Sublime Light Landscape Photography: Blog http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog en-us (C) Sublime Light Landscape Photography (Sublime Light Landscape Photography) Thu, 15 Feb 2018 22:42:00 GMT Thu, 15 Feb 2018 22:42:00 GMT http://www.sublimelightlp.com/img/s/v-5/u855691192-o911177382-50.jpg Sublime Light Landscape Photography: Blog http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog 115 120 What's Is "In" a Spectacular Landscape Photo? http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/2/whats-is-in-a-spectacular-landscape-photo  

I enjoy seeing and being in beautiful places.  I use photos to remind me of the majesty and grandeur of the places I've been.  I strive to make those photos spectacular.  It is worth asking, then, "What is "in" a spectacular landscape photo"?

 

The photo below is from the first day on my 4-day Routeburn Great Walk in New Zealand in 2011.  It's a nice photo.  Pretty mountains.  Interesting lines.  Not "spectacular", however, at my first glance.  

 

 

Glances can be deceiving.  If you look closely, in the edited photo below, you can see the Routeburn Trail, and 3 separate hiking parties, each outlined in red ovals.

 

 

A close up of the lower-left hiker reveals a lot of detail.  This was shot with on a 40 megapixel Pentax 645D with a 45-85mm zoon lens at 85mm.   That camera system could produce wickedly sharp photos.

 

 

Blue backpack, tan trousers, purple socks.  Purple socks??  Yikes.

 

The people, who are just small specks upon the landscape, help to make some photos spectacular, because they serve to demonstrate just how immense and majestic the landscape is.  Have you seen the hikers in any of my other photos?  

 

Jeff

  

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) new zealand people routeburn http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/2/whats-is-in-a-spectacular-landscape-photo Wed, 14 Feb 2018 23:40:32 GMT
Photo "Paintings" from Topaz Simplify: How does simplification scale? http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/2/photo-paintings-from-topaz-simplify-how-does-simplification-scale  

As I was creating paintings from photos using Topaz Simplify, I noticed that some photos appeared to be simplified "more" for the same settings...specifically, the larger the panorama, the larger the simplification effect for the same settings.  It seemed that the simplification was scaling as some function of the number of pixels.  Being curious, I set out to answer the question "How does Topaz Simplify simplification scale?"

 

To do that, I took a panorama, and then cropped it to two sizes: 24x16 inches (the baseline DSLR photo size), and 48x16 inches (twice as long).  I then processed the 24x16 crop using a Simplify "Size" of 0.25.  I processed the 48x16 crop using a Simplify Size of 0.25, and various other sizes, starting with 0.125. 

 

First, a crop from the panorama before Simplify:

 

Kolor stitching | 9 pictures | Size: 30716 x 7696 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 2.33 | FOV: 167.56 x 39.72 ~ 6.45 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

 

Next, the 24x16 crop processed with a Simplify size of 0.25:

 

 

Next, the 48x16 crop processed with a Simplify size of 0.25.  Notice that more detail is lost at the same setting as for the 24x16 crop.

 

 

Finally, the 48x16 crop processed with a Simplify size of 0.125.  It looks, to my eye, about the exact same as the 24x16 crop processed with a Simplify size of 0.25.  

 

 

Simplify "Size" appears to scale linearly with the number of pixels in the photo.  So, for future processing, to get the same level of simplification no matter what the photo size (the size of the panorama), I should scale the "Size" setting linearly with the number of pixels in the photo.

 

Question answered.

 

Jeff

  

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) paintings sublime light landscape photography topaz simplify http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/2/photo-paintings-from-topaz-simplify-how-does-simplification-scale Thu, 08 Feb 2018 12:23:12 GMT
Killarney Provincial Park: Aerials http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/1/killarney-provincial-park-aerials  

As mentioned in a previous post, I toured Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario last October (2017) for 3 very quick days to score some fall color photos.  Killarney is located on the northeast side of Lake Huron, and is about an 8-hour drive from Detroit, MI.  It was, simply, outstanding.  Killarney has a very unique, small, quartzite mountain range.

 

I did some hiking and I was able to take an aerial photography flight with a friend out of the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport on Manitoulin Island. It was a quick 30 minute flight to get over Killarney.  Once we did, the colors were just beautiful...just about peak color.   

 

 

Robby Colwell and the good folks at Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport were very helpful and provided the very finest in Canadian hospitality.  Great day.  

 

 

I processed 6 out of about 700 photos taken from the flight which are now in the Killarney Provincial Park Gallery.  I also did several hikes, shooting about 300 more frames.  I'll process more of the Killarney photos later this year.....I'm way behind on processing, still working on my 2016 trips to Utah, Denali NP, and Ontario.  

 

 

I also was very fortunate to see the northern lights for the first time while camping at Killarney.  Gorgeous park and very productive for just 3 days.  I'll have to go back.  

