2019-01-13: What I’ve seen this week

This is a topic I haven’t done in a while!  I’ve been trying to keep my camera close, as there is such an abundance of birdlife in my yard at the moment.  It can be a bit challenging though, with the days being so short, and we’ve had a lot of overcast days recently.  But even when the light isn’t great, it’s still awesome to have camera in hand.

DSCF2040 copy-Edit
This was shot through my office window, as even though the blue jay is now a frequent, daily visitor to both the bird feeders and the deer bowl, it is still quite shy and won’t stick around if I am outside.
DSCF2050
I’ve taken to having my camera on me when I go out to fill the bird feeders and the deer bowl.  This doe was not at all concerned about me filling the feeder about 10 feet away.
DSCF2056
A red-breasted nuthatch pausing from eating suet.
DSCF2068
A grey jay I spotted in the yard this afternoon, enjoying some of the cob that I put out for the deer.

2018-12-30: Backyard Birds

I must apologize for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks.  I hadn’t intended on taking any time off the blog in the run-up to Christmas, but time just got away from me.

Christmas Day saw a very unusual visitor to the bird feeder – a Blue Jay.  To those on the east coast I’m sure that doesn’t sound very exciting; but they are considered rare in my area, and I’ve not seen one since I was a kid growing up in Ontario, so I was thrilled.  The jay was very skittish though and while I have seen it a few times over the past couple of days, they are usually blink and you’ll miss it moments.  All I have to show for it are some fuzzy shots through my office window, but at least I have proof that it was here.

We’ve had a fair bit of snow the last few days, and it’s been very busy at the feeders; chickadees and nuthatches, flickers, downy and hairy woodpeckers, gray jays and even a visit from the magpies that I generally only see a couple streets over from where I live.  The ruffed grouse has also been around quite frequently.  I’ve been battling a bug with a nasty cough so I haven’t been outside much with my camera, but I did manage to capture the magpie and the grouse.  Now that I am starting to feel better I am hoping to get out and capture more of birds in the yard, and perhaps with any luck the blue jay will make another appearance.

DSCF1958DSCF1959DSCF1967DSCF1984

 

Month in Review – November

November’s Topic of the Month – The Night Sky

While I had the opportunity to edit and share images from my night sky workshop in October and some older images as well, I didn’t actually have the chance to get out and shoot the night sky in November, so I guess the topic of the month was a bit of a fail.  There is always another night to get out, and now that we are into the very short days of winter, I don’t have to stay up too late to do so.  Fingers crossed I can get out and get some local images…. maybe even some aurora shots if the stars line up 🙂

What’s new this month?

I’ve come to the realization this month that in 2018 I’ve done some really deep dives into editing in lots of different ways, but I’ve really not spent much time out shooting, which feels like a real missed opportunity, and something that I need to amend moving into 2019.  When I do get out with my camera I quickly get into the zone and find it such an enjoyable activity, that I really need to prioritize it more.

5 favourites – November

What’s coming up next?

I’ve decided not to have a specific topic of the month in December.  The month always slips by in such a whirlwind of activity and family time that I would rather just share when I can, and explore what interests me at a given moment, than trying to fit into a specific topic.  I’m also going to spend some time thinking about topics and projects for 2019, which is coming up so soon.

2018-11-22: Barred Owl

I was busy working last week and something caught my attention outside, out the corner of my eye.  I spotted this gorgeous barred owl in a tree in my backyard, and rushed to grab my camera to take a quick photo through the window.

I decided to take a chance and dash outside and hope to get a better shot.  The owl gave me a quick glance, let me snap 3 photos, and then was off, deep into the forest.

I love when beautiful creatures like this decide to make a stop in my yard 🙂

DSCF1956-Edit.jpeg

DSCF1954-Edit

2018-11-18: The Night Sky

Mother Nature has certainly not been cooperating with my plans to get out and shoot at night.  While I still have images from Joshua Tree that I would like to work through, I thought I would switch it up this week and edit some old images instead.

