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A collection of technical and inspirational posts from Facebook site Peter Van Rhijn Photography.

Sunset.jpg

Sunset

I don’t get very excited by sunset pictures. The obvious problem: we are inundated with sunset pictures.

But my Tofino trip with David Clow changed that. Tofino sunsets can be spectacular. Especially at very low tide. This image was made around summer solstice, when days and sunsets last ‘forever’. This area is a photographer’s dream: gorgeous coastal scenery, marine life, inter-tidal life, rainforests, foggy days, etc.

This is a bit of an out-of-the-box sunset as the sun is not in the frame.

Ingredients: The Unusual, Simplicity, Tension in the visual order, Tonal Balance.

The strong lines in this image as well as the balance in tone between left-bottom and right-top may be the main reason for its appeal. But there is also a degree of tension between conflicting directions in the elements of the visual design.

The brightest area of this image, in the left top, strongly attracts the eye. The general lines in the image do not support that the eye should move in that direction. To soften this conflict (tension) an attempt was made in PS to improve the tonal balance between the left top and right bottom of this image. First, with the rapid selection tool the bottom half of the image was selected and increased in exposure by a factor 0.17. Next I moved the tool to the top edge of the next lower bright band and again I selected the entire picture below that. This process was repeated until I reached the bottom of the image. Therefore the cyan band at the bottom was increased in exposure by a factor 0.17 multiple times. Now there is better tonal balance between left-top and right-bottom of this image, preventing the eye from ‘flying out of the left top.’

Tension in images is created when elements of the visual design seem to be in conflict. Often tension is excessive and works against an image. A minor degree of tension can actually be a positive and may serve to make an image interesting or ‘sexy’. An argument could be made for considering minor degrees of tension ingredients in their own right.

In this image a graduated neutral density filter might have achieved the same effect.

Understanding how The Ingredients affect the success of your images will assist you in choosing the most effective post production edits which help strengthen the ingredients.

Sony ILCE-7RM2, Lens: FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS, ISO 125, f-22, 1/30 sec., tripod.

Steller's Sea Lions

Steller's Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatas)

Ucluelet, British Columbia.

Here’s a typical Steller’s Sea Lion rookery during the mating season. The dominant male is in the dominant position and a younger/smaller male is challenging his authority. The big bully is punished for this selfish behaviour by having to fast. In this society males can’t have both sex and food. They must choose.

The dominant males can weigh well over 2000 lbs.

On this trip, marine biologist and radiologist David Clow was my buddy and guide and I thank him and my daughter Vanessa for convincing me to shoot things that move. (in this case WE did most of the moving!) Movement makes things complicated. But with the CMOS sensors and fast shutter speeds and a rapid-burst camera setting luck may be on your side. I took 450 images of sea lions and seals. I have maybe four useful images to show for.

The Ingredient for success in this image is quite obviously the nature story and how testosterone can produce the ultimate bully.

Horsetails and Huckleberry

Horsetails and Huckleberry

This composition caught my eye along a trail near Tofino. Reviewing it at the end of the day, I had trouble explaining why this appealed to me as much as it did. The next day I took a picture of plain horsetails. A pattern shot. It was boring. So the huckleberry (also known as Vaccinium Ovatum) was critical to the success of the image.

Here’s what I think happens: the eye simply moves up and down in this composition. That’s Visual Order #1. Visual Order #2 is Simplicity. A further Ingredient that helps this image is “Happy Colours”. Red and green are “happy” complementary colours. (Colour wheel theory.)

Pablo Picasso said: “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary”. I would agree. But, as I just argued, art is also the accumulation of several helpful Ingredients. (Picasso leaned heavily on “The Unusual” as an ingredient.)

Knowing precisely what the Ingredients are will help with your editing decisions: during the editing stage your aim is to strengthen your Ingredients. In this image there were some huckleberry leaf mergers at the top corners which were subdued in brightness.

Sony ILCE-7R M2, Lens: FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS at 50 mm, ISO 200, f18, 1 sec exposure, tripod.

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Male Cardinal

The Male Cardinal - a killer?

