Offerings from the lilacs on our balcony

Offerings from the lilacs on our balcony

To celebrate spring and all things non snow related, I took a stroll to photograph one of my favourite spring blooms, lilacs. It’s a lazy long weekend here in Toronto with the May 24th weekend the first official long weekend of summer. I know it’s not the 24th but no one calls it by the official name – Queen Victoria’s birthday. The holiday is simply referred to as the 2-4 or May 24th.  I doubt half the people in the country even realise it’s a hold-over from Empire days. But death to the politician who entertains the idea of doing away with it.  It’s a grand excuse to enjoy the first days leading into summer, plant gardens with no fear of frost, open up the cottage, and crack open a case of beer. That’s the 2-4 reference by the way. A case of beer holds 24 bottles, QV’s birthday is the 24th – a match made in Canada.

Alright, I cheated, I went out onto the balcony and snagged some shots without putting on shoes.  We’ve been growing a lilac tree for a couple of years now, and it’s beginning to shine.  We thought we’d lost it two years ago. And again, last year it looked sad and forlorn after we moved. But it survived the extreme cold, benign neglect and a move. During the summer, it shot up and produced a lot of greenery. It has proven to be quite popular with the local sparrow community that flitters about our balcony. We were concerned they may be eyeing it for nesting at one point. Luckily they opted for a less traveled location.  This spring, it’s honoured us with a bumper crop of purple.  It loves the corner we plopped it in. Here’s the first photo:

Photo of the lilacs blooming on our balcony

Too bad there isn’t  scratch and sniff internet.  The scent is intense this year. Can’t get enough of it.

Photo of the lilacs blooming on our balcony

 I leaned over the balcony and debated about getting dressed and actually going out, but nah – it’s the long weekend. Another espresso, prop my feet up and say screw it. I’m not budging for the rest of the day. I can look out my window and admire the birds and the blossoms without putting on shoes. 

 

NIK plugins for Photoshop / Lightroom – UPDATE

NIK plugins for Photoshop / Lightroom – UPDATE

NIK software Somehow I missed this news from October. Google sold NIK filters for Photoshop and Lightroom to French company DxO.   In case you aren’t familiar with DxO, they are software developers specialising in photography.  The exiting news?  They are developing an update for the package, with a release date this year.

DxO has an interesting suite of programs that includes Viewpoint (corrects lens distortion and horizon de-skewing) and FilmPack for the black and white analogue film fan.

“DxO FilmPack applies to your digital images the saturation, the contrast, and the grain of the most celebrated analog silver halide, slide and negative films. Up to 45 color and 38 black & white analog films are available to bring out the sleeping visual poet in you.”

This particular package could be fun to use, especially if you appreciate the subtle differences between old film paper types. The company offers trial versions so, might be worth a trip to their site to investigate.

But, back to NIK. there’s no word on whether DxO will be offering the filters free much longer or if the cost of the updated version.  It’s nice to see someone picking up the package and giving it a new lease on life.

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NIK collection can still be downloaded here
See the more about FilmPack and Viewpoint here

Looking through the windows at Allen Gardens

Looking through the windows at Allen Gardens

I have a bunch of photos left over from winter shots but, in all honesty, I simply can’t stand looking at one more photo of snow and ice. They’ll have to wait until  a heat wave hits and I need a bit of relief. Instead, how about some odd shots from a trip I took to Allen Gardens in March? Ok, I didn’t actually go into the greenhouse, I lurked around the outside. The place was too crowded so I stayed outside in the sunshine.

I wandered around the grounds for awhile, taking shots of this and that, finally ending up behind the main building.  When I took the photos, I was interested in the lines and structure of the building itself. I didn’t realise I had captured the people inside until I processed the images. Some of the shots are delightful snippets of random strangers among the foliage.

Hey, look at this photo! – random photos at Allen Gardens

Each pane seems to tell a micro story.

Hide and seek

Man yelling at tree

Photo of people in the windows of Allen Gardens

After I looked at these, I quickly threw them up on Instagram and then wished I’d taken more.  It’s interesting that each pane tells it’s own micro story.   I’ve looked at the settings I used and think a second trip is in order.  Now that the weather has improved, I have no excuse… but I’m sure I’ll find one to justify my inertia.

