Square on

A few ‘incidental’ photos that came about while shooting with various cameras. The common denominator here is that they all looked better cropped square.

Bear out the window. (Nikon P610)
Young Pacific wren. Blurry because it was in the dark bush of the woods. (Nikon P610)
Yellow on yellow. Blurry because the Tamron lens isn’t that sharp. (Canon T100)
Dotted butterfly. (Pentax K100D)
Bee there in the square. (Olympus E-410)
Featuring yellow today I guess. (Olympus E-410)

The good news is we’ve had more rain and the fires are taking a beating from it, although it’s smoky today. Not long ’til September and the next thing you know …

Loose ends

Time to bring you up to date on what’s been going on around here.

First of all, the picture I forgot to include in the blog about the Olympus E-410:

640×480 crop of full image.

This shows that the camera used with a good lens doesn’t have problems. You see grain, not blur. That means the Olympus lenses are where the shortcomings are with that system. Goes with this pic, btw:

Lorne’s boat using the 50mm Takumar on the E-410. It’s fine.

Second, we had a visitor on Thursday:

Mr. Otis Bear

He spent most of the day crashing around in the foliage by the creek, just beside the cabin. He was stripping off berries to eat and driving the dogs crazy. I believe it’s one of the cubs that were coming ’round here with their mama this Spring. Seems to have gone now.

Third item is that the smoke has rolled in again as of Friday. Along with a high of 97F. Fires are still bad and people are being warned to stay away from certain areas, not just the evac alert/order zones. Honestly anyone vacationing in BC right now must be certifiably insane.

Beautiful view, wasn’t it?

Fortunately I was able to do some photo work before it got like this. Can’t even breath out there now. It’s looking a bit “life crisis” for me in fact. Bad enough I have to re-arrange my camera arsenal without having to re-arrange my entire way of living.

So I forgot about ‘back button’ focusing of the Pentax, and can’t tell if something is sharp or not anyway. This is a ‘salvaged shot’.

I’m actually working on a new “Master Plan” to go with my failed eyesight. The best camera I’ve got for working with my vision right now is the Canon PowerShot G11, which not only has a purely optical finder and limited zoom range (so basically anything I can see I can shoot), but also the nice colour tones of a CCD sensor. Beyond that … well I’ll explain the equipment shift at a later date. It’s still in flux anyway.

Butterfly, taken with the Canon T100.

More to come …

Bigger visitors

Mama black bear.
Baby black bears.

Taken through the window (because I’m not insane) with the Nikon P610.

Notice that they were eating the vegetation. Contrary to popular opinion, bears are not carnivores. They will attack and kill any animal they consider to be a threat, including humans. Also they will fish and scavenge.

Over Winter

I was surprised to find the game camera at the cabin stayed working over the Winter. It took some pictures of interesting visitors. The first one was the very next picture after I had left with my last load of wood (albeit in the next month).

Cougar

Some of the visitors were more “ordinary”.

Mule deer

Some were totally unwelcome!

Trespassers = cougar food.

Some came by night!

You can tell it’s a moose but …

I’ve been trying to get a good moose picture for years! Lots of them about, but they are elusive.

Baby bears aren’t uncommon either. Other shots showed he was traveling with a sibling – and mama!

Little black bear

I’m not exactly certain, but I think this is a wolverine! Never seen one here before. Possibly a fisher.

Wolverine? (Not the Marvel version.)

This morning I was visited by three otters, which also are not usual here.

River otter at the lake.

In fact even the birds have been unusual this year, with first the Barrow’s Goldeneye …

Barrow’s Goldeneye.

And then a pair of surf scoters:

Surf Scoters

Meanwhile work progresses. I won’t bother with any of those photos until I get to the point where it looks like something.

This year’s bear

This year’s bear

Every year a charity here sells two different editions of teddy bear. The practice is you buy one, and another gets donated to local hospitals to be given to any child who has the misfortune of being an inpatient around Christmas time. I’ve been buying them for years, with the ‘take home’ one being sent on to various grandchildren or others who might benefit from a bear in hand. Last year it went to my poor sister-in-law who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. She won’t remember it any more than she does me, but for a few minutes it brightened her life.

I have to admit not all the bears find new homes. There’s one living out at the cabin, and two more here at the house. Now this one has come to join them, at least for now. Because just for now I am the one who needs a bear.

