Out Walking

Last night was the “super moon,” which I didn’t realize, until I went out to take some pictures with the Df and the Tokina 17mm. This morning, on my weekend perambulation, I took the Nikon V1 and the 6.7-13mm lens. Because I am hitting the Pacific Northwest in the near future, I am checking my cameras and lenses. If it weren’t for these cameras, I don’t think I would be “oot and aboot” as much as I am these days.

Last night, I was checking out the newest lens in the stable: the Tokina 17mm f3.5 AT-X Pro. I want a prime wide angle; research came across this one, and I found one on eBay that is very nice. I took this picture (below) with the Df and 17mm, using iso 1600! Turned out pretty good . . . the colors, though enhanced a bit, really did have this gentle glow.

Sunset Along the Trail

This next one is an HDR done from 5 images using the bracketing on the Df. Same lens. Bracketing is super easy to do – it sort of happened by accident, to tell you the truth. The moon is the little blob coming up over the crest of the hill. I really wish I had brought another lens with me to catch it. The moon was coming up while the sun was still going down.

Moonrise

This morning, a friend and I went to the other side of the mountains, just a few miles from our home town. Weird as it sounds, it was the sound of water that we found most attractive. California is in the middle of a drought at present, and since the first of the year, I think we may have had an inch or two or rain (like 5 cm!). Not much. So, the sight and sound of water in a creek is not the norm! Even the trail had a different smell, a bit more damp and not the herby, resinous smell I love along our local trails.

We leave around 7 in the morning, and head out. With hotter weather, it makes sense. It also adds a lot to the photos to be out so early. Here are pictures I took with the Nikon V1 and the Nikon 6.7-13mm lens, pushed a bit (or two much?) with HDR and other post-processing tricks.

The Sun is Up!

The funny thing about California, and the desert, is the temperature ranges which occur. Night can be chill – it was in the low 60s last night – but then it can easily change to over 90 by midday. As a result, you are cold in the shade, and too warm in the sun. We actually saw our breath as we started out along the trail! We were in a canyon, so the sun took its sweet time to lighten up the landscape.

Oak Trees at Sunrise

The contrast of light and shadow is so delightful in the early morning. And so different than the evening. Because we were along the creek, the scrub was dense, and so was the foliage. The light through the leaves was really beautiful. Eventually, we moved away from the creek, and found ourselves in a more typical (to my way of thinking) California landscape in the back country – grasslands and oak trees between scrubby hills.

The Living and the Fallen

A Spot of ShadeThis last one was a welcome spot on the way home . . .

A Look at the Nikon Df – Images

In reading reviews of the Nikon Df, there is a lot of controversy about the camera. Personally, I don’t care, because what any camera does is take pictures. And the quality of the picture will be dependent, in part, on the camera, and, of course, on the photographer.

I like this camera very much. I like the images, I like the way it fits in my hands so easily, and I like the dials and knobs and levers. The LCD on the back of the screen is bright and clear. There are other little things I like too, but first, I want to look at some of the images.

I went to the local botanical garden here where I live. The pictures below were taken with old lenses from the 70s, AI compatible. I also used a Tokina 11-16 DX, but that is for a later entry to IY&B.

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First of all, the picture above is my breakfast this morning – yogurt, strawberries, and pecans. This was shot at iso 4000. Certainly a good reason to use this camera at night!  If you click on it, you can see it full-size – you may need to do it twice to see it at 100%.

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The next few pictures are done using my Elicar 55mm macro lens. This is a lens that is about 40-50 years old and completely manual for focusing. There are complaints that, as a retro styled camera, a split-screen focusing screen should have been included. Maybe. However, I found that the focusing dot and the screen in the viewfinder both work very well together. This bee was shot, handheld, at iso 64 – one of the lower end iso settings – at 1/200 s. Not sure about the f/stop. Click it, too, to see it full size.

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Another one from the Elicar macro lens. Here, iso is also 64; some contrast enhancement done 1/160 sec.

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I like this one a lot. Again, the Elicar 55mm macro, iso 100, 1/100 sec. Enlarge it, and look for the ant on the flower in the right side of the picture. Pretty sharp!

Panorama of the Botanical Garden

This last picture is a panorama of about 8 pictures stitched together. Iso was 50; time varied. All hand-held. Exposure time was about 1/100. This worked quite well with a Vivitar 24mm prime lens from the 70s. I think the f/stop was most likely 6.3 or 8.

A Tale of Change

Pano 1 One thing about taking a photo, it becomes a creative process afterwards using software. When I first began digital photography, it seemed like cheating to post-process an image. However, I soon saw – learned – discovered – whatever – that it really was a way to enhance a mood, convey a feeling, evoke a sense of place.

