The photographer as a kind of musician

It doesn’t matter how good your instrument is if you don’t know how to play it.

It doesn’t matter how good your camera is if you don’t know how to use it.

High-priced, complex equipment with lots of ‘features’ will not overcome a lack of photographic knowledge just the same as a tin-eared rock star wannabe can’t get a song out of a Gibson Les Paul. If the player has the talent though, a Silvertone will sing for him.

Here’s me playing my ol’ Sears Silvertone, as it were. I make no apologies about the boast.

Eyes in the dark.

 

Dendrite.

 

Black-capped chickadee-dee-dee.

 

Last drops.

 

Another galaxy.

 

The reason I love this camera.

Pictures taken with the Nikon P610; the camera I keep coming back to despite its ailments. I think manufacturers should be really embarrassed that their much-more-expensive ‘professional’ DSLRs can’t do any better than this low-dollar, ten-year-old ‘bridge’ camera.

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 …

Close up with the Nikon P610

About five weeks into the healing time for my eyesight. It is definitely better, but also definitely blurred. What is more, my ability to pick things out has decreased noticeably. For example I can see large/distinct objects near or far. I can see small objects up close. But spotting small objects that are not near, such as a song sparrow in a pine tree, is no longer possible. Since I like taking pictures of birds and they are often small and in trees this is something of a disadvantage. I have nabbed a few shots, all less than perfect, by virtue of triangulating on sound and spotting movement then pointing in the general direction and hoping the bird is somewhere in frame. All too often it isn’t.

So I am re-learning photography or learning to do it differently or learning to do different photography or all three and possibly more.

In this episode I’m exploring the fact that using a camera only one way is a mistake, so here I’m trying some close up shots. This not only exercises my ‘spotting ability’ but also my ‘in-focus guessing’ as well as ‘composition assumptions’ and even ‘exposure estimating’. These even though the camera automatically picks focus and exposure, albeit not always correctly as the Nikon has problems of its own.

Devil’s paintbrush. Reasonably sharp?
Black berry. I just like the tonal qualities.
Bubbles! (Lake froth.)
Young lingcod (aka burbot) sunning itself for some reason.
Spotted berries. No idea what they are.
Bumble bee on a thistle. This should be a demonstration of lens resolution.

I think I’m improving on most areas, except focus/sharpness. I simply can not tell even in the final image if things are a sharp as they should be. Whether there’s going to be further improvement in that area I don’t know.

Currently I’m toying with the idea of changing my camera arsenal. The lens is the thing, right? So instead of having four DSLRs and five lens systems, why not one camera with adapters as necessary to attache whatever best lenses I want? That way there’s only one set of controls to use and even though they’d mostly have to be operated manually – well I do that anyway. More on this plan later.

The best news of late is that we had some rain. Enough to make a difference on some of the fires including downgrading a couple and lifting some evac alerts/orders. But it is far from over and the weather is headed for hot and dry again.

Waiting for …

… many things. Better weather, consultation with a doctor, shopping trip, and shipments.

But not Godot.

While I’m waiting I tested the Nikon P610’s focus failure, which I noticed is most pronounced close-up and with the lens pointing down. The lens is actually loose in its barrel, and you can feel it (and sometimes hear it) shift around. So I pointed it down and took a close-up of a wild rose stalk, and then gently pushed the loose section back to the camera to ‘take up the slack’. What I found was that the autofocus said it was correct at either point, but the actual focal point was off by about 10mm (at a distance of roughly half a meter). This doesn’t explain why it sometimes fails to focus on more distant objects, except in as much as the internal wear may cause some random slack then as well. I’ll have to devise an experiment to check that. Although there isn’t anything that can be done about it.

Anyway, here’s the best picture from that test. It shows again why I like that camera!

Some alien creature, perhaps?

That’s a 640×480 crop out of the full size 4608×3456 image. At the focal point it’s very sharp indeed! Not bad for a $400 ‘bridge’ camera, eh? It will cost me over $700 to replace this ailing imager, so I’m not keen on it quitting altogether. True, the EVF is practically impossible to see at times and the exposure is no longer accurate across all conditions. Yes, the pictures always need a slight contrast improvement because the sensor has aged and doesn’t produce ‘snappy’ results. Okay, once in a while it jams completely and has to be shut down and restarted. But as long as I can coax the images I want out of it I will keep using it.

Some other recent examples:

Raven hiding in a tree, says “you can’t see me!”
The Lone Pine. Growing in a roadside ditch all by itself.
Weathered dog. (Duncan came in with snow and hail on his back.)
A robin wondering where Spring is.
And so it goes.

As good as can be

It snowed Sunday night, after being 8°C that day. Then it warmed up and melted off again. This has been one weird Winter!

Anyway it was nice and sunny so I got out and walked around with the dogs and the Pentax K100DS a little bit. I wanted to see if I’d managed to polish the 18-55mm Pentax-DA lens sufficiently for use, and how well I’d manage a bit of activity. Oh, I have got the autofocus working off the ‘back (OK) button’ – but not from the shutter release. I don’t really like the back button focusing method; seems unnatural to a long-time photographer.

Here are the results. In some cases I had to do some post-processing to correct exposure errors it still makes, but over-all the camera is usable now.

The new snow.
Puddle remnant.
Marley being incredibly silly.
100% crop of 18mm shot. Fairly sharp.
50% crop of 55mm shot. The gossamer is blurred by wind.
100% crop of 55mm shot.

I don’t think any further cleaning will improve the lens any: it is what it is. I need to take some more “general” shots to see how it handles medium and distant focusing. On the whole, usable but of course not as good as the Super Takumar manual lenses. One nice thing about this camera is that it automatically adjusts for the yellowed 35mm lens, making the two an ideal combination.

