Results tagged “photography” from kwc blog

Advice to starting photographers


Shoot lots. Like, really, really lots.

Find something you care about and take hundreds of thousands of photos. Don't worry if they're good, because everyone starts out bad. Find something (or things) that you care so much about about after you've taken 100,000 shots, you're eager to take 100,000 more. Fill up the memory card every time you go out and shoot. Find other photographers who care about the same thing and study what they do.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. I don't take Gladwell as gospel, but at least in my case it's true. It also means that I'm not an expert yet.

I'm better than I was when I started, but there was no magical rule that made me become a better photographer faster. I've just taken a lot of bad shots. I've taken so many bad shots that, when I go to take more shots, I can remember those bad shots and try new ones. Sometimes I even try to take bad shots -- there's always chance to be happily wrong.

There's other advice I could give, like learn to use a flash, learn what every button on your camera does, get high, get low, so on and so forth. But, really, that's what the 100,000 shots are for.

Off to the Tour of California

Ride - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

I'll be posting to my Spare Cycles blog regularly with daily photos.

Eye-Fi WiFi card for cameras


I went to an Eye-fi demo in November [yes, I'm behind] and its been on my wish list ever since. It's a 2GB SD card and wireless card in one. In essence, it hooks your camera up to the cloud that is the Internet -- you can even send photos directly to Flickr (and many more). This is a huge time saver for me: I have scores of photos that never make it to Flickr because I am too lazy. It is also the final piece of the puzzle for cloud-computing photography: take photos, find any computer with a Web browser, and edit online. You don't even need to own your own computer anymore. It can even automatically rename your photos based on your location (no more 'IMG_1235' image titles).

There are already many, many reviews of this device on the Web, so I'll quickly get out of the way some questions that I still had going into the session:

  • What about compact flash?: the Eye-Fi will work with a SD-to-CF adapter, though the range may be less due to the way the antenna is obstructed
  • Can you control privacy settings for Flickr, i.e. upload private?: Yes
  • What about wireless networks with logins? (e.g. Google WiFi): you're outta luck here. In the future they plan on adding this as a 'premium' feature.
  • Can it auto-delete successfully transferred photos, i.e. become an infinite-storage-capacity card if you're on a network?: 'unloading' may be a feature they add in the future.
  • Can it use WiFi geolocation services like Skyhook?: they may add this in the future, possibly as a paid feature

At the demo I went to, the presenter took shots of us with his SLR that almost instantly showed up on his laptop screen. The claimed transfer speed was 2Mbit/s, though they hope to ramp it up to 4-8Mbit/s with some firmware updates. The range is ~45 ft indoors, though this will vary significantly. You get all of this for only 5% more battery usage.

Eye-fi is very focused on the consumer demographic. They worked hard on some slick packaging and streamlined setup, going as far as attempting to ID your camera so that the setup can tell you if you need to adjust any camera settings and also attempting to guess your WEP key. The consumer focus also means compromises: they chose to go with a 2GB SD card instead of 4GB+ SDHC cards to eliminate any confusion over compatibility; they only transfer JPEG images (no RAW, MOV); it won't attach to ad-hoc networks, and they don't offer a compact flash form factor. If you want to take it into the field you'll probably have to purchase a USB WiFi basestation for your laptop.

Most of the management of your Eye-fi card is via an Eye-fi Web page. This page lets you configure multiple WiFi access points with your card as well as setup your transfer settings. The card can upload directly to sites like Flickr, Picasa, SmugMug, etc... or to your computer, or both.

There are professional alternatives to the Eye-fi. Canon SLR users can get the WFT-3a grip, which adds wireless transfer to Canon SLRs with much greater transfer range than an Eye-fi, but at a steep cost: $750. At $100, the Eye-fi is a bargain and adds many features (i.e. Flickr, Smugmug) that you generally don't see in professionally-oriented accessories.

Matt Wates CD in the mail


Matt Wates Sextet Picture of You

My copy of The Matt Wates Sextet A Picture of You CD arrived in the mail today, featuring metamanda on the cover and CD label. Its selfish to gush about CDs with your photography on the cover, but I also gush because Matt Wates has reaffirmed my trust in the ways of the Internet: locating a photo he wanted on Flickr, paying for it, giving proper credit, sending a free copy, writing a nice note, etc... Most importantly, I actually enjoy the CD -- the sort of music that goes well with unwinding after a day of work like I am right now. A class act and musician.

Look for the CD to go on sale at the Audio-b Web site.

PS: In other photo news, my gallery at Integrate Fitness is up.

Migrating Off Flickr (Partially)


I've spent much of my holiday vacation writing scripts to migrate my Flickr galleries to MovableType. It's still a work in progress over at, but I'm pointing out a bit early in case anyone has some feedback. So far I've only completed the first phase, which is to write the script that migrates from Flickr; the next phase is deblogify things so that it looks more like a photo gallery and then start moving in the photos. While the overall design will probably fall short of Flickr's, I have made it easier for visitors to copy photos for embedding and the performance will also be better.

I am still fond of Flickr and will continue to use it, but I want to de-emphasize its role for my pro photography -- I don't like the fact that I have become more reticent to post personal photos to Flickr. I also think I can deliver a better integrated experience and increase traffic (Google Image Search delivers 100x as many visitors to as my Flickr photostream).

Recently the blogosphere had a little flareup when photographer Lane Hartwell had a popular video pulled from YouTube because it used one of her photos without attribution. Bloggers, who depend on free, interesting content, were crying "fair use" and incensed that she wasn't grateful to see her photo appear. Pro photojournalists seemed to migrate to Hartwell's corner, glad that someone stood up for their rights that center around a licensing-based business model.

