Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Topaz Labs has just released a brand new “painting” program, called Impression.

Topaz Impression

Impression will run both as a standalone program and also as a plugin. In their promotional piece, Topaz Labs emphasizes the power and flexibility of the program that can yield up to 7 billion variations for any pictures. I don’t know how they arrived at this number, but after browsing through the 47 presets/filters and numerous sliders/customization options, the number of possible variations seems indeed mind-boggling.
The selection of one of the available presets is simple and easy, but it is just a starting point. After choosing certain painting style, you can vary the brush size, stroke width and length, opacity, color saturation, contrast, blending mode, and more. And if that is not enough, you could even combine multiple styles.

According to Topaz: No prior knowledge of art is required – all you need is a photo and an unbounded imagination!

When you start the Impression program in the standalone mode, it will present a simple small window where you can browse your images and select one. The program loads very quickly the source image, displays it on the screen, and then it takes a few seconds to initialize its workspace. Then it will show the following screen with the first of the available presets which happens to be an Abstract style. All available presets are shown alphabetically in the right panel.

You can quickly review all “looks” in the right panel and choose something you like. Once you pick a desired preset, the right panel will display the customization sliders.

You can also select a canvas type and background texture.

The following section shows some of the styles which I applied to my Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse image.



van Gogh

Oil Painting




Urban #1

In the above examples, especially in the small size, some options look very similar, so make sure to click on them and view them in larger size. Another thing to consider, is that the individual painting styles will behave differently for different type of images, and on top of it, you can customize each style by changing the brush and light parameters, as well as the color saturation and contrast.

Since the original image still exists in the memory and sits below your new creation (when using the program in standalone version), you can create yet another painterly version by changing its opacity and blending mode (similar to Photoshop). When you use it as plugin in Photoshop, you can create separate layers for several Impression presets, and then use the blending modes and opacity slider in Photoshop. This option may be overlooked, but it offers interesting and powerful transformation possibilities.

Here are a few more examples from my FineArtAmerica collection, demonstrating the renditions of Abstract, Oil Painting, Van Gogh, and Charcoal presets.

Art Prints

Art Prints

Art Prints

Sell Art Online

Photography Prints

Sell Art Online

Photography Prints

Art Prints

Photography Prints

Photography Prints

Art Prints

Photography Prints

Topaz Impression is a 64-bit program and it should work on the current crop of Mac and Windows systems. You can download a trial version for free and use it for 30 days. Note that if your graphics card doesn’t support OpenGL 3.2 or later, you won’t be able to install the program. If you have OpenGL 3.1 or earlier, visit Intel’s Driver Download page and follow the instructions to manually identify your graphics card driver.

If you already own the Topaz Simplify program with the simple painting presets, you can compare the two programs and see for yourself how much the automated painting evolved in the new Impression program. It’s definitely worth the try!

To download the latest Topaz Impression, use the following link to enter the Topaz Labs website.

Topaz Impression

To purchase it, use the same link and a discount code “lespalenik” for 15% discount. This will work at anytime for any Topaz single plugin or a complete bundle.


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Topaz Remask has been around for a while now, and it has earned high marks from photographers and graphic designers who need to isolate some elements or create complex masks to break the image into distinct layers. Remask 4 is the latest and most powerful version, released in July 2014. It is also more elegant and simpler to use than the previous versions. This program is different from most of the other Topaz plugins, and as such it uses a different user interface. If you used Remask 3 before, you’ll notice several differences how the new user interface is configured.

In this example, I’ll be using an image of a tiger which I photographed in a zoo and then pasted onto a sandy beach.

Source Image

Below is the Topaz Remask 4 version screen that appears after you invoke the plugin from Lightroom, Photoshop or other host image editing program (click on the image to display it in full resolution).

When you invoke Remask plugin from your editing program, it loads your image and paints it with semitransparant green color (as a default color for keeping the parts of image you’d like to work on).

Source Image

The procedure to cut out the desired part of image is very straightforward. Since the default brush mode is blue, you can immediately drop your pen or mouse on the tiger and start outlining the body with the blue color. It doesn’t matter where you start and you can draw the outline in as many steps as you like. When you finish outlining, fill the outside area with red (one click on the red bucket icon, and another click anywhere outside the tiger), and click on COMPUTE button.

