Cropping for better or worse

Sticking with native or standard crop ratios is the norm for me. For my 3:2 ratio images I generally stick with that ratio when I do need to crop. On occasion I will crop to 1:1 or 4:3 for portrait oriented photos. Since I try really hard to compose in camera my crops are basically to tighten up a shot or get rid of a distracting stray element that snuck in the picture on me, such as the end of a branch, a car coming into the shot, or something else to that effect.

Once in a while, and I mean once in a while, I get bored and do a free-form crop such as this photo of dew drops on some leaves. I took this shot last summer and never looked at it gain until this evening. I marveled at all of the tiny dew drops but the remainder of the photo was a blurry distraction. Since I had to stop the lens down to get a bit more depth of field the bokeh kind of fell apart. The higher contrast black and white conversion helped some by darkening the background but I still found it lacking.

As I looked at the limited depth of field and the narrow line of in-focus drops I began to wonder, hmm, if I cropped just around the line of in-focus drops that would eliminate the distractions. At first I did a 16:9 crop and that helped but I had to push it more and go all free-form. So I did and I was left with a photo of the line of drops but maybe an even more distracting narrow window of an image. Certainly not standard. ;-)

Maybe it would be a good banner photo for the blog!

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

Low hanging fruit (and One Lovely Blog Award completion)

It wasn’t until I started at my current employer that I started to hear the phrase “low-hanging fruit”.  Apparently it’s a big corporate business world catchphrase.

Low-hanging fruit – Tasks that have the greatest positive effect for the least effort, used when promoting new projects to show the advantages

My previous jobs kept me out of meetings so that’s probably why I didn’t hear it before. But I’m in meetings quite often now and I even had a few assignments that fit that description.

I don’t make assignments for my photography but I know a piece of low-hanging fruit when I see it. ;-) A few apples singing their swan song always makes for a good autumn theme photo. And when they are low-hanging, all the better!


To complete my One Lovely Blog Award, here are a few blogs I like:

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A lovely autumn scene from a lovely blog

I have been given a Lovely Blog Award by F-Stop Mama Amy Pantone. I am so honored that Amy likes my blog enough to give it attention on her own blog, that I must proceed with the award ceremony.

But first, a lovely autumn scene photo.

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

Now, on to the awards.

7-10-2014 9-51-17 AM

The guidelines for the One Lovely Blog Award are:
•Thank the person who nominated you for the award
•Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post and/or blog
•Share 7 facts/or things about yourself
•Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog

The first part is easy. Thank you Amy!

Logo posted – check

Now the hard part, the dreaded seven things about myself. I prefer to remain a mystery, which is why there are very few photos of myself online, so this is a big step for me.

But, here we go:

1. I am a big fan of the down vest

2.I once ordered a Zima in a bar in Nashville. That didn’t go over too well. ;-)

3.I have low regard for people who don’t take the time to be responsible for what they do and how they affect others (you heard me idiot in the parking lot!).

4.I once photographed a wedding using a Mamiya 330 twin lens reflex camera. That’s right – changing the film every 12 exposures. Talk about having to think ahead! You digital wedding photographers have it so easy. :-)

I think I’m starting to sweat. Almost done.

5.I think the higher education system in the USA is a money grabbing scam and that most people can be smarter and have richer lives by having choice mentors and taking every opportunity to learn something about anything, all of the time. Take on any job you can get, do it well no matter what the pay, learn from it, apply yourself, and move on from there. If you find a passion, absorb yourself into it and learn all you can and practice it but don’t isolate yourself. Be aware of where you are and who you are and know that things take time.

6.Whew, was thought about me? OK, back to work – I like silver jewelry.

7.My music tastes are all over the place stylistically. As a guitar player I follow lots of guitar oriented music and enjoy the classic rock legends such as Clapton , Hendrix, Beck, Page, etc.. Mark Knopfler is one of my favorites. But I am also a jazz fan coming from my earliest influence, Joe Negri (Handyman Negri on the PBS Mister Rogers show), to Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Scofield, Stern Frisell, and the list goes on. I like old school country guitar with a twang but most of what’s considered country music today is total mind numbing in my opinion and don’t even get me started on the awful songwriting. Hip-Hop just doesn’t cut it for me – too commercial.