After initially siding with the bloggers, I found myself pulled towards the middle. Bloggers and photojournalists have entirely different models of success and compensation. As a blogger, I would be thrilled to know my content found its way around the Web -- links and traffic are how bloggers compensate one another. As a photographer, its difficult to cover costs and even prominent attribution isn't worth anything. I want to see creative uses of my photos, but my status is equated with who is willing to pay me: photographers from the top magazines get top access.

And so I wish to strike a balance between my blogger and photographer motivations. I'm pulling in many photos to so that I can own the traffic and project a non-Flickr brand. I'll continue to enable sharing of photos with even easier embedding, but I'm eliminating the availability of hi-res copies. I'll also be more focused on commercial aspects of photography, whether it be selling to magazines or pushing prints more.

I'm in a lucky and grateful position: I don't need to make money doing this. But any money I make from photography is 'free money' that I will roll back into taking more photos at more events in more places. And so this hopefully will mean more photos for you as well.

Some more photos in print



I'm thankful that Road Bike Action picked up some more photos of mine: a two-page rear spread ("Last Shot") and three in-article photos. I feel like I've accomplished impossibly many cycling and photography dreams this year and it all started with RBA. To get another welcome surprise from them is a wonderful close to the season.

Now I get to chart some new goals for 2008, which feels ridiculous because my 2007 goal was to get a media pass. My modest goal is to shoot one US Tour from start to finish, which I've never done. My medium goal is to shoot two US Tours start to finish, and my impossible goal is to shoot a stage from the back of a motorcycle. We'll see how I do 365 days from now. Today I went to the route announcement for the 2008 Tour of California prologue, so I'm already getting excited.



VeloNews Spread

crossposted from spare cycles

I got my first photo in VeloNews -- the latest with Hincapie on the cover. It's a two-page "Off the Front" spread showing Scott Moninger riding past a convoy of Missouri Department of Transportation trucks. Obviously I'm happy, but for several reasons:

  1. I've had this goal for a long time.
  2. I almost didn't stop to take the photo. I was in a hurry to get to the finish line of the time trial and drove for several more minutes before I said, "Stupid, that's the shot." One illegal U-turn later I took the photo.
  3. I happened to capture Scott Moninger, who later announced that the Tour of Missouri was his final race. It's nice to be able to pay respect to him, even if unintentionally.

If you're trying to find a copy of the issue, you won't find any at the Borders in Palo Alto :).

My weekend


Christine Thorburn Sunset on the 24 Hour Course

As part of my tune-up for the Tour of Missouri I spent all of Saturday shooting cycling races. First up was the Beat the Clock time trial at 7am. The was mostly "field testing the 70-200 f/2.8 IS", so I shot some head-on shots as those are the most stressful for the equipment. Not everything was a keeper, but the image stabilization reduces one more area of mistake: camera shake. Normally at 200mm, you have to shoot at around 1/320 or faster to avoid camera shake blur. With all the action that's going on, I sometimes forget to check the shutter speed while shooting (I always shoot with aperture priority). IS gives a little more margin.

I left the time trial, stopped off at home to upload my photos, then zoomed down to Monterey for the World 24 Solo/Team Championships. The organizers gave me a lift out to the first checkpoint on the course and proceeded to hike about 5-7 miles along the course back to the Laguna Seca raceway. The narrow single track along the way gave me ample opportunity to break in my 16-35mm as well as my 580EX II flash. The flash got some additional testing when the sun went down and riders continued to race, but I must say that I am still not comfortable using flash in my sports photography. By 9pm I was nearly out of battery life, compact flash storage, and personal energy -- I drove home happy but tired. Hats off to anyone who shoots all 24 hours of the 24-hour race. Much, much more difficult than any road race I've shot.

All-in-all it was a great photography day, not in the photos, but in the ability to stress all of my equipment and to shoot in all kinds of light. I shot several shots with riders heading into the morning sun, battled the annihilating overhead noon sun that casts dark shadows over faces, and got some pleasing lighting with the setting sun. There was also a couple of hours of battery left to shoot some night motion blur.

They're here: 70-200 f/2.8 and 1.4x


New Toy (the bigger one)

Two new toys arrived in the mail for me today: the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS USM and the Canon 1.4x extender. I've long been eying these as additions to my cycling photography arsenal, but I didn't view myself as 'worthy' of them at the start. Actually, price was probably more a factor. With the Tour of Missouri coming up, I figured now was the time to take the pocketbook plunge.

Experience matters for photography, but let's not kid ourselves. The person with the more expensive equipment will take better photos, at least for sports photography, where your photos have to been in focus to qualify. I took cycling photos for years with a film and analog Rebel, but it was the Canon 30D that immediately took things to the next level.

I'm hoping for the same sort of results with the 70-200 f/2.8 IS and 1.4x combo. The image stabilization in the 70-200 f/2.8 IS has a specific mode for doing panning photography, which is a popular staple of cycling photography (example). The extra advantage of the f/2.8 should also help in darker conditions, which my old 70-200 f/4 suffers in. One other bonus: weather sealing, which matters when you're trying to run around with a plastic baggie trying to keep the rain out.

As for the 1.4x, it's my compromise. It's been recommended to me that I pick up a 300mm lens, and there's been no lack of them at the finishing line of events that I visit. A 200mm isn't long enough in those situations and a 300mm collapses the depth of field better. Unfortunately, a 300mm requires man-of-steel arms to lug around. I've seen a photographer leave his 300mm in the media van rather than lug it around the course.

A 1.4x is cheaper and lighter. It will turn my 70-200 f/2.8 into a 98-280 f/4, which should fit the bill (an extender affects both the focal length and aperture). I was always worried that 1.4x or 2x extender would slow down my old f/4 lens too much, but the f/2.8 provides that extra breathing room.

