plonq: (Dubious Mood)
What better way to while away a blizzard than by hanging out in the house and taking pictures of our white cat?

Jaws is a far and away the most elusive of our cats when the camera comes out. Getting her to look at the camera is half the battle, and even when she does, her eyes are invariably shut when you snap the picture.

Belladonna was being cute earlier this evening, and I decided to try my hand at nabbing a picture of her. In shot after shot, she was either squinting, or had her eyes shut tight. Hm. She is usually not one to do that. I checked my camera's settings and noticed that I had the focus assist set, and I felt a bit silly as I was changing it back because I had forgotten that I had turned it on when taking a picture of the Christmas tree the a couple of weeks back. I tried a few more times to get a picture of Belladonna, but her patience was wearing thin, and I began to fear what she might do to me in the night if I kept pushing the issue.

I decided to tackled the Jaws challenge. She had been hunkering in the back part of the house for most of the evening, and I figured it would not take a lot of effort to coax her out with the promise of some human contact. She was very pleased to see me, and I had a cunning plan. My thinking was that if I shot at a fast enough speed (say, 1/640 of a second) I could catch her before she had a chance to squeeze her eyes shut. I took three pictures, and in each of them she somehow psychically anticipated the shutter and had her eyes shut tight. How does she know?!

She climbed onto my lap, and I decided to try shooting blind by holding the camera out at arm's length. The moment I did so, I realized that our cat was not some kind of magical, shutter-anticipating creature. At some point I had apparently turned on the focus assist on the flash. I sifted through the menus until I figured out how to disable that, cranked the flash around to give a nice, indirect light and held the camera out at arm's length again. I called her to get her attention and managed to capture this. Obviously it is not perfect, but I think it turned out pretty good given how it was shot. I did not even bother to crop it.
20130111 - Hello, Jaws
ISO 100, F 1.8,1/640sec, 35mm


Dec. 26th, 2012 11:25 pm
plonq: (Twilight Sparkle Clapping Mood)
[ profile] atara bought me a very nice, mid-range flash for my old DSLR for Christmas this year. It is something that has been on my "would like to get some day" list for a few years, but after playing around with it this evening, I am kicking myself for not getting a new flash ages ago.

We walked up to the camera store this afternoon when I was having trouble getting it to do its wireless sync with my camera. I asked if I would need a cable, or if I needed an additional attachment for my camera to signal the remote flash. The girl at the camera store assured me that it SHOULD work with my camera, and she emailed me some links to help sites and videos. They had great pointers on how to use the various settings on the flash, but none of them addressed the issue I was having.

Eventually I figured it out on my own and got it working, but I don't know how much I will be using it as a detached flash anyway. Just being able to aim it makes a marked difference, and has breathed new life into this old camera.

She thought I was serious when I joked about upgrading my camera to match the shiny new flash, and she chastised me saying that I other than a few bells and whistles on the newer models, I was unlikely to see any improvement in picture quality. To be honest, I was partly serious when I joked about it. It is getting harder to find compatible add-ons for this camera, and the newer sensors DO perform much better in low light than this one does. Still, with the results I am seeing with the new flash, I think I will be happy with this camera for a few more years if it keeps working reliably.

For the record, I took all of these pictures using the 35mm lens (not because it is the best lens for shots like these, but because it is the least ungainly). I had the ISO locked at 100, and took them at aperture priority, set to f/5.0. In retrospect, it looks like the shutter locked itself at 1/60 to sync with the flash, so I'd have been better off just shooting at 1/60 and letting the camera pick the aperture. That would explain why they both came out a bit on the dark side. I'll take a few more shots tomorrow with the P setting and see what it does with the pictures.

In some ways, Belladonna is the most independent of the three cats. That said, if we both end up in the same room for any reason, Belladonna invariably shows up a minute or two later. She likes to keep an eye on her people. This spot under [ profile] atara's lamp has become one of her favourite camping places when we are both on our computers.
Belladonna Lamp

I have noticed that many of the pictures I have of Merry make her look angry, or concerned. Those pictures are a bit misleading, because she is anything but an angry or concerned cat - she is a big, dumb, happy girl. This shot captures her personality better than most. See how she is staring with placid, curious fascination at something that only she can see? This is the Merry that we know and love.
Merry Hall
plonq: (Twilight Meh)
We put up the Christmas tree last night. I give it a week before the cats have traumatized it beyond recognition.

Pinkie Pie Ornament

We bought this tree shortly after we were married, and I am starting to think that this might be its last Christmas with us. It has been a good tree, and it owes us nothing, but wear and tear and years of cats have taken their toll on it. Every year we find more shed parts in the bottom of the box when we unpack it.

