Joseph V Higbee.com P & M Intro

Photos and Musings

Volume Three

Page 4
April 17, 2011

More Comments on Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

Rufous Humminbird

I am very enthusiastic about the DMC-GH2 as you probably have noticed. There are, however, a few negatives inherent in this mirrorless design that will forever keep this type of camera from becoming 'top gun' unless they can be overcome. I don't know enough about the technical aspects to accurately explain just what happens but I can describe the problem as a user.
   When looking at the 'live view', via viewfinder or LCD, and then clicking the shutter, the live view stops momentarily. If a burst of several exposures are taken at once it stops longer. When I say momentarily I mean a much longer moment than a mirror going up and down in an SLR type camera.
   The result is not being able to see the action or know what you are taking pictures of until the camera does what it does and returns the 'live view'. If you are trying to follow a moving subject this 'blackout' makes staying on target almost impossible.
   Another negative is a time lag on even the first shot. I don't know if this is because of a delay between real time and what the 'live view' shows or if it is a delay in the process after the shutter is activated. What happens is; the shutter is clicked at a point in the action in 'live view'. Almost immediately the view changes to the photo being recorded, except this photo is not what you last saw in the 'live view' but is what you would have seen a fair-sized moment later if the 'live view' had remained. In other words, if you wait for the moment you want to capture it is too late and because of the 'blackout' you cannot anticipate the moment very well because it will not return to real time until too late.
   I don't know if this can be corrected in this type of design or not. I'm pretty sure that if it cannot, then such cameras will never be acceptable for serious sporting or wildlife photography. That doesn't mean that excellent photos and a lot of fun can't be had by an old putz like me. But unless you are slowing down and willing to settle for less, I think it will need some serious work before this will replace the SLR.

top
April 20, 2011

Everyday

female Anna's Hummingbird

I am having fun here at home watching and photographing the birds in the yard with the DMC-GH2. Being able to shoot handheld with this small but competent camera, I'm finding the birds have a much smaller 'comfort zone'. This is allowing me to take close-up photos that rival the ones taken with the 7D and 500mm lens.
   The weather is finally showing signs of warming and we are getting more sunbreaks. As the peak shorebird season approaches I am looking forward to seeing what I can do with them as a subject. It will be a good test of the two issues regarding focus and 'blackout' as the shorebirds seldom stop moving. On the positive side, the video should really make for a fun experience. This is where I expect the 'Extended TeleConverter' (ETC), built into the camera to really show it's stuff. The magnification factors make it similar to taking videos with my previous 500mm lens. It works great in the trials I have made in the yard.
   I have been doing a lot of different trials in my yard as I have endeavored to learn the capabilities of the GH2. It has left me with a large desire get out and put it to work. There are so many different ways to use it, I will have to be careful not to frustrate myself by trying to do it all at once.
   Concerning what I had to say in my previous comments; I received a tip and posted on tweeters that setting the camera up to focus with the back button only, made a large difference. It didn't! If the camera is cold, first shot, it does but it quickly reverts to pretty much what I described before. The whole system is reminding me of the 10D when it first came out, needing some tuning but so much better than what went before you don't mind. Something to look forward to.

top
April 25, 2011

Rainy Day Stuff

Lincoln's Sparrow

I just finished editing the video gallery. I reprocessed some files so they should now be able to be viewed in any current browser on any recent computer operating system. While I was at it, I re-arranged them, removed a couple and added some information to some other. All in all, a good rainy day project and a good day for it.
   It seems like after 30 years of pc's and Mac's that more standardization would exist. I understand the economics of proprietary rights and have no disagreement with it, but when it actually causes someone to turn away from using a product and/or program, it seems counter-productive. Microsoft Internet Explorer is one of the better known of such programs, doing things differently seemingly for no other reason than to be different.
   Operating systems are a real defining part of a computer. They have their different ways of accomplishing what they do and users tend to prefer one or another. However, sooner or later they all have to accomodate third party programing. Not all new technology can be made to work on all platforms, therefore when something truly worthwhile comes along, the platform has to make an adjustment. I have just spent several hours redoing videos so they will work in Apple's Quick Time, but I have no doubt that sooner or later Apple will make the adjustment necessary that would have allowed the previous files to work. I just don't see why they can't do it sooner. This time it's Apple, but next time it may just as well be Microsoft.
   Now I'll go back to whining about the weather...........

top
April 28, 2011

"The welfare of the subject is more important than the photograph.”

