New Glass

Having just added 2 new items to the lineup, it’s time to play a bit and explore them. The first isn’t a lens as such, but a new phone with some impressive optical specs.

Here’s the new Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra:

S22 Ultra

The main reason I went with this phone is because Anita’s concert of a lifetime is fast approaching (Garth Brooks at Gillette stadium in Foxboro), and I won’t be able to bring my Nikons with me. All the press and specs on the camera systems in this phone lead me to believe I’ll be able to get some decent shots that night, and I’ll be able to shoot in RAW, so I can bring them into Lightroom and work them after the show.

In my early tests, I am impressed. The zoom range is insane, as these 2 shots from the same exact spot show:

Sitting in my Adirondack chair at one end of the backyard, I took these two shots, one at the UltraWide setting and then one at the 10X (optical) zoom. That the zoom is optical made all the difference, as digital zoom is horrible.

The color rendition right out of the box with no editing is impressive too:

I’ll have a good chance to test the phone under venue lighting conditions this week, as we’re going to see Brit Floyd on Wednesday night. I’ll be using this as a means to fine tune my camera settings on the phone while enjoying some seriously good music!

Now, let’s go to true glass… I just added this monster to the fleet:

Nikon 14-24 f2.8 zoom

This is one serious piece of glass. It’s regarded as Nikon’s finest wide angle zoom, a clear member of their Pro lineup, and a welcome addition to my bag.

I had a chance to do a couple quick shots in the nearby park yesterday, and I was not disappointed!

The color rendition and sharpness are as advertised. I shot these in my Df in Aperture Priority mode at f6.3 as I strolled around the park after the rain when the sun broke through and made the afternoon actually feel like Spring. I’m now anxious to get out to the shore with this and capture the expanse of the ocean along our shoreline.

When you want it done right…

As I was rearranging the gear in my camera bag, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to put together an inventory of all our bodies and lenses, along with their serial numbers, for just in case.

Expanding on that, I decided to look through the app store for something in the way of a database or collection app that would offer pages with a photo and detailed info about each item. That would be exactly what I was looking to use.

But… lots of apps, to be sure, but most geared toward presenting items for sale and adding pricing and point of sale, shipping, and other aspects that I have no use for.

So… if you want something done right, do it yourself.

I cobbled an app together which gives me exactly the form and function I wanted and it now resides happily on my phone.

The App

Now that it’s up and running exactly as planned, I can play with it and decide if there’s anything else I need or want to add to it, but the core purpose is perfect as is. Each body and lens has a page with a good photo, a description and the serial number of the item. If anything bad were to happen, I can provide the app link from my Dropbox and put the inventory detail in the necessary hands.

Exposure… demystified

You’ll hear a lot of talk about the exposure triangle or exposure pyramid, but it’s generally made far more complicated than it needs to be. If we break it down, it becomes much easier to work with.

Let’s start with ISO. Back in the days of film, ISO (International Standards Organization) or, as it was originally called, ASA (American Standards Association) referred to the speed of the film being used. The emulsion used on the celluloid substrate determined the film’s sensitivity to light, and the number used determined the “speed” of that film. When you set the film speed value on your camera, you were baselining the camera’s light meter to provide accurate readings. Of course, the entire roll of film had the same speed setting, unlike the digital world where we can change the setting per exposure if we choose.

Given that we’re no longer worried about film sensitivity, we’re now baselining the camera’s sensor and metering system by setting an ISO value.

Where the electronics in our current cameras are so sophisticated now, I simply go into the camera menu and set ISO to AUTO, and let the camera determine the appropriate value based on the lighting in the scene I’m shooting. There are some rare exceptions when you may prefer to set it yourself, but AUTO covers the majority of shooting scenarios, and will not let you down.

There. One third of the triangle done, nice and easy.

