot is white balanced for the sunlit snow as were the shots at the back of the house, and the second is white balanced against the blue snow in shadows. I'm sure that everyone knows this, but just in case -- the deep blue of the snow in shadow is caused by the fact that it is lit only by the blue open sky and not direct sunlight ...

Monday, January 4, 2016

Photo A Day #4 -- Macro 50 Zlotych Note -- 4 January 2016

Day 4 ... will this ever end? :-)

I wanted to shoot Jupiter today, but the clouds rolled in and I was stuck with almost no time left. I thought about what I could shoot and decided to throw a hack close up out there. Hand held with the Sigma 105 2.8 macro lens on the Nikon D90 at 3200 ISO by the light of a single daylight balance compact fluorescent bulb in a reflector (clamp lamp), so the image quality is a bit lackluster.

That said, I already new what I wanted to shoot -- a 50 zlotych (plural for zloty) note, from Poland of course. I like the fine patterns on money and have always enjoyed shooting money close up. With virtually no time left in the day, I shot several images at various focal distances with the lens set on 1:1 magnification. One of them came out sharp and I cropped that one quite close to give you a good view of the inking on it. Pretty nice looking note it you ask me.

Here is a shot of the whole note from a short distance at a bad angle. Again, no time for a tripod and a proper setup, so you get what you get.

I shot the image wide open at 2.8 and from this distance at this focal length (beyond 150mm effective focal length) the depth of field is very shallow. Sorry about that ... but the head of the bird is sharp and that was what I wanted. The close up follows ...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Photo A Day #3 -- The New Bridge -- 3 January 2016

Third day and counting ... I'm starting to get used to this.

While out performing an errand this evening, i decided to try to capture a night image of the new Earl Armstrong bridge over the Rideau river here in my neighbourhood. I grabbed the Nikon D90 with its 18-105VR kit lens, which is very sharp, and a cheap tripod and drove to the bridge on my way back. I parked in a mall parking lot at the north east end of the bridge and walked back to it. I thought to shoot it from the center boulevard, but was unable to as the grasses there are taller than the tripod itself. It was a bad call to not bother with the big tripod, note to self.

So I walked across the west-bound lane to the north side and aimed the camera at an angle, which actually gave a nice open view of the taillights of the cars crossing the bridge on my side. My plan was to shoot 5 images, which is all I thought I could stand since I was wearing only a heavy sweater and no hat or gloves and it was -9C outside. Sheesh ... dress for the weather you idiot, note to self.

I ended up shooting 10 images and using the 6 sharp ones for the HDR. The brightest one was sharp enough, but had too many burnt out lights for my taste, so I left it out as well. This meant that I only had mid-toned or darker to combine for the HDR, which showed up in extra noise in the dark parts like the sky. Turns out that using a consumer dSLR from a cheap tripod is asking for blur pain. so use a prosumer dSLR or better with mirror lockup or use a mirrorless with no shutter shock and then use a proper tripod, note to self. Here is the HDR result. I am not fond of it, but it is not horrible.

The harshness and rather funky artifacts that required a session in Photoshop and Nik Define caused me to take a shot at processing a single image from the best of the rest. And I actually prefer this image despite the less dramatic contrast. It just looks more photorealistic to me, which matters in this case. Update: No I don't ... the contrasty image looks better.

So I will leave you with those images to contemplate. And one more ... when I got home, I decided to hedge my bet on PAD #3 and shoot an image of the Christmas Piranha ... everyone should have one of these in their tree as far as I am concerned.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Photo A Day #2 -- The Beaver Trail -- 2 January 2016

I am now 2 days a slave to this photo a day thing. That sounds less funny once on paper, doesn't it?

I popped out to pick up a mostly intact roll of black paper background by Superior for 15 bucks from a Kijiji seller. This was a steal and I could not resist. On the way back, I had planned to visit either Mer Bleue or Stony Swamp and try to get some images worthy of day 2. Stony Swamp won the day and I shot quite a few images as I walked along. From the main parking lot for the Beaver Trail, I wandered by the Wild Bird Center. I brought four cameras along -- the Panasonic G6 with Panasonic 100-300 zoom, the Nikon D90 with 18-105 zoom, the Panasonic GM1 with 12-32 zoom, and the Olympus E-PM2 with 45 1.8. When I arrived, I pulled out the Manfrotto monopod and mounted the G6 and 100-300 on it by the lens foot that I obtain from Germany. This worked flawlessly as I was walking. I ended up shooting none of the other cameras ... they were just along to amp up the exercise value a bit :-)

The temperature at the time was approximately 0C, and so there was a bit of melting action for both the snow and the icicles on the side of the building. I managed to catch a falling droplet on my second try ...

