I had thought the bracket mode only kicked in in bursts of five shots, not carrying on after that. Wrong again.
J R learns the D200 - Day 2X
4 out of 5 exposures are bad
xcept for the fact that I left the camera in Bracket Mode all the time shooting with my new lens today — so it would expose one frame correctly, under expose the next, then underexpose even more the next, then overexpose the one after that and then overexpose even more the final of the series of five shots, no matter what I was shooting or how long it took me — my first day of shooting with my brand new cheapo Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens went pretty good.
I had thought the bracket mode only kicked in in bursts of five shots, not carrying on after that. Wrong again.
I put my new lens on my camera at the camera store (Garland Camera Repair), then we stopped off at Sunset Bay on the way back, hoping to find birds to shoot, since that's the main reason — so far — for having this zoom lens.
I don't know what prompted me to put it into that mode or when I did the deed. But the deed was did, and it affected four out of every five shots I shot today. Looking at the contact-sheet like images in Photoshop's File Browser shows a steady rhythm good and mostly bad exposures — light — dark — dark, etc.
This is the third shot I made with the new lens. The first two are really boring shots of the FOOD ART store across the street from the camera store, with too many cars in the lot and no art in sight. It helps that this was shot in bright sunshine and that I waited long enough for it to find focus. It's an auto focus lens, but it spends a while spinning back and forth attempting to focus till it decides where to stop.
All 685 shots I shot today were affected by the Bracket Disaster, but hey, every fifth shot was right on target. I didn't know why I was shooting that many images until I was finished, and then I was glad I overshot by about a factor of five.
I'd been researching ways to see the LCD in bright daylight, which by itself, is difficult. For $50 I could get a flipper-thing that would block a little bit of all that sunlight online. I tried a red plastic cup with tape wrapped around it in a failed attempt to make it opaque. I attached that with some red yarn. It looked goofy and did not work, so I was seriously thinking about the flipper.
The next LCD-viewing device I made was a tape-wrapped pill bottle I drilled an 1/8-inch eye-hole in the bottom, making it the top. That was dark enough inside but I couldn't focus as close as the bottle was tall, even with my glasses on.
My glasses are a constant pain when I'm photographing — they need to be on to see the LCD and off to see to shoot. The D200's viewfinder diopter adjusts pretty close to my own close vision...
I wish it would twist a little further, but it's close enough for now. Don't know what I'll have to do as my vision gets worse. These are some old eyes.), and I've thought about installing a lens from one of my $1-reading glasses lenses in one of my contraptions, but I haven't yet.
Looking for a longer cylinder, I found a nearly empty Hydrogen Peroxide bottle that was already opaque brown. The bottle-top provided a near-perfect (?) eye-hole, and the thing seems adequately rigid. I folded tape around the bottom edge, so I wouldn't scratch the surface of the slowly abrading plastic cover over the camera's LCD. Blue tape on the brown bottle. The label's still on it.
I tried it out, unattached to the camera the afternoon I shot these. Apparently, I tried it out about every fifth shot, because they looked good. It was a nuisance, however, because it kept creeping out of whatever pocket I'd stick it in. I'd looked high and low for my red yarn the night before, but still haven't found it. After today's 20% success rate, I tied it on with shiny white ribbony-looking string. It still looks nasty but maybe it'll save me from another 80% failure.
Meanwhile, there were things I had to learn. For one, how difficult it is to hold a lens that long (that long a telephoto) still (like hand-holding a microscope) when it's racked out to full zoom (the 35mm equivalence of a 450mm lens. Nikon calls lenses in that range, "super telephoto"). Especially difficult because most of this lens spins around as it seeks focus. I'd got used to holding my 180mm lens at the far end, so the focus spin didn't twist it out of my had.
This lens twists differently, torqueing nearly opposite parts. Eventually, I figured it out. I guess I'll figure it out again every time I change lenses. Although I probably wont change lenses for awhile. I like to wring the learning out, figure out a lot of why I bought this lens, and what I can expect to do well enough with it. All that from what happens when I take photographs with it.
Looking at the LCD on the back of my camera tends to confuse me. What I saw there today, even if I was entirely ignoring that 4/5 of the shots sucked, was that focus wasn't happening. LCDs on digital cameras are purposely high-contrast so they make every shot look sharp and in focus, even when they are not.
It hurts that the image there is tiny compared to the actual size of the image — like looking at a film-sized image, contact print. The Nikon LCD is 1.25 x 2.25 inches. 35mm film is 1 x 1.5 inches. Like other digital cameras, the D200 allows me to enlarge a portion of the image. Up to a full 100%. At full magnification everything looks out of focus, and I began to wonder whether I'd just wasted a middle-sized lump of money. I could feel creeping of buyers' remorse.
