Calibration Day

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro

I picked up a used Sigma 105mm macro lens on eBay a few weeks back.

The one lens missing from my kit since I switched from Canon to Nikon has been a suitable macro lens. I had this same lens in the Canon mount and loved it. Very sharp, easy to manually focus and quite sturdy.

The one I got on eBay was a total steal for the price. I’d been watching the eBay action on these lenses for over a year and when they did come up for sale, and that was far and few between, they were commanding over $350 used in good condition. I found this one for $179 and it is in near mint condition.

So today, I decided to do the lens micro-focus adjustment on my D750 and D810.  The results were better than I could have hoped for, as neither body required an adjustment to the fine focus offset. Both cameras set to 0 offset on this lens. That means that I got a perfect focusing, near mint quality macro for next to nothing.

If you are exploring the lens market, I highly recommend searching for a used version of this lens. Sigma doesn’t make this model any longer and the folks who do own them hang on to them like they are gold. And for good reason.

The Missing Years

Mandarin Duck

Sometimes good fortune lands upon you unexpectedly.

A couple of years back I suffered a major hard drive crash on my PC and it took out a large number of photographs along with it. I went through my backup files and recovered about 70% of what went missing, but I found out to my dismay, there were some directories that I hadn’t backed up and two of those directories were images from 2012 and 2016.

Last night, I fired up my old laptop PC which had been setting in the corner of the office for a long time, unused. The battery in it was dead, so I connected the charger and then booted it up in order for it to download all the current updates. That took about 3 hours.

I examined the hard drives to see how much space was left, thinking I’d reformat them and try to use it at the cabin this summer, saving me the hassle of having to drag my regular laptop with me when we went to Red Feathers.

Low and behold, on that laptop sat a number of photographs and I had directories for the year 2012 and 2016. Looking over the directories, the images covered from January through December. Everything I had lost, just sitting there on a computer I hadn’t used in 3 years.

I copied everything over to a flash drive, and moved them to the office pc and then backed them up on an external hard drive.

I’ve been kicking my own butt for the last 2 years for failing to be diligent about backing up my files and losing those directories. The loss caused me to redouble my efforts in making sure I have backups of everything at all times, resigning myself to the knowledge that losing those files was the price I had to pay for that reminder.

Last night, I got a refund. Today’s photo is of a Mandarin Duck from 2012, one that I thought was forever lost.


New Years’ Resolutions?

Photograph of a mature bighorn ram.
Mature bighorn ram for Sheep Sunday

I skipped out on photographing bighorn this past rutting season. I just felt like I had enough photographs for now, as I’m still editing images from previous years. This brings me to today’s post, resolutions for the new year.

I don’t normally make these silly resolutions, but I’m growing older and the road ahead of me is much shorter than the road behind me and I figure I want to make the best of the time I have left on this earth (no, I’m not dying or anything, no more so than anyone else.)

One of my new year resolutions is to quit taking the same photographs over and over. The bighorn come to mind. I’ve been trekking out to look for these animals every year in the autumn, and for the most part the images are all relatively the same. I’ve had to ask myself the question, “do I really need more bighorn photos right now?” The answer was no.

How about those moose? Well, it’s sort of an annual ritual for me to photograph the moose and I have close to a hundred thousand moose photos. But, I do love them so. No, not gonna back off the moose. And besides, I have a lot of social interaction with other photographers and friend with the moose. It’s a different world. I’ll keep working those photos until I can’t get out there any longer.

Same with autumn photography. I can never stop exploring the mountains in search of autumn color. Regardless of the fact that the last two seasons have been pretty much the same and underwhelming too, I’ll keep putting that subject on the schedule.

A photographic resolution for this year. Concentrate on not repeating the same subjects. I need to expand the portfolio. I need new adventures. I need to find something different.

