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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…

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

Silverton Falls texture

The texture of falling water matches the rock faces surrounding Silverton Falls in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Silverton Falls textures

Speaking of shutter speeds and water texture, for this image I used a fast shutter speed (1/640th sec at f/8) to freeze the motion of the falling water. It’s interesting to me that you can see how the water was accelerating as it fell—the texture gets blurrier near the bottom of the fall. I also like how the texture of the water matches the patterns in the rock faces surrounding the falls.

For printing this photo, I tried to make sure to retain detail in the shadows and in the highlights while maintaining the high-contrast nature of the scene. In the final print I did notice the highlights wash out just a bit in one spot of water (far right, about 2/3rds down), and when I checked the image on my monitor it also showed almost no detail, although it was not quite clipped. Funny how I didn’t notice it as a problem on-screen, but it stood out in the print immediately. Lesson learned…

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

Athabasca Falls in motion

After my previous post “Athabasca Falls in black and white” with the motion of the water captured with a slow shutter speed to give a streaked effect, I remembered that I had also captured some video on that morning. So—for your interest’s sake—here is: a short video clip of Athabasca Falls shot at 30 fps with a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second at f/16; a still photo of the same composition captured at 1/5th of a second at f/8 and iso400 (the same settings as the image in my previous post); and a photo captured at 1/125th of a second (which I’ve been told best captures how our eyes/brains see motion) at f/9 and iso800.

The Athabasca river flows over the granite cliffs of Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, Canada

Athabasca Falls II (1/5th sec)

The Athabasca river flows over the granite cliffs of Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, Canada

Athabasca Falls III (1/125th sec)

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: $

Snow-laden black spruce

A thick cap of fresh snow covers the top of a thin, sparsely branched, black spruce tree

Snow cap on thin black spruce

After receiving huge amounts of new snow over the past few weeks, we finally got a day where the sun managed to peak—weakly—through the clouds for a few hours. Since I was already on the west side of town, I decided to head out to the Wagner Natural Area where, I hoped, the dense spruce trees covered in deep snow would provide an interesting photographic opportunity or two.

It was more challenging than I expected—the huge amount of snow often looked like just a big pile slumped over everything, rather than contrasting or complimenting the forms of the trees. But a challenge can be good fun, and I did get a couple images that I’m quite happy with—I’ll share some more over the next little while.

Non-vignetted version


The processing in this one was inspired by an image by a local photographer who I’ve mentioned before, Joel Koop. He posted an image on his blog that was heavily vignetted (darkened in the corners) in post-processing—and it looked great. I had already processed this one with a little bit of vignetting, but his image inspired me to try pushing it a bit further, and I think I like it this way. What do you think? (I’ve included the non-vignetted version here for comparison—use your arrow keys to switch between versions.)

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: $