Hi ho, hi ho. It’s away from the computer I go!

I know you, my adoring fans, will be so sad to read this, but I have a full plate for the balance of this week and believe it’s highly unlikely I will be posting blog entries….or photos….or much of anything.  I will likely still view other’s sites as time allows, but I have a bunch of stuff I need to do to my home-built PC AND I have some work-stuff to take care of AND we have some folks coming to the house to do some various work AND, etc., etc., etc.

Now don’t go getting all suicidal and such…..I’ll be back.  Just hang in there as best you can.


Joy & rapture, oh my!

My camera kit has been dutifully sitting in the garage for the past few days.  Out in the garage it is already at outdoor temperatures and therefore ready to go at a moment’s notice.  Yesterday I took the camera out into the back garden and shot some pictures of the cardinals (yes; more cardinals), robins and trees.  While I haven’t yet viewed these pictures I think I may have a couple that are pretty smart.

This morning I woke up with the intent of heading to our local park (also the site of a small dam meant for flood control) to capture some of the flooding….and maybe some more cardinals!  Upon waking I found the weather to be less-than-ideal for photography.  Well…that’s not completely true.  It was overcast and rather cool; maybe even cold.  And these sorts of conditions aren’t bad for photography, but I said to myself “I have ENOUGH pictures taken in this sunless stuff.  I’m not going.”  Hardly an inspired person first thing this morning, eh?

Ran some errands and then retired to the basement to pay bills and such.  It was during this time that I happened to look up and out one of the basement windows.  I was expecting rain as that is what we had been led to believe we would have this afternoon.  Instead I see blue skies and trees gently swaying in the wind.  Shit.

So I’m off in my car and head to the exit side of the dam.  Wow.  Unbelievable.  Amazing.  We’ve seen flooding on the flood plain side of the dam, but NOTHING like this.  I snap picture after picture all with the purpose of capturing the moment. In this particular instance I’m less interested in photography as “art” as I am in photography as capturing a moment in time.

However, when I finish with the rushing torrent of water being ejected from the dam, I take a short stroll along the swiftly moving river.  Along the way I encounter some lovely low-growing yellow flowers and stop to take a few photos of them.  Using my 17-85mm I get down low and as close as its ‘macro’ focus setting will allow and prepare to press the shutter release when a bee buzzes into the frame.  SCORE!  Snap, snap, snap goes the shutter and I’m hopeful that at least one picture came out well.  Further down the path I come across two geese; one sleeping and one keeping an eye on things, especially me.  I switch to my 70-200mm and move into a position that I feel is close, but not too close as to disturb the geese.  Again I shoot a handful of shots and hope that at least one will be good.

I drove around to the back side of the dam and again shot more pictures to capture the massive flooding.  It was during my walk back to the car that I started thinking about my attitude earlier this morning where I was thinking about how I had enough of gray-day pictures.  “What an idiot,” I continued to think.  “When do you hear someone say, ‘I think I have enough sunny-day pictures.  I’m going to wait for some gray days.'”  The important thing is that I shoot and shoot often.  Every day if I can.  No.  Every day regardless of whether I can or cannot.  It’s not just a question of becoming more familiar and comfortable with the camera and lenses, but the notion that there are typically only a few ‘gems’ of photographs within any given hundred or hundreds of pictures taken.  The only way to be certain I move that ratio in an upward direction is to shoot, shoot, shoot.  Oh, and pay attention and learn from my mistakes.  I guess those things are important too.

(a hearty thanks to those of you who have often said to shoot and to shoot often….you know who you are)

On the need for two extra arms

As a person who has often said “I’m a Brit trapped in an American body,” I can tell you that today feels like an English day. At least the way I have always imagined them to be.

It has been raining since yesterday and flood watches and warnings abound in our neck of the woods. As I have mentioned in prior posts, the ground is so saturated with water there simply is no ability for it to absorb the latest torrent from the heavens. The gray skies, the constant rain and Top Gear playing on the television have all conspired to transport me to my imaginary England where I’m far more interesting.


Last night the fog was rolling in as the night progressed and I had high hopes that a foggy day would greet me. So sure was I that I placed my camera out in the garage so that it would be ready to go for a morning’s shoot at the park, where I was very confident I could get some good shots. Alas, no fog. Just rain. And I’ve quickly learned that it is very, very difficult to manage a camera, lens and camera bag along with an umbrella of sufficient size to keep not only me, but my precious camera equipment dry.

