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: 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.

Where am I?

One view

Friday I needed to go in to town. By the time I got to the main road I was feeling like a cured ham due to all the smoke. In fact BC managed to grab the honours for “worst air on Earth”, with the Okanagon area coming in with an Air Quality Index of 415. That’s “extremely dangerous”; roughly the equivalent of sucking the exhaust out of a semi’s stack under full load. We’re doing much better here with about 100 points less than that which puts us in the “very unhealthy” category.

I started out with fairly clear air when I left. Sucked down fumes through my whole trip. Then came back to a lake full of precipitated particles – which have yet to go away. There’s no promise of rain in the forecast, but possibly more lightning which could start more fires. Of course it’s a holiday weekend here, and lots of morons are heading out for some fun in the sun. Despite roads being closed, trails being closed, campsites being closed, evacuation zones being closed, and of course the whole bloody area being full of damn thick smoke. They’ll go anyway and think it no end of fun as they light their illegal campfires and send more of our province up in flames.

Halfway through “fire season” and we’ve had more fires than the average for a whole one. Also set a record for “wildfires of note” (the ones that endanger people directly). I wouldn’t be surprised if this year surpasses the nightmare of 2017 in terms of total area burned and/or damage done.

What does it really look like? I set the Nikon on “daylight” and snapped a shot (no alterations, colour correct, resulting image pretty much what you’d see in person):

This isn’t the worst-afflicted area either.

I’m doing nothing. The air isn’t fit to breath. I’m too old and too broken-down to deal with this stuff. A HEPA filter and N95 masks are no match for it.

Is my sight getting any better? I can’t tell because the world around me has gone into “soft focus” with lots of real “floaters” obstructing the view.

Side note: for some reason I grabbed the Olympus E-410 when I was home. The first picture is taken with that. I don’t think I’ll be doing any photography any time soon, but I have some prepared from this past week before things really went wahoonie-shaped. I’ve been thinking a lot about what equipment I have (four DSLRs with five different lens systems between them?) and will remark on that at a later date.

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.

Kind of blind

A week later. I’ve had laser surgery for a torn retina. As it is now, my left eye is still okay but my right eye has a long ways to go. Amazingly the one affects the other because the brain sees using both. In photography terms the left is resolving 50 lines/mm and the right more like 5. I wear a patch to keep it from getting tired and causing distraction with close vision.

I took a camera with me on my rushed trip (the Canon G11) but did not take many pictures. I can’t see if there are pictures to take, can’t see to use the camera right, and can’t see to process an image afterward. I can’t see other people’s pictures either. The only reason I can type this is by using the left eye only, and knowing how to hit the keys without looking (mostly).

There’s a list of things for me not to do. Basically it involves irritating the eye or getting the ocular/blood pressure up. The problem may clear up better or stay the same. Or the retina could tear again. Or it could happen to the other eye. Once again I’m at Life’s casino playing a game I’d rather not.

But I wouldn’t be me without getting at least one photo out of this. Taken from my motel room window. I’m not sure if it’s any good as it was largely guesswork from start to finish. Besides it’s ‘Street Photography’ and that’s not really my thing.

What do you think?

Homeless in Kelowna. (Most of the homeless there are women, unlike in other cities.)

The Last Picture?

While taking photos of hummingbirds at the feeder I suddenly lost vision in my right eye. The symptoms are that of a detached retina. Today begins the hunt to see if anything can be done about it: the longer the wait the lower the chance for restoration.

My vision has been getting worse over the years. It was never all that good, but at least serviceable. It’s bad enough I’m going deaf, do I have to be blind as well?

This could be the event that forces major changes of life. I’m not looking forward to it. Even dealing with the logistics of getting examined is tricky. Writing this blog entry has been a struggle too; I never realized how much I depend on my right eye and the automatic depth perception it imparts.

Female Rufous hummingbird.

Around here

Is everybody happy? Anybody? Yes? Well let me just spoil that for you.

This past week here has been full of nasty incidents. Some of them were dangerous, like having wildfires at both ends of our road albeit on two different days. The first one messed up an appointment to look at a house for a friend.

Line of traffic stopped by wildfire.

Turned around, went home, rescheduled. Then that turned out to be a waste because the house that looked so good in the listing pictures was some nice renovations hung on a pile of junk. We’re talking about one of the area’s famous (infamous) bring-it-in-on-a-truck builds so popular in the 1970s when people were slapping up “Summer homes” all over the place. Almost none were done correctly, and they’ve gotten worse over the years. Poor foundations (this one was concrete pillars and pressure treated wood – okay for a shed but not a house), bad joins with additions (two in this case), lack of insulation … et cetera. This house had brand new floors throughout – and they never bothered to level things up first so almost every room was joined via “toe stubber” level differences. I’d show some pictures, but that is unethical under the circumstances.

