Monday, June 19, 2017

It is to laugh!

I have to laugh.
Let's talk about the Adobe "subscription" model.

I recently read a thread on Facebook where a person complained that his old version of Lightroom cannot handle RAW images from his new camera, a Nikon D5. When someone suggested Lightroom and Photoshop CC, he responded that "$120 per year seems pricey". This is a person who just spent close to $7000 on a camera body (never mind lenses!). Hell, he probably spent more on batteries.

People disparage Adobe for their subscription model. And I was on that side as well back when a monthly subscription was $50, even though I used to spend over $700 per year for updated Photoshop alone. But when they came out with their "Photographer's Package" at $10 (yes, US dollars, and that's before tax) per month, well that's an offer nobody can seriously refuse.

There were two main concerns that people had about the plan.

  • "What happens if I choose to terminate my subscription"? The answer is that the software will stop working fully. Lightroom will continue to work, except for the Develop module, so you'll always be able to access and export your pictures, you just won't be able to edit them any more. Photoshop won't work, but your pictures are of course safe. You'll just need to find another way to open them, which might be a concern if you've saved them in a Photoshop format (like .psd). But other programs can open .psd's (lately, the new Topaz Studio).
  • "I don't want to have to be online to use these Creative Cloud programs". You don't. You need to check in every 90 days or so (there's a 30 day grace period on top of that) so that Adobe can refresh the cookie that says your subscription is up to date.

This isn't a perfect world. Seems that each version of LR/PS relies more heavily on modern hardware and operating system. Even now, a lot of people find that they have to turn off the use of their GPU (Graphics Processor) and lose some functionality if they don't have a top-of-the-line system. That's because Adobe is taking advantage of new computer capabilities. It's a never-ending spiral but what isn't?

Turns out Adobe was right about their subscription model. I don't know the actual numbers but there are MILLIONS of subscribers around the world, if not tens of millions. And Adobe is continuing to fund new developments and upgrades from that subscriber base. I heard they made over $5 Billion in the first quarter.

The Photographer's package is the best deal on the planet.

So to that guy who has tens of thousands of dollars tied up in camera and computer gear and who refuses to spend $10 per month to support their capability, "it is to laugh".

Which one, which one?
There are some classic questions that need answering:
  • Mac or PC? No, that's not the one. I'm on the cusp, having just switched to Mac, and I like it and I'm convinced that's the way to go.
  • Canon or Nikon? You're kidding, right? Nikon all the way. Give me an "N", give me an "I", give me a "KON".
  • iPhone or Android? I don't know anything about Android, so iPhone.
  • Oil paint or Acrylic or Watercolour? Powerboat or Sailboat?
but here's the latest choice:
  • Tassimo or Keurig?
Here's the story, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. I've had a Tassimo machine for some time now. At first I thought it was expensive to use but after a while, the convenience outweighed the cost and I use it without thinking about it. But it's big and bulky. So I found a small Keurig-type machine to bring with me to Newfoundland.

With the Tassimo, the variety of coffees in the stores is limited, at most half a dozen different blends. But I can make Lattes, Cappucino, etc. And an extra-large or an espresso. However there's a huge variety of K-cups available. In fact, I was in a store the other day (Cayne's in Thornhill) where they have over 500 different blends. I bought a sample pack of a dozen varieties. The hard part is going to be remembering which ones I like.

Which one, which one. Which one do you use?

By the way, I also use a drip coffee machine and usually I grind my own beans. I'm an admitted coffee-o-holic. Sometimes I'll be tempted by an interesting looking blend at a store. But if you've ever had the coffee in a motel room, you'll understand why I'm packing my Keurig machine for my Newfoundland trip!

File this under
"sporadic musings"!

While we're in the kitchen...

Do you have a cast iron skillet? I use mine ALL the time. I'm even taking it to Newfoundland with me. There are lots of videos around how to season them and clean them: go ahead and follow them for seasoning (they're all about the same). But I'm lazy so here's how I clean mine after use:
While it's still warm, I put it under running water and I simply lightly scrub it with a nylon dish brush. Not difficult, probably around 30 seconds, really. Then I rinse it out and put it on the stovetop, on a cooling burner or just on an adjacent one to dry off any water. Done.
If it isn't perfect, I have a great solution. Try this: Preheat your oven to 400°. Cut up some potatoes into small chunks. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in the hot skillet and cook for about 5 minutes or until the cut portions are nice and browned. Turn frequently. Take the pan off the heat, and season the potatoes to taste. I use some garlic salt and pepper, then my "Simon and Garfunkel" seasoning mix — parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Put the pan in the preheated oven and turn the heat down to 325°. Cook for about 20 minutes, turning once or twice. Don't forget the oven mitt: that pan is HOT. Put the potatoes in a serving dish and follow the rinse instructions in the previous paragraph.  
Done. Your pan is amazingly clean and ready for the next time! And you have some delicious roasted potatoes!

