25 November

Revisiting Old Images

Unless I forget to remove the lens cap, I rarely delete and simply archive. I would like to believe that I’m a better photographer than I was 2 years ago. I see things differently and how I approach creating new images is forever changing.

With all that file clutter just taking up space, it’s an interesting exercise to look back and compare what I had originally thought was good and/or bad. It’s also interesting to see how opinions have changed.

It feels like forever and a day since we were in Iceland but when I saw an image of Dettifoss this week, I went back to my archived library to see what I had originally passed over as rejects. I remembered being there but I had also remembered coming back without anything interesting to print.

This is what I found. A relatively flat mid-day image of Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It surely doesn’t have the same impact as did standing there inches from the rushing water.

Dettifoss, Iceland

Dettifoss, Iceland

50% of my visualization is through trial and error. Should it be cropped? Does it need more or less contrast? Would I prefer this or would I prefer that?

Once I identified what I did not like about this image, I removed the colour, darkened the sky and ended up with two different images. One was be the original 8×12 but the other a perfect square. Both with very different perspectives of the location.

So I asked the question on Facebook which image was preferred and I feel like I got an equal mix right down the middle. You can see everyone’s comments here, here, and here. Art doesn’t get more subjective than this and how one connects with an image varies wildly.

Some prefer the feeling of standing there looking over the edge into the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river while others much prefer 1:1 and removing the triangle shaped distractions.

There is no answer and I still do not know which one I prefer.

Dettifoss, Iceland

Dettifoss, Iceland

Dettifoss, Iceland

Dettifoss, Iceland

12 September

Taming Surface Reflections with a Polarizer Filter

A polarizing filter has been permanently attached to my lens for so long that I simply take it for granted. I rarely remove it but yet continue to be surprised during those condititions that demonstrate just how magical and dramatic the effect can be. Using a polarizing filter can have more impact and value than the lens itself.

The following two images were created minutes apart with different polarizing intensities. The contrast and saturation in the wet sand is significant.

Polarized

Polarized

Not Polarized

Not Polarized

Below is one more example from a slightly hazy day of flying. From 1000 feet above, a polarizer can cut back those reflections, giving us a great view of the ocean floor.

Polarized

Polarized

Not Polarized

Not Polarized

8 August

Looking With Purpose

Landscape photography and travel are often married together. We can’t help but dream while running towards the setting sun in exotic places — looking for that magical moment that will become our pride and joy printed on paper. At best, this is an effort of hope and wishes based on visualization and expectations. Expectations that are often built based on the work of others.

Before I became interested in photography, I took my home of Prince Edward Island very much for granted. With nothing more than farm fields and beaches, it felt small, boring and uninteresting. I failed to understand why tourism was so popular.

Prince Edward Island's North Shore Coastline

Prince Edward Island’s North Shore Coastline ©Stephen DesRoches

This problematic way of thinking was so strong that I was in my late 20’s before making my first visit to the eastern side of the island. For perspective, that is only 60 minutes away.

Looking with purpose is a different way of seeing and my discovery of photography as an art has changed how and what I see. My desire to travel and experience other locations continues to be greater than ever but photographically speaking, I’m growing more and more content close to home.

I choose to believe that I am not simply trying to make myself feel better for not living in the mountains but close to home truly isn’t bad either when you give it the attention it deserves. Take the time to stop waiting for the next travel adventure when there is so much to explore just outside the front door.

The grass is not necessarily always greener on the other side of the fence. Embrace and find the beauty in what you currently already have.

3 July

Online Shopping. For Better or Worse?

One of my recent blog posts about having the ability to print your own accessories or replacement parts raised some more questions about its impact on the environment and how our culture is built around the shopping mall.

I have worked for two retail companies. One was a small specialty computer store and the other a large big box store. The owner of the small electronics store would display visible anger when you didn’t buy and support locally. Although I understand the logic of keeping the money locally, at what point does this argument to support local business begin to break down?

Competing on price is tough and I’ll not argue the value of having a good relationship with a small service company. It’s nice to have someone to call that you trust. Or beneficial to have a place to try before you buy. But for the purpose of this post, my focus is on the big box store model. Fifteen years ago when I was working in retail, the complaint was the big box stores moving into town. Today, we could compare to the growing popularity of shopping online.

