We photographers all spend a certain amount of time looking over the lenses we don’t own, sort of in an “ask your doctor if this lens is right for you” way. 😉 Yesterday’s surfing took me down the rabbit hole of the recently introduced Tamron 18-300mm zoom lens. I’ve been thinking of renting a copy of this lens to evaluate its suitability as a do-everything lens for travel and wanted to check out some reviews. I was amused by a couple of the comments that seemed especially contradictory:
“Not as sharp as my Fuji lenses, but perfect for travel photos.” So…travel photos don’t need to be sharp?
“If you’re an amateur/occasional photographer maybe it won’t make much difference but if you shoot on a frequent basis, I highly recommend looking at other options.” I don’t take a lot of photos so I won’t know if the lens is good or not?
“A great Kit lens, but image quality and focus are lacking. The edges and corners are soft at most focal lengths, and it focuses poorly at the longer focal lengths, 200mm to 300mm. I was never able to get an image in focus of birds on a rock. The focus seems to be behind the subject. I even shot at 1/1000 of a second to make sure there was no camera movement. It’s a great kit and travel lens if image quality and critical focus at the higher mm lengths aren’t important to you.” Hmmmm. No.
Often, a non-photographer will ask me if I “Photoshop” my photos. My answer is usually something like “I don’t use Photoshop, but I do process my photos.” The follow up is usually some version of “why.”
As we photographers know, cameras today give us lots of latitude for exposure adjustments, which is what I use the most, along with straightening horizons (a lot!), removing dust spots (almost as much!), cropping, contrast & saturation adjustment, and more. And while it is possible to get way beyond reality, I tend to try – as we all do – to improve upon reality just a bit.
Ansel Adams is credited with the words “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” A bit modest, perhaps, but that pretty much summarizes – with a bit of humor – what we do and why.
Here are 4 photos I made at the summit of Haleakala that show what I mean. The ideal time to get even lighting in the crater is when the sun is directly overhead. But that unfortunately is one of the hardest conditions to photograph anything else! So I did my best to counteract the highlights and shadows in order to bring everything back to what my eye was able to perceive.
Kathy & I are working on a decorating project and looking at various groupings of colors. One of the themes is “Yellow.” Yes, a lot of the photos are of flowers, but there are a lot of yellow flowers! 😉
Kathy and I were walking through the neighborhood yesterday and passed a neighbor taking out her trash. “Let me ask you a question,” she said as we walked by. She then proceeded to ask a question (it was related to Covid), but asked it in a way that indicated that she wasn’t looking for our opinion – she was only looking for an opportunity to tell us hers. We listened politely for a couple of minutes, uttered a couple of pleasantries, then continued our walk. I then decided to add Covid to the list of things I don’t discuss with others, which includes religion, politics and money.
A day doesn’t go by without someone posting on antisocial media that they are “quitting” something. The latest thing is Spotify, which I think is ironic because they cite a couple of musicians – who are famous and opinionated – quitting because of some other famous and opinionated guy who they disagree with. Also ironic is these folks, some of whom had previously “quit” Facebook, post about it on Facebook. As an aside, I wonder how many of these former listeners were ad-supported listeners and never actually paid any money. Just yesterday someone announced that they were quitting Facebook and Instagram because their account was “hacked.” It probably wasn’t, but anyway…. There are plenty of reasons to actually quit Facebook, and privacy and security are two of the biggest.
It is fortunate that we live in a country that allows for personal opinion and individual decisions. Personal Freedom, we call it. Some folks carry things a bit too far, some way too far. But everyone has the ability to have their own opinion, influenced by whatever influences them and using whatever ideas and facts they are comfortable with. Where things get really sideways is when someone feels that others’ opinions should be the same as their own, and if they aren’t the others are “wrong” and feel the need to “prove” or “fix” it.
Right and wrong is often a continuum, not just a Yay or Nay, Yes or No. There are some real extreme opinions everywhere. I hesitate to use the words that come to mind because it would imply judgement, and I don’t wish to judge. Every position is someone’s Right and someone else’s Wrong. Suffice it to say that it is possible to find someone who you align with, regardless of where you fall on a given issue. The trick is to make it our own choice, not someone else’s that has been imposed on us.
Since Spotify is the flavor of the week, I’ll use that example. I am an avid listener of Spotify and use it daily. I pay for a subscription to support the company and so I can listen without advertising (I also pay for ad-free XM, Pandora and Jazz Radio – all for a fraction of what cable TV would cost). I play Spotify on my computer, in the car and through Sonos. I love that I can find just about any album ever made and listen to it online, for less than the cost of a CD or download each month. I even listen to a few podcasts through Spotify, (although my favorite one hasn’t posted since May 😉 ).
