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Category : Blog Post

Stubbs Falls, and how I got the shot.

How did I get this shot?

  • Ventured to the non-trail side of Little East River.
  • Fell then slid down the slippery rock face on my backside managing to keep from falling into the deepest part of the rapids but ending up covered in mud and moss.
  • Hopped from wet rock to wet rock so I could get to the center of the rapids.
  • Stood ankle deep in fast moving water (in waterproof hiking boots that don’t keep your feet dry when totally under water)
  • Set my tripod to suspend $3,000 worth of camera gear inches above the water.
  • Metered the light, composed the image and then used my remote to trigger a 30 second exposure. Once returning to my desk I imported it into Lightroom to make localized adjustments. Then opened in Nik Collection to remove a slight colour cast and add a little warmth with the Skylight Filter. Saved back to Lightroom then exported to Photoshop to use content aware fill to remove the other photographer that was standing at the top of the rocks taking my picture as I was squatting in the river trying to keep from falling over. Saved back to Lightroom again then exported with my watermark. Overall about 30 minutes of editing after 90 minutes of walking, climbing and shooting.
The paparazzi were following me. I think he was waiting for me to fall into the water. :P
The paparazzi were following me. I think he was waiting for me to fall into the water. 😛

That my friends is how I got the shot.

So, the next time someone says to me “what kind of camera do you have? It takes great pictures” you better stand back because I feel a Ralph Kramden coming on. POW! To the moon!…

Specifics:

  • Location: Arrowhead Provincial Park, Huntsville, Canada
  • Camera: Sony NEX-7
  • Lens: Canon EFS 10-22 f3.5-4.5
  • Variable ND Filter
  • Lens Adapter: Metabones EF-E mount
  • Focal Length: 14mm
  • Aperture: f/6.3
  • Shutter Speed: 30 sec.
  • ISO: 100
  • Metering Mode: Pattern Metering

Buttermilk Creek

Because it has such a short watershed Buttermilk Creek tends to run dry for most of the year. With the rain over the past couple of days I decided to gamble and venture out to see what it can really look like. To my good fortune Mother Nature provided me an amazing array of deep rich colours to enjoy. From the green of the moss to the orange, yellow and red of the leaves. Accompanied by the sound of roaring water these gifts were my reward for joining her in the rain.

Post Processing

All of my images are initially downloaded from the memory card to my hard drive using Adobe Lightroom 4. This image is a three image HDR that combines -2EV, 0EV, +2EV to bring out the maximum amount of detail in the shadow and the highlight areas. The images were combined using Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2. After the image merge the image was saved back to Lightroom for some final adjustments to various colour values as well as to add a slight vignette.

Details:

  • Location: Buttermilk Creek, Hamilton, Canada
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: Sigma 18-200 mm
  • Focal Length: 28mm
  • Aperture: f/11
  • Shutter Speed: .5 sec., 2 sec., 8 sec.
  • ISO: 100
  • Metering Mode: Pattern Metering
  • Tripod: Manfrotto 055CL
  • Manfrotto 486 RC2 ballhead

Why I shoot RAW

Recently I got into a discussion with someone online about why one should choose to capture images in RAW rather than JPEG. The comment to me was basically “the JPEG looks great right out of the camera but the RAW image looks flat and boring. Why should I bother with it?”

The reason is RAW files contain all of the visible light information that is presented in the scene and lets you decide how to develop it.

A JPEG file on the other hand contains only  small portion. Essentially your camera records every bit of light it is shown and then applies a predetermined recipe to create an averaged image and throws away all of the unused info when it writes the JPEG file to your memory card. If there was very dark shadows or bright highlights in the scene they will be in your image and there’s no way you’re going to recover those areas because the info is gone. If you had the incorrect white balance selected you’re beat there too, it’s baked in to the file.

Getting back to the RAW file, although it may look a little flat to start you have a tremendous amount of latitude when it comes to editing the image. Have a spot that’s a little too dark? You can solve that. How about a spot that is a little too bright? You can solve that too. Don’t like the overall colour that you achieved with the “Auto White Balance” setting? Well try changing it to “Daylight” or “Cloudy” or any of the other WB settings to get a more pleasing feel.

Here’s a perfect example of what I mean. The image on the left is straight out of the camera with the scene exposed for the light in the sky.