I see some pending unpleasantness with the daughter this afternoon when she comes home only to find me telling her that she is going to man the umbrella for me so that I might take a handful of pictures of our rather flooded back garden.

A more rewarding experience

Once again I ventured out into the wilds of my local park system, camera at the ready, and snapped away like a happy shutter-bug.  There were the usual issues of stupidity on my part:  wrong white-balance setting for the first few pictures, hadn’t remembered to format the media card (so that’s why I ran out of space so quickly), didn’t wear my better-for-very-mucky-conditions boots, etc.  Sigh.

See?  There is a reason why folks buy point-and-shoot cameras.

I wanted to post that I’m happier, on the whole, with the latest batch of pictures I took, and that I have shared these with some (via private invitation), but that I have now opened all of my sets posted at Picasa to the unwashed masses.  Yes; that’s you.  Well, it’s me as well, but that’s neither here nor there.

(Pictures found here)

Certainly this latest bunch aren’t going to get me invited to be the staff White House photographer, but I feel like this latest round is an improvement over the previous trips.  This pleases me to no end as I really didn’t want to find myself taking the same ‘okay’ pictures time after time after time.  Certainly it is only my opinion that these are better than those taken earlier, but I’d really rather live in my own private delusions if you don’t mind.

Ewww! What’s that on my boots?

I think it’s fair to say that having the proper kit is very important in the realm of photography. Shooting wildlife? You likely need a very good telephoto lens. Shooting up close? Clearly you need a solid macro lens. Portraits anyone? A solid flash or, better yet, a whole studio type setup with lights, backdrops, wireless transmitters and some sort of super Apple computer. Yet how quickly one forgets the other side of the photography equation; especially when one is shooting out of doors.

Today I grabbed my kit and headed back to my local park. The weather was being somewhat cooperative with partly cloudy skies and a temperature around 45-degrees F. (that’s about normal for this time of the year here in southwestern Ohio). I was feeling lucky. That feeling didn’t last too long.

It must have been too late in the day (early afternoon) to get pictures of the lovely cardinals that have been so prolific of late. And while the squirrels were out and about their colouring is simply way too similar to that of the winter brush and ground cover that it’s damn near impossible to grab a picture of them without having to first scan the entire photograph to find them. But that’s not the problem either. The problem is the ground.

See, we have had an unusual amount of snow this winter; especially into late winter. In addition we have had some rain of late. As such, the ground is completely saturated. Soaked. Water-logged. Sponge-like, if you will. Fortunately I am very well aware of this situation so I had put on a pair of waterproof winter boots for my sojourn to the park. However, this wasn’t enough. The ground is so damp that it and everything else laying upon the ground stuck to the soles of my boots. As I moved around the grounds of the park my boots accumulated massive quantities of very sticky mud, twigs, leaves, wildlife poop, etc. Eventually it looked as if I were wearing giant saucers upon the bottom of my boots. Naturally this gunk adhered to the bottom of my shoes also left me with little to nothing in the way of traction. I spent most of my time slipping, slidding, teetering, etc. as I made my way from bog to bog.

At this point I’m not even certain I obtained any good pictures, but I am very glad to be home in one piece without having slipped and fallen into some horrible muck that would have certainly destroyed my lovely Canon 40D dSLR.

WWAAD? (What Would Ansel Adams Do?)

First, in regards to my prior posting about my obvious need for the Canon 100-400mm lens…..my wife checked into purchasing such for me as an anniversary gift (12 years this Sunday!). She called my local camera shop and spoke to my camera guru who asked if she was sitting down as the lens runs for USD 1,500. Apparently my wife didn’t know that lenses could cost this kind of dosh.

Needless to say I still don’t have a 100-400 lens. (snif)

Second, regarding the pictures I took the other day (when I discovered my apparent need for the 100-400mm lens)…..well…..my original title for this blog was “Well shit!”. That tidbit of information should help you form an idea of the results of my photographic endeavor. From maybe 60 shots taken I can say that four, perhaps five, actually turned out nicely. Maybe not perfect, but nicely.

That’s one in twelve. That’s 8.5% (right? I just did that in my head).

