Saturday, October 17, 2009

Falling off and John A's pictures

My friend John A visited today. I'd given him a camera for his birthday a couple months ago, and today we viewed his pictures on my 30-inch screen. This was quite a revelation for him, he told me, seeing them on such a big and sharp monitor not only showed what great quality his pocketcamera really delivers (I still get impressed by the little Canons especially), but also showed that he'd achieved what he'd been intending when he took the pictures.
Also we sometimes saw things he had not noticed when he took the picture, and which you needed a big screen (or print) to really notice, for example on a very good picture (see below, the picture with the train), three people very far off, but perfectly placed under a bridge. A really nice detail.

John and I talked about how different people react to jokes, some not getting them sometimes, or even getting offended. John said he talked to people about how he'd once been hurt in a bicycle accident, and recently he fell off a mountain (the guy is fifteen years older than me, but has more energy it seems) and dislocated a shoulder. So now, he tells people, he is done with highly active activities where there's a danger of falling off. "Like bicycling or mountaineering. And sex is right out!"
Believe it or not, it seems many don't get it or laugh.

Here's some of his recent pictures. I think he has a great eye for composition*, what do you think? (I'm trying to get him to start a page on Flickr or Picasa or something.)

* I did not have to crop a millimeter of any of them to fine-tune the compositions, that's not something you see often.

Below is a detail from the train picture mentioned (and shown) above:

Theories on how you get babies Updated

To protect the identity of the person who sent me this gravely offensive joke, I won't give his name, but he's a doctor in Lebanon.

One afternoon a little girl returned from school, and announced that her friend had told her where babies come from.
Amused, her mother replied: "Really, sweetie, why don't you tell me all about it?"
The little girl explained, "Well ... OK... the Mummy and Daddy take off all of their clothes, and the daddy's thingy sort of stands up, and then mummy puts it in her mouth, and then it sort of explodes, and that's how you get babies."
Her mom shook her head and said, "Oh, darling, that's sweet, but that's not how you get babies... That's how you get jewelery!"

Little Susie goes home from school and tells her mum that the boys keep asking her to do cartwheels, and is it because she's very good at them?

Mum said: "YOU should say NO - they only want to look at your undies".

Susie said: "I know they do, that's why I hide them in my backpack"!

Friday, October 16, 2009



... By the way, it's sometimes a matter of seeing what a picture might become. Below is the top picture as it looks straight off the camera.

Blur on the 20mm (updated)

Just trying out some artiness with background blur on that 20mm lens I'm all about this week.
Normally you don't use a smallish sensor camera for good background blur (the GF1 as a Micro Four Thirds camera is in-between DSLR cameras and compacts with regards to this), but with a fast lens, you can get some if you try.

This lens has a pretty nice "bokeh", which is a fancy (japanese) word for the qualities of out-of-focus blur in photos. Some lenses (particularly zooms) gives it hard edges which is normally less aesthetic than smooth, soft blur.

Chris S said:

While the bokeh does look ok here it certainly doesn't get into the kind of creamy niceness you can get with a 70-200/2.8. It's hard to get anything at small focal lengths in the best of lenses. What aperture were these shot at? f/1.7? An improvement over a P&S I guess.

You're right, for really soft background, one needs a bigger format and preferably longer focal lengths.

Again, the MFT format is in-between in this aspect too. (Yes, this was F:1.7.)

"Were ya on yer belly for that grass shot"

Nope, that's one of the good things about live screen cams over DSLRs.

(Especially if the screen is hinged.) (Which it isn't on the GF1, sadly, maybe my only real misgiving about it.)

Yes, many new DSLRs have live screens too, but sadly their autofocus is *very* slow in this mode. So far Panasonic is the only company to have out cameras with live-screen autofocus which is pretty speedy.

Knaked Knitting (updated)

The Naked Knitting calendar is out. A cancer support project done by friends and friends of friends.
I haven't found any sample pictures online, I'm inquiring about that. You don't sell so much of what people can't see!

Update: a response with a few samples.

Update 2:
Laurie said:
I was indeed the photographer. Have a look at their blog,
We we're featured on the local TV show and they have a YouTube clip.

Born To Die In Berlin

I thought this was a Nina Hagen original, but now I see it's actually a Ramones song. Their original version is here.
But I feel Nina's version is far superior. She not only added valuably to the lyrics, she gave the song an actual melody.

