Windows For the Soul - Photography

When field rats and lab rats meet

Too often the academia and practitioners fail to cooperate with a view to achieving a common goal: building knowledge. We, the academia, often disregard practical experience as we arrogantly look down from the top of our temples of knowledge, which are too often little more than a shrine to our pride and vanity, a mask for our ignorance. We, the practitioners, often have nothing but scorn for the "academics" and we tag them with all sorts of pet-names. More often than not, there is a bit of reason on both sides but both sides also fail to step forward and cross the boundaries of prejudice. This story is worthy of attention in the sense that it is a token of how stretching out a hand to the other side can lead to mutual benefits. Too often scientist fail to step out of their labs or their computer desks and venture into the field. Too often those on the field refuse to let the scientists come to their turf, refuse their advice or their insights, moved by their on insecurity or some other reason. Here, an experienced photographer shared his sensational finding with the academics and this openness cannot be excessively praised. Kudos to both sides.

Check out Gonçalo Rosa's blog for some of his remarkable work.

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Waiting for that light

A few weeks ago, I took a few hours late in the afternoon to go for a walk on the countryside. I took my teenage daughter along, with her own camera. Yes, spreading the gospel, so to speak. There were no interesting sightings worthy of a photograph, apart from this fellow with its extremely discreet camo (Euplectes afer, Yellow-crowned bishop), toing and froing above a stretch of reed. Clearly, there was a nest nearby. We managed to take a few shots of the busy creature but as I was testing a TC-200 on my 80-200mm f/2.8 in rather dim light, on a windy day and with no tripod, the outcome was far from acceptable. I decided that I would be back as soon as I had a chance.
A couple of weeks later, I returned alone. I had my tripod with me, there was a bit of wind but it was no gale. I had plenty of time because the girl that is a treat for mosquitoes at that time of the day stayed home.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, Nikon TC-200, ISO 400, 1/1250, f/God-Only-Knows, Tripod.

On a first sighting, I managed to take a few photos, but the wind was still a bit too strong. I noticed that I would have the sun behind my back at sunset, so I decided to return a couple of hours later, and so I did. However, when I returned, the busy bird seemed to have vanished and I had to wait over an hour for him to show up again. Apart from the fact that I was standing, I did not mind an extra hour of peacefulness on the countryside. I am just a bloke with a camera taking a few photos on my scarce spare time but for me waiting a couple of hours for a bird is by no means boring because there is always something else to photograph as I wait. However, even though I know that those who do this professionally frequently have to wait much longer than that, I could see myself doing this for a living. Moving on... lest I should need to get therapy... Considering that I was using a Nikon TC-200 on my 80-200 f/2.8 and, consequently, using manual focus, with doubtful exposure readings on the D600, considering that it was on a windy day, that I had no VR and was using a shaky tripod head, it could be worse...I hope. Well, who cares, at least I could finally enjoy a quiet afternoon away from my desktop.
The second photo and the third one were taken almost 3 hours after the first shot. On the first one, I used the DX camera for the extra reach, on the other two I used the FX so that I could crank up the ISO to cope with the fading light. I know which photo(s) I prefer...

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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, Nikon TC-200, ISO 1600, 1/1000, f/God-Only-Knows, Tripod.

Butterfly season with different cameras

I know that we all see the photos first and only then, if ever, go on to reading the post. However, just this once, try to read first and check out the photos in the end because it’s quiz time.

Another year has passed, speeding into oblivion, and here comes butterfly season. I like shooting butterflies, but I like it more for the effort that I have to put into it than for the results. One could be led to believe that photographing butterflies is easy. I guess it probably is, but not around here. Even in the hottest summer days, mornings tend to be too cold until the sun is high in the sky, but as soon as the heat comes in so does the wind. For those who believe that shooting butterflies is easy, try doing it on a windy day. Yet, occasionally, I get lucky. I came across a seemingly uninteresting small meadow on a field, not too far from my house, that was populated with small butterflies of different species. On my way back home, I took 30 minutes off on a few different days. On two of those days, the wind called for increased shutter speed, but when the breeze was gentle the butterflies were not too active. This was also due, I imagine, to the fact that it was quite early in the morning and it was probably too cold for them. I had a chance to try different compositions and different settings; to work the DOF that can be a bit tricky with small creatures with such a peculiar shape; or to avoid the nasty backgrounds on a natural environment. As I said, it is more about the effort than about the result because, in the end, photos of butterflies seldom have anything interesting about them other than the creature itself. And when they do, more often than not I am left with the sensation that they have been “engineered” to obtain a perfect scenario, with ideal conditions.

