Plain And Simple

•September 3, 2016 • 6 Comments

Plain And Simple

Friday morning I was up around 6:00 a.m. like I usually am.  It’s funny how as we get older we become more like our parents.

My dad died when I was six years old so my memories of him are few but I have plenty of my mother. She was always up early. Me on the other hand, if I could sleep in till one in the afternoon I could easily do so.

Now 62 years of age I have become my mother, kind of. Without any alarm clock or radio to wake me from my slumber around 5:30 or 6:00 the brain becomes alert and it’s up and at em.

The forecast for Friday and most of this weekend in fact is gray, dreary and drizzly weather. As the morning coffee was brewing I did what I have done for years, check the local forecast and have a peek at the provincial highway webcam website. The province of Alberta like most states and provinces have webcams posted on various highways that usually refresh every ten or fifteen minutes.

With autum approaching and the days rapidly shortening it was still dark. The webcams weren’t showing much yet. But the forecast looked grim. Grim for those that like it sunny and hot but enticing for me.

The skies gradually lightened, the webcams showed mucho rain to the west, the direction we usually get our weather from but that rain was at least one hundred kilometers away. To the east it was heavily overcast but dry. My decision was made, I poured myself a last cup of coffee to go, grabbed my backpack with camera gear and attached the camera to its tripod.

The highways were already empty as I drove out to Elk Island National Park with the morning commute almost over. When I arrived at Elk Island thirty minutes later it was apparent that summer was over and school was in. The main campground was deserted and the one public beach in the park was empty with only a couple on the floating pier taking a morning selfie. Oh yeah, and lots of sea gulls and griebes in the water.

With the sun behind my back and hidden behind a bank of clouds I aimed the camera at the lake and did a test exposure. Rather than use a meter I usually place a 16 stop on the lens and expose for two minutes at f8. The result was almost black. So I doubled the exposure to eight minutes. A little dark but usable.

Last year I picked up a 13 stop filter that I hardly ever use. The three extra stops of light would be helpful in the early morning light so I switched filters. F11 at four minutes and it was perfectly exposed. The curious sea gulls watched me and ducks swam into and out of the image but none of that matters with a long exposure. They all disappear not staying still long enough to register. The same applied the waves on Astotin Lake. The combination of reflected light from the clouds above and smoothing of the waves resulted in a nice, even light tone to the water.

On the horizon were two kinds of clouds. Dark storm clouds interspersed with a bank of low, white clouds moving quickly across the image right to left. At four minutes the light clouds provided enough movement and separation against the dark sky to make it interesting.

I stayed at the lake for another forty minutes trying various angles including the floating pier which you will never see hear. Apparently the pier moves just enough over four minutes that it was blurred and unusable.

I drove home in a very indirect route taking the side roads, zig zagging towards Edmonton amazed at the low flying dark skies and best of all it was still dry outside.

Processing this was very simple. A quick conversion to black and white, adjusting brightness and contrast and a little burning of the sky at the top and water at the bottom to hold the eye in the frame.

Plain and simple. Just the way I like it.

Happy shooting,


Inspiration and Motivation… get out there with your camera

•August 30, 2016 • 4 Comments

Lac St. Anne Rocks

Creativity doesn’t only apply to photography. It is relevant to almost everything in our lives. From how we dress to how our homes are decorated and even how we prepare meals, creativity is involved.

Sometimes we get the creative doldrums. At least I do. Just when it seems like I have run out of ideas or don’t feel like getting outdoors with camera in hand I have a little secret. There resides on the desktop a folder with the name, “long exposure”. I had forgotten about it and while doing a little computer housekeeping came upon it.

I opened the folder to reveal a couple of dozen screen captures from the internet of drop dead, gorgeous landscapes from around the world. Beautifully toned black and whites, brilliantly coloured prairie landscapes with old, wooden grain elevators stading amongst towering storm clouds. As I scrolled through the screen captures something magical happened to me. My heart started beating a little harder. My breathing became faster and shallower. My imagination ran wild.

Why wasn’t I driving the country roads this morning and looking for photos to take I thought to myself. Could I make the four hour drive to the mountains to do some long exposures I had been thinking about and be back later tonight?

That is all that it took. I only needed to see someone else’s creative works to get that flame lit inside me. For me it can be that simple.

