Word and Image

Technical tips

Astro what

Okay! So, Colleen tried to buy me a telescope for Xmas. She spent big $$$$ and ordered a special camera ready telescope after much research, much angst, and after consulting with Liz, our family astronomer. I have dabbled, miserably, in some astrophotography. With anticipation and then great disappointment (Colleen’s), the telescope never shipped, never arrived. We saved big $$$$. Colleen cried inconsolably. Everyone knows it is impossible to get me a present. I tend to buy whatever I want. So, there is no wont in my house.

Amazon prime came to our house – inadvertently. Amazon prime day had a sale on beginner telescopes. The rest, as they say, is history. The learning curve is high. First and foremost is light pollution. I discovered the technical limitations of attaching a Nikon camera to a Celestron telescope. Focus in the dark was dismal. The earth moves at about 400 meters/sec. I thought diving was challenging? The stars are dots of light – pinholes in black paper.

My point and shoot Canon got better focus of the moon than the spiffy telescope. Risk/benefit, or, bang for your buck?; I chose the camera. The stars are not a subject I will pursue. Amazon gave me a refund. End of story.


Eyes

Portrait photography – the first rule – focus on the eyes. From the start, when I did film photography, it was always focus (manually) on the eyes. Nothing else is as important. Cats feel threatened when you point a big lens at them. It’s like a big eye. The cat does not like it. Mine, they are resigned. I have pointed so often that the lens is familiar. It’s still not easy. The skill is in putting the lens in front of their eye so it looks as though they are looking at you. Ha! And, salt on the tail, will catch a bird! It ain’t easy. But then again, if it were, all my pictures would be perfect. Right?


Vertical

When I started in film, “they” always admonished me to hold the camera vertically – get a vertical shot – about 10% of the time. Or, more. Nowadays, I shoot 99% with the horizontal computer screen in mind. My shots are mostly horizontal. I can crop vertically, easily enough. Or, more than ever I hold my camera tilted off horizontal to get a more “street” or “edgy” look. Ha! The cameras I have all have a horizontal ‘indicator’ to hold you perfectly aligned which is anything but what I want to be. Come as you are! My images turn out vertically sometimes because I am holding the camera so far off horizontal. To which I might ask, if you have a round flower, does it matter – horizontal or vertical? To which, I might add, I never met a rule I didn’t try to break…


Camera or operator

Am I good? Or, am I good because of good equipment? Or, does the equipment make me good? And so on and on… Luck? This butterfly cooperated. This all has a lot to do with the butterfly, who held still for its close-up. My good luck! Look at the detail – eye, the hairs. Pretty nifty! Hey! I’ve done this before. It’s not my first. But, its rare enough that I appreciate it’s not a given. A lot of things come together to get to this point. Ho hum. Whip out an iPhone and shoot. Uh uh. Not by the hair of its chinny chin chin.


A few

Way back in the beginning… back in 2011, I started this blog. It was free. Free is for me! I’m not selling anything. No $ either way, in either direction. Not true, I pay a fee for extra memory (on the site) nowadays. There are ads, a few, not my doing, not mine (ads). Essentially, free. Followers, a lot of commercial WordPress sites these days, fishing for business. Followers, a few, to whom I imparted the blog address. There are few enough followers who have found me from around the world. But indeed, there have been visitors from around the world. Ah, the power of the internet! I do not seek fame. I merely share thoughts and photos. I’m better than average and less than great. I am not the best in my family but better than most. My own kids have produced 5 star pics on their iPhones! It’s not common, so, the body of my work is technically better. But, then art was never about quantity. Quality can show up in a single image. Colleen’s kids – Emma has more photography experience. But, even Jess and Ian have shown that even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while. Even though I take great shots, it’s just not every day. But every day, I take shots.


Macro – detail

It’s not microscopic photography. Once upon a time, I did plenty of medical photography through an operating microscope. Macro photography is focusing in on the small details the eye will usually not see unaided. The macro lens brings that detail into focus. In this manner one can see the fine hairs on the stamens or almost make out the individual grains of pollen. It’s fascinating. It’s eye-opening. I can demonstrate detail that I never saw in the past without the aid of a macro lens. It elevates your perception and appreciation above the ordinary flower photo. I don’t think I could get these results with an iPhone. (Go ahead. Zoom in on the images to see the extraordinary detail.)


Eyes

Focus – eyes. If the eyes are in focus, just about anything else is forgiven in a portrait. The image is an edit discard if the eyes are not focused. If you stand back far enough everything looks in focus. Up close – focus is critical to the success of an image. Have I said focus is important? In a family of ten it’s important to be focused. Ha ha! I did a go around the house and got everyone’s eyes, mine included. (I chose to be upside down.) I suppose this is photo lesson 101. Focus!