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial autumn autumn color fall fall color killarney killarney provincial park ontario http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/1/killarney-provincial-park-aerials Tue, 30 Jan 2018 20:18:04 GMT
Kananaskis Country Photos Finished and Posted http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/1/kananaskis-country-photos-finished-and-posted  

I finished processing the photos from my 3 days in Kananaskis Country (Alberta) in the summer of 2017.  You can find the Kananaskis photos here and the paintings here.  Beautiful, beautiful area.    Here are some of my favorites:

 

Kolor stitching | 8 pictures | Size: 28965 x 8177 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 2.12 | FOV: 221.75 x 54.77 ~ 11.66 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

 

 

 

Jeff 

  

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) canada canadian rockies kananaskis mountains peter lougheed provincial park http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/1/kananaskis-country-photos-finished-and-posted Tue, 23 Jan 2018 13:50:45 GMT
How to Batch Rename Large Numbers of Files Using Powershell http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/1/how-to-batch-rename-large-numbers-of-files-using-powershell  

Zenfolio, my website hosting company, does not have the capability to randomly sort images within a gallery.  I felt that randomly sorting images would create a much better presentation.  I did not want to install new software on my workstation, so I searched the web for native functionality within Microsoft Windows 10 to batch-rename files, specifically, to prepend random numbers to the existing file names.  I did not find the exact method I wanted, but I was able to infer a method.


It's pretty simple. 

 

1. On your desktop (or other location of your choosing), create a folder to house the photo files that will be renamed.  Example: C:\Users\Jeff\Desktop\Test

2. Copy your photo files to the "Test" folder.  I suggest using copies of the images rather than moving the files, so that you can create a different random order in the future

3. Open Powershell

4. Change the Powershell directory to the "Test" folder.  This is VERY important.  Otherwise you will likely rename every file that resides under your user name.  Example: Type "cd c:\Users\Jeff\Desktop\Test", then press Enter

5. Type "Get-ChildItem | rename-item -NewName { ((get-random  -minimum 1000 –maximum 9997 ).tostring()) + ”__” + $_.Name }", then press Enter.  This will rename every file within the Test folder.  It prepends a random number between 1000 and 9997, followed by "__".  Example: 4562__Photo Name

6. After uploading the renamed photos to a Zenfolio gallery, sort by File Name

 

That's it.

 

Jeff

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) computer method methods powershell zenfolio http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/1/how-to-batch-rename-large-numbers-of-files-using-powershell Sat, 20 Jan 2018 14:26:59 GMT
Sublimelightlp.com: Major Changes Now Completed http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/1/sublimelightlp-com-major-changes-now-completed  

I used the beginning of 2018 to finish the overhaul of the Sublime Light Landscape Photography website.  In December, I made major changes focused on landscape "paintings".  The 2018 changes reorganized "photos".  The changes:

 

  1. Structure: There are now four high level galleries.  The Favorite Photos gallery also serves as the home page.
  2. I organized the Photo Galleries to be by Country - State/Province - Park, where applicable.  I think that this will be a more intuitive way to find locations of interest
  3. I "randomized" the order of presentation of the photos in all galleries.  I did this to make the presentation (hopefully) more interesting
  4. I consolidated my previous two favorite photo galleries down to one Favorite Photos gallery with my favorite ~15% of photos

 

SONY DSC

 

I like the result.  Hope you do as well.  

 

Jeff

 

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) photos sublime light landscape photography http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2018/1/sublimelightlp-com-major-changes-now-completed Fri, 12 Jan 2018 14:21:20 GMT
Major Changes to Sublime Light Landscape Photography: Paintings Galleries http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/major-changes-to-sublime-light-landscape-photography-paintings-galleries  

I recently made four major changes to the Sublime Light Landscape Photography website:

 

  1. I created a comprehensive Paintings Galleries with "paintings" created by Topaz Simplify for all of my photos, which total about 6,000.  I have found that I like the paintings just as much as the photos, and in some cases, more
  2. I organized the Paintings Galleries to be by Country - State/Province - Park, where applicable.  I think that this will be a more intuitive way to find locations of interest.  I've only photographed 4 countries: the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and the Bahamas, but  I have photographed them extensively
  3. I "randomized" the order of presentation of the photos in all of the Paintings galleries.  I did this to make the presentation (hopefully) more interesting.  Zenfolio, my photo hosting vendor, does not provide the capability to randomize photo order, so I developed a method for randomizing photos using a Windows Powershell command
  4. I created a Favorite Paintings Gallery with my favorite ~10% of paintings

 

 

In the next few months, I plan to reorganize the Photo Galleries to use 'Country - State/Province - Park' as well, and I will also implement photo randomization in those galleries.  That will break the links in my blog, so I will have to make the changes slowly and to rebuild the blog as I go.  

 

For the creation of paintings from Topaz Simplify, I ran batch actions (programs) in Photoshop.  So, other than starting the batches, I really did not work that hard to create the paintings.  It took about 10 days, round-the-clock, for the batch programs to run, at about 40% CPU usage on my Puget Genesis I Workstation (highly recommended) for most of that time.  I'm not looking forward to my next electric bill.

 

 

I will write a future post about what I learned about how Topaz Simplify works, and about my Powershell randomization command.

 

Please give the Favorite Paintings Gallery and the Paintings Galleries a look.  

