October 30, 2006

Hey, Five-Eyes!

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What the bloody hell?! Here's me and our home's loverly jack-o-lantern for 2006, inspired by the Smartie-shaped pumpkin Kerry picked up at the Prince Albert farmers' market at Thanksgiving. You can never put too many eyes on a jack-o-lantern, I say (last year's only had one, though).

Happy Hallowe'en, friends. Here's hoping the kiddos can make it through the 20-odd centimetres of snow we just got. But the less kids we see, the more Wagon Wheels I get to keep.

October 29, 2006

Accidents Happen

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Photo Friday's current theme of accidental made me search through my collection of photos for those that turned out cool via fluke, accident and what-have-you. Some of these have appeared here before, and some highlight the theme more than others – but all of these images were not originally as intended. You can click here for a closer look at the grid of images.

Top left: Michelle in the big, comfy chair at Melissa's Vegas wedding reception. Part of a larger image in which she was chatting with buddy Steve, it was originally meant to be a flash-on snapshot. The camera was on night mode, and with some creative cropping this is what I squeezed out of it.

Top center: My niece Cadence at six weeks of age. We were conducting a black-and-white photo shoot and this shot captured her on the verge of a yawn. What I got was her tongue, in a classic stick-it-to-The-Man pose.

Top right: Me and Kerry, fireside. A long-exposure shot, I thought I could sneak in quick enough not to show up on the final image. Looks like I was too slow.

Center: Kerry's nephew showing off his ice-cream tongue. I honestly had no idea at the time that so much blue was being showcased.

Center right: Kerry at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland in a cool mood shot, September 2003. The wind grabbed control of her hair, but she also closed her eyes when the picture was taken.

Bottom left: Kerry at Grand Beach, April 2005. Deceivingly downtrodden, she just had some sand in her eye.

Bottom right: I was attempting to take a quick photo of my work's entry into a local parade, an adult tricycle towing three light-laden wheeled wooden ducks. But like the first picture here, the camera was set on a far-too-slow shutter speed. This abstract was the result.

October 25, 2006

88: Ghost Story

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My submission for Illustration Friday's theme of ghost went from a direct take on the word to one that instead used the word as inspiration – based on a concept that you don't often hear stories about ghosts of anything but people. All living things meet an end, and if ghosts purportedly exist in human form (though I've yet to see one), why not other critters in the wild kingdom?

Considering this: hundreds of billions of birds in the world – estimated; nobody really knows for sure – all with varying shelf lives according (usually) to size. A great horned owl can survive up to a quarter-century. Hummingbirds last roughly three to five years. The common house sparrow we see just about everywhere has a maximum lifespan of a dozen years. Turnover in the bird world is fast and relentless, and makes me sometimes wonder why we don't see more dead birds just lying about. So where do they go?

This drawing illustrates a theory that most of them simply fade away, evanescing into thin air. On a summer day I can look up into the canopies of elm trees that line our street – and hear a lot more birds than I can see.

Drawn on separate sheets of paper with pen, these three sparrows were merged in Photoshop for colouring and effect-work. You can click here for a closer, more detailed look, and also here, to see the original black pen artwork on the middle bird.

October 22, 2006

87: The Leaf Monster

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There's something about a big pile of leaves in the fall that can bring out the kid in just about anybody. We had a unique fall here; the weather came in a way that our boulevard trees dropped their entire load near all at once – 13 Glad-bags' worth in the front yard alone, which, for a brief moment was in the form of two giant piles. That was before the inner kids took over and dove in, reminding me of the Calvin and Hobbes strip where the "leaf monster" surprised Calvin mid-leap, only to be beaten to oblivion with the rake. This is the last known one of Kerry before the leaf monster struck our property, which I am submitting – in her honour, of course – to both PhotoFortnight for their apt theme of autumn, and for Photo Friday's current theme of innocence. And as is the case nowadays, more photos from the day – which also includes the evening's "Art & Soul" fundraiser soirĂ©e for/at the Winnipeg Art Gallery – can be seen over at my Flickr site.

