A year later

It’s been about a year since the doctor welded my retina back on. Since then the sight got better up to a point, and then that was it. Now my ‘bad’ eye is my ‘good’ eye and vise-versa. The resulting vision degradation has been a real bugger, and not just for photographic endeavours. I’m doing a lot of work ‘by feel’ these days, and resigning myself to ‘good enough’ when it isn’t. Anyone who has a complaint is free to do it over themselves.

The new computer is better to look at, but doesn’t eliminate the troubles. Nor have I found any solution for the camera dilemma wherein the only one with enough zoom capacity to be useful to me is the one with the poorest viewfinder. That’s one of the ‘by feel’ functions these days: point in the general direction, see if any of the subject appears to be in the finder, and hope for the best. I think I haven’t been taking as many pictures as before, and I’m certainly discarding more of the ones I do take.

Oh well. This week’s bug project is repairing the trailer, and that’s been made more difficult by erratic weather. I have to see if I can get some spring bushings today, and cut the mount reinforcements if it doesn’t rain again. Looks like rain, though. In fact the guess is for showers until Sunday. Probably by then it will be until next Sunday. Not getting a lot of co-operation with anything these days.

Mid Century Modern art in real life.

Eye see

Vision impaired.

Things:

1). I do not like the chromebook. Mostly due to the fact the OS does not handle certain functions well, like file handling. The ‘sliders’ for scrolling vanish when not being used, a very bad thing for me. The keyboard is too small and so is the screen @ 11″. I have not found one single thing that it does better than a real computer, and most things it barely manages to do as well. Meanwhile my ‘real’ computer continues to throw random faults.

2). Eyesight isn’t getting better, which is not surprising. Basically it’s like having eye strain within two hours of getting up. Useless and annoying. At its best the right eye isn’t much good. Sort of like the chromebook.

3). Inflation about gives me a heart attack every time I go to the store. Politicians have decided to give us a one-time gasoline rebate check. It amounts to about one tank full in Jojo at current prices. Fortunately I do not have to drive to work every day like most people. What the hell are they going to do? Quit working? Quit eating? No indication anyone is going to try and tackle the underlying problem. Instead our Fearful Leader, Prince Harming, is looking to consolidate his position as Absolute Ruler through an illegal deal made with the opposition. Whether through bribery or blackmail I don’t know, but this one is something to protest about (unlike the emergency act use).

4). My wife has made arrangements to come home. Whether or not they will happen is another thing. So far the itinerary changed within hours of her buying the tickets, and the flight plan itself is a nightmare of no sleep for her for about two days. She says she will never use West Jet again.

5). I find myself following fewer and fewer social media sites, including but not limited to photography ones. Why? Because I can’t see the pictures and can’t afford the equipment. I think my own postings may end when I run out of the ‘backlog’ because not only do I have trouble shooting but I can’t trust the computer to process an image or keep it.

6). Spring is trying desperately to arrive. The compacted snow is melting and there are robins in the yard. Unfortunately overnight lows are still below freezing and we keep getting fresh precipitation that turns to ice. I have had the first call from a ‘lake neighbour’ wondering if it’s possible to get out there soon. No, it’s not. I went up to the city the other day (for the meds I can’t get in town) and the two larger lakes along the way are still clearly frozen from shore to shore. March is awfully early to expect otherwise.

I think I’ll make some cookies, before they raise the price of the ingredients. Again.

Well guess what

I have spent an entire day’s worth of hours reworking my computer. Upgrading, downgrading, replacing the hard drive and restoring backed-up data, programs, and settings … To be rewarded with only minor losses of images, downloaded data, and some documents. They’re on the ‘defective’ drive somewhere and I may yet be able to get them back.

Of course all is for nought because the damn thing still freezes. What’s more, despite this being an identical OS install to what I had before some things are different and don’t function right even when they function at all. I suspect some of it is hardware failure caused by heat due to laptops’ notoriously poor design for dissipating heat. Also I noticed the CPU usage pings 100% from time to time.

And it is just so much fun trying to deal with this when … well have you ever seen how small the screws are that hold these things together? Imagine it with my eyesight, which is something like this:

This is what you see.
This is what I see.