What else? Well I got raging sick for some unknown reason and lost two days to that. No idea why, except that it wasn’t the dreaded COVID-19. As to that I still haven’t got an appointment for a jab, despite being registered. I have this weird sense I somehow got passed over.

I was going to the cabin for a recky on Thursday, but Lorne & a buddy went out Tuesday – and got stuck on the road. Three times. I had mentioned the distinct possibility that the short road would be full of compacted snow banks as sun doesn’t get through the trees much along it. This was in fact the case. I would have seen the snow, backed out and gone home. They tried to push through. Two 4×4 full-size trucks are still no match for the frozen masses we get here. They did eventually make it in, and warned me not to come. Like I didn’t know?

So there’s nothing to do but wait, which is quite the usual pastime around here. I got some work done on clearing out the shed I have to finish:

Less junk, but not enough less.

Believe me; you couldn’t see that much floor before.

Shopping has become problematic as the stores keep not having what I need. Some of it is essential, just not in stock. Some is not essential, but still not in stock. Buying things has become rather hit-or-miss.

One good thing: Jojo got a bath.

Incidentally, our COVID numbers continue to be outrageous. But not as bad as Ontario. Oh for vaccine! If only Truedope hadn’t spent millions on nothing. But hey, his latest budget … well what do you expect from an idiot who thinks budgets balance themselves?

I’m going to put the Nissan on the road again, although there’s no hurry. I need to fix the trailer too, and then get the materials to finish that shed and get it off the list of things to do. I hope.

Spring is trying.

Oh and the hospital sent me a nice note saying I’m on the surgical waiting list. Which could be up to 50 weeks. Gosh, two more and it would be a year. It will probably become emergency surgery before they get it done. Just weeks ago the government was bragging that they’d cleared 90% of the backlog. I guess that was just another lie.

Anyway I did do some photo experiments and a few pictures around the place, but nothing really interesting. Obviously haven’t been able to take the big camera out for some scenery shots, though.

Oh there’s snow in the forecast for Sunday. It figures.

 

Recovery week

Leftover shot from the Olympus E-410.

So surgery last Sunday. Doctor said I could go home and resume my normal activities. There were a couple of problems with that, starting with not coming out of the anesthesia well. Also, he must think my normal activities are sitting on the couch doing nothing. Got home Monday.

Then things got complicated. Called GP on Thursday who called the surgeon who called back and … there’s me rushing into town because bleeding isn’t a good thing to do at any time.

Right. Home again. Less pain, not bleeding. This is better.

Meanwhile about two weeks have been lost to this. Several important things have not gotten done, and I’m not sure I’m up to doing them yet.

But the worst part is I saw a lot of nice photo opportunities on the way to Kamloops and back, but couldn’t do anything about them. (“Stop the ambulance! I need to shoot that mountain!”) I also didn’t get to do any shopping, oddly enough. They really don’t want patients wandering around the city on their own.

Things should get back to normal now but … there’s a problem on my other side as well, it just hasn’t reached emergency-surgery level. Yet.

Nevertheless, life goes on. You can debate whether or not that’s a good thing.

In the meantime I polished the lens for the Pentax K100DS, and then realized I can’t go wandering around taking pictures with it to see if it’s any better now or needs another scrub. I spent some time marking fraud camera ads on EBay – same scam tried multiple times every weekend for months now and it never works; the perpetrator(s) is (are) dumb.

Still looking for a decent deal on a Canon 5D. There are many out there, and the prices they want for even the old ones is ridiculous. Supply and demand, I suppose. I’m not investing crazy money in a camera I’ll likely use only for a few occasional shots. The G11 and E-410 I picked up cheap have already more than earned their price, to me anyway. I’d like to be able to wander around town with the G11 some more too. It’d be nice to wander around Kam and maybe Williams Lake with it as well, but that’s two whole other safaris that will probably never happen. Time constraints, you see.

Also still looking for the long zoom that fits the Olympus E-410. Here’s why:

Full scene at 300mm equivalent.
640×480 crop – not as sharp as I’d like.

I think it would make a great birding camera with the 600mm equivalent on it. But they seem to go for over $300, and that’s kind of silly considering I got the camera and the two shorter zooms for a tad over $100. That’s a black-capped chickadee in there, by the way.

I’ve skipped a few ‘bargain’ cameras I’ve seen because I don’t need them. Better to spend the money towards the equipment I’m actually after than buy something just because it’s a good deal, eh? This included a Pentax K10, which I let go because it isn’t that much different from the K100DS – just more MP really, and I’ve proved that isn’t as important as manufacturers would have you believe it is.

