What works? At least there are choices to choose from. Ummm, never end a sentence with a preposition. English, seventh grade, Miss Digman. Oh boy… I can hear her admonishment now.
Smile, focus, gaze directly into my lens…. I wish. As I shoot a way, I create choices in my edit process. It’s good to have choices to choose from. (yeah, yeah, another proposition)
Composition. I had a friend Charlie. He loved the pictures to show the whole thing (child). But focus (take a couple meanings) can cut different ways. No matter what, it is critical. Looking into my lens has it’s advantages too. No complaint. It’s good to have choices. Maybe the title should have been “choices?”
How many more?
148 shots. It ain’t Audobon worthy but the Sony RX100 does zoom in. It gets as close as my Nikon 80-400mm zoom. The image quality is lacking by comparison. But it got the shots. This is for fun not money or glory. I am better than average and less than great. No worries. I am not in competition except with myself. The heron was in stunning plain sight on my pond and then hidden by trees and branches. Eventually it moved. Great! I kept on shooting. There were a few keepers. There was no doubt of my subject. I was not dead on sharp on the eyes. There was no fish caught. It was a rare glimpse of a heron from far away. No apologies. I could have done better. I was lazy. And the heron was not hanging around for an encore.
I go with what strikes me as I edit. No overthinking. I just go with the gut. One star – ok, but not quite. Two star – good solid technically good. Three star – rare, it just stands out. Four and five – hardly ever.
Water is always good in a flower shot. It’s above ordinary. I don’t get water too often. Cats – my black cat is hard to image and she is hard to pin down for a focused shot of her eyes. You’d think it’s easy. I get the eyes on all my other cats. Nope! And getting texture on the fur is a challenge too. But the eyes… except, it’s nice to see the tongue. Cats do not stick out their tongue. It’s different. Worms and bugs – not so easy. I got this caterpillar by chance. I nearly missed it. It was so tiny. Focus! It’s critical. Otherwise, it’s not a shot. And the moth? Not so simple, this one was all over skittering from blossom to blossom. I stood still and just waited to shoot when it landed again. Focus, otherwise, it’s not a shot. There were a lot of “not” shots. Among thousands of shots there are only a very few rated three stars.
I got good! Better?! New baby! This was my first try with our brand-new granddaughter. Photographically it was a success. I have learned. Hey! It’s not too late to learn. What? There are so many things to keep in mind – exposure, focus, composition, timing, etc. Whatever. As in, whatever makes you smile, is a “keeper,” a “winner.” You gotta shoot a lot of pictures to get a “keeper.”
Cats. What I learned from my cats helped me get better shots of newborn babies. ?? Cats do not pose or follow instructions. They – cats – do not smile on demand. And most importantly I learned to position my camera lens in front of the eyes instead of waiting for the cat to look at me when I called. Eye contact! Aha! Simple, ain’t it?
Do you see…
…what I see. Ha ha. Christmas in July? August? Macro is a counter-intuitive term to me. It should be macro. So?! Whatever. I see detail. I cannot see it (fine detail) without that macro lens, and only after post-processing. Do you?
Here’s how it goes: The detail of the (hairy) pistil is only evident when you enlarge the image by about 10X. Oh! Ah! There’s a fine line between ooooh and ah!
Dammit! (an aside) All of this posting ain’t free. You run out of storage space and pay WordPress an annual fee. Damn! So, I’m outta space. Just now! Just this very post! And, I gotta pay – more! I almost stopped publishing. Oh, well, I guess the show will go on. Send money please….
At the end of the day, it’s all macro, through my macro lens. But, some things are enlarged further. I could do it all with normal lens – mostly, but not all. Technology?! Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Colleen, the credit card bill went up again.
You can lead a horse…
… to water, but, you can’t make him drink. Dave regretted not having a camera the other day! He was on a tiger safari in India. And, Disney was there with photo video and mega large lenses to capture the tigers with real telephoto close-ups. Right tools for the right job, eh?! For the first time his trusy iPhone was not quite up to the task. I readily admit Dave has shot some fantastic photos with iPhone. He is constrained by weight and bulk in his travels.
Consider, his iPhone shots are better than many of my most great shots from my spiffy mirrorless camera with a mega telephoto lens. I sh*t you not! There is technique and there is art. Dave has that “je ne sais quoi.” I applaud him. It’ nice that his deft touch is so much better than me. Remember the movie “Amadeus” in which Salieri never quite got it?