Want meat with those potatoes?
Get a cheap cut of roast beef. Outside Round, Sirloin Tip, Round Roast, etc. Cut up some onions and lay them on the bottom of a crock pot. Sear the roast on all sides (total about 5-10 minutes) in your skillet (optional). Put it in the crock pot on top of the onions. Season with a little salt and pepper, garlic and, the pièce de résistance, an envelope of dried onion soup mix. Pour about ½ cup of beef stock over the whole thing (or you may want to add other stuff, like wine or even teriyaki sauce). Put the lid on the slow cooker, turn it on low and don't even look at it for 8 hours. 
Done. PS, I bought an inexpensive small slow cooker to take with me to Newfoundland too. And a cheap plug-in timer in case I'm gone for more than 8 hours and want it ready at a certain time.

The Carden Alvar
An interesting factoid
I visited Carden again yesterday. I usually meet interesting people, most of whom know a LOT more than I do about birding and about the area. Yesterday was no exception. At one point I was down in the marsh area and there were a couple of birders on foot. "Oh listen: that's an Alder Flycatcher!" They pointed out the bird and I managed to get some shots. "You can only really identify them by their song," I was told. Then we saw a sparrow, I figured it was a field sparrow but again they told me it was a "swamp sparrow". Two more for my lifer list!

Swamp Sparrow 

Alder Flycatcher 

Earlier, I had run into a young fellow in a tall 4wd pickup truck and I learned that he was a "fire environmentalist" living at the cabin on the West side of Wylie road a couple of km in. He told me that he was actually living in a tent because the cabin was so run down and the mice were so populous they threatened to carry him away! He was working at the North Bear Alvar (off Alvar Road at the North end) and I got the impression they might be planning a burn to open the area up for more meadowland to favour the birds that live in open areas.
Anyway, I met another couple (also walking: my arthritic legs envy them!). They told me a bit of history. The cabin I mentioned was originally occupied by the Wylie family. When they left or died, "Miss Wylie" moved in. She was a spinster and she lived there for years and years. The property is totally off the grid — no amenities, including water. Apparently she lived there on her own until her mid 80's. I didn't catch how long ago that was. 
Interesting factoid!

Rather than post a whole bunch of pictures here, I created a little web page in Lightroom from this visit to Carden. Click here to enjoy the pictures, go ahead, I dare you! And here's the link to the same thing from my visit a couple of weeks ago.

Learning Curve

No matter how experienced you are or how familiar you are with your equipment, there's always a learning curve when you get something new. That's the case with my new (to me) Nikon D5500. I bought it as a backup to my D800, expressly for my Newfoundland trip. Imagine being on a month-long photo trip and your camera craps out!

I've owned lots of Nikon gear over the years. This is my seventh Nikon DSLR body. The first thing I did when I got it was to put the batteries on charge. Then, because I practice what I preach, I "RTFM". Three of the letters in that acronym stand for "READ THE MANUAL". You can probably guess what the "F" stands for.

First thing I learned was that this Nikon manual SUCKS. I don't know what they were thinking when they decided not to put an index in the back of this 133 page booklet. I couldn't find answers to even the simplest questions. For example, when you turn on bracketing, how many pictures does it take? (the answer is 3 but it's not in the book). Much of the book is devoted to things an amateur would want to know: how to use the two "Automatic" modes and the "scene" and "effects" modes.

Fortunately the person I bought it from included a third party book, David D. Busch's "Compact Field Guide for the Nikon D5500" which takes you in an easy to read cogent tour of the camera's functions. It's not perfect: it doesn't answer the bracketing question either!

I like the camera. Don't get the idea from the following that I'm sorry I bought it — I think it's mostly a learning curve issue. It's light, small, relatively easy to use (especially if you're an old Nikon user).  That articulated LCD on the back is wonderful if you have trouble getting down on your hands and knees (or stomach) for those low angle shots. However, I haven't figured out a combination of glasses that will let me see it well (don't get me started on my lousy eyes) unless I get right up to it anyway. I didn't think of that.

