J R's Images & Ideas
home    images    ideas    words    websites    contact    resume    links    meta    prices   DallasArtsRevue

My New Camera - Day 6

Nature Jokes, Life, Death & Childhood
on the Lake & The Blue Hand Gang

<yesterday    Index    email J R    tomorrow>

Slippery When Wet - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Slippery When Wet   1/250 @ f/8  iso400 pattern HH FF

That's cormorant scat, and if you were to look up (follow the arrow), you'd see dozens, if not hundreds of cormorants blotting the trees. Watch it when the corms twitch their tails, or you could get slippery and wet and stringenly stinky. It's Stinky Bird Season, again, although this sign seems to be our fellow human's only official warning.

We were over there at night once, when we walked over the yet-to-be-opened-to-the-public new bridge over the lake on the other side of Thistledown Park. On the way back through this area, we heard the continuous whisper and splats of this same stuff — and that pungent scent. Ooof!

Day 6 - February 28, 2006: Early D200 Education Issues:

D200 keeps turning itself on. I'm sure it's not reaching up and turning itself on. It's just too easy, so far, to turn it on accidentally, while putting it on the shelf or in a bag or hauling it around. Maybe because my fingers are used to being right there and when they are, the switch gets turned (nice thing about the passive voice, it subtly renders responsibility to some other force. "I didn't do it." Of course, however, I am doing it.) I must be groping for the handle (so much more distinct and hand-shaped than my Sony), and catching the on switch instead of that vertical ridge. Gonna have to unlearn that trick.

Then, ofther times, it turns itself off. LIke when I'm looking at playback or trying to figure out something compound or complex about the menus. So maddening. I assume there's a setting somewhere to keep it on longer or even until I turn it off. But will I be able to stay on menu long enough to find it? Not yet.

Sometimes when I open Playback, it's stuck in multiple image mode, and I don't know how to get it out. Yet. There's lots of things I don't know how to set or get out of or get into. I'm beginning to appreciate some of the possibilities, but I'm slow on implementation.

All the important stuff, all the reviewers and forum posters tell me, are right there on the camera front, top or back, buttons galore. But which one does what. Well, I know a few, so far. More than a few are strictly mysterious, and I'm coming to an understanding of a few others.

26 buttons or switches to contend with. I'm figuring out a lot of them. Some are still deep, dark mysteries hovering over the horizon for later lessons. My Sony has 15 and far fewer menu levels. It's a simpler camera, and so it won't do a lot of complex things.

Corner Mansion - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Corner Mansion   1/320 @ f/9  iso400 pattern HH FF

We've been watching this mansion go up. It goes on and on around that hillside. Some kind of magnificent and expensive. I liked this corner, because it's abstractive and natural colored. Unlike a lot of the houses along the edge of the lake, it looks like this one belongs there. It fits the area — Texican wihtout obstentation. Might even be Texas stone. Simple. Straight-forward with nice details. Not Tudor or some other abomination. Someday, I hope to be invited in and photograph out of it. I bet they have a great view.

But as today's photos show, I'm getting into the flow. I don't know anything near all I need to learn, but I'm past just groping. I'm getting results on the sorts of things I tend to shoot — abstractions, signs, dead things, live beings, architecture, shapes. Well, look at the pictures. I won't say I'm getting the hang of this new camera, but I'm warming to it, and it is rewarding me with nice images.

One thing for sure, I'm getting weary freighting that humongous 180 f/2.8 around with me all the time. I'm not about to let any dust into the exposure chamber, but I am just about ready to try something ... oh, lighter.

I do like the auto focus. We laughed at the idea back when I bought that lens. I could still manually focus it quicker than it can focus itself some of the time. Usually, it's quick. But sometimes, it goes off in the entire wrong direction, focusing closer and closer, while my target bird or whatever flies off in the opposite direction. I'm beginning to understand and appreciate the concept of the newer, faster focusing motors.

And I''m pretty sure that soon as it becomes available again, I'll buy a 18-200mm, f/whatever string of numbers, zoom.

