To all ye who want to paint with light ...

I should have started this blog many moons ago as I started experiencing the joys of rediscovering the art of photography. But as the saying goes - it's better late, than never!
So, here I am, in the hopes of recording what I learn as I progress from ignorance to enlightenment; about what my eyes can see that my camera can capture; and, what my mind imagines and my camera paints with its capabilities.

Please feel free to add any comments and share your wisdom (tips or tricks) that you have picked up along the way.

And do check out my How-To and Birding pages as well.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 54 - So I missed posting yesterday

No excuses, except that I fell asleep in the evening and then never got around to taking a photo.  I had a ton to do around the house to get ready for another batch of students tomorrow.  And this time it's going to be three students instead of two - so a little bit more work than usual.

I went out taking pictures with a colleague in the middle of the afternoon.  We walked up and down the quaint streets of Old Montreal and got a few interesting shots.   I really loved the time I spent walking around and I should try to do it more often.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 53 - Hope I'm not caught cheating!

Actually, I'll just admit it - I got home really late from work, and I was too exhausted to pick up my camera.  I'd promised my son Butter Chicken for dinner since he didn't get to try it on the day I cooked it for class.  I had to keep that commitment - so it was a no photo day.

I'm posting a frame from last Sunday.  I suddenly find myself fascinated by high key, and I'm going to try it whenever I can.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 52 - Mad at myself for messing up

I had one of the best photo ops today of catching a female mallard preening.  She comes right upto where I was waiting in the wetlands in the forest conservation area behind where I live.  Earlier, I had been trying to get some birds in flight, so you can guess what my camera settings were.. and then of course missy forgets to change the settings when the real opportunity presents itself.

All I got were dark shots that got absolutely noisy when I tried to lighten them up.  Lessons learned - 1) Always check your camera settings as soon as you turn on the machine. 2) Always check your photo before you fire away with your camera thinking it to be a light machine gun.

So, once I cleaned them up a little, this is all I have for today. I'm really disappointed because I have nothing worthwhile after two hours on a wild goose chase (well, quite literally)!

From my hiding place at the river's edge

Day 51 - Lots of food, lots of fotos

Had another great class today!  My students for the day were my friendly neighbours.  I'd been apprehensive if at the end of the class I'd be leaving them with a great experience where they'd be happy to bump into me, or just give me a cross look and pass me by.  I kept my friends, fortunately! ;-)

Too much cooking since yesterday, and then cleaning up after - I was exhausted and smelling of curry from head to toe.  So, I just decided to get some fresh air and feed the ducks some breadcrumbs, since I'd disappointed them last time.  I brought a lot with me and threw them around all over the place.   And the birds and the squirrels rewarded me for my generosity (ahem)! 

I also ran into my friends with their newborn daughter and clicked a couple of photos of the baby (not posting them without permission).  So, it was portraits of birds, flowers, animals and babies.  I even did a few quick gerbera shots and reflections before I went for my walk.  

The next one is a shot at high key.  Need to practise this.

I definitely need a macro lens for shots like the one below.  I couldn't get in much closer than about 10 ft to get in close to the ladybug - I was leaning over the railing of a bridge and a little bit more would have seen me land on my face on the hiking trail.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 50 - Happy students = Satisfied instructor

Since I had been going on and on about my cooking lessons, you might recall that today was supposed to be the first one (of hopefully many more).  My students were extremely happy and if success could be measured simply by seeing if your students return, then mine was a great success!  They've already signed up for a second one, and one of them has also indicated that they'd come back for a third!  Of course, that being said, I have to now start thinking about ways to improvise lessons for the returning students.

No serious photography done today - too tired!  So, I just took a few pictures of my pink gerberas in the vase (handheld).  I'm greatly disappointed by the amount of noise I'm seeing at low ISOs.  Since it was indoors, and the vase was far from the window. I had bumped up the ISO to 200.  

