Gender, height, clothing. More or less in that order. Unless they are VERY tall, in which case I will notice that first. Although sometimes, I see people dressed so weirdly, I don’t notice anything else and all I do is keep saying, “OMG why would ANYONE dress like that!”
What three habits do you feel would improve someone’s life?
More money than they need, good health, and a relationship they enjoy.
What takes up too much of your time? Would you stop that if you could?
Blogging and taking pictures. And writing. And processing pictures. And arguing with customer service. Especially the last one. I would give up fighting with customer service in a nanosecond.
My favorite toys
Photo Garry Armstrong
But not writing or taking pictures. I don’t think I’ll ever give either of them up. They’ll have to pry the computer or camera out of my cold, dead hands.
Cookies (biscuits to those elsewhere), pastries, pie or cake? If not, what does your sweet tooth crave?
Not much these days. I like sweets much more when I was younger. I’m as likely to lurk around looking for salty stuff these days.
Gratitude? Are You Happy? If so, why? If not, why not?
If I were healthier, I might be absolutely joyful. Unfortunately, I’m not. I’m okay, though. I bit whiney. I’m managing. But health matters. Take care of yourself!
Back when I was actively learning to ride and then riding as often as I could cough up the money, I also fell off horses. I don’t mean I was bucked off. No, it was the more embarrassing thing. Trying to jump a little tree limb on the path, I was positioned wrong and just fell off. Once, I fell off because a couple of German Shepherds came out of a backyard and did a lot of loud barking and the horse kicked back at them. I slid half off, then hit a tree … and I was down.
I remembered the most important thing for a falling rider: hang onto the reins. If you let go, the horse will go home to his or her barn, leaving you on the trail. You may not even know the way back because it wasn’t uncommon to send people out on the trail alone and when you said: “How do I know where I’m going?” you were told: “The horse knows.”
I was never entirely happy with that answer. Horses love their stables. That’s where the food and the water trough are located. Mostly, they didn’t want to leave it in the first place, so if there’s a shortcut, they will use it. Several times, I had a horse go a couple of hundred feet, make a u-turn and trot joyfully back to the stable.
The horse knew the way. It merely wasn’t the way I wanted to go.
In the course of falling off horses while hanging onto the reins (or if that didn’t work, the stirrup), I damaged the ligaments in my right shoulder. I was young and it only bothered me when the arm was fully extended and the elbow was locked straight, so I figured, “One of these days, I’ll have it repaired.”
It was a simple repair. Other — more urgent — stuff came up through the years. My spine (falling off horses didn’t do my back much good, either) and a growth on my right leg that required a replacement of a big piece of bone and six months on crutches. I became a really good hopper. At 15, hopping was faster than crutches. My mother said I was ruining the carpeting.
Then there was a ruptured ovary from an ignored ovarian cyst … and the next thing I knew, I graduated college and I was having a baby. Then, there was work.
So for all these years, I have had a bad right shoulder. It didn’t get worse over time, but it didn’t get better either.
In November, I bought bird feeders and not long after that, I got a great long lens to take pictures of the birds. All of which has involved holding still with the heavy camera supported mainly by my right arm and trying to stay focused on one small area — the one where I’m sure the birds will show up.
A few weeks ago, that shoulder started to really hurt. Not while I was shooting, but at night when I was trying to sleep. I got a cortisone shot in that shoulder which helped calm it down, but I still have to prop it up on a pillow or the weight of my arm pulls on that old, damaged ligament.
I went to a bone and joint doctor and asked if I could get it fixed. He agreed it needed fixing but as to actually fixing it?
I double and triple checked his opinion and the answer didn’t change. It turns out there really is a finite amount of time during which you can fix broken pieces of yourself. In my case, that ligament had lost its elasticity and of course, arthritis had invaded the joint, so no one wanted to mess with it.
Add to that the number of major surgeries I’ve already had and no doctor wants to mess with me unless it’s a matter of life or death.
The shoulder was damaged while I was in my late teens, so I have had sufficient time to get it fixed. There have been too many other medical emergencies, so it never seemed critical. Now, using a heavier camera and a pretty big lens, that shoulder and I are having a rough time. My right arm really hurts. I have spent the week not taking pictures because my shoulder needs to rest. It’s frustrating and there’s nothing I can do about it … except give it a rest.
