Thursday, July 30, 2015

I am Addicted to my iPhone

I am not entirely sure when the last time it was that I have been completely disengaged from my phone. It is with me 24/7. I am also not sure how I became so entirely dependent on it. Yesterday I was experiencing a problem and was required to surrender my phone to the very kind and helpful folks at iFix Galaxy in Stuart. I had the same emotional parting as if I was dropping my child off at daycare for the first time. Unfortunately it was Me who became the child in my car in the parking lot. Let me start with a little background.

I was not an early adopter of the smart phone. I started with the iPhone 3GS when the 4 was released. I managed to run my entire life with a simple cell phone, no texting, and real life friends.

No - I don't want a date
 I now use my iPhone 5S for everything. Texting, calls (if need be), news, camera, social media, videos, movies, games, tide charts, weather, maps, rocket launches, star charts, traffic, TV listings, blogging, even flashlight and magnifier. It's like a Swiss Army Knife that's actually useful. I think I may be having an emotional affair with Siri as well. 

One thing I should not use it for is a GPS and radio for long trips. Five hours on the car charger and the battery swelled enough to pop the screen. Total tragedy in the making.

I brought my phone in. I was standing at the door when they opened hoping to get it right back. Because of the situation, my phone needed to stay for a bit and have some diagnostics. I suppose I could have waited but then do what? Stare at the wall? Talk to someone else?  I was actually in need of something at the hardware store so I decided I would do that to pass the time. 

"How can we reach you"? asked the clerk..... Brain freeze - that is my only phone and all the numbers in my world are in it - not in my head. 

"I'll call you". I said - With what? I thought as I left - on what number? I looked it up on my phone along with the opening times and location. 

Turning on the car I had a moment of utter panic -  How will I leave here? - I used GPS and voice navigation to get here. I just started living in this town. Where is Home Depot from here. Sure I have a regular GPS but it needs a street address to work and I've never even figured out what road it's on let alone the actual number. What road am I on for that matter. Just Drive!!!

This being Florida there is not really too many ways to get lost. Ocean over there, Big bridge too far, turn around. Oh look - street signs. I hardly ever look at those any more. Even though I just handed my little box with all the knowledge in the known universe to a stranger, I am still a man and I will certainly not ask for directions. Oh damn - my shopping list is in my phone.

After one or two bad turns that were quickly corrected and only missing one item at the store I was feeling pretty good about my ability to function as a disconnected human being again. From the iPad at home I drew myself a map on paper so I could find my way back to the store.  Read all the street signs along the way. Probably time - I live here now.

I am not at all comfortable with the amount of anxiety I had at the few hours loss of my phone. I used to take enormous pride at the fact I was not a slave to almighty "Crack-berry" back in the day. In fact I was one of the last hold outs to turn in my beeper. Many of my co-workers kidded me over the years at my reluctance to embrace the tech. I still remember vividly having breakfast in an Orlando Hotel during the great Blackberry Outage of 1997. Just the loss of emails send the room into a tizzy. I just smiled, got more pancakes, and checked my beeper. Does not seem quite so funny now. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Shooting with the Vivitar Series 1 - 500mm F/8.0 Lens

When researching this lens (briefly) I found no real reviews. Just some comments on ranging from "I've had it a week and it was exactly what I expected" to "I'm sending it back - my camera does not recognise it". At $130.00 it was by far the cheapest camera accessory I've bought in a long time. I had a specific purpose in purchasing it. To learn how to use a camera.

That may seem funny as I have over 100,000 shots on my computer, 13,000+ on Flickr with 2,000,000+ hits. I have a lot of people fooled. I have always relied heavily on the auto settings of my various cameras.

Not only did I buy this lens fully knowing it was completely manual - it came with a 2X doubler. I had to take that off after the first day as a 1,000mm lens is way too much to start off with. I happen to be using a Nikon D70 but no matter the camera, it will only shoot with this lens in Manual mode.

Focus is a lot more challenging than you might expect. Especially as I've never had to do it before. But Aperture and Shutter Speed - wow - Mind blowing. Just the passing of a wispy cloud can blow the shot. I have the incredible luxury of instant feedback on the camera display. I can not begin to imagine the frustration of shooting in the early days of film. Not to mention only one chance at developing.  There is a vast array of things I can do back at the computer to rescue a marginal shot.