OK, that wasn’t too bad. I’m going to have to save the nomination part for my next post as it will take some research that I don’t have time for right now. But I will complete my mission.





Annual mushroom in the yard photos

Every year at this time I get a small crop of mushrooms that pop up in my yard, usually around 10 days or so after my last mow. And every year I try to photograph them and present them in a different way because, really, how many ways can you show mushrooms growing in a lawn? The crop this year wasn’t very photogenic, probably because it has been rather dry so far this fall. With only a few small rounded ‘shrooms to shoot I wasn’t even going to bother but I thought I would run out this evening and take a few shots.

The light was already getting low and I had to shoot wide open to save any kind of decent shutter speed. Shooting at such a low angle is awkward and holding the camera steady while doing it is even more awkward. Throw in the fact that the lens I used didn’t have any stabilization and I ended up with a few blurry ones.

With a few blurry shots in hand it prompted to me to process them in an old wet plate sort of style, heavy on the sepia and streaky textures. I like what I got out of one shot so I did a small series. Not sure what I can do with them next year, maybe go in the opposite direction and shoot for an ultra modern look.

A little structure is good

Literally, a little structure.

One of many hunting stands in the area. Some can get elaborate but most are of the few 2×4’s in a tree variety.  This one, I would say, falls in between.

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

Fall of no color

I snapped this photo of a rural road today as part of my annual autumn theme photos. Since it’s still relatively early in the season the color wasn’t quite fully developed and a lot of the leaves were still green. The scene was nice but not nice enough. Instead of a wasted shot I wondered what the photo would look like in black and white, considering the wet road was nice and dark and would make a good contrast.

And here it is! Not an exciting photo but it looks more interesting than the color shot.

By the way. I brightened up my page some as I was getting tired of trying to read on the black background. I kind of like the white since it looks more magazine like. Is it any better? I’m not sure, maybe I’ll play around with the theme a bit more.

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

A spider in a dewy web

Just like the post title says!

Not my usual type of photo but who can resist grabbing a good spider picture? I don’t care for the background in this one but it was in the weeds and everything was a bit crowded. I’m sure this is a common type of field spider but I don’t know what it is. Anybody?

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

Nothing too technical this time around

I promise no more gear talk for a while. At least not as in-depth as that last post.

Let’s get back to images starting with some hay bales I spotted in the fog this morning. Cliché I know, but it’s autumn! I’m sure you can’t wait for the obligatory pumpkin pictures! ;-) For the record though I did shoot this with the Canon. These kind of scenes are ideal for the semi-wide focal length. Straight out of the camera the images looked quite painterly (I know, another cliché) so I added a bit of texture during processing to enhance the fact.

One thing I did notice was that I seem to be favoring darker pictures of late. Edging the exposure and my processing a hair darker while trying not to be out-and-out underexposed.  I like what I’m seeing and I spend a LOT of time just viewing my photos during and after processing to strike a right balance. I know I shoot “normal” stuff but I try to make it look as good and interesting as possible.

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

My impressions of the Canon EOS M camera

What’s this? A camera review? Well, not really, more of an opinion.

I  generally keep the gear talk to a minimum around here but I thought I would give my impressions of the Canon EOS M camera and 22mm f2 lens. That’s right, a very timely look at a camera that was released a couple of years ago ;-)  and basically put on the back burner by its maker shortly thereafter, at least here in the USA. It was released with the 22mm lens and a 18-55 kit lens. The original releases are the only things available in the USA. Canon also released a 11-22mm wide zoom, an updated M2 body and recently a 55-200 telephoto zoom. None of which are available new in the US to my knowledge, except through ebay and sellers through Amazon. One prime and some slow zooms. Nothing to brag about but I guess that’s how Sony started out with their mirrorless system. There is also an adaptor to use Canon EF and EF-s lenses on the camera with full function. The body and 22mm lens combo can be had for around $300 new, which is a bargain in my opinion. I purchased mine used on eBay.

