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Friday, August 30, 2013

Some Really Nasty Weather Happening Up Here

We had some really interest cloud formations coming home from doing some school supply shopping for our kids. At the stop-light at 96th Avenue and 132nd Street I looked up and saw a huge cumulonimbus (CB for those who are aviation or meteorologically inclined) going up.

I believe the CB was situated over central BC and Kamloops is probably getting hit pretty hard. However just 3 hours later the sky is relatively clear and there is sun. I'm sure that tomorrow will be nice blue sky and I should take advantage of that time and go out and get a few more shots at Green Timbers or somewhere nice.

From the Doppler image - this was a relatively fast moving system and inside of three hours it is over Salmon Arm, BC. Just like I thought it was Central to South Central BC that was hit by this system.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The SOPA Zombie Returns

Should we as photographers be worried about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) rev. 2013?

In short, yes.

This proposed legislation seeks to make video streaming illegal (in other words shutting down sites like YouTube, Facebook Video and other content streaming providers because a few people persist in putting copyrighted materials such as movies up online). This provides an environment where the independent moviemaker cannot get his movie out unless it is represented by one of the big movie-houses in Hollywood. Consider that a monopolizing and exiling of independent movie-making to the fringes. As we photographers venture into the video process due to the video-features on our cameras, we need to keep this in mind. This means that we will not have sites to get our work out. You won’t be able to put up “how-to” videos on photography to help other photographers out. You won’t have the ability to put slideshows of your work out on a video stream so people can see who you are. Why? Because the options will no longer be there due to being forced to shut down thanks to this legislation.

Take the time to read the proposed legislation and it’s far reaching consequences will scare you: Copyright Green Paper Submission

As photographers, we need to worry about SOPA 2013 due to its effects on our industry. There are unscrupulous photographers out there who subsist on making claims that they can’t meet. What’s to stop one of those leech photographers from making a claim to IP shutdown a legitimate photographer stating that the legit photog has swiped one of their photos or complain that a photo of theirs is too similar to one that “leech” took. Considering that one of the ramifications of this is the total shutdown of one’s site until this matter is cleared up or face heavy fines as well as a potential jail sentence, this may put the pro photographer out of business. SOPA just makes it easier for these so-called leeches to take advantage of the shutdown IP section of the Protect IP Act which no doubt will be shovelled in there as well. The average time that it takes for such a copyright violation matter to wind its way through the courts could take up to an year. Does anyone want that kind of hassle and a shut-down of all business related marketing for a full year?

• In essence, consumers have become competing publishers and distributors of copyrighted content. This ability makes enforcement difficult because of the sheer number of potential defendants, and has led some to question the proportionality of traditional enforcement tools when applied to individuals.

And just where do they get off on telling me that I can’t distribute my own photography unless I do it through “traditional” methods such as putting it in a gallery?

From what it appears, it seems that the only interests this “green paper” is protecting is big business like Disney, Paramount and other movie production houses or photo-agents like Reuters, Getty and Corbis. As a photographer, I’m not impressed. I don’t think big business should be dictating how a small business runs or how we small business owners distribute our own work.

One proposed method for addressing websites dedicated to piracy, and the one that has generated the most controversy recently, is directing ISPs to block the public’s access to them. Restricting U.S. access to foreign-based websites dedicated to piracy could serve to reduce infringing traffic. As discussed above, while under current law injunctions requiring ISPs to block foreign websites are theoretically available, they have not been sought by right holders for a number of reasons.

And again, this is where it gets sticky. Anyone can accuse someone of a copyright violation and get the site taken down; without first verifying that the EXIF data on the photograph is legitimate. So if I have a beef with someone on an online forum and I really want to be an asshole; I can turn around and take a photo that is similar to his and proclaim that he copyright infringed me, in the process, shutting his entire website down and thus eliminating competition.

As a creative, I respect the copyrights of those who create and that includes big movie houses which make movies and recording artists who write their own songs. However I do bristle when it comes to the two trying to speak on my behalf as a visual arts creative in still imagery. Most of the points that they have made cover song-recordings and movies. They have no insight into what governs still imagery as an industry and have lobbied on big movie-houses and recording artists benefit with no inkling of what goes on in photography or photography sales. As a result I do not support this legislation, nor will I ever support this legislation as it currently stands. With the removal of places such as YouTube, we visual creatives such as photographers lose our main connection with others to place our “how-to” photography videos, and “updates” on what we are currently doing. It takes away our interaction with our clients and essentially makes us a faceless corporation. People like Jared Polin – site Fro Knows Photo, built up a burgeoning business on how to videos online. There are people who are disabled, who instead of going on the government dole have opted to go into photography and have built up a business, thanks to networking and online presence. These people are the ones affected by this SOPA 2013. Creative arts shouldn’t be a genre for the rich corporations only and that is what they are making this into.

