Word and Image

Technical tips

Indulgence

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

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.


Too much

Today. It’s lessons!… I have learned. We move forward by making mistakes and then correcting our errors. Right? I’m gonna hit a bunch of things I learned this summer. If it’s boring, look at the pictures and … see you tomorrow.

Water: I used the “mist” setting on the nozzle and got water droplets. A little is good. It even looks natural. And, too much? … looks contrived. No! No Photoshop, too much work.

Focus: A good macro lens is unforgiving. There is no depth of field to speak of. Focus is critical. Within a single flower, focus can change the whole feeling. Example: yellow flower. Failure. All summer I have tried to find the focal interest. No luck. it’s just a blurred mess. Red – petunia – flower, focus shallow (petals) or (deeper) stamen? Purple flower, it’s near impossible to get all of its parts in focus. Yes, I manually focus. No, I did not quite get it right.

Timing: See, the praying mantis. Two black dots for eyes? Blink. One shot open and one shot not? Really? Macro – I could not get the whole of the bug in focus. I settled for the head and “eyes.”

TMI? It’s why I love photography. Not like, love. Well, I love my wife – first and foremost. (Ha! I live another day.) There are challenges. I am not perfect. I try different things. And, very much unlike in a medical practice, no one dies! Practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect.


Quality

When I shoot hundreds of images a day, it’s often not about quality as much as quantity. Why so many? … to be sure I did not miss the one that got away. Make sense? Not to me either. I just shoot. I experiment. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. I know there can be a world of from difference one shot to the next. Subtle sometimes, but, always it is a surprise how one can almost miss the moment. Clouds in the sky… never repeat. I will also admit that shooting the rain on a spider web is a whole lot easier with a macro lens. Ok! And with a straight face, I challenge you to figure out how I flattened a peach and kept the juice in?


Throwback

The internet is grand. It allowed me to peruse and find a Canon G3 camera, my first digital camera. It was gifted on my birthday (decades ago) by Lisa, who consulted the gurus at B&H Photo. Great! It’s laughable. The camera is so clunky. It is so retro – about 20 yrs old now.

Oh! The backstory – an article reviewing the original Canon G1. It was never on my radar (back in 2000). I was waiting for a DSLR – Nikon. The (then) current Kodak digital with a Nikon body was about $10K. Yes, that was $10, 000 (in 2000). My! My! Needless to say I had fun (with the G3) but it was not my main camera. I was using whatever Nikon DSLR of the day reigned in 2000.

Present day – a used Canon G3 is about $30. Retail, in 2000 ~ $1,000. Hey! It was not exorbitant ($30). Click! Ordered. But. You need a memory card, card reader, and a battery. That alone exceeded the cost of the camera. Ha ha. And then the camera arrived with a memory card, and battery, and a charger. Returns! Oh! I saved money!

The file size is < 1mb. The image is soft, most likely user driven (error). (A comparable Nikon Z5 image is seen above.) Fun! It’s a whole lot easier than dipping back into the film pond. Meanwhile… to find my old Nikon D70. If you are a camera nut – you probably aren’t – I once shot the US (Tennis) Open with a Sports Illustrated photographer. I had the spiffy Nikon D70 while the professionals were using the latest Canon Mark III D whatever heavies. They toted 25-pound tele lenses. I was a rank amateur and didn’t know how badly outgunned I was. Still, I got great images and an even greater experience.

The Canon G3 – two memories: 1. I lost some images of Jules at a college track meet. They just went missing from the memory card.  2. I shot some of Susan’s daughter’s wedding with it. But, the critical images went to film on my Nikon.


It’s late

But, it’s never too late to learn a new trick. I discovered beefsteak tomatoes. Ha ha! Everyone else knows them. I am late to the party as usual. Colleen bought one. I just about let it go bad on the counter. Then, we got mozzarella. I added olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Voila! Instant revelation! I was stunned. I don’t think I ever ate a beefsteak tomato before? Or if I did, it was not a true tomato?

An aside? I shoot macro images. Sometimes it feels as though I cannot see the details the lens captures until I start editing. The details! Water droplets? Subtle and not noticeable until I enlarge the image. Yes, I feel like some images were shot with my eyes closed.

Focus? Dead on accurate – the cat (Peas) – or, it’s not a shot. You aspire to a different standard.

And that beefsteak? A simple recipe. Good lighting. Luscious color. Mmmmm….


Learning curve

Hey! Look how close I got to the dragonflies. They were all over my yard. They land on a point and rest. They move away when you approach but tend to circle around and alight on the same spot. They get used to you, hence, I was able to get in close. I presume the western wildfires may be responsible for the spectacular clouds blowing in from my west. And, what else is there to add to the fact that my spiffy macro lens catches great flower details. Yes, enlarging the images in Lightroom lets me appreciate things I might never otherwise notice. (Double click the image, it will enlarge somewhat.) I’ve been at photography a long time. … and still learning.


Just about anything will do

Fireworks! I have shot them for many a year, in many a year, even in the rain. I evolved. Pointing a camera at the sky will only get you so far. I got the 411 late. You need a tripod. But, you also need a long exposure. Three seconds or so will get you bursts of fireworks trailing in the night sky. It’s a bit more dramatic. You are committed. There’s not enough time to switch around techniques; the show is fleeting. This year – I hadn’t shot fireworks in many years, and with a new camera no less – I attended fireworks with the family. They were casual viewers for whom any burst of fire was a treat. Therefore, I was out of position by more than a mile – sitting by a road side with traffic, lights, and with houses and trees in my horizon. Plus, fireworks vary depending upon the budget. Home bought (fireworks) stuff – don’t bother. This stuff? It was too low on the horizon and did not have much variation, imagination, or pop. Oh well, fireworks is fireworks. But, once upon a time I shot them from my deck in Manhattan and saw the Macy’s annual big doo. It doesn’t get much better than that. I did not caption: Macy’s; Maine (hand held); beach. You will know the beach shot by the trees. Lemon? Make lemonade. Colleen was thrilled to see my pics. She’s so kind to me. For you: tripod, long exposure – ISO 600, f8, manual, 3 seconds; start there and adjust on the fly.


Oops

New, old, discontinued, obsolete, incompatible. Tech is all of this. They upgrade the iPhone and Macbook Pro every year so that I will have envy and soon be obsoletely completely behind. Nikon flash? The technology has changed little. The connector remains the same. I can use my trusty old flash since forever (>10yrs old) even though it is outdated and discontinued. Huh!?! Anyway, the darned flash still works atop my spiffy new camera. I fully expected to be buying a new one. eBay – cheap <$100. Amazon – new, $499. Or, used – about $120. A bargain! But, I have a flash (already)! And, it works! How fortunate am I? All they had to do was change the connection, and, I’m upgrading – see (for example) Apple! They (Apple) change connectors and the whole world has to follow them.


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!