Shoot for the stars

Last night was supposed to be the height of this year’s Perseids meteor shower, so I headed out again to try and get some photos.

This time, I actually played around with the manual settings on my phone’s camera a bit, so I will include that information the photos in the captions, for those who are interested. I resized the following photos by 50%, but the images are otherwise untouched.

Exposure time: 13 seconds
ISO 1600

This time, I headed straight to the old garden area, which is the darkest areas that is close to the house. As before, I had my phone on a GorillaPod and used voice commands to take the photos after positioning it.

In the above photo, you can see I caught a meteor on the bottom left. I did not actually catch many meteors in photos, and while I did see (but missed getting a photo of) one really bright meteor, followed by a flash when it hit the atmosphere, I didn’t actually see most of the meteors I managed to catch during the long exposures!

I think I may have simply gone out too early in the night, and it may have still been a bit too bright.

Exposure time: 20 seconds
ISO 1600

In the above photo, you can see some clouds, looking like a smudge on the bottom right. They were so thin and sparse, we could not actually see them ourselves.

Exposure time: 20 seconds
ISO 1600

After taking a few shots with the phone on the ground (and being tackled by a Potato Beetle, desperate for attention!), I ended up using the top of the straw bale as a surface.

This was good enough for Potato Beetle, too. After sniffing the phone, he laid down nearby and kept me company.

Much nicer than him jumping half way up me, and hanging on with his claws… 😮

Exposure time: 30 seconds
ISO 3200

While I was taking photos with my phone’s camera, my daughters came out with the DSLR on the tripod to give it a try.

I haven’t uploaded the card yet, but my daughter was very frustrated. Even at 30 seconds exposure time, the camera preview showed nothing but black. While it may not have been as light as the above 30 second exposure shot, it still shouldn’t have been black!

Exposure time: 30 seconds
ISO 1600

I just love how the Milky Way shows up. Especially in contrast with the trees.

Exposure time: 30 seconds
ISO 1600

One of the frustrating things about trying to take the photos is how many of them ended up being out of focus. The camera was on auto focus, so I finally switched that to manual. There is a sliding bar between a flower (macro) and mountain (landscape) icons. I set it as far as it would go towards landscape, but for some reason, the bar would adjust itself just short of that, on its own. I’d take a good picture, then the next one would be out of focus and, invariably, I would find the manual focus had changed on its own.

Exposure time: 30 seconds
ISO 1600

It took me many tries, but I finally got one where the Big Dipper could be clearly seen!

Exposure time: 30 seconds
ISO 1600

Before heading into the house, I couldn’t resist taking a few more photos from the East yard – and caught another meteor! 🙂

Hmm. Interesting. I selected what I thought were among the best photos from the many I took last night, and they all ended up having almost exactly the same properties. I know I adjusted the F stop, as well as trying out different ISO and exposure times. I guess f/1.5 and ISO 1600 for 30 seconds simply gave the best results!

It’s a pain in the butt using manual settings on a smart phone. Especially with how I have the GorillaPod set up so it lies almost parallel to the ground, resulting in a Pod leg blocking the part of the screen the adjustments are made. It is, however, worth it. I am so happy with how these photos turned out!

The Re-Farmer

Starry sky

I headed out last night to brush spider webs away from the garage security camera. The infrared flash was reflecting off a single strand of web, but it was enough to completely mess with what could be seen!

That and seeing a spider go by on it is a bit alarming. 😀

Which is why I happened to be out to notice the incredible number of stars that were visible.

Time to break out the Gorilla pod and see what I could capture with the camera on my phone!

Now, I will admit off the top that I have only the vaguest understanding of the manual settings on cameras. I’ve had them explained to me often enough. The problem is that when I try to adjust things, what I get is often the opposite of what I’m supposed to get.

Very frustrating.

So what I ended up doing with my phone’s camera is just adjusting settings and trying them out until I find something that works.

Then I don’t touch them again.

To get these pictures, I set up the Gorilla pod’s legs to hold the camera almost parallel to the ground, and a couple of inches above. I can then step back and use voice commands to take the actual photo.

The first pictures that worked were taken in the inner yard.

Aside from resizing the images to 50%, these photos are straight out of the camera.

