Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Photo Restoration 2

A second photo restoration challenge was presented by the following image scanned with a consumer grade table top scanner and emailed to me. The photo was from my mother's photo album and was taken of her and her siblings when they were much younger than they are today.

The main challenges of the photo, were very heavy grain/noise and the overall darkness of the image, with a lack of detail in the shadows. I think the photo was taken at noonish as there are strong shadows under the eyes and under the caps. In addition, the photo (or at least the scan) is not critically sharp anywhere, so I was faced with a challenge to restore detail while trying to keep the noise from getting out of control. Most techniques which lead to greater sharpness or perceived sharpness will cause the already heavy grain/noise to be magnified.

About 1.5 hours of work, starting with cropping, noise reduction, followed by spot removal and then contrast/detail enhancement, and finally toning, led to the following image. The final image (this is a reduced for web version which has lost detail as a result of downsizing) should make a nice 4.5 x 3.5 print (trust me- it looks much nicer before being downsized for the web). It could of course be upsized to make a larger print, though I wouldn't push this image too far... I also made a more extravagant framed version which you see below. This could be suitable for a legacy print hanging on a salon wall.

Angel #2

Taken at the same time at the one below, Élysia was 27 months old when this photo was taken.


At the same time that I was shooting baby Charlotte pictured below, my kids jumped in and wanted to be photographed. This was taken while we were setting up, and essentially I used Élysia to get the lights right. I was using one off-camera SB600 shot through an umbrella, very close to the floor. She is lying on a background fabric of black velvet.

A Walk in the Park

Since I'm on a roll... this is another photo taken in the Park on Sunday. Élysia was enjoying a free ride..she was officially a wee bit tired...

November Challenge #2: Oil Tank #1

Another 'find' on our sunday outing in Gatineau Park was an ancient, discarded oil tank (or something like that). I took a few quick bracketed images and have worked up a quick, grungy take on the oil tank. This is a bit of a new technique that I'm experimenting with. Not sure this is anything really special but it is a different perspective on a discarded relic of a bye-gone industrial era.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Baby Charlotte

In late August some friends came down from Montreal and we took some pictures of their adorable little baby girl Charlotte. I was starting to process some of the photos and rather liked this one.

The last rose of summer...

In fact, this may indeed have been one of the last roses of summer for us. As the rest have been rather fried by the frosts. I played around a bit with some framing on this...not sure about the squiggles..but...

November Challenge #1

First up in my personal challenge to take 4 pictures outside during the month of November, is a photo taken on a sunday afternoon walk in the Gatineau Park with my family. Our kids love going for walks in the forest, and Mattias, like so many children, loves to find 'treasures'. If he were being all 'artsy' and grown-up, he'd call them 'found objects'. Instead, these are simply 'treasures'.

Matt's a pirate of course, and pirates have treasures. Matt's also a child, and it is really true that the eyes of a child see the world so completely differently, so innocently, so curiously...than we do as adults. Mattias found these items - a rock and a leaf - while walking in the forest - the enchanted garden of his youth.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November Challenge

November is not typically a month that folks get excited about: winter's setting in, Fall's symphony of colour has past, most of the leaves have fallen and the emerging dominant colour, in much of Canada anyway, is drab brown. Given this relatively hostile environment for inspiration, I have decided to set myself a challenge in order to get myself shooting, and to get myself outside. Here's my project:

During the month of November I will shoot at least four photos outside that I am happy with enough to post on this blog. Notionally this means that at least once a week during the month of November I must shoot outside and shoot enough to have a 'keeper'. Beyond that I have no rules. They can be landscape, environmental name it. The goal is to shoot. And raise the bar. And get outside.

Photo Restoration

The photo above is of my grandparents, John and Lily Johnson, taken on their wedding day in the early part of the 20th century in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. My father scanned this in with a cheap desktop scanner and sent it to me, so I thought I'd give it a quick run to see what I could do quickly. In the space of about two hours I fixed up most of the obvious scratches, stains etc, and fixed the colour balance to bring the wedding dress back to white. I did a number of other fixes, including adjustments to the density, tonality and contrast, as well as some noise reduction (the scan is full of colour splotches for some reason). I'm relatively pleased with the result which I think should make a decent print - and a much much better print than the original. I don't actually know the size of the original, but the scanned file was 4x6. The final below, with added canvas and framing, will print at 8x10.

Newborn 2

I think it was some recent events in my larger family (health scares, relationship virages) that led me back to older photos of my children. When the status quo is threatened we cling to what we have? I know as a parent I often find refuge inside the family - in the incredibly unconditional love of my children.

This photo was also taken when my daughter had just been born and was being introduced to her 'big' brother.