The image on the right is the same shot with only adjustments made in Adobe Lightroom.
Aside from the adjustments that you can see on the sliders I used the brush tool to selectively paint in a little exposure adjustment in a few areas and set the Camera Camera Calibration to “Camera Deep”
No HDR, No Photoshop, No other tricks, just Lightroom
This is why I shoot RAW.

So next time you think to yourself “why RAW?” just give it a try and you just may convince yourself.

Specifics:

  • Location: Hamilton Waterfront Trail
  • Camera: Sony NEX-7
  • Lens: Sony 18-55 f3.5-5.6
  • Focal Length: 18mm
  • Aperture: f/8.0
  • Shutter Speed: 1/20 sec.
  • ISO: 100
  • Metering Mode: Pattern Metering

The Fog

I recently joined a community on Google+ where people post about my hometown Hamilton Ontario. After viewing a number of wonderful images I was inspired to share this interesting shot that I captured last fall.

I was sitting on my deck getting ready to enjoy a beverage and perusing Twitter when a number of local tweets began referencing an eerie fog that was engulfing the lower city. Not one to need much prompting I quickly changed plans, grabbed my camera, hopped in the car and headed to an amazing place to view this wonderful city, Sam Lawrence Park.

The light was falling fast. However since I was a little trigger happy when leaving the house I neglected to bring along a tripod! This made it a challenge to shoot the way I had hoped. I was thinking long exposure with a small aperture at ISO 100 but that was all out the window because of my silly mistake. Oh well, I had to make the best of it.

Since I was hand holding in low light I was forced to push the ISO to 3200 so I could still stop the aperture down a little to f6.3 for better depth of field and still shoot with a slow shutter 1/40 sec. with no camera shake. Since I was shooting at 24mm I was on the edge of  the safety zone for that. The rough rule for avoiding camera shake being, keep your shutter speed at or above your focal length. I probably could have shot at 1/25 sec. but I’m not that steady.

The other challenge I had with this image was the colour. Since our eyes have a dynamic range of about 11 stops of light and the camera only sees 3, what I was seeing was hard to record. If I had that tripod I could have shot a multiple frame HDR to capture a broad spectrum of light and combined them in post to present how I remembered it. But I didn’t, so I had to “cheat” a little.

Since I shoot almost primarily in RAW I had a little more latitude with the editing of this image. Once home I imported it into Adobe Lightroom and got to tweaking. I increased the exposure, opened the shadows, decreased the highlights, added some clarity, boosted the vibrance, added a little sharpening, decreased the noise and added a vignette to draw your eye to the center.

After all of the editing I had the image that I remembered in my minds eye.

Details:

  • Location: Sam Lawrence Park
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: Canon 24-70mm f2.8L
  • Focal Length: 24mm
  • Aperture: f/6.3
  • Shutter Speed: 1/40 sec.
  • ISO: 3200
  • Metering Mode: Pattern Metering

Playing in the winter sun

It’s been quite a while since I have had a chance to go out and shoot, just for fun.

Recently, Kathy and I decided to take our puppies out for a walk and just let them be dogs. Go, run around in the field and have a good time just playing. I hoped to get a few shots of them on a generic natural background but it took a little planning to achieve success. By incorporating the use of a circular polarizer to control the light, shooting RAW to capture enhanced dynamic range and a little post processing to bring out the best of the images, we now have a few frame worthy shots to hang in the house.

Post Processing

All of my images are initially downloaded from the memory card to my hard drive using Adobe Lightroom 4. For this image,  shadow and highlight adjustments were made, the image was warmed by boosting the color temperature a little, overall vibrance was boosted and a slight vignette was added. Prior to finishing the image it was then opened in Photoshop where I used the content aware patch tool to remove the distracting plant that appears in the middle of Sandy’s chest and beside her shoulder.

Details

  • Location: Mount Albion Conservation Area
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: Canon 70-200mm f2.8L
  • Focal Length: 73mm
  • Aperture: f/3.2
  • Shutter Speed: 1/1600 sec.
  • ISO: 100
  • Metering Mode: Pattern Metering

Change the perspective

You don’t always need a high end camera with all of the accessories to make an interesting image. Just shoot your subject from an angle that you would not normally view it.

