Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ends and Transitions and Old Volvos

This marks the last last day of July. More importantly it marks the last day my youngest daughter was at her student apartment. It's one more step away from home and into her future, whatever that may turn out to be. Each step, from starting college to transitioning from freshman to sophomore to junior then senior, to graduation, to moving into and out of Jennie Murphree Hall, Presbyterian University Center, and her student apartment along the way, all these events and more are distinct memories that I hope last as long as I do.

It was the last location where my daughter began to expand as an artist. She used everything as a canvas, even my old Volvo 940 that was her student beater car around Tallahassee. I've shown the bumper-sticker festooned back of the Volvo before, but I've never shown any of the interior decorations before.

All of the interior decorations have a single theme - Herman Melville's "Moby Dick." Megs held a christening ceremony with some of her closest friends and named the Volvo Moby. From that point forward the Great White Volvo became the Great White Whale.

The Great Right Whale

This view of Moby shows the materials used for the car's new interior design - two different colors of duct tape, toy compasses, and white acrylic paint. The reason for the duct tape was to cover the slowly crumbling plastic of the 940's interior. This car, manufactured in 1994, was purchased by me in 1996 at The Volvo Store in Winter Park, Orlando, Fl. It had 54,000 miles and had just come off a lease. I traded it in for a 240 sedan I wasn't the happy with. From 1996 until 2003 it was my primary mode of conveyance, and was the family car until 2001 until my wife purchase a Kia Sedona van. I stopped driving it when I purchased a Kia Sorento SUV in 2003. It was then passed down to my oldest, who drove it without really maintaining it. I put more cash in it to fix up the engine and drive train, and gave it to Megs, who basically adopted it in 2008 the way you would adopt some lone stray on the street.

Ahab's Ship

Form the first that Megs laid hands on the 940 she wanted to turn it into an artists car. The problem is that artist cars take a lot of money to build up, and being a student of modest means, Megs scaled her ambitions down to something she could afford. So, with colored duct tape, acrylic white paint, and various decorations made form toys purchased at a local dollar store, she began to add character to a car already dripping with character as time and budget permitted. As you'll note, the car has nearly 200,000 miles on it. And Megs was is a member of the Volvo High Mileage Club.

Russian and Arab

Some of her student friend hailed form Russia and the Middle East, and left her name on the passenger door in Cyrillic and Arabic.

Navigational Aids

Here we see a detail using some of the materials mentioned earlier, colored duct tape and toy compasses.

What Makes the Radio Work

Some of the changes to the car were for practical reasons. The Volvo is old enough to have a audio cassette tape deck. At one point Megs tried to find old cassette tapes to play, but the player developed an issue with ejecting the tapes, meaning it wouldn't. So Megs shoved a pen into the tape deck to lift the cassette and fake the radio into thinking there was no tape so the radio would play. At least she can listen to her tunes.

Blue Fish Shifter

This little blue fish was added to the shifter because the molded rubber around the shifter was disintegrating. It's a clever fix that is far cheaper than buying an official replacement part, and adds additional character to the interior.

The Volvo has reached the end of its useful life. If I were something of a conservator I'd take it back and spend a lot of time and money restoring it. But I don't have that kind of time or money, and Megs needs a far more up-to-date vehicle. Megs has plans to move to Austin, and Moby would never survive the trip out to Austin. She needs new wheels, and so Moby will have to be traded in for something contemporary. When that day comes I'll miss Moby.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Buying Cameras: Adding On

Part one of the "Buying Cameras" series was about narrowing down the choices when buying a first camera; for part two we're looking beyond that to some of the decisions that go into building a camera system. This is a slightly more involved process because more factors need to be considered, and there are even more possible options. Here are some suggestions to use as a guide when deciding what's important, and when to take the next steps.

Start simply and add complexity later. It's always easier to learn the capabilities of your equipment with fewer options and variables to consider, and technique can make a bigger difference than gear.

But sometimes it helps to start planning for the future early.

If flexibility is important then nothing beats a camera that's designed for interchangeable lenses. Canon cameras are the best for this, followed closely by Nikon, whose entry-level cameras won't autofocus with some of their older lenses. (While new compatible lenses are being introduced every year, these improved designs invariably cost a little more.) Both of these brands are big enough that their accessories are available in any camera store, and there are huge amounts of resources devoted to them.

