Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Photography during the ham radio doldrums

With a lack of any exciting CW DX recently, and in the foreseeable future - and with a few upcoming trips planned to beautiful outdoorsy locations - I've been spending some quality time lately with a new camera.

I used the excuse of the trips to justify the purchase of the camera. "It's only $40, dear!" Yeah right - after so many years as a ham-wife, she doesn't buy that BS anymore but sometimes she lovingly pretends to.

Gone is the clunky dSLR and "in" is a new mirrorless model, the Nikon Z6.

I should have made the switch two years ago when Nikon first introduced this model - a completely new format in their lineup.

There are a few very significant advantages to mirrorless cameras compared to dSLR's but I won't bore you (any more than I already have) with the details. Suffice it to say that the Z6 is the camera I've always wanted in terms of its operation and capabilities.

The point of all this is to say that I may periodically intrude into the stated topic of this blog with the digital debris of my photographic forays, and such is the case with this posting - the result of my first outting with the Z6, yesterday in Galveston.

The photo (above) and this shot of a fishing pier are the two pics I'm happiest with. A 10-stop ND filter allowed a 20-second exposure of the pier, blurring the wave movement and ghosting the fishermen on the pier.

What is it about some images that makes them look better as B&W instead of color? This is one of those, I believe. I'll even get uppity and give the photo a title, like real photographers do.

"Gathering Storm"
Oil tankers attend baptism, Galveston beach


  1. What can I say John, wow! These days my only photos are made with my iPhone SE. Not that they are bad but it lacks the detail you get with a pro camera. 73, Bas

    1. Thanks Bas - my phone is the "camera" I always have with me, just like everyone else, and some amazing photos have been made with them. They keep getting better and better and I see some smartphone influences in the new Nikon, Canons, etc...like eye detection and touch screen focusing. Without the demand of smartphone capabilities, these features would not yet be possible in cameras from the traditional manufacturers, IMO.

      73 - John

  2. Very impressive camera/system, and nice images, John.

    I hope that Nikon stays around long enough to keep you happy. Industry rumors keep predicting the demise of all the non-cell phone camera companies. I've even started carrying my cell phone around for note-taking, especially for the GPS, since my DSLRs do not have GPS in them.

    My first SLR was an Olympus OM-10 back in 1980. I got it because I got frustrated trying to take baby pictures of my new daughter with a fixed-focus snap-shooter. I then discovered that I liked nature photographs, but in those days I wasn't interested in doing my own darkroom stuff, so I put up with the typical commercial processing lab output. I shot a lot of slide film (Kodachrome, Ektachrome, and some Fujichrome) mainly because I wanted to see what I shot, instead of what the automatic print machines thought was best.

    I got away from it in the 90's, and didn't shoot much after about the first thousand frames or so, until the first digital cameras started to come out. I played with a Palm Pilot camera accessory, which shot 650 x 480 color (I still have those images), then a Nikon Coolpix 4500 twist-body 4 MP digicam, which took kick-butt macro photographs and the nicest landscape photos with blue skies, due to Nikon's unique blue-red-green-cyan filter matrix. The only RAW photo format was TIFF which created huge files on the tiny CF memory cards of the day.

    When Canon came out with the Digital Rebel, the first under-$1000 DSLR, I jumped at it, and I've been steeped in Canon cameras and lenses since. I look sometimes at the Olympus 4/3 system, and Nikon's offerings, but the steep price of switching out my glass collection for another system always gives me pause. It's truly a lock-in, no matter which camera system you choose.

    I currently use Canon 7D and Canon 70D, with glass that goes from 10mm to 400mm. On an APS-C system, there is a 1.6x crop factor, so the 35mm equivalent range is from 16mm to 560mm.

    Over the past 10 years, I've gone on a couple of photography workshops to the American Southwest every year, and have come back with over 50,000 images, total, over those years. Taking a break this year, and not just because of the pandemic, but because I have been to every location offered by the group I was going with, sometimes two or three times. I love the Southwest, and intend to go back there with the XYL when we retire and go full-time in our 5th wheel. I want to share the sights with her.