We had a cardinal’s nest in the back yard this year. The parents were working hard raising two babies, and all seemed well. Until one day we heard a lot of commotion from the nest. A bit later, in the trees, two males were fighting: pursuing each other at breakneck speeds. We checked the nest and all seemed well.

The next morning two baby cardinals lay on the ground below the nest, deceased with obvious signs of trauma. The nest itself was not damaged.

The forensics of the case were suspicious. A competing male was the prime suspect. We checked with the Toronto Wildlife Centre and they confirmed that infanticide by competing males was not uncommon among pretty little dinosaurs.

Look at this male closely: pretty little birdy or ruthless killer?

ILCE -7R M2, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS, f-9, 1/800th sec. Tripod.

Red Neck Grebe

Red Neck Grebe

This Grebe was captured along the Toronto waterfront, not far from the Air India memorial monument.

I’m not sure what he was doing but whatever it was, I did not notice any female nearby.

Grebes are known for their exotic courtship behavior and plenty of videos are on-line. One video is by the BBC about the Long Neck Grebe which does a paired mating dance while vertically running on the water surface. Quite incredible to watch. On one of the videos, I watched as a Red Neck Grebe takes on the position I photographed here. What I photographed lasted 15 to 30 seconds. If anyone knows what this is all about I’d love to know.

Ingredients: Simplicity, Nature story, Impact. Maybe “the Mysterious?”

Kohleria Affinis

Kohleria Affinis

This image shows a little gem I ran into, hiking the trails at Bellavista Cloud Forest, Ecuador.

Bellavista was a fascinatingly damp place. In two days we ran out of dry clothes.

This is a pictorial selective focus image. The most attractive parts of the flower are sharp enough. The image gains artistic appeal due to the unusual subject, simplicity and pleasing softness of the background. I used an LED flashlight to light the subject and the balance of the light was adjusted by varying the light’s distance. Ingredients: Simplicity, Unusual, Interesting Lighting.

My objective when shooting is to create something artistic. Something that would look great on my wall. All other considerations, whether related to category or judge’s opinions I carefully forget.

Canon 5D Mll, 100mm Macro 2.8L ISO 500, f3.5, 1/200th sec. Tripod, LED spot.

Blue-winged Mountain Tanager

Blue-winged Mountain Tanager (Ecuador)

At Bellavista Cloud Forest Resort in Ecuador, I tried photographing birds. Birds, flowers and other odds and ends. I am probably too impatient to shoot birds. But Bellavista’s birds seemed to have the patience I lack. So we got along quite well. Here is the Blue-winged Mountain Tanager. Handsome fella I’d say.

This image was made with my 70-200 Sony zoom. ISO 1000, f4.5, 1/250 sec. Tripod. A longer lens might have come in handy here. Ingredients in this image: simplicity, high impact colour, a nice shape for the eye to follow and a highly unusual subject: a patient bird.

Refer to The Ingredients on my website.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

This is the Buff-tailed Coronet - I think. I’m in the steamy Ecuador cloud forest but on very thin ice when it comes to knowing my birds.

But I’m learning. Photography and birds. Since I started in photography they’ve made things much easier. We no longer need to worry about the cost of film. We have autofocus. And a ‘Steady Shot’ button, an over-exposure warning, and ISO 60.000 and Photoshop.

I believe there’s even a button on our cameras which - if pressed - gives you the feeling you’ve taken the picture yourself. So, great, bring on the feathered dinosaurs.

In Ecuador’s cloud forest, the wild birds come free with the cost of a room. The birds will actually sit still for you. Well, briefly anyway.

This image was made with my Sony @7R M2 and my 70-200mm F4, G OSS zoom.

Ecuador Ferns

Ecuador Ferns

On the way to Atacama (Chile) we stopped in Ecuador for a few days, partially to shoot local flora and fauna but also to get used to thin air. Several excursions in Atacama were at pretty high altitude.

This image was taken in the cloud forest of Ecuador. Colourful young ferns which I also remember seeing in Hawaii.

The composition of these ferns is precisely as found, but I did use Photoshop to give them a bit more punch. To do so means you need to be comfortable with the rapid edge selection tool and the panel for refining the edge selection.

