Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gardening (And Cameras) In 2009

Because the drought causes brown stunted grass I haven't been able to cut the lawn since early spring despite watering as much as I dare. Stage II watering restrictions have substantial fines attached to watering outside your assigned day and times.
The allowed hours don't make sense--the perfect time for me to be moving the sprinkler around is from 10pm to 3 am, but for some dumb reason that's against the law. 3 am to 8 am is when I'm asleep, and I can't even finish the front yard between 8 and 10pm, let alone the huge expanse out back.
So I do what I have to do.
My grass sucks even though there's 200 years worth of water underground, but we can't let the springs run dry during the tourist season, although for some reason our lovely fountains are shut off.

All of that sets up the fact that I've been getting my yard fun from an explosion of potted plants. I can move them around for optimal sunlight/shade ratios, water the hell out of them, and take pictures.

And eat some of the stuff I'm growing.
Like banana peppers:

This is the first one that turned colors before being eaten, and only because it was a shorty that I expected to grow some more.
Thought these stayed yellowish-green.

Like this much bigger one.
Almost zero heat, and not much flavor--no wonder they usually get sliced and pickled. Great on pizza--learned this at Rome's.

This pothos vine (or is it a philodendron?) was a house-warming gift that used to be several feet long but has declined over the last few years.
In May I replaced the soil and it perked-up within hours, tripling in size since then.

Sylvia filled 3 pots with petunias that cheered her up.
Got the variegated bougainvillea on the right track again.
Just started some jalapenos for late fall fire.
The margarita sweet potato vine will get it's own story.

Camera/Flash Details:
Skip this part if you don't care.

The pepper photos are proof of why I missed my Sony F717 and welcomed Matthew's F828 with open arms.
The first one I shot using my old technique for small items (arrived at through years of trial and error) of jamming the lens up close and hand-holding an automatic flash about 6-8 inches over the subject. Took 2 minutes.
With Sony F-Series cameras (and MANY others of all brands) all you have to do is push the button with the flower icon to tell it that you're trying to focus close to the lens, and it will. 2cm away from the lens is about as close as the F828 will focus, and that's fine.
As soon as you move the camera a bit further away the magnification drops-off dramatically so you might try to add some zoom, but in most cases you're still too close for the minimum-focus distance of that particular zoom setting which equals blurry junk.
The 2nd photo was at the very edge of minimum-focus distance because I was trying out the Strobist's angled food lightbox design. No matter how I positioned everything, once I moved the camera away I was forced into WAY more croppping with less resolution remaining. And despite using a tripod it simply wasn't as sharp as handholding the camera and flash right up close as I did for the 1st photo.
This picture was also a test of using my cheap Cactus radio triggers to fire remote flashes from the F828. Worked 100%.

What about depth of focus?
Almost the same--the longer pepper in #2 is the deciding factor because if I hadn't eaten pepper #1 the night before there would have been a better comparison.
At the extreme wide-angle setting this zoom lens has much more DOF.
In fact, I probably could have opened up the aperture on #1 some more without a significant DOF penalty.

Then there's the apparent size of the light source, which boils down to bigger = better, but much closer = bigger.
Here I still have to give the edge to #1.
When an external flash is within a few inches it's size compared to a small subject is suitably huge and therefore softer.
Move it a few feet away to light an umbrella or in this case a sheet of paper on the side of a cardboard box and you not only lose a ton of output, you also sacrifice the flexibility to move it a few degrees in any direction or a couple inches closer/further without having to stop shooting and adjust stands and modifiers.
Just watch the replay on your LCD and compensate accordingly by hand in seconds.

I could easily spend $500+ on a macro lens for my main A300 DSLR camera that might give me the results I've always been able to get with "obsolete" Sony F-Series cameras and their incredible German Zeiss lenses and a relatively cheap external flash.
It's a shame that regaining a specific "niche" capability can cost as much as the original camera that got you hooked.
When it comes to digital cameras, the manufacturer's response to consumer demands is often along the lines of "one step forward, two steps back".
Marketing departments have been in control for far too long.
Photographer's needs are at least 5 steps below BS specs and buzzwords.


KenKzak said...

Pothos I believe.
In any case. Philodendron has unvarigated, dark green leaves, 1/2 the size.

Jeff Ho said...

Hi, I also have a F828 and am looking for a radio trigger for it. Found your site and post about you using a Cactus. Would you mind telling me the model of the Cactus radio trigger? Thanks.