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Canon Cannon – Breaking the Rules in Photography

Canon

I’ve seen quite a few photos with this strange look. If you’ve browsed my Lomographs gallery over at SmugMug, chances are you’ve probably seen them too. The cheap plastic cameras I sometimes enjoy using produce images similar to this one. Bold vignetting and odd color schemes abound when you use Lomo, Diana and Holga cameras. But this photo isn’t in my Lomographs gallery. Instead it’s in the Street Photography gallery; because, believe it or not, this was taken with a Canon 7D!

You can primarily thank Nill PhotoFX’s Toxic Sunny action set and Topaz Adjust’s Lomo 2 filter for this classic look and feel. A Rokinon fisheye lens held at a slightly oblique angle got the initial shot.

Whenever I make a photo shot with a fancy dslr look like it was taken with a “toy” camera, it always feels like I’m breaking some photography rule or other. But sometimes in defining yourself as a tog, you may find yourself venturing into unfamiliar if not uncharted waters. And you know what? That’s just fine. :)

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Creepypasta: Once Upon a Blackbird

blackbird photograph

The director always vowed that Harley had no reason to resign from the sanatorium staff. And the increase in the number of nesting blackbirds on the hospital grounds, despite some absurd local legends, in no way corresponded to the increase of cases of catatonia in the patients.

But Harley had been getting more and more agitated as the weeks of his employment as an orderly passed. The last straw must have been when Benjamin Judd passed into oblivion. Ben said he was frightened by the grackles that perched on his windowsill and glared at him at all hours. Harley tried to reassure him the birds were only looking for food, but the patient refused to be comforted; instead he tried tapping out a rhythm to his favorite song to chase away his ghostly fears.

Tap-tap-TAP. Tap-tap-TAP.

Then, one day, the tapping ceased. Harley entered Ben’s room to see a flutter of dark wings outside the window and Benjamin Judd in a vegetative state in his chair.

Later, Harley was sitting with some other asylum inmates in the garden. Naturally, feathery watchers came and went at all times. But one of them approached Harley, seemingly unafraid and with a persistent stare in its golden eye.

Later that day, Harley fled the asylum and refused to return; for he said that one blackbird seemed to possess or devour something he dared not name. He would only say that the bird, between unrelenting gimlet gazes at him, had on the paved ground tapped out a certain rhythm he knew too well.

Tap-tap-TAP. Tap-tap-TAP.

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Save Your Prints – Concerning Monitor Calibration

Spyder ProTime marches on. And just like human beings, machines grow older and change as the months and years pass. In fact, machines tend to age and break down even faster than we do! But besides becoming obsolete, your laptop or desktop can change in another way that will directly affect your photographs.

I’m talking about color change. There’s a funny thing about the human brain: it’s great at side-by-side comparisons, but not so much about judging any one object by itself. A photo can look great to you on your monitor, but when the print is produced, you may notice something a bit “off” about it when you hold it up to the image on your screen.

This can happen to your computer due to manual alterations to the contrast, new software changing things, or just good old-fashioned age. Either way, it’s a good idea to recalibrate your monitor’s settings every few months to make sure nothing’s amiss.

happy-laptop-mdThere’s two major ways to do this. There are some free tools that help you do it manually (Windows has “Calibrate Display Color” and Mac has “Display Calibrator Assistant”). Or you can spring for an automated solution like the Spyder (shown above).

Regular calibration may seem like a hassle, but I can vouch for the fact that, if nothing else, it gives peace of mind. Knowing that your clients get the sort of product they expect is essential. :)

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But is it Art? (Photography vs. Tradition)

Overgrown Shed Interior

Hi everyone! First of all, I hope you enjoy today’s photograph. It’s more from the abandoned silo complex, purposely tinted mint green to emphasize the moss growing in many places and the greenery beyond the window. It reminds me of some dream-like album covers I’ve seen.

But is it art?

Now, normally I like to stay away from strong controversy, so I’m taking a bit of a risk with this post. I guess there’s just some times when you have to say something, even if it’s only on your own blog. There’s a debate on the web about whether or not photography deserves being called art. We humans being creatures of extremes, there are two major sides.

The first side says photography is not art at all, because all it takes to make a shot is to press a button (as opposed to hours of painting or sculpting). The other side says photography is always art because it’s a legitimate form of self-expression and imagination, like all other kinds of art. Which side do I take?

graffiti drawing robot

A photo of a robot making art? Is that art too? What do you think?

I’d like to think the answer is a bit more complex than just taking one side or another. First, photography is more involved than just button pushing. At the least there are composition and other creative aspects to consider. Second, and I know this is a hard line to take, I don’t think that all shots are art. It’s not unreasonable to say a photo taken with the lens cap on is anything less than a mistake. But also any quick snap, if there is not some level of both creative and technical expertise behind it, is questionable in my view. Even a Polaroid can achieve excellence with the right understanding of light and aesthetics.

Is it art? In my opinion, yes: if you pour both your passion and your skill into it. Otherwise? No so much.

So what do you all think? Comments?

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/16, 2.5″

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Hashtags Galore – Using Instagram to Boost Your Photos

instagram screenshot

Instagram is a great tool for marketing your photography. While it’s true that most people use the app to take photos directly (lots of selfies), it is possible to post and promote shots that you’ve taken with other cameras, even dslrs.

There are two ways of doing this. Since modern smartphones can be hooked up to cloud services like Dropbox, it’s possible to transfer phones from the cloud to the phone and then post them to Instagram. But that’s a little clunky. I prefer a solution like BlueStacks that mimics a mobile device and allows you to upload to Instagram directly from a desktop or laptop.

Once the image has been on-boarded, it’s business as usual. Add comments and hashtags and post away.

