A Day in the Dump

Three Fridges Outside Orrville Ontario

At the cottage near Orrville, we have to take our own recycling & trash to the dump ourselves. There’s even a Dump Store – a local attraction.

I recently talked the guy working the dump that day into letting me go in & take some photographs. Here are a few. You can see that I had fun, seeing the usual as unusual.

Digital Primer

A few years ago I wrote up a Digital Primer to help one of our nieces learn how to use her new camera. In it, I explained the camera in terms of various Components, explaining what each is, and what factors have to be considered for each.

Here’s a sample:

Component: Lens

What: That glass thing in front that forms the image, just like you study in science class


  • Focal length – measured in mm
    • a longer focal length brings objects closer (telephoto) but takes in a narrower view
    • a shorter focal length is the opposite – smaller objects but wider view
    • telephoto lenses have less depth of field, meaning there is more in front of and behind the subject that will be blurry. You can use this to isolate the subject e.g. portrait in focus with flowers etc soft-focus in behind.
    • A zoom lens has a range of focal lengths, usually from somewhat wide to somewhat telephoto – good all-purpose compromise
  • Quality – almost any modern name-brand camera will have a good-quality lens, and you can upgrade over time

You can download the complete pdf here: Digital camera primer

Kalishnikov’s Dream

Until a couple of years ago, the Ontario Society of Artists’ annual Open Juried Exhibition (OSAOJE) had a theme each year. In 2013, the theme was Unintended Consequences, and that tied in with some things that were running around in my head at the time. For some reason, I had read the Michael Kalashnikov regretted inventing the AK-47, as it had been used for so many awful things that he never intended. Not everyone believed his regrets, but still – interesting link for Unintended Consequences.

Here’s the final image. I’ll go through my thinking and some technical aspects below. Note: All the images are from the Internet; I was unable to get clear attribution on any of them, since various organizations had re-posted the images without attribution.

A photo collage of Mikhail Kalashnikov & child soldiers with an AK47
Kalashnikovs Dream

From the beginning, I wanted the child soldiers represented in overlapping ranks, with colouring that would look like a flag. I started with a single image and trimmed out all the background. Overlapping was much harder than I expected, especially since I wanted the central child soldier in each rank to be in front of those to each side, as you can see. There was a lot of positioning by pixel coordinates, then grouping, copying and pasting in new positions. The colour bands are rectangles, sized by pixel dimensions and partly transparent. I also checked to make sure that the colours I had chosen did not match any existing flag, because it’s not about any specific conflict.

The AK-47 is simple isolated from its background and given a golden glow so it floats above everything else.

My original thinking for the left side was to have a map of Europe at the end of the Second World War, with AK-47s pointing out from the USSR like the defensive line Kalashnikov wanted. There was a little infographic comparing intended defence and unintended child soldiers. It just didn’t work.

Then I got the idea to have the 3-frame graphic novel you see in the final version above. Turning a photo into an image that looks like it’s from a graphic novel took a lot of interesting learning. Here’s a clip showing the third frame’s layers.

How I made Kalashnikov Frame3
How I made Kalashnikov Frame3

You can see that there are two layers with the base image of his face (which I tilted to reflect how traditional portraits are made, and to add a sense of motion). The upper layer is partly transparent so that, when the modifications are added, the unaffected bottom layer still shows through. This adds a little definition to the final result. The three adjustment layers are, in order, brightness/contrast, threshold and posterize. Together, they create the pen-and-ink effect I wanted. The top two layers are for the thought clouds and text.

This is one of my favourite images, not just for the technical difficulty and the learning I had to do, but for all the thinking I had to do to relate it to the OSAOFE theme. I hope it makes you think, too. I doubt it will ever sell, though.

(BTW, I have another Unintended Consequences image in mind, based on the American Constitution’s Second Amendment, layered with their Founding Fathers and maybe a single day’s worth of American gun violence.)

Modern landscapes

Photo of trees seen from a speeding car

I have been investigating how we see landscape now. In the past, in Canada and in North America, landscape imagery has had a heroic aspect. Landscape paintings, mainly by the early Group of Seven, have formed our concepts of who and where we are. In reality, very few of us have been to the places shown, and nowadays we see landscape, if at all, whizzing past our car windows.

It’s not just that I used a low shutter speed here, about 1/6s. I had to use a wide-angle lens with a neutral-density filter, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get that low a shutter speed.

To me, a photographic artist tries to show things not normally seen, or to show the mundane things we overlook. With the Modern Landscape series, I’m trying to do both: show you the landscapes you drive past, but make you realize that they are worth looking at.

Moving panorama shots

Photo made with panorama from a moving car while passing a truck

In photography, showing motion and time is usually done by controlling the shutter speed to blur motion or freeze it, or by creating a series of photographs. I have done all of these, but new technology brings new techniques, and recently I have been shooting from moving cars and trains, using the camera’s panorama settings. The motion is too fast for the camera’s processor, so I get the slicing you see here. This gives a time-sliced, jittery view of the passing world: a sequence of suspended motions.

Gone live!

So here it is at last – Aug 31, and I just set up the linking so pixsilver.com shows my new site. I will add more galleries, change up the images from time to time, continue writing, and get guests to write.

It’s still a work in progress, but so is my art. And so am I…

Please leave comments to let me know what you think.


Hello world!

It’s August, 2017, and I am re-creating my website. Again.
I rather liked my last one, but I had hand-coded it in Javascript and CSS about a decade ago. It had some responsive features, which was cool, but the language features to really do that were not stable yet, so I did that by hand too, and did so by placing the images on backgrounds that were the same size. Made the re-sizing calculations easier, but it was a kludge, and extra work.
Speaking of extra work… the coding to let viewers scan forward and back, including rollover between first & last images in a gallery, was so tedious that I wrote a completely separate program to read the .jpg file names in the gallery directory, then generate the necessary Javascript.

I was showing off to my computer studies students… I don’t do that any more, so, you can see why I’m rebuilding it.