Not exactly conducive to precision close work. Or anything else. Like photography.

So I’m up the proverbial creek without a paddle or a canoe. If the thing had just completely quit and not put me through that false hope of repair I’d be happier. But …

Anyway. No solutions just now. Not for anything. Whether or not I post more pictures is kind of ‘iffy’: I have some already processed but I am loathe to do more for fear of losing them. I’ve lost thousands before, but not under circumstances where I could see it coming and thus should have avoided it.

Yeah I don’t know what I’m going to do now.

Gear down, gear up.

(Note: through dint of major effort I am avoiding commenting on life in general at this moment and instead concentrating on just one of my many problems.)

For the sake of argument let’s say my Nikon P610 no longer works at all. This is not yet true, but like the Kodak P850 and V1003 before it the Nikon’s functions have become erratic and the resulting images less than ideal. It is inevitable that it will fail altogether at some point. I already can not rely on it, which is a shame because it is an excellent camera. Was.

So, what to do about losing my #1 piece of equipment?

First of all the key reason why the P610 took so many pictures for me: the fantastic zoom range. My photography involves me being out and about and seeing things near and far. Often very far. As such I need to be able to switch from close up (not just wide-angle) to telephoto quickly. I can stand in one spot and see a butterfly on a flower right in front of me and a bird in a tree yards away. Thus the extreme zoom lens is an important feature for me.

Right. So replace it with another comparable camera, yes? No. Why not? Three reasons:

1). There aren’t any exact matches. The newer versions from Nikon are ridiculous in their zoom ranges, larger and heavier, and burdened with extra features which add no functionality. Other units from Canon and Panasonic have less zoom but as much ‘technoglitz’ and none have a guarantee of lens quality. The ol’ P610 quite spoiled me for its lens and newer offerings, even more expensive ones, have not shown to be as good quality.

2). Prices are nuts. The P610 cost roughly $400 new and whereas we can expect a bit of inflation the P1000 replacement is 4X that price. The Canon SX70 is 2X. The only thing comparable is the Panasonic FZ80, and it has other faults.

3). “To thine own self be true” – Polonius. In researching dealing with this problem I naturally turned to my current arsenal of cameras to see which had the best potential for stepping up to the plate to pinch-hit for the Nikon. The truth is none of them quite cut it, but there was a recurring theme among certain ones; namely the EVF models wherein even the best (Sony a6000) is difficult for me to use with my failing eyesight. The optical finders are much larger and brighter and easier to see, so buying another camera with an EVF would be like pretending I haven’t got a vision problem.

How bad is that problem? There is currently an optical puzzle making the rounds of the Internet where you’re supposed to read the number in a swirled pattern. My left eye can see five of the seven digits. My right eye can not discern any one them. Yes, it’s that bad. I have taken to ‘resting’ it with the eye patch as much as possible so that when I do need depth perception or increased peripheral vision it can be used. This is incurable and only goes in one direction. It does not help that most cameras are made to be used with the right eye. The DSLRs are a little easier to switch with owing to the finder being basically in the middle of the camera instead of on one side.

Now the interesting thing is that the Panasonic FZ80 is available for <$400 right now. But see problems 1, 2, and 3 above. Only the price and my boredom caused me to look at it at all. Anyway I can’t afford even that.

So I’m back to trying out my existing cameras. None of them has the ultra-long telephoto ability. Going back to #3 I have to wonder if that matters since I can’t spot those far away birds now anyhow. Mostly I triangulate on the sound and then scan the trees where I think one is for movement to zoom in on. Usually by that time the bird has flown off, and so have its descendants.

Objectively the Sony a6000 isn’t suitable even if I spent $1,000 on a long lens for it, which I’m not going to do. Good though the camera is I have troubles using it beyond just the EVF issue as outlined above. It’s a shame because it is a good camera and I like it save the few operational flaws (which are more problems with me than with it).

The Lumix ZS60 is out because of the EVF, the short focal length range, and the poor quality lens.

