A couple of firsts for me on this trip, besides the sites, scenery and experiences:
Adobe Lightroom Mobile: I finally succumbed to Adobe and have purchased a subscription to Lightroom Mobile CC (CAD 6.49/mo). This allows me full access for editing photos made using the raw and hdr-raw features of the LrM camera on my iPhone. And, once the photos are in the cloud, space is saved on my mobile devices by just keeping the Smart Previews on my phone and iPad.
After a day of shooting, I would go through my images deleting duplicates. As I am travelling, not knowing how things would visually develop, I tend to take more ‘lead up shots’: the best I could get at the time, not knowing if conditions or angles would improve. If they did, great, I would simply delete those ‘lead up’ shots.
At first I was editing on iPhone only. Given the very slow upload speeds here in Ethiopia, I couldn’t work on the iPad. The smaller screen size of my phone worked, but almost made me blind as even the bifocals didn’t help. I ended up taking off my glasses and holding the phone up to my face for my blind eyes to see clearly!
Once photos were in the cloud with Smart Previews on the iPad, editing became a breeze – even easier than with Lr on the laptop! I can’t wait to get home and try it with an Apple Pencil; it should be even easier.
I’ve been rather disappointed with the performance of the SanDisk iXpand flash drive I purchased prior to the trip. I was hoping it would be a reliable place to keep large files, especially videos. While it has worked in that I have removed videos from my phone, it often (three of four times per use) needed to be unplugged and rebooted, which, understandably, is annoying.
TrackMyTour: Each evening, I would add photos and narrative to Waypoints created in TrackMyTour, which you are most likely already aware of from this blog (Ethiopia 2019). It’s not quite the app I would prefer for this, but it seems to be the best option of the myriad travel blog apps out there.
Adobe Spark Page: I’m also trying out the free version of Adobe Spark Page. While I find its themes and options highly limiting, it can be used to create a dynamic (though not interactive) photo essay. I can pull photos in from a few different sources including Lr Mobile and Apple Photos. Adding videos is a pain though, as they need to be online via YouTube or Vimeo; not easy to do with limited bandwidth and time. You can see my Spark Presentation Ethiopia 2019 online.
If you have any questions or comments, please add them below – and don’t forget to re-share this post.
Over the summer, my wife Laura and I accompanied our daughter Allison and her boyfriend Patrick while travelling through Southeast Asia. One of the many highlights for me was spending time walking the streets of Ha Noi, Viet Nam and photographing daily life there.
People in Ha Noi really do live their lives on the streets, without being what we in the west think of as “street people”. Food is prepared, cooked and eaten on the streets. People take mid-day naps on the streets; they read the paper, sell their wares and entertain themselves on the street. At times, the streets have a carnival-like atmosphere, particularly during the Night Markets – markets that open after sun down and sell just about anything and everything. Streets are blocked off from cars entering and vendors set up tables (and tarpaulins as it does rain a lot there) and span the next few hours selling. Fascinating!
To make my life easier, the people I photographed were very accommodating. For the most part, I was able to ask for permission before shooting, except, of course, those who were napping at the time or whizzing by on motorbikes. Some of the people I asked said no, and I respected that, but these are the ones who agreed. This made, for me, a very rich travel experience, interacting with people I could not converse with, but having a general and somewhat universal understanding of what each other was trying to say. I was able to get a local hotel from https://www.junglevistainn.com/, which helped me stay close to the people. Twice, I was offered pieces of fruit from ladies who were selling it. They would not take money from me when offered, but indicated it was a gift. How lovely. How truly genuine.
You’ll notice, all of these photos are made using an iPhone. I have found using an iPhone to be revolutionary for me, especially in street photography, an area I have little experience or confidence in pursuing. However, It seems people are not as intimidated having their photo taken with a phone as they might be with a more substantial camera. Ha Noi is a very different place from Guelph or Toronto. I’m not sure I could or would be able to do the same thing here.
Please take a moment to click through the images in the Gallery below (click on the first image to enlarge it, then scroll through to see the others). Note that I have only provided very general titles. Rather than explaining each photo in the title, I would rather leave it up to the viewer to look into the photo to see what’s happening and come to their own conclusions. Some are more obvious than others.
Please leave comments (or questions) below and I encourage you to take a moment to share this page using the links at the bottom.
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.
I’ve finally admitted to myself that my website is too much work to keep up in its current configuration. For years now, pride has gotten the better of me as I have done all the design and set-up myself, using Adobe GoLive at first, then migrating, quite successfully, to iWeb. However, with having to do all the “back end” work, the time needed to maintain the site and upload photos is far greater than I have. Lightroom Web module is also a bit disappointing in that to make one minor edit/additon/deletion, you need to upload the whole page – time consuming and inefficient. As well, I know my Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is poor and the site is beginning to look stale. It needs a refresh!