Sleepy Twins - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Sleepytime Twins   1/200 @ f/9  iso400 pattern HH FF

Sleepytime Twins - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Sleepytime Twins   1/500 @ f/4  iso400 pattern HH slightly cropped off left FF

We saw these three (Mom was pushing) up and down the lake shore this afternoon. In the earlier shots, they were shrouded in shadow, but I like the framing device of their twin stroller and glimpses of mom. In a quick succession of three shots coming and four shots going (in sunlight), they hardly twitched expressions.

Anna spoke as we passed on the sidewalk with the mom about sleepytime and keeping them up in the bright afternoon sun. But the second set, getting closer and closer, camera not really keeping up with focus (meaning I still don't have the right button pushed or switch swithced to do that) the pink-clad twins got more and more interesting.

Fill the frame, indeed. I wish we could see their eyes better in more detail (windows to the souls as they are), but this is pretty good shooting. Not bad for the fifth day. I see rapid progress.

Note, however, that the stroller itself is in ever so slightly better focus than the cute little girls, although the soles of their shoes and legs seem sharp, their faces don't seem to be quite. Maybe it's just because they so obviously would rather be asleep.

BB & Bendy Dows - copyrigth 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

BB & Bendy Dows   1/125 @ f/7.1  iso400  HH FF Pattern

Another example of the sort of reality abstractions I like making. Within the first nanoseconds, we know exactly what this is, even in the context of a lake plopped in the big middle of a residential area (or visa versa, as the case may be). I was originally attracted by the repetitive patterning on the backside of the backboard.

The monochromatic composition of it helps, too. White in a photo attracts our attention almost like text in a picture does. Having the brightest white mixing with the most abstract element of the image makes it all the better. A little cubistic elements of architecture, the basketball backboard and net, and those windows, all within the narrow confines of tans, grays and tiny smidgens of greenery framing. How very nice.

1/125 may be a tad long an exposure, at that distance, f/5.6 would have provided plenty of depth of field. And, if Björn is right, that little more resolution and shrpness could only help. But it works. Anna says she sees a face in the middle window, but I didn't until I just told you.

Neon Fence with Downed Pylon - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Neon Fence with Downed Pylon    1/125 @ f/8  iso400  HH  FF  Pattern

The gridded fence is actually a little brighter and primarily hued than this image. The Sony got it right most of the time. The Nikon is just shy of that, but it's not in bright sunlight, so we don't know for sure.

A subtle abstraction with lines and patterns, a subtle confection of contrasting colors (red-orange and green). We know what all this is, but maybe not immediately. Hovering in those initial moments, we are confused, taken aback by impossible lines and shapes and directions. Then, quite as suddenly, it become utterly mundane. Like the rest of reality.

Nice to do that in a photograph.

Probably too much aperture and too little shutter speed, but, again, it works so why fight it. The billowing sail of perforations is the only thing moving, and this time we got away with it.

Yo Looking Up - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Yo Looking Up   1/200 @ f/7.1   iso250 HH FF Spot

Yo is my cat. He doesn't go out much, so he's always around, usually in the way, but ocassionally willing to pose. Especially if I provide a warm perch like the bathroom window. Not sure what he's looking up at, but this shot gave me the opportunity to deal with backlighting.

I used spot metering, fooling myself into thinking I could figure out how to expose both cat and screen background correctly. In the end, I believe I did. Cat looks dark, except around the edges, which are rendered perfectly. The screen and cat both are in sharp focus. As are chest hairs and whiskers.

There's another shot of him facing me. Sure is hard to get him to do that. I supposed our earlier adventures in popping him in the face with a nasty old flash everytime he did that have taught him not to. Still, curiosity gets the better of him sometimes and he turns to see what the matter is.

Not a perfect shot, of course. That might be this same shot cropped to show just a hint of back, lots of screen, whiskers, nose and that bright right ear of his. Nope, I tried that. Without an eye to guide us into cat soul paradise, there's no reason go in that close. Besides, the little snip might reach a claw, snag and bite.

