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My New Camera - Day 4

Sunshine, the lake, birds & people

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Big Wing Splash - photograph copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Big Wing Splash - 1/640 @ f/8  ISO 250 HH Pattern FF (full-frame)

LESSONS: I really like this shot, and I know absolutely it's not what I was going after. Of course, it's not, and I have no idea, now, what that might have been, but clearly this is not it. Nice little splash. Great feathered wing configuration. This is full frame, sharpened about a third of what I used to sharpen everything I shot on my Sony, then reduced to show on the web at (nearly everything on this page and all these others are also sharpened about a third of what I used to.)

Nice focus on the splash and the bird's feet, huh?

It doesn't look much like one here, but this may be the gull I was trying to catch in their usual wings-up position just after they land. I know I wasn't that close ot a heron or an egret, and that's what the wings look like from here.

Sunday February 26: Today, I took 162 photographs on a warm, sunny day, and I learned that it takes forever to download that many shots via USB1.1 on my elderly puter. My laptop just slurped them up. This pokey old Cube takes its sweet time. I've golded eight of those, meaning I made their icons yellow (gold), which also means I made at least 154 mistakes to learn from, although some images incorporate more than one error.

And why does not a $1,700 camera have an AC adapter in the box?

I also learned that this camera is gangbusters fun and getting funner, and that I'm beginning to acquire some clues about what it and I and we together are doing to create my photographs with. It is not yet by any means a natural extension of my eye and mind like my Sony got to be, but then I have had it five years, and this baby's been here less than a week.

Oh, and that I still have the controls for focusing confused with the controls for exposure. Both seem to have spot, matrix, and full-frame modes.

I also ran my first in-camera slide show today, 162 images at 3 seconds each = a long time, just before dinner. Nice. But there's nothing like seeing them come up big on my monitor. That's when I learn if they're worth a darn. Luckily, I'm still making lots of mistakes, so I can still learn lots. Lots.

Oh, and I still haven't figured out how to set the image numbering so it doesn't start from zero every time. I've reset that setting three times, and it still doesn't work.

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

Pelk Fly-By - 1/640 @ f/9  ISO 250 HH Pattern

LESSONS: This is the best flying pelican shot I've taken with my new camera. I have lots with my Sony, but they're all from further off at fewer megapixels. This is about 1/9 of the full frame. I was panning along with the bird and too far a distance in the first place, and it was flying away. The far back background's not much a problem, but the bunch of sleeping pelks and one cormorant don't help it, but there it is and there they are.

Focus could be better (should be better) but it's a nice wing configuration and we can see his beak and the beak fin that marks him as a breeding male, so for a change, I know this one is a male. But it's a mediocre photograph, and I'll keep trying to capture a flying pelican when the sun shines and I'm in Sunset Bay, but I know the whole flock of them will disappear wherever they go every spring by April.

By the middle of next October, when they come back, I should know my new cam well enough to get a much better shot, perhaps even closer. By then, too, I should have expanded my DX lens collection (zero so far) and decided which zoom to get.


Running On Water - photo copyright 2006 by JR Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Running On Water - 1/250 @ f/9 ISO 250 HH Pattern FF

This is another dream-shot attempt that failed. I'm fascinated with the way Coots get up to speed high enough to get into the air and fly away. They run on the surface of the water, and I want to capture a good shot of that scene.

This is close, except that the reason this one is running (toward the shore, as it turns out) is that gull that blots the image at the upper right. I'd rather the coot were closer (this is about 40% of the full image) or its impeller were absent or in focus. It'd be nice if we could tell what that was without staring many seconds.

Nice line of foot splashes, though not very sharp.

I don't understand why gulls dislike coots enough to chase them dozens of yards away, but they do it often if there are bread-feeding humans around. This and the Pelk Fly-by series that is also mostly a failure so far are my two main pan shoot dreams.

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

Water Splasher - 1/320 @ f/9  ISO 250 HH about 50% of frame Pattern

Here's another water running coot, another nice splash, but since we can't see the coot's legs or feet, we don't know why it's there or why I shot this photo. I'm not sure, either.


Avert Eyes - photograph copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Avert Eyes, A Texture Study - 1/750 @ f/9 ISO 250 HH FF Pattern

He was standing on the pier watching birds, and he probably assumed I was, too. He was just standing there in great sunlight, so I photographed him. Turns out he comprises a wonderful texture study, although I hadn't noticed anything but that he was right there in easy photo distance. The clumpy shirt-jac, , shirt, shaved and unshaved hair and skin. On the full-size version I can see individual hairs on his hand and count them on his face and head.

Amazing to see for this photog so very used to 5 megapixels, this shot, more than anything I've shot this week with the new cam, shows what 10+ megapixels really means.

Hardly a great photo. But an important step. And kinda interesting in a human way.

I shot more people pictures today than I have in many years. Which leads to the notion that this camera may bring me back into the photojournalism form. Good direction.

I started out as a photojournalist. My first photo job was PR photog for the University of Dallas when Sybil Novinsky was in charge of that at UD. They provided the camera (Speed Graphic with Polaroid back), film and opportunities. If I got anything usable, they used it and paid me. It was a wonderful introduction to professional photography.

My second photo job was (and I got to invent my own title) as Photojournalist for The Texas Catholic. It turned out I also was a production assistant, press check dolt and delivery boy (still warm inked copies to the bishop).

Later, after graduating from college, menial jobs and Vietnam, I got a job as staff photographer with The Dallas Times Herald, which was a marvelous job. I've done a lot of photography

Moto Scooter - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
  truck sitter - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Disgruntled Motorized Scooter Rider and Truck Sitter
boy - 1/500 @ f/11  ISO 250 HH [vertical crop of FF] Pattern
guy - 1/320 @ f/9  ISO 250 HH FF CWA (Cener Weighted Average)

The boy seemed either upset or concentrating every step of the way. He was going very slow. Walkers outdistanced him easily. As I often do when preparing images for online, I sharpened him and his scooter but not the sidewalk or grass behind (makes it pop 3-D some). Same with the guy sitting on his truck doing whatever with a PDA or phone.