DSC_0019
This image was shot at Green Lake in Whistler BC.  I was in the area for a multi-day wedding celebration, and set up my camera to take images to create a star trail while I sat around a fire drinking beer and enjoying the company of good friends.  This was done with my first DSLR camera, a Nikon D5100.  I still think I am pretty lucky that I didn’t tumble into the lake when I went to collect my tripod later in the evening 🙂
_DSC0018
I’ve not kept up to date with it recently, but in the past I have tried checking in with a northern lights forecasting site, and if the forecast is good and the weather clear, I’d head out and with my camera and see if I could see anything.  The lights were very faint on this night, but I think the combination of the faint purple glow and the warm tint to the clouds from highway lights in the distance looks pretty.
_DSC0523
The best evening I have viewed northern lights I saw a proton arc form and dissolve over about a half hour period… all from my driveway.  The milky way appears faintly above as well.
_DSC0512 copy
The proton arc as it was forming.
_DSC0493
A beautiful combination of magenta and green.
_DSC0049-Edit
No northern lights in this one, just a starry sky enhanced by some whispy clouds illuminated by the rising moon.

 

2018-09-16: Topaz Week 2

I am continuing to enjoy working in Topaz Studio, and now that I am getting more comfortable with the interface, I am starting to notice some differences that may affect how I use the program for future images.

First off, I have noticed that there can be a dramatic difference in how Topaz renders the raw file prior to having any processing done, and it seems to be very dependant on which camera I was using.  This lion image was shot with my old Nikon D610 (which I traded in late last year for a Fuji XT-2).

20170515-DSC_6404.jpg
This is the unedited image, exported from ON1 Photo Raw.
Unedited Topaz Raw File.jpg
This is the unedited image from Topaz Studio.
Luminar Raw file.jpeg
For comparison purposes, this is the raw file out of Luminar.  The results are quite similar to the On1 version, especially in terms of the colour rendering.

As you can see, with this image there are fairly dramatic differences in the colour rendering, the amount of contrast and detail in the image, and how bright the image is.  The raw file appears to have a significant magenta cast in the Topaz file, compared to a more neutral tone in the On1 raw file.  I have been finding colour correction a bit tricky with Topaz so far.  I think of all the tools I have available to me, Luminar does the best job at correcting colour and especially removing colour casts.

But, even though I started from a different spot editing the raw file in Topaz than I would have from On1, I am happy with the results I was able to get with the image.

Edited image.jpg
Here is the finished image.  I spent time with this gorgeous lion early one more whilst on Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa.  May, 2017.

With this next image, the difference in colour rendering was far less between On1 and Topaz Studio, so as with all photo editing, images do need to be looked at on a case by case basis.  The landscape image below was shot with my Panasonic FZ1000.

On1 unedited
The unedited raw image from On1 Photo Raw.
Topaz unedited
The unedited image from Topaz Studio.

In contrast to the lion image, the raw file in Topaz Studio looks better to me than through On1, a little bit brighter and with a bit more detail.

Topaz edited.jpg
Here is my final edit of this image through Topaz Studio.  I was able to bring out depth of colour and detail in the image, without completely removing the grainy haze from the sand storm that was kicking up in the distance.  Taken at Hoanib Camp in Namibia, April 2017. 

Here is an image from this summer, shot with my Fuji XT-2.  I sure miss sitting outside watching the hummingbirds zip around the yard.

On1 unedited hummers.jpg
Unedited from On1 Photo Raw.
topaz unedit hummer.jpg
Unedited from Topaz Studio.

The difference in rendering on the Fuji files is far less dramatic.  The one out of Topaz looks flatter, but that’s what the editing process is for.

Here is the edited image:

topaz edit hummer.jpg
Edited through Topaz to bring out the detail, and get rid of the distracting elements of the background (in this case by cropping them out).  On second glance I could have made the image a bit brighter, but since the purpose of this exercise was to look for differences in how the raw image looked, I’ll leave it as is.

After doing a few of these image comparisons, I am finding that there is a consistent, dramatic difference in the way On1 and Topaz render files from my old Nikon camera, with the files being significantly more “true to life” in the On1 rendering.  Since I don’t have the Nikon anymore, this isn’t an issue that will plague me beyond finishing up the backlog of images I have that I would like to edit, so I can make smart choices about what software to use when.  The differences between the raw rendering with files from my Panasonic or Fuji cameras is not so dramatic, and if I am using Topaz Studio, I have a better starting point with files from those cameras than I do with the Nikon files.

