Thursday, August 29, 2013

Birds in the Yard

Partly as practice in using my new telephoto lens I've been taking some photos of the birds around our feeder. Mostly we get sparrows, but also some black-capped chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches, and occasionally colorful house finches. The downy woodpecker was a fluke - I heard something in the tree beside me, looked up, and there he was. I swung the camera around and got off a few quick shots before he disappeared. I  caught a few of them in flight, not really intentionally, just because I was shooting high speed bursts.

(click to view 17 photos)
House finch

The birds tend to be quite skittish so I set up peeking around the side of the house. Of course, it's the front yard and they still scatter when someone goes by. Here's me with the new lens, tripod, and gimbal head. You can see the feeder in the tree. I was sitting to get a lower angle - when I stood up I got ugly cars in the background.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Balloon Ride

I'm finally getting around to posting my photos from our balloon ride on August 1. This time we took off from Archibald park so we could walk over. As usual, it took us a few tries to get good enough weather to fly. Even that morning it seemed questionable since there were rain clouds around and the wind was unpredictable. But in the end we took off and had a great flight. The light wasn't quite as good as our previous flight, but it's still wonderful to get an aerial view of things.

(click to view 30 photos)
university bridge

I posted a few of the photos previously in Clouds

See also Shelley's post Flight of the Balloon and my post from our previous flight in 2009

Sunday, August 25, 2013

More Flowers

When I arrive at Innovation Place for work I like to walk through the pond area to see what there is to see. They must water early in the morning - I like the shiny reflective drops of water on the flowers. As summer progresses the sun is coming up later and there's nice low light. I love the bright colors. (My recent Print of the Week came from this set.)

(click to view 12 photos)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Print of the Week

As the end of summer looms, I decided to print something bright and colorful.

(click to view larger)

This is another one of my Innovation Place garden photos taken with my always-in-my-pack G12. (more to come from this batch)

See also other Print of the Week posts.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Four Generations to Grey Owl's Cabin

Recently I joined Shelley's family for a trip to Grey Owl's cabin. The group included four generations and ranged from 2 years old to 85 years old. Five of us started Friday afternoon and moved our two kayaks and a canoe over the portage to Kingsmere Lake where we stayed at the south end campground. The water was beautifully calm and I went out in my kayak after supper to enjoy it.

(click to view 21 photos)
sunset on Kingsmere Lake

The next morning the other three joined us with a rented motor boat, which turned out to be a lot bigger than we expected. But we got it across the portage with the help of the winches and a couple of other guys who showed up. (The portage has rail carts.)

It was a little rough for the paddle down Kingsmere Lake, but manageable. It's a big lake and it doesn't take much wind to stir up the waves. Thankfully it was reasonably warm since we regularly got splashed by the waves. It took us about four hours (including a quick lunch break) to get to the north end campground where we stayed Saturday night.

I forget how minimalist Shelley and I have become on our hiking and paddling trips. We don't usually take a stove or make fires. Our kayaks and their storage space are quite small. It would not even occur to me to take a large picnic cooler on a backcountry trip. So it was a bit of a contrast to travel with a considerably less minimal group! On the positive side, the food was good!

From the north end campground it's a 3 km hike to Grey Owl's cabin. (Or you can portage 500m to Ajawaan Lake, but it's hardly worth it.) We checked out the cabin and Grey Owl's grave. Ajuwaan Lake is a pretty little lake.

I've been on Kingsmere Lake a couple of times before (Paddling the Bagwa Loop and Paddling into Autumn) but it's been late in the fall when there's almost no one around. This time there were more people, mostly at the north end campground. Most people seemed to be hiking in rather than paddling. There were only a few other boats and canoes.

Sunday we headed home. Shelley and I were quite impressed that the group only took an hour and a half to pack and have breakfast.

We were lucky and the lake was very calm for our paddle back. The rest of the group took the shortest path straight across the lake. I chose to follow the shore - longer, but a lot more interesting. There were grebes, loons, gulls, great blue herons, and kingfishers.


