PHOTOGRAPHS AND CAMERAS WITH PEOPLE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Any Camera or Photographer


Photographs: Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

Using these cameras, we took a few pictures.


FROM GARRY:

Marilyn discovers she needs a new battery.

Marilyn discovers she needs a new battery.

And in goes the battery.

FROM MARILYN:


Today, we were out in the world taking pictures. Two young woman, one with a camera, are out taking pictures for whatever is about to come next in their world. I used a “neutralizing” format for the two “almost color” pictures.

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Cee's Black & White Photo Challenge Badge

RICH AND JUICY, YUM

Yesterday night,  I had no photographic software. But as I lay abed pondering the irrationality of life, technology, and all that … I realized I own Photoshop CS5. Not only do I own it, but without getting complicated, I really own it. Hugely. Maybe even bigly.

Bonnie, always number one

Bonnie, always number one

There wasn’t a whole lot of difference between PS5 and PS6. Nothing so big you’d simply need to own it. These days, I use more filters than the stuff in Photoshop. I use its straightener and change the size of things. I use the rotator and the basic size. I also use the text and sometimes, the various layers when I want to do something — different.

For most pictures, I use Photoshop so I can work with filters.

I’m also very fond of Bridge. It doesn’t get crazy dumping all 59,749 photographs into it. It just does it. I have them backed up. There are another 40,000 (give or take) that aren’t even on the drive because I thought probably, I could live without them.

Gibbs, my go-to subject

Gibbs, my go-to subject

The final issue, since yesterday’s blow out left me with nothing that will work in either of the C (Thunderbolt) ports, is whether the pictures would show up. They showed up. Ready to go, boss.

Considering the horror of yesterday, this was a simple, elegant sit down. Me, with my software gathered about me on the sofa. I made it happen. I did it.

DAILY PROMPT | JUICY AND RICH

SHARING MY WORLD – NEW YEAR’S DAY 2017

Share Your World – 2016 Week 52


What’s your favorite ice-cream flavor?

Vanilla. I love the taste and smell of vanilla. Especially fresh vanilla. We also drink vanilla coffee in the morning.

If you were to treat yourself to the “finer things” what would you treat yourself to? 

I’d love to have some stuff done to upgrade the house and I would get someone in once a month to clean. But otherwise? Life is good. Of course, I’m always up for a new camera and lenses.

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Have you ever been drunk?

Is there anyone who has never been drunk? I am the world’s cheapest drunk. Half a glass of wine will put me under the table and a whole drink with real booze? Call 911 — you’ll need a gurney.

I have never been a big drinker. If I had been a social drinker, watching the havoc alcohol has wreaked among people I love would certainly have ended that. Most of the heavy drinkers in my world are either already dead — with booze being one of the reasons why they are no longer with us — or they have rehabbed, dried out, and gone on the wagon.

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Alcoholics Anonymous is a wonderful organization. It continues to quietly save lives without government support or big fundraising campaigns. If someone you know is drunk more than they are sober, try to get them help before they die of alcohol-related illness.

Complete this sentence: My favorite supposedly guilty pleasure is… 

Expensive equipment. I love computers and cameras. My taste exceeds my budget many times over. My best defense has always been to watch for sales … and buy good, used camera equipment. I may be a generation behind, but camera technology doesn’t change dramatically from model year to model year.

They are always coming out with some sexy new camera that I’d love to wrap my paws around, but I can’t do that. So I wait and I watch the market and when I see a bargain, I grab it.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m hankering for the next generation of the Olympus OM-D … or the new Olympus Pen F. When prices drop, I’ll be waiting.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I’m grateful the holidays are ending along with what has been a politically traumatic year. It hasn’t been an entirely bad year, otherwise. It started out in Arizona — which was great — and I managed to get through the entire year without major surgery, serious illness, or a single hospital incarceration. Getting older is a bummer, but the alternative is even less attractive.

I am hoping that 2017 will be better than I expect. I’m very unhappy with the way the world is going, so my fondest hope is that it won’t be as bad as I fear. With my expectations set very low, it would be difficult to disappointment me.

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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!

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

WHICH WAY AT THE RIVER – CEE’S WHICH WAY CHALLENGE

CEE’S WHICH WAY PHOTO CHALLENGE


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And so, with the temperature back in the comfortable range, Garry and I took our cameras and went down to where the Blackstone Canal and river separate.

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This is a favorite place to shoot and I have a lot of pictures taken here. It is always beautiful, no matter what the season, but it is spectacular in the fall. Which is coming. Soon.

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The sun was very bright. I was reminded how difficult it can be to shoot in extremely bright sunshine. Until summer’s over, we need to shoot earlier or later, but not when the sun is directly overhead.

There are a lot of ways in this little park by the dam across the Mumford River

There are a lot of ways in this little park by the dam across the Mumford River

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The park along the Mumford in the middle of town offers some excellent “which way” image options. Two staircases, paths, a river, pond, canal, two dams, and no fewer than three bridges..

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And then, it was time to go home.

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Home again.

Cee which way photo challenge