The Serendipity Of Nature Photography

  • No Comments

One little camera. One little bird

 

Photo by the author, ©2019 Karen Fayeth

This weekend I found myself at the UC Botanical Garden and marveled again at how rich it is with subjects to photograph. Gorgeous trees and plants, winding walkways, seasonal flowers in bloom, epic views of Strawberry Canyon.

I have taken many photos here and find endless new things to photograph on each visit.

Plants are easy, but photographing wildlife is a bit more difficult. For me, at least.

I know the old adages, one that patience is required in shooting wildlife, another that one should expect to take a lot of shots to get to one good image.

I’ve been shooting long enough to know better. But I’ve also been me long enough to know that patience isn’t always my virtue.

Under the auspices of “the best camera is the one you have with you” I tend to shoot a lot on my iPhone. There is hot debate on the topic in the various photo clubs I belong to. Some of my fellow photographers see iPhoneography as a perfectly acceptable medium and encourage the ease and accessibility of on-the-fly photos.

Others of my peers scoff and say they will never accept iPhone photos as legitimate (really, seriously, in 2019 they say this). In that particular photo club I strip the exif data off of my photos before posting to our monthly theme review. They won’t look at my photos if they know for sure it’s an iPhone photo.

So while I shoot a lot on my iPhone (the header image, for example), I also feel the limitations of the hardware. The light has to be good to get anything worthwhile. The image quality, even in good light, is not always the best. And zoom? Forget it, the pixelation from the software zoom is more than I want to deal with.

About a year ago I decided I wanted a camera that was a little less than my big boy camera and a little more than my iPhone. After some research, many reviews read, and lots of waffling, I finally settled on a Sony Cybershot. It’s cute, fits into my pocket or purse, and has a real optical zoom versus a software zoom.

It’s a neat little camera and does a whole lot more than point-and-shoot devices used to do. In fact it’s scary how good simple pocket cameras have become.

I’m still learning the Sony and it surprises me every time I give it a try.

Like, for example, this photo:

Photo by the author, ©2019 Karen Fayeth

I was enchanted by this little bird at the botanical garden. I have no idea what type of bird that is, I’m not that good at identifying species. My husband and I watched it flit from branch to branch, often coming quite close to us. The light was good, but the movement was way too fast for an iPhone. (though my husband used Live Photo and that worked pretty well)

I tried pulling out the Cybershot and fiddled with settings. I found one I hadn’t used before called “reduce motion blur” and gave it a go. I tracked the little bird, zoomed in and quick took a snap expecting very little.

No planning the shot. No endless patience waiting for the bird to turn in the right direction. No one hundred shots to get one good one.

One snap, one photo. Got it.

Because I’m naturally superstitious when shooting, I took another photo. I did so thinking I knew more than I did with the first photo, so I must be able to take a better photo, right?

Truth is, I had much less luck on the second shot (note the bird butt in the top left corner):

Photo by the author, ©2019 Karen Fayeth

And with that, I gave up. Yes, I took only two shots and got one worth keeping. How often does that happen? For me, not very often. It was a good reminder lesson in allowing serendipity in my photography.

Maybe knowing a bit more when taking the second shot turned out to be a hindrance? Maybe on the second photo I was trying too hard?

In photography, I can get rigid about the shot I want to make. I have been known to see a shot evolving in real time and then pressing too hard when trying to take the perfect version of it.

I can get obsessive and fire off image after image and come back with nothing worth looking at. In those moments I wanted the photo to be something I was not capable of producing.

Sort of the divine struggle of photography, right? To produce an image that is how you saw it in real time.

What have I learned from this serendipitous nature photography moment?

  1. Right place, right time. Meaning let the image happen the way it wants to evolve.
  2. Don’t press, just let it flow and let it go. If I don’t get the shot I wanted, okay to try again, also okay to move on.
  3. It helps to know your camera. In this case, I tried a new setting, but knew pretty well how to use the features of the camera including zoom, focus and settings.

It is not hyperbole when I say that little bird is among the best wildlife shots I’ve ever taken (the first one, not the bird butt one) in that it comes very close to how I saw that beautiful late afternoon winter sun on the green and yellow and brown botanical garden.

True, wildlife photography isn’t my main focus, and practice would certainly improve my images, but dang if I’m not pleased with that photo of one little bird taken with one little point-and-shoot camera.

Does it have less value since it wasn’t taken with a “real” camera? (scare quotes used on purpose. Isn’t any camera a real camera?) I don’t think so. Others might disagree.

But I like it, and that is what matters the most. Trying to shoot something I think will please someone else is always going to be hard road with no destination.

One of the things I love about photography is that it is both so easy (just get the exposure triangle right!) and so very difficult.


Note: I have done no post processing on any of the photos in this story. I could certainly fiddle with all three of them, but that was less important for me and not quite the point of this story.

