SUNNY DAY BY THE POND WITH A PANASONIC DMC-FZ60

PanasonicDMCFZ60It was a beautiful day. As nice as weather gets in this part of the country. I had a new camera to play with, the Panasonic DMC-FZ60. It’s not really new. It has it been around for a year or so, but it’s new for me. There’s a newer version – Panasonic DMC-FZ70 — bigger, heavier, lots more bells and whistles, including RAW capability which I never use. This was new to me and a pretty nice camera it turned out to be.

It’s bigger than any of the cameras I’d tried before, more the size cameras used to be. Not a compact. Nice heft to it.

This is not a camera you can put in a pocket unless you are the Jolly Green Giant in overalls. It’s got a heck of a lens. I liked it better than the dainty little point and shoot cameras. They always feel a bit too small for my hands.

Among other admirable qualities, the lens goes from 25 to 600 mm … great when you are expecting to shoot water fowl across a big pond. It also turned out to be noticeably faster focusing extended than other super zooms I’ve used. None of the super zooms are exactly easy to focus extended, but this was easier than others I’ve used … a good choice on a day when we had no idea where or what we were going to shoot.

Marilyn is more inclined to swap lenses or cameras. She thought I might like this one and I did.

We went to find the swans, but they were nowhere in evidence. Instead, we discovered an unusual dam at the southern end of Whitins Pond.

I got some nice pictures. I would have gotten more, but the shoot ended abruptly when Marilyn fell face first in the parking lot. We left a lot of blood evidence behind and I’m sure my fingerprints are all over the scene … something she keeps pointing out as she limps around the house.

Who said photography isn’t a contact sport?

Beep, ding, whirr, ping, buzz …

It’s the little things that trigger epiphanies. Those tiny moments of recognition that make me say “Oh! I see!”

A few days ago, I took my Canon S100 out of my shoulder bag where it lives. I’m very careful with my cameras. When I’m shooting, I’m so focused that unless I adhere to a strict routine, I lose stuff. As I’ve gotten older, I lose stuff anyway and I don’t want to lose any cameras, so I follow my checklist to make sure that no camera or accessory gets left behind. I pull the camera out of my bag, stuff its sleeve in my pocket, take my pictures, and put it all back. When I get home, I pop the SD card out, plug it into the computer, download the pictures, clear the card and return it to the camera. Back into my bag it goes. I know if I keep to the program, I will always have a camera near at hand. For some reason, the last time I used it, I didn’t put the S100 away and left it next to the monitor. I’m sure I had a reason, though I can’t recall what it was.

I forgot it until last night when I picked my bag and noticed how light it felt. What was missing? Ah, the camera.

“Hmm,” I said. “I didn’t realize that little camera adds so much heft to my bag.”

It was late. I was on my way to bed, but stopped in my office to collect the cordless phone to return it to its cradle in the bedroom. I noticed the camera lying on the desk. I picked up the camera and thought “Gee, I should swap the battery and charge this one. I’ve been using it a lot.” I have quite a few spare batteries. There is nothing that will ruin a shoot more completely than having a battery die in the middle and not having a replacement with you.

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I popped the battery out and went to put it in the charger. I looked at my power strip. Six chargers. Impressive for a strip that only has 6 plugs.

This being a Canon battery, I tried putting it in the first Canon charger on the strip. It didn’t fit. I tried the next but it didn’t fit there either, which shouldn’t have surprised me because it was Panasonic and this was a Canon battery, but who can read black lettering on a black charger in dim light anyhow?

There was one charger in the strip I hadn’t tried. Unsurprisingly, the battery popped right into place. I looked around and realized I have two more Olympus chargers nearby and an off brand charger whose purpose I do not recall. The chargers in this group each attach to one arm of an octopus splitter. With a wrinkle of concern, I realized I had another little camera on the way and no room for a charger. I was going to have to add another strip. I wondered where I could possibly put it. Things are getting crowded in the electrical part of the office.

Epiphany.  Bong. Whack.

