A good picture

Or: Take On Photos: Part 5, analysis

I realize I dropped out of my series on what I think makes a good picture, having completely ignored the planned final entry of self-analysis (most people think I should go for the professional kind). Anyhow the reasons for why this happened are numerous and not important. So instead I’ll explain this recently taken random picture:

Lilacs coming on.

First of all, this was heavily cropped from the full image to eliminate unwanted composition elements. As a result we have some of the aspects mentioned in my “Take On Photos” series: The framing and composition are there, including an interesting diagonal asymmetry produced by the ‘imaginary’ lines of both the bush branches and the slant of the varying height (perpendicular to one another). There is also depth-of-field controlled background blur to reduce distraction. How interesting the subject matter is depends on the viewer’s taste. Over-all it is a good picture, but not a great one. It isn’t going to make anyone say “Wow!”, but it is ‘correctly’ made from both technical and artistic perspectives.

Let’s examine another recently posted image while we’re at it:


Again, not a “Wow!” picture. And you may argue about how the composition aspects haven’t been applied because the guitar is slightly off vertical but not so much so as to be a ‘correct’ deviation amount. That’s because in this instance true vertical would be too ‘industrial looking’ while a greater angle would look like it’s falling over. This is a case of “time to bend the rules” wherein the slight tilt makes the composition more acceptable; more ‘human’. First we learn the rules, then we learn when and how to break ’em. For the same reason the background is not a flat, smooth, evenly-lit solid colour: that would look like a ‘product shot’ rather than a picture, and this image isn’t about selling the guitar it’s about showing it.

Now a third image:

You’ll laugh.

As an artistic picture this is bad. It’s so heavily cropped it has lost some definition (notice it is smaller than my usual sizing). The composition is destroyed by the wire fence getting right in the way of the subject. But it couldn’t be helped under the circumstances; that bird wasn’t going to hang about for a long photo shoot. In fact it was one shot and gone. This is a ‘documentation image’, which ignores all the rules in hopes of getting down on ‘film’ the fact the bird was there at all.

Now for the laugh: that bird is called a yellow-rumped warbler.

No, really.

Photography’s Future?

This is a case of my speculation triggered by others’ speculation – and my own journey to re-learn photography owing to failing eyesight. (Insert an analogy about photographers’ metaphorical eyesight in general here if you must, but we’re going down that rabbit hole anyway.)

Where are we going with this?

The first speculation surrounds the tentative announcement that Pentax will be building new film cameras, and what people think they may be like. It is a given that they won’t be re-issues of the good ol’ Spotmatic, or even a close derivative thereof. More than likely those who expect it to be some sort of electronic-laden monstrosity are correct. I’m thinking they’ll basically be removing the CMOS sensor and installing a film carrier, adapting the processor segment to handle fixed ISO, and of course eliminating the digital recording pieces. In other words they’ll try to keep as many of the digital camera’s parts as possible in order to save money. If you’re among those who lament the passing of quality camera micro-mechanics you probably have nothing to anticipate here.

One person brought up Leica as an example of the continuation of that tradition, but have you priced their equipment lately? To say it is aimed at a niche market is an understatement; even among those who can afford it not everyone would pony up the Deutsche marks when a lower-priced Sony or Nikon can produce just as good results.

Mysterious equipment.

But we already have had, many times, the declaration that even digital photography is dead: at first replaced by ‘smartphonography’ and more recently almost entirely eliminating the human element with the advent of ‘artificial stupidity’ imaging. Just as a million amateur automatics kicked professional photographers in the business, so the smartphones hammered the true digital camera market nearly to death; people simply can not tell the difference, even when the difference is there. Film photography had been relegated to the trash but was resurrected for artistic purposes, and even now real digital camera photography is falling into that same limited venue of appreciation.