Other companies, such as Pentax, Sony, and Olympus, do make some interesting SLR cameras. But in each case they're harder to find and have much more limited options, and are more questionable as a long-term investment. Unless you already know that one of these is right for you, stay with the bigger brands.

One interesting exception that's emerging are the Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens format cameras. These have excellent image quality and are built for Live View and HD video recording, two features that traditional SLRs still struggle to integrate. Panasonic and Olympus make cameras and lenses under the "Micro Four Thirds" name. It's not nearly as big as the Canon or Nikon SLR ecosystems, but it's developing nicely and is the only mirrorless format that has really caught on. Samsung and Sony each have their own as well, but those two systems are still very basic and not very well supported.

The two best predictors of a lenses' performance are its price and its magnification ratio. The longer the zoom range – take the focal length and divide the biggest number by the lower number – the more complicated the lens needs to be. And while economies of scale can create some good low-cost lenses, as a rule the more expensive lenses need fewer compromises in their design, construction, and quality control. These two predictors aren't perfect, but they're accurate enough to be useful.

For example, an entry-level SLR is often offered with two lenses. One will be a standard zoom, typically 18-55, and the other will be a telephoto that reaches as much as 200 or 300mm. Because these two lenses each have a short (3:1 to 6:1-ish) magnification range, they'll be as good or better than a single lens that covers the entire 18-200+ (11:1 or more) range, and less expensive as well.

The opposite extreme from a super-zoom is a lens that doesn't zoom at all, like the classic 50mm prime lens. This is a very simple lens, and even the cheapest ones can be very good. Prime lenses that cost as much as a mid-market zoom can have exceptionally good optical qualities. But remember that there's no objectively 'best' lens: what matters more is how it's used and that it suits the photographer who's using it.

An entry-level SLR with two zooms, a 50mm f/1.8 lens, and a mid-range flash is an astonishingly flexible kit that's capable of excellent results, and can cost less than just one premium lens. But a general-purpose setup isn't right for everybody. Some cameras are genuinely better than others for specialized tasks, and lenses can completely change what a camera can do. A stamp collector and a bird watcher will integrate photography into their passions in very different ways, and someone who wants to photograph landscapes won't need the same equipment as someone who takes portraits.

If you don't have a clear passion to drive your photography – and many photographers happily spend decades without one – then there's no rush to load up on specialized equipment. The time may come to add a macro or wide-angle lens, or buy a camera with better controls or improved image quality, but there's no hurry to start the hike up to the point of diminishing returns. Just be warned that buying better and more specialized equipment can be a lot of fun, and sometimes becomes an enjoyable hobby all on its own.

Remember that everything in photography is a compromise. The third and final instalment of my "Buying Cameras" series is looking at the process that I go through when adding new equipment to my collection, and even addresses the ever-popular question: "does the camera matter?"

Matthew Robertson writes for the popular website `thewsreviews, and he routinely uses seven cameras in six different systems. Almost all of his lenses are primes that fall within the 35mm to 100mm range.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why Kirk Tuck Might Be Wrong About That™

Up-Front Disclaimer
  1. I like Kirk. Over time I've developed a lot of respect for his body of work. He's one of a handful of folk that I've never met face-to-face, yet managed to create a long-distance friendship around photography. (The other is Matthew Robertson.) So when I say "Kirk might be wrong", it's meant as gentle teasing, nothing more.
  2. This is humor. Humor. Hilarity. Something to provoke laughter and provide amusement. But not at someone else's expense, unless it's directed at me.
Kirk's Lament

Kirk has something of a love-hate relationship with the Olympus digital Pens. He loves their small size and weight, their ability to mount just about any lens with a suitable adapter (especially his beloved film Pen lenses), and his ability to take photographs far more discretely than with say his Canon 7D or 5DMk2. But the one thing he can't abide is the lack of a built-in viewfinder and using the LCD screen on the back of the digital Pen for composition. In short, he hates holding the camera at arm's length;
I couldn't imagine a real, grown up photographer using the screen on the back of the camera at arm's length. (unless the camera is on a tripod and you're shooting architecture or products.) It's almost as stupid as using an iPhone for serious work. (LINK)
How strongly does Kirk feel about this issue? Enough that he's mentioned it more than once, both in the body of his blog postings as well as in comments. Do a Google search for "kirk tuck arms length shooting" and you get over 13,000 results. I'd say that qualifies as a strong opinion on this issue.

