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My New Camera - Day 10

Screens, scenes, pots, bark, kites, mansions,
sea captains, wet fetch and a pelican flyover

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Seed Stain - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Seed Screen   1/125 @ f/5.6   iso200 HH   35mm Manual Focus
The best yet with this little setup.

Feeling stupid again last night I was paging through the manual when I discovered there's a switch on the camera that clicks among C, S and M. C for continuous, as in focus, S for single and M for manual. I assumed, at first, that if I switched that clicker to M, my manual focus lenses — especially the recalcitrant former wide-angle, now normal lens 35mm f/1.4 — would focus easier.

But that was before I realized that there is no and could not be any connection between whatever that button connects to and my elderly lenses. But I switched it anyway, and paid a lot more attention to focus (there's a little round green light that lights when focus is in).

I tried to hold me and the camera more still. I chose higher shutter speeds and sometimes bigger apertures. I eschewed shooting in the darker corners. I waited for the sun.

Bagua Pot Shard - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pot Shard   1/200 @ f/11   iso200 HH   35mm Manual Focus
Not sharp from sea to shining sea.

So these are focus tests with the 35mm manual focus lens. My average is higher, but there's still plenty of mixed results. After I shot all these pictures, I realized there's another under-used button on the front of my camera. That's the depth-of-field preview button.

When I press it, I'll be able to see what all is in focus out there. That would have been handy for the above shot, which is sharp in the broken edges of this former pot but soft in the sides in the middle of the picture. It would have been especially useful when taking this next shot, for which I closed down to f/11.

Fence Stract - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Fence Rhythms   1/100 @ f/11   iso200 HH   35mm Manual Focus
A charmer of a photo, sharp in all the right places.

Which, as it is, turned out very nice indeed. A little rhythmic melody of angles and lines going off, then doubling back on themselves. The right things are in focus, and the other right things are a little soft, providing lots of contrast that only adds to the chorus.

There's a depth-of-field preview button that closes down the lens, making the image darker (less light) but more obvious about what's in and out of focus. I hadn't used one of those (standard on all my old Nikons) for at least ten years, back when my film cameras still worked. I knew it was there. I just forgot to use it. Maybe now I shall.


Hole In Fence - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Fence Tarp    1/400 @ f/5.6   iso200 HH   35mm Manual Focus
Looks sharp but never quite gets there.

More information makes better shots, and although focus isn't always the most important aspect of a photograph, that and the absence of camera (photographer) motion usually is.

Something else I hadn't realized till this morning is that I haven't actually focused a camera in at least five years. My Sony is full automatic with a manual override that automatically doubles the image, supposedly making it easier to focus manually while still using the digital viewfinder. But it was never easy, and I usually abandoned the attempt. I don't believe I ever successfully focused that lens.

The tarp fence above seemed like it was in focus till I looked more closely — at big fuzzy streaks.

Egyptian Stone Deck - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egyptian Sidewalk    1/320 @ f/5.6   iso200 HH   35mm Manual Focus
Sharp, sharp, sharp, but subject's flat, flat, flat.

This shot of an essentially flat association of sidewalk chunks rolled together Egyptian style on broom and mop handles (I didn't do it.) is in very good focus. I worked at it, lining everything up a half dozen times before committing to the shot.

Everything from the yellow pot shard down to the gate below the lumps below are in my backyard. Again, I didn't want to stray too far till I knew I could get decently focused shots. I didn't want to have to reshoot, so I didn't' want to take pics of anything very important. What backyards are for.


100% Bark - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Bark   1/160 @ f/5.6   iso250 HH   35mm Manual Focus
A lot less than sharp every inch.

This doesn't look like great focus to me. It is here presented in the full 100% of the image size size. It's the rough bits on bark on a tree in my back yard. I was careful with that shot, too. I used a high enough shutter speed. Pleaded with the sun to shine through the clouds just this once and steadied myself carefully. But this is all the close to focus as I could get.

I need a reference. I have to shoot something so still I won't need to sharpen later. I want the sensation of sharp focus again. Soon.

My Gate - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Over the Gate   1/100 @ f/11 iso250 HH FF   35mm Manual Focus

Here's a parting shot from the 35mm f/1.4 lens I lived with for a year a long time ago that I just can't stand being so careful with now. I need a short zoom. Thought I could just shine it on with my old manual focus lenses, but I need to need to need to have auto focus confirmation.

[All shots above taken with the Nikon 35mm 1.4 manual focus lens.]
[All shots below taken with the Nikon 180mm 2.8 AF lens.]

Besides, I have to think too much to live in a wide angle world. Gimme back my 180 mm heaven auto focus again. But lemme try it out in some trying circumstances.

Low Kite - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Low Kite   1/250 @ f/6.31 iso500 HH 7%   180mm Auto Focus

The 180 again, but a smallish portion of a full sized image. This a crop about 7% of the full frame. I darkened the sky to bring out the kite's vivid colors, lost on a bright white (real) sky. These folks a long way away, like so much I tend to see and shoot at the lake.


City from Hill - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/400 @ f/10 iso250 FF   180mm Auto Focus

Another long shot, over the lake and half way to Grandmother's House we go. There's a mansion nestled in the green woods under that gray cloudy dull sky that's in sharp focus, as are the trees close and the city far. Amazing sharp as far as the eye can see. Lousy gray day, though. Caught in a cloud.