It’s time again to fight for our rights. We did it in 2012, we’ll do it again.

Secret Look At SOPA from BossOfPoundInIt's insightful video.

So, WHO is asking for SOPA to be passed? The very idiots who distributed the software to DO IT! Yep, it's a conspiracy..."

My video on SOPA and it's ramifications to photographers.

If this goes through we're all going to suffer the loss of our being able to market our own creations outside of our local areas.

Monday, August 5, 2013

f/8 and Be There...A Misnomer...

When Arthur Fellig otherwise known as Weegee was asked what it took to create a great photograph he simply said "f/8 and be there". Unfortunately that isn't all that it takes. He left out the creativity part of the equation. How to interact with one's subject to produce an "experience", not just a static photo that says "here it is".

When it comes to nature photography, too many of us are happy with the "here it is" photo. Here's a photo of a snowy owl, here's a photo of a bald eagle. The question is, what is that eagle feeling, how best can you bring out the feeling of tiredness and hunger in the snowy owl after its long migration without making it suffer for your art. That is the true measure of a photograph; the feelings that it can evoke in the viewer and how to convey what the subject is feeling.

My images are not the prime example of great wildlife photography, nor do I hold them out to be. However my task as of late has become the keen intent to bring out a) the emotion of the animals that I photograph, b) to bring the viewer into the photograph to see it on a more visceral level.



Unless you bring the photograph to life by trying to capture the emotions of the subjects, your photograph is a "here it is" proclamation...a dead photograph. Master Photographer Henri-Cartier Bresson stated very clearly: “To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.

There is something about nature that draws a person in - that makes the ordinary person feel at home. Whether it is a subliminal call to our wild ancestors or not, it is a visceral feeling - the kinship that we feel with our animal neighbours.

That is what I hope to capture in my photographs and will continue to strive for.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Walk Through - Serpentine Fen Wildlife Management Area and Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Serpentine Migratory Bird Sanctuary is what we call a "left-wild" area that is a part of the refuge network for migratory birds on the Great Pacific Flyway. And as such, the area is rarely supervised so as to allow the birds there to flourish in a natural environment. We, humans, are visitors to that environment and should respect the fact that the environment there is for the wild birds and not purely for our own enjoyment. The birds there are resting up for their migrations and as such, respect is needed that we do not influence their behavior.

The main trail is the 1.5 km. Serpentine River Dyke Trail which offers magnificent views of the South Fraser estuary and alluvial plains. It is a gorgeous area and is home to many different types of species of birds known to frequent the West Coast.

As you walk along the Serpentine River Dyke Trail, you will see a lot of different wildflowers as well as birds. There is an artificial resting perch made up of a metal fence for the very active swallow population in Serpentine Fen.

As you walk further you will come across observation towers. I believe there are at least 3 dotting the entire landscape that with their elevation gives you panoramic views of the entire Serpentine Fen area. Admittedly a wide angle lens here rather than a super-telephoto lens offers the best view as the observation towers are more for a panoramic view of the surrounding area than they are at "observing" the wildlife. For doing the latter, getting up close and down on the ground is the best way for a photographer to "interact" respectfully with the wildlife.

At the foot of most of the observation towers, you will find an informative and thorough information guide to the wildlife species that you will find in this wildlife sanctuary. Do take the opportunity to read it.

There is a small bay just to the right of the first observation tower that you run into by the Serpentine River Dyke Trail. This is a nice cozy little place for dabbling ducks such as mallards, wood ducks and gadwalls. You may also, if you are lucky, find cinnamon, blue and green teals.

As you walk past the meander of the river that has become a little bay, you will see the remains of a pier. This was used a launching location for for boats of former settlers of the area before the land was bought up by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment and reverted to the control of the Province. The ruined pier posts still dot the small little cove and provide resting perches for birds. It is said that double-crested and pelagic cormorants have used them as sitting areas, but I have yet to see a double-crested cormorant or pelagic cormorant this far inland.

