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Black-Crowned Night Herons (Two Photographs)


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The grey bird was my first and only female black-crowned night heron. The second photo is of a far more familiar male heron (the white plume indicates mating season). The male looks a little like a penguin.


A Berry Thief (Three Photographs)

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This cardinal did everything to make me think he was illicitly munching on someone else’s berries. In late summer the cardinals feast on the berries and it provides a good opportunity to shoot the birds after they moult and display their fresh new colours.

I am in my ninth year of posting every day. I am hoping to make it to ten years, but with a whole series of things going on like the pandemic I may lack the content for this blog. I have decided therefore to focus on some indoor photography projects. Hopefully I will still be  posting everyday but it is not certain.


Metallic Bee (Two Photographs)

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Wild bees, like this metallic bee, are dying out as are other pollinators. This could have huge ramifications for our food supply if this continues. In this photo you will see I began with a rough colour version, both noisy and grainy. In the black and white I went for a moody contrasting image.


Light (Two Photographs)

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In the study of photography and painting you learn a fair deal about the direction of light. You will see in many paintings that the light is coming from impossible directions to light the subject. In photography it’s a sign a photo has been altered without thought to logical lighting. In an effort to brighten the leaves in this shot it may appear in the colour version that the light is coming from below. It’s not as noticeable in black and white. A lesson learned and shared.


Cabbage White Butterfly (Two Photographs)

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I found these old photographs of a cabbage white in my files and while I wait for their season to begin in earnest, I decided to publish these. Such magnificent looking creatures. The trick is to shoot them when they are busy and distracted.


Modern 1 (Two Photographs)

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I was reading up on on black and white photography and one of the suggestions was that modern buildings make great black and white subjects. In another article I read how to make them more abstract. This is my take on the two suggestions.


Turtle (Two Photographs) and Some Fun with Processing

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There is no harm in occasionally trying new things in software, of course the only danger is going further than you want and having to start again. In this week’s post I have tried a few new things to see where they will go. One thing that has always intrigued me is adding fake lights to a photo. Luminar has a filter called sun rays and you can see it best in the black and white.


Water Lily

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This is the last of my water lilies for 2018. It’s a bit odd in colour, the green was simply awful. So I decided on Black and White and emphasizing the lily, a bit overdone but then a little drama never hurts.


Pink Flamingo (Three Photographs)

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You don’t see many pink flamingos anymore. I had one for years in my apartment. I saw a sea of them in Tanzania. So I was delighted to see this one in a garden in Ottawa. There should be more to bring a smile to most dour of faces.

 


Umbrellas (Two Photographs)

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I have seen some photographs of umbrellas hung over a street and I understand there are several places where this is done. In this case, Gatineau, Quebec. It makes for a very nice venue. As you can see from the colour version it is not a bad shooting opportunity. However in black and white I think the impression and perspective change dramatically.


Cabbage White Butterfly (and some discoveries about Close-up photography)

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I wanted to create a dramatic photo of a static butterfly and as I was working on this photograph I decided to check the metadata. I had already scaled up the size and cropped the photo, so this is a small part of the frame; to give you an idea I have posted another photo of the same cabbage white without processing. 1/800 of a second at f8 on a Nikon D500 200-500mm at 500mm and ISO 1600.  In Lightroom I scaled the image and cropped it. In Photoshop, colour corrected the butterfly using hue/saturation. I then used Skylum’s Photolemeur, Intensity CK and Tonality CK to process it. Thanks to the Nikon sensor and Lightroom’s scaling, my closeup shot was almost true macro. My macro gear (105mm lens, soft box etc.) is not going to go to waste but using it I could get much closer now with better quality using the above techniques. I think more importantly if you can use your birding lens to do this then that is going to satisfy many photographers’ desires for macro insect shooting. The challenge is finding your subject with a 500mm lens.


Montreal Buildings (Two Photographs)

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I am very pleased with both of these shots, the details show in the staircases; the tonality shows the contrast between new and old. The slight tilt adds impact. It takes a while but when you can predict the final outcome, photography is a lot more fun.


City Landscape

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I wanted to try my HDR technique on modern buildings. It worked well, with a few issues concerning very tiny details I decided to remove. There is still a school for the wild HDR that focuses on colour tones. But I think that going a more natural route works nicely for the things I like to shoot in town.


More Windows More Detail (Three Photographs)

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I don’t think it makes any difference shooting in colour or black and white when it comes to urban detail, it’s a matter of preference. The graffiti is probably long gone, the junction box cleaned  and now coated in municipal art. The fleeting nature of the urban landscape is another thing that makes photos like these unique. When you read about emerging artists doing fine art photography or compositing, I think it’s their imagination and the uniqueness of their work that propels them into the spotlight. The urban landscape offers opportunity often missed by photographers.


Clock Face (Two Photographs)

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I processed these photos for a project I am working on. In the course of doing so I could have fixed two things, the tilt of the buildings and the deep black shadows. I chose not to do so as I was looking for a “mood”. Obviously there are several ways the mood of a photo can be changed, but I was comfortable with this slightly theatrical look. I am using the black and white in the project, but if I need it I also have the colour version.


