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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 311 - The Goose Migration

The geese are back.. by the hundreds!  I heard them cackling when the howling wind decided to bring down its volume a couple of notches.

What I love to see is the formations they get into, and the way they keep that formation over huge distances - not a bird out of place.  It's like they are all tied together by some invisible rope.  This reminds me of when little kids go on outings from daycare and they all have to hold a rope so they stay in line and together.

Amazing birds!  Who taught them this?


Each of these pictures is of a different flock, but look at the amazing flight path!



These shots shouldn't really be posted, but since I was completely uninspired this evening, and the weather didn't help with the high winds and freezing temperatures, I didn't have any other option but to do some PJ type of shots.


Day 310 - It's Only Birds ...

... And birds are all I have, to take your heart away

Sorry for the bad pun, but I've had the original song "It's only words.. " going round and round in my head these past couple of days.  I somehow had to get that out of the system.

The first shot is SOOC - this sparrow dropped out of the blue and I was probably more surprised than he was.  Had I been prepared, I wouldn't have cut the tail off the poor soul.  I barely got a shot of him landing on the balcony, which I had to discard as it was totally out of focus, and then I got this one, before he took off. :(

Caught by surprise

This is a Common Grackle I found perched really high up.   I had to crop quite a bit to be able to get any detail out of this shot.

Common Grackle

And the red-winged blackbirds are back too, and what a racket they make!


Day 309 - Dessert-ed

I had a lot of leftover dessert from the evening I had guests for dinner.   They were just begging to be photographed, so I obliged of course!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 308 - Did You Observe Earth Hour?

I did!  I turned off the lights promptly at 8:30 pm and everything besides my refrigerator and stove were unplugged (and that's only because the plugs are way at the back and I couldn't get to them even after a couple of tries).

I lit a lot of candles, turned up the music on my iPod and picked up my camera.  Then, all I did was practise hand-holding my camera on a slow shutter.  I challenged myself to go as slow as I could and I hit 0.7s without any visible camera shake.  I was really elated, but unfortunately, the composition turned out pretty poor.  I deleted the shot, finally.

The following shot was taken at 0.3s and the ones after at 1/4s.

Day 307 - Guests for Dinner

My friend's lovely daughter laughs at a funny comment from mom.


Day 306 - Ravioli for Dinner

Meat Ravioli with Tomato Sauce.

Meat Ravioli with Tomato Sauce

Follow the lazy man's recipe for this delicious dish:

What you will need

  • Will to go to the grocery store
  • Canned tomato sauce (flavour of your choice)
  • Fresh meat-filled ravioli (find these in the fresh foods section)
  • Parmesan 
  • Parsley
  • Crushed chilli flakes


  1. Cook the ravioli as per the package directions.
  2. Heat the tomato sauce in a saucepan.
  3. Plate the ravioli and slop some tomato sauce over it.
  4. Garnish with parsley/sage, parmesan and chilli flakes.
Can it get any easier than that?

Day 305 - When All Else Fails ...

... capture a pigeon scavenging on the balcony!   (Shot through the balcony door)

Framed Pigeon

Day 304 - Mini Waterfall

I missed posting over the last so many days because of different reasons, mainly my being under the weather.  I did take a photo here and there, but just didn't have the energy to post.  I have decided to finally catch up, and hope I can start posting regularly again.

I have missed blog and Flickr hopping, and hope to catch up on those as well.  So, if you haven't seen me around on your blog, watch out - here I come!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 303 - Back to Winter!

Another huge dump of snow, just as I was beginning to rejoice that it was all over!

I took this shot just as the street lights came on and I noticed how beautiful the snow looked in it.  So, leaving my hot cuppa tea behind (I had been chilled standing out on the balcony shooting for at least an hour before that), I ran to get my tripod and coat and headed out again.  I got about 5 or 6 shots, because I couldn't stay out too long with my lens getting drenched in the snow.  At least now I don't have to worry about the camera body - it's weather sealed!  Yay!  The following shot is SOOC!

The next couple of shots were taken from my balcony as I mentioned above.  I was looking for lines and contrast, and found a few I liked.  This is a similar composition I had done in the past, but I still wanted to try this out with the new cam.  The first one is on a slower shutter (1/30s), while the second was on a fast shutter to freeze the falling snow so it could show up as dots instead of lines (1/180s).


Snowy Impressions

The next two shots were from my kitchen window, through bug-splattered double glass (sorry, but I had to explain how dirty my window is), and I loved the almost monochromatic scene in front of my eyes.

Winter Wonderland

Oh, Spring! Where art thou? :(

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 302 - Sunday Morning Birds

Quick post today, but not without mentioning that the nuthatch images have very minimal post-processing, besides cropping (my 250 mm lens just isn't enough to help me fill my frame with these tiny birds), and a wee bit of sharpening.

White-Breasted Nuthatch 3

White-Breasted Nuthatch

However, the Chickadee shot was a different story - I shot the image through a double-glass window, and I had to clean up the image quite a bit in post.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 301 - Butterflies Go Free!