NOTE: If you are considering using SmugMug, please use the referral link at the end of this post. It will give you 20% off any of the services you choose (and it helps me, too = win-win!)
For the past few months I’ve been scanning the websites of photo portfolio hosting services, examining the myriad options – and there are many. I’ve have them narrowed down to two: ZenFolio and SmugMug, but I looked at many; here’s a summary:
PhotoBucket and Flickr: I have a Flickr account and use it regularly to upload recent work, but it is more of a depository for images, rather than a “capital G” Gallery; PhotoBucket is similar. While I like the modern look of both services, there isn’t the level of customization I’m looking for and at times, I’ve found Flickr to be a bit clunky in its implementation of slide shows and full screens. At $25 per year, Flickr a good deal, but not ideal. Photobucket, on the other hand, seems “scammy”, like they are trying to pull one over on you. On their homepage there is no mention of pricing, features or options, just a bunch of irrelevant small thumbnails. When you do get to pricing, it says 10GB, but then you read the small print to find it’s only 2GB, but uploading the app gives you 10GB. To me that’s not straightforward; it’s weaselling. No thanks.
Portfoliobox is perhaps the closest contender to Zenfolio and SmugMug, at least from my perspective. I think it’s the European influence of its styling that attracts me as well as its affinity to artists and creative professionals. Portfoliobox also has a no-nonsense choice of two accounts: free or $7.50/month. The only thing preventing me from heading in their direction is the lack of customization. I guess I’ve been spoiled having complete control for all these years that I still want some control, just not all of it.
500px is similar to Flickr in that it is more of a depository of photos, but it has a much stronger “photo community” emphasis. I tried 500px for a while, but couldn’t be on it frequently enough to keep up with the “likes”. While I do some “liking” of photos in Flickr, gaining stature through “likes” as 500px does, is not my thing. Also, when my “Home” page is photos by other people, I can see it’s more about discovering other photos than working with my own. Flickr can be a bit like that, too. I don’t mind seeing other photographers’ work, but my goal with the site is to promote my own work.
PhotoShelter is a popular option amongst professional photographers. Even with its cheapest option at $10/month, it offers a complete store-front fulfilment option. But I’m not interested in having prints made by an outside company. I want to maintain the quality of my prints by doing my own archival fine art printing.
SqaureSpace has an excellent set of modern gallery templates that are photography-oriented so it caught my eye. But I also noticed it caters to businesses, restaurants and stores, so it’s not focussed exclusively on photography galleries. That’s not bad, I would just rather have the hosting service more focussed. Also, the plan that I would need is $16/month – rather steep when I don’t want the “Sell up to 20 products” option.
Now, FolioLink is photography and artist-oriented hosting service that is very modern and has a variety of options. In fact it is perhaps the premier service, but the price starts at $239/year and for your own domain, it’s another $30 – for up to 120 portfolio images. No thanks! My Scottish blood won’t allow it.
A note about WordPress. I use WordPress quite successfully for my blog. Yet, there are a number of photographers who use it as their gallery and website. Maybe I’m not flexible enough in my thinking or I just don’t know enough about WordPress, but I feel you should use the right tool for the job: a gallery site for galleries and a blog site for blogs. They have their specialities and I would rather work towards each of their strengths. Besides, although WordPress is free, if you want elegant design, you pay for it by purchasing templates. i would rather pay for the hosting and have the flexibility to change designs without having to completely revamp my website.
I also considered The Turning Gate (TTG). They have a series of options available for galleries and sales that work through the Lightroom Web module. Quite clever, actually, but given the limitations of the LR Web module, I have steered away. I also find the presentation of the Gallery page to be a bit “blocky” – not what I was looking for.
So that brings me to my two finalists: Zenfolio and SmugMug. I must admit to disliking the name SmugMug and preferring the name Zenfolio, but that’s a minor aesthetic point compared to what the two services offer.
But what does my website need? What, specifically am I looking for beyond modern-looking galleries? Here’s a list of “must haves”:
primarily, my website needs to host Galleries of images that I create/curate;
the site must also be flexible enough to allow keyword searches so that allow users may search based on their own needs and way fo thinking, not mine;
the host must offer modern, elegant designs with sizing from large monitors to tablets and phones. To me, “elegant design” means there is very little technology between the user and the website; it must be intuitive.
additional web pages with text are also necessary, such as an About page, plus pages describing my workshops and fine print sales;
the service must also allow uploads directly from Lightroom through the Publish Services. This is critical, as LR’s Publish Services provide me with a smooth workflow for managing titles, captions, keywords and galleries all from within Lightroom;
Most of all, however, the hosting service must be offered at a price reasonable enough to make it all worth it without including a lot of extras I won’t use.
