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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

Non-vignetted

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: $