Saturday, May 07, 2011

Set your point-and-shoot camera at the hyperfocal distance and virtually eliminate shutter lag.

Photography Runs in the Family
Sometimes up at the Square, especially during and after the Farmers' Market, everyone seems to be photographing everyone, even -- sometimes -- in the same family.

I was able to quickly snap this today because I set the focus of my Nikon Coolpix P7000 to the hyperfocal distance -- that is, the distance at which everything in the frame from some near distance to infinity will be sharp. Leave it set at that and you don't have to focus -- most everything will be sharp, especially if you're shooting with a small-sensor point-and-shoot with its inherently great depth of field, and with a wide angle lens setting, as I was. It virtually eliminates point-and-shoot shutter lag, because -- since the camera doesn't have to focus -- there's none of that lengthy focus-seeking by the lens. It turns a P&S into a great camera for street photography, instantly responsive. See it and shoot it, just like that.

There's no setting on the Coolpix for hyperfocal distance, but there is an infinity (Landscape) setting that accomplishes much the same thing. But I also found what seems to be an undocumented feature when you set the camera to manual focus. The default starting point is either the hyperfocal distance, or something very close to it. You can lock that in, and you're good to go.

Most full-featured point and shoots will let you do something similar, either with manual focus or an infinity focus setting, sometimes called Landscape. Try it. It's like having a different camera in your hand. (Of course you'll still want to use autofocus for longer telephoto zoom shots, but for nearby action with the lens zoomed to wide angle, using the hyperfocal distance gives an ordinary point-and-shoot amazing responsiveness.

After that, it's up to you.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Spring brings back "splendor in the grass, glory in the flower" to Olbrich Botanical Gardens

It's Not really Spring Without a Visit to Olbrich's Meadow Garden
Wordsworth wrote that "nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower." Maybe. But the Meadow Garden at Olbrich comes close, and it does it every year.

Splendor in the GrassMaybe I was a butterfly in another life. There must be some reason I rejoice so much every time I see the new growth in Olbrich's Meadow Garden -- a sure sign that spring is here at last. The long grass, glowing in the sun, the random spots of color stretching as far as the eye can see -- it's as close to Eden as we're likely to get around here. When T and I visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens the other day, the Meadow Garden was the highlight.
Inspired by English meadow gardens, Olbrich's Meadow Garden features low-maintenance fescue grasses and spring flowering bulbs. The short, drought-tolerant fescue grasses eliminate the need for high maintenance and energy consumptive lawn care. The grasses don't require supplemental watering or fertilizer and are mowed just twice a year - once in late spring and again in late fall.
Be sure to visit while the garden is still in bloom. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Farmer and activist Tony Schultz giving the speeches at the Capitol nobody will ever forget

Tony Schultz Speaking at the Tractorcade March 12
This photo of mine appeared in Thursday's Isthmus story about Tony Schultz, an organic family farmer from Athens, WI, who gave an incredible speech at the Capitol after the March 12 Tractorcade. He connected the interests of urban union workers and family farmers, in a way that nobody who heard him will ever forget. I was fortunate to be able to get this video earlier as Tony warmed up the crowd waiting for the tractors with a shorter, but also memorable, version of his speech.

Photo Note: Since I was using my camera to shoot video, I didn't have any stills of Tony when Isthmus called, so I agreed to see what I could pull from the video. The resolution is 1280x720 pixels -- fine for screen resolution or printing on newsprint. It's always hard to get a good still photo of a public speaker, and you usually have to shoot a lot to catch them without an awkward expression in mid-consonant. But in the 1-min, 22-sec video I basically had 1,968 still frames to choose from.

Normally, I can create a still jpeg in-camera if the card hasn't been overwritten. In this case, it was, so I had to do it in iMovie on the computer, but it still didn't take long.