 

Jeff

 

 

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) paintings sublime light landscape photography topaz simplify http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/major-changes-to-sublime-light-landscape-photography-paintings-galleries Mon, 18 Dec 2017 15:38:21 GMT
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Please sign the Petition to Oppose Oil Drilling http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-please-sign-the-petition-to-oppose-oil-drilling  

The recent Senate Tax bill has a provision in it to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  Please join me in signing the petition to Congress that opposes drilling in ANWR.   You can find the online petition here:  No Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!.  Signing it takes about 15 seconds.

 

I'm a life-long Republican.  I agree with most of the Republican agenda.  But I don't agree with this.  There are very few wild and pristine places left.  We need to leave those places alone if we are to survive as a species.  It IS in our best interests, but a lot of people don't understand that yet.

 

Thank you

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) alaska arctic national wildlife refuge drilling oil oil drilling http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-please-sign-the-petition-to-oppose-oil-drilling Sun, 10 Dec 2017 16:04:40 GMT
Home Network Protection: Sophos XG http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/home-network-protection-sophos-xg  

Up until 2015, I used a consumer router as my home gateway (device that connects computers and devices to the internet).  Then I started investigating what would be good network security for the home network.  I didn’t like what I found.

 

The dirty little secret is that consumer routers used as gateways are laughably easy to hack, even when configured properly.    See links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, as examples, or search “router easily hacked” or “router insecurity” online.  It’s not just one brand…. it’s all of them.  Enterprise-grade routers are not much better.  See links 7 and 8 as examples.  With routers, it’s not enough to configure them securely and to patch them regularly, which almost nobody does.  Router firmware, by its nature, is riddled with exploitable bugs.  If your router is infected, your devices (PCs, tablets,…) might become infected, and your bank account and other critical information can be stolen.

 

For personal reasons, I needed something better.  Way better.  I also wanted something that could protect every device in the home.  That meant a firewall of some type after the cable modem.

 

Sophos XG running in a Polywell custom-built computer. Front view

Sophos XG running in a Polywell custom-built computer. Rear view

 

After much searching, I decided to try an enterprise-grade UTM (Unified Threat Management, or, a "firewall") software, Sophos UTM, which has since been replaced by Sophos XG, which is what I currently run.  Sophos has kindly made this Sophos XG software FREE for home users.  Wow!

 

Sophos XG has achieved test results that are among the best enterprise UTMs/firewalls.  In a recent NSS Labs test, it blocked 95% of attacks, and placed 3rd in security effectiveness, behind ForcePoint and Cisco.  However, neither ForcePoint nor Cisco offer free firewall software to home users.

 

Sophos XG Security Effectiveness vs. the Competition. From NSS Labs, 2017

 

I did this work primarily because I figured that an enterprise-grade UTM, highly maintained, would be much more difficult to hack than a consumer-grade router.  But doing this work is not for the uncommitted:

 

  • First, you need a low-power computer with at least 2 ethernet connections (aka, NICs) from acceptable manufacturers (Intel, NOT Realtek).   I currently use a custom-specified $1300 fanless Polywell mini-ITX computer with 6 ethernet connections, so it effectively does double duty as a 2nd (non-wireless) router.   I over-specified the Polywell computer in case I want to use it in the future as a desktop computer.  You can do just fine with ~ $800 (dual Intel NIC card instead of quad, lower processor, 8GB RAM) configuration.  Some people have builds costing as little as $300.  I chose Polywell because they offered the most configuration options.  However, Polywell's customer support is, well, not very good.  They appear to be a commodity builder.  Another option I might suggest is AVADirect, which may offer more hand-holding.  A  couple of tips:
    • Get a fanless build.  No noise.  Mini-ITX systems often have noisy fans.  I love the silence
    • Not all NICs will work.  My build has one I219V NIC that Sophos XG does not recognize; I knew this before I ordered.  Check Sophos’ compatible hardware list before specifying and buying your computer.  For the H270N motherboard in my build, you will have to add at least one Intel NIC card due to the I219V compatibility
  • Second, you have to download the Sophos XG software, write it to an ISO image, and then load it onto your Firewall PC.  That will require a monitor, keyboard, and external CD drive for the installation, and VGA, DVI, or HDMI cables.
  • Third, you have to learn how to configure Sophos XG.  To quantify the complexity of an enterprise firewall configuration, I have over 200 screenshots of my Sophos XG configuration as a reference that I can go back to and look at for troubleshooting and for history
  • Finally, if Sophos XG stops offering its software free to home users, my investment in the Polywell computer may no longer be useful.  There is a small risk here, but still a risk

 

Polywell Configuration for Sophos XG. Fanless Build

 

I did all of this work without a background in networking nor in network security, so it took 2-3 days just to get most of my devices connected to the internet, because I had to learn as I went along.  Also, enterprise-grade firewalls are not as friendly as routers to internet-of-things devices like Rokus, Apple TVs, Amazon Echos, Sonos speakers, security cameras, SmartThings smart home controller, and so on.  That means figuring out workable firewall rules not just for PCs, but for all the devices in the home.

