Sunday, January 15, 2012

Frosty morning # 1: birds

At last, proper winter mornings, with frost, and the camera is happier.  

In truth, I was seriously chasing a second hand Canon like I used to have.  It seemed to me, looking back, that I could never quite recapture the  kind of shallow depth of field, contre jour, shots I got with it, and though the zoom on the Panasonic is great, and the extra megapixels enable plenty of cropping potential, the speed on auto left a lot to be desired, the shots were less sharp and dynamic, the macro never seems to quite cut it... I just felt fings weren't what they used to be. 

So I started mooching about on E-bay, and learned a bit about how that works, which might well be useful life skill in parsimonious times to come, if we actually had anything worth selling.  One of the things I learned quickly is that what looks like a marvellous bargain is just a hook, and despite their being very old models, Canon Powershots like I had are apparently still quite sought-after, which at least seems to substantiate my view about the camera.  

In the end, I can't justify collecting another, older camera that might break down at any time (after all my old one did) just out of nostalgia, when I have a perfectly adequate one, and that I really ought to find out more about the that and what can be done with it.

I've concluded that nothing much can be done about the depth of field.  I reluctantly applied my far from mathematically or optically gifted mind to the question of apertures and DoF.  It's no wonder I'm confused.  Shallower DoF - ie the area, field, of the photo in clear focus is small, hence those nice sharply stand-out  objects with the blurry back- and closer foregrounds which just popped out 'naturally' with the old camera on auto when I held it at the right angle to the light - requires a larger aperture.  However, a larger aperture is defined by a smaller number, so a 2.4 aperture is larger than a 8.0 one. This has some bearing on the shutter speed which I've not yet quite worked out and everything is further confused by the apparent fact that many of the nerdy photo people on the forums, Flickr groups etc are no clearer than I am and frequently refer to 'more depth of field' when what they really mean is shallower depth of field.

Then I was further exercised by the mechanics of the Panasonic, with continual references to its 'joystick'. I finally grasped that this was the little wiggly menu button I'd never taken much notice of, and eventually sussed how to apply it to changing the aperture size.  Only to find that it enabled no greater range in this than the auto managed on its own anyway, which isn't much. 

However, I was encouraged to try the outdoor sports setting for birds and other fleeting things, which the Intelligent Auto often isn't very intelligent about, and the couple of whiz-and-click actions this requires are certainly worth making.

The frosty weather brought the birds in close to the house again.  We must have saved a fair bit of money on fat balls and sunflower seeds with this mild winter, we seemed to be buying then hand over fist the last couple of years.  But we have plenty in stock,





for the small flock of greenfinches,




and the blue tits which appeared and waited expectantly by the empty feeding area.


I almost ditched the above blue tit shot as he (or she) was turning away, until I noticed that he was caught sharply in mid-poo, which I feel confirms the effectiveness of the speed of the setting for wildlife action shots.


So I'm staying with what I've got, self-indulgent and whimsical spending and the collection of more really quite unnecessary stuff isn't on the cards just now, or ever. I need to get on with taking and editing more pictures rather than midering about how they aren't as good as they might be if only... I might see what I can do with Tom's old titchy Nikon compact for macro shots, which compacts are often quite good for, and perhaps get back to Photoshop and the blur tool for faking shallow DoF.  And they do say some interesting macro effects can be achieved with a magnifying glass in front of the lens.  A new set of rechargeable batteries for the compact and a magnifier will come in a lot cheaper than a secondhand Powershot.

Some further experimental and plenty more frosty shots to come.  Hooray for cold and frosty mornings.

15 comments:

Jean said...

Love the mid poo shot. LOL

rr said...

They're absolutely beautiful! I love the definition of the feathers of that first fluffed-up blue tit. I really do miss greenfinches. I haven't seen one round these parts in years.

I'm particularly pray to glass-envy and tool-worship. And yet I often think my favourite pictures are the ones I took with my least sophisticated camera because its limitations forced me to think rather than just point and shoot in any situation.

marja-leena said...

Your photos are always gorgeous, Lucy. I really identify with the challenges of understanding apertures and depth of field. It seems that the required part of my brain will not remember the stuff, no matter how often I try. I love to do macro but find it very challenging so it's a bit of a lottery as to what turns out. Yet the few that do are so rewarding, so yes, just get on with it, as you say!

Fire Bird said...

I really enjoyed these shots. Yes, frosty mornings are a welcome change, despite the need for endlessly de-icing the car.

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Love that first shot. I can imaging them saying "Nah nah na nah na! Catch catch me!"

the polish chick said...

beautiful shots, as usual.
we have a DSLR and i think i utilise about 1% of its capability. i also tried to grasp the whole aperture/shutter speed thing, but it's so very bloody boring, until you get good enough that you no longer think about it but i can't seem to get there so i just muddle along and bitch about the imperfection of my photographic skills.
we also got some cold and winter - ours is in the -25C range. brrrr!

Rouchswalwe said...

