Down in Argentina you can visit Iguazu Falls. It’s sure to be wet. There is a boat ride to the falls. They give you a ‘wetbag’ to store valuables, that would be expensive cameras. Take the picture or not, it’s your choice. We did. And it was raining all day. I mean umbrellas couldn’t save you. David, Lisa, and I did the best we could. Dry was not possible. At lunch it was quite an experience to enter an air-conditioned dining room and to see condensation inside the lens of all the cameras (3). Fortunately the water evaporated and nothing more could be seen of any water damage. But it was scary for a moment. No waterproof diving camera in those days.
Yes, this is not a special effect. This is condensation in the camera at lunch when the A/C caused the vapor to fog. It cleared in less than an hour. Dumb luck or crazy!
It’s been a year. I dropped my beloved laptop one year ago. Ordinarily it has survived. I have dented the case (aluminum) and it survived. I’ve done it more than once! (Not too bright!) I don’t backup… at least not regularly. And I have priceless hundreds of thousands of images. Dumb!? My images are at least backed up redundantly to a series of external hard drives. So very few images have been lost. Some were gone because if you copy bad files to bad files…. So I only copy the original files to each back up drive. That part is compulsive and paranoid.
I got a call last year, “Come out. We’re going now.” So I leapt up from my seat and my laptop dropped. Unfortunately it was on, as in actually working, spinning the hard drive. That is not good! When it’s asleep or off, the hard drive heads and reader are parked and relatively safe. The bad news is that the drive was dead. No backup! And the good news is that the drive was alive enough to resuscitate most (95%) of the files which took me months to complete the recovery process.
When the kids made their December delivery to me here in Jeddah, I got some new 2TB external drives. The older ones (2 left) had the original image files and scanned slide files. I just completed a comprehensive backup and reconstruction of my Lightroom files. Now I have digital files, scanned slides, and a mishmash of older image files in three catalogs. This is estimated at about 200K images somewhat organized. Certainly my digital files are organized. And the scanned slides are pretty well organized. It’s the mishmash that is the challenge. I filed my slides and original digital images by date. (Start now and you’ll never know how much work you saved yourself later.) I keep a separate database in Excel to track the general place, time, subject, and people. Use Excel, most other programs stop getting supported and database file then can’t be read. (another hard lesson learned)
Well, there it is, a little brick (silver on the far right), sitting on my desk, and waiting to be mined for future blog images. So some random files from the archive, that happen to catch my memory will follow for a while. I have been back and forth about the vision of this blog. Is it current events, Middle East adventure, stories….? So to all of you reading (and I thank you), I’m a bit scattered but there’s a plan. And there’s a backup, too. Ha!
I suppose I have to revisit my trips to the US Tennis Open. I store my slide collection in a set of custom-made drawers. I have more than 100k. That would be a lot of drawers. Anyway we had a party and Manny Milan, a senior Sports Illustrated photographer, was there with his wife. Our wives worked together. Mine mentioned that I had a lot of slides and Manny was pretty impressed by my storage solution. This led to an invitation from Manny for me to attend the US Open. I had a Sports Illustrated ID and wandered the grounds shooting the ‘semis’ and ‘finals.’ I learned a lot. First of all most all of the serious sports guys are shooting Canon. Nikon is in the minority. Forget equipment. It ‘s about getting the shot. That is generally defined as getting that image where the ball, racquet, and player are in the same frame. And it’s even better if it’s just the players face, racquet, and ball. Try this a few times. You think motor drive will do it. No! You will miss just about every time. Things are just moving too fast. And try to focus. So I learned to pre-focus and to time when to press the shutter. (Go ahead, get the ball just coming off the racquet!) And for all that you only got the image a small percentage of the time. And then there are the classic positions. Shooting from the baseline you want a face on view with the ball in the frame. From the sideline there is another goal. And the same can be said for being high in the stands with a full view of both players and the entire court. Time of day…. And so it goes. With digital cameras the images are taken off the memory cards and uploaded online even as the match is being played. Then there are the images that will not show up anywhere in the media. I will be discrete and not name names. At the baseline there is the ‘dugout.’ It is an area at the level of the players’ feet where photographers sit and shoot. The assigned seating is like a pecking order of importance. I got a back row view. I’m nobody. The male photographer in front of me nudged his female colleague as he showed her his LCD. She gave him a disgusted look. I couldn’t see the near court player nor could I see his image. I just stuck my camera up and out, fired off a couple images, and took a look at what there was to see. I have to laugh. It’s almost pornographic. A thong, and the pants are pretty much transparent (presumably sweat). But what puzzled me were the suspenders holding up the thong. Anyway this image would never get published. It no doubt falls in the outtake bin. By the way she’s still playing.