Admittedly, you will have to search long to find more bleak lyrics than these...
But fucking hell, what a great song when Nina sings it! (I hope you can open and play this file, I don't recall if it's one of the rights-protected files or not.) Update: there's some indication not everybody can play it. Try this file instead.

Junkies, whores and pimps
Devils around my bed
There is no choice and no difference
And no one seems to notice

Sometimes I feel like screaming
Sometimes I feel like I just can't win
Sometimes I feel like I was born
To die in your arm in Berlin

Intoxicated by the orchids
Abandoned in the garden
Demanding morphine for communion
Because my soul was burning

Sometimes I feel like screaming
Sometimes I feel like I just cant win
Sometimes I feel like I was born
To die in your arm in Berlin

Stranded in the sweet windings
Breathing the pale moon silver
Tasting the last drops of life
From a sweet transvestite's lips

Sometimes I feel like screaming
Sometimes I feel like I just can't win
Sometimes I feel like I was born
To die in your arm in Berlin

Panasonic GF1 Field Report (updated)

Panasonic GF1 Field Report, camera review.

It's a good review, and I agree with almost everything he says, with a possible exception: that 1600 ISO is fully usable. Like a commenter here pointed out, you do get a noticable decline in image quality going from 800 to 1600. Rather less detail. Though it can be improved somewhat by slagging through the RAW files procedure, it is not for big prints. Bigger cameras like the Nikon D90 or Canon T1i have much better low light quality. It pretty much follows sensor size, and like I have said, this one is in-between DSLR cameras and compact cameras in that respect. But I do hope next generation of Micro Four Thirds cameras improve this yet another step, that would be kewl.

Oh, by the way, I had not even thought of trying out the video quality until reading this review. He is right, it's excellent. And it could not be easier to use, and both focus and exposure are automatic in real time, very very good.
... It should be said that unlike with the (more expensive) GH1, you are stuck with the built-in microphone, and while the sound quality from that is pretty good, this does limit the camera to amateur use for video. Sound quality has always been a main bottleneck for video quality, you do need an external mic.

Long days on the bitch

The title line, by the way, is a reference to my ole pal Claus. Back in the eighties his English was not so sharp, so during a course/spa stay in Florida he would pleasantly inform people that he intended to "go lie on the bitch".

The prospect of a long day at the beach makes me panic. There is no harder work I can think of than taking myself off to somewhere pleasant, where I am forced to stay for hours and 'have fun'.
-- Phillip Lopate

Funny thing, innit, how that divides people. Me, I'm with Phil. I wonder what type of person loves vacations, and which doesn't.

Big screen scream

[Thanks to Jim.]

Broad satellite broadband

Back just after the millennium, there were at least two attempts at making a low-cost wide-availability satellite broadband network. They said it would be here in about 2004, with prices comparable to ordinary broadband. Did all of that just die away?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Captain's parrot

[Thanks to Tom.]

A magician worked on a cruise ship. The audience was different each week, so the magician did the same tricks over and over again.

One problem: The captain's parrot saw the shows each week and began to understand how the magician did every trick.

Once he understood, he started shouting in the middle of the show: "Look, it's not the same hat!"

"Look, he's hiding the flowers under the table."

"Hey, why are all the cards the ace of spades?"

The magician was furious but couldn't do anything. It was, after all, the captain's parrot. Then the ship sank.

The magician found himself on a piece of wood in the middle of the sea with, as fate would have it, the parrot.

They stared at each other with hatred but did not utter a word. This went on for a day and then another and then another.

Finally on the fourth day, the parrot could not hold back: "OK, I give up. Where's the friggin' ship?"


Funny thing is, my dad told this joke 40 years ago, in a variation. In that version, the parrot always yelled "he's got it up his sleeve, he's got it up his sleeve!" And in the final line it said: "OK, I give up. You lost your shirt. So where's the ship?

Valley tree, October (updated twice)

Here's a couple pictures I took today. (I have more to post later, I think.) I was out in the Valley getting the town's best burger, and walked home. I'd put the compactish GF1 camera in my bag, and good thing too, with all the autumn colors I'd have kicked myself if I hadn't brought a camera.

Panasonic GF1 with 20mm F:1.7. (The combo weighs less than a pound.)
This came out more powerful than I'd dared hope for.
Part of it is that (due to the sky) I used auto-bracketing, and selected a lighter version than the otherwise perfectly serviceable auto setting had chosen. More light in the picture, see.

Here's another pic from today. I liked the funny juxtaposition of this grey environment and those brightly colored bits.