October 16, 2006

86: Smittens

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This week's Illustration Friday theme of smitten instantly reminded me of a photo I took not so long ago when Kerry and I were on vacation. Not one to be too squishily sentimental often, I thought I'd attempt to create a photo-based digital illustration much in the same manner that I did in my submission for I-F's early-summer theme of "portrait" (click here to jog memory, or to see again for first time) – which I had a lot of fun doing and wanted to try again.

Using the photo as a base layer in Photoshop, I first applied a slight median filter to eliminate some of the pixel details and night-shot noise. Then I took a whole whack of time with the smudge tool, pushing along the clothing folds, fire licks, etc., to mimic an oil-based, painterly style. I then subdued the picture's overall redness with hue and saturation shifts and upped the yellow content with Photoshop's yellow and sepia-toned photo filter presets. Following this, I inserted another photo – of wood-grain pattern – and tossed it in the mix, fading it back to add a bit of canvas texture. Overlying details were added last; the paint blotches and stains around the edges and the word itself, done with the freebie download font Klink-O-Mite (get it here). There's quite a few finer points and adjustments in the overall process too, that I'm either neglecting to mention or just plain forgetting.

You can click here to get a closer look at some of the detail, and here, to see the original photo and just how much – or little, depending on your point of view – alteration was actually done.

October 15, 2006

Eve Of Destruction

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A photo from the vault to keep things flowing. I haven't been to Photo Friday for awhile to see what's up on that front. And their latest theme of destruction brought to mind the image above, which I took with my sister's borrowed camera on a 2002 visit to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. It had been a lousy day of traveling mostly; plenty of that grim maritime rain they get 50 per cent of their time (it seems), and we stopped at a stony beach marked by scraps of the S.S. Ethie, a steamer that wrecked there in 1919 during a fierce storm. It was at this time, late in the day, that the sun decided to show, casting this cool purplish light over the ship's rusted metal remains.

October 11, 2006

85: Here Comes Trouble

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Don't pick up that coin, kid.

Lately I seem to have been in an outright sketchy mode when it comes to putting stuff here. Which is good. I have to remind myself to loosen up when I'm drawing, when more often than not I'm attempting to get lines and curves to mimic a technique bordering on vector-based.

Case in point, this little piece of storytelling here. For Illustration Friday's theme of trouble, I felt like drawing a monster – and then working from there. And for monsters there are no rules, and as such, nothing suited my monster more than making one as loose and as sketchy as I could. The kid and the coin were added afterwards as I molded my idea to suit the theme.

You'd think the bumps and jiggles of an eight-hour road trip would cater to this style I'm striving for, but I guess I'm not that loose. I tried, coming back from a Thanksgiving weekend in Saskatchewan, but I couldn't seem to get to that point where I could draw in the car. So instead, I spent a good chunk of Tuesday evening at home with this drawing, and finishing it over lunch on Wednesday. I spent a couple of hours Wednesday night fixing up any schmegs and adding colour. You can click here for a better look at some of the detail. Also, below is a look at what I had to work with before delving into Photoshop, as an example of how much cleanup I sometimes do digitally.

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October 05, 2006

Update With Peppers

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A quick note – and some homegrown red peppers – just to say the complete Flickr photoset of our vacation photos from last week are now available for scopin' out. You can check the holiday set right here – these are the best shots the week had to offer. There's a handful of stitched panoramas I'm still working on; they'll show up in my panoramas set when they're finished.

And the peppers? An experiment, done a couple of weeks ago. I took our five most successful peppers from the garden and lined them up on our kitchen stove, snapped this pic and in Photoshop, "whitened the whites" and removed the stovetop elements. The only problem: it was at night, and even though I had the tripod the ceiling light made it fuzzier then I'd have liked.

October 04, 2006

84: The HOWieZine Cometh, Part VI

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I'll be the first to admit that for the first time, I ran out of time with an edition of the HOWieZine. The current version, themed pirates, gave me a stellar opportunity to create an idea for a relevant illustration I've had in my head since high school (you heard right). And on the off-chance that I still realize it someday, I won't divulge on that little nugget any further. I know, nasty, right?

In the meantime, I made two quick pages – only one of which is on display here – that were still fun in the making. The first (not shown) used a scanned page out of one of Kerry's high school yearbooks, with each photo tagged overtop in pen with various hand-drawn pirate features (eye-patches all around, mustaches for the dudes, a few speak-bubbles and a parrot tossed in for good measure). Although I agreed not to use a page with anyone she knew closely, I'm withholding it here anyways out of respect for the embarassed – well, that and the fact I accidentally deleted the file off my hard-drive.

