Posts Tagged ‘photo’

Quick Pix

10 March 2011

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Dear J-

Just wanted to see how well this camera works and share some of today’s rambles.

First up is a view from the bridge of USS Massachusetts. Next a profile view of the same. Finally a view of the hotel room in downtown Providence. Yeah. I’m happy with today but looking forward to being back home tomorrow.

Mike

Wedding Album

14 September 2009

Dear J-

The album is the ubiquitous photo storage tool. Analogs exist in every computer, whether it’s an online photo site or something as prosaic as the humble folder; the good ones mimic physical albums and the really great ones go a step beyond, giving you a tool to index photos by content and date (this is why I prefer flickr: the tagging system). Back to the album, though; more often than not the album would have a window in the cover to insert another photograph, some thumbnail sketch representative of the content within. For those of us too cheap to splash out on double prints back in the day (guilty), you had the dilemma of finding a photo to go into the album cover and yet not able to use that photo later in the album itself. This is partly why I have embraced the digital trend wholeheartedly; digital copies are free and cheap.

The concept of a summary photograph is somewhat strange; perhaps a contact sheet would be more helpful, but abstractly, the photograph is a slice in time, and the summary photograph is one which you’re asking to represent the whole album, whether it represents the events of a day, or a year, or a life. What do you pick as that photo? Why? The why is more interesting than the what, and probably more consistent. Perhaps it’s signature moment that stands bold in your memory, or perhaps it’s your favorite cousin; maybe it’s something funny, but it’s always unique to the person putting that album together.

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Case in point: last night’s wedding, with the hordes of people; I spent a good portion of the night alternating between lamenting the loss of what felt like my right hand — the E-1 — and chasing after figgy, who wanted to ascend the dais to the head table, or run around under the waiters’ feet, or break into the chocolate that was left on each plate as favors. All the while, she would want to be either held or shielded from strangers. And yet as the night wore on and we greeted more and more of my relatives with hugs she would start to throw her arms wide for a hug of her own. This was capped off by the bride and groom’s entrance, set to clapping and stomping; once they were seated figgy made her way up to the front and, unprompted, opened wide to hug the bride. Yeah. Signature moment for me.

Mike

Meatball Stew

3 August 2009

Dear J-

I remember reading some of those first LiveJournal blogs; each entry was accompanied by a status bar on top, charting mood and music.  Right now I have the Suzanne Vega song from Pretty in PinkLeft of Center — running through my head (you’re welcome, by the way).  Although we have two eyes, one of them is usually dominant — I’ve talked before about being cross-dominant (right-handed, left-eyed), which has caused no end of grief when bowling (I make a wicked, unintended hook to the left), archery (slapped my face with the bowstring), and photography (I end up spending for a motordrive not always because they sound cool, but also to avoid having the winding lever poke me in the eye).

That particular tale of woe has nothing to do with wanting a more portable camera, though; I already have one that the folks on the van think is much too large (my daily-carry Sony V1) compared to the shirt-pocket cameras of today, and what they say has been, so far, true — there are no collectible point-and-shoots (closest so far would probably be the Panasonic LC1 I sold towards getting a real lens).  I’ve just been thinking lately about situations that might justify a belt-carry camera, and I know there must have been some advances in point-and-shoots since the circa 2003 V1.  Plus more stuff on my belt makes me more like Batman, and that’s generally a good thing (for me at least; for those who have to be seen with me, well …).

Yesterday after the zoo, which I managed to overlens myself for (too much, too big, too long) again, we stopped by IKEA for lunch; theVet helpfully pointed out that I could have saved myself the extra dollar for five extra meatballs since figgy wasn’t going to eat her portion anyway (we are encountering stiff resistance at mealtimes lately, but as they say, no kid this age has an eating disorder — they’ll eat when they get hungry enough).  We intended to walk around and despair at the clever Swedes’ use of small spaces (bottom line, unless I start getting rid of, oh, everything, we’re not going to have a tasteful IKEA home), but she had to try out this chair and that sofa, sprawling out on chaises and chasing the next ottoman and cushion accessory set from each neighboring living room.  It was marvelous and maddening, and if I hadn’t taken only the gigantor camera set, I could have caught those memories for later use (“See how crazy you were?”).  That’s why you put up with imaging less than state-of-the-art; convenience trumps quality when you need your hands free to participate in life, not just watch it go by.

