The “D” in “Canon 40D” Stands for Disaster

No.  I don’t mean that the camera is a disaster.  I think I’ve made that quite clear in so many ways and, or so I believe, my Flickr pictures prove the point.  No.  The weak link in the ownership of the Canon 40D is the piece of organic flesh frequently found behind the eyepiece.

That would be me just in case you’re wondering.

“Disaster” refers to my experiences the other night; specifically Friday night.  See….I’m up here along the west coast of Lake Michigan in the lovely, if not buggy, state of Wisconsin.  I have family up here and my dad was visiting as well, so it seemed like the perfect confluence of events to lead me to make an appearance.  Wednesday night, shortly after I arrived from my eight-hour drive, my father and I went to visit my grandmother/his mother at the assisted living facility in which she is currently living.  When he and I departed there was this absolutely stunning moon rising over the local trees and into the night sky.  It was big, slightly orange and just fabulous.  Fabulous for photographing!

I didn’t have a chance to make it out Thursday evening, but knew I’d make the trip to the lake’s shoreline on Friday night so that I might take in the rapture that would be photographing this simply fantastic moon.  Or so I thought.

Let’s start off by stating that the conditions on Friday evening were pretty poor for photography purposes and this knowledge should have been enough to keep me home, but I’m stupid.  Way stupid.  See, the wind was blowing off the lake at about 30 to 35 miles per hour.  As such there was much in the way of water vapor and spray being whipped up off the water, which was then sprayed across the shoreline where I sat eagerly awaiting moonrise with my tripod and camera.  I hadn’t checked what time was moonrise, but was confident it was near 2130 EDT as this was the time I saw the moon just two nights earlier.  So there I sat, leaning against my car much of the time, straining to see into the mist that was whipped up off the lake.  But nothing appeared.

2130 EDT became 2200 EDT.  2200 EDT became 2215 EDT.  2215 EDT became 2230 EDT and I was beginning to become annoyed.  It was about this time that I turned and looked north towards the town of Two Rivers, WI.  There, hanging just above the town, was the somewhat gorgeous and somewhat orange moon that I had seen two nights previously.  Clearly the lake spray was effecting the viewing conditions, but more importantly, what the fuck was the moon doing over Two Rivers??

See, from where I was positioned Two Rivers is north.  As such shouldn’t the moon have risen east?  You know….out over the lake?  I was very confused.  Fortunately the moon wasn’t very high and Two Rivers was only a 4-minute drive.  So what to do?  I was out of position, it was windy and I was annoyed.  Regardless I packed up and rushed into Two Rivers and headed to the Neshota Park, which is a beach park and where I thought I might find an uninterrupted view of the rising moon.

Mission accomplished!  I arrive at the park and note that there is a view of the rising moon.  Granted, the orange glow has receeded a fair bit and I’ve run into a group of three heavily intoxicated local rednecks.  Joy.  So while I try to avoid the drunken local flavour I yank out the tripod and camera, mount same, aim for the moon and start snapping pics.  Problem.  It’s so damn windy the camera won’t sit still enough to capture a motion-free image.  Like I said…the wind was really coming off the lake like a fiend.  I should have known this was going to happen, but I had this happy-go-lucky attitude of don’t worry – be happy.  I should have put a gun to my head and ended the night right there, but no.  This guy doesn’t learn when he’s beaten so what do I do?  I say to myself “You know Mark.  You shouldn’t let this get you down.  There must be something else in Manitowoc or Two Rivers that you can photograph so this evening isn’t a complete waste.”

What a dumb shit.

My life has been a shining beacon of yes; it can get worse.  A lot worse.  I try some cute little fountains by the Two Rivers municipal building.  Nothing.  I try pics of the car ferry Badger back in Manitowoc.  Nothing.  I try some cars-in-motion pics along Maritime Drive (the road between Two Rivers and Manitowoc).  Nothing.

Disaster.  Debacle.  Death.

Nights like that leave me with the overwhelming urge to hurl my camera, lenses, media cards, batteries, tripod, owner’s manuals, kit bags, lens clothes and everything else I’ve failed to mention into the bin.  However, I’m too stupid to do that either.

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“Liar, liar. Pants on fire” or “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Part II”

Opps. My bad. I lied. It was really quite unintentional. I posted about not being available for about two-weeks, etc., etc., and then I find some pictures I had taken, but hadn’t yet gone through. So I thought about it for a few days.

Do I go through them, convert them to JPEGs and post them or do I wait until I return? Well, if I waited I ran the risk of having more pictures from Wisconsin and then I’d be at it (processing, etc.) for days on end, which didn’t sound particularly tantalizing. As such, I opted to go through them this afternoon even though I’m feeling rather poorly. I guess there are worse things to do when one is feeling low and as editing and such really doesn’t take too much effort it seemed prudent to take care of business now.

