Weekend with Grandkids

We had Easton and Clark for the weekend, which was a lot of fun. Part of the weekend was a “guys” trip to Fort Whyte Alive for some outdoor activities on a very warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.

I was interested in the geese, but the boys were way more interested in the ice, water puddles and sticks.

Trying to break through
Trying to break through the ice
Always need to have a stick when you’re out on a walk.

The geese were quite accommodating to a photo or two and allowed some quite close approaches before flying off all the while honking loudly at this guy who was disturbing them.

Take Off eh?
The Canada Geese are back in town.


I’ve always been a fan of the strobist and just a few days ago I decided to actually try & practice his Lighting 101.

It was pretty easy to get started as over they years I, Eric & Scott have accumulated all the necessary gear, and it just happens to be currently in my closet. We share a nice Manfroto tripod with a good head. I have a Canon 600EX-RT flash and Eric has a Canon 430EXII flash, so I’m good for a two light setup. Eric also has a Cowboy Studio kit with 2 stands, multiple umbrellas, and all the bits and pieces to mount the flashes and umbrellas to the stands etc. A while back I bought a 50′ flash cable for connecting the off-camera flash to the camera and the two Canon flashes can be configured for wireless triggering as well. Yahoo! I’m ready to go!

So, following  the first part of Lighting 101 I set up for the one flash off-camera at a 45° angle and 45° up configuration and get it all jammed into my office. Here is what it looked like.

After a few test shots and some flash power level adjustments I’m getting some pretty nice results IMHO. I’m hopping up and down to check the image on the back of the camera after every shot as I’m using a timed release to shoot myself as the subject, sitting in the office chair. Then I remember that Lightroom will do tethered capture. I have a cable for that and the computer is close, so a new experience using the tethered capture which is pretty sweet.

Part of the tethered capture allows you to apply a bunch of presets so here is a black and white look.

A bit of a dark grunge look.

Then there is a more normal unprocessed look.

So serious, but friendly looking.

Even Shirley got in on the action.


Looking forward to more experimenting and learning with the rest of 101 and then 102, 103.

Night Photography, the 1st attempt

I’ve never attempted night photography or astronomical photography, until last night. 

A while back on Black Friday I bought an app that I’d had my eye on for a while. Its Photopills, a very cool tool to assist in planning all kinds of shots involving the sun, moon, milky way and meteor showers. I’d highly recommend this very sophisticated app. There is a bit of a learning curve, but there are lots of video tutorials, manuals, blog posts etc. to get you started.

So, last night was the height of the Geminids meteor shower and I thought this would be a great opportunity to try to capture my 1st night shot. There is a lot to learn and think about to get good shots and a lot of post processing to get the spectacular images like this. After last night, I’ve got a lot to learn and practice. Let the adventure begin!

The peak of the meteor shower was to be between 2am and 4am.  This is a little late for me so we head out to Birds Hill park around 1am and hope for the best. Turns out it’s not near dark enough and there is still some significant light pollution from Winnipeg and the town of Birds Hill etc., lesson learned – research a darker location. Thankfully, its warm for this time of year at -1C and only a light breeze, which at 1am seems plenty cold.  I set up the tripod, cable release and the manual exposure settings and get ready to shoot.

Using the Photopills app and its Night Augmented Reality (AR) capability I figure out which way to look and point the camera. Almost immediately we see a couple of meteors or “shooting starts”, very cool. It seems that the approach is to shoot frequent exposures, each one being 25 sec. and hope that a meteor happens during that timeframe and the camera is pointing the right way. I have the lens set at 10mm (16.1mm effective on my crop sensor camera) so it’s covering a pretty big chunk of the sky. However I’m likely not pointing the camera in quite the optimum direction. I’ve left the Photopills app set for a slightly different date & time, so the Night AR view is not quite right, but it’s sort of close. Lesson #2 learned, check you app settings.

After taking about 30 photos and not too sure if any of them have captured a meteor I’m getting cold and we pack it in.  After looking at all the photos two have meteors, one is very faint and the other is nice and bright! Success! And here is it after a little quick Lightroom magic.

My first meteor capture, can you find it?

So, not only was there a lot of light pollution the white snow cover and the scattered clouds in the sky didn’t help either. Still, not too bad for the 1st effort. Just in case you can’t find the meteor or want a little info on what part of the sky you’re looking at here is some help. I’ve connected the dots for the Big Dipper and an arrow to the meteor.

Look for the red lines,

One other surprising thing was how many people are in the park this late at night! Three or four cars drive by our location and on the way out we see another 3-4 cars parked doing who knows what. 😉

White Balance

I came across this PetaPixel article on using Plumber’s Tape as a Cheap Way to White Balance Photos. Sounded like a good idea so I gave it a try.

Here are my findings, you mileage may vary.

Three pictures all taken with the Canon 7D on a tripod with shutter release, same exposure & lighting.  The comparison would be the 7D’s auto white balance, the plumbers tape white balance corrected in Lightroom and using an expo disc to set the custom white balance in the 7D before taking the shot.

Canon 7D Auto White Balance (4,250)

Plumber’s tape on eraser, white balance corrected using eyedropper in Lightroom (5,650)

expodisc to set custom white balance in Canon 7D prior to shot. (3,400)

Plumber’s tape, too warm. expo disc too cold, 7D auto WB, just right. For my money, the 7D auto white balance nailed it. 

Family Photos

I’m spending some time quiet time at the lake catching up on some old emails, checking out some web sites and just in general goofing off. I took Friday & Monday off from work so we’ve made our own “long weekend”. The weather today (Friday) is warm, but overcast and drizzling on and off. There are no big projects on the horizon for the rest of the cottage season, except for the never-ending opportunity to paint or stain some part of the buildings, but none of that today as everything is wet.

For some time I’ve neglected my Flickr account but I recently noticed that my membership was automatically renewed so I guess I should really make better use of it.

One thing that came to my attention was that the newest Grandkids, Dane & Clark don’t have their own albums like the older guys Easton & Parker do. Time to fix that.

I’ve got a system within Lightroom with “smart” collection publishing from Lightroom to Flickr where the collection watches for photos that are flagged, and have the keywords containing “flickr” and one or more of the grandkids names. Now it’s just a mater of reviewing all my photos since about October 2014 (490 so far) and tagging the best of the best with the appropriate keywords. This is a bit of a work in progress and I can feel the couch calling my name for an afternoon nap right now. But, it’s started.

Here is Clark ( full album)

and here is Dane (full album)


Check back occasionally as the albums will get more and more content as I catch up on the backlog.

Why you shouldn’t hang around railroad tracks

It’s a nice sunny day and I’m out taking pictures with a friend. We’re in a very picturesque area that just happens to have a railway bridge over a river. This seems like a great subject for some interesting photographs. The bridge and track are up high so we scramble up the steep side of the railroad bed and get in position to take a few shots.

What may not be apparent from the photo on the left is that in the distance, there is a curve in the track, and you really can’s see anything coming. We’re getting serious about getting some great shots, there are tripods in play and we’re right into the bridge structure. We’re concentrating, and perhaps not paying too much attention to our situation and the potential pitfalls of our activities.

And then it happens, we hear a faint rumbling, and look up to see a locomotive coming quite quickly down the track. No warning whistle, why would there be, this is not a railroad crossing, and we’re not supposed to be there.

We scramble to pick up our camera bags, tripods etc. and hustle to get off the track. Moments later this freight train barrels past us and the engineer shoots us a less that friendly look.

Moral of the story, be aware of your location and don’t get overly involved in your pursuits. Either that or stay away from railroad tracks!