Chimping the Chimp (8/365)
Chimping the Chimp (Not Quite At Arm's Length)

But all is forgiven with the use of the VF-2 electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF bestows a certain gravitas to the Pen and those who use it. The digital Pen no longer looks like a P&S on steroids. It becomes a Real Camera meant for Serious Work.

Self Portrait #1 (7/365)
How Real Grown-Up Photography Was Meant To Be Done

There's a lot to recommend the VF-2. In the bright Florida sun the EVF is far easier to work with than the display on the back of the body, especially in direct sun. It's also quite useful when using manual-focus lenses with adapters. Under those situations you'll find me using the VF-2 just like any other photographer.

But there are reasons not to use the VF-2. One is practical, the other philosophical.

The practical reason: The VF-2 must be slipped into the hot shoe of the digital Pen in order for it to work. Digital Pens that use the VF-2, from the E-P2 through all the Lite Pens, have a special port on the back side of the hot show providing signal and power to the VF-2. The problem with this setup is that the VF-2 is not locked down. It's easy (too easy) to knock the VF-2 out of the shoe. I've done it a number of times myself. Fortunately, I've not damaged the VF-2. More importantly, I've not lost it. At $250 per copy, losing the VF-2 isn't something you want to do often. It's not like loosing the E-3's eye-cup. So, when I'm finished using the VF-2 I put it back into its pouch I have attached to the camera strap on my E-P2.

The philosophical reason: It's too easy to get trapped in the viewfinder box. The best photographs are made by photographers who are engaged with the environment they're in, not with their camera. To be honest it doesn't matter if you're engaged with the camera via the viewfinder or the back of the camera. If your total attention is on the camera and what the camera is showing you then in my not so humble opinion you're at a significant creative loss.

Old film SLRs were bad about getting in your way. Decades ago in Atlanta I had a working photographer attempt to give me some sage advice. Out of all he told me the one thing that stuck with me all these years was to focus with both eyes open. One eye showed you the viewfinder, while the other showed you the rest of the world around you. For me, using the back of the camera for composition is just another way for me to remain engaged with the world instead of just the camera.


The injured dove
The Injured Dove

I was out on a walk one lunchtime through the parking lot with the E-P2 when I happened to see the injured dove flopping around in the leaves. The dove really didn't want to have anything to do with me. Rather than try to get down with the VF-2 and chase it further away, I simply held the camera out in my right hand. The camera was a lot less threatening than my head, on which the dove's attention was fully focused. With my head held back but the E-P2 close to the dove I was able to compose the shot on the E-P2's screen via my peripheral vision. The E-P2 with the 17mm was on automatic focus when this was taken. Right after, the dove finally decided it'd had enough of me and the E-P2 and fluttered on into the brush, and I never saw it again.

Breakfast Girl
Breakfast Girl

This past weekend I was up in Tallahassee helping Megs get packed up in preparation for moving out of her student apartment. She'd graduated from FSU back in May. A happy time to be sure. But this past weekend was the weekend of the Norway terrorism and Amy Winehouse's untimely death. Megs, the wife and I were having breakfast at a local Tallahassee eatery when a small silence went up around our little table. Megs was thinking about the current events, about her future, about her friends, and so much more.

The E-P2 was sitting in the middle of the table. While Megs was deep in thought I tilted the E-P2 up enough to make sure not to cut off the top of her head. The E-P2 was sitting between her glass of water and a bottle of Heinz. Once again I framed the shot with my peripheral vision. The E-P2 with 17mm in automatic focus.

Getting Passed
Getting Passed

Photographing while driving in the rain is dicey at best, and arguably stupid at worse. They already have laws against texting while driving, so I'm sure that they'd really frown on an idiot driver who has an accident while driving and simultaneously taking photos. For this photo I was using the E-P2 with my OM 28mm 1:2.8 plus adapters. Before heading on down the road I'd set the aperture to f/4 and focus to the hyperfocal distance of the 28mm at f/4. The E-P2 was on aperture preferred. All I had to do was point and shoot.

