BRIGHT PICTURES, LOW LIGHT – AGAINST ODDS

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These are two low-light pictures taken with my new f1.4 Leica 25mm lens. So what’s the big deal?

Because for the first time, I had a lens fast enough to shoot pictures in the house, even in dim light. It may not sound like much to you, but it was a big deal for me.

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Against the Odds | Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

TRYING OUT THE NEW CAMERA – PANASONIC LUMIX DMC FZ-300

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: 2016 Week 47


Oddball pictures are pretty much always one of the unintended results of trying out a new camera. You want to see what it will do, so you take all kinds of pictures. Different lens lengths, different light levels. Indoors, outdoors. I wanted to see what this one would do, especially far away and in low light. I can report that I am most pleased. In fact, I am a lot happier than I expected.

Stones along the canal and the little plants that grow in the wall.

Stones that line the canal and the little plants that grow between the rocks.

This is the Panasonic DMC Lumix DMC FZ-300 which is the economy model of this group of Panasonic cameras. It’s got a 25 mm to 600 mm Leica super-zoom lens, and can shoot at f2.8 across its range. It has remarkable stability, even fully extended making ultra long shots of birds and other small objects easier than I’m used to. It can still be difficult to find a small object with a fully extended lens — that’s a given — but if you know where to point the camera, you can get your shot. This camera is a replacement for its predecessor, the FZ200 which died after consuming several batteries in a matter of minutes. Considering recent news about fireballs from exploding batteries, I decided not to push my luck and retire the camera lest it decide to retire me.

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I do not own a long zoom for my Olympus. The longest is a 300 mm equivalent and  at f4-f5.6, it’s kind of slow for low lighting. It has a built in flash, but I’m not fond of flash and almost never use it.

I knew if I want to take pictures of birds this winter, this was the camera I would need — and could more or less afford. I would have happily gotten either of its two higher end brothers, the FZ-1000 and the FZ-2500, both of which have a larger sensors — but they were out of my price range.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-300

The FZ-300 is best of breed in its sensor class and I love the way it handles. It’s balanced, solid, but not heavy. I’ve been using a version of this camera for more than 10 years. It’s my “default camera,” my “grab and go” favorite. Not light or compact but very good.

Sometimes, it makes much more sense to buy the super-zoom camera than try to find a lens that will do the same thing for a system camera. Not only does it make fiscal sense, but frequently, you simply cannot get an equivalent lens … at any price. They don’t exist. If they did, the lens alone would cost easily four times what the camera costs.

Little music box on a narrow window sill

Little music box on a narrow window sill

Since I became more serious about photography, I’ve always kept one camera with a good quality very long zoom lens. Starting with the Canon A series (which Canon discontinued), I found these and have been happy with them. Each one has been an improvement over the previous model and I am grateful that Panasonic has continued to produce them.

Surprisingly high quality pictures with minimum barrel distortion. This is not just any old point and shoot. This is a real camera and yes, it shoots in RAW as well as jpg.

The lid of a tiny, old cache jar. A salt shaker (missing the bottom rubber plug) showing a Norwich Terrier, little glass bottle and a toy car -- on on the narrow sill in the kitchen window

The lid of a tiny, old cache jar. A salt shaker (missing the bottom rubber plug) showing a Norwich Terrier, little glass bottle and a toy car — on the narrow sill in the kitchen window.

Utensils, close up. Smile for the camera, please!

Utensils, close up. Smile for the camera, please!

My kaleidoscope music box. I found it hiding on the back of a shelf and spend two nights cleaning it with q-tips and brushes. It cleaned up nicely and still plays. If you look through the kaleidoscope (which comes out of the clip and you can look at other things through it), it makes a beautiful design. I wish I could attach it to a camera!

My kaleidoscope music box. I found it hiding on the back of a shelf and spend two nights cleaning it with q-tips and brushes. It cleaned up nicely and still plays. If you look through the kaleidoscope (which comes out of the clip and you can look at other things through it), it makes a beautiful design. I wish I could attach it to a camera!

This is me and my new camera, taken, of course, by Garry.

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WHY I LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY

I got my first camera when I was 22. I’m not counting the Brownie camera I inherited from someone when I was a kid. It had a lens that I think was made from the bottom of coke bottle, but was not as sharp. My father took a lot of pictures, all of them awful. My mother painted, but I never saw her pick up a camera. In those days, cameras were either very expensive or junk. Typical, middle class families didn’t usually have “real” cameras, but everyone had a Brownie box camera. The quality of which might be okay or horrible, depending on luck of the draw.

