Archive for Banff

Banff Elk

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , on November 17, 2014 by chamimage
Bull Elk

Bull Elk

I photographed this elk in Banff two years ago (yes I am still editing images from 2012). I got some great shots of him, but the backgrounds were all very busy with that evergreen forest behind him.

I have yet to find a good way to blur a background without being obvious about it, though the new path and spin blurs in Photoshop CC 2014 are pretty cool for other uses, especially motor sports. I can’t bring myself to do any compositing when it comes to wildlife images so putting him on a different background was really an option for me.

I decided to do my best with Nik Color Efex Pro (still can’t bring myself to call it Google). The darken light center filter is one I have all but forgotten about lately. I put it to work on this image and was quite pleased with the result. I did some dodging and burning of the areas closest to the elk. I then still wanted the background a little bit darker so I opened it in Adobe Camera Raw (from Photoshop, which is totally cool since I always forget to dust spot before opening files in Photoshop and this way I can go back to do it using the dust spot finder in ACR) and moved the shadows slider to the left. This is a cool trick for darkening most backgrounds, as well as use in astro photography to make the Milky Way and stars pop.

This went from being an image I was kicking myself for not throwing away on the first edit to one I am pleased with. So now I am encouraged to procrastinate all the more about throwing out images that are flawed in some way. Perhaps I will think up a way to use it or perhaps someone will come out with a magic filter that will save it.

Emotion

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2013 by chamimage
African Elephant with Calf

African Elephant with Calf

I’ve been struggling with emotions lately. No, not my emotions. The emotional impact of images. Specifically, naming the emotion that an image conjures.

I know it when an image moves me emotionally, I’m just not good at naming what emotion has been stirred. I have a feeling women are better at this. I’ve heard that women have way more words to describe shades of tan color than men do. I’ve also read that women speak way more words per day than men do. They have isolated a brain protein they think is responsible. It was probably not good to be a chatty male hunter in days of old. You either starved from scaring all of the game away, or attracted predators. Selected those guys right out.

The reason this has come up is that I have been working with a new stock agency that works on an image request basis rather than a catalog of images in a database (definitely the wave of the future IMHO), and they have advertising people and book publishers requesting images based on an emotion. The image above was submitted for the request for an image showing guidance or a helping hand, depicted with large versus small animals or plants or whatever.

Canadian Rocky Mountains

Canadian Rocky Mountains

Now, if you ask me for a photo of a mule deer standing in front of a western United States mountain range I’m all over it. Actually, when the requests are that specific it has been surprising to me that an image I thought I certainly would have – I don’t have. Just when you think you have all the deer images you will ever need in a lifetime, you don’t have the one you need.

I was stumped when asked for a landscape image with a sky that depicted support and reliability. What the heck kind of sky would that be? I live in Oregon. The sky is never reliable here.

Ny-Alysund, Spitsbergen

Ny-Alysund, Spitsbergen

Book publishers are always asking for gloomy shots. There are a lot of mysteries and they always want a cover depicting danger or foreboding. I submitted this one for a mystery that occurred in Sweden.  They wanted a stark, desolate rural landscape. No neighbors to rescue the poor soul, I guess.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get good at this emotions thing. The supportive and reliable sky is the only one that has completely stumped me so far. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to do better with images that make people want to go to Italy and try not to be so clueless about the others.

 

Bears

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2013 by chamimage
Brown Bear in Fall Tundra

Brown Bear in Fall Tundra

I spent some time working on bear images this week for an image request, so thought I would share some of them. It turns out that many of my bear images are old, shot on film. It might be time to go to bear country and get some new ones.

The bear above was photographed in Denali National Park in Alaska in autumn (first week of September in Denali, then it snows). He is packing on weight before hibernation by eating berries, which I learned actually have a lot of fat, especially soap berries along the rivers. This guy is standing in arctic blueberries. The Denali bears are smaller than the Kodiak bears further south in Alaska because they don’t get the protein and fat from fish runs. It was obviously a good berry year, this guy was a bruiser!

Grizzly_Banff

Grizzly_Banff

This was the prettiest bear I’ve ever seen. She was on Mt. Norquay near Banff Township, Alberta. She is relatively young.

