Joseph V Higbee.com P & M Intro

Photos and Musings

Volume Three

Page 3
February 11, 2011

Some Enlightening Thoughts

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

This morning the sky is clouded over and it is gray, all gray. Normal. For two days in a row before this it was clear, the sun was out all day and the sky was very blue. That was the second time this month we had two nice days in a row. Or even one in a row. Four out of eleven. That would be 133 days a year if the average held steady. Of course it doesn't, sometimes we go three or four days in a row and, in the summer, it can happen more often. On the other hand we haven't had four out of eleven in the last three months.
   Just to be sure I am not obscuring the facts with a clouded view, I checked some statistics. According to NOAA a clear day is zero to three-tenths cloud cover. A cloudy day is eight-tenths to full cover. Four-tenths to seven-tenths is partly cloudy. They say we have 52 clear days a year, 228 days of cloudy and 86 days that are partly. Obviously, the four out of eleven we just had is better than average. It's good to know I am seeing things clearly. Goodman Creek
   Looking at the positives in this can be challenging but what the heck, with so few chances to play in the sunshine I may as well give it a try. First thing that occurs to me is the obsession most photographers seem to have with the 'best time' to 'catch the light each' day. Around here we don't have that worry for at least 228 days of the year. Another large consideration to many is the harsh light at mid-day. Of the number of clear days we have each year, the 11 we have from November through March, the sun is low enough on the horizon that any light is good light and not to be rejected. In fact, if surrounded by evergreen trees, that may be the only light you have!
   Another positive is the opportunities for musing. Now I admit, getting up early on a sunny day, taking some beautiful photos in the early morning sunlight and then sitting quietly and musing as the sun warms your back, is a wonderful thing. But without the sun to make you get up and out, one can just sit in the easy chair and muse 'till they fall completely asleep. And there is no interruption to 'catch the evening light', there ain't any!
   Another positive thing is the time we have to pay attention to eating without being distracted by activities requiring exercise. Except, of course, we may have to fix it ourselves on occasion. Like if the wife is gone or whatever, you know what I mean.
    The photos here were both taken on clear days. The bird in the water is in my yard about mid-afternoon. The sun is about to disappear behind some fir trees in the southwest. The other is a creek in the North Cascades and is taken at mid-day. In neither case was the sunlight much of a factor, other than allowing me to actually take a picture.

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February 23, 2011

Another Day, Another Bird

Song Sparrow outside window

I keep getting the cameras out whenever there is light enough and try using different combinations and settings. I want to become as familiar with everything as I can get to be. Hopefully, then, when I see something I really want to capture I will know just what to use. Ideally I will recognize the event coming and have the right setup already prepared and in place for the shot. Practice, practice, practice!
   But lately I wonder what to practice for. Just as an athlete practices for the sport he is going to engage in, so too a photographer needs to practice for what they hope to see and take photos of. But it is hard to practice landscape from the frontroom. Ergo, another bird.
   A few other 'facts of life' have me musing a lot about where and what I can and want to do, going forward, in photography. No photographer wants to repeat what has already been done many times. To capture photos that are unique, however, usually requires more resources than I have to give, both financially and physically. At least this is so in the popular categories of landscape and wildlife. To this point, macro and micro photography, portrait and people in general, have not interested me.
   One thing I have been pondering is what I see around me. Am I trying too hard to see the unusual and missing some real opportunity in the commonplace? Should I be looking harder at what is in view rather than contemplating what might be seen from another vantage point? There is more to be considered on this idea. As I do that, I will write more on this in the days ahead.

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March 2, 2011

Enough Winter, Already

The yard in the snow

In my last post I was musing about looking more closely at what is around me to see if I was missing some photo opportunity in the commonplace. This photo seems to answer that. NO! I'm not missing anything. The area in this photo is outside my living room window and it is quite pleasant to sit and watch the coming and goings of the birds and other small creatures there. But a pleasing photo it does not make, in itself. Only when the focus is narrowed, and something else is happening, does it become interesting photographically. What this picture does do, however, is show how disgustingly dull winter is here in the land of gray.
   Obviously, this is not my best time of the year. This year seems even more so not, but spring will come, maybe. Last year it didn't seem to nor did summer, which is some of why this winter seems so long, I suppose. No matter. Sooner or later the mood will lift and I will be off on some new challenge or endeavor and wondering how I can find the time for all the good things there are to do.

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March 6, 2011

Signs of Spring

Greater Yellowlegs

I was out in a small inlet near Port Orchard practicing taking video of a Kingfisher and some ducks feeding on the incoming tide when I heard a GRYE. I looked along the water's edge and soon spotted two feeding with gusto. I was able to watch them along with the ducks, scoters and Kingfisher for a couple hours. Great practice!
   The results seem to be about what one would expect from someone who doesn't know what they are doing. If there is any video worth processing, I will try and post it on the video page this week. This picture is one I took just before leaving. I had the camera in photo mode and the GRYE were close to the drive so I stopped and snapped a few stills on the way out.
   I'm not sure what the earliest dates are for these birds in the area but this is a month or more earlier than any of my previous photos, which is the only record I keep. It is a sure sign of impending spring at any rate. And I am ready!

