Thursday, December 3, 2009

Back in Black

Had a recent trip to Ottawa and with only an hour or so to photograph I captured these. The day was fully overcast and the mood somewhat sombre. I saw all of these in black and white as there was little color that added nothing to the scene. More a focus on line, perspective, and movement.

A door, all clean geometry against that crooked tree...

Government Congress Center...

Rideau Canal, which apparently was designed for joggers...

Some interesting stairs below the Congress Center...

All were processed to black & white using Nik Software's excellent Silver Efex Pro plugin for Photoshop. Truly a great tool for developing authentic B&W images. Even better when printed to Epson's Exhibition Fiber paper.

I couldn't leave without capturing a more Ottawa-like image - this one from my hotel window in the early hours. This time it's all about the color.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Autumn Colors

I haven't touched this blog in ages, and frankly my camera has seen little use beyond pictures of my daughter and more recently the early days of her ringette season. For the last couple of weeks a local stand of trees with leaves turning has caught my eye and today I finally got off my butt to try and make a picture of them. They are located along a fairly busy thoroughfare with cars and trucks whizzing back and forth. That combined with some serious wind and not that much light made it pretty difficult to get a sharp image. In retrospect I should have dragged the 'ol shutter and turned those colored leaves into a swaying abstract.

But, regardless, I got an image that shows the fading colors of autumn. Which here is a harbinger of doom for the long and harsh winter to come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ballet in the Park

This is an annual show held free to the public. My daughter loves it. I endure it. But it's an opportunity to try and capture some interesting images. Below are some that I thought turned out quite well. Light is always a challenge - it's changing constantly as the dancers move around.

These selections ended up making a nice trio. Black and white seemed to suit the mood.

After a while I came to the realization that I should be using the UniWB setting that I learned about last week. Exposures were being compromised to keep the red channel in check again (the light was quite warm), leaving green and blue way low. This is death as I was shooting higher ISO's to keep the shutter live and wanted to keep the noise to a minimum. As with my initial experience it worked like a charm. These next shots were all taken with UniWB which allowed a much more balanced exposure across all three channels, and subsequently smoother images.

I'm going to need to remember to pull this out of my bag of tricks when lighting and exposures go wonky. So long as you can find a neutral reference as a starting point for white balance correction it's a great system.

Addendum: I had looked at this blog on another computer and noticed the images looked pretty meh. If you're on an uncalibrated system the backgrounds may look lighter than they should be - I've processed them as black and see them as such. If they're coming up looking lighter try and imaging them as black - they look better that way. ;-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Top 5 Clear Lake Shots

How quickly time flies. We arrived at Clear Lake and the next thing I know vacation is over and it's back to the Real World. Despite sketchy weather it was an enjoyable trip, and I was happy to walk away with a number of images that I'm really pleased with. To that end I figured I would compile a Top 5 from the past two weeks. Fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective) I had a tough time weaning my selections down. There were many more that are going to make their way to prints. So, here goes (in no particular order).

The Bridge

This was my first shot of the trip. Weather was ho-hum but I headed out anyway to see what I could get.

Why it made my Top 5:
I like the composition weighted so heavily towards that dark sky, with the tinges of magenta burning through from the setting sun. Plus the almost graphical element of the pier bridge, which is a prominent feature of the area. I also think this is a relatively unique perspective of that bridge. The overall mood is pretty cool.

Cotton Candy

This was one of several images from my first morning shoot, and it's probably my favorite of the trip. Was a beautifully calm and quiet morning.

Why it made my Top 5:
The color of that sky, and the reaction I had to it when turning around from the shooting in the other direction. My jaw dropped. I had started the morning from this perspective but the clouds weren't anything like this. This was a race to set up in a new position and recompose. The image still doesn't do justice to the colors in both the sky and water.

Misty Path

While mid-day light isn't great for color photography, the heavy contrast it introduces can make for interesting black and white images. In this case I took to the path that circles the lake and battened down as the wind was a blowin' that day.

Why it made my Top 5:
I like the composition of the S-curve starting at the rocks in the foreground merging into the path and beyond. Also, using a small aperture and heavy ND filtration I dragged the shutter nice and slow to render the extremely choppy water into smooth mist. Combined it creates a moody atmosphere that I really like. While it likely won't show on the net, there is detail in those trees along the bank.


