BEING AN EXPERT ON ME – Marilyn Armstrong

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 something about this, that, and a bit about that other thing. A lot about a few things, less about other stuff — and I’ve forgotten more than I currently know. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge needs to be good for something.

Heritage Lights 13

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, too.

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 in 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. That was many Olympus cameras ago, but the lenses still fit because the format has not changed. I think that was in 2011. Maybe 2010. 

The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive. No free now, but a lot less expensive because so many more lenses have come on the market. It was especially costly for me. I was much more broke six — almost seven –years ago than I am now, which is saying something.

Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were many 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 (effectively 40mm in 35mm terminology), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond.

It’s unflattering as a portrait lens. Not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of 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 to the pressure. I bought it.

I used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, always 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 (with the macro button, though it’s not “true” macro), the f1.8 45mm for portraits.

Let me not forget the f2.8 60mm macro which I use to take most closeup flower shots — and my 100 – 300 Panasonic zoom which is my birding lens. It is a great birding lens. When I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it (it is the most expensive lens I own), everyone said it was perfect for shooting birds. Which is what I wanted it for. I am not alone in the bird shooting department.

What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t.

Red capped woodpecker

No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to know what suits me. As a photographer for so many 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.

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 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.

I AM MY CAMERA – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Camera

Ever since I got a couple of bird feeders, I feel like I really am a camera. Because almost the entire east side of this house is windows — and that’s where I’ve put the feeders — the first thing I look for when I open my eyes in the morning are birds.

When I walk to the kitchen to click on the coffee, there are birds. Flocks of them, regardless of the weather. Apparently, birds get hungry even in the rain. Even hungrier when it’s particularly cold.

My little Chickadee
A very fat Slate-colored Junco. I’m amazed he can still fly!

The east end of my dining room table has three cameras lined up on it. I don’t even put the lens caps on them because when you are shooting wild birds, you shoot now or that shot may never come again.

I keep intending to not take any pictures this morning. I’ve got things to do. Stories to write. And all of the pictures I took yesterday still waiting to be processed and turned into a post or story.

Three American Goldfinches unless they are Magnolia Warblers. It takes a lot longer to write about birds when you first have to figure out which bird you are discussing — and so many of them look so much the same!

But there are the birds and there are the cameras and there am I, so … I shoot.

Nuthatch sharing the feeder with a Goldfinch

Yesterday, my new bird field guide came in. I had begun to realize that my book was out of date when I was seeing birds that, according to my guide, don’t live here.

I finally bothered to look at the publication date on my Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds and realized it was 1979.

Magnolia Warbler

There have been a few updates since then, the most recent in 2010. I found a used copy (it looks new to me!) and it arrived yesterday.

Philadelphia Vireo? Looks like it (and they are certainly common enough) … but a lot more yellow than shown in the guide. It turns out all birds do not look exactly like the guide’s picture.

I’ve been mesmerized ever since. Phooey on politics. The hell with the news. Pass the camera and I will take bird pictures.

Hello Tufted Titmouse

Mind you when I’m done with the birds, the news is still waiting for me. There’s no escaping it, but at least for however many hours I’m spending processing photographs and trying to figure out which warbler I’m looking at, I’m at peace. I didn’t get the feeders to buy me peace of mind, but oddly enough, that’s exactly what I am getting from them.

Not quite as fat Slate-colored Junco

Just a little bit of peace and the joy of watching things on wings chomping up sunflower seeds, flax, and bits of corn.

I really am a camera.

A LITTLE BIT OF MACRO GOES A LONGISH WAY

FOCUS


Garry has a lot of trouble getting very close to things, then shooting them. With a camera.

I’m pretty sure this has something to do with more than 40 years in film and videotape where getting too close was unflattering and unless the camera had the right lens, blurry.

Yesterday, we spent a little time working on getting close to flowers and shooting tight with a macro lens. He got the message, but I’m not sure he is quite ready for that level of intimacy with anything in a lens.

While teaching him how to use the macro feature on the 12-50 mm Olympus lens, I got some pictures of Garry, too.

LINES AND CREASES – RICH PASCHALL

Faded Photographs –

by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


People still collect them.  Perhaps not as ardently as they once did, but they still get them.  They order them online.  They print them at home. They might even go to the store to order them.  There is something about having it in your hand that beats looking at it on your phone or even your desk top computer.  At one time, taking your film to be developed and having pictures printed was a big thing.  A really big thing.

I guess there are still stores that specialize in printing pictures, but they are all online shops.  I can download pictures to the drug store and go get prints.  I can take a flash drive to Walgreens where a teenager will print my pictures and might even thank me for coming (okay, probably not the latter).

I have used online services to print vacation pictures in the past, but not so much anymore.  I usually keep them all on SD cards, flash drives and folders on my desktop.  This means I am not likely to find them if I need them in a hurry, unless they are still in my camera or phone.