So here is what I do to help me fired up.

I usually don’t save photos from websites. I have a fair understanding of html coding so I can usually get around the various ways to prevent downloading photos but I don’t care to steal someones pics to use elsewhere. I only want something to help me “remember” what I saw inspired me. No, instead of trying to download photos I do a simple screen capture.

A screen capture is a simple “snapshot” of the screen. There are various programs for Windows computers that make it very easy. I use a Mac and with the Mac there are two easy ways to do captures. I don’t want to capture the whole screen. I just want a copy of the picture that I like for future reference. If I hold down the keyboard keys SHIFT+OPTION+4 the cursor changes to a tool that allows me to drag out the shape of a rectangle. I only draw out the shape over the photo that interests me and it is saved to the desktop. I drag that screen capture to my inspirational folder and it is saved for a later viewing.

Is it legal? Since I am only saving a low resolution grab for my own personal viewing I think that it is.

I strongly believe in protecting photographers rights to their images. I have many out there on the internet and would hope that others respect my rights as I respect theirs.

That isn’t always the case as I have gotten a few nice cheques from companies that have ripped off my photos for free, without my permission. The images that I have with stock agencies are compared to images on the internet with a special program that crawls the internet and compares files to the ones in their database. If there is a hit, a human will then compare the photos, get in touch with the stock agency which then sends out a legal takedown notice along with a bill for illegally using the picture. I think that I have gotten a few thousand dollars over the years that way. If you steal a photo from the internet and use it on your own website you’re taking the chance that you will get a take down notice and a bill that is actually higher than if you had legally purchased the photo.

Having said that… off I go.

Happy shooting,


Nothing to see here… move along

•August 29, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Nothing To See Here

Sunday morning was blustery and overcast.

I had been thinking of photographing water for a few weeks and tried to think of a location that might lend itself to photography. An hours drive from where I live is a lake that when I was a youngster had a long cement pier that you could walk out onto. That would be perfect for the Sunday morning shoot or so I thought.

Off I drove late in the morning. Shooting black and white it doesn’t require that you be there at the tail ends of the day to get the nice beautiful colors that color landscapes require. With black and white it’s much more simple. As the miles/kilometers passed I kept an eye on the sky watching the clouds blow by and with increasing frequency there were blue spots between the clouds.

Fall is definitely knocking on the door in central Alberta. It was 10 Celsius or about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and with the wind it actually felt cool. More poplar trees are fringed with yellow leaves. Most crops are now golden/yellow and waiting to be harvested. The scenery has definitely shifted colors from greens to golds, yellows and browns.

Arriving at the summer village which lies on the edge of the lake I was glad that it was relatively cool. Hardly any people were about and the pier would probably be empty. I continued to drive along the road that edges along the lake looking for the pier or at least where I remembered it to be. No pier. At the end of the village I turned around and drove back the way that I came. Maybe I missed it?

No pier. I found a long cement boat launch where I thought the pier used to be. Photogenic it wasn’t. Try as I might I couldn’t find an angle that looked good to me. As the wind whipped across the lake and big waves crashed against the boat launch I figured I should at least try and come home with some kind of photo to play with so seeing a large boulder placed on the edge of the concrete launch I planted camera on tripod and eight minutes later walked around looking for other angles to shoot.

Nothing seemed to work. A few more angles, more like desperation  photos and I headed home.

Instead of taking the highway which is a quicker and more direct route the side roads might surprise me, I thought. Half an hour later the scenery wasn’t the wide open spaces that I am used to photographing but instead lots of bush interspersed with a few small open fields. Try as I might I couldn’t find anything that caught my eye.

A disappointing morning? Not at all. Driving on country roads in the fall is magical. The combination of colors and seasons changing, the cooler air and even a sure sign of fall, hearing speckle belly geese (which summer by the arctic circle) overhead does something to my soul. Memories from early childhood come to mind. Coming home from a weekend of camping or fishing and sitting in the back seat of the car watching the scenery go by. Kind of like what I am doing now. Watching the scenery and the years go by.

Happy shooting,


Photo Contests… Should You Enter?

•August 25, 2016 • 8 Comments

Infrared Home

Photography for some is a giant competition.

Do I have the latest camera body? Is my lens the sharpest out there?

