Saturday, November 08, 2008

Walls and light

Well, if the set below was "street photography" as humorously suggested, then this must be "wall art". Gentlemen, start your groans.

Pilot lands safely after going blind in mid-air

[Thanks to TC.] Pilot lands safely after going blind in mid-air, article.
Man, that's gotta suck. Amazing story.

Cobbles and more

Interestingly, it's only after the advent of digital printing and viewing that these pictures are interesting: the originals are very low contrast, very flat and boring. It is impossible to boost contrast in traditional color prints, but in digital, it the work of seconds.

An original:

Two girls

A contest judge who saw this said that the girl on the left had just spotted a hot guy. Well, that would be me. I took this picture with a wide-angle lens, and with the camera on the table, without looking in the viewfinder. I think she is wondering what I'm doing, but since I didn't look at them, she didn't say anything.

I got very lucky, not only is the composition perfect without me looking in the viewfinder, but also I'd forgotten to reset an exposure compensation from earlier. If I hadn't done that, the light in the middle would have caused the picture to be underexposed. And also because I was very slow in learning that the Pentax ME Super I had actually underexposed everything by at least a half stop, maybe a full one, so a lot of what I photographed then was badly underexposed.

Oh, I just noticed now from old notes that this one won a regional competition. And another of mine got second place. Not only that, but the judge said that those two were well above the whole rest of the entries. At seventeen I was feeling pretty damn smug that day, you bet! :-)


An odd and irritating fact about photographic sharpness is that even the world's best lens won't get around "diffraction" unsharpness, which means that pictures get less sharp at small apertures.
I remember in my youth wanting to make the sharpest pictures I could, and I put the camera on a tripod and stopped down to eleven, and I surprised and frustrated when they just weren't very sharp.
For most lenses, due to compromises in design, a middle aperture like F:5.6 or F:8 is a good bet for sharpest pictures. But the very best ones can actually be sharpest fully open, due to diffraction.

I asked clever-head Ctein (k-tein) about it, and he's writing a series of articles about it, here's the first one. I have to admit it some of it goes above my head.
If you're interested, don't miss the comments under the article.


This one further illustrates my inherent disrespect or disregard for the subject, and my preoccupation with lines, textures, tones, tension in a frame.
Of course you can see it as a statement about age or something, but it's clearly not a portrait of my grandma, which would have included her head.

Eight Reasons Why You Can't Pay Attention

Eight Reasons Why You Can't Pay Attention, article.
Amusingly, the article is on a page with dozens of links and ads all screaming for attention while you're trying to read...
(Thank god for ad blocking software, like Pithhelmet for Safari. Some of my favorite web sites, even some where I'm a paying customer ( are insufferable without ad blocking.)

One thing I don't get is people who have their TV on all the time, whether they are watching or not. I find it incredibly distracting.

No Clean Feed

It seems the Australian government is working on a plan to filter the Internet country-wide for everybody. This is a site protesting it.

Friday, November 07, 2008


This is my likkle sister and our playpal. They must be about twelve here. They are both now in their early forties.
They also both still live in the same small town where we grew up.
Same trees, same terrace. In the background you can see one of the first houses which were built where the cherry plantation was/had been. It was very new when this pic was taken.

Canon PowerShot SX10 IS

The new Canon SX10 IS looks interesting. It has a tiltable screen, which I always have found really useful when I've had it. It has a ridiculously long zoom (28mm-560mm, long enough that even with stabilization it might be hard to use).
And from early test images, it looks like it has really nice image quality. It remains to be seen yet how this quality holds up under different zoom lengths, but so far, look at this sample at 80 ISO, and this one at 800 ISO. For a small-sensor camera, this is really good. And it's only $400.

Alternatively one can get a far smaller camera with the same image quality if one does not need the really long zoom. (Sadly the movable screen is not common though.) Or if one can live with a slightly bigger camera and slightly higher price, one can get better low-light capability (bigger sensor) and exchangeable lenses. Decisions, decisions.

