Archive for July, 2011

Raison d’etre RANT

Somebody asked me the other day why I bothered at all with this site. Why didn’t I just use Facebook, like everyone else? A simple answer escaped me at the time — I just ended up telling her that I liked to have my own site. In truth, the answer is somewhat more complex than that.

Facebook is indeed a great place to catch up on things on occasion, or maybe find a long-lost friend or something, but it is just not a place I want to hang out. In truth, I’m basically burned out on Facebook. I’m sick of reading what people had for breakfast, how they are having a bad day, or how they got utterly shitfaced the night before and passed out in a gutter. I’m also sick of the “Facebook Philosophers” that spew their words of wisdom and think every post is profound. I spew that stuff too — and wipe my butt afterward. I also don’t like putting all my eggs in Facebook’s basket. Zuckerberg and company don’t give a shit about me OR my content except where it could make a profit for them, and there is never a guarantee of what they are doing with my stuff.

Second, I really do enjoy having my own home on the web. The majority of people on my FB friends list don’t care about my passions any more than I care about theirs, and me posting there is just creates more noise. If somebody takes the time to come here, I feel like maybe they DO have a genuine interest in what I’m doing, and that makes me feel like doing more.

Don’t get me wrong, now…I LOVE social media, and I think it has a tremendous positive impact. It’s just that, for me, Facebook is not what I want. Now, if I was in business and trying to market myself, well, that’s a whole different story. But I’m not, so…what I really want is this:

SOMEBODY SEND ME A GODDAMN INVITE TO GOOGLE+!

There…now I feel much better…

One Sharp Cookie

The concept of “tack sharp” is one that most photographers consider a holy grail of sorts, and it is rare enough for me that when I nail one, I gotta brag…I love my JennaBug!

Jenna is sharp

Me Expose You Long Time – Clicky Clicky

In the interest of trying everything I can think of at least once, I wanted to take a stab at a long exposure shot. It was about 11pm when I took this, and I left the shutter open for 30 seconds. I was quite pleased with the results. Makes my condo complex look pretty damn nice, if you ask me.

 30 second exposure

More Thunderstorms

I was playing around with exposure bracketing as these storms rolled through, and decided to try my hand at creating some HDR images of the clouds. They still need work (note especially the halos around the trees), but they are not bad for a first try, and more importantly, I think they convey the ominous feel of the storm. Note that the last pic is not HDR – the only modifications I did there were to pump up contrast and vibrance a bit.

Thunderstorm in HDR 1

Thunderstorm in HDR 2

Thunderstorm 1

A Few Results

I was reading back through some of my posts and I noticed how many of them were about buying shit, but posts about the results of my purchases were more scarce. So without further adieu, here are examples of some of the stuff I’ve captured so far…

Storms

There have been a ton of afternoon thunderstorms the last week or so, and some of them have been very ominous and beautiful indeed. I even managed to capture a few strokes of lightning…

Lightning 1

Lightning 2

Lightning 3

Another Day, Another Lens…and Camera…

I have decided that the POTN forums are a great source of information and a great place to hang out. I’ve also decided that it is a VERY dangerous place for propeller-head gear junkies like me.

I’ve been researching zoom lenses (remember I said a while back that the 75-300 I bought is pretty much shit?). I kept reading about another lens, a 55-250mm, that the POTN folks have dubbed the “nifty two-fifty”. It’s an image-stabilized lens, which I’ve found is great for improving my shaky hand-held shots, and the general consensus is that it’s an all-around great lens. Now considering what I’ve spent recently on gear, even the relatively low price of the 55-250 seemed prohibitive, but then I remembered Best Buy. Or more to the point, my Rewards Zone certificates…I ended up having enough of them from all the other stuff that I could get the lens for only 73 bucks out of pocket. Good enough. Off to BB I went…

Turns out that they don’t carry that lens in stock. Fine, I’ll just poke around for a while before I go home and order the lens online. Big mistake. By the time I got home I had spent all my rewards zone certificates and then some on a new Powershot S95 ultra-compact to replace my old S1000, again something I had read about at POTN.

Of course when I got home, I still had to get my nifty two-fifty…

We Don’ Need No Stinkin’ Tubes…

Good grief…it was initially such an innocent purchase…

So I got the extension tubes I ordered. And I tried them out. In short, it wasn’t great, at least for someone of my minimal skillset. Having the tubes installed makes focusing very difficult, and even when I got it right, the depth of field was so shallow it was almost non-existent. There was one problem. In spite of myself and the primitive tubes, I did actually manage to get a couple shots that, while not particularly good, at least showed potential. And thus the hook was set. Now, there are better ways to do macro than a set of $10 tubes, not the least of which are…you know…actual macro lenses. So I went to Mike’s Camera.