The above is the first picture I took that worked.

Can you see the shooting star? Quite a few pictures had them. Most of which I missed seeing while the photo was being taken.

Though I made sure to set up in the shadows of trees, the yard light does actually affect the outcome, as you can really see in this next one.

The camera may have been in shadow, but the tops of these trees were partially lit up by the yard light, so they look SO much brighter!

I’m so happy with how the Milky Way shows!

For the next couple of photos, I’d moved into the outer yard to the mowed area in front of the storage building. This put the pump shack between me and the yard light.

No adjustments made to the settings, and the images are much, much darker, just from the yard light being blocked by a building.

So many more stars are visible with the long exposure, that it’s actually harder to make out constellations. In the above photo, you can just make out the handle of the Big Dipper, near the bottom.

In some of these photos, there were blades of grass visible in the frame. This one just has some seed heads waving around on one side.

Such an incredible view!

I am so happy I was able to get these photos.

I love technology.

The Re-Farmer


We had a full moon last night and I went out to experiment with some long exposure shots using my phone’s camera.

I have a mini Gorilla Pod that I bought before the move, but haven’t had a chance to use other than testing it when I first bought it. I was able to use it to attach my phone to our driveway gate for a few shots, then at one of the wagon wheels on the fence beside the gate for a few more.

First, my favourite of the bunch.

This was taken from the wagon wheel beside the gate, using the manual setting on the camera. To be honest, I can barely see the numbers on the screen, so I was really winging it when adjusting the settings. For this one, it was taken using f/1.5, 4 second exposure, ISO-50.

This one was taken just a few minutes earlier, from the gate.

It’s a terrible picture, but it demonstrates just how much colour and brightness a long exposure can capture, even in the dead of night!

f/1.5, 30 second exposure, ISO-3200.

While I was taking shots at the gate, I flipped the camera and took a shot of the sky. So this next photo was taken in the exact same location as the bright photo above; just pointing the camera lens straight up.

I was really surprised by how blue the sky turned out! Other pictures I tried later, with longer exposures, from further down the driveway had a black sky. Possibly because this area was much brighter from the full moon?

f/1.5, 10 second exposure, ISO-1600

I’m rather liking this little Gorilla Pod I have! One of these days, I’ll even be able to use it for the purpose I bought it – once I reclaim my crafting table. :-/

The Re-Farmer

Starry Night

I went outside late last night, and ended up staying out longer to enjoy the incredible view!

Even with the yard light on (we can’t turn it off since the power company replaced the original), the stars were bright enough that I could see the Milky Way!

Then I went out again later, with my daughters, to ogle the sky.

My husband gave me his new phone not long ago, to replace mine with the cracked corner, and I had yet to try night shots with it. I put it on manual and basically guessed at the settings I was changing – I could barely see the numbers, never mind read them. After fiddling with the settings, I would lay the phone down on the ground, then use voice commands to take a picture.

Then I’d fuss with the settings a bit more, set it on the ground and try again. Eventually, I figured out how to do a long exposure shot – and recognize the sounds the phone made, so I wouldn’t accidentally pick it up again, before the exposure was complete. 😀

This is one of the results.

The only thing I’ve done to this image is resize it.

I’m really amazed at the shots I was able to get with just a cell phone!!!

The Re-Farmer

Lilacs and Lenses

A bit of an experiment for the day.

Most of the photos I take are done with my phone’s camera; for the most part, I leave the DSLR on the tripod at the living room window, with our 70-300mm lens on it, to take pictures of the deer and birds.  Things are quiet out there this time of year, so it’s been sitting idle.

This morning, I decided to grab it and get some flower photos. I put on an 18-55mm lens, then took a few more shots with the 70-300mm lens back on.

Much to my surprise, there is quite a noticeable difference in the pictures, with the big lens looking much better.  Part of the surprise is that, with the big lens, I had to step quite far back from the subject, just for the camera to be able to focus (another time, I’ll break out the macro lens).  My hands tend to shake, which can really affect photos taken with a bigger lens.  So I fully expected the photos with the smaller lens to be clearer.

Here is a comparison.  Aside from resizing the photos and adding the text and frame, they are untouched.  No post processing.

This one was taken with the 18-55mm lens.


