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Sunrise on the Agawa River in Ontario's Lake Superior Provincial Park

Sunrise on the Agawa River in Ontario’s Lake Superior Provincial Park

This year I decided to come up with a ‘baker’s dozen’ of favorite photographs that I created over the past twelve months. It was difficult to narrow it down to just 13 images, but here they are. Please do click on the images to see the larger, sharper version.

This past year I re-visited my most favorite location within Ontario – Lake Superior Provincial Park, and was blessed with one of the most beautiful sunrises I have witnessed. In February I traveled to the Port Antonio region of Jamaica where I photographed one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Caribbean and my favorite image of my daughter Ava while she was having fun in a swing at Boston Bay. I was invited to co-write the Fractasic eGuide with good friend, colleague, and mentor Denise Ippolito, and to do ‘The Three Frosties‘ guest blog post for one of the world’s premier bird photographers Arthur Morris.

A scouting trip for planning what will become the launch of my first workshop to the tip of Lake Erie’s Long Point Peninsula (a UNESCO World Biosphere) was a success. Folks wishing to be added to the interested list for this workshop, which will likely run in late spring, should shoot me an email here.

Also Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses was kind enough to loan me the Sigma f2.8 15mm EX DG Fisheye Lens, which opened up a whole new world to me for creativity and fun times photographing the natural world.

I hope you enjoy these images as much as I did creating them.

May you all have a safe and prosperous 2014.

Cheers!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Ava on swing at Boston Bay, Jamaica

Ava on swing at Boston Bay, Jamaica

Reich Falls on the Drivers River, Jamaica

Reich Falls on the Drivers River, Jamaica

Johnstone's Whistling Frog chorusing, Jamaica

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog chorusing, Jamaica

Lone tree after ice storm near Thornton, Ontario

Lone tree after ice storm near Thornton, Ontario

Storm clouds over winter wheat crop near Bradford, Ontario

Storm clouds over winter wheat crop Bradford, Ontario (Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens)

Bullfrog-scape with the Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens

Bullfrog-scape on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario (Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens)

Rusty Old Wreck in fog, Milton, Ontario

Rusty Old Wreck in fog, Milton, Ontario

The tip of the Long Point Peninsula at sunrise, Lake Erie, Ontario

The tip of the Long Point Peninsula at sunrise, Lake Erie, Ontario

Bullfrog (Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens)

Bullfrog (Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens)

Aspen Trees Multiple Exposure inspired by Denise Ippolito

Aspen Trees Multiple Exposure inspired by Denise Ippolito

Window Frost Pattern

Window Frost Pattern

Fractalius of Woodland Interior, Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

Fractalius of Woodland Interior, Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Season’s Greetings!

Season's Greetings_2013

Wishing everybody a safe and happy holiday season and a very special thanks to all who continue to support my efforts here on the blog and to all the folks who have recently subscribed as well.

Merry Christmas !!!

All the very best!

See ya soon :)

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Bullfrog_8692

One of my main reasons for wanting to try the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens, which was on loan from Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses, was for photographing Bullfrogs in the wetland on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. When my parents bought our family’s cottage over 30 years ago there were great numbers of Bullfrogs to be found and their signature jug-o-rum chorusing would echo through the night air. Today all but a few individuals can be heard singing at night and locating them can be a chore some days. Fortunately, there is one very reliable fella that always hangs out in the vicinity of a very tiny island, covered with sedges and shrubs, within the wetland. I have had the pleasure of photographing this individual for over and over. For exactly how long I am unsure, but I would guess at least three years. I can often place my hand underneath him and he will crawl aboard and allow me to pose him. Do note that amphibians should NEVER be handled if you have insect repellent or sunscreen on your hands – it is deadly to them.

Each of these frog-scapes were photographed handheld, selecting the Live View function on my Nikon D800, auto-focus and a double bubble level in the hot shoe to make sure the froggies were sitting square with the world in the photos. This is the easiest way I know of to capture such images from the dry comfort of a canoe. Often my hands are submerged in order to hold the camera just millimeters above the water’s surface. I found over-cast conditions to be more favorable as with the extreme wide angle view of this lens it was easy to accidentally see my shadow or that of the camera and lens within the frame under sunny conditions. Also if the camera and lens is held above and over the frogs it is easy to get the camera and lens reflecting in the water in front of the subject, but by hand-holding the rig just above the water this problem is eliminated. A slight downward pointed fisheye lens will create the rounded prespective that works beautifully to show the frog’s within their world. And since the world is round, this is a pleasing perspective :)

Below are some of my favorite frog-scapes photographed while using the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye lens.