This z-curve provides a simple shape for the eye to follow. In more northern climates we don’t see coloured ferns, so the ingredients include ‘The Unusual’, ‘Simplicity’, ‘Impact’, and very ‘Clear direction for the eye’.

Refer to “The Ingredients” on my website for more details.

Sony @7R Mll, Lens: FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS ISO160, F22, 0.3 sec.

Moccasin Flower (cypripedium acaule)

Moccasin Flower

This handsome lady slipper is not rare in the forests around the Great Lakes. On my kayak trips to Georgian Bay which I try to plan in May, June or July, I see them in the forest regularly but usually they have already finished blooming.

They are early bloomers. They are typically closely guarded by clouds of black flies. This activity is for Real Canadians only (marginal for a Dutchman.) If you want comfort, this is the worst time to be in the bush. Bring your Muskol, (DEET) but keep it off the flowers and off your kids (risk of seizures and dizziness.)

Change lenses quickly. You don’t want a black fly inside your camera.

The shape of this orchid is perfect for my lighting approach. The directional backlight of the spotlight really puts a fire in their translucent bellies.

This pair was captured in the Bruce Peninsula.

This was the good old days: Mamiya RZ 67, Fujichrome RDP film, 127 mm lens with one extension tube.

Ground Fog

Ground Fog

After a couple of weeks of cold and sunny weather, yesterday and today the rains were back. This morning, the fog was back too. Wiarton Willy was right on the money this year.

Because it’s been too cold for spring flowers I’ve been shooting some city stuff. I’m using two very different cameras so shooting keeps me on my toes. Need to remember what all the buttons are for. Cameras are only smart if you know where all the “stupid” buttons hide.

This will be my last fog pic I hope, for quite a while. Next week some city stuff; close ups of old graffiti or ‘second generation’ art!

Here is some fog with the ‘promise of spring’.

Sony @7R Mkll, Zeiss Zoom: FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS, ISO 650 1/320th sec. F 11, Hand held,

Spring is Late

Spring is Late

Spring is late this year. It should be here next week but the ground is still frozen.

But we can make our own spring. Such a lucky bunch we are.

This image is a couple of years old. I thought this was a reject but Topaz came to the rescue. Treated with Topaz Impression 2 and Georgia O’Keefe’s approach, this pic really came to life. A small vignette gave it the final touch.

Ingredients: nice visual order (triangle shape for the eye to follow), The Unusual (thanks to Topaz.)

As I mentioned before: keeping your borderline rejects is a good idea. Sooner or later you may discover some post-processing approach that will rescue them.

Sony @7R Camera, ISO 50, Carl Zeiss 24-70 Vario Tessar Zoom at 60 mm, f22, 1/6th sec, tripod, overcast day.

Selective Focus - Ice

Selective Focus

The essence of the selective focus technique is: we cannot see what we capture without looking through the view finder. What’s needed: a fairly long macro lens, a wide open aperture and a subject that is very close.

During the 2013 Toronto ice storm we had plenty of time to explore and try to think out of the box. The ice lasted for several days.

For this image I settled down in a small patch of grass and set up the tripod, attached the 100 macro and just looked around - through the viewfinder - at the ice-covered grasses. What I saw was pretty unusual. “The Unusual” is a powerful ingredient for great images. The image was also treated with a Fractalius digital filter dialed in at 25%. This helped to accentuate the alien appearance of this image.

We need more ice storms. They are more than worth the trouble.

Interesting Selective Lighting 2

Interesting Selective Lighting 2

Selective lighting is an Ingredient that helps images succeed, reducing the need for strong composition.

This is an older image which dates back to my "orchid phase" - a yellow lady slipper.

It was made with a heavy duty halogen light plus blue gel to achieve daylight balance. I used a motorcycle battery to power it. Today this would be very easy to duplicate with a FENIX LED spotlight. These are much smaller, lighter, and more powerful. Use some epoxy to stick a female tripod mount onto one of them and with a tiny tabletop tripod you can aim the light very precisely.

The strength of the light can be varied with the distance of the spot and/or the position of a little reflector.

Mamiya RZ 67 127 mm lens.

Interesting Selective Lighting 1

Interesting Selective Lighting 1

Selective lighting is another Ingredient that helps images succeed, reducing the need for strong composition.