I have a lot of cameras, computers, tablets, readers, telephones, printers, transmitters, routers, modems, Roku, DVD players and music making thingies. I don’t even know how many there are. I don’t even know where I’ve put them all. Or if they work. They have accumulated while my back was turned. There are all the old ones I used until I got newer ones. Then there are the back ups I never use, but have in case a piece of equipment fails. Spare telephones, extra cameras. Even a couple of miscellaneous computers.

Everything uses batteries including items that plug into a socket somewhere and most things seem to need a WiFi feed. No room is exempt, from kitchen to bedroom. We have electronic toothbrushes in our bathrooms. After even the briefest power outage, my entire house starts blinking.

Night is lit up by the soft glow of red, blue and green LEDs. It’s never fully dark or entirely silent. Everything flickers, whirrs and buzzes, beeps and dings. The telephones variously whoop, bong or play obnoxiously loud music. Even my wallpaper (the stuff on the computer, not the walls in the kitchen) makes splashing sounds as my virtual dolphins leap in an electronic sea.

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My universe collapses in the face of a power outage. Nothing works if the power’s down. I am slavishly devoted to technology and the thought of having no electricity for even a brief period makes me shiver with dread.

Everyone these days seems to have a vast quantity of electronic gadgetry, no matter what they say because nothing is simple anymore. The microwave, the refrigerator, the range and the oven are computerized. Those are merely the basics.

I had to reboot my bed the other day.

I may not in theory need so much stuff, but I can’t imagine giving anything up.  I love it all. I even love the things I don’t use, cell phones that served me well and obsolete computers or cameras which have been replaced by newer models. They are my Hall of Fame collection.

Accumulation will never stop. Garry’s new computer is on the way and who knows how many peripheral items it will spawn.

I swear this has all crept up on me, slipped into my life a gadget at a time — a computer, a modem, a router, a laptop, another computer another and another. New cameras replaced old ones and they were themselves replaced by even newer gear. New gadgets were invented and became indispensable. As technology continues to evolve, each piece of equipment will be replaced eventually by newer versions. Like virtual seasons in an endless cycle of beeping, flashing and whirring change.

Excuse me. My oven is beeping. Dinner must be ready.

Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood — Roxbury in Boston

I carry a small point and shoot with me all the time and most of my pictures end up being taken with this camera — the Canon PowerShot S100 — rather than my larger, more complicated and expensive system camera. I guess it’s ironic. My little Canon cost less than a single lens in the larger system. It weighs almost nothing and takes up no more room than a cell phone.

We lived in Roxbury for more than a decade, only leaving when the construction of The Big Dig made living there untenable. I still think of it as home, along with the entire city of Boston. Between Roxbury, Beacon Hill, and Charles River Park, we lived in Boston neighborhoods for a very long time and I always enjoy going back again whenever we have an excuse. These were all taken a few weeks ago when we returned to the old neighborhood for a memorial  event for an old friend who recently passed away. The neighborhood is looking better than it did when we lived there. It’s one of those neighborhoods that is improving. I would stop short of calling it gentrifying. I don’t think the folks who live there want it gentrified. They don’t consider themselves gentry and neither do we.

This is a bit of Roxbury. It was, once upon a time, a city in its own right, but years ago it was absorbed and became a neighborhood within greater Boston. It is almost entirely Black and when I lived there, I was often the only white face in the crowd. Despite that, it was by far the friendliest neighborhood in which I’ve ever lived. We had great neighbors, wonderful block parties, and a sense of community we have never had anywhere else. People in general don’t understand how wonderful these ethnic neighborhoods  can be, how warm and supportive the community is when they consider you one of their own. I still miss it, though I love the country. Each place has its own charms, but Roxbury was a wonderful — and eye-opening — experience.

I do not shoot with my cell phone.  I cannot afford the data package that it would make it practical to use mobile apps for anything other than emergencies and our cell phones are for emergency use. Life is not always a matter of preference. More often than not, you don’t get to decide how you will live. Life hands itself to you and it’s your job to figure out how to make it work.