In the early 90's, I carried the first Olympus Stylus 35 mm all around Japan with me and fell in love with its depth/shallowness of field. Upon my return to the US, it was stolen. So I bought the closest model available at the time, the Olympus Stylus Epic 35 mm. It was the last one in the camera shop and the guy couldn't believe that I didn't want a digital camera. Well, my new Olympus multi AF all-weather large aperture lens (1:2.8) camera and I had some good times. But then about a year after that, finding a place to develop film started being such a costly adventure. Then the final straw. The photographic paper used was of such low quality that I gave in. In 2009, I bought a digital camera - of course an Olympus Stylus (1:3.5-5.3), with the largest aperture lens I could find at the time in my price range.

But now you've got me itching to use my old 35 mm for one last hurrah. I have discovered one last battery and 4 rolls of 35 mm film in my drawer. And I do have the day off today ...

Anonymous said...

Aside from the beautiful prose and the beautiful photos, which are always present in your blog, I (the ugly American) am always so delighted when I read words like "midering" and "titchy," which are never heard here in this giant land I live in. I carry them with me throughout the day, secretly happy whenever I think of them.
- alison

zephyr said...

Bravo, Lucy--for that exceptional "mid-poo" shot!! Made me laugh.

When i was teaching, i spent a lot of time helping my students finally grasp the concept of f-stops and dof...though it took lots of show n'tell and specific shooting assignments for them to become comfortable manipulating it creatively. Once the basic concept is understood--a person then has to carefully study one's owners manual to figure out how the manufacturer has set up camera controls.

Does it help for me to point out that f-stops are actually fractions (even though there are decimals thrown in there, too)? Probably not...anyway...

Another factor to consider:
physics dictates that wide angle lenses give greater dof--telephoto lengths automatically create shallower dof. And, yes, aperture and shutter speeds are forever linked.

i'm often frustrated for the opposite reason--wanting to manipulate for greater dof with my pocket-size Canon SD 1000--which i absolutely love, despite this problem. i use it all the time. Just before Christmas i got blitzed with email offers/sales on the newest Canons...so i "window shopped." i was very surprised at the advancements. The newest models of my favorite--the Canon pocket size-- do give us more dof control--and, incredibly--12-14 megapixels. Technology in photography is amazing. And here in the states, the newest pocket-size versions from Canon are very reasonable priced: under $200. But i'm so fond of my tiny (now outdated model) even with it's lack of control over f-stops--i can't bring myself to replace it yet...even tho the low price is tantalizing.

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

All very nostalgic. During my final ten years as a salaried journalist, and the subsequent two years, as a freelance, I always carried a camera. Initially a point-and-shoot Fuji (which let me down in a warehouse in Canada) and thereafter an avowedly manual Pentax which even had a lever for film advance. Many of the shots I took were not only indoors but in ill-lit industrial premises. The Pentax could be locked on to an optimum aperture/speed combination and in my early innocence I thought all I had to do was a sequence of shots at this ratio. In fact, long before I got to the widest aperture DoF had shrunk to cigarette-paper thickness and was useless unless I happened to be trying to capture the gleam in a fly's eye, which wasn't often. So I bit on the bullet and acquired a tripod and (equally essential) a remote trigger - vital when people were paying me to take photographs. There's nothing quite like a tripod for taking away the fun of photography although it does of course open a whole new world of possible shots. Can't see you lugging a tripod round Brittany but have you ever thought of a unipod? I notice that twitchers do use them and some are both telescopic and lightweight, allowing them to be left attached to the camera (and used as a sort of handle) for probably 90% of the shots you take. Again, a cheaper alternative to an all-singing, all-dancing camera (most of which look horribly heavy).

Avus said...

Zephyr has said all I was going to say (and more) and I am with Rouchswalwe regarding 33mm cameras - I always had more fun with my beautiful little Rollei 35 (set manually to get the DoF I wanted)than with the various digicameras I have had since - although these latter are more convenient, have a greater output and more guarantee of a good picture.
Good bird shots. by the way!

earlybird said...

Great shots, Lucy.

Lucy said...

Ah me, thanks all.

It is evident there are those of you, RR, Zephyr, Lorenzo, Avus et al who luxuriate and wallow in their element with this stuff, often nostalgically since mastery of such things was required in the days when people took proper photographs on expensive film and paper and had to have a clue what they were actually doing, and those of us who don't. It is some comfort to me that clever, competent and artistic people like ML and Polish Chick are also with me in this. I'm afraid it will always be boring and fugitive knowledge to me, even if I do ever get the hang of it. This isn't the first time I've tried.

The question of fractions doesn't help at all I'm afraid Zephyr! But the thought that there are cheap compact Canons that enable better manipulation is interesting.

SLRs and tripods are just not going to happen, I would feel encumbered, self-conscious and pretentious lugging them about. Though I did almost fall for a handy-bendy colourful little thing that served as a flexy tripod, but the small ones were not stable enough for a bridge camera, and bigger ones were expensive and not handy. A beanbag is still a possibility, our camera shop said they didn't carry them though, and advised me to use my own beans and make one! But the Lumix has no remote trigger facility anyway. It's essentially an inexpensive and limited camera, but it has a view redeeming features.

Isabelle said...

I too love the feathers on the blue tit. I wonder if you've got the only use of the word "mid-poo" on the internet? Apart from your commenters, of course. Must try Googling it...

marly youmans said...

Well, of course the bird was turning away!

Love composition, hate dealing with machines...