Mid-October Walkabout

I have said a lot of bad things about New England weather.  Winters here are too long, too cold and involve way too much snow removal.  And all the other seasons are too short and too weird because of the winter bias.  But there is a little slice of Autumn in the middle of October where if things happen just right there are some very cool things moving around in the yard.

 

For instance, we haven’t seen a water snake around the yard all year.

But here at the point where the water snakes will soon head underground for the winter one of them has taken to sunning himself in front of one of the gardens.  He looks as if he’s been feeding extraordinarily well.  I assume all the rain has resulted in a bumper crop of frogs and fish.  He shows up in the afternoon and basks in the sun soaking up the heat he needs to metabolize the food in his stomach.  The temperatures are predicted to start falling into the 30’s at night.  That probably will send this snake underground for the winter.

And when all the other flowers in the yard are almost completely gone two flowers reach their peak in October.

Here’s the Montauk Daisies with two visitors a hover fly shows up for some pollen and nectar.

And a katydid gets to work devouring the leaves.

And the other flower I always look forward at this time of year is Wolfsbane.  Also known as Monkshood, the appearance of it’s bright purple flowers tell me Halloween is right around the corner and time for me to dust off my classic monster movies and quickly finish up my fall yard work.  Snow in late October is far from unheard of.

 

Here’s a salamander who was doing some fall foraging for his last meals.

And here are some interesting shots of milkweed seed pods.

 

I was disappointed not to have any candid shots of the local werewolf community.  Perhaps next week.

02SEP2021 – Small Critter Photos

I’m saving the mantis photos for my series finale of the mantis project.  But here are the rest of the critters Camera Girl found for me today.

Monarch caterpillars

Grasshopper

Spotted Salamander

 

Four Toed Salamander

 

Kudos to Camera Girl for her excellent wildlife spotting skills.  No reward mind you, but virtue is its own reward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 5 – Conclusions

I’ve long since sent back the Sony LA-EA5 adapter and the Sony A7R IV A camera to Lensrentals.com and I have begun to review all the photos I took for sharpness and other criteria but the information I gleaned from this test are not dependent on the very detailed examination of individual files.

The questions I was trying to answer were:

  • Does the LA-EA5 provide modern autofocus capability to the Minolta and Sony A-mount lenses that do not have motors built in?
  • Will these motorless lenses prove capable of capitalizing on the enhanced autofocus functionality in real world situations?
  • How does the A7R IV A camera compare to the A7 III with respect to tracking autofocus?

So, what did I find?

Well,

  • The LA-EA5 does allow for some of the modern autofocus modes to function with these a-mount lenses. You can run tracking autofocus and you can use eye autofocus and most of the modes that you can use with normal e-mount lenses.  One very disappointing exception is that the magnification setting that I like to use so much while making macro shots is disabled while in autofocus.  It is only available in manual focus.  And with this one exception the usefulness of the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens is greatly reduced for me.  I very often like to magnify the head of an insect to get perfect focus on the eye.  Well, forget that.  So, you can see that this first answer has been far less than a complete success.  The lenses will allow me to take advantage of much better autofocus than currently available with the LA-EA4 but a key function is unavailable.
  • So, for the autofocus functions that these lenses are provided with how do they perform in real world conditions? Well, once again, it’s a mixed bag.  For relatively static subjects like a hummingbird hovering around a flower bush the autofocus worked quite well.  With the flexible spot it actually stuck with the bird as it moved around the viewfinder.  It succeeded in maintaining sharp focus on the bird.  With dynamic subjects like bird in flight or, in my case, dog in run, it was a complete failure.  Even if the tracking autofocus kept up with the subject, the lens couldn’t focus and capture the subject successfully.  My keeper rate was zero.  This was not a completely unexpected situation.  I’m actually quite satisfied with the additional capability that the flexible spot and tracking modes provide for much less dynamic subjects.  But I can understand why this will be a disappointment to folks who were hoping to use the old lenses for sports or wildlife.  Of course, I’m sure that for those who possess much better technique in those photographic specialties than I possess there may be some methods of extracting better results than my abysmal record but I wouldn’t want to raise hopes too high about these types of applications.
  • With respect to the comparison of tracking capabilities between the Sony A7 III camera and the Sony A7R IV A, it’s the difference between night and day. Of course, that because the A7 III doesn’t really have tracking.  It has the flexible spot autofocus setting which does allow for the camera to try and follow the subject inside the viewfinder but as noted it’s quite limited to slow moving objects.  The A7R IV A actually does track objects.  From what I understand it’s quite rudimentary compared to cameras like the Sony A9 and Sony A1.  From what I’ve heard these cameras have keeper rates that approach 100% for birds in flight and other very challenging applications.  But the A7R IV A is still orders of magnitude better than my A7 III.  But the disadvantage of the A7R IV A is the much larger file size.  The 24-megapixel files of the A7 III are plenty big enough for most of my uses.  The 60-megapixel sensor in the A7R IV A is a bit much for my tastes.  Of course, your mileage may vary, especially if you specialize in landscape and sport.