I like using the Olympus E410 but guess what? There are no lenses available for it because the four-thirds format was supplanted by the micro-four-thirds system. So I should go out and buy an OM? Not too bloody likely that would happen! Besides which changing lenses out is not as convenient as simply zooming from one extreme to the other.

Of course the Canon G11 and 1Ds aren’t at all suitable for daily use as the former is fixed lens with a limited range and the latter weighs nearly as much as a compact car as well as not having a long focal length lens.

This leaves the Canon T100, which also lacks telephoto lens range. That costs a ton of money, and again this is a compromise because even with it you don’t have that wide-to-telescope-like focal length range.

If only they built a DSLR with a 1/2.3″ sensor! But they don’t and won’t so that’s the end of it.

Oh I didn’t mention my Pentax K100Ds. The reasons why should be obvious.

Since the equipment can’t/won’t/doesn’t exist the only choice is to compromise on style. I already find it frustrating when I go out with the ‘wrong’ camera and see something that it can’t get an image of (the other day it was a pileated woodpecker on a power pole when I had the G11 which doesn’t have a long enough zoom). Now I’m going to have to give up on shots because I can’t change lenses fast enough and don’t have long enough focal length.

This is a problem that has no solution. Just like all the others.

Frustration. (Olympus E410)

It’s been a bad week

Let’s cut to the chase, as the saying goes. The result of my latest eye exam amounted to “there’s nothing more we can do” and “watch out for it getting worse”. About what I expected, really.

Things did get worse, but they were different things. E-Bay canceled my account with no explanation given. A few minutes searching turned up the fact that this happens more often than it should, and that there is no recourse. Well fine. Another small pleasure taken from me without reason. I hope they understand that shutting down accounts of buyers and sellers is not a good business plan for a web site that relies on buyers and sellers. But I doubt they do. (It is especially frustrating as there were a couple of things I was trying to buy and I had finally managed to get one of my items listed for sale.) On the whole it’s about as bad as every other site on the Internet: causing grief for legitimate users while utterly failing to stop abusers. Even WordPress keeps tossing up “unsupported browser” messages.

I have been systematically removing all my Facebook posts, because it is a failure of a website too. If you can’t use the site, why have an account? PayPal will be going under the axe as well, since I only ever used it for e-Bay and now PP has added an “inactive account fee” (as of November 20).

At this point I have no pleasures in my life, only work and the pain that goes with it. It’s wood harvesting time, you see. Yeah, I know.

So today’s pictures are … failures. Some images to give you a taste of what normally comes out of the cameras these days. Can’t have people thinking I’m still turning out good shots all the time, because I’m not.

This is what I see: everything blurred at any distance all the time.
Barely spotted song sparrow in the bush – and it’s out of focus.
How I get tricked: camera said “in focus”. Except that was the little pine tree which I could not even see as I tried to fix on the broken poplar behind it.
There are spots. I could not see them looking through the camera; they only show up on the computer. They had to be on the lens as they don’t appear after cleaning it. Besides the Nikon shouldn’t get spots on its sensor.
See the duck? No? It’s in there, flying away because it can react faster than me & my camera.
This is an eagle. You’ll have to take my word for it because once again …

That’s the way it’s going now: mostly failures because I can’t see what I’m doing. About the only time I can get a good shot now is in bright daylight, and then it has to be a large, stationary object. At that I may need several frames to get one decent.

Needless to say I am not happy. I can’t even continue my revised Master Plan to make my photography a bit easier for me. Thanks, e-Bay you load of incompetent bastards.

There’s no joy left.

Re-learning curve: Olympus E-410

I really like this camera, but I think it has to go. There’s no problem with using it, there’s just limitations. These start with the choice of only two zoom lenses as I can not afford the longest range one which would probably be excellent for birding. I can’t see well enough for birding now either. The other issues are that the 10MP sensor is fairly low resolution for doing digital zooming with, and the fact the lenses I have for it aren’t that sharp.

This I tested this two ways. First I tried the 40-150mm (the one I use most) on the Canon T100 to check its sharpness on the 18MP sensor that camera has. Looked okay at full (shrunken) frame, but when you crop a 640 x 480 segment out of the full-size image it’s blurry. Even my eyes can see how soft it is.

