27 May 2008

An Ally for nature experiences

On Sunday morning I woke up to see lake Aklangen like this. No sounds of human activity, not even a distant roar of a jet plane. Notice the absence of vapour trails in the sky, btw.

Lake Aklangen is part of a long watershed in Nordmarka, a large forested area North of Oslo. It is continuous with my "local" wilderness Lillomarka, just separated by a railroad track. However this is quite far from home.

I was there to test out my recent acquisition, an Ally canoe. It is a collapsible, stored in a backpack in my garage when not in use. The backpack is waterproof, and will hold all my luggage when the canoe is mounted. I have always wanted one of these. Ever since one of my best friends bought one more than 20 years ago.

It is an ingenious little thing. Easy to paddle even solo, and lightweight enough to carry for one person as well. The pun about an Ally becoming an ally is pretty lame, but it feels right. I think I'll get many more great experiences with this canoe.

One advantage of canoeing is getting to places otherwise unreachable. While resting on a small island in lake Katnosa, two fishing birds came closer. A closer look through the FA* 400mm f/5.6 revealed a pair of Black-Throated Divers. It is the first time in my life I've been close enough to this kind of bird to get a picture.

Photographing birds with white plumage is a real challenge in the middle of the day because of the high contrast, and this pic isn't exactly world class, but it's at least a small personal trophy.

All the bright specs on the water surface are blobs of birch pollen. It had been raining for a couple of days before this beautiful Sunday, and in many places the pollen lay in thick layers along the lake edges, like here at Finntjern:

The birch (Betula pubescens) spreads its pollen before popping the leaves in spring, so its abundance tells you a great deal of how far spring has advanced. As it was last Sunday, I think the birch pollen season is coming to an end now, as the hills were putting on a light green in the sun. Here's from Pershusvatnet, late in the day:

The whole day was so nice that the previous day is almost forgotten. Saturday saw just rain. I didn't even exercise the camera. However it was a nice way to test the rest of my equipment and clothing for waterproofing. I now have a list of things to improve for the next trip. High up on that list is a waterproof camera bag. For good measure it should probably be a floating one.

All shots made with Pentax K10D, and one of three lenses; Pentax DA*16-50/2.8, Sigma EX 70-200/2.8 or Pentax FA* 400/5.6. I used a tripod for the first three shots.

17 May 2008

I hate keywording

Fellow blogger Bruce Robbins recently posted about his experiences with microstock agencies. It hit me like a slap in the face because I thought reading his blog would be a nice escape from the tedious work looming over me; namely putting keywords on my own photos for the FotoFil.no stock agency.

As Bruce notes, keywording "is as much of an art as taking the bloody photographs in the first place!".

For myself, it's an artform thrust upon a most unwilling performer. Not much chance of inspired creativity here.

Perhaps I ought to spend some time reading about the stock photographers' tribal secrets? Bruce contracted a comment from another blogger dedicated to the very subject of stock photography; Lee Torrens. In case you're interested, you'll find him at: microstockdiaries.com.

But ach... Writing this post is just another displacement activity, steering clear of the real task at hand. Guess I better get back to work.

Oh, wait... It's lunchtime! :-)

15 May 2008


The cat is out of the bag, the long awaited DA*200/2.8 has hit the market. The german test site Photozone was quick to test it, and delivered a report of mixed feelings. To sum it up, Photozone reports it to be sharp, with nice bokeh and nicely built.

But Adam didn't stay long in Paradise, did he? Photozone complains about Longitudinal Chromatic Aberrations (LoCA) and Purple Fringing (PF). These issues make me shudder. I once owned a Pentax SMC-K 500/4.5 which caused me some frustration in this respect. What makes me shudder, however, is all the trouble I caused the photographer who bought that lens from me. He has serious ambitions as a bird photographer and has had far more than a fair share of frustration over this lens. But any comparison to modern lenses is unfair. The K 500/4.5 is ancient. The way modern lenses manage such distortions is a good sign of progress in lens design. Testers like Photozone paying attention to it is also a good sign. These parameters were not considered in the tests of comparable Nikon and Canon lenses. I wish they were, for the sake of Photozone's credibility and brand-neutrality.

So what's the fuss?

The DA*200/2.8 will render bare twigs, air-strung power lines, flagpoles and other narrow picture elements in a purple colour instead of dark, almost black gray when shot against a bright background. The problem is most pronounced at f/2.8, and diminish quickly when stopping down. It's all gone at f/5.6.

So, one pertinent question remains. Who, in their right minds, run around shooting backlit twigs at f/2.8?

I know I don't.


05 May 2008

Virtual vs. traditional life

The author Terry Pratchett, (in)famous for his humoristic fantasy books about Discworld, describes himself as not wanting "to get a life, because it feels as though he's trying to lead three already".

As a man of modest capacities, I'll gladly settle for two. Virtual and Traditional. The latter is, of course, the most demanding, and tends to displace the Virtual into the realm of subconciousness or some other unpleasant and possibly Freudian place.

Such as in the past month since my last blogpost. So perhaps I ought to settle for one life? Or even none, in the nerd-ish sense?



For now, I'll just make a promise to myself to keep the Virtual closer to the threshold of conciousness. Because there's no shortage of material for writing.

But I have to dash off now. Monday morning duty calls. Sigh.