Friday, October 18, 2013

Logo magic

One of the funniest and most striking logos I've seen.



It appears as if roughly half the people in this country think that they're in mortal danger from their own government. That's a lot of people sensing a lot of malice and threat. I worry that I don't see it. Sure, I see inefficiency and incompetence, but I've always seen that - regardless of which party's in office. And frankly, I've always welcomed it. I don't like my big bureaucracies to be cold, calculating, profit-making enterprises driven by a steely, clear-headed singular vision. A cursory glance through history would indicate that well-organized governments tend to enjoy well-organized parades, followed by well-organized ethnic cleansing. Which is why I celebrate the magnificent, muddle-headed ineptitude of our democracy. As far as I'm concerned, a little confusion and waste may keep the trains from running on time, but it also keeps people like me from getting a one-way ticket in a cattle car. Are our tax dollars being misspent on poorly run social programs? You bet! Do we get more buck for our bang at the local Post Office, Amtrak station, nuclear submarine or methadone clinic? Of course we do! But keep in mind that bureaucrats who can't find their ass with a flashlight and a hand mirror are not likely to find you either. To paraphrase Bobby McGee: "Freedom's just another word for who the hell's in charge here?!"


This one appeared in the Big Bang Episode where Bernadette is a smurf. Avatar, schmavatar, this is the sexiest blue dame ever. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Emerging canine artist"

[Thanks to Bert]

A fresh new vision appears from a new, non-human artist.
Introducing Half-Chewed Cole Haan Wingtip by the emerging canine artist, Jack. This unique presentation of a meticulously destroyed dress shoe is the first of its kind by Jack. The piece features absent toe and vamp portions of the shoe, removed through a secret chewing process, known only by the artist, with razor-like precision but requiring brute strength. 

It is uplifting to see that the recognition of the creativity of our fellow species is coming on. Aesthetics has no limits.

If a dog can make money on the Internet, maybe there's hope for you too.

But then there's the question: Do you have the teeth and jaw muscles it takes to chew straight through shoe leather?!

World's smallest M4/3 camera

Update: interestingly, according to a survey on a big M4/3 fan site, this is the most-wanted M4/3 camera ever! I guess we are many who believed it and got excited when Olympus originally shouted out (first about 4/3, later about Micro 4/3) "Coooompact quality! Compact, compact, compact!!" (OK, not in quite those words, but it was still a big selling point, and never really came through, especially before they removed the mirrors and put in the "Micro".)

Panasonic GM1 has arrived.
This is the kind of compactness I dreamed about when Micro Four Thirds was announced five years ago. The body is only the size of a high-end pocket camera! (like Sony RX100.) Funny enough it's also priced like the RX100, around $700, which I think reasonable considering the fully professional image quality. Steve Huff wrote about how he saw prints from the latest M4/3 cameras, and thought they were from full-frame cameras!

One could, and many do, question the value of such tininess in an exchangable-lens camera, because after all, you can't shoot without a lens, and the moment you put a lens on (even the very small foldable new kit lens), it's no longer pocket sized! Whereas the RX100 is, even with the nice built-in zoom lens.

But heck, it's fun. And with the kit short-zoom (24-64mm 3.5-5.6) or another of the pancake lenses it does fit in a large pocket, like in a jacket or combat trousers. And it's a great way for M4/3 shooters to carry an extra body without feeling it, and mark you that's a body without compromise in picture quality, it has the same sensor as the new flagship of Panasonic's, the GX7!

I find it interesting that they have apparently even gone to the length of reducing the outter-edge diameter of the lens mount a little bit. The kit lens has a smaller diameter than normal M4/3 lenses, so it fits perfectly, but normal lenses will stick out a little bit, with the result that the camera's bottom won't sit flat on a table! (I'm not sure about this, since from the pictures, the outter and inner edge (the latter must be fixed size of course) have the same relationship (0.73) as it has on my m4/3 cameras, which should mean it is the same size. But the reviewer had held it, and said this.)
This is another reason for the nice, but pricy (maybe $99) aluminium hand-grip, which adds a few milimeters to the bottom as well as improving the grip a lot.

Update: the reviewer confirms to me that the mount is indeed the usual M4/3 mount. It's just some large lenses may overhang, but that has always been an issue with cameras where the bottom is close to the mount. I even have an old Nikon F with a big zoom mounted, and the F's bottom is not sitting on the table.
So: no worries about compatibility.

On the left, the GM1 with the kit zoom folded in, on the right, the RX100 with the built-in zoom, also folded in.
The GM1 has a sensor which is quite bigger than the RX100's, but then the latter does really well with the one is has, and if it wasn't a bit smaller, it could not have such a nice, fast zoom lens (28-100mm, 1.8-4.9), and pack it all inside the body for travel.
Then of course the GM1 accepts all kinds of exciting and extreme lenses. Sigh, life is not easy.     :-)

As the loyal reader will no doubt have picked up (!), I am a fan of compact cameras. It's more of an addiction, actually. I wish I knew why. Of course part of it is the take-everywhere aspect. Another is ease of use and transport. But a third one is some association I have between compactness and efficiency. Deep in my heart it says that if one tool does the job as well as another tool, but is half the size, then it is twice as good!

