News & Articles 2007 - 2010

Early Days

These sparse posts date back to the original debut of this site. They cover a period when I was on a steep learning curve trying to figure out how to achieve what I wanted for the site whilst struggling with the crippled version of second rate, obsolete web editing software provided by my hosting service. 'Nuff said.

March 8, 2009 - New Gallery: Snow Sculptures

It has been a long time since I last posted a new gallery on this site. Photographing near home tends to produce a regular trickle of individual images that fit best in the “Feature Photo” spot.

Snow Queen 200902

Snow Queen
Pentax K10D, Sigma AF 10-20mm f/4.0-5.6 EX DC @14mm

Adding images over time to a flash gallery is just enough trouble to discourage me from compiling galleries this way and anyway, I’m not big on arbitrarily categorizing photos to fit a theme. However, after photographing the snow sculpture competition at this year’s Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous I came to realize I could not reasonably portray the magnificence and depth of these artists’ collective output with one or two featured images. This was a world class event that drew participants from as far away as Finland and many of the sculptures deserve special attention. I’m not usually inclined to document other artists’ work but these creations and their outdoor location inspired me and, while they presented some photographic challenges, they also offered me scope for my own artistic interpretations. I ended up with plenty of worthy images to fill this gallery. I hope much of the awe these sculptures imparted on me is passed through to you in my photos. Follow the link to Snow Sculptures - Rendezvous 2009.

May 11, 2008 - Magnified Images of Feature Photos

As my Recent Feature Photos page grows I have been pondering what I will do with the older posts. They will have to move to other pages if they are to stay on the site. Also, I would like to offer the images in a variety of sizes to better suit the widely differing screen resolutions used by different site visitors.

This has led me to experiment with the format I now have applied to the most recent posts. Slightly smaller, lower quality images should help a bit to alleviate slow page loading. Clicking on an image opens a larger, high quality version in a popup window. Your screen resolution is detected and the most appropriately sized image from a selection of available sizes is chosen automatically. This should be satisfactory for screen resolutions as low as 600x800 while providing a reasonably large view even on high resolution screens. Scripting must be enabled in your browser for this to work.

What you can see here now is a trial and may change in my final implementation. It adds a lot of manual labour, made worse by the limitations and outright bugginess of my web design software. Perhaps I will continue this for select photos while offering others in one size only. In any case, the Feature Photo images on the main pages will be smaller and the older ones will be reduced to thumbnails linking to some sort of larger versions. I anticipate that eventually I will extend this treatment to other images on the Home page and elsewhere.

I would welcome any feedback on what I have done and ideas for what you would like to see. It likely will take awhile for me to complete the change. I get busy at this time of year and I want to spend more time outdoors and less time staring at a computer monitor.

February 18, 2008 - New Camera and Lenses = New Perspectives

Since going digital in 2004 I have been shooting with a Konica Minolta Dimage A2, a compact sensor, fixed lens camera, albeit one of the most advanced examples of its type, designed for serious photographers. Meanwhile, digital SLR technology has been advancing and these cameras have become a lot more sensible and affordable. I have been contemplating an upgrade for over a year and finally I took the plunge last month.

My new camera is a Pentax K10D, a 10 megapixel advanced amateur/semi-pro model that is the top of Pentax's admittedly limited DSLR line. Actually, I got one of the last ones and it just has been superceded by the evolutionary K20D ... at over twice the price I paid.

My initial focus on the brand stemmed from the fact that I have a good selection of Pentax lenses from my old 35mm SLR's that will still work on their current camera bodies. Ultimately, this reason diminished in importance as I came to realize the limitations and shortcomings many of these lenses likely would have on a digital Pentax. Aside from the fact that none of them are autofocus, many are older "K" or "M" type lenses that do not communicate aperture information through the "crippled" KAF2 mount of the new bodies, which necessitates manual stop-down metering and imposes some other limitations such as lack of automatic flash control. I do have some "A" lenses which are much more fully compatible and have all the functionality I feel I need. But then there is the question of "digital optimization". Older lenses designed only for film, especially wide angle ones, often suffer excessive susceptibility to flare and other quality issues when used with digital sensors.