 

Sophos XG Home Screen

 

I’ve been running Sophos XG for almost two years now.  It has blocked numerous exploits and malware.  It has also shown all sorts of (blocked) attempts to hack into the devices in my home (China is easily the worst offender).  I’m glad I use Sophos XG, and after I conquered the learning curve, it does not take much time to maintain.  I’ve also developed an understanding on why it is so valuable, and what to look for in a good home gateway (firewall, UTM, router) device.

 

Sophos XG Example Report Page

 

Below is my required feature list.  Sophos XG offers everything on my list

 

Malware Defense

  1. Ability to scan encrypted (e.g. HTTPS) browser connections for malware.  That means installing a Sophos XG HTTPS certificate into your computers, tablets, and similar devices to scan encrypted links for malware
  2. Email protection, including the ability to scan email and block specific file type attachments in email
  3. Intrusion protection (system), or IPS
  4. Ability to prevent malware propagation on the network through firewall rules and detection
  5. Ability to isolate devices from the internet while allowing communications on the home network
  6. Ability to isolate devices on the home network from each other, so that if one device is infected, it cannot infect other devices
  7. Ability to force-drop outbound connections to specified adversarial countries and hacker havens like China, Brazil, Ukraine, and Russia
  8. Blocking of known malware-serving URLs

 

Configuration / Administration

  1. Customizable firewall rules by device and by device class
  2. The ability to force and maintain (DHCP) device IP addresses so I can run reports and see if any devices are potentially hacked or compromised
  3. Notifications of specific events such as internet down and malware blocked
  4. Automated updates and security patches
  5. Decent reporting

 

Network Access

  1. VPN-in capability to remotely access home network devices while traveling

 

In a future post, I’ll outline some consumer alternatives to Sophos XG and how many of my required feature list they fill (hint: not that many).

 

I’d like to thanks Sophos for making such a powerful tool available for free to home users willing to put in the time to learn network security.

 

Jeff

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) cybersecurity edge firewall firewalls home network protection malware network protection pc security sophos sophos xg http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/home-network-protection-sophos-xg Fri, 08 Dec 2017 19:54:37 GMT
Purcell Mountain Aerials: Panoramas http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/purcell-mountain-aerials-panoramas  

As I've indicated in the past, making panoramas from aerial photos is very difficult.  Even if a long straight or a slow turn is planned and well-executed in the airplane, I often see severe alignment problems in post-processing, or, the creation of unreal landscape landmarks as the software tries to stitch photos taken from different locations.  Sometimes I can manually fix them, sometimes I cannot.  My success rate is about 40-50%.

 

I was able to create just a few panoramas from my Purcell Mountains flight.  Below are the ones that I like the best.  The panoramas are mixed in with all the photos in the BC-Purcell Mountains gallery.  

 

Kolor stitching | 3 pictures | Size: 13382 x 6037 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 3.53 | FOV: 165.74 x 65.02 ~ 7.38 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

Kolor stitching | 3 pictures | Size: 13256 x 6394 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 2.97 | FOV: 90.91 x 36.49 ~ -20.69 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

Kolor stitching | 7 pictures | Size: 24749 x 5730 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 7.26 | FOV: 230.02 x 49.03 ~ -7.15 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

Kolor stitching | 5 pictures | Size: 12609 x 5384 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 3.56 | FOV: 72.23 x 29.23 ~ -9.81 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

 

Kolor stitching | 3 pictures | Size: 12737 x 5641 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 3.20 | FOV: 0.53 x 0.24 ~ 3.35 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

Kolor stitching | 4 pictures | Size: 11107 x 5330 | Lens: Standard | RMS: 3.71 | FOV: 61.73 x 27.56 ~ -12.74 | Projection: Cylindrical | Color: LDR |

I hope that you like them.

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada purcell mountains http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/purcell-mountain-aerials-panoramas Thu, 07 Dec 2017 16:27:19 GMT
Purcell Mountains Aerial Paintings: Processing Finished and Posted http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/purcell-mountains-aerial-paintings-processing-finished-and-posted  

I also finished processing paintings of my aerial photos of the Purcell Mountains taken this past summer.  I've posted some of my favorites here.  You can find the rest in the BC-Purcell Mountains paintings gallery.

 

 

I used Topaz Simplify.  The only slider used was "Simplify Size", which was set to 0.25.  

 

Jeff

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada paintings purcell mountains topaz simplify http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/12/purcell-mountains-aerial-paintings-processing-finished-and-posted Sat, 02 Dec 2017 22:03:04 GMT
Purcell Mountains Aerials: Processing Finished and Posted http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/11/purcell-mountains-aerials-processing-finished-and-posted  

I finally finished processing my aerial photos of the Purcell Mountains taken this past summer.  I've posted some of my favorites here.  You can find the rest in the BC-Purcell Mountains gallery.

 

 

These aerials were challenging to process.  Many (not all) had an unattractive purplish color cast, probably as a result of two things:

  1. The circular polarizer not always being correctly rotated (hard to do on a bucking airplane with constantly changing direction, holding the camera steady with a 100 mph wind)
  2. Underexposure.  I've read that underexposure on some Nikon cameras can result in a purple color cast.  It reminded me of the occasional nasty purple cast of Velvia film, for those of you who saw that with Velvia 

 

 

So, I did some learning.