I'll have several occasions in September to break the new equipment in. Hopefully it will perform well. In any case, it's another step towards guaranteeing that I never make money off of photography.

70200_28lis_usm.jpg canon14.jpg

A CD Cover


Sunset Maui-1I get to add CD cover to my list of photo credits, which happened so serendipitously that I couldn't really believe it happened until the money arrived. There was no effort on my part -- it's a photo of meta that I uploaded to Flickr from a Maui trip way back. Even the photo was lazy: I was just messing around with my camera settings on the beach... which is pretty much what I normally do when I'm relaxing at the beach.

John Scalzi has extolled the benefits of the Internet for the lazy artist -- he has sold multiple manuscripts by uploading them online for free instead of submitting them -- but little did I know that this magic could reach my neck of the woods.

I have some more details on my Vox.

Lenses are tough to make


This video looks into the lens-manufacturing process at JML Optical. Somehow I thought it was a lot more automated than this.

Update: Mark Wallace of Snap Factory points me to the even more detailed Canon Virtual Lens Plant, which has video covering the lens manufacturing process from glass-forming to lens assembly. Canon's process seems even more complex. Just to get the glass for the lens, a glass mixture is blended from raw materials (different mixture for each lens), fused in a crucible, cast, broken apart, and recast into a sheet. Then the sheets are cut to the right shape/weight, ground, reheated, pressed into lens shapes, and annealed. Then you start the 'lens machining', i.e. actually grinding and polishing the lens. For this stage, the lens is rough ground with a diamond grind stone, fine ground with a diamond pellet platter (1/1000mm precision), polished, milled to the right diameter, and coated. The final lens assembly process is all expertly hand-done from the inside of the lens out. It's impressive how many steps have to go right to get to the final product. (got all that?)


I stumbled across this older Rob Galbraith article (via) that uses the 2004 Super Bowl (aka the "Wardrobe Malfunction" year) to delve into how Sports Illustrated takes and processes its photos: camera settings, post-processing settings, guidelines, equipment, etc... Their photographers are told to not delete any photos, deliver the entire reel, shoot in RAW+JPEG, etc... Even if the software configuration that is discussed is a bit dated, it is one of the best overviews I've read of a pro pipeline.

Sports Illustrated's digital workflow

Good news (for me)


crossposted from Spare Cycles

I just got confirmation that one of my Levi photos from the Tour of California will be on the cover of Road Bike Action issue 2. I also got several photos inside, including the Table of Contents. I don't know when the issue is coming out but I do know that it has gone to press.

With absolutely no conflict of interest, whatsoever, I encourage you all to become Road Bike Action subscribers (only $9.99).

another crosspost from spare cycles

For my Canon 70-200 f/4 lens I keep in my head some approximate equations for calculating depth of field (DOF) at f/4:

200mm: 11.5 / (100/distance)2
70mm: 89 / (100/distance)2

These equations look difficult, but if you keep to easy distances you can rough it out. For example:

200mm @ 10ft: 11.5/(100/10)2 = 11.5/100 ~= 0.1 ft
200mm @ 25ft: 11.5/(100/25)2 = 11.5/16 ~= 0.7 ft

To convert to other f-stops, you simply multiply (e.g. f/8 is twice f/4).

When shooting with the 70-200, the DOF tells you whether you're going to be shooting a lone rider, a pack, or a really-in-focus gear shift. My Tour of California photos from last year are full of examples of overly optimistic DOFs for my slow Digital Rebel and trigger finger.

Chris Horner nears the finish-1 Ekimov nears the finish-1

above left: Horner's chest logo and thigh are in focus, but not much else. above right: I got luckier catching Ekimov's face, but the DOF is only about the length of his hands. If I had used a larger DOF, I wouldn't have tossed away as many shots. An alternative is to get a better camera, which I did.

My new 16-35 is adjusting my way of thinking on this. I can't extend my previous equation because at 100 ft, the DOF is infinity. In fact, at f/2.8:

16mm @ 10ft: DOF 21.4ft
16mm @ 5ft: DOF 3.52
16mm @ 1ft (minimum distance): DOF 0.12ft

At less than 5ft, it might be worth remembering, but a more useful calculation will probably be the hyperfocal distance:

When the lens is focused on the hyperfocal distance, the depth of field extends from half the hyperfocal distance to infinity. -- Photography, Phil Davis, 1972. source

Instead of trying to put one thing in focus, this is the distance to think about for putting everything in focus. For my 16-35mm this breaks down to:

16mm @ f/2.8: 15.7ft
35mm @ f/2.8: 74.9ft

This is much easier to remember and calculate than DOF. To get hyperfocal distance for other f-stops you divide (f/5.6 = half f/2.8).

This isn't field tested, but I'm thinking that it will be more useful to trade DOF for hyperfocal distance when I'm getting my 16-35mm shots. We'll see how it all works out after its inaugural run this weekend.

Thanks to the ever useful online DOF calculator

Branching out with a new lens


crossposted from spare cycles

canon1635II.jpgThe newest lens in my small arsenal is the recently released Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II. Its bigger, badder, and more expensive than its predecessor. The Mark I was known for being a bit soft at the edge, so much so that some people have gone for the half-as-expensive 17-40 f/4 instead. The Mark II helps re-justify the 16-35's greater price tag. Of course, none of that really matters if you're shooting with a Canon 10/20/30D or Digital Rebel -- the 1.6x crop factor of those cameras cuts off all the fuzzy bits -- but lenses outlast the bodies they're attached to. One day I hope to have a full-frame camera for shooting architecture.

