I like hike . . .

Archduke Trail Valldemossa and Port Valldemossa-5So blogging is already getting exhausting and I’m only four posts in. Have decided to shorten things up so here’s how last Wednesday went. [Having now finished the post I see it’s not that short. Well. I am what I am!]

Decided on a 14K loop hike – the ‘Archduke’s Passage’ from Valldemossa – a fairytale village if ever Valledemossa – iPhone shot taken when I stopped for a rest after climbing for about 90 secondsthere was one.

Missed the fact that the 1500 foot climb was apparently almost all in the first 2000 feet. Gasp. Wheeze. Burn. Had a few choice mental words with the Archduke.

Continue reading “I like hike . . .”

El 2 del 2. What?

so here’s how yesterday morning went…
Fiesta de la Candelaria El 2 del 2

6AM. Woke up at the crack and decided to get up – threw on thick socks, lulus and sweatshirt (apartment unheated) – eager for my morning cafe con leche fresh from the divine Nespresso machine (I’m almost a convert, but they have to come up with recyclable pods).

Then… thought I’d check for February festivals in Mallorca – wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any.

Oh look, here’s one in the Cathedral de Santa Maria in Palma. Wow, that looks fantastic. An amazing trick of the light that only happens twice a year. Gotta see that!

When is it? Oh – February 2nd – wait – isn’t that today? Yes it is. Funny you should ask.

What time? 8.30AM

8.30AM! That’s 2 hours from now. Siri! Wake up and tell me if I can make it. (Palma is at least an hour’s drive on the other side of the island.)

Siri says yes if I leg it out the door on the spot. No shower. No change. No breakfast. Just grab camera(s) and go NOW.

So I did.

Continue reading “El 2 del 2. What?”

Practising safety first in Mallorca . . .

cami vell del far
This is the spot where the goat-herders of yore apparently stopped for a ciggie. Considering it’s at the top of about an eleventy thousand feet climb pretty much straight up into the heavens – I would have to question their judgement. Not that I was gasping for breath or anything!

As a novice hiker, a woman soon to be out and about on my own on some pretty challenging terrain in the majestic hills of Mallorca – I had promises myself to take all the precautions needed to avoid ending up calling 911 (which is 112 in español) as per a previous unfortunate incident when following a 3 mile loop from the visitor’s centre in Tobermory. (Another story . . .)

Continue reading “Practising safety first in Mallorca . . .”

I interrupt your Australian Open viewing…

and mine… to bring you the news that due to an amazing 8 straight days of beautiful sunshine – I haven’t been huddled up indoors updating my promised ‘blog’.

This weather is unusual – as everyone tells me – last year was really cold – and in fact there is a troubling drought (Mallorca being an island with finite water resources) – and believe me I have had to rearrange my features into a ‘sad’ face to reflect my absolutely disingenuous ‘concern’ at the horror of constantly fabulous weather [we all know I’m really :) – oh like you wouldn’t be too!]

Toronto Women's Camera Club== > photography notes (may or may not be of interest)

Anyway – here’s an iPhone shot taken using a joby gorillapod (mini tripod) and using the slowshutter app – did not work hard for this – it’s right in front of my apartment. The slowshutter app is my absolute favourite for any shot involving moving water since it allows you to take long exposures during the day – giving the smooth water effect you see here. Personal preference of course.

2 cautions – it usually takes a lot of trial shots before you get it right. #1 because when it’s sunny it’s very hard to see the screen, and #2 you’ll need to fiddle with the amount of blur and the number of seconds to get the right combo to reflect the kind of shot your looking for. And sometimes you’ll still get home and discover you didn’t get it after all – or on the other hand you’ll discover a great shot you didn’t know you had. Thats’s how it goes . . . and I’ll challenge any photographer to tell you different.

puerto pollensa pinewalk beach

Primera semana . . .

Hola amigos! Lo siento – so much for daily updates – but it hasn’t rained yet (there’s a drought) so I’ve been out trying to enjoy every minute in Puerto Pollensa before the weather turns…

My new office (don’t hate me.) More to follow.

view of puerto pollensa
Cannot get enough of this…

Mallorca Malarkey . . .

As many of you know I will soon be off on a big spanish adventure!

While I certainly won’t be recording every minute – I will be posting any happenings or maybe worthy photos in this space and you are of course very welcome to drop by if you happen to be wondering what I’m up to – or possibly cursing my existence from your spot in a snowbank.

And here’s the reason you visited from Facebook. This is what I looked like the last time I was in Mallorca – and this is my poor younger brother clearly less than delighted to have been dressed in a complementary outfit. No doubt he learned to run as fast as he does in order to avoid this ever happening again :)

Nicole and Gerard Mallorca 1




Last minute Holiday gift help!

Let’s start with the best thing about my holiday gift suggestion – which is that I’ll deliver it to your door! No fighting through stores, no answering the lame ‘hi, how are you?’ from every greeter (ok, that used to be a good idea, but now it isn’t). 

The rest of the info is in my short slideshow, I found some good music so don’t worry you won’t have to listen  to Holly Jolly Christmas again either.

Good photography never goes out of style! And coaching sessions will improve anyone’s photography forever. Really! The gift that keeps on giving and which has reduced this blog post to horrible cliches. 

Happy Holidays to one and all!

Editing Edification:

Most photos require editing to look their best.

By editing I don’t mean photoshopping women into Barbie dolls.

I do mean recovering the colour, tone, contrast and detail  that are already present in your photos.

Not to mention having loads of FUN with iPhone/iPad apps that quickly turn your snaps into art (and back, if you decide you’ve added one too many degrees of crazy.)

Photo editing software: (Great news – you already own it!)

Most photo-related programs provice basic editing tools that help you boost contrast and colour and also to recover very dark or bright areas. Which is often all you need.