Wet Grizzly_Banff

Wet Grizzly_Banff

This guy is very similar in age to the above bear so we wondered if they were siblings. He was feeding on dandelions along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park. Apparently bears love dandelions. Who knew? In Banff the rangers were very aggressive about hazing bears that were close to the road. In The Will of the Land, Peter Dettling describes watching bears that recognized ranger trucks and hid themselves until the ranger was gone, then came back out to feed. They are not stupid.

Last fall I watched a bear, not far from where this was taken, that was so engrossed in eating grain that spilled from train cars that I never did get a good shot of him. A bear trap was set nearby to move him away from the tracks where he was in danger of being hit by a train. He did run away when the train came while I was there, then came right back. If they eat too much grain it shocks their digestive system and they could die. It took them about three days to finally catch him, or give up because he moved on, I am not certain which. Apparently he preferred the grain to whatever bait they hung in the trap. Or he was smart enough to know a trap when he saw it.

Grizzly_Yellowstone

Grizzly_Yellowstone

I found this young bear in a meadow on Blacktail Plateau in Yellowstone one evening. In every shot I took he had his head behind a clump of grass or a weed. I think he actually thought he was hiding here. He is probably in his first year away from mom.

The best place to photograph grizzlies is in the Kenai and Kodiak area in Alaska. I have been hesitant to go there because it is expensive ($5,000-6,000) and all of the images from there have a sameness about them, but I would go if I could afford it. The price just keeps moving down on my list. It would be a great place to get cub photos. June and August are the peak times there. I am trying to get back up to Denali National Park in autumn. Yellowstone and Banff are hit and miss for bears, and you’ll probably be shoulder to shoulder with thirty other photographers. Hardly a wilderness experience, but there is so much else to do in Yellowstone, a bear photo is icing on the cake.  I was all alone with the little guy above. It was getting kind of dark and I shot this at ISO 3200 on my Nikon D3. The noise was surprisingly minimal.

Bonding with Art

Posted in Philosophy and Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2012 by chamimage
Face Rock

Face Rock

Our gallery exhibit opening on Saturday was well-attended. So much so that I was exhausted at the end of the day from being so charming all afternoon non-stop. Being an unnatural state for me I’m sure it took a more concerted effort on my behalf than for a normal person.

I recently read an article on what makes people connect to a piece of art enough to buy it and take it home and hang it on their wall where they look at it every day. The article made me even more attentive to the comments I overheard Saturday on my prints.

The above image sold and was the print most people wanted to discuss (I wish I had photographs of the framed prints because my framer did an outstanding job). The blues kind of sucked them in, and then the surprise of finding the face in the rock kept them looking. I know for me it is the color that I relate to. I’m a sucker for blue.

Del Norte Redwoods

Del Norte Redwoods

This image also sold. It can have so many meanings to different people. For a spiritual person the cathedral lighting might represent the presence of spirit. An interior designer might just like the color or a pattern. I think this one is harder for me to articulate why I love it, I just do. Probably because I have the memory of coming upon this scene one evening and being just awe-struck by it.

Big Ben_London

Big Ben_London

This was not a new piece for the opening, but was still hanging nearby from the exhibit last spring and it was commented on a lot. I take it as a compliment that people had a hard time believing that it was a photographic print and I did not paint on it.

 

Moonset on Bow Valley Parkway

Moonset on Bow Valley Parkway

I used this image on the announcement and many people wanted to see it in person. For some reason it didn’t resonate with most people, but was deeply loved by at least one person. I knew going in that this one would be a love it/hate it piece. Photographers wanted to know how I got that intense blue color. Well, I intentionally under-exposed it (meaning at the time to make a composite with a properly exposed image) and I used auto white balance, which failed to compensate for it being o-dark-thirty in the morning. I liked it so much I didn’t dare color correct it in post or make the composite image.

TC

TC

I did sneak a print of my dog into the show, and the gallery owner liked it best, and many people wanted to discuss my dog, which was fun, but nobody seemed to bond with the print. But if you showed this print to enough people, it would trigger a memory in someone of a dog or a time in their life, or a relationship, and they would love it. You just need to get your work out there for people to find.