From The Department Of Not Sly

  • No Comments

On Saturday the sun shone down so brightly on the Bay Area that it was too hard to stay inside. Roaming and marauding were the order of the day.

Yes, I know as a Californian I am supposed to feel Very Guilty about these sunny winter days we are having. I get it.

But instead of guilt, The Good Man and I went outside and basked in the sun. We decided to wander not our own neighborhood but the one just one city over.

It’s a really fun and funky block of shops and restaurants.

They day started with some chilaquilas that were rated as acceptable to me. You see, I grade Mexican food on a very tight scale. Sadly, most Californian Mexican food fails.

Once we were full to overfilled with good eats, we moved on to a really awesome bookstore that I had never been to before.

I do love bookstores. Especially local bookstores with both new and used books on the shelves. You really get a feel for a town by what is stocked on those used shelves.

As I often do in a bookstore, I wandered over to the art section. I am looking for a used copy of a particular Henri Toulouse-Lautrec book. Hope springs eternal.

This particular art book section was more eclectic than I usually find, which was great. A lot of things I hadn’t seen before.

While perusing, I found one very small section of books under the heading of “Wild, Wacky and Wonderful.”

Boy, this small collection lived up to the billing.

There were just five titles. I can’t quite remember them all. One was Toilets of the World. I recall that. Quite an interesting tome, may I add. One was the Pipe Handbook. One was the Diary of a Sword Swallower or something like that. I can’t seem to recall the other two.

As I browsed I kept walking back to that section and laughing. It was *too* perfect. Just too.

So then I decided to take an iPhone photo so I could remember what five titles were there. But how to snap a photo without incurring the wrath of the storeowners? They are sick, I’m sure, of people finding something in their store then buying it on Amazon. Snap click is a means to that end.

My intentions were good but I didn’t want to be a pain in that charming store.

Then I remembered, oh yes, that you can use the volume buttons on the iPhone to fire the shutter. I decided that I could hold the camera at about waist level and take a surreptitious snap.

I went over to the side of an aisle and thought, “Ok, I better give this a try to make sure I know how it works.”

I pushed the button and then loudly echoing through the store was the shutter sound that iPhone so helpfully adds to camera app.

You see, I always, always, always have the sound off on my phone. Always. I mean seriously, always.

Except on Friday afternoon when I was expecting (and didn’t want to miss) a call from my boss. After the call I then forgot to switch sound back off.

The shutter sound caused three people around me to snap their heads up and give me “grrrr” eyes.

Busted. Flat busted.

So there you go. I have no photo of the crazy fun titles, only my hazy memory.

And this piece of photographic art of the wrong shelves. *sigh*

Enjoy.





Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth






Photo Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons License in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5, the onboard camera app, and not a lot of guile.




Admitting You Have a Problem Is The First Step

  • 4 Comments

Each day at work, I spent nine to ten hours in front of a computer, looking at a screen, tip tapping away on my keyboard.

I go to lunch and while noshing I pull out my iPhone and I catch up on email, Twitter, Facebook and when that’s done, I read a couple chapters of a book on the Kindle app.

When I come home from work, I have my phone with me at all times and I check in on email, Twitter, Facebook and others. Sometimes I log into my iMac and do some writing work or I edit photos or just fiddle about. Occasionally in front of the television I’ll fire up my MacBook and I’ll do the two screen thing, telly and computer.

When I go to bed at night, I set the alarm on my phone and I do a last check of email, Twitter and Facebook and maybe read another chapter of a book on my phone.

Then I sleep. When the alarm goes off, the first thing I do is check the meetings on the day’s calendar on my phone. Then I check email, Twitter and Facebook.

Recently, I had to admit to myself that this is a problem. I spend way too much time with my head in a device.

Way, way too much.

I’ve been trying to wean off but I have to be honest, it’s hard. Those “likes” on Facebook are as addictive as pellets to a lever pushing rat. Payoff! Reward! You like me you really like me!!

While out and about with a friend a few weeks back, she commented, “You are on Facebook a lot” and my internal gears seized up. Am I really? That can’t be.

Only it is.

I was doing better (for a few days) and really making progress, but then baseball’s post-season started and it got worse. I wanted to watch the games and see what everyone was saying and see updated stats online and photos from the yard! At some points during the course of the post-season I was watching TV, Twittering on my MacBook and checking Facebook on my phone all at once.

Meaning, I slipped off the wagon and bounced a few times on the dirt road.

Last night I was thinking AGAIN about my need to back away from the shiny electronic devices. They are so alluring!

While waiting in the coffee line this morning at work, I idly browsed the local county newspaper (an actual paper copy) and came across this little ol article:

 Can true solitude be found in a wired world?

I used to be that girl…I loved to sit in an airport waiting for a plane and instead of my nose in a device or even a book for that matter, I would sit, quietly, and observe the world. The sights the smells the sounds. I would hear my own thoughts. I would find a place of calm.