To see the original image and compare it with the newly created mask or a cut out element. you can click on the desired option in the upper display option menu.

Display Options

Topaz Remask 4 Trimap screen

Extracted tiger

If you are happy with the outcome, press OK, and the program returns to your editing program (Photoshop or equivalent), having created a new layer with the cut out element on top of the original layer.

In my case, I copied the tiger and pasted it into another image, scaled down the new layer slightly, flipped it horizontally, and voila – a much more inviting prowling hangout for our tiger (almost exactly as I saw it in my mind when I pressed the shutter – just kidding).

Beach scene with the tiger pasted in

The whole procedure from start to finish took only a few minutes. The mask was created with a minimum effort and it looks quite good. There were a few color contaminations outside of the tiger body which I cleaned up in Photoshop. You can also finetune the mask in Remask by using the adjustment brush and changing the parameters shown in the Remask Control Panel.


The second example shows a felt hat, which was photographed with multiple backgrounds around the hat. The top portion is a white board which makes for an easy extraction, on the bottom there is a graduated shadow, shiny metallic can, and a patterned ground touching the right side of the hat.

Felt hat with a brim

The picture below shows the black and white mask layer with the very fine details all around the brim, all accurately rendered regardless of the surrounding background. Click on the mask to see the details at 100%.

Mask Layer

Cut out hat

Topaz Remask 4 works with both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Photoshop CS5-CS6 and CS CC on Mac and Windows systems. To download the latest Topaz Remask 4 version, use the following link to enter the Topaz Labs website.

Topaz Remask

You can use this link and a discount code “lespalenik” also for other Topaz single plugins or a complete bundle at anytime for 15% discount

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Topaz Detail, an image detail sharpening and enhancement program, is one of the most used plugins, made by Topaz Labs.
Below is the Topaz Detail Version 3.1.0 screen that appears after you invoke the plugin from Lightroom, Photoshop or other host image editing program (click on the image to display it in full resolution).

Topaz Detail 3 Screen

Topaz Split Screen Example 1 – Before and After

Topaz Split Screen Example 2 – Before and After

The screen will be familiar to existing Topaz users, with several standard, easy-to-use presets on the left panel and detailed adjustable settings in the right panel.



SETTINGS PANEL with expanded Detail and Tone tabs

The right panel also includes a handy magnifying switch that allows you to view the noise reduction effects at 100-400%.

In most cases, using one of the standard presets will be all you’ll need. It takes just two clicks – one to select the appropriate collection, and a second to choose the desired preset. The main advantage of the Topaz Detail, when compared to Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom sharpening is that you can specify different sharpening values for the small, medium, or large elements in your image. The nature and structure of the image will also call for a different treatment. For example, a landscape image with trees and rocks will require different sharpening approach than a glamour portrait or a close-up of a flower.

Depending on your image, you can start with the Light or Medium option in the Creative Detail Collection preset and if needed, fine-tune it in the right Settings panel.

The Detail tab is the most important group of controls, allowing you to adjust with a great precision the three levels of details within the image. You can adjust the small, medium, and large details in three specific tonal regions (Overall, Shadows, and Highlights). This provides an unprecedented amount of customizing options.

The Tone tab allows you to increase or decrease the brightness and contrast. You can change brightness globally or selectively for specific color ranges.

The Color tab gives you the option to change the saturation, as well as the temperature and tint. Personally, I don’t use this tab, as I prefer to set the color adjustments non-destructively in Lightroom which is the first step in my workflow.

The Deblur tab allows you to reduce the blur in the image and to suppress color artifacts.

Finally, the Effects tab option gives you the option to mask in or out the specific parts of the image by painting with an advanced edge-aware brush.


Original, unsharpened image

Creative Collection, Light I preset

Creative Collection, Medium II preset



Original, unsharpened image

Creative Collection, Medium II preset

Stylized Collection, HDR II preset

In this last example (click on the image below to see it at 100%), we used Creative Collection, Medium II preset, and as you can see, not only the fine details such as the sail cables and metal railings have been sharpened, but also the texture in the wooden panels has been enhanced and brought out more fully.