And what have I bonded with lately?

Lake Louise Boat House

Lake Louise Boat House

I just printed this image and I’m taking it to the framer’s today. I’m a sucker for blue.

Peyto Lake

Posted in Photo Stories, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by chamimage

Peyto Lake

I had been to Peyto Lake once before, with a workshop in 1998. We all walked to the official overlook and took the cliche overlook photograph. I just did a search on Flickr and there are 67 pages of photos almost exactly like the one below.

Peyto Lake

This image was actually from last month. I still have the images I took in 1998, but they are too embarrassing to share. Perhaps there has been some growth in the intervening 14 years, eh?

I almost didn’t even stop because this lake has been photographed so many times. But then I decided to challenge myself to come up with something different. To that end I took only one lens, the 24-70 mm. Big mistake. I had forgotten what a rather long,  steep climb it is up to the overlook from the parking lot (the tour bus only lot is much closer). I gave a cursory look off of the official viewing platform and moved on.

If you go further uphill there is a nice loop trail and at the head of the loop trail there is a side trail that goes out to another overlook. It’s not exactly a big secret, but is just enough extra work and requires enough reading of signs, etc. that I was all alone there most of the time.

I saw the photo I wanted, the one at the top of this post, but was not equipped with the proper lens to take the shot.

Because it is such a climb to get up there and because I had other things I wanted to do that day I vowed to return another day. That is usually a mistake, but this time I pulled it off. To paraphrase Galen Rowell – “If you like what you see, shoot it now. If you like it better later, shoot it again.” In other words don’t pass up a good shot thinking that the light will be better later.  The problem with later is, things change. The weather changes, roads close, trees fall down. Trust me, I’ve been burned by waiting for later enough times I’ve learned not to fall for it. You can never go back and take the exact same image twice. It is always different.

Of course it snowed the next day and the temperature never got much above freezing after that so my return a few days later was a bit more adventurous, with ice patches on much of the trail. There were a lot fewer hikers to find me on that remote part of the trail had I fallen and broken a hip.

Peyto Lake

If I make it up there again some day I will bring an even longer lens with me. I want to see what a photograph of just that inlet carrying the lighter, silt-laden water from the glacier a half mile away would look like.

The lessons are: 1.) There is always a different image to be had, even in the cliche places. 2.) If you have to hike to get there, bring more than one lens. Cover at least 24-200 mm and consider if there might be macro shots, as well. 3.) Never put off getting your image now, on the assumption that you can come back later. I pulled it off this time, but I was lucky they didn’t close the access road, that the trail wasn’t totally impassable, that the weather didn’t sock in for the rest of the week…

The Boat House

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by chamimage

Lake Louise Boat House

This photograph was taken on a very cold morning at Lake Louise last month. It is really the first image I have processed from the Nikon D4 that I noticed a significant improvement in resolution. Until this photograph I really couldn’t tell you whether I had used the D3 or D4 other than the D4 images are physically larger when viewed at 100%. But the trees behind the boat house definiteley have much more detail than the D3 could have done.

I like it. Maybe once I sell my D300 I should consider a D600 with 24 MP.

It looks like I was the only one there that morning. It was still early so the crowds were just crowds and not huge crowds yet, they had just not ventured down the snowy, icy path to the closed for the season boat house yet.

They waited until I went down there to take pictures of the canoes and then they all came and stood in my way.

Moraine Lake Canoe

It was a good thing I went over and  photographed this canoe at Moraine Lake when I did because as I was finishing up with it the crew was starting to pack up all of the boats for the season. It was October 1st. It snowed very shortly afterward and was frozen solid at Moraine Lake after that so, yeah, the season for canoeing was pretty much over.

Banff

Posted in Natural History, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by chamimage

Emerald Lake_Yoho

Things I learned in Banff last week:

1. The Canadian Rockies are still beautiful. It had been 14 years since I had visited.

2. You really do need to keep shooting photographs to keep in practice. I made a whole bunch of stupid mistakes the first couple of days.