Déjà vu … again

As Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets, I have a few….” The last time I made a major camera purchase was in 2014. We went to the mecca of camera stores (B&H) and I got a brand new spiffy Nikon D610. A month later the D700 followed by the D750 came out. (About the same price, better features!) Bad timing. Of course, no one tells you in advance so they can dump old inventory at max price. This time around I got a Nikon Macro 105mm lens to go with the Nikon Z5. This stuff ain’t cheap! And! Déjà vu! A month later, the new Z mount macro lens was announced. You don’t care. You didn’t get gypped again! I could buy/sell/trade my way to the new model lens. Nah! The old lens is fine; it’s just more weight (older lens). And, I have already gotten my money’s worth of macro photography even before the new lens has been released for sale. But(t), as with many things in life, timing is everything. My (timing) was perfect again. Then again, gear is not the definition of a photographer; anyone who buys great gear is not guaranteed success. Good tools make things go better. This mix of photos is with different cameras and lenses – right tool in the right moment, or, the tool at hand in the moment. The humming bird was fortuitous (lucky!!): I was holding the 105mm macro. This lens worked at the critical moment.

Macro? you ask? This one wuzza puzzler. Two bees humping? I thought they worked with a queen. No humpin’ allowed. It’s not an expected behavior?! This was right tool (lens) in the moment.


Depth of field

I did a composite of three images, it is obvious if you know what to look for. Or, it is obvious if you notice something is not quite right. I will explain. Look closely and you will see three distinct levels of focus: front, middle, and rear. And in between each zone, the flower is out of focus: soft. It’s subtle but distinct. It gives the full view of the flower. If you didn’t notice then my manipulation was successful in illustrating the flower. Me? I noticed it was unnatural right away. Then it took a moment to realize the explanation. The macro lens I used has no depth of field whatsoever. It is the nature of the lens. And, in this case, it illustrates the concept of depth of field nicely. Confused? No worries. You can appreciate the image without understanding the technical details.


Gear

I split the discussion and did not show you gear in yesterday’s post. Waiting is good. Most gear I get is purchased after agonizing over the need and justifying the expense. Leica is Rolls Royce but I do not justify its expense. The “bang” for your $$$$ buck is too low in my opinion. The Canon G7X is my dive camera. It worked so well at the time and still would serve just fine. I am invested in its underwater housing and a strobe. The Sony RX100 VI is a compact camera with more than adequate telephoto reach. It is as good at getting a tele image as my Nikon 80-400mm zoom. Crazy! But to my eye, the image is adequate and way offsets carrying around a big heavy lens when traveling all day. The Canon EOS M6 II was my first mirrorless camera and made an instant leap to my carry-around camera. Covid canceled our trip to Scotland. And, a year later I got the Nikon Z5 full frame mirrorless camera. Full frame is the operative phrase, The camera is larger, therefore, heavier. If you don’t “get” (understand) it (heavy), the Z5 is not for you. Currently, the Z5 is my “go to” except where size matters and I wish to be unobtrusive. And. NO! Colleen will not be going anywhere for the “duration (of our forever marriage).” I am only allowed to have more cameras. … no more cats either. Tech? Gear? No, it’s the image!

So much gear… gearhead? So little time… need all that gear? Does/did it make you better? … do we need another spinning wheel? Sure! Aesthetic? Ah! Hedonistic! The antonym is eudaimonistic. And, we have never heard of that term. So…. go for it! Though, I tend toward introvert, I have never been accused of being a monk.


Game changer

I need(ed) a kick in the pants. Boredom? Stagnation? Progression? Rut? I started taking flower pictures in earnest last summer. Sure, I have tons of flower pictures from the past. Yawn! But, last summer I started paying attention to the little details. I discovered I had been missing a lot. This spring I convinced myself to get a macro lens. I had a macro lens. It was an old clunky mechanical macro lens, now decades old. There were a myriad of reasons to justify the purchase of a new toy. I am acquisitive and have been all my life. Why not indulge? I did. I got a spiffy full frame mirrorless camera body to go with it. Don’t ask. Boys and toys. It has been a game changer. I am, for the moment, shooting exclusively, extensively, with the new camera and macro lens. Better images? Sure. You can also do the job with about any other equipment. But, like cars, some are better suited to the task. Ease of use and consistent results help. It is similar to the improvement of my dive photos after I started using a dedicated underwater housing and a flash strobe. Unless you are a gearhead, you will not likely understand. Maybe you will nod indulgently like Colleen. Part of what I love is that she (Colleen) understands too well my exuberant enthusiasm. Her spinning wheels are much larger (size) examples how much fun it is to have different tools for the same task. Why use different spinning wheels? Each (wheel) brings something different and, so, brings joy to the task at hand. I like different cameras (not too many) for what they can do to get the image I have visualized. I firmly believe that iPhone is not the best tool for most situations.