At the butterfly exhibition -

Hanging out with the butterfly


Butterfly Macro

Day 300 - Book Review

I recently purchased three books on photography, and I thought it might be nice to share my thoughts on them as I progress.  For now, I have only managed to complete one - Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera

All three books are by Peterson, and although I normally won't buy multiple books from the same author before trying one out, I'm actually glad I did and it wasn't a mistake.

Bryan Peterson's style of writing is very lucid, and although not as entertaining as Scott Kelby's, he does a pretty good job of explaining his point.

Whatever I have ever learned of photography, was by reading, or by doing.  I used to read a lot of books, and online publications, and I have then practised what I learned from them.  When I ordered these books, I was a little bit skeptical about whether they would be worth my money or time.  I haven't had a lot of time to devote to reading lately, but I love collecting books anyway.  Therefore, I thought it might be a nice idea to add a few more volumes to my night table (since I don't really have a bookshelf/library).  But, the book reads really well and these are some of the topics Peterson discusses in this edition:

  • What is exposure?  Is it only light, or does it also refer to the image that is a result of exposing the film or sensor to light?
  • The best type of light for photography
  • How exposure is relative to shutter speed and ISO
  • Low light photography
  • How depth of field affects exposure
  • Metering and white balance
  • Filters and techniques used to achieve a good exposure
These are just a few topics that he discusses in this 176-page book.  

He covers a lot of ground and some units even have little exercises at the end that you could follow to reinforce what he explains in the preceding pages.  I thought it was a great idea!  If you're the kind that likes to read and then put your learning into practise, you will love these little mini exercises.  And what better way to really apply the theory, than by testing it?  

And of course, there are lots and lots of pictures.  Some before-and-after type of shots to elucidate his points are really helpful in seeing what he's talking about.  

But the best part of the book is the examples he chooses to explain his theories!  I loved those!  He picks on real-life examples and that makes it so easy to understand the concepts. For example, he likens the area of focus of an aperture in a camera to that of an empty bucket into which a one-gallon can of paint is poured.  

As you pour the paint into the empty bucket, some of the paint splatters up the sides of the bucket causing a spill.  However, if the paint is poured through a funnel with a tiny opening, the paint doesn't spill and there is no splatter.  Similarly, when the aperture is wide open with a small area of focus, the light comes in and renders the small area of focus really sharp, whereas the rest of the light entering the camera is like the splatter that results in the blurred, out-of-focus areas.  And when the aperture is really narrow (like the narrow opening of a funnel), the light enters the camera in a cleaner and more controlled fashion and creates a larger depth of field, i.e. a sharper image with a larger area of focus.

Peterson scatters these types of examples throughout the book, and that makes for a great read and really aids comprehension of topics that otherwise take newbies ages to grasp.  And I was no exception either.  But, even for people like myself, who have been doing photography for a while and understands the basics, it's really nice to get a refresher and discover some really neat tips and tricks that he includes in every unit.

All in all, a great book for beginners, as well and intermediate photographers.  Please look out for two more book reviews in the near future. 

Just an additional note - I recently signed up to be an Amazon Associate, so if you decide to purchase this  book, I'd really appreciate if you used the embedded link at the beginning of this post to do so.  And do drop me a line to let me know you did, or if you have any questions.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 299 - Opening Ceremony

No.. I'm not referring to any big Sporting or Cultural Event!  I'm referring to something that's way more exciting!

I finally bought my new camera!!  I finally got the Canon EOS 7D (body only) and  I'm really ecstatic about it!

The opening ceremony, thus, refers to my opening the box to reveal my most prized possession!  :=D
I know I'm a day late in sharing this with you, but some of you have already heard about it, and the rest haven't.  So here's what I found in the box -


Canon EOS 7D

And after I'd taken my first look at the camera, I decided to do what I mainly bought this camera for - check how high the ISO could go before it started creating digital noise.  There are plenty of other reasons as well, but to cut long story short, this camera had too many good features that I couldn't pass up.  And why the decision to not get a full-frame camera?  It's because I want to keep doing bird photography and the cropped sensor will help me get greater zoom power, since I can't afford the $8,000 pieces of glass!  

Since I didn't have much ambient natural light due to the rainy and gloomy weather, I jacked up the ISO to 5000.  Show me the noise!  I was really surprised to see how little there was - visible only when you blow it up over 100%.  That is indeed one of the best features!  My ISO goes up to 6400, expandable upto 12800!  Sweet!  :) I haven't tested the highest settings yet, but I will do so soon.

This shot of my "Old Faithful" taken with the Canon EOS 7D is SOOC -


I'm going to keep my XSi for those times when I go out to shoot Nature.  I can use my 18 - 55 on this one for landscapes, while I keep my 55 - 250 primed for wildlife action (read mostly birds, since there isn't much other kind of wildlife close to where I live.  But I like to pretend I live in Costa Rica or Galapagos where I'll see some exotic species of the animal planet.)

