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Archive for March, 2011

Sunrise at Halfway Log Dump

I have always considered myself to be mostly a landscape photographer. I find the work of three Canadian photographers to be very inspirational – Daryl Benson, Darwin Wiggett and Mike Grandmaison. Check-out their website links in the sidebar and I’m sure you will agree that they consistently produce high quality work that stands out among the masses. Thanks guys! Several years ago while I was in Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula National Park, which is a landscape photographer’s paradise, I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Grandmaison. It was 5 a.m. at Halfway Log Dump and I was waiting to shoot sunrise images (see the image above). The cobblestone beach here is seemingly endless. Along came another photographer and I said something like “Hey, aren’t you Mike Grandmaison?”, it was, and we spent that morning exploring the rugged shoreline at Halfway Log Dump talking about photoshop, the landscape in front of us and Mike offering suggestions and comparing exposure settings. Since then Mike has become a friend and mentor. A turning point for me, if you will, as my landscape work began to improve significantly after meeting Mike, sharing images via email and offering processing techniques and suggestions.

Mike recently opened the Canadian Gallery in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The gallery contains many of Mike’s finest photographs as you can see when you click on the link. To see a recent interview with Mike that was featured on Smibs TV regarding the opening of his gallery click here. Mike’s name for the gallery is also most suitable as he has crossed the country on numerous occasions building an impressive collection of truly inspirational imagery.

Below is an image of Mike, on the dock, at my family’s cottage on Horseshoe Lake in Ontario’s Muskoka Region. The image Mike composed here was featured as a double page spread in his coffee table book about Muskoka.

I hope you enjoy Mike Grandmaison’s Canadian Gallery and interview and find his work as inspirational as I do.

 

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Fractalius is such an addictive Photoshop plugin. I can’t help myself! Here is a collection of some recently fracted images.For most of the photographs I used either the “Glow 100″  or the “Rounded” presets within the Fractalius plugin and then tweaked the sliders for the desired effect. I always apply this plugin on a background layer in photoshop so that I can reduce the filter’s effect further by reducing the opacity of the background layer if I choose to do so. Most often I do reduce the effect further.

Icicles

Highway 634 in Ontario’s remote boreal forest

Robin

Smooth Green Snake

Spider Web

Barred Owl

Ring-billed Gull

Cuban Iguana

Brown Pelican – juvenile

Ornamental Inukshuks

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I haven’t had time to get out and do much shooting lately, but on Wednesday I had a few hours to spare so I decided to drive down to Toronto and do a little springtime shooting at Humber Bay Park on Lake Ontario. At one spot along the shoreline there were plenty of icicles hanging from branches high above the lake’s surface which was perfect for creating beautiful out-of-focus blue backgrounds. There are still many Long-tailed Ducks, my personal favorites, hanging around also. They will soon be flying back to the arctic, the females are now in their early summer plumage, as seen in the accompanying photo. On this day, however, there were few ducks to be seen so I enjoyed creating some images of the common day birds that can easily be seen and approached at Humber Bay Park. Some folks laugh at those of us that are taking pictures of Mute Swans and Ring-billed Gulls. I even had one fellow ask me once, if I drove all the way down to Humber Bay to shoot Trumpeter Swans. Well, I always leave with a few new shots of these bird species everytime I visit. Because these birds are so approachable at Humber Bay, they make great subjects to practice/improve your techniques, whether its headshots, birds in flight or even new gear. It is always best to perfect your techniques on the common wildlife subjects so that when the day comes and you find yourself in some exotic locale, you will be prepared for what nature has to offer.

Long-tailed Duck Hen in early summer plumage

Mute Swan preening

Ring-billed Gull

Robin

 

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Spring has finally arrived here. A few days ago I awoke to take my dog for her morning walk, when we went outside we were greeted to the glorious calls of Robins and Red-winged Blackbirds. There is nothing quite like these first sounds of spring, a new beginning, after a long cold winter. Several weeks ago I noticed the Horned Larks were back hanging out on the gravel road so I knew that Robins and the like weren’t too far behind. I am eagerly awaiting the next sign of spring’s arrival and that is when the frogs and toads emerge and start to chorus in vernal ponds in the abandoned cattle pasture behind my home. The first frogs to emerge will be the tiny Chorus Frogs. They should be singing their hearts out in a couple of weeks or so. I find these male amphibians rather comical during the spring chorus, almost as though they are competing in some sort of “male vocalist of the year” competition.