These are some tiny twin flowers along the coast of Lake Superior, lit with a small but powerful LED spotlight.

We were kayaking and made a lunch stop on this little island and the wind was picking up so this image was created with some haste. The original has some flaws which might be correctable but with a lot of work. The painterly pre-set in Topaz Labs made it easy. It has a built-in vignette which darkens the periphery of the image.

Canon 5D, ISO 50, F-13, 1/8th Sec, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

Interesting Lighting

Interesting Lighting

We landed our kayak on a sand-spit behind Harbour Island, part of Eleuthera, in the Bahama's.

We had an exciting start that day. Getting the kayak off the beach and through the surf we tipped the kayak and my camera bag landed in the ocean. Fortunately it was in a good quality wet bag and water did not get in. A second launch attempt worked and we (and the camera) were fine.

This image demonstrates clearly that images can succeed without strong composition. But we need to give images like this some other tasty ingredients to make them work. In this case it is “Interesting Lighting” which has its own place on my list of Ingredients. This Ingredient can very easily be obtained in close-up photography with the powerful LED lights presently on the market.

Foggy Perspective

Foggy Perspective

Compare this with the image in the last post.

This image demonstrates an additional way - perspective - with which fog can greatly enhance the three dimensional "feel" of an image, even though paradoxically the fog prevents us from seeing the most distant trees.

Reminiscent of the Dutch canals which I paddled as a teenager, this image was made along the bike path of the Humber River in Toronto.

The Ingredient most helpful for this image, perspective, also belongs to the larger ingredient of Composition / Visual design.

Sony @7r M2, Lens: FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS, at 70 mm, ISO 640, f 16, 1/200th sec., hand held. Rain.

Foggy Inspiration

Foggy Inspiration

Fog is a photographer’s ally.

Fog provides the key Ingredient for great images: Simplicity. It hides distracting backgrounds.

Fog adds depth to an image because foreground subjects are sharp and crisp, while background subjects are veiled by mist.

Finally fog adds an emotional component which may vary from viewer to viewer. I spent much of my first life kayaking foggy Dutch canals, so cool fog makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

In this image the aforementioned Ingredients are present plus the big tree is in the strong right vertical line. On either side there are trees that add balance to the composition.

Sony @7r M2, Lens: FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS, ISO 500, f 14, 1/340th sec.; hand held.

Impact

Impact

Topaz Lab has allowed me to use images which did not make the cut before.

That is why I save all my Raw images and don't delete anything anymore. What is a reject today may be revived later if you learn a new way to edit it.

With the Topaz Lab’s creative edit, this image has gained Impact. It already had a decent composition (A Shape). But now it has additional tasty ingredients: The Unusual and The Mysterious.

In Topaz Lab, Impressions 2, I used the Georgia O’Keeffe ll pre-set. Several other pre-sets did nice things with it as well.

Canon EOS 5D Mark ll, ISO 200, f-14, 1/15 sec. Lens EF70-200mm f/4L USM at 180 mm.

Leading Line

Leading Line

Van Gogh in Georgian Bay.

It was a small and simple world that morning. The call of the loon was muffled by the mist.

The leading line started strongly but quickly faded in the fog.

Simplicity reigned and the eye was happy.

Vincent painted this scene for me. He did not ask what camera I used. He’s still a little odd, but very wise.

Sony @7R, ISO 400, f-13, 1/100sec. Lens: Zeiss, FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS

Colour Harmony

Colour Harmony

The original image is a close up of the bark of the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree. It was made along the Road to Hana, on Maui.

It was treated first with Fractalius and later with Topaz. The process altered the colours, reduced much detail and drastically reduced the saturation.

The end result has become an interesting example of Colour Harmony as described in my talk on "The Ingredients." When highly unsaturated colours are combined in an image, they often get along famously, much more than the original saturated colours would. In The Ingredients, this falls under the third type of colour harmony.

The first type is subject colours that repeat in the background, the second type is complementary colours.

This image was scanned from an original 6x7 slide made with Mamiya RZ 67 Pro.