My favorite sighting was three river otters coming down the shore into the water. (At first I thought it was beavers.) They swam around a bit and then headed back into the trees. Actually, only two of them went back in the trees. The third spotted me just as he was about to get out of the water and immediately dove back under. He surfaced off shore and kept bobbing up to see if I was still there. I was happy to see them since I haven't seen otters in Saskatchewan before. A bit later when I stopped beside a small creek I found lots of otter tracks in the sand.

river otter

The belted kingfishers were also taking advantage of the calm clear water to go fishing, something I haven't seen before. I was too far away to tell if they were catching anything but there were quite a few schools of little fish around. Sometimes they seemed to be fleeing something. At one point a large (2 feet?) pike went by that could certainly have been a source of fear for small fish!

See also Shelley's post about the trip.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Focus Stacking

When shooting close-ups, especially with a fair bit of telephoto, you end up with a very shallow depth of focus. I took these two shots to see whether it would look better with the focus on the bud or the larger petals.

But neither of them really excited me. Flipping between them, I realized they were so similar that I could probably "focus stack" them in Photoshop. i.e. merge the two photos, retaining the best focused parts of each. It was a good opportunity to try a new technique. The result still wasn't one of my favorites, but it's pretty cool how well it works, especially since the process is fully automatic.

The normal advice is that you need to use a tripod to do focus stacking to ensure that you don't move between shots. But this seemed to work ok even though it was handheld. You'd also normally take more than two shots.

It would be nice if my K5ii had a focus bracketing feature - that would make it a lot easier to get just the right focus (or to do focus stacking). Exposure bracketing is more common, along with the equivalent stacking for HDR (high dynamic range).

[My apologies to the non-techies and non-photographics. If I'm not careful this is going to turn into a photography blog.]

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Morning Light

I've been wanting to get out with my camera in the morning when the sun is low and backlighting the flowers. Here are the results - lots of colorful flowers, some turned abstract or otherwise heavily adjusted (in Lightroom). Most of these are from the community garden along with a few from the back alley.

(click to view 25 photos)

My father took lots of flower photos and often brought them into the house where he could control the background and the lighting. I prefer to just take them as I find them and see what I can do with it. Of course, I have the advantage of playing with them on the computer.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall.
I really don't know clouds at all

(click to view larger)
cloud reflections

cloud reflections

cloud reflections

cloud reflections

Stylized reflections of clouds in the river, from our recent hot air balloon ride.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Print of the Week

I figured my first print after we got back should be one of the eagles with the big lens. I had a tough time choosing which one, but I knew this was a favorite of Shelley's.

bald eagle
(click to view larger)

We were driving from Skidegate to Masset on Haida Gwaii when we saw some bald eagles down on the beach - not an unusual sight, but there were a number of them and it seemed like a good chance to try for some photos. It had been raining and they were all quite wet and bedraggled. This one was sitting on a log quite a way down the beach. I started taking photos of him, gradually moving closer. I got quite close before he took off. In this photo you can see he had definitely noticed me! Shelley got some photos of me gradually getting closer. (I was squatting to take the photos to get a lower angle and be more stable.)

It's not quite as sharp as I'd like (more noticeable in a big print) but considering it was handheld at the equivalent of 750mm in quite low light at ISO 3200 it's not bad.

I also like the next shot as he prepared to take off, although I wish I had had time to zoom out a bit so it wasn't cut off. (This is cropped to horizontal, I was still shooting vertically when he decided to go.)  I like how his focus is so intently straight ahead and I like his heavy duty yellow feet. I'm tempted to print this one as well at some point.

ready for takeoff

See also other Print of the Week posts.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Lunchtime Photos

I sat outside by the pond to eat my lunch yesterday. As I was leaving I wandered around a little to look at the flowers and plants. I stopped to look at a flower on a water plant and I spotted a large spider on the water right beside it. That was enough to get me to pull my camera (G12) out of my pack and start taking some photos. Of course, once I started I took a bunch more :-) The succulents aren't as colourful as the flowers but I like the shapes and textures. Innovation Place puts a lot of efforts into its gardening and if you like that kind of thing it's worth stopping by and wandering around the pond and the fountain.

Anyone know what kind of spider this is?

(click to view 13 photos)

This set of photos is part of my Saskatoon Nature collection.