Life maintains a fragile balance. Most of us take this balance for granted, but the result when this changes even a little can be devastating. A life full of health and optimism can quickly turn to pain and misery with little or no warning.
Kathy’s Mom passed away this past week. The funeral was Saturday. Just a few short years ago she was healthy and energetic, walking and exercising regularly, optimistic for a long and happy future. A series of falls and illnesses were eventually diagnosed as Parkinson’s. A disease as diverse as those who are afflicted, there is little to be done, save for some medicines whose side effects tend to be as horrible as the illness they are designed to alleviate. Eventually the inevitable prevailed, and in too short a time she was gone.
A loving wife and caring mother, she left a family who misses her greatly. Her wit, wisdom and sense of humor inspires us all, and I am grateful that she was even able to find a few redeeming qualities in me.
Kathy & I make frequent trips to Marion, NC to visit our friends at Bruce’s Fabulous Foods on Main Street in Marion. We stumbled on Bruce’s a few years ago and have been making regular visits ever since. This past Saturday we made our most recent pilgrimage.
I’ve had an ongoing love for train stations and enjoy photographing them. Not sure exactly why, but I do. We often plan trips around train stations just to check them out.
The station in Marion is one we had visited before, but with a new camera to play with it was time to stop by again! The light was a little tough and we were hungry, so we didn’t spend a lot of time but I got a few shots.
I’ve gotten a little more time to shoot with the 5D Mark III over the last few days. Saturday I was teaching a digital point & shoot class for The Light Factory, and part of the class time is spent out actually taking photos. What a concept – a photography class that actually goes out and takes photos…amazing if I do say so myself! I cheated a little and took the 5D, with full disclosure to the class, of course. And after using my G12 in the previous session.
I’ve still a little vexed by what I feel is most likely a learning curve in Lightroom…my files seem to be coming in flat and dark, and only after applying a pretty aggressive tone curve adjustment can I get them where I want them. I thought maybe I had some kind of Auto Tone turned on, but nothing I see indicates that I do, and even if I did I think the images, if anything, would look lighter instead of darker. I also saw on a video tutorial something about some automatic highlight suppression that Lightroom is doing, but I haven’t found anything definitive about that. So for now I’ve got something that works and I’m using it.
I’ve posted this photos a little larger than usual in case anyone wants to do some peeping. Click on each photo to make them bigger (dare I say “embiggen?”). They look pretty good, I think.
I’ve been amused by some of the press reports surrounding the so-called “light leak” issue with the Canon 5D Mark III. I won’t even link to it here but you can easily Google it if you feel you need the details, but suffice it to say that, while it is admittedly an “issue” it is not exactly a “problem” unless you normally take pictures in the dark with your lens cap on and rely on the LCD backlight while you are metering. Not something that concerns me, but people have made enough of a ruckus that Canon was forced to issue a press release to state that they were working on a “fix.” It amazes me that people must actually spend time trying to find these so-called flaws.
I’ve had the 5D Mark III for about 2 weeks now, and while a lot of people would have turned over 10,000 images in that amount of time, my schedule has given me barely enough time to become familiar with the camera. I have managed to come up with some initial impressions and conclusions that I thought might be interesting to share.
My first real experience with the new camera was a little time spent walking around Charlotte on a rainy day, shooting some dreary outside scenes and some dark interiors, stretching the ISO limits a bit. I was and remain quite impressed with the relatively low noise at the higher ISOs, although in reality I was shooting much higher than I would seriously consider for serious use, mostly just because I could.
My first actual job with the new camera involved shooting a small event at a local restaurant. I used ISO 3200 because, even though I was using a flash, I wanted the extra shutter speed that the higher ISO gave me. The photos from that event are very nice and I can confidently say that if I was a wedding or event shooter I wouldn’t hesitate to bump the ISO when I needed the speed.
I took the camera with me over Easter weekend when we visited Shenandoah National Park. Most of the photos I took on that trip were taken without benefit of a tripod (because I was too lazy to carry it) and those where I used the tripod were taken in very windy conditions or in harsh lighting, which makes it difficult to really evaluate the files. Add to that a major update to Lightroom, and I have been flummoxed trying to get files to come out to my liking. I’ve finally turned the corner on that, however, and am much happier now.