Bunchberry and Leaf Lichen

Bunchberry and Leaf Lichen

What I like about Topaz, so far anyway, is that some images which I previously considered rejects can be revived and rendered in far more exciting ways.

The original of this image lacked something and I could not put my finger on it. The Topaz derivation shown here seems to have helped. It introduced a new ingredient: "The Unusual."

Like Fractalius, Topaz software feels a bit addictive and it is high time I give my new camera a good work out.

Creative Editing

Creative Editing

This may not look like a photograph, but it is. It was a reject actually. This one is done with Topaz Lab. Go to Impressions 2 and select the pre-set Georgia O’Keeffe ll . The pre-set panel can be opened via an arrow at the right top.

Derivations of your images produced with digital plug-in software like Topaz Lab or Fractalius can produce surprising improvements of images which might otherwise be destined for the recycling bin.

It takes a bit of trial and error, time spent sitting on your behind, which is fine during the winter months.

After playing with these for a while, you will develop a sense for the type of images that are most likely to benefit. If you save the Topoz rendering, it ends up back in Photoshop from where further editing is possible.

Urban Variety

Urban Variety

My birthday present to myself yesterday was a few hours shooting city stuff. A little change is always inspiring.

Starting in Toronto’s Graffiti Alley, I gradually wandered into the neighboring back alleys of Chinatown.

Against remnants of graffiti this person had planted some flowers along his garage. They looked like an impressionistic painting!

I have a new toy which was just what the doctor ordered for this: the Topaz Lab creative collection. It can turn your pictures into paintings.

Variety is the spice of life folks!

St George, Bermuda

More on HDR

Here are 2 images - the Amalfi coast in 2008 and St. George, Bermuda in 2012. Both HDR.

The Amalfi coast image was made from two images, bracketed, on tripod. To combine them as an HDR image was an after-thought, a year later. The Bermuda image was a deliberate attempt at an HDR image with five exposures combined in Photoshop. It showed me what HDR could do, and it was definitely an eye opener.

Since then I have tried on a number of occasions to shoot my niche subject - nature - with the HDR approach but so far I have been disappointed. That’s not to say I will give up, but my initial enthusiasm has cooled.

The next cameras I will own will likely have built-in HDR features, making it easier to experiment.

In my talks about “The Ingredients,” I have pointed out that accent lighting is one of a number of tasty ingredients that can help spice up gourmet images. The HDR approach, if we think about it, tries to do the exact opposite: it would remove accent light. This also points to the need for caution with HDR in nature photography where accent light often is our greatest ally.

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

More on HDR

See above post.

Do we need HDR?

Do we need HDR?

HDR = High Dynamic Range Photography

Newer camera models have built-in contrast-reducing capabilities. HDR is the buzz word. It helps to reduce excessive contrast which has been a long-standing problem both in film and digital photography.

This image was processed the old fashioned way, by bracketing exposures, picking an image that was just starting to lose some detail in the sky and recovering them in PS’s Camera Raw. The rest of the image was selected in PS with the rapid selection tool and brightened.

I have found HDR helpful in city images. In nature, especially with trees, foliage etc, it has been problematic. The latitude built-in with Raw images is sufficient in 99% of the time to get a decent image.

I will try some more once I get my next camera which will probably have HDR built-in. But I’m not holding my breath. Buildings can hold their breath, nature doesn’t.

Sony ILCE 7R, ISO 200, 1/250thsec., F22, Zeiss FE 24-70mm F4 : at 29 mm.

Vignettes

Vignettes

There are occasional situations when creating an artificial vignette effect can help an image. This was the case with this image and it may be more common in similar situations which can be lumped together as “intimate landscapes”. These are typically small scale landscapes. The kind Elliot Porter pioneered.

A vignette should be subtle. It is a bit strong in this image for demo purposes. It may help to draw the attention to the center of an image where the action is and make it harder for the eye to accidentally ‘wander off’.

There is a quick way to do this in PS CS-5. In the ‘Layer’ panel: choose ‘Duplicate Layer’. In the Filter panel choose ‘Lens Corrections’. Once this window opens choose at the top ‘Custom’. Then adjust the sliders for the amount and radius of darkening as seems appropriate. Then click OK. Then go to the Layers panel and flatten the image. Naturally you don’t want to do this if you have no original or RAW copy of this image saved. If your camera model is not embedded in Photoshop, it may take a bit longer for the image to load, so be patient.

