I just wanted to give a shout out to the Salmo & District Arts Council for coordinating the annual Art Walk in Salmo during October. Check out their website and Facebook page for details.
I will be having a display of some of my wild bird photos at one of the locations (yet to be determined.). If you are interested in seeing the images in large format prints this is a good opportunity.
This is a topic that will inevitably have arguments from both sides but I think I have found a happy medium for my personal printing of my images.
To start with I need to disclose I own an Epson 7880 wide format printer and in my opinion the quality is as good as it gets. Epson inks and premium lustre paper makes for beautiful prints. And with the ability to 24" wide and as long as I want gives me incredible versatility. A little knowledge about color gamuts and properly calibrating monitor to printer is something one must learn to go the home route successfully but well worth it in the final result.
On the other hand I have also used online printing labs for a great deal of my images. In my experience you really need to be careful when choosing your printer. Understand the color model they use and paper stock. I have had some disastrous results from big box store labs...often times the color is simply way off and the paper is always very poor quality. I would not expect the prints to last more than a few years without fading. Using a prolab like White House Custom Prints, Bay Photo Lab or MPIX pro will generally give you superb results but you still need to be wary and thoroughly check the quality when you receive them.
Many people automatically think printing at home is less expensive, this is not the case in my experience. With ink cartridges running as high as $100 each and eight cartridges required the ink costs alone are quite considerable. Rolls of premium paper will cost $150 each and other issues with printers are always a possibility. So before you go out and get yourself a high end printer to save yourself some money, think twice.
For what I do I prefer to print at home as I generally will be printing a large format up to 24x36 and framing them myself. So having the ability to go out and shoot the images, process them and mat and frame all in one day is a huge benefit to me. I once shot a Bride & Groom's portraits in the afternoon, hurried home to print and frame a large 18x24 print of them and then having it displayed near the receiving area at their reception that evening! It made a good impression to say the least :)
In the past when I did school portrait photography and had thousands of prints needed in various sizes in a hurry I used an online lab. This was the only way to practically do this an the results were very acceptable.
Another type of printing I use online labs for is Art Cards, These are very difficult to print on any home printing set-up and the quality from the lab I use is outstanding. If you are ever looking to get some Art Cards printed I highly recommend Art Ink Print in Victoria, BC.
One of my favorite types of photography is shooting images in the middle of a clear moonless night. Some of the pictures that one can get of the night sky with very long exposures are incredible. Want to try this? You will need a sturdy tripod, remote shutter release and patience.
To create this image I pointed my camera at the southern sky where the Milky Way is brightest and set the camera to f/2.8, ISO 6400 and a 30 second exposure time.
I used a remote shutter release to make sure I did not shake the camera by trying to press the shutter button and took the picture.
To create the images with star trails you need a very long exposure of many hours or to 'stack' several hundred images of shorter 20 second exposures together to create the final image. Either way works but the most common method is to stack several images.
For the past couple of years I have been volunteering my services as photographer for the annual MS Society West Kootenay Glacier Challenge bike tour. My small part in helping out for the fundraising efforts for this disease.
"The West Kootenay Glacier Challenge is an extraordinary two day MS Bike tour that loops around the Kokanee Glacier in the Selkirk Mountains, from New Denver to Slocan, to Kaslo, and back to New Denver with an overnight in Nelson" ...read more here
If you would like to view the images from recent years follow this link.
One thing I quickly learned was that I could approach the birds on the water with ease and they did not spook as easy. They are comfortable with the kayak in their immediate area as it does not appear as a threat. As I have since read, birds rarely have predators approach from the water side so they are much less cautious. Try getting close to birds from the land side and you will understand what I mean. They immediately perceive you as a threat.
Another benefit from shooting wild birds from the kayak is the lower point of view one can get. You are at their eye level and this give a unique perspective to your images.
The Image below of the Bald Eagle was taken from only about 20 feet away. I slowly drifted up to the bird and it really didn't seem to care if I was there or not. I spent the next 30 minutes photographing this majestic creature in all sorts of poses and I eventually just paddled off leaving it to enjoy the sunny day at the lake.
Although setting your camera to manual or M mode is preferred so you can totally control how your image will look I often use this tried and true method when I am out in my kayak and changing settings is not always an option as things can happen quickly and you need to be ready. I would rather get a shot that is slightly less than optimal than to miss it completely.