Three different days, at roughly the same time of the day, with three different cameras (D600, D7100 and D700) and the same lens (Micro AF-S 105mm f/2.8 G). When I am out looking for small creatures there are occasions when the crop factor of the DX camera is welcome. However, I do not fancy extreme macro shots, particularly when it comes to butterflies, as I rather prefer to include a glimpse of their environment. So, I tend to use the FX cameras for this sort of shot, unless the butterflies avoid my presence and I need increased reach. I have added the D700 to my kit bag only recently. I had been curious to give it a try for quite some time and finally I came across the opportunity to grab one. I am not disappointed. In fact, after only a couple of weeks using it, I end up picking it up most of the time. I just love its handling and I really like its results. For some reason, I can see myself using it more than the D600 (or the D7100, a great camera that, in the meantime, I have sold ) for portraits, landscape and whenever I want to capture a certain light or ambient. There is just something about it that I guess it has earned it its iconic status. To be honest, right now I can hardly keep my hands off the D700.

Ok, it’s quiz time: I know it is not easy, or it does not make much sense trying to compare them, because the subjects, the settings and the conditions are different but try to look at the three photos below without reading the settings caption and guess which photo was taken with the D700.

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Nikon D600, Nikon Micro AF-S 105mm f/2.8 G, ISO 220, 1/2500, f/4.0, SB-28.

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Nikon D700, Nikon Micro AF-S 105mm f/2.8 G, ISO 200, 1/250, f/10, SB-28.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon Micro AF-S 105mm f/2.8 G, ISO 200, 1/200, f/11, SB-28.

What can I photograph when the lions don't show up?

As much as I would love that, there are no lions, zebras, leopards, wildebeests, etc., around here. Although there is, I imagine, a good number of different species that could surely be worthy of a photo, they just don’t cross my way when I am running all my daily errands, which is pretty much all I do most of my day. Either that or seat at my desk, stuck on my desktop, trying to do what pays the bills. They call it working. Anyway, as I was saying, I lack the usual interesting subjects for a shot that is worthy of more than 2 seconds of attention. Of course, I lack much more than just that, but I’d rather not go into that because it’s easier to complain about what is beyond my power to change. So (I keep digressing, I know), what could possibly make the difference between a photo of a simple horse on a field, or what a friend of mine would call a “Frére Jacques” (sorry for the private joke) kind of photo, and a decent shot? On my way to the car wash, late in the afternoon on a sunny day about to turn into a stormy one, I was keeping an eye on the sunset when I looked inland and saw the sky with these strong colours, threatening to drop a shower on my head pretty soon. And yet, in front of me all I had was a busy rush hour avenue packed with cars entering a roundabout. Not the prettiest sight. To the left, I spotted this horse in the middle of a field, about fifty meters from the road and I found my subject. I wasn’t wearing the best shoes to walk into the knee-high grass but... who cares? The horse was facing westward, barely lit by what was left of the sunset light. I dialled the compensation down a bit and managed to take a couple of shots just before the horse’s ears showed that my presence wasn’t welcome and my model turned away to as far as the rope allowed. I had to leave, because my car was supposed to be ready and I had just 5 minutes to pick it up. Or so I thought, because I had to wait almost an hour more, instead of taking some more photos elsewhere. Typical...
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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @80 mm, ISO 640, 1/320, f/6.3, -2/3EV.

In need of a telephoto lens... or not.