Topaz Split Screen Example 3 – Before and After


I find that for most images, the standard presets work just fine, but it’s useful to have access to all the customizing options above, especially to the painting mode by brush in the Effects tab.

Topaz Detail V3 works with both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Photoshop CS5-CS6 and CS CC on Mac and Windows systems.

Topaz Detail


You can use this link and a discount code “lespalenik” also for other Topaz single plugins or a complete bundle at anytime for 15% discount

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Topaz DeNoise 5 from Topaz Labs is the latest version 5 of the noise reduction program. Among other improvements Topaz Labs introduced two innovative noise reduction tools – a Dual-directional Debanding technology that tackles banding noise, and a Correct Black Level parameter that helps to restore shadow tones. Topaz claims that while other competing noise reduction tools utilize a range of subtle blurring techniques that often removes detail as well as noise, Topaz DeNoise 5 is the only software of its kind that is able to recover crisp detail while simultaneously removing up to four stops of noise with the utmost quality.

Below is the DeNoise screen that appears after you invoke the plugin from Lightroom, Photoshop or other host image editing program (click on the image to display it in full resolution).

Topaz DeNoise 5 Screen

The screen will be familiar to existing Topaz users, with several standard, easy-to-use presets on the left panel and detailed adjustable settings in the right panel.

Topaz DeNoise Presets

The right panel also includes a handy magnifying switch that allows you to view the noise reduction effects at 100-400%.

Topaz DeNoise Presets

In most cases, using one of the standard presets will be fully adequate. For images with a low amount of noise, use the Light or Moderate presets, and for really low-ISO images with a lot of noise and color contamination use one of the Strong presets (Strong, Stronger, Strongest, Strongest with Debanding).

If your image requires a more advanced treatment, start with the Moderate or Strong preset and then switch to the right Settings panel.

Typically, you’ll start with the luminance noise reduction. The Luma channel preview masks out the color information and makes it easier to see the luminance noise as you use the Strength, Adjust Shadows, and Adjust Highlights sliders to reduce the visible noise in Midtones, Shadows, and Highlights to an acceptable level. After making the luminance noise adjustments, use the Detail Adjustment controls to recover any details lost in the noise reduction process.

If your image contains color noise problems, switch from Luma to RGB mode or specific Red and Blue color modes and use the Red, Blue or Clean Color Adjustment sliders to neutralize the color spots. The Correct black slider is one of the new additions and it helps to eliminate haze from the black areas and make them darker.

Finally, if you see any banding noise, you can experiment with the horizontal or vertical sliders in the Debanding panel to clean it up. In my testing, I found that when debanding eliminated some abnormalities, sometimes it introduced new random patterns, but that might be what the designers intended.

Topaz DeNoise 5 is the most advanced noise reduction tool I used, yet it is very logical, easy-to-learn, and easy-to-use. Compared to Lightroom and NIK Dfine, the ability to restore fine edges, other fine details, and black levels is very good. DeNoise 5 works with both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Photoshop CS5-CS6 and CS CC on Mac and Windows systems.


Owl – Untreated Image – minimal noise, ISO 2500, D600

Owl – LR NR with Luminosity value 25

Owl – NIK Dfine Automatic

Owl – Topaz Denoise 5 – Moderate Preset

Owl – Topaz Denoise 5 – Strong Preset

Although this image didn’t require too much noise reduction, from the last two Topaz images it can be seen that the detail in eyes and feathers has been preserved better than in the LR and NIK treatments.


Fruit – Untreated Image – heavy noise, H1.0/ISO 6400, D300

LR NR with Luminosity Value of 60

NIK Dfine – Automatic

Topaz DeNoise 5 – Moderate preset

Since this image started with a heavy noise, it required a more aggressive treatment. All three programs handled competently the large areas, but if you look at the end of the pepper stem, you can see significantly more detail in the Topaz result than in the other treatments.


LR NR with Luminosity of 60

NIK Dfine, Automatic

Topaz Denoise 5 Strongest Preset with Debanding

In the last example, we applied the strongest possible Denoise preset that almost eliminated the really heavy noise, and although the image is much cleaner than the ones processed by LR

and NIK, the details are not preserved quite as well as with a slightly less aggressive treatment.


