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Archive for April, 2011

After a wild wind and rain storm yesterday the skies cleared and the temperature stayed relatively warm throughout the night. Perfect conditions for resuming my frog pond adventures. Every year when I venture out in to the vernal ponds ( created by melting snow and rainfall) in the 40 acre, abandoned cattle pasture behind my home I wonder if I will see the turtle again. The turtle is a snapping turtle, one of the largest I have ever seen. Last night we crossed paths while I was stalking the chorusing frogs. Since I was wearing my chest waders I sat down beside the turtle and waited for it to come up for air. When it did I captured the above image. I was rather glad to be wearing my chest waders as there were numerous bloodsuckers on the turtle, as can be seen in the photo, and many swimming among the grasses. I have absolutely no idea where this turtle goes once it leaves these ponds, it will leave in about a month or two, but every year it returns to hibernate here and for the last 14 years we cross paths in the ponds. I sat with this old friend for about half an hour and also had the opportunity to photograph a Giant Water Bug that was no doubt feasting on the bloodsuckers. I was also able to find a few cooperative frogs. The toads have just begun to arrive at the ponds, so they should commence chorusing in the coming days.

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Giant Water Bug

Green Frog

Spring Peeper with vocal sac inflated

Wood Frog with vocal sacs inflated

Common Toad

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Staghorn Sumac Blur

A trip down to Humber Bay on Lake Ontario in Toronto today was beginning to look promising until the clouds began rolling in and the wind picked up, not too mention the waterfowl were few and far between. Rather than pack up and head for home I realized this was blur-time. I spent several hours creating impressionistic blurs of many leafless trees, clouds, dogwoods and reed grass. Creating blurs is too much fun and before you know it the day is done. Here is a small sample of today’s blurs – more to follow.

Cloud Blur

Dogwood and Reed Grass Blur

Tree Blur – tweaked with Topaz Adjust 4

Humber Bay Landscape Blur

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Due to the recent cold weather we have been having here, along with a few snow flurries too, the activity at the frog ponds has ceased. Once the weather warms up in a few days I am hoping to get back out into the ponds. In the meantime, I have been busy working on various projects which led me to my photos of Hogg’s Falls. This is in my opinion one of the most beautiful and photogenic waterfalls in Ontario. It is situated on the Niagara Escarpment in Grey County. Regardless of the season this waterfall has never let me down. However, during the winter months the mist coming off the falls can be quite troublesome as it freezes to your gear including coating filters in ice. It lies in the Beaver Valley along the broad and shallow Boyne River. The best vantage point to shoot this waterfall requires a careful climb down into the gorge which I always carry a length of rope to make both the descent and ascent a little easier, particularly in winter when the gorge walls become quite icy. I also enjoy using this waterfall to practice my modeling skills :)

Self-portrait flyfishing

Self-portrait flyfishing

Hogg’s Falls in spring

Hogg’s Falls details

Autumn at Hogg’s Falls – one from the good ol’ days of film

Hogg’s Falls in winter

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I spent the first several days of this week out in the frog ponds behind my home, during the evening hours, to shoot some fresh frog images during the spring chorus. I am a little out of practice, but did capture a few nice photographs. So far only the Chorus Frogs, Wood Frogs and a small number of Spring Peepers have emerged from hibernation, however, the last couple of night the ponds have been freezing over again, so all is quiet as the frogs lay under the ice waiting for things to warm-up in the morning. I usually wear my chest waders when shooting these critters and sit down in the pond when I find one that appears to be cooperative, but it usually means waiting several minutes for them to commence singing again and the odd time it means getting a pair of chest waders filled with icy cold water. Yikes! This week I discovered a crayfish out on the wet grasses beside the pond. I believe it is a Chimney Crayfish, they are known to inhabit wet meadows and build a clay chimney at the entrance to their burrow. By mid-summer there are usually several of these clay chimneys in my drainage ditch out by the road so I new these crayfish were around, I just never had the opportunity to photograph them.

One of the most annoying aspect of shooting amphibian at nights if you will be plagued with flash generated specular highlights. I use a very small flash light for focusing purposes when shooting them and can use the light given off by the flashlight to judge just how bad the specular highlights will be and can thus change my shooting position slightly to see if any improvements may be possible. However, often I have to clone out the flash generated specular highlights and more often than not I fond that I work on the image large, meaning I zoom it to 500-800% in Photoshop to clean-up these annoying little highlights.

Stay tuned for more adventures from the frog pond in the coming weeks.

Spring Peeper

Wood Frog

Chorus Frog

Chorus Frog

Chimney Crayfish

Chimney Crayfish – defensive posture

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I am lagging behind in my blog posts lately as I have been busy photographing the frogs that have begun to sing in the vernal ponds behind my rural home. In addition to my recent adventures in the frog pond, I have been enjoying Denise Ippolito’s eBook “A Guide To Creative Filters and Effects” and very inspired by her creativity. If you want one book on how to create stunning artistic renderings of your photographs, buy this book. There is a wealth of tips and techniques packed into the 166 pages, with before and after images to accompany them. Towards the end of the book you will find links to the various photoshop plugins and stand-alone filters discussed within the book’s pages. Some of these filters are free downloads while some require a purchase. Denise is a highly accomplished photographer and a moderator for the “Out Of The Box” forum at BirdPhotographers.net. I am often left in awe with her creative, artistic renderings. The images in this post were all created using various techniques and filters discussed in this amazing guide. To find out more about this guide and to purchase your copy please click here. To follow Denise’s adventure in creativity check out her blog in the link on the side-bar. I can’t wait to try the Flaming Pear “Twist” and “Swerve” filters next. Thanks a ton for sharing your creativity Denise! :)

“Mini-World” of the Toronto skyline at night

Gerbera Daisy – desaturated zoom blur with Fractalius

Winter Farm – Fotosketcher watercolor with Fractalius

Pincushion Protea – multi-zoom blur

Abandoned Car in Killarney Provincial Park – Denise’s texture technique

Yellow Gerbera Daisy – Fractalius Glow 100

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For me, spring has not officially arrived until the first frogs begin to sing in the vernal ponds behind my rural home. Today when I took my dog, Koko, for her afternoon walk we heard a few chorus frogs singing. While some of the ponds still have ice on them and snow remains in the deepest shaded areas, it is very welcoming to hear these little frogs singing. Trying to photograph these tiny frogs is somewhat like trying to find a needle in a hay stack, but once the numbers of frogs chorusing increases, I will no doubt be pulling on my chest waders, putting on my head-lamp and generally looking like some kinda odd-ball, head out into the ponds to shoot some fresh images. For this post I have used an image from the archives – captured with a Nikon F80 and 105 micro lens with a small flash on a home-made flash bracket.

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I spent a couple of hours over the last two days shooting various bird-life down at Humber Bay along the Lake Ontario in Toronto. The American Wigeons and Gadwalls have begun to migrate through and the species most common to this location have begun to show up in large numbers. Plenty of Canada Geese and Mute Swans as well as Ring-billed Gulls are present and allow for many close-up opportunities. For many of the images made on these days I used the “Better Beamer Flash Extender” for a little fill flash. This is a light weight solution to getting your flash to go further when using telephoto lenses. The flash output increases about 2 2/3 stops. I find it to be very beneficial on both overcast days and on sunny days. To find out more about the Better Beamer and to order one click here.

Hope you like the photos.

Gadwall Drake – flash blur

Mute Swan

American Wigeon drake

Canada Goose

Gadwall drake preening

 

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