New folio: Vieux Port De Montréal

A short project, I spent an afternoon working on back in June of 2016, was a series of photographs along Rue de la Commune in Old Montreal. I had a couple of hours “off” from shepherding my Grade 7s through Montreal on a school trip.

As I walked along this area of “Vieux Port de Montréal” I became intrigued by the barely visible signs painted on the brick and stone faces of the buildings – ghostly reminders of the past. It’s not ancient history, nor is it particularly significant to the world at large. What it is, though, is classic, vernacular history; the history of a local population.

I found it creatively intriguing, so I spent the afternoon photographing what little there was left of these painted store/shop signs, directions and directives in these few blocks, trying to find the best way to reveal them without the more modern obstructions and changes. There are also photographs of a few architectural and design details that caught my eye as being complementary to the signs.

Also of interest to me, as a photographer, was the colour palette in this area. Dingy is one way of looking at the dirty-looking grey blocks of stone, but there are also subtle, worn-looking greens, as you can see in the photo above, worn-looking reds. The colours are real, not “photoshopped”, but in their faded appearance, they give this real-life area a natural, faded-image look.

Of interest to photographers, at the time I was using a Panasonic FZ1000, a more-than-capable camera for this kind of street work, with its very flexible 25-400mm Leica zoom and high quality 1″ sensor. As you may know, I’ve since transitioned to a Sony RX10iii: a similar, but slightly more capable camera. If interested, you can read about that decision here.

I have purposely kept people to a minimum in these photographs. My point was not to show how the street and buildings have been transformed; rather, the photographs are a record of a rapidly fading past – I wanted the painted signs and the surrounding architecture to speak of that past. Photography has the ability to preserve that history, albeit in 2-dimensions.

The folio is available online on luxBorealis.com and at my Flickr account. The complete folio is also available for purchase as a set of hand-printed, 9½x 13″ fine art photographs made on the beautiful Moab Entrada Natural Rag watercolour paper, printed with pigment inks. They come in an acid-free presentation folder with title page, artist statement and colophon. The folio of 21 photographs is $350 (shipping included) and is limited to the number of orders received.

Most importantly, though, enjoy this vignette of vernacular history.

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Affinity Photo 1.5

I’ve not used Photoshop in years now, except for the odd graphic with text. Even for that, I can do much of what I need to in, for example, Apple Pages or even better in Keynote. [Aside: It’s surprising how ideal digital presentation applications like Keynote, Google Slides and Powerpoint can be for creating one-page page-layouts.]

Much of Adobe is no longer in my digital ecosystem, primarily because of it’s business decision to move to the Creative Cloud subscription model. In fact, I’ve deleted everything except Lightroom. I simply don’t want to pay USD$10 every month for the rest of my life to interact with my photographs. That’s the reality with CC – perpetual payments to work with your own photos! While ideal for corporations who wish to manage their budgets, for the non-professionals, and serious photographers like me, I just can’t bring myself to hand over that kind of money. And $10/mo is only for LR and PS; if you want anything more like web design, illustration or page layout, you pay a lot more.

But now we have a professional-quality option that is much less costly and highly functional: Affinity by Serif now has an illustrator app in Affinity Designer and their PS equivalent in Affinity Photo. Better yet, there is Affinity Publisher on the horizon.

But what drew my attention to Affinity Photo, besides it’s amazing price point compared to Photoshop, was that I could use it for focus-stacking. I haven’t shot a lot of focus-stacking photos, mostly because it would have involved a trip to Photoshop, so now I will begin exploring that territory a little more. However, this morning I produced a quick little text-on-photo to get my feet wet with Affinity Photo.

I can’t see Affinity Photo replacing my use of Lightroom, especially because of LR’s Library with Folders and Catalogues, but we’ll see about other options over the coming months.

Happy Christmas everyone!

