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.

Exercising the Nikon P610

Every camera needs to be picked up and used now and again. It’s just good practice. In the case of this particular one, it also means I get a selection of good shots without even trying hard. No having to¬† post-process to make up for bad exposure here! Truly a fine piece of machinery.

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Cloud Stream
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The sunlight is over there
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Raven in the Aspen
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That is Venus
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Raven silhouette
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Frozen in ice

 

IlLumixated

Some shots from the Panasonic Lumix ZS60.

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Dime Moon
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From Under Snow
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Stalactice
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Snow’s off the high ground
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Random Patterns
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Ice-lens-ic

That last one is, I think, one of the best photos I’ve taken in a long time. It may be hard for some people to make out, as it is quite complex, but that’s actually light coming through a cylinder of ice (icicle segment). This despite the fact the Lumix has the worst lens of any of my cameras. This is the best image I’ve ever taken with it.

 

Elysium Fields

Some more old prints I found. The pictures were taken in Perry, Upstate New York, and are at least 25 years old. Beyond that I don’t know the exact location, date, or what camera and film were used. They had suffered a bit from the passing years, so I cleaned up the worst of the damage after scanning. But not too much because I don’t want to lose the “old film look”.

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Certain this is “the old Mlyniec farm” on Myers Road
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Possibly on Page Road
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Unknown
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Unknown
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Probably on Page Road
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Could be Simmons Road
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Unknown, probably Page Road
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Page Road near Simmons Road

It’s kind of fun finding the old photos, but it emphasizes the overwhelming number that have gone missing and makes me wish all the more that they hadn’t. There may have been some great pictures in there.

I’ve found more prints, slides, and negatives to scan and will be doing so as there’s not much chance of taking new pictures under the current circumstances. I did not find what I was looking for, of course!

 

Film Finis

In one of the unusual circumstances that are so usual in my life, I came across the prints of the last roll of film I ever shot. I know it must be the last because the images start at the old house, ‘visit’ the cabin, and finish at the ‘new’ home, meaning they were taken in the time period of 2009-2010. Yes, the film sat in the camera for almost a year. No doubt something to do with someone having an automobile accident and breaking her back, resulting in a lot of confusion and changes to our lives.

Anyway, I scanned the images such as they were and worked them a bit because the prints had faded in the ensuing 10 years despite being kept in the dark. Possibly not the best photo finishing service either; the prints are a bit grainy. But the camera they were taken with was the Pentax Spotmatic and its Super Takumar lenses shine out.

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Our Friend Peter

Taken at the old house, the kind of picture I don’t usually take: a people shot. He doesn’t look amused, but really he had a great sense of humour. You can see the usual chaos of my over-active life all around him. The vehicle to the left is the gray ’98 4Runner that would end up on its roof in October with Brenda trapped inside.

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The Stony Shore

Here we are at the lake, then. The terror of the future yet to be revealed. This is not the sharpest picture I’ve ever taken of that lake. It might have been hazy that day or … well who knows. No sense speculating about it, really, as it’s past.

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Denim Pine

The pine bark beetle epidemic was in full swing then. This shows the end of a pine log cut, with the characteristic blueish staining cause by the tree trying to defend itself against the beetles. This would have been cabin fire wood, as we didn’t heat our main residence with wood until we bought the ‘new’ place.

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Daisy Bug

Even then I liked to take pictures of bugs on flowers. The newer cameras have better macro ability, I must say. Even so, not a bad effort.

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Sun on the Water

A decidedly artistic shot. The vignetting is on purpose, the rampant chroma is not. Therein lies one of the faults with film: you don’t really know what you’ve got until the prints are done. With digital, I could look at this in a second and try a different approach – or even afford to take the shot several different ways right off the bat.

