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"Bog"

There's a beautiful peat bog at the eastern edge of my home city of Ottawa that I visit often. On this day the bulrushes were swaying in a westerly wind and the scene was lit by the low-angled autumn sun.

To capture the motion of the windswept bulrushes I set a shutter speed of 1/4 second. The trees in the background were relatively motionless but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't capture them in sharp focus with the slow shutter speed. This mattered because I wanted to contrast the blur of the bulrushes with the sharp stillness of the trees.

Maybe the elevated boardwalk I stood on was vibrating slightly. Who knows? Point was, I needed an easy solution.



I took a second exposure (not shown here) at a fast shutter speed to freeze the trees. In photoshop I combined the top part of the the fast-shutter image with the bottom part of the slow-shutter image.

I had used a neutral density filter for the slow-shutter image, and removed the filter for the fast-shutter image. As a result,…
Recent posts

"Northern Landscape"

It's amazing what a difference a crop can make. Yes, the BEFORE image needed more work than just a crop, but cropping was a critical step in transforming it from something with potential into a photograph worth looking at.



Fall colors come early in Canada's far north. This photo was shot in late August near Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, about 100 km south of the Arctic Circle and also just south of the "tree-line" - the point beyond which trees do not grow. 

The striking thing about the nearly treeless landscape is the sense of space, which is precisely what I was trying to convey by radically cropping the BEFORE image and changing the aspect ratio to 2:1 from 3:2. You'll notice that I cropped almost entirely from the top, leaving the horizontal content of the frame virtually unchanged in the AFTER image. In other words, what's visible between the right and left sides of the frame is nearly identical in the BEFORE and AFTER images, but the longer, narr…

"Autumn"

The "autumn colors" image is one of the all-time great photographic clichés, but that doesn't mean a serious photographer should avoid it. There is plenty of scope to do interesting things and have fun with photos shot when the leaves turn yellow, orange and red in the fall. I love yellow so am especially fond of birch trees in the fall - the contrast of the leaves against the white bark is a sight to behold!



The other thing I love about birch trees is that the branches often veer off in crazy-looking directions and angles, as in this photo. It makes for a dreamy, surreal feeling I associate with Vincent van Gogh's landscapes.

I shot this photo late in the afternoon on a dull day, so the ambient light was uninspiring. I used exposure and tone curve adjustments to compensate for that. I also used fine contrast adjustments to bring out detail in the leaves and tree trunk.

To accentuate the elements of most interest to me - the white bark and the yellow leaves - I darkened…

"Refinery"

Nine years ago when I took this photograph of the Irving oil refinery in St. John, New Brunswick, I framed it so that the highway ran diagonally across the bottom of the image. Looking at it now, I wish I had framed it with the edge of the road parallel to the bottom of the frame.

This kind of change is easily made with a horizontal perspective adjustment, rotating the image around a vertical axis running through the center of the frame. As is always the case with a perspective adjustment, a crop is forced. But the photo needed cropping in any case because there was too much uninteresting space at the tops and sides of the BEFORE image.

I corrected the underexposure of the BEFORE image. The light was also dull because the morning fog from the nearby Bay of Fundy had not yet completely burned off. To counter this I used tone curve and fine contrast adjustments to add clarity and contrast.

I paid special attention to adding contrast to the fuel storage tanks on the left. I wanted to highli…

"Kayla"

There is mystery, irony and perhaps a little pathos in this photograph. Kayla, the unknown and unseen subject of this photograph went to considerable time and trouble to carefully paint her name on this remoterocky outcrop in the village of Old Perlican in eastern Newfoundland. There may or may not be an interesting back story here, but I choose to imagine that there is one!



I wanted to focus the viewer's eye on "KAYLA" without losing the visual context of a remote seaside village. To do this I used the vignetting tool in DxO PhotoLab and created vignetting of both brightness and focus. The central point of the vignette effect was on the letter 'Y'.

The BEFORE image was significantly underexposed; I fixed this with an exposure adjustment. I used tone curve adjustments to enhance contrast throughout, and a fine contrast adjustment adjustment to bring out detail in the rock. I also isolated the letters in the rock and reduced contrast there slightly to enhance the co…

"Holiday Lanes"

One way a photograph may stimulate a viewer's mind is if it creates dissonance - a vague sense that something isn't right. The viewer's feelings about the photograph will be out of synch with the subject matter.

This bowling alley in Lansing, Michigan, with brightly painted accents and the name "Holiday Lanes", should make you think about good times, family fun, childhood birthday parties ... positive feelings. But this scene - with the barren parking lot, the sinister-looking dark car, the tilting light pole and the fortress-like brown brick wall - allowed me to create an entirely opposite mood. This bowling alley - a place of fun and games - looks sad and foreboding.


To enhance the sense of unwelcoming harshness and horror-movie campiness, I cranked up the contrast and darkened the asphalt of the parking lot. I used a vibrancy adjustment to accentuate the colored gables of the building and the green letters of the sign - again, dissonance: strong pastel colors in…

"Business District"

There are many ways to look at a photograph, and no guarantee that the viewer will see it as I would like him or her to see it. My goal when editing is to compel the viewer to see the image in the way that I want him/her to see it. 

In the case of this photo, shot in Two Harbors, Minnesota, I wanted the viewer to focus on  a) the painted brick wall with the Coca-Cola sign and b) the width of the streets. Both, to my mind, are emblematic of small towns in the US and Canada. 


I did three things to emphasize these two elements of the image (and, at the same time, de-emphasize other elements I did not want to be foremost in viewer's sight). 

First, and most simply, I cropped. In the AFTER image the crop made the white-brick wall and the asphalt much more prominent.

Second, I added vignetting - graduated darkening and blurring around the edges of the frame. I put the white-brick wall at the center of the vignetting effect - the area with no darkening or blurring. This immediately draws the…