TC [Girl] said:
I really like the contrasts of the brick wall vs. the colors, like you mention (and thanks for including that. That helps a great deal to interpret/confirm what you are trying to show in the picture...for amateurs like myself. :-) The pic looks like a B/W pic...with just those few bits colored in.

Thanks, dear.

It is funny, once I get into "picture mode" I see pictures everywhere. I was just walking home, a bit bushed, so I kept putting the camera in my closed pocket on my thigh (The GF1 with this lens is just small enough for a large pocket), and then I had to take it out again several times on the way. The grey picture was very close to home, well after I'd decided I was burned out creatively for the day.

Nikon D3s, lower light

With the new pro Nikon camera, the D3s, Nikon has kept the 12MP resolution, but raised sensitivity to around 12,000 ISO. I applaud them for this. Personally I think higher resolution than about 12MP is for specialized situations, like really big prints (meter-big), but that we can use more low-light capability for a while yet. Why even in daylight outdoors, on a dull winter day here in Northern Europe, you pretty much need ISO 1600 for shooting with a telezoom (especially if it's not stabilized).

Funny enough, according to survey, 1600 is all most people say they need. I think it's up to what you're used to. It's not long ago that 400 ISO was the highest you could use in good quality, so we are still amazed at good 1600 ISO quality. The philosophical idea behind this, I guess, is that we just a bit more than we are used to, then we think we'll be happy. If we have a new level (of anything), then after a while we are used to it, and want a bit more. (We get used to higher levels faster and easier than lower ones.)

Giant puppets

Giant puppets. Photos. HQ video.

I don't know, there's something about the girl-puppet in the video that I find creepy. And according to the Comments, while I seem to be in the minority, I'm not alone. One commenter said: "nicely taken video of that overly cute girl!" and another said: "Its very impressive, and very creepy."
Maybe it's because they've come just close enough to make it look and move like a human that its striking un-human-ness becomes depressing.

Leonard Cohen - A Thousand Kisses Deep

"Amazon Extends Kindle Beyond United States"

Amazon Extends Kindle Beyond United States, TidBITS article.
"The pricing for newspapers is surprising as well. The New York Times, sold in the United States to Kindle users for $13.99 a month, costs $27.99 here in Europe. Even the International Herald Tribune, which is actually published in France, is more expensive here: $9.99 in the United States compared to $19.99 for Europe.
There's no reason to charge twice as much for European customers; after all, one of the Internet's major advantages is that distance doesn't matter. I thought newspapers were trying to survive, but if the Kindle is their big chance, it looks like they're going to blow it."

No kidding. Even without daily reading, fourteen dollars per month is a reasonable price per month for getting the NYT digitally... but almost thirty dollars? You have to have a good reason for spending that.

Art, fun, and technique

It is not uncommon to hear the argument that automatic-everything cameras take the "real photography" out of the proceedings.

And I can sympathize. It is fun to learn about process. I had a lot of fun with manual-focus cameras and in darkrooms in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. It can sometimes be necessary to know about process, in case the automatic functions don't work perfectly, as is wont to happen.
And not the least, it's irritating to have used hundreds or thousands of hours learning a craft, only to see new generations being able to do the same thing without all that work!

There are many aspects. For example, 90% of the time, when doing walk-around photography, I'm happy to have the camera use Programmed automatic to decide aperture and shutter speed. (Especially with small-sensor compact cameras, where you rarely see a real difference.) But if I want to make a professional-looking portrait with a nicely blurred background, I need the right lens/camera, and I need to know how the aperture works and how to use it to get the effect I want.

Part of the questions are, do we do it for art? For business? Or for fun? And if the latter, what matters most, the result or the process? What do you enjoy most?

To a mountaineer, taking a helicopter to the top of the mountain is "cheating" and uninteresting. To somebody who just wants or needs to get to the top quickly, doing it the hard way is silly.

Quotes (job security)

One of my oldest Net friends, Carter, sent me a couple quotes I liked.

"Be careful of your thoughts; they may become words at any moment."
~Ira Gassen

"The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook."
~William James

Doing a job RIGHT the first time gets the job done. Doing the job WRONG fourteen times gives you job security.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Self-Reliance," by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Updated)

"Self-Reliance," by Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested, "But these impulses may be from below, not from above." I replied, "They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil." No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature."


There's a difference between non-conformism and just disagreeing with everything and everybody. The latter is just conformism with polarity reversed.