You only need to browse a few of the photography forums to see how competitive some people are. Brand X makes the shapest lens, has the best bokeh, has the fastet autofocus and on and on and on.

It’s pretty funny really because anytime I have googled one of these forum warriors to see what their photos look like I quickly realized that their photographs didn’t come close to meeting the expectations that they had painted in my mind.

We watch the Olympics every four years to see who is the fastest or best at their sport. Take sprinting for example, the winner really is the winner. You cannot deny that the person who crossed the finish line first is the winner. So what about photo contests?

It’s not the same for any kind of art competition. There really isn’t a definitive best picture for one simple reason, my idea of best might be different than your idea but both of our ideas are equally valid.

Many years ago where I worked they had an annual photo awards for western Canada. I entered them for a couple of years not because I needed or wanted to be labelled best or worst photographer in western Canada but because it was an effective way of getting your name out there. Again who can say this photographer or that is the best? There isn’t any such thing in my mind.

I am long retired and haven’t entered one of those work related awards/contests in many, many years but the idea of a photo contest is kind of appealing to me still.

For a few years it was difficult to enter any contests at all for the simple reason that almost everything that I shot went to stock photo agencies and with it the rights to those photos. It would be impossible for me to enter a photo and have it used by the contest in some kind of promotion and yet have exclusivity with the stock agency when selling to a client.

I have not submitted any photos for stock for a few years now. One of the agencies that I used to submit to seems to be on the verge of bankruptcy and I still have money owing to me from a couple of years ago. Why then would I submit more photos to them? I would be crazy to do so. The other agency? They pay regularly but stock fees have become so low compared to what they used to be I make more money selling prints than I do through stock for the past couple of years. My main reason for selling prints/stock these days is because it provides me with a tax break on photo equipment and related expenses.

I entered a contest last year, a very well known one with a few black and whites and had completely forgotten about it until I got a reminder in email last week that they deadline for the current years contest is about a month away. Because the last few years of photos I own exclusively I am able to enter without any restrictions but the question is WHY ENTER?

I am certainly not entering to become famous. Fame is something that I could not care less about. In fact, I do all that I can to remain semi-anonymous. I am about as low profile as can be on the internet.

No fame is not the reason. Being retired I’m not looking to get my name out there and garner more work. So then why?

I am only entering because there is a nice cash reward. I am not losing the rights to the photos that might place or win. No one is going to use the contest as a cheap way to get photos. It’s just the cash.

So, having said that what should you look for before deciding to enter a contest?

Rights. Usage.

NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. Never give up the rights to your photos.

Make sure that if you do win and only if you win that the company can use your photo for promotion for a limited time.

Lastly, remember that this isn’t the Olympics. There really isn’t a true winner only someone that the judges chose based upon their tastes. Given a different set of judges or a different year, this years winners might be losers in any other year. Don’t let your ego get tied up with winning or losing and for God’s sake DON’T go placing the little badges that you get for winning or placing in the contest all over your web site. Nothing is tackier than that.

On another note, the weather here has been foul for photos and I have been itching to get out. My creative fire is burning and I am going to explode. Soon.

Happy shooting,


Why Am I Here

•August 14, 2016 • 1 Comment

Why I Am Here

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.
— Henry Ward Beecher

From a young age I can remember wondering where I came from. Oh the physical part I know all about. The mechanics of the biology are easily put to words.

No, that isn’t what a young Daniel used to daydream and wonder about. Where did “me” come from? How long was I here for? What was I hear for? Why was I here?

These thoughts kept churning through my mind even before starting grade school.

Even though I was raised under a strict Pentecostal, fire and brimstone doctrine, at a very young age something about it seemed amiss. If all the love why the eternal damnation if I erred? It made no sense to me. What was I missing?

Questions, so many questions and so many years later those questions still remain with me into my sixties.

As I often do I go to Youtube to find something interesting to listen to and then do a similar query for reading material. It’s always amazing where I end up whether it be luck or preordained I don’t know.

The music ended up being Tibetan healing and meditation sounds. The reading landed me onto a page of quotes about creativity and the soul. I think that I got down to the fourth or fifth one and it hit me like a brick in the face. “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” As I read it, it answered at least one of my many questions, where does this all come from?

