Archive for August, 2011

Beamer Falls, Grimsby, Ontario

After reading Denise Ippolito’s blog today announcing the release of the new photoshop plugin from Topaz Labs called Black & White Effects I downloaded the software and immediately began using it on several images to familiarize myself with the interface and found that I particulary liked how it performed on some of my images from last spring, as I made my way around several of the waterfalls found along the Niagara Escarpment near Hamilton and Grimsby. For most of my B&W conversions I use Nik Software’s Silver Efex and absolutely love the results, but with the release of Black & White Effects I now have another tool in my image optimization toolbox.

Devil’s Punch Bowl, Hamilton, Ontario

Grindstone Creek, Waterdown, Ontario

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Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

After my early morning paddle on the Horseshoe Lake I would return to the cottage for a hearty breakfast and black coffee. I like having my coffee out on the deck only this time I decided to attached a small twig to the hummingbird feeder and try my hand at shooting hummingbirds. The above image represents the best pose I captured during the week, however the original capture is a smidge out of focus. Being familiar with how Fractalius handles image detail I knew I could apply a contrast mask to the hummingbird and then apply the Fractalius plugin to the image and it would be just fine as an artistic rendering of this Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

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Above is the original version of a dewy spider web I shot while canoeing through a wetland on Horseshoe Lake. I was immediately drawn to the way that the dead, lichen covered, black spruce branch was framing this particular web. I also knew that once I returned home and began processing my images that this was going to be a good candidate for the photoshop plugin Fractalius. below you will see my two alternate versions of this image with the Fractalius filter applied. Which do you prefer?

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Horseshoe Lake at daybreak

I have spent the last 9 days up at my family’s cottage on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. Each morning I would be in the canoe well before sunrise, my favorite time of day, paddling to some of my most favorite spots on the lake. The days were filled with lots of sunshine and the nights were cool. These cool nights are perfect for mist rising off the lake’s surface as it begins to cool down with the changing of the seasons. Unfortunately, the best vantage points for many of these scenes is out on the lake where the use of a tripod is rather difficult to say the least. As a result, handholding the camera is the only option. When I am handholding the camera from the canoe I always use my grid-lines on the focusing screen to keep things level and wait for the canoe to settle after paddling into position. My two favorite lenses for shooting from the canoe are the Nikon 80-400 VR lens and Nikon 12-24mm lens. When shooting from the canoe the 80-400 mm lens is used with the VR activated at all times and the 12-24mm lens is most useful for shoreline details.

On one morning, while I was canoeing about a mile from the cottage I found our boat that was stolen a year earlier. A fellow cottager had found it across the bay from their cottage, half-submerged in the lake. They managed to bail it out and then took it back to their cottage and pulled it up on shore. It appears that the thieves decided to pull the drain plug out after removing the motor, but the boat has significant floatation in it so it did not fully sink to the bottom of the lake.

In the days to come I will post many more images from this past stay at the lake. I was presented with many nice situations on my morning outings. Hope you like the images.

Horseshoe Lake at daybreak

Early morning light on Horseshoe Lake

Shoreline details on Horseshoe Lake

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White Admiral Butterfly

Yesterday afternoon while I was out playing in the backyard with my daughter and our dog Koko I found a newly emerged White Admiral butterfly. Newly emerged butterflies make perfect subjects as their wings are in pristine condition and they are unable to fly. I gently nudged this one onto my finger and placed it on the rudbeckia blossom in the garden, grabbed my camera a shot many photos. After reviewing the images today, this one stood out as one of my favorites of the day. I also thought that this image would make a lovely base image for my favorite filter for creative effect – Fractalius. Below you will see the Fractalius version as well as a few other photographs that I have applied this filter too.