A further walkthrough can be found here: A Fun Day At Serpentine - The Views Around The Sanctuary

This admittedly is not a one time visit location by any means and you will see varying wildlife every time you come out. But the one thing that still galls me is to see despite the warning signs posted visibly that people will still "unleash" their dogs to chase wildlife. This is an absolutely disgusting bit of behavior by dog owners that makes me livid every time I see it. There are two visible signs that I saw during my walk along Serpentine River Dyke Trail. One was by the marsh bridge.

The other was located halfway along Serpentine River Dyke trail in front of a field along a grove of trees where cedar waxwings and robins and other songbirds nest.

I will say this harshly, because there seems to be no other way to get the point across. These signs are not just there for your amusement. This is a wildlife management area; a sanctuary for wild birds - not a dog-walk. The welfare and the safety of the wildlife is paramount in this location and any such interaction such as what I saw on August 1st will be duly noted and reported to the Ministry of Environment. I saw dogs let off leash to chase whatever they could find, swim in the river, gallivant through the meadows in absolute violation of the signs posted. If you are willing to abide by the rules of the wildlife sanctuary then you are welcome. If you cannot respect the wildlife or understand that this area is for them, then STAY OUT! If you must bring your dog with you, then keep him/her leashed as per the rules or go to someplace like Hawthorne Park which was designed for children and dogs.

If you wish to come to Serpentine Fen, please enjoy the area, but also respect the wildlife there and obey the signs.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Graduated Neutral Density Filters (and What They Do...)

I have often-times cursed the fact that I haven't purchased a set of Lee Graduated ND filters. These filters are used to help bring definition into the sky. Doing landscape photography is tricky because if you expose for the ground to bring the ground into proper exposure, you end up blowing out the sky and turning it featureless white or grey. If you focus for the sky, you get a silhouette for the landscape. So how do you expose both the ground and the sky at the same time and have them both turn out nicely. It involves getting some filters called Graduated ND filters.

There are two types: first the screw-on graduated neutral density filters which you cannot adjust for the horizon. and secondly; there are the various rectangular graduated ND filters that are created by either Cokin, Lee or other various companies. The ones that I intend to purchase are the 4x6 rectangular resin filters created by Lee. You can also turn around and do the ND graduated filter effect in Photoshop, however as most photographers would say, it's better to take a few seconds and get it right in camera, than sit down in front of a computer for a couple of hours and try to get the same effect.

These are available at various camera stores and I usually recommend The Camera Store in Calgary as they were the ones who provided me with the Lee Foundation Holder Kit which enables me to put the mount the holder onto my Nikon DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens.

The adapter ring that goes on the 18-70mm lens

The holder that you can slide the 4x6 filter onto the lens. This is the basic filter set up. I will more than likely have to get the wide-angle filter holder when I pick up my 14-24mm f/2.8 lens (that's another purchase for another day)

When you put the adapter ring on the filter holder, you get this...

The filter holder attaches to the lens. It just slips on and you can rotate it depending on the horizon line. It is solid and snaps on and off your lens so that you can quickly get it in place. The 3-view is what the holder looks like on the 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 which is residing on my wife's D90.

Doing landscape photography is fun. It's even more fun when you get a beautiful image. And to do so takes a little extra. The Lee filter system is that "little extra".

A Solo Trip to Serpentine - August 1, 2013.

Went yesterday to Serpentine Fen after dropping my daughter off at daycare and my wife off at university. It was nice to be able to get out and do some shooting with the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII again and the TC-20EIII. I had the opportunity to get the setings right on the camera for my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII attached to the TC-20EIII and the response on the camera was quick and efficient. The D300s is still a heck of a capable camera (even at 4 years old). Until they come out with a D400, I won't be changing over.

Setting the AE-L & AF-L at Matrix-metering allowed me to track my subjects on 21 points. I use 21 points rather than 51 because it allows for a quicker response. You don't utilize all 51 points and it allows the camera to respond quicker to any movement. Hence the reason I was able to lock on quickly onto the Great Blue Heron that burst out from the foilage.

In flight shots require a quick response and a light camera lens. Hence the reason why I am also looking at the purchase eventually of a 300mm f/2.8 VRII. But the 70-200mm +TC-20EIII will work pretty decently for the time being.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Good Morning Surrey...

Insomnia combined with having to get my daughter to daycare this morning has pretty much made it so that I had to stay awake all night. The benefit of staying awake all night was capturing this shot with the iPhone 4s this morning.