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Pitt Polder - a favourite birding and hiking site.

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A bright sunny day with the promise of adventure lured me to one of my favourite birding and outdoor areas - Pitt Polder. There are three destinations here that I frequent. These include the hike around the dikes at the south end of Pitt Lake, Widgeon Creek (canoeing), and Pitt Polder Ecological Reserve. Yesterday I decided to try the ecological reserve. It had been dry and warm (for January) the last few days so the potential for mud and puddle jumping was low. Besides, I had found some wonderful birds at this location on previous visits. The pictures above indicate the success I had with my excursion. The hike itself was about five and a half kilometers. I usually have at least one camera with me; yesterday I brought two, but even without them it would have been an awesome time. The panorama is a stitched image of six photos merged in Photoshop CC. I shot that and other landscape photos with my full-frame DSLR equipped with a 24-80 mm lens. My other camera boasted my

Green-winged teal - small but mighty.

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Smallest dabbling duck. Winters furthest north of all teal species. Beautiful cinnamon head with iridescent green crescent through and behind the eye. However you describe it, the green-winged teal is a remarkable bird. I photographed this particular duck while visiting Burnaby Lake two days ago. I am not able to get all that close to them normally, but the fact they have acclimated to humans has allowed unusual access. I managed to get a close-up photograph of the head while it was preening. I just love the strong colours bursting from the male's head. There are two unusual things about this photograph. The first, and most obvious, is the teal's speculum is blue and not green. If you look carefully at the crescent-shaped green strip that runs before and after the eye you will detect the presence of blue pin-feathers as the stripe progresses. My research tells me that both the blue on the head and the wing are "a trick of the light" due to thei

Burnaby Lake - An inner-city birder's paradise.

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The basin of Burnaby Lake was gouged out by passing glaciers some 12,000 years ago. This natural water body is home to a myriad of birds and other wildlife, including turtles, salamanders, and numerous small mammals. The lake has fish in it; carp and the Northern pikeminnow which can get up to 25 pounds. It is fairly shallow; sediment has been filling it in over the years. As a result, it is crowded with aquatic plants making it an ideal environment for organisms both above and below the water. Yesterday I had an opportunity to visit the lake. There are many trails around and access points to the lake; we parked at Burnaby Lake Nature House on the park's north side. Docks allowed water access; the number of birds present in the area was startling. Even though it is mid-January there were hundreds of ducks and other wetland birds (below). There were over two dozen long-billed dowitchers (top photo) feeding in the shallows; it was wonderful to watch them forage. I

Finalizing the HDR image.

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The hard part of creating an HDR image comes from creating the original files that the completed image is based upon. Once that is done, either from bracketing or expanding a RAW image as discussed on my previous blog (click here to view it), you then have to choose the parameters that bring those different components together. Programs such as Photomatix and Nix Pro 2 offer quite a number of preset choices. I pulled up some old bracketed photos I took in Alberta and opened them using the HDR Nix Pro application. After running the program I was given 40 different variations on possible final products; six of them are visible in the above compilation. I picked the one I liked most and then altered it slightly using the editing tools included with the program. All of the HDR applications I have used allow manipulation of the final image, but I find the interface with Photomatix and Nix Pro to be particularly powerful and easy to use. Once I completed the tweaking process I

Creating your own HDR image with one photo.

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HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Normal JPEGs can only capture a range of about 8 stops from the darkest to the lightest values. This is adequate under most situations but fails when the light falling on objects in your photo goes beyond those values. On a sunny day it is not unusual for bright areas to be 10 or 12 stops higher in their light values (LV) than shadowed areas. This can go well beyond that when the sun is in the image, if sand or snow is present, and especially if the light is reflecting off the water. Using RAW settings in your camera can adjust for this to some extent as RAW images typically have about 12 stops of latitude. This essentially means that much more information can be extracted out of areas of shadow. If you want more range than that you can consider bracketing over a wide range and using HDR software to combine the images. It is best if you are using a tripod and if variable objects like moving people that cause ghosting are not present.

RAW vs JPEG - which is better?

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The question as to which format to use has been an ongoing battle for many photographers for some time. It has just about been twenty years since I switched over from film to digital and the pros and cons continue to change. Some differences continue to be true while others have faded into oblivion. As you can see in the above pictures, the left image was taken from a RAW file and the right from a JPEG file. In case if you are wondering if there was any difference in the actual capture, I used a dual capture mode on a Nikon D750 that produced two files; one RAW and one JPEG. Both images were adjusted in post, the RAW image using Adobe's digital raw software included in Photoshop CC and the JPEG using the Photoshop application itself. I applied the various filters as I normally would for each file. 1. Raw does not use compression (some raw files may be compressed to produce smaller files). The image below is a closeup of the fisherman on the dock; the left from t

Praying Mantis - not your average insect.

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Don't let the name fool you; the praying mantis is not a venerable insect. Nor does it aspire to quiet contemplation in consideration of its maker. The pious way it holds its forearms and its stoic lack of motion has a different purpose; its hunting. Its main source of food is other insects. The funny thing about these six-legged invertebrates is that they can't pick out details. They are limited to three main visual factors that include motion, colour, and light. If something doesn't move, if it blends in, and if it is neither lighter nor darker than the surroundings, an insect simply doesn't see it. Or more precisely put, it doesn't notice it. This falls perfectly into the hunting method of mantids. They are essentially invisible to any would-be meals. Their stealth is deceiving. Those forearms are lightning fast when the need arises. The opposing spurs on the tibia and tarsus will hold any captive fast; the strong hooks at the end of thos