Here’s my video on magically bringing back shadows using iPhoto – if you’re not a Mac person you can do this in Picasa or whatever program you use.


iPhone/iPad editing apps:

Yeah, tons of iPhone/iPad apps available. Snapseed was recommended to me and even though it’s not free ($5) it’s one of the better ones. It certainly does a lot of great things – but the reason it stands out for me is eae of use. Onscreen intructions help you learn each feature very quickly (hate apps that leave you completely in the dark).

You’re really up and running and getting creative in no time and you have to love an app that can do that.

Here’s an iPad shot of one of Brooke Batchelor’s trays in action (brookebatchelordesign.com) – before and after I’ve edited in Snapseed while stting around at the hair salon. (No trashy mags for me!) I enhanced colour and detail, and used the ‘Centre Focus’ feature to create the nice blur bringing the focus onto the food and the tray. (For more on the difference between ‘good blur’ and ‘bad blur’ and ‘really, really bad blur’ in your photos – consider attending one of my workshops!)

Original iPad shot

Another note on Snapseed, it’s also available for your Mac or PC ($20) so you could use it for all your editing if you want a little more than iPhoto or Picasa etc.

There are many other apps, and then of course there’s Instagram and their excellent photo sharing service – but those will be the subject of another post.

Don’t bother with:

Apps that let you ‘zoom in’ – your iPhone or iPad does not have a zoom lens although you can buy them – but then you might as well use a camera – right?

You are better off focusing properly by tapping the screen on your desired subject and then cropping in later. Just my two cents . . .

Portrait backgrounds: Hitting the wall…

just about any wall will make a great portrait backgroundThis tip will help you out whenever you want to take a portrait photo of kids, family members, friends – but there’s seemingly no natural place to have them pose. Maybe you’re stuck in the restaurant parking lot and you’ve just gathered before you go in – something like that.

If you are in this situation, your best friend will be a plain wall in open shade.

99% of your portrait photos taken under these circumstances will look better if you can manage to find this wall/shade combination.

The above portrait was taken in front of an ugly, but interesting, parking lot wall. Two steps to the subject’s left was a sharp patch of sunlight. If standing in that sunlight he would have been blinking in the sun, and also have sharp shadows across his face.

In this shaded photo, there is still plenty of light, but no sharp shadows and no distracting background.

The emphasis here is on the subject, and not the subject + restaurant sign, or subject in front of a row of ugly cars. That’s why it is an effective photo.

That and the fact that he’s pretty darn cute!

Want sharp focus? Use Live View to get up close and really, really personal . . .

This technique for achieving razor sharp focus in your digital SLR camera came to me by way of the very wonderful Algonquin Park photographer Andrew Collett.

I haven’t mentioned it before as it only applies to cameras with a Live View function that allows you to view your subjects ‘live’ on your LCD screen instead of through the viewfinder. This Live View function is now available in pretty much all the new Canon and Nikon models and probably all the others as well – so it now applies to a much wider group of amateur photographers.

So what’s the secret?

  • First, get your camera on a tripod and your flip your lens to ‘manual focus MF instead of AF autofocus’.
  • The switch for this will be on the barrel of your lens as shown in the image to the left.
  • Switching to MF means that you will be turning the focus ring on the lens to focus on your subject.
  • When it’s on AF, the lens does the focusing for you.

With me so far?

  • Now switch your camera to Live View mode. You’ll know you are in Live View mode when the world suddenly appears on your LCD screen, somewhat as if your camera was a point and shoot.
  • For most cameras this will involve a trip into the menu along the lines of ‘Live View’ ‘Enable”, and then pressing the designated button on the back of the camera to activate.
  • No this is NOT hard – it’s just a couple of buttons, just find out where they are, you’ll see, it’s totally worth it!


As promised – razor sharp shots:

  • Turn Live View on and set your camera up to focus on a (static) subject. Rotate the focus ring on your lens until your subject appears pretty sharp on your LCD.
  • Notice that there is a focus box of some kind on your screen and that you can use the buttons/joystick on the back of the camera to shift this box around the frame. Move the box to the area of your subject that you want to be the most sharp.
  • You are now in a position to magnify your subject using the same buttons on your camera that allow you to zoom in when your are reviewing your photos. These buttons (example shown left) will usually have a ‘magnifying glass’ icon containing a ‘+’ and ‘-‘ in the centre. They are often positioned top right. To magnify or zoom in, press the ‘+’ button.
  • Press the button once and you’ll see your subject magnified on your LCD. Try adjusting the focus ring to get your subject even sharper than it had previously appeared.
  • Press the button once again to really magnify your subject and you’ll see that you can still adjust your focus even a little bit more.
  • Your subject is now as sharp as possible – and by the way – really cool to see.
  • All that’s left to do is press the shutter and take the shot.


A Live View focus comparison

Here I’ve taken two quick shots of a little jeweled lamp shade that I have. One using my lens’ autofocus (and it’s a very fast, very sharp lens) and the second using the Live View technique. I have cropped to only a fraction of the original image so you can see the difference in the edges. Apologies for the deteriorated appearance caused by the extensive magnification.

The second photo is sharper and if this is not immediately apparent looks at the texture of the material on the shade and you can easily see how much clearer it is. Extra sharpness at this level will give you incredible sharpness throughout your image (although this will of course be affected by your choice of aperture). This will be particularly fabulous for landscape and macro shots, which are more typically the ones where you might be using a tripod and shooting a ‘static’ image. This is not going to help you for portraits unless your subject can sit completely still (unlikely!)

I’ll add a few more examples later but for now let me encourage you to work through the settings and give this a try. Believe me as soon as you see the magnified image on your screen you’ll be hooked!

Love your camera and it will love you back . . .