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Sparrow on a Walk

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In a park there is a man-made pond and it attracts a lot of animals. I saw this bird strutting along on the rocks that contain the pond. More than likely on its way for a bath. Given their variety, sparrows make for great birding and photographic opportunities.

Tableau (Two Photographs)

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Walking in the reserve I often see scenes that remind of the painted tableaus I have seen in museums.  In these photographs I have tried hard to capture that perspective. However, photography is its own art form and I have avoided any painterly effect.

 

Wonder (Two Photographs)

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In the past I was wary of any insects and scared of spiders. As I spent more time on nature photography, I learned a lot more about insects and spiders, bought some books did some studying and I was amazed. The feeling quickly translated into my photography. The butterfly you see here, I believe is a common white admiral, but its colouring, its eyes its pose, its patient work, are a wonder of nature.

Never Bored (Two Photographs)

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Photography can be frustrating at times, but it seldom bores me. Being an opportunistic photographer I am not out to shoot anything in particular. I am more interested in the exploration. Exploration of new ideas and techniques or approaches. I say this because photography is an investment in learning, skills and gear and it pays to be a bit more open to other themes in photography.

A Widgeon Couple (Two Photographs)

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These ducks seemed to be very close and rather intimate but then my view of animals is tainted by anthropomorphism. I subsequently learned they don’t mate for life, but it does seem they enjoy their summers.

Squirrels (Two Photographs)

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I think it’s safe to say that squirrels are only one of a few animals that pose. Perhaps beg would be a better word. However many codes of conduct for nature photography are very clear that we should not feed them. So I prefer to think of them as posing as it eases my guilt.

Purple (Two Photographs)

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Purple is a royal colour. In some societies it was restricted for use only by the serving monarch. Purple continues to be a symbol of royalty even if over time it has been considered garish and monarchies in general past their due date. But in nature while the colour is not rare it still stands out in a field.

A Sparrow and its Shadow (Two Photographs)

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I could have played with these photographs forever in post processing to make the shadows more prominent. Instead, I chose to the leave the photographs pretty much as they came out of the camera.

 

Flower Photography (Two Photographs)b

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I seem to take a greater number of photographs of flowers than any other subject. I tend to think of myself as an opportunistic photographer, who will take shots of anything of interest and who is always trying something new in photography. But given the numbers, I cannot avoid the statistics that call me a flower photographer.

A Frog in the Sun (Two Photographs)

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I continue to be amazed by the difference between how we see light and how the camera sees it. Our eyes can see an amazing range of light from dark to bright, which our camera’s sensors, setting aside high dynamic range processing, are generations away from capturing. Still the camera has its tricks and often much more than expected can be seen in the shadows, or brought out from the shadows in processing. In short it is possible to mimic what we see but it requires technology and technique. This frog half in and half out of the light is an example.

Lessons Learned (Two Photographs)

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As I continue to try my hand at extreme macro I am learning quite a bit, for example: microns are also called UMs, and flowers out of water and hit by many flashes wilt very quickly. From these two lessons, come these rather abstract photos of fresh flowers. As the shots for stacking and combining were taken, the flowers entered a surreal and abstract zone that turned out quite well to my eye. But technically it was a disaster.

Off Again (Two Photographs)

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I was not terribly successful last year with birds in flight (or BIF as the pros say). I had a lot of misses, birds moving too fast or me not noticing soon enough. If it wasn’t a challenge I don’t think I’d find nature photography quite so much fun.

 

Coming Soon (Two Photographs)

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We live in uncertain times. Fall is coming and after this super hot summer I wonder what the winter will be like. The government predicts a repeat performance of the pandemic, especially if masks, distancing etc are not followed. I’ll be hunkering down and a mite unfriendly as I avoid possible contagion.

Tree Frog (Two Photographs)

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Cute little frog but unfortunately small and somewhat skittish. I say unfortunately as everything around it in the bush was bigger. It’s great when you can show scale and relative size of something in a photo, but it is not always possible.

Some Needed Color (Two Photographs)

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The pandemic makes everything a little bleaker, and though we could walk in the woods, the trails are mobbed, the ticks are out and West Nile Virus has made a comeback. No locusts yet! Speaking of ticks, on one of my rare outings I took home a small garden flower to photograph. As I was processing the shots I discovered that it was home to a tick (unfortunately, the tick is out of focus in some of the stacked photos and I threw the flower out immediately).

More by Silas Qayaqjuaq (Two Photographs)

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The two statues by Silas gave me an opportunity to play with light and some close up photography to get the details I wanted; especially from the material (bone) in this carving. There are a surprising number of things around the house that make for good photographic subjects.

Female Wood Duck (Two Photographs)

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Almost a perfect shot out of camera. One of those opportunities where I could take enough photos to chose the ones I liked best. Of course my primary consideration were the eyes, where they were looking and their brightness.

