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 🙂

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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).

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This is the unedited image, exported from ON1 Photo Raw.
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This is the unedited image from Topaz Studio.
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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.

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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.

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The unedited raw image from On1 Photo Raw.
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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.

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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.

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Unedited from On1 Photo Raw.
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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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Mama robin tucked into her nest on my well pump house.
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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.

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

2018-07-08: Birds and a bunny

Last weekend, I had decided that I was going to carry on with bird posts for the month of July.  I was excited because a robin’s nest was discovered in the yard, and while I didn’t see the babies, mama robin was still in the nest.  I had wonderful thoughts of finding a suitable spot to photograph them, while not getting too close and intruding on their space.  Then on Wednesday morning, as I was leaving with Spencer for our morning walk, I noticed that the nest was off kilter (it was built on top of a hose reel attached to our well pump house).  When I walked a bit closer, I saw that the nest was destroyed, and there were 3 baby robins dead on the ground.

I don’t have any proof, but I believe it was a cat that lives down the road and is allowed to roam outside that did the damage.  There were puncture marks in one of the chicks, but otherwise they were untouched, which leads me to believe that whatever attacked the nest was not in need of food.  Even if a wild cat, fox or other animal was disturbed when they were at the nest, if they were hungry, I would expect them to come back and collect the chicks.  Instead, I ended up having to clean the sad mess up.  I’m not going to share any images from that sighting; no one else needs to see that.

That took the wind out of my sails a bit for bird photos.  I’ve actually decided to not have a formal topic for July, and I’ll just post what I am inspired to share on a Sunday.  Today though, I do have a few bird images from around the yard and neighbourhood.  Who knows what next week will bring.

Before I get to the birds though, there is a bunny I’ve been seeing around the neighbourhood.  It’s not the best image, but I don’t think I am wrong in my assumption that it is a descendant of the bunny that was in the area the winter of 2016/2017.  I’ve linked below to one of the posts that featured the original bunny in the neighbourhood.  In talking with neighbours, there are a couple of these little hybrids hopping around.

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The original bunny

I have been quite excited to see hermit thrushes while out on walks a few times this summer.  Mostly, I just hear them calling from deep in the bushes, but I’ve seen them on different walks hopping around on the road, sitting on fence posts, or up on the power lines like this one.  The link below has some more information about the hermit thrush, as well as a sample of the pretty song they sing.

Hermit Thrush

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The hermit thrush paused here for a brief moment, but only showed off the backside before flying off deep into the bushes.

In addition to the hummingbirds that are going crazy in the yard, I have loads of purple finches and pine siskins (as well as the occasional hairy woodpecker, some juncos and a red-breasted nuthatch family).  I’m grateful there haven’t been any bears in my immediate vicinity, so I have been able to keep the sunflower seeds out for the birds.  I have two large squirrel proof feeders (ha-ha!) that I am filling up every other day at the moment.  I’ve included links to the All About Birds pages for both the birds if you are looking for more information on the species, or want to listen to the lovely songs that I get to listen to while taking my lunch break outside, or while puttering around watering the flowers.

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A group of pine siskins dining on sunflower seeds.

Pine Siskin

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Female purple finch
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Male purple finch

 

Purple Finch

I hope you have enjoyed my selections for the week.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead.

2018-06-24: Monthly Photo Project – Hummingbirds

As promised last week, I have some hummingbird photos to share this week.  I’ve been spending as much time as I have been able outside, enjoying the antics of the rufous hummingbirds.  I probably should have tried taking some video, but I don’t want to delay this post and go out and attempt it.  Perhaps over the coming week I’ll give that a try.

The rufous hummingbirds arrive in Prince George early to mid-May; with the males arriving first followed shortly after by the females.  Their arrival coincided with the weather going from unseasonably warm to ridiculously cold and frosty, so there wasn’t much for them to feed on, making them extra reliant on the feeders that I put out.  I started with one feeder and as more birds arrived hung up extras.  Currently I have four feeders around the yard, and am putting out between 1 to 1.5 litres of nectar per day for the group living in my vicinity.

I have photos of four at a feeder at a time, but have seen more than eight gathered around one, with others hanging out at the other options.  Usually that is early in the morning or late in the evening, when it is challenging to get images.  If I had to guess, I would say there are probably 15 to 18 individuals that are frequenting the feeders, but they move so quickly and erratically, it is really tough to say.  There are definitely lots of juveniles, so their breeding has been successful this year.  With the long days we have, they are busy feeding from around 4am until after 10pm every day.

My yard is surrounded by thick forest, and the hummingbirds retreat deep into the bush between feedings, making it had to get decent images of them on natural perches.  Images of birds on feeders aren’t ideal, but that’s where they are gathering, so I have to work with what is available.  I am going to keep trying to get some images of them on the forest, but I don’t have long to do so, as they usually begin their southern journey mid July.

If you want to learn more about the rufous hummingbird, check out the link below.  They are noted as being feisty – that’s a complete understatement!

All About Birds – Rufous Hummingbird

Now, time for the images.

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An adult female rufous hummingbird.
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An adult male rufous hummingbird.
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Sharing nicely (for once).
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The male taking off to join the fray.
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I nearly got taken out by the birds on more than one occasion while hanging around outside taking photographs.  I think it would have hurt them a lot more than me though.
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Adult and juvenile females heading in for a feed.
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Beak to beak combat.