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Sony RX10iii – The Ultimate Travel Camera

Published yesterday as the Featured Article on Luminous-Landscape… my review of the Sony RX10iii as “the ultimate travel camera”.

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GRIPS: Saturday, Dec 10

Autumn Glow, Teasel; photograph by Terry A. McDonaldI’m looking forward to presenting “Shaping Landscape and Nature Photographs in Lightroom” on Saturday, December 10. The Grand River Imaging and Photograpic Society (GRIPS) is a very creative and well-structured club with capacity membership. There are a great many excellent photographers contributing thoughtful and compelling works throughout the year. This, of course, ups the ante for me to provide truly insightful approaches to processing images files.

From my perspective, the making of a photograph has two essential elements: field and screen. A photographer who creates the image file in the camera must then finish what they’ve started by carrying the file through to its artistic conclusion by processing the file. What a camera spits out is, at best, a “machine print”. Some might think it’s good enough as is, but I think they are short-changing the creative power of working on screen to bring out the full expression of what the camera captured, exactly as was done in a darkroom in decades past. “Shaping” is an essential part of the process, to help viewers visually move through the photograph.

It’s not “Photoshop-ing”, a concept that has grown to mean a variety things somewhat akin to Frankenstein’s monster. The vast array of push-button “fixes” and alternate visual universes offered by myriad plug-ins and apps is truly  bewildering, but they’re not for me. Call me a simpleton, but I’m still trying to achieve the perfect “straight” photograph! While I appreciate the vast range of possibilities offered by Photoshop, and was a Photoshop user for years after Lightroom was introduced, it’s bloated,  all-in-one tool for digital illustrators is really not the right fit for me, especially because my end goal is the print, which LR does magnificently.

I’m not saying anything new here as digital photographers have been working in this way for years now, and film photographers for decades before this. Taking the time to create a compelling file or neg is the essential first step. Taking the time to re-create that feeling of being there at the moment the file was created, breathing life back into the “machine print”, for me, is the true essence of the photographic medium.

So this is the journey I will be walking participants through on Saturday. We meet from 9am to noon at Kitchener East Presbyterian Church, 10 Zeller Drive, Kitchener. Bring your questions, your digital files (your compositions) and your laptops! But you’ll need to register by visiting the workshop link above. Hope to see you there!

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Another Spectacular Autumn

We have had our share of beautiful weather this autumn here in southern Ontario although lately, it has “normalized”.  At the same time, Laura and I have been out hiking almost every weekend rain, shine or, in the case of last weekend, snow. I’m really working hard at capturing at least one truly worthwhile photograph from each outing. So far, so good, but I also know that won’t always be the case.

Here is a gallery of the best from the last two months. All are made with the Sony RX-10iii which has become my go-to camera as of late, particularly because of its ease of use while hiking. On the last few outings, I’ve taken with me the monopod leg of the MeFOTO tripod. This has been a fantastic addition, allowing me to make photos that would be otherwise impossible late in the afternoon. Yes, I could be hefting a tripod and my D800E kit, but really, these photos will stand up to the needs of cards, photo books and fine art prints. I’m loving this change. Anyone interested in a used D800E and lenses?  🙂

Okay – so I have been trying for an hour to load photos into a gallery as I’ve done countless times before, but I keep getting a WordPress HTTP error – very frustrating!! So I will direct you to my Flickr Photostream to see the most recent photos. Enjoy!

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Bruce Trail Photo Contest Announced

BruceTrailPhotoContest

Head over to the Bruce Trail Conservancy website for details of their 2016 Photo Contest. The Conservancy is providing maps of nine Nature Reserves – the focus of this year’s contest.

Wild Ginger covers the ground in a foggy deciduous woodland in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada along the Bruce Trial on the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve

Wild Ginger covers the ground in a foggy deciduous woodland in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada along the Bruce Trail on the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve

My family and I are keen supporters of the Bruce Trail and have been for decades now. Growing up on Hamilton’s East Mountain, I remember when the Bruce Trail was first being routed. We hiked it as kids from the end of Fennell Ave. to Albion Falls.