Why do I feel a need to create something abstract? Why do you? How is it that my dog is content to go for walks, eat, sleep, be comforted and cuddled but not create?

When I decided to write on this topic I started going through some of this summers unposted photos and the one above of the cemetery seemed to resonate within me.

We are all here for a brief moment in time. I know all too well from the loss of my little brother a couple of months ago who little time we have and how we take for granted too often the time that we have here.

When we leave this earth like my little bro did what will remain of us? For all the years he walked the planet what remains of him now? Memories? Relationships? Love?

I have come to realize that our time here is limited. We forget that too often and like my dog go no where very fast chasing our tails so to speak. What should we/I be doing?

In one hundred years I hope that someone might see one of my photographs and see a little bit of me.

In one hundred years those that I know will also be gone. None will remember me.

What will be left of us? Is it important?

I don’t know. All I have are questions.

Happy shooting,


The Real Beauty Is In Your Imagination

•August 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The Beauty Of Our Imagination

The other day I got an email from a fellow Canadian and blogger Flynn Marr, his blog is here

Flynn had some very flattering things to say that were really too kind and generous. He posted a few paragraphs and photos about my blog and website. Flynn wrote about what a beautiful place that I live in and while that is true, it is beautiful and wide open, there are so many more beautiful and photogenic places in the world.

BTW, check out Flynns blog, he has some very beautiful images and wonderful things to say.

Where I live I am lucky because every country road that I drive provides me with a slightly or sometimes drastically different view than where I just came from.

With color photography I tend to be more true to what the landscape actually is. With black and white there is a greater ability to get crazy, to really use my imagination.

Depending upon the weather which can be so variable even during the same day, the geography and the quality of light the same scene in black and white can look a myriad of different ways and that is where I delight in taking landscapes.

The other day I was driving out of town and remembered a broad valley with rolling fields. This same field was featured on a magazine cover in color and also in a calendar that was produced in Europe. The basic elements for what I look for are there so on that day I stopped my vehicle got out and took a few eight minute exposures not knowing what the result would be.

I have as much fun on the computer “getting crazy” in Photosh0p as I do taking photos. In fact, there might be more creativity and imagination involved in post processing than in the actual shooting.

The final product is at the top of this post and a very basic output from my RAW converter is below to give you an idea of where my black and white photos come from.

Before Photo

Yes indeed, Alberta is beautiful but our imaginations… well, they have a beauty all of their own.

Happy shooting,


From This To This To This

•August 9, 2016 • 8 Comments

Fenceline Trees

I figured that since this really is a photography blog that I should probably write more about photography rather than the stuff that occupies the rest of my life so here goes.

When shooting infrared it is not obvious when shooting or even in post processing which images will work out.

Firstly, the display on the back of my camera is good for checking focus, compositon, ie, balance and exposure. To actually see how purple and dark the RAW image is can be discouraging but there is much to be gleaned from the RAW. It really is only through trial and error that you will get a feel for what is workable.

RAW Infrared Image

Above is what my previews usually look like. What I am looking for is that the highlights aren’t blown away and that I have shadow detail. I always bracket my infrared photos. Five exposures. Two over, one under and one that the camera meter recommends. Depending upon what I am shooting, I will often set the camera to over or under expose in order to either retain highlights or keep shadow detail. A quick glance is all that I give the preview and continue shooting.

Once I have edited the RAWs from the back of the camera deleting the bad compositions or the over or under exposed images I transfer them to my computer.

I use a RAW editing program to then make rough corrections, ie, noise control, removing the purple color cast and getting the density close but not quite there.

RAW Converted

The image is exported as a TIFF which I then open in Photosho for further refining. The TIFF then has the shadow and highlight detail that I want.

Overall it looks dark but I know from experience that I can lighten the image overall and still keep the highlight detail.

Still the image looks a bit flat. By using a dodging tool in Photoshop I selectively lighten the trunks of the trees and alternately lightening the foliage. The foliage before is all of the same tone, something that I don’t want. By using a smaller dodging too set to only lighten highlights I can lighten the grasses and leaves.

A little sharpening in Photoshop for the web and voila. Done!

A large part of the creative process is in the visualizing while shooting and continuing the process in Photoshop. As you can see a straight print would not look as good as one that has been tweaked.

There, my first actual photography post in a few weeks. LOL

Happy shooting,