However, for two of my low ISO shots, when I tried to reduce the noise in iPhoto, I found a strange line through the frame (sample image below - see the line and the discolouration towards the right of the frame).  I remember seeing this in another one of my photos not too long ago.  I'm not sure why this is happening, so maybe some can shed someone light?  

See the next image - every other setting is the same, except ISO is at 200, but there is no line through this at all.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 49 - Mango Lassi

Great yogurt and mango cooler for  a warm day.  Today wasn't so warm (at least not indoors ;-)) but I had to get a snap for my recipe for tomorrow's class.  So!

I wanted to try different angles, but I'm so tired from having worked on my project till 3:00 a.m. and then barely getting 4 hours of sleep, I'm pooped.  And, there's still so much to prep to teach my first class tomorrow.

Day 48 - A hint of green captured on my phone

Montreal is slowly getting back it's verdure and that's making me really happy.  I'm seeing some dandelions here and there as well, which means lots of wildflowers to photograph - soon! :-)

A few shots of greenery in the heart of the city.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 47 - Old Montreal

Just a quick post today of photos taken during lunch hour.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 46 - Of rainbows and woodpeckers

On my walk back home, I stopped by at the little lake where the ducks usually are, but they weren't there.  I was wondering what I'd do for the photo of the day when I caught a slight movement in one of the trees as I was passing by it.  The sun kept slipping in and out of the clouds, so there wasn't a lot of light to see by.  And then I spotted Woody!

This was my first encounter with a woodpecker.  I've seen them from a distance, but never this close.  And the most surprising part was that it just didn't mind my standing there and clicking away.  In fact, it flew down to one of the lower branches so I could get a better view!  Amazing little guy and it's pecker was going at roughly 1500 p/s (that's 1500 pecks per second!  Well.. it's head just seemed like a blur, so I couldn't really count that accurately ;-) ).  I was really impressed!

I shot at higher ISOs at times, because I had to get a fast shutter speed since it kept getting overcast and dark and I could barely get that guy to rest for a second between the frenetic pecking.  I also used the flash a couple of times to freeze motion, but then decided to bump up the ISO instead.  I have to admit I'm not at all happy with the noise-levels at higher ISOs. Something tells me I'm going to part with my camera soon.  I'm also seriously thinking of a macro lens, although at 100 mm I have to be close enough to the subject.  Don't know what I should do.  I can see myself as more of a Nature photographer than anything else.  But what do you call someone who loves Nature but hibernates during the winter months?  A badger?  A bear?  A skunk? :=O

Going at 15 p/s

And oh, yes! I also got to see a rainbow, but the shots didn't turn out that well!

Day 45 - More cooking

Since I was too busy to post yesterday, I'm going to post twice today.

So yesterday it was Aloo Gobi (potatoes with cauliflower) and Chapatis (whole wheat Indian bread).  Neither turned out that great as I was experimenting with healthier cooking methods (grilling the vegetables first as opposed to frying them and also avoiding buttering the Chapatis after they were cooked).  I guess, I'll have to figure out better alternatives at another time.

I also experimented a little bit with my flash.  I was using the diffuser and successfully figured out the difference between a regular flash and a diffused flash.  :=)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 44 - Cooking Kheer (the Indian rice pudding variation)

Kheer means thickened milk in many of the Indian languages. However, kheer is never really consumed on its own - it always has another ingredient added to it for texture and taste.  Each region in India has its take on the Kheer - some like to cook it with rice, some with rice vermicelli, some with cream of wheat, Indian cottage cheese or paneer, and even some mild-tasting vegetables!  Yes, and fruits of course!

I made the variation with rice, having my roots in the eastern part of India, where rice is the staple for most of the population.  I adapted the recipe to my own tastes and usually add a little bit of desiccated coconut, raisins, lots of almonds, pistachios, and a generous splash of rose water.  Different flavours come together to make this really decadent.  And since this is the dessert of choice for my first batch of students, I had to do a dry run to fine-tune the process.