Oh, and it has wi-fi built in! I can control the camera from my iPhone (I need to experiment!) and I can upload pictures instantly to my iPhone. Cool!

Here are a few things:
  • It's a crop sensor. So when I put my 600mm lens on it, it's equivalent to a 900mm lens on a 35mm or my full-frame D800. That's good news and bad news. Technically, I can reach out further than I can with the D800, but can I? If I crop on the full-frame, especially since the D800 has 36Mp, isn't it about the same? And because it's technically a longer lens, I'm finding that I can't handhold it at full throttle as easily. I've learned that I have to shoot at 1/1250 sec for sharp images on the D800 (at 600mm); I'm thinking 1/2000 sec on the D5500. Or maybe I need practice.
  • despite the fact that it's a newer sensor/processor generation than my D800, it doesn't handle noise all that well. ISO 2000 noise seems to be about the same as ISO 6400 noise on the D800.

  • While it doesn't illustrate the noise issue, this was a 3-shot bracketed image at ±1 EV. Really easy to set up in camera using the "i" button.

  • Exposure compensation does not work properly in manual mode (which I shoot 99% of the time), especially when you have Auto-ISO turned on. The EC button on top of the camera actually changes the function of the command dial from changing shutter speed to changing aperture. So the only way to change it is through the menu system although once you're used to the "i" button (Information edit) that's pretty quick. Ditto changing ISO, metering mode, etc.
  • Disappointing: the flash does not work in "Commander" mode, so off-camera-flash is problematic.
  • The AE-L/AF-L button does something different when you have an image up (review) on the LCD: it 'protects' the image from erasure. That means that because I have it set up for back button focusing, I have to turn off image review or it won't focus.
  • For some reason, the active spot is constantly moving off-centre to the far right. I have no idea what I'm doing to cause that! And finally...
  • This camera does not have micro-adjust capability. Autofocus on the Tamron lens seems to be off (back focusing) so to get a really sharp image, I have to get close with the autofocus then tweak it manually. (look at the Song Sparrow picture above as an example).

Manually tweaked to focus on the bird's eye. FWIW, this was D5500/Tamron, 1/1600 sec at f/8, ISO 2200, F=600mm, cropped to about 5 Mp. Some post-processing. Eastern Towhee singing his heart out.

...and sometimes the AF works perfectly! 1/1600 sec at f/7.1, ISO 320, F=280mm. Killdeer in flight. Cropped.

Anyway, this was for Nikon users primarily, and I'm sending a dual message: (1) there's a learning curve in everything, and (2) RTFM. OK, a "triple" message: you get what you pay for. A D500 would have been about $1500 more.

I'll be using it as a backup, as a platform for the long lens sometimes, and as a walking-about camera. With the 18-55mm kit lens, it feels like a little toy in my hand!

B. Dass

I heard some bad news about B. Dass, a talented photographer friend from the Richmond Hill Camera Club. Seems he was in a serious accident and as I write this, he's in a medically induced coma with some major injuries.

My heart goes out to him and his family and friends.  Hoping for an easy recovery. Stay tuned.

Off to Newfoundland!

I'm typing this on Monday night, June 19th. I'm leaving the house on Wednesday morning, spending a couple of days in the TO area (my granddaughter's graduation, some hospital stuff, a visit with friends... oh and a dentist appointment!) then I point the car East.

The Ferry isn't until Tuesday night at midnight. My goal is to be in Nova Scotia on Sunday night and I might try for Peggy's Cove (I think it's been almost 20 years since I last visited there) on Monday and depending on the weather, I might hang around there for a day or so to get golden hour shots.

My return ferry is booked for July 25th but I might extend that a few days and leave from Argentia instead of Port aux Basques. 

I will be posting pictures and perhaps 'musings' here on the blog enroute. I'm going to try to post at least one picture on Facebook every day, look for me at and here's a direct link to the photo album I set up on FB (if I did it right). Bookmark it and pop in for a look often. I dare you!

I'm posting a big mental sticky note for this trip:
(Keep it Simple, Stupid)
I need to keep telling myself that when I compose a shot. The other note is,
Tell Me a Story
Now if only I can read my mental writing...

Parting Shot

I took this in the fading light at Carden Plain last week. What a difference the light makes! 

Wilson's Snipe at last light. Shot at 8:45 pm. 1/1600 sec at f/8, ISO 6400, D5500/Tamron lens at 600mm.  

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