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Showing posts from August, 2011

Avoiding the Siren's Song

Once he hears to his heart's content, sails on, a wiser man.
Homer, "The Odyssey"In the midst of earthquakes, eminent hurricane disaster, the fall of Libya's Kadafi (Gadhafi?) and the resignation of Jobs, comes news of a mega-product release from Sony which includes the Sony α77.

As is all too typical for such things, the Internets are awash with gushing superlatives about the camera, the new lens, and in particular the brand-spanking new 24.3 megapickles APS-C sensor. I will be taking a contrarian view of this release, so that this post will not fall into the gushing group.

As a current Olympus user, I can't help but feel the siren's call of this camera with its sensor that is twice the resolution of the current Olympus 4/3rds sensors and has 40% greater areal space. And then there's the magnesium-built body's environmental (dust and moisture) sealing and the new Sony DT 16-50mm constant f/2.8 with the same environmental sealing. Add the sensor-based …

Rational Discourse

While I don't get very many comments, the ones I do are always interesting. One blog follower left the following comment on an earlier post:
Bill, I like your blog and have been following it for a while but I do have to disagree with your political views. Yes, I am a conservative but not quite in the Tea Party realm. You seem to blame S&P and the Tea Party for the current problems while I blame Washington in general and the 'spending beyond their means' in specific for our terrible current situation.

The downgrade of our credit rating was not unexpected in financial circles. The Tea Party has been doing nothing but to say that this neverending increase of our Federal debt has to stop and that cuts have to be made to bring spending in line. This wall that we are hitting has been visible for years yet we have careened towards it as a spend, spend, spend nation, living beyond our means as individuals and as a country.One immediate observation is the great civility of the …

Speed Traps 'R' Us is Back In Business

The speed traps were all over the place. I managed to snag photos of two, one on west-bound Conroy before the I-4 overpass near where I live, and the second at the intersection of Corporate Blvd and Quadrangle Drive, near where I work and near UCF.


The Corporate and Quadrangle are always a popular spot for Orange County. The really like to stack up their forces. This time they had two squad cars, two motorcycle officers, and a gray van they were using. One of the officers is up on the hill, to the right, using his radar gun.

Technical

Olympus E-3 with ZD 50-200mm telephoto zoom and EC-14. Both using ISO 400. Top was taken at full 283mm zoom and further cropped in post. Bottom was actually taken at 153mm, as I was walking closer to get around some trees that were between me and them further back up Corporate.

I'm still trying to effectively use the combination of 50-200 and EC-14, but for some reason they're not as sharp as I would have thought they would be. Looking at the len…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I finally checked "Rise" out today. After having lived through the original Planet of the Apes with the late Charlton Heston and the sequels that followed, this latest take was interesting, although it had a few plot points I tend to take issue with. And trust me, the end of this movie is definitely set up for its own series of sequels.

The genesis of intelligent apes this time around is genetic manipulation by man. What follows are the 29 Steps to Ape Domination according to this movie:
Open to Bad Humans capturing Innocent Apes in their jungle Eden. They are caged and shipped to GenSys, the Bad Pharma Company, employer of the Misguided Scientist Who Will Cause All That Is To Follow.Misguided Scientist is developing a cure for Alzheimer's, a gene-based therapy named ALZ-112 that is delivered by an altered virus. Misguided Scientist has a father who suffers from Alzheimer's.One of the captured apes is female and pregnant. She is pregnant with Caesar, the future ape le…

Keep the Cat, Give That Critic the Boot

There are certain photographers who seem to gleefully excoriate the poor Cat Photographer. Pity the hard working amateur who would dare to show a feline photograph to such a professional critic.

Lucy and I have had a number of conversations about the situation Cat Photographers find themselves in. She is of the opinion (one of many) that such critics are failed Cat Photographers. After all, she opines, those who can, photograph cats, while those who can't criticize those who can. She is also of the opinion (one of many) that a so-called bad photograph of any cat is far better than the best photograph of any other subject you care to name, unless, of course, it's another cat. And in her considered opinion (again, one of many) there is no such thing as a bad cat photograph, as any photograph of a cat is always a good photograph of a cat.