I’m actually quite glad I did it now because I get to see things like this:

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And this:

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All which give me the warm and fuzzies. Not to be too self-congratulatory, but I’m rather pleased with all of the pics I uploaded to Flickr. And I found that this time, as compared to so many others, I had far fewer throw-aways when I got home. I hope this means that I’m getting both better at knowing when and how to take the shot as well as becoming more discriminating about what I shoot. But who really knows. I could be back to crap photography in no time…..assuming I’m not still taking crap pictures to begin with!

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen……

While I do not relish the thought of leaving you, my dearest reader (or two), I must take leave of the wonderful world of WP and Flickr for a bit.  My little home-based job requires more than the usual amount of attention for the next five or six days and then I shall be leaving home to visit my grandmother in Wisconsin and then, on my way back home, stop and visit my client in Chicago.

I will undoubtedly be able to visit both WP and Flickr to see what you are busy creating and blogging about, but alas, I will not be posting new blogs or pictures until after I get back around the 26th.  I hope to return with some lovely pics from Wisconsin (and maybe Chicago, but I doubt that as I won’t be there but for a few hours), but you’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, enjoy my group pics (with which I’m quite pleased both aesthetically and as being on-point from my personal experiences for August) and take most excellent care of yourselves because……well…..shucks.  I love you guys.

Say “Hello” To My Little Friend!

Today was simply glorious here. Temps in the low 70’s and very reasonable humidity. It was, to put it mildly, too nice a day not to go outside. That said, I didn’t want to venture to any of my usual haunts and decided it was time to visit someplace new and different. I have, off and on, thought about stopping by another park in our area, the Taylorsville MetroPark park, which runs along a branch/tributary of the Great Miami River (more like the Poor & Pathetic Great Miami Creek).

As I had never been before I wasn’t certain what I would find photography-wise so I elected to instead bring my very handy and pretty compact Canon A630 digital point & shoot camera. This way I didn’t have to drag and hike with my whole kit (which gets heavy quick) and I could consider this virgin hike a recee of sorts. A smart move if I do say so myself…….and I do!

On the whole the hike was nice, but I didn’t really find the place rife with photography options. The woods were particularly pretty today as the sunlight was bright, strong, and not filtered by a dense layer of humidity. This made the green light from the leaves incredibly beautiful as illustrated below.

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But other than that….not really a monumental trip photography-wise. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t manage to shoot a number of images, which I have uploaded to Flickr. For better or worse. I will say that one picture stood out from all the rest…

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Mind you, it took me about five shoots, messing mostly with the camera’s exposure control, to finally arrive at a usable image. All the rest were so completely blown out that you couldn’t really tell anything about the flowers (no detail). Such is the life of the digital point-n-shoot camera though, you know?

Presenting the Canon 580EX II Flash

Yesterday the daughter had over her best friend and the two of them took to Nintendo’s version of Guitar Hero. It was the same old thing……standing there, rather inert, staring at the t.v. screen, while their fingers furiously work the various controls on the ‘guitars’. Boring.

I thought to myself “Let’s liven this up a bit, why don’t we?” and went to the east wing of the mansion and grabbed some of my camera kit: the 40D, the 17-85mm lens and my Canon 580EX II flash/strobe. I tried shooting without the flash unit, but there was simply too much in the way of bright background (being the sliding glass doors and windows) and the girls were all dark. Even bumping up to a higher ISO only resulted in slightly better images, but with too much noise for my taste. So onto the camera goes the flash unit. I’ve mentioned this before, in a prior post, but I really don’t know how to use this thing to its fullest advantage. I mount it to the camera, turn it on and set the camera to full auto mode. Yuch! How boring. But for now it will simply have to do. Instead I continue to practice with bouncing the flash to obtain better results than the typical deer in the headlights look that besets so many flash pictures.

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Overall I’m pleased with the results. Granted, I did have some pics with shadows cast upon the walls or ceiling and they were too harsh (the shadows, not the ceiling or walls) so I deleted them right away. No sense in posting total and complete rubbish on Flickr when I can post semi-rubbish pictures instead, right? 😉

I also found the girls to be less than enthusiastic models. They don’t seem to realize that rock-n-roll is just as much attitude and stage presence as it is music. So can you believe I actually had to show them how to act and then tell them to do so? Really? So hopeless, eh?

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Can you feel how posed is the picture? Clearly neither is going to grow up to either act or play rock-n-roll onstage! But look at Ashley work her axe!

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Striking While the Iron Is Hot!

My last post discussed the problem with laying out plans for some photography fun and then finding that things don’t go necessarily according to plan. This does tend to be my modus operandi though, doesn’t it? But every so often things do work as they are supposed, if not with a bit of effort.

This weekend past was glorious weather-wise. Mid-80’s with lower humidity and no clouds. Good photography weather. So where did I spend my Saturday? In the basement. I needed to perform a major file backup and it required my being around the house for the day so I didn’t get any shooting done on what should have been a great day for photography. While my project continued into Sunday I wasn’t about to allow this situation to persist so I made some very generalized plans and headed out into the wilds that are Dayton, Ohio in the latter part of the afternoon.

