Photography by John Reeve

  • Photographs of the Yukon. Photographs of other places from a Yukoner’s perspective.
  • Nature, landscapes, flora and fauna, close-ups, abstracts, impressionistic images, more...
  • Photography for the art of it. Photography for the joy of seeing.

“Creating photographs helps me to better see the world around me. It simplifies perception and focuses my mind’s eye to penetrate through the visual and mental clutter of everyday life. And sometimes peering through the viewfinder, removed from normal human perspective and context, I see wondrous visions that would never appear to me any other way. As such, my camera is an instrument of discovery and imagination.”

Feature Photo

A recently photographed or recently edited image. Updated fairly frequently, usually about monthly.

View previous  Feature Photos

Posted January 15th, 2017

photo: Chilkoot Forest
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Chilkoot Forest

Trees grow tall and straight in the lush coastal forest. I aimed to represent that in this image I shot in the Chilkoot state park campground near Haines. Under the forest canopy on a dull, drizzly day, I did not need a neutral density filter to achieve a slow enough shutter speed to produce some vertical motion blur and create the somewhat impressionistic image that I wanted.
Pentax K-1, SMC Pentax DA* 60-250mm f/4 ED [IF] SDM @ 140mm, 1.3 sec @ f/11, ISO 100

Posted January 15th, 2017

photo: A Fish By the Tail
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A Fish By the Tail

Pentax K-1, SMC Pentax DA* 60-250mm f/4 ED [IF] SDM, 1/320 s @ f/6.3, ISO 1000

photo: You're in my Space
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“You’re in my Space!”

Pentax K-1, SMC Pentax DA* 60-250mm f/4 ED [IF] SDM, 1/250 s @ f/6.3, ISO 1000

The Chilkoot River is a very short waterway that drains from Chilkoot Lake into salt water at Lutak Inlet about 2 kms away. It is a rich salmon stream, so of course it attracts bears. That is a big concern for park rangers, with the campground located adjacently on the lake and the location heavily used by fishermen, tourists and Haines locals alike. This sow (top photo) with a pair of two year old cubs has been habituating the area for some time apparently. They clearly are very accustomed to the hordes of spectators that crowd disturbingly close to them and mama seems too preoccupied with fishing to pay much notice. But the cub in the lower photo reacted with a threatening glare when an overly daring videographer pushed his luck with a recklessly close approach. I shot this image as the videographer retreated. Somehow, I barely noticed that the bear had turned its gaze on me, perhaps because the menacing quality seemed to have left its expression. Though the separation felt very uncomfortably small, my distance from the bears still was enough that, with the 250mm reach of my lens, I had to crop these images heavily to frame them as you see here. The K-1’s high resolution and high pixel quality came through for me while my Sigma 150-500mm was off at the distributor for a mount replacement.

Posted January 15th, 2017

photo: Exposed from the Shadows
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Exposed from the Shadows

One last Feature Photo to finally put my prolific month of September 2016 into the rear view mirror. I captured this one closer to home, at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve just outside Whitehorse. This lynx was lying at the edge of its enclosure, hiding stealthily in the shadows under dense vegetation as is their nature, when the sun moved to a position where a beam shone through to spotlight the creature. I had to shoot through a chainlink fence and tried several positions before I found a clear path through the undergrowth. The cat commenced a low growl as I finished lining up the composition but it stayed put until I made my exposure and moved back to review the image. It then got up and slinked off into the interior of the large enclosure, so this was my only exposure, but I got the shot I wanted.
Pentax K-1, SMC Pentax DA* 60-250mm f/4 ED [IF] SDM @ 250mm, 1/500 sec @ f/4, ISO 200

News & Notes

Look here for announcements of major additions or changes to this website, developments affecting the author that may be relevant to content you will see on the site and, perhaps, an occasional news or informational bit that might be of specific interest to visitors here but you would not likely see elsewhere. Plus the odd post that just doesn't fit anywhere else. Don’t expect frequent posts to this section, my priority for the website is the photos.