We are used to seeing things from a standing perspective so when you present an image to your viewer from that perspective it is what they are expecting.

Next time you go out and shoot, get on the ground. Take a worm’s eye view and see if you can make something interesting.

This image was captured with a $249 GoPro mounted on the end of a monopod. I simply suspended it above the level of the water, stood close to the falls and shot up.

A wonderful way to start the day

Most mornings I start my day by shuttling my Daughter and my Niece part way across the city to school. On our drive I tend to point out the clouds in the morning light and say something like “look at the texture in the sky today” or something to that effect (they are used to it by now). I then spend the rest of the ride quietly thinking “I don’t want to got to my desk just yet. I want to go make a photograph”.

Well this past week I lucked out and had the opportunity to act on my need for creativity. I had a phone call to make at 10:30 am but nothing before that, so I had a couple of hours to avoid work.

With that in mind I packed my camera, tripod and a few lenses into my car and after I deposited the girls at school I pointed my car towards one of our local Conservation Areas.

In Hamilton we are lucky to have a vast amount of conservation lands, owned and managed by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, to explore. This day’s destination was a small parcel (41 hectares) of passive area that has a numerous bird platforms as well as a small cascade waterfall and an easy trail loop to walk. However my destination this day was a stand of pines that I have driven past for years and always wanted to explore.

Although small (about 3 hectares), this stand of trees is an enchanting place. I entered by parting the draped boughs of the outermost trees and once inside it was like I was in  another world. The traffic sound from the nearby road all but disappeared and my senses sharpened to where I could hear the creaking of the trees as they swayed in the breeze and the occasional squirrel navigating its way from tree to tree along the bare lower branches of the inner growth.

I wandered about taking in the beautiful surroundings looking for that image I wanted to create. As I passed through the center on my way to the Eastern edge of the stand I saw it. There in front of me was the subject I came to capture, the sun. It was piercing its way into the depths of this wonderful space and I just had to bring a copy of it home with me.

I shot it from ground level and standing. I shot it tight, wide, in landscape and in portrait but the magic happened when I attached my fisheye lens. I tilted my camera up to where it could see the quiet sentinels stretching from the ground, reaching for sky. I made sure the sun was shining directly into my lens, set the aperture as small as possible to cause a star and squeezed off 3 frames.

I knew I had what I came for so I picked up, strolled around a little more, snapped a few more images and headed to my office to make that phone call.

What a great way to start the work day!

Post Processing

All of my images are initially downloaded from the memory card to my hard drive using Adobe Lightroom 4. This image is a three image HDR that combines -2EV, 0EV, +2EV to bring out the maximum amount of detail in the shadow and the highlight areas. The images were combined using Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2. After the image merge the image was saved back to Lightroom for some final adjustments to various colour values as well as to add a slight vignette.

Details:

  • Location: Mount Albion Conservation Area
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: Opteka 8mm fisheye
  • Focal Length: 8mm
  • Aperture: f/22
  • Shutter Speed: .5 sec., 2 sec., 8 sec.
  • ISO: 100
  • Metering Mode: Pattern Metering
  • Tripod: Manfrotto 055CL
  • Manfrotto 486 RC2 ballhead

So, I won a photo contest!

Recently I opened my email and scanned a message that started “Congratulations! Out of thousands of outstanding submissions…”

Since I get so much spam I figured that this was just another message that got past my spam filter. However upon reading further I saw the words “Lake Shebeshekong” and that stopped my cursor from completing its journey to the delete icon. I thought to myself “I know that lake, we were there this summer!” Since I was just reading the message preview I was a little confused so I decided I better open the message and investigate.

When I did, I read the complete message “Congratulations! Out of thousands of outstanding submissions for the Canadian Tourism Commission’s 35 Million Directors project we’ve selected your image to be part of our website www.keepexploring.ca that combines inspiring clips from across Canada”.  Upon seeing the Government of Canada logo and the name of my photo “Lake Shebeshekong Sunset” it all cam back to me.

Back in August I submitted my photo to a contest that I became aware of on Twitter. I searched out the site, submitted in the final days the contest was open and then, due to age, I promptly forgot about the contest until I received the email message.

