It is that time of year again and you will have to bear with me as I get the Lupines out of my system. 🙂 This meadow, the best display I know of in Southern Maine, is about 10 miles from my home, 20 miles round trip on my electric recumbent trike, and a pleasant journey that also includes a stop at Emmon’s Preserve for dragonflies or whatever else is on offer. The Lupines are definitely the star of the show in early June. What we have here is three different perspectives on the same scene from the same spot. 18mm wide angle with the iPhone SE2020 and the Sirui 18mm lens, and then at about 110mm and 580mm equivalents with the Nikon B700. It is a good show indeed this year. 🙂 iPhone shot with the standard camera app on auto. Nikon shots, Program mode, Vivid Picture Control, -.3 EV. Processed in Apple Photos, with Polarr on the Nikon shots.
It is, at long last, Lady Slipper Orchid season here in southern Maine. I have been watching my spots for two weeks waiting for the bloom. Last year a gentleman I met walking pointed me to the most amazing spread of Orchids that I have ever seen…several hundred plants, at the very least, spread along a hillside in the woods above a stream. The exact location will remain undisclosed as some Lady Slippers were dug up nearby last year. Lady Slippers are almost impossible to transplant, as they rely on a symbiotic fungus in the soil, but it does not stop people from trying. So, despite my broken wrist and various deep bruises and a well tweaked back from my walking encounter with a truck on Saturday, I went out with three cameras to see how they were doing this year. I was not disappointed. The shot above is with my go-to Sony Rx10iv at 31mm equivalent. (Program mode for ISO 100 @ f4 @ 1/250th). The following shot is with my new Nikon B700, which I bought as a back-up camera to carry on trip (and which might become my preferred dragonfly camera). I am reacquainting myself with the Nikon way of doing things. It was also taken in Program at 68mm equivalent with macro engaged, ISO 100 @ f4.1 @ 1/1000th, -1 EV.
And finally here is a shot with my iPhone SE2020, the Moment thin case, and the Sirui 18mm ultra-wide lens. Standard Camera app on Auto. I really like the “in context” effect of the ultra-wide perspective.
I took a short ride on my trike yesterday, and an even shorter walk out into the forest along the way to see what I could see and to play with the Sirui lens set on my iPhone SE 2020. I have the Moment thin case, so mounting the lenses is just a twist. I got out the 10x Macro lens for its first real world test. I was surprised at the depth of field…much greater than I expected, but still shallow enough to isolate a subject against its background. You need to be able to get really close to your subject. This not a “telephoto macro.” The main trick is to keep out of your own, and the phone’s shadow. Overall I am impressed. This lens is going to be a lot of fun, if I can remember to use it. 🙂 A bit of moss with a pine cone embedded from beside the trail made a vivid macro still life. iPhone SE 2020 with Sirui 10x macro on the Moment thin case. Stock Camera App on Auto. Processed in Apple Photos.
Eastern Bluebird: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — The other way to get impressive results with the iPhone SE 2020 and the Sirui 400mm mounted on the Moment thin case, is to use 60fps 4K video clips and capture frames after the fact. Since I am still in the experimentation phase with this phone and lens (and case) combination, if the bird cooperates I generally try to shoot some still frames, using ProShot at 1/500th or 1/1000th of a second when shooting hand-held, and then switch to 4K video for a few seconds or more of video. I use Lumafusion on my iPad to select and save frames at the full 4K resolution. It is quicker to just take a screen shot in the built in video player, but then you are limited to the resolution of the screen, and, if you crop at all, to even less pixels. I process the captured frames as I would any image, in Polarr and Apple Photos. The results are never going to equal the output from my Sony Rx10iv, but the more I play with the Sirui 400mm on the iPhone, the potential I discover in it, as a photographic tool.
This is one of my favorite views near home. This pond is right off busy Rt. 9 between here and the Wells Town line. The ice will not hold out long now. I like the contrast of the tree bark, the still expanse of the water (frozen here), and the bright green of the evergreens. I am still experimenting with the Sirui 18mm wide angle lens on the Moment thin case. The trick with the Sirui is that it has to be exactly centered over the phone camera lens to give good results…but when it is perfectly centered it is very fine indeed. The Moment case does the job of centering the lens every time, so there are no unpleasant surprises when you review the photos for the day. So much so that I am going to have to stop saying I am “experimenting” with the lens. The Sirui 18 has become part of my regular photo kit. Why not? It is super easy to carry, I have always enjoyed the 18mm perspective, and the results are fine. 🙂 Sirui 18mm add on lens, Moment thin case, iPhone SE 2020, standard camera app auto. ISO 20.