January 15, 2017 - Site Updates

If you visit this website from time to time, you may notice I have been busy on it lately. For one thing, there has been a flurry of Feature Photo additions as I caught up on processing the images from a very active month of photography last September, when I traveled around the Yukon and neighbouring Alaska with friends who were visiting from Ontario. Please check out those new images on the  Feature Photos  page, or click on the latest Feature Photo above on this page and navigate back through them in the more glorious higher resolution of magnified view.

Furthermore, I have done some long overdue maintenance on the site. Navigation through those magnified Feature Photos should now be a lot less sluggish for most users, as (I think) I have resolved an issue that was preventing pre-loading of the next image. Also, accumulated content on this Home page and especially the main Feature Photos page had made them cumbersome and slow loading for anyone without a fast connection. Older content has now been moved to other pages to make these more digestible in size. Additional and improved navigational links should provide easier, more flexible navigation through these sections. I hope you enjoy the improvements.

Christmas Greetings 2016

virtual Christmas Card 2016
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Wishing Everyone a Joyous Holiday Season and a Fantastic New Year

The photo is an HDR (high dynamic range) image of my home, created from 4 exposures.
Pentax K-5, Bower 14mm f/2.8 ED AS IF UMC, ISO 800

October 30, 2016 - New Camera: Pentax K-1

This past summer I was tempted into purchasing Pentax’s new K-1, their first full frame digital offering. I will admit, this was a bit of an extravagance. I was still very satisfied shooting with my K-5, even though it is now a 6 year old model. Back when I upgraded to the K-5, it abruptly made obsolete my previous, 3 year old K10D. The K-5’s 16 megapixel Sony sensor was a quantum leap in sensor technology, a real game changer in terms of image quality, shooting flexibility, and malleability of the image files in post processing. It enabled me to make images that previously were not possible. Advances in the technology have been more incremental since then and, notwithstanding the inherent benefits of a larger sensor, I was not expecting the K-1 to provide that degree of superiority over the K-5. Indeed, after shooting with my new camera for a couple of months, I still regard the K-5 as a relevant and superb tool which I will not be reluctant to use as a secondary and backup camera. But the K-1 does offer real advantages, particularly in challenging photographic situations, and it also adds some useful features on top of the K-5’s arsenal.

The K-1 is a well featured camera but, while not exactly cheap, it considerably undercuts the prices of comparable full frame competitors. That was a significant factor in my purchase decision, of course. It uses a version of the same 36 megapixel sensor found in the highly regarded Nikon D800/810 models as well as Sony’s own A7R. It has all the useful, uniquely Pentax features that I am familiar with from my previous Pentax DSLR’s and further expands upon them. Many of these features leverage the sensor shift image stabilization system, which Pentax apparently had to redesign from scratch to deal with the larger, heavier sensor. In spite of that challenge they managed to improve its effectiveness from

Neil Zeller
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Neil Zeller by Laptop Light

previous implementations, and they claim a 5 stop benefit. I have been impressed with its performance in my own use. While visiting Dawson City, I wandered around town in deep dusk, photographing the buildings at shutter speeds  3 stops slower than one would expect to deliver sharp handheld images without stabilization, and every one of my exposures was tack sharp even when viewed at the pixel level, which is a lot of magnification in a 36 mexapixel image.

A primary benefit one expects from a larger sensor is better low light and high ISO performance. This was a key motivation for me to get this camera, considering my love of northern lights and other night sky and general nighttime photography. The K-1’s ISO performance does not disappoint; I estimate a 2 stop advantage compared to the K-5, which is no slouch in this regard. Look at the portrait of Neil Zeller, the presenter we brought up from Calgary to instruct the Whitehorse Photography Club’s recent annual fall workshop. Lit by the glow of his laptop screen, I photographed him at ISO 6400. This is an Adobe Camera Raw conversion of the raw file with no adjustments except that I actually reduced the colour noise reduction amount to 10 from the Adobe default of 25; there is no luminance noise reduction. Click on the image to view a 100% (pixel level) crop. I am especially pleased by the fine grain of the noise. Mind you, I would apply a bit of luminance noise reduction as well as some sharpening for any purpose other than this example. Note also that this is a handheld 1/6 second exposure with a focal length of 105mm, demanding 4 stops of stabilization from the shake reduction system.

