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Warbler along mountain creek

A male Audubons Warbler watches for flying insects from his perch on a freshly budding willow sapling overhanging a small creek in Banff National Park, Alberta

Yellow-rumped War­bler on bud­ding willow

I’ve always liked this pho­to­graph, and the mem­ory of the day that I took it (which often con­founds a photographer’s abil­ity to tell if a photo’s any good or not). I’ve even writ­ten a post about this image before (which you can read here). Even so, I’ve never printed it, so I fig­ured this Daily Print project was just the excuse I needed.

Bonus ques­tions for this post: +1 point if you can tell me the sex of the bird, +5 points for the sub­species, and +50 points if you can tell me the age (hint: click the image to view it full size, and remem­ber that this photo was taken in May…)

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

Red-winged Blackbird flock

Red-winged blackbirds perch in the bare branches of early spring near Beaverhill Lake in Alberta

Black­bird flock in bare trees

I recently received a request from a woman to use this pho­to­graph in a blog post she’s writ­ing, which gave me the great excuse to re-visit this image and to share it here (it hasn’t made it into the new web­site yet, but watch for it in the Birds sec­tion of my cat­a­logue, hope­fully in the next few months).

I took this photo near the Beaver­hill Bird Obser­va­tory near Tofield, AB in the spring of 2007. At the time, I was exper­i­ment­ing with defo­cus­ing images, or por­tions thereof, for cre­ative effect. In this case, the orig­i­nal image was mostly sharp, and I “painted in” the blurred effect in post-processing. I was inspired to try this tech­nique by another pho­tog­ra­pher who would cre­ate the same effect in the dark­room by spilling chem­i­cals over the dry­ing print and using a brush or sponge to blur the image.

It’s always fun to try new tech­niques, and although I haven’t taken many defo­cused pho­tographs lately, you can view a selec­tion of these images in my “Boreal Impres­sions” port­fo­lio. I’d also rec­om­mend hav­ing a look at William Neill’s “Impres­sions of Light” port­fo­lio for more great blurry images that were an inspi­ra­tion to me (although he achieves the effect mostly through long shut­ter speeds and cam­era move­ment, rather than man­u­ally defo­cus­ing the lens).

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

Dried grass calligraphy

A single grass stem with a curled dried leaf casts a calligraphic shadow across a rolling bank of fresh snow

Dried grass cal­lig­ra­phy on fresh snow

Yes­ter­day was a beau­ti­ful, sunny win­ter day in Edmon­ton (although a bit too warm — things shouldn’t be melt­ing yet!) and I took the chance to take the snow­shoes (and kid, and dog, and cam­era) out to the Cook­ing Lake-Blackfoot Provin­cial Recre­ation Area. I like going into the park from the south end, park­ing at the Islet Lake stag­ing area.

With all the snow we’ve got­ten, the lakeshore topog­ra­phy has been smoothed out to gen­tle undu­la­tions of per­fect, smooth snow. That, com­bined with the low sun this time of year, pro­vides lots of chances for pho­tographs with sim­ple, ele­gant lines and min­i­mal visual clutter.

Cooking lake post-top snow cones

Cook­ing lake post-top snow cones

(And then there’s this one — pretty much on the other end of the spec­trum — using the same basic ele­ments for slap­stick rather than ele­gance… but can you guess which one my daugh­ter preferred?)

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

Frost on dried Goldenrod

Strong backlighting highlights the hoar frost coating the transluscent leaves of a dried Goldenrod stem

Dried Gold­en­rod leaves with hoar frost

Although this pho­to­graph was from a lit­tle ear­lier in the sea­son than my last post, it was a sim­i­larly frosty, beau­ti­ful day. It’s amaz­ing how a lin­ing of frost can add def­i­n­i­tion and visual inter­est to an oth­er­wise sub­dued scene. This is espe­cially true when pho­tograph­ing with the sun behind your sub­ject, the back­light­ing mak­ing the frost shine while the rest of the sub­ject remains shad­owed. I also added a fairly heavy vignetting effect while pro­cess­ing this image, to fur­ther draw atten­tion to the lines cre­ated by the curled, dried gold­en­rod leaves.