Statue by Silas Qayaqjuaq (Two Photographs)

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I have long admired Silas’s work and it’s as fine up close as sitting on the table in our living room. His sculptures are often small but very animated, really beautiful work. I used this piece to experiment with lighting and my bellows (totally manual). The full sculpture is below.

The Bee’s Knees (Two Photographs)

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The bee’s knees is an expression of unknown origin but indicates something of excellence or high quality. Given the importance of bees to the environment, our food chain and our well being, the title seems appropriate.

HDR Photography (High Dynamic Range Photography)

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High Dynamic Range Photography (HDR) is where you take several shots of your subject with different exposures, a few marginally under and over, no more than one stop. Then you combine them in software designed for HDR. I have tried many programs but I like the results from Photoshop’s HDR functions. I use this technique often with my Fuji XT-3 camera, when I am walking around town. As a result I get better exposure, better colour and better detail.

Needles and Chilis To Beat the Pandemic Boredom (Two Photographs)b

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My efforts at true macro continue, finding subjects to photograph can be challenging. I began by pinning the chili to cork so it was held in mid air. After several hours of fiddling with lights I got a shot of the chili, and then more time was spent in Photoshop erasing the pins and learning more about how to fix backgrounds. The needle also took the larger part of the day. I have great close up vision but had a hard time seeing the hole in the needle to centre it on the camera. Both of these photographs are efforts at learning what works and doesn’t in true macro. It’s early days.

 

What is a Fence Without a Vine? (Two Photographs)

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Fences have the connotation of someone wanting to protect something or hide from view. There is a slightly unfriendly air about them. But when people make attempts to paint them, grow vines etc. that hostility fades just enough to make a difference. I still feel a bit cheated by not knowing what is on the other side.

Suspicious

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I found this on an unsaved SD card in my camera, it’s from late last summer. I am glad I found it. I remember this encounter well. I was walking up to the shoreline with my eye on something out in the lake, neither the wood duck or I noticed how close we got until we were only a foot or so apart. Being a gentleman, and knowing the minimum distance of my lens, I immediately backed off to take this shot. The wood duck, probably protective of its mate, never stopped its stare as I walked off down the path.

Macro Talk (Two Photographs)

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The colour shot is part of a petal of a flower at about 4x life. The other, in black and white, is a rock (a black and white rock), again magnified by quite a bit through stacking tens of shots. The results are quite abstract and bring to mind a comment a friend of mine made when I first spoke of trying true macro. He pointed out that most macro shots need explanation, few subjects will be self evident to the average viewer. But in my view beauty is beauty, interesting is interesting, even if at first I have no idea what it is (by definition abstract).

Curious (Two Photographs)

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This Mourning Dove was sitting on an unoccupied nesting box taking a gander in every direction. It was a bit funny and after a few shots I walked away. On the way back the bird was still doing its 360 gander. Maybe it was a missed date? I took these photos from a long distance away so as not to frighten the bird off.

Close-Up (Two Photographs)

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While I am experimenting with extreme macro, I don’t want to lose sight of the great results possible by just getting a little closer. In nature especially there are many things that amaze when you look at them more closely, like this echinacea.

Painted Lady (Two Photographs)

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I could spend all day shooting painted ladies. Unlike most insects they are tolerant of close up photography, preferring to eat than fly away. A remarkable butterfly to watch at work. In addition, they seem to love to land against good backgrounds!

 

Natural Bouquets (Two Photographs)

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In the field I am always looking for those flowers that lend themselves to an artistic take. It’s the background that supports the photograph which is important and gives it an artistic spin. The technique is simple, using the largest aperture (more distance between the background and the subject than the camera to subject). It’s finding the background that is the challenge.

Numbers (Two Photographs)

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I have done more than one series on numbers, I might collect them into gallery. Numbers are a great theme for street photography, they may be the focus of the shot but the frame is often just as interesting.

Looking Down in the Fall (Two Photographs)

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There is a saying in photography, “look up, look down, look around and you will find something to shoot”. It got hammered into me when I started photography and it has stuck with me as a mantra about finding things to photograph.

A Canadian Sparrow

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It almost looks like the bird is embarrassed by its gaze on the maple leaf. Or do I read too much into a bucolic scene that almost appears staged. Last year sparrows were one of my birds of choice, their speed made for a great challenge in many cases.

Brass Measuring Weights (Three Photographs)

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These are 3.5x life, just to make them interesting. The third photo here shows their size against a quarter. American and Canadian quarters are the same size. There is no history to the one ounce weight (Z), (above) but the second one I can date to between 1858 and 1901, with a high probability of 1901. Unfortunately it was officially cancelled and the cancellation stamp makes it hard to place. The 1/4 ounce weight (third photo) has clear marks on it. What you are looking at is the VR and the crown, the piece dates from Queen Victoria’s reign and was stamped under the Weights and Measures Act of 1858 in London. I was not aware there were collectors of weights and a wealth of material on British weights on line. Its amazing where photography takes you.