I was not expecting night sky images taken at ISO 6400 to satisfy me, and they do look a bit rough in subtle tonal transitions in the sky, though not necessarily any worse than ISO 1600 K-5 exposures. ISO 1100 has been my default starting point with the K-5 but when possible I try to use ISO 800 for cleaner output. With the K-1, I am leaning towards a default ISO of 1600 for this type of photography, which is sensitive enough for most situations and produces cleaner, smoother results than I could ever achieve with the K-5. It is nice to know that ISO6400 is usable if I have reason to go there.

The K-1 includes a built-in GPS, but that comes at the expense of no built-in flash. I use GPS more than flash anyway, so I can live with that, though I might occasionally miss being able to add fill flash to an exposure. I do have a couple of compatible external flashes but I am not inclined to routinely pack one when I would rarely use it. The GPS works in conjunction with sensor shift to provide “astrotracer” capability, a sort of limited substitute for an equatorial mount to track celestial objects as the earth rotates. This is not entirely a new feature and I have enjoyed playing with it using my K-5, which requires an external GPS module. See my  Orion Nebula   Feature Photo for an example.

A new feature that utilizes sensor shift is called “pixel shift resolution”. In this mode, the camera makes 4 exposures while moving the sensor by one pixel for each exposure, and combining them such that each pixel in the composite image contains full RGB colour information. This is similar to the output of a Foveon sensor, characterized by higher apparent resolution (though the composite image still is 36 megapixels) and improved colour fidelity. I do not expect to use pixel shift very often, as use of a tripod is essential, any movement in the scene can cause problematic artifacts, and the RAW files are massive at about 150 megabytes. But for a special image that I might want to print large, even compared to the superb standard output of the K-1 the improvement with pixel shift is noticeable. The Tombstone Valley image below was made with pixel shift resolution. It may not provide a meaningful benefit for a web image, but click on the photo to see a split 100% crop that compares this image with a non pixel shift version I exposed immediately afterwards with otherwise identical settings and processed identically.

Tombstone Valley Autumn meets Winter
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Tombstone Valley Autumn meets Winter

I bought one new lens with the K-1, the new Pentax HD D FA 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR. The variable aperture is rather slow and I would have liked a bit more focal length range at the wide end, but the image quality is excellent with consistently high corner to corner sharpness. I also like that it is fairly small and light, it is weather sealed, and it cost considerably less than the alternative Pentax offering of a rebranded Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 which often is criticized for poor corner sharpness and vignetting. I do have a number of excellent, fast, full frame prime lenses spread through this focal length range, and they all will certainly see use on my K-1, but the practicality of a standard zoom lens for general photography compelled me to get this lens. My other modern wide to normal zoom lenses are designed for APS-C format and their image circles generally don’t come close to covering the full frame sensor.

The SMC Pentax DA* 60-250mm f/4, one of my favourite lenses, also is specified as an APS-C optic. But apparently it was originally designed for full frame and only the addition of a baffle inside the rear mount impinges on its full frame coverage. I removed the baffle, following a fairly simple and well documented procedure. The modified lens works wonderfully on the K-1 and I have not been able to discern any detrimental effects from the modification. It has always been a bit susceptible to flare when shooting into intense light but this does not seem any worse with the baffle removed. I love this focal length range, perhaps even more on the full frame camera where the wider coverage keeps me shooting longer around the 60mm end when I would have to change lenses on an APS-C camera. In fact, I believe this has been my most used lens on the K-1 to date.

My Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM is a full frame lens. However, on this and some other of their lens models, Sigma deviated from the Pentax K mount standard with a larger diameter flange, and this interferes with the K-1 body above the mount area. To Sigma’s credit, they have offered a free mount replacement service to provide K-1 compatibility. So I shipped my lens off to the distributor and got the fix, which included a firmware update.