The picture above is a pano, pieced together using two or three images. This is pretty much how they came out of the camera. Not a lot of dynamic “pop” here – and really, not as colorful as I recall the morning I took these images. Moving on, some changes.  I wanted the clouds and sky to be more visible, and yet an overall softness of color be retained.  Already, a different mood. Pano 1_tonemapped   Below, black and white, probably derived from the picture above.  I like to look at anything I take in color in black and white.  This helps me look for gradation and contrast.  At times, I will set my camera to do all jpgs in black and white, and the raw files in color.  (Cannot do anything further than that, anyway!)  When I chimp, then I see the monochrome.  At times, it’s fun to play a game with myself to guess if the picture will be successful before I take it.  This means analyzing contrast and texture before shooting.  More failures than successes at this time, but it is good training for the eye.  The same can be done to consider what a histogram might look like, too. Pano 1_tonemapped-2 Finally, a bit of HDR and specialized filters in use.  I pushed the image a bit in Photomatix Pro and then moved it into Color Efex Pro 2, and used the detail extractor and ND filter overlays. Toward Mount BoneyThere you have it – a tale of changes.  Each has a different visual quality and emotional or intellectual quality.  Some are more a bit more dreamy, others sharper on the eye and evocative of a season or time.

Listen or Read?

Eyeglasses

Getting older means eyesight changes, and with eyesight changes come some choices.  Do I read a book, and then wait for hours before my eyes can focus at a distance again, or do I listen to a book while I do something else so I don’t have double vision afterwards?

A bit of history:  I am myopic, and have small cataracts.  I live in earthquake country.  I love being able to see.  When one gets older, eye muscles are not as adaptable as they used to be.  I am also extremely picky about my eyes – even with my myopia, I always was able to correct my lenses to 20-15 (or however you write it).  Now I can only get corrections to 20-20.  Not fun.  I also have a macular pucker and oodles of floaters; I see my retinologist every year for stability checks.

So what’s with the “earthquake country” comment?  Well, someone is bound to point out that lasik could solve a lot of problems.  My return is eye surgery?  Are you nuts?  Cutting my eyes?  What if there were an earthquake in the middle of the procedure?????

A bit neurotic, eh?

Audiobooks are a great listen when a great reader tells the tale.  Awful voices, wrong voices, ugly voices, poor cadence when reading, etc., all make for a bad experience, and make a good read not so enjoyable.  However, the downside to audiobooks is all you do is listen.  That is, unless you pick up something to do, or go to the gym, or work out on the elliptical, or go for a walk, or knit, or make dinner and hope you don’t drop you ear buds in the soup or go to the bathroom with the ipod in your pocket and have it fall in the toilet with everything else you have deposited.

I know, I’ve done it.

All alone, audiobooks are not a physically active experience.  Reading a book is a physically active, multi-sensual experience.  Look, read, look at pictures, admire the type font, enjoy the layout, read, turn a page, enjoy the smell of a new book, turn the book around to see what something is, sit, become involved in another world, think about it later.  Can you multi-task when reading?  You bet – but why?

I am reading again, and double-vision be damned.  I miss the experience.  I just wish I didn’t walk like a drunk afterward.

Another Sunday Hike

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Another weekend hike!  This one was a surprise to me – sort of like a kidnap party where you don’t know where you are going to end up.  I get picked up, and off we drive.  I knew we would be going somewhere in the next town over, Simi, but not the specifics.

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We ended up in Tapo Canyon, which leads into the Santa Monica mountains north of the city.  Another dirt road with beautiful oak trees, wild grasses, and little if any poison oak.  About a mile or so in, the flat dirt road gives way to a short, but steep, climb.  No trees, just grassy hills so typical of the southern California landscape.

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The view from the top of the saddle looked into another valley, and down into the one we had just climbed out.  We could have continued, but not wanting to spend the whole morning hiking – or the whole day as who knows where the trail would come out! – we turned around and headed back to the car.

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Downhill is different that up hill, just as in is different than out.  Viewpoints change.  All of this makes for interesting photography opportunities.  For me, the most fun was seeing two different snakes, one short and stripped, another longer and mottled, both scuttling away into the grasses as we came down the hill.  Luckily, no rattlers!

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And this is all part of the art of living, eh?

Art & Life

Contemplation

In my more cynical moments, I am annoyed that I spend time sitting in front of a computer looking at pictures and playing with software.  Who will see them?  Does anyone care?  Even writing these words seems to be a bit of a waste of time.

Years ago, in my younger days, I aspired to be an artist.  The need to earn my keep held me back, but also fostered the question of what is the value of art?  Value implies something which can have a monetary amount attached to it, but on a deeper level it also means merit, worth, esteem and often ethics, principles, standards.  My conclusion was that if it had value to me, then it was art.  No more angst over it, and a very simple answer.

Still, life intervenes.  Things need to be done such as working, taking care of a house, paying bills.  People, too, need to be nurtured; friendships and family relationships are inherently important.  Physical, mental, and spiritual health need attention.  All of these take away from time “doing” or “making” art.  However, there is also the art of living, which is all-encompassing.

LIttle talks with myself in moments of why? are very important.  I expect most of us have these dialogs.  Our inner voices need to be heard, and sometimes the only one who can provide an answer is the voice within, from whatever it is derived.  Perspective helps; hindsight aids.

So, to answer my own question:  The value of the time I spend developing pictures is the value I place on it.  When it pales in value, my focus needs to change to something more satisfying.  Yes, life’s little chores need attending, but they are part of daily rhythms.  Questions like this may also allude to dissatisfaction with solitary activities, or one kind of activity, or sitting rather than being outdoors hiking or gardening or seeing new things or meeting up with friends and family.

Regroup, rethink, and move on!