Dave got a very nice tiger shot. But he knew he could have done more with a real camera. Hmmm… imagine what he could do with better equipment? I have seen lots of poor iPhone shots from other family and friends. A good/better piece of equipment does not a photographer make.
Last summer I got a full frame mirrorless camera and a real macro lens. Oh no! More lessons! No… But, I will show off my gardening skills. Flowers are great subjects. Instant garden – get plants. I pick the plants for the potential color and subject material. Macro has added a new dimension of interest. There is a fine line between focus, detail, and image.
And, my spider is back. It made a web in front of my windowpane once again. Macro?! Look closely. Do you believe I got a shot(s) as it was spinning its web!? Serendipitous! I saw it in the edit. But, I can say that I guessed it was weaving a web from its movement and behavior. Focus was a trick. But, hey!!
Blood moon – lunar eclipse. I am a failed Astro photographer. My attempt with a telescope ended in a return package to Amazon. It has rained for more than a week straight. Fog was present the past several days. A miracle occurred and the clouds parted at the appointed hour. I actually had fair detail of the moon in my camera. I was deceived. I thought I saw partial cloud cover as the eclipse covered part of the moon in the lower left quadrant. Then?!?!! My exposures showed the “blood moon!!”
Hey! It ain’t great. But I got an image (s). I shot at ISO 51200, 1/15, f6.3 400mm. Do you care? Do you understand the settings? I was surprised at the image quality myself. I was surprised to have anything on the sensor to review after I pressed the shutter. Cloud cover? Nope?! I did it! I can say that I did. My image was comparable to those in a casual internet search. The best news, this was my image. May 15.
Madness! I have always said that computers are very good at keeping lists. Anything! Keep track, a computer keeps lists. Photographs or digital images, a computer can organize and keep the list. GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. Of course… you have to keep an organized and logical list… Digital alone numbers hundreds of thousands of images. I have two catalogs – sort of – one before 2016 and another after. Don’t ask. It’s chaos. I just checked. Things before 2016 are in the 2016 and vice versa. Confused!? Yes, it gets very confusing in a hurry. I got a spreadsheet data base and redundantly copied backup files/images. In other words, you are organized, till you’re not.
Did you lose interest? Anxious? Do you keep track of your images? It’s important in the event you lose your pictures. Anxious now?
This was 2019, the pandemic was right around the corner. Xmas. Groups!? I use my tripod and gather groups together. Somehow everyone seems cooperative. Pictures were taken. Do I remember? This was a random spin through the catalog and we were in a lot of homes gathered together with family and friends.
Logic? Logical? Just when you think you have a viable system, a good list… you discover chaos. I have a method to my madness. Anyone following me will have chaos. All the information is stored. Nothing has been lost. I can still make a coherent list. Maybe. Ha ha. Christmas in June, oh my!
Lessons! Really! Don’t want ‘em. Don’t need ‘em. I don’t care.
Three views same flower. Two are easy. Point down. Point from the side. But, tilting the camera? It goes against the rules of making your “horizon” wonky! Don’t do it! Oh! Yeah! Sure! The only thing I will add is that it is counter intuitive. Counter intuitive!? That’s for me!
Posing a cat – ?! Huh?! No silly, you don’t pose a cat. They don’t pose, either. You put the camera lens in front of their eyes. Yup! Like salting a bird’s tail. Make sense? When you try it, all sorts of things happen… some good. Or, a goofy pose. Poor Elle! Sorry, kitty. Willow has hooded eyes and requires flash to show his pearly greens. Big, wide open, eyes helps a lot.
Then, there are those cats, who refuse to cooperate. They never look in the camera. They never let me close in front of their face. I am so happy to get the eyes that distractions like the plastic in front is ok! Yes, sometimes, you just gotta settle for what is there.
Unrelated shots. My aunt compiled my family tree shortly after Jules was born. I forgot. I came across the pics I took when Jules sent this to me. My immediate family is small and scattered. We have not gathered in a long time. It’s Eric and I. We don’t see each other because his dog does not get along with my cats. Silly reason. Yup, it all makes about as much sense as me reading Chinese. I got the shots. The paper? That would be the debate – book vs pdf? Pixel or paper? Closer – there are so many levels of discussion up for grabs here.
