Digital Hunter

Posts filed under Digital Hunter

Canon EOS 350D comments: Shutter speed

Filed in Digital HunterTags: , , , ,

Imagine a guy with bare feet walking as quietly as possible through the underbrush of some bushy area, stealthily walking over to a fallen dead tree and then climbing up that tree to wait.

I've seen the tree before. It's a very large tree that was apparently pushed so hard by the wind that its trunk broke several feet off the ground allowing the wind to push the whole tree to the ground. It's been dead for quite some time now and it's a boon for me because it's produced an empty space in the middle of the bush, and a platform from which I can sit and watch the birds fly around.

The tree is now horizontal so it's easy to walk up but I still need to be careful climbing it because you never know when the white ants will have eaten enough of the tree; nature's recycling system; to weaken it, eventually allowing it to break under my weight. So far though, the tree doesn't budge when I walk on it so it's very safe for the time being.

I sat and stood on the tree trunk, some twelve feet off the ground, just watching and waiting for two or three hours, relaxing in the warm winter sun and admiring the blue skies that have become so rare now here in Hong Kong. I knew the birds frequented this place so it was just a matter of waiting with camera in hand. I was sure to get something.

Eventually, the birds did come and I was able to get a few reasonable photographs. I say reasonable because I'm finding it hard to get good photographs with my Canon EOS 350D camera. Under normal circumstances photographing normal things, the camera's definitely ok, but when I'm trying to get close to objects or when the available light begins to drop even just a little, the camera becomes a hindrance and I'm left questioning my age, eyes and skill.

The problem is light. Unless the sunlight is in full force, I need to set the camera to ASA200 for most of my shots to get a reasonable shutter speed. Even then, I find myself shooting many of my shots at just 1/30th of a second. For many shots, that's ok but for moving objects, it's too slow. I think the camera suffers from two problems: the sensor is small at only 22mm instead of the traditional full frame 35mm, and the sensors are not as sensitive as similar rated film; i.e., EOS 350D' ASA200 == film ASA100. One day soon, I'm going to try taking similar shots with both of my cameras and see if the EOS 5 does in fact make better shots easier to get.

At ASA200 on the digital camera, the photographs are not fine. This becomes more obvious when you blow up the pictures to full size and the details are not sharp. In addition, darker parts of the photographs are grainy and weak.

When taking pictures of birds, the problems become accentuated. Because I'm using the equivalent of a 224-640mm lens (70-200, x2 for the extender, x1.6 for the 22mm sensor), camera shake becomes a real problem. Even minute movements will cause the picture to blur. Add to that the speed of the birds' movements and it becomes evident that slower apperture speeds are out of the question. My testing so far indicates that I need at least 1/125s to avoid camera shake, and at least 1/160s to avoid blurring due to a combination of camera shake and bird movement.

At ASA200, this is only just possible for the lighting available to me at present but there's another problem. More often than not, the only way to get 1/160s shutter speeds is to use the maximum aperture value on my extended zoom lens; f5.6. For close-ups at 640mm with an aperture of f5.6, the depth of field can be extremely short, as short as just a few millimetres, so getting perfectly focused photographs is very difficult. I also prefer to get more in focus than just the bird's eyes so it's a blessing when the light allows aperture values of 10 or more.

Until yesterday, I was using Aperture-Priority programming to shoot bird photographs, usually setting the aperture to f5.6 but also shifting to f6.3 or f7.1 or even f8.0 when lighting allowed. Yesterday, it finally occurred me; remember that I'm an amateur photographer so please don't laugh; to use Shutter-Priority programming. With the ASA to 200, I set the shutter speed to 1/160s and let the camera do the rest. This way, I would automatically get greater depths of field when possible without any effort on my part. If I was shooting areas which were too dark for 1/160s at f5.6, it wouldn't matter because the result would be a darker picture similar to what was being photographed.

