Sunday, March 31, 2013

Before and After

 We'll take a look at a colour before and after example today; as before the top photo is the unedited RAW file exported from Lightroom.  Apart from the square crop the changes may not be instantly apparent but if you look closely you'll pick them out.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Before and After

Like yesterday's post I wasn't sure that I liked this photo when I first looked at it.  I's keen on the black and white version.  The top photo, as with the other posts of the last few days, is the unedited RAW file.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Before and After

I recall being quite excited at the prospect for this photo and then discarding it during the editing process.  I like the black and white version though; I had to fiddle with things a little to get the right amount of contrast in the foreground snow. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Before and After

Some photos are just begging to be rendered in black and white and this is one of them I think.  When the swirls in the snow have the added contrast of a black and white image they are more powerful than in colour.  There was too much of nothing in the foreground so I cropped the image to 2:1 ratio.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Before and After

Today's Before and After pairing features a rather dreary photo of the ice along the shores of Abraham Lake.   This of course the the unprocessed RAW file.  After some careful editing in Lightroom I had the black and white version that needed only minor adjustment in Photoshop.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Before and After

Next up in the Before and After series.  Once again featuring a photo taken in February of 2010 on Abraham Lake.  The top photo is the unedited RAW file.   To start the editing process I simply clicked the 'Paste Settings from Previous' tab in Lightroom to see how much of the editing done on yesterday's photo was recyclable.  Some of it was - most the colour renditions - but everything else was a do over.  I wanted the final photo to have normal 12 x 18 proportions in portrait format.  There's a 'hot spot in the upper area of the photo that needed to be recovered and I had to mess around a bit to get the contrast in the ice to look the way I wanted.

RAW files almost always look very flat and dull.  They are to digital photography what negatives were to the world of film photography; useless as a standalone but a vital tool to producing spectacular photograph.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Before and After

This week one of my favourite photography magazines arrived in the mail - Outdoor Photography Canada.  If you've even the slightest interest in outdoor photography I recommend subscribing.

In this months edition there's an article on black and white landscape photography that will serve as the inspiration for my next few posts.  I'm going to do it as a before and after series.  Here's the first installment.

The top photo here is the unedited JPEG export from the original RAW file.  The photo was selected from three bracketed exposures.  Usually the best file to work with is the one that looks a little overexposed but with a histogram that shows no 'clipping'; that is, no overexposure nor under exposure.   Most camera sensors hold more data in the lighter areas of the photo that is on the right side of the histogram; you will sometimes hear the expression 'expose to the right' and that is what it means.

The first step was to open the library containing the RAW files; I use Adobe Lightroom for this.  There are some obvious faults that I fixed first; for instance the camera was not level when the photo was taken and the horizon isn't level.  There's also some sensor dust in the sky.  Lastly I wanted a 2:1 aspect ration for the final image so a rough cropping was in order.  Then I clicked on the black and white tab and started the black and white editing process.

I used the Black and White Mix sliders to adjust the Red/Orange/Yellow/Green/Aqua/Blue/Purple/Magenta settings until I was happy with the look of the photo.  I adjusted the Tone curve and Clarity then adjusted the contrast.  There were some very dark areas that needed brightening to bring back some detail; I used the spot adjustment to correct that.  Then I used the virtual nuetral density filter to darken the sky a bit and further add contrast to the sky.  I then exported the file as a JPEG where I tweaked the levels a bit and added precision to the cropping.  Time to complete, about 5 minutes.

Canon 5DII with Canon 17mm TSE Lens.  ISO 100, f/16 at 1/13 sec.  Gitzo Explorer Tripod with Really Right stuff head and camera bracket.  Abraham Lake, Alberta 2012 February 12

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Recent Projects

On industrial sites the lighting tends to be very harsh and the colours a mix of dull grey and safety red or yellow.  Getting the white balance correct is fairly straight forward but the making it look good is another matter all together because the photo can look very harsh.  The light source in these buildings tends to be high-bay fluorescent or metal-halide.  These efficient for the use but they can also create some lens flare management problems so paying attention to the task at hand is critical so that this is controlled.  Lens flare is not immediately apparent on the camera LCD unless you check the image carefully.