Silly? How about a $6,500 camera lens? Envy? Craving? Desire? Ummm… you just have to walk up closer and the subject gets bigger. Ok, there are some subjects that won’t come closer. The moon? But, sorry, for the money $$$, I can live without the lens. The weight and $$ of the lens vs walking (closer to the subject). Oh boy…
Focus would be helpful. I learn from imperfection. The background is often ignored in favor of the subject. Distracting elements will sink you every time. The last thing I check before pressing the shutter is my background. Simply moving a few degrees will change the mood. And, it would help if the camera focused on my main subject. Autofocus is too easy. And, I remain ever hopeful it will compensate for my laziness. Eh?! Otherwise it wouldn’t be lessons to learn.
It’s not just me. Colleen shoots. She does not like to – shoot. But, I cannot shoot from the car, and, drive, sometimes. And on a rare occasion, I actually turn around and stop to shoot. I did this one time. Colleen’s shots are sprinkled in. I’m not asking for guesses. She is relieved my shooting thru a car window is – forward. I cherish the opportunity to appreciate the beauty and the serenity of nature.
A portrait starts with the eyes. My cats are cooperative in illustrating my point. Hooded eyes need a bit of flash. Black cats are particularly difficult. Their black fur is hard to highlight and contrast. And, who figured dust would show too! Then again, cat nip shows, as well. Focus on the eyes is a key component. Gazing directly into the lens is helpful. For cats, put the camera in front of the cat; don’t wait for them to look your way. The icicle is a non sequitur. And, Colleen’s initials are CAT, once upon a time when she was a maiden.
Speaking of … still tryn’
I tried to illustrate wide angle distortion in an iPhone portrait of a child the other day. Everyone liked how cute she was and ignored the forehead distortion. Ok!? So, here is a loaf of challah right out of the oven. Smells great, butter glazed, good enough to eat!! Colleen made a braided proportional loaf. That is to say, it was a parallel loaf!? I intentionally moved in close and distorted the lines. Do you see? It doesn’t matter when it comes to bread. But a child?
Ok. I didn’t want to do a formal portrait of my son. Shy?! I don’t mind sticking my camera into Colleen’s face. She is used to me by now. But, “the boy?” So, I sneak/snuck a few grab shots. The lighting was not helpful. It would help if we got the right situation before he is on the road again. Yes, they (the images) are a good representation. But it’s not what I am trying to achieve. … another day, another opportunity.
I fear I may have lost family after correcting angle distortion the other day. No angle distortion here. Secret: get the camera down at the level of your (cat) subject. Hence, use the angled screen to take the picture at the subject’s eye level. Pretty easy. Most people don’t do it.
Flash has never been my forte. I use it very sparingly. The more recent cameras I use have better exposure than ever before. Flash will certainly help to brighten hooded eyes. Portraits? It is the eyes. Focus on the eyes. And, to be more effective, I think the subject should be looking right at you. … my opinion. After that, breaking the rules is what gives you something different. Better, worse, “keepers” are pretty easy to spot. There are so many bad shots….
The original image transmitted was #4. I used ‘transform’ in Lightroom to make some quick changes.
1. Transform and crop – it’s better. But, see the sleeve and arm? They are disproportionately large.
2. Another try – crop and elongate the face, slightly. Without any other reference the distortion from the first pic is hidden.
3. Once more – I rounded the face slightly. Subtly. This is hard. Because of Covid I have not seen the child in person in more than two years. So the shape of her face is not quite known to me.
4. Angle distortion – it occurs when you stand above the subject and aim down with your spiffy iphone. The head is disproportionately larger than the feet. Can you see this? (My hydrocephalic patients had overly large foreheads.)
Of course, the easiest solution is for dad to get lower, more or less eye level with his kid. Because dad is tall, the distortion is more noticeable. Alas, I have lost many a friend due to constructive comments about their photographic technique. This is family. There’s nowhere to go or hide. I like the kid and think she deserves better preserved memories.
Epilogue: Since I texted the image corrections, not a peep from the parents. I guess I am/will refrain from further comment about their perfect child.