First, I trialed Capture One Pro as a raw converter and photo processing program.  I'll have to say I'm impressed.  I consider myself very knowledgeable in Lightroom, but I could not replicate in Lightroom the very high quality of Capture One Pro's color, the noise reduction, and the sharpening....and I tried and tried.  The noise reduction was even better than DxO Optics Pro, which was my standard up to this point.  My conclusion was, for the Nikon D800E, that Capture One Pro is a much better raw converter, hands-down...maybe even the best.   Kudos to Phase One.  It was a tough call on whether to purchase Capture One Pro.  A 1-year subscription to Capture One Pro is $180, paid in advance, while a 1-year subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop combined is $120.  I was not able to find a discount for the Capture One Pro subscription.  If you find one, tell me about it.  Capture One Pro is very good, but it is not a good value.  In the end, I felt the price was worth it, for now.   Barely.

 

 

Second, I dived deeper into Photoshop.  The basic approach was to:

  1. Use Select Color Range to select localized areas of purple (e.g. purple on near slopes, then a 2nd later selection for distant mountains,...)
  2. Manually add purple areas to or remove non-purple areas from the Selected Color Range
  3. Create a "New Layer via Copy" with the Selected Color Range
  4. Apply one or more of the following adjustments: Selective Color, Layers, or Hue/Saturation.  In Selective Color, I would choose Blues and Aquas and decrease the level of Magenta.  In Layers, I would increase the minimum levels for the Red and the Blue channels.  In Hue/Saturation, I would decrease the saturation of Blues and Cyans.  

Some photos had as many as 5 or 6 Photoshop layers, but 2 or 3 was more common.  The flattened Photoshop file was then finalized in Lightroom.  If I felt there was still too much purple, I would either move the purple hue slider toward blue, and/or decrease the purple saturation to the color matched, to the best of my somewhat fuzzy recollection, the actual colors that I saw that day.

 

 

In the end, I liked the final result.  I processed about 200 of the 800 photos taken on that flight.  I did not process the other 600 because many were of the same scene (there is a lot of overlap in what I did process), and the whole procedure took too much time.  

 

 

Again, you can find more in the BC-Purcell Mountains gallery.

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada capture one pro phase one purcell mountains http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/11/purcell-mountains-aerials-processing-finished-and-posted Mon, 13 Nov 2017 20:50:34 GMT
Killarney Provincial Park: Ontario's Gem http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/11/killarney-provincial-park-ontarios-gem  

After a long hiatus, and a couple of trips, I've finally gotten around to writing a blog post.

 

Kathy and I traveled to Michigan in late September to early October to visit family.  I "leveraged" (management consulting-speak) that trip to get over to Killarney Provincial Park for a 3-day whirlwind hiking and photography trip.  Killarney is located on the northeast side of Lake Huron, and is about an 8-hour drive from Detroit.  It was, simply, outstanding.  Killarney contains some of the oldest mountains on the continent, the La Cloche mountains, which are a striking white quartzite, and which rise to about 1000' above the surrounding landscape.  

 

I was able to take a flight and do some open-window aerial  photography, and walked several trails.  More about that later.   I processed one photo today, and I also abstracted it using Topaz Simplify.

 

 

Jeff

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial autumn autumn color fall fall color killarney provincial park ontario http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/11/killarney-provincial-park-ontarios-gem Wed, 01 Nov 2017 20:46:02 GMT
How to Secure a Home PC Against Malware: Updated http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/9/how-to-secure-a-home-pc-against-malware-updated This is an update to my previous post, based upon changes in the market and the products.    I removed Malwarebytes v2 and CryptoPrevent v8. I added Microsoft Bitlocker drive encryption and OpenDNS Umbrella Prosumer.  I also added some additional Microsoft Windows 10 hardening actions.

 

There are now 8 Actions to secure a Windows 10 PC from malware, up from 6.  These 8 Actions will make a Windows 10 PC almost unhackable.

 


 

1. Browser (Isolation) Sandbox.  A browser sandbox, properly configured, prevents malware from downloading from your browser to your PC.  The best option for home users, by far, is paid Sandboxie.   Sandboxie needs to patch about one vulnerability per year, compared to hundreds of vulnerabilities per year for Firefox, Chrome, IE11, and Microsoft Edge browsers.   Configure Sandboxie to force Chrome and IE11 to run inside of Sandboxie.  $75 for 5 lifetime Sandboxie licenses

 

2. Antivirus (AV).  I recommend Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus.  It tests comparably to the best AVs tested by AV-Test, AV-Comparatives, MRG Effitas, PC Magazine, and NSS Labs.  However, it easily has the lowest (best) attack surface of any consumer AV, thus making it my AV of choice over other good performers.  Webroot is free if you have an Ally Bank savings account

  • Good Alternatives: Norton Security Deluxe (price varies, ~$40/year/5 PCs), Trend Micro Maximium Security (price varies, ~$40/year/5 PCs)