Here in nowhere

Out at the cabin, presumably to stay for a few days. But the weather forecast changed instantly and is still inaccurate, plus so far things haven’t been going well.

So let’s ignore that and look at a couple of pictures I snapped through the (dirty) windshield with the Nikon on the way out.

sproing
SPROING!
grrbear
Why I like telephoto lenses

We’ll see what else turns up. Or down.

Kodak critters

Some pictures taken with my Kodak P850 when it was my only digital camera.

Banana_Bird_by_Kaleidopsyche
Western Tanager
Curiouser_by_Kaleidopsyche
Mule deer
little_black_bear_by_kaleidopsyche-d54yjoy
Black bear
most_people_just_have_a_rubber_duck_by_kaleidopsyche-d7tj4a2
Gronk the toad
On_The_Nest_by_Kaleidopsyche
Alder flycatcher
Shadows_and_Shapes_by_Kaleidopsyche
Lake loons
Arrr__Matey_by_Kaleidopsyche
Sandpiper on a buouy
The_Bush_King_by_Kaleidopsyche
Male Rufus hummingbird

Not bad for an old 5MP camera. Yes, the toad is in the tub. Yes, most people make due with a rubber duck.

Colour or not colour; that is the question

It won’t surprise anyone who has read even some of my blogs that I have my own views on whether to shoot colour or monochrome. You may have heard me express the sentiment that I generally shoot colour and then desaturate if I think the image would look better in B&W. It gives more choice, I feel. Other people prefer to shoot monochrome in the camera, and that is their choice. I do it myself occasionally, if I think it’s what the picture calls for. I’d love to be rich enough to have a camera “dedicated” to each, but that’s not very likely to happen.

Let’s face it: if the camera makers made it easier to flip between the two we wouldn’t be having the discussion, because a simple flick of a switch would give us either colour or B&W in a moment. Instead we have to paw through menus and push buttons, which rather spoils the fun. I’d like to see a combined ISO/Colour dial with speeds of 50 (please bring that back; the sun does shine sometimes) to 800 (above that doesn’t gain you much but noise) and half in colour half in B&W or maybe even thirds for high colour and low colour and B&W. I don’t know; if someone pays me to work out the details I will, okay?

Anyway the subject today is how and why I choose between the two. To start with, we have the Work Truck:

For me the colour is a distraction here, mainly because of the background blues competing with the subject which is practically monochrome (sepia) all on its own. In B&W the crazing on the panel is more prominent, and you might notice some of the smaller details of the form (such as how it sags on one side) because you’re not looking at the wide tonal range. I tried this in low saturation colour and didn’t like it. Shifting it to sepia (basically the colour of the dirt on the truck) however, works. Possibly the best version:

TruckS

The background colours are no longer a distraction, and the monochrome aspect of the road dirt (the main point of the image) is emphasized. Although you could argue that the colour version puts the road dirt into vivid contrast with the rest of the scene.

Now let’s look at a picture which works either way:

In the colour version we see the nice brass of the candlestick as well as the red and green remains of previous candle wax in the base. The blue background complements all of it, including the shapely shadows. In the monochrome version the image becomes one of shape and texture, of which it has a lot. In fact you could say it’s more poetic as the snuffed candle contrasts with the long shadow of the daylight (side note: this is not early or late light, it’s just the very low sun angle we have at this time of year. It stopped me taking it direct-on because it glared back horribly. “Angle of reflection is equal to angle of incidence.”)  Now here’s two more versions, low colour and “sepia” (actually trying to match the brass tone of the holder), both of which “work” in my opinion:

If someone asked me to pick between the four I’d have a hard time of it. Perhaps I should do a large image with the four versions together, like Warhol? *LOL*

Now a picture which could only be in colour. If this were monochrome it would be gray on gray, as there wouldn’t be enough contrast to show the fine details. This basically is a picture of colour contrast:

brushsky
Brush Strokes In The Sky

Finally here’s an image that only works in B&W. I thought this when I planned the shot, and so took it in monochrome to begin with which is unusual for me:

lonelybear
Lonely Bear

If this were in colour you would see the bright blue of the background cloth, the bright red of the bear’s scarf, and the contrasting browns of the bear itself. All of which would remove the sense of melancholy generated by the image of a teddy bear that’s been left behind for some reason.

We have a mixture of images from the two Kodaks in this series: the P850 is responsible for the candlestick and the bear, the V1003 took the truck and the sky (with some post-shoot help for its failing sensor).