On the personal front, I suppose all of us at one point or another resolve to be more healthy. For me, it’s a no-brainer. My health has been in decline for the past 15 years. I noticed that my body was in full tilt boogie protest a year or two before I retired from The Wall Street Journal. Years of long hours, no sleep, poor eating habits and living in a high stress environment have played havoc with my body. I’ve addressed the stress. Life today is far less stressful than it was 20 years ago. Retirement has been beneficial to me in that regard. Still, I’ve neglected my physical condition. As a younger man, I was always fairly skinny. The day I got out of the Navy I weighed 175 lbs. Today, I’m close to 220 lbs and at my age, that’s too much. My spine is shot, my arm is shot, my body is falling apart. If I want to live to the average age, I better straighten up and fly right. My doctors are turning me into a lab rat and I have so many potentially health and life threatening conditions I best be making myself more healthy.

I have to modify my diet. Blood sugar and weight being the main concern here. I ordered a fitness watch to keep track of my physical activity. I know I spend too much time sitting at the computer and that doesn’t burn very many calories. Diet has to change too. I now find myself looking at the amount of carbohydrates in everything I eat. Quit eating the carbs, get more exercise, that’s the ticket. I do better when I get feedback, it’s sorta like having test equipment to use and stay in calibration. My mind works very well that way. The problem is avoiding the comfort food I’ve been gobbling down like a hog over the past 30 years. Seafood, more seafood. I’m removing red meat from my diet and substituting sea food in its place. Doughnuts are now forbidden. Snickers candy bars are now off the menu. I eat almonds and cashews when I need a quick snack.

It’s been working. My blood pressure is totally under control. My sugar levels are down. I’ve lost about 10 lbs in the last two or three months. I’m exercising more, but probably not enough.

My resolution is to get my weight down to around 200 lbs. That’s where I was when I retired from my regular job some 13 years ago.

I can’t do much about the crows feet and bags under my eyes and my hair thinning out and turning grey (what’s left of it.)

As for stress. Not really an issue these days. I’ve found ways to get stress out of my life and for the most part it’s gone. If someone in my life is constantly delivering stress to my front door, I keep them out of my life. It works. I won’t let stressful people control my emotional well being. That’s not going to change. It’s been the hardest lesson I’ve learned over my life and I’ve paid the price. I don’t like paying for the same real estate twice. Don’t let other people rent space in your brain.

But I can grow old gracefully. I’ve lost the delusion that I’m a 30 year old, good looking young man in his prime, no matter what my mind wants me to believe. One has to accept the fact that one is growing old and the time left is more important than the time that’s passed.

Did you make your new years resolution?

My Soul Isn’t For Sale

A while back, I wrote a photography article with the intention of sharing it with an overseas based website. Sort of a favor to the owner, something I felt was worth doing.

I posted the article on my own blog and forwarded it to the owner of the other website, with my permission to use the article on their site without compensation. Their readers weren’t my readers and I saw no problem publishing my work in a foreign country.

It was no big deal to me. I like sharing my work. It was an interesting article that I felt had some literary value somewhere out there amongst the plethora of Internet ramblings. So I thought.

The response from the foreign website owner was something to the effect, “I can’t use this, you’ve posted it on your website and Google will penalize me for it being a duplicate.” They went on to ask me to rewrite the article into something more of a technical gear-head piece that didn’t resemble what I had originally wrote.

My first thought of course was “who cares what Google thinks, I don’t work for Google”, “They’ll penalize me as well if that’s the case.” I was also a little miffed about the fact that I wrote the article specifically with the intention of fulfilling a commitment I had made to the foreign website owner, and now they were irritated that I didn’t write some canned techno-jargon article that is so common to the internet photography press. None of this was elaborated upon prior to my making the commitment. If they had indeed read any of my online literary masterpieces, they should have been quite aware that I write human interest stories, often with a photography theme. I don’t write canned technical or commercial articles designed to get web hits from consumers. After a few less than collaborative words between ourselves, it soon dawned on me that we had no common ground on the issue of what my writing was about. They wanted some commercialized drivel from me that they could use to promote their own web presence and I wanted to write about my view of the road in the photography world. Ultimately, it ended our relationship and on a sour note.