So then, is this where all camera and/or human-derived photography is headed? Will the ignorant masses have their artistic desires sated by computer-generated phoney photos? Worse; will they accept such images for documentary purposes? Too late: they already do; the Internet is rife with ‘deep fake’ photos and videos misleading the gullible and naive public into believing any sort of lie the creator wishes to promote (a trait which people tend towards anyway).

Whither real photographers after this chaos of unreality takes over?

It’s going to be crowded in the artists’ field, with anyone who wants to use actual equipment and real brains to produce images vying for the attention of an ever-shrinking audience of discerning viewers.


The equipment itself may become limited to non-existent, or all outrageously expensive as Leicas. Lomography, the ‘cheap photography’ solution, isn’t all that cheap already; anyone desiring higher quality has to pay more even now, and later it will be worse. You may not even be able to get the film you want, much less the cameras and lenses. Photography will become a rich man’s hobby.

Which is where it started out.

Before the Bulls-eye, the Kodak, and the Brownie.

Original Kodak Brownie

Is that where we’re going? Making emulsions at home and coating plates of glass to be put in cameras we build out of wood and leather? Will we even have those raw materials available to us, or will improvisation step up with suitable substitutes?

It just may be that we go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Film photography hits mainstream attention

Just thought I’d share this while I recover from the latest episode of being me:

Film photography resurgence

You know what that means? It means the already high prices on good ol’ film equipment will be pushed even higher because it’s now ‘pop media’, as it were.

Glad I don’t do film anymore (although the $20/roll cost was enough to stop me as it was).

Hey, maybe I can sell that Praktica LLC I picked up in the big lens deal! It’s probably now ‘worth’ more than the digital cameras I’d like to unload.

And a picture for those who like to see pictures:

Bald eagle, far away, a lot of optical and digital zoom at ISO 400 as well. Quite a bit of post-processing to bring it out; it was a grey day.

Whither photography?

Bad photo of the moon. The white dot on the right is Venus.

Premise: a desire to replace the ailing Nikon P610.

Solution: purchase a long telephoto lens for the Canon T100.

Selection: Sigma 150-600mm.

Problem: Many.

Let’s start with the price. It’s over $1,000, all said and done. That’s a lot of money to me. In fact if I had $100,000,000 I’d still think $1,000 is a lot of money – because I’m a cheapskate. Er, frugal.

Well recently it’s been “on sale” in the off-and-on method of modern con artistry. I mean merchandising. Yeah, that’s it; merchandising. Not con artistry. In any case the “sale” has amounted to a whopping 9% off regular price. Nine percent. Not even ten. This is with the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Holiday Season sales allegedly trying to lure people to buy with low, low prices. I laugh scornfully at their pathetic attempts. The lens is 20% too expensive to begin with, and 9% off is just a joke. Our sales tax is 12% here.

Then there’s the “other thing”.

My last eye exam included such terms as “cataracts”, “glaucoma”, and “epiretinal membrane”. All of which can be treated to varying degrees of success, but with no guaranteed results for any. And underneath it all I still have the re-attached retina and cloudy aqueous humor complete with floaters. In other words the best that can be offered is not going blind rapidly. Definitely not any hope of return to fine vision. Now for most people this would not be an issue, but for a photographer … seeing the fine details is essential. I’m sure some of you have noticed the decline in quality of my work since The Last Picture? Instead of nine out of ten images being good, it’s one out of ten being acceptable.

Given those circumstances one has to wonder about the practicality of investing in any more photographic equipment of any type at any price.

Not-so-bad picture of the moon.

Misc. update

We’ve been having seriously hot weather of late. We’re talking A/C on and not being able to do anything. Inside temp with A/C reaches 28C (83F). Outside in the sun … Well Lytton hit 40C easy. Or should I say where Lytton used to be because it burned to the ground last year, and nearby is on fire there this year.

It’s a long weekend, but so far not a lot of fires have lit up. No doubt that will change.

I’m going back out to the cabin today. Partly because I have a box full of pieces for projects, and mainly because Lorne is coming up today and needs my help to get his boat in the water. That’s the one I just repaired the roof on:

The design is stupid and not meant to hold up against snowfall anyway.