Yo Ears - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

A subsequent exposure that nets a brighter cat and translucent ears only hints at the grid of screen is nearly unrecognizable without the subtler joy of abstraction. It's just ugly.

One of my impending lessons is synchro sunlight flash, meaning flashing the flash while letting the sun (as here) do the primary exposing of our subject. The trick will be to flash only for fill, not for major exposure. I saw in the manual last night (yep, I'm actually reading that little monster) that it was possible to set it at some fraction of the overall exposure.

That might be the only and best way to render a cat soaking up sunlight in a bathroom window early in the morning. Then, we might see into the details now lost in the deep shadow. But first I'll have to figure out the flash. Probably not my next lesson, but one of them.

The Sony's flash would turn blue or brown sometimes without warning, and I never did figure it out, although I used the blasted thing from time to time, and sometimes, not often enough to depend upon it, with some success. It'll be nice to have that in my growing D200 arsenal.

I feel like a character trapped in a computer game. A minor wizzard gathering tricks and spells, not sure what for yet, but I know I'll win more points if I grab all the learning I can gather, early in the game.

Blue Hand Group - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Blue Hand Group   1/320 @ f/5   iso500  HH FF

May I introduce you to The Blue Hand Group. Famous in their own informal way. The gold one near the middle is my dishwasher soap. I think so is the purple one next to it, although I bought it at the neighborhood Mexican grocery mostly for its color and for sticking it in the window. It'll probably do more good there.

In the darkness under this grouping of new and old and antique bottles, is my kitchen sink. Needing, as usual, dishwashing more than photography. I especially like the blue hand, who's gotta be the leader of the group. I don't remember where I found it, but it was completely out of context there, too. Maybe at the lake. I find a lot of strange things on my walks out there.

I love transparencies, translucencies and light going through oddly textured and colored things. This was a quickie gathering. Like for a rave, then disbanding minutes later, before the cops arrive on the scene and start arresting old pop bottles and squirt dispensers.

I know I can do better. More of the group needs to be in focus, for one thing. The soap bottle is wider (and it's turned sideways, so the wide end is closest to the camera), so that may be how it got so much focus and the ribbed white bottles so much less.

The glad hand misses out on a lot of things, so why not on focus, too. I'd all but forgot the green and blue bottles outside the inside window on the sill this side of the storm and screen. I want those guys out of focus, to help show depth and some distance.

I'll be shooting this gang again. Maybe when I finally get around to trying the manual focus 105mm f/2.5 lens that'll seem like a featherweight compared to the magnificent monster 180mm f/2.8, but I am really appreciating the auto focus, even if it has to hunt sometimes.

In the late 70s and early 80s, I thought auto-focus lenses were just silly and expensive. Was blind but now I see. Now, I'm so pleased I had the good sense to buy that early auto 180, and since I just sold four shots I made of Anti Vietnam War Protests in the early 70s to an upcoming exhibition at the Sixth Floor Museum downtown, I might be able to buy a DX or VR lens with the newer, faster, servo focus motors.

Me, in the 21st Century. Wow. Even I am impressed with the possibility. Thanks for listening, and stay tuned.

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

  Dead Snake - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Broiled Dog   1/320 @ f/9  iso400 pattern HH FF
cropped to about 40%, leaves gaussian blurred to focus on dog head

Dead Snake 1/250 @ f/10  iso400 pattern HH FF.

Both were among the detritus rolled onto the shore after the flood from big rains last weekend. Kinda horrific, but at the same time, part of the ongoing process of nature at our little city-surrounded lake and park. I've heard that there are some big cats out there in the forests, too.

It's easier photographing dead animals than live ones, except that dead ones are harder to look at. In the 70s and 80s I shot strictly Tri-X black & white film, and one of my longest series — well before Stairs, Chairs and Fences — was Dead By The Side of the Road.

These icky creatures would fit well into those categories. Stuff I'm naturally drawn to. I didn't want to touch these critters, but there's an interest in death and life and everything in between that photography helps bridge.

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