  • Avoid: Most of the rest.  Especially avoid any Chinese, Russian, or Eastern European AV, which may include hostile government backdoor trojans

  • Interesting Options Not Yet Tried: Cylance Protect (managed, which means the provider configures it).  $60/year/PC

 

3. On-Demand Malware Detection.  I use Sophos HitmanPro (free).  I no longer use Malwarebytes as they have sunset v2, and v3 is not very good.  I also use Norton Power Eraser (also free)  

 

4. Software Restriction Policy / Anti-Executable.  Blue Ridge Networks AppGuard is easily the best option here.  There have not yet been confirmed bypasses of (infections due to) AppGuard.  $30/year/PC

 

5. Operating System Hardening (free).  Microsoft Windows has a lot of native programs, settings, and functions that the average home user does not use nor need, and that make Windows (more) insecure.  I turn most of these off or disable them.  Hardening is a key way to improve email security if you use Microsoft Outlook.  Key hardening items:

  • Accounts: Work from a Standard User account.  Use an Administrator account only for software installations and updates.  Set User Account Control to "Always Notify"

  • App Installation Setting: Only install apps from the Windows Store (after all program installation is finished)
  • Microsoft Office: ActiveX Settings: Disable all controls w/o notification.  Macros: Disable with notification.   Block RTF files

  • Group Policy Objects (GPO): Disable AutoPlay/AutoRun, Desktop Gadgets, 16-Bit Apps, Application Compatibility Engine, Remote Desktop Connections, LLMNR, Remote Shell Access.  Turn off Live Tiles.  Force GPO Refresh

    • GPO can be edited in Windows 10 Pro, but not in Windows 10 Home

  • Windows Registry: Disable Windows Script Host, WPad (partial), Elevation for Unsigned Executables.  Mitigate DLL Hijacking.  Block Untrusted Fonts.  Outlook: Block 600 file extensions, Force OST Path, Hide OLE Objects

  • Computer Properties: Enable DEP

  • Windows Features: Disable Powershell 2.0 and SMB v1

  • Windows Firewall: Block Regsvr32.dll outbound

  • Network Adapters: Disable all services except IPv4 

  • DNS Setting: Set to OpenDNS - 208.67.222.222, 208.67.220.220 for the PC's LAN and WLAN adapters 

  • Chronically Vulnerable Programs: Uninstall / never install Skype, Adobe Reader, Java, any Java-based programs, Microsoft Silverlight, and any Bittorrent clients.  If you don't really need it, don't install it

  • PDF Management: Force PDF files to open in Chrome, and force Chrome to run inside of Sandboxie

  • Other Hardening Steps: We have many additional hardening changes, but the ones outlined should be pretty good for most home users

 

6. Encryption.  Use Microsoft Bitlocker (free) to encrypt all data drives

 

7. DNS Security.  Use OpenDNS Umbrella Prosumer ($20 per year / 3 devices) to encrypt and enforce DNS.  This is primarily used for travel computers, to prevent Man-in-the-Middle attacks from compromised wi-fi hotspots

 

8. Patching.  Patch (update) all programs once per month

 


 

Each software program requires a good configuration.  Sandboxie and Blue Ridge Networks AppGuard, in particular, have complex configuration options. 

 

However, these eight actions, in combination, make it almost impossible for your PC to be hacked or to be infected.

 

I’ll cover home network (firewall and router) and Internet of Things (IOT) security in a future post.

 

Jeff

 

PS: Don't buy Lenovo or other Chinese company PCs.  Buy Dell (preferred) or HP,  for which the Chinese government is less likely to be able to install malware at the factory.  In case you've not figured this out, the Chinese are not our friends.  They are our enemies 

   

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) computer cybersecurity endpoint malware pc security http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/9/how-to-secure-a-home-pc-against-malware-updated Tue, 12 Sep 2017 20:13:54 GMT
Purcell Mountain Aerials: Paintings from Photos http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/purcell-mountain-aerials-paintings-from-photos  

I used Topaz Simplify to create a few "paintings" from the Purcell Mountains aerial photos.  The only slider used was "Simplify Size", which was set to 0.25.  To see more paintings from the Purcell Mountains aerial photos, go to our BC-Purcell Mountains paintings gallery.

 

 

Jeff

   

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada paintings purcell mountains topaz simplify http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/purcell-mountain-aerials-paintings-from-photos Wed, 23 Aug 2017 15:45:00 GMT
More Purcell Mountains Aerials http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/more-purcell-mountains-aerials  

I've been slowly processing the open-window aerial photography tour photos of the Purcell Mountains.  These were hand-held on a Nikon D800E (no stabilization), shot at ISO 1600 (moderate noise), 1/2000 second shutter speed.  Almost all of them are quite sharp.  1/2000 seems to be my workhorse shutter speed for handheld aerials.  Most were underexposed by 1-2 stops, which was fixed in post-processing.  These settings were a trade-off between sharpness (shutter speed), noise (ISO), and exposure.  I preferred to underexpose while getting a sharp photo with manageable noise.

 

I started to use Capture One Pro for its superior noise reduction, color, and sharpening.  More about that in a subsequent post.   