Technical

I was playing around with a loaner M.Zuiko 9-18mm UWA on my E-P2. Lucy was arrayed pretty much as you see her. At the moment of expo…

In Praise of Olympus FourThirds Cameras

I've been pretty critical of Olympus these days, for reasons you can read about in some of my other posts. But I never said the equipment was so bad that I would sell it or stop using it. In fact I had opportunity to use it today, and I enjoyed every minute.

Early this morning I traveled to a farm near Oviedo Florida that has been used for some number of years as demonstration and test area. Today was a demonstration. The farm is still a working farm, which means everything is set up in a large open field. With all the recent rains the area was pretty saturated with lots of standing water, along with the copious cow patties dotting the field.

I carried two cameras with me this morning to the demo, my E-1 with the Zuiko Digital 12-60mm and my E-3 with the EC-14 and Zuiko Digital 50-200mm.

The demo started at 8am, under a foggy sky. I tried to turn the Prius' air conditioner down so the interior wouldn't get so cool, so that my glasses wouldn't fog over when I arrived an…

Old Painless

So here I am, helpless in the face of extreme stupidity in Washington and abroad, desperately wanting a ridiculously simple solution to an overly complex situation. So what do I do for comfort and solace in such a trying moment? Watch Predator.

In particular, Old Painless. A supposed GE M-134 minigun. And fantasize about mowing down all the Enemies of Amerika.

The weapon of choice of Blaine Cooper (Jesse Ventura), this little baby could wipe out an entire guerrilla base or acres of jungle growth in mere seconds. I start to fantasize I have one of these little babies with me. Until reality sets in.

It fires 7.62mm rounds at 50 rounds/sec. Simple math shows that every 10 second burst requires 500 rounds. Between the firefight with the guerrillas and the emotional firing by Mac (Bill Duke), Blaine's buddy when Blaine was done in by the predator, there's no practical way a normal human being could have carried that much ammunition. I counted at least 60 seconds of combined fire tim…

How much is camera gear supposed to cost? (Part 2)

Here's another datapoint via the Fujifilm Quicksnap and Walmart. For $8.67 in a local Orlando Walmart you can purchase a 35mm film camera with the following features:
Pre-loaded with Fuji Superia X-TRA ASA 800 color film, 27 exposuresWaterproof down to 35 feetNo batteriesRangefinder-style optical viewfinder (framing only, fixed focus)Single use - use, drop off at your local developer, pick up printsNo chimping, no instant gratificationOutside of ego-stroking and the ability to take photographs in dark areas where even the human eye can't register light, what have we really achieved with our multi-hundred to multi-thousand dollar digital cameras?

Really? You say your fancy digital camera provides more?

If the camera really doesn't matter, if it's the photographer, then isn't the Quicksnap all the camera any of us need?

I'm Not With Stupid

I have to laugh. Tea Party supporters of Michele "I'm not a deep thinker" Bachmann are venting their spleens over what they believe was a an evil left-wing plot by Newsweek to pick a photo that would make her 'look crazy'.

Well, guess what. Randomly pick any photo of Michele out of the current pile of Bachmann photos and it would look crazy. There isn't a sane one to be found, anywhere.

She's the perfect poster child for the Tea Party, the same Tea Party that nearly pushed this nation into default, the same Tea Party that contributed to the downgrading of America’s sterling sovereign credit rating, and all the consequences that have followed. She's the ultimate result of decades of the dumbing down of the Republican party. They all are.