So there you have it.  I am actually looking forward to having the LA-EA5 available to me on the next Sony camera I own which I hope will be the A7 IV.  Of course if Sony decides not to allow the A7 IV to autofocus motorless A-mount lenses with the LA-EA5 I will give up photography and take up Chinese calligraphy instead.  But that’s just me.

The Dog Day

It’s a hot one, a scorcher.  I was out there trying to get some shots of hummingbirds and I think they were watching me from the shade of the trees saying to each other, “Is he crazy?  We’re not going out in that sun for a little sugar water!”

But this is real summer.  You can see all the moisture the ground has soaked up over the last month or so rippling into the air as currents of chromatic diffractions of the solar photons pummeling the ground.  I put on my floppy hat and brave the noonday sun in quest of photographic knowledge.  And there’s scant little of that.  Even the usually reliable bees and butterflies and even the dragonflies have taken refuge out of the sun, the cowards.

Camera Girl and Princess Sack-of-Potatoes took to the pool after lunch and of course as soon as I went in for lunch, supposedly, the hummingbirds were everywhere, on the flowers, at the feeders, even hovering between the girls at the side of the pool.  I shouted out, “Fake News!”  But her haughty sneer let me know I wasn’t fooling Camera Girl.  I knew she spoke the truth.

I will go back out after four.  At that point the sun’s blast will be merely Saharan and therefore survivable.  I will say that this tracking autofocus function still requires a fair amount of skill, of technique that I am sadly lacking.  But persevere I will.  I must know the answers.  Are my old lenses useful or ballast?  I will find out.

After conferring with my grandsons I recognized their seasonal anxiety.  They sense the end of summer vacation.  They reminded me not to waste the days that we have left.  Labor Day is right up the road and after that there’s nothing on the horizon until Halloween.  So I must get out there and see what I can see.

I think tomorrow I’ll head for the local lake.  I want to see if any water birds are around.  That would be a nice tame autofocus-tracking target.  I’m tired of trying to capture Larold running at full tilt.  The camera doesn’t stand a chance.  Last year there was a bald eagle at that lake.  I don’t suppose I’ll luck out and it’ll be there but you never know.  In an unrelated photographic idea there is an old colonial graveyard nearby and I thought I’d go over there and do some closeup photography of the old stones.  Nothing that will show the whole stones but more the texture of the erosion on the carving.

Haven’t seen much wildlife this summer.  There was a bear on the property recently but he didn’t do any damage surprisingly enough.  Last year he flattened one of our bird feeder polls.  And speaking of birds Camera girl has been reading about some mysterious bird ailment that is killing the birds.  So of course the first thing they tell her is “Stop feeding the birds!”  Blah, blah, blah.  I told her do as she pleases.  If feeding the birds is going to cause the apocalypse then let her rip.  I figure it’s bird COVID.  So why shouldn’t they get a taste of it too?

Well, the silly season is ending in three weeks or so.  Then we’ll have the atrocities in Washington to bemoan, only I’m all out of outrage for the inevitable.  I figure codified election fraud is in our immediate future so bring it on.  But it will wake up a mess of normies.  Maybe that will do some good.  So enjoy the rest of the summer and I’ll be here when you get back.

And here is the dog himself Larold the Wonder Dog.

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on  Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 4 – The Verdict on Tracking

This will be a short post.  I just want to put this question behind us.  I’ll summarize my observations.

The tracking and eye tracking does work on the A-mount motor-less lenses.  But the autofocus on these lenses cannot keep up with an even moderately fast moving object.  Even a person walking toward the camera will have a very low keeper rate.  With a rapidly moving animal like a dog running it’s hopeless.  The software is doing its part but the mechanics of the autofocus system is just too slow to keep up.