My first impression of the camera when getting it out of the box was that it has a nice feel. The surface has almost a “stickiness” to it that makes it comfortable to hold, and the grip areas are shaped just right for my hands. It feels well balanced with all of my lenses, most especially the 17-40 and the 24-105. Sticking a 70-200 2.8 or a 100-400 on the front of any body makes it a beast, so there’s not much to say about that. I have yet to put the 70-200 on it, which is weird since it is my favorite lens. Soon! I promise!
The controls are pretty well laid out, although it does have a couple of useless buttons, the “Rate” button and something called the “Creative Photo/Comparative Playback/Direct Print button that can’t be programmed for anything else. After a little fiddling with some of the custom controls I have managed to get things pretty much where I want it. I’ve purposely stayed away from the custom controls on the mode dial, figuring that I wanted to get a better feel for the choices before I started trying to come up with “canned” settings. As I did with some of my other cameras, I’ll probably create a setting for general nature stuff when shooting from a tripod, one for shooting hand-held, and another for shooting action.
I really like the addition of the “My Menu” (remember I’m coming from an original 5D) for commonly used functions like mirror lockup. I’m still playing around with what I put on there. It seems pretty useful though, and while navigating the main menu isn’t that hard, it’s nice to be able to recall the frequently used functions easily.
I haven’t had a chance to use the capabilities of this camera shooting action, but for what I’ve done so far the focusing ability of this camera is impressive. It took a little effort to figure out how to change modes and move the focusing point around, but once I did it’s a piece of cake. Focusing is fast and accurate, although I’ve found that I have to be very careful with depth of field. After spending a lot of time using point & shoot or crop-sensor cameras I’m gaining a new appreciation for being careful with depth of field. It’s easy to get lazy with a tiny sensor camera, and moving to a large sensor makes you pay attention. On the other hand, getting shallow depth of field when you want it couldn’t be easier. I’d love to put a fast prime on this baby!
This is the one area where I want to spend some more time, but the impression I have so far is that quality is very good. The photos I’ve taken that I’m happy with show an amazing amount of detail. The downside is that the ones that I’m not happy with tend to exaggerate my mistakes!
One area that I feel like I see the most improvement seems to be dynamic range. I seem to be able to pull a lot of detail out of the shadows and control of highlights seems pretty good. Some of that may be the improvements in Lightroom, too. But the results look like the combination will be a good one for what I do.
The thing I haven’t done yet is to make prints from these files, and I am very much looking forward to a chance to do that. Hopefully I’ll have some time this weekend to waste a little ink and paper.
So far my only complaint about the camera is that I haven’t had enough time to enjoy it! In just a few short weeks though I’ll have a nice two-week vacation to Alaska and California, giving me plenty of time and lots of subject matter to finally put this camera to the test, and I’m really looking forward to that. Hopefully between now and then I’ll be able to make some more photos, work with all of my lenses and settle on the equipment that is going to make the trip. I change my mind every day (Kathy rolls her eyes) but eventually I’m going to test-pack the bag and see just how much stuff it will hold.
The world is a noisy place, sometimes. Our workplaces are full of overheard telephone conversations, unattended cell phones, conference calls in “speaker phone voice” from an open cubicle with multiple participants, casual chatter between cube-neighbors. People leave televisions blaring in an empty room that is so loud it hurts my ears, and there’s no one there watching it. We go out for a meal to a restaurant filled with televisions AND loud music in a room with concrete floors and high ceilings that creates “atmosphere.” Actually it creates a headache. Heck, spend a couple of hours on the Blue Ridge Parkway and count the number of loud, noisy cars and motorcycles that roar by in a given period of time. “OUT ENJOYING THE PEACE AND QUIET ON YOUR HARLEY, HUH? WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER MY RADIO.” Why does a motorcycle even NEED a radio? HUH? Nevermind.
Kathy & I seek quiet. We avoid noise whenever possible. We sometimes sit at home in the evenings and the only sound is the clicking of one OF our clocks. Lovely. No television, no music, and hopefully no neighbor’s barking dogs. When I sit at my computer I listen to an acoustic guitar channel on Pandora. Softly. When we think about traveling we think in terms of places we can go to get away from noise, at least man-made noise. Ocean sounds, waterfalls, wind? Those are no problem. We’ve even learned how to find the quiet places on a cruise ship, which is no small feat when sailing with 3 or 4 thousand of our closest friends.
