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 http://flynngraphics.ca/home/

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,

Dan

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,

Dan

 

Finding My Happy Place

•August 7, 2016 • 1 Comment

Finding My Happy Place

I have always told those close to me about my angel. Is it an angel in the heavenly sense? I don’t know. Is it real or is it imagine? I also don’t have the answer to that.

Still I feel or have felt for as long as I can remember that someone close is watching over me. That doesn’t mean that sad or difficult things haven’t happened to me because they have. I have endured the struggles that most of us have endured throughout our lives. My father died when I was in grade two leaving my widowed mother at 32 with five children. Too young to work and leave my youngest brother with us while at work, he was nine months old at the time we lived on what was delicately called at the time Widows Allowance.

We did without lots of things that most people take for granted like extra helpings of food. I never knew until later that mom often waited until we finished our supper so that she could eat the leftovers. I tell my girls who have everthing that in junior high in grade seven I had one pair of pants and two shirts to wear through the school year. I suffered the humiliation of walking to the front of the class at the beginning of each school year to have my teacher sign my welfare requisition for school supplies. It was something that I always dreaded as summer holidays came to an end.

We never had material luxuries and still I remember my childhood as being full of happiness, love and companionship. Mom was my greatest fan often telling me that I would always succeed at whatever I did. I never believed her though. LOL

All through our childhood, my brothers and sisters could find our happy place with one another, with friends, with family.

Now a retired old man who has his own family, I still consider each day a blessing. Each day my angelic companion travels with me while I walk the dog, make supper for the family and travel with me on my photographic journeys. My angel travels with me through my happy places of life.

Creativity is something that I can’t explain with words. Is it me that does the creating? Is it my angel that guides my hand and my eye? Is it my angel that takes me to where I find these heavenly places to photograph? I don’t have an answer to that either.

What I do know is that we are not alone in life. Someone or something is guiding us to where we are going.

Finding my happy place has always been easy but then, I have always had help.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 

Painting With The Wind

•August 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Painting With The Wind

I don’t have a plan.

My photography takes me where it will and I follow silently and unquestioning.

It’s amazing how if you just let go and let thingsĀ  happen they often turn out far differently and better than if you had planned something.

The wind on the prairies is forever moving clouds and grasses and leaves. Trees sway to it. Old wooden farm granaries fall over in it’s presence.

Lately I have been photographing clouds. Long exposures. Four minutes. Eight minutes.

Letting the wind paint the clouds across the canvas that the sky is.

Never knowing how it will gift me. It surprises me. It delights me.

The wind is special here. It has a palpable presence. I feel it cool me under the hot sun of summer and it chills me to the bone come winter.

I love painting with the wind.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 

An Award Winning Photographer

•August 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

 

Church At FedoraA little while back I was doing my daily editing of one of the groups that I created and moderate on Flickr. When I say moderate, all that I mean is that it is I that ultimately accept or reject photos that get into the group.

My only criteria is that the pictures be technically sound and interesting. You could never guess how many middle of the day, boring photos I see annually of the most photographed places on earth. If you want to get a picture accepted it MUST be interesting and not something that shows no creativity.

I seldom if ever look at the names of the photographers when editing. Since I get upwards of four or five hundred submissions a day and I have a very short attention span I usually only just see a thumbnail and decide from there if it is yay or nay. If a picture is sitting in the middle I accept it only to look at the larger version when it is in the group and decide stay or go. There really is no right or wrong for photos but I am trying to maintain a certain look or aesthetic to the group. If it’s not interesting it’s not in.

I did a double take on one of these photos the other day that was one of the “middle” pics. When I viewed the large version the description of the photo was below it and read it. It was disappointing.

Essentially the photo description was an advert for the photographer’s landscape workshops. Nestled inside the paragraph was a line describing the workshops as “award winning”. Huh, I thought to myself. Whatever happened to modesty? Was it really necessary to do a hard sell on the tour? Firstly, who gave out the award? What is that supposed to mean? Why do I care about what the people giving out the award care?

The same goes for the “award winning” photos that I see posted on Flickr. Sure it’s nice to win an award but really, I’d much rather have the cash prize that goes with the award rather than the recognition that might or might not go with it. It’s the same as when I took photos for a living, I could not care less if I was given a photo credit. What I cared about was getting paid for what I had done.

I like to make comparisons to make my points sometimes and I have one that goes like this. If you like your eggs prepared a certain way and absolutely love them what does it matter if your spouse, better half, etc. doesn’t like them that way? The eggs like your photos really are for your consumption. That is unless you are cooking for someone else and never eat your own cooking.

