Canadian/Ontario Summer Nature Photography

Photography from around Ontario, Canada over the past ten years. Includes wildlife in Algonquin Park, time at the family cottage near Bobcaygeon and photos everywhere from Tobermory to Ottawa.

Older photos taken with the long gone Fujifilm 9100s superzoom camera, the up until early 2017 Olympus Pen mini-SLR and most recent photos with the latest Canon T6i (I have no preference for cameras. A good photographer can take a good picture with just about any camera, especially any higher quality SLR. Any underwater shots were taken with an ancient but still working Fujifilm waterproof point and shoot.

Algonquin Park moose.

Garter snake in the Haliburton woods.

Freezing the wings on a hummingbird.
Bass in Bass Lake near Bobcaygeon, ON.

Flowerpot Island boat trips off the tip of the Bruce Peninsula near Tobermory, ON.

Summer time camp fire on Bass Lake.

A Canadian childhood.

The ferry in Tobermory.

Belted kingfisher over Bass Lake, ON.

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Chromatic Sunsets on two wheels in 360°

360° motorcycle photos taken with a Ricoh Theta attached to the windshield with an octopus mount (see how to take photos like these here).  They were cleaned up in Adobe Lightroom.  Various digital edits to abstract the images done in Paperartist and touched up in Lightroom.

 

 

 

 



Photos first:  the Theta photos came out dark, but Lightroom was able to make them look HDR with a click of the auto setting:

 

 

 You can see the shutter struggling to catch enough light there…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then took the Lightroom edits and ran them through PaperArtist beforre touching them up again.  So the workflow here is photo in the Theta, download to desktop, edit in Lightroom, upload to phone for PaperArtist edit, download back to desktop for final lightroom touch up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sunset the next night was another stunner, but I was on the deck with the Oneplus5 smartphone for these ones…

 

 

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Exercising the OnePlus5 Smartphone camera

Following that adage I looked for a phone with a good camera this time around.  The OnePlus5 has an excellent camera as far as hardware goes, but the software still has some catching up to do.  Fortunately OnePlus seem committed to regular updates.


Walking home on Dec 23rd, one of the darkest days of the year, I took a post-sunset shot of the Grand River thinking it wouldn’t come out at all.  Not too bad for a very low light shot.  Similarly the multi-shot night time hockey gif taken on winter solstice in full darkness.


The photo of my lovely wife and her colleagues singing was also taken in a dark room.  It was post processed in Paper Artist, my favourite on-phone photo editing app.





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How to take striking 360 photos while riding a motorbike

I’ve been asked how I manage to get on-motorcycle photos while riding.  Here’s a quick how-to on taking striking action shots while you ride.


You need a camera with a very wide angle of view.  My preference is for a full 360 degree camera as this also lets you form your images into ‘tiny-planet‘ photos, which are a unique, relatively new way to compose a photograph.  As part of my job I’ve tried many different 360° cameras, but my favourite for on-bike shots is the Ricoh Theta.  It has bright, clear LEDs to let you know what it’s doing and easy to operate (even when wearing motorcycle gloves) physical controls.  It’ll let you preset things on a smartphone if you want, but it works just as well just firing the shutter button for video or photo.


Other 360° cameras I’ve tried have you faffing around with smartphone based controls which don’t work with gloves on.  I’ve also had problems, especially with Samsung’s Gear360, rendering images out of that camera in the provided software.  The Ricoh software offers settings I value like interval photography and the software has never had a problem rendering quickly and well.  All the 360° cameras I’ve tried have surprisingly good light retention and clarity of image for fixed lens cameras.


You might be able to get away with a 180° camera or something like a go-pro with fish-eye lens, but the 360° camera guarantees you catch everything because it catches everything.

I started doing on bike photos by firing the shutter using the big button on the Theta.  This produced some good on-bike shots, but you always end up with an arm in the photo holding the camera, and you look like you’re not focused purely on riding because you’re not.


There are some benefits to firing the shutter manually.  You can time it to catch something interesting.  You don’t have to focus or aim at anything because the camera catches it all in focus.  You can make some interesting angles holding it low over the pavement, overhead or anywhere else you’re flexible enough to reach.  Even with all that though, you’ve still got an arm in every shot, unless you’re really cunning with the cropping in post processing.










Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA



Last summer I was testing a self levelling gimbal for 360° video and made a video under the most challenging circumstances I could devise (riding a motorbike):


The gimbal did a good job of levelling things when the bike went around corners and I liked the focused-on-riding look of the shots.  This experiment got me thinking about a way of fixing a camera to the bike that would match angles with the bike when it leaned over in a corner.  I also wanted something that didn’t involve a camera right in front of me while I was riding.


I finally settled on a gorilla-pod type flexible tripod.  If your bike has raised rear view mirrors, they make the perfect mounting point for the camera.  If you wrap the tripod around the wing mirror with some care, you can still use the mirror effectively.  Flexible tripods have good stretch, so I’d recommend wrapping one of the arms right around the mirror arm to ensure it stays attached even if it comes loose.  
I pre-set the camera to take a photo on interval mode every 5-10 seconds and then forget about it.  When I get back I look through the photos for interesting shots and then pull them into the 360 software which takes the raw image data and lets you move around within the photo to frame the part you’re looking for.  The shots you end up getting look like they were taken from a drone flying along next to you:







You can play with the geometry of 360 photos and video in a number of interesting ways.  One of the most popular is the little planet shot where the image is distorted to make the ground a circle in the centre of the photo.  The Theta software does this if you put your photos onto the theta360 website with the click of a button.  Here are some tiny planet images:







It’s digital photography, so don’t be tentative.  Try different things, fire a lot of shots and keep the good stuff.  With a bit of practice you’ll be producing amazing looking on-bike shots that’ll have people asking you, ‘how’d you do that?’









