My name is Ali and I like to stipple . . .

Where stippling = making an image with tiny dots of ink, recklessly applied to paper for fun.  I spent today life drawing.  There are two quite different reasons to draw more often than I have been.  The first reason is that skills start to slip.  Drawing is not a thing to learn once, and then, hey, you know it.   Every time I spend a few months away from the ink and charcoal, it’s as if I forget how to see properly, forget how to foreshorten, how to draw hands to look not too sausagey.   My thinky-brain has to relearn how to relax, and let my art-brain get on with it.   The second, much more important reason for life drawing is that by golly heck it is a nice way to spend time.  People are the most fascinating and complicated creatures.

One bad habit I’m trying to keep in check is worrying too much about results, fretting about how something will look to others, and not enjoying the process.   And thinking that I should keep all work hidden away, until I can do it properly.  To stop that sort of foolishness, here, from today: one of the 20 second warmup sketches, and one 20 minute dotted portrait.


Quick budget lens review – Tamron 70-300mm

Specifically, the Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 LD Macro 1:2, Model A17S for Sony. 

Newtown lion

300mm f/4.5 1/160 sec iso 160

I am waiting for Sony or someone else to come up with a properly splendid telephoto lens for my A7ii camera, something full frame and E-Mount of course, that zooms from, say 20-600mm, is as fast as heck, sharp as a pointy sharp tack, and costs less than my car.  While I wait, and I admit, it could be a while, I’ll make do with a more basic alternative.  In this case, a very cheap Tamron lens, NZ$215 new, made for the Sony A-mount, so used with the LAEA4 adapter.  That adapter is a cunning device, basically adding back in the mirror that isn’t in mirrorless cameras, so that lenses designed for more traditional DSLR focusing will work on a mirrorless camera (how many times can I say mirrorless in one sentence – well, up to four times now).  It works with all the lenses I had for my ol’ Sony A380, and any random secondhand Minolta lenses that take my fancy on Ebay and the local equivalent.

The Tamron lens, bought for its low low price point, arrived yesterday and I took it for a short walk around m’local zoo.  It seems fine.  Perfectly okay.  Adequate in all the areas that I need basic adequacy.  And it cost less than a fancy pair of shoes or a handbag.  Not that I’d waste money on fancy shoes of course, and only on a handbag if it has a whole lot of padded storage for camera, spare batteries and other essential accessories.

Buying this super cheap lens is me being slightly strategic, I won’t feel that I have to stick with it once the fancy-pants new lens hits the shelves.  There are downsides of course, the autofocus is loud and slow, it’s clunky, but hey, photographs of things I can’t physically get close to can get made.  There’s a weird switch setup for the macro function, and it’s not entirely intuitive as to how you switch back to normal. I had to look at instructions.  But while not dazzlingly sharp, that macro was quite nice enough to catch the details on a resting honey bee; it means another bit of kit I can chose to leave home on a ‘just rambling’ sort of day.  The lens weighs less than 500gm, and even came with a hood.

So, photos.  These were all handheld, and the caracal cat who’d just caught it’s own lunch, and the chimp (in a dark room at high iso) were both shot through glass.

My review can be distilled down to “at that price, you really can’t complain”, and “it’ll do for now”.   If you want the kind of review that looks at test patterns, Mr Google is your friend.  I didn’t buy from Amazon this time, but they have mixed user reviews in abundance.   And Sony, if you’re listening, I’d be happy to test that experimental lens you’re getting ready to release later in the year.  Just so I can make a fair comparison eh.

chimp chomping

300mm f/5.6 1/320 sec iso 6400

Bee, low on buzz

300mm f/5.6 1/320 sec iso 400

Caracal cat and an ex-pidgeon

250mm f/5 1/320 sec iso 1250

Derpy Emu

300mm f/5.6 1/320 sec iso 1250

Not yet flash with flash . . .