I was in a bit of a rush to get this lens because I want to break it in at Sea Otter this weekend. The wideness will be more useful for MTB shots and will also help me get some nice panoramas of Laguna Seca. It will also be useful for road shots where I'm standing really close to the action.

Rather than recommend the same course of action to others, I'll list the pros and cons I debated in choosing this rather extravagant purchase.

Pros: * f/2.8 is fast and you'll need if you are planning on shooting in the woods or in bad weather * better edge sharpness than the Mark I, though not applicable for 1.6x crop cameras * 1.6mm wider than the 17-40mm f/4L on a 1.6x crop camera

Cons: * $300-400 more than the Mark I * Over twice as expensive as the 17-40mm f/4L. In fact, you could almost buy a 17-40mm f/4L and a 70-200 f/2.8L for the same price.


Forget the Canon 70-200 f/2.8, I'm skipping straight to the Sigma's 200-500mm f/2.8. All the other photographers will have to get out of the way when you wield this 35 lb behemoth -- if it doesn't break your back... and wallet.

If that's not enough grab for you, it comes with a 2x extender to turn it into a sick 400-1000 f/5.6. It even has room for a LCD with focal length and distance readout.

QotD: ISO 10000


"You can take shots of black cats fighting in a coal mine... at night."

Photographer John at the Tour of California, in reference to Olympus' ISO 10000 digital camera.

Post-race lens purchase?


My Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L lens was a champ during the Tour of California. Once I got a decent camera body to stick it on, its true quality shined like a diamond. But I have a whole void for < 70mm that I need to fill. Milling about the start area in Santa Barbara as well as the post-race interviews, it simply wasn't possible to frame a lot of shots unless I wanted closeups of nose hair.

One of the longest discussions I had during the Tour of California was asking another photographer for recommendations as to which lens to get next. Two in my book ranked highly as contenders: the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L and the Canon 17-40 f/4L. The 16-35 is twice as expensive for the extra 1mm of wideness (1.6mm on my 30D), but the f/2.8 could come in handy if I start using it for mountain bike races. The 17-40 has an extra 5mm (8mm on 30D) of reach. Another plus for the 17-40 is that is much sharper at the edges than the 16-35, though this doesn't matter as much if you have a 1.6x crop factor camera (like the 30D). This photographer actually knew colleagues who turned in their 16-35s for 17-40s because of this sharpness issue (money wasn't an issue).

Canon may have settled the debate for me last week if I can locate the money:


The new Canon EF 16-35mm II is designed to improve the sharpness issues of its predecessor. Not much is known about this lens yet as I have not seen any hands on reviews. About the only complaint I see with the new specs is that it now requires an 82mm filter instead of 77mm filter, which will cost you a few extra bucks... but you should have a few extra bucks if you can afford this lens in the first place.

Media Passes are awesome


I new that the media pass would give me better access to take my photos, but who knew there would be other fringe benefits:

  • The Press Room has wireless internet to upload your photos and write your reports
  • It also has food and water
  • You get a welcome bag from the city (someone stole the fudge out of mine, but I got a wine glass, opener, and tourist info)

I'm in Santa Barbara now drinking coffee to stay awake. I still need to find a place to sleep tonight...

Sierra Road


Top of Sierra Road Top of Sierra Road (Bobby Julich) Levi and Jason over the top, KOM

Lots to report from my Spare Cycles blog. I spent most of the day on Sierra Road: stage summary, diary.

I also got my very first press pass, which I haven't had the chance to break in yet:


Tour of California Prologue



The prologue for the Tour of California was awesome -- thanks ota for coming along and also shooting video (stage summary). Also awesome? My Canon 30D.

New Reuters photoshopping guidelines


I found the new Reuters Photoshopping guidelines rather interesting. They are partly in response to recent scandal involving doctored photos from a Beirut photographer, which featured cloned and darkened smoke as well as cloned flares.

The new guidelines are interesting to me because they make judgments on the journalistic value of various Photoshop features -- it's somewhat like arguing "what is art?", though admittedly not as troublesome. I find it funny that objective tools like Auto Levels, In-camera saturation styles, and In-camera sharpening are disallowed, but subjective variations of these manipulations are*. It's very possible that these are disallowed for technical reasons, but still...


  • Cropping
  • Adjustment of Levels to histogram limits
  • Minor colour correction
  • Sharpening at 300%, 0.3, 0
  • Careful use of lasso tool
  • Subtle use of burn tool
  • Adjustment of highlights and shadows
  • Eye dropper to check/set gray


  • Additions or deletions to image
  • Cloning & Healing tool (except dust)
  • Airbrush, brush, paint
  • Selective area sharpening
  • Excessive lightening/darkening
  • Excessive colour tone change
  • Auto levels
  • Blurring
  • Eraser tool
  • Quick Mask
  • In-camera sharpening
  • In-camera saturation styles

* note: you aren't allowed to use the saturate tool, but you can do the same with both levels and curves

CS3 makes a difference


Omotesando Hills - Ando

The Photoshop CS3 black & white conversion feature is everything I hoped it would be. As a test, I did my normal B&W conversion routine for my Omotesando Hills photos using Photoshop 7 and the Channel Mixer. The lighting was fairly funky so each conversion took minutes.

Then I tried doing one photo using CS3's B&W tool -- it only took seconds and I had better control over the result. I had enough time left over that I played around with the Refine Edges tool to produce the cutout above. I still haven't really figured out the Refine tool -- its a bit complicated for all its power -- but there is some promise if I can master it.

