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Phidippus audax (or, a spider)

November 30th, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

Phidippus audax - Daring Jumping Spider

If you don’t like spiders, I apologize. I love spiders – and when I found this very cooperative specimen of Phidippus audax, or Bold Jumping Spider, in my front hall I knew I had my first real opportunity to do some super-macro photography. I was so excited that I ended up spending the better part of two hours up close & personal with this little guy. I ended up with 19 photos of him (or her) and if you can handle a really big spider on your screen, click to see the slideshow.

20121130DSC_0543I have been waiting for an opportunity to use a technique called “reverse lens macro”. It’s also called “poor man’s macro” which may be why it appealed to me. A simple reverse-lens macro setup involves attaching a normal lens to the camera, facing the wrong way – using a specially made (and cheap) adapter. I opted for the more complex “reversed-coupled-lenses” version. This involves attaching one lens (usually a prime lens) to the front of another lens (usually a zoom). The lenses are attached “front to front” with another special adapter and then the zoom is attached to the camera in the normal way. While the photo above shows my new 50mm f/1.4D lens attached to my 70-300mm zoom, the spider was shot with the 50mm f/1.8D lens I had at the time.

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Catching Up

November 12th, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

I have been quite negligent in my photoblogging of late. Rather than bombard my readers with a barrage of posts, this will be one big “catch up” post. Clicking on any of the photos will bring you to the Flickr page for that photo where you will sometimes find a description and/or comments. There are 20 images here. Get comfy.

Morning fog on the way to work.20120907_CRC8711

My favourite little bridge.20120910_CRC9037

The Old Post Office in Galt – which will soon be the new Library.

Another view of the Old Post Office – and the Grand River at night. This is currently part of the Juried Exhibition at the Cambridge Centre for the Arts.

I did a little portrait practice – on myself. (If I ever write a book, I have already the jacket photo.)

Had some fun shooting a rehearsal session with my old friend Adam Harden.

Found this spot on a lunchtime drive out in the country.

Downtown Galt as the sun descends.

A sunset swim on the Grand River.

Coming in for a landing.

Fall colours.

Several from the Worldwide Photowalk I organized.

Autumn swamp.

Several from a Photowalk at Sudden Tract:

My first decent bird shot! Taken with my 40+ year-old 400mm lens.

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Another Processing Example

September 25th, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

I got lots of great feedback on my last post about the processing I do on my photos. In that case, it was an image that I took conisderable artistic license with – much more than usual. I thought I should perhaps share an example that still required considerable processing – but only to return the image to what I saw when I took this photo of Central Presbyterian Church last week.

In this case the lens I used (a borrowed Tokina 11-16mm) caused considerable distortion to the vertical lines because I had to angle the camera up slightly in order to fit the steeple in. You’ll also note how flat the colour is in the original photo compared to the processed version. This was corrected by adjusting the blacks down and the whites up and boosting the contrast (see Lightroom settings on the right – click to enlarge). An adjustment to the white-balance was also necessary.

In most consumer digital cameras, these adjustments are made automatically by the camera as it converts the image into JPG format. Because I shoot in the much larger RAW format, the camera doesn’t make any guesses as to how the finished photo should look. I make those decisions manually in Lightroom as I “develop” each photo. It may sounds tedious to have to “develop” each photo like this, but I quickly becomes a discipline that, in the end, improves my photography.

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What does post-processing really mean?

September 23rd, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

I “develop” or “process” every photo I publish. Every photo gets a little colour-correction, some cropping (usually), some exposure-correction, and usually a little constrast boost. People sometimes ask me “has that been altered?” or “did you photoshop that?” when they see one of my more compelling photos. I’m never sure how to answer because, technically, yes, they’ve all been altered one way or another and yes I use Photoshop Lightroom to alter them. And yet I know that’s not what they mean when they ask. If it were then it would be like asking a film photographer if his photos “have been developed” or “did you darkroom that?”

What they mean, of course, is did I change the reality of the scene? Did I remove or add objects or “airbrush” certain features? For me the answer is almost always no.

Here’s an example using a photo I took of my daughter this weekend:

  • I’ve corrected the colour so that her skin has a more natural tone – if just a touch paler than it actually is.
  • I’ve also lowered the “clarity” quite a bit to give a softer, dreamier look – a side-effect of that is much smoother-looking skin.
  • I lightened up the corners of the image (a reverse vignette) to draw the eye into the centre of the photo.
  • her eyes were quite shadowy so used the paintbrush to lighten them up a bit
  • the whites of her eyes were also a little pink, so I corrected that – the side-effect of which was to turn the iris a shade of green — Hannah’s eyes are blue. I decided to leave them green because I’d already mucked around with this photo far too much. ;)

This photo has FAR more corrections than I would normally do on image, but I thought it would make an interesting before/after illustration. The full-size “after” photo is here:

If you would like to see a before/after treatment on any of my other photos, leave a comment here or on the blog post with the photo – or even on Flickr.

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Ottawa River at Night – Part Two

September 17th, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

20120902_CRC8623Be sure to read Part One of this series.

The next day, I went on a little scouting mission to find a better spot to shoot east towards the Carillon dam. In Part One, the last two shots were taken from a spot just east of Chute-a-Blondeau, Ontario. I went back there and discovered a little spit of land that extends right out into the river offering a panoramic view of the basin created by the Carillon Dam.

