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Looking for inspiration?

Freeman Patterson is one of Canada’s foremost artistic nature photographers – although that label doesn’t begin to describe the depth and beauty of his work. Every once in a while, he publishes a “Periodic Letter”, the link to the most recent is below:

I highly recommend it as required reading, along with his books, which date from the 1980s, or more recently: Photography and the Art of Seeing.

BTW, he is 80 years old now and still leading workshops locally, nationally and internationally, including a two-week wilderness camping photo workshop in Namaqualand, South Africa. Now that would be amazing!!

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!

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”.

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!

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.

Want to learn all about JPEGs?

This is required reading for anyone shooting JPEGs or saving photos as JPEGs for printing or for the web.

It’s a blog post from Jeffery Friedl – the man behind all the great Lightroom plugins. He offers not just sound advice based on personal experience, but photos to back it all up.


Going zoom!

AF-S Zoom Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5Today, I took a leap and purchased the Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 (+ a dozen Nikon acronyms). Those who know me might well be scratching their heads and wondering why McDonald is trading in his prime lenses for a zoom.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my 20mm and 24mm. And I realize I get lazy, at times, with a zoom in my hands (zoom with your feet!) But really, I do love wideangle photography and I hope to find this zoom more convenient (ugh!) than juggling between the 20 and 24 (and 28 sometimes).

At f/3.5-4.5, It’s a slow lens, but then again, I’m a nature and outdoors photographer – I can’t remember the last time I shot at f/2.8. Also, it doesn’t have VR, but, then again, I make most of my photographs using a tripod.

More importantly, however, the DxO tests for this lens are about as good as they get. I can’t afford (and hope to stay married) the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G wonder lens, so I’m stuck with the plebe f/2.8 primes I have. Except, the 18-35 zoom tests better than my 20mm and the same as my 24mm. So, to me, it makes sense to switch.

BTW, this 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 tests as good, and in fact, better in some tests than the venerable 16-35 f/2.8 and is $500 less expensive. Even the wideangle wonderzoom, the 14-24mm (at 3x the price!), has a tough time beating this very moderately-priced, very lightweight (read mor plastic) lens. Panda the old stand-by 17-35mm f/2.8, at twice the price is abysmal compared to the 18-35mm. The 18-35mm may not have the longevity, but it seems to have optics. I know, I know – these are just tests, but DxO is very credible. But the real proof is in the pics.

I’ll let you know the truth of the tail once I’m back from Lake Superior PP and Pukaskwa NP.

Thanks for reading.


Morning, George Lake, KillarneyNow that the bulk of my “day job” has wound down, I have a bit more free time to write and share (and to complete the jobs on this summer’s “honey do” list!) It also means some time to do the things we most love to do… travel, camp, hike, canoe and, for me, photograph. So, in the last week of June, Laurie and I packed up the car and made our way up to Killarney.

Killarney Shield from Granite Ridgeif you’ve never been to that part of Ontario, then you are missing a real gem. You can either choose among the 20 best rv rentals in Florida – or take your minivan but travelling to Killareney Provincial Park by road is a must things to do. Killarney Provincial Park is uniquely located on the Canadian Shield where a 1.5-billion-year-old batholith is up against the eroded roots of 2.25-billion-year-old mountains that were once the height of the Himalayas – they are now the white quartzite ridges of the La Cloche Range. What makes for spectacular photography, though, also makes for difficult hiking. The 87km La Cloche Silhouette Trail (which we did not do!) is one of the most difficult in eastern Canada.
OSA Lake and Killarney RangeInstead, we opted for car-camping at George Lake combined with day-hikes along the Cranberry Bog Trail, the Chikanishing Creek Trail and the Granite Ridge Trail. We also spent the better part of day canoeing and portaging the 23km round-trip to OSA Lake. OSA (Ontario Society of Artists) Lake is a gorgeous vermillion blue colour set against the deep green of the boreal forest and the white quartzite of the La Cloche Range. Its moniker comes from the fact that AY Jackson and the Group of Seven painted extensively in the area and had a hand in having the area protected from logging. In fact, one of my favourite places is AY Jackson Lake – a 15-minute hike from the George Lake Trailhead.

We camped in the eastern part of the campground in the radio-free (but not necessarily noise-free or idiot-free) part of the park. The idiots I refer to are the twenty-something “guys weekend” group who were not only loud, but also messy campers, leaving food, etc. out which ended up attracting a young bear. Luckily it was one of their tents that was trashed, not ours.

_D8E8724-WEBOur second full day was rainy – a perfect time to spend photographing the wonderful lupines along the Hwy 637 corridor. They were an unexpected splash of gorgeous colour we could not pass up. Given the beautiful, soft light and the light rain, Laurie’s photos from the iPad rival mine made with the D800E! I went to Killarney expecting wonderful landscapes, but came home with some lovely wildflower shots as well.

One of the styles I’m working on with wild flowers is replacing my 105mm macro lens with a wideangle lens, typically my 24mm. It takes just the right set of conditions since the wideangle shows so much more background. I think I was successful with the blue flag iris and the harebell, but less so with the bunchberry.


Of course, in landscape mode, I love working ultra-wide with the 20mm. Given a detailed foreground, the 20mm is unrivalled for giving the feeling of being able to walk into the scene. The 24mm also had a good workout. For both the AY Jackson Lake and George Lake morning ‘scapes, I used my Dawn, AY Jackson Lake, KillarneyND400 filter to get much slower shutter speeds of five to 15 seconds which removed slight ripples on the lake providing a glossy surface for reflections.

Needless to say, it was a fruitful trip, photography wise, and it re-invigorated our love of northern Ontario. The sad part was returning to the bustle of southern Ontario – and the NOISE! It’s really surprising how much noise we put up with down here – and don’t even realize it becasue we’ve become to used to it. The noise of the city becomes painfully obvious after being in a place devoid of that white noise.

For more photos of Killarney, head on over to my Flickr album

Thanks for reading.