Used to be pretty good

A brief conversation the other day sparked this post idea, which I suppose is better than getting them from sitcoms or a random phrase generator, but the margin may be slim. It could be that I’ve already posted most of my really deep stuff and used up all the good ideas.

Anyway, our topic today is used equipment, and I feel especially qualified to write on this since very little of my camera schtuff, from the moment that I started shooting some four decades ago, has been new. The primary reason for this is due to my own outlook and financial situations combined, but the results have presented more justification for the approach than the primary reasons.

Let’s start by looking at the new equipment that I’ve purchased. It’s not a long list:

In the mid nineties, I got my first ‘serious’ camera outfit, a Canon Elan IIe, a Sigma 28-105 f2.6-4, and a Canon 75-300 II 3.5-5.6. Plus a Canon 380EX flash unit and the RC-1 remote of course.

In the late nineties when I was probably making the most money relative to living expenses, I got my Sigma 170-500 f4.5-6.3, a Manfrotto 3401 tripod with a ballhead that I can’t recall right now, Sigma 105 f2.8 macro, and extension tubes.

In 2000 or 2001, I purchased a 2x teleconverter and my first film scanner, the Minolta Dimage Scan Dual I, SCSI interface! (That may not even make any sense to half of the people reading.)

In 2006 I believe, I purchased a Giottos MH1001 ballhead and a selection of quick-release plates. Probably about the same time I got the Dimage Scan Dual IV, this time with a USB interface.

And right at the moment, I have a new ballhead on its way. There’s probably a couple of items that I’m forgetting, but really, it hasn’t been much, especially in comparison to what I’ve used over the years and what I now own.

In a minute, we’ll talk about their fates. Right now, we’ll address how many, perhaps most, people seem to view new equipment. The most-common attitudes seem to be split among two main bodies of thought:

1) That new equipment is less likely to be prone to problems and will last the longest before needing to be replaced, and,

2) That new equipment has the greatest advances or technology, and will produce the best results.

It is this latter one that many people seem to adhere to, necessitating the need to ‘upgrade’ their equipment routinely, and believe me, I can’t count the number of people that I’ve known that are obsessive about this. Listen, whatever floats your boat; if you feel better doing something and it harms no one else, knock yourself out. But if you’re into critical thinking and sound financial decisions, don’t try to justify purchases with weak rationales. And seriously, that’s what so much of the equipment-chasing mentality boils down to. In far too many cases, people think it’s a reflection of their success if something that they have isn’t the newest and bestest, as if any purchases that one makes should be judged against what other people think about them. You’re the one using the equipment, and very bluntly, it’s not at all the equipment that gets the photo, it’s the photographer – the equipment, at best, provides an edge and that’s it.

[I will sideline here for a moment to reflect on how often someone sees my camera and says something like, “Wow, you have a good camera there!” Know what makes a good camera in their eyes? The battery grip, and a mounted lenshood. Seriously. They say this about camera bodies that had been discontinued at least eight years previously. Too few people actually know how to tell any of them apart, so don’t bother chasing their opinions. And for those few at the serious level of photography, if they’re judging you on your equipment and not your results, they’re not very focused on what’s important either, so dismiss them too.]

But note, too, that it kind of contradicts the first point, especially the longevity thing; if you’re always buying the newest version of something, who cares how long it actually lasts, as long as it lasts to the newest version? About the only thing that you might be concerned about it trade-in/resale value, and that rarely approaches even 75% of the cost of a new item no matter what.

Personally, I started out with no disposable income, so photography equipment purchases came sporadically and often after saving up a bit, and I was always looking for the best deals. But even as I could afford better or newer purchases, the frugality remained, enhanced by the simple knowledge that too much of the field is overpriced specifically because many people feel that cost=quality – this is actually a common trait in marketing. But I also developed a little guideline in my endeavors: new equipment should be funded by income from my photography. While I do not always follow this idea, and have purchased items due to desire or frustration, it remains tempered by the idea that it should still pay for itself, and not simply be a vanity or acquisitive thing. Purchases of equipment often wait, giving me time to consider how much I might use or need them, and are balanced against how much they might improve my sales.

All of these mean that damn near every image you see on the site (not just the blog) has been shot with used, outdated, often discontinued equipment – I throw that out there to let you judge on your own. Meanwhile, here’s the outcome of some of that new equipment:

The Canon Elan IIe body was still going strong after about 10 years when I retired it in favor of the much-more-capable EOS 3, but I’d used it to shoot weddings and all outings within that time, so good news there. The same with the 75-300 lens purchased at the same time, which The Girlfriend used until I got her a superzoom. She still has the 380EX flash too, after all my wedding use – it had to undergo a repair to the flash tube after I fumbled it in Savannah, but worked just fine following that. The RC-1 is still in occasional use.

The Sigma 28-105 failed back in 2004 – broken flex cable that the model was prone to. It remains in use, however, as my extreme macro lens – not a paean to its longevity, really, but a nice bonus from the performance of the glass anyway.

The Sigma 105 macro failed sometime in 2007, I believe – probably the same issue as above. While considering repairing it, I switched over to two other options, one of which was the Mamiya 80mm macro that was probably about 20 years old then, and is still in routine use. Granted, it’s a manual lens so there’s not a lot to fail on it – which is not a detrimental trait unless you’re really married to autofocus and auto-aperture, and I’m not. I can’t fault its performance.

The Sigma 170-500 was recently retired when I purchased a used upgrade, but was getting balky in autofocus, and had been in for a repair which I don’t think they did very well, also not packing it adequately so the front objective lens was cracked/chipped along the edge in shipping. Did not improve my views of lens repair.

The Scan Dual I did fine, and probably still works, but the SCSI interface was obsolete within a few years. The Scan Dual IV, however, had buggy software that the manufacturer never fixed, Minolta soon selling their scanner division out to Konica who had no intention of retaining it. Very problematic to use. I picked up a Scan Dual III, however, and have been using that for the past few years. I also have a used Nikon Coolscan III, I think, considered one of the top-of-the-line film scanners, and never liked the results (it’s available if you want it.)

The original Bogen ballhead was not designed well and was a little fussy to use, so I eventually sold it. The Giottos was better, but still not capable of fully tightening with a heavy load on (too much settling,) so that’s being replaced as we type/read.