House Finch chicks in a nest

A recent discussion on Tweeters was not in a tone or spirit I cared to engage in. It did, however, start me to thinking of when I first started photographing birds. In my case the photography came first and then the birding followed as they, the birds, are subjects found everywhere in great variety. In preparation to become as good as I could be, photographically, I read several books and articles on how-to do it. Almost the first thing I read in every writing of that time was;

"There is one hard and fast rule, whose spirit must be observed at all times -
'The welfare of the subject is more important than the photograph.'”

   This is a quote from 'The Nature Photographer' 'Code of Practice' as published by the Royal Photographic Society in the UK. At that time the internet wasn't as widely used as today and so each publication usually followed up by printing the entire code. Much of that code is just common sense and easy to follow if one cares to and I have and still do. The principle of that first line should be, as it says, 'hard and fast' in the mind of any person engaging nature on any level. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. Anybody that cares to be, is likely well aware of the problems related to this. I don't need to elaborate or bore you with my opinion. I am putting a couple of links to codes of conduct at the bottom of this comment for any who wish to read and, I hope, follow them.
   About the photo; The nest is in a fuschia basket on a friends porch. I was in a darkened room behind the window pane and pretty much invisible and unhearable by the birds outside.

Nature Photographers' Code of Practice
Nature Photographers Code of Conduct

top
May 6, 2011

Double-crested Cormorant

Finally! A day of sunshine, someplace to go and time to go there. Migration and early breeding season. Time to put the GH2 to a real world test. First result shows I still need to make some adjustments, but the camera is looking to live up to it's promise.
   The very first thing I must note is that old rules still apply; don't leave the tripod at home, monopods work good only occasionally and handholding is not an option for video. Video is good for subjects that move. Video is bad when the camera moves. Video is really bad when camera is in my hand and I move. Say tripod three times for emphasis!
   Using the 100-300mm lens on the GH2 is equivalent to 600mm on a 35mm camera. Using the 2.6X ETC (Electronic TeleConverter) is a little stronger than using a 600mm lens with stacked extenders on the 35mm. Over 1500mm! A tripod is a necessity for any type of photography at that strength. So why was mine at home?
   Another thing that I had learned before,and was really emphasized, is that good video NEEDS good sound. I have processed some video without any sound and it's flat, almost to the point of worthless. But poor sound is almost worse. Background noise, wind noise, camera noise, photographer blowing his nose; any of these can ruin an otherwise good video. The built in camera microphones give you all of those things faithfully. So I have ordered a sound recorder- microphone to use. More to learn!
   The photo here is one of the few stills I took during the day. It seems cormorants were my best subjects. I have three videos that were salvageable, all cormorants, on the video page. We will improve!

top
May 15, 2011

Another Wet and Cold Spring

A very wet Black-headed Grosbeak

This is two in a row. What does that mean? Is it apt to be this way again next year? What will the summer be like? Last year the summer was likewise cool and wetter than 'normal'. Is this the beginning of even more unstable and unpredictable weather ahead, due perhaps to global warming?
   This Black-headed Grosbeak wouldn't likely know or even wonder about such things. But, he was a little later arriving this spring and hasn't acted overly pleased to be here. In fact all the birds seem a little lacking in spirit, not singing much and looking like they would rather not be here. Not to anthropomorphize but in reality, this weather does have a depressing effect on their activity.
   So, what's my point? I don't really have one. Or, maybe I do. If this is a result of global warming then, I as a human, helped cause it. But I, as a single human, am as powerless as this bird to do anything about it. There is a lot more that could be said but, bottom line, all I can do is wait and see what happens.

