Saturday, October 30, 2010

Glowing leaves (updated)

Pentax K-r, 70mm F:2.4 (at 2.4 and F:13), 1600 ISO, Photoshop fx.

Not much light, so some (like the top one) I shot at 1/30 second. With a 100mm-equivalent lens, I was sure I couldn't hold that still, so I used the trick of setting the camera on continous firing, and fired off 3-4 shots of each. This will, amazingly enough, usually give one shot which is sharp.
But the in-body Shake Reduction of the Pentax must be better than I thought, because all the shots were sharp!* Very interesting. I guess it means if I use both methods, perhaps I can get sharp shots at 1/8 second with that short tele. ... Hey, why not test it?
No sooner thought than done:

It's decidedly dusk outside, much darker than it looks in this picture. (Yep, ten minutes later it's night.) It's F:6.4 at 1/8 second, and pin-sharp! Kewl. I took four shots in a burst, the first two were blurred, the last two were sharp.

Below is a 100% view (if you click for full size), first fresh from the camera, then with application of sharpen and de-noising filters. Remarkable.

By the way, "sharpening" in the computer does not create more detail in the photo. What is does is simply enhance the contrast at the edges, which gives the appearance of sharpness!
That type of sharpness is called acutance. An old Agfa film developer called Rodinal created the most amazing acutance, photos seemed so wonderfully sharp. But it had the same downside as Sharpening in software has: it also sharpens noise ("grain" on film), so the noise become more prominent. So it's a whole science to use this (and anti-noise filters) to the best effect.

*I dunno how "sharp" the leaf-pictures seem to you, cuz I did not process towards that in this case, I did not apply any sharpening in Photoshop, which is otherwise pretty standard, and furthermore I used a filter to get that "soft-focus"-like glow the pictures have. Just for fun, now we're talking about it, here's a more standard processing: 

Don't text and fly

Robert Hughes: The Business of Art

[Thanks to Dave]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Early TV

I just realized I was a bit hazy on exactly when television started. I had the feeling it was maybe around 1950, but that's only when it became mainstream. Both Europe and the US actually had TV in the thirties! It was just very, very low-fidelity, and way expensive. And nation-wide broadcasts only came to the US in 1951. Nation-wide anything is a big deal in the US because the country is so dang friggin' huge. In Denmark, which you can drive across in like five hours after the latest bridge was built not long ago (one of the world's longest), anything is "nation-wide" from the start, almost. Well, there are local newspapers, though I wonder how they are doing these days. ... Not so great for my own town it seems, the paper they used to have doesn't even have their own web site, seems the paper was "et up" by a bigger one servicing all the towns on Sealand (Sjælland, the island where Copenhagen is), I guess it's gone.

2nd Look and square photos

Second Look blog. Specializing in square photos. Nice ones too.

I wish somebody would make a digital camera with a square format option which optimized the use of the sensor and lens circle (as opposed to cropping the ends off a rectangular image, which wastes a lot of the sensor and lens).

In the old days Hasselblad published a little book (or several) promoting the aesthetics of the(ir) square format. And it is fun, if for no other reason then because it's rare. It's a more laid-back format in itself, so it's a bigger challenge to get some tension in the composition.

Last period I painted (acrylics) I used square canvasses. I don't recall the decision process, but it seemed natural.

Come to think of it, a very high percentage of my paintings (as differentiated from drawings), probably most, have been square, on board or canvas. Funny, never really thought of that before, but it goes back even to my first solo exhibition in the early eighties. It feels like if you start from zero as with painting, anything else than square needs a reason.

With drawings I usually used an ordinary 4/3 format, because they needed frames, and reasonably priced frames come in that format.

Dusk and autumn

It was quite dark, actually, barely enough light to hand-hold a decent image even with modern cameras with high sensitivity and "shake reduction", and I knew it would get darker second by second, so I grabbed the nearest camera which had a wide-angle on it (kit zoom, actually). Pentax K-x, 18mm, F:4.0. I have removed the lamp in the foreground and fiddled a little with contrast and such. Original:


My sad and shameful lack of respect for FaceBook is no secret. But it's not that I think social networks are stupid, it's just that I think they should have a center, be about something other than mostly mindless chatter.
One which looks promising is Shelfari, which is a book-reading community. Put up a virtual shelf of whatever you have read, review them if you like, and read others' reviews.

