I bought a “light tent” some time ago in order to get portraits of the various duckies (as well as, potentially, anything else we want a Very Nice Picture of) but I noticed something after the first couple of sessions that bothered me a bit. Due to various circumstances mostly having to do with living in a pandemic and not wanting to deal with much of anything, I didn’t get around to trying a solution until this week.
The problem? The LEDs at the top of the tent leave a bright glare in the photographs of any smooth, shiny subject. The solution? Buy some kind of light-diffusing material and find a way to “mount” it in the tent.
In January, we had a couple hours of snowfall. Not snowstick, mind you, it just fell and melted. I went out on the balcony and took a short video with my phone, saying on the record that “this is it, this is all the winter we’re getting.”
So of course here we are a couple weeks later and the Portland Oregon metro area is blanketed in ice and snow, with more coming down this morning.
My superpower, as I may have noted before, is Being Wrong. As soon as I state something with absolute certainty, the universe will bend over backwards to prove me wrong as soon as physically possible. Usually this happens within minutes, but apparently entire weather systems take a while to move into place.
I’m glad that we finally got some winter in our winter, but I can’t help but feel like the programmers and management of this Matrix-y simulation we inhabit are laughing at me every chance that they get, and I’m a bit tired of it.
A few years ago I took a picture of the Moon with my then-new Coolpix camera, and it didn’t turn out too badly. Today, thanks to some lovely weather and excellent timing, the opportunity to try that shot with the Lumix FZ80 came up and I couldn’t pass it up. How did the new camera do?
Not too badly, if I’m honest. Mind you, I wish I’d been able to get the remote control app for my camera (yes, such a thing exists) to work properly so I could snap the picture without actually touching the device. Despite the camera being mounted on the tripod, I still introduced a bit of wobble to the results. More’s the pity.
If you compare the two I think the Lumix did a better job, though the Coolpix result was entirely handheld, which is some kind of miracle considering how unsteady my hands are.
As noted, I have my new camera (and it’s great). I have a bin full o’ duckies. I have a tripod. And now, as of this afternoon, I have a light tent (or whatever it’s supposed to be called, I dunno, I’m not a pro photographer or anything like that).
So how about some duck pics?
The “tent” is… larger than I originally wanted, but the size I wanted wasn’t in stock and I didn’t feel like waiting even longer to start this project, so here we are. It’s a 60x60x60cm cube with a big ring of tiny bright white LEDs up top for illumination and reflective surfaces on two sides. It gets bright in there, is what I’m saying.
During the process of figuring out this test shoot I discovered that my camera has an aspect ratio setting. Hooray for the 16:9 option, but this means I need to be more careful about vertical composition since I won’t be slicing selected bits off the top & bottom anymore. A new learning curve to ascend, I suppose.
I figured out how to lock the camera to an ISO of 100 to keep the graininess to the absolute minimum that I can with this rig. The aperture’s set to give me just a wee bit more than the minimum available depth of field as well. What I might need to do before embarking on the final photo shoot is to find a way to account for just how dingdanged bright it is inside the light tent. We’ll see, I suppose.
At first I wanted set dressing that wouldn’t distract or detract from the look of the ducks, but as I went through a variety of test shots I noticed something: While the gray blanket works great for the more traditionally (and less-traditionally) colorful ducks, the monochromatic ones have a harder time, like so:
We have a polyester throw blanket similar to the gray one you see in these pictures but in purple, and I think that might do the trick. Otherwise, we’ll figure something else out.
Of course, the perennial problem of taking high-resolution pictures of plastic toys is that they get so dusty and dingy so very easily. And some of them are rather hard to clean due to the specific formulation of the plastic. I’ll do the best I can with what I have, I suppose.
There’s a long vacation-like stretch coming up next week, and that’s when I’ll try to get this project done properly. Wish me luck!
It’s a beautiful day, the last of those we’re likely to get for a while since the weather’s supposed to turn hot again after Monday. We decided to go on a hike up at Bethany Lake Park, and I figured I’d take the new camera along. There’s not a whole lot to interest your average shutterbug there but why pass up the chance to put the new gear through its paces?
Neither of us had ever walked much past the shaded part of the pathway, so this time we pushed onward to the top of the hill where the path goes right through, apparently, a whole entire golf course. Yes, it’s quite possible to get beaned with a golf ball while on a summer afternoon hike. (Neither of us were harmed, but there were a couple of close calls.)
Having seen what was there to see (mostly dry grass and golf balls all over the place), we headed back down and found a shaded place to spread out a blanket and eat some snacks. Afterward, of course, I took more pictures.
It really was a marvelous time. Quiet, sunny but not too hot out, people generally behaving themselves (to varying degrees), and enough exercise to make my doctor happy.
On the way back toward the bus stop we paused at an unoccupied bench for a rest since our bus was some time off yet, and after looking around in the lake a bit I had to grab my camera because look at this marvelous bird:
I then noticed a mallard swimming nearby and decided to push the camera’s zoom to the maximum and see how that turned out. The results were… better than the old camera would have done, but still, I think it’s best if I don’t try that again any time soon:
The best part, though, was when the mallard swam right by the heron:
All in all, a good time out and a great validation of my new camera purchase.
The Nikon CoolPix gave up the ghost, as noted previously, and for a while I didn’t think I’d bother replacing it. I don’t take many pictures, after all.
And yet. And yet.
I researched my options for a “bridge” camera, which is apparently the common term now for a device that’s not merely a point-and-shoot, but not a full DSLR or mirrorless body rig. In other words, a bridge camera is a fancy point-and-shoot. I avoided the Nikon brand, because that “take a picture, then vaporlock” bug seems to show up in several of their bridge-range models. Yuck. One particular model seemed to hit the sweet spot of being moderately well-reviewed (considering it’s a budget camera) and staying below my desired price threshold. And this week, after what’s been an absolute bastard of a month, I went ahead and ordered one.
My new piece of shutterbug gear is the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80, which came in at a bit under three hundred bucks (on sale).
Here’s the first pic taken with it, just a few minutes ago:
My first few shots show that I’ll be fighting against a certain amount of graininess, but thanks to my research I knew that before making my purchase. (The amount of money required to escape certain problems is… more than I’m willing to part with.) What’s definitely missing is the Nikon’s weird feather-shaped smudges when you zoom in on the image file. I was worried that those smudges were going to be common to all image-stabilization algorithms. Apparently, no, just the CoolPix has that bizarre quirk.
Hopefully I can dial in a combination of ISO (to reduce grain) and aperture (for depth of field) that gets me the kind of results I want on this new rig. Then… it’ll be time to (re)start the Rubber Duck Image Gallery Project!