Anonymous said...
Emerson's essay 'Self Reliance' is just one of many that can help people to find a peaceful, joyful life. His thoughts helped my wife and I find an incredibly easy and rich life (Ditto for some of Thoreau's essays). Just getting and then living his thought below can make all the difference.

"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

20mm lens part II, Revenge of the Sith

Sorry to mention the 20mm lens again, but I just like it, I like that something so good can also be so small and cute. It really is just a gorgeous little thing.

Any Photoshop experts in the audience?

I've posted this on a Photoshop board, but no answers so far, so I decided to post it here also.
I want to make an Action which pastes my URL into a photo, then moves the text to the lower left bottom of the image, and then saves the image as a JPG.

The problem is that when I use a batch to run the action, the text is placed in a different place depending on the dimensions of the original picture! (For example if some are portrait-oriented and some are landscape-oriented.)

Until now I've solved it by resizing all images to the same height, but that should really not be necessary. How do I make an Action which can do this in a Batch?

Paper iPhone stand

[Thanks to Lou.]

Make an iPhone/iPod stand out of paper.
I guess it's good for viewing video or whatever. Clever anyway.

How light changes things

Under the 20mm lens post below, somebody commented on the nice black door.
And the thing is, it's hard to see on that photo, but actually it's a dark blue door.

On the outside and from new, it is a very dark green, so dark that it has to be good light for people not to mistake that for black too.
But I painted the inside blue to match all the other doors in the apartment, when I painted those. It's a gorgeous, deep color.
(And really I don't think that any of the doors, including this one (the front door) are actually even real wood. But they have the texture, and it shows through the paint in a very pleasing way.)

How the light is changes the way things look and feel to an amazing degree. Just look at these two pictures, with and without flash... you wouldn't believe it's the same door.

Here's the outside of the door:

And below, with the flash on. (That's why pros tend to use indirect light: the flash on the camera flattens things out in a generally un-pleasing way.)

And closed, seen from the outside: Today is a nice, bright day, so you can see the deep green color. In just a bit dimmer light, people tend to think it's a black door. Again, light changes things much more than one would believe.

Leonard Cohen - Alexandra Leaving

Natalette by Slastyonoff

Ray's sunset

Regular commenter Ray has his own blog, and that's where I found this nice sunset picture he took, apropos pics for the desktop.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pussy galore

A woman forwarded this...

One December day we found an old straggly cat at our door.
She was a sorry sight, starving, dirty, and she smelled terrible,
she was so skinny and hair was all matted down.
We felt sorry for her so we put her in a carrier and took her to the vet.
We didn't know what to call her so we named her "Pussycat".
The vet decided to keep her for a day or so and said he would
let us know when we could come and get her.
My husband, (the complainer,) said, "OK, but don't forget to
wash her, she stinks."
He reminded the vet that it was his WIFE, (me), that wanted this dirty cat, not him.
My husband and my Vet don't see eye to eye.
The vet calls my husband 'El-Cheap-O', and my husband calls the vet 'El-Charge-O'.
They love to hate each other and constantly 'snipe' at one another, with my husband getting in the last word on this particular occasion.
The next day my husband had an appointment with his doctor who is located in the same building, next door to the vet.
The MD's waiting room and office were full of people waiting to see the doctor.

Suddenly, the side door opened and the vet leaned in, he had obviously seen my husband arrive.
He looked straight at my husband and in a loud voice said, "Your wife's pussy doesn't stink any more. We washed and shaved it, and now she smells like a rose.
Oh, and, by the way, I think she's pregnant......
God only knows who the father is!" Then he closed the door.

Panasonic 20mm lens (40mm-equivalent)

I'm a little disappointed that Panasonic's new compact prime lens (non-zoom) Micro-Four-Thirds 20mm F:1.7 does not have stabilization (or the camera body). It would be nice, because otherwise it's a real damn pleasant lens, physically and optically. It's the equivalent of a 40mm lens in 35mm film terms, and very compact.
(And the lens with the Panasonic GF1 actually fits in my pants pocket. Although visibly. "Is that a GF1 in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?")

But even though I think no stabilization is just stupid these days, I can live without it if I have to, in this case. For one thing, the lens is sharp at full opening. For another thing I have found out that if I'm not too rushed, I can take a sharp picture at 1/15 of a second, with a 40mm-equivalent lens. I honestly did not think I could. I used to get the occasional shaken picture at 1/125.
Either the cameras and shutters have gotten better, or I have. I suspect both are true.