It constantly amazes me how well the camera processor/sensor can analyze a scene and get a decent exposure. Basically I’m lazy. I don’t want to be twirling a lot of dials and adjusting shutter, ISO, and aperture. So the camera does the work and I compose and try to crop in camera as the image is taken. You could never do this with film. And you never had a chance to make instant corrections. Immediate feedback has made things so much easier. I will also admit that I am not shooting raw.
I’m saddled with slow shutter speed, image stabilization, high ISO, and a cropped image. You can see the movement blur. All in all I consider this a satisfactory grab shot. The beauty of auto focus is that you really do just point and shoot. In truth this is what I have come to know as street photography. I’d rather not tangle with folks who don’t want their picture taken. So I just shoot from the hip. This opens up a whole discussion on whether it is proper to just shoot like this. It is in fact permissible in a public space. My kids would rather that I didn’t do this and risk harm to myself. I’m just discrete and haven’t run into any problems so far. Hey, he was a cute kid.
I have been taking multiple images and stitching them together. It’s never quite perfect and it’s time consuming. So I cheated here. I took a single wideangle shot and cropped it down. You lose lots of information and I won’t get to blow it up to mega size. Since I mainly planned to post the image to the internet, this has not presented a major problem. The camera had a setting for sunset but this scene option was dropped from the G11 to G12. Secret: just run up the saturation and voila. It’s what the camera’s processor does to ‘pop’ the sunset.
I have to say that the little point and shoot outdoes my big DSLR in low light. You really can see the fast lens make a difference. The Canon S1000 has an f2.0 lens. And that darned lens is sharp. I took out the Canon G12 and did a comparison shoot. The evening sunset night shoot got me some nice shots of the mosque. I was going for a sunset image with the blazing sun setting just behind the mosque. My only problem is that the setting sun has moved on the horizon with the change of seasons. I’m taking my shot now and not waiting until next year. I got a very decent handheld night shot. There’s image stabilization. After all my problems with underwater exposure and white balance, it was a pleasure to let the camera decide for itself this time.
I have begun to know where things are around the resort we have frequented. There is a fan coral at about 65 feet depth. Follow the reef north and you will encounter it. I have been there several times. It’s the only one around this area. Lighting is tricky as I have been disappointed with many images I shot. The key is the diffuse bounce lighting. It gives the coral a clean natural color and a pleasing glow. I’m not showing the failures all of which had some defect. But there are a lot of images that did not make the cut. I’m glad I got to come back.
Well sharks have them, right? Anyway, I read somewhere that the profile, side on view of the fish – head to tail – was like a catalog shot. If you’re doing a fish guidebook, that’s what you want to shoot. And to get an image worth keeping, you need a head on view. Someone also said that fish see the big camera pointed at them and think that big photographer is coming to eat them. As a result most of my images are tail end where I’m chasing as the fish swim frantically from my camera. Profile images result from shooting as the fish turns out to avoid me. But every once in a while I get an image face on into me. And even less often is the lighting, focus, and exposure are good enough to be satisfying. Hey, remember this is a point and shoot camera.
Lighting is a challenge because red color falls off with depth. And the water acts like a big diffuser there is direction. So from one direction or another the light changes and so does the color. Try asking a fish to wait while I swim around into a better position. The challenge is in position, which is determined by our swim up and back along the reef. In the Red Sea we are oriented north south with the sun moving overhead fortunately almost always cloudless. I just am happy to get a focused well exposed shot. At some point I’m going to get further along the learning curve and control the environment a little better. It’s a matter of more experience.
I had an epiphany the other day. I’ve been diving for a year. I learned underwater photography without a lesson and on my own. I watched my dive master and used common sense. I tried flash, ‘underwater setting’, custom white balance, used two different cameras (not by choice), and edited in Photoshop and Lightroom. So I just realized how far I’ve come… or how little I knew a year ago. Even so I got some pretty good shots. But I can now tell how much better I’ve become. I realize how not so good I was last year. Right away I was excited with some of my shots. Later Julia and I had a big breakthrough with editing in Photoshop. The subjects (fish) remain fascinating and different every time I dive.
In this instance we have been diving the same area of the reef enough for me to become familiar with certain areas to find fish. There is a concrete cave made from fallen slabs.
One day you find a stonefish, another day there was a spiky pufferfish. But recently it was a lionfish convention. There were six… no… seven. It was almost too much for my camera. And we were training a new diver. There were four of us and I had the only camera. It was very poor visibility as in there was a lot of backscatter – looks like dust and is mostly fish poop. White balance in poor light is also a problem. I couldn’t back away without getting too much backscatter. You never see this many lionfish together. Maybe they were planning to mate up. Down on the left is another type with spiky fins. Whenever you find them they are rarely swimming toward you. And my dive mates are always swimming away before too long. So it means you move on because you ‘never leave your wingman.’