About 15 years ago, Garry had his shoulder fixed. Tommy John surgery for you baseball fans and for everyone else, tendons, rotator cuff, ligaments et al. It was a big surgery. His pitching arm went all to hell and I don’t see another Major League Baseball contract in the future. Meanwhile, his other shoulder has punked out too, but no one is willing to fix it. He’s at an age where soft connective tissues don’t heal well. Predictions for the outcome of the surgery aren’t great.
Pieces of us are finite. There’s a limit to how long you can wait to fix something and if you wait too long, oops. I was surprised. I always figured I’d deal with that shoulder “one of these days.”
It was bitterly cold and it snowed. Then, it sleeted. Eventually, it rained, but not so much around here. Mostly here, after the sleet blew through, that was pretty much it.
The ice and snow lay on the ground and the plow came and scraped us clean. Of course, if he hadn’t come, it would have been clear by lunchtime anyway, but what the hell. We’ve got plenty of money to blow, right?
I started to take some pictures, but on blue sky days, the birds are not nearly as interested in our food as they are in the forest because they are getting ready for spring.
The Warblers are back and the Goldfinches are changing to their brighter breeding colors. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Juncos decided to fly north, but with all the good food on the deck, they might just hang around.
And moreover, it has been warm so often, there are live insects in the trees and the woodpeckers are pecking their hearts out. It’s going to be a bad year for the bugs, but I think I vastly increased bird flock will help keep it in check. My ant guy assured me that birds love ants and will eat a lot of them if they get the chance.
We use non-toxic insect killers around here for what I assume are obvious reasons. There are our dogs and all those birds. The Chickadees, Titmouses, the Goldfinches, and Warblers with their long, strong beaks.
And then, I decided to adjust my camera.
Lacking a “real” manual, there are lots of things in the menu — oh so many things in the menu — which say things like: “ADL – OPTION: YES/NO/OFF” without any explanation of what ADL does. I’m at a complete loss, so I leave it on “OFF.” Too many times I’ve changed one setting somewhere and the camera won’t work until I figure out what setting it was and under which sub-menu.
I wound up spending at least half the day setting my camera, then I had to go back and changed some of the things I fixed so the camera would work again. Like it used to, though I did change a few things and whether or not they will change anything, I do not yet know. By the time I finished adjusting the camera, it was too dark to shoot.
I have a few pictures I took before the adjustment, though.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By the time you hit your retirement years, “play with” can take on an alarming tone. The problem is that our taste in fun has not changed, but we have. So even though we used to love formula racing, our aging bodies might not be up to the split-second timing required to handle them.
Some of us collect miniatures or just plain collect. Others of us see for a less perilous path to entertainment, foregoing mountain climbing, NASCAR racing, and deep-sea diving.
Then there are the rest of us who never did that in the first place. We have to give up other things, like powerful hallucinogenic drugs which don’t work well with pacemakers.
Fortunately, there’s a whole world of other stuff to try.
Usually, by the time I call customer service, I’m already mad about something. It’s just the way life is in these crazy days of long hold times, people who speak some other language, but whatever it is, it’s definitely not one you speak.
Last night I went to look at an order I placed on Amazon. It was for a camera. Birthday present for my granddaughter. Believe it or not, she has finally worn out her camera. I offered to get her a new one last year, but she really loved that Canon and couldn’t believe it could ever wear out.
Well, they do wear out. If you read the fine print, every camera has a “designated number of shutter hits.” Usually, it’s somewhere around 150,000 which sounds like a huge amount, but if you take a lot of pictures, over the course of seven or eight years, you can run up some pretty big numbers. A few weeks ago she admitted the camera was slowing down and not delivering like it used to.
I wasn’t surprised. In the olden days, we’d send the camera into the shop and have it rebuilt, but you don’t do that with electronic cameras. When they die of old age, you replace them. In the time since I got that camera — 2011 I think — the Canon DSLR has undergone considerable changes.
In keeping with my understanding of what she really wants as opposed to what I want for her, I knew she wanted the same camera. New. Faster. But basically, the same otherwise. So that’s what I got her.