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The Clearing

This is one side of the property of the ‘new’ place as it appeared in the Spring after we bought it. The stumps everywhere were infected pine trees that had been cut down and sliced up for firewood. Yes, the house came with the first two years’ heating free, so to speak. I would reproduce the shot as it appears now, only I’d have to trudge through 10″ of hard packed snow and I don’t fancy breaking an ankle.

As I glance over these I wonder about the thousands of images I have taken which have simply disappeared to who-knows-where, never to be seen again. I also wonder about how well digital images might be preserved in their magnetic form. I know I’ve already lost a few to hard drive failure, and since have taken extra measures to back up anything I feel is really worthwhile.

Even so, I will stick with digital. It’s certainly cheaper than film these days, and easier to manipulate. Plus there is the added advantage of not being ‘stuck with one type of film for a whole roll’. If you load your camera with Kodachrome 64, you must shoot the whole roll before changing film types – or spring for numerous cameras to handle different films. With digital, you can alter ISO, colour intensity, even ratio and resolution from one shot to the next if you so desire. Personally I try to go for a “base universal setting” which not only produces the kind of results I like right out of the camera most of the time, but also allows me a lot of latitude to post-process into different forms if I feel a particular shot needs the change.

PowerShot in black & white

Our ever-unpredictable weather has made photography a gamble lately. One day we have bright sunshine, the next thick overcast. Temperatures go above freezing in the day, then plummet well below at night. Tuesday a big wind blew in and changed the atmosphere from dry and warm to cold and snow and now the sun is out. It’s ridiculous!

Anyway in the past couple of weeks I have been ‘lugging’ the Canon PowerShot A70 around, set to monochrome, in hopes of trying out its in-camera B&W abilities. I would be trying the other settings, but the indicators on the LCD are so small that I can’t make out what they are. This means setting aperture and/or shutter speed is too difficult for me. So right now it will do colour on “Auto” and B&W on “Program” and at that I’m not sure I know what the ‘fine tuning’ is at; I need reading glasses and a magnifier to see the tiny symbols! There are newer versions of this camera which retain the nifty eye-level optical zoom finder but have a larger LCD for seeing the settings (and images). Maybe one day I’ll come across one. Until then …

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Marley, of course

This is a crop from the full-size image, so it isn’t reduced. Not bad for a 3MP camera, eh? I did have to fix the exposure as the gray day was giving very flat light to work with. Still an acceptable “snap shot quality” image.

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Rounds winding down

Taken in a rare moment of actual sunshine, I was surprised that the camera got the exposure right on this one. Considering the shot consists of bright light and deep shadow, the dynamic range is pretty good with just some washout in the highlights. There’s no editing been done to this, just size adjustment.

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Cloudy

Full image reduced in size. You can see the ‘sensor streak’ at the top, although it is less intrusive in monochrome. This is the kind of sky I was dealing with for most of these shots! Here the contrast has been turned up a little as it was just too flat.

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The Red Coach Inn

Monochrome doing the old building a favour, as it looks far worse in colour. Seriously this historic landmark needs millions in renovation and repair, and it is unlikely to get it. One of the few structures in town that isn’t some pre-fab quick-build utilitarian monster. It still isn’t very interesting.

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O Canada!

This would look better in colour. In fact it would look better in ‘red only’ colour, higher resolution, and closer zoom. This is a segment of the full frame. Quite grainy and gray despite contrast tweaking, looking like some ‘pushed’ Tri-X. I don’t like the effect.

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Raven

Cropped out of a full view, not shrunk. Contrast increased slightly to make up for the flat light. This is at full zoom, panning to follow the bird as it flew because the shutter activation on the A70 is slow. Same ‘feel’ as the flag picture, but perhaps it works better here? Perhaps not. This kind of picture is what the Nikon P610 is for: that camera would not give us fuzzy feathers.

Although the PowerShot A70 is a capable performer for such a cheap camera, I don’t think I’ll be keeping it because it’s difficult for me to use it to its full advantage. This is a fault with eyes in their seventh decade, not the camera. I’ll probably donate it back to the thrift store I bought it from.