Update: I complimented Imaging-Resource on the usefulness of the target they use for some of their testing images (see links above). They said: " We actually put quite a lot of thought into the content of that image. Fine detail, deep shadows, strong highlights, primary colors for hue rendering, lots of tone-on-tone detail across different parts of the color spectrum (the fabric swatches) to smoke out issues with noise reduction processing, etc."

Elf, Mary Steenburgen

Just watching "Elf". If you can stand a Christmas movie, it's a fun one.

In it I was stunned to see Mary Steenburgen looking as beautiful as ever, at over fifty. Her smile is awesome.

It's by Jon Favreau. I was pleased to see that in designing Santa's home and workshop, which could easily have been an unbearable orgy of green and red, they chose to go with light grey tones for everything, walls and furniture, very nice.

Boat and Water

This is from the mid-nineties, when I was photographing again after a break of many years. I'd made and framed a nice print of this and hung it on my wall. One morning I woke up very early, and the sun was just rising. It was sending a beam of light through my windows, and my curtains and objects outside was shaping the beam into a square which (despite a pretty acute angle) was exactly framing this photo on my wall!* I felt like god was shining a light and saying "see what you can do?" Kewl.

* Not only is the chances against that astronomical, but it would also only last for a minute or two, literally, because a sun beam moves very quickly across a wall when it's at an angle.

Small sites and catcam and the Net

A Simpsons episode from 1996 has a web address for a school on a sign. I looked it up at Wikipedia.
"The sign at the elementary school displays "". Weinstein said that this was one of the most dated jokes in the history of the show because it centered on the idea that it would be outlandish for a school to have its own website."

Hell, even in 1996 that was outdated! If he'dda asd me, I coudda tole him. The very existence of a .edu domain says that educational institutions has lots of use for a web site. (Update: I checked with the commentary now, and actually it does not say "outlandish", but "advanced", which makes more sense. I've updated the wiki page.)

Anything and anybody should have a site. If I had a cat, it would have one.

I don't get when people don't see the scope and power of the Internet. People sometimes talk about the Net as if it were a building outside town. No man, it's the world outside town and includes the town too.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

White cat

This was one of our cats, at a young age. It was a beautiful cat.
The trees/fog picture was taken from the terrace you see on this picture. You can see the hawthorns reflected in the windows.

And apropos pussycats:


I didn't post this one for many years, since I think it shows the miserable condition she was in.

Early 1980s.

The Colour of Magic

I posted this review on AmazonUK, of The Colour Of Magic, a 3-hour TV movie based on Terry Pratchett's first two discworld books.

Rincewind the wizard was never my favorite Terry Pratchett character, but I have to say they did a fine job turning this book into a three-hour film. (Or two TV episodes, whatever.) It had a good cast, including Jeremy Irons and the toothsome newcomer Laura Haddock, who did a fine job in the role as octogenarian Cohen The Barbarian's fair maiden.

Most of all, the dragons, buildings, and space turtles were detailed and beautiful to behold, created on a budget which would have lasted a Hollywood studio through lunch time. We are clearly out of the age where a TV production would have inferior graphics.

I'm hoping they will continue to make films from Pratchett's books, there's a wealth of humor, great stories and outlandish ideas to explore.

The review is based on the just-released Blue-ray version, which didn't hurt the nice visuals.

If you don't know, Cohen the Barbarian is 87 years old, and the maiden who falls for him is a simply beautiful girl in her twenties. Like the actor said, didn't do his reputation no harm. :-)

I think this is an enjoyable film, but I dont' think it is an important film, because I don't think it was Pratchett's best books. I'm not sure why the first two books, and the cowardly Rincewind character, were such huge hits. Many of his later books were much better written and had more interesting characters. (I tend to like characters with powerful minds, like Granny Weatherwax, or Tiffany Aching, both witches.)

Dancing nerd

If you liked the dancing dog, you'll love the Danish dancing nerd.
(Personally, while I think he's pretty cool, I don't see why the audience and judges go totally bananas over him.)

