Thursday, December 31, 2009

How to Photograph Fireworks

The next one is a Nikon video, has a bit of extraneous detail, methinks.

... I just got the idea just before midnight, so I did not have time to walk out and find a good spot, I just pointed my 5DII out of the window. It was a bit far away. Well, this decent picture is combined from several frames I took.

(Canon 5D mark II, 24-105mm at about 100mm, F:11, four seconds per frame.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Diffuser samples (updated)

[Update: with bounced-flash samples. Which can be a lot better than direct flash, but which depends on the distance to and color of walls/ceilings, and which can be too directional (deep shadows). Also updated at the bottom with outdoors samples.]

TCGirl asked the obvious: for samples of that Gary Fong diffuser in action. It's late, so I don't have a live subject, but here are a couple still-life samples (with the top "dome" in place for minimum bounced light). I think the difference is amazing for an add-on you hardly feel is there.
Notice that this LightSphere Cloud also warms up the light a bit, which is great. (If it were me, I'd make flash light a compromise between daylight and indoor light, because it usually seems too cold.)

With direct flash:

With bounced flash:

With diffuser:

With direct flash:

With bounced flash:

With diffuser:

I've also ordered his "amber dome", for when you want to mix flash with indoor light and you want even warmer flash light than this.

I must say that I believe that most on-camera flash photography is pointless without a diffuser. If I sold flashguns, I would include one, or perhaps sell a kit cheaply. It would cost very little extra, and the customers would be delighted with the difference.

Update: the question was raised whether the LightSphere and similar solutions have a large enough surface to make for softer light when there are no walls to provide bounced light. Good point. Well, the front of my flash is about 6x3 cm, 18 cm2, and my bouncer is about 7x9 cm, 63 cm2, so there's some difference in area. I went out in the dark, braving the potential paranoia of my neighbors if anybody saw me, and took a couple flash photos under the sky, lo below. I would say that without any walls, you do get the shadows, but they are softer.
(There are two different phenomena: the contrast between the shadows and light, meaning how dark are the shadows. And the sharpness of the edge between the shadows and light. The former comes from ambient light (like bounced light), and the latter from the surface area of the light source (like the flash head or the diffusing device).)

With direct flash:

With diffuser:

So I would say that clearly you get nicer light if you have nearby near-white walls to help, but that goes for any hand-held solution I have heard of.

Ray said:
Just wondering - has anyone tried making their own using ordinary household plastic bottles? Some of those have a 'milky' opacity similar to that diffuser. (Cheap, nasty, and available at any grocery store!)

Yes, I think that should work if you're handy with a knife to cut out (part of) the bottom (for the bounce light) and to make it fit the flash. It's even larger than the LightSphere so should be softer.

Blondie - Rapture and Angel on a Balcony

One of my old faves.
"the man from Mars won't eat up bars when the TV's on"... great lyrics too.

Blondie: Rapture.

Toe to toe
Dancing very close
Barely breathing
Almost comatose
Wall to wall
People hypnotized
And they're stepping lightly
Hang each night in Rapture

Back to back
Spineless movement
And a wild attack

Face to face
Sadly solitude
And it's finger popping
Twenty-four hour shopping in Rapture

Fab Five Freddie told me everybody's high
DJ's spinnin' are savin' my mind
Flash is fast, Flash is cool
Francois sez fas, Flashe' no do
And you don't stop, sure shot
Go out to the parking lot
And you get in your car and you drive real far
And you drive all night and then you see a light
And it comes right down and lands on the ground
And out comes a man from Mars
And you try to run but he's got a gun
And he shoots you dead and he eats your head
And then you're in the man from Mars
You go out at night, eatin' cars
You eat Cadillacs, Lincolns too
Mercurys and Subarus
And you don't stop, you keep on eatin' cars
Then, when there's no more cars
You go out at night and eat up bars where the people meet
Face to face, dance cheek to cheek
One to one, man to man
Dance toe to toe
Don't move to slow, 'cause the man from Mars
Is through with cars, he's eatin' bars
Yeah, wall to wall, door to door, hall to hall
He's gonna eat 'em all
Rapture, be pure
Take a tour, through the sewer
Don't strain your brain, paint a train
You'll be singin' in the rain
I said don't stop, to punk rock

