Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern — Water Lilies

Water Lilies on a small canal

On a small canal by an old mill, tens of thousands of water lilies form a rich tapestry on the dark, smooth surface of the water. Why the lilies so favor this narrow canal above all other water in the area … water lilies not being as common as reeds and other water-loving plants … no one knows. Perhaps it’s a perfect acidity level or it’s lime leaching into the water from the granite lining the waterway, but lilies almost cover the water’s surface.

How come you have so many cameras?

This is a question that every photographer, professional or amateur, periodically asks him or herself … and is inevitably asked by friends, family, and occasionally, complete strangers. My answer is 7, plus the iPhone (on which I’ve never actually taken a picture) and a Coolpix that I don’t like and never use — which I guess totals 9. I am not counting cameras I used to own but gave away … or which I have somewhere in the house, but who knows where?

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The little pocket-sized Canon Powershot S100 is my go everywhere favorite. Light and compact, with a good quality, fast, versatile lens, I carry it in my purse. It is the camera I always have with me so it gets a lot of use, even in situations where another camera would do a better job. This is the camera that embodies the maxim “The best camera is the one you have with you.” Technically, I guess I also have my iPhone S4, but I don’t consider it a camera.

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The heart of my gear are my Olympus PENs — the PL-1, E-P3 and now the PM2. These are the cameras I use when I am planning to shoot and want the best quality. As part of the mirrorless micro 4/3 set, I also have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 I bought because it came with the 14mm f/2.8 lens and ironically, it was cheaper to buy the camera with the lens than to buy only the lens. It’s not a bad camera, but it is definitely there for backup and not as primary shooting gear. It has the advantage of being small and light and the same format as the Olympus PENs.

I picked up the Olympus 800UZ on sale when I wanted  a really long telephoto zoom. I live in the country in a river valley and this camera is particularly useful to get pictures of birds far across the pond where nothing else I own could possibly grab the shot.

The battle is on, but I do not think it went well for the swan.

Fully extended, it is 830 mm — a very long lens. Shooting with an extremely long telephoto lens is problematic, but this is even more of a problem because it is difficult to focus. Part of the issue is that fully extended, even the tiniest movement is greatly exaggerated and makes focusing impossible. I have to brace my arms against something solid or I can’t get any picture and sometimes can’t even find my subject. Nonetheless, it is the only camera I own that will capture really distant shots. It’s not a camera I use often, but it has a specific uses. It was a lot cheaper to buy the camera with the super zoom than to buy a very long lens for the PENs.

I also have a Canon Powershot SX260 HS. It too has a super-zoom, but not as extreme. It won’t capture swans and geese at the other side of the pond, but it will catch musicians at the far end of the concert hall … even in dim light. It’s easier to use and much faster focusing than the 800UZ.

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For the joy of photography, my favorite remains the Olympus PEN E-P3. I use it most often paired with the “portrait” 45mm F/1.8 lens, a fine portrait lens, but also great for artistic shots of flowers, foliage, dogs, and people in general. The shallow depth of field makes ordinary shots look like art. It’s not me. It really is the lens.

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I usually keep the 14mm F/2.8  Lumix lens on the Olympus PEN PM2 and the 40-140mm on the oldest of my PENs, the Olympus PEN E-PL-1. The Panasonic DMC-GF3 doesn’t get a lot of use, but I put the “normal” 14-42mm Olympus lens on it in case I have a “normal” lens emergency. I find it easier and faster to swap cameras than lenses, so having  bodies on which I can put different prime lenses may look more complicated, but for me is actually a simplification.

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I grant you it tends to add up to a lot of cameras, if you just count them and don’t recognize that there are special uses for some of them and others are there because they came as part of a package or, like the PL-1, was an original camera that I’ve kept because it’s still a good camera, if a bit old.

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Whenever I go out to shoot, I have to think hard about what I want to take with me, where I’m going and what lenses I’m likely to need. Because I won’t ever take everything … but hopefully, I’ll have what I need when I need it.

So that’s why I have so many cameras. And will probably have more eventually. How many do you have?

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Daily Prompt: Landscape – No Man Is An Island

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I live in a forest. Not an allegorical or metaphorical forest. It’s the real deal, mainly oak now that the oaks have grown so tall they block the light needed by maple and other trees. We’ve had to thin them during the last few years because trees were growing too tightly and many had become unhealthy.

No one who lives in a forest can see it as a forest, but that doesn’t change ones awareness. Whether or not you can see it changes nothing. You eyes can see only trees, but your mind knows there are many more trees and any thoughts you might have on the subject are tempered by this knowledge. Inability to see an entire picture does not make one incapable of recognizing its existence.

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With my house planted more or less squarely in the woods, how many trees I see depends on where I stand and look. From the back deck, I see more forest. I see fewer trees — less forest —  from the front or side of the house.

But what’s the difference between the forest and the trees? None! They are the same.

It’s like looking down and asking me if I see planks or a floor. I see both, because plank by plank or collectively, my mind understands its essential floorness and deals with it as such. Does it need sweeping? polishing? repair? I look at a floor, see planks and think floor.

One of the first signs of maturing intelligence (Piaget) in young children is their ability to recognize that the pieces of a thing are no different than the thing itself. By the time we are five or six years old, we have all made this leap of understanding. We know forests are composed of trees and trees are part of the forest. If we are regarding one tree , we don’t stop knowing it is part of the larger entity. Nor do we need to see an entire forest to know it’s there.

Things made up of many things partake of the spirit of the whole. This is how we understand our world and ourselves. No matter what piece you look at, unless you are literally blind, you are looking at the whole. We are individuals, but also part of our family, a group of friends and associates, and a member of our clan, tribe and humanity as a whole.

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No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

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