Female Goldfinch (Two Photographs)

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I saw a larger than usual number of Goldfinches in 2019, and for the first time several female goldfinches. I doubt this translates into a regional statistic but it speaks to the changing nature of the sites I visit.

Canadian Colour (Two Photographs)

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The waterways in Fall always have wonderful reflections, and Canada Geese are usually well represented too. Although the geese are often considered pests, that’s not always the case.

Macro Gear

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My preferred gear, for many years, when shooting insects was my Nikon, a 105mm macro lens, an extension and a soft box on camera with flash. This worked well for insects in the wild. But I rarely if ever took photos at life size 1:1. During the pandemic I am avoiding the parks, too many people. From previous experiments I had an original Nikon bellows, and a really good 50mm Nikon enlarger lens (recommended by http://extreme-macro.co.uk/) but I had a hard time getting good results with that and a generic focusing rail. It was clear I needed to find another way. The photo here is of a small part of a candy wrapper . My new set up has the bellows automated on a macro rail (wemacro rail and stand). That and some specialized software looks much more promising.

 

Macro

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This seashell was taken with stacked shots at larger than life size. There are three types of macro: 1) pseudo macro, what most of us call macro but is really close-up photography. It seldom if ever gets to life size shots. 2) Macro, the real thing, This results in photos where small things are larger than life (e.g. over 1:1), and then there is extreme macro where images are 5 times life or more. This photo is are over 1:1, less than a centimetre of shell filling the frame (cropping does not change magnification). It’s a project to help avoid boredom during the pandemic. I don’t pretend to be an expert. I have had many failures and still working for the best results.

 

Cones (Two Photographs)

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As a photographer I am always drawn to shape and form. I could be in a minority, but I suspect that shape and form influence our view of many elements of life, and that our minds have a particular affinity for symmetry.

A Couple (Two Photographs)

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It’s always nice to see a wood duck pair close together, especially in good light and colour. We are very fortunate where I live to have so many of these colourful ducks. But before I get too romantic, wood ducks like most ducks form seasonal bonds and do not mate for life.

 

How much magnification? (Two Photographs)

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I am told that to get to 10x life size, a microscope and loan from the Government is required. 3-5x life size is a fairly good extreme to begin with. My bellows with a 50mm enlarger lens, and a 24mm extension tube can manage about 4:1. To get some context, here are details of Canadian and US dimes. Specifically the Queen’s profile and Roosevelt’s ear.

 

Bored (Two Photographs)

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Up until now I have never seen an animal that looked bored. I strongly suspect that like many people, the wood duck got a bit fed up with the constant snapping of photographs. Or was it the people throwing bread?

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.

Urban Grunge (Three Photographs)

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In any modern city there are these grungy dark corners. The shapes and colour remind me of some of the older forms of modern art in museums. The composition can add to the inadvertently attractive  grunge.

Depth of Field (Two Photographs)

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I was surprised to learn that creative use of depth of field is not one of the first things taught in photography. It’s a technique that is immediately attractive and engaging for the photographer and I think encourages further study of photography in all its forms.

Cantankerous (Three Photographs)

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The word cantankerous is one of the wonderful Irish-english gifts to our language. It also catches the mood of a disgruntled Cardinal caught over lunch. I am always surprised when animals clearly see you and start a stare off, rather than fly away.

 

Old (Two Photographs)

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These were taken outside an antique store. The objects are much bigger, but I have chosen a closer look. When the owners permit, any antique store can make for a wonderful photographic safari, just erase the price tags.

Explosive (Two Photographs)

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I like how these flowers seem to be coming out of the ground in an almost explosive spray. It happens in nature just like florists arrange their bouquets. A great deal has been written about composition, but in the end it comes down to personal choice after trying all of the “expert advice”.

Majestic (Two Photographs)

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One thing that can be said for raptors like the Osprey is that they have a certain majesty. That far out in the distance adds a slight bit of humour to its look. The photo is much more ominous in black and white.

That Bee (Two Photographs)

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Another sweat bee, doing its thing and taking off. Because of their colour and antics they are the most popular type of bee in our local woods. They are best found in late summer when they are looking for their final meals of the season.

Lovely (Two Photographs)

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This is another female cardinal, this time a bit more curious about her surroundings. I recall she stayed on the branch for less than a minute and I was not sure I had any good shots until I reviewed them at home.

 

Banal (Two Photographs)

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The word “banal” is more substantive and positive sounding than boring. The banal sights around us sometimes need to be captured by artists not just for historical reasons, but because we forget the complexity of modern life. The hydrant goes down a story underground to meet up with water pipes but all we see is a colourful and functional tool.

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