I was holding the camera with both hands that were also gripping the steering wheel. Once again I watched the framing with my peripheral vision while grimly maintaining control of the Prius, and tripped the shutter at the "right" moment to grab this image. Once I'd gotten what I wanted I quickly put the camera down and drove the rest of the way home with both hands still gripping the steering wheel, but without the E-P2 to get in the way.

Frank Lloyd Wright Annie Pfeiffer Chapel
Frank Lloyd Wright Annie Pfeiffer Chapel

Finally, there's the issue of architecture. Take for example the Frank Lloyd Wright Annie Pfeiffer Chapel at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. It sits on a gently rising hill. The Four Thirds (and µFour Thirds) have a limited selection of lenses. They don't have, for example, shift and tilt lenses for architecture. For this photograph, using the M.Zuiko 9-18mm at 11mm, I held the E-P2 above my head and then aligned the camera to photograph the chapel with the vertical lines reasonably vertical (later, in Lightroom, I cleaned them up a bit more).

Once again I had to pay full attention as I was moving around the hillside with the camera. There's nothing quite as embarrassing as falling down a hill with your arms flailing above your head. Fortunately, at 6'4", with my arms above my head, and at the right location on the hill, I was able to frame a decent photograph using my peripheral vision as the guide.

In the grand scheme of things sometimes it works to hold the camera away from your eye and at arm's length. Sometimes you have no choice.

So the next time you see someone holding their camera away from them, consider they might be doing it for the sake of their art.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I just want to be ok, be ok, be ok

I live in Florida where the unemployment rate hit 12% in December of last year. As of June it stands at 10.6%, while the national unemployment rate is 9.2%. Meanwhile, political brinkmanship continues in Washington between Republicans and Democrats over raising the debt ceiling and thus allowing the U.S. to continue limping along economically. Listening to and reading the news, it would appear we have only a few more days before we as a nation officially default.

Borders Going Out Of Business
The last Borders going out of business in Tallahassee

As I travel from Orlando to Tallahassee and back I see more and more empty buildings where there used to be businesses, or buildings about to become empty. As bad as our economy has become, I wonder how much worse it could get post-default. I can't wait to find out.

I Had Customers Once
An empty former Blockbuster in Orlando

So while we're all waiting for economic Armageddon to officially arrive August 2nd, here's a cheerful little ditty to help us keep our spirits up. I heard it playing in the background during one of the infinite ads that ply the SyFy network. Enjoy!

Ingrid Michaelson - "I Just Want To Be Ok"

Buying Cameras: Starting Out

Starting in photography has never been easier than it is now. There's a huge amount of great resources that are available for free, lots of books in any bookstore, and plenty of classes and clubs to join. Yet at the same time the recent surge of interest in photography means that it has never been more difficult to buy that first camera. There's simply too many models out there, and it's hard to sort out the differences between them and know what actually matters.

With that in mind, here are some practical suggestions to guide your process.

Buy the biggest camera that you'll actually use. Photography is a series of compromises, and larger cameras will typically have better controls, more features, and larger image sensors. So the bigger the camera, the better the results – but only if you have it with you. A monster SLR with exotic lenses is useless if it's sitting at home, while a mediocre cell phone camera might be worth a fortune if the right celebrity stumbles out of a bar in the early hours of the morning.

The way a camera feels is very important. Try them out in person sooner rather than later: there's no point reading every review ever written only to discover that the grip is too small or too big. If you're fortunate enough to have a good camera store in your area, find a salesperson who can show you the different models and provide useful guidance. Needless to say, when it's time to buy you should return the favour and support them even if it costs a few dollars more.

Be realistic about the relationship between cost, features, and quality and you won't be disappointed at any price. Some people won't want to spend more than $100 on a camera, while others use tripods that cost ten times that much. But as a general guide, expect to pay a couple hundred dollars for any compact camera that's worth having, and add a hundred more for features like a really long zoom lens or waterproofing.

Entry-level SLRs generally start around five hundred dollars, and the smaller Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Format cameras can be a bit cheaper than that. On the higher end of the range, cameras can easily cost thousands fo dollars, or tens of thousands – but unless you know exactly why these are better then the differences between those and a good entry-level camera will hardly matter. It's not that the differences aren't important, but they're only really important to very few people. The effect of diminishing returns is very strong.

