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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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Owl hunting

A Great Grey Owl listens for rodents under the snow while hunting from a thin aspen sapling

Great grey owl hunt­ing from thin aspen sapling

I’ve writ­ten about this image before, and I want­ed to print it today, as it’s got a very dis­tinct sep­a­ra­tion between the sharp, in-focus owl and the com­plete­ly blank sky where any grain or tex­ture is pure­ly an arti­fact of sen­sor noise and sharp­en­ing in post-pro­cess­ing. As I men­tioned yes­ter­day I tried the strat­e­gy of push­ing the clar­i­ty and sharp­en­ing as far as I think looked good on my mon­i­tor, before back­ing off a bit. Yes­ter­day the print came out look­ing real­ly good (although it had a slight green­ish cast that I hadn’t noticed on-screen), so I fig­ured I’d try it on a much less for­giv­ing pho­to today. We’ll see how it turns out…

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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.

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

Summer tiger lily

A Tiger Lily shines in the sun after an early morning rain storm in the boreal forest of western Alberta, Canada.

Fresh rain on sum­mer Tiger Lily

This one is for my wife today.

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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 understory

A Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) spreads it's fronds across the understory vegetation in a boreal mixedwood forest in west-central Alberta, Canada

Bore­al fern

A good friend of mine, an old BC Parks nat­u­ral­ist, shared with me the fol­low­ing short verse that I am always remind­ed of when I come across ferns like the ones in this pho­to:

Fring­ing the stream at every turn,
Swing lo’ the wav­ing fronds of fern.
From strong cleft and mossy sod,
Pale asters spring, and gold­en­rod!

It’s a great lit­tle rhyme, and the excla­ma­tion mark that Al added at the end cap­tures the feel­ing of com­ing across one of these lit­tle spots just per­fect­ly. Try to get out this week­end, and find one of these for your­self!

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…

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