There are lots of things I don’t listen to on Spotify, and probably a lot of things I would find annoying or even offensive. But that is the case with all media. There are even people at the NY Times and Washington Post I disagree with, but I still subscribe because overall I find value. A lot of attention is currently being focused on one person, and I know the name but have never been interested in listening. A lot of people are fans and Spotify paid a bunch of money to carry his program, some of which comes from my subscription money. But as long as the service gives me what I want and costs a reasonable amount, I’ll stay with it. I know that a lot of musicians don’t love Spotify because they don’t care for the payment structure, so they also choose. Hopefully they can do better on their own or with Apple Music, Amazon or Tidal, but those companies aren’t exactly known as being artist-friendly either. But they – and we – can choose. Vote with our feet, as it were.
Should there be some kind of limits on content? Probably, but who gets to decide? Whose “facts” are we going to base our decisions on? There is a fine line between content moderation and censorship – anyone tasked with that role is going to have their own biases. We already can’t agree on anything, so trying to limit content would likely just make things worse.
Anyway, listen on! Be polite to your neighbors regardless of their opinions. But have a pre-rehearsed statement that allows you to excuse yourself when the conversation gets uncomfortable. And perhaps don’t walk through the neighborhood at 3:00 on Trash Day. That’s the time the HOA says you can put out your can and by 3:15 half of them are out!
When a restaurant bills itself as “The Best Italian Restaurant in St. Petersburg” and is walking distance from your motel, you need to go, right? Such was the case with Gratzzi Grille. Yeah, maybe the name isn’t spelled ‘correctly’ but I’ll bet it gets pronounced correctly!
One of the items on their menu is what they call ‘Cavatelli Bada Bing.’ It’s prepared tableside by one of the owners, and uses a lot of flaming vodka to prepare a very cheesy, very delicious cavatelli dish. I had to try it! It’s a bit more of a show than it is an example of fine Italian cuisine, but it was fun.
I didn’t take photos or videos, because I just wanted to watch. But the video below shows it better than anything I could have shot anyway. And the guy doing the cooking is the guy who did mine.
I know not everyone is able to share this sentiment, but from my perspective, 2021 was actually quite a fantastic year. I admit that we were quite fortunate to have not faced a lot of the trials that impacted others. Luck, circumstance, perspective and attitude make a huge difference, of course, as do flexibility and acceptance. Kathy & I are happy, positive people with a good outlook on life, a sense of adventure, and it doesn’t take a lot to make us happy.
What matters to us most are three things: (1) are we healthy?, (2) are our family and friends healthy and safe? and (3) can we pay the bills? The first two have gotten a little complicated lately, but we deal. The “New Normal?” Nah, that’s just Life. And in the words of (Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon made famous by) Mr. Sinatra, “as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream. But I don’t let it, let it get me down ’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around.”
This is not intended to be a political or philosophical post, but I think what gets a lot of people down is that they pay too much attention to shit that doesn’t affect them. Kathy & I remain peripherally aware of current events, just enough to know what big things are happening in the world. We spend very little time on (anti)social media, stay mindfully aware of and avoid the hysteria boobytraps that lurk there. Yes, we’re aware of all the boogeymen (and boogeywomen?) out there, but for the most part the idiot politicians, celebrities and bazillionaires (real and imagined) have very little direct impact on our life or our happiness. And hand wringing about things that are out of our control is pretty much pointless. Play on!
We’ve traveled, mindfully and – where necessary – carefully. We drove over 22,000 miles, visited 12 new states, met some new friends and caught up with some long-time friends. We even took our first cruise in nearly 2 years. And I took over 16,000 photos – not quite as much as 2000 but almost! Some of the precautions and protocols inspire a forehead slap or an eye roll. But if it needs to be done to do what we want to do? Roll with it and move on. Complaining about it just makes you look like another idiot – not the image we want to present to the world.
So anyway, I took some photos. I don’t generally feel the need for a “My Year In Review” retrospective, but it is sometimes interesting to go back and look at what I saw and aimed my camera at. I don’t try to a “Best Of” or even a “Favorites” post, because as we discussed on Joe’s Blog a few weeks ago, the selections tend to change every time we look. I’ve long contended that for most people the quality of the memory is more important than the technical quality of the photograph. Which is why you see so many cell-phone-out-of-car-window photos, selfie sticks and other various head scratchers.
I chose a group of photos that show my year. I didn’t even limit them to 21 (as in the year 2021). Some of them are pretty good technically, some of them might even be OK artistically. But mostly they say, I was here and this is what I did/saw/felt/experienced. And ultimately it doesn’t get a lot better than that.
Kathy & I send our sincerest wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy, amazing and fulfilling 2022!
“Once, man turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.
Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind.”
Frank Herbert’s Dune, 1965
I’m currently reading the first of six books in the Dune series. Why watch a movie when you can read a 500+ page book, right? 😉 I was particularly struck by this quote when taken in context of the world we live in today.
I started this book years ago as a teenager and couldn’t get through the first few chapters. It’s a different writing style than I had become accustomed to reading Asimov, Heinlein and Bradbury. It took me a while to get into it, but now that I’m over halfway through I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. Will I read the rest of the series? Likely, but no rush!