It doesn't take much to find evidence of Bachmann's gross crazed stupidity. Just search the web for all the crazy stupid quotes she's made to date. They remind me of all the George W. Bush quotes I used to …

I'll take Thomas Jefferson for 634

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

Thomas Jefferson


How does it feel to be financially raped again by Standard & Poor's? The first time was when they over rated mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDO) along with Morgan Stanley's and Moody's, helping to bring about the over-inflation of the real-estate bubble and its subsequent collapse.[1]

Four years later S&P does it again when they offer their considered opinion about the US Congress' performance when raisin…

Captain America

My wife and I watched the latest Marvel movie to hit the multiplexes Sunday, "Captain America: The First Avenger". We were both pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the movie was.

The 2011 movie is meant to show the origin of Captain America in the lead-up to the major Avengers movie to be released in 2012 (hence "The First Avenger" in its title). Chris Evens ("Scott Pilgrim vs The World"/Lucas Lee, "The Fantastic Four"/Johnny Storm/Human Torch) puts in an excellent performance as Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America.

In his prior movies, especially as the Human Torch, Chris' characters have come across as somewhat brash and arrogant. This time around, as a skinny kid from Brooklyn, Chris' Steve Rogers is far more humble. He has to be; as "Skinny Steve" he's constantly being beat up and picked on by the bullies of the world. Chris surprisingly strikes an excellent balance between honest humility, realizing his physical lim…

At Work with Chrome: Issues with Chrome on Win 2k8 R2 SP1 and Win 7 Force Removal

I have switched three of my six workstations in the lab from RHEL to Windows 2008 R2 SP1. The other three remain as RHEL hosts. The primary reason for switching to Windows was to support Windows virtual machines needing 2D and 3D graphics support. Virtual Box couldn't provide this capability while hosting on RHEL. This need came about from applications that needed Windows support with 2D and 3D graphics acceleration.

During the installation of Windows (both server on as host and Windows 7 virtual machines) I installed Chrome as an alternative to Internet Explorer 8. When first installed Chrome worked as expected, especially automatic updates. This continued until Chrome 12.

When Chrome 12 tried to update to Chrome 13 I started to receive "Update server not available (error: 7)" messages on the combined about/update dialog. Looking around it appeared that the update downloaded but failed to install. Further looking about gave no clear indication of the problem or a single…

Why I still reach for the E-P2

I've been less than thrilled lately with the Olympus Camera Company. Because of the way they've handled the regular Four Thirds camera line, releasing just one overly expensive regular Four Thirds body to placate the regular users while they've poured all their resources into the µFour Thirds side, they've burned up all trust I had in them. They made a business choice, and in the process left me out in the cold.

I had originally thought that they would keep regular and  µFour Third lines going as equals, eventually merging the two into one. Along the way I hoped they would provide good engineering solutions for the older design (Four Third) lenses and accessories to be easily integrated and used with the µFour Thirds bodies. But that's not how it's turning out.

So I'm left with a collection of bodies (an E-300, E-3, two E-1s and an E-P2), lenses, and accessories that are still quite functional.

What I've noticed is that of all the bodies I still have (…

Follow-up: Hot N Juicy Crawfish Gives Away Free Beer, Still Not So Hot

The Short Version: They're still to be avoided at all cost.

The Long Version: Know when a restaurant is in real trouble? When they start giving away free beer. That's not the punch-line to some joke, but the opening in a dark new dramatic chapter to the real-life Hot N Juicy Crawfish locale I covered back in mid-July.


That lovely hand-drawn sign you see above says in cursive at the bottom, "All Day Weekends, 3-cl Weekdays", or all day every weekend day (Saturday and Sunday) and 3pm to closing during the week.

That's a lot of free beer. I don't think they have much to worry about, though, because the place was nearly empty. I didn't go in to check, so I could have mistaken staff for customers, but there were a few scattered about. If their food was any indication, I wouldn't drink their beer either, free or otherwise.

I don't want to see anyone loose their job, especially in this economic environment. But Hot N Juicy deserves to go out of business b…

Signs of our Current Times

I took the Labs to a local PetSmart at 8am to have their coats coiffed and nails buffed (they walk enough each day to keep their nails warn down to a proper healthy length).

