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.

The Laughing Gnostic

Here's a highly unusual article about David Bowie. Sort of good fun.
"Bowie (born 1947 as David Robert Jones) is seen by some as a sort of 'Renaissance Man' whose professed 'universality' is an attempt to show the landmarks of evolution by reassembling the fragmentary pieces of our society; and in this, he resembles many occultists. But unlike most occultists, Bowie has considerable wealth, critical acclaim, penetrating intelligence, and enduring good looks; he seems set to go on to even greater heights and achievements. What next, godhead? There is a Faustian/Mephistophelean element here. How else to explain the absolute zenith of this man's worldly trajectory? In fact, there are people who are convinced that his success wouldn't be possible without some kind of otherworldly assist.* I do not share this opinion. It is my conviction that Bowie's work has been seriously underestimated, and cannot be reduced to a series of single topics.
Nevertheless, it can't be ignored that Bowie has constructed his public persona from the various parts of the puzzle that are at the roots of modern occultism."

BTW, I discovered something interesting by accident: some pages, like this one, have a code which prohibits you from selecting/copying any text. But it seems that this can be circumvented by using the highly usuable Readable App. (I find now that I can copy text from the page normally in Firefox, I couldn't in Safari.) (Here's another page/site I can't select the text at in Safari.)


THE 2.0 DIGITAL CAMERA, article.
"I wonder why Nikon, Canon and Leica just keep on putting a digital sensor into film-camera bodies they designed in the Fifties. And why at Leica ... can not try and invent something like they did in 1925 when the 2.0 film camera was introduced, the Model A.
IMHO Micro 4/3 can really be considered as the Third-Millennium Leica (whereas M8 and M9 can not)."

LA Sheriff vs photographer (updated twice)

Update: OK, I have to admit I can also see the opposite viewpoint here. If the officer has been told, and has no reason to disbelieve (and why would he?), that photographs are used for scouting before terrorist attacks, then he sincerely believes that he is protecting the public. If you listen to him, while he's out of line when threatening the guy, he really is listening to what the photographer has to say, and trying to understand him. I respect him for that.

LA Sheriff vs photographer, video.
I guess a badge beefs up an ego.

Neeray says:
Fear and inferiority feeling combined with a uniform and some officially given power is a very contagious disease, worse than any influenza ...
Anyway, Merry Christmas!

And points to this English newspaper article...
Grant Smith, who has 25 years experience documenting buildings by Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, was stopped by a squad of seven officers who pulled up in three cars and a riot van and searched his belongings under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows police to stop and search anyone without need for suspicion in a designated area.

The funny thing about police that while they often do a good job and are very nice, sometimes their fear cause them to do total overkill. Seven men to search a peaceful photographer?!

M4/3rds forum

Our friend Amin from the Serious Compacts blog has made a Micro Four Thirds forum, and kicks it off with a contest. Excellent. I plan to participate.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is there a Santa

"I'm tired and confused... is there a Santa or isn't there?"

"The best camera is the one you have with you"

[Thanks to Joe]
"The best camera is the one you have with you", article/video. (Unusually, the video is a bit down the page. The last half of it promotes a new app for sharing iPhone photos.)

The title is an old maxim, and one that Mike Johnston teaches, although he also confesses that he often fails to live up the implication of the saying, meaning "always have some kind of camera with you, even if the quality is not optimal".

I have a camera in my Motorola Razr, but when I tried it, I just couldn't figure out how to get the pictures transferred to my Mac, so I don't use it. What I do now is that I always bring my Canon pocket camera if I'm going anywhere in daylight. A little bigger, but it has a zoom, and the quality is great.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

M9 articles (updated thrice)

Articles about the new connoisseur-camera Leica M9: an English photo journalists tests it.
And M Reichman tries it as landscape/hiking camera.
In general it's fair to say that apart from the very high price (with a lens or two it approaches $10k), the M9 is the digital Leica everybody has been dreaming of for ten years.
[Update: here's another review by Jason Schneider, who is the author of many books about cameras.]

Hehe, just looked up the very fast (lets in a lot of light for low-light shooting) wide-wide-angle Leica 24mm lens. An amazing piece of engineering it is. And $6,000 too! If that don't make your balls pull up...
The friggin' lens hood is $240! :-)

The famous but controversial Ken Rockwell writes:
The Leica 35mm f/1.4 ASPH is made exactly like every other Leica M lens, which is superbly. This is why Leica has the problem of some men buying these lenses as if they were jewelry, instead of tools.
In any case, this lens is made to last far beyond any of our life times. It will be taking pictures longer than I will.
I know: I've bought other lenses made like this that were bought 50 years ago by guys who never thought that the lenses they were buying to take photos of their kids would be inherited by those same kids and still used long after they were dead.
This of course brings us back to the jewelry problem: Leica lenses really are heirloom-grade, so the glitter boys give Leica cameras a bad name.

Are the collectors unfortunate for Leica? I can see how they may make some think that Leica gear is not serious tools. But on the other hand, maybe Leica would not survive solely on the tiny market of photographers who can afford their gear and also uses it to photograph? I'd not be surprised if collectors are essential to Leica's survival, particularly in a time where if you go by numbers only (megapixels and so on), Leica does not appear to be good value for money.

Me, I dunno. I like top-grade shit, but... well, it's a bit anachronistic, innit? Why have a rangefinder instead of AF these days? And why the BS cover on the bottom, which was unhandy even on film cameras, and serves no purpose at all on a digital camera.

Doug said:
"A camera in the hand is worth two really gourmet ones back at the flat"
-famed English photographer Randolph Hughes

Very funny, and very true. And I'll bet virtually nobody can tell pictures apart from a $9000 Leica and a $500 Nikon.