Sunburst in Blowing Snow

Sunburst in Blowing Snow
Pentax K10D, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 @20mm, 1/125 sec, f/8; moderately cropped

Even after discounting the importance of my existing lenses, the K10D held enough appeal to maintain my favour. The $650 price provided a lot of camera for the money. It is a rugged body with extensive dust and weather sealing. It has image stabilization built into the sensor unit so it works with all my lenses, no need for expensive stabilized optics. It has innovative modes and features that help the photographer to take control of the camera rather than vice versa. Indeed, it gives me the sense that its design was well thought out by photographers, whereas some cameras clearly have been designed by electronic engineers. The main criticism of the camera that has consistently come up in test reviews is the quality of its JPEG processing, but that does not concern me much because I routinely shoot in RAW format anyway. And I like the fact that it allows me to shoot in the open source .DNG RAW format, which seems more liable to have continuing software support far into the future than proprietary, camera specific formats.

Though I have had the camera for a month, the brutal winter weather that persisted here until this past week has discouraged me from taking it out for much serious photography yet. However, it has been a good opportunity to study the manual and do some test shooting inside and through my windows. I am feeling pretty familiar and comfortable with it now. I'm also feeling very satisfied with my choice; this camera is everything I expected and I am really going to enjoy working with it.

Since I wanted some lenses with better functionality on the K10D than my old ones, I spent considerably more on new lenses than I did for the camera body, but these are investments that should continue to be useful on future cameras long after the K10D is thoroughly obsolete.

My new lenses are:
  • Sigma AF 10-20mm f/4.0-5.6 EX DC - The last lens I bought for my film cameras was a 17mm Tamron and I was really getting into ultra wide angle photography so I missed that with the Dimage A2. I was not too surprised to discover that the Tamron on the K10D is very prone to flare that can severely wash out the whole image area and, anyway, 17mm is not really ultra wide on a camera with an APS-C sensor, so this old glass has been relegated to the shelf. This is a difficult focal length range and the Sigma digital-only zoom is not perfect but it is very good and I am having fun with it already.

  • Tamron AF 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DiII LD IF Macro  - This digital-only zoom is widely acclaimed as the best in the "vacation lens" category. I was a bit sceptical, having in the past bought a few zoom lenses that were highly recommended but I hated them and they sat almost unused. I just received this lens a few days ago but my initial testing has me very impressed with how phenomenally zoom lens technology apparently has advanced in the intervening years. Though some compromises are inevitable in a do-it-all optic with such extreme range, I'm thinking it may only reveal any image quality shortcomings in the most critical applications. I'm amazed that I did not see any flare when I shot directly into the late-day sun; that always used to be an Achilles heel of zooms. The aperture is very slow beyond the wide angle range, but my camera's image stabilization should help me deal with that. I bought this lens for those times when I'm not prepared to lug along a full complement of prime lenses or to change lenses, as perhaps when conditions are inclement. If my initial impressions are borne out, my camera may spend most of its time with the Tamron 18-250 attached.

  • Pentax FA 50mm f/1.4 - I already had an excellent Pentax 50mm f/1.7 but it is an "M" lens and I felt I really wanted fuller functionality in a lens of this spec, which I'm likely to use for dynamic subjects such as people. Anyway, at less than $200 it is a bargain for such a fast, high quality optic.

  • Sigma AF 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro  - This is said to be Sigma's best quality lens so I couldn't resist it. I love macro photography but the 70mm focal length is a bit shorter than I prefer for nature close-ups, making pleasing, smooth, out-of-focus backgrounds hard to achieve when desired. It should be an excellent medium telephoto for landscape and general photography of outstanding technical quality.

Also, I have ordered a:

  • Pentax AF 31mm f/1.8 Limited - I decided to spring for this after I found that my Pentax A 28mm f/2.8, which was an excellent, sharp, contrasty, flare-free lens on my 35mm cameras, disappoints badly on the digital body with severe flare issues. The Limited is ridiculously expensive for a 31mm lens but everyone who reviews it gives it raves, even on a digital body regardless that it was not specifically designed for digital. Popular Photography declared it one of the three best lenses money can buy, the other two being Zeiss optics. It is said to be immune to flare, which is particularly important to me at this focal length. I like shooting towards the sun.