Almost

The blue heron stood long enough for me to get shots. And, I could see him gather up to take flight. My timing was off by just a little. So, instead of a great shot, I got an ordinary slightly out of focus slightly blurred shot. Almost. Not bad though, I had asked the camera, lens, and shutter to do an impossible job from a long way off. We are having a discussion because I managed to get something. If it had been a great shot, I would not have to apologize for the miss. I’m mortal. And, this is not my day job.


Digital vs Photography

Digital is free. A memory card holds thousands of images. The cost per image is fractions of a penny. Film was costly. It cost money to buy film, develop negatives, and print a picture. You got 36 negatives per roll. If you were Ansel Adams you carried around a large view camera and a limited number of photographic plates. Each image was a process and they had better count because it was not like a machine gun; you could not just spray and shoot. I learned a while ago, that a motor drive will not get you the critical moment when you are shooting sports. There, actually, is skill involved. If you don’t appreciate this, then keep your finger on your iPhone shutter and blast away. A blind squirrel is said to get a nut sometimes. The majority of results do not respect the process and the images reflect the lack thereof in kind. Too complicated and don’t care, yes, in the universe of bad images, this is the majority. And, even I, admit to taking too many pictures these days. Press the shutter – I will edit or change things in Lightroom or Photoshop later. It is interesting to think upon the process. I am guilty. I fire away and defer the consequences to a later moment. Or, should I take a real picture? Less is more? Do you think about one good image? Or, is it, close your eyes, press the shutter and hope for the best? Black or white? I do a little of both. Experience, there is something to be said for having tools Ansel Adams never had. At the end of the day, did you have fun? For me, digital is my negative. I shot 26 images to meld into a single shot. Ansel would have worked his negative to get all the detail onto a single plate. Today, it’s called HDR. We are both working the problem with what we have in our tech arsenal.


Tiny details

Ho hum. Another flower picture? Yawn, boring. Till… I noticed the tiny details. Last summer I shot the flowers in my garden with a regular camera zoom lens. The details I captured were eye-opening. This year I updated my gear and got an (up-to-date) macro lens. I got the right tool for the job. I can appreciate the improvement in my images. I was used to a wide-angle view of the garden. Now, I see and capture tiny details. Learning a new trick has been fun and introduced interest once again. I am challenged to illustrate things we would not ordinarily notice in the common flowers in our garden.


Depth

As if you might care – macro photography has a very limited depth of field. This is good or bad. I have had to adjust. The critical focus makes it imperative to be certain of the point of interest. Lack of focus is unforgiving. Either you got the shot or not. Ok! Enough! You want to see? The African daisy is in focus at the back and not the front. It’s subtle but makes all the difference between “ok” and “wow!” If you didn’t notice or don’t care, good for you!


Old “snaps”

I’m a better photographer than Colleen. My skill has been honed to pay attention to detail. It’s knowledge, experience, and better equipment (cameras). Colleen can weave and spin. I am a mere amateur compared to her skill. Ask me to weave anything and I would be at a complete loss. She was looking for old family shots (another story). To protect the innocent, these are old shots of family pets. They are treasured memories to her. Period. Wistfully, I wish they were better and did the beloved pet more justice. By comparison, out of hand, I know the essentials and had the tool to get (better) portraits of our cats, by the hundreds, so far. Sorry, I am truly sorry, I was not there to preserve Colleen’s dear memories. My regret lacks the words to convey the feeling. Precious photos are not always good photos. They are the anchors that crystalize happy memories and the names of beloved pets now departed.


Limit

What’s yours? The limit of enlarging an image is multi-factorial. The quality of the source image counts. This is dependent upon camera, lens, and focus. There’s more but it would be boring to get too much more technical. Meanwhile, the red wing blackbird in flight was fortuitous. I could have done better. But the moment came and went. I did not have the right equipment. But you can see the color of the bird in flight. To me, it looks orange in my picture. But in other views, we saw the characteristic red color. At the end of the day, the image ain’t perfect. But otherwise, we’d have nothing to talk about. I got the dang bird in flight!


