Photography can be a bit like Fly Fishing. Really.

I decided to visit our local botanic garden for a few hours last weekend.  The sky was a bit hazy which makes for nice diffused light (though it did unfortunately clear up somewhat once I got there), and the wind was light. The air temperature was delightfully in the 70s and the humidity was not quite at the “uncomfortable” level.  It was quite an enjoyable visit, with lots of happy people walking around, including many kids on what seemed to be a scavenger hunt. 

We’ve had a lot of heat this summer and recently some very heavy rain.  The result of this is that the flowers during this visit generally looked a little beaten up. But I was able to shift gears to the insect life.  I’m not a huge fan of getting close to bees, but with my 12-100mm Olympus lens (24-200mm equivalent)  I felt I could shoot from a safe distance.  Plus I think the bees were a lot more interested in the flowers than in me!  The long zoom also helped with the butterfly photo.  Had I brought two cameras I would have put my Olympus 60mm macro on the second camera, as I would have liked to have been closer to the spider.

It was not until I got back home and viewed my 300+ images, and found a mere 9 that I thought were “good”, that I began comparing my outing at the botanic garden with fly fishing.

Think of the 300 shutter actuations I made, as I walked among the flowers, as similar to perhaps 300 casts with my fly rod, as I walked up and down the river.  Then think of the 300 captures (i.e. photos) as similar to a pile of caught fish, or at least bites or nibbles.  (Actually, 300 fish - one on every cast - is unlikely).  The 9 good images are like 9 good-sized fish, the other 294 fish being thrown back into the river, and the other 294 images being deleted.  What you see in this blog post are those 9 photos.

There are plenty of other similarities.  Both activities provide recreation by offering an opportunity to get outdoors and to be in nature.  The camera is similar to the fly rod and reel… all being nice pieces of modern technology, designed to capture the subject of your adventure.  The camera backpack with assorted lenses and accessories is like the fly fishing vest full of flies and accessories.  Perhaps, too, the art of post processing one’s images can be compared to the art of tying one’s own flies.

Enough said about fly fishing.

The image below is my favorite image of the set.  It is the crab spider I mentioned above. Using my fishing analogy, this would be the biggest trout of the outing.  What I like so much about this photo is the nature story.  And actually, I saw this capture happen.  

I was looking down on the flower and saw the fly about to land.  I heard a snap as the "claws" of the spider snapped shut on the fly.  As far as I can tell there are no webs for the crab spider to catch his prey.  Instead he patiently awaits for a fly to come within his range.  The two most-forward legs on each side are held wide open like a crab with claws. Each pair of legs appear to be glued together, making it look like there are only two claws, one on each side.  (Though the spider is no longer "in wait", you can see that his left forward two legs are held together.) These legs/claws snapped shut as fast as one of those spring-loaded mouse traps, and instantaneously pulled the fly into the spider's mouth.


One Photo: Sometimes the Best Photos are not the “Best” Photos

“Grandmother and Grandson”
Photo taken at a Saturday morning Farmers Market, Bath, Maine
Panasonic GM5 with 12-32mm zoom at 32mm and cropped somewhat
1/160 sec, F5.6, ISO 200

I’ve returned from a long vacation in Maine and have been going through my images, looking for the “best” ones.  In reality there aren’t too many in that department, perhaps because once we get to Maine it’s generally a “stay-cation” for us.  This means I don’t take a lot of photos. 

But the photo featured here is an exception to all the images I captured.  It is certainly not a photo to “put on the wall”, nor will it be included in my portfolio (if I every take the time to create one).  The background is (perhaps) distracting.  And wouldn’t it be better to see faces?  I don’t know, but I don't think so.

From a standpoint of pure emotion, I am so happy with this image.  It touched my heart. My wife and I both had tears in our eyes as we reviewed this image, as did at least one of my friends. It is so touching. The first thing I said to myself was that the grandmother is so lucky… but then I realized that the grandson is equally lucky.  

Love is hard to define… but I know it when I see it.


Lobster Traps are now quite Colorful

According to Wikipedia, the wooden lath lobster trap (or lobster “pot” as it is sometimes called) that I remember in my youth was “invented” in Massachusetts.  I saw a date of 1808 for a lobster trap in Swampscott, Massachusetts and 1810 for a wood trap in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

When I was in college in Maine many of us scoured the beaches or flea markets for the wooden lath trap.  Turned upside down, so the flat bottom was facing up, these made excellent coffee tables with a sheet of 1/4” plate glass over the flat surface.  Or, no glass at all if you couldn’t afford it.

In 2014, when traveling in Nova Scotia, I was happy to see that they were still in use.  I saw dozens of lobster boats, all of which were using the wooden lath trap. 

For those of you who can’t picture in your mind what the wooden lobster trap looks like, I went back into my library of photos and pulled out five images from our 2014 trip to Nova Scotia.

From what I have read on the Internet, the wire traps came into prominence in New England about 35 years ago.  My wife and I spend a lot of time traveling the coast of Maine, and I do miss the classic wood traps, but understand there are advantages to the wire traps.  Supposedly they have a better chance of landing upright on the ocean bottom and don’t bounce around as much on the bottom.  Also, I am guessing the maintenance is far less.  Traditionally, lobstermen spent some of their winter making or repairing the oak wood traps.