Well now you see what you wanna be
Just have your party on TV
'Cause the man from Mars won't eat up bars when the TV's on
And now he's gone back up to space
Where he won't have a hassle with the human race
And you hip-hop, and you don't stop
Just blast off, sure shot
'Cause the man from Mars stopped eatin' cars and eatin' bars
And now he only eats guitars, get up!

Here's another great track from the same album:

Update: BaronessBlack points to The Ballad of Iggy & Debbie. A good song, albeit a leeeeettle bit nasty, no?
As an oooooold fan of both of these, I can understand his (her?) feelings, some of them anyway. I doubt either of them foresaw they would be touring at sixty, much less with the same songs.
I sometimes wonder what the young Bowie/Debbie/Iggy/Mick would think of their present selves??


Thanks to Signalroom for the new motto, very funny.

Camera, flashes, sizes

Lookit this:

... And the remarkable thing is that there are actually professional cameras and flashes which are about 50% bigger than the 5D2 and the 580EX2 on the left!

The Lightsphere feels good, won't break (soft plastic), and does a good job.

Just got the 580EX II today, it is very nice also. It is Canons biggest, and it is actually remarkable that for the power it has, it's not bigger physically (and less than half a kilo), and still only uses 4 AA batteries, and doesn't even drain them fast, I'm told.

My early impression is that this flash and defuser is a powerful and flexible combo, and even easy to use, simply put everything on auto, and the camera adjust things so they usually look very nice.

My apartment has pretty low ceilings, so with the top left off the LightSphere the top-light was pretty overbearing in many test-pictures, but it helped a lot when I put in the "dome", which concentrates a greater percentage of the light out through the diffuser itself. And Gary Fong had indeed said that this was its use.

Below is a sample of how the diffuser softens the light, and the camera/flash automatically balances the light, making the whole thing look very natural. Before flash-metering through the lens, it was a difficult procedure to balance flash and daylight. (And with film you did not have an instant preview of course.)

I had to find data on it on the net (google is my friend), for it seemed the auto-zoom did not work, but now it does. And it's just so cool to zoom the lens and have the flash zoom automatically follow it! I really didn't know they could do that.

ISO setting and Canon Flash

Here's Gary Fong giving a quick rundown on using a Canon Flash.

One reason I blog it is because he gives a comment I agree with: many people use needlessly low ISO settings on their DSLRs, using ISO 100 as standard. In most situations you will gain sharpness by setting a higher ISO, because you'll get a smaller aperture, faster shutter speed, and the flash will reach further. And with newer (2008 and later) DSLRs (not compact cameras), ISO 800 does not have any noise anyway. I use 800 pretty much as default setting, and only set it lower if the light is very bright or if I want to use a slow shutter speed or a large aperture for some creative effect. (Or if image quality is very critical, for there is some difference. And even then I need to be sure I don't compromise too much on shutter speed or aperture and ruin the picture anyway.)

A smaller point Gary makes is that apparently if you set the camera to manual, you can can set the shutter speed and aperture independently and still get automatic flash exposure measure through-the-lens, I did not know that.

Kindle e-book format hacked

Kindle e-book format hacked, further evidence that DRM is a waste of time, article/post.

And talking about new media, here's an article speculating about blu-ray now and in the future.

Sexbots are coming

... whether we like it or not. It's just human nature, any new technology which can be used sexually, will be, and soon. And it will help fund research for more serious uses too, as it always have.

And I've blogged the RealDolls before.

[Thanks to Ray.]

iPods for walking, and weight

In the nineties I listened to an 80-hour lecture series on tape with a Walkman, bringing it on walks.
And a couple of years ago, I listened to the collected works of Douglas Adams the same way, including the Hitchhiker radio plays as well as those books read by Douglas, and both Dirk Gently books (warmly recommended).