I am actually pretty proud of the shot, I even have it printed, framed and ready for hanging here at home. And that says a lot because I don’t usually print my images.

To my delight I found out the prize that I won is a GoPro camera package worth about $500.

Now I have a completely new direction to follow with my creations. With an underwater housing and video/still capability I can think of all kinds of neat ways to capture content. In fact, just this morning I recorded the trip I take to drop my daughter off at school. Isn’t that exciting? OK, maybe not, but now I have a new toy to play with that will hopefully net me some cool content to share here. Only time will tell…

Details:

  • Location: Lake Shebeshekong, Parry Sound, Canada
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: Canon EFS 10-22 mm
  • Focal Length: 10mm
  • Aperture: f/22
  • Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
  • ISO: 100
  • Metering Mode: Pattern Metering
  • Tripod: Manfrotto 055CL
  • Manfrotto 486 RC2 ballhead

 

Details, details, details…

So I had this grand idea, “I’ll design myself another website based on my photography”. I didn’t think it would be too hard, since my main gig is graphic design. Along with print layout I do websites for many other people. “I should be able to whip together a simple site in a few days”, or so I thought.

This project started back in May. I figured that when I had a little down time between customer jobs I could just poke away at my own site. Well, it didn’t work out that way.

The site you are looking at is based on the WordPress platform. WordPress is very robust and offers a lot of features that I like. One of them being the ability to style the look of a site based upon a theme. How the theme’s code is written will specify where the various rows and columns appear, what the font looks like and what the colour scheme is. I’m a little bit particular about how my work appears and since I don’t write the primary theme code the search for my initial site theme took me weeks to find something close to what I wanted. Once I found what I wanted as a start I then began the arduous task of “tweaking” the design code to customize the styling. On occasion I would spend 3-4 hours in the evening stylizing a single element to make it look the way I wanted.

 

When I got the theme to where I wanted I figured the next part would be easy. I just needed to choose some image files from my photo library, set up a couple of galleries, and get to blogging. Well, that didn’t work out too simply either. My Lightroom 4 Photo Library currently has just over 85,000 images in it. The overwhelming amount of images that I have captured over the years made the gallery selection almost as difficult as the theme selection. Once again I spent weeks looking back at my images, selecting some, re-editing others with newer software to net better results. And, on top of all that, I have recently become very interested in the waterfalls in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, my home town. We have 126 documented waterfalls here and over the summer I began venturing out to capture images of them. I wanted to dedicate gallery space for Hamilton waterfalls on my site so it took a little time to build up a library of images of those too.

With all of that being said, I hope you like what you see and take a couple of minutes to check back every now and then. My plans for this site are more blog oriented. I want to share some of my images that I have captured over the years and maybe write a little about them. I also hope to write about post capture image processing using Lightroom, Photoshop and some other third party software that I use. I will also make every effort to share my camera settings like I have done in the post previous “Buttermilk Creek”. I know I have learned much from seeing other photographers settings as I hope you will from mine.

To enhance or not enhance?

Recently I, along with others, was on the receiving end of some criticism for the style of images that I post on a certain user group on Facebook. The group is comprised of outdoors enthusiasts that specifically enjoy the number and variety of waterfalls in Hamilton, Ontario (The Waterfall Capital of the World – 140 waterfalls) Many of the members post images of the various falls that they visit on their outings and the comments (usually positive) ensue.

Recently however one member decided to post his image (which was very good) but added the caption “This was taken with a camera” to which he followed “My photos are not “PLAYED WITH”. All I do is a little color correction and exposure setting and maybe a little unsharp mask. I try to get it right in the camera first and not rely on photo shop to fix what should have been done in the camera.” 

As you might expect the flaming arrows started to fly back and forth. I sat back and followed the thread with interest to see where it would go. Part way along the moderator intervened to control the situation and to his credit he did not delete any of the posts. There were a few additional posts of support for the original “not “PLAYED WITH”” guy as well as his detractors who like me “PLAY WITH” our photos.

Below is one of my photos (before and after) that I am sure was the subject of the “PLAYED WITH” comment. My minds eye saw an image that my camera could not capture. With the help of Adobe Lightroom I got pretty close to the image I had envisioned when I pressed the shutter release.

So here is my question, when is it OK to edit a photo and when do you stop?