Ok - this is the part where it gets cool. I set my camera up at Savannas Preserve State Park. That stand of trees below is the same one directly behind the camera in the first photo, The nuclear plant is miles away due east, and I could not see those houses with the naked eye. I actually knocked the camera and it took a minute or two to even find them again.


Setting up the shots was difficult. Getting the lighting right was the hardest part causing me to toss out many over and under exposed shots. My typical weekend of festival shooting usually runs into 5,000 photos - 10% of which I feel are good enough to post. I was thoroughly disappointed with the 15 photos I managed to salvage from my 4 hour day in the wilds of Port St Luce.


Then I did a little math. I only had taken 206 shots for the day. I was changing the F-stop and lighting with the camera locked in position so I could have posted a few more as they were acceptable and only slightly identical. Even though I took very few photos I was still maintaining a 10% acceptable quality rate.


To operate this lens, first pick an F-stop - any where from 8 - 32. Then open the diaphragm ring so you can focus. Not so important at F8 but a necessity at F32. Locate a subject, focus the lens, lock the tripod, focus again to be sure. Close the diaphragm. Choose a shutter speed on the camera that will be appropriate to the effect you desire, set the camera to use the remote. Count to 3 to make sure all camera shake stops, click the remote, check the display, change shutter speed or any other setting, click again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.


I did not walk away with many totally white or totally black photos once I got the hang of it. I did walk away with a deeper understanding of the mechanics in making a photo and how not one looked exactly as the actual scene looked to my eye. Since they are not perfect representations of what I saw, I shall call them art. I look forward to the day I present Fine Art on this blog.





Sunday, July 26, 2015

There's a steep learning curve for your tripod?

The title is a question one of my Facebook friends posted when I mentioned I was going to test out my new tripod. If you saw my last post, you may have noticed how huge my Nikon D70 with a fully manual 500 MM lens looked on the old tripod. That would be the one on the right in the photo on the left. 

Even in the slightest wind and the tripod extended only half way, it still shook. Not very useful for this lens. 

The same camera setup looks puny on the Ravelli tripod with a Movo tripod gimbal head. 

Is it easy to use? It could not be more simple. The camera practically floats. Here's the thing though. This set up is twelve and a half pounds. Add a couple of waters and a snack in the backpack and it is a lot to hike around with.

This camera and the old faithful tripod I've used for 10 years does not even register on the bathroom scale. I'm guessing under 2 pounds together. My new camera and lens is coming in at 8 pounds by itself. Put that together with this tripod and an all day hike could be a challenge. I'm not quite ready to haul all that out to the field just yet. 

On my excursion to Savannas Preserve State Park, I did not venture far from the car. I stand at 6' 4" and had this set up at eye level. It was not even fully extended but I wanted see how steady it was in the wind. 

Like a rock. No shake at all when locked down either on sand or concrete. Even when the shutter release caused a little wobble it was just for a second or two. I used the remote for most of my shots. That's not to say I just hung out and pushed the button. I had to touch the camera nearly every shot to control the focus, aperture, or shutter speed. The camera was instantly steady as soon as I took my hands away. I did fire off a few shots with the cameras shutter release. Although they looked great in the view finder, they were mostly blurred. I did manage to track a bird perfectly and smoothly with the gimbal. It was actually almost too easy. Easier than hand holding it at this distance. But since there is no autofocus I got a lot of nice blurry white blobs.  

My next posting will be about my continuing experience with this fully manual lens. In one word - Frustrating as hell. Ok that was 3 words. I'll have more I'm sure but for now I will just post up what I could salvage to my Flickr account. 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Not Quite Retired Yet

Not me - My Nikon D70. I purchased this camera back in 2004 for the purpose of shooting the Key West Fantasy Fest. Don't search my site for those photos. They are tucked away in a vault somewhere. I shot 4,000 photos that week. I only managed a few today as rain threatened.

I have this dream that I may like nature photography. Not to mention after shooting for 10 years, I may want to learn how to handle a camera. What better way than to purchase a very inexpensive, fully manual 500 MM lens for an ancient camera. By fully manual I mean focus, aperture, shutter speed, everything. I'm starting a new life by starting over. Hopefully doing it right this time. This is what I learned today.

For starters this lens needs a tripod. That should be obvious so to be consistent I brought my original, light weight tripod. Also the remote which I used more times today than the 10 years I've had it. I found that even the slight wind we had today was enough to shake the camera. Just firing it required a few seconds for the camera to settle. The next thing I learned is exposure times are hard. I've always been spoiled by the automatic settings of my cameras. I shot the above tree in about 3 minutes, full sun. What a dramatic difference a slight spin of the dial makes.