Not anymore. Now if I fly I make sure my iPad is loaded up with content, both books and movies to distract me the whole way and I hardly make note of anyone or anything around me. Hell, I can’t even sit quietly in my own home and listen to the squirrels fighting outside. Nope, gotta Tweet about it.

What is wrong with me? When did I get sucked in and how can I back away slowly?

I had a revelation one night last year while in the midst of twelve to fourteen hour workdays and I was losing my mind. My beloved Good Man took my phone out of my hand, went into Settings and turned off my work email.

It was like he opened my eyes for the first time. That I could really do that…I could ignore email for a few hours? Magic!

Perhaps it’s now time to turn the entire device OFF the moment I come in the front door. There is no emergency in APAC that can’t wait to the next morning. My coworkers in APAC are fairly used to this.

Or perhaps I set a time…say 8:00pm and after that the phone is off. That allows a window for emergencies from the Pacific Rim but a time of peace in my home (and mind).

I have a good friend who doesn’t work on email at night simply because his company turns off access to email every evening then turns it back on in the morning. How glorious and how sane. My employer would never do this.

To be honest, when I think about having an unwired vacation (as suggested in the article), it sounds both awesome and a little scary.

Which is a sure sign I need to implement this in my life right away.







Image from The Indian Fusion.



It Must Be Groundhog Day

  • 2 Comments

Because I’ve just lived this day, again.

Originally posted March 8, 2011

____________________________

Did You Ever Have The Kind Of Day Where….


Did you ever have the kind of day where you are going ninety miles an hour at your work desk, cranking out the emails, spreadsheets and taking phone calls left and right, all while balancing the Greyhound bus stop that is the chair in front of your desk….

And despite all the chaos and kerfuffle, just in the nick of time, you manage to whip out your one page, beautifully wrought, easy-to-read table that contains the cheat sheet you’ll need to answer every question that will be machine gun fired at you at your 3:00 meeting.

So you send that sumnabitch to the printer and grab your notebook, hike up your pants, run to the copier, and grab that thing off the machine so you can make it to your meeting at something less than five minutes late.

Then you squeal around the corner into the copy room and you are heartened to hear that the machine isn’t working. It’s done. It’s printed your copy.

Only it hasn’t.

The screen reads “out of paper, load tray three.”

Inside your head, you say, “I can deal with this.”

So it’s one of those big industrial machines and to fill the paper tray takes not one, not two, but three reams of ecologically friendly 50% post-consumer lily white paper.

Being a good office citizen, you could throw half a ream in there and call it good, but you don’t. You fill it up to the top, slam the drawer and the machine fires up.

Sweet sound of the Gods!

And the machine begins spitting out page after page after page…..

After page.

After page.

And you realize the guy in front of you must be printing like a hundred copies of his forty page slide deck and it’s HIS FAULT that the machine was parched for paper when you arrived.

Nothing you can do now but watch that machine like a bird dog after a duck, all the while not-my-copy, not-my-copy, not-my-copy shoots out of the machine, perfectly stapled and collated and tidy as you please.

“Ok,” you say to yourself. “I can deal with this.”

Then the machine stops again. The engine winds down.

“Thank god!” you think.

But wait, your copy isn’t there.

“WHAT THE [EXPLETIVE DELETED]!!!” You may or may not shout.

The LCD screen on that machine says “Replace Toner” and provides helpful animated arrows to guide you through the process.

“Ok,” you think to yourself, “I can deal with this. It can’t be that hard.”

So you find a box with a new toner tube and you follow the bouncing arrow on the screen and the old toner comes out and the new toner slides in and now you may or may not have black toner dust peppering your arms.

But you slam closed the toner door and the machine begins to make a noise.

“Warming up,” it tells you.

And you wait for what must be an [expletive deleted] eternity while the machine “cleans the wires” and “recalibrates” itself at the pace of an anemic snail.

Then holy mother of Xerox, the machine starts spitting out copies anew and more and more of not-my-copy of someone’s presentation comes out.

Then, most miraculous! The single sheet that you desperately needed finally exits the machine!

Victory!

So to be helpful you pull the other copies off the machine to lay them aside in a nice, neat stack.

And because you are nosy by nature, you look to see exactly what is the document that held up your progress and made you irretrievably late for a very important meeting, and you come to realize that it is…..

Handouts for someone’s upcoming Cub Scout meeting.

You ever have a day like that?

No way, right? Because that story just *has* to be made up. Unless truth really is stranger than fiction.





Photo by Alex Furr and used royalty free from stock.xchng


And I like it…

  • No Comments

Been, as they say, off the grid for the past several days. The analog world is so….not digital.

I kind of like it.

But I can’t stay away for long. Back soon.



Secured By miniOrange