I am pretty happy with the photographs I took yesterday but after reviewing them, I have decided that 1/200s is probably a better choice than 1/160s. I'm also determined to try using the EOS 5 film camera soon to see if I can get better colour and grain than when using the 350D digital camera.

I have much more to say about the EOS 350D camera but I'll leave it for another post.

Married and beautiful

Filed in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags: , , ,

I'm always trying to get good photos of some of the birds around our home. I'd love to get a photo of the owls that live here but I've only seen one of them once in the two years we've lived here, and I've only heard them; a pair of them calling out to each other; once on another night.

Apart from sparrows, there are only a few species of birds living here. There are pigeons which are difficult to photograph because they're so easily unnerved by onlookers, and there is another species of bird, one with red behind its eye and more red under its tail. I find them especially attractive and try to photograph them whenever possible. Both the pigeons and these 'red' birds live in pairs, always with the same mate.

Hong Kong also has a very healthy population of kites (a predatory bird, similar to eagles) and I really hope to get good photographs of these birds in the future no matter how difficult it might be. Luck and timing will be a big part of my success.

For those of you not familiar with birds, the male can usually be identified by its colours. The male's colours are often brighter and stronger than the female's colours.

Married birds

Red-whiskered Bulbul 紅耳鵯

(Pycnonotus jocosus)

Date: 4 December 2005, Location: Clear Water Bay

Some birds mate for life. In this case, the male is the one looking at us from behind.

For a closer look at the pair, click here.

I hope you like the photograph. More will follow next year, especially now that I've added a 2x extender to my lens collection allowing me to get closer to the birds. I have become the proverbial hunter.

While searching for Canon links for this article, I came across references to the first cameras I ever owned. The Canon AE-1 was the first camera I remember owning, and was probably one of the best cameras I've ever used. The Canon EOS 620 was my second camera, purchased after my arrival in Hong Kong, sometime between 1988 and 1989. My EF 70-200mm F2.8L USM lens was purchased soon after and still works flawlessly today 16 years later.

It’s official. Hong Kong’s a part of China.

Filed in Hong Kong, Photo of the Day

今日為勗勵軒輔導中心做嘉賓,幫手推介‘無睹工作間計劃’。好開心可以再次睇到Kolor樂隊的表演。勁pro!

#canto-popIsCool

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kolor

It’s official. Hong Kong’s a part of China.

Filed in Hong Kong, Photo of the Day

While driving on the expressway to Causeway Bay 銅鑼灣 to make some arrangements for my trip to Indonesia next week, I couldn't help but notice that the sky was very unattractive. It looked pretty much like the skies you'd see in big China cities like Guangzhou 廣州. I really wanted to stop on the expressway and take a few photos but the policemen wouldn't have liked that.

Later on, on my way home, I couldn't resist the urge to try to get a few photographs. I surmised that the North Point ferry pier 北角碼頭 might allow me to get far enough out into the harbour to be able to see Central 中環 around the expressway. I was wrong but the view wasn't too bad anyway and I came away with a few reasonable shots. Since I published 'blue-sky' shots yesterday, I thought I'd share these with you asap so that you can see the contrast.

Orange Tsimshatsui

The business district of Tsimshatsui 尖沙咀 never looked so bleak.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

During my eighteen years here in Hong Kong, I have observed the skies becoming more and more polluted. I remember in the early years that we lived out in Tai Po 大埔, driving in to work in the mornings, I used to be able to see Lion Rock Mountain 獅子山 very clearly. In the latter years, Lion Rock Mountain was simply not visible at all. The same thing is now happening all over Hong Kong and I fear that blue skies will become a true rarity.

Orange harbour

That's Hung Hom 紅磡 district on the left and Kowloon City 九龍城 on the right with multiple cranes working hard on top of a new development at the Kowloon City Pier 九龍城碼頭.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

I guess Hong Kong is now officially a part of China.