B&W Photoshop CS3 tutorial


I've done some very basic playing around with B&W conversions using Photoshop (since then, I've taken to using the Channel Mixer when lazy). All of those techniques seem to pale in comparison to the potential of CS3, as demonstrated by this Russell Brown CS3 B&W tutorial. The tutorial starts off basic enough, but wait until he shows off the click and drag adjustments.

Photoshop CS3! (Beta)


Photoshop cs3The Photoshop CS3 Beta site is live now. You can take the new Mac/PC betas for a spin and, yes, there is a Mac version Universal. Anyone is free to try, though to go beyond a 2-day trial you need a CS2 serial number.

So what's cool about CS3? The best roundup of links I've run across so far is at John Nack on Adobe. I'm personally excited by smart/live filters, which lets you add filters as layers -- I've loved using adjustment layers and smart/live filters is a necessary addition for that style of workflow (lossless compositing, rather than sequential modifications). You can even add a mask to these filters.

I'm also excited by the new black and white conversion tool (implemented as an adjustment layer). I've used the Channel Mixer to do conversions when lazy, but this looks like a much more precise tool. You get more channels to mix across and tinting (hue/saturation) tools.

Here's PhotoshopUser's top ten list of new features. There seem to be a lot of great features targeted at making compositing easier: auto align, auto blend, quick select/refine edges, cloning/healing updates.

One thing really stunned me about CS3: they didn't change any keyboard shortcuts! Maybe Adobe forgot who it was after it acquired Macromedia, but regardless, I'm happy to not have to print out a list of keyboard shortcuts to refamiliarize myself. You can find the very short list of new shortcuts here.

CS3 does overhaul the user interface, which I will refrain commenting on until I actually try it. At the very least, you can revert the behaviors to CS2-style without much trouble.

Credit: Christopher Morris (Hasted Hunt Gallery)

I find White House photography fascinating. With the heavy-handed use of symbolism in American politics, this genre of photography has the ability to dissect the staging, either through an overt presentation of the symbol or positioning itself orthogonal to the television camera.  I came across Christopher Morris's gallery for Hasted Hunt and Time's White House Photo of the Day separately and enjoyed both immediately. As it turns out, the TIme site mainly features Christopher Morris and Brooks Kraft.


Credits (clockwise from top left): Brooks Kraft, Christopher Morris, Christopher Morris, Christopher Morris

Canon is now offering double rebates until January 13th. Double rebates means that your rebate doubles if you buy two items, e.g. if the 5D is $300 off, you get $600 if you buy another eligible Canon item. This isn't quite as good as the triple rebates that they sometimes do, but it is catchy enough to make me want to hide my credit cards until the rebate is over. Must... resist... more... lenses.... and... speedlite...

You can view the rebate details on Amazon -- the rebate applies wherever you buy the equipment.

My first book cover


While not as cool as getting a solo exhibit in the Brooklyn Atlantic subway station, I did get my first book cover credit as a result of my Flickr habit. It's easy for your photos to end up in many places... when you give them away for free.

A couple of months ago I gave permission for a publishing company to use one of my photos, and in return a package arrived today with a copy of Cult of the Luxury Brand.

Cult of the Luxury Brand

Here is the original photo of the Prada Building in Tokyo:

Prada Building, Omotesando, Tokyo

The complimentary copy of the book is the entirety of my payment, but heck, at $35 ($23.10 sale), it is $35 more than I have received for any of my other photos -- though the MythBusters did give me a sandwich and a burrito.

New Lightroom and Aperture


Photokina brings two good software announcements for digital photographers: Lightroom Beta 4 and Aperture 1.5. My Windows workflow means that it will be Lightroom B4 that I'll be giving a go -- my previous experience didn't wow me, but I'm willing to see if this latest rev is gentler on my CPU. Apple claims that Aperture will even run on Intel Mac minis, so my expectations are higher for Lightroom now.

Wedding photography


Joy and BP-01 Bryan and Joy Wedding-07 Bryan and Joy Wedding-04

Joy and BP-02 Puffer Kelly-06 Puffer Kelly-03 Puffer Kelly-01

I thought I'd share a few of my favorites in this entry because weddings, Comic-Con, and the Tour de France pretty much dominated my July, and I've already blogged plenty about the latter two. (I can't share some of the Iowa ones, as they are still marked private).

Suddenly my Flickr photostream makes it looks like I'm a wedding photographer, which couldn't be further from the case. If you told me last year that I would be credited as a wedding photographer, I would probably have laughed my butt off, in fact, I still do, but somehow that happened twice this month with bp/joy's wedding and another in Iowa. It helps that d and I did this together: I was lost through it all while she seemed to fall into role directing people around -- it probably isn't all that different from managing kindergartners.

I'm used to outdoor sports photography, so it's taken a bit of getting used to shooting in low-light indoor settings, but I think the hardest aspect is the logistics of it all. Admittedly, shooting bp and joy was rather easy, as we just had to sit back and let them be happy and kiss while we photographed it all. Shooting in Iowa with bridesmaids, groomsmen, mothers, fathers, grandmothers -- that was tiring, especially when people keep wandering off or are running late. You spend the whole time searching around to find better lighting or checking out the ceilng to see if you can bounce your flash or scanning back through the photos you've taken to make sure that you have good takes of all the shots you've been requested to take. You're sweating in your suit in the 100 degree humid weather and you're trying to think of something clever so you can get something better than the tired smiles from all the shooting.

Shooting cycling is so much more relaxing in comparison. Even with the additional challenge of shooting fast-moving objects, it's nice to know that you have no control over the situation: I don't have to tell a cyclist to smile or move a little to the left or go find his grandma. I just point my camera, click, and wait for the next lap.

I'm going to a wedding in Chicago on Thursday -- I think I'll leave my camera in the suitcase for that one.