This is a composite image made with the Canon 17mm TSE lens on the Canon 5DII body.  The extreme wide angle field of  view gives the photo added drama.  The bottom half of the image and the top were made using the shift function resulting in two separate photo files.  Each photo was edited in Lightroom using identical settings then exported as a JPEGs.  The two photos were merged and converted to black and white in Photoshop.  Final tonal adjustments were made using Oloneo Photo Engine

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Recent Projects

This photo of an industrial site in west Edmonton was taken last fall.  At first I thought the light from the windows would be a problem because the light was so bright but in the end I think it adds to the photo.  If you can, try to imagine the photo without the trapezoid shaped patterns; better with or without?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Springtime in Alberta

I came across this young tree whilst out walking the dogs on what is supposed to be a spring day; but instead we endured more of a winter wonderland sort of walk.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Heritage Project

This is the winter shot I wanted of the Peter Hemingway Fitness and Leisure Centre; black and white and showing how well it sits nestled in it's setting.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Architectural Comics

One of my favourite on line sites is; they are always clever but today's post is quite excellent.

Heritage Projects

If you were paying attention you'll recall that last autumn I was asked to photograph some of Edmonton's Heritage Buildings; one of them was this Building, the Peter Hemingway Fitness and Leisure Centre at Coronation Park.  At the time I planned to return in the winter so I figured I'd best get on with it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Heritage Projects

Ross Sheppard High School is named after - wait for it - Ross Sheppard who was a Canadian Olympic track and field athlete.  He became a teacher, principal and administrator retiring as Superintendent of Schools in 1955.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Heritage Projects

In contrast to yesterday's photo of Government House, I wanted this image to have a 'vintage photo' appearance.  I opted not to feature the bends and folds that resemble an old photo, I simply changed it to black and white and burned the edges of the image a little.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Heritage Buildings

Government House sits on land purchased by the provincial government in 1910; the completion of the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor was completed in 1913. It was the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor until 1937 at which time the Government pulled funding for the operation of the house following a spat with Lt Gov. Bowen. The house was sold shortly thereafter and served as a boarding house for American Pilots who were ferrying supplies for the construction of the Alaska Highway and afterward as a military hospital during the second world war. After the war it was used as a convalescent hospital for wounded military personnel. The province acquired the building once again in 1964 and plans were made to construct the Provincial Museum nearby.   Wholesale renovations followed although the building has never again served as a residence.

Members of the Canadian Royal Family and visiting foreign dignitaries are greeted at the ceremonial porte-cochere seen on the right in this photo. Inside are reception rooms, conference rooms and support facilities; it is here that the Lieutenant Governor presides over swearing-in ceremonies for Cabinet ministers. Queen Elizabeth and Pope John Paul II have visited government house.

While not in use, members of the public can take tours of the building at no cost. On display are artifacts and original pieces of furniture from the building's time as a residence, and information is also provided about the building's restoration and current functions.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Heritage Buildings

Here's another view of the Stanley Building.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Heritage Buildings

The Stanley Building, designed by the late Peter Hemingway, was once the home of what is now Stantec.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Heritage Buildings

The west end MacEwen university campus is a little awkward to photograph; it's an architectural jewel among a sea of underwhelming buildings.  I like this long ad low panorama photo of the south elevation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Heritage Buildings

Last Summer I had an assignment to photograph some Heritage Buildings in Edmonton.  This is sort of a follow on; this is MacEwen University's west Edmonton Campus.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Out and About

I took this photo whilst out walking the dogs; in a few months the weather will be warm and these benches will be occupied by people watching their dogs frolic in the north Saskatchewan River.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Out and About

This slab of ice was projecting from the otherwise smooth and snowy surface of the North Saskatchewan River.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New from the Urban Grunge Collection

This photo was made with the iPhone Hipstamatic app.  It was late in the day and there really was very little colour in the landscape.  So what little there is gets exaggerated to great effect I think.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New From the Urban Grunge Collection

This quirky photo was made with the iPhone Hipstamatic app.  My preferred combo of virtual lens and film with this app messes up the white balance and it clearly struggled with this all white scene; birds had left this plant material sprinkled on the snow.  The photo looks better and more remarkable than real life in this photo.

Friday, March 8, 2013

New From the Urban Grunge Collection

In principle I hate graffiti   But it can make for nice photographs.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Time for Brevity

The last few posts have been rather verbose so today I'll be brief; a new photo for my urban grunge collection.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Time for a New Camera?

In the last installment of this short series we'll take a look at rangefinder, digital SLR and mirrorless cameras.

