Saturday, January 02, 2010

Fake Chuck Westfall

[Thanks to Luke.]
Fake Chuck Westfall (The real CW is Director for Canon U.S.A) and me?
(Though I thought the pictures I (and Mike Johnston) had selected showed the likeness better, some people actually believed it was me on both.)

New year's snow on grass

I'm quite fond of the last one, with the tree. (Canon 5D2, 70-200mm at the long end.) It's funny because the subject is surrounded by distracting things on all four sides, cars, trees, etc, so you really don't see it until you try with a tele to separate compositions and get into it.

Lorre 196

Saw this card after an episode of the entertaining Big Bang Theory:


my soul's journey

To let go of the fear and anger which imprisons my heart,
To relinquish all childish expectations and live joyfully in the world as it is --
not as I wish or imagine it to be,
To be free of the always craven and ever-craving ego,
To be released from the endless hungers of the body,
To see God in others,
To see God in everything,
To die without death and merge my consciousness into the
cosmic sea of bliss from which I came,
To crank out two sitcoms a week that can compete
with a deaf chick dancing her ass off...
This is my soul's journey.

I wonder if he's referring to something on TV, or this vid:

If the latter, I'd have expected it to be a very popular one, since he uses the word "compete". But it has only had a few thousand views, not millions as some youtoobs have.

Here's a fun little story of censorship and what a vanity card is (I didn't know).
"Please know that my aim was only to provoke a bit of gaiety through the judicious use of a little thing I like to call “the truth.”"
Did he really expect CBS to look at that card as "a little gaiety"? It may have been truthful, but it clearly is an attack, not a little joke. I wonder if Lorre is aware of how combative he really is.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Tommy's fireworks

Tommy made these fireworks photos, way cool.

Interestingly they are made more graphically interesting by him not using a tripod, which gives them the squiggly look!
I would not have thought of that, I'm too much of a follow-the-rules kinda guy. (In deep struggle with a rebellious heart deep inside.)

Nikon D3s low-light samples

Talking about low light, NeutralDay has tested the new Nikon D3s. Very friggin' impressive. It beats the D3, which was already king of the hill. The images at 16,000 ISO has much less "grain" than the photos I took with the first 400 ASA (~ISO) color film back in the day (late seventies).

Jul, Babushka (updated)

The two guys are the same actor, Anders Matthesen, believe it or not.

I'll give a full year's membership at Domai to any Dane who will transcribe and translate this in full, before Jan 9.

Update: much of the storyline is about terrorists, believe it or not. And it seems the Danish cartoon-story is not over yet, lo this story from 2 January 2010. I think fundamentalists have long memories. [Thanks to Joe.]

Long flash

It just occured to me to test the "night eyes" of my flash and camera. And lookit this! It illuminated the whole damn yard! The building is only illuminated from my camera. That's ridic.

Canon 5D II at 3200 ISO, Canon lens 35mm F:1.4, and Canon 580EX II flash.

It would be cool to photograph the nightlife in town like this. Buuuut... with the "beer-bin brainiacs" who pass for young men around here, it would be a quite risky proposition. Even if I were to bring a couple of strong friends, we may run into five or seven drunk skinheads who, already looking for a brawl, decide we are pervs wanting a good lesson.
But really, this is beginning to inspire me... it could be an alternative kind of night photography, even of still objects.

Cool coincidence: NeutralDay is also getting into flashing (as it were) right now.
Talking about gear: Whenever you buy it, or software, there's a registration form to fill out and send. Has anybody ever observed any practical effect of this, other than you get put on another mailing list?

Da Da Da

Goodness, Justine is cute. I once saw her on a Danish talk show, she was on the couch and Boy George was too. The idiot interviewer brought up the question of how big a penis should be. Boy loved it, but poor Justine was so embarrassed.
Elastica was a great band. The perfect mix of nice pop tunes and awesome guitars.

So, other cool version of Da Da Da:


Happy new year!!

Gawd, it's 2010! (Well, here in Europe at least.) Strangely, to me that feels more "science-fiction-y" than 2000 did.

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.