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Ghost Photographer

Off we went to a party in downtown Boston, at the W Hotel. Out here in central Massachusetts, we have a layer of snow on the ground … but there’s no snow, nor any sign of there having been any snow, in the city. Guess it’s one of those country things.

The husband and I were going to a fundraiser. We don’t have any funds, but Garry is still a recognizable person and we are a presentable couple. We clean up well.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Garry and I knew quite a few people. That people know Garry is not unusual or for that matter, that he knows them. What is rare is when anyone recognizes me. Nice.

Reflections of Me

From a photographic point of view, it was challenging. I had a camera  inadequate to the task. Bad lighting. Flourescent too, so everyone looked green. There was too much light to use the flash most of the time, but not enough light to shoot without flash. It was also crowded; I’m too short to shoot over people.

Which means I took a lot of pictures; I had no idea how they’d look when I put them up on the monitor at home.

Most of my favorites are the ones I thought least likely to succeed. Many that looked good when reviewed in the camera were soft and grainy at home. Or, to put it another way, blurry and noisy.

I’m developing a real love for shooting in the city at night. I love the lights, especially when streets are wet and reflective.

This event was on the third floor of the hotel. Like most modern buildings, it offers no access to the outside except from the ground floor. Usually I won’t shoot through window glass. Reflections, refraction, and good old-fashioned dirt make it impossible to know if you’ve got anything usable. But the view was great. Lights, angles, cars, people and slightly wet pavement. Cool.

If I wanted the shot, it was through glass or not at all.

Focus and Frame

I shot through the glass. When I first saw my reflection in the glass, my immediate instinct was to try to find an angle without my reflection. Then I changed my mind. The image in the glass combined with the view of the street produced a ghost-like self-portrait, an interestingly disembodied me: a ghost photographer in the sky.

Ironically, these are some of the better pictures of me in recent years. Sad but true.

You may notice I’m using my little Canon point and shoot. I take it everywhere because it’s small, light, and if something happened to it, I would not be nearly as upset as I’d be if something happened to my Olympus or one of the lenses.

If the best camera is the one you have with you, then this is my best camera because it’s always with me. I’ll have to think about that.

 

My People, Our City

Reviewing

Reviewing

I’m never in any of the pictures because I’m always the one holding the camera.

Family at the corner

Family at the corner

There were other cameras in the party. Both Kaity and Steph had cameras, Kaity her Canon point and shoot (like mine, but with an even better super-zoom on it) and Steph had her Canon T3-1. But they only took pictures of themselves.

Kaity

Kaity

I did not realize until this excursion how completely self-absorbed teenage girls are. They don’t even take pictures of each other: their goals seem to be to perfect the ability to take a perfect self-portrait that can be posted on Facebook. I think Steph may have taken a couple of pictures of her feet, too.

Cool shoes.

Cool shoes.

Even I took a picture or two of her feet. Cool shoes. If I could still wear heels, I would probably wear these … but these days, if it isn’t soft and comfortable, it doesn’t get anywhere near my tender tootsies. I remember back when I was not much older than Kaity that I wore high heels … very high heels … all the time. When my mother asked me how I could walk in them, I was actually puzzled. They really didn’t bother me. I was fine. I’m glad I wore them while I could, because the days of high heels ended rather abruptly before I was out of my 20s.

Feet. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

Garry bemused

Garry bemused

So that left me to take other pictures. Amidst the many shots of buildings and alleys and pillars, I managed to catch a few portraits and moments of joy in our Christmas trip to the Boston Pops.

Garry

Garry

I sometimes forget how entirely different it is taking pictures of people out on an excursion as opposed to at a party or organized event. If you want candid shots, you can’t give instructions, tell them to move together. And there are all the other people roaming around, their heads and other body parts showing up at the strange angles.

The Girls

The Girls

Serendipity – The Swans Are Back

So today, I took serendipitous photographs of swans on an unnamed pond on the road whose name I don’t know. The road runs between Uxbridge, through Northbridge and Whitinsville, past the old mill and the High School through Webster. I’ve never taken it to its end, which may be somewhere in Connecticut.