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

Autumn foliage triptych

Autumn foliage triptych

Autumn foliage triptych

Here are three pho­tographs of autumn colour in the plants out at Min­is­tik Lake. While pro­cess­ing these images, I played around with de-saturating all the colours except for those of the main sub­ject. This kind of manip­u­la­tion of the image is out­side of the reg­u­lar “darkroom-style” pro­cess­ing that I usu­ally restrict myself to — but in this case, I really like how it looks. I also added a fairly heavy vignetting effect (the dark­en­ing of the cor­ners) to fur­ther accen­tu­ate the main sub­ject of each image.

With their sim­i­lar­i­ties in colour, sub­ject mat­ter, and pro­cess­ing tech­nique, I found that these three pho­tographs com­ple­mented each other when viewed side-by-side. I don’t know the “the­ory” behind why some images work together as a group, but I do know that some­times a trip­tych is def­i­nitely greater than the sum of its parts. (Click here to see a cou­ple more of my favourite trip­tychs). As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts — just leave a com­ment below.

Autumn foliage triptych I

Autumn foliage triptych II

Autumn foliage triptych III

Click these thumb­nails to see a larger vesion of each image indi­vid­u­ally (use your arrow keys to move between them).

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

Raptor migration through Edmonton river valley

Coopers Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Today, after a cou­ple days of bad weather, I went for a walk at the Strath­cona Sci­ence Park, a provin­cial park on the east­ern edge of Edmon­ton (fol­low 17th street north from base­line road (101 ave)). The early autumn colours were start­ing to come out, but most strik­ing was the num­ber of rap­tors mov­ing through the river val­ley. Dur­ing my rel­a­tively short walk, I saw a pair of Swainson’s Hawks, sev­eral Red-tailed Hawks, a Bald Eagle perched in a snag, and a Cooper’s Hawk hunt­ing Yellow-rumped War­blers in the shrubs along the river bank.

I didn’t get any pho­tographs of the birds I saw today, so I thought I’d share this one — a Cooper’s Hawk that I caught while work­ing as a bird ban­der at the Beaver­hill Bird Obser­va­tory in Tofield. As you may judge from the photo, he was none too happy about the sit­u­a­tion, but I really enjoyed get­ting a close-up look at one of these ter­rific birds.

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

Composing with Live View for effect and convenience

Amanita mush­room from above

Amanita mushroom at Ministik Lake Sanctuary

Amanita mush­room

In my last post, I didn’t say much about the pho­tographs them­selves, as they were more doc­u­men­tary than artis­tic in nature, but per­haps one thing I’ll men­tion, as some­thing for you to try out if you haven’t already, is that for the first time I used the “Live View” func­tion on my DSLR to get down really low beside these mush­rooms for an inter­est­ing per­spec­tive (e.g. the puff­ball, and the amanita).

Live View (i.e. fram­ing the photo using the LCD on the back of the cam­era) has been com­mon on point-and-shoot cam­eras for a long time, but is just being intro­duced on SLR cam­eras in the past few years. How­ever, I still find myself using the opti­cal viewfinder for every­thing except shoot­ing video — just old fash­ioned I guess (although in my defence, I think the form fac­tor of a DSLR does not lend itself to being held at arms’ length, espe­cially with a longer lens attached). In this case though, by using the Live View, I could basi­cally have the cam­era and lens on the ground, and still com­pose a decent image even though I was also car­ry­ing my daugh­ter in a big back­pack. You can see the dif­fer­ence in two pho­tos above, the one on the left I made look­ing through the viewfinder while crouch­ing as low as pos­si­ble, and the one on the right is taken in the same pos­ture, but using the LCD on the back of the cam­era to com­pose the image.

Using Live View (or what­ever your camera’s maker calls it) for this type of oth­er­wise awk­ward shot is def­i­nitely a trick that I will keep in mind for the future, and rec­om­mend to oth­ers for those moments where the unusual angle is tempt­ing, but lay­ing pros­trate just isn’t.

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