My question is raised from a debate from guilt for having everything shipped to my door. My argument and all things considered, if they are not shipping an item directly to me, a much bigger shipment is going to a warehouse with the hopes it will be sold. If it is not sold, it will be discarded or shipped back.

Today we can have just about anything shipped right to our door but from an environmental point of view, is it better that we have buildings in every town stocking inventory, providing heat and electricity to this building, shipping back or trashing what doesn’t sell, and having thousands of visitors drive to the store every day… or is it better to have several courier trucks who will deliver exactly what you wanted from much fewer warehouses? Case in point, Amazon only needs 49 buildings spread across 8 countries — 2 of which are in Canada.

Hypothetically, if we were not required to maintain inventory in every town and city across the country with every possible product you may or may not want…

  1. Would it reduce traffic? How many drive from store to store looking for items or sales?
  2. Would it reduce the required energy with fewer buildings?
  3. Could it reduce how much is being shipped around the world? So much product is moved that will never be sold.
  4. Would it slow down the development of new buildings due to constant expansion?
  5. And would we all purchase less?

So many questions without any answers.

©Darwin Wiggett -Shopping is just a connection away!

©Darwin Wiggett -Shopping is just a connection away!

13 June

Backing Up Your Prints

Prints

A Collection of Prints

CD’s Won’t Open,
Hard Drives Crash,
Flash Drives Get Corrupted.
Cloud based businesses close.
The only thing that works every time is…
A print.

The message varies slightly but it’s a message that is shared over and over again, week after week. Excluding the fact that it might be scare tactic marketing to sell prints, I can sometimes appreciate the intention of these tongue-in-cheek quotes. However in my humble opinion, the message is often too extreme and misleading.

A print is still one of the best ways to enjoy a photograph but lets not ignore the fact that as quickly as a hard drive will crash or a business will close, that print will suffer from light, water or fire damage.

And I want to reprint again and again.

I want to be able to create new prints of today’s images 25 years from now when technology is much better. I want to see it on paper, on canvas, on metals. I want the freedom that is not limited to that of a single print.

We should all enjoy, print and celebrate our work; but we should also be paying specific attention to the files in which a print is born from. The negative is everything and by ensuring that we all have a strong backup solution of our priceless files, there should be no need for print restoration services when we have all the tools necessary to maintain the files necessary for reprinting.

Would you rather a 25 year old print or a 25 year old digital file? It horrifies me that I have relatives who print from the memory card and once a print is in hand, proceeds to delete because they are making room for more.

When our ultimate clutter challenge comes to an end this month, we must ensure that we have a safe storage solution for the remaining image files.

Either it be prints or files — images are moments in time you can never have back. They simply can’t be replaced once lost and ensuring that you have a proper archival plan will ensure your life’s work will never be lost.

So the real question is: When was the last time you backed up your image files?

1 June

The Ultimate Kill the Clutter Challenge – One Month to Organize My Image Backlog

I’m always up for a good challenge and when I heard that Sam and Darwin were aggressively cleaning up their backlog of unprocessed files, I first thought they were both crazy for committing to a file bankruptcy day. Why would anyone artificially delete potentially great work simply because of time.

My second thought was… hmm, it’s probably worth playing along too. Several months (maybe a year?) ago, I started reorganizing my image library with the daunting task of cleaning everything up. I quickly became side tracked with more exciting projects and my images remain in an unfinished state.

So I’m going to join the bandwagon but with different goals. I will not be processing any files and I will not be deleting everything untouched come July 1st. What I will attempt to do, is finish cleaning up, keywording, gps tagging, adding meta data with everything neatly organized into categories. The only files that I will be deleting are the clearly bad frames. If there is any hesitation at all, the file stays and is appropriately filed away.

The Current Structure

To kick things off, I feel it’s probably necessary to explain how I manage files with the use of Adobe Lightroom. My images fall into 3 distinct categories.