I liked the colors and position of each of these. Scooter Boy has enough context. In real life, I'd be tempted to crop just left of the bicyclist chopped off at the far right. Truck Sitter is also simple and sharp against a smoothed out of focus (I think they call this bokeh [which may be pronounced boquet]). The Sitter has nearly no context outside of what's in his hands. I know he was sitting on top of his truck cab, which is why I noticed him.

But that's not evident in this picture. If I were using a zoom, I'd have zoomed in on the boy and out from the man. But I was stuck with my framing, and I just shot away.

I have no idea why I changed metering modes. I think I changed them at random, although I probably thought I knew what I was doing. Sometimes it's easy to fool myself.

Simple compositions, great colors, excellent focus and exposure. Mediocre context.


Spillway Gush through Fence Frame - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Spillway Gush - 1/2,500 @ f/7.1  ISO 250 HH FF Pattern

My first attempt at an artsy shot. I now know I'm not stuck with what P (the auto exposure mode that doesn't use the letter A that I missed yesterday) sets for me. I can change shutter speed and apertures at the same time keeping the same exposure but changing f/stop or shutter speed.

Here I didn't care about depth of field or whether the guard rail fuzzed out or not. I was only interested in stopping that water. First time I shot this scene I did so at the auto-set 1/640, which from my Sony experience I knew wasn't near fast enough. I should have tried for even faster but I settled for a neat double to 1/1,250, which was kinda okay.

Since we both know I was shooting at the lake, we've figured out by now that the subject is probably water. But it could be a cotton factory or some such. The context and the framing are abstracted. I like abstract, because it tends to make us need to think. Maybe.

Dad & Child - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Dad & Child - 1/500 @ f/11 ISO 250 HH FF Pattern

This is not a great shot, but it leans in that direction. It would help to crop it just outside Dad's legs, so we could concentrate on the child. But that wouldn't save this shot. I should have waited for a better facial expression from the child. The open hand is okay, but him/her doing something would help.

Metering is good. Exposure is near perfect. The dark shadows don't help much.

Gull Wing Gull - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Gull Wing Gull - 1/500 @ f/8 iso250 HH slightly cropped FF

This may well be the gull whose wings and splash tops this page. It was shot about a second before it, so this must be the culprit. When I previewed this image on the camera monitor (at least four times) I thought it was another failure. Instead it's a pretty nice portrait of Mr. Mine-Mine-Mine (See Finding Nemo.)

Woulda been nice if I'd got the top of his wings. But the lens is not a zoom, and I was sitting on the pier with my back leaning comfortably on it and was too lazy to move. Too slow to, too.

Again, this bird is sharpened. Full 100% here. Not the water, just the bird. Lovely rendering of the feathers. This is one sample of several avian portraits I shot out there on the pier.


Mr. Mallard - copyrgith 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mallard Portrait with Rings - 1/500 @ f/7.1 iso250 HH [FF-width with top cropped off] Pattern

I usually go for the pelicans and the herons and the egrets — almost anything elegant and exotic. Mallards are pretty common birds. But I liked the fit of this one's jib, colors and textures. It was nice side lighting, also. Interesting the way his Greater Scaup swimming budy is nearly silhouetted, and that bulging ring of water he's churning and his wiggling reflection help to concentrate out attention on him.

A qualified success here. The full 100% view shows amazing detail. This camera and I are finally bonding.

Stealth Mode - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Stealth Mode - 1/500 @ f/11 iso250 spot [1/9th crop]

Top version is straight out of the camera. Below is lightened slightly to bring up the reflected trees in the background, and soften the too-strong white/black contrast and too-dark water.

Stealth Mode Tall - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

When I first previewed this shot, I thought I'd failed again. It would help if their eyes were more visible or if any one of them stuck their necks out a bit, but then that's what this photo is about. These guys are laid back and tucked in. They're comfy and resting. In fact, they stayed right there for a long time — until they were spooked by a canoeist who paddled right through their roost, well out in the water away from people and dogs and cars and the shore.

Pattern metering renders my mostly white pelks (parts of their wings are black, but it only shows when the extend them) as over-bright white blobs. Only spot metering gets it right.

For the bottom version I unblued their white selves in the shadows, paradoxically making it look more natural. The blue is true, but I think unbluing it makes the image look more natural. I like the vertical tree reflections wiggling in the water, also.

It's still not a great shot, but it's much improved. Next time, I'll get more pelkinality. These are very social birds.


Car Focus Dog copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Car Focus Dog - 1/250 @ f/8 iso250 Pattern FF HH

I shot this dog twice, with plenty of depth of field — both this side and the far side of the red car are in sharp focus, although the car and grass beyond are not. So's the dog's backlighted back. But in neither shot is his soft, furry face or neck sharp. A remarkable feat, if you think about it.

Had a lot of trouble, too, with that vivid red color. Look closely at it and you can see a grain-like patterning over most of it. That's what we call a JPEG artifact. It's what happens when the resolution is brought down too far — or, in this case, the sensor is too sensitive to a color.

My Sony had the same issues with the same color. Many of the posters on DPR's D200 forum believe that Nikon's sensor is made by Sony. They sure are similar in this respect. The model after my F707 — the 808 — supposedly fixed Sony's problem, but it looks like Nikon's fabulous (IMHO) new camera has issues with the color red.

[All shots taken with the Nikon 180mm 2.8 AF lens.]