This was a shot taken in Georgian Bay. It shows the white pine during the time its pollen float on the water surface like green (but healthy!) scum.

Sony ILCE 7R with 24-70 Zeiss Vario Tessar at f20, ISO 400, 1/15th sec.

Poison Wood

Poison Wood

In Andros, my guide warned me about Poison Wood.

Poison Wood trees seemed very common and during the week I was exploring the bush, I bumped into it numerous times with no ill effects. It is possible that the sap from this tree is worse than merely brushing into it, just like our Poison Ivy requires more than light touch to release its toxic resin.

This abstract pic is a sample of it. The bright leading line creates a trail through the image space with small interruptions that create a bit of tension, which I like. The eye has to jump little gaps. A leading line that is too perfect can be dull.

This image is a mix of original (95%) and a fractalius derivation (5%).

Canon EOS 5D, ISO 200, f32; 1/4 sec, Lens: EF100mm f/2.8L Macro, Tripod, Mirror locked up to prevent mirror shake at this slow shutter speed.

Giant Airplant

Giant Airplant

This is the Giant Airplant or ‘Tillandsia Fasciculata’. An epiphytic bromeliad.

I found this plant around the inland Blue Holes of South Andros Island in the Bahamas. The most common habitat for Bromeliads, generally, is in the highlands of the Andes and in the cloud forests of South and Central America.

I had a job photographing this 20cm blossom because most flowers were almost on the ground with bright and sharp spikes of limestone surrounding them. I waited until late in the day and then used selective lighting to separate this one from its busy background.

In Photoshop I also added a mild vignette to further reduce distractions.

Canon EOS 5D Mark ll ; Lens: Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro. ISO 50, f9.0, 1/12th sec, mirror locked up,

I used a 1000 Lumen Fenix spotlight mounted on mini tripod at approx. 5 ft. to the subject.

The Ripples of Andros

The Ripples of Andros

I visited South Andros Island (Bahamas) twice this year: once in winter and once in spring.

Both times the beaches were totally deserted - except for some yappy dogs - and they were in their natural state with plenty of small tidal lagoons and sand spits exposed at low tide. Endless stuff to have fun with.

Here is a shot during ‘magic light’.

“Was this my favourite image ever? No, that’s the one I’m going to take tomorrow”. (Wise words from a Mr. Imogen Cunningham.)

Strongest ingredient: interesting lighting.

Sony ILCE 7R mirrorless camera. ISO 160, F22, 1/80th of a sec. Tripod used, 24-70 Zeiss Vario Tessar lens at 24 mm.

On the Rocks

On the Rocks

Life on the rocks of Georgian Bay is rough. But rewarding.

Coming home from our last trip, David Clow and I were battered, bruised, bitten and burned.

This pic reassured me it was all worth the trouble.

Ingredients: Simplicity, the Unusual, the Mysterious, a nice composition with an accent in the right upper strong point, pleasing colour combination.

For this image I had my Sony ILCE-7R sitting on the rocks on the edge of a small puddle. We had lots of rain, so plenty of puddles to choose from. The clouds reflected and mixed with the reddish rock in the puddle. This image required low-angle viewing capability conveniently offered by the fold-out LED screen of this camera. I focused manually on the far ridge of rock. Autofocus might have become confused by the softness of the reflection in the foreground.

Focus stacking would be a great way to improve images taken this way. The challenge is to find a simple way to steady the camera, when it needs to be an inch above the water level. Working on it…

Sony ILCE 7R, Zeiss 24-70 mm zoom at f 22 ; 1/125thsec., ISO 400. No tripod.

Simplicity in Georgian Bay.jpg

Simplicity in Georgian Bay

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” (Leonardo Da Vinci)

What’s important for photographers is that simplicity can provide a very clear path for the eye to follow.

As such, it is the cornerstone of Visual Order.

This image contains at least two other tasty ingredients: good placement of the line of rocks and combination of two complementary colours. It also has a calming emotional effect.