A couple of my old lenses that I do anticipate I will use regularly on the new camera:

  • Kiron 105mm f/2.8 macro  - This was my favourite lens with 35mm film and it appears capable of serving me well again now. It is somewhat more prone to flare with the digital sensor so I will have to be careful shooting into the light but I expect this still will be my preferred lens for macro photography.

  • Pentax A 200mm f/4 - Sharp, contrasty and highly resistant to flare, this lens gives up little if anything on the digital body. In fact, with its longer effective focal length on the K10D, I'm liking it better than ever.

Now that I am photographing with more serious and diverse equipment, for the benefit of my fellow photographers who view this site I will begin including notations of equipment and selected relevant shooting data with new images that I post.

Cold Snap _ From the Inside

Cold Snap ... From the Inside
The Sigma 10-20mm lens maintains excellent contrast even with the sun in the frame but it did create a small bright multicoloured flare spot and larger patches of subdued reddish and green flare. I was able to clean up these problems pretty well in Lightroom and Photoshop, mostly using the clone tool.
Pentax K10D, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 @10mm, f16; slightly cropped at the top

December 31, 2007 - Added page for "Recent Feature Photos"

With the first update to my Feature Photo spot, I have created a new page where I will temporarily move the displaced photos. Any time you are wondering whether you might have missed one or you just want to take another look, follow one of the links on this page to "Recent Feature Photos" (Now Feature Photos). As I move more photos to the page I will remove the older ones before it becomes too unwieldy to download. I haven’t decided whether I will then delete them altogether or create a longer term archive. When I remove other images from the main pages on this site, I may afford them similar treatment.

December 2, 2007 - Major site update ... Finally!

When I first posted this web site last April, I had no intention of letting it sit this long without an update. However, I was still quite low on the learning curve and I had issues to work through to make the site more easily updatable than it was and to integrate new content the way I wanted it. This proved to require a lot of time, never mind the time consumed preparing new images to post ... and the hours sure do fly by when I’m in Photoshop. A very busy summer and fall kept it from happening.

I did pay for proper hosting shortly after I put up the site so it displays better without the unsightly ad banners. Also, after a visit to Sheep Mountain in May I posted a flash gallery of photos from the trip for the benefit of the friends who accompanied me, but that was separate from this main site until now. Over the ensuing months I made a few false starts at doing more but when other priorities diverted me for awhile I would lose my train of thought, so it was always one step forward, one step back.

Sunroom+Landscaping Complete

My seemingly endless sunroom project is complete: weeks of backbreaking landscaping work have reclaimed my yard from the rocky wasteland that the excavators had turned it into, the lawn is established, all the painting and staining are done, the room is furnished and accessorized and feeling homey. Now I’m loving it! It was worth all the trouble.

Well, now the major projects of the past season are finished, winter has set in and the days are too short to spend a lot of time outside, so I have been burning the midnight oil at my computer. After what seems like an eternity spent grappling with new concepts and unfamiliar ways of doing common page layouts and edits, deciphering syntax and code that initially was pure gobbledegook to me, struggling with diabolical software and, more familiarly, polishing dozens of photographs in my image editing software, finally I am ready to upload my updated site to the server. Importantly, also I have set the foundation for much more frequent, smaller updates in the future.

So, aside from the changes under the hood, what is new?

If you have visited previously you already will have noticed substantial differences on this page. Most significant is the spot I have designated as the “Feature Photo”, as I will be rotating this picture frequently to provide a dynamic element to the site. It will always be an image I have taken recently or at least edited recently, though I will purposely avoid defining “recent”. Usually I will aim to have a high quality photograph, preferably with artistic value, to fill this spot but I might occasionally insert a lesser “snapshot” if it has some particular current relevance. My purpose in instituting this feature is twofold. First, I want to give you a reason to return to my site often but without asking you to commit much time when you do so. My other objective is more self-serving, to give myself a sense of purpose, the motivation to keep shooting and working on images so I might always have good new material to show here.

John at Work Bench

I built this bench in my new workshop under the sunroom.

Elsewhere, the Galleries are where you will find the vast bulk of what is new on the site. I have added several new photo galleries in the flash format. Given the data intensive nature of images, there is a lot there to download and view but some of the galleries will have limited appeal beyond a specific audience so you may not want to spend time looking at all of them. I do hope you find something there that appeals to you and perhaps even stirs your imagination.