Please remember to click on the photos to see the larger, sharper versions and let us know which is your favorite and why.

Bullfrog_9252

Bullfrog_8817

Bullfrog_9267

Bullfrog_9277

Bullfrog_8684

Bullfrog_8806

Bullfrog_9255

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The Cookstown Pub_1

I have decided to start something new here at the blog and I will call it Smartphone Snaps. Recently I ditched my old cell phone, upgraded to a smartphone and am now having a blast (isn’t that what photography is all about anyway) playing around with the camera function of the Samsung S2X and the various apps available for download. I will try to commit to posting a Smartphone Snap on a weekly basis as time permits. What better way to kick off these snaps with a creative capture of The Cookstown Pub located in Cookstown, Ontario not too far from my home. I used the Cartoon Camera app for this image. Simply click the shutter on the phone and let the app do the rest.

As I embark on a learning curve of smartphone photography I will share with you tips and techniques as well as the various apps that I find most beneficial to my needs.

I can’t wait to try this out on Bullfrogs :)

Please click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

 

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Female Wild Turkey on nest

I have spent the last several days up in Ontario’s Muskoka region opening up the family cottage. Aside from the regular chores of opening weekend, I made time for visits to my favorite frog pond in the forest to photograph chorusing Grays Treefrogs, take my daughter in the canoe to a nearby wetland to see what was new in there this spring, my daughter also decided that it was a perfect day for swimming, jumping off the dock, and practicing her doggy paddle in the frigid water, and of course take my dog for several long walks. It was during one of these walks on Friday afternoon that something caught my eye at the base of a massive, rocky outcrop near the entrance to our cottage lot. Something looked different, not quite right, and certainly out-of-place as I remembered it. And then as my eyes adjusted to what I was seeing before me, I made out a female Wild Turkey sitting among the leaf litter. She was not at all alarmed to see me and my dog walk past her at only a distance of about 15 feet. My dog was oblivious to her on the ground and I figured that the turkey was probably quite comfortable with how well concealed she was on the forest floor. I concluded that she was probably sitting on a clutch of eggs. What surprised me most was that every time I passed by her over the course of several days, during the dog walks, she was always in the exact same position on the nest. I have explored the woodlands in this region for over 30 years and not once have I ever seen a Wild Turkey in the vicinity of the cottage and today there is one nesting right on our lot. Nature never ceases to amaze me, but I do wish this turkey had selected a more photogenic location for nesting :).

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Beamer Falls on the Niagara Escarpment, Grimsby, Ontario

For several weeks I have been very busy with little time to get out the door for some fresh landscape images, but I have been processing some image files from last season’s crop of photos. With the recent rainfall we have had and the trees greening-up with a lush crop of leaves I must have been inspired to optimize some waterfall imagery. For folks living in the Hamilton, Ontario area now is the perfect time to visit the great number of waterfalls that can be found along the Niagara Escarpment. But don’t stop there as there is a vast number of waterfalls worth exploring throughout the province. Some of my all time favorites are Brook’s Falls, Webster’s Falls and in Lake Superior Provincial Park many nice scenes await photographers along the Sand River. What I like best about these waterfalls is that they usually produce excellent opportunities regardless of the river’s flow. When river levels are low these waterfalls will often produce excellent imagery. To find out more about these favorite locations and many more please check out my eBook A Photographer’s Guide to the Ontario Landscape. Although this eBook does focus on many inspiring locations throughout the province of Ontario, it is also full of numerous, helpful tips that you will find quite valuable to creating the best possible images in the field. Below you will see some of my recently processed images from last season.

Webster’s Falls, Niagara Escarpment, Hamilton, Ontario

Beamer’s Falls details, Grimsby, Ontario

Brook’s Falls, Magnetawan River, Emsdale, Ontario

Sand River, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario

Sand River details, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario

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Lionfish – Glow 100 preset

A few weeks ago I made a trip to the Toronto Zoo for a fun day of photographing animals from all around the world. While meandering my way around the zoo, I thought that many of these animals would make wonderful subjects for the photoshop plugin Fractalius by Redfield Plugins, so after arriving back at home I immediatelybegan playing around with some of the presets and adjusted the sliders to taste until I came up with this assortment of fractalius renderings. When I use the Fracatlius plugin I always apply it’s effect on a duplicate layer. This is done for two reasons. First it allows my to mask back in the eye(s) so that the filter has no effect on the eye(s) and secondly, I may want to reduce the overall effect of the filter and the easiest way to do so is to reduce the opacity of the layer to which the Fractalius effect is on. Most often I go straight for the ‘Glow 100′ or the ‘Rounded’ presets as these are my favorites to use. I have indicated below each image which preset I selected, however, the effect was achieved by adjusting the sliders to taste. Please note, this fun and addictive plugin is only available for folks using Windows and is available for purchase here.