Mike

Zoo Peeve

20 June 2009

Dear J-

I try not to, but sometimes the judgmental side of me pops up:  folks at the zoo, camera lens manufacturers gave you a hood for a reason, stop leaving them reversed on the lens for storage.  Oh, and take off the lens cap while you’re at it — it’s not like there’s front-element-smearing gremlins who run around smudging your lenses when you’re holding the camera.  If you’re going to invest in huge lenses and fancy cameras, also, that doesn’t give you the instant pass to jostle your way to the front of the crowd — wait your turn, or buy an even fancier lens so that you can stand back a little further.  Etiquette.  The animals aren’t going anywhere (or if they are, they’ll be back).  You’re not looking to publish for profit (that violates the ticket agreement — you did read the ticket agreement, didn’t you?), so chill out; it’s the zoo.  Maybe that kid behind you would get a bigger kick out of seeing the tiger than you will once you bring the picture home and chortle over it with glee.

Various dreams of justice make the rounds in the empty attic upstairs I try to call a mind, but if I don’t take action, am I just as culpable as them?  Besides which, zoo photographs tend towards a certain sameness; sort of like shooting farmed fish — in a barrel — with a howitzer.

Mike

Wide World

10 June 2009

Dear J-

As the work piles up I keep finding excuses to do other things — finding interesting links out there was something I always thought was the whole purpose of blogs:  a brief comment, a short analysis, and then the link to be shared with the rest of the world.  At different times I seem to pick up different themes; camera gear is an evergreen topic as only an infinite amount of money for the seemingly infinite amount of stuff out there would scratch that itch, but I also find time to look at the work of others.

Part of that has to do with the way they shelve photography books; whether it’s at the bookseller, Dewey Decimal, or Library of Congress, monographs are usually in close proximity to instructions and gear listings, so it’s a natural palate-cleanser to look at various bodies of work.  If you consider that flickr, for instance, regularly increases its collection of photographs by around 2-3000 per minute (that works out to over a billion photographs every year), there’s a ton of photos out there, and most of them are going to end up unremarked and unseen.

A couple of days ago, though, I ran across the World Press Photo of the Year gallery — one photo from all the journalists out there, out of the billions existing gets selected, so it’s a teeny little gallery of approximately fifty shots.  To my untrained eye, they are all stunning in different ways, but I will note that a good portion of them are heart-rending.  We humans are innately visual creatures — I believe it’s our dominant sense — and the photographs allow us to share realities around the world in a universal language.  Petteri has an excellent essay on boring photographs, by the way; it’s one that should be required reading for the next time you’re tempted to dismiss your own work as useless and trite.

Mike

Compact Followup

4 March 2009

Dear J-

I think I’ve hit on the line of reasoning I need to justify (or not, as the case may be) future expenses:  sure, it would be great to have all the advantages of the larger sensor in a compact body, but there’s been nothing — repeat that, nothing — that quite matches up to what I have in mind.  Between the control scheme and operational speed, the good old E-1 keeps soldiering on as my current best solution.  So the question remains what lenses look most promising, knowing that the recession — and the tax man — will be taking a bite out of our money before much longer.  That new Panasonic GH1 looks quite interesting — to the point where I begin to lament my camcorder choice — but even then, isn’t quite there, small size-wise.