Congrats bapp and jlpp


Bryan and Joy Wedding-04

'tis a bit belated, but I wanted to say it with a photo, because they were so much fun to shoot. Sometimes photography can be hard, sometimes easy. With them it was too easy: there wasn't a second they didn't look like this was the best moment in their life (trust me, my new camera shoots 5 frames/sec -- there wasn't a second, or even 0.2 seconds... okay, maybe during that one testimonial ;) ). So, congratulations, and thanks for sharing a wonderful moment in time.

A few links


MareNostrumchurch.s.jpg nielsenstrike.jpg jackpc.jpg

Well, there goes my bank account


I just ordered a Canon 30d -- I'm hoping it's worth every penny because it's quite a mound of them. I'm trying to take my cycling photography to the next level and -- even though I'm not quite ready for it -- the 30d should alleviate some of my gripes with the Rebel 300D (hard to tell if things are in focus with viewfinder, can't activate AI servo independently, slow startup, low fps, etc...). Although I was jealous to see one of my co-workers with the Canon 5d, the 30d should actually be a better for action photography.

In other action photography news, as of Tuesday that wonderful blow-up-stuff show now has the rights to some of my photos for their Web site. Irony is delicious.

Unofficial MythBusters guides:

Spare cycles: * What Would Graham Do? * SportsVelo and LATS * Basso Looking Strong (Criterium International)

More on the MythBusters coming soon. I took lots of video that I need to process. If it's good enough I'll post on YouTube. If it's not, I try to transcribe some of the Q&A. There was a great blooper reel that I wish I could post.

Canon Camera Upgrade Lust


Photo Marketing Association (PMA) 2006 is over and a couple Canon cameras caught my eye*. Both have me thinking, "Upgrade! ... at a much later time when I have more money... which of course means that there will be even newer cameras to catch my eye."

The first is the SD700 IS Digital ELPH. I've used ELPHs since the S400, which I replaced with the smaller SD300 after I wore the S400 into the ground with constant abuse. I didn't see the SD300 as much of an upgrade as a replacement, but it did add faster startup times and a much smaller body. If I hadn't broken the S400 I would probably still be using the older ELPH today.

SD700 front SD700 back

The SD700 is the first new ELPH since the S400 to really get my attention. First off, the Canon engineers have finally figured out how to stick 4x zoom into the tiny ELPH form factor. Then they added Image Stabilization (IS) and ISO 800 on top of that. There are other features to admire in the SD700, but it's these three that set it apart for me against previous ELPHs. My ELPH is the camera I always have on me and it's the camera that I rely on to get the shot regardless of the conditions. The IS and ISO 800 capabilities would give me additional flexibility in darker situations (e.g. restaurants) without having to resort to picture-ruining flash and the 4x zoom would get me that extra step closer to my subject.

30dThe second camera to catch my eye is the EOS 30D, which is a new addition to Canon's Digital SLR line. I'm currently using a Digital Rebel 300D that's excellent for it's price tag, but has plenty of shortcomings for cycling photography. The EOS 5D has given my camera cravings since it's announcement, but it's $3,000 price tag keeps it out of my reach. The full frame sensor is also an argument against me buying it for sports photography as my 70-200mm f/4 lens would no longer be the 112-320mm f/4 lens it is with the Rebel 1.6x crop factor. I probably couldn't afford the extra $1000 to upgrade the 70-200mm and a 1.4x extender might slow down the lens too much**.

The EOS 30D is an attractive compromise. At $1400 it's less than half the price of a 5D but can shoot 5 frame per second (fps) -- that's 2 fps faster than the 5D. It doesn't have the full frame sweetness and big viewfinder of the 5D, but the 1.6x crop factor provides that economical zoom. Another compromise is the smaller 8MP sensor versus the 12MP 5D. Some of the other niceties:

  • RGB histograms
  • Improved AutoFocus (the bane of my Digital Rebel)
  • Simultaneous RAW and JPEG recording
  • 30 JPEG/11 RAW photo buffer
  • 0.15s startup time -- I've lost far too many photos due to the slow startup time.

Don't get me wrong -- if offered to buy me either the 5D or the 30D I would choose the 5D without hesitation. But part of the gadget-buying-lust fantasy is the small, minute possibility that one might actually someday have enough expendable income and the 30D looks like you get a lot for what you pay for.

* Some non-Canon equipment caught my eye as well, but I committed on the D-SLR line and I like my ELPHs
** One could always crop the 12MP photo of the EOS 5D down to 8MP or 6MP and come up with the same 'zoomed' photos, but that's yet another extra step of processing.

EF versus EF-S


One of the most confusing things I dealt with first buying a Digital Rebel were the terms EF, EF-S, full frame, and crop factor. It's hard to get through any Canon SLR review without encountering them, so I thought I'd try to clarify them in terms that I at least understand.

The "film" in a Digital Rebel, i.e. the sensor, is smaller than that of actual (35mm film) film cameras (22.2mm wide versus 36mm wide). Imagine taking a photo and trimming a third of it off around the edges. This is what your Digital Rebel is doing and it's what is referred to when people discuss 1.6x crop factor.

Crop factor has it's upsides and downsides:

  • pro: you get extra "zoom."
  • con: it's a lot harder to shoot wide-angle images because you're throwing away the edges of the image.
  • pro: it can improve photos taken with cheaper lenses, which tend to be worse towards the edges.
  • con: the viewfinder for Digital Rebels is smaller because of the smaller sensor size.

Crop factor is also referred to as focal length multiplier, which describes a useful rule of thumb even if it is a bit of a misnomer. A 100mm lens on a Digital Rebel has the same field of view as a 160mm lens on a film camera (100 x 1.6 = 160). It's not the same thing as actually shooting with a 160mm lens on a film camera: as you are just trimming off the edges of the photo, the depth of field is still the same.

