VERY CLOSE – THE WORDPRESS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE

Macro fuchsia on the rail

A more perfect challenge could not have been arranged for today. Especially in view of my working for the past few weeks almost exclusively with my dearly beloved macro lens.

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I could not select a single picture, so I’m including a bit of everything from the past few weeks of macro shooting. It is mostly flowers, but also, a few other little things are included, just for variety.

late afternoon bouquet

All these pictures were taken using the Olympus f2.8 60mm macro lens on the Olympus PEN PL-6.

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A word about the Olympus PEN PL-6. Olympus dropped it into the market with no warning at a hard-to-resist price of $299. It is the Japanese version of the PL-7. I have made every comparison I can.

green bug on fuchsia macro

I can’t find any difference between the two cameras. The PL-6 was available for about a week. I bought one and it has become the home of the macro lens. You can’t get a PL-6 at any price now, not on any site, including Olympus or Amazon.

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I have no idea why Olympus dropped them into the market like that, then made them disappear. I’m grateful I was on the ball and able to snag one while it was hot!

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I can’t begin to say how much I’m enjoying this lens and camera. It is so satisfying, I find it hard to remember how I took closeup pictures before I owned it.

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PHOTO TECHNO CRISIS

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I was playing with a camera this morning, trying to capture flowers in the morning light. In the middle of this artistic endeavor, I had a minor, yet memorable techno-crisis. It is a classic example of the kind of problems that beset us because of the technology on which we depend.

I’ve been taking pictures for more than 40 years. I know my way around a camera.

My first cameras were mechanical. Film. I took a lot of rolls of black and white because I could develop black and white film. A lot cheaper than sending it out to a lab. I also did my own printing, mounting, and framing, though I’ve completely forgotten how.

Olympus PEN PL-5

The only electronic part of those film cameras might be the light meter. My first half-dozen cameras didn’t have built-in light meters, so I used a Weston Master V. It was a standard part of my equipment for years. If I forgot it, the piece of paper that came with Kodak film was a pretty good substitute. We affectionately called it “the paper light meter.”

A while back, I bought a handheld meter almost exactly like the one I used for so many years — and realized I had no idea what to do with it. It has been a long time.

Pentax Q7 plus lenses camera

Cameras might break and need repair, cleaning, or adjustment, but basically, there wasn’t much to go wrong. As long as you didn’t drop it, soak it in salt water, or spill coffee in it, it could last forever. To prove my point, there are a surprising number of these old film cameras still in use.

There weren’t many moving parts: shutter, film winding mechanism. You set film speed (ISO), shutter speed, f-stop. Aim, frame, focus, press the shutter. Voila. Photograph.

Today, my camera wakes me in the morning and starts the coffee. If I ask nicely, it will do the grocery shopping, though it draws the line at laundry. Not really. But close enough.

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If something goes wrong, it’s crazy time.

This morning, I removed the lens cap and turned the camera on. I unlocked the lens. The menu came on, but no picture appeared. Flashing on the screen was something I’d never seen before. Without a clue what it meant, I double-checked to make sure I really had removed the lens cap. I had.

So I did what I do with my computer. I rebooted. I turned it off, waited, then turned it back on.

More flashing. No picture.

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I removed the battery and the memory card, counted to twenty. Put them back. Still flashing. Still no picture.

By now, I was in full panic mode. My camera wasn’t working. Fear gripped me. Eventually, it occurred to me to check whether or not the lens was properly seated.

Click. The flashing stopped. A picture appeared. The lens had been loose. I must have accidentally pressed the lens release button, so it wasn’t quite locked. Ergo ipso, the camera wouldn’t work.

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With all the ridiculous, useless functions built into modern cameras, how come they don’t have anything that alerts you that the lens is loose? Or for that matter, that your battery is about to die? The next time someone is adding bells and whistles to the software, please consider adding something useful. If necessary, remove one of the many pointless menu options and add something we might use.

I felt like a moron. Then, I took some pictures.

ONE FLOWER AT A TIME

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In my continuing exploration of the wonders of my macro lens, I find myself focusing on flowers. I want to take macros of other things, but … well … nothing else looks quite as good very close up as flowers.

mixed bouquet macro deck flowers

Today, I took my latest bouquet from my beloved outside to shoot in natural bright shade on the deck. Because a macro lens is hard to focus in any light, but it’s a real bear when the lights are down low. What helps is more light and more contrast.