Today, under the Gibson post, Dave commented:
I prefer audio books as I can do other things. Got the idea from Stephen Fry, who shed the (significant amount of) weight he'd put on by walking, making the walking bearable by listening to audio books on his ipod. I thought that I would try that, and it works. You eat the miles without even realizing it.

Indeed. Books are bad for your activity level, but audiobooks can be the opposite. And I just bought several Gibson audiobooks, so I've started with the regimen again. Even on a cold evening like today, it's pleasurable for me.
Main downside is that even a short walk makes me very hot and sweaty. I wonder if I have a very active metabolism or what.

By the way, it seems the experts agree: excercise is for general health, not for losing weight. Simply because it makes you hungry. Exercise only makes you lose weight in extremely high doses, says my health guru. You lose weight by eating food high in nutrients and protein, and scaling down on foods high in fat and sugar. It's not very hard unless you have intense cravings. If you have those, it's an emotional issue.

Jan said:
What you write about exercise and weight rings true with me.
Still, sports does have some use, as much as I hate it:
"What you don't want is fat around your liver or heart, and this can happen even if you look fine on the outside. Dieting isn't what you need to shift this - it's exercise."
Prof. Jimmy Bell in “Fat neck a clue to heart risk”, BBC News.

Dr Pascal said:
I'm aware that, according to recent studies, exercise supposedly doesn't help lose weight AT ALL.
That's forgetting decades of empirical observation: NOT exercising helps make you fat. And you seldom get slimmer just from the effort of sitting on your fat ass!

Not to mention that the overall health benefits of reasonable physical exercise (again, almost anybody can walk, if they manage to fit it in their lifestyle) have indirect consequences on weight.
Remember: exercise causes the secretion of endorphins, improving one's sense of well-being, and very effectively thwarting the "reward-eating" mechanism of depressive mood. Also, when you're moving around, you're not snacking out of habit and driven by boredom.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Photo contest: 'Cold' - Ends January 15, 2010 ($100, $50, $25 prizes)

Photo contest: 'Cold' - Ends January 15, 2010 ($100, $50, $25 prizes), on the new Micro Four Thirds forum site.
Not many entries yet, should be good chances. The photo has to be taken with a M4/3 camera though.

Rechargable batteries

I tried rechargeable batteries back in 2000, and have not used any since, because they sucked donkey dong through a dirty diaper. But according to all reports (many), times have changed, and the Sanyo Eneloop batteries rock on all fronts, power, speed, holding a charge, and economy. I've already ordered a bunch and a charger.
(Amazon UK link.)

By the way, I like the kooky but memorable name, and the pleasant and simple design of these batteries.

Update: I like German companies. I ordered the charger and batteries in the very early morning, and within a couple hours, before it was even light outside and before British working people have put on the kettle and washed their face, I got an email that the item had shipped!
OK, Germany is one time zone ahead. It was still before nine in the morning, and most people in most Western countries do nothing really productive that early. Well, not white-collar workers anyway. Many blue-collar workers start quite early. I know, I was one as a young man (sand-blasting). Lord, starting at seven I was sleepy in the morning!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Flash light and tech names (updated thrice)

Update: BTW, I've not used a dedicated flash before... can they be set so the camera measures both the flash and the daylight automatically? And maybe weighted a bit towards one or the other?

Update: do-it-yourself diffusers here and here and here.

Here's a youtube playlist with several videos talking about various flash light methods. I've watched the first one so far, and it's a nice quick introduction to many basics. (I just wish people wouldn't use the !@£$%@@&*@!*&£! music over their videos. What an amazingly bad idea.)

Man, technology companies and product naming... jeez. I just found out that Nikon's flash guns are called "Speedlight", which of course will never be confused with Ricoh's "Speedlite" or indeed Canon's "Speedlite"... Way to use your imagination, guys.

Why all those names anyway? Why not just call it a "Canon Flash"?