Olympus lens on Canon body, full image.
Cropped segment of the same image at full size.

Second I tried the E-410 with the Pentax 50mm which I know is sharp and got sharp results. So the image softness on the Olympus is down to the lens. (Side note: in order to use these lenses on the other bodies I had to hand hold them together and move to get focus as no auto or manual functions are available. It was a bit tricky.)

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

As far as straight-forward, uncropped pictures are concerned the Olympus does well. It has a lot of nice features too, 90% of which I don’t use. The other quirk is it stores images on either CF or xD cards so transfer to the computer is via cable. Not a problem but something of a nuisance.

Ordinary uncropped photo and the Olympus does just fine with its 10MP and stock lenses.
Even slightly cropped the Olympus does okay.

As you can see it is quite capable of taking very good photos under reasonable circumstances. It’s only when you try to push the limits that it comes up short.

Chipmunk won’t complain about the camera, so neither will I.

Why am I doing this? Because my eyesight is changed and I need to change my camera arsenal to suit. It’s obvious I still do most of my pictures in the telephoto range, and that means I need long lenses and good digital zooming ability to accommodate my style.

And if you think this was bad, wait ’til you see the results from the Pentax K100D Super. Oh boy. That was horrendous.

Meanwhile the fires continue but at the moment the skies are clear here. That probably won’t be the case for long.

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.

Re-learning curve: Canon T100

Four weeks since having my retina welded. If there’s any further improvement it will be minor and slow, so I’ve got to work with how I see things now.

Last week, before the smoke filled the valley here and I started choking on every breath, I got a chance to try using the Canon T100 APS-C DSLR. This included some experiments with the manual Pentax Super Takumar lenses, not a one of which produced an acceptable picture. Curiously my ability to judge exposure has been affected, in that bright scenes seem darker and dark scenes seem brighter than either actually is. O-kay, going to need a light meter to do that now I guess. I mean I was off a good 2 stops on every shot regardless of lighting. That’s really bad for me. I can’t have an instant “do over” because I can’t see the camera’s LCD well either.

On to automatic lenses, exposure, and focus! I paid for those functions so I’m going to use them. In theory this eliminates many issues and leaves me dealing only with composition matters. In theory.

Sky before the smoke moved in. A ‘general’ picture that came out fine.
Then we started getting some weird clouds. Picture is still okay, though.
“Silver and Gold”. The smoke begins to affect the light.
“Bugsy sent me!” Experiment with close-up focus (mud wasps).
How to drive the autofocus nuts. It had a helluva time latching on to that web! The difference here was sufficient that even I could see if it had worked before pressing the shutter.
Artistic image achieved.

The issues with this camera are that its EF-S lenses are not the sharpest (and I need all the sharpness I can get now) and the ‘focal points’ are little black dots in the viewfinder; my eyes now have their own little black dots and I kept getting confused about which dot was which for trying to fix focus. In short the extra effort I need to go to now in order to get an acceptable image has slowed down my photography, whether I want to take my time or not. This is a problem for any rapid ‘grab shots’ of wildlife, for example. The lowered resolution of my vision makes spotting birds in trees extremely difficult, and even affects my ability to recognize a potential scene. ‘Obvious objects’ are much easier to pick out. They just aren’t always the thing I want to photograph.

I have my Olympus E-410 here as well. I’ve yet to buy the longest lens for it (70-300mm zoom) because they are always 3X as much as I paid for the camera and the two shorter zooms. However if the smoke would like to go away I can evaluate that for use with “my new eyesight”. The Pentax K100D Super should get a check too, although that camera had issues even without vision problems factored in. It is because of the changes and the fact I have four different DSLRs with five (or six if you count the classic glass) different lens systems that I’m rethinking how I do photography.

The two bright spots are the Canon G11 and Fuji F80, which are just point-and-shoot basically and not a concern. Likewise the Nikon is hanging in there, but its failings of focus and exposure are now exacerbated by my own. Thinning the herd to where I have fewer cameras which I can more easily use and that produce results I want is what I’m contemplating now.