I've recently been looking at some older photos and applying new techniques to them. In this one, I've taken a photo of my daughter as a newborn, shot during the day, and reinterpreted it to give it a nighttime feel. Feeling that it was a bit cold though, I brushed on some warmth to the cheeks/face area of mother and daughter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Matt's Haircut 2

So I thought I would post another photo from the 'haircut' session that I started this blog off with back on May 17 ( ) Unlike that image, this is more of a "straight" shot without any special treatment.
What a perfect child! (oops, did I say that?) I guess I'm allowed to be a proud daddy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Humam & Mitzi

In September my wife and I had the pleasure of being invited to a friends' wedding in Manhattan. Four days off! We left the kids at home and jetted off to New York. We always enjoy Manhattan, and this time was no exception. With a few other Canadian friends we had a grand ole time at a fabulous wedding and played our part in making sure Humam and Mitzi were properly wedded and feted! Some shopping and sightseeing later and we were back in Ottawa.

While a bit of a whirlwind, we really enjoyed our time, and I managed to take quite a few photos at the wedding. This is a shot taken during the couple's first dance. I had decided to go light on equipment, so wasn't kitted out with much. But I chose a fast lens and a flash. I also took the Central Park pano posted earlier at this event - just at the moment when we all went up to the penthouse reception (planned by Mitzi so we would all catch the sunset over Central Park!) See:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Creative Livings

Recently in a post on The Online Photographer (incidentally one of the finest photography related blogs on the net) entitled Creative Livings, Mike Johnson wrote about the role of an Art School education. A particular quote stuck with me and continues to resonate:

"For individuals who have an artistic temperament, not practicing art in some way or other can be unhealthy. .......... Creative work, whatever it might be, is an appetite, a need. Trivializing it somewhat, I sometimes call it an itch. (If I don't write something every day, it drives me nuts.) People who have talent and aptitude for art are unlikely to be happy if they're not incorporating art and artistic creativity into their lives somehow."

This is infinitely true for me, though oddly enough something I've only discovered in adulthood. Not sure why. I try to explain it to those close to me, but my words seem hollow and self-serving, as if trying to justify why I need time to work on my own projects... I won't carry on. Mike said it better than I could.

Élysia Renée

So it is reasonable for one to think from the bulk of the posts here that I am primarily a landscape photographer. In fact that is not the case. I rarely in fact engage in landscape work - spending most of my time with children (my own?) and on portraiture. Odd then that I have so few posts of people here.

Although I have many more NB photos coming, I will start adding a few more portraits of differing types.

The two photos today are of my lovely daughter Élysia Renée. The first is a photo I recently rediscovered and reworked - taken within an hour or two of her birth. The second was taken within the last two months, so she is two years old. I like them both and think the earlier a particularly nice portrait of 'mother and child', while the second is a really nice capture of her gentle, friendly spirit. She is such a joy. Parenting, while constantly challenging, is possibly the most rewarding thing I've ever engaged in.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Coastal Rocks, Bay of Fundy

Continuing on the Bay of Fundy theme, this photo was part of a pano that I've been unable to stitch together in its entirety. It seems the combination of a little more than 200 degrees + vast expanses of water with little detail to note, have made this particular pano difficult. I will still be able to prepare a pano - just not as big as I thought when I was taking it. Chalk it up to failure of technique.

In spite of that, I've got some nice shots. This was taken just before the sun actually came up, looking away from the sun, down the coast. The image was taken from below the lighthouse.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fundy Trail Sunrise

Just ten odd kilometres down the road from St. Martin's/Quaco is a new provincial tourist development called the Fundy Trail. See: It's a very lovely scenic highway still under development with lookouts over amazing scenery and nice paths down to rocky beaches. We spent some time there, and in fact hope to return next year to hike the Fundy Footpath, a 5 day wilderness hike.

I accidentally met Brian Clark, the General Manager of the Trail while visiting, and one thing led to another and the fine gentleman offered to get up veery early and let me in before the gates opened, to do a sunrise shoot! What service! An unexpected level of committment from a fine public servant!

As it turns out, Brian even took me to several nice shooting spots. I took several hundred photos as the sun came up, and I hope soon to put together one of the panoramas that I took. But for now, here is a shot - also HDR - of the sunrise on the Fundy Trail. This shot was taken shortly before the sun actually came over the horizon. What an amazing morning that was - so peaceful and beautiful. I really can't wait to return!

Anvil Rock, Quaco, Sunset

By contrast to the last photo, this was taken at sunset, with the blazing sun flooding the rock with yellow light. This was taken from the beach.

Anvil Rock, Quaco, NB

Right in front of our cottage on the Bay of Fundy was a beautiful rock called Anvil Rock. It is quite similar to the Hopewell Rocks and other 'plant pot' rocks in the Bay, which are shaped over milleniums by the movement of water in and out of the Bay.

This image is taken from the front porch of our cottage after sunset when the light was very soft.

Sunrise from Lighthouse

Another shot taken the same morning, looking away from the lighthouse, towards the sunrise. The cloud blanket made for a very interesting framing - almost a lid on the picture.