From the Canon T3, we have moved up to the Canon T6. It is not one of Canon’s top cameras, but that’s what she wants. She has lenses — one for each birthday.
I found a seller on Amazon who had the camera body only, no lens. Just the body, battery, charger, eye-cup, strap with and a full warranty for a good price. I bought it.
And when I went to look at delivery schedules, there was a big “PROBLEM WITH ORDER” showing, but no information about what the problem could possibly be. Since I had already paid for it, it wasn’t money.
There were only two other possibilities. They ran out of the camera and I was supposed to wait for them to restock (no way) — or they realized they needed to raise the price. In fact, they had already charged me $10 more than their list price. I really hate when they do that.
I had a funny feeling they were going to ask me for even more money. I noticed in their new listing, the camera’s price had gone up by more than $50, which made it the same price as every other Canon Rebel T6 camera.
I didn’t have time to wrangle with the seller. Since I hadn’t placed the order directly with Amazon, I understood it was sort of their problem, but also, sort of not.
It was late, maybe two in the morning. I got a customer service woman on chat. I explained this was a gift and I didn’t have time to turn this into an extended issue. I needed to just cancel it, get the money back, and order the camera somewhere else.
I said: “This is a really popular camera and there are tons of them on Amazon and elsewhere. I wasn’t expecting a problem or I’d have ordered sooner.”
Honestly, I forgot to order. I meant to, but I was looking to see where the best deal was and didn’t actually order one until a few days ago. I wasn’t expecting a problem, so I didn’t think it was a problem.
I told her I understood it wasn’t entirely in her control since Amazon was not the seller, but I could not wait a week for them to figure out what to do … and surely there was nothing to prevent me from canceling. They obviously hadn’t shipped it.
She assured me I’d she’d make sure it got canceled and I’d get all my money back. Then she sent me a letter saying “thank you for being so nice.”
No one ever says that to me because usually, I’m not all that nice. But Amazon has been good to me, so I try to be nice in return. They always try to work things out for if they can. Not only did she say thank you, she gave me the secret telephone numbers to get hold of Amazon service directly! That’s like the keys to the kingdom. NO ONE gets those numbers.
Plus a $30 credit — for being nice.
Ultimately, I bought the camera where I usually buy cameras. It cost a little more, but I got the normal zoom, which I knew Kaitlin wanted. It came with a case, a few filters in a nice little case, battery with charger, a good quality SD card, and Corel software.
I spent an extra hundred dollars, but she got a better setup — and I know Adorama will ship it quickly, pack it properly, and provide a real warranty. They have a physical address in New York. I used to shop there years ago when I lived in New York.
I got a new Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ1000 (25 – 400mm). I got it at a good price.
I’m pretty sure it’s a great camera, except it isn’t at all what I thought it would be. I expected it to be pretty much an upgraded version of the DMC FZ300 — which was an upgrade to the FZ200.
But it’s something else and I’m not entirely sure what.
It’s got a whole new plethora of things it can do, most of which I didn’t know cameras could do.
So last night, while “Singing in the Rain” was playing the TV, I was doing what I usually do with a new camera, especially those which come with either none or entirely useless manuals.
I was taking pictures of anything on which I could focus. While exploring the whole focusing issue — which in this camera is significantly more complicated than I’ve ever seen — I found something called “point focus.”
“I wonder,” I said to myself, “What this can do.” So I flicked it on and aimed it at Gibbs who was sitting in the middle of the sofa. This was our living room in television mode. Meaning there’s almost no light except for the TV and two 40-watt lamps at opposite sides of the room.
The computer (I mean camera, but maybe I really mean the camera’s computer) narrowed in Gibb’s nose, enlarged the area, focused and told me it was going silent because dogs don’t like noise. How did it know I was shooting a dog?
I took a few pictures. They came out — well, you tell me. Not bad, considering Gibbs was moving, the light was low, and the lens is only f2.8.
The camera then gave me a little onscreen lecture about — I kid you not — babies, dogs and camera noise — and how you should set your camera on silent when shooting them. Also when you are in a place where you don’t want them to notice you.
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