One reason he and his wife are coming up is to get away from the other major fire in BC right now, which is visible from their home. Nothing like wondering whether or not you’ll have a home to come back to. Been there, done that. One year X3.

Fancy shelf.

Lorne made me that shelf a couple of years ago and I finally got it installed (with a little adapting of the log wall). I like the hummingbird and bear paw cut-outs. No shortage of stuff to go on shelves!

Propane shelf.

I built this shelf for the propane tanks. Finally. We’d been running off one tank balanced on an old chair on the porch since 2018. It’s about time I got some of these fiddly bits sorted out.

Almost a vanity.

That’s nearly done too. Hopefully I’ve got enough pieces to finish plumbing it in. I sort of made that cabinet out of an old one that was falling apart and badly designed. The top is a refinished section I’d saved from the kitchen of the old house. It’s starting to look good out there. New ceiling too. New tub surround, rebuilt walls, finally lined the closet, painted the trim … just have to rebuild the door now.

Cedar-lined closet.

Anyway I had some kind of pain attack Friday night and the pain hasn’t exactly left, so this probably isn’t a good idea. But when has that ever stopped me? Right.

Weather is supposed to cool down this week, but today isn’t going to be much of an improvement over the 30+ temperatures we’ve been having. I’ll try to get out there before it gets too hot – and the thunderstorms start.

Potato potato potato potato

They tell me these are potatoes.

From now on all posts will be potato. Metaphorically at least.

Anyway, the Mrs. is back so that potato is over with.

Went down to Kam to pick her up, took the little Fuji camera just in case. The ‘case’ was waiting on the flight to arrive. I walked about the countryside and took some pics, none of which turned out. Why? Because I have really bad eyesight and could not see the dial was set to ‘M’. I could not see the screen because … small LCD in bright daylight. But sure enough when I got home I had half a dozen completely blown-out pictures of nothing. C’est la vie pomme de terre. Next time I think I’ll take the Canon G11. I hate to think the little F80 will be off my ‘usable’ list owing to not being able to see to use it.

Oh the Nikon jams on every zoom now.

The next project is photographic some jewelry, something I should never have agreed to do. Why not? Because close focusing is not something I’m good at anymore. Nothing near, nothing far; nothing sharp no matter where they are. I’ve already done some preliminary shots, and the results were not encouraging.

Isn’t this fun? No, it’s not.

On a side note, the latest hi-res sat image of the lake shows it as a big frozen blob. I’m not surprised by that either, as it’s only halfway through April.


Two from three

So much going on I didn’t know which way to turn. It has taken me days to decide just what the “weekend post” would be of/about. Thus it’s a sampling because I couldn’t make up my mind.

Canon T100 55-250mm lens
Canon T100 55-250mm lens

I’ve been ‘trying out’ the Canon lately to evaluate it as the next ‘main camera’ to use. I like using it but it simply can not do the things the Nikon P610 ‘bridge’ camera can, so I find myself repeatedly grabbing that instead when going out.

Nikon P610
Nikon P610

I have stopped using the Olympus for now. Not just because the battery is failing and I’m loathe to put money into it, but also because I need to force myself to evaluate the future of photography for me and it is unlikely the E410 is the answer no matter how much I like using it.

Olympus E410 40-150mm lens
Olympus E410 40-150mm lens

What with everything everywhere being as bad as it is (yes, my wife is still in England with no return date even guessed at) switching to “artistic” photography only is about all I can do. I loathe the idea of it as I do very much like taking wildlife photos. You know: pictures of birds I can’t actually see because they are small, far away, and hidden in tree branches. Do I need to mention the failing camera + failing eyesight thing again? No. Not going to say anything about the triple digit inflation rate around here either.

Just trying to keep my sanity together. Remind me again exactly why I should do that.

More analysis coming up. Er, camera analysis that is. I could probably do with the other kind as well, to be honest.

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.

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