How does this relate to EF and EF-S lenses? EF lenses were designed for film. They are built assuming that they are going to focus your image on an area the size of 35mm film. For Digital Rebel owners, this is great if you're trying to shoot telephoto images because you get all that extra artificial zoom for free. This is very bad, though, if you're trying to shoot wide angle. A 16mm lens suddenly acts like a 26mm lens.

Canon's solution to this problem was to design a new type of lens for the smaller digital sensor size and they've called these lenses EF-S lenses. EF-S lenses try to get rid of the major downside of the crop factor: reduced wideangle. They accomplish this by positioning the lens closer to the digital sensor.

Important things you need to know about EF-S lenses:

  • You still use the 1.6x multiplier when evaluating the field of view for EF-S lenses. The 10-22mm EF-S lens gets zoomed up to a 16-35mm lens. You may think it's a bit confusing at first that a lens designed specifically for the crop factor still has to have the multiplier used, but it's consistent: always use the multipler.
  • You (currently) can only use EF-S lenses on Digital Rebels, EOS 20D, EOS 30D, and EOS 40D. You can't use them on Canon's top-of-the-line Digital SLRs, which have different sensor sizes.
  • There is always the possibility that Canon could stop making cameras that support EF-S. However, EF-S lenses tend to be cheaper, as lenses go, and you would only really buy them for wide-angle uses, so it's unlikely that you would ever have many EF-S lenses.

Some other terms:

  • APS-C size sensor: the Digital Rebels (300D and 350D) use a APS-C size sensor, which is 22.2mm wide. This gives a 1.6x crop factor.
  • full frame: A full frame digital camera has a sensor the same size as 35mm film, so there is no crop factor. It's just as if you're shooting with film.




Canon's newest camera will have it all: from bp's/meta's pizza button to the latest in AI sensing/reminder technology for the "Pee Break Now" indicator. But which button calls my mom to tell her to come and pick me up?

I'm waiting for the model with GPS.

credit: bigconig's posting on dpreview

Adobe Lightroom


It's exciting to see Adobe announced their Aperture competitor, Lightroom, though it might be awhile before I can evaluate it seeing as the Windows version is lagging. But with those tasty Intel Macs coming out, who knows?

Glancing at the first looks, my hunch is that Lightroom has the advantage. Although it's clear that both products have had a long germination, Lightroom will be able to learn from the lessons of Aperture before a final product is released. Even with the beta release it's clear that Lightroom will be less of a resource hog than Aperture, allowing it to run on laptops (ln m says it even runs on his old TiBook). Adobe also has far more experience with image processing, especially with RAW conversion. The poor RAW conversion was one of the biggest complaints about Aperture, and certainly an Achilles' Heel for a professional product.

According to postings on their discussion board, it sounds like the Mac version came out first because they were able to leverage some OS X capabilities that won't exist in Windows until Vista, but who knows. Releasing a free Adobe Lightroom beta to compete against a $499 Aperture, which has enough bugs to be a beta product, and it sounds like a great strategy to me. I hope that the final pricing for Lightroom ends up being low. There's really not that much difference in overall functionality from a product like Photoshop Elements or Bridge. A lot of the difference is which audience the UI is being targetted at. UI is worth paying for, but I'd rather buy a new lens for my camera.

Review: Picasa - good stuff


picasaI installed Picasa on my dad's computer to help him manage all the digital photos that he's been taking and I am impressed. I'm not impressed because Picasa has better features that Adobe Photoshop Elements, Aperture, or any other photo management software out there. In fact, the features of Picasa are fairly streamlined to include only the most basic photo retouching capabilities.

The reason I am impressed is that it's one of the few pieces of software that my dad was comfortable and competent with almost immediately. My dad is a complete computer novice who doesn't use his computer for much more than writing letters, surfing the Internet, and balancing his checkbook. To see him immediately latch onto the red eye tool, retouch several photos, and then print them with only minimal assistance is a great accomplishment in user interface design. Importing photos from the camera was also a snap because Picasa doesn't really care how you import the photos -- it finds them automatically -- so it doesn't really matter which of the numerous import options Windows pops up he chooses, it will probably work, i.e. Picasa gets around Windows' lack of usability.

There are still some features that my dad had trouble with. The selection tools for cropping and red-eye correction gave him some fuss, it's hard to tell which options you have selected on some menus (the highlight around a selected button is too faint), and the button layout is a bit inconsistent, including the placement of the OK/Cancel options. However, Picasa doesn't edit the photos directly, so it's hard to do permanent damage.

Picasa most directly compares to iPhoto. Photoshop Elements 4.0 and Aperture have more features but require more computer-savvy users. Picasa is much faster than iPhoto and I believe it's UI is a better design for photo-editing and browsing, but you'd never really have to choose because Picasa is only for PCs. So, if your parents have a PC and you want to get them good, free, photo-management software, or you love iPhoto and are stuck on a PC, you may want to give it a shot. It will be better than the crap that comes with your digital camera.

Upgraded to Photoshop Elements 4.0


photoshop.elements.jpgI've been a devout user of Photoshop Album for organizing my photos, but my copy was getting a bit old and I've been looking to ditch it for something faster and with improved organizational features. I took advantage of the Black Friday discounts to get a copy of Photoshop Elements 4.0 packaged with Premiere Elements 2.0 for $50. I skipped Photoshop Elements 3.0 because, even with the 'stacks' feature, it wasn't worth $100 to upgrade from Album.