It makes sense to use the same brand as the people you know. Whether it's the ability to borrow equipment or share knowledge, there's strength in numbers. This is about the only time the long-running "Canon or Nikon" rivalry will actually matter for anyone who's just starting out.

With luck this should be enough to narrow down the market to only a few models. If you like one of them enough to go ahead and buy it, great. If not, or if you know you'll want to build a system instead of just buying a camera, there are a few more things to think about. I look at that in Part Two.

Matthew Robertson writes for the popular website `thewsreviews, and pays the bills by working part-time in a camera store. When he's not actively working with cameras, he's usually reading about them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Old Gear

In spite of my rants to the contrary, I spent some more money on a couple of used Four Thirds items; a second FL-50R flash and an Olympus EC-14 1.4x teleconverter.

Olympus EC-14

Both came from the same photographer who decided to sell his extensive Olympus Four Thirds system and move on to a Nikon D3 system. With my limited budget the best I could do was pick up the teleconverter and the flash (although I sure wish I could have picked up some of the SHG lenses he was selling).

My biggest reason for purchasing the EC-14 was to add a few more millimeters of focal length to the far end of my 50-200mm. With the EC-14 my 50-200mm becomes a 70-280mm f:4-5 telephoto zoom. In practice the E-3 detects the lens as a 70-283mm f:4-4.9. It's interesting how the measured values are slightly off on the far end of the range.

Construction Workers
Construction Workers
Olympus E-3 w/50-200mm + EC-14
1/320s. f/4.9, ISO 100, 258mm

In general use the E-3+50-200+EC-14 is no different in handling than the E-3+50-200mm. With the EC-14 I can now reach a little farther than before. That means I can fill the frame better at the same distances, or stand back a little farther than before (whether it's a 12 foot gator at one of the parks or a radar speedtrap).

The image above was taken wide open, hand-held, at base ISO. No special post processing, it was converted straight from the raw file. The focus was reasonably accurate and the shutter speed was right above the minimum recommended reciprocal for the focal length (258mm).

Ol' Blue
Ol' Blue
17mm missing front cosmetic piece

And finally, another shot of my slightly busted M.Zuiko 17mm, which I've given the nick-name Ol' Blue, for the bright blue plastic ring that is now fully exposed on the front of the lens. For both the EC-14 and this image I used remote control with the E-3. Both flashes were set up with one flash 45° to my left, with the second 180° on the right back side. For both images the front flash used the bounce card that comes with the FL-50R. For the EC-14 the rear flash was direct and 1/2 the output of the front flash. For the 17mm both flashes were set to the same power level and both were using the bounce card. The "background", if you want to call it that, was a single piece of 8x11" white printer paper.

There are times when I need to photograph small pieces of hardware, and the second flash will make it easier to do this. I had thought of purchasing a ring flash, but this has turned out to be cheaper and more flexible for other types of photography. And it's more fun to learn how to do lighting with two flash units as powerful as the FL-50Rs.

I wish I had the budget to invest multiple thousands of more dollars into another system (Canon 5D or Nikon D700, for example). But I don't so I can't. And the two items I just purchased used were cheap enough to fill in some capability gaps in the gear I currently have. And I might mention that even though both items were used, they were in immaculate condition. Their used prices were 40% less than brand new. And I can certainly live with that.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Heavy Weekend

Breakfast Girl

What should have been a light-hearted weekend up in Tallahassee with Megs turned dark instead. Meg's birthday was the middle of the week, two days before our wedding anniversary (we used to scandalize Megs when she was younger by telling folks she was born two days before we were married - then wait for her to glare at us and clear up birth-before-marriage by saying we were married two days short of four years before Megs was born).

It started with the terror story out of Norway on Friday and continued with Amy Winehouse's death on Saturday.

When my wife and I first heard of the unfolding horror in Norway I thought it might have come from operatives loyal to Libya for Norway's participation in the Nato operation against Libya. It later turned out that it was home-grown terror, similar to the Oklahoma City bombing of 2005. And then the real horror of the shootings at the youth retreat on Utoya Island, just north of Oslo started to come through and it left a cold pit in the center of my stomach.

