Around home, Looking back, looking ahead
Well, it’s the end of another year, it’s true, the older one gets, the faster the years go by!
The biggest thing that happened this past year that was my mother passed away back in August. While I miss her a great deal, what I don’t miss is watching her slowly whither away due to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
The second biggest thing in my life in 2014 is that I got a new job, one that pays so much better than my last one that I’ll actually be able to have some money in my checking account again.
It’s been slow at work the last two weeks, what with Christmas and New Years, and I don’t get paid for the holidays since I haven’t worked there long enough to qualify for the benefits the company has. However, even with what seemed to be a lot of time off from work, I still earned more than I would have at my last job. For example, I had most of five days off last week, they did call me in to work a few hours Friday afternoon, but I spent the better part of those five days out shooting photos. I was out on the Grand Haven pier when I received the call to come into work. 😉
When I do work, the days tend to be long, ten to twelve hours long, so I don’t have the time for my daily walks those days any longer, but that may change next spring when I will be able to bid on any open dedicated runs the company has.
But, it isn’t just the money that has me loving this new job. One thing is the way that they treat their employees. One of the biggest complaints that I had about a previous employer, not the last one, but an earlier one, was that they made you work the holidays even when they couldn’t find any loads for the drivers to run. You couldn’t make any money just sitting around, but they wouldn’t let you go home either. It made no sense to me, I’d rather be home with the time off not making any money than sitting in a truck somewhere not making any money!
So, things are much better on that front, I like looking at the balance in my checking account and seeing that’s there’s money left at the end of the month, rather than having to juggle bills to make it to the next pay check.
Okay then, I have started using the Canon Digital Photo Professional software that came with my camera to edit photos that I shoot in RAW. It does do some editing, but it isn’t great, nor easy to use. To make things worse, my poor old computer is on its last legs. I’ve been getting the blue screen of death from time to time the last few months, and I’m still using Windows XP, since it makes little sense to upgrade on this old of a machine.
I still shoot mainly jpegs, but when the subject is more important, like the snowy owls, I switch and shoot RAW, because I don’t have the room on this old computer to store all the photos that I shoot in RAW. It takes forever to do any editing because of how slow this computer is, or to do HDR images in Photomatix. I tried to reduce the noise in several of my images shot at higher ISO settings, and the computer couldn’t handle it. I waited twenty minutes, and the image was still being processed, that’s longer than I have patience for. 😉
So, you may remember that I’ve been looking at new computers, and have settled on an iMac. I thought that I had one all picked out, but things have changed. Earlier this week I looked at how much money was in my checking account to see how much progress I had made in savings towards the new computer so far. Then, checked the price of the model that I had picked to see how far I still had left to go. Woo hoo! Apple has dropped the prices of the iMacs, and by enough so that I’ll be able to purchase the next one up from the one that I had picked and for a little less than my original pick! Sometimes it pays to be broke and have to wait to make a purchase. 😉 The model that I’m looking at now will have 16 GB of RAM, plus a NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 1GB GDDR5 video card with one GB of Ram.
I’ve been also watching tutorials on using Lightroom in what little spare time that I have, so once I make the purchase, I’ll have an idea of how to use it. It looks easier to use than the software that came with my camera, but time will tell. I thought about purchasing Lightroom now, so I could begin to learn it, but looking at the system requirements, it may not even run on my current computer, so I’ll have to wait.
I may find that I’m a lot happier with my Canon 60D cameras once I begin tweaking the images from them in Lightroom. From watching the tutorials online, I can see that I could overcome some of the weaknesses of the 60D with a few tweaks here and there. However, one thing still sticks out in my mind from the short time that I played with a 7D Mk II at the camera store, how well all my lenses performed at all distances on that body compared to how they perform on the 60D. I’m sure that my images will be better once I tweak them in Lightroom, but Lightroom can’t overcome poor auto-focusing, and can only reduce noise, and not restore the resolution I lose at higher ISO settings with the 60D. So, the 7D is still on my wish list, but I’m in no big hurry to rush out and make that purchase yet.
Can you believe it? I’m actually excited to begin doing some post processing of my images, more so than buying a new camera body. That probably sounds silly to most of the readers who already post-process, but a year ago, I considered it to be a way of making up for not getting the camera settings correct to begin with. How little I knew!
I do tend to forget how much my images have improved, as I’m always trying to make them the best that they can be. Now on a typical day, I usually end up changing nearly every setting that I can access through the “Q” button at some point if you include both bodies. A far cry from when I switched over from my old Nikon, where I was afraid to make any adjustments, to the new Canon gear I currently use.