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2 © David Guidas

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2
© David Guidas

First some specs:

New EF-M lens mount (optimized for APS-C sensor size)

  • 18MP APS-C ‘Hybrid CMOS’ sensor
  • Continuous autofocus in movie mode with subject tracking
  • 14-bit DIGIC5 processor
  • ISO 100-12800 standard, 25600 expanded
  • 4.3 fps continuous shooting, 3 fps with autofocus tracking
  • 1080p30 video recording, stereo sound (with 25p or 24p options)
  • External microphone socket and adjustable sound recording level
  • 1040k dot 3:2 touch-sensitive ClearView II LCD (capacitative type, multi-touch support)
  • Standard EOS hot-shoe for external flash (no built-in flash)
  • ‘Creative Filters’ image-processing controls, previewed live on-screen

Looking at the specs you can see that it can be a capable camera, and it is, although there are plenty of newer mirrorless cameras that “out-spec” the Canon. It’s a fine solid little camera that puts out nice images but falls short in the general operation and autofocus where it gets a little aggravating. But before I talk too much about the body I just want to point out the 22mm f2 lens. The lens is the reason I found the package attractive for my use. A fast semi-wide (35mm equivalent) field of view is great for all around photography. A favorite of street photographers for many years, the field of view is a little wider than “normal” but not too wide. A happy medium, so to speak. And this particular lens is very useful even at f2 where it is sharp practically edge to edge. There’s nothing worse than a fast lens that doesn’t get sharp until you stop down 2-3 stops. What’s the point in that? Sometimes I get tired of being there at f8 and I want to be there at f2. With this lens I can. The lens has decent close focusing ability also, down to around 6 inches, great for capturing smaller details. Throw in the pancake compactness and it’s an all-around winner that fits my needs for a smaller camera perfectly. This lens doesn’t have any Image Stabilization (IS) like the zooms do though. Not too big of a deal but something I have to be aware of when shooting in lower light.

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2 © David Guidas

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2
© David Guidas

Okay, now back to the body. As I mentioned it’s a solid little chunk of a camera. Nothing attractive, crazy or “vintagey” about the styling, just pure Canon roundish simple design. It gets the job done. For my biggish hands I find the slightly heavy weight satisfactory and the controls are few and small but maneuverable. The shutter button is surrounded by a three-way switch to select fully auto stills, stills, or video. Next to that is a separate on/off button. Most of the control of the camera takes place on the touch LCD screen. That’s where you change shooting modes, AF mode, metering, shutter, aperture, etc. There’s a control wheel with four-way select to the right of the screen that controls parameters and selects shot modes, exposure compensation, AF/AE lock and custom function, which I have set to ISO.

For most of my use I use Aperture Priority, which I select on the touch screen. I then can select the aperture using the control wheel, Pretty simple. If I want any EV compensation I just right-click on the wheel and dial in my compensation and click again to go back to Aperture or it will default on its own. For focusing I usually use single point which is selectable by touch just about anywhere on the clear vivid LCD screen. You can easily set the screen to AF and shoot by single touch or just AF.  I usually just use the touch AF because I’m not good at holding the camera steady by triggering the shutter on the screen. I prefer to use the shutter button. The AF is slowish compared to most current generation mirrorless cameras but is swift enough for my needs. Think second generation micro four-thirds AF. I found that it works fine in about 80% of my use and the other times it either misses the subject or hunts a bit too much before giving up. Usually a slight adjustment on my part by selecting a wee bit different area to AF helps it out and I’m back in business. So, yes, it can be stumped, but I can deal with it.

Now for the awkward handling part. I find the exposure values display to be too super tiny to see most times. The parameter that can be set is highlighted by little green brackets that are not always easy to notice and you have to be aware of what parameter is in use. I found myself more than once accidently hitting the EV Comp button and changing it when I wanted to change the aperture. The work around for the AF accuracy is a little magnifying glass icon on the bottom right of the screen that you have to hit twice for a 5x magnified view of wherever your AF point is. You can hit it another time for 10x, which makes for an extremely accurate small AF area to focus. However you have to hit the button again to get back to 1x view to recompose by which time my finger would be off the shutter button, which means I’m back to square one. :-( A work around for that is to shift the AF lock to the AF/AE lock button and just use the shutter button for AE lock. Doable but awfully clumsy in practice. So I’ll probably stick to not doing that unless some extreme shooting situation warrants it, but I doubt it. I can always manual focus after AF but without any focus aid such as peaking it’s not always easy to see what is in focus on the screen without the magnification.