Light. It is the essential element of photography. Without it, there is no image. Controlling it: therein lies the key. Most people don’t see it. Rhetorically speaking, most people don’t pay attention. Light has color. And, it behaves to thwart the efforts of the causal photographer. iPhone has enabled the feeble to be stars by anticipating the mistakes and correcting them for you. Oh boy! Our selfies (not one and the same) – one was taken with flash, the other was natural light. Can you tell? I was bedeviled to get a wave shot. The answer: pan the camera as the wave broke. Duh! Backlight? A bright sky will make the foreground subject dark. See it, correct for it. Morning light? Meter the foreground darkness to bring out the color of the sky. Simple. It’s even simpler in iPhone. It will do all this for you and it comes with a stack of enhancements, so you look like Monet or Adams. If you made it this far, you have interest in photography. Otherwise, you are interested in photographs. I’m, just being crotchety today.
Dinner for eight
Just fun. I did it with a tripod. I ran around and used a flash to get all seven of me on one picture. Sure. Right! I am pretty fast – at running around a table. For sure! It was fun. Colleen? Late for dinner, again. Ha! I can count. She would be number eight. If she’s late again, I shall still be beside myself.
There is one convenience that can’t be beat with the iPhone. Panorama. It’s dead simple. Ha! I can Photoshop. It’s easy enough. But…. So, I ask? Dave advised me to tap on the mountain to adjust the exposure so there would not be overexposure. When did he get so smart? Meanwhile pano is a neat trick I pull out of the pocket on occasion.
You simply cannot not stop at every potential photo-op. Even while I drove alone, I did not do it. Traveling with your wife is enough to try her patience many times over. Colleen is such a good sport. I am careful not to overdo things? Ha! Have I been known to be moderate? You can see some of the results of stopping by the roadside. And, you may ascertain some of the image shot thru the windshield on the go. Actually, Colleen has acquired some skill shooting on the go. She thinks she’s better than if I try to drive and shoot. Stop, go, hey! It’s all the same when I edit the images. Good, or, bad? Keep it, or, discard it? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell. I will readily admit that I tend to draw a crowd while I am stopped by the roadside.
We usually do our selfies without assistance. That’s me, my modus operandi. I take a shot of Colleen. Then Colleen takes one of me in the same spot while I sit in the next chair over. It works well. A helpful wife urged her photographer husband to shoot the two of us. Oddly, I could not reciprocate. Ok! There was an old lady in black who was in the background in all the shots. That was a pain. I simply blotted her out. More work? Which method was better? Hey! We got a selfie. Do I need help? … more than you know.
No one could accuse me of holding back nowadays. I just don’t go all out too often. I apologize for the slang given that there are a good many people from around the world who look in. But, once in a while I… Certainly, I spoil Colleen. In this moment, not too often at all, I indulged a whim. I discovered after my recent purchase of the Nikon Z5, that the Nikon zoom 80-400mm lens (I own) did not autofocus when attached the new model body Z5. Long story short, I went to eBay. Of course, they have the Nikon model G that does the job. It is at these times that I have been extremely lucky to get (used) just what I wanted at half price compared to new. The lens arrived in pristine condition. Damn. I was so lucky. My old lens was soft now. ??? I cannot explain except to say that the images were slightly less than tack sharp. Now, the problem is solved. Yeah, it cost $$$. But then, when do I indulge? Don’t answer. Colleen is getting a new spinning wheel… Are pictures better with the new lens? Ah? Sort of. A poor workman blames his tools. I have the tool to become a better workman. Had I but taken a few moments, my trigger happy shots would have been much better. I know this and you would too if you know what I know about fixing things. For instance, the moon is over-exposed; go to manual exposure. I was just too excited (lazy) to make the adjustments. Flog me. My bad. (more slang) I was just being indulgent. Now! I can’t wait to get back to the powwow.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. There are so many people in this world. I see people (together) with others and wonder, “How did he/she get with her/him?”
I suppose people think the same of we/us. Ha! The thing is – I don’t care. I love my wife. (Cue: Frank Sinatra.) She’s a very good sport about it all. When she constantly has a camera pointed at her, I think it must wear down Colleen’s resistance to my constant “clicking.” The light was perfect and in this case the focus was soft. How? What? Me? I do not know except to realize that the light was flattering and “good!” So? Done! No adjustment, just right out of the box. I could tweak and do a lot. No need. The waitress passed at that moment with a look of puzzlement and humor as I “clicked” away. Even I was surprised at how successfully the elements all came together. My wife, she’s beautiful. That’s my story, And, I’m stickin’ with it.