I next tried the pop-up flash and was pretty impressed with that as well!  Doesn't look like the typical "deer in the headlight" kinda image at all!  :=P

This shot is also SOOC, taken with the pop-up flash -


I have only just started exploring the camera and it feels very different from the last one.   The controls that I was so used to manipulating with my right hand, have now mysteriously changed sides, and the camera feels heavier as well.  I think I will need to do some regular working out of my biceps to handle my new toy and especially prepare for when I buy my new long lens.  :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 298 - Photography Disaster

I was attending a business conference and took some photos there as well.  Needless to say, it turned out to be a nightmare trying to photograph the event in poor lighting.  I returned with quite a few really grainy shots as I had to shoot on ISO 800, wide open, and a shutter speed of not more than 1/30s in most cases.  If this isn't a recipe for disaster, then what is?  I was seriously out of my mind when I thought I could give this a shot.

I sneaked in these photos because I wanted to take a few shots that I could post here, rather than only taking shots of people that I didn't want to publish.



Day 297 - Good Friends Are Like Great Wine!

I had family friends visit us all the way from Ottawa on Monday.  They actually now live in Japan, but were visiting family in Ottawa, so they decided to drive over to Montreal for a couple of days.  I was seeing them after 2 years, if not longer, and I hadn't met baby Julia yet.  I was thrilled that they could make time over for a visit.

I know it's contradictory of me to post pictures of little Julia here, so soon after I declared to the contrary in my last blog post.   This is more the exception than the rule; I know I have the parents' blessings to post some pictures - Layla and Julia are already Internet celebrities in their own rights and already have a huge fan following.  :)


Brian, Tamie, Layla and Julia - you'll probably be reading this at some point.  I just want you to know that it was really good to see you, especially to make the acquaintance of little Julia, even though she was really upset all evening.  I don't think she's going to find her way back to Aunty Toni's in a hurry!  And it was an absolute pleasure to see Layla as well!  She's shooting up and she's such a darling!

We spent a little while having fun taking pictures after dinner.  I am yet to process the majority of the photos, but I thought I'd share a few here.  The photographs were taken with just one flash mounted on camera.  I didn't have the time to set up the complete lighting rig.




Day 296 - Fun to Be One

I've fallen back on my posts quite a bit, but I assure you that I've been doing the shot of the day, but I'd had too much going on to take out the time to post.

I attended the first birthday of a real sweetheart!  I took a few pictures, and some of them turned out really well.  Since I don't like to post pictures of babies, unless I have express permission from the parents (and I didn't ask the parents), I won't be doing that here.

Birthday Cake

I managed to capture this shot of the little one holding on to her dress as she walked around.  She's recently learned to walk, so I have a sneaking feeling she was holding on to her dress for support!  LOL  Well, a drowning man will clutch on to a piece of straw!
Holding Up

This cake was very lovingly baked by the dad and although the vanilla cream cake was really delicious, this tasted the best!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 295 - Tired!

This was my second attempt at doing self portraits - the last time was over 2 years ago when I wanted to take a profile picture of myself for posting to Flickr and Facebook.  I had absolutely no idea how to do it back then and I didn't have adequate lighting gear either.  This time was fortunately a much better set-up.

I put my camera on the tripod, and since I'm mostly un-photogenic, I wanted to blur myself out of the shot. The dining area was very, very dark today as it was completely grey and gloomy outside, and therefore I had to use a bit of fill flash, both on and off camera.  The off camera flash was placed to camera right, about 60 deg in front of the tea cup, powered down to 1/32, and zoomed to 85 mm (if I remember correctly).  The on-camera flash was powered down - 2 stops (I used the pop up flash).

I put the camera on the 10 sec. timer and quickly went and took up my position.  I took about 15 shots, this one was the best.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 294 - Nail Pearls & Real Pearls

If I say I'm tired, it would be an understatement!  I am exhausted, therefore, just like I spent very little time taking the shot of the day,  I will have to take less time to post.


Day 293 - Oil Droplets

I took these shots the day before yesterday but had too much on my plate to post.  I tried this from my "to-do" list, and I am NOT satisfied by the way they turned out.  I was hoping for a sharper focus, but I had very little time to spend on perfecting this.  Therefore, this idea remains on my to-do list to retry in the future.

The first shot turned out OK, but the second one almost got there, but missed! :(



Once I've perfected this, I will post a how-to.  I plan to do this again soon, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 292 - The Sky's the Limit!

While I waited for the bus for close to an hour, I saw the strangest shapes of clouds in the skies.  The setting sun turned the sky into a riot of colours and the drifting clouds passed by like shape shifters.  Incredible!

All the images were taken with my cell phone.  I have done very minimal post-processing (slight saturation, cropping and noise reduction) as the quality of these images would otherwise deteriorate a lot.  So, please excuse the quality of the images today.