Lines and shadows cut the effort required to focus really close in half. Shooting a little further back helps even more.

Frog Sundial Portrait

This was a very mixed bouquet. Lots of different colors and textures. I experimented a little with adding texture to make it more painterly.

water runoff from flowers deck

Everything was taken with the Olympus PEN PL-6 and the f 2.8 60 mm macro lens.

TOO MUCH TECH

I went to the dentist. Discovered I’m not (no longer?) dying of infection (antibiotics), but I need a $1200 crown. If I plan to keep the tooth, that is.

Olympus PEN PL-5

At which point, I noticed how lovely was the late afternoon sun. Trying to forget about dental issues, I grabbed my camera to snap a few pictures.

My camera had lost its date and forgotten how to focus. And was making double and triple exposures. I was sure it was not broken, that I had inadvertently pressed something. Clicked something. Turned a dial and changed a setting. Lacking a viable manual, I’d have to go through every menu, setting by setting, until I figured out what happened.

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Every year, cameras have more settings. More menus, bells, and whistles we don’t need and probably don’t understand. Extra techno junk is no problem when everything is working as it should, but if it  goes wrong, I’m lost in technological la-la land.

One accidental pressing of a button, a glancing touch on a dial and your camera is a useless hunk of metal.

Unable to figure out what happened, I reset the camera to its default settings. After which, it was fine. I’ll never know what happened. Just one of those things.

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Did the memory card go belly up? Was it me? Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve unset, or reset something without knowing what or how. Each time it happens, whether it’s a camera, software (Photoshop is particularly prone to going weird), or the computer itself … it makes me crazy. It requires a lot of deep breathing and mumbling to myself to straighten out the mess.

People say “extra bells and whistles” do no harm. I think they are tiny electronic land mines waiting for the unwary to step on them. Not that anyone listens to me, but I would love it if whoever you are, don’t add things, change things, complicate everything because you can. Not a good enough reason.

Stop fixing what isn’t broken. If you can’t improve it really, whatever “it” is, leave it be. And make dental work affordable.

FUCHSIA AND CHRYSANTHEMUM – A TALE OF TWO LENSES

This is the time of month when I go through all the memory cards in my cameras. I look at each one to see if there are any pictures I have forgotten to download. I don’t miss much, but this month I found quite a few pictures I’d forgotten.

The pictures of the fuchsia were the first pictures I took using my macro lens. I was still figuring out how to find my focus. I’m still figuring it out.

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I took most (but not all) of these from further away then later pictures. Minimal processing. For reasons I’m sure someone who has a better understanding of optics could explain to me, macro pictures intensify grain and distortion.

yellow chrysanthemum OIL

Therefore, aside from a bit of cropping and sharpening, these are as they came out of the lens. I didn’t mess with the lighting, contrast, or color because less is more with my macro lens. All shot with the Olympus PEN PL-5 and the Olympus f2.8 60mm macro lens.

The chrysanthemum is my bouquet of the week from my dashing husband. I did not use my macro lens because I was shooting the house. The light is pretty dim, so I used my f1.8 45mm portrait lens. Sometimes, that extra stop makes all the difference.

Again, very little processing, mostly because the pictures didn’t need it. With one exception, they were reasonably sharp. The color was true. I cropped more than I do using the macro, probably because there was more to crop.

Everything shot with the aforementioned Olympus f1.8 45mm lens on the Olympus PEN PL-6.

SUMMER FROM THE DECK THROUGH A LONGER LENS

I have wanted to get a long lens for my Olympus cameras for quite a while. I have had the Olympus f4 40-140mm lens for years. I got it as part of a kit, but never enjoyed it. I don’t know why I don’t like it, but I don’t. The pictures come out well enough, but it’s not fun to use.

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Finally, I gave in and bought the Panasonic 45-150 mm. Like the Olympus lens, it is slow (f4) which makes it useful only outdoors. But it is smoother, focuses more crisply, and has — to my eyes — a more attractive bokeh.

Here is early summer from the deck. Through the long lens, on a bright June afternoon.