Now I happen to want to use it for something much less demanding.  For butterflies, bees and hummingbirds the animal is hovering or flitting inside a very small area and this allows the lens to reacquire focus quickly enough to be useful.  But this is a much less demanding application of the tracking program.  It is sort of the exception to the failure of these lenses to track.

I’ll be performing more tests once the weather over here improves on hummingbirds and butterflies with the tracking program.  But I felt it was important enough to break this information out separately.

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on  Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 3 – Tracking

These are still just early results but I am happy to say that the tracking and eye autofocus does work with the motorless A-Mount lenses.  The limitations of these lenses is the speed of the autofocus.  In other words for a slow moving target like a walking human or a relatively slow moving target like a hummingbird moving in a small area around a food source like a feeder or a flower bush the camera will track the target quite well.

But when I had Camera Girl throw a ball to Larold across the lawn I couldn’t even come close to keeping him in the viewfinder.  That of course is my own fault.  I lack the tracking skill to keep the running dog in front of me.  He’s just too damn fast for me.

But I’ll think up some better scenario to test the tracking algorithm.  The other part of the test is to see whether the lens could autofocus fast enough to keep the target in focus.  This has yet to be answered.  I’ll look at the results today and see what I find.

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on  Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 2 – First Impressions

I took the camera out yesterday and played around with the 200mm macro.  The A7R IVA has a very nice viewfinder but what I doscovered was that A-mount lenses on the LA-EA5 are not considered eligible lenses to use a feature called “AF in Focus Mag.”  This feature allows you to autofocus while in a magnified view and it is a fantastic feature for doing macro work.  Not having this feature with the 200mm macro is a sore disappointment.  I didn’t anticipate this exclusion.  Damn you Sony!  But that being said, I am going to see if I can use animal eye AF to compensate for this.

With respect to general performance the autofocus speed is acceptable.  And in the short time I’ve tested it, the accuracy of the focus seems quite good.  The A7R IVA camera is relatively close to my A7 III in action and function so there aren’t too many things to get used to.  Today, if the weather holds out, I want to try a running dog focus tracking experiment.  Harry (or Larold as he’s been nicknamed by my oldest grandson) is our younger pointer and he is incredibly fast.  I’m going to try and track him as he sprints across the front lawn.  I think I read that tracking doesn’t work with Animal EYE AF.  This seems strane so I’ll try it both ways, animal and human eye AF.  But even if the tracking is just on his head I think it will be an interesting experiment.

I also want to try out eye AF on insects and hummingbirds.  Hummingbirds will especially benefit from the tracking function.  Losing focus on a hummingbird with a macro lens and its very long focus windup usually means a costly time delay in getting the set up again.  And believe it or not I’ve never used tracking on hummingbirds before with my normal lenses and camera even though they are available.  When you’re set in your ways you can miss a lot of useful opportunities.  I’ve been reminded of that recently but this one really got me thinking.  I have to go over the A7 III’s capabilities and see what else I’m missing out on.

 

Stay tuned.  Much work to do.

 

 

26JUN2021 – Photography – Focus Stack – Eyed Click Beetle

Continuing with my dead insect theme here is a large Eyed Click Beetle – Alaus oculatus who has joined my museum of dead bugs.  No anthropomorphizing this insect with a name like Bob.  I’ll call him Clicky because he used to click before he became dead.  Camera Girl felt sad because he was going to meet his maker.  But then I told her he was eating her vegetables.  She said everybody’s got to eat but I think it put things in perspective.

25JUN2021 – Photography – Focus Stack – Bob’s Back

Bob’s Back!  And I mean that in both ways.  Bob the beetle returns and we’re going to get a look at Bob’s back or dorsal side.  Last night I showed Camera Girl my photo of Bob and she confirmed that his legs were orangey.  But examining Bob in the chiton she revealed to me that his back was green!  Now having no visual sensors for green in my eyes this fact, as usual, slightly annoyed me but soldiering on I now give you Bob’s Back!

 

 

 

 

24JUN2021 – Photography – Focus Stack – Beetle

For today’s experiment in photographing dead bugs here’s a beetle with brightly colored legs.

Part of the craft is arranging the dead bug so that he doesn’t look quite so much like road kill.  Also the other part of the deal is first post processing all the input files in terms of exposure and light balance.  But right now I’m just adjusting the merged file which is less flexible than the raw input files.  But this is as much a learning exercise for me as anything else.  So I’m taking some short cuts.  The main thing is the merge does create photos with enormously wider areas of sharp focus.

This beetle is less than a half inch in length.  I named him Bob.