To download the latest Topaz Denoise version, use the following link to enter the Topaz Labs website to get a discount


You can use this link and a discount code “lespalenik” at anytime, also for other Topaz single plugins or a complete bundle at 15% off

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With Topaz Simplify, you can transform your photos instantly with one click into oil or watercolor paintings, monochrome sketches / line drawings or bold cartoons. I like best the oil painting modes, especially for vibrant and colorful images, but each image may benefit from a different filter, so it’s best to experiment with several filters. Fortunately, the rendering is very fast, and you can quickly test various options before committing to one. Or you can apply multiple filters to an image, stacking them onto each other, or even mix them with some other effects from Topaz other plugins.

Cut Flowers

To illustrate some of the painting filters and the different looks, I used a colorful street image scene and ran it through various filters. Each filter supports also an extensive group of parameters with easy-to-use sliders to optimize your rendition, but for the purpose of this demonstration, I never touched any sliders and used just the provided default settings.

Street Scene – Original

Before applying an oil or watercolor painting filter, I ran the image through Topaz Adjust Boost to get a more vibrant starting image. If you don’t have Topaz Adjust, you could just saturate the colors slightly.

Street Scene – Topaz Adjust Boost

then I applied the Oil Painting Toned II filter (one out of about twenty oil filters)

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify Oil Painting Toned II

to get a more contrasty scene with very vibrant colors, I used another oil filter, called Oil Painting IV

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify Oil Painting IV

For softer, less contrasty rendition with more subdued colors, the watercolor filter works well.

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify Watercolor

Another street scene using the BuzSim filter

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter

and a 100% crop of the same image to see the details

Street Scene – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter magnified to 100%

Landscape scenes lend themselves very well to artistic interpretations

Lake Superior North Shore – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter

The following image is an artistic interpretation of an image shown in my earlier post “Drive to Lake Superior”. You can compare the two images and see how Topaz Simplify reduced the details and smoothed out the rocks.

Canoe on a rocky beach – Topaz Simplify BuzSim filter

As stated on the top, in these examples I never changed the default settings that are located in the right control panel. For each preset, you can change all kinds of parameters, including saturation, contrast, simplify modes (the abstract rendering), handling of edges, vignette and other things. Once you start playing with those parameters you’ll have almost unlimited options as how to render the image. On top of it, you can make also your own presets, and configure them exactly to suit your specific needs.

One more example of a vintage car, processed in two different ways:

Vintage car – original look

Vintage car – used Cartoon preset

Vintage car – Used Buz Sim III preset

As stated on the top, in these examples I never changed the default settings that are located in the right control panel. For each preset, you can change all kinds of parameters, including saturation, contrast, simplify modes (the abstract rendering), handling of edges, vignette and other things. Once you start playing with those parameters you’ll have almost unlimited options as how to render the image. On top of it, you can make also your own presets, and configure them exactly to suit your specific needs.

To buy Topaz Simplify, use the following link:


By using the above referral link and a discount code “lespalenik” you’ll get at anytime any of Topaz single plugins or a complete bundle at 15% off

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This beautiful stretch of whitewater has been scheduled to be the venue for the whitewater events at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Games. It is located just below the dam at Horseshoe Lake, where the Trent Severn Waterway holds back large amounts of water in order to prevent flooding of Minden. Unfortunately, this past spring the 100-year flood levels were just too much for the dam, and many areas in Minden have been flooded.

Usually suffering from low water volume in the summer, this year the water levels and volume are still at record levels. All the rain has kept the Horseshoe Lake water levels above the dam very high and the river continues to run strong. There were still sandbags on the concrete walls on both sides of the river, as the evidence of the recent flood.

Sand bags on the concrete walls above the dam

The spring flooding of the Gull River has damaged infrastructure at the Minden Wild Water Preserve. Just below the dam, you can see the toppled wall, part of the engineered whitewater course, built in 1972 from heavy concrete blocks. The heavy and long wall was installed to funnel water onto the side of the main channel. When the large blocks gave in, water rushed in and opened another river arm on the left side, creating an island. The problem is that if left this way, the main channel wouldn’t get in the summer months enough water. In addition, the erosion in the left channel might continue, altering significantly the entire course.