The forecast says we will have above freezing every day and below freezing every night for the next couple of weeks, so the snow pack will continue to melt slowly. At this point it would be overly ambitious to think about getting back to the cabin and all the work awaiting me there. Best to take it easy for a while and slowly work my way back up to normal activities. Most of which I shouldn’t be doing at my age anyway, I’m told.

Another ‘leftover’ shot out of the Olympus.

So … how was your weekend?

When things go awry. (Nikon P610)

I spent mine in hospital. Two of them, in fact. Friday it was for a CT scan at Williams Lake after the previous Sunday’s ER visit in 100 Mile. The doctors didn’t like what they saw, so Saturday I rushed down to Kamloops for emergency surgery. I am now back home and feeling fairly well, but not without some serious horror beforehand. I will spare you the gory details because they are gory. Needless to say I haven’t been doing much photography of late. In fact if it weren’t for the last pre-scheduled post there would be nothing posted here for the past week.

The worst of it is I’m not out of the woods yet. No, the worst of it is I was in a ward with a bunch of ‘elderly people’ – and found out I was the oldest one there. It’s come to that.

Seeing things differently. (Nikon P610)

Anyway it will be a while before I’m doing much of anything again, which is a shame because it’s supposed to be fairly nice weather this week. I saw a lot of things on the trips which would make good photos too, but no way could I do that under the circumstances. C’est la vie.

I had planned on writing a multi-part post about artistic photographic composition (from my perspective). Perhaps I can still get that done. Maybe get the lens cleaning papers picked up from the post office and do some polishing (I have the K100DS focusing off the ‘back button’ now, but that lens still isn’t sharp).

Mystic sign of the raven. (Nikon P610)

Got to work my way back up to semi-normal life, but for now it’s “do as little as possible” in order to avoid complications. Which, ironically, causes complications as normally I do most everything physical around here – and now I can’t.

The photos posted today are some ‘leftovers’ just to keep this post from being too boring or depressing.

As sharp as it gets, for now. (Pentax K100DS)

I have one other prepared post which I may as well schedule for soon in case I don’t get anything else done.

Art at the end of February

When life hands you rubbish, make art. Some slob tossed this in the driveway. (Pentax K100DS)

Well this has been a week. A week of weak. I’ve had several days in a row where just being alive has been a major effort. No answers to that problem either, as the last ‘diagnosis’ (guess) turned out wrong like all the others. If it’s a new disease, will they name it after me? What a way to achieve immortality!

A “long log” truck; single span of about 40 feet. These are destined for log home construction. (Nikon P610)

Sometime in the future I should be getting an appointment with another specialist, regarding my hearing. I doubt there will be a resolution to that either, other than my sinking into a world of endless noise and no sound. It’s weird because I can hear all sorts of sound, even very soft ones, and sometimes ordinary sound is way too loud. The dogs barking can be downright painful. It’s just that over top of it all there is the constant noise(s) of tinnitus. It is not fun.

Another shot of Bleak Tree. (Pentax K100DS)

Quite a lot has been going on in the world around me that is just dumbfounding, to say the least. I’m not going to rant on about it because others have already managed that quite well. Suffice to say what I take away from the whole situation is an ever-stronger desire to not be a part of it.

You know why. (Nikon P610)

Of all the things I’d like to gain right now, mostly I’d like to have my ‘vacation’ room. Isn’t that silly? It’s supposed to be “tropical themed” so I can go in there and pretend I’m on a desert island somewhere. With sounds from the south pacific, including waves and ukuleles. I lack the logistical ability to do anything about it at the moment, from the finances to the actual physical strength to bring it about. But with all this crap going on everywhere I find what I really, really want is a room I can retreat to and shut the door on the rest of the world. I’m old; I’m not supposed to be a soldier anymore.

If you know photography or astronomy you know what’s wrong with this picture. (Pentax K100DS)

Today’s images are a mixture of artistic shots out of various cameras. I still enjoy doing that, when I’m able to get out and take pictures. Believe me, using the cameras you have is more rewarding than adding to the collection. But there are still one or two others I would like to have …

I’m outta here! Black-capped chickadee taking off. (Canon T100)

Finally, a couple of notes about WordPress itself: one, it seems to have slowed down immensely including handling image uploading/viewing – along with my no longer being able to access notices from my “front page” as it were; I have to go into “Reader” or “My Site” to see what they are about.

And two, I get a lot of likes for my simple efforts and I do appreciate that. What’s more, I almost always go to the person’s site to have a look at what they do. It doesn’t always work out, though, because my eyesight isn’t that compatible with some of the formats chosen by others to present their work. That’s a long-winded way of saying I can’t see gray print on a black background, for example. I’m sure it looks nice, I just can’t see it. Hence the very simple layout of my own blog.

Now if the weather will co-operate perhaps I can do some more photos.