For all the time I’ve spent looking over and researching features and details, that’s time taken away from actually shooting or other more pleasurable pursuits.  I’m not getting that time back.  Review sites seem to fall into various traps, either debating useless minutiae endlessly or injecting arbitrary criteria (“this camera was clearly designed by a photographer because it happens to coincide with how I, personally, believe how a camera should act”) that’s meaningless to most of us.  My experience, my resources dictate what cameras come to hand, and it’s told me, so far, that of the ones that have crossed my doorstep, the one I use the most is the one that works the best for me.

Eventually, the one number that doesn’t lie to me is the number of exposures I run through.  I end up taking maybe 150 shots a week, which is nothing for some folks, but me, with my mind still stuck somewhere in film-land, I see that as five rolls, where I used to regularly stretch out one roll a month, maybe.    If practice is the key to getting better, then it’s been a tremendous learning tool.  Some day there will be a compact that does it right — we saw a flood of serious film ones in the early 90s — but we’re not quite there with digital yet.  It takes time to learn how to use any camera, though, and I’m just starting to get the hang of this one, 8 000 clicks later.

Mike

Camera Lessons

15 February 2009

Dear J-

My weekend workflow is unnecessarily complicated by wanting to lug around my big, heavy dSLR everywhere I go; it was the final piece in my 5-MP upgrade plan of a few years ago (started off with the DSC-V1, moved on to the DMC-LC1, and settled on the E-1 — if you’re going to lug around something as big and heavy as a dSLR (LC1), you might as well go with a dSLR), but I still haven’t forgotten the siren call of a good-performing small-sensor camera.

The LC1 is (was) darned close, but far too bulky:  I loved the zoom range and lens speed, but the camera itself didn’t fall to hand quite like I thought it should, and the ISO range pretty much limited it to daytime shots; there’s a lot of atmosphere to twilight, and all I kept getting was banding and noise — it made for interesting, textured photographs, but not the reality I saw.  The V1 is a good carry-around camera, and comes with an excellent lens; its sole weakness is the battery life (I always forget to keep it charged).  So the E-1 goes everywhere, even though it can’t be considered a pocket camera by any means.

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I have learned a few things from the E-1 experience, though.  I can’t stand waiting for the camera — when it falls asleep and I have to force it awake, it can’t happen fast enough; I’m finding that I live right around the 35mm-equivalent focal length, and that not having a built-in flash is liberating, although there’s been more than a few fill-flash opportunities I’ve missed.  The nice thing about having lots of options means that you’re able to pick out the ones that work best for you, so it makes you (theoretically, at least) a more educated consumer; on the other hand, if you’re cursed with a long memory, there’s always a ton of interesting cameras that were prohibitively expensive new but reasonable used — and I’ve got to try them, right?  This is how I ended up with two titanic shelf-queen Kodak DCS 600-series bodies at one point, after all.

Mike

Aquarium Two

4 January 2009

Dear J-

flickr tells me that it’s been almost exactly six months since we were last at the Birch Aquarium (June 2008) and prior to that, eight months (October 2007), which implies that a yearly membership may not be financially justified (especially if they keep up these secret deals — first Sunday of the month free to Bank of America customers?).  Regardless of visit frequency, it’s less about the undersea wonders that await (I suspect that their old octopus must have gone to see the Great Cephalapod of the Sky, as the current resident of that tank is significantly smaller) than it is about photographic philosophy.

You see, when I took pictures six months ago, figgy was interested but not fascinated by the sea’s residents and animals in general, and the pictures bear it out — I’ve got photographs of fish and atmospheric lobster shots (okay, shot) but relatively few pictures of figgy, who spent most of the day in a stroller or strapped to my chest like some sort of two-headed beast out of Total RecallThis time, there are fewer fish shots — and virtually no shots sans people, in general.  I chalk part of it up to not knowing where we would end up prior to setting off, and thus neglecting to bring along a fast lens, but I ended up being glad I hadn’t — I’ll see the fish at other times, and they’ll still be fascinating.  But watching a twenty-month-old figgy laughing at how that silvery river swirls — that’s something that happens, well, once.