In terms of Aperture and Shutter Speed, what you’re shooting has a lot to do with which to prioritize. If you’re shooting sports, for example, then your shutter needs to be a priority in order to freeze the action and prevent blurred images. On the other hand, if you’re doing portraiture or scenics, prioritizing Aperture lets you control the depth of field, or how much will be in focus in front of or behind your subject. If I’m shooting a portrait, I’ll open my lens to a larger aperture so that my subject will be sharp with a soft, blurry background. That highlights the subject, almost giving it a three-dimensional look.

If I’m shooting a wide-open area, like a mountain range or a cove opening onto the ocean, I’ll stop my lens down to a smaller aperture in order to keep everything in the image sharp.

Why do the larger f stop numbers indicate smaller openings instead of the other way around? I have no idea, but it’s a quirk you get used to. I’d think it would make more sense the other way around, but… I didn’t make the rules.

At least, shutter speed numbers make sense. The higher the number, the faster the shutter will open and close to limit how much light actually gets to the sensor. A good rule of thumb to remember here is to use a shutter speed that is equal to or greater than the focal length of the lens you’re using when handholding the camera. Using a 50 mm? Shoot at no less than 1/60 of a second. Using that 105 mm portrait lens? Don’t shoot at less than 1/125 of a second. A simple rule, easy to remember and helps to minimize camera shake, which will blur the shot.

Keeping these simple, basic rules in mind will yield MUCH better images than leaving the camera in PROGRAM (or, as I call it, PHD/Push Here Dummy) mode and letting the camera do everything but press the shutter release, I guarantee it. As you get used to using them, they’ll become second nature, allowing you to concentrate on your composition and produce even BETTER images!

Is there more to it? Hell, yeah! But, let’s get comfy with this, let’s focus our attention on our compositions and capture what we want to see and go from there for the time being.

Well, that was different…

Art by Joe Orlando for EC Comics

As the thunderstorms made their way across the sky earlier, I passed some time looking at Instagram on my cell phone. I came across a post by EC Comics called “CHOKE”, which included this drawing by Joe Orlando, done while he was an artist at EC, sometime in the ’50’s.

As I looked at this photo, an entire scene formed in my head, a scene from an old hard-boiled detective story that would work well in black and white… and, cramped as it is on a tiny touch screen, I began typing a little.


She was lying in the dark, dingy alley behind Sal’s pizzeria and Ling’s dry cleaners, a dreamboat tossed out like an old, broken toy.

She was a doll, all right… just not a living doll, not anymore. Somebody saw to that in spades.

Sal’s delivery kid said he left with an order about a half hour ago, and then found her when he got back, so this was fresh.

There were a pair of gloves beside her, but no sign of a handbag. I didn’t think this was a robbery, though. This was far too savage, too personal for that.

No, whoever did this took her bag to try and buy some time. And maybe a ticket on a Greyhound bus.

The longer it would take us to ID her, the longer it would be before we could start looking at who knew her… and that gave me an idea. Charlie had finished photographing the scene and was packing his gear.

“Hey Charlie.”

“Yeah, Joe?”

“Before you go, do me a favor. Take a good clear shot of her face, maybe like you’re doing her portrait for a magazine, willya?”

“Yeah, sure,” he muttered as he took the lens cap back off his camera and moved behind me to get a good angle.

“And Charlie, please run this back to the house and make me a good sharp 8 by 10 as soon as possible, OK?”

“Kinda late in your career to start a scrapbook, ain’t it?”

“Very funny, wise guy. No, I can bet this gal won’t have a sheet or a mug shot on file with us, but if I get a photo to the Gazette first thing, I’d like to see if the editor of their society pages might recognize her. Save us a hell of a lot of time getting her ID if they do.”

“Jeez, that’s a helluva idea, Joe. Sorry about the wisecrack.”

“Don’t worry about it. Make it up to me by getting that photo done.”

“You got it.”

I stood as Charlie shot, his flash looking like silent lightening in the small alley around us.

I glanced across the street and saw the bodega on the corner was still open, the owner outside gawking with some looky-loos.