Hope you enjoy this collection of artistic renderings from my Fractalius addiction and naturally I could not resist the temptation to include a frog image from the zoo too :)

Please take a moment to let me know which is your favorite and why.

Waxy Monkey Treefrog – Rounded preset

Gorilla – Rounded preset

Gaboon Viper – Rounded preset

Meller’s Chameleon – Glow 100 preset

African Penguin – Glow 100 preset

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Innisfil Creek, winter details

Above is a recently optimized photo from a couple of weeks ago. The Innisfil Creek is a small stream that flows through farmland and woodlots near my home in south central Ontario. I love to shoot winter details such as these. Often interesting patterns can be found in the ice formations along small streams and rivers at this time of year. I find over-cast conditions usually produce the best results, although some sunlit scenes can work well also, as you can see in the image below. What is different about these images is the way I have chosen to process the image files. After making the basic adjustments that I normally do in Adobe Camera Raw, I bring the image file into Adobe Photoshop CS5 and go straight for my favorite, recently upgraded, plugin from Nik Software – Color Efex Pro 4. My two favorite filters that are found within Color Efex Pro 4 are ‘Tonal Contrast’ and ‘Detail Extractor’. Both images in this post were tweaked with just a light handed use of each filter. If you haven’t tried this amazing plugin I urge you to download the trial version and give it a go. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results and will want to make it a regular part of your workflow for optimizing your image files. Download the trial version here and use the code ‘BAA’ to save yourself 15% if you decide to purchase a copy.

Holland River in winter

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Wimberley P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate

Most serious nature photographers know the benefits of having a quick release system for attaching their cameras and lenses to their tripods swiftly, to react to the fleeting moments that may occur. The Arca-Swiss style of plates and clamps is often the system chosen. If you are not using the Arca-Swiss style, I highly recommend you consider making the switch. In my e-book ‘A Photographer’s Guide to the Ontario Landscape’, the first-ever comprehensive guide to photographing Ontario, I briefly discuss the Arca-Swiss style quick release system as being standard gear for most serious nature photographers. Aside from being a guide to the Ontario landscape the e-book is full of tips to help you capture the best possible landscape images, wherever you live. For many years, I have faithfully used an ‘L’ bracket on my camera. ‘L’ brackets allow photographers to fasten their camera bodies onto their tripod heads in both vertical and horizontal orientations to minimize the need to recompose when photographing a scene in either of the two orientations. They are quite useful and beneficial, however, that also comes with a price. They are more expensive and much heavier than a camera body plate.

For the last two months or so I have been using a Wimberley P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate on my camera instead of the ‘L’ bracket and I can honestly say that I love it. It is light weight, at only 40.8 grams, while my ‘L’ bracket is a heavy weight at 139 grams. The P-5 plate is also one third the cost of what I paid for my ‘L’ bracket. The Wimberley P-5 plate comes with dual safety stops and is designed in such a way that it will prevent the camera body and plate from twisting. In the above photo you will see that there is thin layer of dense rubber to grip the base of the camera body, and the plate itself has been machined so that frictional force is applied on the outer portions of the plate when the plate is fastened to the camera body. This simple design prevents any twisting. Custom pates from other manufacturers do not use the textured rubber, but rather a beveled edge that prevents any twisting, however, this beveled edge is machined to fit each specific model of camera for which you have purchased the plate for. What will you do with these custom plates when you upgrade your camera bodies. With the Wimberley P-5, you simply remove it from your old camera body and fasten it to your new camera body and you are ready to go at no further expense. Click here and then on the video link for more information about safety stops and to find out more about the Wimberley P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate and click here for Wimberley’s PDF product instructions on the P-5 Universal Camera Body Plate.

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Last post until next year :) Here’s wishing you and your families a safe and prosperous new year, and all the very best for 2012.Thanks to all for your continued support and for your comments. They are most appreciated.

Thanks also to those who have purchased my first e-book A Photographer’s Guide to the Ontario Landscape. I hope you will find to be a worthy resource for taking your landscape imagery up a notch and as you travel throughout the province of Ontario.

Cheers!

 

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