Despite this drifting away from the printed photographs, I still have plenty of pictures.  I don’t mean hundreds, I mean countless thousands of them.  I know I could probably hold them all on a large flash drive or two, but that is now.  Then we had no other way to enjoy our pictures but to take the film to the photo shop (Fotomat?) and have them developed.

faded photograph

After dropping off a roll or two of film, we would anxiously wait up to a week to find out if we actually captured what we saw in the view finder.  If we really wanted a picture of something we might take more than one shot, but since there was no deleting a bad one and taking another, we would just hope for the best.  Film cost money, and prints cost money too.  There was no buying an SD card and using it over and over.  We had no built-in flash on our cheap cameras so we had to buy one use flash bulbs, flash bars, flash cubes or whatever was in fashion for the camera model we had.

My mother had every type of cheap camera there was over the years.  She used every film format that came along for small “pocket” cameras.  There was 110 and 126 film.  There were film discs, a short-lived idea.  There were cameras that had to be wound and others with auto advance.  When the camera broke, we would get another.  For a while there was even a Polaroid camera for the joy of instant prints.  The joy faded quickly, like the prints themselves.

When my mother passed away, we found a camera that had 126 film in it and most of the shots had been taken.  There is no telling how many years the film was in the camera.  It is a good bet she had not used the camera in 15 years, perhaps much longer since she had an odd collection of cheap, working cameras.  I could never find anyone to develop that film, and I do not live in a remote location!  I am sure there is someone who would do it, but I doubt it was worth the money it would probably take to get it done.  Perhaps it is washed out by now anyway.

Still, we have countless pictures from my mother.  The number tailed off at the beginning of the century.  A stroke in 2003 put an end to the picture-taking hobby.  By then, she had boxes and bags full of pictures.  Many were in the photo envelopes you got back from the developer.  Fortunately, most of those were dated.  If the date was summer but they were Christmas pictures, then they were from the previous Christmas.  Mom was not too quick about getting to the Photo shop or Osco Drug to get them developed.  Was the joy in just going around family events with a camera in hand?

Mom in early 1920s

In the year that followed my mother’s death at the age of 88, I spent a lot of time shipping off hundreds of pictures to my brother, sometimes in frames, and organizing the rest into bags.  There are the 1920’s and 1930’s, clearly taken by someone else.  The 1940’s were not a particularly big collection, but the decades that followed contained many pictures.  Despite the ones my brother now has, I am left with more than I could count.  What to do with all these pictures?

Mom (left) and sister, circa 1950

The months organizing them into decades and shipping some off was all the nostalgia I needed from this group.  I doubt seriously I will ever haul them out of the closet to look at them again.  In whatever years I have left on the planet, I can not imagine spending time gazing at these memories, especially since some are best forgotten.  But I could not imagine dumping them either.  What would you do with thousands of prints?

After contemplating the matter for a while I realized that the parents of my living cousins are in many of these pictures.  Many faded photographs may be welcome at the home of these first and second cousins for the memories they contain, even if they are “covered now in lines and creases.”

PARTY PHOTOGRAPHY – NOTHING TO SHOOT?

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Parties are where they invite you to take pictures but don’t make it easy. Cluttered locations, poor light, too many folks in tight spaces. I hate battling crowds under any circumstances, but especially when I’m shooting.

So, there I am. At a party. I know one or two people (maybe), and I have to take some pictures. Who are these people? Unless it’s my party … and we don’t give parties anymore … I hope someone will come by to tell me who should be in the pictures.

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Looking around. People are talking in groups. Eating. A few laughing. Some loners. People talking in pairs, in groups.

M's 60th-058

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Mostly of the other cameras are big ones, Canon and Nikon. I’ve got the funny little camera, my Pentax Q S1 with its lenses, plus extra batteries and accessories. It weighs less than a standard point-and-shoot. They sneer, but I don’t care.

Kaitlin 15th birthday

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Parties are stressful. Garry can’t hear in crowds and I can’t remember names. You can tell me your name and within a breath, I’ll say, “I’m sorry, what’s your name again?” If it happens more than twice, I’m too embarrassed to ask again. I shoot and hope Garry can identify the people in the shot. Later.

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There’s always a picture somewhere. Somehow. You have to look for it, sometimes very hard, but it’s there. And it’s better than sitting in a corner demolishing the brownies.

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.

ODDER BALLS – WEEK 27 – CEE’S ODDBALL PHOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge – Week 27

Odd Ball Photos are those pictures we take which don’t to fit into a tidy category. This week, I went out to my deck to see what I could find. A few oddities emerged.

A grill thermometer
A grill thermometer
Stone frog sun dial
Stone frog sun-dial
The longer lens - Olympus PEN PL-5
The longer lens – Olympus PEN PL-5