Moonshot with my apex predator 'wildlife' lens

Those that are keeping up with the posts will know that I bought myself an apex predator 'wildlife' lens for Christmas—post is here if you missed it.

It turns out this lens is not too shabby when it comes to taking snaps of the moon in daylight.

This shot was taken hand-held at 210mm (which is effectively 315mm on a half-frame camera) at about 7:30 p.m. At this time the sun is still about two hands above the horizon—so it is basically still daylight. I was using my Sony a6300 at ISO640. The aperture is f6.3 (which is as wide as this lens goes at full zoom) and the shutter speed was 1/350th.

The picture here is at 1:1 when viewed full size and is a 1,032 x 768 pixel crop from the original 6,000 x 4,000 24MP capture.

Also, this is from the in-camera JPG. It was not taken RAW!

So, all in all, I think this is kind of good for this lens which is rated as a 'kit lens'—which in camera-speak puts is just under mid-range.

Introducing my new 'apex predator' wildlife lens

Sansa hunting rabbit. Yes. Seriously. There were two rabbits in the yard. Okay ... they are pets and she doesn't bother about them really—which is kind of amazing for an apex predator like her when she sees the perfect prey (being the rabbits). As it happens the rabbits could care less about the cats as well.

What? Is it time to go inside already? You do realise I am a killing machine and could rip your throat out in a single stroke—if only you weren't so big!!

Up until now the only lens that I had for my Sony E-mount mirror-less camera was the amazing Zeiss coated 16-70 f4. While this is a great lens for crisp landscapes and just about perfect for close setup work, it falls down when it comes to shooting apex predators from the comfort of my camping chair while sipping some red wine.

So, as Christmas approached, I had a look around at what was available—at a good price—in the way of an armchair wildlife lens that would allow me to get great action shots of our two apex predators as they roamed the enclosure (of my yard).

I came across the Sony 55-210 f4.5-6.3 OSS on sale for $275. This lens is usually up around the $499 mark so I figured that $275 was a price I was prepared to pay.

Now I know that this lens is no Zeiss 16-70. If the Zeiss were rated at 8 out of 10 then the Sony 55-210 would probably slot in at around the 6 mark; and possibly a tad lower even. But as a not-too-bad lens for armchair snaps of lounge-room lions hunting in the back yard then it just about fits the requirements perfectly.

No good looking over here. You can't see me. I am perfectly hidden behind these 25 sticks of dead wild oats and I blend into the background like a ghost.

All the pictures on this page were taken with my new wildlife lens—as I like to call it now.

Not only did I take them with my new wildlife lens, most of them were well in range of the 55-210 zoom to be taken without me needing to get up from my camping chair. So I was able to sit there nice and comfortable, having the occasional sip of red, and take these shots of our little predators without them being distracted by seeing me pointing a camera at them.

In the picture of Obi the lounge-room lion at left he is about three metres up a tree on a log ramp that I put on the tree for them. At the other end of the log there is a 'landing' where they can sit or lay and watch the world from a height.

He is checking out what all the dopey humans are doing. I mean, they can't climb trees, they can hardly jump at all, can't see at night, and don't have claws. How can they have possibly survived this long with such limited abilities?

Expect to see some more in-the-wild shots in future posts.

Obi the apex predator slinking over to scare the living daylights out of a couple of parrots sitting on the bird feeder. Not to worry but. Firstly the parrots are on top of a 1.5 metre pole, and secondly Obi operates under a strict 'catch and release' policy. So far any bird he has got close to catching he has immediately released.

The parrots.


As usual, all images will show larger if you click on them.

A story about JPG image compression

Following are 11 images that, on first glance, might seem to look all the same. In fact, even after second and third looks they are still likely to appear to be all exactly the same.

But they aren't!

Although they are all precisely the same screen size, which is exactly 1200 pixels high by 842 pixels wide, each has been saved with a different JPG compression setting. The tool I have used to save these pictures is Adobe Photoshop CC (v2015.1.2). You need to know this because different tools apply different degrees of compression aggression when saving JPG files.

Going from left to right, top to bottom, each picture of the teddy bear and the YSL Tribute high heels has been saved using increasing degrees of compression in line with each of the 11 compression settings provided in Photoshop.

The first image has been saved using the compression slider set fully to the right at C12. Now some folks might think that setting the slider hard to the right means that no JPG compression is going to be applied. Well; you would be wrong.

While this does cause Photoshop to apply the least compression—'least' is far from zero. A little searching around on the Web will reveal that setting the slider to the hard right is typically going to result in about 50 percent compression.