96-Me Young in MaineI had a friend who was a photographer. He even went to a real photography school. I got interested in pictures. Started looking at books of photography. I learned how to process film (though I never learned to like the chemicals) and make prints in a dark room. As I was about to leave on my first vacation to Martha’s Vineyard — before it was “the hot” destination it later became — my friend gave me a camera.

By Dnalor 01 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 at, Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42486209

By Dnalor 01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 at photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

It was an old Praktica with an f2.8 Zeiss lens. No automatic anything. Manual film loading. No light meter. There were three settings: film speed (now ISO), shutter speed, and f-stop. Since the lens was a fixed focal length, telephoto meant running forward for a closeup, and back the other way for a wide-angle view. Agility and speed counted, especially because focusing was manual too.

That trip to Martha’s Vineyard with that first of many 35mm cameras was the beginning of everything. You can read more about it on ALFRED EISENSTADT AND ME.

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I’m amazed my pictures came out at all. But they did. Not only did they come out, they came out amazingly well. From that point on, I was hooked. Throughout the 48 years since then, I’ve stayed hooked on photography. I have a decent eye for casual portraits and landscapes. I’m getting better at other things and modern equipment makes experimenting with various types of pictures easy. Which is good because running back and forth would not work for me these days.

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Even relatively cheap modern cameras have more technology packed in them then the most expensive cameras had “back in the day.” The only thing that has not changed and cannot change (because there are physical laws that apply) are optics. Lenses. Glass. There are properties attached to a lens that are immutable. Optics are. You can’t negotiate them. They are a physical fact.

No camera, no matter how advanced, will ever be better than the lens through which you take the picture. That’s why your phone is not as good as a real camera with a good lens.

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It doesn’t have anything to do with software or any of the bells and whistles modern photographic technology tries to sell you. Bottom line, it’s all about the lens. If you have a good eye and a sharp lens, you’re in business.

I work at photography, but mostly, I play at it. It’s fun. I know many photographers who are better than me. Some of them are not merely a little bit better, but a lot better. I am awestruck by the work they do. Most of them have far better technical skills than me and frequently, better equipment than I can ever hope to afford.

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But I really love taking pictures. Photography has been my hobby my entire adult life. It has saved my sanity when everything else in my life was going horribly wrong.

Of all the hobbies I can think of, it’s the only one for which you will never grow too old. It never gets boring. You can take it with you wherever you go. These days, you can share your pictures with the entire world online. It gives you a reason to get out of the house when you ordinarily wouldn’t bother. It’s a way to be creative without needing a special room or expensive equipment. Because even if all you have is a cell phone, you can always take pictures. A good eye can overcome mediocre technology … and no amount of great equipment or software can make up for a poor eye.

So grab your camera. Go forth and take pictures!

RECHARGING EVERYTHING

Everything — or nearly everything — runs on batteries. Rechargeable batteries. Laptops, tablets, Kindles, cellphone, headphones, cameras, mouses (mice have fur and make squeaky noises, mouses attach to your computer using USB transmission), GPS, clocks, flashlights, remote controls, electric razors, tooth cleaning machines, and a mind-numbing array of other small electronic devices I can’t remember until I need them. Even our bed has a remote control … and it runs on four rechargeable AAA batteries.

Charge!

To keep the world running, I have to charge things that recharge and keep a stack of AAA and AA rechargeable batteries ready to go.

I have never lived in a house that had enough electrical outlets for things like lamps and televisions, but with all these chargers to accommodate, I own big power strips. Everywhere you look, and in many places you would never think to look, in every room, power strips keep the chargers charging and other electrical devices functioning. The strips range from high-end hubs with surge protection to whatever was on sale at Walmart when I needed a power strip. Every strip is as full as the size and shape the chargers allow.

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Power strips are mostly designed by people who don’t use them. I have come to this conclusion based on the stupid design that presumes you will never have anything larger than a lamp plug that needs a socket. Not even a vacuum cleaner cord fits properly, much less a laptop power supply.

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No room is left on either side that would make it possible to fit more than two or three chargers in a strip theoretically designed for half a dozen plugs. There’s no allowance for odd-shaped power supplies that will use half a strip.

I don’t understand why chargers have to be so inconveniently shaped, or why they can never make a 3-pronged plug that will fit into an outlet without a fight. Why do most chargers require that you insert them at the end of the strip. No one ever seems to consider that there are only two “ends” and only one without a cord in the way. There’s some kind of Murphy’s Law that say if you are going to need two wall outlets, both devices will need to be on top or on the bottom.

I have 2 electrical sockets in the bathroom and 3 devices that require electricity. Fortunately, I never use more than one at a time because only one will fit. The other socket is unusable. One charger blocks both outlets. Always.

