Off to the Workshop!

•October 27, 2011 • 2 Comments

I’m heading out to Lake Louise area for the SNAP! Photography Seminars Weekend Workshop.  That’s a long title for a whole lotta learnin’!  We sold out early for this year’s workshop which is a balance of class and field time for optimal learning conditions.  We also build in a lot of image critique time so that participants can get out and practice what they learn as they learn it.  This formula seems to work well, based on last year’s comments.  I’m just excited to be out in some of the lovely locations; it’s a privilege to watch participants’ exercise their new skills!

Herbert Lake (above) and Bow Lake (below), both in Banff National Park, are two of our field locations for the workshop.

We also take a jaunt to nearby Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park.  Aaah, the beauty of the mountains!


Fabulous Film Fridays, October 21 – All Scans Are Not Created Equal

•October 21, 2011 • 35 Comments

I took Tachihara Tim out for a spin this fall on a film outing with Darwin and Hiroaki Kobayashi.  It was pretty sunny except for some shady parts along an east-facing cliff.  The sun was low on the horizon creating some wonderful, golden light.  I used Velvia slide film and made several exposures.  We sent the film to Vancouver for processing, and then we took the slides to ABL Imaging Group in Calgary for scanning.  In the end, I chose only two files to be scanned in because the cost of each scan was $30.  As a comparison, we also photographed the slides on a light table with Darwin’s Canon  EOS-1ds Mark III 21 megapixel camera to see what kind of quality we could achieve by ‘scanning’ in the images ourselves.  Here are the photographs of the slides taken with the EOS-1ds Mark III. (The files were flat so a few adjustments have been applied to bring the photograph closer to the original contrast of the slide film).

And here are the scans from ABL.  I haven’t done any processing on these files, just resized them for the blog and sharpened them the same way and amount as the two photographs above.

I don’t think your first thought when you get a product or service from someone should be, “WTF?”  You’ll have to take my word that the photographs from Darwin’s camera are closer to the actual film images captured (albeit with less luminousity and resolution).  ABL’s rendition are over-the-top in colour and over-sharpened.  Here is a 100% crop comparison of the first set of images.  ABL’s is first (this has not been sharpened; this is the level of detail on the scan given to me) and our ‘scan’ second.

While they may look more punchy on the web, they are nothing close to what I captured.  And ABL had the original slides to compare them to!  The amount of sharpening it looks like has been applied by ABL means when I resize and resharpen, the image gets crunchy and crystalline, fast.  While the crop of our ‘scan’ may look super soft, at least I can sharpen this image after resizing without losing quality.  I don’t get it.  If I’m paying $30 (each) for a faithful scan of my film, then that is what I would like back.  Otherwise, what ‘expertise’ am I paying for?  The real crapper is that hardly anyone is doing these kinds of scans anymore in Calgary so I’m kind of stuck.  Oh well, at least a photograph of a slide can return a result just as good if not better — for cheaper!

So my question for you is…where do YOU scan your large format slide film so that the digital result is as close as possible ensuring you can make an amazing print?

Fabulous Film Friday, October 7, 2011 – Retired

•October 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Here is an image from a scrapyard filled with vehicles whose glory days are far behind them.  My trusty holga, Beep really outdid herself with flare this roll (although I may have been responsible for some of it when I opened up the back of the camera because I forgot there was film already in there).  I wonder how many days this truck worked before finding itself retired to the scrap-graveyard, waiting to be crushed into a tin can.

Fabulous Film Fridays, September 23 – Down In the Mine

•September 23, 2011 • 7 Comments

These are some images from the Nordegg minesite taken with Effie, my Nikon FE.  I’m still waiting on my 4×5 film from our August photo tour to the mine; there’s no one in Calgary who will process this film anymore, so we had to ship it to Vancouver.  Perhaps the anticipation of waiting for film is part of the fun, but having to wait weeks is stretching it.  I just hope that someone in Canada still keeps accepting it!  Technology can be great, but it can also be a big, fat bummer.