I shot this one at 200ISO, and 1/60th of a second with the lens wide open. Even at that low of a setting, it has a lot of noise in it. I love my old Nikon, but it does not perform well at higher ISOs. Most settings up to 400 are OK with decent lighting, but longer exposures at anything over 200ISO really start to show its weakness.

Part of the problem is that this camera is showing its age. It was a good performer in its day, but it does not stand up as well in comparison to modern cameras. Also, I am probably a bit over-sensitive to image noise because I keep looking at shots taken on medium format cameras at ISOs of 16,000 and above, and they are crisp and clear in comparison.

What does not help is that the original was underexposed, and I boosted the image in software, boosting the background noise at the same time.

Tomorrow may be the day when I find out if I still have a job. I am not too worried, but I suspect there may be a bit of a bloodbath in the office around me. We are in for some interesting and ugly times over the next few months.

The company sent out an announcement about a change to our pensions today that may as well have been prefaced with, "Lawyer up and get ready for the class action suit" when they sent it. We will see how much backlash there is against this, but I know a few people who are very very unhappy about the change.
plonq: (All Business)
There is a sentiment that I see expressed in some photography forums that rubs me the wrong way. Actually, there are two sentiments that annoy me.

The first is a comment that photographers (rightly) rankle over: "Wow, you take great pictures. You must have a really good camera!"

I have been on the receiving end of those, and I try not to let them bother me because I know the person means it as a compliment. When you think about it though, the sentiment is a bit insulting, because the person is crediting your camera for the pictures, rather than your eye and timing. This same person would probably not make a similar comment to the host after a delicious meal. "Wow, that food was wonderful! You must have a really good stove."

On the other side of the coin though is the sentiment that goes, "The best camera is the one in your hand." On the surface, this makes sense. It is better to have a camera in your hand when a picture presents itself than to be caught without one because you can't settle on which one is the best. Alas, it underlies the philosophy that the skill of the photographer is paramount, and the quality of the camera is irrelevant.

This is one of those canards that is trotted out by people who want to assure you that their pictures are much better than yours, not because they are using $20,000 medium-format camera bodies and lenses that cost more than your car, but because they are just that skilled. Still, if the camera is so unimportant then why are they laying out so much money? By their own logic, a <$200, 3.2 megapixel fixed-focus instamatic should be everything they ever need.

Of course the fucking camera matters. If it didn't, then people would not part with ridiculous sums of money to upgrade.

A great chef can probably prepare a very good meal with only a hotplate controlled by a toggle switch and a single aluminium pot. Give him a stocked, professional kitchen though and he can create a masterpiece. The same thing is true of cameras. Everybody will get the occasional great shots from their iPhone or instamatic, but eventually one is hobbled by the limits of the hardware, whether it can't handle low light, quick motion, or various combinations thereof.

By the way, speaking of bad photographers with shitty cameras, I broke down and installed Instagram this week. Eventually I may settle down and make an effort to take real pictures with this app, but for now I am taking douchy, Instagram stereotypes.
plonq: (Twilight Sparkle Clapping Mood)
I am still mulling over the idea of getting a new lens for my older DSLR - though in fairness, "still mulling" refers to a subject that I only broached just over a week ago.

I decided to go with [ profile] dakhun's suggestion, and I put together a histogram of how often I use various focal lengths. I parsed through ~10,000 pictures, figuring that would be a decent sample size to establish some trends.

The first thing I did was eliminate 18mm, 50mm, and 200mm. I took out the two extremes because in the heat of the moment, I tend to turn the lens to the extremes (zoom right in, or right out) with the intention of fixing/cropping the picture later if needed. I took out 50mm because I already have a fixed 50mm lens, so the sample had a very strong bias.

When I removed those numbers, noticed some interesting trends in the graph.

- I definitely favour the wider focal lengths over the narrower ranges, with >45% of my shots coming in <48mm, and the other 55% spaced out with increasing rarity up to 170mm, then nothing at all between there and 199mm. I guess if 170mm doesn't cut it then I tend to just zoom in all the way.

- There are definite data spikes in the around 24mm, 70mm and 100mm.

On first glance, it looked like I would probably be better served by a more expensive 24mm lens, but I've worked around data long enough not to fooled by the pretty spikes on the chart. I plotted out a trend curve to see where the majority of my shots were happening, and the peak rose fairly quickly to about the 30mm point and then slid away slowly as it worked toward the narrower ranges.

Based on the numbers, I would probably get decent use from either a 24mm or a 35mm lens, since they both fall in the curve.

My gut feel is that if I got a 24mm lens, it might not see a lot of use. Even though I factored out the extremes from my sample, the fact remains that in the majority of cases, once I zoom out as far as 24mm, I typically just zoom the rest of the way out to 18mm. A lot of the settings in the 20+ range were from me backing off a bit because at the widest setting, the filters encroach on the picture, causing vignetting around the corners.