We found out about Amy Winehouse mid-day Saturday when our oldest daughter called to give us the news after she'd heard about it from her friend in Gainesville. Megs, the wife and I were at a local Tallahassee restaurant called Hopkins' Eatery in the Publix shopping center on Monroe when we got the news.

Winehouse's death reminds me of two others, Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Janis was from my own rock-and-roll youth, while Stevie was born just a year later than I was. I love all three artists. The fact that both women died when they were 27 from drug-related causes makes me think of both my girls. My girls are wonderfully normal and have yet to celebrate their 27th. It would be the wildest bit of perverse circumstance if the same thing were happen to my girls, but the events surrounding Janis and Amy give me pause none the less.

Unlike other weekends spent in Tallahassee, this weekend was spent mechanically, and seemed to go by in a blur. I can't speak for anyone else but my mind wasn't quite there, although my body did the mechanical work it was supposed to do. I'm supposed to travel up this coming weekend one more time to help Megs move everything and close out the original lease. Maybe there'll be enough time to do something memorable.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life Imitates Art

She doesn't smoke or read the paper while sitting on her litter box, and both her eyes are the same size. But  when the lighting is just right Lucy looks like cartoonist Berkeley Breathed's Bill The Cat, with her frizzy coat and whiskers sticking out in all directions.

Lucy Looks Back
Lucy M. CatBill D. Cat

I love my Lucy Cat. I really do. But those times when Lucy is cranky and cantankerous and just an absolute little pill and wants to be left alone are some of the moments I try to seek out and photograph.

It's a good thing she can't surf the web or I'd be attacked by eight pounds of feline fury ninja-style in my sleep.

We've Been Down This Path Before

Camedia C-8080 circa 2004
With all the sturm und drang expressed over the release of the E-P3 and it's two lesser siblings, you'd think this was all new with regards to Olympus. Not exactly.

Olympus has been in the camera business a long, long time, stretching back to the early 20th century. They have a habit, and a good habit, of dipping back into their past for inspiration. They've done this twice already with the Pens, first with the film Pens for the OM film series and more directly for the digital Pens which include the E-P3.

But in between the hallowed OM series and the controversial digital Pens, there were a series of all-in-one cameras that Olympus made, the Camedia series.

Olympus E-1 with 14-54mm 1:2.8-3.5 zoom circa 2003
The one to the top right, the C-8080, was introduced at PMA 2004. Keep in mind that the Olympus E-1, the first FourThirds camera in the E-Volt line, was introduced September 2003. It's hard to say who influenced whom, but you can certainly see the family lines in both camera's designs.

You can also see from the photos that the C-8080 fits easily into the same hand that is required to hold the E-1 by its grip. I'm not complaining about the size of the E-1; I love the way it fits in my hands. I'm just saying that Olympus knows how to build rugged small cameras that can easily fit all in one hand like the C-8080.

What makes the C-8080 interesting are its pro-level features:

  • Magnesium allow body
  • 5-to-1 fast zoom 7.1-35.6mm 1:2.4-3.5
  • Auto-focus and A/F assist lamp
  • Multiple metering modes
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/4000s
  • Electronic viewfinder
  • Uses the BLM-1 battery (same as E-5x0, E-1, E-3x0, E-3, E-30, and E-5)

The C-8080 sensor was a Sony 2/3" CCD model that accommodated ISOs from 50 to 400 and provided 8mp images. It also recorded simple video of 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 resolution at 15fps. Not quite HDMI, but it was a nice, rugged, hi-res stills and video camera with one of the best zooms on the market at the time it was released. Even the fixed zoom lens was top shelf. The equivalent FourThirds lens would have been from 14-70mm. The two closest FourThird zooms that Olympus has manufactured are the HG 14-54mm 1:2.8-3.5 and the HG 12-60mm 1:2.8-4.

Why would I care about the old C-8080? Because of the promise of a pro-spec µFourThirds body sometime in the not-to-distant future. I've heard a lot of talk about bringing the E-1 up to spec for the regular FourThirds. In the same vein I'd like to see the C-8080 brought up to µFourThirds spec.

