Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Photo of the Day - Newfoundland Icebergs

Locked in the heart of the longest, coldest winter I can remember in the twenty years I've lived in the Canadian Rockies, my thoughts naturally turned to snow this morning when I saw yet another fresh skiff on the front steps.  So when I started thinking of what today's Photo of the Day should be, my thoughts first turned to snow again...but I figured that was too easy.  Snowy, wintery shot, blah, blah, blah, boring!  So to spice it up today I have turned to snow's close cousin, ice, and to really step outside of the box, I've posted a couple that I thought told an interesting story from my trip in 2009 to Newfoundland to photograph icebergs (yet again, this is what happens when you're two years behind in editing, you start to think that shots from 2009 are 'current' and 'Photos of the Day' because, well, they are photos that I'm working on today!

The reason I thought these two photos were interesting is because they were taken mere minutes apart with one small difference.

Twin icebergs along the northeast coast of Newfoundland

The first shot is a 30 second exposure at f22 at ISO 50 with my 17-40 mm lens set at 21 mm.  I have it at 21 mm to avoid vignetting because I've got a polarizing filter and a 5-stop neutral density filter on (these filters show vignetting on the 17-40 at 17-19 mm) to maximize the length of the exposure and bring out the subtle late afternoon colours on an otherwise cloudy, colourless day.  I was also hoping to smooth out the wave action of the surf hitting the shoreline, which this long exposure really did well.

Then I began wondering what my long-lost blue-gold polarizer would look like in this situation.  I used to use the blue-gold quite a bit back in the Velvia film days to add colour to scenes and to help me feel more like I was creating art rather than just capturing exactly what I saw in a scene.  Unfortunately, digital cameras don't quite see and interpret the blue-gold filter the same way as film did, so the filter has been relegated to the back shelves of my filter bag over the past six years, rarely used and rarely needed.

Icebergs on the north coast of Newfoundland photographed with a blue-gold polarizing filter

I put the filter on and to my surprise, it rendered what looked like a rich, reddish image (30 second exposure at f13) on my camera's LCD.  Sure enough, when I was going through my edits yesterday, this image stood out in the batch of otherwise drab images from that sunless day.  And while I still really like the original without the creative red colouring, this is easily one of my favourites of the trip.  It certainly uses a bit of creative licensing, but then again, that's what landscape photography is often all about!

Your thoughts?

Happy shooting,

John

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dropping the Big Lens - The Pain, The Agony

I have had many near disasters in my photography career.  From semis threatening to run me off the road (thank you Alaska Highway Milepost 724 for having a tiny bit of shoulder that didn't exist elsewhere) to camera lenses somehow dying mid-trip (2,413 Yukon landscape pictures tossed because of a malfunctioning lens that suddenly developed a soft spot 2/3rds of the way up and to the right) to back brakes going the way of the dinosaur on the Dempster:

Mechanic: "Your back brakes aren't actually there."

Me (glazed over, punched-in-the-head look): "What do you mean?"

Mechanic: "I mean the pads aren't actually there, they've fallen out or something."

But few things can compare to dropping my prized work possessions, my Canon 500mm f4 lens attached to my 1D Mk IV body; a total bill of $13,000 if I were to have to replace them. 

Yet that is exactly what happened on February 16th, 2011 during my Jasper wildlife workshop.  They dropped, and they broke.  Perhaps shattered would be an even better word, as pieces of metal and 'things' went flying all over the place.  That it happened in a conference room downstairs in the Sawridge Inn on a Friday night while I was giving a little talk to the participants on how to use a Wimberley tripod head with a big lens on it (first, you screw it on properly, then, you lift it up high in the air so everyone can see it, then you watch in slow motion as the lens and camera, obviously not properly screwed on, do a penguin-ish belly flop off the tripod six long feet down onto a hard carpeted floor) was simply an extra kick to the head.  This is how NOT to do it was apparently the lesson my big lens and camera had in mind.

The funny thing is, I barely even flinched, which is more than I can say for the workshop participants.  Hendrik Boesch, a good friend of mine from Calgary, almost cried.  He felt the pain, I realized the irony and felt the agony later that night in the hotel room as I thought to myself, "Seriously, you're telling me that I traipse all over one of the most rugged countries on earth for 16 years carrying this beast of a lens through rain, snow, and sleet and yet I break it in a hotel conference room while giving a talk?!"

But here's where the story gets good.  Back in June 2010, Canon Canada launched a new and improved CPS (Canon Professional Services) department to handle disasters like mine.  I signed up right away and paid the hefty fee ($300+), hoping it would give me piece of mind if the occasion to need it should arise.  So on Sunday night when I arrived home from Jasper I left a long and detailed voice mail on the Canon CPS toll-free line, lamenting my bad luck and careless handling and asking them what they might be able to do.  I needed repairs (I desperately hoped I only needed repairs and not an entirely new lens and body!) and I needed replacements as fast as possible.

To my surprise, Monday morning rolled around and I didn't hear a thing from them.  So by 10 a.m. MST I decided it was time to call in again to see what was going on.  They apologized immediately for not "having time to call me back yet" because "we've been busy making sure a new 500 and 1D IV for you gets out with the courier this morning and we figured we'd worry about your potential repairs once we had a lens and body in your hands again."

I was flabbergasted.  Within four business hours on Monday morning they had fired off a new 500 and 1D IV for my use via next day courier and indeed, by Tuesday at 10 a.m. I had the replacements.  In an instant, that $300 fee became worth every penny.  But it gets better: I sent in my lens and body that Monday afternoon and had them both back in my hands, fully repaired and functional (for a mere $700!!), by the next Monday afternoon.

Now that's what I call service.  So much so that I felt I had to write about it and tell those of you that shoot with Canon gear to get onto this program sooner than later, as it's well worth the money.

So on that happy note, I present you with today's Photo of the Day, which is actually a shot from two springs ago (I'm starting to get the itch already!) of a beautiful big male grizzly that I ran into on the Kootenay Parkway in early May.

A gorgeous male grizzly in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia

This image is part of the editing frenzy I've been going through lately...on Monday I blogged that I had finally finished editing 2008, well, today I'm almost through all of 2009 -- just four folders of images left to go!

Happy shooting (and editing).

John

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