Fun in the snow

A month after the first snowfall, we got more.

As always Lola goes bonkers as she simply loves being out in the snow.

Mugdock bluebells

On our regular walk at Mugdock, Lola and I decided to divert and go through the woods up the hill along a very narrow trail rather than our usual walk along the loch. And a good choice it was, as the wooded area, completely out of view from the main path below was carpeted with bluebells.

Chasing reflections

What else to do than go ‘Doon the Water’ on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

We drove down to Doonfoot and wandered along the beach to Greenan Castle and the Heads of Ayr. I found the perfect spot for a shot of the castle with the reflections in the still water left behind with low tide. Nearly the perfect landscape shot, but Lola had other ideas and decided to pose for the camera.

Eventually, I got the shot I wanted, without Lola and any walkers, as you can see in my next post. This post is all about Lola who enjoyed the afternoon’s wander immensely, and nothing was more fun than run back and forwards between Lynn and I, splashing through the water.

I want to be alone!

Just like Greta Garbo said: “I want to be alone!”

Lola was tucked in for a snooze after her dinner. Very unhappy I disturbed her with taking a few pictures. But she will be happy once she gets the bag of goodies from Misfits Dogs a tweet of this picture with the comment “I’ll only come out of my nest for a wonky chomp” has earned her.

Gone for a swim in the loch

We got up and came downstairs in the morning to find an empty dog basket in the lounge and Lola nowhere to be seen. That is, until we opened the curtains, with a hot dog lying stretched out in the spot of sun between the French doors and the curtains.

The nice ‘early spring’ morning with a warmish sun and without the biting cold wind from the previous days looked inviting, so after a cup of tea we went for a morning’s wander down the field to the loch. Lola running ragged through the field, chasing imaginary mice and a couple of real pheasants.

Lola must have got too hot lying in the sun that she thought it was spring and decided it was time for a swim in the loch. The water was pretty freezing and did not look inviting to me at all. But Lola loved it, as she went in for a paddle and a swim several times.

Flying high

The spring like weather made for a wonderful afternoon’s walk along the River Kelvin with (finally) some good opportunities for some photography. Not only did I manage to get some good shots of the dipper, I also got this wonderful shot of Lola in action.

The original black and white image (middle below) has become my most successful photo on 500px to date (by a mile!) gaining 33 votes, 13 favourites and 439 views overnight. Being picked by the editors as the second photo in their ‘choice of fresh content of the day’probably helped a lot.

I really love this black and white shot, especially the detail, but was not completely happy with the composition, with Lola being dead central. I played around with different compositions, even tried square, but did not get anything better.

A friend suggested editing the image, lowering Lola in the frame, closer to the log, so she would be on the bottom third. I think this change would take away from the look and title: ‘flying high’. So I decided to do the opposite, placing Lola higher in the frame, on the top third. In my opinion, resulting in an even better shot than the original.

So here are the steps I took to create the final image above. Using the lasso tool in Photoshop, I selected a band containing the tree and Lola, stopping just above the log, then moving the band upwards such that Lola is on the top third. Using the clone stamp tool, I carefully restored the edge and adjacent area as closely as possible to the original look. Using Silver Efex Pro, I then applied the ‘High Structure (Smooth)’ preset and burned the edges softly, still keeping the editing to a minimum. 

I would love to hear what you think of the different versions, especially which one is your pick of the crop and why.

Portrait of a whippet

I have had my Canon speedlite for several years now, but have only used it sparingly as I tend to find the results too harsh when using the flash, even with a Stofen diffuser. This is more a reflection of my lack of knowledge on how to use the flash than anything else.

So when I heard another photographer saying that he always lit his models through bounce flash (when not being able to use studio lights) to create more natural lighting, I thought it is time to found out a bit more and experiment. After a bit of Googling and reading I came across the excellent web site by Neil van Niekerk, who provides a wealth of information on techniques for using on-camera and off-camera flash. A must read for anyone wanting to delve beyond the most basic use of flash.

What specifically caught my eye was the simplicity of it all, and Neil’s ingenuity to use ‘the black foamie thing’ for bounce flash. So the following day I went into town to hunt down some black foam. It wasn’t easy, but I was in luck, as the second art store I went in had Funky Foam in the kids section for £1.79 for an A4 sheet. With a couple of elastic hairbands, I had just bought my cheapest photographic accessory ever.