How about the used equipment? I’m not even going to try and list it all, but I’ll feature a few representative highlights:

I’m still using a Canon 30D purchased 7 or so years ago, the shutter count in my possession being over 50,000 – who knows how much was on it before I got it. The same could be said for the Digital Rebel that I used before that, which also hit over 50,000 frames before I retired it. The second camera is a Rebel T2i, used mostly for video but also as a backup or lightweight carryaround – much lower shutter count on that. A 40D that I picked up damaged and repaired myself is now starting to do duty as my main macro body.

The T2i came with a Canon 17-85 f4-5.6 IS USM, which soon developed problems – I later found that the model is prone to these, and is discontinued by Canon (evidence that name-brand and higher cost does not always equal better quality or longevity.) Nonetheless, I repaired it, and it’s presently in use. I picked up both body and lens for a very decent price, it must be noted.

Another little find is the Canon 100-300 f5.6 L lens, probably at least 20 years old (long discontinued.) Somewhat slow and noisy autofocus, but that’s a model trait that even the new ones had; moreover, it doesn’t look or feel like a quality lens. Yet the results are astounding – remarkably sharp for a lightweight carryaround telephoto.

I have two main flashes right now: the Metz 40MZ-3i, superb options and performance, and an obscure Sunpak Auto322 for macro work, also possibly 20 years old. I’ve used both extensively, and loved them both enough to pick up replacements for their eventual demise. I also managed to find the AC adapter for the Sunpak, which saves batteries when I’m close enough to an outlet to use it.

While in Florida, I was given an old Olympus OM-10, and had a selection of lenses from a previous iteration that eventually failed, and used that as a carryaround and for esoteric experiments – it could remain loaded with monochrome film while I used the Elan IIe for weddings and such. That eventually went to The Girlfriend’s Sprog for her film class many years ago, and to the best of my knowledge still works fine. This camera dates from the eighties.

I could go on, but here’s the main takeaway: Spending more, or buying new, guarantees nothing. And while it’s true enough that buying used may mean that you’re buying someone else’s problem or abuse, that’s not a rule, or even an accurate guideline. It’s usually pretty easy to tell who takes care of their equipment, and a few simple tests can reveal most hidden issues. Bear in mind that, if you’re using a camera for a few months or longer, it has now entered that ‘used’ status that you might feel is prone to problems – yet when buying it new, you would have expected to get several years at least of trouble-free use from it. Meanwhile, I refer back to that point above about the price drop on resale. In other words, you might pick up a piece of equipment that has 90% of its longevity left while paying 75% (or much less) of the new price. A little careful examination and questioning is all that’s really required.

Overall, the money that I’ve saved buying used is easily in the thousands of dollars – though granted, in some cases I never would have bought the new version anyway; I got a used bit of equipment simply because I had an idle interest and the price was right. In other cases, I couldn’t even stomach the idea of paying what was asked for something, and made do with a ‘lesser’ item or even made it myself (we’re not talking lenses, here, but mounts and rigs, mostly macro stuff.)

I can’t let the weird idea of ‘upgraded’ equipment go by untouched. In far too many cases, a new model is brought out mostly because a manufacturer feels obligated to do so, and counts on that portion of the populace that is obsessed with that kind of thing, while the improvements are trivial at best – software is especially notorious for this, one of the biggest ripoffs out there (Adobe and Microsoft, I’m looking at you.) And sure, a flip-out LCD is an improvement over a fixed one – an actual issue that I’ve dealt with regarding the T2i and video work – but in a very real sense, it’s putting a price on convenience, and oftentimes a very high one. This says nothing of the idiocy of chasing megapixels when someone is still using consumer lenses and never printing their stuff larger than an 11×14, much less bothering to think about what makes an image compelling.

[Another side note: I corrected the stationary LCD problem, not with another body, but with an external viewfinder, which also allowed mounting away from the camera at any angle, using a eyecup to shield glare, and was capable of adjusting brightness, contrast, and color register – all for far less than a new, or even used, body.]

Finally, there’s the distinct issue of new model blues, the large number of failures, quality-control issues, software bugs, and the like that often appear in a new version, of anything, really – there’s a common adage about not buying the introductory model of any car. Waiting a bit to let the manufacturer iron out all the kinks, as well as hearing consumer feedback, can mean a lot less frustration – and remember, that new model might have been purchased to avoid the frustrations caused by the old model, so it probably works better to know that you’re not simply exchanging annoyances. People tend to think that buying used is a gamble, and it certainly is, but buying new doesn’t guarantee that you’re not gambling; any equipment you purchase is a gamble. You just pay a lot more to reduce the odds by an unknown degree.

Again, you do what suits you best, and what you feel most comfortable with. Just bear in mind that the impression isn’t always the reality, and if you have other things that you might want or need to spend that money on, well…

Everybody gets the day off

I had planned to give a little more warning about this, but see previous post intro. So we sit here practically as it’s happening, and for that I do apologize, but better than telling you tomorrow that you missed it, you know? So I’ll go ahead an announce that today is the June Solstice, often known as the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, because you may not have heard – you count on us nature-boys for that kind of thing. I wonder if Mr ‘Wahoo’ Bugg is going to post something?

The other holiday also occurring today needs no introduction, because everyone has heard about it, but I’d feel bad if I failed to mention this, so let’s squeeze World Humanist Day in here too – just gonna clean the grocery stores out of clam juice and Pockys with all these holidays.

Now, I’ve posted about the day and the concept once or twice before, and I have a ‘But how?’ post coming up regarding the curious and pointless misdirection that often occurs in religion, so I won’t belabor the humanism thing right now. I’ll simply say that, as an ideology intended to help guide us towards a stronger and less-contentious society, I have yet to discover anything better, and yes, that’s a challenge – change my mind, as the sign says. And I can’t really speak about other places in the world, but certainly here in the US, we need a bit more focus on social goals and cooperative culture, and less on ego, individualism, and competition. A really disturbing amount of our present culture revolves around ‘status’ and one-upmanship, which has practical application in only a very narrow and specific way – certainly not as a way of life.

Let’s put it this way: we wouldn’t even exist without a cooperative culture. Our distant ancestors would have been quickly wiped out by predators if it weren’t for tribal behavior. Our present status as arguably the most advanced life form on the planet is owed not only to this (because we’re far from the only species that possesses such traits) but also our ability to communicate in such great detail. And while we might like to think that we’re beyond the necessity of tribal protection now, we can’t deny that we rely on such shared efforts as healthcare, road and social services structures, and large scale food provision – imagine that there were no grocery stores, and farmers didn’t sell their produce. I don’t have to grind my own lenses because we have a society where mass production can be used to benefit large numbers of people.