The thing I love about photography is that it takes me to quiet places. Even in the middle of a city, it gets my mind and attention away from the sounds and they become nothing more than background. I shut all that noise out and just think about enjoying my time with my camera. That’s the reason I don’t generally photograph with groups. I have a lot of good friends that are photographers, and while hanging out with a few of them at a time is great fun, much more than that and it’s hard to find the quiet place I look for when I’m with my camera.
Like these photos? Maiden voyage of the new machine. I made them a little larger than usual – click on them to make them bigger.
Three conversations over the last several days have gotten me thinking about the things that influence our preferences and perceptions. Bear with me while I elaborate.
Kathy & I enjoy dining out, and this past Friday and Saturday nights were no exception. Friday night we went to a restaurant we have only been to a couple of times but have really enjoyed, and on Saturday night we went to a restaurant we had never been to before but had wanted to try.
The Friday night restaurant experience was exactly what we expected based on previous visits. The place has more of a sports bar/pub atmosphere and is generally a lot noisier than we prefer, with lots of televisions, this night showing NCAA basketball. Definitely not my idea of the ideal restaurant experience, but it is close to home, the food and service are good and the prices are reasonable, so we are willing to overlook a few less-than-ideal factors.
Fast forward to Saturday night. The place was a restaurant we had never visited before, but they had good reviews on Yelp and UrbanSpoon, so we figured it was worth a try. The restaurant’s website confirmed that the chef had lots of experience in other restaurants we have previously enjoyed and suggested that his approach mirrored our preferences and we went with an expectation of an excellent and enjoyable meal.
It wasn’t terrible, but a number of missteps left us with a very mixed first impression, to the point where I’m not certain we’ll return. They didn’t have a table ready for us despite having a reservation, the first two bottles of wine I requested were not in stock, despite being on the list, and my steak – one of the “features” for the evening – was tough and undercooked and my vegetables were practically raw. I know from well-proven experience that there are not many places that can do steak to my satisfaction, but I ordered it anyway, and the result proved my rule. On the other hand, Kathy’s dinner was good and she ate every bite.
Afterward, our discussion centered on how our prior experiences and our own biases influence our first impressions. We have been to some very good restaurants over the years, and while we are certainly not snobbish or opinionated, we generally know what to expect. And I’m not talking just fine dining – we have had excellent meals from casual diners to fancy, high-priced restaurants. Are we spoiled? Perhaps we are, but there are noticeable differences between a good restaurant and an average restaurant regardless of price, and there are enough good restaurants that there is little reason to bother with the average ones.
To be fair to this place, however, I recognize that had I ordered something different I might have had an experience that was 180-degrees opposite from what I had, and I may have been able to overlook the miscues. And had there not been the miscues I might have been more able to overlook a disappointing meal. As it turned out, a lot of little things contributed to a disappointing experience. We concluded that, considering the price and knowing the many other options available, this place would not be high on the list of restaurants to return to.
During our lunch in Salisbury last weekend, Paul, Earl & I talked about why we write and what we hope to get out of our blogs. We talked about the mutual followers we have and talked a lot about the number of photography blogs we enjoy and how those writers have a similar philosophy and approach to their photography that we have with ours, and how they often commented on our blogs, just as we comment on theirs. I was not too surprised to find that there are a few blogs we don’t especially care for. There is one blog in particular that we mutually dislike (“despise” might not be too strong a word) for a number of reasons, and that discovery led to a rather amusing conversation, as we all felt that this blog was the antithesis of our own blogs and those of our friends. Also interesting was the common observation that most of the people who follow that blog – or at least those who comment on it – had similar philosophies to the writer and were not the type of people we would find commenting on our blogs. It was an interesting discussion.
My take from all that is that people of like minds tend to gravitate toward each other, and the people who take an alternate or opposing viewpoint tend to stick with each other too.
I spent some time on Sunday afternoon working with a good friend on getting some prints made of his photographs. This person is a long time friend and I admire his photography. His photos have traditionally been very quiet and introspective. But lately his images have taken on more on an “urban decay and chaos” theme, and the difference is fascinating. The particular photographs we were printing were from an old store that he has been photographing. The store is long closed, but the photographs show an interior with lots of clutter and chaos. This friend has had some chaos in his life recently, and it seems that he is expressing this through his photography. I wonder if he realizes it?
Coincidentally that same day a number of other friends had been posting photos on Facebook from several other another outings, and Kathy & I had an interesting discussion about how those photographs often reflected my view of the personality of each photographer. We speculated about how or whether a person’s subject matter reflected their profession, their current emotional state or some wished-for or desired outcome!