Sony ILCE-7R, ISO 80, F22, 1/60th sec, Zeiss Vario-Tessar 24-70 mm zoom lens, tripod.

Philip Edward Island White Pine

Philip Edward Island White Pine

The wind-blown white pine is iconic for the Canadian landscape. It is the Provincial Tree of Ontario. Wind-blown white pines are depicted in many Group of Seven paintings and in images by landscape photographers like Bud Watson.

The white pine is potentially the tallest tree in eastern North America. Its logs have been used for numerous purposes including masts for the British Royal Navy.

In recent years a lot of white pines along the Georgian Bay coast have been toppled by storms. After the last ice age, much of the topsoil along the coast had disappeared, scraped off the hard granite by the glaciers. Once the tree grows too tall, it ends up getting blown over.

Before they are blown over these trees often take on a very characteristic windblown appearance which can be very appealing visually.

In this image, lines seem to emanate from the left lower strong point into all directions. An unusual but welcome form of visual order. The wide angle view reinforces this composition.

Canon 5D Mark ll, 1/400th sec, F20, 17-40 Zoom at 17 mm. Tripod. ISO 200.

Growing On Me

Growing On Me

My guide Barbara showed me the blue holes of Andros Island in the Bahamas.

Besides this blue hole, deep in the jungle, was a cave, featuring razor sharp spiky limestone and cute little bats. Like a sentinel at the cave’s entrance there was this huge gnarly root of an ancient horse-flesh tree.

To better feel the root’s vibe I asked Barbara to leave me alone with it for a while, which – reluctantly - she did. She was quite worried about me. This is the image I ended up taking.

Over the weeks, the more I look at this image, the more I like it.

This root, pardon the pun, is growing on me. There is a nice left-to-right leading line and the piles of leaves magically occupy the strong points.

Sony @7R, 24-70 mm Zeiss Vario-Tessar, at ISO 50, f22, 0.3 sec exposure. Tripod. Electronic viewfinder: therefore no mirror-shake to worry about.

Fake News Sandstorm

Fake News Sandstorm

On the Andros Island beach the weather was actually calm, the wind had died down after a week of very stormy weather.

The sandstorm before your eyes is fake. It was a very quiet morning and there was hardly any wave action.

In this time of fake news we can’t blindly trust what we read, nor can we blindly trust the images we see. But you’ve suspected this for a long while.

Sand storms are very hard on camera equipment so it’s safer to create sandstorms digitally. The good news folks - believe me - naturephotos.com will tell you what’s fake and what’s real.

This effect was achieved by applying a fractalius digital filter. These filters can be ‘dialed in’ from 100% down to 1%. The best effect varies from image to image. Here this filter applied at about 10%.

Firedancer 2

Fire Dancer from Afar

See blog entry immediately below.

Firedancer 1

Fire Dancer

Here's my ‘Fire Dancer’. He was carved in the stone of the Canadian Shield thousands of years ago. His birth had more to do with an ice age rather than with fire.

My previous post, ‘The Alien’, was an image taken in the same location, a few meters away, on top of the rock where this image was made.

Both are 100% Fractalius derivations but the exact settings of the Fractalius software are unrecorded.

The image above reveals the location on the rock (ciricled) where the ‘Firedancer’ was captured, shot about an hour earlier. I took that image to show the scale and the typical pattern of the glacier action on the rocks here in relation to a reference object: my kayak. The kayak is a Klepper which has proven to be the ideal vessel for photo shoots of several weeks in pretty wild places like this.

The Alien

The Alien

The rocks of Phillip Edward Island (Georgian Bay) are a popular hang out for aliens.

You may think this is fake news again, but here is the evidence. You can’t argue with this.

There have been of course quite a few other intriguing apparitions and over the years I have shown you several…there was the petrified fire dancer, various birds and dogs, and a frisky couple between the blankets. May be I’ll post the fire dancer again next week. He’s a hottie.

As you can see my head has moved from Andros to Georgian Bay where my next trip will take me if it ever stops raining.

The Alien was shot with Canon EOS Mark ll, at f20, Lens: EF17-40mm f/4L USM. Model release on file.