  1. Fine Art & Stock. My first catalog contains all of the images that I consider my “artwork”. This is mostly my landscape and nature work and are the images that I license for use or make decor prints from. This body of work contains all of the images that I share with the public.
  2. Personal. This catalog contains all of my family photos. It’s a catch all from my camera, my wife’s camera, occasionally my parent’s camera, our phones, etc. This is a large collection of every day photos that are primarily a documentation of my life.
  3. Assignments & Events. Each commercial job or event that I’m hired for, I create a new Lightroom catalog. All of the image files from that project live here in isolation and once the files are delivered to the client, the catalogs are archived. These catalogs will not be part of this challenge.

The 30 Day Goal

For both my Fine Art and Personal image libraries, which combine to approximately 100,000 files, I will clean up the many folders titled “sort” and “fix these” and “missing XYZ data”. I will delete what’s clearly trash and move the rest into a well structured catalog, rich with keywords and location gps data.

Lightroom Catalog for Fine Art and Stock Image Files

Lightroom Catalog for Fine Art and Stock Image Files

I’m a bit obsessive with organization but at the same time, I don’t necessarily need to process or finish an image file until it’s needed. Especially considering that if I need a file created 5 years ago, there is a decent chance that I’ll want to reprocess the file again with newer raw conversion software.

Lightroom Catalog for Personal and Family Image Files

Lightroom Catalog for Personal and Family Image Files

So we’re now all at the starting line with a goal in sight. This clearly contradicts my desire for less computer time.

29 May

Using Photography to Stay Active

Over the past couple years, I’ve made the occasional blog post here on oopoomoo but for the most part, I stay behind the scene working on either the website or new eBooks. I’m quite happy with the artistic career I’ve built in visual design and it has allowed me to have worked on some very interesting products.

But the problem with any desk job is… when we’re not careful, our daily activities can easily fall into the routine pattern of waking up in the morning, becoming focused on the day’s tasks, and the day is over without moving away from the computer screen.

Do people still really use post it notes?

Do people still really use post it notes?

My biggest client happens to be a group of doctors who provide medical education and training to the many emergency medicine doctors around the world. I’ve always known that too much computer time is not healthy but nothing defines motivation better than working with a group of highly respected doctors all day long who continually remind you of the need to move.

It first started with a stand up desk and some went as far as a treadmill desk. More recently, several of us started wearing a pedometer that measures daily steps. Not only does it record and report my shameful daily activities, but it also reports these numbers to my friends, coworkers and clients. A competition that I’m losing.

Measuring activity and seeing real numbers is scary but I have learned a great deal about the 10,000 step theory and just how much that really is. At roughly 7.5 kilometres, this short distance can be a surprisingly hard goal to achieve depending on your daily routines. And unfortunately my daily routine is far from that of a letter carrier.

Fitbit iPhone App

Fitbit iPhone App

But the dog’s walking schedule is increasing and I’m sure the grass will be cut much more frequently this summer. It’s incredible how seeing actual results in real numbers creates the desire to better those results. I’m clearly goal orientated.

White Spruce and Birch

White Spruce and Birch

What does this have to do with photography? Keeping a small step counter in my pocket is a constant reminder to get outside and nature photography is a big part of my solution. In the course of the past 15 years, I have spent an incredible amount of time in front of a computer advancing my career. Some of that time was well spent and some of that time was simply killing time. But all of that time was a slippery slope. There will never be an end to the list of overdue tasks.

What I do know is that photography has created a very nice compliment to staying artistic while being away from a desk. It keeps me outside, moving, and exploring.

If anything, I suppose photography is what raised my appreciation of simply being outside because when I’m outside on the beach, or on the trails, or on the side of a road in some farmer’s field… everything else can wait.

Stephen DesRoches | Bubbling Springs Trail, PEI National Park

Bubbling Springs Trail, PEI National Park

Spring has started here on Prince Edward Island and the only remaining traces of snow are found deep in tree covered areas. For the long weekend, I put all computer work on pause and spent a decent amount of time on the hiking trails in the national park – stroller and all.

26 April

The Magic of 3D Printing – Making Filter Holders with a Cool Printer

The concept of printing actual objects is fascinating. Something that would be otherwise impossible to find or buy might now be possible to create with your home printer.