Lookit this picture. At 400ISO, 1/15 second, F:1.7, hand-held. The picture looks like there was much more light than it looked like in reality. That end of the corridor is very dark. (Oh, obviously that is not a flash which is reflected on the door, I didn't use flash.)
I did not sharpen the picture in the computer, in the interest of objectiveness.

I used to think that if I had a "street camera" with just one lens and no zoom, it should have a 28mm lens or a 35mm. But I might just be coming around to Sally Mann's and Mike Johnston's position that there is something "Goldielocks" about a 40mm. It takes in the scene naturally. 50mm is a bit too long, it's a shame that it became the defacto "normal lens" for some reason or other, despite the diagonal of the 35mm format, 43mm, being closer to 40.

mini displayport to dvi adapter

Apparently the tiny, tiny "mini displayport" at one end can do the same as the big DVI plug at the other. What's going on here, how is this possible? That's a ridiculous size difference.

"Schoolgirl Facebook Bully Shame"

I am always amazed at the way that newspaper headlines, at least around these parts, become so abbreviated in order to make the letters clobberingly big enough, that almost all meaning disappears.
They become like dadaist poetry.
One I just saw today was "Schoolgirl Facebook Bully Shame".
("Shame", by the way, is a word which the British press loooooves.)

It sounds to me like the lyrics to an avant-garde rap song. So I wrote it.

Schoolgirl Facebook Bully Shame!
Lang-da-di-dah, dang-dah-dah!
Schoolgirl Facebook Bully Shame
Looo-di-doo, di-doo, ling-lang

Schoolgirl Facebook Bully Shame
Go North, go South, it's still the same
Schoolgirl Facebook Bully Shame
Parents, teachers, nobody to blame

Nobody to blame, nobody to blame
Schoolgirl Facebook Bully Shame,
Rock out yo-yo, rock out ho
Schoolgirl Facebook Bully Shame

Panasonic and variations and confusions

This universe is based on division. That's why nobody can ever agree on anything. You'll notice for example that every time a new video medium format is developed (casette, DVD, HD...), the process is delayed for years by a power struggle between two different formats. And there's always different formats for everything when you cross the Atlantic.

I just ran into two other small examples. I wanted a PDF version of the manual for my Panasonic camera. (It was not included on the software CD, which is lame in itself.) Usually it's pretty quick to find by Google. But I couldn't find it, for several minutes. Then I stumbled over a comment on a site that the booklet is not called either "manual" or "guide", both of which I had tried, but "operating instructions". Sigh.

And when I plug in the battery charger and the battery starts to charge, there's a stable green light. Looking in the manual, sorry "instructions", I found out that this light turns off when the battery is charged. Other battery chargers have a red light which turns green when ready. (This I find more logical.) And yet other battery chargers (Canon) have a blinking green light, which blinks faster as the battery gets more charged, and stops blinking when the battery is full.
Is it any wonder we can be a little confused?

Your basic scary experience

Danger veggie

Funny enough, I found this picture of an "alarming vegetable" on The Online Photographer of all places. A site which is nowhere near as frivolous as this site, and almost never features "funny pictures".

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Draw a pig, personality test

Draw a pig, personality test. (Turn down your speakers, the intro has loud sound.)

Aside from the many possible objections (like it being difficult to draw with a mouse), it's a bit of fun, and I must say, it got my personality dead on. Well, sort of.

you are direct, enjoy playing devil's advocate and neither fear nor avoid discussions.
you are emotional and naive, you care little for details and are a risk-taker.
you are insecure or are living through a period of major change.
You are a good listener.
You have no sex life.

A fly in the ointment (updated)

Since yesterday I've had a fly in my apartment. Normally I can coax them out or smack them, but it's like this one has psychic powers, I can't get near it.
What do you do about flies?

Ray has a tip.

Sweet Georgia Brown on 3 Guitars and a Tractor

[Thanks to Tommy for both.]

Sweet Georgia Brown on 3 Guitars and a Tractor
, video.


Piano Stairs
, video.

TTL said:

I am suprised you haven't blogged Kseniya Simonova's sand animation yet.
A mere 3,928,595 views still at this point. But it is trending.

eolake said...

She is awesome, but I didn't blog it, because I don't enjoy war as a theme for art. Just a personal thing.

Two computers

Temporarily I have two computers on my main desks. Monday I'll get the adapter which will allow me to connect both displays to the newer computer.

But I must admit it feels really cool to work on two computers at the same time. I'm not sure it's worth it though, what with all the file management.