The appearance and layout of a rangefinder camera is one  familiar to folks who grew up around film cameras in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  They were the cameras most people bought as their 'all-rounder'.  They were very good solid cameras that had relatively few moving parts.  They were and still are generally a fixed lens camera at a fixed focal length.  They are discrete in size and quiet in operation.  Some of the best cameras in the world, film or digital, are rangefinders; the Leica M9 is such a camera.   They don't offer a whole lot of flexibility but the rangefinder has many unique qualities and therefore their popularity with serious photographers as held fast.  They are bigger than a point and shoot camera and often have excellent optics and sensors.  I would not suggest a rangefinder as an only camera, but definitely something to have for anyone serious about photography.

In the late 70s there was a surge in the popularity of the Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera.  Prior to this these cameras were pretty much in the hands of professional photographers only.  They were bigger than a rangefinder and they were costly.  The characteristic' bump' atop an SLR houses a prism; when you look through the view finder you're in effect looking out through the lens as the view is reflected off of a mirror placed at an angle in front of the film or sensor  When the shutter is activated the mirror swings up, the shutter opens, the image is made, the shutter closes and the mirror returns to it's at rest position.  A lot of mechanical action - and noise.

When the digital age of photography came along the dSLR was a little slow out of the gate.  Attaining the image quality to which film SLR owners were accustomed was a problem; making a sensor the size of a 35mm negative was an incredible challenge and coming up with an arrangement that enabled multiple images to be made in rapid succession was a huge obstacle - particularly since it had to be done so as to deliver a camera that people could afford to buy.  So the cropped sensor dSLR was born.  These cameras had sensors comparitive in size to the best point and shoot cameras but smaller than a 35mm negative; hence the term 'cropped sensor'.  They looked like a traditional film SLR but with the LCD screen on the back and a sensor instead of film.  The cameras cost more than the smaller point and shoot cameras but offered lens interchangeability and flash accessories.

Digital SLR's are often categorized as either consumer, prosumer or professional grade .  In the consumer category the camera will have a cropped sensor, it will be fairly light in weight and will often be sold with an entry level kit lens that you can accept as is or maybe take an upgrade.  Sometimes they are offered with a pair of lenses to get you started.  Make no mistake, these are superb cameras in every way.  They will focus quickly, offer some auto settings that are useful and take excellent photos.  They shoot both RAW and JPEG format images and there's usually software in the box that allows your to do some editing of both file types.

A prosumer camera will have a larger sensor, it will be larger and heavier and likely come with better quality kit lens.  These cameras take superb images that withstand enlarging to a good size.  You'll find an AUTO setting that lets you defer the thinking to the camera.

At the top of the range will be the pro camera; these are big, heavy monsters that are built to be used all day every day in whatever demanding circumstance you can imagine.  They are highly robust, accommodate every accessory there is and shoot at lightening fast speeds.  The have 'full frame' sensors that are roughly the size of a 35mm negative.  They are superb and the cost reflects it.  These cameras aren't offered with a lens; the expectation being that you already have one.  Or twenty.  And there's no AUTO setting on these bad boys, the assumption being that you're earning a living with the camera and you know what you're doing.

Before your buy a dSLR there is one very important thing to know - something I wish I had not had to learn the hard way.  For the cropped sensor cameras, manufacturers came up with a line of lenses that work only on their cropped sensor cameras.  These lenses will not work on a camera with a fll size sensor.  If you have acquired a few of these lenses for your trusty consumer grade dSLR and them decide to upgrade the camera you will be faced with changing the lenses too.  So if your think you'll be looking at a camera upgrade sometime in the future make sure the lenses you buy will work on the larger cameras.  It's also worth noting that the angle of view from a lens is different as the sensor size changes.  Longer focal length lenses seem to have more 'reach' on a cropped sensor camera and wide angle lenses seem not so wide.   This is an illusion of course as the lens characteristics don't change.  A larger sensor is  rather like opening the curtains wider; from the same distance back from the window you get more of a view.

On some camera store websites mirrorless cameras are grouped with the SLR's.  This is because they offer many of the same features without the prism that characterizes the SLR and dSLR.  These cameras offer high quality sensors, the ability to swap lenses and all in a reasonably compact camera.  They're a pretty cool option and may be just the answer to photographers who want take all their toys on a vacation and not have a big camera bag to pack around.

So how do you decide what camera to buy?  Go and see what's available at a good camera store.  Ask your friends.  Decide how you'll use it and how much you want to spend.  Know what features you want and those that don't care about.   And when you make your purchase do two things - start using it right away and read the manual.   Happy shooting!

Today's photo made with the iPhone 4 using the Hipstamatic app.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Time for a New Camera?

The web is filled with articles that discuss the virtues and features of all the world's cameras.  I'm going to try and distill this subject into the most basic issues - if you want to drill deeper into any or all aspects be my guest.