I lifted the yellow tape and walked over. I doubted he’d have a security camera facing the alley, but it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Besides, it would give me a chance to get a pack of butts.

Seems like I picked a bad week to quit smoking…

Memorial Day

In the past, this has traditionally been called Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer.

This year, however, it’s the Memorial Day Washout.

I know, I get it. Instead of complaining, I should focus on the positives like how much the grass, trees and flowers will benefit from three inches of rain, not to mention what I’d have paid in my water bill to supply three inches of watering to the lawns.

And there’s also the side benefit of all the pollen being washed out of the air, especially at the height of tree pollen season.

I get all that.

Unfortunately, I also get screaming messages from arthritic joints asking if the world is ever going to get dry again. After three days of solid rain, anything that bends in my body hurts like a son of a bitch. The new 2 in 1 Advil’s do help, but it’s probably not a great idea to pop them like a bag of M&M’s on the day after Halloween.

I could probably take less if I washed them down with Jack Daniels, but… let’s not go there.

No, Dr. Cohen, if you see this, I’m only speaking hypothetically.

As we age and our bodies betray us, we also reserve the right to bitch and moan about it, a pastime I partake in with some degree of pleasure. That’s what this is all about, despite those rumors concerning the hokey pokey.

If it’s possible to complain with gratitude, this is what I’m doing. Were it not for the sacrifice so many have made, I might not have the freedom to do so. I might not even be here to do so.

The weather has no bearing on the true reason for Memorial Day, and this is something we should all remain clear on.

With that off my chest, I understand that June has been declared Pride month, so I shall unfurl my banner and prepare it for prominent display for the month of June.

The Elephant In The Room

Let’s address the obvious elephant in the room, also known as “What happened to the words of prey site?”

For the 4 or 5 folks that followed it, I thank you.

Here’s the deal – when I set about trying to write in 2016, it was a lot of fun, and the community of indie writers like me was only a fraction of what it is today. The number of folks putting words on paper has virtually exploded, and there are a lot of talented folks telling some compelling stories now.

The market, however, has not grown at the same rate, thereby making every call for submissions met by a tsunami of hopefuls. That rachets up the number of rejections one gets because publishers are only going to use so many tales.

And that leads us here. When the writing became less fun and more stressful by virtue of the difficulty landing work here and there, I stepped back and asked myself why am I adding this aggravation? I do this for fun, and if the fun is going away, well cue up B.B. King’s “Thrill is Gone” and play it loud.

At the same time, I’d been pulling out my cameras more and more, and as luck would have it, I came across a rare bird. In late 2013, Nikon introduced a camera that many would dislike, but a select few would absolutely need to have. The Df (stands for Digital Fusion) is a pro class DSLR at heart, but brings back the controls and ergonomics previously found on film cameras like the FM and the F4, which were my personal favorites of all time.

Df control layout

As of today, I now own two of these cameras. I gave my previous D500 pro level camera to Anita to upgrade her gear, and I’m going to stick with these for the duration of the remainder.

Will I ever write again? I imagine so… I’d guess that an idea will occur to me, and I’ll sit down at the keyboard and see where the idea takes me, which is the path all my work has taken. Never say never, as Mr. Connery learned.

But, will I go through the hassle of spending hours submitting, researching, then submitting some more? Not very likely. I currently have a book that I began some time ago, and actually made a good deal of progress with. When the motivation strikes, I would like to see if I can get that finished. If I succeed, I’ll likely self publish it on Amazon as a Kindle book and leave it at that.

Time will tell.

Caricature by Donna McCarthy

Transitions…

Time never stops moving, changing… and so, it seems, do we. This is the new home for all things Anita and Bob. You’ll find our images here, Bob’s writing (as G.A. Miller) is now here, and the best part?

There’s lots of room to grow into.

Today was about laying the foundation down. Tomorrow begins adding new rooms, new levels and new adventures as time moves along.

Why not stick around and see where it leads?