On the other hand, I fear that if I get a 35mm lens, then my 50mm lens will start gathering dust. In retrospect the 35mm lens is probalby the one that I should have bought instead of the 50mm, but it was twice the price, and money was tight at the time because [ profile] atara was going to school.

Also, is 35mm enough of a difference from 50mm to be worth the price? I wonder if the camera shop would let me borrow a 35mm lens for a few days to that I could try them both out and see if I think it's different enough to be worth considering...
plonq: (Geeky Mood)
Something that [ profile] atara and I have been discussing for some time is the idea of buying a pocket camera. We love our current cameras, but they are just too bulky to be practical at times, and we want something that one or t'other of us can just slip into a pocket on our way out door.

We shelved the discussion for a couple of years while [ profile] atara was in school, but now that we are starting to claw our way back into the black, we've renewed the discussion, and it sounds like we might actually buy one in the next couple of weeks.

I started doing some on-line shopping, and even though we're not looking for something to replace the big ones, I was immediately drawn to models like the ZS7, HX5V, TX7, SX210... I haven't done any serious shopping since I bought the Nikon almost four years ago, so I'm a bit out of the loop, and I have never shopped for a subcompact. What kind of things should I be shopping for?

Do any of you out there have some wisdom or experience that you can share with me? I'd be happy to hear any anecdotal evidence. Have you had good or bad experiences with a particular make or model? Are there any cameras that you've heard especially good things about? Are there any that I should be actively avoiding? Is the Leica M8 really worth $8,999.99?

Anyway, I welcome any suggestions you might have.
plonq: (Creative mood)
Earlier this week, [ profile] atara tossed out the suggestion that she might make a light box this weekend. Unfortunately she ended up snowed under with homework, but the idea continued to percolate in the back of my mind. We have a fairly large box that used to hold my wine fridge - nearly the perfect size for a light box in my opinion. Before I put knife to box, though, I decided that it would be prudent to grab a smaller box and try a proof of concept before I destroyed the larger one. After a lot of cutting, cursing, taping and swearing, I finally managed to cobble together something resembling a light box.

If I have learned one important thing from this exercise, it is that I am not talented with my hands. Every time I tackle a project like this, it ends up as a stark reminder as to why I never took up a career in wood working, or any of the other artistic professions that require hand-eye coordination.

On the plus side, it works.

This is a Christmas ornament that we bought back when these little guys were still in circulation. I don't know if the stores here simply stopped carrying these, or if the company discontinued the line (or went out of business).
Light Box Skunk
A couple more pictures - including the finished light box itself - behind a cut. )
plonq: (Contemplative mood)
I was hoping to catch one of the cats napping in the sun, but the sight of a camera seems to make them restive. Here is Merry looking very orange in the sunlight reflecting off the carpet.

plonq: (Default)
[ profile] atara and I had just been talking about the sorry state of the water in our birdbath - no sign of mosquitoes breeding in it yet, but the water is abit on the brown and slimy side - when a bird happened by who apparently did not share our concern.
Caught in the act. )
plonq: (Creative mood)
In spite of the noisy new tenants in the hotel, I managed to sleep in this morning and catch up on some much-needed rest. I lounged around in my room reading for an hour, then wandered up to the hotel restaurant where I managed to kill another hour over breakfast. It was still grey and raining a bit when I got up, but by the time I was finished my last coffee the weather had turned a bit less dour, and I decided to take a quick road trip with no particular destination in mind.

I took a few pictures while I was out, a sampling of which are behind this cut.

Images behind a cut )
plonq: (Geeky Mood)
One of the features that I was sure my camera had, but I couldn't find was the manual "grey card" colour correction. I could manually dial up various colour temperatures, and select from some decent pre-sets for "tungsten", "fluorescent" and the like, but I wanted to have the option to apply the sledge hammer of colour correction when I needed it.

Today I did some searching on the net and found the answer I needed. The feature is easy enough to use, but not entirely intuitive - which is why I had not stumbled onto it earlier.

Below are two pictures that I shot in the living room this afternoon. The lighting is ambient daylight through the front window. The first picture (leftmost, or topmost depending on the width of your browser) uses the camera's automatic colour correction. These second picture (rightmost or bottommost) is manually corrected with my poor-man's grey card. I am both surprised and impressed by the results. The second picture is definitely much closer to how the scissors look in person.

Test: Camera default colour correctedTest: Greycard colour corrected

It is especially noticeable in the pinks and greens in the picture.
plonq: (Usual Silly Mood3)
Some more test pictures of the cats. Once I post this I'm going to go curl up with the manual and read up on the features that I haven't used yet.

The contrast is pushed a little on the B&W pictures -- too much perhaps? (I have a slight personal bias toward higher contrast shots, so I may tend to overdo it at times.)
Feline Ennui

More cats behind the cut. )

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