Firstly, I should clarify that this commentary is directed at the digital camera world - while some of it applies to film cameras, most of what I have to say is based on the assumption your're shopping for a digital camera.  I'm also making the assumption that you're looking for a 'normal' camera; that is to say one that is probably in stock from any respectable camera store.  Chances are that if you're in the market for a camera that costs the same as a decent car or that is a 3 month special order from Germany you don't need much advice from me.

A Modern Miracle - and a Camera in Every Pocket...Or Purse...or Belt Clip...

I remember when the first camera - cell phones came out.  The first few models turned out to be not much of a camera and weren't particularly good phones either.  But it was revolutionary concept and paved the way to modern smart phones.  Most smart phone cameras will take a good quality image and for general purposes they are fine.  Most importantly it means that you'll always have a camera with you so you'll never miss a photo opportunity.  There are loads of images in books, on line and in galleries that were recorded with these amazing devices.

The number of apps available for smart phones are numerous and each of them brings their own twist on photo making.  There are apps that stitch photos into amazing panoramas, apps that simulate toy film cameras, etc.  You can edit the images in-camera and upload to social media if you're into that.  You can also buy hardware that will convert your smart phone lens into a powerful telephoto lens.

I have my smart phone with me all the time and sometimes when I'm out with my big camera I'll take a break form fussing with tri-pods and filters and whip out the smart phone.  The world looks very different through the tiny smart phone lens and I usually have some great photos taken with it mixed in with the batch taken with the 'big thumper' camera.

The smartphone camera is respected as a legitimate tool in the world of fine art photography and is in many ways the modern version of the traditional hobby camera of days gone by; a simple, easy to use device that is ready at hand and therefore gets a lot of use.  The inherent limitations are the whole point, plus you'll take more photos because it's handy and if you put the effort in you'll be a better photographer because if it.  I've been heard to say many times that Rembrandt would have made great art with a box of crayolas and roll of newsprint; simple is best sometimes.

The Point and Shoot Camera

Even a cheap point and shoot camera will take great pictures.  At a low price point the features will be more limited and the image quality will not be at the head of the class.  Chances are the sensor will be small and the pixels will be fewer and of less quality.  With every digital camera the process of taking a photo involves exposing all those pixels to light and colour information that the camera processes and renders as an image.  The more sophisticated this data collection system is and the more efficiently the camera converts the data to an image the better the file will be and the more it costs.  You can study up on line about sensor sizes and the virtues of the different sensor types but the bottom line is that a small unsophisticated sensor will not perform to the same standard as a larger more complicated one.

As one moves up the price range in the point and shoot realm the sensors become larger and produce better quality photo files.  Features get added too, both in terms of camera operation and the information that gets embedded in the files.  Things like facial recognition, GPS data, copyright information etc. are becoming commonplace as is GPS metadata that gets embedded in the file.  Some are now WIFI enabled so the need to post immediately to social media directly from the camera is facilitated.   For my money though the most critical feature in a point and shoot camera is it's ability to allow for manual control and record files in both RAW and JPEG format.  My cameras are almost never in any type of AUTO mode; pro cameras don't even have an AUTO setting.  There's a price to pay for a point and shoot camera that does these things both in terms of cost and the cameras are a little bigger but I'm OK with that.  For me the number one thing is image quality; everything else is secondary at best or not important at all.

A quick look at my preferred camera store's website revealed that the cheapest point and shoot camera they have is on sale for $79.95.  At the upper end of the scale you're in for $400 to $700.

In tomorrows post we'll take a look at the digital SLR, mirrorless and range finder cameras.

Today's photo was taken in Brussels with a Canon G11 point and shoot mode; RAW Image capture edited in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS5.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Time for a New Camera?

So you've decided it’s time for a new camera. Now what? First you’ll need to do needs assessment; this starts by asking yourself what you want the camera for and how often you’ll use it. Then you’ll need to determine how much you (a) could spend and (b) can spend. Then you’ll need to determine which cameras out there will meet the requirements at a cost you’re comfortable with. Today we’ll take a look at the needs assessment.

Camera Needs Assessment

The process of making photos can be the simplest of tasks – literally point, click, upload to Facebook, done! – or it can involve a complicated process of travel, camera and lens selection, evaluating and considering composition, use of filters, accessories such as tri-pods, filters, remote shutter release, determining optimal depth of field, shutter speed, waiting for light to change and on and on. And what about supplemental lighting – flash or other types of strobes – how does all that factor into the equation? Then there’s the post production aspect; which software to use to edit the digital files and how do you make the photos look the way you intended when you took them? Then there’s the matter of printing; what size will the image be? What sort of paper is best? The number of variables are endless and to further complicate things there’s no right or wrong answer.