On a clear day

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, Hong Kong, Photo of the Day

Overall, the weather here in Hong Kong has been dismal for the past six months. We've had much more rain than usual and blue skies have been rare. Unfortunately, even when we did have blue skies, they carried a heavy tinge of brown thanks to the increasing levels of pollution coming across from China. There's nothing we can do about the pollution except be grateful for the blue skies when they do appear.

Because blue skies are becoming rare, I sometimes spontaneously run off up the hills and mountains around Hong Kong to admire the view. This happened one fine day in the beginning of July when I took Batty and Siu Bak with me up a near by mountain. I took my camera with me too so I have a few photos to share.

Of course, for those of you living overseas in places like Canada or Australia, blue skies are frequent (and bluer) and these photos might not mean anything to you. For those of you living in smoky cities, they might be a breath of fresh air.

Ocean view from a hill

It was almost sunset when we reached the top of the hill; a short 45min walk up. The oceans looked cool and calm. Even Batty enjoyed the view.

For a 1200x800 version, click here.

In recent months , I have noticed that the clouds forming in the skies are far different to what would normally hover around Hong Kong. I've seen them in Australia but almost never seen them here in Hong Kong; heavy cumulus nimbus clouds. Since early this year, I've sensed a change in Hong Kong's weather, perhaps a change related to the same phenomenon causing the huge storms over in the USA at the moment. On one occasion, I dashed up Lion Rock Mountain to get photos of the clouds over the busy city centre of Hong Kong. While the skies were not as blue as I would have liked, and while there was a certain amount of pollution hanging in the air to murky up the pictures, I still think a couple of the pictures were worth sharing. I have many more but I don't like to bore people with photographs if possible.

Cumulus nimbus clouds over Kowloon

The hills in the background are on Hong Kong Island with the towering business buildings of Central and Wanchai in front of them. Closer to us are the business centres of Tsimshatsui and the residential areas of Kowloon Tong. The park in the foreground is actually an archery range and is part of the Lion Rock Country Park.

For a 1200x800 version, click here.

And finally, I took this photo while up on the hill near our home with Batty and Siu Bak. I liked it so much that it's now on my computer's desktop. I think you'll like it too.

Batty looking back through the grass

For a 1200x800 version, click here.

A green visitor

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the Day

A few weeks ago, I returned home with some of our children after taking them for their nightly walk. While taking their leashes off, they seemed very curious about something in one corner of the court area where our gas canisters are kept. A couple of the dogs even displayed sudden reactions to something that I could not at the time see in the dark that is night.

After letting the dogs through to the main garden area, I went back to take a look at the gas canisters. I was curious too and wanted to see what had them acting so unusually. It didn't take me long to spot the reason. A green snake was wrapped around the tap of the gas canister looking pretty scared. I guess I would be scared too if several dogs one hundred times as large as myself suddenly started poking their wet warm windy noses in my direction.

I couldn't leave him there. It was too dangerous and I couldn't be sure that he'd find his way back to the bush from whence he came, so I had to think of a way to move him. The first thing I did though was grab my camera because he was a really nice looking snake.

A green visitor

The green snake was wrapped around the tap of the gas canister, feeling just as nervous of me as I felt of him.

I don't know if it was the multiple flashes from the camera as it tried to focus on the snake in the dark, but the snake remained fairly quiet as I photographed it. I was actually quite nervous about getting too close to the snake because he was still standing in defensive mode and I didn't feel like getting bitten.

I gathered a barbeque fork and a large white bucket. The idea was to use the fork to encourage the snake into the bucket whose smooth sides would hopefully keep the snake from slivering out while I transported it back to the bush. Imagine my surprise when the snake wrapped itself around the fork and stayed there.

I quickly put the bucket down, moved around to an area of the house with better light and took a few more pictures. The pictures were ok but not great. Perhaps because of a lack of experience or perhaps because I didn't have time to set up everything perfectly, none of the photos were accurately focussed. There were still two good photos though and I'm glad I have them because the snake with its green body, yellow belly and red tail looked incredible.

Curled tight

He (probably a male because the colours are relatively sharp) wrapped himself around the bbq fork and remained there, quiet and calm.

