A Tale of Two Roses

Okay, it’s really a tale of two technologies, but that doesn’t sound nearly so cool, does it? I’ve been discussing on my podcast* from time to time that I’ve become very aware of the difference between taking photos with my phone vs. my “real” camera. Since we’re talking technology, I’ll get specific. For my phone I have an LG V30. It’s supposed to have a great camera and for the most part I like it. The most annoying aspect of it is that it tends to focus on the background on close-up shots, for example, of my Blue Girl rose. Even if I put it in manual mode and focus on the rose, it likes to focus on the background.

This is about the best I got after several tries. It’s pretty enough for Instagram and so forth. But the photograph is far from optimal.

Now, my camera is a very nice Olympus digital camera, E-620, that I’ve had for a dozen years. I even have a telephoto lens to go with it and a tripod. I used to use it all the time. But you all know how it goes – the phone camera is so much more convenient, I have it with me all the time, it’s easier (fewer steps) to post to the internet. For quite a few years there, I let the Olympus languish with very little use.

But, check this out. This is the same Blue Girl rose, taken at the same time and at close to the same angle. See the difference in crispness? And it’s not just the focus, which is hella better. See the difference in the richness of the color, the detail on the petals? You can even see the droplets of rain on the petals.

I thought this side-by-side test was super compelling, so I’m resolving to use my Olympus more, to the point of dragging it along on vacations and so forth.

Some things are worth it.


*By the way, I so appreciate all of you sending support for the podcast and paying writers. Buying my books and sending a bit of money my way, as so many of you have been doing, has made my heart grow three sizes. Seriously.

Herons in the Mist

Fog isn’t something we get a lot of around here, so I enjoyed Oregon’s coastal mists. This heron hunted the tide pools, barely visible. The telephoto got him, though.

Loving my new camera.

I remember one of the first times I saw those kinds of maritime fogs, in Davis, California at a conference.

Somehow I’d ended up on the board of our local new chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). A grant had been obtained and the group planned to send two members to a leadership conference sponsored by the national organization. However, so far only one person had stepped up to go. Hell, I said, I’ll go.

For some reason this is a very hazy memory for me. I was heavy in grad school, I know. After my Great Mistake but before David, which makes it sometime between spring of ’89 and winter of ’91. I think it was a hard time for me. I grieved for my lost college family – never again have I been privileged to be around so many truly amazing people. I lived alone. My love life was going poorly; I pretty much hated everything about grad school (which is designed to break your spirit, anyway), especially my manic/depressive Hungarian major advisor, though I couldn’t face any of that. I was in my early 20s, and most women agree it’s the worst age for us.

I went to this conference with no particular goal, no strategy, except that someone offered to pay for me to go. Morning fogs burned off into bright days and all of these women scientists gave talks about their paths and what their careers had been like. Everyone was brilliantly encouraging in a way that made me feel like a blossom in the sun. No scathing frowns like those doled out daily by my crazy Hungarian advisor.

One woman gave a talk and she was a writer. I can’t remember a damn thing about her – her name, face, what her career deal was. She might have gone from science career to writing? I do recall that her mother attended, which means her speaking was probably an honor and a big deal. At any rate, feeling inspired, thinking maybe this was what I really wanted to do: be a writer and write about science, not this horrible slog through the muck of research, I sat near this woman at lunch and said something along those lines.

And she was mean to me.

Mean enough that I started crying.

Oh, I tried not to show it, sucking up my shameful tears into my sandwich. But I remember the mother throwing me sympathetic looks while the writer-daughter went on about how hard is was to be a writer and all of the stupid, foolish people who thought they could just waltz into it.

Why it hit me so hard, I have no idea. I don’t know if she even gave me any good advice – I was just trying not to let everyone see me cry.

I don’t tell this story often. In fact, I’m not sure what made me think about it now, except for something about the heron in the fog. I couldn’t say whether that incident really affected my writerly ambitions one way or another – I neither gave up at that point nor raced out to prove her wrong.

That woman maybe never realized how hard I took her words. Maybe she was frustrated at not making more money. Maybe she’d just lost an agent or a book deal. It could be she wasn’t accustomed to being in that position, where someone might want to be like her.

But it’s a good lesson, no matter where we are in our writing careers. We should be careful of those who look at us with shiny eyes and hopeful ambition.

We were all that girl once.

Moving on Up

The NEW CAMERA arrived!
Naturally I took this pic with the old camera, but do you like how I got the monstrosity floating in space aspect here?

Yeah, okay, I’m a teensy bit afraid of it.

I should note that I asked for this. For months now. My David, and my mom and her David, and my Aunt Karen and Uncle Bob all chipped in to give me this fancy camera for my birthday because I’m under some kind of delusion that I could produce better photographs with a better camera.

It seemed like a great idea at the time…

At first everything looked fine. Box within a box. Note Zip the Dog watching suspiciously from the dubious safety of the guest bathroom.

They lulled me in. The box was so neatly packed. So silvery shiny. The warranty instructions tucked precisely into their little slots on the lid. This will be easy and fun! it seemed to promise.

I set aside my extra battery and memory card.

Ready to see the camera, I opened the lid!

Umm, okay. Instruction books, three separate ones, various pamphlets and a software cd. Stuff I need, yes. Especially the Instruction Book. Clever me, I quickly determined that two of the instruction books were in languages other than English. Into recycle they go.

I am Photographer Woman, hear me roar!

Feeling bold and decisive, I opened the next layer, ready to embrace my camera.

But no.

Do you see a camera here? Me neither. But look at that neatly folded center section. It must be in there.

Eagerly I opened the cardboard gates to find…


Lenses are good. I’ve never had any that weren’t, well, already permanently melded to the camer, but this is big girl stuff. I’m ready.

But why are there TWO? a small voice whimpers inside.

Well, I wanted to be able to do the telephoto thing. So one must be for that and the other is for… untelephoto stuff. I set the lenses in a Very Safe Spot. No – I am not afraid of them. We’ll be good friends soon. I just have to work up to that bit.

And no, I have absolutely NO idea what the black plastic rings are for. They get to live with the lenses for now.

Onward! (There must be a camera in here somewhere…)

Camera located!

Yeah, the lighting is bad on this picture, but I was overexcited at this point.

So here’s all of it. I at least know what most of the cords do, so I’ll get a grip there. I charged up the battery easily enough and inserted the flash card – all the same as my little Olympus point and shoot. My happy little training wheels camera with the pink tassels on the handlebars. That’s where the similarity to this lean, mean racing machine of a camera ends.

I mean, just look at the open pages of the instruction book.

I feel like I’m 19 and taking Organic Chemistry all over again.

Only I’m doing this for fun.

So, no – no photos from the new camera yet. You’ll be excited to know that I did insert the newly charged battery. And turned it on, yay!

I had figured out how to open the viewfinder display but, to my disappointment, there was only dismal black.

Then I remembered – lenses. Duh.

Hey, I’m working on it…