Damaged concrete block wall below the dam

Kayaker coming down from the upper part of the river


There was a kayak race in the morning, which I regrettably missed, so the following photos are from the afternoon after the slalom gates have been taken down.

On the top of the chute

Coming Through, one way or another!

Nothing will stop this fellow

Looking ahead to the next set of rapids.

Planning the next step

If you don’t feel like paddling, you can enjoy the spray of the whitewater in a more leisurely way. Not recommended for people who tend to roll in their sleep.

Woman On The Rocks

The bottom portion of the course is very popular, especially at high water levels. The last few rapids are not dangerous, but still fun to play in.

Perfectly synchronized team in an inflatable kayak.

Two men in a tandem kayak

In the calm water below the course


In closing, it was the strongest summer flow I’ve seen on this river in thirty years. A few years back, I used to run it in my Mad River Explorer canoe myself, but having seen that recent power of the river, from now on, I think, I’ll stick just to photographing others.


For more pictures from the whitewater course, you can visit my FAA Gallery at http://les-palenik.artistwebsites.com/art/all/whitewater2013-07-13/all

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BIRDS OF PREY Recap – May 12, 2013

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

In summary, we had a very successful outing – great group, nice weather, and beautiful, well trained and very cooperative models. Originally, the weather forecast called for some showers, and I had packed some rain gear, but fortunately, we had a mix of sun and cloud, and the rain didn’t materialize until the late afternoon.

We were using Canon and Nikon equipment, and the lenses ranged from 50mm through 105, 200, 500, 600 primes to 70-200mm, 120-400, 150-500mm zooms.

Glenn Springer will be on May 31-June 2 exhibiting and selling his prints at the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show. If you tell him, you read about the show here, he will give you 15% discount on his prints and future workshops. For more information and to sign up, visit his website at www.photography.to

Below are some images from the May 12th workshop.

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

Great Horned Owlets by Barbara McMahon – Canon T4i,50mm/1.4, ISO400, F5.6, 1/320s

In this place, you can get some spectacular pictures even by using an inexpensive kit lens or a 50mm lens. Of course, a long lens gives you many more options.

Barn Owl by Barbara McMahon – Canon T4i,50mm/1.4, ISO400, F5.6, 1/320s

Barn Owl by George Reichert – Nikon D800,70-200mm/2.8, ISO180, F2.8, 1/800s

George got an incredibly sharp picture of the flying owl, especially considering that it was shot at 2.8 and just 1/800s. You can see the details in the crop below.

Barn Owl by George Reichert – Nikon D800,70-200mm/2.8, ISO180, F2.8, 1/800s – crop from the above picture

Bald Eagle landing – by Glenn Springer – Nikon D600, 400mm, F8, ISO2000, 1/800s

Great Horned Owl in Flight by Glenn Springer – Nikon D600, 200mm, F8, ISO360, 1/400s

According to Glenn:  the wings were blurred because the shutter speed was too slow, and then I helped it along by using the Radial Blur filter in Photoshop.

Red-tailed hawk by Les Palenik – Nikon D600,350mm, ISO400, F6.3, 1/640s

Harris hawk by Les Palenik – Nikon D600, 250mm, ISO400, F6.3, 1/640s

Bald Eagle by Les Palenik – Nikon D600, 500mm, ISO640, F7.1, 1/1000s

Between all of us, we must have shot thousands of the owlet images. And all of them look great. Here is one more for closing.

The main attraction – the adorable great horned owlets – by Les Palenik – Nikon D600, 500mm, ISO400, F7.1, 1/500s

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Recently, I’ve seen a National Geographic Magazine documentary about the selection and making of their best ten 2011 photographs. You can see all ten photographs at:  Top Ten 2011 NGM Photos

I liked best the spirit bear story and the photo of the white bear laying contently in the moss-draped green rain forest. If you ignore the bloody salmon between his paws, the bear looks almost angelic in that setting. However, the report of the photographer coming to the close proximity of the bear is the really dangerous stuff. According to Chris Johns, Editor in Chief at NGM:

“Paul Nicklen, the photographer is a master at getting closer. He gets close enough to take this beautiful forest with this beautiful bear, eating a salmon, and make it all come together in a photograph that captures your imagination. I feel like I’m there. I can almost smell that forest, the bear. This is Paul’s home. This looks like a photo he took in his backyard of a dear friend.”