I hesitated considerably before posting these photos. I mean, I always do, maybe too much... or maybe not enough. This time, though, I had a further reason to question whether I should do it or not. However, this set of photos is a good illustration of a couple of things I feel that are worthy of a few lines. I hope I am not too wrong. The past few weeks, everyday, with an amazing punctuality just before sunset, flocks of cormorants fly over my house, coming from the seaside, flying inland for the night. I had this photo in my mind of one of those flocks (ranging from only two birds to well over twenty) flying in from the sunset from an almost horizontal perspective. How could I do that if they were flying rather high above my head? Well, by climbing onto the roof of my house, of course. With that in mind, I waited for a day with some rain-threatening clouds, but sunny enough to ensure a colourful late afternoon sky. I got lucky with the weather and I was not disappointed with the light conditions. However, when I showed these photos to two very different people, they had quite distinct reactions. The first one, who I usually consider, more or less as a joke, the acid test for my photography, seemed to be quite pleased with the result. I guess it was the colourful sky that got her sympathy. The second one, a friend who, in my opinion (for what it is worth), is a great nature photographer, was kind enough not to trash them bluntly. Kindly, he just said: ”your 80-200 mm lens is short, isn´t it?” I guess he is right, the lens is short because I had to crop some of the photos a bit and still the birds are little more than tiny spots in the sky. I suppose his precious feedback alone should be enough to keep me from posting them and to understand that the photos are, to put it mildly, plain boring. Yet, every single one of these shots is much closer to what I wanted to do than they would be if I had used a longer lens. True, I would have been able to get closer to the cormorants, but I would have lost too much diversity in the sky and it was the sky with the birds that I wanted to capture rather than the other way around. So, this just goes to show a couple of things: first, you should not trust the approval of your most ferocious critic; secondly, if you really want to find opportunities to use your gear, all you have to do is to open your eyes and.... climb to the roof top of your house; finally, sometimes having the gear that one could think that it would be the most suitable for the situation may keep you from taking the photo that you have imagined. The problem is when the photo that you have imagine is a cr*ppy one, as it seems to be the case. Be that as it may, I am still mad at Santa for forgetting that 500 mm that was on my Christmas wish list.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 900, 1/200, f/7.1.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 640, 1/250, f/7.1.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 280, 1/320, f/10.

When the threads of time get tangled up

We have all heard too many times the expression “the decisive moment”, but forgive me for bringing up my own preference for “decisive moments”. When coincidence creates a scene that is somewhat unexpected, awkward, ironic, or even somewhat nonsense, if I happen to have my camera with me and my frequent clumsiness does not stand between me and the photo I wish to take, I’m a happy camper. In such cases, I can even be less frustrated if I can spot potential technical flaws on the shots taken. I don’t really care too much, as long as I feel that I have managed to freeze that moment when the threads of time got tangled up.
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Nikon D300, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 500, 1/500, f/5.

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Nikon D300, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @80 mm, ISO 400, 1/800, f/9.

It's Praying Mantis season

Every September it’s Mantis season in my backyard. These are little mean ugly creatures, one would think. However, once you start “hanging out” with them, you come to a point that you are always expecting them to break the silence and talk to you. That’s just how expressive they can be, at least to my eyes. Those big inquisitive eyes can have all sorts of expressions it would seem. Here are some examples and I will let you decide what each expression means.
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Nikon D600, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/160, f/13.

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Nikon D600, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/400, f/13.

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Nikon D600, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 320, 1/400, f/14.

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Nikon D600, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/640, f/8.

Shooting between appointments

Most of the best opportunities I get to make use of my camera do not arise when I expect them to. Often times, I get the chance to take a little time off and go for a walk but I end up deleting every single picture I took and I return home with a blank SD card on my camera. A couple of weeks ago, I had been having a bit of a hard time trying to find one of these butterflies standing still before my lens long enough for me to photograph it and I always ended up watching them flying by in windy days or waltzing over the fields, not stopping long enough for me to get closer. Between two work-related appointments, I saw a couple of these on a roadside field flying between flowers. With a quick glance at my watch, I realised that I had 15 minutes to spare. I just grabbed my camera, already with the macro lens on, switched into my “all-road” shoes (I always keep them in the boot of my car) and off I went into the field to indulged with a 15 minute break following this beauty as it floated around from flower to flower. It was high noon, though, and the sun was burning hot. The light was harsh, the background wasn’t as pleasant as I would have liked it to be, so this meant using a larger aperture than the close distance would have recommended, just to through that background out of focus. With a little effort I managed to have just enough depth of field to keep the butterfly sharp (the Micro 105mm f/2.8 is truly superb), but from the settings one can tell just how harsh the light was. I managed to take a few of these and I was quite happy with the result. Shame, though, I still wasn’t able to take a single shot of it with its wings spread open. From what I have seen this kind of butterfly always keeps its wings closed together when it is not flying. This is just another exemple of the reason why I always get my gear out.

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Nikon D600, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/1600, f/5.6.

Jurassic Park

This poor fellow has seen better days. Although spring is here and the odd sunny spells allow some sunbathing, relentless showers and temperature drops give this lizard a hard time. He has been returning to this wall for the past few days whenever there is a sunny break between the rain. I do not know much about these animals but this one seems to be going through a rough time. It tolerates my presence just a few centimetres away for some time, as long as I do not make sudden movements. Of course, this means that I have some time to photograph it. It is not an easy task, though, as the extremely short distance means that my DOF is minimal, even if I use smaller apertures and I must bear in mind that it can decide to move any time.