The one notable absence in my full frame lens kit is an ultrawide zoom. Only one such lens is currently available in Pentax mount, a Pentax branded version of Tamron’s 15-30mm f/2.8. Though it gets excellent reviews, it is big and heavy, and I find it hard to justify spending CAN$2000 for it. I don't need such a wide aperture in this category and I wish for a smaller, lighter, less expensive option. As things stand, a pair of optically superb, Samyang manufactured, manual focus primes must suffice to serve all my ultra wide angle duties. My Bower 14mm f/2.8 and Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 are my go-to choices for northern lights and other wide night sky views in any case. The Bower mainly filled this role on my K-5 and its even wider coverage on the full frame camera expands its usefulness for capturing sky-spanning displays. But for daytime use with the K-1, I find it difficult to focus accurately at distances less than “infinity”, and even the great depth of field cannot always mask my focusing errors. The 24mm Rokinon really comes into its own with a much more useful angle of view in full frame shooting. Its fast aperture and the K-1’s superior high ISO performance are a killer combination for nighttime photography.

My other full frame prime lenses in current use are the much praised Pentax FA 31mm f/1.8 Limited, a Pentax FA 50mm f/1.4, Sigma AF 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro, and Kiron 105mm f/2.8 Macro. The latter is the only lens from my 35mm film shooting days that ultimately withstood the test of digital, and it remains one of my favourites. I still have my collection of other film lenses that I put on a shelf after I tested them when I got my original Pentax K10D DSLR and I was not satisfied with the results. Perhaps I should give some of them another try and see if they might work better with the full frame sensor.

Merry Christmas 2015

virtual Christmas Card 2015
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Christmas 2015 Greetings and Best Wishes to All

The image I used on my Christmas card this year is an edited version of a photo that is included in my Aurora Extraordinaire gallery. I added the dog team from a photo I had taken in bright sunshine at the start of the 2011 Yukon Quest race, using Photoshop to massage it to look as natural as possible in this scene under the dim green illumination of the northern lights. A version of this image earned an honourable mention in the 2015 North Shore Challenge, an annual photo competition run under the auspices of the Canadian Association for Photographic Art. For the version on this card, I made some warp adjustments to slightly reduce the fish-eye effect of my widest angle lens, which I needed to capture the expanse of sky that was filled by the auroral pattern.
Pentax K-5, Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye, 23 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 800


September 2, 2012 - Creative Commons License

Although I am never averse to earning a bit of revenue from my images to help offset the expense of my craft, I decided many years ago that I was not interested in pursuing photography as a career. I valued it too much as a hobby to sacrifice that to the demands, responsibilities and compromise of creative freedom that go with the profession. Still, like most creators, I do not want others to take advantage of my work for personal gain with none of the benefit accruing back to me and I worry about the potential for unscrupulous people to misuse my photos for nefarious purposes, possibly with legal consequences to me. Thus I have been protective of my copyright. This often has been an uncomfortable stance for me, especially since I started this website with my main purpose being to share my artistic vision with the world. I have resisted the precaution of marring my website images with a watermark or employing techniques that make it harder to download them, relying mostly on relatively low resolution to limit their commercial value. I know many people download images with callous disregard for copyright and really I am fine with them doing so for their personal enjoyment. I am not so thrilled that my work could be widely distributed with no credit being attributed to me as the creator. To publicly license rights for such uses with proper conditions is a legal minefield I am not prepared or qualified to navigate by myself.

I first became aware of the Creative Commons a couple of years ago. I was attracted by its facility to proffer certain usage rights to the public that I wished to allow, backstopped by a solid legal license and appropriate conditions of use. I considered adopting one of their licenses at that time but did not get around to it, partially out of concern that it did not adequately protect against use for purposes that might misrepresent me by contradicting my personal viewpoints and values. That concern remains but, on balance, the Creative Commons provides the best framework I am aware of to share my photographs without making criminals of users who respect the conditions of the license, while encouraging attribution to me and maintaining reasonable safeguards against abuse ... or at least a sound legal basis to address abuses.

I have chosen to adopt the  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License , the most restrictive of the Creative Commons license options. If someone wants to use my work for commercial purposes I generally expect compensation for this so they must negotiate a separate license with me. I am more receptive to people wanting to create derivative works using my images but to guard against them being used in ways that I would find objectionable I maintain the requirement that they obtain specific permission from me.

I have written more  here  about how this Creative Commons license applies to my images on this website.