And all the fancy names to the various technologies... Nikon cameras now use "digitempsuperduperXmethod" technology in their sensor, which I'm somehow supposed to remember or at least think means something to me. Oh, wait, it uses "digitempsuperduperXmethod" III, which clearly is a much superior version to the second one! Why not just say that 'our imaging software is very fast and precise now'. What use do I have for those names?

I'm waiting for Canon's biggest flash, the 580EX II (a five-star average over 250 reviews! Wow, you don't see that often), to make it through xmas mail delivery delays (I was actually told Monday the 21st Dec by the mailman, over a week ago, that a parcel would come out with the van, and it has not arrived yet!). It seems it has quite a punch!

Update: Modern flashes are awesome. For example, this one has a mode for many continous fast flashes (in practice it is continuous light), which will let you use a fast shutter speed if needed instead of the usual max shutter time (for the shutter to be completely open at one instant). And the camera will tell the flash the focal length (or zoom setting I think), and get the flash to zoom to equivalent length! Holy moley. (Zooming the flash makes for a tighter "beam" so you don't waste light with a long lens.)

Where's Rob?

[Thanks to Tommy]

William Gibson on audio

Yes! The old William Gibson SF books are finally out as audiobooks on iTunes! I've been waiting for this.
Strangely, the first one, Neuromancer, seems to be only there in German, but the old favorites Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive are there, as well as the short story collection Burning Chrome.
(By the way, I'm surprised that Neuromancer and Mona Lisa still have the same covers they had when I bought them twenty years ago, whazzup widdat?)

WYSIWYG web editor for Mac

Does anybody know a good, simple web (HTML) WYSIWYG editing application for Macintosh? Userfriendliness is of essence.
Back in the OS 8/9 days, there was the wonderful Claris Homepage, but it's not been updated. Golive is not being updated and it is not stable, and Dreamweaver is big/complex. (So far as I know, I have not used it much. I wonder if I should look at it.) (Update: I've decided I may need to know this anyway, so I've ordered the student edition as well as Dreamweaver CS4: The Missing Manual.)

I like Pagespinner, but it's not actually WYSIWYG.

I don't want an app which is designed for easily making fancy pages and which hides all the code, or makes complex code. I want it to be transparent, and I tend to make very simple, text-based pages.

Update: though it's a word processor, thanks to Alex for mentioning Mellel. It seems to be a very appealing app with a great interface, and I've acquired it. And thanks to Mike for mentioning this list of free web apps.

Note: I've critized Adobe quite a lot, but I want to commend them for simplifying their application icons to simple colored squares with an abbreviation of the app's name. It makes it much simpler to spot the icon in the doc than trying to remember if Photoshop is an eye, a butterfly, a feather or what. (I still use Golive 6, which has a dull stylized globe as an icon, and it always takes me ages to find it in the dock (fortunately I use keyboard shortcuts most of the time).)

Pieces on Earth

[Thanks to Carter]

Making a line and matte

I like to have a photo with a thin white or black line and a grey matte. The thin line collects and holds the composition, and the grey makes both shadows and highlights look their best.
So I've made an action to do this in Photoshop. (One for the white line and one for the black.) First I make the background black (or white). Then I expand the canvas by 15 pixels, while having "relative" selected (which means it does not matter what size the photo is already). Then I select a light-to-middle-grey background, and then I expand the canvas by 2000 pixels relative. End of action.
That makes it a one-click affair to make this nice and simple frame.
The 2000 pixels is a lot, but I just want to make the canvas larger than the paper I'm printing on, so I can print to edge. And then I adjust the size of the photo on the paper with resolution (for example 280 PPI (often erroneously called DPI)) without resampling.


bTW, I have a problem with Photoshop CS4: if I do a save-as, and then make changes to the file, those changes are applied to the original file, not the file under the new name. Anybody know how to fix this?