Quite a few fallen trees grace the trails these days, and no all seem to have been victims of the beavers that live in the pond in this area. It is not quite clear what brought this one down, but it looks great when covered in snow. I like to process for a fondant texture to snow, but it was not quite melted enough to really achieve it here. Still ... not bad.

I was surprised today to notice that quite a number of the large trees have bifurcated trunks that grow in close proximity. Since we've had a lot of snow recently, they all have some amount of snow in the small space between trunk branches. Here, we see the end of the snow in between and the space above it where a trunk in the distance can be seen out of focus. Love those long lenses.

I noticed a large number of smaller trees or larger branches being propped in the air in a crook of another tree. In one case, I saw a couple of branches hanging directly over the path, thinking to myself that this is a widow-maker waiting to fall. The following one is well off the path and was probably felled by the chewing of beavers.

It is pretty easy to tell that we have not had significant cold in this el nino year, as there is a babbling brook that is frozen over most years ...

But the big show of birds I had been waiting for only materialized when I arrived at the overlook on the beaver pond. There, people had dumped all sorts of seeds and the Chickadees and NutHatch were going nuts, as always. I got some lovely images of these ...

Unfortunately, a mother and daughter snow shoed up to me and passed by to get onto the overlook, more or less ending my session there. I turned around and as I turned back towards the wild bird center, I noticed a small red squirrel eating by the side of the path. I shot a huge number of images of this fellow, although as with the rest of the images here there are more to be seen in my gallery, linked below.

You can see all 46 images in my gallery here: Walk In The Woods 2 January 2016

The Archdruid Report: Too Little, Too Late

The Archdruid Report: Too Little, Too Late: Last week, after a great deal of debate, the passengers aboard the Titanic voted to impose modest limits sometime soon on the rate at which water is pouring into the doomed ship's hull ...

That tiny excerpt should whet your appetite for a rather provocative and very interesting article written by author John Michael Greer.

You may or may not think much of his blog's title -- The Archdruid Report -- but I can say unequivocally that he paints a very clear picture of our likely future and you will be hard-put to stop reading once you are into this article.

And then come the nightmares :-)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Photo A Day #1 – Very Late First Snow – 1 January 2016

I’ve never been one to go in for what feels a little gimmicky, but I think that there is value to forcing yourself to take one useful image every day for a year. As a photographer, the most dreaded thing that can happen is that you can easily become stale. The same old patterns, the same old images. We all suffer from it at one point or another. 2015 for me was the year of the studio, where I volunteered three times to raise money for dog rescues – Under My Wing Pug Rescue on 25 January and Valley Boxer and Mastiff Rescue on 24 October and again for 2 days on 5 and 6 December.

So this year I want to continue and even expand that trend while working on other techniques. I would like to do a bit of product photography and some basic portraiture. I would like to perfect head shots (no, I am not a sniper) and perhaps shoot models again. We shall see …

But for now, I have started off early on the day as I was getting the turkey ready by walking out to the front yard and shooting what I saw. We had 17 degree temperatures on Christmas Eve and beautiful sun with strong winds. We have plus 8 degrees (this is Canada by the way, so I am speaking Celsius) which is shirt-sleeve weather for a man raised in Winnipeg. And then the fit hit the Shan (please put your guess at that reference in the comments if you know where that comes from, and try to do it without the aid of Google please.)

We’ve been pretty much pounded with snow over a short span and it continues to put a little bit down every day. Cool …

I shot the following images with the Panasonic GM1 and allowed it to meter the scene with added stop and a half or so of compensation because you must do that when the whole scene is snow. Otherwise, the camera will do what it must and turn the entire image mid-grey. And do note that when I say "photo a day" I really mean at least one photo, not just one photo.

And that is that for the first entry of a new year.

Happy New Year to you all ...