Archive for July, 2011

While away last week I was able to get some time to photograph the family of Common Loons on Horseshoe lake. On one particular evening, about an hour or so before sunset they were feeding over a large weed-bed off a shore-fen that is a two minute canoe paddle from the cottage. I would get in position and then lay down in the canoe so that I would have the lowest shooting angle possible. Often the adults would surface, after a dive, beside the canoe to close for my lens to focus. When the chicks reach this size they are able to dive for themselves and there tends to be greater distance between the birds, however, once the adults surface the youngsters usually head straight over to see if they are going to be fed. I was quite happy to capture this image. The image above is the optimized version though. It required a ton of work to get it to this point. Below you will see the original capture. To optimize this image I evicted the out-of-focus adult in the background. If the birds head was visible I may have left it in the composition, but did not like it as it was. Next was to adjust the composition without cropping the file. As a result, I lower the birds in the frame and gave the image a slight clock-wise rotation. You will notice that the bill of the adult bird in the original capture contains a lot of bill-shine from the sun reflecting off the shiny surface of the bill. To correct this I zoomed to roughly 800% and slowly removed the bill-shine. Another thing that bothered me about the original file were the catch-lights in the eyes of the birds that was caused by the sun’s low angle reflecting across the water – again I worked on the image large to render more pleasing catch-lights. For me the final step, and the most interesting part, to perfecting this image was correcting the adult loon’s broken upper bill. The tip was broken presumably from hitting rocks on the bottom while chasing a fish. To correct this I simply selected the tip of the bottom bill and flipped it around to place on the top bill and then made the necessary adjustments to blend it in. After performing this extensive work on the image I believe that I have not changed the integrity of the image, but rather made it more pleasing and potentially more salable. However, I could never consider entering into a photography contest. To learn how to perform this type of clean-up and other various tips and techniques be sure to check out the link to Arthur Morris’ blog in the sidebar and while there check out the BAA Store for instructional tutorials / eBooks.

Why was the broken bill so interesting. Well, I remembered that I had photographed a Common Loon from the dock many years ago that had a broken upper bill. I searched through my Loon collection and found the image. I assume that this is the same bird as I have heard that Loons will return to the same lake year after year. This distinguishable feature proves it. I first photographed the Loon with the broken bill in May 2006 and again in July 2011.

Below you will see the original Common Loon with chick image and two large crops that clearly show the broken upper bill of the adult loon taken five years apart.

Common Loon with Chick – original capture

Common Loon – broken bill July 2011

Common Loon – broken bill May 2006

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Today, my daughter Ava turns 4 years old. We had a wonderful time playing at the cottage over the past 7 seven days. One of my main objectives during the week up north was not to do photography, but rather teach her how to swim. With help from her “puddle jumper” water-wings she is now swimming and jumping off the dock at the cottage on her own. She likes to call her jumps from the dock “daredevil jumps”. In the image below I did reposition her in the composition and clone out granddad’s hands as she will only jump if someone is going to catch her in the water. Off to celebrate and eats lots of birthday cake…see ya later!

Happy Birthday Pumpkin!!! 🙂

Ava and her “daredevil jump”

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Before heading north to Horseshoe Lake I made sure to pack Denise Ippolito’s new eBook “My First Impressions of Bosque Dell Apache”. Denise Ippolito is a talented freelance photographer from New Jersey. Bosque Del Apache NWR is a 57,191 acre refuge located along the Rio Grande near Socorro, New Mexico. Each year during the “Festival of the Cranes” large numbers of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes are present. In November of 2010 Denise co-led a workshop at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge with world premier bird photographer Arthur Morris. Arthur Morris has led Intructional Photography Tours at Bosque for the last 16 years. In Denise’s new eBook she shares her first visit to this location through poems, stunning artistic renditions, pleasing blurs, tack sharp flight imagery and sensational sunrise/sunset photos. As I read through Denise’s latest offering each image filled me with inspiration and creative ideas, the kind of imagery that is more than just a photograph, but an expression. Denise is at her creative best in “My First Impressions Of Bosque Del Apache” and the imagery clearly illustrates how much she fell in love with such a beautiful place.

Whether you plan to visit Bosque Del Apache or not, I highly recommend Denise’s this eBook. It will inspire you to create your own stunning collection of imagery.  If you do plan to visit Bosque consider the new 3 day workshop Denise has created during the “Festival of the Cranes” this November, at a killer price. To find out more about this workshop click here. In “My First Impressions Of Bosque Del Apache” Denise is also quick to note that you should not visit Bosque “blind”, be sure to read Arthur Morris’ Bosque site guide. Mr. Morris’ intimate knowledge of this location will put you in the right spot at the right time. Check out the site guide here. Someday I hope to witness the beauty of Bosque Del Apache for myself.  When I do, I will be calling Denise.

“My First Impressions Of Bosque Del Apache” is available here.

Thanks again for the inspiring work Denise!

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Thunderstorm brewing on Horseshoe Lake

This will be my last post for about a week or so as I will begin a week of shooting up in Ontario’s Parry Sound / Muskoka regions. One of my most favorite locations to shoot at in these areas is at the family cottage on Horseshoe Lake. I have explored the area endlessly over 30 years or so and have come to know all the prime locations to be at depending on the conditions that are being presented at the time. Here are a few of my favorite images taken over the last few years. Hope you enjoy them. See you soon!

Sunset on Horseshoe Lake

Storm clouds over wetland on Horseshoe Lake

Shoreline details on Horseshoe Lake

White Pine silhouette at sunset

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Tulip (Bi-color and Vignette Blur filters)

Today I had a little time to work on some tulip images that I made back in the spring, but have not had time until now to process. For these tulips I used a mix of photoshop plugins to tweak the original captures. I love the Nik Software filters and used the ‘Bi-color’ and the ‘Vignette Blur’ for the first image in this post. The second image I only used the ‘Bi-color’ filter and the last image I applied my usual Fractalius settings.