Having taken the photos, I walked out to the bush behind our garden and positioned the fork and the snake wrapped around it near the branches of a small tree. The snake very quickly moved off into the tree and I returned home to study the photos.

I liked the photos so much that I've converted one of them to be the background on my Nokia phone. He looks real cool and I guess it's appropriate anyway because I'm actually a 'snake' person; born in 1965.

What was rather peculiar about that night was the conversation I had with our elderly neighbour that very morning. She was going on about how she had instructed her relative to cut back the branches on a couple of trees next to the path we use to come and go from our homes. She was worried about snakes coming down from the trees and biting people and I was thinking that she was worrying just a little too much. It's really strange that the green snake would appear in our own garden that very night. Weird!

The next day, our maid came looking for me and asked me to look at Beethoven. I was surprised to see his nuzzle swollen so badly but knew immediately what had happened. He didn't seem to be in any discomfort though and a call to the vet assured me that if the snake bite was deadly, Beethoven would have died within a couple of hours of the bite.

Swollen, nice and round.

Beethoven's nuzzle was quite swollen in the morning; big and round. There is no lens distortion in this photo. His nuzzle really was this big! If you look closely, you can see the two puncture marks about half way between his nose and his eyes.

It must have been the week of the local snake gathering because a few nights later, we saw another snake. While driving home late at night with three or four cars behind us, I saw something shimmering near the edge of the approaching road. I slowed down and had more than enough time to realise that it was a snake planning to cross the road. I stopped the car completely, much to the cagrin of the drivers behind us, and waited for the snake to cross the road. It was a python, probably at least five or six feet long. As he crossed the middle of the road, a minibus was approaching from the other direction. Typical Chinese people living in our area wouldn't think twice about running over a snake on the road and I flashed my headlights at the driver hoping to slow him down. He slowed but not enough and continued straight down the road. The snake was lucky. He managed to compress himself; like you would compress a spring; just enough to fit between the right and left wheels of the minibus as it passed over him, and he then continued safely to the other side of the road and climbed or rather jolted himself up the embankment and into the bush.

I knew we have pythons in the neighbourhood. I just never expected to be lucky enough to see one. My only regret is that I wasn't able to get out of the car and take a picture. I don't think the cars behind me would have appreciated the wait.

It's a rather interesting neighbourhood when I think of it. We have snakes, interesting birds (there are a few very unusual birds I'd love to photograph if I ever get the chance), monkeys, large spiders, large lizards and even wild bores (ie, pigs). There are also some very interesting flying beetles, one variety of which had relatives in the local news a few weeks ago when it was reported that the furniture in the new Disneyland hotels was being eaten from the inside out. They beetles are called wood borers and I've observed them making homes in the bamboo in our garden. I find it interesting to watch them using their bums to block the entrances to their nests in the bamboo when it rains. Maybe I'll show you photos of them at a later date if I can get a few great shots.

Coca cola; just what the monkey ordered.

Filed in Photo of the Day

A family of five monkeys travels in a circle through the bush around our villages. A couple of weeks ago when they arrived back near our home, I followed them with my camera. Trying to get good photographs of the monkeys wasn't easy but I managed to get a couple. I hope you like them.

Monkey with coke

The monkey found the coca cola in a rubbish bin, pulled it out, moved to the tree and began drinking through the straw! How did he learn this?

Another photo, this time a different monkey, without the coca cola ;-)

Monkey in tree

E.T. go home!

Filed in Photo of the Day

He's a small praying mantis that I found in our flat. He wouldn't survive inside so I took him back outside. (Click here to see other web sites with amazing photos of praying mantii and stick insects)

I've been told by someone at Kadoorie that Stick Insects and Praying Mantii are the same, except that one is male and the other is female. I don't believe that's true though. There are structural differences which make the two insects too different to be related.

He's cute!

A cute praying mantis

For a close-up shot of the praying mantis, click here.