It wasn't till late that night (it's now early the next morning) I realized that when the exposure and focus and composition and object interest and color — and all those other thing that have to be together in a good photograph— coincide, I got some pretty decent shots. This thing works and works good.
This is one of the underexposed shots, but I liked his expression, he was intent and intense, and I liked the profile and bright green of the background with just a hint of the truck whose tailgate he sat on. I stopped the car as we were leaving, and shot this out the window. Odd that the last two shots were at 220mm (a silly 30mm longer than my previous longest lens).
Another of the things I hope to learn is which focal lengths I will use. After carting around my 16-year-old, 26-ounce 180mm, this 70-300, at only 19 ounces, seems light. It doesn't always feel ungainly carrying it around.
You could get this one mail-order and without Nikon's 5-year guarantee for as little as a hundred bucks. That's the cheapest I've seen. I paid more than that, because I didn't want to wait a week or so for it to arrive, but mostly because I wanted a positive rapport with Garland Camera, an old-fashioned photo equipment shop, which I like, and I expect to go back there often, asking questions and learning stuff and buying stuff.
This is what a lot of the shots I shot today looked like. The ones that weren't way too dark or way too light. This exposure is over, but since it's so far out of focus (o o f), it hardly matters. Most of my shots were either badly exposed, seriously out of focus or just stupid. But then I suppose that's always true.
This may be of the latter persuasion. It's a female duck getting jumped — after much flutter and fight and flight and splashing — by two, faster, stronger or smarter, male ducks. I've seen a half dozen or more males nearly drown a female in the same pursuit. I missed all the ruckus before the consummation of this episode in the visual bouncing of the much-magnified image.
By the time I'd get the camera pointed in the right direction and calmed considerably, they were behind some weeds or they were moving too fast or — well, there's always something. I missed most of it, then only caught this last splashy bit. But there'll be more. It's still spring, hot as it has become.
I'm fond of these ugly goose-like Muscovy ducks, warts and all. They are so ugly in so many ways, yet photogenic in some others. Like the way they swim their bulky bodies through water. I wondered as I watched this drake whether the guys who designed early warships got their designs from nature.
Again today, I saw one fly like a locomotive aloft, thunderous loud flapping of wings in ponderous flights of only a few feet. Real heavy-weights.
It was getting hot. I wanted to see what I'd shot, learn what I could from the first batch, figure out what I could figure out, and wait for the darker cool of evening before I went out again. Besides I had to shoot my cat, with flash so I could wrench every pixel of sharpness out of the image.
I still did not notice that four out of five shots were badly exposed until I came back the second time, later that evening. I know, very perceptive. But there it was, invisible in plain sight.
I was initially really proud of another shot that had the barest right edge of some big Detroit Iron along the far left and these receding arrows and no other traffic. It was correctly exposed, too. This was too dark by half, but I liked the feel of the traffic, the depth, the tilt, the gray arc through the dark green. There was a sidewalk straight up the right edge that I lopped off — then cloned green grass over (but only about a quarter of an inch worth), just to keep it from annoying me and you. This was the third shot out on today's second super telephoto session.
This was the 26th. I was shooting these folks sweatin' down the track with the usual clutter down and behind (in front of) them. I had no idea what they were doing with their hands or legs. I was just shooting them, because they were handy and big compared to the people down on the bridge. Easy a center of attention.
I like how their arms are all at angles and that they are white and black, male and female. And that their heads don't merge with the backgrounds. Silly things like that that photographers appreciate.
Then came the birds. My buddies, the Coots, climbing up the dam like they walk on water, wings flapping and charging headlong. I saw one do it, then lay in wait for another and was blessed with a pair. Again, I lopped off most of the frame, since nothing interesting was happening there, and by cropping it out, what was happening here was accented. I especially appreciate the little coot floating at the bottom right of my crop.
The longer the telephoto, the more space appears to compress (it's all out there looking just like this all the time, anyway). We just usually look at it in wider swaths. The tele, however, only looks at it in its own, tiny little viewing angle, so everything seems compressed.
Like this shot of the dam, the buoy, the jut of land and trees beyond, and the Dreyfuss building on the hill a good bit behind. All seemingly jammed together. Not that fabulous a photo, but I liked the little sliver of danger in this landscape that seems to fall off the edge of the worl. This lens is known for not having the color intensity of my other lenses. Must be a way to exploit it.
It is also known as a lousy lens for low light, so naturally that's what I most wanted to play at. I'm hoping for an informal musical or other performance in future where there's nearly no light — "available darkness," we used to call it. I'm sure the focus will go nuts every other shot. That part is real. This lens likes lots of light so it can focus itself and stop the jerk spinning.
The color would probably have been denser if I'd used a lower iso. But it needs higher speed in lower light, so I can hold it still enough. Until this discussion hatched in my mind and crawled down my arms to my fingers and keyboard, I never questioned that this bird's beak really was blue, yellow and green. It must be. It's those same colors in several shots running.
