Photography and Art

Friday, August 21, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Holidays

This summer, we didn't take an exotic trip to Italy or France or Orstralia. Our youngest daughter is getting married in September, so our money is committed to paying for a very lovely wedding plus a party in Scotland the following week-end (the groom is a Scot). It should be lots of fun, but there's nothing in the cookie jar for jaunts to Europe and the like.

Green Rock and Rapids - Minden Ontario

Instead, we decided to vacation in our own backyard, lovely Haliburton Ontario. We spent an enjoyable week at the cottage and my wife and I booked courses at the local arts college, Haliburton School of the Arts, part of Sir Sanford Fleming College. Naturally, I booked a photography workshop and Trish booked a class in stained glass making.

Shangri-la, Minden Ontario

After looking around at a lot of photography workshops and experiencing a rather expensive one with Alain Briot last year, I'm very happy to say that this summer's workshop was the bargain of the century. It only cost $250 CDN and it ran for a full five days. Not only that, but it was in some of the loveliest countryside you can imagine and the instructor, Rob Stimpson, was first-rate. The workshop was a little on the large side, with 18 participants, but my fellow classmates were a pretty talented bunch and I learned a lot from seeing the world through their eyes.

Waitress, Haliburton Ontario

We spent a couple of hours in the classroom each day getting sound advice from Rob, a very seasoned and talented travel photographer. The rest of the time was spent taking photographs in Haliburton and vicinity. For those that may not know where Haliburton is, it's a small town just to the south east of Algonquin Park and is a couple of hours north of Toronto. It is a very photogenic area and has lovely lakes, great rivers with rapids and the town itself is very nice with several older buildings worthy of a photograph.

My Palace, Haliburton Ontario

Rob Stimpson offers several other workshops throughout the year and, based on my experience in Haliburton, I'd recommend his workshops to anyone. He's a very congenial companion and a very knowledgeable photographer with a talent for communicating what he knows.

Nothin' to do but Fish, Haliburton Ontario

There are two workshops in particular that I'm keen to sign up for. The first one runs in June and features moose photography in Algonquin park. Rob says that he sighted 16 moose in this year's workshop and I saw some of his stunning photographs of moose munching away with lovely backdrops of wetland scenes. At this time of year, the male moose are quite docile, but they still have the good beginnings of a rack. They don't seem to mind canoes getting up close and personal, so you can take great shots without having to tote around 800mm lenses.

Bucking the Wave, Minden Ontario

The second course that I intend to take in the next couple of years is Rob's Gales of Adventure workshop. Anyone who grew up listening to Gord Lightfoot's classic Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (click on link to see a wonderful video of the launch and demise of the ship set to Lightfoot's music complete with underwater photography of the wreck) will instantly see why I want to take this course. Here's a brief description from Rob's site:

"November is traditionally storm season on Lake Superior. Stormy seas, fall skies and Superior's mighty shores are some of the most dramatic and powerful landscapes a photographer could dream of. Capturing them on film or digitally is a passion of artist Rob Stimpson. This workshop, timed to take perfect advantage of Superior's surely moods and spectacular scenery, will appeal to the person who knows the workings of their camera and wants to create, not just take, photographs."

Plus, you get to stay in the relative comfort of the Naturally Superior Adventures Lodge. All this for $795 CDN (based on single occupancy). What a deal!

All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend a week and I enjoyed it immensely. I also got some nice photos for my portfolio and will enjoy printing them out in the cold winter months.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Canon Lowers Resolution - A First!

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a first! Canon has released its G11 compact camera and has returned the sensor back to 10 MP (down from nearly 15 in the G10). Could it be that the megapixel wars are over and camera manufacturers are listening to consumers who want image quality above all else? As Mike Johnston speculates in The Online Photographer, maybe Canon's move is motivated by the success of the Panasonic DMC-LX3, a 10 megapixel compact that is flying off the shelves.

I don't care what the reason is - I think this is wonderful news. I'd also welcome an updated Canon full-frame camera at around 13-15 megapixels. I've heard that the 5d mark II with 21 megapixels is difficult to use hand-held. Apparently, some camera movement blur shows up with the higher-resolution sensor - blur that would be masked by a lower-resolution sensor. My 13 megapixel 5d has plenty of resolution and works well without a tripod for most shots. I'd just like a higher resolution display and the sensor dust removal feature with a lower price point than the mark II.

Canon, are you listening?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Improving Blown-out Skies with Lightroom

I read a recent article by Mark Segal on Luminous Landscape entitled You'd Be Surprised What Those Files May Contain. In the article, he makes the good point that raw files with blown-out skies may actually contain much more information than you might think. He offers up a rather complex method involving editing two versions of the image in Photoshop. In the original image, he adjusts the tone curve to favor the sky and manages to recapture quite a bit of interest in the sky. He then adjusts the tone curve in a virtual copy of the image to favor the rest of the image. He edits both versions of the image in Photoshop and copies the good sky from one image into the other that was optimized for the rest of the photo.

While there is no doubt that this technique works, there is a tool in Lightroom that often works very well without having to do the round trip into Photoshop. It's called the gradient tool and it is very easy to use. For a good tutorial, click here.

Here is a quick example of how you can restore lost parts of the sky. The first image is exactly the way it came out of the camera, sensor dust and all:

In the second image, I've created a gradient from the top left of the image down to the roofline of the building and I've decreased the brightness of the sky. The result is a sky with lots more contrast:

There is a lot of tweaking that ought to be done - the saturation could be increased and the exposure of the sky could also be adjusted.

However, this is a quick and dirty example of a very powerful tool that often makes the round trip to Photoshop unecessary.