It is funny how these internationally licensed TV shows duplicate each other exactly.

Hawthorn trees Updated

This is the view with a 100mm lens from my childhood home, taken in my teens.
I grew up with these trees as a fixture. They were not for climbing. As you can see they are very dense, but more importantly, they were hawthorn, so absolutely filled with thorns! If a ball ended up in them, you just had to make your peace with it being gone forever.

On the other side of the trees were a cherry plantation. We ate ourselves silly on those as a kid, even though it technically was "stealing". I really miss those cherries; they were sour cherries for wine and cooking, so they didn't taste like the cherries you buy, they had a sharper but to me much better taste. Gawd I miss them. 

Below is a photo from the same years. It's typical of what I tried to do back then, and maybe still: make photos which were about lines, tones, and textures, and not about the subject. It's a tricky thing to do, you have to disconnect the part of your mind which all the time is evaluating what things around you are for, and what they do and what they mean.
Of course once you've changed your own mind, you still have the audience left. It's frustrating to present a picture which you consider very artistic, and the audience says "yeah, it's a picture of _____, so what?" Very few people have the ability or even the desire or concept of looking at things disconnected from their significance.

Thom on compacts

[Thanks to SeriousCompacts]

Thom writes about three of the current good bets for a serious compact camera.

I think we can get better than that in the future. All three cameras have small sensors, although they make the most of them. I think it should be possible to make a good camera the size of the Canon G10, but with a much larger sensor, thus enhancing low-light image quality. And I'm far from the only one hoping for such a camera, so I'm optimistic.

Canon low light videos

Canon has a new innovative ad campaign in the UK, featuring the capabilities of the new cameras. Here are some making-of videos. Neat ideas for unusual light.

(Odd video player interface, by the way, when it's playing, the button is an arrow, which you click to pause it, and when it's paused, it's two vertical lines, which you click to start it. Opposite what it normally is.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For unity

I give my congratulations to American president-elect Obama, may god be with him in a very tough job.

My wish for the coming four years, the coming twenty years, the coming one hundred years, is that each American as well as each inhabitant of planet Earth will take the opportunity to strive always to correct his vision towards that of unity rather than that of partisanship.

That's not an easy thing. The devil in this universe is obviously a little man in the heart of each of us, telling us that "evil" is out there. It's in the other person, it's in the other group, it's in the other nation. Lord forbid we should ever look into our own heart for the origin of evil and suffering, for this would be too fearful.

Still it can be done and it is being done, and in unity is salvation.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I took these portraits of my friends Martin and Zadis in the mid-nineties.
All three of us went out and wandered the streets of inner Copenhagen for a couple of hours, me carrying my Pentax ME Super on a tripod (with today's cameras I wouldn't have needed the pod). It was a good day out.

Stainless steel Ford Sedan

From this forum (second post).
"Here are a few shots of a 1936 Ford Tudor Sedan built for and owned by Allegheny Ludlum Steel. It was featured in a local parade with over 100 of our salaried, hourly and retired employees walking alongside. This is 1 of only 4 in existence and is the only one currently in running & in road worthy condition. The car is in exceptional condition, with the interior and even the frame looking great. All 4 cars each had over 200,000 miles on them before they removed them from service. These cars were built for Allegheny as promotional and marketing projects. The top salesmen each year were giveLinkn the honor of being able to drive them for one year. The v-8 engine (max 85 hp) ran like a sewing machine and WA S surprisingly smooth and quite. I thought this was a much better looking automobile than the Ford Thunderbird that visited us last year. FYI, the car was insured (we were told) for the trip to Louisville via covered trailer for 1.5 million dollars. People were told that the dies were ruined by stamping the stainless car parts, making these the last of these cars ever produced. More information of the history on these automobiles can be found at Allegheny Ludlum's website."

I think it looks nice, much better than if it had been chrome or something super-glossy like that.

Given that rust is always such a problem with cars, I wonder why stainless steel has not been used more? Too expensive? Too hard? (The post above hints at the latter.) (Bert?)