In the mean time this other character (you’ve seen him here) continues to snap lovely photos day in and day out. And the bastard is so humble about it too! Augh!

70-200mm Just Isn’t Enough

My Canon 70-200mm f/4 L USM IS lens sounded like the cats meow. The bees knees. The must-have lens for my beginning kit. Oh, and don’t get me wrong. It’s a very fine lens. Solidly built. Buttery smooth operation. Plenty of light gathering ability. You know….a great lens.

Today I ventured back to the park and tried taking more pictures of the very lovely cardinals. It was a beautifully bright, sunny and clear morning; just perfect. I donned my medium-height winter boots (the ground is completely soaked from all the melting snow), grabbed my lovely Canon 40D and mounted the extraordinary 70-200mm lens.

Sure. It takes great pictures. But there is a flaw. The flaw isn’t with the lens, per se, but with me and my decision making process. From imperfect knowledge one can only make an imperfect decision. And while I wouldn’t EVER say that the purchase of my exceptionally wonderful 70-200mm was a mistake, I have discovered an issue.

I need more zoom for wildlife photography.

I had thought that the 70-200mm would have been very capable, especially considering the 1.6-multiplication factor due to the camera’s less than full-size image sensor. Yet I consistently found that I was unable to bring the birds as close as I would like. If I moved closer to them they had this tendency to disappear and then reappear further away. Clever little things, aren’t they? I know that I can crop and zoom the images once I get home and I tried this earlier this evening, but the results were mixed. In some instances a hint of pixelation would occur once I had zoomed to a point where I was satisfied with the image.

So if anyone wants to help me out of this situation and purchase for me something like the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L USM IS it will be appreciated. I’ll even mention your name in this blog space!

Enjoying myself for a switch

Today I did something different…….I took pictures just for fun.  I have been having this long-running discussion with a fellow photography beginner (find him here) and with his help it has become abundantly clear that I had managed to skew my original intent for purchasing this camera into something wretched and horrible.  Well no longer my friends and readers.

Today I just played.  I had no intent other than to enjoy myself.  I found items around the house, placed them upon a small table in the living room, where there was good natural light, and pushed the shutter release button to my hearts content.  It was fun.  It was creative.  It was the first time since I brought home the camera on 20 December 2007 that I actually enjoyed myself.  I had been making the picture taking process entirely too cumbersome.  My pictures had to be this and that and perfection (as defined by photographic standards) was paramount.

Well it’s absurd to think I’m going to be taking perfect pictures when I’m just an amateur.  I shouldn’t be worrying about such things.  I should be taking pictures so that I can become comfortable with the camera and so that I can familiarize myself with the various settings of the type I might use on a very regular basis.  And ultimately I must remember to have fun with whatever I’m doing.  Otherwise it’s no longer a hobby, but an albatross around my neck.  And I don’t need another one of those.

Learning things the hard way….

I discovered something today.  When one is trying to take pictures of bits of frozen water clinging delicately to thin branches it’s best if there is no wind.  In other words, Mother Nature is a cruel bitch.

She giveth AND take away all at the same time.

She had seen fit to sprinkle our little slice of heaven with some snow and then freezing rain last night.  This morning I awoke to find a wintry wonderland; ripe with photographic opportunities.  Saints be praised!  What I didn’t know at the time, from the comfort and warmth of my bedroom window, was that She also saw fit to provide a gentle and non-stop breeze for the day.  You try to capture delicate rivulets of frozen water clinging to the end of a thin and tapering branch while said branch whips around.  I must have looked and sounded like a complete imbecile as I stood behind my camera, eye fixed to the viewfinder, gesticulating at no apparent person or thing and shouting curses to the wind.  Ridiculous.

However, it was during one of my more poetic bouts of blue language that I struck upon a method I had used once before with my digital point-and-shoot:  burst mode!  I grant you this process did not yield reasonable results with the P&S camera, but that is because even in burst mode it only shoots one picture every second.  My lovely, lovely, lovely 40D (did I mention my 40D is lovely?) will shoot something like four, five or six frames per second even in simultaneous JPG/RAW!  Saints be praised.  Again.

I am, without having yet checked, reasonably confident that at least one picture from each burst will yield a result that offers no blur from the branch swinging about in this confounded wind.

So, two important lessons today:  (1) Mother Nature conspires against me, and (2) burst mode rules!