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March 9, 2011

Telephoto

White-winged Scoter

This photo is a 'capture' from a video. That means that the video was stopped at this point and this image was 'captured', or copied, as a still photo. This is not a very good photo compared to those taken with Slr's fitted with long lenses, such as I have used previously, but while taking video with that is technically possible, it isn't very practible.
   This is, however, about the same focal length as that 500mm lens and 1.4X extender gave me. The difference is a 2 megapixel image as opposed to 18 mp. This is a feature of the GH2 that I am finding most useful.
   The camera has a 16 mp sensor and with the 100-300mm lens takes a picture comparable to any similar combination. When taking normal video the frame size will be the same as the still photo. There is a setting, however, that allows the camera to fill the frame with a crop from the center of the 16mp frame. The resulting 2.6x telephoto is as good in video quality as normal and a 'capture' is what you see here.

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March 13, 2011

Why Video Now?

Junco

So why the fuss about video now? Are these new combo-cams (still + video) better than previous video cameras? These and other questions were on my mind as I began to use my first video capable still camera, the 7D. At first I thought it was just another useless add-on and didn't bother with it. As I began to lose the ability and desire to carry the large lens, I started to think about the possibilities.
   Then, I became aware of the major advantage, photographically, of these cameras. It's the 'depth of field'. What that means, simply put, is the subject can be sharply focused but the background quickly blurs, drawing the viewing eye quickly to it. It emphasizes the subject. This is quite unlike the true video camera, and small digi-cams, which have most of the view in relatively sharp focus, leaving the eye to search for the intended subject or focal point.
   There is, of course, a reason for this and it has to do with the size of the camera's sensor and relative focal length of the lenses used. I won't try to explain beyond that. I'm not sure I could anyway.
   The picture here illustrates what I say to some degree, although not as much as a different choice of lens might. You do notice the bird is fairly sharp and the background is blurry and out of focus, as are also things in front of the bird. In the video this is captured from, it is even more noticable due to some movement from the wind. This was with the 7D and 100-400mm lens.

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March 18, 2011

Still Learning

Common Goldeneye

There are easier ways to learn than mine. But one advantage, if you could call it that, to mine is that I know why you don't do certain things. For instance, in an instructional video I heard it said not to use a larger lens than 'whatever it was' for video. I could follow that advice and probably take satisfying video and never find out why I shouldn't use a longer lens. But I didn't!
   This picture of a Common Goldeneye is a 16mp still image taken with a 400mm lens and 2x extender and then cropped to about 8mp. That works well. So why wouldn't this work on a video? The fact is, it's not bad. But I can't crop a video. But what I can do is use the built in telephoto effect, which is actually a kind of crop, in the camera.
   Wonderful! Now I have a nice tight close-up of the bird swimming and preening all in motion. Too much motion. As the waves go up and down I lose his head and then the bottom. As the current carries him along I lose his head and then his tail as I try to follow. Choppy becomes the description of my video instead of the water. The obvious solution is to use less focal length as the instructor said. Now, with a great amount of effort, I know why.
   Most of my recent video attempts have some of this problem. This one was of a Barrow's Goldeneye first and then this Common Goldeneye. (NOTE: It was in the video gallery which has now been removed from the site)

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March 26, 2011

Tired of Learning

Douglas Squirrel

I am impressed with the quality of this 100-300 mm lens on the GH2. After using the Canon 100-400 mm the performance of this lens stands out, not the least for the way the background becomes so pleasantly out of focus while the subject is nice and sharp.
   But the main attraction of this camera is in it's ability to produce top-notch video also. I have thought for some time that I would like to 'get in' to video. Even ten years ago, I would have. But I have discovered the patience, perserverance, the steadiness of hand and eye and yes, even the joy of learning new things, has diminished more than I suspected. Just to keep in practice doing what I already know has become more difficult.
   For that reason I have changed the list of items for sale. (See note on right) I am offering the DMC-GH2 and lenses, for sale with accessories as a package. Inasmuch as this equipment is almost impossible to buy on the market at this time, I am not offering a large discount from retail prices. The instruction manual is a little dog-eared but everything else is complete and as new, even the packaging.
   I have changed the rest of the list, removing the 7D and adding the popular EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS USM lens.

IMPORTANT! I have changed what's left of my mind and have decided NOT to sell the Panasonic stuff at this time. The Canon changes still apply.

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March 31, 2011

AARGH; where's the sunshine?