On the first of these two shots, I thought that a lower angle, shooting from below the edge of the wall, would give it a strange look as if it was some giant creature. To do this, however, the lizard would be strongly backlit by the sun shining through the grey clouds. Using an off-camera diffused speedlight, powered down and flashing upwards, I could underexpose the lizard to avoid blowing up the highlights in the sky. The result could be a lot better, I know, but I was happy to be able to balance the manual flash with the ambient light, preserving the sky whilst correctly exposing the lizard.
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Nikon D600, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/160, f/36, SB-28 off-camera, Triggers, diffuser.


On the second photo I struggled to achieve enough DOF to avoid having most of the lizard’s head out of focus. The extremely short distance forced me to use a smaller aperture but I wanted to keep the background totally out of focus, to avoid having the neighbours’ fence and the fields behind my house visible on the shot. This is the only angle that keeps the green background instead of having walls on the shot, but this aperture seems to have been enough for my purposes. I would have liked to have diffused the light a bit to avoid those highlights on the lizard’s side, but I feared that I could scare the lizard (he was rather more active at the time, hence the shutter speed a little higher) and I would have blocked the reflex of the sky on its eye. The aperture and speed settings meant that I had to bump up the ISO a little, but that is something that using the D600 I am quite comfortable with, even at higher ISO settings. Great camera and after about 2500 shutter releases there is still no debris on my sensor. Knock on wood....

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Nikon D600, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 1250, 1/320, f/14.

Light-painting a butterfly

This butterfly was ready to spend the night on this brick on my backyard. The night was chilly with the occasional showers and things were not looking bright for the little creature. In daylight, the odds were that the butterfly would not hold still long enough for a decent shot, so I took this one-off opportunity to take a few shots, experimenting with the light and with different settings for different depths of field. I also tried a couple of focus-stacking shots, but the results were not pleasing due to the variability of light on each shot, because I was lighting the butterfly with a simple pocket maglight. On this one, I used a 6 sec. exposure and the pocket maglight to light paint the butterfly, circling it.
The brick is old and dirty, but it was the butterfly’s choice, not mine.
By the way, any spots on the Nikon D600’s sensor? Well, not on the pitch-dark night... but I keep my fingers crossed, just in case.

PS - No animals were hurt to take this shot Happy

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Nikon D600, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, 6.0 sec., f/45, light painted with a flashlight, Tripod.

Focus stacking a grasshopper

On my last post I described my ordeal trying to do a focus stacking shot of a snail. That attempt ended up with the photographer throwing in the sponge and settling for a single focus point shot. A couple of days later, I met this grasshopper lazying in the sun, on a white towel that was on my balcony. I grabbed my camera and tripod and prepared to try to take a few shots to make a focus stack of its ugly mug. Given the fact that the grasshopper was so exposed and vulnerable and with a fresh memory of my bout (so to speak) with the snail a few days before, I was expecting it to be nervous with my presence rendering my attempt to focus stack the little creature a failure. To my surprise, it was quite tolerant to my presence. It kept that sort of stare-down that anticipates a clash between two UFC fighters but it did not flee the set. Indifferent to its stare down (with those funny goggles it is hard to be taken seriously) I managed to take quite a few photos and to try a couple of different compositions, choosing a lower perspective to avoid part of the background, leaving only a strip of green and sky. Despite the fact that I managed to take 10 photos from the same perspective but with different focus points, I ended up using only 3 photos for the stacking. This choice was due to the fact that, although I had quite a few different focus points, there were some out-of-focus spots within the focused area, mainly in the foreground, that were quite distracting and spoiled the effect. Therefore, I chose to focus only the grasshopper but to cover as much of it as possible. When I was just about to take a few more shots, but trying to diffuse the harsh direct sun light with a white t-shirt (the first diffusor I could grab), the grasshopper got fed up with my attention and flew away. What is the outcome of this rendezvous? A focus stacking photo of a grasshopper and the conclusion that it is easier to do a focus stacking of a grasshopper than of a snail. Who would have thought that?

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Nikon D7000, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 250, 1/400, f/9.0, (-1/3 EV), focus stacking of 3 shots, Tripod.

Focus stacking a snail: how hard can that be?