I’ve learned that no matter what, one is still limited by the camera sensor’s ability to record the image that a lens passes on to it. Until some one develops a sensor that can match what the human eye can see, I’ve come to the conclusion that post processing is a requirement for improving my images.
If I had needed more to convince me, the snowy owl from the last post was it. In some of the images that I shot, over 95% of the bird was exposed correctly, but I’d still get some blown out highlights, unless I dropped the exposure to the point where most of the owl was underexposed. The Canon DPP software isn’t great, but it did allow me to tone down the blown out highlights, and make the images look much better. I’d do a before and after, but you’re probably sick of seeing snowy owl photos. 😉
So, here’s what could be my best shot of the month from around home, one that I did nothing to.
That brings up something else. Last year at about this time I had just purchased my first quality tripod to use, rather than going for a cheap model that was worse than hand holding my camera. I swore that I would use the tripod much more often, whenever it was called for. While I did use the tripod much more this past year, I still haven’t learned to carry it with me all the time as I should. Of course, I can’t use it if I don’t have it with me.
I’ll see something that I wished that I had the tripod to use, so I’ll carry it for a few days, and never use it, then go back to leaving it home.
The carrying bag that I bought for the tripod is great for traveling, the case is well padded, but it doesn’t do well as a carrying bag while hiking. Also, I bought a heavier duty tripod head, one strong enough to support the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), but I almost never mount the Beast to the tripod. The heavy-duty head weighs almost as much as the legs do, and when in the carrying bag, it and the head weigh far more than the legs. I may have to purchase a light-weight ball head that will work for macros and landscapes so that I’ll be more prone to carrying the tripod with me daily, as with the ice crystal above, I never can tell when I need it.
Anyway, after the month of November, when we set records for the amount of snow for the month and one or two record low temperatures, December was slightly milder than average. We were in the running to set the record for the least amount of snow for the month until a lake effect squall this morning dropped enough snow to put that record out of reach. The stats say that it was a drier than average December, but you wouldn’t have guessed that if you lived here. It looked like this outside for almost an entire week.
I chose to play with that image in Photomatix to produce this HDR image seen in an earlier post.
Photomatix has a button labeled “Double Tone Map” and I thought to myself, “Gee, I wonder what that does?” I promise you, I will never, ever click that button again!
While it was damp most of the month, there was very little rain and almost no snow, which is how we ended with below average precipitation for the month. Besides the week of fog, there were many days that looked like this.
Or, if I was lucky, the morning looked like this.
However, it was warm enough on a few days to see a few of these.
Most of the photos of birds that I shot looked like this…
…due to the very high ISO settings that I was forced to use because it was so dreary most of the month. Still, that didn’t stop me from trying to catch the junco in flight.
I could have used a lot more light for this guy!
As quick as he was, I’m surprised any of my photos turned out. We did have some sun, and I tried to make the most of the short time when there was some sun.
In some bad news, they have begun clearing another small woodlot that I walk past on my way to the park when I do my daily walk. I was afraid that was going to happen when the property changed hands late this past summer. That woodlot is where I get many of my turkey and deer photos, like this fawn.
After posing for a few photos, she started trotting off…
…to join her mother, who was stomping her foot to warn the fawn that humans are not to be trusted.
As gloomy as the weather was, I was very surprised to get these images of a red-tailed hawk in flight.
And, I was very pleasantly surprised that these photos came out as well as they did. At the time, I had little hope that I would save these, as the lighting was some of the worst that I’ve dealt with lately.
The squirrels have been busy packing on the pounds to tide them over the winter.
On one day, I noticed that a red-bellied woodpecker seemed to be drinking the sap or sap and water combination on the side of a tree.
A red squirrel chased the woodpecker off so that it could lap up some of what ever was on the tree.
Every once in a while I get in an artistic mood and try converting a photo to black and white. I’m not sure which version I like better.
I know which version of this shot I like best.
I think that I’ll wrap this post up with an ode to the color brown, which like Rodney Dangerfield, don’t get no respect.
Wait a minute, it’s a holiday, I can’t end on brown, I need something more colorful to ring in the New Year….what could that be?
…I know, the last flower of 2014!
All in all, 2014 was a good year for me despite my mom’s death, I hope that 2015 is just as kind to me.
Happy New Years to every one!
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!