3. The new Nikon D4 has, for some reason, turned the exposure meter in the viewfinder upside down as opposed to the previous six Nikon cameras I have owned. I have been shooting long enough that I usually dial in exposure compensation without looking in the viewfinder so this caused some problems. After an embarrassingly long time I finally found the sub menu that turned the exposure meter readout back right-side up. THEN the main command dial dialed the exposure the wrong direction so I had to go back in and find a sub menu that let me reverse that as well.

4. I use the function button on the front of the camera for the virtual horizon so I don’t have to purchase ($35) and use one of those hot shoe bubbles that I always manage to break off. The virtual horizon in my brand new, extremely expensive Nikon D4 does not work. Neither does the multi-selector on the back of the camera you use to go back through images (chimp). Okay, it sort of works. Press it three times it might finally back up one image, or two images at one time. Or not. Not stuff that is worth sending the camera in to Nikon repair and never see it again for a month, but irksome in a brand new camera. The important stuff all works.

Aspen Grove

5. One of the reasons I went to Banff was to try to shoot a calendar photo of an elk. I failed. One reason is because elk are getting to be scarce in Banff. They have had to bring elk up from Yellowstone to maintain the breeding capacity. Not sure why. Wolf haters blame wolves, but they have always had wolves in Banff. The wolves did come into town and kill the tame local elk, which they weren’t really supposed to do. Of course they shot them for fear of the big bad wolf. These elk are as far north as elk can survive so it could be that heavier snow fall has simply made it impossible for them to survive winter. They don’t have a National Elk Reserve to migrate to in winter like the Yellowstone elk do.

6. Another reason I didn’t get a calendar photo of an elk is because the backgrounds are awful in Banff. Banff is woodsy, compared to Yellowstone, and there are either bushes and branches right behind the elk or there is a sloping road cut bank right behind the elk. The elk don’t spend much time in meadows in Banff.

Rocky Mountain Elk Bull

7. Bull elk frolic in meadows. I photographed a relatively small bull elk for about an hour one evening as he grazed along. At the end of the hour he inexplicably ran off. “Was it something I said?” I asked. I walked around some trees, expecting he would come out the other side into a large meadow. He did. He walked for a while and then he broke into a run again…and he frolicked. I have seen caribou in Alaska run around all of a sudden in response to a Bot fly up their nose so I can’t discount that as a possible explanation. Looked like play to me, dancing sideways and throwing his antlers around. The bull elk in Banff all seemed relatively good-natured in comparison with the Yellowstone bulls that savage cars and fight endlessly. Even when the largest herd of cows got spread out and was split in half by a competing bull one morning there was no battle. The two bulls just walked uphill side by side as though they were defining an imaginary boundary line and then one went one direction and the other the other direction and that was it. Near Lake Louise, where there are seemingly no cow elk, I saw six bulls feeding together as they do, but not during the autumn rut.

Frolicking Bull Elk

8. It is always a thrill to see a wild wolf. I didn’t get great shots, but I got to photograph them. The wolves are doing a bit better in Banff than they were twenty years ago. They are run over by cars all too frequently. A major highway bisects Banff. It has fences along it and wildlife overpasses and underpasses to minimize the carnage, but one female wolf got hit despite the fence and others got hit when a tree fell on the fence and it took forever to get it fixed. There is no fence along the Bow Valley Parkway and if you do the speed limit (60 km/hr or 45 mph) you will be constantly tailgated by speeders. Constantly. Even in town there is a Welcome to Banff sign followed by a sign warning that there have been way too many bear, wolf, cougar, and deer deaths along this road. They continue to use salt on icy roads instead of magnesium so the bighorn sheep are crucified when they go on the road to lick the salt. They can afford to build fences and wildlife overpasses, but not to use magnesium on icy roads?

Wild Timber Wolf

9. Water from the Bow River, which originates in the Bow Glacier above, you guessed it, Bow Lake in Banff, flows all the way to Lake Huron. Water from the Athabasca River, originating in the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper flows all of the way to the Arctic Ocean and down the Frazier River to the Pacific Ocean. Impressive.

Bow River

10. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on October 8th. I got a two-fer this year.

Happy Halloween from the Bow Valley Parkway