Wedding dresses

I think this photo is about 25 years old.

Stones keep rolling

Rolling Stones docu from 2006. (Review.)
(Why Scorcese? Isn't he kind of over-qualified? Any half decent documentarist can do a band docu.)

Imagine showing this film to the twenty-year-old Mick and Keif. I find it hard to imagine any other reaction than sheer horror. :-)
I'm not sure that this means that it's necessarily wrong to be playing the same music forty year later. But it is interesting that rock and roll, which was intimately connected with youth and rebellion is now being played by sixty-year-old super-established men. I guess the question is, was youth and rebellion what rock was, or merely something we associated with it for little reason?


My father worked hard, putting a roof over our heads. I always said to him, "if you hired professionals, you wouldn't have to do it again and again".

But seriously, I think I could have appreciated my parents more while they were alive. We're all flawed, and very few people have a relationship to a parent which is free from any strain. But no matter what, raising a child is a huge outlay in time and money, and I think they deserve recognition for that. When we are young, it seems like those things happen just magically. In fact, even as adults, if somebody paid all our expenses every month all the time, we'd very soon take it for granted. But like the Chinese say, when drinking water, thank the river. Or words to that effect.

Human-dog connection

Tiles for desktop

Here are a couple of tiles that I made back in the nineties for my web site. I like to use them sometimes for background pattern on my desktop when I want something subtle, but a little more interesting than a plain color.
Please use them only on your own computer, not on a web site.

They are both made from photos I took, the lower one is from leaves from a house birch I had back then, I think.
... Nope, now I remember, it's from this photo.

It was my own photo, and the same type of plant, but not my own, it belonged to the lovely model, Marlene.

... I just discovered something disturbing: for the first time ever, I have lost file formats to time: I can no longer open my old PhotoCD files! At least not in decent size, in Graphic Converter they will open in "base", which is only 768x512 pixels. Probably PhotoCD is long gone, but I honestly did not expect to lose the files this soon. (If you feel like experimenting, here's a file.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Liquid Gold

I was about to say that this picture was named for the band in the Iain Banks novel Espedair Street (an old favorite), but it turns out that band was called Frozen Gold. (That name a bit silly, since gold is frozen at room temperature. But of course the novel did not claim the band was the most profound one ever, only hugely successful.)

Raw Power

Iggy Pop and the Stooges in 1970 and about 35 years later.
I think Iggy always gained a lot from a little help in writing the songs, but nobody on the planet has him beat in the coiled-spring raw energy area, even now in his fifties.

"We are Illuminati"

Amazingly, the singer is actually a woman, a sweet and petite woman.
Like Nina Hagen, she has an amazing range, both in tone and style.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Saleen S7

The Saleen S7 (never heard of it before) is one of the cars in the Iron Man movie. I doubt I ever saw a car which made a clearer statement of "fast car, stand back!" Gorgeous.
Part of it is the color, it's fantastic. What the hell is that color? It's not red, it's not orange... and it has some added... not metallic?... I dunno.

Anyway, I now watching the DVD documentaries for the movie, and I'm impressed with the work which went into making the suits, both CGI and real suits. Astounding amounts of work, and a great result.
Also if you think you can spot when it is CGI and when it's real, give it up, not even those who worked on it can tell anymore.

One false note, right at the end: "Samu El Jackson" as Nick Fury? Oh noooooo. I'm so tired of that guy. He's not bad, but he has the range of a penny whistle.

Welsh error

When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed.
Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated".


A couple of people recently have hinted that they wondered if they were being too forward by commenting on this blog.

Nonsense, I love comments and commenters*. If there were none, it would be like going to the cafe in a town devoid of people. I might still do it, but it would be a far poorer experience.

I write to share things, and the comments I get is the proof that the sharing happened. Not to mention that all you commenters have something to share yourself. Fun, links, knowledge, different viewpoints.

* ("Commenter" may not be a word, but it is now. I feel "commentator" is something different.)