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.

Strange vision

The gray is the sky, the gray is the land, the gray is the water.

My world right now: hazy, out-of-focus, and on fire.

Two weeks after the procedure. Progress seems to have halted. Much like the progress on fire-fighting in the province. 300+ fires burning, half out of control, emergency accommodations full up, roads closed, supplies cut off, and a Premier who doesn’t think there’s any reason to declare a state of emergency. After all it’s not affecting him, and the people who are suffering don’t support him anyway. Gee, I wonder why. Maybe because none of the recommendations from the last wildfire disaster year have been implemented? That could be it.

This is my world. According to the camera (P610) it was in focus. Obviously not. But this is what everything looks like to me.

Eyesight: blurred but better.

Nothing is in focus with either eye at any distance, and both are blurred. Think in photography terms; the focal point is one thing, the sharpness another. For those who think focus is over-rated I say repent your sins before it’s too late. Soft focus and blurred images are horrible, especially when there’s no other choice. I’m told my eyes not only don’t see the same, they don’t look the same; there’s noticeable difference in the colouration. Will it clear up? Only time, and a lot of it, will tell.

Large objects I can make out. I didn’t notice the cloud when I took this, though. (G11)

Photography: exercising futility.

I’ve made some attempts. Trying to get used to using the left eye, just in case. How bad is it? Less than half the shots are even viable as pictures, and of the good ones perhaps 25% are acceptable. It’s hard to say because I can’t even evaluate them on the big screen myself. Hey, maybe I can just get out the lousy Lumix and shoot blurred messes badly composed and incorrectly exposed. It would be easy. Judging by some of the “pro” photos I’ve seen in the past I might even win a prize. But it would be embarrassing and debasing of the principals of photography, as well as betraying to all those who put so much effort to bring the form to the quality it is capable of.

This could probably be good, with the moss and trees and light. I can’t see well enough to make a good initial shot, never mind process it.

What is next?

Hunker down to wait out the fires, and hope we don’t die. Or go blind. Or suddenly need some other emergency procedure.

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.

Birdies

A small assortment of accumulated bird pictures.

But is having colouration like a gravel road a sensible survival adaptation? (Ruffed grouse)
Prison guard. (Northern rough-winged sparrow)
Blending in. (Alder flycatcher)
Serenity. (Barrow’s golden eye)

Incidentally WordPress no longer allows me to edit published posts in any way, so whatever typos I make are now permanent.

Just an update post

Work, work, work. Rain, rain, rain. Mosquitoes, mosquitoes, mosquitoes.

That about covers it.

Note the lack of “photographs, photographs, photographs”. It hasn’t been suitable in any way for that.

I am making progress on the cabin, but every step just reveals more that needs doing. It’s like painting a huge bridge – that just keeps getting longer the further you go. A Mobius project?

The livingroom is starting to look like a room instead of a warehouse.

Once again there is further evidence I’m too old to be doing this, as I seem to be breaking out in spontaneous bruising. Unexplained subdermal haemotomas. It seems effort alone is enough to burst the blood vessels. That’s not good. Especially not when moving large amounts of heavy furniture around.

At least the blood is still inside.

By the way, the last trip out here I managed the road at the breakneck speed of 34 KPH (21.5 MPH). Yeah, it just keeps getting better. Not. The additional rain we’ve had since then probably hasn’t done it any good either.

Dashcam view of the road crew on the one day this year they were there. They scraped 1/2 a KM that didn’t need any work, then went home.

It seems I have a deadline of this weekend to make the place habitable as the Mrs. wants to come out and stay – for the first time since 2018. I can’t say I don’t blame her. Unfortunately she’ll bring our zoo with her, and that means certain projects have to be done ahead of then as the animals will get in the way. It also means the wildlife will vanish for the most part.

What? Dogs are coming? Oh no!

Unfortunately mosquitoes are not one of the creatures that will leave when the pets arrive. Oh well. Back to work.

Some words about pictures

When I have time I read other photography blogs. Some on a regular basis, others as they randomly appear. Often they are interesting; seeing the process from another point of view and such. Occasionally they are infuriating; seeing people presumably making a living doing something they don’t actually understand how to do. Mostly they are amusing; looking at others’ adventures in Photo Land.

Just this morning I read a well-documented process of producing a colour Infrared photo from three separate black & white film images. I wondered why, at first. After reading it I wondered why even more. Seemed like a lot of work to go through in order to produce an image you could get straight out of a digital camera in one go. If you know what you’re doing.

This hearkens back to the recurring theme of spending endless time messing about with post-processing that is the hobgoblin on digital photography. Yes, you can adjust each and every factor by 0.1 at a time – and never emerge from your digital darkroom again. You really do have to develop (pun intended) a balance between ‘perfection’ and ‘no good’ which comes down to ‘good enough’. It won’t be the same for everyone. Most people, for example, scoff at my “professional snapshots” because they are small, low-res images often made with cheap (by industry standards) cameras. Well too bad; I like them. If I didn’t I would change my ways.

Sometimes I wonder if viewers of my work, particularly other photographers, see the message of composition and framing that goes into the shots I do. Never mind use and control of light. After 50+ years of pushing the button it’s second nature to me, although of course it doesn’t always work out (best thing about digital is you can make mistakes for free).

This is not to say there isn’t a reason to do post-processing, as there often is. For example older digital cameras tend to lose contrast so might need a little +10 in that department to bring them up to snuff. Or perhaps it is your intent to adjust things to produce the result you had in mind to begin with, or the result the image inspires when you see it on the ‘big screen’. And let’s be honest, sometimes the photo needs ‘saving’ because something went desperately wrong when you took it. It happens to all of us.

But what I wonder about is why people take perfectly good pictures and then spend hours ‘tweaking’ settings by tiny amounts expecting to get some sort of eureka moment of perfection. After all, we don’t every one of us see the same photo the same way.

I also wonder why people go about making an image the hard way when the same result is possible with far less effort (especially with digital). Maybe I’m just getting too lazy in my old age.

Anyway it’s foggy and cold this morning so no images will be captured today. Besides I have to get back to work.

One Strange Night. (Infrared image taken with Canon 1Ds & 35mm Super Takumar.)