Going forward, I promise the updates will be more frequent now, at least to the Feature Photo. I see some refinements that will be necessary as I add new content to this page. Last but not least, I want to add more photo galleries. Most of my current galleries depict specific events or times and that has excluded many of my favourite images so I want to make room for more of these.

Meanwhile, I think I have provided plenty for you to look at now so please peruse the galleries and enjoy. I hope you will bookmark this page and return often, if only for a quick glance at my latest Feature Photo.

Bringing in Firewood

Bringing in Firewood

April 16, 2007 - Welcome to “Visions of a Contemporary Yukon Sourdough”

After considerably more learning and preparation time than I had counted on, I am almost ready to upload my brand new website, version 0.1. As recently as six months ago, if anyone had suggested I should have my own website I would have scoffed at the idea, I just didn’t see any reason. The initial trigger that led to my change of mind came late last fall when my internet service provider announced that it would be winding down its ISP services. The prospect of identifying everyone who I would need to notify about my change of e-mail address was weighing on me when I watched an episode of the TV tech show, “Call for Help”, in which host Leo Laporte commented how cheap domain names had become and suggested that everybody should have one, if only for a permanent e-mail address
Memories of Gold03

Memories of Gold
Forest fire smoke coloured the sunset light on the gold dredge tailings that line the Klondike Highway outside Dawson City. I should have taken two exposures to span the high contrast between sky and foreground, but I only exposed for the sky. It took some heavy manipulation in Photoshop to bring out the dark foreground and that produced a bit of artifacting, but it is not enough to prevent this from ranking amongst my favourite images.

that would not be affected by changes of ISP. That struck a chord and, after a few weeks’ contemplation, I registered my domain. Well, if you have a domain name I guess you can’t help but think about having a website, especially when the domain registrar offers free basic hosting and free NetObjects Fusion website design software, albeit a fairly antiquated version that has proven to be one of the most maddening applications I have tried to learn and use.

As I thought about it, my purpose gelled and now I wonder why it never entered my mind previously. I have been an avid photographer for most of my life, but in recent years I have been having trouble maintaining my motivation to take pictures. I have a shelf load of binders and boxes full of slides and now I am filling hard drives with digital image files, but what to do with them? My parents and most of my relatives who used to seem to enjoy my slide shows have passed on. For many years the Whitehorse Photography Club was a powerful motivator, both by providing inspiration from other members and providing a venue to show my work and receive thoughtful responses from other serious photographers. We had regular photo contests, created group projects and exhibited prints in group shows. I remain a member of the club but there are few of us left and we no longer are active enough to fully satisfy my motivational needs. I have never quite worked myself up to mounting a solo print exhibition. But a website ….there is something I can work with.

Now I have created my basic website and a gallery of recent pictures. The future of this site will depend on your response, dear visitor. My ideas for future development have been flowing, though most may never make it past the initial concept. To do much more than what you see here now, I will have to ante up some money for less restrictive hosting and I anticipate that I will, but I don’t want to pay if no one is going to come. I don’t expect a large following; just a few of you looking in for new content once in a while will be enough to justify maintaining the site and periodically updating the photo galleries section. A few more might lend me the enthusiasm to increase the content and endeavour to keep the site fresh and dynamic.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and I hope you will be inspired to return.

Porcupine Tear

Porcupine Tear
 I came upon this critter on a favourite trail that loops from my home. I only saw it as it scurried off and I figured it was gone so I kept hiking. Then I thought, “Porcupines don’t run far, they just find a protected spot to stand their ground.” I turned around and found it under the low branches of a large spruce where it had disappeared. I literally had to crawl under the boughs to get an angle on it. After several shots I decided that was enough and it was time to leave the poor fella alone. Not yet used to having a camera with built-in flash, I was well up the trail when I thought, “Darn, I should have used fill flash.” I backtracked again, the subject hadn’t moved and I took several more shots, including this one. A slow-witted wildlife photographer should be so lucky! I only noticed the tear later on my computer monitor.
This image tied for fourth highest score in the 2007 North Shore Challenge, a contest amongst the 30 participating photo clubs of the Pacific Zone of the Canadian Association for Photographic Art.