And it’s reasonable to expect due compensation for such efforts – a fair trade, as it were, the barter system writ large. Yet, without limitations, this kind of thing can run away, and change from being beneficial to being supremely harmful to society, culture, and even our species as a whole. When setting a price on goods or services, there’s a distinctive difference between, “I can get this price,” and, “I should get this price” – admittedly, this is imposing an abstract and undefinable concept of ought onto things, but there really isn’t any need to get too restrictive in definition anyway. The self-limitation of a free market is a complete myth, as should be abundantly obvious to anyone in this country at the very least, and if we don’t want government-imposed regulations on virtually everything, then we need to demonstrate that we can limit ourselves. I personally can’t think of one advancement, one innovation or service or product or bit of technology, that could possibly justify a multi-million-dollar salary, and let’s be real: it’s never the CEOs or founders that come up with such things anyway.

Yet there’s more to humanism than curbing runaway capitalism (there’s many that would claim that it has little or nothing to do with that, though in overall goal, it’s hard to argue that it would fail to target such practices.) Individually, the idea is to recognize what works best for us, as a culture, as a society, and as a species, and to even ask, before any serious decision, if what we’re doing is aimed in that direction. We can be swayed by superficial influences, far too easily, while it really isn’t hard to reason our way past them – mostly, it takes just a little more emphasis that we should be trying to begin with rather than, for instance, justifying anything that we do by who else does it, or that we deserve it, or that it was ordained from on high by some being that couldn’t even get our knees right.

It is, naturally, a good thing that we embrace this holiday as recognition of how often we can and do exercise this simple aspect of judgment – it would be a shame if it was the kind of thing largely ignored while news stations throughout the country report on, I dunno, what some fucking groundhog was doing or something. But even so, I offer a simple challenge: at some point, within the next week, stop before any given decision just to ask, “Is this going to make things better for us?” That’s not a lot, really.

Storytime 25

Slow week blog-wise, unfortunately – been wrapped up in too many other things. I did shoot a few video clips, which may appear here eventually when I have a more coherent plotline, but little else of nature-photography-production value (although I had three students so, you know, still plugging away.) For now, it’s storytime, so let’s get past the whining, shall we?

parent and juvenile great egrets Areda alba in nest, Venice Area Audubon Society Rookery
The time is April, 2009. The place: Venice Area Audubon Society Rookery in Venice, Florida, perhaps the most amazing locale in the US to photograph wild birds. The Girlfriend and I had made our first (and so far only) trip to Florida together and had gotten up before sunrise to be down here at first light, which is well worth the effort. I’ve talked about this place before, but it bears repeating. On a small pond on public works land in the middle of Venice sits a small island, maybe the footprint of a medium-sized house, so completely covered in trees and bushes that the ground is literally not visible, and it is here that many species of birds have found their promised land. It is so ridiculously crowded with birds that it has to be seen to be believed, and no place else have I ever observed nests so damn close together, like a Tokyo tenement building. I had fretted that we were arriving in April, well past the nesting season, which shows you what I know, since we witnessed every stage of reproduction on that single day, from nest-building to fledging out. As The Girlfriend’s introduction to bird photography, well, she still talks about it in awe.

Here, we have a parent great egret (Ardea alba) with two young, very close to fledging age but looking like a pair of crones shrieking warnings of impending doom. Which wasn’t far from the mark – they were instead importuning the parent for food in the wheezing, clattering way of egrets. The humidity that morning was pretty dense, so the sky was featureless and the sunrise light a bit muted; you can see the faintest hint of yellow on the adult’s back, but no real golden-hour effects that morning.

When going through the digital stock for bird photos, this is notable in that there are very few images for this day, though I shot a ton of photos. The reason was, as soon as the light came up to a decent level, I switched off to slide film and handed the digital body over to The Girlfriend – she has more digital photos in her folders than I have that day, but I have a few pages of slides, so we’re good. And this is a detail crop to show off the expressions of the harpies young-uns, but the full frame is below, just to give the right idea. For the best view, a set of binoculars or a focal length exceeding 250mm is recommended, but then again, if you’re into birding those are a given anyway.

same image full-frame of great egret Ardea alba nest
By the way, I need to return to do video, because it adds several dimensions to the whole thing, not the least of which is sound. As you might imagine, the cacophony of territorial calls, hungry fledglings, and warning croaks is stunning, especially first thing in the morning. And after we had spent close to two hours out there, we returned to the motel room to get ready for breakfast (which is a pretty typical schedule for nature photography.) The TV was on, with a special about birding, and we instantly recognized the spot where we’d just been shooting as it appeared onscreen, even with the tighter closeups of bird activity – it’s pretty distinct. Alas, no film crews were there when we were, so no appearances of either of us, but plenty of other bird photographers were around, many of them clustered around the base of a palm tree hosting a woodpecker’s nest, hoping for a peek at the fledglings when they appeared in the opening. I’d waited a short while alongside them without a sign, and then left them to their pursuits – I have a tendency to avoid crowds and catch what’s happening where no one else is paying attention.

Storytime 24

waxing gibbous moon during late afternoon
I had thought I was posting the most recent Storytime post so far, but I’d forgotten about this one. However, this is still pretty current, since most of the images are only a couple of days old.

I mean, except the one above. That’s a month old today, taken May 14th, in the same photo session as the osprey series. The osprey, as cooperative as they were, did not pose near the moon, but it occurred to me while I was out there that I had not tried the new lens with a moon shot, so I did a quick couple of frames then, intending to do a more serious approach later on. That chance came a few days back now.

waxing gibbous moon with Copernicus at terminator
We’d had a lot of rain and overall yucky days, and visibility was nonexistent, but then we had a brief clearing spell and the moon was shining down brightly this past Tuesday evening. I did a couple of handheld shots, just to see how the lens stabilizer worked, but went back in and got the tripod to stop messing about. Now, I’ve mentioned countless times before about catching sunrise on Tycho’s central peak, which I eventually determined that I’d caught anticlimactically, without trying, many years before. And observing it Tuesday night, the chance was past by about a day. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t catch sunrise on Copernicus’ central peak!

gibbous moon with pertinent craters markedSo let’s meet the players. Tycho is the one marked in blue, obviously well past sunrise now. Eratosthenes is marked in red, sitting at the end of the lunar Apennines mountain range, a nice distinct curve that, at the right times, is visible even by naked eye because of the shadows it throws. And so, marked in yellow and sitting on the terminator, that edge of light and shadow, we have Copernicus; larger than Tycho but a bit shallower I believe, so it is not as distinct because the shadows it throws are thinner. Still, it looked as if my timing might be right to catch the central peaks within the crater as the sun first touched them.