St James Park downtown Toronto

St James Park downtown Toronto

Had a bit of fun last week after an appointment downtown Toronto. I wandered through St James Park near King and Church.  Was one of the first nice spring like days we’ve had so far.  The city gardeners were out in force planting tulips and daffodils.

Photo of St James Park in the spring

Didn’t have a lot of time, but I managed to snag a handful of ok photos. It was nice to see the fuzzy green starting to appear on the bushes.

Photo of bushes showing green leaves - St James Park

We still have a long way to go when it comes to shaking off the winter doldrums. I have to admit, I kind of like this last photo. The framing worked out better than expected. I didn’t even see the women walking in the background, I was so fixated on trying to focus on the branches. As it turns out, a lucky shot. The women, blurred in the background turned the photo into something far more interesting.

Photo of women strolling in St. James park

Now that the weather has improved, I feel more inclined to go take photos. There’s something about freezing my tail feathers off that makes me lazy.  What can I say, I can find any excuse to stay home and watch trashy TV rather than work.

 

Tired of winter yet? How about just a few more photos of snow?

Tired of winter yet? How about just a few more photos of snow?

Despite my grumblings about snow and cold, I still ventured into it Saturday. I didn’t take my DSLR and instead relied on my cell phone camera. It’s pretty good for quick shots when I go from point a to point b for some winter shots

I’ve taken shots of this crabapple tree numerous times because it presents such a striking image.

Photo of crabapple tree covered in snow - Winter shots

It lends itself to black and white rather well. Unfortunately, the cell phone doesn’t capture shadows and edges when the light isn’t optimal and produces too much noise for my liking.  I really should have taken the DSLR with me, but I was too lazy.

Photo of street covered in snow - Winter shots

It wasn’t that bad out, despite the doom and gloom forecasts. Just a lot of slushy snow as the day continued. But it sure is pretty in the winter:

Photo of snowy street Winter shots

And finally, spring can’t be far away, right?

Photo of a bike covered in snow - Winter shots

 

Shifting foot to foot in the cold, just to photograph a bunch of ducks

Shifting foot to foot in the cold, just to photograph a bunch of ducks

I really don’t do well in the cold.  Keep that in mind when you look at today’s photo offering. I trotted down to Queen’s Quay to snap a few photos of the ice. I usually avoid going down to the harbour during winter because it can be bitter but got this notion in my head that I had – yes had – to photograph ice on the lake. Not a clue why. And yet I did.

I’m glad I didn’t wimp out. Not a lot of photos, but a few that pleased me.  The day’s adventure was about testing settings to get the best colour balance. I didn’t exactly cover myself with glory on that end. Quite a few awful pictures, although a few stood out. I scoured them, trying to figure out what worked, what didn’t and think I’ll go back down in a week to try some new settings.

One thing I didn’t know was Toronto is the winter home to ducks that paddle around the tundra all summer.  Photo of long-tailed ducks at Toronto harbour

They are Long-tailed ducks. Funny thing, I didn’t see a single Canada goose, but I saw quite of few of thee elegant looking birds. My lens really isn’t ideal for taking long shots of wildlife, but it did an admirable job. I didn’t know one of the birds had reared up like that until I was home looking over the photos. I’ll post a few more tomorrow after I’ve finished cropping them down.

Much of the ice was gone, so there wasn’t a lot to look at, but I took a few. I liked the combination of light and clouds bouncing off the thin layer of ice. Took a bit of work afterwards to adjust the exposure, I didn’t have things quite right. I’d like to try again with completely different settings to do a comparison of the colours, exposure etc.  Photograph of Toronto harbour in the winter(I can’t believe I’m about to say this but …) hopefully it’ll get colder and the harbour will freeze up a bit more and I’ll slip down for another try, but I just looked out over the balcony, I see snow drifting down. Maybe I’ll lug my camera with me again today as I head out to work. Might get another shot like the ones I posted yesterday (take a look at them here).