Distracted by baubles

Such a silly, simple camera toy – a small glass ball, costing about $8.  But, great fun to take a photograph or ten through, until the novelty wears off, just as the technique is mastered.  These came out a little differently using the infrared modifed camera as the light doesn’t reflect on surfaces in quite the usual way.  Done with it for now, but I might revisit a few monuments with it, it functions as an extremely wide angle lens, so quite good for the kind of places that you usually can’t quite fit in due to other buildings and such.


Next year (as I say every year) I’ll go really early and claim a watching-spot that gets more of the harbour and has a bit less foreground interest.   Next year . . .  but this year all looked very pretty from where I was, filtering trees and all.

I was very happy with how my 20mm Minolta 2.8 lens performed sharpness wise, this at f4.5, ISO 200 and 2.5 sec.  I chose it after reading this review, and recommend Ken Rockwell‘s site as a great place to find properly detailed info on old lenses to use on mirrorless cameras.

And the equally old Minolta 1.4 50mm,  at f4.5, ISO 100 and 3.2 seconds.


And three exposures






IR with Cheetahs

Update some days later!

After an “ah hah” moment with photo processing for images from the IR camera today, I revisited my Cheetah.  Much better result.

Revised processing

Revised processing using a camera profile and colour channel mixing

Processed using my previous ‘play with the sliders in ARC’ method :

For my daily amble today I took my old Sony A580 to the zoo.   I had the filter which normally sits in front of the sensor removed a few months ago and replaced with a clear one, aka a full-spectrum conversion.  Sensor filters normally keep out most of the infra-red and UV light which is outside the human eyesight range, so that photographs look ‘right’ in terms of colour.  This camera doesn’t have that any more.  Focusing is a bit of a challenge (or at least it was with the Tamron 70-300mm lens I was using today), but the results can be interesting when not utterly rubbish.   These are the straight-out-of-camera colour, and lightly processed b&w versions.

IR cheetah

Crisper fur, but not looking at the camera

Cheetah IR

And, trying a macro lens back in m’garden.  This Sony 35mm lens seems much sharper than the Tamron one, and the colours are quite different.

IR monarch

I really need to remember to take this camera next time I go on a road trip – IR is absorbed quite differently to visible light by vegetation, and I’d love to try take some of those spooky landscape pictures which inspired me to get my retired camera converted in the first place.

A pigeon’s tale

So, picture this: Wellington’s iconic 70’s art installation the bucket fountain, in Cuba Mall.   A small boy is standing on the edge, waiting for the buckets to tip, happy/excited that he might get splashed, his mum watching benevolently from the other side (where I too am walking).   An elderly couple are also walking by, behind the child.  And then . . . a pigeon flies at the fountain, crashes and falls into the water right in front of the lad.  Cue childish shrieks (everyone around looks, is it a child that has fallen in?), and one of the older ladies leaps into action.  She hands her handbag to her companion, plunges her arms in up to the elbows, and with amazing precision she grabs the pigeon and pulls it out of the water.  And is left standing there, baffled, her hands full of damp struggling pigeon.  Bird is deposited in a nearby planter, and 15 seconds after the life and death drama began it is all over, everything returns to normal.

All happened much to fast to get my camera out, even if it had a suitable lens attached, which it didn’t.  So, to illustrate this tiny tale, here’s the bird still hiding in the foliage when I walked back up the mall 20 minutes later, a manky mangled thing not glamourised by 8.5mm fisheye lens, and a crop so the bedraggled mankiness is even more manifest.  But I do wish I could have caught that lady’s kingfisher-precise retrieval, or the expression on her face as she wondered what to do with a concussed bird.

Pigeon bucket fountain concussed pigeon

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 A580, 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

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.

Zoo at twilight

I live near a small zoo, whose leafy paths make for a pleasant evening stroll.

My challenge tonight was to use just one manual lens of a fixed focal length.  This meant all interesting creatures more than a few metres away or those moving at any speed were not going to get captured.   There could be no classic watch-meerkat-on-a-rock shot against the sky tonight, no red panda in the trees, no jumping monkeys (just trust me, they were very cute), and entire animal kingdoms who remained at the back of their enclosures could not be photographed.

On the other hand, having to take the time to frame and focus each shot probably improved the ones I did take.   Except for the kiwi: my camera isn’t quite up to taking photos in the dark (or rather, the very red light has odd effects on the sensor), but it was still lovely to see a kiwi close up and active.

Shot with an A6000, and a Super-Takumar 50mm/f1.4 lens, mostly with the lens wide open.



Sending friends on a mad rampage

BOW Improv showThe requirement was to quickly come up with  a poster image for a WIT show in next year’s Fringe Festival.   Battle of WITS is a fun improv team-on-team sort of show, with zero budget.  So, “look scary” I told two friends, in five spare minutes before a class.   And they cheerfully hammed it up.  A moderate amount of exploding backgrounds and death laser eyes later that evening . . . pure Photoshop corniness.