Twin Lens Reflex

Seeing a Twin Lens Reflex camera in the film Snow Angels made me realize that it's one thing I'm missing from my camera "collection". And they are quite beautiful, hefty machines, I think.
A search on eBay, though, show that these cameras fetch quite high prices. And since I don't use film anymore and I'm not a real collector (I just like the objects), I don't want to pay hundreds of GBP for one. And since I don't demand that it's working, I'd think I could find one at a reasonable price, but so far no luck... :-)
Some of the few I found at low prices are these. And just look at these old fellas! Man, they must be fifty years of they're a day, and not high-end either.

What I really want is something looking like this, but clearly that'll cost me a mint:

Oh, here's a wonderful little oddity:

A 35mm SLR camera, but shaped like a Hasselblad! Odd, but sort of beautiful, and as I recall, very advanced technically.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Congo - Dr Sakis - Les Infirmieres

[Thanks to Martin]
Congo - Dr Sakis - Les Infirmieres, youtube vid. All "afro-parisienne" super-slutty nigh-naked "nurses" dance. Tres, tres bizarre.

Tim Ferriss - Practical Pessimism

[Thanks to TTL]
This is interesting.
"The Secret" and "the law of attraction" are very popular at the moment. I think they have two weaknesses though: 1) even if you do attract what you want, it often turns out to not make you happy, or not for long, and 2) it may stimulate a fear of visualizing bad things happening, out of belief that the visualization will actually make it happen. Which it won't.

Two years ago I had several weeks in very severe pain, from a pinched nerve in the neck. (My chiro said I was a "heart-sink" patient, named after her emotion whenever she encountered one with this condition.) The funny thing was, I'd have thought I'd be very depressed by getting into that situation, but I was not. Sure, I was in pain much of the time, and it was not easy, but I was actually pretty cheerful. It turned out to be survivable. I used to be very fearful of pain, but this experience has lessened it a lot.

Three wideangle pictures

Here are three pictures I left out of the Evening Light set, but which I think are worthy.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Putting images in forums

Many, many forums on the web use the BB (bulletin board) system/software, like the new forum for MicroFourThirds fans.
My friend Amin, who manages that forum, has made a very helpful video to show how to put images in posts in such forums, something I think is otherwise a weak point of that software, since it's far from obvious. (For one thing, the "image" icon looks like an envelope to me, so much that I didn't even test it.) It turns out that there are many ways, whether the image is already on a web server or not.

David Bowie - Jazzin for Blue Jean The Movie

[Thanks to TTL]

Thandie Newton and Norbit

Just watching Norbit. Perhaps not a movie for the ages, but it's funny and enjoyable. And Eddie Murphy as three main characters who don't look remotely like each other (a black man, an obese black woman, and an old Chinese man! (the guy on the right is Eddie, can you believe it). Outstanding make-up and acting.
("Whale ho!!" ... "Did somebody just call me a whale?!" ... "Yes, and a ho!")
Even people on set chatting with the "old Chinese dude" didn't know it was make-up or that it was Eddie. And allegedly it too make-up designer Rick Baker nine months to design these characters.
A side note: there's a stunt woman for an old lady being thrown high up and landing in a bed of flowers. The stunt woman was 66 years old!
And talking about age, Eddie too looks good, he's 46 years old in 2007 when this was made, but hardly looks changed at all from ten years ago.
... Aaaaand, I just found out Thandie Newton was 35. She looks 25 fer sure.

I suspect I put it on my rental list because it has Thandie Newton (pronounced "Tandy", it seems) in it. I also suspect that Thandie may actually have my current vote for the most beautiful young actress present.
What do you think? What others give her a run for her money?

Note: I think I've said it before: many beautiful actresses only really show their beauty on screen, in still images they look generically pretty at best. I wonder if it's the fault of the photographers, working towards exactly that, instead of being able to see and draw out eccentric beauty?

I made this poster of Thandie. I found the biggest and best file I could. It was promotional for a movie, so I removed that text and replaced it with her name, and put a matte around it.