White Admiral Fractalius

Green Frog Fractalius

Great Horned Owl (captive) Fractalius

Common Loon Fractalius

Atlantic Phase Brown Pelican Fractalius (Cayo Largo, Cuba)

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Yellow Pond Lilies in Horseshoe Lake Wetland

A quick post from one of my most favorite locations to photograph on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. I love shooting the water lilies in this wetland from my canoe. I will use a wide angle lens set to focus as close as it will allow, select an f-stop of around f16, hang-out over the edge of the canoe holding the camera just above the water’s surface, in front of a waterlily blossom and fire away.  I find it to be beneficial to remove the lens hood from the lens for such photography otherwise you will find the lens hood casts unpleasantly shaped shadows on the foreground lily pad leaves. It usually takes a few tries before I get the exact framing that I want, but it gives a different perspective of the wetland environment – a frog’s eye view if you will 🙂

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Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area at sunrise

Several days ago I drove over to Tiny Marsh for sunrise. I was greeted with a cloudless sky, not the most pleasing of situations for sunrise imagery. However, I ventured out across the wetland trails to see what might develop. As the sun rose above the horizon I captured a few images, minimizing the cloudless sky and allowing the wetland vegetation to dominate much of the image. Shortly after this I decided to walk out along the boardwalk trail to search for my favorite wildlife subjects – frogs. The boardwalk goes through a forested swampy section of  Tiny Marsh. My timing for this was perfect as there were many young Leopard Frogs at rest on fallen branches and resting among the duckweed in the water. I spent the next three or four hours shooting frogs. Since the frogs were in rather unpleasant lighting situations with the blazing sun casting harsh shadows as it streamed through the surrounding forest I decided to use my Nikon SB-400 on a home-made flash bracket to illuminate the scene. When I shoot frogs I always try to get down to their level if possible, so in this situation I lay down on the boardwalk to get as low as possible. The use of the flash solved the harsh, contrasting lighting, but it created another problem that I dislike very much – flash generated specular highlights. So began the task of eliminating these from the images. Often I will work on a photo very large (500-800%) to evict the highlights. I often use a variety of quick masks and clone stamp to complete this task. Due to the glossy, wet look of the amphibian`s skin this can sometimes be a time consuming task, taking 1-2 hours per image on occasion. I do find the extra effort is well worth the end result and when I complete the task why not try running through the photoshop plugin Fractalius.

Below you will see one of my Leopard Frog images from this day showing the original capture, the optimized file and of course the Fractalius rendering.

On another note, I have started a Facebook fan page today, still lots of work to do on it, but you may check it out here .

Original Capture

Optimized Image

Fractalius Version

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Handheld Petunia Blur

A couple of weeks ago while I was out running some errands I passed a beautiful flower garden at the entrance to a golf course. The garden was full of various colored Petunias and other annual garden flowers. Since I usually have my camera with me I couldn’t resist the temptation to pull the car off on the shoulder and shoot some blurs. The sunlight was very harsh. It was about 12 noon without a cloud in the sky. I quickly put my polarizing filter and 3-stop neutral density filter to bring my exposure times down to a second or so. Using a variety of camera movements I spent about half an hour creating several different blurs. Shooting blurs is kinda like opening presents on Christmas morning – you never know what you’ll get.

Handheld pan blur of Petunias and Celosia

The Gerbera Daisy image below were shot on the dining room table with my 105 mm macro lens and exposure times of roughly 15 seconds. While exposing the blossom I simply jiggled the stem of the flower.

Gerbera Daisy blur

The next image of the same Gerbera Daisy is an artistic rendering of an in focus blossom. I applied a touch of zoom blur in photoshop and then selected the psychedelic preset from Topaz Labs Adjust 4 and tweaked the settings with the sliders to get the desired effect.

Gerbera Daisy Artistic Rendering

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Horseshoe Lake at sunset

One evening while at Horseshoe lake in Ontario’s Parry Sound / Muskoka region I was watching the sky for possible sunset photography when I noticed the clouds were blowing by fairly quickly. Although there wasn’t much in the way of color, I thought the movement in the cloud formations would provide an interesting element to the composition that would make-up for the lack of stunning sunset colors. I knew that I wanted to record the forest at the edge of the lake as a silhouette to hide the boats and docks so I did not use a grad filter to even out the lighting. I exposed for the sky and allowed the forest to go black. An exposure time of 30 seconds recorded nice movement to the blowing cloud formations.

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