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Archive for June, 2009

I once knew the names for this type of bronze vessel, it now escapes me.

I once knew the names for this type of bronze vessel, it now escapes me.

I went to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco today on the way back from dropping someone off at SFO. As always I enjoyed the exhibits (they had Samurai’s this time), but the trip highlighted the challenges of photographing in museums.

First I had all of my camera gear with me since I was unsure of what I would be doing before and after the museum, at this point that just constitutes at Think Tank Photo Streetwalker backpack. However there was a size limit on bags in the museum so I had to check my bag in the complimentary coat check. I was allowed to take my camera with me but not the bag. I had to decide which lens to take with me, knowing that no flashes are allowed I chose my 50mm f/1.8 for the high speed.

With no flash and no tripod I would have be limited mostly to all handheld shots and museums are surprisingly dark places (for the most part). I rarely went below an ISO of 400 and kept the aperture at f/1.8 the entire time. I would have liked a zoom lens for the wider angles and even a zoom but the kit lenses I have are far too slow.

With a high ISO I am pleased how the photos came out (the Samurai exhibit did not allow photography) the only problem I faced was the lack of an autofocus. Usually I am fine with manual focus, however it was combined with low light so I was below the standard 1/50s exposure time (since it is a 50mm lens) and was often at 1/20 or 1/40. It was necessary to manually focus with a shallow depth of field and steady the camera.

I utilized the usual trick of bracing against walls, pillars, signs and the odd chair though this museum had a dearth of conveniently located propping points. In the end I relied on the high ISO, an exposure compensation of -1 or -2 and the large aperture. I realize now that I should have set metering to be just at the focal point instead of factoring in the entire frame, the rest of the frame tended to be black if not dark and unnecessarily increased the exposure.

Back home when I went through the photos I found myself holding them to a different standard compared to other subjects. Instead of evaluating the photos of the art pieces by their content I did it by lighting, sharpness and focal plane. Only if a given piece had multiple sharp well exposed photos did I start to look into composition and even subject matter.

Now if I could only remember back to my Chinese Art History class to figure out what I photographed.

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Boats

Colorful boats in Madison.

Colorful boats in Madison.

In iPhoto I have a running set of photos that I pull out for this blog. Ideally I use them for a given entry because they match the subject in some tangential way, in general I just pick the ones I like that particular day. Other times the timing of the day worked out that I have nothing important to say so I put up a photo and call it good.

Since I have almost been doing one a year it is a hard habit to stop.

So today (depending on which day you read this) I have a photo of a line of small sailing boats on the University of Wisconsin campus. The colors caught my eye as they lined up one after the other. It was a perfectly dreary overcast day, I guess I was lucky in that I had no shadows.

I like boats to photograph, but not to ride.

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Heat

The east coast likes their "Pop".

The east coast likes their "Pop".

A lot of heat has been coming into the Bay Area recently, in particular near my house it has been getting into the high 90’s and perhaps low 100’s (roughly mid to high 30’s (305’s) for those fans of Celsius (or Kelvin)).

That sort of heat starts to greatly limit the options of what to do. They are sadly reduced down to activities like siting inside a cool house with a computer and sitting around a cool pool with a book. Sometimes there are radical activities in the heat like getting up to get a drink and (rarely) moving around deck furniture.

However as I am soon to be in Seattle for a bit of time I am doing my best to embrace these arduous activities of summer, I must make sure I contribute to the appreciation of the heat.

Of course my opinion of the warm weather would drastically changed if I had to work or do anything in it. Let us hope that does not happen anytime soon.

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This is not Pavement.

This is not Pavement.

Twice in the past week I have had discussions about the phrase “new and improved”, mostly starting by someone saying that an item cannot be both. Let us look at this.

The way I see this phrase is that an object can hold the characteristics of new as well as the characteristics of improved.

If I have a drawer full of forks that are all used and slightly worn and someone gives me an identical model fork but right from the factory it is then a new fork. Even though I have many like it, this one has not been uesd.

Now if I take an existing fork and tape a guiding laser along the tines the fork is very much improved.

So if someone gives me a new from the factory fork that is the same as all the rest, except that it now has a guiding laser would it not then be new and improved?

I can see where the phrases can be contradictory and it is really all tied up in how the word “new” is interpreted. If it is read as being the first ever made or never before experienced then something cannot be new and improved. If improvements can only be made on existing items and new items cannot have existing before then there is indeed a contradiction.