While I won’t share with you to where I went first (that will be part of an upcoming blog) I can tell you that I again returned to the Cox Arboretum hoping to get some nice pics of lily pads for a special effect I wanted to try on them. “Them” being the pics, not the lily pads. Unfortunately the ponds at the park were rather devoid of lily pads as evidenced below.

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Alas I returned to a more familiar theme when it comes to the Cox Arboretum: dragonflies! While I very much enjoyed shooting their pictures, upon returning home and viewing the images I realized how rather similar they looked to pics I had shot a few weeks back. Rats. I don’t really mind too much, but it can’t make things particularly interesting for those visiting my Flickr site. But what do I really expect? One dragonfly looks an awful lot like another and the backgrounds are ponds and lily pads and other aquatic grasses. So why wouldn’t the pics all look rather alike? I really need to lighten up on myself, eh? All this said, I did come back with one that looked different and I’m quite pleased by this little revelation. Please to enjoy.

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You may also recall from one of my more recent postings how I was attempting to photograph a particular frog that lives in a stream behind my neighbor’s house and how poorly that attempt went. I haven’t yet returned to try again (and it is my intention to do), but while at the arboretum, busy shooting dragonflies, I happened to look down and into the water near where I was laying on the grass by the pond and what did I find?

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Result! Success! Excellent! I was so pleased. And this little fellow was so cooperative, hardly moving at all while I inched ever closer. I only wish I had a tasty fly to pass on to him for being so cooperative.

The Best Laid Plans…..

I haven’t been photographing as much lately. This isn’t due to any lack of interest on my part, but directly due to the weather here in southwest Ohio. While the daily temperatures haven’t been horrible they are warmer and more humid than I prefer. As such, I have not been going outside and shooting like I should be. So I decided the other day that I should stash the camera kit in the car for a morning so that it might come up to temperature and would venture forth to take pictures and wow everyone at my Flickr site.

Humph.

As usual, timing and Mother Nature incommoded me and I was left with little in the way of presentable results. I had passed over the local dam at the Englewood MetroPark (part of the Five Rivers MetroParks system here in the Dayton, Ohio area) and witnessed a large group of Canadian geese in the Stillwater River just south of the dam’s mouth and near the shore. Not a bad place to shoot some pics of them and with the sun being in the right location I was excited and motivated!

I got home, grabbed my kit (having come up to temp in the garage) and returned to the park. Mind you, it’s not a long hike from the parking area to where they were located, but between the humidity, the temperature (mid-80’s) and having to carry my somewhat heavy kit (including my big glass) and my tripod, it wasn’t exactly a leisurely stroll. So I made the ten minute hike only to find no geese. Nope. The geese were no longer in the river. WTF?

Sure. It had taken me about 40-minutes to get back with my kit and to hike to the spot, but jeez. I walked about and looked for the geese hoping that they may still be around, but just somewhere else, when I finally spotted them out in the fields along the bottom of the south side of the dam. Drat. This wasn’t anywhere near as picturesque as I had been hoping for. In the end I shot a handful of pics, but wasn’t really feeling it, if you know what I mean…..

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As I didn’t see anything else that grabbed my attention I packed up my kit (but with my big glass still attached to the camera) and made my way, dejectedly, to the car. As I came to the parking area I happened to glance to my right and across the Stillwater River and what do I see?

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Deer! My first instinct and response was “Great shit! Deer. Let’s get some photographs quickly!” I put down everything save my camera and lens, raised same and began shooting. Mind you, the deer was about 100-yards away and even with the lens’s Image Stabilization feature I simply couldn’t hold the camera/lens combination still enough to get off a good shot (the clouds had rolled in so I couldn’t push down the aperture and I didn’t want to shoot above 800 ISO). Well one’s first thought would be to break back out the tripod and get busy shooting, but this wasn’t the best answer for two reasons: (1) with the lens’s tripod mounting ring and the camera having on it the vertical grip it is difficult to affix the tripod mounting bracket to the tripod mounting ring and thus requires some extra time to fiddle with, and (2) time was of the essence. If I’ve learned nothing else about photography in the last seven months I have ascertained that timing is critical. If I spend the time to setup the tripod it is quite likely the deer will be gone before I’m done (as Mother Nature is a cruel bitch). So what does a lad do when confronted by this dilemma? Chance that the deer won’t be gone and start setting up the tripod? Shoot free-hand and hope for the best? Or look for an alternative source for a tripod? Let’s look at the latter, shall we?

Tripod In A Pinch

The hole for the threads on the bottom of the lens’s tripod mounting ring fit quite nicely onto the peak of the sign’s support column! Granted, this isn’t the best solution, but it was quick, free and allowed me to snap pics right away, while the deer was still busy enjoying a late afternoon snack of vegetation. I absolutely love it when I find a solution to a vexing problem in such an immediate manner.

There is also a similar story in regards to my attempt to photograph a local frog in a local stream, but really. You already know how the story will run: (1) See frog and want to take it’s picture. (2) Grab kit and head to site. (3) Thanks to my own bumbling and stumbling I disturb frog who hides and doesn’t come back while I stand there, in the stream, for 20-minutes. But at least I got this out of it, which means it wasn’t a total waste.

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