The photos I don’t take

We all have our particular favoured fields of photography. Some prefer landscapes, some nature, others urban views, still others go for macro or astronomical images. It’s all according to taste. My own work tends toward either documenting projects I’ve done or things I’ve seen or else I delve into the artistic realm, sometimes to the extreme. And although I have been known to stray from these norms occasionally, there are certain kinds of pictures I really can’t be said to indulge in.

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The Jazz Man

People Pictures.

Although I have been known to take the occasional self-portrait (definitely not ‘selfies’), I just don’t take pictures of people. Not friends or family or strangers. I can’t explain it other than to say they’re just not my sort of subject matter. As it is the self-portraits are more a form of artistic exercise than anything else. There are of course the legal ramifications of taking pictures of people; generally you can’t use the images to your benefit without a model release (the requirements vary from place to place), and that adds an extra measure of complication. I don’t like complication.

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Mural at Coach House Square

Urban Images.

I’ve never liked cities much, no matter what size. I grew up in a small village that got bigger as I got older. I’ve always preferred rural, remote, natural settings. Probably why I have a cabin in the woods miles from anywhere – and just across the creek from the neighbours. The nearest ‘city’ to me now is not very interesting to look at anyway; it’s a ‘rapid-build’ settlement made largely of concrete block one-story industrial-look structures put up quickly for practical use rather than with any eye to architectural aesthetics. In other words it’s ugly. Even the residences are mostly brought-in-on-a-truck design. Not much ‘real’ architecture anywhere. A sop has been made to beautification with flowers and murals like the one sampled above (unfortunately I don’t know who painted it) which are everywhere yet do little to improve the view anywhere. The one nice effort along these lines is the seasonal store window paintings, all done by the same artist which gives a certain homogeneous look to local retail. But frankly photographing this civic art or the ‘canvas’ it is on is not for me.

If you put those two categories together you have Street Photography, which I also don’t indulge in. It just isn’t my thing.

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Hummingbirds at O’Hare

Video.

Oddly enough, the new Lumix camera is capable of doing 4K video. Evidently that’s supposed to be something desirable. All the other digital cameras I have do video in some form or another, but I’ve never done more than try out the function to see if it works. I have one nice video of hummingbirds swarming the feeder (see the still image above), but since none of my work is worth spending money on to present I don’t have a premium account here that allows me to post the actual video. In my youth I shot some 8mm and Super8 film, and even had quite a few movie cameras. Once I even made an entire stop-motion animated movie (it wasn’t very good). But despite these dalliances with video I never had any serious interest in making them, and still don’t. This is particularly peculiar considering I’m rather fond of classic movies and have quite a few on DVD. Sometimes enjoying something is best done from the sidelines, not from within the ‘game’.

So I will stick to documenting those things I feel I need to make a record of, and indulging my artistic desires with the kind of images I’m familiar with making. Not because old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but because sometimes old dogs are happier with the familiar antics they already know how to perform.

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Frosted Fir

 

 

Getting the hang of it

The Lumix ZS60 is starting to produce some decent pictures. I have to say it has taken me longer to get this camera ‘usable’ than any other. It still needs the colour balance turned down a little bit, but that and the other settings are almost exactly right now. The camera definitely has an ‘artistic bent’:

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Two birds flying

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Another sunset

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Refreshed snow

It still can’t take a decent moon shot, though:

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Snapshots it can handle:

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Snow pawtrol

Close-ups went from this:

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To this:

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Snow cocoon

And the detail on medium shots is now fairly good:

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Make of it what you will

Edit to add: I’ve now got the colour temperature set to 7800°K, and it seems to be right for the light here;

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Unprocessed

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Orange in snow

So now that I’ve finally got the camera settings where it will produce a good picture, what I need is some good shooting opportunities.

Unfortunately according to the forecast it’s about to snow heavily. *sigh*

 

The best laid plans

For some time now I have been lamenting about the lack of an affordable ‘normal’ focal length lens for my Canon APS-C DSLR. They have a 24mm, a 40mm, and a 50mm in the under $200 price range, but a 30mm-35mm choice is missing from the lineup. To get something that works out to ‘normal’ for this camera (crop factor 1.6, making 32mm roughly equivalent to 50mm on a 135 camera) you have to spend a lot of money. The Sigma 30mm seems to be the best choice at $629 +tax.

The question is; would I really use it enough to justify the purchase? In the past I’ve shot a huge number of pictures with normal focal length lenses, so I probably would. But “probably” isn’t “absolutely”.

Fortunately I have a way of testing the hypothesis: a 35mm Super Takumar M42 that adapts easily to the T100. Okay, I’ll put it on and shoot a dozen or so images to see if I’d really use this particular focal length now (I know I shoot mostly in the telephoto range, hence the hesitancy to make the purchase). What I’m looking for is how often the ‘normal’ field of view would suit my purposes.

The downside of this particular lens (aside from the lack of aperture coupling and autofocus) is that the thorium in the glass has turned it yellow. On the left we have Duncan as he appears through the yellow haze, on the right the necessary white balance correction to restore at least semi-accurate colour (yes the snow really does reflect blue).

Unfortunately trying to slog through a foot of snow isn’t easy, which limited my area of picture-taking. This was confounded by the interesting way the low-angle light illuminated the surroundings: my body was unable to wander far, but my mind had no trouble being distracted from the task at hand and going off in its own direction.

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Cropped – which I shouldn’t have done

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Hard to resist shadow patterns

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Oh look – now we’re on the moon

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The sun set

Oh well. Maybe the next time the sun shines around here I’ll remember what I’m trying to do and take uncropped, straightforward shots that will actually have some bearing on evaluating the usefulness of the particular focal length. :p

Of course the arrival of the Lumix camera is also interfering with this test, but mainly it’s weather and shooting opportunities that keep me from completing projects. In fact of four I started some time ago, I only managed to finish one. At least I won’t be running out of things to do.