This boat lying on shore caught my eye earlier in the day and I made it my mission to return at sunset to capture what turned out to be a pretty cool image.

Why it made my Top 5:
As they said in the classic TV series The A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together. Scouting this location in advance made for a better image in the end. I love the light, that low hanging cloud in the sky, and the curve created by the front of the boat through the shore to the dock. I had a tough time between this and the companion shot of just the dock but in the end chose this one as it was my original intent and it turned out as I had hoped.

Fire In the Sky

The title of my post for this series was Shooting Fish in a Barrel. It was very appropriate as you couldn't miss here. It was such easy pickings that I felt guilty including it here.

Why it made my Top 5:
Easy or not those colors blow my mind. I like the composition with the reflection. And while I had originally expected that the buoy line running across the frame would get cloned out I now really like it: it adds foreground interest that leads the eye to the trees. Unfortunately the limited color space of internet browsers can't show the vibrance of this image.

Honorable Mentions

In my estimation what separates the true photographers from the rest of us is the ability to see. To assess any given environment and identify opportunities for interesting images. It amazes me when I see shots where the photographer created something from nothing. That wicked sunset above is child's play.

To that end I submit these:

Why it got an Honorable Mention: Driven in part by a personal goal to capture at least one (hopefully) compelling image every day I looked out our cabin window this rainy morning. Grumbling about the weather I saw this image, reflected off the van's rear window. Grabbed the tripod and my 70-200 and shoot through the window. The fuzzy, silhouetted shapes of the cabin roof and trees contrasted against the sharply focused drops of rain created an interesting abstract. There was little color to be had, certainly nothing to contribute to the image, and so I knew it would end up as a black and white. I got my image for the day without stepping foot out of the cabin.

Why it got an Honorable Mention: This one has nothing to do with lake, aside from thoughts of gin & tonics, Corona's and lemonaid. Another crummy day (back-to-back no less), this was taken in the local store. I like the contrast between the green and yellow, and the distinct separation between the two (particularly the angle, rather than straight up-and-down across the frame). But most importantly is that lone lemon. Has it escaped? Has it been kidnapped? Perhaps a commentary on segregation, with that lemon making a stand? This is actually a reflection of the fruit in the mirror above, without which I couldn't have captured this perspective.

Closing Thoughts

One of the things I like about our Clear Lake trips is that it's easy to get out and photograph. I'm extremely guilty of not making a similar effort while at home and that needs to change. That said I have more photo work than I can handle right now between compiling my shots from this trip and an earlier one to Kelowna into photo books, and making prints of my favorites. Something I would like to do this summer or fall is head up to Steep Rock and capture some of the limestone cliffs. We'll see.

Something else that needs to happen before my next landscape photo trip is to replace my Cokin filters with Lee. The Cokins introduce such a severe color cast, increasing exponentially with stacking or when facing direct light, that they make proper exposure a challenge. Lee is famous for being almost perfectly neutral. But you pay dearly for that.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Last Morning Shoot of the Trip

How quickly time flies. I captured my first shots of the vacation two weeks ago and here I am posting the last sunrise shot of the trip. My next challenge will be sorting through everything once I get back to home base. And making a number of prints in the process.

This morning presented me with beautiful, if not a bit crisp, weather. Zero bugs, slight breeze, a touch of cloud. That said I'm also out of fresh ideas for these local shots - time is needed to venture further and scout new locations. But it's hard to get beyond the 5 minute walk out of the cabin to capture shots like this so early in the morning:

This was actually my first attempt experimenting with something called UniWB. It's a custom white balance that allows a more balanced base exposure in RAW. Conventional white balance settings, such as Daylight or Cloudy, push the reds too much. As such capturing this type of shot demands underexposing the green and blue channels to protect the red. This underexposure reduces details and increases noise in those channels. The UniWB setting is unique in that it allows proper exposure across all channels. The color balance is whacky - a sickly green - but that is corrected in post with more data available in each channel. I'm curious to see how this looks once it makes it to print.