It’s certainly a pretty photo (that lilac tree is just a mass of flowers right now!).  I would have preferred crisper focus; that softness was not deliberate, but the result of my hand shake.  Still, the softness is nice, too.

Here is the one taken with the 70-300mm lens.


The focal points are much sharper.  Even though I had to stand further back and zoom in more to get photos, it was unaffected by my hand shake.  The 70-300mm is a newer, faster, lens than the 18-55mm that we have.

I’m happy with both, but it was interesting to see the differences.

The Re-Farmer

For the Birds

Alas, no deer photos today.  None dared go past the snowman to get to the feed.

The birds, on the other hand, had no such issues.

I played around with the preset settings on the camera today and found that the landscape setting seems to address a problem I’ve had with some photos I’ve attempted.

Getting images of the birds when they are sitting in the lilac bush.


This redpoll is on a branch that broke from the weight of our recent snowfall.  It is at the far side of the bush from our window, so there are twigs and tall grass in the way.  It’s pretty rare for the birds to perch somewhere that doesn’t have twigs or branches in the way of a clear shot. The camera will keep trying to focus on the things in front, and in the time it takes me to get it to focus past them, the birds are usually gone.  But on this setting, it seemed to ignore the things in the foreground and focus on the larger objects behind them.

I’m still at a loss about the purple that is in the photo.  It’s there in the original, unadjusted image.  When I lighten the images for these posts, it brings the purple out just like any other colour in the image.

It’s not in all of them, though.


This is actually the first photo I took today.  The bluejay is perched lower down on the broken branch.  You can see the shadows of twigs in between the camera and the blue jay.

No purple in sight!

Any camera people who can explain it to me?

I also got a nice shot of a blue jay in the sun.

Oh, those colours!

I think I could happily paint the entire house in that blue on its head, neck and shoulders.

Hopefully, tomorrow, the deer will be brave enough to emerge from the trees and I’ll be able to get some photos of them, too.

The Re-Farmer

Blue Jay Antics

I had a blast getting pictures of the blue jays today!  They were dashing in and out of the trees and to the seeds so fast, it was a real challenge.  Many of the photos didn’t work out at all because of that.  More than a few times, by the time I took the shot, the bird was already gone, and I was left with a picture of a pile of seeds! 😀

These photos were taken before the snow completely covered the seeds, and I fiddled around with the settings on the camera part way through, to try and better capture flight images.  Unfortunately, one of the down sides of using the zoom lens is that it makes for darker photos.  Between the two, I had to do a fair bit of lightening of the images.  Hardly the best photography, but they were fun to take!


I just love that little head tilt!


Out of focus, but gosh, I love this one!


It wasn’t until I cropped and lightened the photo that I could finally see what was really going on here – that blue jay in front plowed right into the soft snow at landing!


It then immediately turned and hopped the other way, again, sinking into the snow on landing!

The other bird seems to have a “this guy is nuts” expression going. 😀


Another poor photo, as far as image quality goes, but I think it’s my favourite of the bunch.  Just look at those wing feathers!

The Re-Farmer

And now for something more pleasant

Critter pictures.  Great for de-stressing.

I didn’t get any photos of deer today.  In fact, the only time I saw them was when I scared them off, returning from one of my outings today.  I just caught the sight of a flashing white tail, disappearing around the house.

My husband sees them more, when the pain has him up much earlier in the day.  At the very least, he saw Hungry Girl and Barbecue come by.  Not sure if it was them I chased off, or Mama and the twins, later on.  None came back while I was at home.

Here are some of the photos of other critters I got today.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

I haven’t been able to get many photos of the squirrels, but I got a couple of good ones today.

Red Squirrel and Chickadee

Bombs away!

Not the best of photos, quality wise, but catching the chickadee looking like like that is pure gold!

Female Redpoll

Female Redpoll

I love how the little birds are so light, they can sit on the very top of twigs and seed pods.

Male Redpoll

Male Redpoll

Focusing past the twigs is always a challenge.

I’m not sure why that purple is there, on the twigs.  It’s in the raw image, and not a side effect of post processing.

Any camera techies that can explain it to me?