To see the whole series of the spirit bear photographs, click on the following link White Spirit Bear Photos

Western Canada is the only place in the world that’s home to this unusual form of black bear, whose fur is white due to a genetic abnormality (it’s not an albino). The white spirit bear is also called kermode, and with total population of about 200, it is a more rare species than the panda bear.

Paul Nicklen reports that he spent two months looking for the bear, when “this incredible big white male came right beside me about three feet away, he grabbed a fish and ate it. I then spent my entire day living my childhood dream – walking through the forest with this bear. I actually got to sleep within three feet of him and photograph him. It was a truly amazing experience.”

I have to confess that about twelve years ago in northern Ontario, I came close enough to a large black bear to feed him an apple. Right between his teeth.  OK, it was a captive bear in a large fenced-in enclosure, and I went in with a warden, but if we had ran out of apples, that bruin could have made a winter food cache of both of us. Mellow fellow, but really big, and drooling too much for my taste. All this white foam coming out of the black mouth from the shooter’s perspective was just too contrasty, and trust me, not a pretty picture. It seems that Pavlov’s conditioning experiment works also on bears – he definitely associated our visit with food.

I’m glad for Paul that he was able to fulfill his childhood dream and walk all day through the forest with the bear, but reports like this may entice some well-meaning hikers to approach wild black or grizzly bears, and these encounters often end tragically. As reported in my previous post, just last month in Alaska, a large grizzly bear killed and partially devoured an experienced hiker who got too close to the bear.

Hiker, killed by a grizzly

Now, it could well be, that the bears on a salmon diet are much calmer and of a better disposition than the grizzlies grazing on Denali tundra or starved black bears during a dry summer in Algonquin Park. I can attest that after eating a smoked or grilled Pacific salmon I feel also at peace with the world around me.

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A grizzly sprinting at 35 miles an hour from hundred feet away will sink its teeth into your expedition cargo pants in less than two seconds, giving you just enough time to engage the autofocus, select burst mode, and press the shutter. Depending on your reaction time and camera model, your closed ones may inherit six to ten pre-mortal frames that could be made into a very short viral video clip.

Reaction times for trained athletes vary from superfast 40 ms for Muhammad Ali’s fastest punches to 150 ms required to return a table tennis ball. Sprinters take 100-150 ms after registering the starting pistol to jump off the blocks.

As an action photographer, you might find it interesting that once an image hits the retina, it takes approximately 100 milliseconds before it consciously registers in the brain. Although the light travels much faster than sound, the human’s body visual system is actually slower than our audio system. When the light or an image hits our retina, the photons must be translated into a chemical signal that in turn must be converted into an electrical impulse that can be carried via the nerve fibres to visual cortex residing in the back portion of the brain. Visual cortex will process the input signal and split it into two entities – one processing the shape and identity of the object(s) we see, and the other decoding the location and motion of the object(s). These two streams are then combined into a final information block which is converted into conscious awareness. Lot of complex data manipulation and processing.

Neuroscientists have discovered another problem with the real-time watching. A simple assumption is that our visual system continuously monitors the surroundings and records it in “video camera” style. In reality, we are continuously scanning the entire scene and taking a quick sample from each location. The seamless connection and stitching of the entire scene is handled by the brain that combines the individual segments into an equivalent wide-screen scene that appears like a movie.

Typically, we perform about five such visual relocations per second with the minimum time of 200 milliseconds to shift our viewpoint. Then you add 300-400 milliseconds required to execute a cognitive decision and another 50 milliseconds to engage a motor command to be communicated by nerves to the finger on the shutter. All these activities add up to 500-600 milliseconds or half a second, which translates to several missed frames.