Rotation

I have cameras. They are smaller than spinning wheels. And, they (cameras) are smaller than looms and great wheels. This does not mean that I don’t have a lot (of cameras). It just means they are more discrete. I have a series (of cameras) that I rotate in use. Each has its own characteristics, and therefore, its use in certain situations. It would be boring to wax poetic over each (camera’s) special or general use. Suffice to say that Colleen’s picture illustrates one “signature” spinning wheel, one loom, and two great wheels, all of which take up (all) the available space in our (her) living room. Three cameras take up a portion of one table that does not have fiber upon it. Which is to say, that the missing camera (I took this photo with it) is my new spiffy Nikon Z5. Yes, one must always keep up with tech. It is the replacement to my trusty Nikon D610, that I purchased when Colleen and I first met. I will not be replacing Colleen anytime soon. I say this upon pain of death. Ha ha. (KIDDING!).

This new camera does take great shots. I’ve been waiting to get the red wing blackbird with its red chevron – only to find, it is orange – and shot with my Sony RX100 VI. The swallow? A crow decimated their nest last spring. I hope they have returned to nest once more. Mix and match, each instrument for its purpose. When you you need a hammer, a screw driver might do if nothing else is at hand. Macro? The right lens is definitely a plus – helpful! But you can do it with or without. I love to learn new tricks. A new camera? A new lens? Is it an excuse? Or, is it inspiration to explore new possibilities? Whatever! I rotate and I use whatever is at hand that will achieve what I imagine. Sometimes it works. Do we need all those spinning wheels? Ha ha. I would not presume to answer that question. But I do know, it’s a whole lot of fun to have the tools you need at hand. … now to talk Colleen into needing a Tesla.


Flowers: Macro

What can I say? New toys open up possibilities. This post was composed about one- and one-half months ago. I suppose the technical aspects are likely boring. I’m just tickled. I have just made things so much easier for myself. And, it is the start of summer flowering. There will be many returns on my investment.


New toys

For the longest time I resisted getting a real macro camera lens. These are the first sample images from a spiffy macro lens I acquired toward the end of April. The camera has a very shallow depth of field. Focus on the subject is critical. The right tool for the right job – I had resisted for so long. A few brief moments later, I am convinced. The last time I was enlightened like this, was, when I upgraded my diving equipment. It’s still too early. But, I suspect my images will change for the better. No longer am I tied to the concept: when you don’t have a hammer, a screw driver will do. It’s nice to eat with a knife and fork.


Opps…oops

Digital cameras allow you to make a mistake that keeps on giving. Since August 3 of last year, for nearly eight months, I have had an erroneous setting for the ISO. Ordinarily, it is set to “Auto.” Somehow it was set to ISO 800. So, a lot of pics were taken with the wrong setting. The other parameters adjusted “automatically” and I never noticed the error till now. I only picked up my mistake because the camera used a very long shutter speed one day. Aha! Corrected! Fixed! All is right again. It only took eight months to notice. Gee!! The pizza? As long as we are talking mistakes, this shot was made after I fixed the ISO. The pizza is the error. We have a pizza chain. The pizza is nearly inedible. I kid you not. I was desperate for a “slice,” any slice. I actually went home and ate something more. To protect the name of the guilty I won’t mention the name Grotto.


Light

LED lighting. Where have I been? The neat thing is that it is bright without the heat of incandescent lighting. And now we see how it can be shaped whimsically into many forms. Bright! There was an industrial fixture with 26,000 lumens. Bright! I settled for 3000 lumens; it was a big noticeable improvement. Modern, and a bit high tech out of sync with our house (?); we are living with it and have begun to not notice it except for the light which is brighter. It will work until some other design comes along that is better.


Aha!

Chances are that you are reading this blog for the pictures. The technical aspects are merely curiosities and my diatribes on photo technique are too much; just get to the picture. After all my photo magazine subscriptions ended, I began reading online. Here is a recent article right up my alley:

1. Covid and all those unscanned slides? Sure! Go ahead and scan your old slides.

2. Software – The Nikon scanner software just disappeared. Vuescan or Silverfast. Silverfast is clunky hard to use. Aha! Right!

Honest! I didn’t do this. My cat jumped into the basket and fit himself into the cramped space. He was perfectly content to nestle in and just stare back at me. Don’t ask me which twin this would be. Whatever I say would be trouble for me. Colleen will correct me and I always listen to her. Always….


Perfect subject

Panorama. It’s never too late to learn a new trick. Colleen suggested… inspired, a true muse. Right time, right place, right subject, a panorama is not for every image. You are looking for something that does not require height and is long (width). Great idea! The mantle Santas were perfect! The room was too busy. And the Santa’s on the table were not squared away. Close but no cigar. That reminds me of Three Kings of Orient are smoking a rubber cigar… till there were none…. Silent Night. Right subject… it makes a rather stunning panorama. Perfect. Apple iPhone has had this trick for a while; it’s easy. Photoshop? You can do it. It’s work. I have lured into how easy Apple is!

Alternately, the images don’t make themselves. There is some planning and thought involved. I got down closer and squared. So, it’s still a work in progress.