Here are the bullet points in case you’re a millennial that doesn’t read long form text:

  • Get yourself a quality Gorilla Pod type tripod.  I use this one I got from Amazon, but I’d suggest  going up market a bit – this thing is a plastic piece of crap.
  • Wrap it around one of your rear view mirrors.
  • I loop one tripod leg right around the mirror arm, so there is no chance of losing the camera (I learned that the hard way).
  • I prefer the Ricoh Theta because:
  • it has physical buttons that are easily usable even with gloves on
  • it has clearly visible LEDs and modes
  • the Theta has superior software for video and photo editing, including built in tiny planet settings and it never crashes or renders pixelated (like Samsung software)
  • it’s aerodynamic and much lighter than alternatives
  • Set the camera to video or interval photo-shooting, start it up and forget about it
  • When you get back download the videos or photos and check out what you caught
  • When you use the software you can look around within each photo and video and compose photos and video based on the bit you want to see
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    Snows And Crows and Adobe’s Lightroom

    A crow playing in the wind on a snowy Saturday afternoon in February prompted me to get the Canon T6i out.  These were taken with the 55-250mm lens.  The original photos are so atmospheric that I started posterizing them in Photoshop and then gave Lightroom a try.  I’ve never used it before and was curious to see what it could do.  As a simple image editor it can do quick and effective image touch-ups.  LIghtroom did a nice job of making the images posterized in Photoshop pop…

    The original image: f/8 1/500 sec, ISO 200 -1 Exposure, 250mm

     

    Posterized (colour reduced) in Photoshop 

     

    Details tweaked in Lightroom
    Original image f/7.1, 1/400 sec. ISO 100 250mm brightened in curves in PS.

     

    The crow colourized and layered with the background monochromed in black & white
    After some tweaking in Lightroom.  The tree reflection caught in the window could have been washed out, but I liked how it came out with the vignetting.  I’m reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Gods at the moment and this reminds me of Odin’s crow Huginn and Yggdrasil, the world tree.
    Original photo: f/10, 1/800sec, ISO 200, -1 stop, 250mm

     

    Posterized in Photoshop
    Touched up in Lightroom…

     

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    360 Winter Photos from the Saddle

    These are some video screen grabs from the long way home commute from work last week.  Windy and cool, but still up near ten degrees Celsius with bright, winter sunshine.  The roads were relatively sand and salt free thanks to days of rain and floods.


    The Ricoh Theta 360 camera is wrapped around the mirror with a Gorilla Pod.  A 360 video clip starts it off followed by some Adobe Lightroom heavily tweaked screen grabs aimed at creating a more abstract feel.



     




    All the screen grabs with various modifications can be found in this album.



    If you’re looking for a motorcycle friendly camera, the Theta 360 has push button controls that are easy to use (most others have finicky wireless connections through a smartphone).  You don’t have to aim it or focus it, it just grabs everything in an instant.  The screen grabs on here are from the 1080 video the Theta made while attached to the rear view mirror.


    My last ride was November 28th.  I used the same 360 camera then, but didn’t have the Gorilla Pod at that point so those ones are all hand held.











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    A Lighting Storm For The Ages

    This spectacular light show passed over us in Elora, Ontario, Canada last night (Tuesday, June 2nd) at about 10pm.  All photos taken with my Canon T6i DSLR with the kit 18-55mm lens.  All shots taken on full manual with shutters ranging from 30 to 10 seconds (I actually had to segment the shots to shorter shutters because there was too much lightning in each shot).  F stops ranged from F29 while the sunset was still bright and and I was looking for long shutter shots to catch the approaching storm down to F6.3 as the sunset faded and the storm rolled over us.  I tried to keep ISOs as low as possible, usually 100 or 200, to keep noise down.  Photos were touched up in Adobe Lightroom, usually just turning down any noise.


    Of interest, not a drop of rain fell and we didn’t see any ground strikes, this was all cloud to cloud lightning.  My son and I felt like it was trying to tell us something.  My three favourites are the lightning dragon, the pinwheel and the electric jellyfish – you’ll probably guess which ones those are as you look at them.  You can always click on one to see it in more detail full screen.








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    A Lighting Storm For The Ages

    This spectacular light show passed over us in Elora, Ontario, Canada last night (Tuesday, June 2nd) at about 10pm.  All photos taken with my Canon T6i DSLR with the kit 18-55mm lens.  All shots taken on full manual with shutters ranging from 30 to 10 seconds (I actually had to segment the shots to shorter shutters because there was too much lightning in each shot).  F stops ranged from F29 while the sunset was still bright and and I was looking for long shutter shots to catch the approaching storm down to F6.3 as the sunset faded and the storm rolled over us.  I tried to keep ISOs as low as possible, usually 100 or 200, to keep noise down.  Photos were touched up in Adobe Lightroom, usually just turning down any noise.


    Of interest, not a drop of rain fell and we didn’t see any ground strikes, this was all cloud to cloud lightning.  My son and I felt like it was trying to tell us something.  My three favourites are the lightning dragon, the pinwheel and the electric jellyfish – you’ll probably guess which ones those are as you look at them.  You can always click on one to see it in more detail full screen.








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