top
May 20, 2011

Canon to Panasonic Decision Revisited

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Now that I have gotten used to the GH2, I decided I would revisit the Canon equipment and see if the weight, size and handling of the GH2 was all that much benefit. If this was a review I could note all kinds of pros and cons for each setup but it isn't, so let me just say, I'll take the GH2 every time!
   The other thing I wanted to see is if the Canon equipment offers any advantage in quality and/or look of the finished photo. This photo was taken with my Canon 40D, 300mm f4 lens and 1.4X extender. This produces a photo which has a vertical aspect roughly equivilent to the GH2 and 100-300mm at 300mm. I cropped the horizontal to end up with a 4/3rds format. In other words, a virtual full frame, best it can do, photo from the Canon. The 7D would be a little crisper, I believe, but at this resolution and size not by a great amount.
   I had to do some looking to find a comparable from the GH2. Most of the pictures I have posted are considerably less than full frame. This link is to a Steller's Jay I have posted on pbase. It is also cropped horizontally but is a full vertical of the horizontal frame, a good comparative view. In this comparison, I personally also prefer the GH2 over the Canon.
   A third thing I wanted to revisit was the processing of the raw files to finish photo. I have noticed that I could almost batch process the GH2 files, they are so consistant. I didn't remember that being the case with any Canon setup I have used. Some individual tweaking has always been necessary on each photo and it was on this one. Once again, I prefer the GH2.
   The Canon equipment is already for sale but now I'm convinced I won't be going back and may have to make a stronger effort to sell it. All offers considered............

top
May 28, 2011

Some are Harder to get than others!

Purple Finch

I have Purple Finch in my yard every spring and summer. I often see them when I am taking photos or just birding in other places. They are not particularly shy, although they do tend to stay among the leaves in a tree. So why has it been so long before I could get a nice clear and sharp photo of one?
   I have taken numbers of photos and have several of the female that are quite presentable but the male has always looked mushy in my photos. Until now! This time whatever goblins were chasing me must have fallen asleep.
   This type of thing seems to happen a lot in the world of wildlife observance. For a long time it will seem impossible to see a desired bird and then one day it happens. Afterwards they will seem to be everywhere. If this holds true in this case, I should now get tons of good Purple Finch photos. We'll see.......
   I would be remiss if I didn't give some credit to the GH2. Besides being unobtrusive and easy to handle, it just plain takes great pictures.

top
June 4, 2011

The Last of an Era

Steller's Jay

I have a half-dozen photos taken with the 40D and 100-400mm lens and I will be putting them in the galleries the next few days. This one, though, is probably the last I will post here on my Home Page. All of the Canon cameras and lenses have been sold. The end of a ten year run of using Canon almost exclusively.
   A few things need to be said about then and now. To start, I want to be clear that I think Canon has been 'as good as it gets' during that ten years and still is. I have sold the equipment due to changes in my circumstances and desires not because of any fault or flaw in any item. The flaws, if you will, are in me. I simply cannot handle the weight of the 500mm lens that I loved so well. Once it was gone I found that I could come close enough to the quality of the shorter lenses and lessen the load even more by going to the Micro 4/3rd mirrorless camera system. An added plus for me was the much lower cost of the equipment.
   A large negative is the lack of a super-telephoto lens for this system. Hopefully that will change but until it does, I will feel somewhat unequipped. The video mode on the camera I'm currently using gives me about the same range and videos are good to do, but not the same. A tight shot of a flying bird at some distance is a challenge for me with the long lens and fast cameras. With video, it becomes an impossibility for me. So, yes, I feel the loss.
   But, for at least a few more years I hope, life goes on. I have much I can do and learn with this new system and if things continue to progress as they have these past ten years, I may soon have the capabilities of the SLR systems only without the weight. Wouldn't that be nice!?