The settings below are specific to Nikon DSLR's but Canon & other cameras can achieve the same with slightly different settings but the principal is the same.
What I do is set the camera to aperture priority. I want to be able to control the depth of field so this is a must. However, for fast moving wild birds you need a very fast shutter speed, so how do you get both?
Set the camera to AUTO ISO with the following custom settings:
Now with this setting the camera will never drop below 11600 of a second shutter speed, when it does then the ISO will automatically kick in and maintain the shutter speed of 1600.
What really makes this work well is in auto ISO it will increase in micro steps and not full stops like when you set it manually. So you could get an ISO setting of 320 or 450 etc.
Make sense? I have this saved as my bird mode. I use it exclusively when shooting birds in flight.. Always a correct exposure and the speed to freeze the action. And you choose the aperture...which is important.
So…I decided I would build my own picture frames to save money. Considering even the cheapest frames for the size of prints I produce is very, very expensive running well over $100. Including the matting and glazing and tax a frame can easily cost $200. My standard print size is 18x24.
Being a bit of a perfectionist I quickly learned that simply using a miter saw to cut square stock into frames was not going to cut it. The corners need to be exactly 45˚ or the result is not good. I learned that not even the best miter saw with a high quality blade will be exactly 45˚ and more importantly, consistent.
Researching the subject of Framing I found that professional framers use miter trimmers, hand planes and guillotines to create these perfect 45˚ miter cuts, and then often shaving tiny amounts off to get that perfect fit. I went with the hand plane route and a jig to achieve this and after the rough cut I am able to fine-tune the cuts to be exact.
Surprisingly the profiles or fancy grooves and edges were easy to accomplish with a router and proper bits. After trying it by hand I quickly learned I would require a router table but after building this and a simple fence the actual routing of the profile on the face and groove on the back for matting and glazing was fairly easy.
Mission accomplished? Hardly. Properly connecting the four pieces together is another challenge. With proper clamps, V nails and glue this has taken patience and some frustration to do correctly.
Finishing is another completely different skill. Choosing the proper finish is more than just brushing on a layer of Shellac and calling it a day.
Each wood is different and the results can be awful if you use the wrong finish, I learned this the hard way when I turned a beautiful piece of red oak into something quite ugly.
So as I hone my woodworking skills it seems I have created a new hobby for myself, not something I was planning on doing but the savings I will see will be tremendous. Considering I have nearly 100 matted prints in need of frames, something that would have cost me at least $10,000 at a frame shop. The other positive thing is that my final product is created 100% by myself; from the actual picture taking to the printing and matting and now I can add the frame to that list.
Having said all this I can see why framers charge so much!
First Blog Post:
Erie Lake is a great place to see many of the birds that I have showcased here on my website. I see many kayaks, canoes and fishing boats of all types cruising the lake. Fishing must be good as there seem to be a lot of people doing this lately.
I have also noticed many more people out with their cameras, this is great news and I hope this continues. What a great way to share this jewel that we have in our backyard with friends.
One discouraging thing I have seen recently was a couple of fishermen out with a powerboat....really? On a tiny lake like this of less than 1 kilometre at its longest point? The disturbing thing is that they had no respect at all for the delicate habitat or others on the lake. The wake they created stirred up mud and I am sure disturbed nesting sites along the shore. The noise seemed deafening on this usually silent lake and the aftermath of blue smoke hanging in the air that eventually settled into the water was very disturbing. An oily blue sheen could clearly be seen where the boat had traveled.
I spoke to the gentlemen but they were totally adamant that they were within regulations. If this is true then the regulations need to be changed ASAP. I explained that even if they were within the regulations that all they had to do was look at what damage they were doing to realize it was a bad thing for the lake they were enjoying fishing in so much...
For anyone reading this and know of anyone who would contemplate taking a powerboat on this small little marshy lake please ask them to reconsider. It is only a short paddle from one end to the other and perhaps the whole fishing experience would be much better in the peacefulness of a rowboat or canoe.
Check out the fish hooks on this guy!
Monte Comeau is a Wild-Bird Photographer living in the Kootenay region of Beautiful British Columbia Canada.
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