A Goose on Ice and More on Macro (Two Photographs)

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A goose on ice sounds like a delicacy or at least a vodka.  But actually the geese we see in the early winter seem to enjoy the ice and handle it well. The lighting and pose is what caught my eye.

Macro: The Diffusion of Light

One of the more debated elements of close-up macro photography is how to diffuse the light, soften it and make it more natural. The larger the light source and the closer the subject to the light the softer the light is (again I will spare you the science).  A long explanation of diffusion can be found here: http://extreme-macro.co.uk/macro-diffusers. The easiest solution to this (in the field and indoors) is to place a a diffuser over your flash. You can make your own or buy one.I use the Lastolite EZybox (Manfrotto). The diffuser makes a huge difference in getting great light, once on the camera you just have to experiment with the power of the flash and the aperture. High-end flashes usually have a place where you attach an external battery pack. With a Godox pack, for instance, you can shoot 40 shots at high speed without stopping and the battery will still last for several days, in my case months, without the battery needing recharging, (the plastic holders that are sold to hold eight rechargeable batteries break too easily in my experience).


Macro: Extension Tubes and a Special Note on Winter Photography (Two Photographs)

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Macro: A 105mm macro lens will get you close, but it may not get you a safe working distance from your subject while getting you close. This is where extension tubes come in. They allow you to focus closer from farther away with any lens. Extension tubes go between the camera and the lens, they may have the connections that maintain the electronic links with the camera or they may not. Kenko makes a good set, but there are others. While you lose a bit of light, an extension tube  allows you to focus closer from farther away. I often use a 12mm extension tube that gets me optically close to the bee but not close enough to offend the bee.

The duck has nothing to do with macro or extension tubes and everything to do with handling difficult lighting situations. Ice and snow show up as bright blue in winter photography unless under-exposed by a couple of stops. The catch is how this affects your subject, it may not look great under exposed, and hence the choice, to do it in camera or in post production. In post, assuming flexible software you can selectively remove the blue. And in case you are wondering, the blue is a result of how the light meter reads the color white (similar things can happen with wedding gowns). In these photos I wanted the ice to show as ice and the steel grey look worked for me.


Macro: Not Urbex (Three Photographs)

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Urbex photography is photography of the insides of abandoned building and factories, and while these are abandoned buildings, they don’t meet the definition of urbex. Some things that are key to macro/close-up photography apply to all photography. Getting detail in photographs is one of those things. We get detail with a steady camera, appropriate shutter-speed (or artificial light) and sharpening in post-processing. While books have been written on at least two of theses subjects, there are some simple basics I will cover in upcoming posts.


The Good the Bad and the Ugly (Three Photographs)

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On a road trip out-of-town we ran across these old buildings that reminded me of an old movie set. I wanted that old western style of photo. Gives a bit of character to the abandoned. The buildings are on a hill you pass just as you enter the town of Renfrew, Ontario. Given the location one would think something could be made of this location and buildings. They do have some character.

 


Shadow Doodles (Two Photographs)

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In my posts I have spoken a lot about shapes and form, reflections and shadows. These photographs probably illustrate those concepts better than any thing I could say or write. I thinks its better expressed in the monochrome because the subject is much clearer. In my view it’s art, almost abstract, but a clear result of the right light at the right time of day.


Spreadwing Damselfly (Three Photographs)

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This is a rare type of damselfly in my area and when I see them they are seldom within range of my 105mm (with an extension tube). A lovely and cooperative insect that returned to the same spot after a brief flight. The wonders of macro photography limited what I could get in focus. One of the drawbacks of using extension tubes is that you cannot focus at infinity; you have a narrow range of focus, added to the narrow depth of field. Taken at F11 (full-frame conversion F16.5) but at the outside range of my focus, unfortunately I lost some focus on the tail.


Polarizing Filter (Two Photographs)

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Polarizing filters are very effective for darkening skies, removing haze and for better photography of subjects underwater through the water. For a very long time it was said one could not duplicate the polarizing effect in software. You can see in the two photographs the difference a polarizer makes (mostly in being able to see the bottom of the lake). The first photograph is with the polarizer, the second without. The subject is a snapping turtle prowling under water. The software I used for this is Macphuns’ Luminar, which is a full editor. Once it includes cataloguing it will be a rival to Lightroom (for Mac only). It has a lot of interesting filters. I’m not getting rid of my polarizer, but if I forget it at home or don’t have the opportunity to put one on, well I can fall back on Luminar.

 


Mushrooms (Two Photographs)

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I have not taken many photographs of mushrooms and have no idea what these are. I took them with my Fuji when I was experimenting with the light meter and the flexibility of the raw files in processing. It takes time to get used to a new camera, especially the light meter. Even working with different Nikon cameras I find it takes a bit of time to get used to how they handle exposure.

 


Standing Egrets (Three Photographs)

standining-heronsTo view more of my photography please click on www.rakmilphotography.com

When birds like these choose to stand like statues, it’s time to focus on the surroundings and context. Birds, even rare birds, doing nothing in boring surroundings could do with a good background. This is one reason why cropping is important, to get the best background. A second reason to crop is that the bird may be too far away for people to get a decent idea of detail. A distant subject, in my view, only works when the bird is an element of a larger composition.

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