I say again, sunrise on the moon is a lot slower than on Earth, because of the moon’s orbit and rotation – a full lunar day is about 29.5 Earth days long, as opposed to 24 hours like ours. So sunrise moves pretty slowly, and timing can be a matter of hours instead of minutes. Copernicus’ central peaks are smaller than Tycho’s and less distinct, meaning that they might not even be visible without a telescope even in the best of conditions, but I was going to try anyway.

Some of these images, by the way, we taken with the 2x teleconverter attached to the Tamron 150-600, because I wanted to see how they performed together. Most times there is a little image degradation, and definitely there’s a loss of two stops of light, meaning a longer shutter speed and more time for vibration to affect the image. My teleconverter is 19 years old now, not at all matched to this lens, so probably not optimal, and initial tests indicate that it’s okay for non-critical uses, but not ideal. With a tighter tripod and a different subject, we might see slightly better results – more on that in a second.

inset of gibbous moon showing Copernicus
Here’s a tight crop of the target area, Copernicus sitting right there almost in shadow, with sunlight hitting the far rim. We’re really not far away from the sun getting into the crater. So, I checked back in a little under an hour.

inset of gibbous moon near Copernicus
I was playing around with exposure during these, so this image is a little brighter exposed than the previous, which means that I can’t be sure just how far the sun has progressed across the lunar landscape – some of the difference may simply be due to getting in a little more light.

Moon exposures can be tricky. It’s lit by the sun with no clouds in between, so the exposure is more or less for full daylight – a lot faster than most people suspect. You still can’t trust autoexposure, unless you have a tight spotmeter reading only the moon. For a full moon, the exposure is f11, 1/[ISO], meaning if your ISO is at 250, shutter speed should be 1/250 second. But that’s a full moon; every other phase is catching the light more obliquely and exposures have to get commensurately greater, and I usually bracket shots (and focus, because it can be hard to pin it down in the viewfinder and autofocus is often untrustworthy in such conditions.) The exposure for the above image was f8, 1/40 second at ISO 400, but part of that was from losing two stops of light due to the teleconverter.

And then, fate struck, as is its wont. Actually, fate is striking constantly, isn’t it? Violent little cuss.

waxing gibbous moon through faint haze of cloudsAlmost two hours later now, the clouds had started to roll in – just a faint haze at first as the temperature dropped, but enough to obscure fine details on the moon. I watched for a little while to see if there might be a break in the clouds, but it looked solidly overcast to me, even as thin as it was – what would have turned the sky very pale blue to white during daylight.

I want you to note the slight change in position in the moon now, rotated a little clockwise as it descended towards the horizon. Actually, it was facing the way it always had, but my camera was more oriented to the horizon and not the plane of the ecliptic, so we have what appears to be rotation perpendicular to the moon’s axis. I could have corrected easily, but who cares? It’s not like it would have made a difference to what I was after.

[By the way, I just wanted to point out a tiny bit of trivia. Within the Lord of the Rings movies, at times they show the moon in the sky, and to anyone that’s familiar with how it appears, it’s upside-down. Well, it is to those of us in the northern hemisphere, anyway. But since the movies were shot in New Zealand, the moon’s north pole points down towards the horizon instead of up. This is a vital clue as to where Middle Earth used to be located.]

Anyway, let’s go look at the detail, what there is of it.

inset of Copernicus under hazy conditions
It still doesn’t look like sunrise has touched the central peaks yet, but I was expecting just a few pixels to betray the event in the first place, and it’s possible that it really was occurring and the minimal light was scattered into the haze. Regardless, the conditions were only worsening and it was clear (a ha ha) that I wasn’t getting anything further that evening – or morning, by that point.

By the way, if you want a nice detailed look at Copernicus, you can go here, and compare it against Tycho here (click on the images to see a bigger version.) And then, you can compare them against my successful attempt here, and note how trivial that spot of light appears in the best of conditions. As I said, I expect Copernicus’ peaks to be less visible when it occurs, so we’re pushing things here.

Now, while all of this was going on, I noticed that I was having some issues with the tripod not being perfectly steady, and eventually realized that the mounting plate at the top of the center column, to which the ballhead attaches, wasn’t fully secure. That began an attempted repair session, that I wasn’t successful at that evening/morning, partially because I knew I was going to need some power tools to complete it and wasn’t doing that at 2 AM. It also started me considering a new ballhead that performs a bit better, but I’m a cheapass and an Arca-Swiss or Novoflex ain’t happening, so the quest is the best bang for the least bucks. Then, out with a student yesterday, I started noticing that Shutter Priority mode on my main body wasn’t operating as intended, which is not a good sign. Part of the fun of such pursuits – repairs and replacements have to be part of the budget.

But I’ll close with a comparison shot, taken Thursday evening, so two days after the others (and a few hours ago as I type this ahead of time.) Those clouds rolling in Wednesday morning led to rain most of the day and evening, so no chances there, but it had cleared by Thursday late morning and I had the chance for further shots, pretty comparable in phase to the frame that opened the post (though much later in the day of course.) Copernicus is now well into sunlight, with the faintest of shadow from the central peaks, while Eratosthenes is throwing so little shadow that it’s almost indistinguishable – which is why full moon shots aren’t the best for detail and textures.

later waxing gibbous moon
Oh, wait. I almost forgot – while out shooting that one, there were a couple of tiny little wisps of clouds that would pass by, and I caught a couple as they crossed the face of the moon, so I’ll include one of those for illustration too. It’s much better when it’s right alongside a clear shot.

later waxing gibbous with hint of clouds
And now, I’ll close. I’m in the middle of some projects, so more should be along shortly.

But how? Part 25: This week’s explanation

I made it a point, throughout most (if not all) of the ‘But how?’ series, not to attack religion in and of itself, but to defend/explain the secular standpoint. This is not due to any kind of altruism – I have attacked religions just a few times in the past here – but instead to stay true to the subtopic itself, which is answering the questions posed so often from religious folk. I’m going to depart from this a bit here, by reversing the direction, and instead posing a leading question to religious folk in return: But how do the explanations keep changing?

