Category Archives: Photos

Depth of Field: Real and Simulated

Four versions of the same photo.

  • One taken with my phone, which has a deep depth of field.
  • One automatically “enhanced” by Google from that phone photo.
  • One taken with my phone in portrait mode, which simulates a shallow depth of field.
  • One taken with my ancient film SLR camera, with a low F-stop to have an actual shallow depth of field.

First Try With The Old Film Camera

We got the negatives and scans back from the two rolls of film we shot with the old manual film camera. Despite the damage to the case, it seems to still be light-proof, as the second roll of film came out about as well as the first.

It was an interesting experiment. We mostly took night/indoor photos with the tripod and handheld photos outdoors in daylight. He’s not used to focusing, so a lot of his photos are blurry. The light meter app on my phone seems a little off in sunlight, so our outdoor photos are all either over– or under-exposed. (The zinc-air batter has since shown up, so with luck we’ll be able to get more accurate light readings with the next roll.) But it gave some of the photos a retro feel.

Here are a few of the better shots, plus one of the light-polluted, smoke-filled skies of Los Angeles with enough stars to recognize Cassiopeia.

High-Rise Night: Trying out “Night Sight” on the Pixel 2 Camera

Google has a new camera mode on its Pixel phones called Night Sight, for handling low-light conditions. The short version is that instead of taking a long exposure, it takes a series of short exposures and stacks them to avoid motion blur from hand movements (plus a lot of additional processing). The long version is fascinating.

My Pixel 2 already takes better low-light photos than I would have expected, but I couldn’t wait to try out the new feature when I learned about it. When the updated Camera app finally hit the Play Store, I had to give it a try.

Two high-rise office buildings at night.

This is adjusted slightly to keep the colors from being too light. And it actually isn’t the best example, as it turns out the nighttime city scene already has enough light for the existing HDR+ mode. I’m going to have to try it on some darker scenes somewhere, but it’s still pretty cool. After the cut I’m posting a version with the phone’s regular mode, and the unaltered Night Sight photo. You can see they’re pretty close, but the Night Sight version picks up a bit more of the color, and it’s a little brighter.

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The Old Camera

The 7YO was looking through the closet the other day and found my old camera bag. Inside it: the old film SLR camera that my grandfather gave me when I was around 12. It’s older than I am, a Sears camera that appears to be a rebranded Ricoh Singlex TLS from 1967. It’s completely manual except for the light meter.

And I expect it will work perfectly once I put some film in it.

As a teen I used it take photos of family, landscapes, spaceship models, stars, photo essays, monuments, even a space shuttle landing. He showed me how to develop film and slides, and make prints in his home darkroom.

It was my main camera for several years, until I got tired of carrying it around and went back to using a point-and-shoot camera. But I still miss having such effortless control over the focus, exposure and aperture. I keep telling myself I’ll eventually get a DSLR and recapture that.

Exam

Anyway, I showed him how to handle it, how to focus and set the F-stop and shutter speed, how to open it, load (imaginary) film, remove the lens, and see the iris as he opened and closed the aperture. We set it for a long exposure so he could watch the shutter open and close. He also found the tripod I’d given up looking for a while back, and once he was done inspecting this one, he hooked it up to a newer camera.

The problem is, he really wanted to try out the camera, but we don’t have any film. I don’t think I’ve bought film in almost 15 years, since I bought my first digital camera. You could buy film in any grocery store when I was younger, but it’s been relegated to specialty shops and online stores over the past decade. I figured I could find it online easily enough. But whose film is worth getting these days? And where to get it developed?

Tracking Down Supplies

Some of the more serious photographers on Photog.Social (a Mastodon instance focused on photography) shoot film, so I asked for suggestions there. I’m going to have to explore Film Photography Project,, which looks fascinating!

Film was easy to find, but then there was the battery for the light meter. You can’t get the same kind of battery anymore. It turns out that old cameras like this one used mercury batteries because they produce a very consistent voltage instead of starting high and trending downward over their lifetime. But, you know, mercury. Not something you want seeping into groundwater from trash. They haven’t sold them in the US since 1996.

I could use the camera without a light meter. I’d just have to figure out the exposure on my own!

As it turns out, Zinc-air batteries have a similar discharge curve (but a much shorter life), and there’s a size that’s designed as a replacement for this one. OK, there’s that problem solved.

So, film and battery have been ordered, and are in the mail!

This should be interesting…

Catching up on photos

Somehow this year has just gotten away from me as far as posting general photos. Oh, I made sure to post albums from events like comic conventions and hiking trips. But the random one-offs and two-fers? I’ve been tossing them up on Instagram, Pixelfed, and/or Mastodon, but I haven’t been maintaining my Flickr gallery.

Part of that is just that this has been a weird year. Part of it, I think, has to do with unexpectedly replacing my phone back in February when my previous phone died without warning. (Almost everything was backed up, at least.)

Whatever the reason, I’ve got eight or nine months of random photos, some just barely interesting enough to share, some really good (IMHO), that I haven’t been curating for Flickr. And the longer I go without posting them, the less it becomes a cool thing to do and the more it becomes a Task To Be Done.

So I sat down tonight after putting the kid to bed, hooked up my camera and my phone to my computer, and started moving and categorizing photos. I eventually got tired of it, but I freed up a lot of space. Even though I’m not quite done with that stage, I went through all the photos I’ve got so far and picked out the ones I want to highlight.

There are enough that I’m breaking them into categories to upload in small batches over the next week or two. If you upload more than three at a time, Flickr will only show the most recent three to your followers. Hopefully they’ll be interesting enough to convince them to click through to the rest of the batch, but I’ve noticed that the top three in a batch always get viewed more than the rest, and always get more feedback. A lot of the more serious photographers I follow won’t even post batches bigger than two or three at a time.

The first batch went up tonight: It’s Los Angeles cityscapes. Continue reading