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So the lens, for all the lenses I have access to (on the Nikon adapter, 15, 24, 35, 50, 55, 85, 105, 180, 300, 400, 600, 80~200, and 100~300mm; on the Leica R adapter, 35, 50, and 60 — it was no joke when I said most of my grad school stipend went up in glass costs), the lens that lives most often on the camera and the lens that consequently has borne the brunt of my photographic ambitions for the past sixty days or so, is an autofocus zoom lens, with no distinguishing characteristic (e.g. marketing-speak for special glass, motors, coatings, heritage, etc.) aside from a few aspherical surfaces:  the Zuiko Digital 11~22mm f/2.8~3.5, which roughly corresponds to being a 22~44mm angle of view on a regular 35mm film camera.  It’s what I had today; I found myself increasingly drawn to watching figgy’s reactions to the fish, rather than the fish themselves, and a (relatively) fast wide-angle proved perfect for that.  I still wish I had a bit more speed, but anything wider wouldn’t have the same spread in focal length, and thus wouldn’t be quite as useful for me.  And with that said, I find myself rarely venturing much wider than equivalent f=28mm, so … stay tuned.

Mike

Seeing Wide

30 October 2008

Dear J-

You’ll see it in the pictures from Palm Springs, aside from the zoo pictures; frustrated with having to stay far from my subjects, I picked up and started using the adapted 16mm Fisheye-Nikkor for a good portion of my shots.  The distortion is actually pretty subtle — it looks like a lens with noticeable barrel distortion, but as long as you keep the lines running through the center, they’re not bad at all.  It made it easier to grab some of the group shots in San Jose, too, where quarters were tight and the adapted 35mm Elmarit-R was a touch too isolationist.

So that’s why, for my first autofocus lens, I chose a wide zoom.  It’s fun to stick the manual glass in front of the 4/3rds sensor, but ultimately limiting; short of exotic focal lengths and lenses (without the Fisheye, I’m not sure that I would have stayed sane for much longer), there’s no easy way to get the angle of — let alone focus — anything much shorter than a true f=35mm lens.  Even that’s a mild telephoto when put onto the 4/3rds system, and while it helps isolate the attention onto what you want, it’s a crutch for composition.  Let me explain.

I once read an interview with Jay Maisel, where the joke was that a f=300mm lens (in 135 film terms) served as his wideangle, and knowing the arsenal he had (reputedly the longest lens Nikon ever made in regular production — the f=2000mm Reflex-Nikkor), I can believe it.   Seeing wide is a matter of editing your views; you have to be able to make sure that everything in the frame strengthens the picture.  The point is that it’s relatively easy to isolate and cherry-pick some interesting detail with a telephoto; Maisel had the trick of finding patterns and geometry in those details as well.  Peeping through the viewfinder now is a revelation; I used to say that the first time I held up a f=35mm lens on my old film cameras, it encompassed pretty much exactly how I saw the world.  With the adapted lenses, I think I’ve gotten a bit of tunnel vision, and the new lens has been like taking that cone off my head.  It doesn’t mean that I’ve got the hang of it again, but I’ll keep at it.

Mike

Step Into Wide

11 October 2008

Dear J-

The nice thing — and the curse — with SLRs is that you’re always fiddling to get precisely the right sort of framing.  I’ve been trying different focal lengths, as I’ve found a few reasonably priced Leica R primes and the cheap Nikon-mount glass keeps a fair number of telephoto and tele zooms on the camera when I’m at the zoo or taking pictures of jet fighters overhead.

But when it comes down to people pictures, I’m finding that wider is better, and even the 35mm Elmarit-R (70mm equivalent field of view on a 35mm film SLR) has me backing up a little further than I’d like.  It’s time to get a real wide-angle; it’s time to invest a little more into the Olympus system, and that means getting back two exposure modes and a lot more automation (autofocus?  what?).  I’m therefore punting some gear that hasn’t seen daylight for a couple of months and looking forward to getting an actual meant-for-the-camera lens, finally.  You know, getting up to the current day in the real world is tricky.

Mike