If you aren’t already a member, I encourage anyone who is photographing in southern Ontario to purchase a membership. You probably don’t realize how often you are using the Bruce Trail or one of its many side trails: Webster’s Falls, Tews Falls, Rattlesnake Point, Hilton Falls, Crawford Lake, Mono Cliffs, Kolapore Uplands, Bruce Peninsula … the list of places accessed via the Bruce Trail goes on and on.

You don’t need a membership to hike the trail, but, being a volunteer-driven organization, buying a membership helps with “the upkeep” and keeps you informed of club events. Better yet, consider making a donation; the Bruce Trail Conservancy is currently seeking donations to assist with the creation of a new nature reserve between Hogg’s Falls and Eugenia in the Beaver Valley.

So, if you’re looking for a project, a reason to photograph, consider visiting the Bruce Trail Conservancy Nature Reserves – and get our photographing!

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Michael Reichman is fondly remembered

Michael Reichman, passed away at age 71

Michael Reichman, passed away at age 71

Having been out of the loop the last few days, I only recently learned of the passing of Michael Reichman on Wednesday. It is a sad time for digital photographers around the world.

From Toronto, and more recently, near Creemore, Ontario, Michael created the Luminous Landscape website aimed specifically at advancing digital photography. LuLa is perhaps the greatest driving force in digital photography today. Over the last 17 years, MIchael tested, reported and ranted on the latest advances in digital photography. More importantly, though, he spurred the various companies into making the improvements necessary for the medium to mature. I think we can credit Michael for pushing digital photography in general, and fine art pigment-based printing more specifically, to the amazing quality and longevity we have today and in such a short period of time.

Thank you Michael for your insights, your wisdom, your creative eye and the inspiration you have freely given for so many years. You will truly be missed.

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Guelph Photographers Guild – Going strong!

The Boyne River has its headwaters in the Dufferin Highlands of Ontario and makes its way, largely undisturbed and wild, to join the Beaver River at the head of the Beaver Valley, along the Niagara Escarpment in Grey County, Ontario

The Boyne River has its headwaters in the Dufferin Highlands of Ontario and makes its way, largely undisturbed and wild, to join the Beaver River at the head of the Beaver Valley, along the Niagara Escarpment in Grey County, Ontario

On Wednesday evening of this week I spoke to an enthusiastic and engaging audience at the Guelph Photographers Guild. My two-hour presentation revolved around a series of recent landscapes, all shot here in southern Ontario, mostly within less than an hour of Guelph.

Those of you familiar with my work know of how much I enjoy travel. Having lived in Tanzania, England and Germany, and having travelled to Canada’s east and west coasts, Florida, South Africa, most European countries and the Galápagos, I am most passionate about the photography I do here “in my own backyard”. These are the places I know best, but more importantly, they are the places I can return to when the light and atmosphere are peaking.

The other main ideas I was discussing included:

  • Arrive before the light; stay after the light
  • Shoot into the light
  • Find a different perspective
  • Return to the same places
  • The performance is in the processing.

One can be the finest photographic technician in the world, but if you aren’t putting these ideas in place, you might find your photographs flat and lifeless. The opposite is true, too: no matter what camera you are using, your photographs will always be better earlier in the morning, close to home, in a place you are intimately familiar with, shot from a different perspective.

I also brought with me a number of recent prints, still artist proofs, to help demonstrate the process of working towards a final print. I make my prints on Moab Entrada Rag Natural matte paper with no OBAs witch a slight warmth to it. To me, being able to hold prints in hand gives them a new life, a vibrancy that is not possible behind glass.

If you want to pursue or discuss any of these ideas feel free to comment below or send me an email. I’m presently not organizing workshops, but if you would like to arrange something privately, let me know. Or, if your photography club is looking for a guest speaker, I would be happy to help you out.

