Musings on Photography

Day 7

Posted in process, Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on April 7, 2008

Today’s weather was rain, on and off, off and on. Kodak and I went for a walk anyway. He doesn’t care – walk in the sun, walk in the rain, it’s all good.

I tried to let go a little more today. More exposures from each setup, looser setups, and a little more watching and trying to anticipate. Part of the problem is that Kodak behaves differently when I stand with the camera up, coming over to see what I’m up to. So now I stand with the camera ready but not at my eye, and when I see the scene start to come together I try to whip it up, let the shutter go (perhaps several times) and then let it drop back to my waist. I spent a lot more time today just trying to observe my own process and identify problems.

We also visited an area with large fields today, which Kodak likes. In a field he’ll just range around, reading the story of the place with his nose to the ground. I’ve finally figured out that many of the photos I want are going to be made with a viewpoint much closer to the ground. Call it dog’s eye level, if you will. Please say a prayer for my knees. I’m tempted to sacrifice the neoprene foam uppers of my current (somewhat battered) pair of Muck Boots™ to become waterproof kneepads, and buy a new pair of boots. But I like the old boots even though they have that hole in the side that leaks (from an entirely unwarranted ambush attack by a blackberry vine) and the mud is sort of ground in so that they look shabby. We’ve reached an accommodation, those boots and I. I don’t complain if they look shabby, and they don’t complain if I look shabby. Just as Wheaties are the breakfast of Champions, Muck Boots are the Wellies of the wise.

Some lessons from today, some learned today and others forgotten but remembered today:

  1. setting the 5D drive mode to ‘multiple exposure/motor drive’ turns the thing into a visual uzi, and burns batteries in a hurry.
  2. setting out for the day with just one battery is courting disaster.
  3. setting out for the day with just one partially discharged battery is really courting disaster.
  4. taking the cold battery out of the camera and putting in in your pocket while you watch the dog for a minute brings it back to life a little.
  5. You can make photographs with an SLR without looking through the viewfinder, and the photo police don’t come screaming up in SWAT gear and take you to jail.
  6. it’s ok if cameras and lenses get a little wet from rain
  7. It’s a bad idea to step into water deeper than your boot tops (stopped in time, thanks)
  8. It’s more fun if you eat lunch before the long walk especially if you start out from home hungry
  9. a Thermos full of hot tea would be nice at the end of the outing. Stopping by Starbucks on the way home is an inadequate substitute.
  10. some of the photos in the book are going to feature the dog in the landscape but not as the most prominent feature.
  11. Lower is not always better. Higher is not always better, either.
  12. Putting that microfiber lens cloth into my pocket was a good idea, because it was really useful at taking the dog nose print off the front element. Note to self – remember to wash lens cloth.
  13. the lens hood on a 24-105 f/4L-IS will not keep the dog’s nose off the front element when he comes running up excitedly.

Anyway, herewith today’s contact sheets. I have not even looked at these images myself, just unloaded the card and fired up the contact sheet gizmo direct from Bridge. Please set down hot beverages before viewing, lest you scald yourself when your laughter causes spills. I assume no liability if viewing these causes incurable hiccups, grand mal seizures, or death. Only people who are posting their own SoFoBoMo contact sheets may mock me mercilessly in the comments. All others will suffer from my merciless rapier wit in my responses.


9 Responses

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  1. ron said, on April 7, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    I’m thrilled for you that you are as much learning ancillary material as you are arting! The same is true for me in my SoFoBoMo endeavors. I’m seriously doubting that I’ll have enough intended material, but it’s already been more than worth it.

  2. Rosie Perera said, on April 7, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Whew! What a relief. Thanks for posting your contact sheets. It makes me feel better about how many non-winners I take on an average day.

  3. Manish said, on April 7, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    I too have been thinking about putting up my contact sheets on the web but I doubt anybody would be much interested. I am not that famous. But thanks for posting them. They really give an insight into the photographer’s mind.

  4. John Wilson said, on April 8, 2008 at 12:18 am

    I’m taking up the challenge and posting my own contact sheets. See here: Contact sheets. Difficulty level: I don’t have photoshop/bridge so I had to write my own program to make the contact sheets.

    No mocking, just an observation that your dog looks cool and I drive a Forester too. I am envious that you actually have green grass to photograph; nature is still a little desaturated here in Minnesota.

    Oh, and don’t be afraid to fire that shutter when you’re learning how to take pictures of moving animals. You won’t get better at anticipating and capturing action unless you actually follow through with making the split second composition decisions. It’s not enough to practice mentally without taking an actual picture (although it helps), you have to follow through to get practice getting your horizon and trees level, the dog where you want him in the frame, the focus point on the dog (or not on the dog, depending), etc. If I’m reading your post above correctly you already are learning this; I’m just saying, basically, you’re 100 percent right in your second paragraph there.

    (Not that I’m some photographic genius or anything. For what it’s worth, I’m hopeless with a tripod.)

  5. Erik DeBill said, on April 8, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Interesting that you’re running short of battery. I got a 5D about a month ago and I’m up to about 650 images on the first charge. In the afternoons (80F or so) the battery reads full. In the mornings (as low as 50F) it reads low, but not catastrophic. I’m carrying a spare battery just in case, but so far it just keeps chugging and I want to see how far it will go.

    Both the 20D and 5D live in motor drive mode except when shooting from a tripod with mirror lockup. I’ve never noticed significant battery impact from doing that – I always get several hundred shots per battery (they use the same kind of battery). Several year old batteries don’t last as long as new ones, though.

    Coming from the 20D (5fps) the speed of the 5D seems positively sedate by comparison. Even the sound of a single shutter actuation sounds lackadaisical by comparison. I guess it’s all about perspective. They’re both blindingly responsive compared to the G9 or Tachihara.

  6. Rachel said, on April 8, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    ooh, contact sheets! For some reason, that hadn’t occurred to me. Good idea. 🙂 I might make and post some, too. 🙂

  7. sjconnor said, on April 8, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    The third photo, top row, sheet two, is great. Kodak seems to be saying, “Oh, um, excuse me. Sorry. Just passing through. I’ll be out of your way in just a sec.”

  8. Jim Kost said, on April 9, 2008 at 3:12 am

    “Coming from the 20D (5fps) the speed of the 5D seems positively sedate by comparison.”

    I agree with Erik – the 5D’s ‘burst’ mode seems slow to me – adequate for the studio, but frustrating when trying to shoot sports.

  9. Doug Plummer said, on April 9, 2008 at 7:55 am

    This notion of the dog in the frame reminds me of Pentti Sammallahti’s work. In The Russian Way series, every landscape had a dog somewhere in the frame, though it was hardly the organizing principle of the body of work. You can see some examples here:

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