I only care about the organizational features of Elements -- I do all my edits in Photoshop -- and so far the upgrade has been worthwhile. Several things stood out immediately (NOTE: the Mac version is very different from the Windows version): * Most important 'feature': faster browsing performance. It's hard to organize your photos if you can't quickly scan through them. * Stacks and version sets let you group similar shots and different edits, respectively. Very nice. * Tags are now stored within the image so that it is easier to share that metadata with others. * The biggest timesaver will probably be "Find Faces for Tagging." The name says it all -- it scans your selected photos, finds faces, and then lets you tag them. The tagging interface for faces is much improved over the generic tagging interface. It keeps tracks of your most recently used tags so that you don't have to keep scanning over all your tags to find the ones you need. I used it on some wedding photos and it almost did too good of a job picking out everyone in the dance photos. * The documentation notes that there is a Photomerge utility, which has to be better than the one that Canon gives you, but I have not tried it out yet.

The only disappointment so far is that it is less well-integrated with Photoshop than Album is. Album doesn't have a builtin editor so they made it very easy to do your advanced processing with other applications. Although Elements allows you to do external editing as well, it appears to be much less smart than before. It doesn't notice when you've finished external edits and it tries to import the edits as new photos instead of new versions of the original.

Elements is not a bad photo-editing tool, so I don't know how much I'll hate upon it. I'm planning to move to Photoshop CS2, which includes it's own photo workflow features, so it may not matter too much in the long run. I may just end up using Elements to organize and CS2 to edit, but this will take some time and money (to buy CS2) to sort out.

I'll end this quick impressions review noting that the Amazon reviewers don't seem happy with the new version, with several complaining that they prefer Photoshop Elements 3.0. I've never really used the previous versions of Elements, so my ignorance in this case appears to be bliss.

The Week in Links


For the engineer that prefers applied math, there's this guide to cracking Master Locks, which explains some of the math behind how Master Lock chooses combinations as well as some hands-on technique for getting the last number in the combination. You should be able to narrow the number of possible combinations down to 100 for any particular lock. For the "I'm a Ph.D mathematician, applied stuff is for wusses," there is the McNugget number, which (I hope) is keeping some theoretical math major busy somewhere (and safely off the streets).

In the world of architecture, the Torres de Calatrava look pretty cool (gallery 1, gallery 2). Not having seen Calatrava-style skyscrapers before, I wonder what Calatrava's New York City might have looked like, in comparison to the imagined NYC's of Norman Foster, Gaudi, and Spielberg.

There were a bunch of historical links this week. In light of current dollar/yen investment issues, let us harken back to the day of the One Yen bill, facilitated by this nice overlay of Tokyo in 1948 and 1992. For those of you who prefer historical comparisons via sequential art, this tour of Batman logos over the years shows some of the 20th century's best and worst graphic design, but which one did the caped crusader battle under when he made his greatest boner?

Staying in the 1940s, we can look at these World War 2 color photos. They could add even more photos to the collection using this really interesting colorization technique for black and white photos/video that only requires some scribbled color hints (I wonder if the technique would work on these 1910 Paris flood photos).

Exhibit touring (Tokihiro Sato)


Without intending to we stumbled upon a Tokihiro Sato "Photo Respiration" exhibit, which was in the gallery next door to the Robert Koch Gallery. Sato's photos use interesting technique: he sets the photo for very long exposure (~1 hour) and walks around the photo with a flash light, pen light, or mirror, which he shines back into the camera for varying effect. The long exposure also means that photos like the one below of Shibuya Crossing are nearly empty of people and cars -- only faint ghosts remain.

Sato also has an interesting presentation: the photos are mounted in front of a bed of lights that shines through the semi-transparent print, which emphasizes the points of light (similar to viewing the photos on a computer screen). Some of the photos remind me of japanime scenes were the little light spirits in the woods start gathering (missing a specific reference here, but possibly Princess Mononoke). My favorite image in particular is one where the dots of light are huddled around a massive tree -- unfortunately I can't find an image of it online.

I also couldn't find the exhibit page, but this page has a fairly good collection of Sato photos (some in the exhibit, some not). There is also a book available under the same title as the exhibition.

photo photo photo photo

Exhibit touring (Michael Wolf)


d and I went to go see the Michael Wolf "Architecture of Density" exhibit over at the Robert Koch gallery in downtown SF (at the intersection of Geary and Market). The online gallery had more photos than the actual exhibition, but there was a lot to be gained from seeing the photos in person. So many of the building details are not evident in the small images on Wolf's Web site: workers hanging precariuosly from the scaffolding, plumbing fixtures climbing up the stories, the lack of people in the photographs (altering the voyeuristic quality of the photos somewhat). Also hard to replicate is the sense of light-headedness I got from seeing the photos blown up to gigantic proportions -- somewhat like the feeling one gets looking down from the top of a tall building. d noted that the photos were grainy and clearly digital, which might make it difficult to stomach the $4-6K price tag, though the light-headed feeling would be enough to keep the photos off of my wall.

There are more photos in the online gallery, but these are some of the ones (IIRC) that are in the actual exhibit:

photo photo photo photo photo photo photo

Update: d points out the work of Andreas Gursky as well: * Singapore Stock Exchange * Gallery with some of his building facade photos * MOMA exhibit * Google Images search has even more works

Photoshop Album 2.0 on the way


... including a free version with some of the more important features stripped out. This was a glaring problem with the first one - there was no way for people to try it out beforehand. I love using Album 1.0 and I hope 2.0 will solve my very few complaints with the original version (too much scrolling in the tags pane, can't export source images with the Web photo gallery, tags are organized hierarchically - even though they themselves are relational).
Adobe offers free Photoshop Album | CNET