These tulip creations were inspired by Denise Ippolito’s amazing artistic renderings that you can view on her blog A Creative Adventure.

Tulip with subtle ‘Bi-color filter’ treatment

Tulip Fractalius

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Gibson J200 – Nik Software’s ‘Infrared Thermal Camera’

I often play around with various images with the filters available in Photoshop or available plugins to see what artistic renditions I might come up with. Here is a collection of some of my more recent creations, captioned with the filter used to obtain the effect as presented.

American Toad – Fractalius ‘Glow 100’

Gray Treefrog – Fractalius ‘Glow 100’

Fargo Truck – Nik Software’s ‘Tonal Contrast’

Raccoon – Fractalius ‘Glow 100’

Ring-billed Gull – Fractalius ‘Rounded’

Wildflower Blur – Photoshop Zoom Blur and Twirl Filter

Smooth Green Snake – Fractalius ‘Rounded’

Snapping Turtle – Fractalius ‘Rounded’

And last but not least a Fractalius of my dog Koko and cat Scamper cuddling on the sofa.

Koko & Scamper – Fractalius ‘Rounded’

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A Common Loon image from the archives that I applied the Photoshop plugin Fractalius for creative effect. I chose the ‘Glow 100’ preset as a starting point and immediately saw the potential to create an outline of the bird and then mask back in the red eye for a touch of color. I have been slacking off on posting some of my more recent Fractalius work, but promise to post some soon.

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Tiny Marsh at sunrise (3-stop reverse graduated filter)

On Friday morning I made a quick trip up to Tiny Marsh for some sunrise photography. Tiny Marsh, located just west of Barrie, Ontario, is one of my favorite destinations for sunrise photography and wetland wildlife images too. Don’t let the name fool you, this is a very large wetland. The wetland section of this location is 600 hectares in size and is surrounded by 300 hectares of forest and fields. It is managed, in part, by Ducks Unlimited Canada. This was my first visit to the marsh this year as I have been too busy to get here sooner. I often arrive long before sunrise to allow time to walk out across the wetland trails to be where I want to be when the show begins. It is always a pleasure to listen to the sounds of the marsh as it awakens with the new day. Black Terns, Pied-billed Grebe, Osprey, Trumpeter Swans, Least Bitterns, Otters and many other critters abound here.

I have begun to use a Singh Ray 3-stop reverse graduated filter for sunrise photos where the sun is just above the horizon. The reverse graduated filter does a wonderful job at holding back the bright sun as it rises above the horizon. This filter yields more pleasing results for these type of images as opposed to using an ordinary graduated filter.

Tiny Marsh at sunrise (3-stop reverse graduated filter)

While waiting for the sun to rise don’t forget to look over your shoulder. Often you will find some rather pleasing colors in the sky. For the image below I used a combination of a Singh Ray 2-stop soft edge graduated filter with a Singh Ray Color Intensifier. The original image was composed with some wild rice poking into the foreground. To include the cloud formation reflections I was forced to include them in the composition and then evict them later in post processing.

Tiny Marsh (Singh Ray 2-stop grad filter & Color Intensifier)

As I was walking out along the wetland trail towards my car, the sun was much higher in the sky and broke through an opening in the cloud cover producing rays of light that shone down on the wetland. For the image below I used a 2-stop graduated filter and a Cokin Blue and Yellow Polarizing Filter. I don’t particularly like using the blue and yellow filter, but do find that it has its place when used sparingly. Often when using this type of filter with digital capture some adjustment to white balance and color temperature is required. If you are interested in using this type of filter I would suggest you purchase the Singh Ray version (I keep putting it off, but need to replace the Cokin one with this one) which is called ‘Gold-N-Blue” and to use if effectively refer to Darwin Wiggett’s blog entry at Focus on Singh Ray Filters.

Tiny Marsh (2-stop grad filter & Cokin Blue & Yellow polarizer)

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Common Loon on man-made nesting raft

During last weekend’s outing with Common Loons I had hoped to photograph the pair that already have two chicks, but they weren’t to be found. They did show up, right off the cottage dock, the day after I had to head back home. There are a few man-made nesting rafts on the lake and I was surprised to see one loon still incubating eggs on one of these rafts. I decided to canoe over to the bay where this raft was early in the morning for a few images. I only planned to spend a brief amount of time at the raft and use a long lens so that my presence would not disturb the nesting loon. Above is the shot that illustrates the man-made raft and a couple of additional, more natural looking images below of the adult on the nest. I am already looking forward to my next trip up to the cottage as there will be two pairs of Loons with chicks on the lake.

Common Loon on nest

Common Loon

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Juvenile Great Blue Herons on nest

Recently I became aware of a small heronry that consists of 3 nests thus far not too far from the family cottage near Parry Sound, Ontario. I drove down the highway to the location early one morning last weekend for a few photos. The juveniles are still at the nests, but are almost as large as the adults now. I counted a total of 8 young birds on the three nests. These nests are in tall dead trees standing in a large beaver pond. Usuing my 80-400mm VR lens I was still a little short for the composition I was hoping for. The solution here was to mount my camera on my tripod without the legs extended for maximum stability. Since the highway is high above the beaver pond I was still shooting straight at the nest. Next I selected the mirror lock-up feature to minimize vibrations from the slapping action of the mirror and thus render a sharper image. I then waited for three pleasing head angles from the juvenile birds. Once I shot the sharpest image possible I cropped it slightly for the composition I was hoping for and evicted some distracting elements from the background to render a more pleasing image. These distracting elements were removed by using a variety of quick masks and clone stamp tool. The original capture can be seen below.

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