Champagne Pool 1

The Thermal Wonderland at Wai-O-Tapu near Rotarua NZ

The North Island of New Zealand is, to a large extent, situated on top of a super volcano, the size and the threat of which is similar to Yellowstone. As a result there are many similar features such as bubbling mud, geysers, and thermal pools, some with striking colours.

Besides this, there are many fumaroles releasing hydrogen sulfide and there are several good-size volcanoes, such as Mount Taranaki, Mount Tongariro and Mount Doom.

The vibrant orange in this image is due to the minerals antimony and arsenic. The colour is not enhanced in Photoshop. The Ingredients that help this image are the clear leading line, the high impact colour and the very unusual nature of the subject matter.

Camera on tripod; Sony @7R with Zeiss Vario-Tessar 24-70 mm zoom. At f22.

Tree Bark Enhanced

"Necessity is the mother of invention" Plato

In some winters there is a shortage of subject matter. This Toronto winter hasn’t given us any significant winter scenery. One way to deal with “subject drought” is to: try new creative approaches, way outside the old box.

This may not be as productive but we stay sharp and we prevent the shutter from rusting. We may actually invent something new, something we might not notice when things are green and in bloom.

Tree bark? Sure, why not. This image was made in Lambton Woods, Toronto.

Camera: Sony ILCE-7R, f22, 0.3 sec, 200 ISO, tripod.

In post-production the image was first flipped vertically, then horizontally. The dominant green discolouration now led from left bottom towards right top. Then the saturation was increased across the board by 15. Then a Fractalius 2 filter was applied, pre-set: ‘Lines’ 1, then this was reduced to 10 % of the final image. Finally the image was sharpened.

Grasses in Lake Kejimkujik

Blue Mind

Here is a relaxing image … of water.

The grasses take the eye and gently show it around the water.

Human beings have a deep emotional connection with water. “Being at the water’s edge, looking at water, makes us healthier, happier, reduces stress and brings us peace.”

It is probably not the grasses that are important in this image. It’s the calming water. It is nourishing our minds and bodies on the Pale Blue Dot.

Mamiya RZ 67, 50 mm at f16

(Quotes from ‘Blue Mind’ by Walter J. Nichols)

I love beaches!

I love beaches!

I love beaches. I grew up on the beach. Big wide Dutch beach.

So I still love playing with sand. But with camera.

Here is another abstract from Andros’ beach, Bahamas.

Every day, at low tide, I’d head out with camera on tripod, aperture at f22 and exposure compensation at minus 1 stop. (For close-ups of backlit ripples mainly)

The Andros beach had many flat areas where water would stand and very slowly drain away during low tide. This created an endless variety of sand ripples to play with… arranged in every imaginable way.

Life’s a rippled beach. With ups and downs.

Sea Shell

Beach Blooper?

A pic of Andros’ Beach on a rainy day with the previous day’s camera setting: ‘Daylight’. Big mistake…

I was not quite awake that morning.

I conformed to the rules and changed to the ‘Cloudy’ camera setting.

Reviewing my stuff later I realised I liked this image more than any of the later images with yellow sand. The colour of the sand in this shot was in harmony with the nice colours of the sea shell. (Ingredients!) Somehow the yellow sand on a rainy day (the later images that day) looked wrong.

And there lies the problem: on a rainy day the beach just has a different colour… live and learn…

Rope Pattern

Andros Beach

This bit of beach at Andros Island was different. Something about the pattern of ripples was appealing but I cannot explain why.

I could not get myself to sign inside the image, fearing it might disturb the natural chaos.

Sony ILCE 7R ISO 200, f-22, 1/50 sec. (On tripod)

Beach Impression

Andros Island

We were on Andros Island (Bahamas) and stayed with Jesse and Chelsea Leopold, our hosts at Andros Beach Club.

Andros is a photographer’s paradise. The beach in front of the resort was an infinite source of inspiration at low tide.

We sailed, paddled our kayak, did some scuba, and snorkeled around blue holes. We explored the inland paradise on foot and already plan a return trip to see the countless air plants: the bromeliads and orchids bloom in a couple of months.

Here is your ‘amuse bouche’: the beach, close to sunset. Sony ILCE 7R, ISO 100, F-22, at 1/15th sec.