This particular PetSmart is located at the West Oaks Mall near Ocoee, Florida. I've written about West Oaks before, specifically the mall. I've photographed many empty stores to the point where I was chased out by a local rent-a-cop. That was, of course, when all I had was the E-3. Hauling that camera around with the 12-60 mounted made me stand out from the rest of the few shoppers that were moving about the mall. That mall hasn't had real crowds since 2008.

This time I was parking near store fronts that sit between the main mall and West Colonial. This section includes a Best Buy. It used to include a Toys"R"Us and a Borders Book Store, but the Toys"R"Us moved to a location next to the Mall at Millenia while Border's is finishing going out of business.

And what was open had a f…

Asus Transformer TF-101 Android Tablet

Sometimes my job is a lot of fun. I have a small but significant lab budget that on occasion allows me to purchase certain contemporary technologies that are relevant to the job as well as a bit of fun. The Asus Transformer TF-101 Android table is one of those relevant and fun purchases.

Nearly everybody I work with is interested in portable devices running iOS and Android, especially for portable training. Towards that end I've been purchasing devices that run both of those operating systems for  experimentation and determining relevance. It started in late 2009 with the purchase of a pair of iPod Touch 4Gs, followed in 2010 with an iPad, then again earlier this year with the Motorola Xoom. The purchase of the Asus Transformer represents the latest, and in my opinion, the best portable computing device to date.

The following quick screen captures are meant to convey some of the look of the Android OS version 3.2 running on the Transformer.


I've changed the background from the…

Buying Cameras: Refinements

Cameras are curious things: they're simultaneously indispensable and secondary to photography.

An unavoidable fact about cameras and lenses is that there's always something better out there. Some people take that as a challenge, and lust after gear that's sharper, faster, or bigger; I choose to see it as permission to use whatever I like without coveting my neighbour's glass. If it's not a question of having that unobtainable best camera, then it's a matter of choosing the right camera.

Like a sculptor who can create art in a stack of rocks, not all photographers need elaborate equipment. But having the appropriate tools matters immensely – just try to find a woodcarver who exercises her craft using putty knives. The key is to not let the tools dominate the art, either in execution or in conversation.

At its best, picking new camera equipment isn't something that someone else can do for you. While a technical review may show capabilities and anecdotes might…

Shoot What's In Front Of You

I'm on a high contrast wild color binge. I'm sure it doesn't fit in with the "full-frame"[1] crowd, those toting their 5DMkIIs and D700s around[2]. You know, the "real" photographers. Not the substantive photographers.


I pass these bikes nearly every day that I walk to pick up my luncheon sub. Today I was carrying the E-P2 with the M.Zuiko 14-42mm Mk I, the original kit lens. I'm no big fan of the lens, preferring the 17mm, but I loath leaving any lens sitting in the bag. If it can fit the body it will come out and make itself useful. So I pressed it into service as something of a close-up lens, although it's not a true macro. And when I got back to the house I processed it in Lightroom. I've turned into a real raw junkie. I like what I can do to mold the image. It's fun.


And then I had to stop by the grocery on the way home to pick up something for supper. I parked a few cars up from this interesting vehicle. I couldn't get the E-P2…

Last Day July 2011

What a month. July was dominated by four weekends driving back and forth from Orlando to Tallahassee to help Megs move out of her student apartment.

The First Weekend

The first weekend was July 4th. I took a Friday off and created a four-day weekend where I drove up with the wife and the Labs to stay at the local Red Roof Inn at Monroe and I-10. That weekend we started the long process to get Meg's student apartment organized, boxed and cleaned so she could move out by 31 July. You'd think that starting this early we'd have had plenty of time to get it all sorted and her moved out. That wasn't the way it would turn out.

It was a holiday weekend. It was also a full month since we'd last seen Megs (graduation), so we treated it more like a holiday than a working weekend. We wound up spending time at two state parks (Wakulla and St. Marks), taking photographs as father and daughter while mom tagged along viewing the scenery. The Labs came along, as they always do, and …