Happy shooting,

Dan

Green With Envy

•August 2, 2016 • 3 Comments

Green With Envy

I moderate a few groups on Flickr and as a result usually spend a few minutes each day editing, that is, accepting or rejecting a few hundred photos into those groups.

A few days ago I stumbled across a prairie photo that was taken in color and it looked incredible. My acid test for whether a photo is good or not is whether or not I wished that I had taken it.

I did wish that I had taken it. It reminded me of so many color photos of the prairies over the years. A really good color landscape is not just about an interesting subject and great composition, it is also about special atmospheric conditions and this pic had that in spades.

Immediately I wished that I were now shooting color landscapes instead of black and white. The more photos I looked at by this photographer the more envious I became. And with each color photo that I looked at the more they looked the same.

And then…

And then I looked at some really good black and white landscapes and remembered why I had put color on the shelf and pursued the 256 shades of gray. Color had gotten old having done it for many years. It became too easy to come home with something that I liked. I was getting bored with doing color. It had gotten old.

Shooting black and white meant starting almost from scratch. It meant seeing differently and also shooting differently. For as much as the two types of landscapes are similar they are different.

Doing something new meant learning by trial and error what worked and what didn’t and for me it was relatively new ground to cover. That I loved.

Learning has always been a pleasant challenge. Learning to grow from your failures is humbling. It reminds me that I have so much to learn.

One type of landscape is not better or more valid than the other. Black and white is not more “pure” or “artistic” then color. That whole argument is full of pretense and self importance.

Grow from being creative and never compare yourself to others. My journey is different than yours and the person that took that incredible color landscape.

Green with envy? Only momentarily and then off on my journey.

Happy shooting,

Dan

Autumn Is Coming

•August 1, 2016 • 2 Comments

Autumn Is ComingYes, autumn is coming.

A couple of days ago one of my daughters and I went out for a short drive in the country to take pictures. We ended up at an old Ukrainian Orthodox church half an hour out of town.

I had been here a couple of times before to do long exposures but the skies never cooperated with me. This time might be better I was hoping.

After I planted the tripod and set the camera to do an eight minute exposure I sat myself on the warm grass and took in the scenery. My daughter was at the far end of the church yard walking through the old cemetery. (not the one in the picture above). As I looked around I noticed that the tops of some poplar trees were already turning yellow. On the drive out earlier the once bright yellow fields of canola had mostly lost their blossoms and were now a dull blue green. Prairie wildflowers that were in full bloom a couple of short weeks ago had dropped their petals and all around me in the mowed grass surrounding the church dandelion heads were ready to release their seeds to the wind. A sure sign of autumn.

My daughter returned a few minutes later and sat with me to chat about unimportant stuff that dads and daughters talk about.

Being as it was still summer I was wearing shorts. She was wearing long black jeans and a black top. When the sun broke from the clouds that were whizzing by everything got warm. Very warm. So warm in fact that soon my daughter was getting hot dressed all in black and into the Rav we went and were home shortly.

I processed my images and still… nothing that I cared to use.

Sunday morning, July 31 came and the sky looked wonderful. The clouds were very low and puffy and there was a strong wind. Perfect conditions for the church I thought. I hollered upstairs to my daughter, the other one had to work at Starbucks later that day, and asked if she wanted to go. Typical young person who was out late the night before, “No dad, I’m too tired”, was all I needed to hear and in two minutes I was out the door and on my way.

The sky ended up being very nice and I spent three hours there watching the sky blow by and have curious gophers inch closer towards me as I sat and waited for the camera to expose another image.

Feeling good about having something to use I decided to skip across the county to another couple of old churches that I knew of and their cemeteries. In half an hour I was there and taking photos.

I immediately walked to the country cemetery and planted the camera for my first shot. Having done that I walked around and read some of the gravestone markers. It was an interesting story that the markers told. Mostly Ukrainians settled here. Some had emigrated from across the sea and died here. Others born in the late 1880’s married, had children and died. Other grave markers were of young children born in December and dying a month later during the time of the Spanish Flu.

As I continued to take photos my mind drifted back to the stories associated to the grave markers. Everyone of them had a story to tell. The loves and sorrows. The highs and lows. Having children, losing children. Living their lives the same way we do today but with much less luxury and extravagance. I tried to imagine the people behind the names and a time over one hundred years ago. What was it like to live here at that time?

Those people are exactly like us. Each with a story to tell and now mostly forgotten. Will it be that way for us?

Autumn is coming.

Happy shooting,

Dan