Re-learning curve: Nikon P610

Almost three weeks since getting my eye ‘welded’. Improvement seems to have stopped. At this point I’m not expecting any more.

Which brings us to the process of re-learning how to do photography when you have one not-so-good eye and one even worse eye. Especially since the latter used to be the good one. Also cameras tend to be designed for “right eye-ers” and that’s the one off the list now.

So with my usual analytical engineering ways I’ve broken the process down into three parts: imagining the image (or “finding something to take a picture of”), clicking the camera (or “actually getting something recorded”), and processing the pic (or “creating the final product”). Each of these has proven to be challenging, to say the least.

Imagining the image:

Big, big problems. Not only do I no longer see clearly but I can’t seem to pick out a scene within what I’m looking at. Before I could see multiple potential images in any given view, and now I have difficulty determining what I’m looking at. This is not some insignificant occurrence, but rather a thing that makes me question if the blood vessels in the eye weren’t the only ones that broke. There is a decided disconnection between what the eye presents and what the brain understands.

For the most part I have worked around this by ignoring the potential scenes of texture and detail, instead concentrating on the more basic form or object view. Not being able to pick objects out of a scene is still a concern, but if they are large enough in context of the view I can usually do it.

Clicking the camera:

I have my two ‘best’ cameras with me; the Nikon P610 and the Canon T100. The Nikon has its problems with focus, zoom, and exposure. Indeed a piece of it fell off the other day but I was able to find it (purely by chance) and glue it back on. It’s old and failing like me, but the lens is incredible and the camera is flexible. On the whole it’s working, even though the EVF in combination with my eye makes using the LCD for framing more attractive (albeit cumbersome). The Canon … not so much so. Not as flexible as-is, changing lenses is a pain and my experiments with the manual Pentax lenses (a favourite way of using this camera) were a disaster due to the changes in my eyesight. This camera relies more on the photographer, and the photographer is now sub-par. I have not had many good results.

Processing the pic:

Disaster. Of the three aspects this has proven the worst. Bringing what I think is a good picture up on the ‘big screen’ has resulted in a lot of disappointment and instant discarding of images. Looking at pictures on the cameras has never been good for me, and is now nearly impossible. The first thing that usually occurs is noticeable problems with framing, focus, and exposure. My left eye doesn’t see the view right, I can not tell at all if it’s in focus (and even look at the wrong place for the focus dot on the Canon), and for someone who could guess manual exposure accurately … Okay 80% of the images just aren’t worth trying to work with. That’s way down from 80% of them being perfectly acceptable.

Then there’s making actual changes. I can usually get the framing & composition corrected on the computer’s 15″ screen, but I’d now like a higher resolution laptop and possibly 17″. Exposure fixing has been a challenge because I’m really unsure of how it looks after I’ve changed it. Thus I have tried to limit things to the 10% contrast increase I know the Nikon requires and little else. Focus? I’ll try the “unsharp mask” off and on and see if it’s noticeable, and that’s about it. In other words processing is even more minimal than usual.

Now here are the best results with the Nikon P610 so far. I honestly don’t know if they are really any good and would appreciate input from people with working eyesight.

Day-Z. Most heavily exposure-processed of the images in order to get the contrast way up to achieve the desired effect. I hope.
Dark water, dark sky. Most dramatic and the effect is not due to processing.
Clear cut. Yes I turned this into B&W/sepia-ish on purpose to enhance the melancholy atmosphere.
Beach butterfly. Most straightforward image.
Paint it black. Distant spotter chopper in our smoke-filled skies. There was no colour.
Cat’s eye. Got to love the quality of that Nikon lens!

The wildfires continue to make everything extra difficult around here, from lighting to just breathing. Waiting it out and practicing with the cameras while I do. I thought about buying some more equipment but there’s really only two items I want and they’re both habitually over-priced. Besides, if I can even use what I’ve got more isn’t going to magically make things better.

I wait for the doctor to say the eye is as healed as it will get and I can go back to doing things, and wait for the fires to go out so I can go back to doing things, the things that need doing pile up. The ugly truth is I need to change my entire lifestyle, but I see no way of making that happen either.