 

 

 

2018-08-18: Smoky Skies

Like last year, Northern BC has been hit hard with wildfires.  It’s actually pretty scary looking at the wildfire maps, as it looks like most of the province is currently on fire.  Thankfully, there is currently no danger in our immediate vicinity, other than extremely poor air quality from the substantial amount of smoke that has settled in the region, and the airborne ash that lately has been coating my car every night.

Yesterday morning started out normal enough for the past few weeks, a bit smoky but nothing too terrible.  But then as the morning wore on, it got darker rather than brighter, and at 9:10am it looked like we were in the midst of some type of solar eclipse event.  I went outside to try and capture a few images; it was extremely smoky, cold like it would be in the middle of the night, and all the photo sensitive lights had come on.  It was spooky quiet as all the birds had dropped to complete silence.

By 10am the darkness had passed but it remained incredibly smoky throughout the day.

I was in the middle of work so I didn’t have the opportunity to drive anywhere more interesting to take pictures; this is a view down my driveway to the road… not that you can really even see the driveway in the image.  It was just the sky I was focused on.

This shot was taken on my Fuji camera with the 18-55 lens, shot at f2.8, ISO 2000 and 1/60 sec.  I created the merged panorama in On1 Photo Raw, and for efficiency edited it in On1 (back to the Luminar processing tomorrow).  The merged panorama was a bit of a challenge because the images were so dark.  I had to up the exposure slider on all the individual images, and then reverse that on the panorama.  My camera is basically always set to auto white balance, and I changed it in editing to daylight, and that got the sky to be true to life.

Just to give some perspective, sunrise this week is around 5:55am.

DSCF1421 Pano.jpg
A merged panorama of 5 images shot at 9:18am yesterday morning.  A single shot definitely captured the spookiness of the colour of the sky, but having the panorama really shows the variation in different areas of the sky.

 

All of us here are praying for the safety of all the incredibly brave people working to put these fires out, and hoping that some favourable weather will be heading their way soon.

 

2018-07-22: What I’ve seen this week

It’s been a great week for bird watching and wildlife, though I don’t have a ton of images to show for it.  As I expected, the hummingbirds are slowing down dramatically, with only around a half dozen birds remaining, but the purple finches, nuthatches, chickadees and pine siskins remain in force, clearing out two seed feeders every couple of days.  I had a pair of western tanagers through the yard on Thursday, but sadly they flitted through so quickly I couldn’t get any images.  I’ve only had three very brief sightings of the tanagers this year.

After the sadness of finding the destroyed robin’s nest the previous week, I was a bit surprised to find a robin (I assume the same mama, but perhaps a different one) building a nest feet from where the previous one was destroyed.  Fingers crossed she is more successful this time and the cats stay away.

The star of the week though was the bear cub that visited the yard Thursday around lunchtime.  It was on it’s own, and frankly seemed a bit small to be away from its mama, but I never caught sight of any other cubs around or the mom.  He was in the grass near some of my potted plants, making for some nice images out of my dining room window.

I hope you enjoy my choices for the week.

DSCF1391
Taking photos out through a window isn’t ideal, but I do get a great vantage point for creating images.
DSCF1393
Taking a moment to stop and smell the flowers.

DSCF1399

P1040138
Mama robin tucked into her nest on my well pump house.
P1040144
A garter snake that I found basking on the pavement when I was taking Spencer for an afternoon walk.  I was grateful no cars came by while I was walking, and when I returned it had moved into the safety of the bushes.

2018-07-17: Deer in the yard

I missed putting together my Sunday post, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share this adorable deer and fawn that briefly popped by the yard last week.  They showed up for only a couple minutes at the end of a miserable rainstorm, so I am glad I looked out the window at the right time and had my camera handy.  I didn’t recognize the mama, so I only shot a couple of images out the window, as I didn’t want to spook them.  Most of the local deer are used to me being out walking so it probably wouldn’t have been an issue to pop my head out the door, but I actually wouldn’t have had time as they only popped over for a brief visit to the salt lick and then vanished back into the bushes.

DSCF1382
A mama deer and fawn making a brief appearance in my back yard.
DSCF1383
A bundle of cuteness – I love living in the country 🙂