The second page (above) is a montage of words that any booty-loving pirate would love to say. Pretty simple, yeah, and Kerry and I had fun putting this list of words together. So let your inner buccaneer out and sample a few when nobody's watching.

October 02, 2006

83: Into The Woods

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Last week's vacation has been offically declared a hoot, and a culmination of several factors made it so. Start with my absolute favourite time of year, throw in one of my all-time favourite places to be since childhood, add fires, grey jays and smokie-dog cookouts and mix together with the sensation of being the only people for miles. It's bliss – and amazing that we didn't consider this sort of thing sooner.

Kerry and I are no strangers to visiting the Whiteshell, but have never made our excursions into anything more than day-trips (with the exception of a sole overnight stay two years ago for my birthday). So the prospect of staying there for nearly a week was exciting, since many more options open up when the (upwards of) four hours of travel time are cut from the equation. We made day-trips out of the two ends of the Mantario Trail, a gruelling multi-day hike through the heart of the park. The day from the south trailhead offered varied terrain, train-squashed pennies (a Whiteshell tradition of mine, I was bold enough to try a quarter this time) and fire-toasted turkey-tomato-avocado sammiches at Caribou Lake. The following day we took the hefty drive to the north trailhead for a hike along the shores of Big Whiteshell Lake where we encountered gusty winds, an abandoned 40s-era car reclaimed by the forest and a pair of shotgun-wielding grouse hunters ("so yer the ones scarin' all the chickens away.").

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Top: me and Kerry by firelight. Above (left to right): boulder on Big Whiteshell Lake; the beavers are clearly in charge on the Mantario trail; driftwood face.

Tuesday we drove deep into the park to visit a popular trail leading to Pine Point Rapids on the Whiteshell River. I can't recall offhand just how many times I'd done this hike since I was little, but this trip offered something I had never seen before in all my visits: no rapids – and no running water whatsoever. Neat in its own right, but a touch creepy, to be able to walk across silent and bare rock usually lost underneath fast-flowing water, fish and thrill-seeking innertubers. Any further creepiness was dissuaded by a local gray jay that could snatch peanuts straight from our hands. These birds, along with a fox, four eagles, about a hundred deer and a million idiot grouse, kept us company during the week when we were out pretty much alone in the woods.

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Above (left to right): the falls are gone at Pine Point Rapids; staredown with a trophy buck; the gray jay does my bidding (photo by Kerry).

Even though the weather slowly turned sour as the week went along, we were never turned back by it. The following day we paid a visit to the Hunt Lake trail just down the road from where we were staying, and Thursday we split our time between the bland Cabin Lake trail and the short but scrappy MacGillivray Falls trail (again, no water though). On a thick-as-molasses foggy Thursday morning, I also crossed the road from our rental cabin into the empty neighbouring campground to view what I could of West Hawk Lake from atop a high granite outcrop. In the fog I nearly bumped into a giant (to me) and fearless white-tailed deer buck that I talked to gently in order to pass. For the record, I won't divulge what we talked about.

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Above: a foggy Thursday morning on West Hawk Lake.

Our cabin was a quaint and down-homey affair, and on a five-day, non-weekend, out-of-season rate, a fair deal considering the full kitchen, barbecue and satellite-TV/DVD setup that allowed us to keep up-to-date with The Office, rent movies and sneak peeks of old glories like 21 Jump Street, 90210 and The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.

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Above (left to right): Kerry at Kinosao Lake in Riding Mountain National Park; fall leaves along the Ochre River trail (photo by Kerry); the road home.

This past weekend the scene shifted westward for a weekend stay in Riding Mountain National Park. Not quite the challenge for the hiking set, but gorgeous weather and some interesting sights (a bounding otter, trail-blocking moose and more bear scat than we'd prefer) made the short holiday addition fine in its own right. Sunday was quite possibly the day, that one fall day, that makes the season my favourite, despite its quickness and damning end.

Note: I'll be posting a link to the complete vacation Flickr photo set when it's up and ready, prolly a couple of days.