I’ve just started to experiment with using off camera flash for outside portraits – and I have an uneasy feeling that wrapping my brain around all the different settings is going to be as much a learning curve as switching the camera settings to manual was back when I first began to do that.   But, as always, yay for helpful friends prepared to stand around while I experiment.

Taken at noon, in light filtered by leaves being whipped around in a brisk breeze, with very erratic brightness.  Settings: 55mm f/2 iso 100 1/200, and me holding a flash (with a remote trigger on camera) as far away as I could with one hand, while balancing and focusing the camera with the other.




Katydid? No, she didn’t . . .

The perfect model for my experimental use of back lighting flash just happened to land on the back doormat.  And I am discovering that using an off-camera flash is very much like learning how to  properly use my camera on full manual was a year or so back – plenty of  “gahhh, too hard” moments.  But I assume, it’ll be great once I learn.  Eventually using it will become automatic, just like setting m’own iso and aperture is now, and the new gear and changing those settings won’t get in the way of actually making images.  I expect.

Shot using a Nikon 105mm macro lens at f5.6, iso400 1/200 using a YN560-iii speedlite at settings I didn’t note.  Probably should have.

Note to self:  One day I should leave my house and take pictures in more exotic locations, although not until my current wintery ailments are less oppressive.  Cough, hack.   Winter, garrhhhh . . .

backlit katydid

One crying eye . . .

Manipulating photographically acquired pixels is a fine and useful pastime.  However, this week a Photoshop paper (part of a photography course) made me take up a digital paintbrush and actually paint with it for the first time in a long long while.  Satisfying, and an a way to encourage time to vanish down deep rabbit holes.   Did I really spend half an afternoon trying to figure out a vaguely plausible ‘crying’ effect?   Oh yes.

Shoutout to the ever helpful Obsidian Dawn (aka   Stephanie Shimerdla), whose skin texture brushes and matching tutorial was a especially useful resource among the many useful resources out there.

206-09 Ali-Little

Infrared zoo

I’ve finally had the chance to do some experimenting with my old dslr today.  It’s a Sony A580, which I sent it off to have the inbuilt filters in front of the sensor removed.  So, now it records more of the light spectrum.  Not infrared at the “see heat in the dark” end of things, but definitely more than our eyes can see.  I’ll play with filters to control the light more (it’s a “full spectrum” conversion, meaning it has UV through to IR), but today I just wanted to try it out, and see how well I could focus.   It proved very much a matter of taking a photo, chimping, and changing the settings, what I see through the viewfinder is no longer at all accurate in terms of exposure and what is recorded.  These photos were all at shutter speeds five times or so faster than I would expect to use in this light.  Which makes sense, because there is much more light being let in.  Someone, somewhere probably has some kind of fancy calculation rules for working this out, but for now I’ll just spin dials until it looks right.

Hello to a star kakapo!


Sirocco inspecting me

Kakapo are the rarest of rare creatures.  As a large plump flightless parrot nesting on the ground and pretty much defenseless, they were especially vulnerable to hungry humans, as well as to the various rats, cats and other tasty-bird-eating creatures who have arrived with humans.  Careful conservation work has bought kakapo back, a little, from extinction – but there are still only 125.    Annnyway, yesterday I got to see Sirocco the Kakapo arriving like a minor rockstar at the Zealandia sanctuary, for an ambassadorial residence in Wellington (most of the year he roams free on his own offshore island).   He is a little too fixated on humans as this justly celebrated incident with Steven Fry’s cameraman showed, which makes him not so useful for the breeding programme, but does make him ideal as a birdy emissary.   Released from his custom travelling box, he immediately ambled up a branch to press against the window and check out who was watching him.   The last photograph is of him looking out of his custom-built enclosure, wistfully, wondering where all the people are going.

Kakapo are nocturnal, so if you do want to see one (and for most people, Sirocco is the only one you’re likely to ever see), maybe book one of Zealandia‘s night tours.


Being released from his travelling box


G’night strange bird