Both ZenFolio and SmugMug offer these options at $60/year – very reasonable. They are actually quite similar, offering significant customization and a variety of pages. Zenfolio comes closer to a ready-made option with a Blog, About and Contact pages in addition to Gallery pages. I also appreciate the tree-style organization of the photos in Zenfolio and the ability to have “Collections” as well as folders. I’ve since learned of the same options in SmugMug, but they are not made as obvious as they are in Zenfolio.
It Takes Time!
This is one of the problems I have found in this investigation – it takes a huge amount of time. If I only went by the posted feature set and price, I could make my decision right away, but that’s what they want you to do, just like buying a car. It’s only when you look under the hood that you discover differences that could either make your efforts worth while or worthless – but yoiu won’t know until you actually work with it in depth for awhile.
For the last two weeks I’ve been hard at work using the free trials available for both services. ZenFolio certainly offers some real functionality and quite in-depth web design options. But I’ve found the interface to be a bit clunky. In particular, to make site changes, you go into a whole different side that is not seamless. SmugMug is similar, however I find the interface for page design more intuitive, once I became oriented to it. It is easy to see when you are making page changes, or site-wide changes. I do prefer ZenFolio’s easy-to-access organizational tree for photo galleries, but SmugMug is a close second.
One area of importance is how good their help is. I’m one to dive in and problem-solve. If I can’t probelm solve, I need to be able to find an answer; if that’s not possible, there needs to be someone available by email to help. I can happily report that I’ve worked with both Help Resources and Help Desks and have had excellent service. This included a rather protracted problem with the SmugMug Lightroom plugin, but it was easily solved and SmugMug extended my trial period.
So, the two services are rather identical except for one thing… The $60/year Zenfolio service is ideal, but I can’t use my own luxBorealis.com logo on Zenfolio unless I opt for the $140/year service. While this service also provides a store front for fulfilling print orders – the major difference to their $60/year service which does not – it’s a service I don’t need nor want. A logo is important, but it’s not worth $80 more.
SmugMug, on the other hand, for the same $60/year gives me exactly what I need. It has a lovely full-screen interface for my homepage that seems to work better than the Zenfolio equivalent. I also find navigation set-up and website customization much more straightforward. Another advantage to SmugMug is the limitless pages I can create with surprisingly flexible designs. It seems like a frivolous feature, but I particularly like SmugMug’s implementation of a keyword cloud – you will see it on any page on my site by scrolling down. Very interactive; very cool!
I thought the photos I’ve included below might be the last of winter, but then Ontario received another 25cm of snow! I guess now is not the time to go on about how much I enjoy the snow, especially because I’m down here in Naples, Florida in 30°C heat!
March Break has given me the time to finally get at posting some more recent work. Laurie and I spent a wonderful long weekend in February cross-country skiing up in the Meaford-Kimberley area of the Beaver Valley. It was a truly beautiful weekend with light snow squalls mixed with sunshine and not too cold (nor too warm) for comfortable skiing and photography.
As well, it’s a chance to reflect on a very successful evening presentation at GRIPS in Kitchener. I got the feeling GRIPS is a warm and welcoming club with excellent photographers – a feeling that was confirmed when I learned it has had to cap its membership at 150 and there’s a waiting list. Wow! Great stuff!!
I presented “My Own Backyard” concentrating first on photographs made, literally, in my own backyard, then branching out to the Arboretum at the University of Guelph (just 5min away) then projects I’m working on within an hour’s drive of our home in Guelph: Landscapes of Wellington County, the Niagara Escarpment and Grand River Country. My main message was when travelling in various locations around the world I can remember lamenting the fact that I just couldn’t always be in the right place at the right time to capture the quintessential photograph. Well, people travel from all over the world to southern Ontario and this is a place where I can be in the right place at the right time. There is so much to see and photograph just in this area yet we often don’t give it second thought, but we should!
Here are a few photographs to remind us all that, yes, winter is beautiful, and, yes, Ontario is too!
It’s 7:30am and I’ve been sitting on the deck of our B&B for about an hour now enjoying the morning light and the passing clouds over Manitoaning Bay on Manitoulin Island. We’ve been here for 6 days and we’re enjoying what they call “Manitoulin time”. It’s similar to “African time” or “East Coast time” where life slows down and takes a more reasonable (read “normal” pace).