Fast forward a couple hours, and I’m now walking out of Mike’s. I had a bag. And it contained not one, but TWO lenses…see, there was this other lens I had been pondering…one for wide-angle stuff…

I now have a real macro lens – a Tamron SP 60mm f/2 Di. With the crop sensor camera like mine, I thought 60mm was a good length, and with an aperture of f/2, it’s faster than the Canon macro of similar length. The other lens is a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, which is the widest angle lens Canon offers short of a fish-eye.

Here’s a couple shots. The first decent shot with the macro, and a shot with the 10-22. The distortion at 10mm is actually kinda cool!

The Bee

Wide Angle

Macro Photography

This is one area of photography that interests me greatly. Some of the tiniest things are truly impressive when magnified to gargantuan proportions. I want to try out the technique, so I ordered a set of Fotodiox extension tubes. They are simple things, nothing more than tubes of varying lengths that fit between the camera body and whatever lens you’re using. What they do is to allow the lens to focus at a much closer distance that it normally would be capable of. There are expensive versions that maintain auto-focus and aperture adjustments, but I went the cheap route getting plain old tubes. I’m excited to see how they work…

Tubes

Weird Shit Happening…

I came to the site this morning to find…no images. None of the galleries would load, none of the inline images worked, no thumbnails. The only image that worked was the site background. I rooted around for a while and I was about ready to give up and call my hosting company when I found the problem. This WordPress theme uses a PHP script called TimThumb to generate all the thumbnails and galleries, and what I found was that my timthumb.php file had been renamed to timthumb.renamed.txt. Now I certainly know that I didn’t do that, so what it probably means is that someone at my host did. I haven’t called them yet but the only explanation I can think of was that the script had gone out of control and was using too many resources, so they just killed it. Would have been nice if they had had the courtesy to notify me. For now, I renamed the file back to what it’s supposed to be and all is working again.

 

–Update:

Called my host and asked what was going on…

“uhhhh, we don’t know…” was their considered opinion…

assholes…

Flower Power

I was going through some shots I took the other day and I found a few flower shots that weren’t half-bad. Aside from focus, my biggest struggle taking pictures is with composition. I look at something and I can tell there is a picture there waiting to be taken, but I still have trouble seeing it. These shots are crops of much larger shots, so I created the composition in Photoshop instead of in the camera. I did get the focus pretty well, though.

Flower1

Flower2

Flower3

Fireworks, Baby…

So I spent part of this morning researching proper techniques for photographing fireworks. I’ve attempted to take fireworks pictures for several years, and my results have almost uniformly sucked. Hard. This year I wanted to be ready. The methods I read about didn’t seem too rocket science-y, so when it started getting dark, I grabbed camera, tripod, both lenses and the remote and headed over to an open field near Jody’s house.

This is pretty much the setup I used:
1. Camera on tripod with 18-55mm lens attached. I fiddled a little here during the shooting but most of the time the lens was set to about 35mm and focused to infinity.
2. Used bulb mode and remote to control shutter.
3. ISO was set to 100 to cut down as much as possible on noise.
4. Set aperture to f/11
5. Cross my fingers and toes.

One thing I learned immediately about the Canon wireless remote is that you pretty much have to be in front of the camera for it to work. That’s just delightful. I ended up standing off to one side and reaching around a bit to release the shutter.

The major variable was shutter speed. I just opened and closed the shutter with the remote as I saw fit, which resulted in exposures ranging anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds.

Once it got dark and the show started, I just started clicking away. And wonder of wonders, the shots actually came out wonderfully! I was so damn happy I sat up until now getting the shots processed and put up. Here are a couple of examples — if you’re interested in seeing more, they are all out on SkyDrive.

Fireworks 1

Fireworks 2

Fireworks 3

Survived!

The week, that is. Thank God a three day weekend lies ahead. Aside from the fact that I’m clueless, the job is looking okay so far, but there is a huge culture shock for me. Daily business among the rank and file is conducted in a far different manner. There seems to be far less face-to-face interaction between people than what I’m used to, which is a bit disturbing. Other than that, the things I’ve found to dislike are few and and amusing in their inanity. For example, I hate the automatic paper towel dispenser in the can. It is one of those where you wave your hand in its face and it spits out a tongue of paper towel. Don’t know why it bugs me – it just does. And the floor shakes when somebody walks by, which really weirds me out. I never know whether it’s an earthquake or just some heavy-footed person walking by.