I was hoping to have the little crawler’s cooperation for this shot. It was meant to be a macro shot using focus stacking. The day before I had found an equally tiny one that was quite still on a flower, probably eating. It was still but only until I gave it a couple of speedlight flashes and it started moving. So much for the focus stacking... This time round, I decided not to use the speedlight, lest the little guy went berserk like the one the day before. This proved to be a bit of a challenge, though. It was a rather cloudy morning, with the odd rain showers and too much wind for proper nature macro photography. With the flower pot on a cosier corner of the backyard, there was a little less wind, so there was some hope that I could focus properly. Unfortunately, the little snail had a plan of its own and decided that it was time to move.
Definitely, this is not the best subject for focus stacking. Forgetting the focus stacking I would just settle for a normal close-up but whoever says that these guys move slowly has never tried to photograph them on the move, in poor light. There were a couple of conditions to juggle besides the poor light: a nasty wall behind the flower pot that I wanted totally blurred and to avoid as much as possible as a background; some ugly damaged leaves on the plant that needed to be dealt with; the speed had to be such that I could keep the focus on the moving snail with the flimsy depth of field I had; the aperture could not be too wide or I would have no depth of field at all; I had to crank up the ISO to be able to have enough shutter speed whilst having just enough depth of field but also enough blur. The Nikon D7000 can deal with ISO as high as1000/1250 without significant noise and with ISO1000 I managed to cope with the conditions I had. The hardest part was chasing such a restless little thing around the flower with the camera stuck on the tripod.

Snail on flower_7SC7573
Nikon D7000, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 1000, 1/100, f/7.1, Tripod.

For the missus

After a heavy shower, the wife’s camellia seemed to be a good excuse to make use of the macro lens. Unfortunately, the vase is in a rather messy corner of the garden and all the dirt left by the non-stop rainy days would have spoilt the photo. In broad daylight it was just too much dirt around for me to able to conceal it in the shot. Under-exposing the shot to kill ambient light, the hardest part was trying to juggle the speedlight’s power to have just enough light on the flower whilst keeping the close-by background dark and not having nasty highlights on the camellia and on the water drops. I wanted just enough depth of field to have as much of the flower as possible in focus and the tripod helped to hold the camera and the focus steady, as I had to bend over in a rather awkward position. If I had framed it in such a way as to included a bit more of the flower on the right-hand side of the shot, I would have had to include a damaged leaf and, of course, damaging the missus’ plant by cutting out the damaged leaf was not an option...

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Nikon D7000, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/13, f/29, Tripod, SB-28 off-camera.

A helping hand

I left home committed to get the shot properly, this time. I had been there the day before, on my way to picking up the little one from school at lunch hour, but because of the strong sun and the fact that I was without my hood loupe I could not check the result properly on the spot. When I got in front of my computer, I wasn’t quite happy with the outcome. So, there I was again, at the same daisy covered field, but this time I went there early in the morning, just after I dropped the offspring at school. Tough luck...it was a rainy morning. I had to go back to work but I did not want the few minutes of the detour to go to waste. So, like I said, I was committed to getting “the” shot, but I would settle for “a” shot.

Nature has this way of giving us a motive when we least expect. In front of me I had nothing but a field of “sleeping” soaked flowers, but the light was soft, the grass was green and with a little help from nature I found a reason to kneel down. In a whole field there was this one little daisy that decided I needed a help.

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Nikon D7000, Nikon 105 mm f/2.8, ISO 800, 1/200, f/6.3.

The Lady and the Papparazzo

There she was, one second she was moving around as if she was looking for someone, the next she stood still, as if she was waiting. Briefly, though, because she never stood still long enough to give the paparazzo (me) time to compose the shot properly. The light was natural, no strobes, reflectors or any other devices to compensate for the less than perfect light (in the shade, actually) of a late afternoon of the early spring. No macro lens, just my poor man’s Nikon 18-55 kit lens and no tripod to compensate for my usually rather shaky hands for low shutter speed. With a regular white plastic bag I improvised a reflector to slightly brighten up my subject. Disturbed by our presence (mine and the bag’s) the ladybug stopped and seemed to look over her shoulder as if she was saying something like “get lost, will you?!” Well, I know the result could be better, but it could also be worse... I hope.

Ladybug being harassed by a papparazzo

Nikon D90, Nikon 15-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR @55mm, ISO 200, 1/60, f/5.6.