Tommy's blog

Regular readers may remember a fella named Tommy who has found some cool videos for us. Turns out he has a blog too.
For example I found this one there:

(As usual, click on the YouTube logo to see it in bigger size.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Love Letter to Camera

A Love Letter to Camera, NYT article. About the pricey, but powerful compact camera Canon S95.

Funny enough I was just reading another "love letter to a camera", with some interesting similarities and differences. This one is about the upcoming Fuji X100 (blogged before), which has an oldie-timey feel.

EmptySpaces said:
Incidentally, now's probably the time to grab the amost-as-awesome S90 at a discount price (doesn't do 720p, but it's basically the same camera otherwise).
If I were buying either camera, I'd recommend purchasing Richard Franiec's grip, which makes it much easier to hold (and still pocketable).

Couldn't agree more, on both counts. I have that excellent grip (blogged here). Nobody would think it was not build into the camera.

I did wonder if there really weren't any other significant upgrades to the S95? Is the S90 sensor really that "big"?

Update: Bruce sez they are mostly the same, and reminds me of Imaging-Resource's excellent comparison feature.

I'd say the success of this camera shows everything does not have to be about price. It is twice the price of many similar-featured cameras, and yet it's quite successful. People like something that's done really well.

Gates and taste

This is a fun little video, a 2-minute interview with Andy Hertzfeld about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the issue of taste.
It's interesting that even as Steve apologizes, it seems important for him to point out a truth (for him at least) which really maybe shouldn't be all that durn important.

By the way, Triumph of the Nerds is indeed an excellent TV documentary. Unfortunately and very oddly, the second series, "Nerds 2.0.1" is only available on VHS!

Goldilocks - the iPhone 4 Mobile Series

Goldilocks - the iPhone 4 Mobile Series [Episode 1 - "Meet Locks"]
Filmed on an iPhone, which shows how sometimes small and simple gear is all you need.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Easy Typing app for iPhone

If you have an iPhone, sometimes send texts on it, and don't have teenage slender hands and dexterity, I recommend Easy Typing, which is simply a much bigger keyboard than Apple's default. Not only that, you can email or text what you have typed from the app itself, simplicity itself.

What is a Vook?

What is a Vook?

To be honest, I'm not really sure that I want to "blend a book, video, and connecting to my friends" into one soup... Wouldn't that be like making a bicycle that's also a tent and a power drill?

But it might well work well for some things.
Here is an example. This one is just a promotional item though, designed to make you buy the guy's book.

About the Curtsey

In Terry Pratchett's books we learn that witches don't curtsey to anybody, because they consider themselves below nobody. Some of them go as far as consider themselves above everybody. I think the one to aim for is the former without the latter.

Only one time in my life have a woman curtsey'd for me, and I must admit, I thought it was really nice. The Western World, and not the least Scandinavia, has become very egalitarian during the twentieth century, and generally that's a good thing. But I think that there is a confusion where a gesture of respect has to imply subordination, which I don't think has to be so.

In fact I think there's a certain mindset in which egalitarianism is seen as false, in which everybody and everything is on a hierarchical scale willy-nilly (whether you want or not), and you better know where you are on it, particularly if you're lower than, whoever.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Amazon short/long-form publication

About the new Amazon short/long-form publication service, post on my eReaderJoy blog.

A house owns you

A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life; he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days. 
 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Isn't this so damn true?
And so slow we are to learn it, if at all.
And he does not even mention the worst part, perhaps it was not common in those days, but these days the great majority of house "owners"* were so eager to leap into that neat cell that they not only spent the most money of their life on it, they usually take on a debt which will take them like 30 years to pay off, and will earn the loaner a couple hundred percent before it's done.

Actually if we go deeper, I think it is not so much the fact of ownership itself which traps one, it is that one is mentally and emotionally attached to the house.