    I process and print all my own stuff, preferring to actually print rather than show digital images on other folks' displays that I have no control over. Being an engineer and actually having done work in machine vision for about ten years, you could say I'm a control freak when it comes to my photography.

    1. We have a similar history, Dave, with the exception of photo workshops. I'd love to go on one sometime but have never been. Iceland is on my bucket list for just such a workshop.

      I'm not too worried about smartphones driving Nikon out of business. Although their technology is clearly present in dSLR's and mirrorless cameras, they'll never have image sensors of the same physical size and therefore won't have the resolution, ISO and low-noise capabilities that come from larger sensors (all else being equal). Put larger sensors in phones and they're no longer portable the way we want phones to be.

      The Z6 is my 10th Nikon in 35 years and will probably be my last. I don't mean that to sound fatalistic but it does everything I want it to and I never said that before, even of my F3HP - remember those? According to many NatGeo pros, that was the camera to have in the days of film. Submarines of that era had a Nikon F-mount adapter on their periscopes - an F3 and Tri-X were always on hand to capturing intel-worthy pics. Type 15B periscopes were f/8 - I'll never forget!

      For printing, I use MPIX. I had an Epson photo printer for a while, years ago, that did a great job but ink was expensive and so was the trial and error process of calibrating, test prints, etc.

      73 - John

  3. Good evening John, excellent pic and the long exposure time gave it a very nice effect! I agree the black and white says more than the colour in this case. We, too, gave up our gave up our dSLR's (Nikon D810's and lenses) At the time the Z6 was only talk, so we ended up purchasing the Lumix G5's along with some lenses. To bad the lenses are not any cheaper........ Down East here I have not seen as many bugs as here. We both love macrophotography and over the winter we are going to pick up some Macro lenses and get ready for the spring bug season.

    1. Hello Mike - yes, I remember you mentioning your YL's D810/photo interest. The camera I just sold was my D610 - same 24MB pixel count as the new Z6 but a totally different animal. All my old Nikon lenses fit on the new Z6 thanks to an adapter that was included in it but I'm really liking the 24-70mm lens that came with the Z6.

      FB on continuing photography. I think you live in an area with more possibilities and inspiration than before. I'm looking forward to retirement so I can move to a photogenic area...we're thinking that'll happen in May.

      73 - John

  4. You haven't shot pictures unless you hauled a Mamiya 6x7 format camera through rough terrain :o)

    I carried the bag and tripod while my dad took an hour to shoot a lousy mushroom. I was five years old.
    For the smaller camera he even rolled his own film rolls from excess 35mm cinema pellicule drops.

    I spent hours in the 'darkroom' with my dad, which wasn't an adult-only thing yet back then. He was kinda annoyed when this toddler had to pee. Doors must remain shut!

    His love for this hobby, nay: passion soon died when he switched from analog still frame to video and PC editting halfway the 90ies. He soon got bored with that. I often make the comparison between CW and FT8...

    I have been a fan of taking photos even since I got to join my dad. My first memories are documented by my dad. I'm not into arty things, just document life as I see it happen. That's the kind of pictures I like to see myself. B/W often is a plus.

    I was in the market for a new camera. I was very late to jump on the smartphone wagon. I bought a decent phone 1.5 y ago and my old camera hasn't been out of the drawer ever since.
    I'll probably buy a fancier phone with better camera next time, now that I know this does what I want it to do. My €300 phone makes better images than my digital camera vintage 2007...

    I checked the Z6: it's not cheap ;o)

    Enjoy the photography with your new camera.
    Just don't forget to make a QSO now and then. HI


    1. No rough terrain but I did haul a Mamiya C330 (square format) around for a while during my "portrait phase". I do miss film but the ability to easily share images can be worth its weight in gold in terms of inspiration and the learning that comes from instant feedback. And I hope you found a needing to pee solution in the darkroom rather than diluting (or would it be strengthening?) the stop bath...

      Yes, I need to get on the air - Sweepstakes is coming up for us in NA. And I'm hoping to bounce some dits and dahs off of your antenna in CQWW. See you then Franki,

      73 - John