Sunny Day and an Old Lens

I’m patiently awaiting for the return of my beloved long zoom. There is never really a good time to be without a favorite lens, but I’ve been making due with an old Vivitar manual lens from 1978. I wrote about taking out this old piece of kit in desperation here.

Today I had a chance to take the relic out in almost perfect conditions. It was a sunny 50 degrees and the birds were dropping in and out of range – on my last post the images had a softness that is not typical of modern glass, they looked almost “film-like”. Today, that old bit of kit was singing. I started shooting some black and white film with it and late in the day I managed to make a few captures.

Today my favorite northern cardinal was not even considering stopping by the feeders. I spotted him in the crepe myrtle bush…

20130224-185418.jpgOf course he thew me that Johnny Bravo stare – snob…

20130224-185530.jpgI experimented with aperture settings and he looked away…

20130224-185546.jpgOne thing about focussing manually, I can focus on the bird in spite of the limbs in the way.

Back at the feeders, I got a clear shot of a pine warbler in the late afternoon sun…

20130224-185634.jpgOne key to using old glass is finding a subject that is going to stick around, and this guy was serious about feeding, not flitting…

20130224-185653.jpgLive view does give you the ability to see what the changes in aperture and shutter speed will do, so it’s not exactly like shooting a film camera from the era…

20130224-185713.jpgI love how the sun rests on the shoulders of this warbler, he has become a regular visitor and he has even brought his girlfriend to check things out too. I hope they decide to stay.

After shooting this lens on a sunny day, I have decided its a keeper! I wouldn’t choose it over my modern lens in most situations, but shooting it on my modern camera gave me to confidence to try to capture birds with it on a film camera this weekend. It’s a good bit of kit.

Iced In & Improvising

Sometimes you just have to improvise.

This week I had to give in and mail my beloved bird lens back to the manufacturer for repair. I considered renting one for a couple of weeks but decided that I should just try some close shooting, that this was the best time to mail it off. I could make due and try other things, at least it would be in good condition for springtime.

Wednesday we had a weather event, an ice storm. Someone online called it “slain” – a mix of sleet, hail, and freezing rain – it created about an inch of ice at my place infused with these marble sized beads.

20130222-162529.jpgThe woods were like a layer of ice, topped with hail, and dusted with leaves from the winds.

20130222-173704.jpg

I was prepared for the storm. I made room in the garage for the Jeep, I made chicken and noodles and I stacked about a rick of firewood inside the living room. I had my Carharts out and was ready for whatever came my way. By midnight there was thunder, lightning, sleet, and hail – all at once – the sound on my metal roof was unlike anything I have ever heard. I stoked the fire and planned on working from home the next day as long as I had power.

In the morning I let the dogs out and saw the crazy frozen hail soup on every horizontal surface and noticed that the bird population had soared. They came in waves, about 30 minutes before more ice and sleet. Lots of singing and calling and ravenous eating. Here was a bird bonanza and I was going to miss it – my bird lens was somewhere in Texas on a FedEx truck.

I ran outside with my macro lens and shot the hail shot above, but thought that I was just going to have to sit this bonanza out…until I remembered an old piece of glass sitting in a box in my studio. It was a Vivitar 90-230mm zoom – manual focus. I bought it from a friend who was clearing out some of his dad’s photo equipment. I bought some nice glass from him, but this was in the not-so-nice category. I had seen this same lens on eBay for as low as $29 – not much to write home about, but it was a zoom. I had never attempted to shoot any wildlife without any autofocus or image stabilization, but with those birds out there in those numbers I just had to try.

I found that the birds were having to do a bit of improvising of their own…

20130222-165734.jpgSometimes you have to risk a falling icicle for a good meal…

20130222-165815.jpgSometimes an empty feeder can still be a shelter from the storm…

20130222-165839.jpgSometimes you have to try new things…

20130222-165937.jpgSometimes when you slide off the tree trunk you need to hang onto a rope…

20130222-170021.jpgSometimes it’s too cold for worms…

20130222-170045.jpgSo you have to try seeds…

20130222-170116.jpgSometimes you have to attack a problem from a different angle…

20130222-170129.jpgSometimes you have to try a new technique…

20130222-170148.jpgSometimes you have to put on your yellow puffy coat…

20130222-170200.jpgAnd sometimes you have to put on your white puffy coat…

20130222-170218.jpgSometimes you have to quit worrying about having your own private table…

20130222-170236.jpgAnd show a little attitude even if you’re eating off the ground…

20130222-170253.jpgSometimes you wish you had warm slippers…

20130222-170311.jpgAnd sometimes you would do better with ice skates…

20130222-170350.jpgIs it just me or do her eyebrows look painted on like Lucille Ball’s?

20130222-170405.jpgSometimes you need to walk like a penguin to keep from slipping…

20130222-170418.jpgSometimes you get your balance and stand proud…

20130222-170445.jpgSometimes all you can do is hang on tight even though you are sliding…

20130222-170517.jpgSometimes all you can do is look up…

20130222-170532.jpgAnd up…

20130222-170546.jpgAnd up…

20130222-170601.jpgAnd over…

20130222-170615.jpgSometimes the answer is just below the surface…

20130222-170629.jpgSometimes you just need a place to take cover…

20130222-170645.jpgAfter a storm like this, the best place to be is cozy and at home.

The verdict – focusing was challenging but not impossible. The lens is not as bright as a modern one, but not bad for 35 years old. It has haze inside the lens and that may account for the lack of brightness. The pictures are sharper than I thought they would be, but there is a grainy quality to them, they remind me of film. There is some chromatic aberration – I plan to try some shots in better light this weekend to see if I can get better results.

Tech Specs:
All shots were shot between f4.5-6 / 300-400 / ISO 2000 or lower.