Case in point:

This past summer, I was photographing a whitewater kayak race. I used a 70-300mm zoom lens across its entire range, shooting at F8 in single frame mode. From my vantage point, I was able to follow the racers, set the continuous autofocus, and fire off one or multiple shots in each gate. Except one tricky spot on the river with a fast short drop followed by a haystack. I took a number of shots in that spot, some better than others. When I examined images on my computer screen, I came across the following shot:

I like this image, and it was a sheer luck capturing it. Surely, I wasn’t composing and focusing for the hand with paddle. Most likely, I noticed the racer just coming down the chute, focused on him and pressed the shutter. Let’s assume that in that particular drop the water moves at 15mph (24km/h), kayak moves relatively to the water at 5 mph (8km/h), so the resulting speed is 20mph (33km/h). If the distance from the top of the drop to the bottom is 5 ft (1.5m), moving at that speed, the kayak can cover 9m in a second, or 5 ft (1.5m) in 165 ms. This corresponds roughly with 100 ms required for a transmission of the image from the retina to the visual cortex, plus another 50 ms to press the shutter. And that explains the confluence of kayak being in the hole just with the hand and paddle visible behind the standing wave and click of the shutter in that very fortunate moment.

As the kayaker cleared the haystack, he was slowed down sufficiently, that I could easily focus on him in that position and make another exposure. If his speed in that moment was around 3-4 mph, he would cover in 165 ms only 1 ft (30cm) which didn’t pose any problem for locking the focus or sufficient depth of field at that distance.


Back to the grizzlies:

On August 24th, 2012, in Denali National Park, a grizzly attacked and killed a lone backpacker who was photographing the bear from just over 40 yards away. He took 26 pictures of the bear with his camera over a span of 7 1/2 minutes, but the bear seemed to take notice of him only for the last few seconds, according to National Park Service officials who based their assessment on satellite imagery and photo time stamps. The park service said that, based on “initial evidence,” authorities believe a bear attacked the backpacker by the river and dragged his body to a “food cache site” in a bushy area 100 to 150 yards from where the attack occurred.

Picture above taken by yours truly a few years ago in Denali from a safe distance, not too far away from the fatal site.


The hiker took the first bear shots with a wide angle. Then he zoomed in. The last five pictures, taken in a span of 13 seconds, show the bear lifting its head up, looking away from the camera, and then turning towards the photographer (did the hiker sneeze or yell at him?). The mauling probably occurred almost immediately after the last image.

“A bear could cover that distance before a person could react,” said the park ranger. The bear was estimated at 600 lbs (270 kg), big for Denali. It was a mature boar, at least 5 years old.

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Not Microsoft Windows, but really pretty windows.

For a change from the everyday routine, I thought of a small project to shoot some ordinary objects but to show them in a slightly unusual way. This time, it will be windows. Each one drastically different from the others.

The first picture is a simple sky window in a long corridor. Just a plain rectangular piece of glass, reinforced every foot or so with metal bars. To take advantage of the long hall, I mounted a 17-50mm lens, dialed it to its wide end to change the shape of the window and to create a herring bone effect. I liked the soft pastel paint on the walls and ceiling, made my composition, and pressed the shutter.

Then, I positioned myself right under the sky glass, using the same wide angle lens, and took a second photo. It is, indeed, the same window, but with a drastically different effect. Almost black and white, with a magical soft light coming through the transparent panes.

OK, time for something bold.
If you want colour, nothing beats stained glass windows. A compositional problem for a guy with strong affliction for horizontal arrangements is that most really nice looking windows come in vertical shape. Luckily, I found a group of five colorful tall windows depicting the Last Supper that makes for a nice pano. Unfortunately, at that distance and resulting screen size, you can’t see the exquisite detail and colours of the individual pieces.

It bears repeating that the details, texture and colour saturation by the old masters are simply amazing. Below is just the medium pane from the second window from the left (for some reason, I’m always drawn to scenes with food on the table).

So, we had a minimalistic look, rich Italian look, now we need something haunting and mysterious. This picture was taken at dusk, just as the receeding light cast some dark shadows about the old building structure, ornate balconies, and the intricate wall details.

And for closing, I decided to add something really old and with a character. This window would have been a good candidate for some grungy HDR processing (and I happen to know some guys who would just salivate and pull out their Topaz Adjust), but I liked its simple soft and gentle appearance, and applied only a few basic tonal adjustments.

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