Library “Art Gallery”

Shadows on the Snow
Shadows on the Snow

I brought a couple of my photos in to be part of the opening exhibit of photos from the Senior’s College classes…one of mine, shown above, is to be included. Last weekend I was part of a group Swarna, the librarian, shanghaied to set policy for this, her’ latest publicity venture for the Montague (PEI) library. She now has a set of chains hanging down on an open wall intended to hold pictures… paintings or photographs. Each exhibit is to be up for 6 weeks and the space is available on a first-come-first-served basis by signup. Being the sort of person she is, there will be “grand openings” every 6 weeks with refreshments… anything you spent at the library book sale supports local programs!

In the discussion of policies, I was surprised to discover how much my experiences with the Artisans on Main…discussed in blogs from last summer… gave me a clear picture of what I did NOT want for this activity.

  • There should be NO jury passing judgement if the art is good enough to be shown.
  • There should be no favoring more polished or professional work over beginners work or even work by children…whoever signs up first gets the space.
  • There should only be help in hanging and arranging an exhibit if the contributor specifically requests it. Otherwise mounting and arranging the exhibit should be entirely the responsibility of the artist (or their mother or father).

I suppose I am still smarting under the exclusivity and judgmental attitude that gradually grew up within the Artisans, but I want this library project to be free form any taint of such restrictiveness. For what its worth, I hope to sign up for a spot soon next week!

New (to me) camera


computer screen at 2' with background 6' behind at F1.2
computer screen at 2′ with background 6′ behind at F1.2

After losing perhaps a dozen auctions I succeeded in acquiring a Nikon D200 digital camera body on eBay, which I was able to pick up in person in Muncie, IN (USA) on the way to visit family in Lafayette.. The particular unit was relatively heavily used with about 90,000 shots taken…rated by Nikon for about 200,000. 

Why did I want an “old” camera? It turns out that the first few Nikon digital models were designed to still work with the older manual lenses, and I had a whole set of nice ones from my film camera days…f55 1:1.2…f135 1:2.8…f19 1:3.8…f28-200 1:3.9-5.6…f500 1:1:8. Most of those lenses are easily duplicated in magnification by almost any cheap digital camera today, but the large apertures…up to 1:1.2…and the wide angle…f19…are the things that are not readily obtained on fixed-lens cameras. In particular the 1.2 allows me to take a picture of a person in front of a busy background by blurring out the background and keeping the subject in sharp focus. Most digital cameras have such sensitive sensors that they don’t need large apertures to gather enough light at hand-held shutter speeds. So the depth of field stays large…sharp focus from 6′ to infinity! The casual user WANTS that sharp-all-over effect so it is no problem for the manufacturer to use cheaper smaller aperture lenses.

So, now I hope to begin producing more pictures with selective focus.


Where has the time gone?

I was dismayed to realize I haven’t posted here for almost 3 weeks. It isn’t that nothing is happening…actually I have been finishing up two books…Leslie’s and a revision of Tom Rath’s first Donkey book (he wanted a second printing and wanted the pictures to be enlarged to bleed off the edges). He is nearly done with the second donkey book, having persuaded Greg’s brother Ian to do the illustrations–what a talented family!

Still, that doesn’t account for it. I have been teaching photography and photo-manipulation for Seniors College as well as a very basic computer introduction for the 50+ club in Montague.

Also, I need to get the wood gathered and stacked so Randall Larson can come and split it for me…a great bargain he has been providing for many years. I stack only the wood big enough to need splitting and he comes and does up a whole year’s worth in about 3 hours…his splitter and his labor…a great bargain especially for one like myself who finds that much work a bit much.

Oh, I am trying to finish the summer guest quarters over the garage since cousins (and families) may be coming next Summer and it gets too cold to have the plaster set or the paint to dry if I wait too long into the Fall.

And, of course I am chipping away at the Revisiting Scripture book.

Now I can begin to see why I haven’t done so much posting recently!

Photo sharpening tools

I just got an ad for a 50% discount on Photozoom Pro and wondered if it would help the horribly poor photos I have been given for a book I’m preparing. The remaining $99 seemed a bit steep for something I would use infrequently, but I wanted to investigate. Search engines being what they are, I checked it out and found a ‘shareware’ version for free…bad news, the features are all there except a watermark in the output which doesn’t fit my idea of shareware.

Anyway, I tried it and found that it is especially good at removing jpeg ‘artifacts’…the strange pixels around the edge of a transition when the compression is high and the resolution is low. In addition, it seemed to be able to expand a few pixels at low resolution into the diagonal edge of an object they were representing. I suppose the spline function is the key, although that goes beyond the math I can remember from 40 years ago.

There was another tool (I forget the name) based on ‘fractals’…something that never made it into my ancient math curriculum. It was about $200, I believe and didn’t seem to work as well. But while I was poking around the sale on Photozoom went off and I’m too cheap to spend $200 for that. 

What I already had in Photoshop Elements which was really useful for salvaging Leslie Stewart’s horribly low resolution photos that he wants in his next book was their ‘Smart Blur‘…a sort of relative to their ‘Unsharp Mask‘ tool. I had never tried it since it lurks under Filters…Blur…Smart Blur way at the bottom of the list. By playing with the settings I was able to get rid of the JPEG artifacts without totally destroying the picture. So my time spent wandering was not totally wasted.

8x10s for $1

I just discovered that Blacks is doing a deal on 8 x 10 prints through August 19th for $1.00. Since the files can be transmitted digitally and the chain will return the prints by Canada Post (for about $8 in shipping and postage charges), it is a very attractive deal. When you consider that they usually charge $4.99 (and Walmart charges $3.00), it can be a good time for someone who uses the prints in products to stock up. In my case I used to print my photos on an ink-jet printer, but the declining quality of my printer head output, the high cost of paper and ink, and the water-sensitivity of the prints makes the photo-reprint option attractive. The finished prints easily arrive well within two weeks…perhaps one week if things go well.

Keeping an eye on print prices is fascinating. Having surveyed the market on the internet, the big problem is finding sources (in the US) that will ship to Canada…and even then the shipping costs are absurd. Blacks and Walmart are the best sources so far. In the interesting-but-not-at-this-moment category was the previous Blacks offer of 1000 (!) 4 x 6 prints for $99…about $0.10 per print. I couldn’t get together such an order in the short time allotted. I wonder what next week’s deal will be!

Cameras and the Tattoo

We spent all day yesterday and most of the night attending the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo…a marvelous three hour+ performance of precision marching and bands as well as dancing and gymnastics by groups from both Canada and countries including the France, Switzerland, Estonia, Britain and the US. It was held in the Halifax Metro Centre and was wonderful both for the acts and their precision interleaving so that there was never even 10 seconds when there was not some event going on…the groups entered and arranged themselves in the dark side as another act was going on at the other end.

What a wonderful photo opportunity this would have been with all the color and pageantry except for one thing…on the tickets and plastered over all the entrance doors was the notice: No Cameras, Video, or Recording Permitted. Now, as a photographer,  I respect an organization’s desire to retain ownership of any  images, etc. etc. But it turned out the notice was unenforced. There was an endless string of flashes coming from the audience across the way from us and no doubt on our side as well! I kept expecting the ubiquitous ushers to at least warn people if not confiscate cameras or escort violators from the performance. Nothing of the sort…even when a particularly delicate acrobatic performance was preceded by a warning to avoid any flashes for fear it would endanger the performers, the end of the announcement was immediately followed by a flash. Continue reading Cameras and the Tattoo