 

Here are some of the latest processed photos.  Great flight.  See more in our BC-Purcell Mountains gallery.

 


 


 

 

Jeff

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british columbia bugaboos canada purcell mountains http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/more-purcell-mountains-aerials Fri, 18 Aug 2017 14:06:14 GMT
2017 Canadian Rockies Expedition: Ended Early due to Wildfires and Smoke http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-ended-early-due-to-wildfires-and-smoke  

I cut short my 2017 Canadian Rockies expedition due to the wildfires and the smoke, and headed home on August 4.  I had experienced six straight days of moderate to heavy smoke.  See my previous post.  The scores of British Columbia wildfires were not abating.  The weather forecast indicated at least 8-9 days of heat and sun before any significant rains that might wash the smoke out of the air.  I drove ~300 miles north to south; the entire drive was smoky.  There seemed to be no place to go.  Would some days be clear until my planned return on Aug 24?  Probably.  But my best guess was one quarter or fewer of the days.  Meanwhile, my costs to stay in the Canadian Rockies mounted because I was not backpacking.  And, I would have simply expended unnecessary energy and gasoline driving around.  I decided that August probably was not going to be a good month to do photography in the Canadian Rockies.

 

On the positive side, I did get to do a very scenic open-window aerial photography flight of the Purcell Mountains, during which I took 700 frames.  I also did two days day-hiking in Kananaskis Country and a night of astrophotography; both were gorgeous.  In all, I took 1100 frames.

 

It's a very bad wildfire season.  I am concerned for Canada, for the world, and for mankind.

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial astrophotography banff british columbia bugaboos canada canadian rockies deforestation ecological disaster jasper kananaskis mountains over-population peter lougheed provincial park pine beetle purcell mountains wildfires http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-ended-early-due-to-wildfires-and-smoke Mon, 07 Aug 2017 13:05:29 GMT
2017 Canadian Rockies Expedition: Smoky Update http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-smoky-update  

Well, yesterday was supposed to be the start of my 4-night Brazeau (Jasper NP) backpacking trip.   I prepared my backpack, drove to the trailhead, and decided not to go.  After all the planning and prep I did for this trip, that decision did not come lightly.  Simple reason: the smoke in the air.  It was moderately smoky at the trailhead, and Jasper had been moderately to heavily smoky for the previous 3 days.  I could "clearly" see the haze obscuring trees only 1/4 mile away.  Mountains ~3 miles away showed no color, just shadows.  

 

Yes, I could have done the backpacking trip.  But for me, carrying a 38 lb (12 lb camera gear) backpack for 50 miles up and down a few thousand feet is worth it only if I have a good chance of coming back with spectacular photos where the beauty of the landscape can be clearly seen.  I'll shoot in foggy or rainy weather, but smoke obscures details and color, the two things I value most in the photos that I take.  August 1 was the only day I could start the Brazeau: the backcountry campground permits sell out months in advance.  I couldn't just wait a day to see if it would get clear.  It was go or no go.

 

It is August 2.  I've not shot any photos since the night of July 28, so 5 days down-time and counting.   The forecast for the next two weeks is for mostly sunny weather and for very little (almost no) rain.  I would normally love such a forecast.  But little rain means low probability that the smoke will be washed from the air.  Unless the wind changes from westerly to northerly, I expect the smoke to continue to blow in from wildfires west of the park.   The high heat and dry conditions means that new wildfires are likely.  From time to time the smoke clears somewhat to a light haze for 1-3 hours, but it is impossible to predict, and it has been rare.  British Columbia has air quality advisories out for most of the province.  This morning my car was coated in soot.

 

Banff National Park called me today to tell me that they cancelled the permit for my 2nd backpacking trip, to Egypt Lake, due to the Verdant Creek wildfire which is only a few miles away from Egypt Lake.  I probably would not have gone on that one anyhow due to the smoke, but now it is fait accompli.  0 for 2.  The road back into the parks from Radium Hot Springs, my current location, is now closed due to that wildfire.

 

I pray for the people and the environment of British Columbia who are struggling with this record wildfire season.

 

To see what this area is like when it is clear, here are three more photos from my aerial photography flight over the Purcell Mountains.  Seems I was lucky to have a clear day when I did the flight on July 25.

 

See more in the BC-Purcell Mountains gallery

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) aerial british bugaboos canada columbia mountains purcell smoke wildfires http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/8/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-smoky-update Wed, 02 Aug 2017 16:20:41 GMT
Wither Jasper National Park.....Wither Mankind? http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/wither-jasper-national-park-wither-mankind  

As I drove toward Jasper town in Jasper National Park yesterday morning, my heart sank.  About 20-25% of the trees visible from the road are brown / copper in color, and they are dead or dying.  It was not like this at all on that road when Kathy and I visited Jasper NP in 2014.  Banff and Kananaskis are mostly unaffected....right now.  And this is going to get worse, I think.  Much worse.  As Jasper National Park goes, so goes mankind?   Unfortunately, probably "yes", unless we act quickly, and it might already be too late.