Evaluating my Kodak P850

This is not a review. This is an evaluation to see if I should continue using the old camera. I bought the P850 some time between when it came out in 2005 and when we moved to our current location in 2009. That makes it ten to fourteen years old now. Pretty long years in the electronic device timeline.

DSCN1073

It was my primary camera until I replaced it with the still astounding Nikon P610 (which I don’t remember when I bought either, but it was after 2009). At the time the Kodak was pretty remarkable with what was then state-of-the art specifications including 5 megapixels CCD sensor (stop laughing) and a 12X zoom (f2.8/3.7 6-72mm Schneider-Kreuznach) lens with image stabilization. Not so impressive today, even compared to most point-and-shoot cameras.

It had some other great features which I lament are missing from newer units, such as three user-programmable functions right on the main control dial, and ISO down to 50 (although only up to 400). The major complaint is that the controls are not terribly intuitive and if it weren’t for the ability to set C1-C2-C3 (and then try to remember how they are set) it would be quite a pain to make changes for different picture-taking circumstances.

Somehow I managed to take some fairly decent photos with it anyway:

roadhouse_chevy

So here I am with this old, ‘primitive’ digital camera. Its battery is no good; barely able to hold a partial charge long enough to fire off a few shots. In fact while doing so the Voltage goes down and camera function becomes erratic. Is it worth investing $12+ for a couple (can’t find single) new batteries? How usable is it, really? And would I use it if I could?

100_1758

To find out, I’ve been repeatedly recharging the lame battery to get a few shots now and then and see how it performs. If it doesn’t produce ‘good enough’ shots there certainly isn’t any reason to go on, right? Well is 5MP ‘good enough’? Um, yes it is; 2592 x 1944 pixels is greater than my (1366 x768) computer screen, exceeds Kodak’s recommended minimum (1600 x 1200) for even a 20 x 30 print, and certainly exceeds the 640 x 480 I normally post on-line. So how’s the quality, then?

101_2124

Pretty damn good, I’d say.

For practical purposes I’ve imposed some limits on the camera. The battery is dying, so I’ve shut down the flash (which is broken) and turned off the 4X digital zoom (which the 5MP doesn’t do well with anyway as it reduces the results to around 1MP equivalent). I could turn off the constant autofocus, but I like it. True it eats battery like piranhas go through toes of the improvident, but it speeds up shooting. With the other two cameras I use you have to wait for them to focus before the shutter clicks. We’re talking photographs here; things that occur in a fraction of a second. In those terms focus time is significant. The zoom is another slow, battery-eating operation, but there I’m stuck. One great thing about the Canon is being able to twist that ring and get the framing I want faster than any motor ever thought of. (Oddly enough it’s the one lens ring they give you with numbers, despite the fact knowing the focal length is not important to producing the image.) Right. So all the many other menu-nested options ignored, let’s see results.

101_2184

My conclusion is that this ‘out-of-date, primitive’ camera with it’s ‘lack of features’ (I’m “reverse-quoting” how it would be described by professional reviewers today) holds up pretty good against the 16MP Nikon P610 and the 18MP Canon T100 for general picture-taking. I should also mention it can’t make use of larger SD cards, because they didn’t exist when the camera was made. In fact the manual lists cards measured in megabytes, but the camera seems to handle 2GB okay. But now the tough question: would I use it enough to justify buying the new batteries?

101_2120

Here’s one way of looking at it: for roughly $14 tax included the P850 could be the “take it everywhere” camera, even with its meager 5MP resolution, because the value (originally around $400, btw) has already been had from it: over 2,000 photos so far. Certainly cheaper than spending, say, $120 on a Canon ELPH 180 and having that get stolen. True the Canon has 4X the resolution, but slightly less (8X) optical zoom (they both have 4X digital zoom, but obviously the Canon would come out ahead there). Perhaps I should compare it to the Nikon W100 I bought to replace the ailing Kodak V1003. The P850 is larger and rather more awkward to use than either, or the Canon ELPH.

100_1696

In the end the problem appears to have ‘solved itself’: it seems the only places the battery is available from will not ship to my location, because lithium batteries are so ‘dangerous’. This despite the fact numerous electronic devices with batteries are shipped here without hindrance. It’s just some sort of selective silliness. According to the Zen, it means it’s not to be.

C’est la vie.

Addendum: I may be able to buy a set of batteries from a different source for about $10 more. I’m not convinced it’s worth it. What do you think?