top
June 22, 2011 White-headed Woodpecker female

No Place to Hide

At the first break in the weather in June, I had planned to take a trip to a birding spot I have grown to like in Oregon. I left on the 15th and was home again on the 18th. The weather was nice although a little cooler than normal. The cool spring we have had seems to have delayed the arrival of many birds usually seen there this time of year. In addition, the ones that are around are not yet using the water holes as they will when it is warmer and dryer. That, amongst other things, resulted in far fewer photos than usual.
   One of the 'other things' is finding other photographers using the site more than in the past. They brought their own blinds and I didn't, a distinct disadvantage this time. I am going to have to prepare better to compensate for the increasing number of photographers in the field. Most times I look for places where I can be alone, like this used to be, but they are fast disappearing.
   My original plan called for some additional time to be spent photographing dragonflies. The cool weather, along with a small glitch in my health, kept that from happening so what was planned to be almost a week turned out to be only three days. I have had this happen several times in the last two years, weather and health problems. I'm trying to stay home more and make the trips count more but how do you outguess the weather? The last day out, I drove home in the rain. (not forecast when I left)
   On the way home I stopped overnight at another spot where I am usually alone and this time I was. I spent some enjoyable moments that evening watching and taking video of some ground squirrel cubs.

top
July 1, 2011
Western Bluebird

Look up there

In the spring of 2009 I had two really enjoyable trips to bird refuges in Nevada, Utah and Montana. The cook was with me on the one through Montana and that was the greatest. Since then, however, it seems like I just can't have a good trip. Most often it has been the unpredictable nature of the weather that spoils things. Other times it seems the expected wildlife isn't to be seen for one reason or another.
   I suppose it's possible to think it is a temporary condition, that things will soon return to normal but with so many other unprecedented things taking place globally, that's probably not the case. While the weather in the Northwest U.S. has been inconvenient, in other parts of this nation and the world, it has sometimes been deadly. So, what's a photographer to do?
   Hold onto your hat! In other words, don't be caught unaware. Don't be caught in a sudden change of conditions because you expected something to be as it was in the past. If mother nature throws a fit, make sure you are out of the way. Don't go anyplace or do anything without making sure of the possibilities of changing conditions. I could elaborate in dozens of ways and I'm sure most of us can IF we think about it.
   Quite aside from photography, thinking about it is something we all should do. Asking ourselves questions about the what, why and how. Questions that don't seem to have answers about solutions that don't seem to be forthcoming from those we look to for such things. If, after doing that, things seem pretty bleak, follow the direction the bluebird is pointing, look higher up.

top
July 7, 2011
Chestnut-backed Chickadee Black-capped Chickadee Black-capped Chickadee

Why the GH2 didn't measure up

The last photo and musing on this page discussed a couple of significant shortcomings in the design of mirrorless cameras such as the GH2.(see here) As the three photos here show, sharpness and resolution aren't among them! Those other problems, though, have caused me to miss too many shots in real life use. It has been a frustrating experience to have a camera that is enjoyable to have in so many ways but falls so short in few but critical aspects.
   For many types of photography the delay I mentioned previously wouldn't matter. Scenery and lighting change relatively slowly. Even moving objects are often going at a speed that allows for anticipating a moment ahead of the shot. Indeed, anticipation of the moment is part of the art of photography. However, when photographing wild creatures, that moment is very small and if what you see has already happened you don't stand a very good chance of getting it right.
   So it is I have the Panasonic equipment for sale. I'm not overly anxious to sell it because of it's video capabilities but on the other hand, I haven't found video to be a good 'fit' for me. It requires a degree of coordination that I don't have, and a lot of hard work that I don't have the stamina or desire for. But, even so, I would like to play more in that area if time and location should present the opportunity.
   Canon has been upgrading lenses and cameras to degree that would soon break my budget were I to try and keep up. The items I sold were never fully satisfying to me with the possible exception of the 7D camera body. Even when using it, however, I often wished for the 1D Mk4. In fact I have wanted a 1D body for several years. Maybe when the Mk5 comes out I will get one but for now I'm buying a 60D, a consumer body with out a lot of the bells and whistles but having many features of my previous 7D.
   In keeping with my current thought of trying to work closer to my subject, I am getting one of the newest generation lenses, a 70-200mm, and a new generation 2X extender. This will give me a working range of 70-400mm, leaving me the need to buy something for the 14-70mm range but otherwise matching fairly well the GH2 as well as my previous Canon lenses except for the 500mm. The quality and speed should be noticably higher than anything previous and the delay will once again be at a level I can deal with.

top
Page 5