As for the hashtags themselves, it’s a good idea to include as many as you can, up to 30 maximum. If you’re running low on ideas for hashtag names, you can go to a very useful website called Hashtagify.me. There, you can search for your favorites and get a readout of related hashtags you can use.

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Dún Masc

The Twilit Lens:

Another haunting post by Ed Mooney, a personal favorite of mine. He visits places that inhabit my fantasies. Please drop him a line of appreciation.

Originally posted on Ed Mooney Photography:

Dunamase 2015 (1)

As promised I got back out on the road finally, and even managed to bring along my three little ruin hunters and my nephew. So with a packed car I thought there would be no better place to start off than one of my personal favourite sites, The Rock of Dunamase in Co. Laois. I have been here many times before and it still never fails to let me down. The views on approach to this natural Limestone outcrop are truly magnificent and the kids nearly jumped out of their seats when they spotted the castle in the distance as we approached from the North. Standing 46 metres (151 ft) above a flat plain, with breath taking views of the surrounding country side which was once under the control of the native O’Moore, the Rock was clearly a place of strategic importance. One can only imagine how in ancient times…

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Silo Interior – Giving HDR a Hand

Silo Interior Photograph

One of my previous posts detailed my discovery of a small abandoned farm complex by the roadside. But I’ll be honest: I really, really wanted to see those buildings from the inside. So to stay legal, I surveyed the site from the road and found (to my joy) that it was on a nature preserve open to the public!

I made a beeline to the silo and was able to squeeze into the interior. I looked up. And I was awed by what I saw.

It soon became apparent to me that I needed to get an HDR sequence going so as to get more of the details to the viewer. Plus, the contrast of the sunlight outside lent the composition to a black and white treatment.

But when I ran the bracketed shots through Photomatix, I saw the bane of HDR artists: haloing! The tone mapping process can produce strange artifacts where objects seem to have some sort of glowing aura around them. It’s especially bad on tree branches; for some reason the algorithms seem to go a little crazy with all those thin twigs. Not good.

Fortunately I still had the original shots. By layering an original on top of the tone mapped image, I was able to erase the haloed areas, replacing them with clean imagery. The high contrast still remained, so the shot worked regardless.cartoon tick

By the way: whenever you enter a nature preserve, remember to check yourself for ticks when you get home. After taking this shot I came home with a few “passengers.” I suppose sometimes one must suffer for one’s art. :D

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/16, (.6″, 1/6, 2.5″)

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The Wreck: When Non-Standard Lighting Works

Rusty Truck

It was as if the sun had baked the life away from the old relic. Even the ghosts had fallen silent under Sol’s merciless eye, the air too thin even for the dead to breathe…

Most photography experts will tell you that you should avoid (or even shun) shooting at times when the sun is high overhead. The harsh hard lighting creates unflattering shadows and highlights that wash out details. At least, they say, you should carry a reflector to negate the nastiest effects of this kind of overly contrasting light.

Normally, I’m right on the same page. After all, The Twilit Lens wouldn’t be very dark if the sun was always shining; would it? But there’s another perspective that can be overlooked: that of artistic identity and expression.

Some photo artists can make use of harsh light as part of their personal signature. If executed in a certain way, the “contrasty” look can bring a kind of gritty drama to a shot. This is especially true with inanimate objects. With a little bit of creative post-processing, I was able to portray this old truck as I imagined it: bleak, barren, bereft of energy; and yet haunted by lives long past.

Exposure Data: ISO 100, f/6.3, 1/100

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After Before Friday: Week 48

The Twilit Lens:

I couldn’t resist reblogging this one. Big Ben is something I’ve always wanted to photograph. Plus the article has an introduction to one of the most useful post-processing tools I’ve come across. Read on!

Originally posted on Drawing with Light:

The After Before Friday Forum is hosted by Stacy from Visual Venturing, it features a weekly behind the scenes look at various editing processes. Featuring a gathering of photographers all keen to learn from each other, each week we post an image before and after  editing.

If you want to find out more, or just visit and look at the images, click on this link.

This week I am going back to a picture that I edited in an ABFriday post a few weeks ago. An appropriate image as our country asserts its democratic right. We might not all be happy with today’s result, but at least we have the right to choose.

St Stephen's tower-after

When I first edited it, I couldn’t find a way of removing the distracting roof in the top left corner. However, with the launch of Lightroom CC, I decide to take the leap with the Adobe photographers plan, including Photoshop (which I…

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Dark Cardinal: On Bird Photography

Lone Cardinal

Birds present a special kind of challenge to a photographer. They’re fast, hyper-vigilant, and in some cases live in habitats that may require a significant hike. But with the proper methods it’s possible to get avian shots you’ll really be happy with.

First, knowing your subject is a big help. The Audubon Society  makes great guidebooks and local naturalist groups are always a source of education. Of course you can just look out your window to see some birds, like the cardinal above.

Since birds don’t ever really stand still, you’ll need to be patient for that one shot. But you can shave time off your wait by using attraction methods. Knowing the type of diet and habitat of the birds in your area can help you set up feeding spots. Place these at the appropriate height and provide places to perch. Also, consider an mp3 recording of the call of your favorite bird; and place your player and a small speaker in your feeding area. The combination of safe perches, preferred food and familiar sounds will help quite a lot.

camera on a tripodAs for gear, you’ll want a camera with a high burst rate, a fairly long telephoto lens, a tripod or monopod to help bear the weight (your arms will get tired waiting), and some sort of concealment (being in your house often is all you’ll need). Shoot with as fast a shutter speed as possible. Try to stay quiet and eventually you’ll get the shot you want.

Exposure Data: ISO 6400, f/7.1, 1/400

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