Out of the cold

Looks like we’re warming up around here. For example Sunday morning it was -18°C, which is warmer than it had been in a week, and got up above freezing by afternoon. Now they are predicting more highs above freezing coming up every day this week. Massively different from the arctic conditions we’ve just suffered through.

To that end, a few things I shot while it was so cold. Most were taken inside in fact, even though they show the freezing outside.

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Window on the frozen world

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Ice snakes

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A spray of darkness

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Crystal forest

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Some other land

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Staying warm

I didn’t get the new camera last week. Hopefully it will show up early this week so I can try it out in the sunshine … and warmth.

Suppose you want a pinhole camera …

… but all you have is a DSLR?

This may be the goofiest experiment I’ve done yet!

 

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If you want to do this yourself here are some notes about it:

1). After trying various camera colour modes I decided “natural” with the sharpness at maximum looked the best. It does well in B&W too if you want that total “printing paper negative” effect. It doesn’t make much difference if shot at 18MP or less; the clarity just isn’t there.

2). Bright sunshine lets you use 1/60 shutter speed for steadiness @ ISO 1600. Some shots may still be a little under and require tweaking, or you could push the ISO up further.

3). The smaller and rounder you can make the pinhole the sharper the images will be, but they will never be “lens sharp”. You can experiment with aluminium foil but it’s not very sturdy and may flex too much. Brass sheet is ideal, but pretty hard to find. I used a bit of aluminium roof flashing cut to a rough circle painted black and taped over the #1 Pentax extension tube screwed into the EF adapter. A jeweler’s deburring tool would have been nice, but alas …

4). You could use a body cap to make a “direct fit” version of this. Remember that focus is pretty much the same at all distances and moving the pinhole further from the ‘film plane’ gives a telephoto effect.

5). These images will always lack detail, therefor intricate subject matter like branches or hair aren’t going to look like much or even be recognizable. “Blocky” subjects like buildings and vehicles come across better in my opinion. Unless you want undefined blurs.

6). This would no doubt work better with a full-frame sensor, which would be even sillier as well as much more expensive if you haven’t already got the camera.

7). Dust got on the sensor again. This type of experiment would be murder for a mirrorless camera.

Once again not a very practical way to take pictures. But the results are similar to buying one of those el cheapo lenses – and for a lot less money. It is always easier to make pictures “soft” than it is to get them “sharp”, and there’s no need to spend a lot to do it!

It’s trite, I know

I had been thinking about doing this post to the point where I’d selected almost all the photos for it. There was some hesitancy because it’s such a “year end” thing to do and I find those rather annoying for the most part. Further to that I started seeing other people doing the same thing. Oh boy, it’s the legendary “Obligatory Marble Shot” situation all over again. Nevertheless and despite my own reservations I went ahead and constructed the post on December 17. Will it get published? Only time will tell. (If you’re reading this either it did or you have magical powers.)

Selections were made on three criteria; the technical quality, the artistic value, and the wholly subjective “because I like it” factor.

First up, two from the Kodak V1003, the cheapest camera in my arsenal:

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Yellow

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Vice

“Yellow” and “Vice” show how artistic you can be with a very simple camera. Something I like to demonstrate for the benefit of new photographers or those just looking to find their way.

Now two from the Kodak P850, as we move up in camera value:

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Candlestick Colour

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Walkin’ Blues

Here we have the original colour version of the candlestick photo series and the P850’s rendition from the “Walkin’ Blues” series. The richness of this camera’s captures with its CCD sensor never ceases to amaze me.

Shifting up in price again to the Nikon P610. Oddly enough even though this is still my “main” camera I had a hard time choosing from its photos, because a lot of what I take with it is not done for artistic reasons.

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Hannibal

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Lonely Stranger

These two show the P610 at its artistic best, I think. “Hannibal” radiates warmth and fuzziness, just like the actual cat. “Lonely Stranger” is not only poignant but also personal, as it is a self-portrait. Usually the Nikon is shooting pictures of the moon or wildlife, because one of its main attributes is the fantastic zoom lens. I just didn’t think those pictures were top-of-the-class for technical or artistic merit.

Now for the most expensive camera, the Canon T100, we have a couple of shots that show for a camera that spends most of its time doing weird photographic experiments it can do some great art if given a chance.

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Broken

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Chimney

“Broken” is pure art gallery level snobbery, whereas the “Chimney” is serendipitous colour and form. Besides these I found quite a few taken with the T100 which were suitable, and narrowing it down was difficult. I had to somewhat suppress the “third criterion” to make the choices.

And while we’re on about the Canon’s experimental usage and my “because I like it” qualification, here’s two from the unlikely yet strangely successful Canon + Brownie experiment:

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Vase

This is actually a bad picture, speaking technically. Most of it is out of focus and where it is focused it isn’t sharp. The composition is random and purposeless. Yet I like it. Not just for the odd method used to make it, but because the whole is greater than the parts and it becomes an abstract of slightly blurred shape and colour which could probably hang in MOMA and sell for a million dollars in print form.

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Isetta

From the same experiment series, the Isetta image fails on technical merit and arguably is about as artistic as a mistaken shutter trip. Yet again, I like it. My whimsical nature gave it composition that would ordinarily be found only in a Madison Avenue advertising campaign, although I doubt they’d be accepting of the quality otherwise.

The main reason for all of these pictures remains the same: I’m having fun with my cameras. You should too.