Along the way, there were swans on the pond and I took some pictures.

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Probably 75% of my best photographs are captured when I am not actively looking for pictures. On some level, I suppose I’m always looking for pictures and that’s why I keep a camera with me wherever I go. However, I also go shooting on planned photo expeditions to specific locations that I know will yield something attractive. This wasn’t one of those times. It was just a nice day, the best of autumn already passed, but with enough lingering color to make pretty reflections on water.

I carry a compact Canon point and shoot with a versatile and moderately high-quality lens. It’s light and small. I keep it in a little protective padded pouch and carry an extra battery because Canon P&S cameras are notorious battery hogs. I know there are some terrific point and shoot cameras that are as good as any other camera, but I can’t afford something that expensive. I do the best I can with what I have and what I can afford. I wish I were brave enough to carry my better Olympus PEN E-P3 with me all the time, but it’s just a little to expensive for me to feel comfortable dumping it in my purse and just schlepping it wherever I go.

Today was a runaround day. A trip to the doctor, and then a trip to IParty to try to find a Halloween costume for the granddaughter, but it was $50 and the same thing was only $20 at Walmart. PetSmart didn’t have the biscuits we normally buy. So back into the car to go to the Walmart near home. I didn’t take the fast way. I don’t know why. Maybe, subconsciously, I thought taking the slower road might just yield something unexpected. It did.

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Along this road, which is bordered on both sides by ponds that all feed from the Blackstone or Mumford Rivers, there are several rebuilt mills … and the pond where the swans seem to congregate. As we were passing, I saw them. A whole flotilla. I wondered if they were the same swans that were teenagers last year, but I did a quick right into a parking area and took pictures. They were pretty far off, so I had to use the lens almost fully extended … and that degraded the quality of the photographs. I played around in Photoshop with a bunch of them to see if I could get some better detail in the white swan feathers, with mixed results.

It must have been dinnertime in swanville. I have never seen so many swans in one place at one time. There must have been a dozen of them, a few just past adolescence because they still had patches of brown feathers. This pond must be rich in whatever it is that swans like to eat because most of the time, they all looked like floating, white blobs. No heads to be seen as they searched under the water for whatever yummy gunk they enjoy consuming.

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It was serendipity. We were traveling from one shopping area to another, about 25 miles from one point to another, known in these parts are “just around the corner.” I was still laughing at how “not rural” we are as we passed cornfields, ponds, woods, and bucolic scenes of exceptional beauty. I wish I could have stopped in all the places that wanted to be photographed, but not every spot has someplace where I can safely pull the car off the road.

Walmart had just one costume left and we bought it. We went home the fast way, took a quick trip to Mickey D’s drive-through, and got back feeling we’d completed a satisfactory number of errands and even a bit of art. A good day.

Enjoy our swans.

I wonder if any are the same birds who were immature in last year’s photos … or maybe some of this year’s swans are their offspring. I would have asked, but these are mute swans, so I don’t think they’d have give me a coherent response.

The Golden Days Begin With A Dental Checkup

It was a beautiful morning and if I hadn’t had a dentist appointment, it would have been a great day for a photo shoot. I didn’t want to go to the dentist anyhow and if it weren’t for all those reminders from the office on how overdue I am for a check up, I would have happily canceled and wiled the bight hours away in the woods and by the streams.

A tiny waterfall behind the leaves.

As it was, I had the presence of mind to toss the little Canon point and shoot into my rucksack. That’s why I bought it, so I wouldn’t be reduced to trying to use my cell phone. Do not tell me what great pictures I can get with my phone. I don’t care. My phone is not a camera. I have issues with taking pictures using non-camera-shaped objects.

A red barn in Mendon.

I found a long-lost waterfall, waving grasses, a great old red barn. A white farmhouse with a tilted white well. Some color on trees and vines. It’s just the beginning, but I’m hoping this will be a good one. A long autumn, a bright autumn. The last good time before winter closes in again.

All photos taken using the Canon PowerShot SX 260 HR, processed in Photoshop.

And I didn’t have a single cavity!