A future of printing our own solutions to meet our workflow needs is very exciting. Printing your own ideas introduces a market that eliminates factory production costs. Instead of manufacturers producing inventory, followed by packaging and shipping it all around the world to only sit in warehouses or on store shelves, in theory, they could just provide a blueprint file that you give your printer at home. Especially useful for simple replacement parts but maybe even a complete house or a prosthesis arm.

Like all new technologies, it’s still not perfect and has room for improvements but it is however going to be very interesting as the technology becomes more accessible to everyone.

Here’s Where 3D Printers Relate to Camera Gear

With the use of a 3D printer (Stratasys Object 30Pro), 3DPideas has designed an adapter for use with Cokin or Lee filter holders that I believe is brilliant and a problem solver to how I wish to use filters.

3D Printed Adapters for Cokin and Lee Filter Holders

3D Printed Adapters for Cokin and Lee Filter Holders

I personally prefer to use a screw in 77mm polarizer filter on the front of my lens and, if I want additional filters, I screw the filter holder onto the front of that polarizer.

This creates two problems. The first is vignette because of the extra extension the polarizer creates from the lens and the second is the added challenge of rotating the polarizer independently to the holder. It has worked for me but can be frustrating on many levels.

The Cokin-Z holder works best with sprocket filters (watch Darwin in this video) and proper management of light leak. The Lee alternative requires the purchase of a large 105mm filter. My shooting habits do not match either intended use because both require the large filter holder to use the polarizer.

What 3DPideas has created and printed is an adapter ring that attaches to the hood mount of your lens. It allows me to shoot all day with the polarizer and lens hood but when I want to use an ND filter, I can replace the hood with the filter holder. It has no frustrating screw in threads and it keeps my polarizer rotating independently free. Most importantly, I don’t have to buy a new expensive polarizing filter for a holder I only want to use on occasion.

My initial tests of the adapter proved to be very sturdy and strong enough to endure daily use. However printing materials are still new and while this product continues to be improved and refined, expectations of this rubber-like plastic should be reasonable.

It is available for both Lee and Cokin with 2 very important things to consider: it will not fit all lenses and requires using a slim profile polarizer.

It will take the next couple months to really judge how the material holds up but so far, I really like it. Designing and printing your own solutions to specific problems opens a new door on creativity that can only get better. A+ for thinking outside and beyond manufacture limitations.

13 March

Fallen Leaves Project – Experimenting Continues

My commitment to the fallen leaves project continues to unfold in a trial and error process. Some ideas are working out pretty good — others are failing.

Frost covered leaf

Earlier this winter on a cold morning, my front yard had several frost-covered leaves. My failed efforts to create images of the frost gave me the idea to freeze them. Using a small lunch dish, I froze a single leaf in a block of ice and carved out openings by carefully running warm tap water over select parts to expose edges. Adding new water and refreezing helped add bubbles and textures.

The following images are my results from this single block of ice. All were created with the same setup as before using a 100mm macro lens.

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

Leaf frozen in ice

9 January

Fallen Leaves Project – Sketches

Back in November, I committed to a project called Fallen Leaves that would challenge me photographically with what I have collected over the past two autumn seasons and the marco equipment I rarely use.

But other projects and one other pretty good reason, kept me from starting until now.

Macro Setup with Light Tent

The Setup

The setup for this first test is a simple enclosed translucent tent box with a black interior. The lights being used are cheap lamps from the local hardware store and a couple small spring loaded clamps to hold the leaves in position. The lens being used is a Canon 100mm macro.

The following set of images are some of my first experiments. It’s fun not knowing how a slight turn to the right or left can change the frame at such close distances. Here is the quick update. I’m going back to the playing.

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO400, 100mm, f/14, 1.0 sec

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO400, 100mm, f/14, 1.0 sec

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO100, 100mm, f/2.8, 1/13 sec

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO100, 100mm, f/16, 2.0 sec

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO100, 100mm, f/2.8, 1/10 sec

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO100, 100mm, f/4.0, 1/13 sec

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO100, 100mm, f/4.0, 1/13 sec

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO100, 100mm, f/5.6, 0.4 sec

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO100, 100mm, f/2.8, 1/13 sec

Fallen Leaves Project on oopoomoo - © Stephen DesRoches

ISO100, 100mm, f/2.8, 1/6 sec

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