The Re-Farmer



Playing with Macro

This morning I realized I’d forgotten to put the battery for my daughter’s Nikon D80 to charge last night.  Since our other D80 is broken, however, we have a spare, so I went digging through the camera bag to find it.

You’d think it would have been an easy find, but it took a while. 😀

In the process, I was noticing some of our other lenses, including one of my old favourites, a Tamron macro lens.  It’s been a long time since I’ve used it.  My younger daughter’s orchids happen to both be blooming right now, so I figured I’d give it a shot! (pun fully intended)

I moved the plants to a well lit location in the kitchen, which meant no tripod space.  I promptly was reminded of just how vital a tripod is for me these days.  My hands shake so much!  Normally, it’s not an issue, but as soon as I start using them in certain ways that involve even minor strain to my hands, I just can’t keep them still.  It’s why I don’t draw anymore, because I can’t hold pencil to paper to do the detailed work I used to.

Of the various shots I took, here are two of them.  These images are resized to 30% only; I have done no adjusting for lighting or anything like that.  To they’re pretty much raw from the camera.

pink orchid

This tiny orchid was harder to shoot than the bigger one.  I’m happy with how this photo turned out, and one or two others, but none of the photos are anywhere near as crisp as the lens is capably of, simply because of the shake.

Love that depth of field, though!

The pink orchid has only two open flowers right now, with many buds, so I look forward to trying again as more of them open.

white orchid

This larger orchid is in full bloom; I think there’s 10 flowers in it, alternated on the stem.

Again, I got several good photos, but the the focal points are still not as crisp as I know the equipment can do.

Which is not always a bad thing.  There was one photo where nothing was in focus – but the soft focus that resulted was so attractive, I ended up setting it as my background image.

I know I can make up for some of it with my Paint Shop Pro, but I wanted to post these without any adjustments, just as an example.

We used to do so much photography, back when we were all able bodied and youthful! 😀  We used to go hiking for hours in the ravine near where we lived and take hundreds of photos.  It was a rare day that went by that didn’t involve at least a few photos.  My husband was especially keen on photography, and quite good at it.

I think, now that we have moved out here, I will be able to take it up again.  I even have a monopod I can take with me, to help with the shake.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some more pain control for my husband and he’ll be able to get back into it more, too.

The Re-Farmer


Well, crap.

Yesterday, a few more photos were taken, so this morning I uploaded the last of the pictures on the camera.  As typical, I removed the old photos from the card completely, so that it would go back into the camera with maximum space on it.

As I was transferring the files, I got a pop up.  Did I want to replace files?

Sure, I thought. This typically means I’ve already uploaded some photos and didn’t want duplicates, so I usually just let it override the old files, so there are no duplicates.

I forgot two things.

One, I was uploading files from the camera card, not my phone, which I copy from, not remove completely.  So it’s not unusual for me to accidentally overlap and grab images I’d already uploaded.

Two, my daughter had her camera set to restart files from 001 on an empty card.

Normally, it wouldn’t have been an issue, because I organize my photos in folders by date, but these were photos from yesterday, and they went into yesterday’s folder.

I didn’t realize it until I went to review the photos, but I overwrote the first dozen or so images I’d uploaded previously.


Now, most of those first photos were the ones where I was using the 18-55mm lens, then switching the settings around, so they weren’t good photos to begin with.  The “ghost bird” photo was the very first one I took, so I do have the modified version of that one (cropped and resized for the blog).  But the rest are gone.

The settings have now been changed.  It won’t happen again!



Here are some photos from yesterday.


Downy woodpecker

My daughter got this one for me.  The downy woodpecker decided to check out the seeds. 🙂


White Tail Deer

You see this?  THIS is why I asked to borrow my daughter’s camera.  There is no way I could have gotten this shot of Hungry Girl without that 70-300mm lens!  No amount of zooming in with my phone camera could have gotten this photo, even though she was so close to the house.


Barbecue, meanwhile, was even farther away, but I could still get a wonderful shot of him eating.

Even resized to 30% (my usual resizing on the DSLR photos; my phone camera photos get resized to 25%), you can see those little lips and that tongue, picking up seeds.

Details like that are why I love taking so many photos.  Once they are on the computer, I can see so much more than I could, looking out the window.  Those little details, frozen in time.

I love technology.

The Re-Farmer