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Morning mist

Warm light from the rising sun glows on mist above a small lake at the Ministik Lake Sanctuary in Alberta, Canada.

Warm sun­light on morn­ing mist

This is anoth­er pho­to from my lat­est trip out to Min­is­tik. It was a gor­geous, calm morn­ing: warm enough to be com­fort­able, but cool enough to keep the mos­qui­toes down and the mist ris­ing from the lakes.

A few of my prints have come out with slight colour casts, usu­al­ly a (very lit­tle) bit green­ish, so I tried this one tonight as the colour of the ris­ing mist is very impor­tant to the feel of the pho­to­graph. We’ll see how it turns out…

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Aurora Borealis over black spruce

A towering curtain of northern lights hangs over a dense boreal black spruce stand in northern Alberta

Auro­ra bore­alis over black spruce for­est

Final­ly — a pho­to­graph of the Auro­ra Bore­alis on borealisimages.ca! (Although, for the record, the title I’ve giv­en these gal­leries — ‘Sil­vi­co­la bore­alis Images’ — is derived from latin roots, and rough­ly trans­lates to ‘inhab­it­ing the north­ern for­est’. The pre­fix ‘sil­vi’ (or ‘sil­va’) relates to the for­est, as in ‘sil­vi­cul­ture’ which is the prac­tice of grow­ing and tend­ing a for­est. ‘Bore­alis’ refers gen­er­al­ly to things north­ern in nature, and is from ‘Bore­as’ — the Greek god of the north wind.)

This is def­i­nite­ly the dark­est pho­to that I’ve ever print­ed, and I’m quite hap­py with the way it turned out — the print lit­er­al­ly felt heavy with ink! On-screen, I could see a lit­tle bit of detail still in the spruce trees, but I can’t see any of that in the print yet. We’ll see if view­ing it in bright day­light will reveal some of those dark­est details, but oth­er­wise I think they look fine as sol­id sil­hou­ettes too.

I took this pho­to in north­ern Alber­ta while doing owl sur­veys this past spring. It was the first time I’d pho­tographed the north­ern lights, and it was a lot of fun to try out a whole bunch of dif­fer­ent tech­niques, equip­ment, and of course, patience… I’ll be doing a round of bat sur­veys in the next lit­tle while, and I hope to get the chance to apply some of what I learned this spring to mak­ing more images of these beau­ti­ful north­ern lights.

(Click to enlarge the image — you should be able to see the stars in the full-size image too!)

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Old growth aspen trunks

Three massive aspen (Populus tremuloides) trees dominate an old-growth mixedwood stand in the boreal forest of west-central Alberta.

Old-growth aspen

This was a gor­geous for­est stand to work and pho­to­graph in, and, unfor­tu­nate­ly, a bit of an odd­i­ty to find such large, old aspens left out on the land­scape. My goal print­ing this image was to pre­serve the sub­tle­ty of tone and light & shad­ow, but still cap­ture some of the bril­liance of this stand in the ear­ly morn­ing light.

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Boreal mixedwood colours

Aspen, spruce and pine trees display a range young boreal mixedwood forest in western Alberta, Canada

Colour­ful mixed­wood trunks

I’m writ­ing this post as my print­er churns away on this one, and I’m real­ly inter­est­ed to see how it turns out. I’ve often heard it rec­om­mend­ed to push a giv­en pro­cess­ing tech­nique a lit­tle too far, and then ease back a lit­tle. By doing this, you dis­cov­er the lim­it of the tech­nique with­out cross­ing it. This sounds rea­son­able in prac­tice, but I fear that you then have all your images at the edge of what’s accept­able, and per­haps sac­ri­fice some sub­tle­ty. A cer­tain sub­tley, is often hard­er to notice at the moment that you’re work­ing on an image in Light­room, but can eas­i­ly be essen­tial to mak­ing a good image a great image. I guess the goal is to be able to rec­og­nize when an image requires that sub­tle­ty, and to make sure that you’re not cross­ing that line.