Of course, this can be tripped up by the "as good" part. A bigger camera may not be brought on trips as often, but when you do use it, it fits in your hands better probably, and due to more and better spaced buttons it will probably be faster and more certain to handle too. That's why you don't see professionals use pocket cameras on the job. (Another reason is that most customers have size firmly equalled with quality in their minds, so they think that the photographer is taking the piss if he is using a camera he can easily lift with one hand.)

The classic beauty of the OM-2

Much as I like the look of the recent OM-D E-M5, I still think the classic OM-2 (or OM-1) from the seventies beats it, with its classic, simple, gracious beauty. The slim body, the lowered, pointed mirror house...
(And for some reason, for me, it has to be silver. I'm not sure why.)

Below, the modern OM-D, obviously meant to invoke the feel of their classic successes. Worked on me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ming Thein

I forget to visit Ming Thein's blog. Perhaps I get overwhelmed. He writes a LOT. And photographs a lot. And is good at both. I don't know how he does it, doesn't he have a job to do also?
He even has an article on the issue which tOP and myself touched on recently: The Simple Camera.

Karmagroovy photos

Karmagroovy photos.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

So how's that iPhone 5 camera?

I was very much in doubt if I wanted the iPhone 5S (I have a 4S). But now I'm glad I did, for I've found tests showing it to be better in low light, and this nice article with mountain landscapes shows other interesting tests (for example, improved dynamic range). And that is all just compared to the model 5, which itself was a step up from the 4S, as I recall. (As was the 4S, which was one of the reasons I got that as my first iPhone ever.)

OK, phones won't replace real cameras for most photographers yet, methinks (though they actually already play big roles for a few!). It is still very tiny sensors, and even cheapish pocket-cameras have zooms, which I really like to have, and they do better in low light. But it's still great that tucked away in a corner of your "phone" for Pete's sake, you can have a actually quite good camera. Along with the thousand other things that dang small device can master.

 Photos by Austin Mann

Monday, October 14, 2013

5 Reasons James Bond Might Be the Worst Spy Ever, video.
Why 'Back to the Future' Is Secretly Horrifying, video.

I've watched a couple of these Cracked videos, and they are surprisingly solidly and humorously written and acted. Better than most TV productions, methinks.

Space Shuttle view

You like buttons? I'll show you buttons. (360 view requiring Flash.)
Now I know why astronauts are so revered. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Is creativity fighting anything?

TED talks are lying to you, article.

This is a wonderful, acidly bitter, but funny article. It's about how books about "creativity" as a business tool are not at all about who or what they claim to be.

'A final clue came from “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” (1996), in which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi acknowledges that, far from being an act of individual inspiration, what we call creativity is simply an expression of professional consensus. Using Vincent van Gogh as an example, the author declares that the artist’s “creativity came into being when a sufficient number of art experts felt that his paintings had something important to contribute to the domain of art.” Innovation, that is, exists only when the correctly credentialed hivemind agrees that it does. And “without such a response,” the author continues, “van Gogh would have remained what he was, a disturbed man who painted strange canvases.” What determines “creativity,” in other words, is the very faction it’s supposedly rebelling against: established expertise.'

These are very good observation. Contrarily to what we tell ourselves, a creative idea is not generally celebrated until the exact point if and when it gets widely accepted and begins to make big money for somebody (often the sellers and promoters more than the inventors).

I'd have one argument though: the inherent idea we are also spoon-fed all the time: that the inventor and creative person is necessarily rebelling against something or somebody. In other words, fighting an establishment.

Sure, the creative will often find himself in a fight, god help us. Van Gogh was even ridiculed, berated, and ostracized by his own family. But: Gogh was no fighter. He was not driven by desire to vanquish anybody or anything. His only passion lay in his canvas and the art he put on it.

And while the inventor, by human nature, will often be tempted into engaging in conflicts, for example life-long bitter, angry arguments with critics, I think that he or she will gain much more if he can succeed in ignoring attackers and just focus on his continued work.

Unfocused or defocused?

In "the world's best photo blog", M Johnston said:
People do realize, right, that travel isn't the same as a project? Serious photographers often have tightly focused projects [...] and amateurs often don't. Touring the world is fun, but you can be just as unfocused elsewhere as you are at home!

I wrote to him:

Mike, I'd like to differentiate between unfocused and defocused.

Some believe (some, strongly so) that the most important question about photographing is What To Photograph. In my style and photography, I have that reversed, I think the subject is unimportant.
I believe the picture is the thing, not the subject. One of my favorite paintings is van Gogh's Sunflowers. I am not very interested in flowers, but that painting, to me, is aesthetically powerful.

I think one can work as a Defocused "walk-around" photographer (Street Photography is a subset of this), and make significant aesthetic work, if inspiration is with you.

Subject focus of some kind may coalesce out of this, as it did one day for me when photographing  in Edinburgh, I notice that Red came up a lot, and followed it.

But I think part of the defocused way of working is to let go of the ego control, and slide into a zone of "cooperation with the Universe". The pictures will find you.

Many of the very best photographers came to make some of their best work outside any projects they were working on, they just suddenly Came Across inspiration somewhere.
To actually pursue this can, perversely, require more discipline, because the logical mind objects to it, the logical mind likes limits, order, predictability.

Marimba Queens

[Thanks to Jimmy]
Love the bass player...
I'll bet his nick was Wacky or something.