While I’ve touched on this concept before, I was prompted to approach it more directly by the article ‘Path across the stars,’ by David MacMillan, a self-admitted former creationist. Within, he talks about a trait that is remarkably present in apologetics, which is the practice of turning to a new explanation every time a previous one works out to be dead wrong. In his particular case, it revolved around the radical disagreement about the age of the universe: 13.772 billion years by scientific measurements, but just a few thousand according to abrahamic religious scripture – that’s a really goddamn big difference. The scientific view is supported by countless actual measurements, not just of the speed of light, but also radiometric decay and gravitational measurements, which also tie in extremely well with geologic deposition and even DNA mutations rates (not mentioned within the article, but corroborating the numbers derived in other disciplines with trustworthy accuracy.) And many others besides – it’s this corroboration that gives us the confidence in these numbers to begin with.

The abrahamic figure (most often quoted) for a six-thousand-year-old universe comes from scripture, but not even directly – it’s an extrapolation of the various generations detailed within, and not completely in agreement even among the faithful within any given sect or splinter of those following that scripture. Which says nothing of all of the other religions the world over, which all have different claims for the age of the universe, and mankind, and all that. This is bad enough, but not even the topic that I’m approaching right now.

Since we have real measurements and dependable physics, which we use constantly, apologists are required to explain why the scripture says something so incredibly different, and this is where the fun begins. Note that scripture provides absolutely no explanations or even suggestions regarding this topic; it’s all outside speculation by apologists. And I’ll take a moment to comment on this, because speculation is just fine – it’s one of the ways that we start investigating our world and determining just what any given cause is. But there’s a radical difference between scientific and religious speculation. In science, a lack of confidence and solid supporting results is virtually always present; it’s almost a procedure to couch things in terms of, “This is a possibility, but we don’t know yet.” Within religion, on the other hand, such speculation is very frequently offered with utter confidence, no caveats or indeed any supporting factors. “God made it appear like there’s a speed of light, and an old universe,” and all that – no maybes or admissions that this might serve to explain what we see and measure.

And very frequently, it doesn’t. Most notable is how there is no agreement on any given explanation even among the faithful, who want to find a way to support scripture. Those that consider themselves christian may range from the young-earth creationists, who consider every scriptural passage to be unquestionably correct and the entire universe only six thousand years old, to the vague theists who believe in some kind of creation, but that science is mostly on the right track. I’ve personally been in countless discussions with people ranging throughout this spectrum, and it bears noting that the majority feel that their version is the only correct one, with little recognition of any other standpoint nor admission that any part of their own is speculative. Religion really does breed a shitass trait that humans don’t need at all, that of false confidence and assertion, causing people to veer away from an honest appraisal of any given situation, and/or from seeking support for an argument or standpoint. Much as I don’t like rules and proverbs, it’s usually a safe practice to automatically distrust anyone that assures you that something is true without bothering to demonstrate how or why.

Which is going a little afield, because in this topic, there are explanations – just, ones that don’t hold up, or that fail to account for everything we see. The explanations for the age of the universe have ranged from the speed of light being wrong (it isn’t – we use it to very fine decimal places,) to it having changed at some point in the past, to it being affected by local conditions. None of these hold up, and really don’t take much knowledge of physics or more than a little careful thought to establish as wrong. The same can be said for the fossil record, which not only provides evidence that the Earth is much older than scriptural accounts, it supports evolution and trashes the whole ‘created in final form’ thing. “No no!” say the creationists, “Geologic deposition all occurred during the great flood four thousand years ago!” or, “Radiometric dating is wrong,” or “Radiometric decay was different in the past.” Again, not hard to put the kibosh on.

But like anti-vaxxers and their various claims regarding the dangers of vaccines, once any given explanation of how the laws of physics really aren’t as we interpreted is shot down, there is no recognition that maybe, just maybe, they’re barking up the wrong tree. Instead, there’s the desperate attempt to find a new explanation, and the hunt goes off in another direction. And lest you think that I’m exaggerating a couple of isolated cases, there’s this link to a list of creationist claims – quite a few of them, some of them contradictory, and all of them answered or refuted. Now, in scientific circles if the theory doesn’t work, it’s abandoned, but within religion and fringe beliefs, the ‘theory’ (it isn’t, not by a long shot) is maintained while evidence to support it is sought after – cart before the horse and all that. Rational thought involves a chain of evidence that leads towards a conclusion, but rationalizing is the exact opposite, settling on a conclusion first and trying to make it sound like it works. This is generally the purview of people who are desperate to indulge in some desire at the expense of reality.

It isn’t even a matter of competing theories, even though the efforts are made constantly to couch things in those terms (you know, ‘teach the controversy’ and all that bilgewater.) Because the scientific model works just fine, and is used constantly to great effect – and really, there are very few who don’t know this in their hearts. It’s the reason why so many supposedly ‘scientific’ explanations are sought, and held up triumphantly – few people feel that they can argue against the solid results that we achieve every day (and rightfully so, really,) so they try to make it sound like science really does support scripture in some way. But it’s not like there are egregious flaws in the scientific models presently in use, and what we still seek, what we don’t know yet, hasn’t been replaced with assertions or explanations without evidence – we just say we don’t know yet, even if we append that it might be this or might be that. Our understanding of the universe and its physics, while far from complete, is overwhelmingly solid and undeniably useful. No alternative explanations are necessary, for the vast majority of our knowledge base, nor has any alternative presented by apologists served any function whatsoever, much less better explaining any given factor of evidence. It is abundantly clear that the only function that such explanations serve is to try and salvage the nonsense that is within scripture – and the only use for this is crass self-indulgence. Scripture doesn’t lead us towards a better understanding of the universe, or even human nature. It doesn’t provide a path towards any improvement, and in fact, it offers more excuses than knowledge, outright saying that we’re not supposed to understand what the creator is up to.

I have to sidetrack slightly, because I’m me. Anyone even passingly familiar with the abrahamic religions knows how often the adage that “we cannot know god’s plan” is repeated, and humility is very frequently promoted as well. Which makes it especially amusing to hear how unbelievably often any self-proscribed religious spokesperson will distinctly tell us how things are, despite the fact that nothing at all regarding their pronouncements can be found within scripture. You’d think this hypocrisy would be noticed more often.