In the case of my teddy bear and heels picture the compression that Photoshop applied was 57 percent, which resulted in the image being 896KB when saved. The original non-compressed image size is 2,090KB.

Moving the slider one notch to the left, shown as the 11 position in Photoshop, has a dramatic impact on compression. In the case of this test picture it went from 57 percent compression to a whopping 70 percent compression. However, I defy anyone to spot any difference in the picture when viewed full size on a good screen—click any image to see it full size.

With each subsequent picture I have increased the Photoshop compression by one click.

The last picture, being the eleventh picture in the series, was saved at compression setting C2. This resulted in a file of only 94KB which represents a massive 96 percent compression.

The following picture shows a clip from the first save side-by-side with the same clip from the last save.

If you look at this full size on a large screen you will now see some of the 'damage' that has been introduced by the 96 percent compression applied in the last save. If you look at the heel on the left shoe you will notice it is nicely defined and glossy in the C12 picture but there are colour artefacts causing blotchiness in the C2 picture. Ditto for the ankle strap.

You can also see artefact blotchiness in the grey patch of the pillow that the right-side shoe is resting against. The definition of the cotton thread in this patch has basically been wiped out by compression.

The more you look the more you will notice the degredation introducted by the compression.

However, the JPG compression algorithm is doing a pretty awesome job when you consider the insane amount of compression that has been applied to this last picture to get it down from 2,090KB to just 94KB while maintaining the original size of 842x by 1200y.

In my next post I will cover some of the upsides and downsides of JPG compression and compression in general.

Photography: Playing around with cropping

This post is about cropping photographs. One of the basic rules in photography is that every image needs cropping; and if you think it doesn’t then you are not looking at it right.

Most post-processing workflows tend to recommend that you crop at the start of your workflow. The logic here is that this means your computer will process the smaller 'master' image faster as you progress with the rest of your post-processing workflow.

However, I tend to crop towards the end just before I do the two basic sharpening steps; before I save the finished product. With modern four core i7-based computers that have an SSD as the primary disk it only takes a few second more to work with the full un-cropped image. But I am not going to go into the pros and cons of this approach as a discussion of why and what various photographers do as part of their post-processing workflow would likely fill a 1TB hard disk.

In this quick post I just want to demonstrate how cropping can make a difference to the look of the finished product.

So, to start, here is the image before cropping. This is how it was framed in the camera as I pushed to shutter button.

As shot

Note that all images are resized to be 1000 pixels on the long edge, are purposely border-less,  and have 30 percent compression.

In this first crop I decided to go for a landscape view, possibly for printing on canvas.

First crop

Then I thought I might try it with the tree further to the right and maybe with the clouds at the top cropped out, even though it means cropping the top off the tree.

Second crop

At this stage I am thinking that I did like it better in portrait mode, so I will try that again but this time I will crop some of the foreground out.

Third crop

In the above crop I have the trunk of the tree smack in the middle of the 'thirds rule' on the right hand side.

I think I am getting close now. But I want to force the tree further into the top right zone and I want the crop a little taller.

Fourth crop

I like this crop. I like the tree sort of isolated up there in the top right, almost alone in its top right third (using the Rule of Thirds); almost out of the picture. In a finished edit I would probably edit out the clouds at the very top of the picture as they tend to be a little distracting.

I might try one last crop and put the tree in the middle of the crop and little lower.

Fifth crop

I think I still prefer the fourth crop if I was going to print one of these.

So. Just a really quick demonstration of how cropping can change the look of your image.

At Busso: Tributes on the Beach, 2nd Edit

I really like the picture I took of the pastel blue sexy Tribute heels on the beach at Meelup on Tuesday. Sadly this picture did not get the sought after 90 points at 500 pixels that are required to position it near the top of the popular listing—even if just for a little while; a few hours or so before it decays and falls down the list.

However, I have done something I rarely do. In fact I think this could be the first time I have done this. I re-edited the very same crop of the same picture. In this re-edit I have made four changes compared to first edit. Three of the edit changes involve the shoes, and one of them doesn't.

I wonder if anyone can pick the four new edits?

Click to make Larger

One of the edits is something I avoid doing, which is removing something from the picture. As an 'old' photographer I tend not to do this. Which is the reason why I didn't do it in the first edit. But this time I just felt I really needed to remove 'it'.

The other three edits are standard minor adjustments that photographers make to improve the picture a wee bit.

I might actually re-post this picture to 500 pixels to see if it gets any more votes. It would be an interesting experiment.