Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where the canoe takes you

I have always said that the canoe came first and the camera followed. The canoe takes me to these beautiful places where I see fantastic animals. The camera followed because I wanted to preserve those moments; it's since evolved into more than that. This all got me thinking about the idea of feeling in control. I think one can go through life believing they are in control. But step outside of that reality and explore the wilderness and it becomes apparent immediately that absolutely nothing is in your control (I believe this is why so many people do not enjoy being in the wilderness). Out there, the weather, the tides, the water, the animals we try to photograph, none of those things do we have control over.

Out there, you are only an observer. Once you accept that fact, many gifts start coming your way. These gifts are often not easy to come by; they require experience, perseverance and patience, innovation and problem solving, and sometimes just plain luck. As you attempt the challenges, you allow yourself to let some things go, but while one door closes another may open as you become a better paddler, a better navigator, a better photographer. You study the animals and learn their behaviors. You realize that you can photograph the beautiful Everglades, but only on their terms. Negotiate the terms and you will accumulate the many gifts it has to offer. Here are a few gifts from over the years as I explored and learned.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The new Sony a77

Ever since Sony released the a900 (24 mp and full size sensor), I have been waiting patiently for the release of a Sony camera with 24 mp, cropped sensor and shooting speed greater than 5 fps. Finally, Sony has done it with the a77. Today was my first time using the camera in the boat. The location for breaking in the camera was the oyster-laden Chokoloskee Bay. And with 10-15 knot winds and a 96% moon outgoing tide, both the camera and I would be challenged.

I am happy to say, the camera met the challenge and then some. I fought the current and the lighting became difficult; but all told, it was a super day on the water with the sony a77.

The a77 comes with some new features, one of which is the "live view" and the fact that the viewfinder and LCD provide you the same view. Live view provides you a look at the image as it is exposed. This took some getting use to. For instance, once exposed for a white ibis, I turned my attention toward the sky where a brown pelican was flying by. As soon as I focused in on the darker bird, the viewfinder became darkened, showing me the live view of the underexposed image. I don't feel the need for the live view, but it does provide instant feedback and validation.

The live view was a dramatic change, but perhaps the most dramatic was the 8 fps. Wow. It got where I actually set it at the lower speed of 3 fps because I would rifle off several shots with minimal intention of doing so. But, knowing that it has that capability is a good feeling and I know it will be used to its full capacity.

Quite happy with the new camera, most of my attention today was on the ibises that were in great number along the oyster beds. Pelicans were busy diving, and the gulls were swarming. As the morning worn on and the oyster beds became more revealed, it appeared the ibises began catching small fish rather than crabs. It was at this time that the laughing gulls ganged up on the ibises that worked so hard to capture a fish only to have 3 or 4 gulls attack it. With all the action, it was at this point that I realized how well the camera tracked in continuous focus. Images appeared sharper than expected, despite the low light (cloud cover) conditions that prevailed in the latter part of the morning. The true test was seeing the images on the computer. With the 24 mp, the resolution was outstanding and I took advantage of it with some significant crops. The first one below is about 50% of the original.

Bottomline, the a77 delivers.