Canada Day: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Clouds made of smoke.

Canada Day, 2021.

First the good news; one of the missing cats, Hannibal, has returned! I happened to look out the window and there he was sitting on the deck. Appears to be none the worse for his four day adventure, except for an insistence on going out again. That’s not happening, big furry cat.

The bad news; wild fires have broken out all around, thanks to the thunderstorms last night. The air smells of smoke, the sky looks of smoke, and the nearest one is at the next lake over – just five kilometers away.

As seen from above.

This satellite view taken at about 4:30 PM Wednesday off Zoom Earth shows the cloud formations from the two largest fires. The one on the left you can follow the smoke trail down to the Lytton fire, and the one on the right leads down to the Kamloops fire. The shadow on the right is caused be the density of the smoke clouds, and the look white because if reflecting the sun back to the satellite. From beneath they are dark and grey-brown.

Raven lamenting.

The ugly part is that we don’t have much to celebrate in Canada this year. The revelation of the horror that was the residential schools has justifiably put a damper on all the good news, even the advances made against the pandemic. For those who don’t know, these “residential schools” were authorized by the government and operated largely by the Catholic church. For over 100 years, right up into the 1990s, they essentially kidnapped native children and abused them in some delusional effort to integrate them into mainstream society. What they really did was damage and often kill them. Then they tossed them into unmarked graves like so much garbage. The concept alone is appalling and horrific. The way they carried it out is akin to the Holocaust. Really. That this happened under what should have been the watchful eye of a supposed modern-day democracy rather than some ancient civilization or evil dictatorship only emphasizes how horrible it was. I don’t know where we go from here, but the road will be long and difficult.

As always, I concentrate on the little things I have some control over. Slowly work progresses, and I try not to think about the fact it may all burn down soon.

I am tired, I am weary, I am sad.

Say hello to my large friend

The new tool in the kit: Canon 1Ds

One of the cameras I’ve wanted to try is a full frame, any full frame, DSLR. My preference was the Canon 5D, but despite being plentiful they continue to command indecent prices. I’d about given up finding anything when along came this offering from within Canada which eliminated the cross-border hassles. I managed to get it on a last-moment bid for about 1/3 what similar ones are going for and about 1/2 what an in-Canada 5D costs. In all a pretty good deal, especially as it showed up with all the manuals and discs and a firewire cable and three batteries plus charge and an AC adapter! I’m not sure how good all the batteries are as I’ve only managed to get one charged enough to activate the camera.

So, the acid test: how good does it do ‘out of the box’?

Ambulance coming, but not for me this time!

Not bad. I was using the slightly fuzzy 75-300mm Canon EF zoom, which on this camera is 75-300mm because it’s full frame!  As expected the contrast needed a little help, partly because it was a gray day (heavily overcast) and partly because it’s an old sensor. But I like the colour rendition.

Main problem: dirty sensor.

Yes the sensor will need cleaning. Do people never look after their equipment? Mostly the camera looks good with only a few minor scuffs and expected wear. The dirt shows up more on a full-size rendering.

Cropped close chickadee.

Here we have a 640×427 section of the full-size 4064×2704 frame. It’s a little blurry even with the application of unsharp masking. There are three factors at work here: it’s ‘only’ an 11MP sensor, the lens used is not the sharpest, and the camera has a reputation for being ‘soft’. I have not got into the settings yet to see how much it can be improved on its own.

Coming in for a landing.

This shot is cropped square just to eliminate annoying clutter on one side. I’m hoping for some better weather (i.e. sunshine) and a chance to try it out with the 40mm prime lens (it won’t work with the EF-S lenses) and the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar on manual. That should be something to see!

Large, medium, and small artillery: 1Ds, T100, and G11.

This is no lightweight camera, btw; it tilts the scales at 1585 grams without a lens. The T100 is only 436 grams. We’re talking three-and-a-half pounds of camera; more than most film SLRs weigh. I don’t expect this to be a ‘daily’ or ‘street’ camera by any means; it is intended for quite specific use which I hope to get to soon.

Until then, I will do such testing as I see fit and can think up.

Waiting for …

… many things. Better weather, consultation with a doctor, shopping trip, and shipments.

But not Godot.