Before you purchase a camera you need to have a pretty clear idea on what you want the camera to do. Here’s some question to ask yourself:

1. 'What are the short comings of my old camera?' Assessing this will better equip you to evaluate the many features available on newer cameras and which of these are important to you. You'll also be better able to understand what the camera store folks are talking about.

2. 'What's my budget?' Only you can answer this question. But like with anything else, it's important to know what you're not getting by saving money - a camera that doesn't meet your needs or expectations tends to not get used or lead to frustration so it may be better to wait until your wallet can withstand a more significant outlay.

3. 'How much Camera do I need?' Whether it's s a smart phone or top of the line pro gear, Modern digital cameras are computers that record graphic images. With greater durability, speed, flexibility, sensor quality and build quality comes more cost and often more bulk. Smaller so-called point and shoot cameras are more discrete and easier to fit into a pocket or handbag. If you're the kind of person that wants to pack 30 pounds of camera gear on a family holiday then go for it, but if you find yourself out for the day with no camera because you couldn't be bothered lugging it around then a smaller and lighter camera would be a better choice.

4. 'Do I want the flexibility of interchangeable lenses?' This is a critical decision. If you intend to by more than one lens then the point and shoot cameras are not for you - at least not as an only camera. Most digital SLR's come with a 'kit lens', that is, a good general purpose zoom lens that will get you through most occasions. Recently major manufacturers have introduced mirrorless cameras that offer the compactness of a point and shoot camera with the flexibility of interchangeable lenses. The Canon EOS M is such a camera as is the Nikon 1. Canon offers a selection of M series lenses specifically for the EOS M camera but by purchasing an adapter any of the manufacturers lenses can be fitted. If you do not ever foresee the acquisition of additional lenses and you are happy with letting the camera handle all the creative control aspects of photography then a decent quality point and shoot camera will likely fill all your needs.

5. 'What kind of file size, type and quality do I need?' Knowing what you intend to do with the photos you take is critical. Some people rarely if ever print their photos in the traditional way; they may post them on social media or publish a photo album from time to time - or they may never get transferred off the camera at all. Other folks are happy to spend their free time editing digital files using sophisticated software and making very large gallery-quality prints. If you intend to sell your photos you'll need to invest in a camera suited to the task.

In tomorrow's post I'll discuss the basic elements of the various camera types and the critical differences between them.

Today's photo was taken in a market in Tuscany.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Time for a New Camera?

I get asked a lot of questions about cameras. Sometimes the questions are vague; such as ‘what’s the best camera’; or they might be a little more precise, such as ‘what’s the best lens for _____?’ Most of the time my answer is a barrage of more questions as the answers to these inquiries are different for everyone. And the fact is that there is no ‘best’ of anything because each person’s needs are unique. In fact those needs can change from occasion to occasion; the camera you’d like to take on an African safari might be different than the one you’d use to photograph a child’s birthday party. So how to decide? Over the next day or two I’ll pose some questions and answers on this important topic. But before we dive in remember this – a new piece of camera gear will not a better photographer make.


Unless your existing camera is holding you back in some way there’s probably no reason to replace it or seek an upgrade. So before you and your credit card head over to the camera store perhaps you need to put a check mark in one or more of the following boxes:

10. There are 5 people in my household and one camera – it’s never around when I want it
9. It’s time I got a digital camera
8. I want a camera over which I can take creative control
7. My old camera was lost/stolen/has been irretrievably damaged
6. I’d like a camera that shoots hi-def video as well as well as still images
5. My camera produces lousy images that don’t print well
4. My camera under performs; focus is too slow and images in challenging light conditions are not good
3. My camera is pocket size and I want a big camera with interchangeable lens characteristics
2. My camera is too big and cumbersome so I usually leave it at home
1. I have never had a camera

So I’ll leave you to reflect on this list and come up with your reasons for wanting a new camera – tomorrow we’ll start to come up with some evaluation criteria that will enable you to narrow down the choices.

Today's photo was taken in San Gimignano, Italy.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Urban Grunge

This photo is from my Urban Grunge Collection.  Not much to say about it except it is from a semi-Urban location and it is rather grungie...

Friday, March 1, 2013


This photo was made at Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park in May of 2012.