Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sharp Images Then and Now----

October 25, 2014

With the recent mild fall weather, the Blue Darter dragonfly fluttering up from the narrow half-loop trail off of Mill Creek seemed normal.
Well, momentarily.
It fluttered, rather than zipped like a jet, which seemed abnormal.
I watched until it clung with wrapped legs against a twig 12 feet up, backed by sun-bright leaves vividly dressed with fall colors.
I aimed the 500-mm lens -- I had been pursuing images of launching herons on the stream -- which automatically focused, nearly filling the frame with the dragonfly and the belated muted fall colors.
I pressed off a short burst.
With a 1/1000 shutter speed I hoped to get sharp images,  but they appeared soft, yet pleasingly colorful, in the playback LCD.

I recorded a few more images, with lower expectations of sharpness (without a macro lens, a ladder and very tall tripod).
Anyway, the blue darter images would make interesting prints.
In addition, during that week, I had added several images of beavers, Great White Egrets and Great Blue Herons (launching) to my collection.
One of the two beavers, by the way, aggressively approached nosy Nora the Schnauzer, who inched toward the beaver  in the quickening darkness until I warned her away.

I’m not sure why, actually, except that I enjoy it.
When I look back and compare older images with present ones, I don’t detect major or consistent improvement. I do understand techniques for proper exposure, focus, etc,. much better than even a few years ago.
And I have better gear, which may or may not account for whatever the improvement.
At least somewhat.
I have used the Sigma 150-500-mm lens for several years, and managed some strong images at the beginning (perhaps with luck), and I have some strong images with my first 300-mm zoom lens.
At least I have some idea how to use sutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance as well as manual mode and the other so-called professional shooting modes.
Nevertheless, I continue to bring home a few dozen redundant images nearly every day.
Now, if I snap 60 images, 50 of them, or so, will be focused and effectively exposed.
A recent as a year ago, perhaps 10-to-20 of them would meet such standards.
On a recent trip to the Columbia Gorge waterfalls, I assiduously used polarizing filters and  a tripod, rather than holding the camera by hand, for the first time.

I expected to see dramatic improvement in my photos of the falls.
I don’t see that degree of difference, however, when I, perhaps superficially,  compare the photos
with earlier ones posted at (10-28-10 and 8-14-13). Of course tripod photos may present a smoother water flow than the handheld shots.
Not that I’m a great fan of smoothing a waterfall so unnaturally, which has become a cliche.
Anyway, I have reasons to keep shooting the same images: 1) Eventually I may come home with 60 sharp, perfectly exposed images; 2) I walk with Nora from several miles a day (9.5 a few weeks ago at Big Sink) with an eight-pound camera-lens on one shoulder: and 3) she  loves the walks, can’t resist chasing the occasional rabbit or bird, and I enjoy her company.
Then we occasionally make a trek the MNWR near Burns, to the Columbia River Gorge, to the Oregon Coast, or to Twisp Washington.
And I aim to continue sharpening my focus.
Just in case.

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