Anyway, I think I am at the point where I can let go of the nostalgia.  I am finding the wire traps to be attractive in their own right.  This has been helped by the multiple colors that are used in the plastic coating.  Even rope is coming in several colors.  All of this can make for a colorful composition.

Below are several photos taken near Popham Beach, Phippsburg, Maine last month on an overcast and slightly foggy day.


The Rokinon Samyang AF 24mm FE F2.8 needs to go Back

I am so disappointed in this lens.  I had high hopes for this small and lightweight 35mm equivalent (on my A6000) autofocus Rokinon lens. Since the Rokinon is designed for full frame Sony cameras, perhaps the full frame guys will have different results. I wrote about my interest in this lens, several weeks ago here.

I took delivery of the pre-ordered 24mm FE F2.8 lens a couple of weeks ago, but didn't try it out until recently, as it didn't make it in time to go on vacation with me.

Though obviously two different systems, I like to compare any new lens with the performance and sharpness of either my Olympus 12-40 F2.8 or 12-100 F4.  These two Olympus lens are more than sharp enough for me, and they focus fast and quietly.

Unfortunately the Rokinon 24mm lacked the sharpness I was hoping for.  I tried upsizing the 16mp Olympus files to match the 24mp Sony files, and I tried downsizing the 24mp Sony files to match the 16mp Olympus files. Either way, the results were disappointing at F2.8 and F4.

In absolute terms, I found the Rokinon at F2.8 to be terribly soft.  At F4 it was slightly better. Things looked reasonable at F5.6 and F8, but got softer at F11. For a "modern" F2.8 lens my expectation is for nearly the highest sharpness at F2.8 with peak sharpness perhaps at both F4 and F5.6.

When comparing the Rokinon images with the Olympus, I found that the Olympus wide open at F2.8 gave a far sharper image than the Rokinon at either F2.8 or F4, and a slightly sharper image that the Rokinon at F5.6.

Yes, the Olympus has image stabilization while the Sony with Rokinon does not.  But it was a sunny day and shutter speeds were fast enough to freeze motion.

Center sharpness overall was unacceptable on the Rokinon. I never tested the edges or corners as there was no need to.  The lens was going to be returned regardless of edge or corner performance.

Here are several screen shots comparing the Rokinon 24mm (35mm equiv) with the Olympus 12-40 at 17mm (35mm equivalent).  Hopefully, even with these compressed 800 pixel wide screenshots you will be able to see the differences.

These are 200% crops from the center of the frames.

The Rokinon at F2.8 and F4 is especially painful.

Rokinon on left.

Olympus on right.

Light bulb in the lamp was my focus point.

Original images were shot in RAW format; however, these are jpg screenshots taken within Lightroom.


Flower Photos from July

As it turns out all of my flower photos for July were taken during a two hour visit to Tower Hill Botanic Garden on July 14. It was a mid-day visit and the sun was high in the sky, but the light was nicely diffused.

Single image. No focus stacking

Single image. No focus stacking

All of these images were taken using an Olympus EM-1 and an Olympus 60mm (120mm-full frame equivalent) macro lens.  Two are single images and the other 19 are focus stacked with between 3 and 24 images. Using aperture priority, most were at F4 and a few were at F2.8.  There was plenty of light, so all were shot at my camera’s base ISO of 200.  Shutter speeds were “safe” speeds of from 1/160 to 1/2000sec, with most being between 1/500-1/800sec.

Water Lily
Three stacked images

Seven stacked images

Mock Vervain
Seven stacked images

One thing I’ve been learning about focus stacking is that it is a l-o-n-g process.  Not so much in the field, as the auto stacking feature on the newer Olympus cameras works quite smoothly. But, it’s in post processing that a lot of time is required.  

Day Lily
Eight stacked images

Day Lily
Nine stacked images

Photoshop does a great job aligning the images. I'm thankful for that, as all of these images were taken hand-held. However, it takes quite a while for the Photoshop software to first align the images and then make a second run to blend them.  The photographer has to hang around to click various check boxes as the computer churns and churns. 

Leopard Lily
10 stacked images

11 stacked images

The results are quite startling to me.  Perhaps the thrill will wear off and perhaps eventually (soon?) I will decide it just isn’t worth the effort.  But right now I am finding it fun.

Mock Vervain
12 stacked images

Wild Geranium
13 stacked images

Although the shutter speeds I was using resulted in sharp images, it nevertheless took the camera 5 (?) seconds to record 25 images.  During that time there is inevitably some movement of the camera, as well as the flower. A tripod might help, but I didn’t use one during this outing.  A tripod would freeze the camera in one spot… though the flower will still move except on absolutely windless days.

Day Lily
15 stacked images

Fan Flower
17 stacked images

I’m not a tripod fan as it is, and the excellent alignment algorithms in Photoshop are making it easier and easier for me to leave the tripod in the car!

Egyptian Starclusters
18 stacked images

19 stacked images

22 images

22 images

Insect on Flower
22 images

The Inner Workings
23 images

Bee on Flower
24 images