So with that in mind, I picked this pho­to (which, although I quite like it, I don’t think is very sub­tle at all) and pushed the clar­i­ty and sharp­ness to the lim­it of what I thought looked good on my screen. Once the print is fin­ished, it’ll be inter­est­ing to see how well (or not) that trans­lat­ed on to paper.

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Dried grass with green fringe

Dried grass seed heads glow in the warming evening light of early spring.

Tall dried grass

I’m try­ing to print a wide range of pho­tos as I start up on my Dai­ly Print project to give myself a feel for what kinds of prints I’m fair­ly good at mak­ing already, and which areas I could use more prac­tice.

I’m also try­ing to use a range of tools and tech­niques that I haven’t used before, to try to add them to my reg­u­lar work­flow to be used as required. This image showed just a hint of “green fring­ing” chro­mat­ic abber­a­tion, so I tried out Light­room 4.1’s new “Defringe” con­trols. I don’t know if the slight fring­ing would have been notice­able in a print orig­i­nal­ly, but it sure wasn’t after a lit­tle bit of extra tweak­ing. Cool.

A folio print of this image is for sale for whatever price you think is fair. Enter amount: $

Boreal lake sunrise

The sky glows orange and purple in the first light of dawn over Namur Lake. Taken from a helicopter over the boreal forest of northern Alberta, Canada

Sun­rise over Namur Lake

I took this pho­to on my way to work ear­li­er this sum­mer — I just hap­pened to be lucky enough to be com­mut­ing in a heli­copter out to a gor­geous old-growth bore­al mixed­wood site about 100km north-west of Fort McMur­ray to do bird sur­veys for the morn­ing! It was a neat expe­ri­ence to get to spend so much time fly­ing over the bore­al land­scape that I know so well from the ground, and to get a bit of a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on things. I’m sure I’ll print and share here a few more pho­tos from my past cou­ple shifts up there.

I notice when I look through my pho­to archives, that my colour palette tends to be rather sub­dued, even som­bre at times. If I then look through the pho­tographs made by oth­er pho­tog­ra­phers that I’ve marked as my favourites, (pri­mar­i­ly on the ter­rif­ic pho­tog­ra­phy-shar­ing web­site 500px.com (here’s my 500px col­lec­tion and my favourites from oth­er 500px pho­tog­ra­phers)) I notice that the over­all impres­sion is very sim­i­lar — I guess it turns out that’s just what I’m most drawn to… So, for today’s print I decid­ed to choose an image with a bit of colour.

I chose this pho­to in par­tic­u­lar because of the bright, high­ly sat­u­rat­ed orange/red band on the hori­zon. When Light­room 4 was released (the soft­ware I use for 95% of my pro­cess­ing), I’d read about its new soft-proof­ing abil­i­ty (here’s anoth­er good arti­cle as a pdf), but nev­er actu­al­ly used it before. I was pret­ty sure the intense warm colours in this image would be out of gamut for my print­er and paper com­bo that I’m using for this Dai­ly Print project (an Epson 3880 and Can­son Bary­ta Pho­tographique). Sure enough, Light­room was show­ing me clip­ping warn­ings, but with just a lit­tle finess­ing (low­er sat­u­ra­tion and high­lights, increase vibrance and con­trast, tweak tone curve, etc), I got it look­ing good, and not show­ing any clip­ping. I ran the print off, and was quite impressed how close­ly the print matched my mon­i­tor. I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing the print in the day­light tomor­row…

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Summer evening at Jasper Lake

Fluffy cumulus clouds are reflected in Jasper Lake on a warm late summer day in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Fine sum­mer clouds over Jasper Lake

In August 2008 I was work­ing for the Cana­di­an For­est Ser­vice, doing research in pine stands west of Edmon­ton. I made this pho­to after leav­ing from work for the week­end and dri­ving through Jasper on the way to a friend’s wed­ding in north­ern BC. I could see the light get­ting good as I got clos­er to the park and, after a speed­ing tick­et in Edson (d-oh!), I had a ter­rif­ic evening mak­ing many images that I was real­ly hap­py with. This Dai­ly Print project that I’m try­ing out is a great excuse to look back into my archives to find these images that I’ve kind of for­got­ten about. Watch for more pho­tos from this August evening in the next few weeks…

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