No good deed goes unpunished. Lesson learned. I moved on.

More recently, I took a position as a writer for a large Internet Photography Website. I had submitted samples of my previous work, expecting to be ignored. To my surprise they took me on and even published my first article without hesitation. I made the commitment to them to write more articles on a schedule and was looking forward to seeing how commercially viable they would be in a world filled with redundant writings on the same subject.

Well, the publisher sat on my articles and never published them. That happens. The problem with the articles was that they were human interest pieces with a photography theme, not photography articles with the hooks needed to sell photography gear. Obviously, they didn’t read my previous writings and were expecting me to bend my writing technique to meet their need to get web clicks. I should have known better too. I knew the Website was geared towards fluff pieces, depicting the wonderment of new photographic equipment and how to photograph lightly dressed young women in a studio. Their editorial content wasn’t about older people living a life in photography away from the environment of faux fashion and gear worship. Different demographics.

The point of me reliving these disappointments is to emphasize how the Internet publishing world has become straddled by the need to present advertising to the consumer and not really about finding interesting or unique literature to read on any specific subject.

A large reason for this stale status-quo is Google.

Google and the other Internet behemoths, have taken advertising into a new realm, to the point that if what you are publishing on the Internet doesn’t meet certain Google requirement or you aren’t handing cash over to Google to get placement in web searches, you’re not going to get a lot of search hits no matter what you do.

When you think about it, just about every electronic gizmo that connects to the Internet is designed to deliver advertising to your face. You can’t control it. Log on to Facebook and check your news feed. I’ll bet you have something thrown in there in the form of paid advertising.

Years ago, I jumped through Googles’ hoops, modifying and configuring my websites to adhere to the current Google standards. Those standards would change frequently and with those changes I’d initiate a new round of hoop jumping. Nothing I did ever changed the amount of traffic my websites generated. I quickly discovered that I could get a page one Google search listing on any workshop advertising page I generated, a link nestled in among other paid placements. They would generate a few more page hits, but what they weren’t generating was actual income. It was a lot of work, this constantly jumping through Googles’ hoops. I now refuse to give them money for AdWords paid listings, money I had realized was wasted on my endeavors, but quite lucrative to Google.

Did you know that over 70% of Googles’ 110 billion dollars of revenue comes from AdWords paid advertising? They make billions of dollars, the rest of us pay up thinking it’s going to promote our business, but for the vast majority of the small publishers and business owners who live and work in niche markets, it’s a waste of time and money.

Google has rounded up all the cattle and put them in a pen. They want to control what your website looks like, what content you publish, and all of your advertising exposure. And website operators pay for them to do it.

To this day, I get occasional emails from Google Analytics telling me what’s wrong with my website according to Analytics. They point me to a page on one of my sites that has been fairly static for years, just an online brochure. But something about their analytics has changed and they want me to jump through some hoops to make it more friendly for their search engine.

Thanks Google. I’ve been patiently waiting for more guidance on how my website is supposed to help you make money.

The fact is, most people on the Internet aren’t there to read for enjoyment. Unlike the days when a magazine or publication could provide interesting and unique points of view without having to resort to marketing blitzes and advertising saturation, today, we are on our own to find our readers and our place in the world. A place where we aren’t pushing products and services. A place where we simply do what we do for artistic and literary freedom, away from consumerism and fake promises. A place where you won’t be seeing the same thing, wrapped in the same package, and sprinkled with the same glitter. A place free of click bait.

As for large corporations with millions in sales and with a large consumer presence, they may have the advertising revenue. In the wide array of competitive products, keeping your name on the minds of the consumer is mandatory.

Small Website operators, publishers, and small businesses around the world have given into Googles’ need to make billions in profits. Google isn’t the least bit interested in what your website is about. They just want you to give them money.

Nope, no paid advertising for me. No paid Google ad placement for me. No Facebook advertising for me.  I’ll continue to rely on organic web hits and being who I am on the Internet without shouting louder than the next guy.

Why? Because my soul isn’t for sale.