Quaco Lighthouse

One can hardly go to the east coast and not photograph a lighthouse, now can you? I only photographed the one - in West Quaco. It was near enough to our cottage and so one morning I got up a 4am and drove up and waited for the sunrise...

The Bay of Fundy is quite remarkable - as there are virtually no waves. But there is this incredible movement of water in and out of the Bay every twelve hours. At this time of the morning the only sound was this sound of water rushing out of the Bay. It was the sound of water rushing over rocks - much like the rapids on a river. It was quite beautiful.

I took a series of panos which I am still working on. However, here is a shot of the Quaco Lighthouse at dawn.

West Quaco Sunset, NB

Staying with the West Quaco cottage theme, this is an image taken out the back of our rental cottage at sunset. We had very dramatic skies during our stay there. It seemed to rain for an hour or two every day, then clear up. So in the lead up and afterwards we often had fabulously dramatic skies.

Again this is an HDR photo.

West Quaco Cottages, Fundy Coast, NB

Since I'm a roll (?), let me continue. This summer our family rented a cottage in beautiful West Quaco/St. Martin's, New Brunswick. Only half an hour from St. John's NB, it was situated right on the Bay of Fundy, and proved to be a most relaxing holiday. Aside from the occasional car passing, all we could hear was the wind, birds and faintly, at night, the ocean. The Bay of Fundy is considered one of the Wonders of the World, and certainly of Canada. We enjoyed ourselves so much we are thinking of going back next year to exactly the same spot.
I recently began to experiment with HDR photography (see previous post), and so the next few posts will be HDR images - typically three to five images combined in Photomatix followed by post processing in CS3. I'm just learning this technique but having lots of fun with it. You can create images that are simply impossible to create with 'straight' photography short of very very advanced PS work = lots of time.

The photo above was taken from the beach looking back towards the cottages in West Quaco, at sunset.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Central Park Sunset Pano

Je m'excuse. Mea culpa. I haven't posted for aaages. But, I am at least comforted that I HAVE BEEN shooting! which was the point of this little exercise in the first place. So, I have tons of stuff to post, and will start doing so forthwith - what with a recent holiday on the Fundy Coast in New Brunswick, a trip to NYC and of course the ever-present kiddies which are my most photographed item...

Anyway, today I am posting a first cut at a hand-held pano that I took at a wedding reception on the weekend, overlooking Central Park, in NYC. Stitched together in CS3, it is made of 9 HDR images, so 27 photos originally!

I broke every rule in the book: hand holding at sunset, 50mm f1.8 wide open, no tripod..but..i tried to overlap all photos and I bracketed three shots each time. So, herewith the view from the 52nd floor penthouse of the Parker Meridien Hotel, midtown Manhattan, at sunset.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Matt's Haircut

For my first image post, I am admittedly choosing an image not shot this week - but it was shot quite recently. It is of my three year old son Mattias, right after he got a haircut.

From an image-design standpoint the image is not 'perfect' on a number of points. Perhaps primarily I'm breaking a 'rule' about cutting off heads and body parts. However, for me the photo, in spite of being cut off a bit close to the eye, has a certain dynamism to it - I like the eyes looking upwards to the top right of the photo, and the positioning of the face on the left side of the image. There is for me a certain 'creative tension' in the image which makes it dynamic, and thus supercedes what might otherwise be seen simply as a cropping error.

On the subject of it's value as an image - if a photograph is an accurate representation of reality, but a portrait is a representation of the soul, then for me this image clearly is in the realm of portrait. With the pastel treatment I gave it, it is not 'realistic'; but yet it captures the impishness of a 3 year old boy in a very special way which transcends the moment and, I suspect, connects with any parent. It is, in that way, both a portrait and a more general statement about childhood...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Purpose of this Blog

The purpose of this blog is simple: to challenge myself to post one new picture per week, for one year. The reason: to force myself, through a type of artificial project, to be creative. Or, more specifically, to use discipline - external or intrinsic - to foster and nurture my creativity behind the lens.

I recently heard said: 'the best time to plant an oak tree is twenty years ago. The second best time to plant an oak tree is today.' With that in mind, I start this blog today. I had intended to start this blog Jan 1, and make it a 'one-year' project...but that didn't happen. So I'm starting today.

I do fear, in launching this, that either I won't be able to stick to it, or that my images won't be worthy, and also that this project may demand too much time that I should be spending with my children/family. While these fears (and others) are real and valid, they seem resolvable...

Thus, with no further ado, I shall launch this little project, noting that it is an essentially private exercise - though the use of the public web-space makes that some somewhat ironic. Those of you who read this and are yourselves artists will understand the important role of critique and support to the development of an artist. This is essential to develop both aesthetic sensibilities and craftsmanship - mastering the tools of one's craft. Thus, I embrace and invite critique and comments on what you see here. I am on a journey and this little blog is but one step along the way.

Glenn Mason