While I’m waiting I tested the Nikon P610’s focus failure, which I noticed is most pronounced close-up and with the lens pointing down. The lens is actually loose in its barrel, and you can feel it (and sometimes hear it) shift around. So I pointed it down and took a close-up of a wild rose stalk, and then gently pushed the loose section back to the camera to ‘take up the slack’. What I found was that the autofocus said it was correct at either point, but the actual focal point was off by about 10mm (at a distance of roughly half a meter). This doesn’t explain why it sometimes fails to focus on more distant objects, except in as much as the internal wear may cause some random slack then as well. I’ll have to devise an experiment to check that. Although there isn’t anything that can be done about it.

Anyway, here’s the best picture from that test. It shows again why I like that camera!

Some alien creature, perhaps?

That’s a 640×480 crop out of the full size 4608×3456 image. At the focal point it’s very sharp indeed! Not bad for a $400 ‘bridge’ camera, eh? It will cost me over $700 to replace this ailing imager, so I’m not keen on it quitting altogether. True, the EVF is practically impossible to see at times and the exposure is no longer accurate across all conditions. Yes, the pictures always need a slight contrast improvement because the sensor has aged and doesn’t produce ‘snappy’ results. Okay, once in a while it jams completely and has to be shut down and restarted. But as long as I can coax the images I want out of it I will keep using it.

Some other recent examples:

Raven hiding in a tree, says “you can’t see me!”
The Lone Pine. Growing in a roadside ditch all by itself.
Weathered dog. (Duncan came in with snow and hail on his back.)
A robin wondering where Spring is.
And so it goes.

Olympus Serendipitous

The camera: Olympus E-410 (aka Evolt 410).

The lens: Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f 3.5-6.5.

The other lens: Olympus Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f 3.5-4.5.

The cost: camera and ‘short’ zoom lens $108.80 CDN; ‘long’ zoom lens $29.16 CDN. (I’m not joking).

Olympus E-410 and lenses.

Why did I buy it? You got me there. Perhaps I got confused. I was looking for the E-300 model, which was the last with a CCD sensor. But they command a premium price it seems. Then along came this and well … It’s bad if I’m bored. I made the purchase over a month ago but thanks to the seasonal shipping slowdown it has only just recently arrived.

A couple of things to point out: this is not the “Mystery Camera” used in two prior posts. Also, this is a four-thirds camera not a micro four-thirds. The difference being in the distance between the sensor and the lens flange; a micro four-thirds does not have a reflex mirror to take up space, and as such there is much more flexibility in the design for adapting other lenses. For the four-thirds cameras (which came first) there are less 50 different lenses available and adapting others is unlikely. As it is I got the two zooms which cover the most range. The ‘standard’ prime lens for this unit is a 25mm, which when found for sale tends to cost 3 to 5 times what I paid for the camera & short zoom. I don’t think I’ll be buying one.

So how does it work? Amazingly good. After getting over some minor ‘teething troubles’ having to do with getting images on to and off of the only compact flash card I have (64 megabytes) results are pleasing indeed. Lacking sufficient storage space for full-size images (I got 12 before the “card full” warning came up), I ‘dialed down’ the resolution to get more trial shots. Also had to download pictures by putting the card in the Canon PSA70 because I don’t have a USB cord for the Olympus. Nevertheless, we have images.

Obligatory lens sharpness test. It’s sharp.

The main reason for my going after any four-thirds camera was to see how that particular format compares to others. I’d say it does so favourably, with expected shortcomings and advantages. For example it is lousy in low-light conditions, as would be normal for a small sensor (APS-C sensors are bad in low light, anything smaller is even worse). On the up side it produces better pictures than, say, a 2.3 sensor. It is a good “compromise” camera, which is both its strength and its downfall: if you could have only one camera and needed it to shoot good pictures and take old lenses and be reasonably sized to carry about and have good wide-to-telephoto capacity (crop factor of 2X on this, so the 150mm focal length is 300mm equivalent) … well I can see where a modern micro four-thirds like the Olympus OM-D series would be a great choice. I would not recommend one of these older four-thirds cameras to anyone because they are truly dead-end devices.

Obligatory raven in the sky image. It’s raven.

Subjectively, using this camera is excellent. It handles very well indeed. Okay the focusing is a tad slow, but that is typical of cameras this old. On the whole the controls are in the right places and it passed the all-important test of producing acceptable photos on ‘automatic’ right out of the box (as it were).

Obligatory dog photo. It’s dog.

I don’t really know why I bought it, but I’m glad I did. Is it a ‘keeper’? It shouldn’t be, because it doesn’t fit the criteria for any of my kind of photography nor does it open up any new avenue as the G11 did. Will I get rid of it? No. For one thing it isn’t valuable enough to be worth making the effort to sell. For another … I’m invoking the Eric L. Woods Defense: “I like it. Leave me alone.”