One item that really stood out is I was taking photos of things I could not even see. That fire plug is a bike ride away. The houses are on the other side of the golf course. I can't get closer than 40 feet and make a shot but 1,000 feet no problem.  

I normally shoot with both eyes open so I can see the action around me in case there is a better shot. With this set up - its all set up. No random shooting and the image in the eye piece requires full concentration to dial in the focus. Something I was unable to do in over half the shots. 

Once I got it figured out I was pretty happy with the results. Then came the rain. When I bought my D70 in 2004, I paid just about two grand for the camera and all the extras. A few years ago I got caught in a tremendous downpour in the Everglades and shorted the camera out. I got a replacement body on E-Bay - $75.00.

I have far better cameras in my inventory but it's skills I want to work on right now.  Next time out I will use the professional tripod and see if it makes a difference - Stay Tuned.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kiplinger Nature Preserve - Martin County

DSC_8724One of my goals when I ever got some free time in my life was to try my hand at nature photography. Well, I have some free time now so I thought I would venture out and see what I could capture in the wilds of Palm City Florida.

The Kiplinger Nature Preserve is closest to my house so it was the obvious place to start.

While most of my photography friends are out capturing hawks on the wing or lions on an african safari, I captured this fine specimen of pine cone. I actually passed right by it twice but then realized it was not placed there by human intervention. It landed right where I saw it. There were dozens all around. When I got home it was apparent this was the best photo of the day.
Which told me two things. I have a good eye for the mundane, and I have a lot of work to do if I choose to make this some sort of money making venture. Its obvious I have no fear of being only feet away from a Cotton Mouth snake or ferocious, possibly rabid bunny. Actually when I got home I found out this was a common Rat Snake but hey - that mouth does look a little cottony.

I nearly stepped on the rabbit. It didn't even flinch till my second shot then vanished in two hops - you know,,,, Fast - like a bunny.

DSC_8597This trek is about a mile but some of it is on a busy water way and a bit more right next to a massive condo complex. For a few steps you can pretend you are far out in nature but the constant sound of traffic, planes, boats, and people all around do make that a very short illusion.

One of the things you need to pay attention to when out and about in Florida is the weather. I did not have to walk very far to find a nice lightning scar on a pine tree. Heavy downpours and my brand new camera and lens are two things that should not be introduced to each other.

I may not have gotten that Bald Eagle shot I was hoping for but I did get away from my life behind a computer screen. A lot of heat, a few bugs, thunder in the distance to quicken my pace, yet ever so relaxing.

I even had time to get down on the ground and see the wonder of a miniature forest growing on a fallen tree. And time to research how to take a better photo of it next time I am out. 

For the rest of the photos from my hike [click here]


Friday, July 10, 2015

Margaritaville Hollywood Nearing Completion

Margaritaville Hollywood Nearing Completion
My first day of retirement and I will soon be leaving the town where I first arrived in 1978.

Back then, most people came here to retire. Not so much any more. I thought before I packed to leave I would take a nostalgic final walk down the Broadwalk. Upon seeing the new Margaritaville nearly finished, I'm suddenly not in that big a hurry to go.

Back in the early 80's I lived close enough to walk to the beach and I took advantage of that proximity to stroll up and back nearly every weekend.

Hollywood Beach was pretty much a collection of Mom and Pop hotels, T-shirt Shops, and unappealing restaurants. The unique thing, they all faced the beach and ocean. There are very few beaches I have been where you can walk a promenade right on the sand and not have to cross a busy street to get to the shops and hotels.

Hollywood was unique in another way in that it was the most family friendly of beaches and in the winter the population of Canadians seemed to outnumber the population of residents. Almost 40 years later almost everything has changed. I would say for the better.

Whereas Hollywood Beach was a ghost town in the summer months back then, it's now a destination. Where once stood crumbling buildings now stand mega hotels and condos with renovations on going up and down the beach. They have even thought to include a few amenities for the active visitor like bike, and jet ski rentals, and for the first time I've seen, Parasailing. My last visit was on a Tuesday in July and I had to wait for a table in my favorite restaurant - Ocean Alley - on an overcast day threatening rain. It was not that long ago I could get a table on any weekend.  [click here] for the Ocean Alley web cam.

I have lived in Hollywood a long time and I'm more than ready to move on but I know where most of my friends will be when Margaritaville opens. I'm sure I will be visiting soon.