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2 © David Guidas

Canon EOS M, 22mm f2
© David Guidas

All-in-all I find the camera to be a decent first attempt by Canon but lagging far behind current mirrorless cameras in design and operation. I had a Lumix GX-1 that was even smaller than the Canon and also had touch screen ability, but I found working its controls way easier and more intuitive. I never had a problem with the Lumix when I needed fast accurate AF or a quick magnified view of the AF area while shooting. Yet I like the image quality I am getting out of the Canon. The RAW files are not as pliable as the files from my Pentax but I can work with them and haven’t come across an image that wasn’t usable and I have been purposely shooting some contrasty, high dynamic range scenes just to test the camera. Noise levels are fairly low at higher ISO and I don’t believe I have processed any photos using noise reduction yet as what noise is there doesn’t bug me. For the kinds of stuff I shoot, noise is generally not an issue. However, one of my favorite features of the camera has to be the smudge proof  LCD. I wish my phone screen looked so good after using it! :-)

There you have it. My first camera review that wasn’t really a review. It will probably be my last though because that was a whole lot of typing. I’m more of a one paragraph kind of guy.


Camera testing in antique stores

Last post I briefly touched on the fact that I purchased a Canon EOS M camera and was in the process of testing it out. What I didn’t mention was the reason for the purchase. Regular readers would know that I use Pentax DSLR cameras and I am quite happy with them. I’m used to the way they operate and I like the images I get out of them. However, I have an upcoming vacation trip and I decided I didn’t want to carry too much camera gear with me but I still wanted to be able to take somewhat quality photos on occasion. I could easily take my Pentax K-3 and lenses but I don’t want to carry them around while I am vacationing. The trip is more about down time, not photography, so I need to set my priorities.

So the dilemma came up about what small camera to take. I wanted a camera that could provide good image quality for capturing details of my location. The phone does a decent enough job of grabbing vacation snapshots that I can share so I can leave that job to it, but I like to do at least a little serious photography when I’m in a different environment and a “good” camera is a must.  Since Pentax doesn’t really have anything to offer in the small camera area besides the Q, which has too small of a sensor for my needs, I had to look elsewhere. Since I am fine with some sacrifices in order to save space, I decided a LCD viewing only camera would suffice. I can work with no viewfinder, optical or electronic, I have done it before, but if I am going to have only an LCD to work with I do like the touch interface models a little better. Just easier to work with, as long as they’re not too touchy!

As I shopped for cameras I soon realized the models I liked best and that fit my needs were not cheap. The Fujifilm XM1 and Lumix GM1 were the top contenders but they cost a little more than I really wanted to spend at this time. The Samsung NX300 also tossed around in my head before I thought of the Canon. I remembered reading some time ago that the price dropped dramatically on the M after Canon basically gave up on it, at least in the USA. It has been called a flop by some. But I read up on it and, more importantly, looked at photos by some talented photographers using the camera and I liked what I saw. So I searched around on eBay and sure enough, they were downright cheap with the included 22mm f2 lens. After reading quite favorable reviews of the 22mm lens, which would be a nice all around focal length, I thought I would give one a try.

The camera certainly is compact with the 22mm lens. I like the fact that the lens is highly usable at f2 since I plan on using it wide open as much as possible. The 35mm equivalent focal length works well for all around use though I would like a wider angle at times. Canon also has an 11-22mm wide zoom as well as an 18-55 kit zoom for the M, both of which also test well and are good sharp lenses that are worth having. I could pick up either of  those lenses as well, and I may at some point, but I decided I would go totally minimal on the trip and only work with one lens. I like to push myself creatively and the single lens thing is “creative challenge 101″ when it comes to photography.

© David Guidas

© David Guidas

In the past week of using the Canon I found that it has it’s good points and bad points, mostly in the handling department, of which I’ll expand on in another post. For now I want to show some photos I took in some antique stores the other day. I wanted to see how the camera handled low light in a real world environment and, since I like to photograph old things, the antique stores were perfect for my tests. I shot most of these pictures at f2 -2.8 since the light in the stores is dim at best. I didn’t do any noise reduction on these either. They were all shot in the roughly 400-1000 ISO range

The photo above is my favorite of the outing since it reminds me of an old masters painting. I love finding theses kinds of still-lifes in antique stores. The warm tungsten light really adds to the mood and I wanted to keep it that way instead of “correcting” the white balance. Of course the food is all fake but it sure looks good! I think the Canon really pulled through in this kind of situation and I think it will work out OK.


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