Obligatory cloud picture. It’s cloud.

A Tale of Two Teles

Or: another boring lens test post.

A few moments of sunshine have been granted here, so I took advantage of it. The main purpose was to compare the Canon EF 75-300mm zoom to the Canon EF-S 55-250mm zoom. The results were … interesting.

I’m going to spare you the innumerable shots made under various experimental conditions and get down to a few that demonstrate the differences. Keep in mind the EF-S lens has image stabilization, thus to make things “fair” I had the ISO at 400 so the shutter speed could be quick (1/500 and 1/750) and the aperture stopped down a bit (f9.5 and f8.0) to give maximum advantage to both lenses. As usual these are 640×427 crops of the full-size images.

The first two are taken at 75mm and approximately 75mm as this is the minimum focal length of the longer zoom.

75-300mm EF lens.
55-250mm EF-S lens.

This is a very difficult one to call! I think I see a slight edge in the 75-300mm in fact.

The next pair are at 250mm and approximately 250mm – the maximum of the shorter range zoom.

55-250mm EF-S lens.
75-300mm EF lens.

Here the prize goes to the 55-250mm EF-S as there is noticeably better detail in the bark. It is still a very close thing, and in normal size presentation the difference isn’t noticeable. What is noticeable in each photo is that the colour rendition and contrast is the same between both lenses.

Now, would a brand-new edition of the EF 75-300mm lens be better? Maybe, but I doubt it as I don’t see any defects in the glass itself. Certainly a new one would operate more smoothly, but it would also cost 5X as much. I suppose the $600+ version with IS would be better, but … I think I’ll save that money towards a replacement to the super-zoom Nikon. I really only bought this lens so I’d have a long zoom for the Canon 5D if/when I manage to obtain one (the EF-S lenses don’t work right on full-size sensors).

The bottom line with any lens is: can you take a good picture with it? Let’s see:

A raven under power. (300mm)
Icy sun. (75mm)

The answer appears to be “yes”.

Otherwise I have to report no progress on The Plan as of yet.

Bleak week

The weather promises to be truly awful all week. I got in a day of wood harvest and shutting down the water system at the cabin. In light of the forecast, here’s some images in black and white – which is how it will look the next few days.

Raven on the wing. (Canon T100)

Northern flicker. (Fuji EXR)

Plane in flight. (Kodak P850)

Moon, of course. (Nikon P610)

Layers of trees. (Panasonic Lumix ZS60)

Ghost dog. (Tesco trail camera)

Oh, just some pictures

I haven’t been shooting much lately, as I’ve been working on other things.

DSCN2299
Oregon Junco on post
DSCN2300
Picture puzzle photo
DSCN2303
I like moon shots
DSCN2304
Morning – for once I don’t mind the intrusion of the wires
IMG_2385
Nice colour
IMG_2392
One of the ravens
IMG_2406
That’s not a bird
ribbon
The Nexus is real

Cameras used: Nikon P610 & Canon T100 (55-250mm lens).

The Ravens

Gray skies and not a lot around to take pictures of … except the ravens. I never thought much about these birds until recently when they’ve become a distraction from the desolation. Here are a few moody shots of the infamous black birds enjoying the sky.

IMG_2413

IMG_2419

IMG_2393

IMG_2394

IMG_2417

IMG_2414

IMG_2418

IMG_2420

Technical stuff: Canon T100 w/55-250mm kit lens, fully zoomed most of the time. ISO 200, very gray light (these are actually in colour, believe it or not). Post-shoot processing, specifically white balance adjusting, done where I thought it helped. Some images are full size, some are 640×427 crops out of full size.

3 from camera ‘A’, 3 from camera ‘B’

DSCN2195
Raven in flight

I like the way the feather motion is a blur at the edges.

DSCN2204
I’m on fire

This is about the light, not the composition. I couldn’t due much with the composition.

DSCN2206
Spring robin

The light is finally getting to where I can get colour on these birds and I’m not always shooting silhouettes.

P1000476
Reflect

The melt water makes for some temporary opportunities.

P1000478
Metal bird

Amazing how many jets pass over here given the extreme drop in air traffic.

P1000480
Marley the dog

For once not being a goofball. Usually if the camera is out she is hamming it up.

Cameras used: Nikon P610 and Lumix ZS60.