Isn't it interesting how many pretty actresses will wear the most awesome, revealing outfits, and then seemingly be totally uncomfortable about them? Like Thandie here desperately trying to get her skirt to cover a bit of her thighs when she sits down. I mean, she's 35, surely she has worn short skirts before and can predict both how they behave and how she'll feel about it?

Joe McNally: The Moment It Clicks

You won't find me friggin' climbing skyscrapers! Good for Joe that he has the energy.

Soft xmas pics

TCGirl has used an external flashgun, bounced off the ceiling, for her Christmas pictures. It's a bit trickier than it may sound, because angles and distances may vary all the time as you move, but as you see, it makes for much nicer and softer light than direct flash.

Dave Gilmour & David Bowie - Comfortably Numb 2006 Live

[Thanks to TCGirl]

Norah Jones - Man of the Hour

[Thanks to TCGirl]

Gotta give it to her, despite being pretty, Norah is no pop-bubble-head, she can really play and really sing.

I actually like the studio version better:

TCG picked up that the song is not about a man as such.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Why typewriters beat computers (updated)

Why typewriters beat computers, BBC news article.
"The Japanese multinational Brother sold 12,000 electronic typewriters last year [2007] in the UK"

Twelve thousand? I'll be durned, I thought they were dead. But then I thought the same about vinyl records.
We'll see how it goes with film. I've no doubt a minority will keep using it, but one issue is, I've been told, that running a film factory is difficult and very, very expensive, so it requires a pretty good-sized market to make money.

Update: Jeff R points to this guy who is attempting to make his own photographic film. Ambitious!

Update: the article also said: "Typewriters are much more straightforward to use than computers as they only have one function - typing,"

Yes, fair enough. Personally I prefer a "typewriter" like the Alphasmart Neo. Barely more expensive, it has a better keyboard (to my taste), is much more compact, and it's much easier to edit the text and get it to the Net or to print (it does not have to be scanned or typed in again).
I got the link from this post. I like the first comment by "Hookmt".

It is this historical, emotional pull which draws a particular kind of student or aspiring writer to the typewriter.
I don't know why, but they usually seem to be men, and their heroes are hard, brilliant men from the last century. Posing on their blogs with an antique machine, all that separates them from Hemingway are two dozen cocktails and his ability to write.

LOL. I'm often dithering about simple-tech movements, because they have a point. But also, there is usually an air of romance which feeds the whole thing, it seems to me. Often coupled with a touch of simple technophobia.

And an interesting historical note:
Typing classes mushroomed at the end of the 19th Century, and this helped many women to enter paid work for the first time. By 1901, Britain had 166,000 female clerks, up from 2,000 half a century before.
It was a limited emancipation. The new employees (often called "type-writers" themselves) were accused of stealing jobs from men, depressing wages and sexually tempting the boss, and their chance of career progression was often nil. But for women to have any job outside the home was revolutionary.

Flickr sizing issue

Does anybody know, how do I upload images bigger than 1024 pixels to Flickr? No matter what I set the Flickr uploader (Mac) to, the site keeps resizing them! (Didn't help upgrading the app.) And the same with uploading via the site, also gets downsized to max 1024 px.

Aha, Luke informs:
You need a Pro account to upload photos larger than 1024, info.

Thanks. You'd think they would make that more clear. They'd avoid confusion as well as sell more accounts.

Sleeping Shahrzad

Sleeping Shahrzad, photo by Mark Probst.
Lovely photo. Though admittedly hard to say how much of the appeal comes from the lovely lady in it.
Panasonic G1 at ISO 1600.
Found via tOP.


I've optimized this for print. With the matte, enhanced contrast, and the black line where I usually have a white one, the print looks great.

Sam suggested a red line:

I think it works pretty well, though it has to be a very thin line to not dominate.
I think I prefer the black-line version though. It could be just my conservatism speaking, I dunno.

Panasonic G1, kit zoom. I used NIK Viveza to lighten the red without lightening the grey or white. It's an impressive app, very quick and intuitive automatic masking based on colors. It would be near impossible to make a mask for just the red in Photoshop (because of the raggedness of the edge), although you could approach the effect by simply a feathered rough mask.