Time to experiment! I had a choice of two models at home, but found only Lola willing. I tried bounce flash off the wall to the sides, of the wall behind me and off the ceiling, and I must admit, it works an absolute treat.

Here are a few portraits of the super model, both in colour and black & white, hopefully showing that the bounce flash results in a more natural lighting and in giving nice shadow and detail, as opposed to bleaching everything out.

Hounds in the snow

Bart ‘the Dachshund’ was staying for a sleepover on Saturday night. On Sunday morning I let them out into the back garden and they ended up playing for a long time in the snow. It was wonderful to see them chase, tease and play while heavy snow was falling. From the shelter of the back door, I had a dry vanatage position for taking these images. Hope they do the fun they had justice.

Walkies? Walkies!

I finally managed to get out with Lola to the Kelvin to try my new lens at fast action photography. I was already impressed with the sharpness of this lens, but now I’m also bowled over with it’s performance in action. I am absolutely over the moon with the new lens.

Whippet triplets

You probably have gathered from the images on my site, that creating panormas (vistas) and virtual realisties by stitching multiple images together is one of my specialities. So I decided to do an experiment with three images shown below that I took of Lola at Portencross Beach.

And I am quite chuffed with the result.

Now how did I do that?

Anyone can do this! It’s easy. But be warned, you’ll need an awful lot of wine. To start off, I select the images in Lightroom, right click and select Edit In – Merge to Panorama in Photoshop which seamlessly launches Photomerge from Lightroom and saves the result back to the Lightroom catalogue.

In the Photomerge dialogue, there are a few options, but I just leave the settings as default. In my experience, Photoshop will either do a wonderful job or makes an absoluate hash off it, in which case I simply refer back to using PTGui Pro. In this case, Photoshop came up with a perfect stitch.

Then kick off the photomerge, open a bottle of wine, and poor yourself a glass. When your glass is empty, just refill it. Go on, have another glass. Take the whippet for a walk. And, yes you guessed it, have another glass. When Photoshop finally completes the number crunching, this is the result.

Then a suitable crop. Unfortunately, a few bits are missing in this case, requiring a little cloning work. Had I used a slightly wider focal length, a crop would have been sufficient. More crop in this instance would have lost part of the reflection and would have taken away any space (sand) above Lola.

Finally, another glass of wine to celebrate the result.

Beech whippet

The first weekend of the summer with scorching sunshine. After a day roasting in the garden on the Saturday polished off with lots of wine over a bbq, what else could one do except head to the nearest beach on the Sunday. Well, maybe not the nearest, but Portencross Beach is our favorite, and certainly one of the best within easy driving distance, reasonably quiet with spectecular views across the water to Arran and on a clear day even to Ailsa Craig.

The tide was well out, making the beach enormously wide, with wonderful stretches of rocks containing puddles, and bright green sea weed. Only the second time we have been on a beach with Lola, and boy, did she love it. Mooching through the seaweed, paddling through the puddles and waves, chasing and being chased by other dogs, rolling on a dead seagull and harassing typical Glaswegians for blackened sausages from their bbq.

These few images hopefully illustrate the whale of a time Lola had. She was so tired after running ragged that she slept all the way home in the back of the car, which is very unusual, and was even quiet during our second bbq of the weekend. I admit this is a blog entry with whippet overload, but hey, the images are wonderful if I may say so myself.
It was very hazy, and without polaroids, Arran was not even visible. I will have a look through the landscape and intimate landscape images taken that day, and dedicate a future blog to these if they are worthwhile sharing.

Walking the edge

Our usual Saturday afternoon walk is always and eventful time for our little Lola. People and dogs galore, and with a bit of luck she can steal some bread from the children feeding the ducks in the river. Nothing is better than splashing in the river, fetching sticks, running circles around ‘slow’ friends and chasing or getting chased by ‘fast’ friends.

The weather was dry but very overcast this afternoon. Trees are budding, but strangely enough and lots of blossoms coming out in the West End gardens, but no blossoms out along the River Kelvin yet. So I just spend an hour throwing sticks and shooting Lola running into the river and clambering back onto the river bank. Then Cara, a bouncy Visla, joined us for the usual dog chases.