April 24, 2007

The Old Country

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Photo Friday's current and all-encompassing theme of the country made me head into the vault for a suitable image to represent, and also give me an opportunity to "paint with pixels" (as the Photoshop nerds say) – a technique I hadn't given much of a go ever before. And even this shot dabbles on the surface of what more patient people can do with this form of photomanipulation (click here to see another recent attempt I did, posted on Flickr), essentially a base image, along with a duplicated layers set to screen and multiply modes that were then modified to create this end effect.

The image itself is of a cultivated, early-autumn field at sunset outside the hamlet of Stevington, England where a whole branch of my family tree resides, taken in 2003 with my old point-and-shoot camera. Below is what the manipulated image started as; decent, somewhat washed-out, but still the elements that I exaggerated with light and shadow were all there to begin with ... just, you know, exaggerated. Click here for a closer look at the final black-and-white image.

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April 22, 2007

109: That's So Raven

Illustration Friday’s weekly theme of polar makes me think of the raven. Not entirely a polar bird (and I think, by absolute definition, there are no true polar creatures), ravens are still strong symbols of the higher latitudes and icons of the Great White North. I drew this raven in pen from a photograph (not my own) for an unrelated recent project and decided to snatch it for I-F’s theme also – adding dashes of subtle colour to the mix to give a bit more resonance.

April 17, 2007

Twelve O'Clock And Owl's Well, Part II

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This triptych (which can be seen larger here) was taken while waiting for
night to come at Shoe Lake in Nopiming Provincial Park, to begin a volunteering stint for the Manitoba Nocturnal Owl Survey.

The survey was fruitful this year; Kerry, buddy Jason and friend Christine and I heard 15 total owls (of three species) over 20 stops along a rugged and sloppy logging road, as well as three drumming ruffed grouse and an angry, tail-slapping beaver in a nearby creek (scaring the breath right out of me). We also saw ravens, two bald eagles, three panicky snowshoe hares, one scurrying mouse, one waddling skunk and one shooting star.

Sadly for me, I forgot to bring the little connector dealie that attaches the camera to the tripod ­ – so there were no cool night shots to be had this year. Which may have not been a huge loss ­ despite more stars than I have perhaps seen in my entire life, the moonless night did not provide much in the way of tonal variations (unlike last year).

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Addendum! The following weekend featured a once-in-a-blue-moon happening. A great grey owl, largest owl in North America and Manitoba's provincial bird, sat perched in our neighbour's tree for an entire Saturday afternoon. These owls are rare enough in their natural habitat (which is, by the way, not inner-city elm trees) – so a find like this, while Kerry and I conducted front yard spring cleaning, is unlikely to ever happen again in my lifetime. The sighting was also a great chance to use the new zoom lens, though the brightly overcast sky was quite unkind to a camera being pointed up into the trees.

April 10, 2007

108: Frog Life (It Ain't Easy)

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Illustration Friday's current theme of green couldn't have come at a more oppertune time. I've just finished a lengthy and arduous reading of Tim Flannery's alarming The Weather Makers, which at times made me equal parts angry, despondent and depressed. But I can take some comfort that at least the term "green" is back in the headlines these past few months, and looks to stay around with a heavy presence for some time.

Frogs and other species of amphibian are strong and early indicators that more-rapid-than-helpful climate change is occurring. They are especially susceptible to pollution and other environmental ebbs and flows, and as such their health and numbers are, as a whole, taking a harder hit than most critters you'll see kicking about on any given day.

Coupled with my sincere admiration of Jim Henson's Kermit The Frog, this hard fact helped direct my little tribute here to amphibians everywhere. So chins up, amphibians (if you have 'em – technically, I'm not sure) – some of us are doing our best to help your cause.

Sketched in pencil and then inked in pens of various thicknesses. Shaded with both pencil and charcoals and coloured in Photoshop. Total time, about four hours. Click here for a more detailed look.

April 01, 2007

107: Zoo Station

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Top row (left to right): dwarfed by the Steller's sea eagle; a fox makes the rounds; male snowy owl. Middle row (left to right); a seemingly cheerful female snowy owl; irked flamingo in the tropical house. Bottom row (left to right): an owl shows off her good side; fox fight!

Last weekend I borrowed (and eventually bought) a Sigma 70-300 4/5.6 APO Macro Super lens for my Rebel and took it to the Assiniboine Park Zoo for a few hours of playing about. Early spring at the zoo means not much is doing, but the critters who can relate to our climate here are indifferent to the temperatures and some were more than willing to stare down the gut of my lens as I figured out how to use it. Others were not as cooperative, like the cougar that paced and meowed and the giant bull elk that bared its teeth and hissed. But as you can see above, I had some decent moments with the arctic foxes, snowy owls and the formidable Steller's sea eagle (an eight-foot wingspan – I'm glad I was on the right side of the fence). And now I can't wait to go back when it warms up and more becomes available.

Better looks at these photos are slowly being added to my Flickr page. And incidentally, the cheery-looking owl in the middle is my submission for PhotoFortnight's upcoming theme of "happy" – go and vote!