An example of the picture out of the camera, it needs a bit of processing.
I don’t rely on flash. But anyone seriously needing to control the light is using a couple of external strobes to get a dark background. While I like ambient light, I can see the advantage to an isolating background and more consistent color balance.
I don’t think that it is one. But it sure reminds me of tuna. At least this guy is sleek and built for speed as opposed to the puffer fish, who looks an ungainly truck. I’m running auto white balance, using on camera flash with a diffuser, and in macro setting. You get your share of misses. But when you hit, it’s pretty special. Thank goodness for digital. You shoot several hundred images to get 10 or 20 to keep.
Or, rather swim right up. Swinging my flashlight like a madman, I was looking under every rock for something hiding. It seems to me that fish have a very large iris opening. But you can’t see at night because it’s just plain dark. Who would want to swim in the dark and run into sharp coral? I found this one under a rock and moved in with my light. It blinded him and he stayed perfectly still for me to get some great close-ups. Then, Farid scared him away.
There were several out and about on the floor of the sea that night we dove. When I found this guy and the next, they didn’t swim away from me. They just sort of stood there… ok, lay there. Later on I figured it out. Anytime any of my dive companions shined their flashlight in my face, the bright light was all I could see. I couldn’t see the diver behind the light. So it works that way for the fish. The light beam blinds them and they stay still because they don’t sense a threat. As a result I got to shoot in macro right up close. Even the camera flash didn’t not cause them to stir much. It’s a neat observation. But, there aren’t too many fish out at night. I was really struggling to keep the camera and the flashlight in sync. It’s kind of like getting dressed in the dark. You need to be familiar with the buttons and settings, because they don’t glow in the dark to help you see your way.
On the night dive I had one kick ass flashlight that my dive master made me buy. It was too bright for photography. I actually had to hold the light to the side. Autofocus took over and everything was flashed. You hold the light in one hand and the camera in the other. It’s good that all you use are your legs and fins to get around. Well, I saw three types of urchins. The classic very spiny and not so colorful brown ones are not my favorite. By the way you’re looking at the ass end. Of course, the mouth is down and eating the algae. And the other thicker spined one is none to photogenic either. It was the blue and orange ones, that I believe are urchins, which are the most interesting and colorful. I had posted back in August that I thought this might be a starfish. I’m still not sure. They come out at night. With all the spines, I don’t see what anyone would want to mess with at anytime, even daytime. But during the day you’ll be lucky if you chance upon an urchin.
But boy, do they come at night. So I can’t find a similar picture on the ‘net. And my choices are starfish or urchin?? Now more information suggests maybe – nudibranch – a type of slug. But honest I found a picture vaguely like this on the ‘net. Someone will correct me, I hope.
We went on another boat dive in early August. It was supposed to be a cave dive and a night dive. The water was too dangerous (stormy) to go for a cave dive, so we settled for a wreck dive and a night dive. Now that I’m experienced (a little bit more), I’m also less timid. So these close-ups of the stingray would have been with the ‘tele’ setting a year ago. Right now I approach with the ‘macro’ setting. It cuts down on the murkiness. The stingrays can be dangerous. I just get in and float over slowly. They are pretty tolerant and don’t swim away immediately. I’m still getting accustomed to the settings. The rays have round eye balls that I assume will swivel. I’d love to know what image their brain is processing. It’s not forward so it’s probably not binocular and so I assume it’s about threat. And then I remember the adage – ‘things in the mirror may be closer than they appear.’As with many things in life, I have had great early success underwater. And then you step back and look over your progress and realize there’s a lot to learn. I’m strictly amateur in underwater photography. The hardcore people take down $7,000+ worth of gear and lights. To be honest, I’ve fried a couple of camera when I first tried underwater photography. They were point and shoots so the pain in $ was not so bad. I remain an opportunist diver rather than pursue subjects to the end of the seas. So for me it’s ‘what did you see when you went diving today.’ I don’t have the pressure to produce a money image. At the same time there is great satisfaction in learning a new skill. It’s even nice to shoot the coral even if it doesn’t move.
Here’s another fortuitous image. We were at the beach near to sunset. The family liked to stay past the time when everyone else was long gone. It’s too dim to get a sharply focused shot. Remember it’s film with a fixed ISO. That means a slow shutter speed and some image blurring especially the rolling waves. But it was getting the moon’s detail that caught my eye. It was that right moment when the shutter/aperture caught the moon and the scene in balance.
