Elsie and Me

Reverse engineering photography, random thoughts and other stuff

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Bringing down the house


An old house on the property where I live is in the process of being demolished. I found it an intriguing subject because of the variation in colors and textures of both the wood and the related paraphernalia — ladder, tarp, scaffolding — as well as the interplay of light and shadow.

I shot this at midday on auto, and Elsie chose a shutter speed of 1/200 and an f-stop of f4.0. In the coming days, I plan to experiment with shooting this same subject at different times of day and with different settings.


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Sunday in the backyard


Elsie and I spent a recent Sunday afternoon in our backyard with the neighbors. I took advantage of the lovely weather to shoot some photos, including this one of the fireplace I share with the good folks downstairs.

I shot this in Auto, and Elsie chose a shutter speed of 1/60 and an f-stop of f4.5. I think she made an excellent choice.

Stay tuned for more photos from this scenic afternoon on the Hudson.

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From the archives: Small is beautiful

When I had to give it a name, I called it “lilthingonstem.” It caught my eye — and Elsie’s — because it reminded me of a tiny little crow’s nest.


I used the macro setting and auto mode. Elsie chose a shutter speed of 1/79 and an f-stop of 5.5.

I like this photo a lot, and it’s one I’ve chosen to sell at the company craft fair later this week, as a suitable-for-framing print and on note cards. If you saw it for sale, would you buy it?

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Messing about in manual

I was beginning to think Elsie’s manual mode might be nonfunctional, because I couldn’t get an outdoor shot that wasn’t a blank white frame. Then I cranked the shutter speed all the way to 1/2000 (far as she can go) and got these. The first one was with an f-stop of 8.0, the second with 4.0.



But when I shot the river in apterture priority mode earlier today, setting the f-stop at 8.0, Elsie chose a shutter speed of 1/1000. Go figure.


Yes, these are different riverscapes (same river though) and different focal lengths and times of day, But I got that same white screen of death at both sites/times, until I cranked up the shutter speed.

Have also been messing with the manual focus mode a little, but it’s really hard to see in bright sunlight. I need to experiment with it more in lower-light situations.

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I sprayed. I prayed. I got this.


“Spray and pray.” That’s an insulting term that some professional photographers use to describe the “fauxtographer”* method of taking a whole bunch of shots and praying that a few come out.

I don’t take offense at it because I’m not a fauxtographer (more on that below), and because the technique works for me when I’m taking action shots. When I shoot morris dancing, I use Elsie’s “sports” setting (she also has a “kids and pets” setting for the same purpose — capturing moving subjects) and continuous shooting mode.

I took dozens of shots using sports setting/continuous mode at this particular morris event. This is my favorite. It’s not a great shot, because the dancers could be in sharper focus, and there’s distracting stuff in the background, but … airborne! I just love capturing morris dancers in the air.

Elsie chose an f-stop of 4.0 and a shutter speed of 1/160 for the above. When I go to this event again this summer, I hope to have a better handle on settings and get even better airborne shots.

*Re “fauxtographer”: It’s generally used to describe folks who get their hands on that first “fancy” camera (often an entry-level consumer DSLR) and decide they’re ready to go into business, offering their services as a portrait or (the horror!) wedding photographer without knowing even the basics of technique. They tend to charge peanuts and send the wrong message to potential clients, who think, “Why should I pay Skilled Professional $3,000 to shoot my wedding/senior/baby pictures when Fanny Fauxtog can do it for $100?” Short answer: Fanny’s work sucks.

I don’t consider myself a fauxtog because I’m not in business. I’m just an amateur with a point-and-shoot who occasionally gets lucky. I do have some of my “lucky” prints available for sale in a friend’s gallery space and my company’s craft fairs, but that’s about it. I’ve sold all of two!

You can read more on the “fauxtog” phenomenon here and here.

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Happy barrels!



Could you keep smiling if you had to sit outside all winter with a big, heavy piece of wooden dock on your head? I’ve been wanting to photograph my landlord’s dock barrels since I first noticed their happy little faces.

I shot them both using Elsie’s portrait setting. The first was shot without zoom and then cropped. I used zoom for the second one and did only minimal croppage. For the first one, Elsie chose an f-stop of 2.6 and shutter speed of 1/250. For the second, she chose 4.5 and 1/60.

I like the first one better, because the detail in the second one kind of ruins the happy face effect. What do you think?