Eastern Bluebird: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — Someone said, and I read it somewhere, one time, a long time ago… “It is not that the elephant dances well, it is that the elephant dances at all.” I thought it was Mark Twain, but I can not find the reference using Google this morning…in fact I can not find the quotation at all…and I am beginning to think I may have made it up. 🙂 This photo brings the quotation to mind. It might not be all that great, as photos of bluebirds go. I certainly have much better ones. But then, when you consider that it was taken with an iPhone SE 2020, it is actually kind of amazing. I keep practicing with the iPhone and the Sirui 400mm lens mounted on the Moment thin case, and I am getting better. Of course holding the phone and lens steady enough for a decent photo is the hard part. It helps to use an app like ProShot, which allows you to create custom presets with higher shutter speeds. This shot was at 1/500 of a second, with auto ISO for correct exposure (ISO 50). I have also been experimenting with a “camera grip” on the phone. It is just a plastic clamp thing with a grip like small camera, and a bluetooth shutter button on the top right under your trigger finger. It makes phone photography much more comfortable and increases your chances of holding the phone still enough. There are a few on Amazon…variations on the design. I bought this one because it has the cold shoe for mounting a mic or light. The bluetooth release is a little finicky, but when it is working, it makes the phone very “camera like”. And it makes shots like this one with the Sirui 400mm possible at 1/500th, hand held. So you see, the elephant can dance.
A found still-live: a cluster of oak leaves still clinging on here on the cusp of spring in Southern Maine…as Oak leaves will do wherever they are found. iPhone SE 2020 with Sirui 60mm portrait lens on the Moment thin case. Standard Apple Camera app with 2x digital zoom. I am liking this combination. I have added a bluetooth grip to the phone setup for field work…it provides the kind of wrap around grip any camera user is used to, and has a bluetooth shutter release that falls right where it should, under your trigger finger.
The atmosphere yesterday must have been ideal for the formation of contrails. This was taken from our local beach at the mouth of the Mousam River, and all those contrails point to Portland, Maine, away there, not so far, over the horizon. I know some landscape photographers hate contrails, and I know all about the chemtrails conspiracy theory (or as much as I want to know…I got educated by (or at least “due to”) folks who commented on past contrail containing landscapes). But sometimes the “flaws” in a photo are actually what the photo is about. Case in point. iPhone SE with Sirui 18mm wide angle lens. Standard Apple Camera app. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
Still experimenting with my iPhone SE 2020 and the Sirui add on lenses on the Moment thin case. This shot is a frame from a 4K video, and, given the limits of the phone camera, I think it shows promise. I had the phone on my selfie stand on the deck with the Sirui 400mm lens prefocused on the meal worm dish and again, I was inside with the bluetooth remote. The frame was captured from the video at full 4K resolution using the Lumafusion app on my iPad, and then processed as I would a normal image, in Polarr and Apple Photos. This might be as good as the iPhone SE can do. I have a photo grip for the phone arriving today…just a little hand grip with a bluetooth trigger that fits one the end of the phone, so my next experiment will be to see if I can get anything at all from a hand-held 4K video. 🙂 The video is too large for upload to WordPress, but I will post it on FaceBook. I have been digging into Phone camera reviews, and, while there are certainly better phone cameras out there than the one in the iPhone SE, it looks to me like the limits I am seeing in the telephoto images are not going to be eliminated by investing in a “better phone”. The reality is the sensors are just so tiny, that they reach their limits for nature work, especially wildlife, very quickly. Still, it is amazing to be able to get anything at all at 400mm with a phone. 🙂
I set up the chair blind in the back yard yesterday, just to begin the process of getting the birds used to it. I took the iPhone SE 2020 out with me with the Sirui 400mm lens attached to the Moment thin case, and mounted it on a selfie-stand I bought for videos. The stand is handy because it has three broad based feet and then a pole that can put the phone at be any height from 2.5 feet to close to 6 feet. It is just right for working inside the chair blind. I had the phone focused on the meal worm feeder, which was the most active, and was using the bluetooth remote that came with the Sirui lens to shot a burst of photos when a bird would show up. I was hoping, of course, for my first telephoto shots NOT taken through the double glazed glass of our back deck door. As I was sitting there though, getting colder and colder in the mid 30 degree weather, shivering in the shade of the chair blind, it suddenly occurred to me that I could put the phone and lens on its stand outside the back deck door, so there would be no glass between it and the feeders, and I could be inside with the remote, staying warm. Best of both worlds.
So I sat at the kitchen table, doodling around on the iPad, and playing a few tunes on my low whistle and bowed psaltery, sipping coffee, as I kept my eye on the meal worm feeder and shot off bursts when a bird come in. Very enjoyable.
I am still experimenting with different camera apps for the telephoto shots, as a higher shutter speed than the built in Apple Camera App is likely to choose is required, even with the camera on a stand…since the birds do not stay still for long. I took some shots with the ProShot app, which allows you to specify the shutter speed while the camera choses the ISO (you can also set an upper limit on the ISO, but the lowest setting is 400, which is not much of a limit in any kind of light at all). I set the shutter speed to 1/000th. The Chickadee above is with ProShot, at ISO 40, just twice the base 20 ISO, and you can already see that the sensor is straining. I also tried the Action mode on Camera +2, but that chooses a shutter speed in the 1/3000th to 1/6000th range and pushes the ISO up to 125 or more. ISO 125 on the tiny sensor of the iPhone SE provides considerably worse image quality I get at ISO 6400 on my Sony Rx10iv with its 1 inch sensor, and very likely worse than you would get at ISO 125000 on a full frame sensor. So not good.
This is another ProShot image of a Bluebird.
My next step is to use this setup to shoot 4K video, both for the video itself, and to see what a 4K frame looks like as a still photo. Maybe today. 🙂