Angular Tree - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

   1/200 @ f/7.1  iso250 HH FF   180mm Auto Focus

Kinda long, remarkably sharp about half way across the lake. They've finally opened the big new walking bridge parallel and just south of the Mockingbird Road automobile bridge where a lot of bicyclers still ride, far from the gaggling walkers, but this new bridge is wonderful, new views into the dog park, out onto the lake, fisher persons across from the dogs, dogs everywhere, but most of them on leashes, for a big change.

Water Fetchh - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Fetch   1/200 @ f/5.6 iso250 20% crop HH 100% sharpened   180mm Auto Focus

These people are throwing things out into the lake for the pooches to bring back. At one time there were seven dogs in the drink at a time. Something about promising to keep all the dogs on leashes escapes them in moments like these, but what a perfect platform for it.

Neither is this a particularly sharp image. Too many people (and dogs) at differing distances from the depth of field, wherever that might be. F/5.6 does not exactly render a deep field, and 1/200 is barely enough speed to hand hold a 180mm lens, let alone its 35mm equivalence of 270mm.

The day before was sunshiny and bright. Today was gray. Sunshine helps focus. Gray emancipates colors. Ya take what ya get and learn from it.


Flag Kyaker - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/350 @ f/10 iso250 FF HH   180mm Auto Focus
Far kyaker - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

This is the full frame of the serious crop above. Note how near sharp it is. I love the 180 for me not having to strain to focus the thing. I lightened the guy, arm, hat, face and oar, or he'd be rendered full silhouette. I missed a few little gray edges around his ears. Next time — a la pelican flyover below — I'll just lighten the ocean and him, too.

Didn't know before that, but he's looking straight at me, probably wondering if I could tell who he is. I like the admiral-like flag flying, almost big as the boat.

New Big House - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/200 @ f/5.6 iso250 FF HH   180mm Auto Focus

We've been watching this amazing house get built. I was too close, standing on the jut of Thistledown Meadow (looks like they've cleared those out of there as much as they can, but I hope they'll keep coming back, they're magnificent beasts of plants. Weeds, yes, but beautiful in life and death and renewal.

Too close to catch the whole house. I wonder who all lives there. Grande casa. I'm expecting a big fence or wall. I still want to be invited in to photograph out. Good to have impossible goals. I would have had to back all the way to the dog park to get the whole thing in the frame.


2 dark pelks - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/640 @ f/13 iso250 20% crop HH   180mm Auto Focus

I asked for it, and I got it, and is often the case in dreams like mine, I didn't quite know what to do with it when I got it, except motor silicon dreams through the camera clickity-click. Till I must have pointed it wrong somehow, because after nine shots in rapid succession and pretty damned sharp birds and nice fluffy sky, the lens decided on its own to hunt for focus on something it imagined a lot closer, and I could not coax it to go back to far away and flying, until the small search party of about 5 pelicans had passed.

Again, I was too close to the subject to get all of them in one shot. A zoom, a zoom, my dukedom for a zoom.

What it is I didn't quite know what to do about was that the original exposure was set for the sky above them. Not that I intended it, just that's what the exposure meter was mostly looking at.

Exposure meters, even when disguised as a new camera with a big, honking elderly lens, looks at an area of relative brightness and tells the shutter speed and aperture departments to render this thing as if it were an 18% gray card, because most of what we see is reflecting about 18% of the light that hits it, so that's normal exposure.

These flying over pelicans, however, are rendered in dark silhouette, because the sky is relatively much brighter than are their undersides as they fly along in their own shadows. The tones are there, I could mask bird and hold back sky, and you'd know for sure it wasn't a war party of Pterodactyls, but Pelicans for sure. But every time I tried that, it just looked wrong. Goofy wrong. Amateur hour bad.

Pelk Flyover Bright - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/500 @ f/11 iso250 20% crop HH   180mm Auto Focus — relatively unsharpened

I worried that if the exposure let in the light of the pelk's undersides, the sky would go mostly white. Then I realized that would be accurate as to how I experienced it, but the first couple of times I did that I used masks to hold the sky the same dark, and they looked way overexposed. I thought about employing a big, booming flash, but I'd need a truck to carry it around.

Then I just lightened the whole shot (as above), and it looks great. Natural. Notice how sharp are the trailing flight feathers at the tips of their big 12' wingspans. And, of course, their noses. Ooof. I like this stuff of dreams.

So nice to have the 35mm equivalency of a motor drive, sucking silicon into a buffer, then onto my dinky little 1 gig Compact Flash memory card (a mere eight times the size of the biggest one that'd work on my old Sony). I might have to hang out at that far north end of the lake more. T says she's seen them plying the sky there, soaring in great circles, rising on the thermals like only Jonathan Livingston Pelicans can.

Next time they fly over me, I want them to bunch up more, so I can get more pelks in the same picture. I've seen dozens of them bunched up like the Blue Angels or the Amazing Flying Thunderbirds, so it may not be too much to ask.


Except that probably constitutes what T called practicing to fly away. But theirs this October - March has been a grand visit.