Sunday, February 20, 2011

Things behaving badly, or...

Camera-less in Minden

…and yes, I’m whining about it. It’s like stopping smoking. Or going on a diet. It’s painful to be without a camera.

“Why,” you may ask, “are you without a camera”?

Well it’s like this. As I write this, my D300 and 4 Nikon lenses are in a box safely (I hope!) enroute to Nikon Canada in Mississauga. The D300 needs repair. We were shooting the Winterfest games and at the end of the day on Wednesday, I uploaded my 500 images to Lightroom and gasped when I looked at them. Here’s an example:

Notice how the sign in the upper right corner, and the people in the back are in focus but the sweepers are not? Clearly there's something wrong...
I was tracking this guy for a while and released the shutter when he was in a good position. This one is not full frame: he filled about 1/3 of the frame and I cropped it to show the problem more clearly.

I was shooting in continuous focus mode. Canon calls it “servo” mode. What is supposed to happen is, you put the crosshairs on whatever it is you want in focus and hold the shutter release halfway down. When the subject moves, the autofocus is supposed to follow it and keep it in focus. As long as nothing moved, I was fine. But as soon as the subject started moving, the tracking motor kicked in, and then the camera blew it. It took the focus somewhere else: generally to the back of the image. So I essentially had 500 images with sharp advertising on the boards and fuzzy hockey players. Or curlers. Or skaters. And it did it on more than one lens, so it’s the body.

I talked to Nikon. They said, “send it in”. At least a week and a half, possibly more. As long as I was sending the camera in, I asked them to check out my lenses at the same time. So everything is in a heavily insured box, on its way to Nikon. Now I have to wait for “the call”. You know, the one that starts, “Mr. Springer? This is the technician at Nikon. Do you want the good news or the bad news?”. Would you like some cheese with that whine?…

Yesterday, I changed techniques. Do you have ANY IDEA how hard it is to shoot hockey without predictive autofocusing? Point at a hockey player. Press the shutter release to autofocus. Wait for it to lock in. Press it the rest of the way. If the player is still in the same place, maybe. But if there’s actually a game going on? Forget it. I took most of my shots by focusing on the goalie. Not what I wanted.

To top it all off, to stop the action in hockey, you have to shoot at a very high shutter speed. It begins at 1/500 second, but you really should shoot at 1/1000. How do you do that? You shoot wide open with your fastest lens (I have a 70-200 f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.8). If the player moves one foot between the time you lock in the focus and fire the shutter, you’re SOL. AND in that lousy lighting, I had the ISO cranked. Minimum was 1600, I also tried 3200 and 6400 ISO. How did they do it in the old days? Shooting with a Speed-Graphic and at the most, TRI-X film which was rated at ASA 400 that you could MAYBE push to 640 or 800.

Shooting hockey is TOUGH. They move SO SO fast! I was camped out in the penalty box – the rest of the rink was covered with a mesh so that spectators wouldn’t get hit with a flying puck. A stick swung past me, just brushing my face when a player was bodychecked into the boards right in front of me. A high speed puck whizzed past me about a foot away, between me and Midori, the lady shooting video for the Games. Yesterday, I blocked another stick with my arm and ducked away when a couple of players hit the boards right in front of me. At least I didn’t break a monopod like Scott Kelby.

To say I was disappointed in my performance would be an understatement. I just hope the Winterfest people won’t be. I’ll start vetting pictures for them right after I finish writing this (OK, it's tomorrow and I already did that. I've got 305 images to send in. Another 300 or so that are garbage).

So on my way back from the post office where I dropped off the camera, I reveled in the wonderful sunshine and warm temperatures. The melting ice turned to vast puddles out on the lake where the ice fishermen were still plying their trade and there were even a couple of cars out there. The ice road to the huts was under water. You could see blue/green reflections in it and the effect was wonderful. Lighting was great. And I didn’t have a camera. {Sob}. I fully expected a deer to step out and pose by the roadside with a bald eagle sitting on a branch above him.

I still owe you some Muskoka Wildlife Centre shots. Next time. I had to get this off my chest. BTW another group is going there this weekend. I hope they’re as lucky as we were.

Selective shots from Winterfest 2011 will be up on my Smugmug gallery in a little while: I haven’t had a chance yet. You’ll probably find them in the February monthly gallery but it’s the 18th and I haven’t even created it yet! With no camera, I guess I’ll have time over the weekend. Here are a few to tide you over.

Speaking of things behaving badly, do you use Photoshop CS5? The content-aware fill tool is unbelievable, but sometimes it does odd things. I found a good trick to prevent that from happening and I wrote it up in my technical blog here: Drop in and have a look-see.

They said there's a gigantic solar flare out there, so we should be able to see the aurora borealis tonight. Better not. I DON'T HAVE A CAMERA! {whine}