 

The culprit is the the mountain pine beetle, which, due to warmer temperatures (global warming, it seems, caused by mankind), is running rampant in the Rocky Mountains in the USA and in Canada.  It only took a year or two for the pine beetles to kill off 20-25% of the trees in Jasper.  What suppresses the pine beetle is extended winter temperatures of -40 F.  That is no longer occurring in the Rocky Mountains, and the ugly results have been tree browning, die-off, wildfires, and deforestation.  The pine beetle is estimated to have already killed 50% of lodgepole pines in the province of British Columbia.  No one has yet been able to effectively control the pine beetle, despite some claims to the contrary.  Those dead trees are infernos waiting to happen, and those dead trees no longer scrub the air of the immense amount of CO2 that humans are pumping into the air.  Those dead trees are contributing to a record wildfire season in British Columbia, which has resulted in smoke in Banff and Jasper at a high level for an extended period.   That the dead trees and the wildfire smoke are impacting, and now, probably will somewhat ruin, my landscape photography expedition is just a small "inconvenience" in the greater scheme of things.   Those trees, and that awe-inspiring beauty, will not recover within my lifetime.  The bigger issue, however, is what this means for mankind. This is, in my lay opinion (albeit a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering), an ecological disaster.  

 

As I type this blog post from Jasper town, I can barely see a ridge line about a mile away due to the smoke, and the sky has an eerie red hue mid-day.  

 

The sad reality, and I've believed this for some time, is that the Earth cannot support, sustainably over millenia (thousands of years), the current world population of 7.5 billion people at anything close to the current standard of living.   Due to CO2 warming, some areas of the Earth are hitting daytime high temperatures of 134 F.  That number is going to move higher.  Plants cannot live sustainably in such an environment, and we need plants for humans to be able to live.  Yes, some might call me a Malthusian, but I will be proven right.  Only morons and fools take the other side of this argument.  We've been "lucky" as a species so far.  My guess, at maximum, is that the Earth can support about 500 Million (M) to maybe 1 billion (B) people, at the current standard of living (some poor, some rich), over many millenia, and only if we are smart about it.  What does this mean for the future? It is not bright.

 

* With 100 M people in the world, people could be free.  With 500 M, 1 B, or 7.5 B people, people can no longer be free....not if we want to persist as a species.  With this many people on the planet, people cannot be free to have all the children that they want.  They cannot be free to drive gasoline-powered cars when and where they wish.   They cannot be free to fly to work and to places like Jasper National Park whenever they wish

* The deforestation and warming will eventually (soon?) cause the world's crops to crash.  People will starve, and nations will likely go to war to attempt (in vain) to feed their people, and so further harming, or even destroying, what is left of the environment

* To get control of population growth and out-of-control resource consumption, there may be an attempt to form one world government.  It's probably the only way to get our current (politically warring) nations to cooperate on survival of the species.  Depopulation, population control, and rationing, and perhaps other, more radical actions, will ensue.   

 

Why has it gotten to the point where we now need to save the planet and humanity?  What is it about us as a species that led to this?  Are we truly any different from a virus or a pine beetle that reproduces until it consumes its food supply (the Earth's environment, in mankind's case)?  So far, the record says "no".  Will enough people agree to change soon enough?  History suggests "no"..  I look askance on our Congress, and our political parties, and left-wing political agendas poorly disguised as news (e.g. CNN, Washington Post, Politico,....all of them trash), and Earth's nations, warring (politically) with each other over power and resources.  I look askance on the Chinese and the Russians and their plans for world domination and for war.  Meanwhile, the world slowly cooks.  Perhaps mankind, in aggregate, is not deserving. 

 

Saving the planet and mankind is going to mean very tough choices for everyone.

 

Food for thought for me.  Food for thought for you.  What will you do?  Will you change?  Fast enough?

 

Jeff

 

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) deforestation ecological disaster over-population pine beetle http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/wither-jasper-national-park-wither-mankind Sun, 30 Jul 2017 20:20:33 GMT
2017 Canadian Rockies Expedition: Kananaskis Country http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-kananaskis-country  

I spent 2 1/2 days in Kananaskis Country.  I think it is prettier and more accessible than Banff National Park.  The trail to Rae Lake was "The Sound of Music" in terms of beauty (That comparison probably dated me.  Ouch).  I also did the trail to Rawson Lake.  And while Banff was shrouded in smoke from nearby wildfires, I was fortunate that the Kananaskis area was mostly smoke-free.  Kananaskis is gorgeous, and in the right light, a sort of electric green.  

 

It was uncharacteristically hot: highs in the mid-80s.  That meant I did only one hike a day, early in the morning.  I can climb 2000' when it is 85 F, but I am really a cold-weather hiker, and these days I often pass on large climbs in hot weather.  Below are two photos that I processed, both from the trail to Rae Lake.

 

 

Jeff

 

 

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(Sublime Light Landscape Photography) canada canadian rockies kananaskis mountains peter lougheed provincial park http://www.sublimelightlp.com/blog/2017/7/2017-canadian-rockies-expedition-kananaskis-country Sun, 30 Jul 2017 19:02:54 GMT