A final aspect (that usually goes ignored) is the consequences, and this can be applied to virtually every religious argument there is. In short, the scripture tells us one state of affairs, and our examination of the world tells us something entirely different, and I want to stress here that these are not equally plausible scenarios; we use our scientific knowledge every second of the day in billions of ways, while in the entire history of mankind we have yet to see any miracle, any talking snake or bush, any worldwide flood, and so on. Our scientific knowledge has allowed us to predict thousands of new findings, from star formation to new periodic elements, while scripture has predicted jack shit. Yet if we, for the sake of argument and humoring apologists, accept the premise that all of the evidence that we have of an ancient universe is actually wrong – that everything that we’re not just measuring, but using to good effect, is a deception – then what purpose is this supposed to serve? Cause and effect, learning from what happens, is the primary way that we even survive. And the message from apologists – from, supposedly, the word of god himself – is that we’re supposed to ignore all of that in favor of something that really goes nowhere? Sure, the universe looks billions of years old, but that’s just a trick to… um… do… something, I guess. The typical response is that this is to ‘test our faith,’ because there’s some game that god must be playing where we’re not supposed to believe our senses – which seems extraordinarily useful. This becomes a nice existentialist dilemma, because where is that supposed to end? Should we start with not believing the senses that we’re using to read scripture?

Moreover, if we actually had taken such a message to heart, if we simply ignored all of this ‘false history’ and stuck with what scripture tells us, we’d still be in bronze age technology, if that. All of our scientific advances came about because we examined our world and learned from it, and that includes all of those bits that tell us that scripture is dead wrong. Mind you, it’s the same scientific methods that those funny little claims above, about how the speed of light is wrong and all that, are trying to glom onto to sound legitimate and trustworthy – it seems that even the uber-religious aren’t really buying that premise (or capable of seeing the obvious conclusions, which certainly makes their guidance so valuable.)

In parting, I present two observations:

1) If the explanations for any given standpoint or hypothesis are continually changing, the chances are overwhelming that the standpoint/hypothesis is horseshit;

2) The pursuit of knowledge can only accurately take place with a mind open to the evidence, whether we like it or not. If we are intent on trying to force a particular end result, we’re not after knowledge, but only self-indulgence. We should be bigger than that.

Odd memories 22, Storytime 23

Now I’m a little annoyed with myself, because I had this image in the folder last week, and could have run it then so the Odd Memories and Storytime numbers coincided, but didn’t even think about using both titles. Too late now.

And I now note that it was taken May 22, 2005, and we could have celebrated the 14th anniversary by posting it a couple weeks back, had I been paying attention to that. Just slacking off royally on the meaningless connection angle, here.

I was working for an animal shelter but had the day off when I got called at home with an odd little story. It was Sunday, so Animal Control wasn’t on duty, and the local sheriff’s department were investigating an abandoned car that turned out to have been stolen from another state. Within the trunk was a large storage bin, and on opening the bin they had been greeted with an exotic snake better than two meters in length. The bin was hastily closed again and taped shut, and transported to our shelter. That particular day, the staff there had no experience with snakes, and so I was called, to determine the species and re-house it into something more appropriate. I was unavailable until evening, so I ended up letting myself into the shelter after it closed to go see what we had.

The bin had been taped shut with perhaps half a roll of duct tape – the officers were taking no chances. Cutting it away and slowly opening the top with the snake tongs handy, I was greeted by a somnolent amelanistic Burmese python (Python bivittatus,) a fairly popular species among snake aficionados, bred to have a mottled lemon-yellow coloration. After initial tests to see if it was hungry (it wasn’t) and used to handling (it was,) I scoured the premises to see what we might have to house it within. My only choice was a humane trap intended for medium-to-large dogs, since it was the only thing with small enough mesh or openings to prevent the passage of the snake’s head; in most cases, if the snake can get its head through, it can squeeze through its body, or at least attempt it.

Working alone, I had a devil of a time locking open the door of the trap so it wouldn’t slam shut as I was placing the snake within, but the python itself was more than cooperative. I’d had the forethought to take my camera along, and wielded the remote as I lifted its bulk from the bin.

The author about to be consumed by an amelanistic Burmese python Python bivittatus
My grimace was only mugging for the camera, as the snake turned to face me – it wasn’t that heavy, nor the least inclined to make a meal of me, and transferred into the trap in short order. Within the bin were a few rags and towels, but nothing else, so I got a large dish of water and placed that into the trap too. A day or so later, we obtained a very large aquarium from someone and procured some food for our specimen.

The original owner of the car where the python had been found denied having a snake of any kind, so it likely belonged to the person that stole the car, and the police were quite interested in anyone that might come calling to claim our saffron serpent. Meanwhile, the following day I was removing the bedding from the bin and found an old sock that was suspiciously heavy and blocky, the reason being that it concealed a large box of .357 cartridges. We contacted the sheriff’s department and offered to let them interrogate the snake, but they were somehow only interested in the ammo.

Eventually, the python found a new home, one that did not involve being transported in storage bins nor being displayed to drug buyers, and presumably managed to turn its life around and start contributing to society in a meaningful way. That’s what I like to tell myself, anyway.

Let’s provoke this party to commencing

osprey Pandion haliaetus in diveI know we’ve all been looking forward to this holiday for the past month at least, so we gonna fire it up now! Today for Do Some Creative Editing Day, we’re gonna tackle some simple photo tricks.

I’ve covered converting images to monochrome before, more than once actually, and our first exercise is an extension of it. It’s best to start with an image that already has us going in the right direction. It’s funny; I had looked at the osprey (Pandion haliaetus) image to the right recently (which you undoubtedly recognize from a previous post,) thinking that I’d like to use that strong contrast in a new way, and boom! Here we are at DSCE Day (pronounced, “Doosh,”) by the most amazing of coincidences. Since those linked posts, I’ve changed over to a Linux operating system, which means that my photo editing program is no longer Photoshop, but GIMP now (which is still available for free for Windows and OSX too.) GIMP doesn’t have a simple function for deleting channels, but it’s almost as easy, so we’ll cover that variation now.