Although it’s a nice camera to use, I probably won’t use it much except in instances where I want to employ one of the old lenses like the Hanimex 80-200mm zoom. I might try the old Soligor on it as well, but that is one heavy monster lens and it doesn’t have manual stop-down so it’s either full aperture or I’ll have to wedge the pin.

Something for Sunday

I just read something very funny: “35mm is the only lens you’ll ever need”.

Sure, if you have an extremely limited photographic repertoire and don’t care to explore possibilities. Any way you look at it, that is a seriously idiotic statement.

Anyway it’s a pretty nice day and I’ve got some work planned so here’s some photos snapped with the easy-to-take-along Fuji F80 EXR. Enjoy.

DSCF1247
The new deck being built by the Comedy Team of Chris & Chris.
DSCF1251
The Fuji F80 EXR camera is not meant for close-ups!
DSCF1248
The wood stove in place at last, but not yet finished.
DSCF1253
The Fuji automatically shifts into close-focus mode. Don’t you wish your DSLR did that?
DSCF1256
Who to blame? The person who reefed on the knob or the company that thought plastic is sturdy?
DSCF1261
The moon on a stick; that’s how it stays in the sky.

 

 

Around the yard with the Nikon P610

DSCN2649
Thunderstorm threat

I’m told the weather is about to change from very hot to much cooler and rainy. I guess it figured out I was home and wanted to do that shed roof. Anyway, before it does I took some time to take some pictures. Nothing much; just getting back into it.

DSCN2650
Chipping sparrow

For some reason this little fellow got over 50 likes when I posted it in a bird group. It’s not even a good picture, frankly. But he is a cute little bird.

DSCN2653
It’s called a dark-eyed junco

With good reason. Note the detail in the feathers! This is a 640×480 crop of the full-size image taken at the P610’s maximum telephoto length of 1440mm equivalent.

DSCN2655
Get into yellow

Any more pollen on him and he’ll be yellow itself. Or maybe bee yellow.

DSCN2658
Berry good picture

I cropped this square to eliminate some overhead power lines that intruded. It changes the composition from the original, but it still ‘works’.

DSCN2662
Gossamer wings

There are many of these little helicopter bugs hovering around right now. I hope they are eating all the mosquitoes! I took several different shots of them, and liked this one the best.

DSCN2666
Devil’s flower

As in; I had a devil of a time getting this photo. The Nikon had fits trying to focus on this, without even any wind blowing. I changed zoom length, switched between normal and close-up AF, shot about three frames, and did not shoot about eight with ‘false’ focus lock. The camera is having problems.

DSCN2668
Bumble bee happy

Again multiple shots, this was the best, and it’s not very good. In all I took fourteen images on this jaunt (a simple “once around the yard”), only seven of which are any good at all. That’s a 50 percent failure rate. Most of the time it was the camera not focusing or saying it was in focus but the image was blurred afterwards. I rely on autofocus because my eyesight isn’t that good, and yet many times I could see the green ‘in focus’ square showing on what was a very obviously blurred image so I didn’t press the button.

But that’s not the worst of it. The ol’ Nikon developed a new problem on this shoot: at one point it failed to zoom. The controls just did nothing and I had to turn it off and on again. It’s bad enough the sensor contrast is going down, the EVF is getting dim, the focus lock is nearly random, and the battery doesn’t last long anymore. If it won’t zoom … well that’s the best thing about the camera; the incredible range and sharpness of the lens. Yes it’s several years old and has taken thousands of pictures. That doesn’t make me feel any better about it failing. Quite the opposite in fact.

There’s nothing else like it available now. The replacement versions are “over-the-top” in design and price. Especially price. When the P610 quits my photography will change as I adapt to using the Canon T100 for everything. I’d better get practicing with it I guess.

Shooting with old glass

If you’ve read much of these blogs you’ll know how fond I am of the old Super Takumar lenses. They were one of the driving forces behind selecting the Canon T100; it could, via an adapter, use those lenses in manual mode. The experience has not been disappointing.

Having owned and used literally hundreds of cameras there are things about the old film machines that I’m quite fond of. It’s why I look longingly at the terrific retro styling of the Fujifilm X100; it looks like an old rangefinder 35mm. Looks alone, however, can not justify my spending $1,500 +/- on one. Way out of my budget.

Unfortunately for me I was forced to unload my massive collection of photographica last year, including numerable classic lenses. Had I to do it over again … but that never happens. The few items I was able to keep are not exactly in keeping with adapting to digital photography. Unless you’re crazy. Well, no problem there!

Here are the results:

They are all close-ups due to the nature of the shoot: these were done with the T100, lens off, and the ancient original Kodak Brownie used as the glass. Since this moves the ‘film plane’ about 50mm back from where it should be (hand holding the open back Brownie in front of the lens-less T100) it put the equivalent of a significant amount of extension tube into the formula. Thus, close-ups. The little candlestick and the figurine are about 38mm high.

I did not have sufficient light on this day to do this properly, so the exposure is rather stretched (ISO 400, 1/60 @ whatever f stop the Kodak is). It really needed more light, so I did a little post-processing to bring things up. The first image is a segment of a vase, and the last one the front of a toy Isetta car.

The downside to the experiment is that the Canon took pictures with no lens on and … now I have to clean the sensor. That has put me off the idea of mirrorless cameras, as every time you change a lens you are risking such a fate. With a mirror in front the sensor is safer from dust.

Still this has encouraged me to try this some more, possibly with a less rare ‘front’ camera (the Brownie is basically priceless as there are only 7 of them known now). I’ve got a folder or two which might prove interesting, as the bellows slide on tracks which could compensate for the focus limitations.

Those who know me know I’m an engineer and are probably now thinking “he’s up to something”. Well, you’re right. Following the Zen, if the right circumstances fall into place I am up to something.