The pictures of the nuts and raisins were handheld - I was feeling too lazy to get the tripod out.  And I also feel a little constrained with the tripod as far as angles go.  If I want a bird's eye view of the food, I would have to put it on the floor, which I really hate doing (since my dining area was really dark today with the weather being so gloomy)!  These photos were done with my kit lens.  

I also used my new speedlight powered down to 1/16 in the third photo to illuminate the background a little bit.  Since I can't sync my flash with my camera yet, I had to handhold the flash and sync it with the shutter release.

P.S. I recently realized that my camera doesn't have a PC connector either.  So, I'm going to get hit with buying two universal translators as opposed to just one for my speedlight.  :-( 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 43 - Craving Chinese

It was too late to go out for Chinese food, and the weather isn't exactly the best today.  I had to resolve the situation by cooking up some quick noodles at home.  I like to add bok choy and chicken to my noodles, but I was missing both the ingredients.  Thus, it was time for bacon, eggs, spinach, carrots and green onions, lots of soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce and one unhealthy ingredient - MSG!  Fortunately, there are no life-threatening allergies to this, and I only ever just cook Chinese food once in a blue moon.  So, a pinch of it can't really hurt, can it?

And for the photos, I think the second and third ones are my favourites.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 42 - Breaking out my new strobe

I received it today in the mail.  This was a really cheap one (40 USD) that I'd ordered on eBay, because I didn't want something that costs me an arm and a leg to get my lighting basics in place; and it's high time for me to start learning about lighting.

So, the kit came with the flash unit, a mini stand and a pouch.  The flash unit has a softboard and diffuser and has power levels from 1/64.  It can also be used as a slave and that was interesting.  Here's what the front looks like and I forgot to snap the back!  Hmmm.. gives me an idea, I should reshoot this during the day and also try to use fill-flash for something:

Now the fun part begins!  I think I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I had bought some lens extensions on eBay as well, which turned out to be quite useless, but I kept them anyway, since I also got a set of 3 filters with it - a UV (this I didn't need), a C-PL (this is good for my second lens) and an FLD.  Now, since I was again shooting in my kitchen under a florescent, I thought that this might be a good occasion to break that out as well.  And so I did!  I didn't think it would have such a dramatic effect.  I need to do some reading on this, but I'd love to know if any of you have any experience with an  FLD.

(And the image here seems to be revolting since I can't get it to center!)

Anyway, so after this I got rid of the FLD and started to play with the angle of the flash head, using different combos of shooting with or without the softboard or the diffuser, wanting to figure out the differences.  I can't see much difference with or without the diffuser, but I definitely see differences with the softboard.  And I have to admit that this strobe isn't that powerful, but I think good enough for me to learn with for the time being.

The next couple of shots were taken with the new strobe at 1/100, without the FLD, the head parallel with the object (if I remember correctly because I didn't take notes this time).  The first one was with the softboard,  and the the second one was without it.

Then there was more fun! I took the next couple of shots in Monochrome with the WB set to tungsten, the first one with the softboard and the second one without.  The flash head was pointed towards the ceiling at 45 deg.  I think the images turned out way "cool" (literally)!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 41 - All kinds of photos

Today was filled with all kinds of photo opportunities.  A few of my colleagues and I went out on a photo shoot during our lunch hour.  We've recently started a photography club and we've been meeting once a week.  Today was our first outdoor shoot.  Nothing much can be accomplished in 45 minutes, but something is better than nothing.

We got out today and just picked one of the side streets with some interesting buildings and then walked over near the port area.  I got a few good shots from then.  Since I was using my C-PL, I tried my hand at all kinds of reflections.  I'm not too disappointed with the results, but I have to think of ways of improving the shots.

And on my way home, I spent some time with the ducks and the robins, and got a few photos of them as well.

I have to learn how to get some good shots of flying birds. I guess a tripod could be of help at times, but not in all situations.