If you can go into each channel and reduce them to nonexistence through the Curves function, which was one recommended method of channel clipping, it reduces the overall brightness of the image as well, making it harder to achieve the contrast you want. But I’ve just stumbled on a better way (it’s funny: advice on the internet is easy to find, but good advice is a little harder.) Go to Colors/Components and select ‘Decompose,’ and when it asks, choose ‘RGB’ and ‘Decompose to Layers.’ This creates a new image where the color channels are instead separate layers, visible through the Layers palette. It’s an easy matter to select the visibility of each layer (the little eye icon) to see which layer/channel has the best contrast; just remember that, because they’re now layers, the top layer has precedence if it’s visible (Which means that the Red channel is what you first see as the image opens.) Once you’ve determined which channel has the contrast that you like, simply right-click on the others and delete them.

deleting color channel in GIMP
osprey Pandion haliaetus in green channelThe individual channels might look a little blotchy here, which is where GIMP probably suffers against Photoshop’s abilities, but then again I didn’t open this image in Photoshop to see how it fared. For our purposes here it doesn’t matter, because we’re going to wantonly eradicate those registers anyway. Right now it’s an acceptable monochrome image, but lower in contrast than we might like to see, and much lower than we’re going to take it, because we’re going for a different effect now.

We now go into the Colors/Curves function, and increase our contrast in a very specific way.

adjusting for extreme contrast in GIMP
Move both the upper right and the lower left pointers inwards, but just left/right, and not up or down at all, increasing contrast – see the nearly-vertical line in the graph (the 45° diagonal was the starting position, but we want the one with the little circles on the ends.) It’s hard to describe exactly what we’re doing here, in terms of brightness and pixels, but basically we gave it a smaller number of positions to fill between full black and full white, so more of the ‘bright greys’ became ‘white,’ while more of the ‘dark greys’ became ‘black.’ Whatever – don’t ask questions, just do it. But deciding where to do it – how far to take either of those top and bottom positions – depends on the image and the effect you’re after. I liked this one, but yours may differ.

osprey Pandion haliaetus in very high contrast
The effect is very stark, almost reducing the image to pure black and white – some of the feathers and the legs retained some grey, but that was because they already inhabited that range the we reduced the entire photo to. There’s just enough detail to betray that it’s a photo and not a pen-and-ink sketch, but not by much.

I played around with a couple of others, too.

American toad Anaxyrus americanus in extreme  contrast
The American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) above was first seen here, while the green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) at right made its debut here. For the treefrog, however, the white of the belly showed up as well, without being a nice distinct shape that filled out the form, so I just trimmed that out, overpainting it in black. The treefrog clearly has more greys in the end result, while the toad really could be reproduced solely in black ink; all that would have to be fudged is some greys along the nose and near the eyes. Both of these, by the way, were possible because the light was distinctly from one side and so the shadows were deeper and the shaping distinct.

More experiments are below, where I added a wrinkle. I almost never touch the Saturation palette, because usually I’ve gotten it where I wanted in-camera, and it’s easy to over-saturate an image and have it look cartoonish and, frankly, edited. Even in the camera, I have a setting with slightly increased saturation only for those days when the light is weak and low-contrast, which would make the colors a little weaker too; it just adds an edge. However, if the resulting image has very narrow color registers itself, not too far away from monochrome to begin with, boosting saturation can produce a richer effect, even though plainly edited. The one below is a experiment of seafoam, taken during the recent SC trip.

oversaturated seafoam
The contrast between the sunlit and shadowed portions was very narrow, while the bubbles were distinct, so boosting the saturation way up just gave it a moderate amount of color. And then it got the high-contrast greyscale treatment:

seafoam in extreme contrast monochrome
Slightly different crop, because it was now the shapes of the bubbles, and not the contrasting colors, that made the focus of the subject. And then we do it again, with an image originally found here.

dandelion and dew oversaturated
Only by comparing it with the linked version can you tell that saturation has been radically altered – as far as it could go, in this case – because there was very little color to begin with. It seems perfectly feasible as a natural image, but those out-of-focus dewdrops gain a bit of depth to them. And now the monochrome.

dandelion and dew in extreme contrast monochrome
Had you not seen the original, it might have been a little difficult to tell what you were seeing here, I suspect. I probably should have popped this one up first without the link, but I don’t feel like rewriting the post now.

green treefrog in extreme contrast monochromeAnd our last one, not just another amphibian, but another green treefrog to boot. This one is from the gallery, as well as the exhibit this past winter, and presently decorates the hallway here at Walkabout Studios (in its original form, not this one. Maybe I’ll add it later one.) While the two images above used the red channel for best contrast when converting to monochrome, I went back to the green for this one, which rendered it pretty pale even before the alterations. Really, it works in color or monochrome – it all depends on what you’re after (or how much you believe that monochrome must mean, “high art,” a viewpoint held by far too many people with artistic airs.)

So go celebrate this wonderful holiday and experiment on your own, see what you can come up with. Skip the routine filters and effects that come prepackaged with any editing program, and try to whip up something on your own. Have fun!

Back to, um… the same as before

newly-emerged adult dragonfly, possibly blue dasher Pachydiplax longipennis, still on molted exoskeleton
As I said, it’s now time to resume my regular subject matter, but I’m not saying I’m back to normal because I don’t think I ever was. Meanwhile, I have to squeeze in just a couple more photos for this month, because the winter was so slow and because trying to beat this record is going to take some effort.

Anyway, poking around the neighborhood pond by headlamp very early this morning, I spotted a newly-emerged adult dragonfly, still resting on its molted exoskeleton, and decided I needed to do a quick photo session. Upon my return with the camera, I attempted to get into a good shooting position and damn near skidded into the pond itself, since the tree that the dragonfly had chosen was right on a sloping bank all covered (of course) with pine needles. In my contortions to prevent this and get a clear shot, I disturbed the dragonfly (which I suspect is a female blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis,) and it dropped its wings from the newly-emerged upright position, like a damselfly, to the flat-and-ready-to-fly position that we expect. It had quite a few more hours before it would be daylight and could fly, but it appeared ready at least.

Only centimeters away on the same tree, another was emerging, and in the time that it took me to get into position and fix the damn balky flash bracket (which has decided that it wants to slip and rotate routinely now,) the latter had changed position. When I first saw it, it had emerged about halfway, then as I was almost in shooting position, it was bent over backwards, dangling (as I’ve seen other arthropods do) from its lower abdomen still anchored within the exoskeleton. Before I could get off a shot, though, it bent forward, seized the forepart of its molted skin, and yanked itself free. Nuts. But I still had some decent shots to pursue.

unidentified newly-emerged adult dragonfly drying out
This is the bit that always fascinates me. We can see what it just emerged from, and there appears no way in hell that it could have fit into that skin. But also notice the shape change that it’s going through, from the aquatic nymph to the flying adult – head shape, body shape and length, and so on; the legs appear to be the only thing unchanged. And we all know the shape and proportions of adult dragonflies, and that abdomen has a ways to go yet. But like it’s slowly inflating, it will fill out that shape in the next hour.