But if I improve something in a new way then this particular object is new by improvement. Wouldn’t that be new and improved?

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Civilization

The Roman Colosseum.

The Roman Colosseum.

I had a large list of things I was going to do today.

Then I received Civilization IV Gold edition in the mail.

That shot my entire day.

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Creative Advertising

A more creative approach to attracting blog traffic.

A more creative approach to attracting blog traffic.

Amid graffiti on the edge of Boston’s China town I found this URL scrawled onto a shadowed wall on the way to the subway station.

I wonder how much traffic this generates to the site.

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The Humanities and Social Studies building courtyard at UCSB, in HD.

The Humanities and Social Studies building courtyard at UCSB, in HD.

This HDR photo posed a little more challenge then previous ones. In the past when faces with these I did not really like the photo enough to dedicate the time to find a way to solve it. The problem: the night sky.

With many HDR photos taken at night the night sky turns into a mess of noise and artifacts, a result of the processing software. To avoid these using Photomatix Pro I upped the Shadow Clipping and then adjusted the remaining settings to make up for this. In the end this is what I used:

  • Strength: 80
  • Saturation: 55
  • Luminosity: +4
  • Light Smoothing: High
  • Microcontrast: +10

Tone Settings:

  • White Point: 0.604
  • Black Point: 0.161
  • Gamma: 1.23

Color Settings:

  • Temperature: 0
  • Saturation Highlights: 0
  • Saturation Shadows: 0

Smoothing Settings:

  • Micro-smoothing: 2
  • Highlights Smoothing: 30
  • Shadows Smoothing: 0
  • Shadows Clipping: 50

These settings worked well and I used this preset for several other photos taken in the same night.

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    Typewriters are fun for short periods of time.

    Typewriters are fun for short periods of time.

    I have been helping a writing coach develop her website: Your Book Starts Here.

    Mostly I have been giving advice on layout and design, creating graphics (like the above) and helping finagle register.com‘s webpage creating tool.

    Webpage creation tools can be a blessing and a curse, the one for Register.com has some issues with custom header graphics, notably they forget to tell you what size it should be to fit the webpage. That and their tile/no-tile options is always set to tile. The basic templates are decent enough with an odd amount of customization, there is just enough to be not useful.

    For example: you can change the colors of links/used links on the webpage but cannot change the background color.

    Unfortunately I know enough about graphic design to do well at improving and critiquing websites but I lack the background to build a new one from the ground up.

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    It is easier to transfer files over for a new typewriter.

    It is easier to transfer files over for a new typewriter.

    Before I received my new laptop I had to make a decision: rely on Migration Assistant to move everything over or do it myself. I had a large library of photos so I decided to do it by hand.

    With a large hard drive at hand I had to decide what to move over. Aside from the obvious such as documents, music and such I went through the Libraries (User and System) along with applications to see what I could move over. As well as what would actually help.

    I grabbed what preferences seemed important and some application support files (Doom 3 keeps the save games in the User/Library/Application Support) and a handful of other I thought to be useful (RSS reader, Safari folder). What I forget to grab that turned out to be important: Keychain. I have a lot of useless websites with passwords saved and it is just easier for the computer to remember these.

    Mail did not like being transfered over through a direct copy. In the end I just re-setup three of my e-mail accounts on the new laptop and archived the older folder. Luckily all of my accounts are IMAP so it just required a massive download (I don’t really clean or organize my e-mails).

    The other tricky bit was Time Machine. I wanted to just plug it in to the new laptop and have it resume where it left off. No dice. I even tried to change the MAC address based on this Mac OS X Hints article and that did nothing.

    I did find out that option-clicking on the Time Machine icon allows one to access other Time Machine’s on the give disk. This let me go into my Powerbook’s TIme Machine, delete some things taking up space and start a whole new Time Machine for my MacBook Pro. The only disadvantage of this system is that the Powerbook backups will not be deleted to make room so I need to keep an eye on it myself.

    So far nothing was missed, then again I tended to keep an organized system to begin with, no personal documents outside the User file except for some save games in the applications folder.

    We will see in a week or so if anything critical was left behind.

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    Happy Father’s Day

    Sit back and enjoy the world.

    Sit back and enjoy the world.

    Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers out there, especially my own.

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