Hammer dexterity

Here's another clever handiman, thanks to David.

Stephen Dutch Photography

Stephen Dutch Photography.
Stephen lives quite close to me here in the English North-West, which is how I found him, I met him and his camera (Pentax DSLR) a couple years ago, and as my sister says, like dog connoisseurs do, I sometimes strike up conversations with people with cameras. (Considering that photography is a pretty popular hobby, you really don't see many of them!) And I like his work.

Arnold Stang, voice of Top Cat, dead at 91

[Thanks to Joe]
Arnold Stang, voice of Top Cat, dead at 91, article.

It seems Top Cat is called "T.C." by friends. I did not know that when I encouraged our commenter TC (later updated to TC[Girl]) to use Top Cat as a moniker. Heck, at that point I did not even remember that there was a cartoon character called that. I trust she will not be speechless despite this new development of her voice passing on.

The article has a full Top Cat cartoon embedded. Just after the titles, we find the reference to Powerpuff Girls' and Sheep In The Big City's use of the dramatic narration entry: "This is the big city!"...

Arnold Stang was also in one of my favorite movies, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Here's advice: in thunder, you should unplug your electronic gadgets, computer, network routers, modems. Don't just turn them off, unplug them. A lightning strike can easily jump the gap of a switch that's turned off.
I've been doing this since I many years ago heard a tech supporter talk about how, after a thunder storm they always had many more calls the day after from people who'd had their routers fry.

I'm reminded of this because you may have noticed Pascal has been absent from commenting a while. It turns out two close lightning strikes near his home fried both the local electricity network and the power brick for his broadband modem. The latter despite the fact that he has surge protectors and a lightning rod.

Things that go bump in the night

Does anybody have an idea what this could be? In this apartment complex in recent months, I sometimes hear an odd noise in the silence of the wee hours: like an electric motor going up the RPM scale, and down. And then a thumping, like something being moved on a floor. These two things always go together, but there are variations in them. I've asked most of my neighbors, but nobody has even heard it.

And while I'm fishing for knowledge: once again while watching Friends, I notice how some of the wardrobe people for TV (Cheers too, markedly) find the most awesome clothes for their actors. Like shirts and sweaters with big, bright, colorful designs. I really want stuff like that, and I can pay, but it is notably absent in this English town. I fear I have to go to London to find some, or maybe even design it myself and have a tailor make it. But perhaps somebody knows a good place for it in, say, Manchester?

Nine Inch Nails & Pink Floyd & David Bowie - comfortably numb (live)

This is an awesome performance. Particularly the last half, instrumental. Some of the best guitar work I've heard. (I wonder which part Bowie plays? I'm not sure if it's him singing.)

I admire David Bowie not just for his unique talent, but also for his relative ego-less-ness. He not only accepts, but encourages, people to rearrange his music and use it, and he always collaborates with other artist, and often complete on their terms. Very unusual for such a talent.

Melly xmas

I wish you all a very merry Christmas or whatever!

A friend just wrote to me:
"Just reading on Slate about the Swedish (evidently it's a Danish thing too?) custom of watching a 1958 Disney cartoon special for Christmas."

Yes! We watched that every year. (There's a great spillover inside Scandinavia in culture and traditions.)
It's pretty amazing that Disney got away with that, since seeing it with adult eyes, it's blatant promotional material for the films... and I'll bet the TV stations even pay to show it! Good gig if you can get it! (One of my girl friends wanted to get a big carboard Marlboro Man she saw in a clothing store. They told her no, since they had paid good money to get it. Good grief!)

But it's no wonder that the audience loves it, because it really has many of the greatest cartoon scenes of the twentieth century, including such stuff as the famous music/dance scene from Snow White. Wonderful stuff.