Most importantly, get out shooting! Thanks for the warm welcome, GPG!

BTW: Their next meeting is Wednesday, June 15 at 7pm at the Guelph Unifor building, 661 Silvercreek Parkway North (north of Woodlawn). They will have a rep from Panasonic, showing the Lumix line of products. As an FZ1000 user, I can heartily recommend Lumix. You can read my recent blog post about it.

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Guelph Photography Guild – Wednesday

Relic RhododendronI’m looking forward to speaking this Wednesday 18 May at the Guelph Photography Guild meeting at 7pm.  I will be sharing recent landscapes and discussing the merits of shooting “Into the Light” and shooting locally.

The GPG meets at 611 Silvercreek Parkway North in the UNIFOR Building. Hope to see you there.

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Lumix FZ1000 in print

I am thrilled to be shooting with the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 camera. Its features are quite remarkable:

  • 25-400mm (equivalent) Leica ƒ2.8-4 lens
  • 20mp 1″ sensor
  • Hull HD and 4K video
  • lots of customization for shooting both raw and jpegs

Winter SquallI’m impressed, too – impressed enough to have purchased one for travel photography. Lately, I’ve been putting it through its paces, really trying to push it to the limits. Of course, the limits I’m comparing it with are those of my full-frame D800E and associated optics.

So why bother with a “bridge” camera when I’m using a D800E? It all comes down to travel. I wanted something I could take with me “where ever” I go. I know I can do that with the D800E, but if I want anything beyond normal, I’m stuck carrying extra lenses with me, and full-frame zoom lenses aren’t exactly lightweight! What about prime lenses? True, they are lighter, but then I’m changing lenses more frequently than I prefer to. I want something I can pick up and head out shooting with that will give me decent quality raw photos for printing and decent-quality family snapshots for jpegs for sharing. Something I can walk around and hand-hold without compromising too much quality. I would still use my D800E for my fine art work where time allows me to slow down and use a a tripod. But it just seems to be overkill for many of the travel-type grab shots I also enjoy making – photos that will rarely see the inside of a printer, so to speak.

Winter Morning, Bark LakeNeedless to say it’s an unfair comparison, given the D800E’s state-of-the-art 36mp sensor with class-leading dynamic range, but still, I’m impressed by what the FZ1000 can do. So impressed, that it was the only camera I took with me on my annual sojourn into a Canadian winter up at Bark Lake Leadership Centre with our Grade 10s for their 6-day field course.

I made a number of jpeg images of the students skiing, building fires, augering down through the ice to collect lake water samples – those images are nothing short of fantastic. The flash did an amazing job of filling in shadows on sunny days and indoors. Actually the light from the flash is better than I get from the D800E’s pop-up flash – less contrasty and better balanced. ISOs up to 800 were perfectly fine for web and print media (e.g. 300dpi for yearbook).

FZ1000-100%Since returning, I have also taken some basketball photos at ISO3200. Not as clean and crisp as the D800E w/ ƒ2.8 70-200mm zoom, but certainly printable for web and yearbook (just). Even the team photos I took at ISO400 and 800 in the gym with the pop-up flash were plenty good enough once processed through Lightroom.

While up at Bark Lake, I made some fine art photos as well, shooting in raw at the base ISO of 125. They are terrific, indeed – quality enough for printing this past weekend as 10.5 x15″. They would even stand up well as full 13×19″ prints. And, since that’s the title of this post, here they are.

I’be also included a 100% screen capture of part of the upper pholograph. In all fairness, there is a fair amount of snow flying around that appears, in the 100% crop, to be dust, but it isn’t!

_1030085And, lastly, here is a female cardinal shot at ƒ5.6 400mm (equivalent) at ISO125. By the way, this was shot through our kitchen window. It is a 1200×1800 pixel crop from the full 5472×3648 frame. Not bad at all!

 

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