Mushroom effects

This is one of my pet-projects. On an old log, or on what is left of it, in my parents’ backyard I have been following the life of these mushrooms (Trametes Versicolor, aka Turkey Tail Mushroom) for a couple of years now. Every week, before my usual sunday lunch, I check on them. Their exotic aspect does not suggest that they could be of any interest, at least from a gastronomic point-of-view. However, they are actually commonly consumed, for example as tea, they have been used in traditional medicine (e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine) and they even seem to have promising qualities in the treatment of cancer. They also provide an interesting photography subject, at least for the photography enthusiast with no better subject available at the moment. In this shot, the speedlight and the underexposure highlighted the white rims of the mushrooms, concealing (albeit not totally as I would have preferred) the grass on the ground in the corners of the photo.

Trametes Versicolor from above perspective
Nikon D7000, Nikon 50mm f/1.8, ISO 200, 1.3sec, f/22, Tripod, SB-28 off-camera.

Links for examples of sites with information on this type of mushroom: Wild Brunch Mushrooms and American Cancer Society.

Wishes for 2014

These days, what can one wish for the new year? Well, that it is just as good (or bad) as the one that is finishing. I mean, we did manage through this one, didn’t we?
For what it’s worth, may the year that is coming be whatever we wish it to be.

Bird in the sunset
Nikon D7000, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @80mm, ISO 640, 1/400, f/16, Tripod.

A photographer's dull life or creative jealousy?

A post by John Schell (Turning Around That Creative Jealousy) on stoppers.com brought me back to the subject on a previous post. Basically, the question could be summarised as something like “why does my work stink?” I imagine that many of those who love photography but are only newbies or even enthusiasts often look at their shots and think: “Sh**! What happened to the photo I thought I had taken? What have I done?” And things get worse when we look at the work of others and realize how poor our portfolio is. Sometimes I get quite blown away with some photos I see on the web. The jealousy meter would not reach the red line if all those shot were taken by real pros, with real pro gear, in dream-only scenarios and stuff like that. The problem is that often enough those jaw-dropping shots are taken by amateurs, with amateur gear, in everyday scenarios. How can one live with the quality of one’s work? How can one not give up in hopeless frustration? Too often we can find people selling their gear for confessed lack of use. I wonder if this is not a sign of forfeiting to creative jealousy.
Creative Jealousy, as John Schell called it on his post, must not lead to forfeiting one’s dream of being able to capture his vision of the world through photography. This jealousy must be accepted as natural. Recognising it is, indeed, liberating. If you don't feel it at all, you are probably wrongly convinced that what you do is great and you face the risk you being ridiculous. Just go through all the profiles on Flickr and such and when you find people looking for meaningless compliments you will see a lot of that. However, just feeling that Jealousy but failing to recognise it may lead you to hide what you do, not daring to expose yourself to honest criticism. Once you acknowledge the true (small) size of your work, you accept what you are and become much more open to get slammed in the face with criticism. Of course, much can be justified with differences in gear, in subjects, places, opportunities, time available, etc., but when deep down you accept that what you do is just so-so, you are truly ready to start learning. Acknowledging that most of what goes wrong in my photos is my own doing is the only way to improve. Understanding what went wrong is a condition for you to go back, to take my time, not to rush, to correct your settings and try to do it properly. Many times, though, it is not possible, either because that dawn is gone, the bird has flown or the skills are just too short. Even when this is the case, there is surely a learning outcome.
The work of others is more and more cause for admiration rather than true jealousy. The more I struggle to get results that I can be happy with, the more I admire the work of others but also the more I understand how often there is so much post processing into some photos, sometimes way too much. In the end, what really matters is how I feel about my photos, more than what others do, as long as I keep my feet on the ground...

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Nikon D7000, Nikon 50mm f/1.8, ISO 400, 1/40, f/8, Tripod.

A photographer's dull life - Part II

There are many photos that I see on the web that really make me envy the photographers who took them. I envy their talent, their skills and the opportunities they have to be there, on whichever magnificent beach, desert, mountain, jungle, river, and so on, where they captured their fantastic photos. It is a healthy form of envy, though, one that I try to turn into learning, one that keeps me dreaming about the day that I will (or would, by now...) have their opportunities, their talent and their skills. On Nature Photo Blog I find many photos that are truly inspiring and this photo by Luciano Gaudenzio is one of the countless examples I could choose in that blog. This is also one of those photos that makes me question whether someone who spends most of his day in front of his computer can expect to ever have a proper portfolio, as I did in my post “A photographer's dull life - Part I” on the blog page. I guess, however, that someone who will ever have a chance to have this kind of opportunities will always be someone who will do something about it, rather than whining on his blog over his dull life.

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Link: Wild Dolomites by Luciano Gaudenzio.