This next is a variation on a theme from yesterday. I quite liked the beach curve shot that I converted to black and white. But it was taken in less than ideal circumstances so I wanted to capture a better quality shot in better light. This is what I ended up with, staying in color this time to exaggerate the complement between the blue water and yellow/orange sand.

And finally these knuckleheads lined up along the beach. "Rats with wings" as coined in the movie Finding Nemo. Don't know why, just found this amusing.

My next mission for today is finding some canola to shoot on the trip home. It's late to grow this year so not expecting much.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sunsets Return!

Finally! After a couple of dreary days we were treated to a nice evening. Was good to get out again and catch my last sunset of the trip.

Last sunrise tomorrow!

For Fun

While sitting and enjoying a coffee this afternoon I grabbed this trio of shots. Nothing overly exciting, but I liked the way they looked with the colors.

It was nice to enjoy a sunny day. Looking forward to hitting the shore for some sunset shots this evening.

It Blows Today...

Literally and figuratively. Sun finally out, but windy as hell and cold. Particularly by the lake. Whitecaps abound. All the interest I could muster before heading back. This is July?!!

The last one appeals to me with the curves created by the waves and shore. Both are enhanced by spot metering on the highlights to preserve detail, rendering the rest of the scene underexposed in contrast. Some dodging and burning in Photoshop was done to strengthen the effect.

Today is our last here, and I'm hoping to get a last sunset and sunrise shoot in before we leave tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Making the Best of It

Another crappy weather day, but a wander around the park found a couple of interesting images for me to post. Starting with this refreshing shot...

Shopkeeper wasn't too thrilled with my camera antics in his store but was at least somewhat appeased when I showed him my picture wasn't of the price but rather the fruit. This is heavily cropped to isolate just the fruit, with the point of interest being that single lemon that has defected to the other side.

Next up some black and white conversions of details around another of the local shops.

Just emphasis on line and texture, really. With the carved-in graffiti on the stump adding a point of interest in the second picture.

Last up is a series of detail shots from a closed down gas station. The entire building is stark white and red and is very aged. You could spend hours taking pictures here. Texture and color up the whazoo.

With any luck the forecast is correct in that the clouds are supposed to lift tonight. Two sunrises and one sunset left for golden hour lightshows. How quickly time flies.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

Was raining before I woke up and it doesn't appear to have stopped. Nor does it seem it will for the balance of the day. We have a quiet afternoon in store, methinks. But in my personal bid to capture at least one decent shot a day I offer the following:

Looked out the window to lament the weather and noticed this wet reflection of our cabin roof off the rear window of the van. Works for me as an interesting abstract.

Mission accomplished.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Buenos Noches!

If the weather forecast is correct this may be my last sunset shot of the week as nothing but rain is supposed to be on its way. Was a relaxing session as I had a rock to sit on as opposed to the usual awkward straddle. This is again a composite of two exposures to achieve the final result. I quite like it, and it makes use of the driftwood and shore that made an appearance earlier in the week.

Buenos Dias!

With a friend in Spain and Dora the Explorer playing in the background this seemed like an appropriate title for this morning's blog entry. Up early again and hit the lake. Originally had a plan to shoot a pano but the clouds weren't very exciting so went to the pier to see what I could grab. Go figure: during the day clouds = bad; during sunrise and sunset clouds = good. Ended up coming back with more interesting shots than I expected upon review.

First up, a silhouetted tree framing the first kiss of dawn.

The sky had a real painterly feel this morning and this one turned out quite nice. Next I couldn't resist the urge to grab a couple of quick Clear Lake Rock Shots.

This next rock shot was frustrating for me - didn't have enough filter to hold back the sky while exposing the rocks so I ended up compositing two images together for the final result. I ended up liking it quite a bit and it's all because of that sky.

Having done that I searched the opposite shore and really liked the look of the clouds, how the edge of the tree line was being lit up by the rising sun, and the misty lake off in the distance. This could probably work as a moody black and white but for now I'm leaving it in color.

I noticed another framing opportunity, this focusing on the mist rising on the opposite shoreline.

And finally for something a little different a closeup of this old stump being lit by the morning sun.

I'll wait and see what the rest of the day will bring. Tonight might be my last sunset opportunity as lousy weather is forecasted starting tomorrow.