But now, a detail (that you might already have seen) that I didn’t make out until I was looking at the images on my computer.

closeup of unidentified newly-emerged adult dragonfly showing transparent skin and wing muscles
The new exoskeleton is still soft and nearly transparent at this point, which allows us to see the freaking wing muscles within! Is that cool or what?

Meanwhile, it looks like it’s digging into its own empty headcase to find something left behind. A shitload of contact lenses, maybe…

By the way, have I mentioned recently that I love this lens? By that I mean the Mamiya 80mm macro. I’m lucky I’ve never been kicked off a flight with it, because it’s da bomb.

Another one, for comparison:

unidentified newly-emerged adult dragonfly unfolding its wings
It’s been ten minutes since the first frame of it emerging, two pics up, and notice how different the wings look. Someday, I’ll have my shit together and do a complete time-lapse sequence to animate this.

Back home, I chased a couple more subjects, just to make an evening/morning of it.

juvenile Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis on Japanese maple tree
With the ten egg cases spread around the yard, I figured I had to capture the emergence of the Chinese mantises (Tenodera sinensis) this year, but I still didn’t get my timing right – stupid me for holding down a job, I guess. But it means that we have young ones all over the place, so much so that I’m very self-conscious of where I walk, and finding one to shoot doesn’t take any effort at all. Now, having it hold still long enough – that’s a different matter. Yet I still have plenty of behavioral traits to capture, so there’s further subjects to pursue.

Meanwhile, a quick peek at the backyard pond yielded another find.

very small six-spotted fishing spider Dolomedes triton in backyard pond
I have nothing for scale to show how small this is, save for the hint of pine straw peeking in at lower left, but this tiny six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) has the ability to get a hell of a lot larger. Chances are it won’t, however, because there’s still several resident frogs and they’ll likely make a meal of it as soon as it’s large enough to notice.

not a molting arthropodI saw this dangling from a plant, twisting randomly and spasmodically at times, and thought I was seeing another insect molting, so I endeavored to get a clear photo of it because I couldn’t quite make out what it was. Turns out it’s nothing more than some seed pod, I think, but definitely vegetable, not animated at all. If anyone needs a photo of this… whatever it is… feel free to get in touch, because I was wasting flash batteries getting several frames of it. Snicker all you want, but c’mon, it was about 8mm in length, and the focusing lamp is nowhere near as bright as the flash when it goes off, so identifying it in those conditions, especially with movement that seemed to originate from within and those little fibers trembling like antennae, wasn’t as simple as you want to think.

Okay, fine, be that way. Those dragonfly muscles are still pretty cool, though, so don’t forget about that.

May, or May not

Canada geese Branta canadensis taking off in dim light, blurred by slower shutter speed
For our month-end abstract for May, we have two offerings, because I had two that I liked taken within the month – actually, there were three, but one is a little too similar to another posted just a few days back, so I’m keeping that one for later on. For these two, we have a theme anyway.

Above, we have some Canada geese (Branta canadensis) taking off from the nearby pond just after sunset, when the light was dim. I was tracking their progress, waiting for them to cross the sunset colors in the sky, but fired off a couple of frames before they’d made it above the treeline. With so little light coming in from the deeply-shadowed frame, the shutter speed dragged a bit, producing a bit of motion blur both from tracking the camera and from the geese flapping their wings. It actually came out kinda cool, so I cropped it a little and saved it for now.

The same conditions produced the same effect for the next one, though in this case a long focal length contributed.

immature white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus doe during long exposure
While getting the images of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) seen here, I had more than a few discards – and one wonderfully cubist abstract. In fact, I would easily have said it was a multiple exposure, because there are three distinct images visible therein without notable blurring, but this was just a trick of conditions, and possibly the image stabilization of the lens (actually, that’s the most likely culprit in my eyes, now that I think about it.) The shutter speed had dropped to 1/4 second, while I was shooting at 550mm – too much for the stabilizer to overcome, but it tried. Nevertheless, the end result was compelling, so I saved it for today as well.

And this image prompts me to provide a follow-up to that linked post, because a few days back, The Girlfriend called me out of the office right before sunset; it seems the same deer were now traipsing across our front yard, just a handful of meters from the glass storm door. As I was getting the camera, however, a passing cyclist and car spooked the trio, and they beat a retreat down the path alongside the house to the backyard, again. We went out there, and as I was standing in the middle of the backyard, the same doe that had approached The Girlfriend so fearlessly marched through the open fence and approached me this time – very clearly aware that I was there, and her proximity was definitely intentional. I am left wondering if someone is feeding them in the area, or if she’s just remarkably complacent (the other two aren’t as inclined to approach.) It’s a bad idea to encourage wild animals to hand-feed, or even get too habituated to people, so we’re just observing at this point, but if it continues we might start gently discouraging this kind of stuff, as interesting as it is. They’re better off maintaining a healthy distrust of humans.

Storytime 22

leaves floating against fall reflections
Out chasing fall colors in a new, old location, about two-and-a-half years back (the same outing as this one,) I did a grab shot of leaves floating on a slow-moving section of creek, with the sun illuminating some trees in the reflections in the water, and upon returning home, I realized I really liked the shot, but should have done it better – better focus, for one, picking out individual distinct leaves, but also some playing around with the depth, and perhaps selecting focus on the reflections instead of the leaves themselves. But the appearance and colors and such were all pretty interesting, so a few days later I resolved to try again.

And I probably should have known better, because I can recognize how just about all of the elements in this image are dependent on conditions – most especially, the right light and angles and so on. There was probably, in fact, only a half-hour out of that day when I could have pulled this off, given the light angle and the trees and so on, but when I’d returned, the light wasn’t as bright anyway, being affected by scattered clouds, and the leaves were no longer falling upon the water. Too, had a stiff wind come up at any point in the intervening time, the background colors reflected in the water could all have changed as the leaves were stripped from the trees. I am left with kicking myself for not realizing the potential while I was there, and shooting a few more compositions with greater attention to detail.