What is most striking about these is the clour shift. Because I was shooting earlier in the evening – and because I was shooting in the direction of the rising moon, the sky took on a much more golden colour. I should note that I have not tinted these photos in anyway – and the white balance is the same as the photos from the night before.





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Ottawa River at Night – Part One

September 13th, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

20120901_CRC8501I love shooting at night. Some of my favourite photos were taken after the #1 source of light has dropped below the horizon. Our family spent Labour Day weekend at my Dad’s house, less than a kilometre from the Ottawa River. That weekend also happened to be a full moon, which meant that the sky and the surroundings remained quite bright even several hours after the sun had set.

I wasn’t sure what I would get with the full moon – I was fairly sure that really great star trail shots would be out of the question due to all the light being thrown from the moon – but I was hoping for some interesting reflections.

The first night I set out about 9:30 and found a spot along the river:




The last photo here was taken about an hour after the first. I was quite surprised and pleased to have so much blue so late at night. Composition was a struggle because the sky and the water both offered interesting subjects, but I didn’t want the horizon to bisect the frame. In the end I went with the sky for most of the shots. Amazingly, the river was almost as smooth as it appears in these photos. The long exposures (these range from 2 to 4 minutes) smooth out any ripples that might have appeared.

To be continued…

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September 13th, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

nervesI’m very behind on my blogging – if you follow my Flickr account, you know that I have some night shots and some other things to talk about here that I just haven’t had the time to do.

Today, though, I was going through my archives looking for a specific photo – and happened across this image of my daughter at her dance recital in April. I love it for so many reasons – but mostly because it reflects a part of her personality that we don’t see very often – a certain vulnerability.

The shot was captured with my former camera (a Nikon D5100) and the lens I miss the most, Nikon’s wonderful 85mm f/1.8G. Another 85mm prime lens is definitely at the top of my lens wishlist.

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September 4th, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

Last week, I mentioned that I came across a blue/gold colour that I really liked for my dilapidated barn photos. Well, I like the treatment so much that I saved it as a preset in Lightroom. Now, I tend to see presets as kind of cheating . I generally prefer to develop each photo individually and let the elements of the photo determine what treatment it gets. I had a feeling, however, that this colour combination was something that would work well on a variety of photo styles.

So I pulled up a quirky shot I had taken of my daughters that evening and applied the preset. Almost magic! Some tweaking of the exposure and contrast and the photo took on a life of its own.


Long story short, you can expect to see more of this treatment in subsequent photos.

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Highway 7 Relic

August 31st, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

I’ve always thought that old dilapidated barns are a bit of a photography cliche. In many ways, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all: a hulk of a building that used to represent a strong work ethic and economic prosperity that now sits idle – waiting for the inevitable end to its existence. There are some parallels there to the human condition – and maybe that’s why we’re drawn to these old relics.

Up to now, I’ve managed to resist the lure of capturing the “broken-down barn” motif through my viewfinder. Inevitably, though, I succombed to the siren-call of a crumbling monster of a barn whose walls resembled the familiar gap-toothed hick farmer stereotype. This particular barn sits on Highway 7 between Guelph and Kitchener. I drive past it two or three times a week – and it always tries to draw me in as I drive by. Yesterday, I let it win.

I was fifteen minutes ahead of schedule for my meeting in Kitchener so I pulled into the drive – grabbed my camera and went for a walk in the overgrown weeds. I spent about ten minutes shooting – trying to get lots of sky and building together. I was very glad for my new 18-70mm lens – this would have been near impossible with my trusty 28-80mm.

Unfortunately, the time of day was less than ideal for shooting a building like this. The sun was too high and too bright meaning that either the sky was over-exposed or the barn was underexposed – or both. Whatever. I took my shots and continued on with my day.

Back home last night, I pulled the shots in Lightroom and immediately discarded most of them for various reasons. I ended up with five images but I wasn’t particularly enamoured with any of them. The composition was nice, but the colour just wasn’t working. I gave up on the images and decided to use them for some experimentation with tinting. It was playtime.

I spent several minutes doing all kinds of crazy things to these photos… and then something clicked. I was suddenly staring at a fairly compelling photograph of a decrepit barn. It was dark and dramatic – the sunny day had given way to a brooding and threatening sky of gold. The shadows had taken on a blue-green hue. I loved it – it spoke to me. It captured exactly what I felt when I looked at the old barn – which is nothing like what I saw when I looked at it.

So here, for posterity, is the Highway 7 Relic. The highway is slated for expansion sometime soon(ish) and I suspect this relic will finally meet its end to make room.




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Cambridge Joins Worldwide Photowalk 2012

August 29th, 2012 by Colin Carmichael

One of the things I do in my spare time is organize Photowalking Cambridge, a monthly event that brings photography enthusiasts together to shoot, socialize, and get some exercise. I’m excited that we’ve just become part of Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk event on October 13th. Here are the details from the Photowalking Camrbidge blog post:

Cambridge is now offically part of Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk on October 13, 2012!

We will meet in the Civic Square in front of the new City Hall in Galt at 3pm. We will kickoff the photowalk with a group photo and the on a route around the downtown area. All of the details can be found on our Worldwide Photowalk Profile page. It is important that you SIGN UP on that page if you are planning to attend.

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