I have been too busy with various projects to get out and shoot fresh images of the birds, so today’s post features two photographs from the archives.

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Here is another image of the heron I photographed in Cuba back in February. I have no definite answers to this riddle, but thanks to several folks some conclusions can be drawn to this mystery. While this heron does resemble a Lava Heron from the Galapagos, it is not. Lava Herons have larger bills and feet and stout legs. This heron is identical in size to Green Herons. Even its call is the same. Many folks suggested that this was a melanistic form of the Green Heron, however, two birds of identical plumage were foraging at the pond where I photographed them. One of the birds, maybe both, can’t say for certain, had a pure white feather on one wing.

Fellow Canadian photographers Mike Grandmaison and Dennis Fast suggested a melanistic color morph of the Green Heron. Famous bird photographer Arthur Morris identifies this bird as a melanistic Green Heron or a genetic variant of one. As the days went by, eventually David Gancarz, a member at www.birdphotographers.net forwarded an email from Dr. James Kushlan with the IUCN Heron Specialist Group who became aware of this odd colored heron and was rather intrigued by it. Since two birds of identical plumage were seen, Dr. Kushlan has suggested that it is most likely a genetic variant of the Green Heron.

Hope you enjoy the photo.

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It has been a rather hectic week, not much time for processing images. We have had lots of rain over the last several days and due to the ground being frozen the water has not had many places to go. As a result, I have had to contend with some minor water issues in my basement so that they do not become major issues. The joys of country living.

Here is an image I just processed form my trip to Cayo Santa Maria in the Jardines del rey archipelago in Cuba. The shoreline here was very impressive. This rugged shoreline, sculpted by the oceans waves over time, was incredible. The only way to shoot it was to stand out in the water. I used my 12-24mm lens down low, so that I was looking up under the rugged rock. After I was done shooting and back on board the catamaran I noticed a very large drop of water on the lens. This drop was cloned out when I processed the file.

 

Hope you like the photo.

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While on Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba I photographed a small species of Heron that frequented the small man-made ponds around the hotel. There were two birds at these ponds of identical coloration. I thought nothing of it, just a cool looking heron that I would easily identify in my field guides upon my arrival home. No such luck. I cannot find this species in any of my field guides and after posting the image in bird forums still have no real answers.

This bird is same size as a Green-backed heron and has a small crest on its head that it will raise if alarmed similar to the Green-backed Herons. I have wondered if this is actually a Green-backed Heron that has developed a strange coloration due to a constant diet of the same species of fish that have been stocked in the ponds around the hotel. The fishes are a cichlid-type fish, probably Tilapia? Another thought I have is also that the ponds that were plagued with an algae problem have also affected the birds coloration. Some folks in the forums have suggested a melanistic form of Green-backed Heron, or staining of the birds feathers from an unknown source. Either way I am still completely baffled by this bird. Below are some alternate images of this heron species. In some of the images there are hints of normal Green-backed heron colors revealed among the greens.

If any folks have suggestions or possible answers to this heron species please drop me a note. It will be greatly appreciated.

Just for fun I have included a Fractalius of this cool looking bird as the last image. Aside from this Fractalius image, the other photographs have had minimal processing – they are true representations of how the birds look.

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While on my trip to Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba, I would play around with shooting creative blurs while either walking around or as in the image above, when a lack luster sunrise found me extracting rippled ocean blurs of the sun’s reflection with my 80-400mm lens. To learn about all the various techniques that can be used for shooting creative blurs I highly recommend “A Guide to Pleasing Blurs” by Denise Ippolito and Arthur Morris. Click here to find out more about this wonderful eBook.

Below you will find some additional blurs created during my stay on Cayo Santa Maria.

Palm Frond Blur

Bouganvilla Blur

Agave Blur

Palm Frond Blur

Bouganvilla Blur

Palm Frond Blur

Boughanvilla Blur

Not sure on name of this shrub, but this is what it looks like after one too many Pina Coladas :)

Palm Frond Blur

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