Sunday, November 27, 2016

Study of white-throated sparrow ...

... with my new Panasonic Lumix FZ300.  This past Thanksgiving week I went to Baltimore to visit friends not seen in over a year and a half and I took my new camera.  I spent more time with my friends than I did with my camera so still have a lot of work to do to be comfortable with the FZ300.  I did manage a couple of 4K burst images, but believe it or not, I still need to get comfortable with single shot shooting!

The FZ300 is a major upgrade, both technically and operationally, from the FZ200 which I have been using for the past 4 years.  I haven't been able to put the FZ300 in my hands and just take photos, so I guess this is also an amateur/novice review of the camera.  The reviews on Amazon and elsewhere make it seem simple.  I'll admit to some anxiety when I first worked with the camera where I thought I might need to return it.  But, in truth, all technology is becoming more complex - from my hospital's EMR (truly a Rube Goldberg machine) to our phones and cameras.  Many understand these things intuitively, but for me it's all becoming less and less intuitive.  The issue is time (in my case lack of time) to learn.  Realistically, if I want to continue to take photos and blog, returning the FZ300 is not an option.     

All of the photos included here are single shot photo attempts. Comments about 4K burst shooting are at the end.  Most photos have been cropped, but no other enhancements were made.  Even single shot shooting seems different from the FZ200.  Clearly the above photo is a mistake, but I liked the effect.  I think it may have occurred when I was trying to switch to 4K burst to take photos of the young fox trotting along the edge of the road.  The first 10 photos in this blog were taken on the empty campus of Loyola University in northern Baltimore city. This area is a very nice part of the city with large properties and mature landscaping and small to medium woodlots.  Perfect for an urban red fox (Vulpes vulpes).

Unfortunately, when the photo is enlarged it is apparent that the little fox has mange on the bridge of its nose and around its eyes - surely just one of many perils for an urban fox.  Cute little thing.  Red fox is one of my favorite mammals.

Why a photo shoot of white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis)? White-throated sparrow is the wintertime sparrow of Baltimore.  A very large number of our northern breeding white-throated sparrows end up in Maryland.  In some areas, as where I was visiting, I believe they even outnumber house sparrows.  Kinda nice.  As an added bonus they occasionally T-up nicely for photos as did the bird above and in the six photos below.

The lighting is bright and clear and I am working with a cooperative bird.  

My initial challenge with these photos was getting the bird in focus.  A bird perched on an open branch should be easy right?  I am finding that focusing takes a little extra work with the FZ300.

The thing I like about these photos is the feather detailing that can be seen.  The FZ300, as with a myriad of other such cameras, is in the point-and-shoot class and the shots are not going to be as detailed or sharp as those taken with a DSLR.  Nevertheless, I am pleased with the detail and overall sharpness of these shots.  I was not right on top of this bird.  I was using the zoom and these photos seem better overall than with my FZ200.  This is a 12.1 megapixel camera - as is the FZ200 - the same as the new iPhone!

I don't think I cropped the photo above with house sparrows on the feeder.  I include it here for all the activity captured.

On a Thanksgiving morning walk around the beautiful Baltimore neighborhood of Guilford, we came across this autumn blooming white iris.  Just one of the many very nice things about Baltimore, and the mid-Atlantic region in general, is its often beautiful late fall weather.

Above and below are a series of photos that were taken in overcast lighting conditions.  The photo above is an example of the focusing challenges I am having.

Improved slightly above.

Still not great, but lighting also much poorer.

Yet, above and below, in the leaves where it's not clear what should be in focus - not too bad.  I think I got lucky with these.  No quick moving bird in Panama or Costa Rica is going to sit around and wait for me to get the focus right.  If this were my blue-crowned manakin or provost's ground-sparrow I would be thrilled.

Above and two below, another poser in overcast but clear light.

Major miss - red-bellied woodpecker taking off from the arm of an adirondack chair.

Above and below, a first year bird perched in the low branches of a bush.

A real camera review would include aperture settings and operational features for each photo.  I may add more later, but this is a blog and it's mostly just the photo quality that readers are interested in.  All are JPEG photos taken in P mode automatic settings.

The FZ300 has some heft to it.  Definitely bulkier and heavier than the FZ200, but still very comfortable in my hands.  It is also dust and moisture proof - can't be dunked in water, but can withstand a little rain - definitely a desirable feature for me.

I have some 4K burst shots of the little fox to work with and I'll try to do another post with these.  In the meantime, I found a particularly helpful YouTube video by Marlene Hielema of ImageMaven offering 4K burst instruction.   Of the several I watched, I thought this was the best. In fact, I found The Image Maven blog to be excellent and linked it to my favorite websites.  Lots of learning needs lots of teaching.

Finally, for anyone who reads this thing all the way to the end (ha ha), Dorian Anderson of Biking for Birds fame and now writing The Speckled Hatchback blog, offered an excellent review of bird photography using his own photos at the request of a company working on a new design of camera.  Dorian Anderson certainly does not use a point-and-shoot, but he offers excellent insights into bird photography regardless of kind of camera used.  If interested read his 11/17/16 Post #82 - By request, how has my photography changed over time?  Long with lots of photos! here.

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