I took these images so long ago that I can’t remember the film in the camera (a hazard of using film when you are a lazy, digital shooter).  They are so grainy though that it must have been 400 speed film.  Or else all the old film I’m using up is breaking down, one of the two.  I think it adds though to the rustic, industrial nature of the mine.  An abstractionist’s paradise!

September Summer

•September 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

We’ve been very lucky to have some warm days the last week or so.  It always makes me feel nostalgic, this time of year.  The air is so crisp in the mornings, threatening change.  The grasses and any late-blooming fall flowers seem to reach extra high toward these last generous rays of sun.  For most of my life, September was signified by a return to school and the end of summer.  If we had any late, ‘Indian summer’ it was welcome when we had gym class outdoors.  Ah, yes, gym class.  I still remember having to run laps around my junior high school until I felt like puking.  The gym teacher called it running “The Worlds” but I felt it was more of a ‘war of the worlds’ between the lazy, days of summer spent reading in a hammock and the structured regimen of school.  Got me in shape, though!

In celebration of the last day of summer, here is an image from Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park taken last month.  Wind-whipped grasses and fence posts also make me feel nostalgic because of the stories of pioneers who no longer work on the hills by the Bow.

Fabulous Film Fridays, September 9 – A Blast from the Past

•September 9, 2011 • 3 Comments

I had the opportunity this summer to visit an intriguing farm.  A fellow friend and photographer, Lori Maloney, invited Darwin and I and Wayne Simpson to come along to the grand opening of The Station.  Writers, friends, family, musicians and of course a few photographers were on hand to celebrate the restoration of Gleichen’s old CPR train station.  The hobby farm and museum is the brainwave of Lori’s dad, Dave Amonson, and he has managed to preserve amazing historical artifacts on the property (which also boasts some lovely natural features).  Thanks, Lori, for the opportunity to share in this wonderful event!

Here are a few images taken with Effie, my Nikon FE (and Fujicolor 400 film) from the day.

A Sad Surprise

•August 30, 2011 • 8 Comments

I’m editing some of the images from the Nordegg mine/Icefields ice walk taken a couple of weeks ago.  We had very good weather and lots of time to take many images.  We shot a couple of sunrises/sunsets at Abraham Lake and I was attracted (as I usually am) to the combination of grass and trees along the shore of the lake rather than the impressive lake itself.  Here are a couple of images from sunset the first night.

This second image reminds me of the complete skeleton of some small herbivore.  A deer?  Prehistoric horse Hyracotherium?  Since the level of the lake changes so much over the season (depending on runoff from the mountains and drainage at the dam), the shoreline is always changing.  This line of bleached sticks marks a highpoint in the reach of the lake.  Since we were at the lake on a weekend, it was a bit crowded with campers enjoying the sunshine.  Kootenay Plains is a favourite, almost secret spot for ‘locals’ (sometimes traveling as far away as Red Deer) to camp.  Unfortunately, it is clearly being loved to death with roads everywhere, firepits scattering the beach, and destroyed groves of trees.  I learned that a tree that I had photographed last winter had been chopped down and just left, literally hanging by a thread of bark.  Judging from the hacked off aspens all around — the broken ends discarded nearby like children’s toys — it was clear that this was an act of destruction without more purpose than the pleasure of swinging an axe.

I was surprised at how upset I felt.  It’s just a tree!  And yet I think many of us have felt something, standing under the sweeping branches of some gnarled matriarch, or admired the plucky, stringy reach of a young sapling.  In other words, it’s not just a tree.  Cutting down wood for fire, although illegal, I can understand uneducated campers being tempted to do.  But going ‘postal’ in a grove of aspen surely must be an example of the ugly, shadow-side of human nature.  Instead of gloating about how we’ve ‘come down from the trees’, maybe we should make a point of metaphorically returning to them and appreciate how our lives are all intertwined with nature.

I believe it is the very left-most tree from this image of last year that has been felled.