Standing on the bridge above this bird, I kept worrying I wouldn't get all of it in focus, significantly foreshortened as it was. I tried to get the camera to focus on its head and beak, and largely succeeded. But getting this camera to focus on what I want it to focus on has been a continuous hassle in my miniscule understanding of the idiot complexity of focus modes.
It's got spot metering, why not spot focusing?
I get the one that focuses on whatever is closest. Except it doesn't really. It focuses on something clos to the center that is closest to the camer. I often would rather it focus on what I want it to focus on, but in the mode I keep hoping would do that, I kept seeing different, non-centered areas highlight instead.
I struggled for several minutes today to get the D200 to focus on a fisherman on a pier through a screen of trees and bushes. It flat would not, and I don't yet know how to make it. It must be capable of it, if only I could learn how.
I'm beginning to think the separate species as set forth in the official bird books are full of hooey. I suspect these birds interbreed with whichever bird looks most attractive to them at that moment. My books say that all the herons and egrets are monogamous. But I wonder.
I know this is the same one as above left, because it's the only one I shot yesterday, all up and down the step spills under the bouncy (sometimes nauseatingly so) walking bridge off Garland Road at Winstead. Here, it is shaking itself all over, probably drying off, but also twisting off the muscle janglies we all get. The other shots motoring through the camera (hard to shake those old, film-through-camera similes) around this one all suck, exposure-wise.
It will be fascinating to shoot nearly all good exposures again. Plus, my LCD viewing tube is now attached to the camera, so maybe I'll check these things next time...
Watch carefully for many long minutes. Then uncoil that long neck and project it into the dark water in one fell swoop. This was one of the dark shots, but the fact that its beak and head is totally under water, and those big gorgeous wings — oh, I like this photograph, unlike any other I have ever shot.
I think it's because it's so long, allowing me to get "in" so close. The bird has its privacy, and I'm high above it, partially hidden by the rusty sides of that bouncing bridge. I've photographed the 'grets fishing many times before, but I was so far away, they seemed to be snatching invisible fishies. I could never tell whether they got it or it got away.
More of those luscious wings spread. Note the bird in the branch below the big white 'gret. It's the Black-crowned Heron that stars in the photograph two images down from here. I saw it, and was paying attention enough to pick it out when it swooped down to the top of the white-water steps, even though when I'd look away then look back, it sometimes disappeared, it so completely blended into the gray of evening.
I suspect that green is largely due to the lower iso, only 400 here, which level my sometimes instructional DVD claims is low enough not to cause any issues, and that seems to be true.
I don't think I've ever got one with an obvious fish in its mouth. Actually, I got a whole fish-catching and swallowing sequence today, but 4/5 of them are badly exposed. It was great to watch that big lump of fish peristalse down that long neck.
When I saw the full size of the Black-crowned Night Heron on my largish computer monitor awhile ago, I was amazed. I reproduced it on this page as close to 100% as I could manage, to show us how amazingly sharp this lens can be, even in less than optimal (hand-held, high iso, shot uncomfortably over a clumsy bridge that wobbles every time someone jogs across it. And keeps wobbling for half a minute later).
The reason the color is so weird here is that this was one of the over-over exposures. That has a lot to do with the overt graininess of the shot, too. Thanks to nobody running over the bridge just then and me realizing that the bridge was a lot steadier than I was, and the bird is being careful about any movement, I got it steady and me steady and the exposure close enough to prove a point.
The heron's legs are supposed to be yellow, and his black crown black, not blue. But look at the big image below, where I've corrected the image a little better.
What's wrong with this image is not what's important here. In the JPEG below, at almost exactly how big this images actually is (handily lopping off most of it, since it's not important and wouldn't fit, I have done minimal sharpening (the same 38% sharpening as almost every other image in the Steep Learning Curve bunch, and no contrasting up (that's also a function of the over-exposure) and no any other of my Photoshop tricks (including not nearly enough color correcting). And it's sharp.
Look at this bird's red rim of eye, knobby little knees, dark beak and long white plumes hanging off the back of his crown. Very nice. Gives me the notion that this is a lens I can grow into.
In all, I shot 685 shots today. And I threw away a goodly portion of that, and I'll probably throw away another portion. And I'll pay a lot more attention to the Bracket box that's in the control panel or whatever Nikon calls the gray monitor thingy on top of the camera.
This is one of the dogs that barked at me from behind a big, wrought-iron fence around a large, palatial estate, on the corner of the ivy-lined street rolling down to the lake, where I parked. It being on the dark side of one of those bracketed strums of exposure I've said far too much about already, it's lucky I decided to shoot this one with a flash. Put a little spectral highlight in its eye. Didn't make it any better focus, although the bars look sharp enough. But caught it mid bark with its tongue hanging out and its nose wet and its fur all furry.
Total images expended, so far = more than 6,500