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I don’t typically notice how dependent we are on batteries until I’m packing for vacation. An entire carry-on is allocated to chargers and batteries and that’s just for stuff we use while we travel: laptops, accessories, Kindles, phone, mouses, etc. I used to pack this stuff carefully. Now I just shove the chargers and wires in a bag and untangle as needed.

If you think our civilization will endure, remember this. In fact, given the scandal of the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries, it’s surprisingly timely.

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Our world depends on electronics and those gadgets are dependent on batteries. All which need to be recharged. From an electrical outlet. Without electricity and batteries, life as we know it would end in about two weeks. A month maximum. After that?

Our society would disintegrate, becoming a jungle in which every person will fight to the death for a working battery.

RECHARGE | THE DAILY POST

EXPERT ON MYSELF

I know a few things. Along the road of life, I’ve done a bit of reading and studying. Like many writers, I’m a generalist. I know about this, that, and the other thing. A good deal about some stuff, a little something about lots of stuff. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge ought to be good for something.

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I’m an expert at just one thing: me. I know my body. The strange way it works. I know what I like. I’m good at knowing what I would like, given an opportunity.

To illustrate my point, this is the story of a lens I bought — and why I’m passing it to another photographer who hopefully will get more use of it than I have. Call this: Photographer, Know Thyself.

In November 2013, I bought the Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I used it once, to shoot a “lighting” at a museum the next month of December.

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That set of photographs are among the best night shots I’ve ever taken. The Panny 20, as it is fondly called, is a sharp, fast prime lens. Slightly wide-angle. Perfect for people who like to do street scenes, especially at night. It was the first lens recommended to me after I got my Olympus PEN E-PL1, I think (not sure) in 2011. Close enough. 

The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive (it’s not cheap now). Especially for me. I was even more broke five years ago than I am today, which is saying something.

Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were fewer lenses available in 4/3 format back then; this one had a great reputation. Except — I didn’t think I’d use it. At 20mm (effective 40mm), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond. It’s not flattering as a portrait lens. Not unflattering, but not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of your friends or dogs.

Dancing in the dark heritage museum

I don’t do much street shooting. Mostly, I shoot landscapes and casual portraits. I didn’t feel this lens would be the one I’d reach for as I headed out the door. I like longer lenses for portraits and wider ones for landscapes.

Eventually, I gave in. I bought it. Used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, ready to go. Always the lens I think I might use, but never do. For “normal,” I use my Olympus f1.8 25mm. If I’m going out and don’t know what I’m going to shoot, I take a camera with a long zoom so I’m ready for whatever pops up. At home, my favorite lenses are the Olympus 12-50mm (macro), the f1.8 45mm, and the f2.8 60mm macro.

What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t. No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to be know what I suits me. I’m not a newbie testing the waters. As a photographer for almost 50 years, I know the types of pictures I take.  I’m not particularly thrilled by “normal” lenses in the 40 to 55mm range. I never was, even back in the dark ages when I was a newbie photographer.

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Unless you’re just starting out in whatever, trust your instincts. Save your money for things you will love. Whether photography equipment, computers, food, clothing, or a vacation … go with your gut. Leroy Jethro Gibbs always does … and we know he is always right.

Where you are concerned, there is no better expert than yourself.

EXPERT | THE DAILY POST

BITS AND PIECES – MUNDANE TUESDAY:

Mundane Monday Challenge #72 : Learn Photography


It has been so ghastly hot outside, I haven’t been going out unless I have no choice. This means I’m finding pictures inside. Surprisingly, there have been quite a few indoor photo ops.

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I’m addicted to pictures of light filtering through things. Leaves, curtains, glass. This isn’t new. I’ve been following light as long as I’ve been taking pictures – 47 years this summer. I got my first “real” camera the summer of 1969, a few weeks after my son was born.

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Today, armed with more than enough cameras and lenses, I’m ready for anything. How come the wrong lens is always on the camera? Why is that?

Is this another Murphy’s Law?

BLACK & WHITE SUNDAY ON MONDAY: OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5

Paula asked us for a black & white picture of a favorite something. There were so many candidates, I wasn’t sure where to start to find a picture to fit this challenge. Then, I found this picture. I forgot I’d taken it a couple of weeks ago. It was just waiting in my files.

This is my Olympus OM-D E-M5 fitted with an Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ Zoom lens with the macro setting.

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I have had many cameras over the years. I also have two other excellent Olympus PEN cameras, but this camera is special. With it, I have had the joy of falling in love with photography again. At first, the camera seemed a bit daunting, but it each time I use it (and I use it often), I love it more.

Why is it my favorite? How can you explain love? It’s ineffable. The way it feels. Its balance. The quality of the pictures. Sometimes, I just hold it because I love having it in my hands.

Love is not entirely rational. I haven’t felt this way about any camera in a many years.


Black & White Sunday: Favourite