The kids loved to dress up. They loved to play act. Me, I never did this as a kid. A couple of times they painted themselves and set up a priceless photo opportunity. This was the first time. I got this shot with the kids looking into the upstairs bathroom mirror with the overhead can lights casting perfect lighting for their faces. Sometimes it pays to know the lighting and its possibilities in your house. Yes, a little flash would have added catch lights to the eyes… but hey.
This darn camera got the moon exposure pretty good. Well, I did a little Photoshop work here. The moon came from the next frame. I just hadn’t cropped as well. Slipping it in here, it’s exactly where the other moon was, but not quite so well exposed. Otherwise I’m not too much for post processing. Life is spinning way too fast these days.
David put me onto this shot. It’s not often that the moon is this close to the earth. It amounts to about a diameter of the earth closer than usual, 222,000 miles. The last time we were this close was 1993. Since the moon is more than 30 diameters away, this distance is not a lot. That 12 percent size different can mean as much as a 30 percent change in the brightness, so this will be a particularly bright supermoon.
So as a casual photographer, what could I do but shoot the moon when I saw it while driving home. To be sure, it was shining bright and true over the skies of Saudi Arabia. No clouds. It was bright and sunny today – a mere 106 degrees. It rained for 10 minutes this past year. But, still, there is humidity. Even so, tonight there was little haze. So I took out the super zoom to the tune of evening prayer from the speakers of the nearby mosques. Two mosques compete with one another. Illiterate as I am, I simply tune out the noise. (See years of (wife) complaints.)
First, when you shoot the moon, remember you are shooting into a daylight (sunlit) object), which means that your exposure is near to daytime. I used 1/1600 sec at f9. And I put on the big lens – 400mm. It would be nice to use a tripod. But I don’t happen to have one at the moment. At 1/1600 it’s pretty forgiving even handheld in the middle of the night. And to dispel another myth, I shot the image below through my screen window. The sharpness is acceptable. After setting up the exposure, I took myself outside and made the image above. The only manipulation was to crop and center.
This is the Atlantic Ocean. It’s bracing. One might even say it’s cold. I swim in the Red Sea at the moment. The temperatures have been 86 degrees. I prefer my location. But in this slide, we’re near the end of the day with no end in sight for fun and water. It’s another location where they warn you not to take your camera. The sand and salt spray will hurt your equipment. And then you won’t have a picture either. Just be careful, but do it.
I’ve had Bell’s palsy and though the condition resolved, I still notice some residual symptoms. It would bear to keep this in mind especially when diving.
When I first developed the condition, I was surprised to speak to so many people who volunteered that they had suffered this problem and recovered without any outward signs. Briefly the condition is a facial weakness/paralysis that comes on spontaneously. The cause is really unknown. In my case it occurred on a weekend and for a moment I entertained the thought of a stroke. After some tense weeks the facial weakness resolved. At this point my motor strength is full and the face is symmetrical except when I am fatigued. Then there is enough residual to notice an asymmetry.
As to diving, I began lessons and qualified as an advanced open water diver in the PADI course over the summer. As I became more experienced I noticed that there were problems clearing/equalizing my left ear. Presently I hold my nose and after the right side opens, I quickly swallow and the left side then opens up. After the dive, I have the feeling of fullness and increased bone conduction which subtly affects my hearing. I have puzzled over this and cleaned my ears to no avail. Finally I looked up the anatomy and realize that the Eustachian tube opens by a muscle. That same muscle is controlled by the facial nerve (Bell’s palsy). So it is the mild subtle residual weakness in the nerve which makes the left side equalize more slowly.
A word to all divers who have had Bell’s palsy, perhaps this will reassure and allow you to compensate better. It took a while for me to reach this “aha!!” moment.
A technical aside – and heartfelt thank you to David Sack of http://www.saturn-films.co.uk/ – who kindly put me on to Vuescan. For anyone who currently uses a scanner to digitize old images, slides, and negatives, I encourage you to look into this software program. My other blog goes into detail: http://photocriticism.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/worth-the-price-of-admission-slide-scanning/
For many reasons this software is a tremendous find. David runs a professional scanning company for many years and currently uses a very similar setup of software and scanner, which I use. The software is reliable and fast. My Nikon scanner would jam and balk. It was fairly slow to scan an image about every 2-3 minutes. I am getting very acceptable scans in about 1 minute with quite reasonable color comparable to the original. The infrared filter is ignoring dust and scratches as well as the Nikon software. No jamming! All in all – it’s been great.
Tulips, same day different tulip, come in all different colors around Central Park. Here I got one with more detail in the petals and used the shadow to highlight the center pistil. I wonder at the color pattern, which must look inviting to the bee that pollinates the flower. I imagine the pattern like landing lights guiding the plane into the runway at an airport.