Virginia Opossum

I have gotten in a lot of low-light practice. This 'possum and family came by in the morning about an hour after the sun should have risen. What the camera saw was what you see here, mostly black and white. Grayscale. Phooey! I am starting to worry that when we do get some bright sunlight, I won't remember how to use it.
   Still working on learning the best way to setup the GH2 for switching from still to video. There are a number of choices for each one but not all allow for smooth transition from one to the other. To utilize the best features for each type of shooting really requires setting up and staying with just one or the other. If doing stills forget about video and visa-versa. But there is an avenue of compromise that gives pretty good results in both when switching. It is neccessary to set up two custom settings and then remember what the differences are when switching. Something that becomes easier with a lot of practice.
   Practice is more enjoyable when the sun shines.

   A couple of recent video clips; A pair of otters mating was after I had put the camera away and had to get it back out, so I missed much of the action. This is where the telephoto feature shines because they were over 200 feet away and I couldn't even tell what they were for sure until I put it on the computer. The other video is just practice on a Fox Sparrow bathing. Handheld at 170mm, it shows the value of the image stabilizer.

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April 7, 2011

Chasing the Sun

Mt. Jefferson

After almost six weeks without a mostly sunny day, I decided to go look at the possibility of buying a gettaway shack in Central Oregon. Bottom line; fuhgettaboutit!
   But I did get to see the sun! I made a brief visit to the National Grasslands that are located between Madras and Prineville and although it was chilly for this time of year, the desert air and sunshine were most enjoyable. The dirt road I was on was dry and though still rutted from spring thaw, was quite passable for my mini-van. The wildlife wasn't abundant but I was able to take a little handheld video of Meadowlark and Bluebird. Switching to still mode I took a couple snapshots of the mountains to the west.
   I titled this 'Chasing the Sun', but I have to face it, the sun is going down. When the sun goes down it is often the best time of day, with the golden glow and warm colors. The 'golden years'. But at other times it slips into the haze and just fades out. And it may slip into the haze but soon re-apear to give a most wonderful finish to the day and go down with a glow that lasts sometime after it is gone. You have to be watching and ready or miss the beauty of the moment.
   I'm trying!

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April 10, 2011

Comments on Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

Cassiars Junco

I was fortunate. I checked the web twice a day from the last week in November until the last week in December when the DMC-GH2 was offered for sale for a few hours ot Adorama. I ordered it with the 14-140mm lens and received it January 4th. I had to order the 100-300mm lens from a different source but it arrived a day earlier. I had to wait until February to get extra batteries. As I write this, there is still few if any available for direct sale and the waiting lists aren't even being offered. Is it worth waiting for? In real people life, how good is it?
   I have had mine and used it just enough to have an opinion. I believe some may be interested in that, so here goes.

Bells, whistles, levers, buttons and menus

   It has them and yes, like the reviews say, they are mostly well thought out and easy to use. Once you learn how! If, like me, you are used to one brand of SLR and little else, you would find it a fair learning curve. And there are many features that allow so many configurations that just deciding what fits you takes a bit of time and experimentation. But I have mostly gotten there and find everything to be as advertised and useful to me.

Quality of photos

I find a comparison of the 40D or 7D on a 100-400mm lens to the GH2 and 100-300mm lens to be a fair one. The size of the subject within the full-frame size of the respective cameras is pretty much the same. The 'look' of the image is somewhat different but the resolution and sharpness, after processing, are pretty close with a slight edge going to the 7D. The 'bokka' or desirable background goes to the 100-300mm Panasonic, hands down!

Handling and weight

It weighs less than half! Camera to camera, lens to lens of comparable quality, it weighs less than half. In the case of the 100-300mm to the 100-400mm much less! The smaller physical size of the GH2 is an advantage to smaller people and no disadvantage to me. Big hands may want to handle it to find out. The biggest size/weight problem I have had was geting used to balancing so much less on the tripod when carrying it. I can hardly feel it and fear it isn't all there.

My Opinion

This type of camera will eventually replace the current prosumer DSLR's. I think it's that good. If they had a 600mm lens and some teleconverters available, with comparable quality and weight savings, they couldn't build them fast enough. But, even now, for anything but long-lens work this gets the job done, and then some. In fact, I have decided to sell most of my Canon equipment.

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April 13, 2011

Juncos

Slate-colored Junco

In my last post on April 10th I showed a photo identified as an Oregon Junco, a subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco. You might say I was half-right. It is a Cassiar's Junco which is a hybrid of the Oregon Junco and the Slate-colored Junco, all of which are Dark-eyed Juncos. The photo here is the Slate-colored version.
   Why does this matter? It doesn't seem to matter at all to the juncos. That's probably why there is so many sub-species and sub-sub-species. It seems to be mostly a condition of locality, each type being found mostly in certain areas. But if and when a different type wanders into the neighborhood, it doesn't seem to matter to the locals, it's just another junco.
   However, we humans can't handle that. It seems very important to us to notice differences and catalog things accordingly. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not talking about prejudice, that's something different. I'm meaning the ability we have to recognise even minute differences and use that knowledge in constructive ways. Sometimes we can carry it to extremes, but other times it is most useful in finding ways to improve upon something. It's up to us as individuals to use our gifts wisely.
   The moral is: sometimes it is better to be a birdbrain but it isn't a requirement.

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