What a wonderful place Manitoulin Island is. It has all the modern conveniences without the trappings. Except for Highway 6 on the the east side, the roads are unblemished by advertising and signs. The mix of hay fields, fallow meadows and bush is reminiscent of what southern Ontario might have looked like 150 years ago. Yesterday, after climbing the East Lookout of the Cup and Saucer Trail, Laurie and I looked out over a treed landscape that, except for the dot of a cottage or lodge, extended to the horizon. It was like looking from Mt Nemo or Rattlesnake Point and seeing nothing but trees and lakes.
It’s also quiet here. It’s funny how we first noticed the quiet with the startlingly noisy approach of a passing car. In Guelph, passing cars barely raise an eyebrow as it’s just part of the white noise we’ve become so accustomed to. On Manitoulin, there is no background noise so every sound is heard in sharp contrast the natural quiet.
Manitoulin is big – over 2700km2 – about twice the size of Waterloo Region or Hamilton and the same size as Wellington County (a little over 1/2 the size of Rhode island). The only significant highway is Highway 6 heading from the ferry terminal at South Baymouth to Espanola and on to either Sudbury or the Sault. All the other “highways” are narrow, two-lane country roads – perfect for what we’ve come to call “evening game drives” – slow-paced drives after supper to view the many Sandhill Cranes and deer on the island.
We’ve also come to understand that Manitoulin is also one giant alvar. An alvar is a harsh habitat “built” on limestone pavement. In many places the pavement is just under the surface with either a field, scrubby forest or oak savannah on top with enough open pavement scattered in and around the area to remind you of how thin the soils are. They are uncommon with almost all of North America’s alvars found around the Great Lakes, mostly here on Manitoulin and the Bruce Peninsula. It’s a tough place for plants to become established as the bare pavement roasts in the summer, is quite exposed in the winter and, due to the porosity of limestone, inherently desert-like. Plants establish themselves in the grykes (or grikes) – natural fissures in the rock produced by the the naturally slightly acidic rainfall slowly dissolving the limestone. It’s in the shade of grykes that plants have a hope of finding moisture and relief from the desiccating sunshine and wind.
Anyway – enough already about the ecology lesson. The early morning sun and quiet and caused me to wax on perhaps a bit too long! Suffice it to say, Manitoulin is a wonderful place to spend a week or two each year.
Here are a few photos. I’ll post more once we get home. I’ve made great use of the 20mm lens, getting in close to details and allowing the surrounding landscape to fill the background. For me, it creates wonderful context and really makes me feel as if I am “there”. The 105 has come in handy for capturing the many significant and uncommon alvar wildflowers while the 300 has been reserved for the Sandhill Cranes – which really serve a 600mm!
For the month of April, I will be showing fine art photographs depicting various locations and scenes along the Niagara Escarpment in a show called Singular Moments. I have a number of 20×28″ and 16×20″ framed works, a folio of 12 photographs as well as ArtCards. All works are original, signed photographs numbered in Open Editions. Each is individually printed using pigment ink on the finest museum-quality natural rag watercolour paper.
It’s been a busy September for me – too busy to even write a post.
For the past week, I’ve been up at Bark Lake Leadership Centre with a group of Grade 10s from St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. It is the first of two intensive weeks of a locally designed Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems science course. We have the students working outdoors and in right from our 7:30am microclimate data gathering session to the end of evening case studies at 10pm – which, for me, leaves precious little time to capture the spectacular beauty around Bark Lake.
Each morning I had about 40 minutes of light prior to the microclimate study I supervise. With sunrise around 7am, that meant most of my dawn shooting was before sunrise. I also got out one evening for some night photography plus another morning of landscapes. However the beauty and accessibility of spectacular views more than made up for the limited time I had. Below you’ll find a small gallery of images from the week. I think the over-riding factors for success this week was the wonderful lighting and the almost complete lack of wind. There’s nothing that spoils a great landscape like wind and having consistently beautiful mornings made the few minutes of photography I had a complete pleasure. In fact, I probably had more minutes of ideal conditions in this week than I had all year long!
All images are shot with a Nikon D800e with Nikkor primes and are processed in Lightroom 4. The D800e performed magnificently – especially with the night photos. Combined with Lightroom 4, I was surprised with what could be brought out of the shadows with virtually no grain or noise, just a few hot pixels after 4 to 8 minutes of exposure. I will work some more on this to determine if it is better to have a shorter exposure with higher ISO (more grain) or a longer exposure at a lower ISO to reduce grain.
The new adjustments of LR4 were really stretched as I often used -100 Highlights with +100 Shadows to reduce the contrast of the bright autumn sunshine. I am continually amazed at what LR can do with images to tweak them to what I pre-visualized in the field.
My 24mm was the workhorse with the Micro-Nikkor 105mm also a favourite. Less-used were the 20mm, 50mm and 300mm. Although all were needed at some point, I could have lived with only the 24 and 105.