Free bulbs

My power supplier (Npower) just sent me four free energy-efficient light bulbs. And it seems to all their other customers as well.
Wow, there's a fresh business approach. What's next, restaurants giving away free appetite-suppressing pills? :-)

My own time

"... He's not recognized in his own time... Oh! I would love to not be recognized in my own time!" - Phoebe on Friends

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So this evening it was snowing very prettily, and I joined my neighbors Shelley (blonde) and Jen in the backyard to admire it. Jen commented that it was good snowman snow, and of course there was no way out, we had to make one. For me it was the first time I've made one in over 30 years, I think. Good fun.

Once we'd established that the girls meant the two lower balls to be his legs, Shelley and I independently came up with the big feet.
I'm not proud to say I'm the one who gave him a dong.
I am proud of the face I gave him, inspired by the Easter Island figures. Sadly in the time I took to fetch the camera, Shelley was inspired by the Rocky movies, and his pretty face was gone. :-(

They don't teach impulse control in the schools these days? :-)

Panasonic G1, kit zoom, build-in flash. Slight levels and color correction in Photoshop, and shadows-correction, all the white in the middle had made the girls and background very dark.

... Funny phenom, by the way, that the hollows, like his mouth, which normally would be darker, are the lightest areas in the photos, because the areas act like a parabolic reflector to the direct flash.

Here's something I don't understand about modern automatic cameras, especially those who measure off the main sensor: while they usually do a very good job, sometimes, like here, you see pictures were the shadows are under-exposed, and yet there's plenty of room above the highlights (there was until I levels-corrected these). Why the heck does the camera not simply expose so the whole picture fits in the histogram? It has all the data to do that.

Sheep on the road

[Thanks to Greg]


The one below just reminds me how very boring most towns on the earth look.

Poor Tiger

... I am this close to just filtering my email to remove all references to Tiger Woods.

You know, I used to blame the press for the delight in "propping them up and then shooting them down"... But now I suspect that it's really something deep in all of us who loves to see somebody take a hard fall.

Superhuman tape measure skills

[Thanks to Tommy]

The Foaming Cat

My ol' net friend John Farr, an ususual and personal writer, writes about an injured cat. Warning, it's really repulsive, don't start reading it if you might not want to finish it.

Small diffuser (updated)

Here's a quick trial of the small diffuser I bought, for popup flashes.

Here's without diffuser. Hard light. (See the diffuser in front. The black part fits in the hot-shoe.)

Below, here's with diffuser. About a 40mm-e zoom setting. Somewhat softened. But no replacement for professional flash solutions.

Below: with diffuser, but the lens zoomed out to 28mm-equivalent, the diffuser does not cover that wide angle. Not on the Pana G1 anyway, it would depend on how far the front of the flash is from the hot-shoe and thus the diffuser itself.

Update: Mark mentions the LumiQuest ProMax Pocket Bouncer, it seems very promising. Although reviews are mixed: many are very enthusiastic, but some do say that the softening effect is minimal, that it still looks like direct flash. And looking at the smallish surface area, I can believe that it's at least limited.

Sukiho said:
As far as small diffusers go nothing beats a sheet of A4 paper and some sellotape.

Verizon’s New Motto: Why Not Be Evil?

Verizon’s New Motto: Why Not Be Evil?, short blog post.
"I don’t know. Maybe Verizon heard that there were six people left on Earth who didn’t have a reason to dislike it."

Pogue is funny. I've loved him since 1995 when I first read Macintosh for Dummies by him.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Prince William spends night on London streets

[Thanks to TCGirl]
Prince William spends night on London streets, article.
Hats off, I don't think I could do it.

Xmas Snow, photos from today

Technique: much as I love the Panasonic GF1 with the sharp and compact 20mm lens (40mm-e), these were taken with the G1 with the kit zoom. The kit zoom is sharp, also compact and flexible, and is stabilized. Also, the tiltable screen on the G1 is very helpful in changing the height of your viewpoint, both above your head, and all the way to the ground without having to lie down in mud or snow. I find this camera is my "default" camera for flexible all-round shooting.