*Like Stuart Wilde said, try not paying your property taxes, and you'll see who owns your house.

Jeans fits

I was bemoaning that well-fitting jeans seem to be a lost art, when Ray found this article. It seems Levi's has put a lot of work into it.

Dance teams

I think that it must be be friggin' hard to dance fast and well in an outfit like this, attractive though it may be. Not to mention doing it with a constant huge smile. Seriously. Damn hard work.

The Russian "ReD Foxes Dance Team has been banned from performing during FIBA World basketball championship 2010 where Muslim countries will take part. Their onstage dresses have been claimed to be too provocative by the audience." (post)

Quotes of the week

Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost.
           -- Isak Dineson, 'Babette's Feast'

Set all things in their own peculiar place, and know that order is the greatest grace.
           -- John Dryden

The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.
           -- Dee Hock

Monday, October 25, 2010

Being Steve Jobs' Boss

Being Steve Jobs' Boss, article/interview.

You'd think that an interview with John Sculley (ex-Apple-boss) about Steve Jobs would be mainly bitter rivalry, but fortunately this isn't so, in fact it's highly interesting. It's quite philosophical, which I like.

An ark has been built

An ark has been built in Holland, virtually single-handed by one believer.
I wonder if somebody has calculated how much space it would actually take to transport a couple from every species on the Earth, plus food and supplies and a competent crew to keep them sound, but one thing is for sure: this guy is not afraid of a little labor!

21st century vinyl

The Crossley Revolution is a new turntable. It's compact, can run on batteries, has built-in speakers and a USB port for digital conversion!

What's next? Hardcover books with wifi for synchronizing bookmarks with Kindle?

Glitchy Digital Images are Artist’s Inspiration

Glitchy Digital Images are Artist’s Inspiration, pic post.

Oil paintings based on corrupted JPGs. Goes to show anything goes in art.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

More HDR (updated)

Update: here is an older post which shows how non-trivial this is to do if the camera doesn't do it (and only a few cameras do, yet). 

Here is one of the clearest examples I'd done where you can see the advantage one can get from High Dynamic Range technology, even the one built into the iPhone 4. (I'm starting to regard that device as a camera with a built-in phone.)
You can see that in the standard shot, most of the indoor red color is lost, and the color in the highlights and the blue sky are virtually all lost. These are saved in the HDR version (a combination, in-camera, of three exposures).
They are not computer-manipulated except for slight cropping.

(The first to comment on the quality of the window washing wins the opportunity to come over and prove he can do it better.)

Excercise for middle-aged nerds

Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side.
With a 5- kg potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can.
Try to reach a full minute, and then relax.

Each day you'll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.
After a couple of weeks, move up to 10- kg potato bags.

Then try 50- kg potato bags and then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100- kg potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute.
(I'm at this level.)

After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag.

On Avatar

I've tried three times now to sit through Avatar, and I totally fail every time. Apart from fx, it just does not seem interesting. Is it just me?

Mate making amongst the well-off

Thanks to Ian from SA for this. I think it's interesting. And honest. Be sure to read both sides of the conversation.
(A Rand is currently about a seventh of a US dollar. So she's talking about for $100k/year. Not excessive.)

 ... A funny thing is that the girl only stipulates income, not how much of it he would be willing to spend on her... Just because a guy is comfortable does not guarantee he's willing to buy swimming pools and mink coats.

Cursor positioning improved

I must learn better yet to not jump to conclusions. For example I had believed that the iPad was a very poor tool for editing text (as differentiated from writing it), because normally, even with the little loupe, positioning the cursor is clumsy and tricky.

But QuickOffice for iPad has invented a thing which I hope others will borrow: you point and hold on some text, and the app rapidly zooms in to something like 300%, and moves the line and the cursor up to just above your fingertip. This makes positioning the cursor not just as easy as, but even easier than it has ever been on a desktop computer. Wow.

I believe that almost all the unnecessary limitations of the iPad are just a question of software refinement. Apart from those which will buckle under for normal hardware evolution.