The C-8080 body is deep enough to allow the inclusion of the FourThirds sensor and the µFourThirds lens mount. I would love a pro-spec digital Pen built along the same lines as the C-8080 with a magnesium body and a grip large enough to hold a BLM-1 for longer shooting. The C-8080 shows that Olympus is more than capable of delivering such a form-factor camera. I'd buy a camera built this way in a cold New Your minute, a damn sight faster than the E-P3. Even if they manufactured a C-8080 class µFourThirds camera with an equivalent fixed-mount 14-70mm 1:2.8-3.5 zoom, I'd still be eager to buy it.

Now all Olympus has to do is execute. While I wait and wonder.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Toyota of Orlando

Toyota Prius 2009 car lot shot
My new lil' Prius, March 2009
The last two posts have been pretty negative, so I fell the need to bring balance back to the force by writing something positive about someone, somewhere. That actually turns out to be rather easy.


Over the past month the air conditioning blower in the Prius had been getting worse over time. At first I chalked it up to the unusually hot weather we've been having until around the first of July when I walked out to the car and started it up. The car started fine but the blower refused to start blowing air. The first failure seemed like a short delay; about 30 seconds after the car started then the blower started operating as well. I thought it was some sort of unknown "feature" in the car. I even hit the car manual looking for it.

But it was a slow failure of the blower. The blower failures continued intermittently. As each failure occurred they lasted longer and longer before the blower started to run. And the volume of air coming out of the vents was getting less and less when the blower was operating. Even though the blower would fail when the car was started, its failures only occurred when I would start the car. If the blower started it would continue moving air until the car stopped and was turned off.

I've now driven the Prius over 50,000 miles. I've taken it in for regular service every 5,000 miles or a little longer, but on a regular basis, to Toyota of Orlando where I purchased it. Last Thursday it was time to take the Prius in again, so I dropped the car off at Toyota of Orlando and told one of the service staff about the blower problem. While the Prius has an extended 100,000 mile warranty for the hybrid system, the regular bumper-to-bumper warranty which covers the A/C system is only good for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. The blower was well out of warranty. I was looking at a rather large and unexpected bill.


I left my Prius with service consultant Colleen Sargent last Thursday and explained the situation to her. At that time I asked if the A/C blower might still be under warranty. She looked at the odometer and said no, but that she would look into the blower problem. While Toyota had the car Colleen contacted a factory representative for Toyota, and managed to arrange for the blower to be replaced under warranty via "good will".

The local shop didn't have the part that Thursday and they couldn't get it there until Saturday. Colleen called and told me the good news about the factory's decision on the blower. She let me come back later in the evening to pick up the Prius. The shop had already done some of the work, but she put the paperwork aside until Saturday before settling any of the charges.

On Saturday I drove back to Toyota of Orlando to get the blower installed. Colleen wasn't there but Tony Ferrando was, and he took care of the rest of the repairs as well as making sure that everything else was done. The 50K mile work was done and paid for by me. The blower was installed free of charge via goodwill.

Both Colleen and Tony mentioned more than once what a good customer I've been. You don't know how great it feels to be appreciated by any business, especially if you're a repeat customer and have spent a fair amount with them over a multi-year period. I purchased that car there and I've taken it back ever since to keep it up to spec. It's great to be appreciated and to see a shop return customer loyalty with generosity and a helping hand when you need it. Thanks, Colleen and Tony, for all you did.

I've owned many vehicles over the years, starting with a General Motors Chevy Nova in high school, through two Honda Civics, a pair of Nissan vans, a couple of Volvos (one I still own, a 940 wagon), and a pair of Kias. They've all been pretty good, but the best car we've ever owned has been the Toyota Prius, and the best shop we've ever dealt with has been Toyota of Orlando. As long as the Prius continues to operate as well as it has to date and the shop treats us as well as they have to date, then that's the brand we'll continue to drive. I don't see that changing any time soon, if ever.

Orange County Sheriff Harassment in my Neighborhood

Well, it finally happened. My wife and I got a small taste of law enforcement harassment for taking a photo of an unmarked car sitting in a speedtrap in our neighborhood. Today he was sitting at the Banyan entrance/exit from Apopka Vineland Road.

Orange Counter Sheriff Unmarked Front
Unmarked Orange County Sheriff Front View

I first saw him as we turned into the neighborhood from Apopka Vineland onto Banyan. I try to pay attention to what goes on in the neighborhood, and the unmarked silver Pontiac Grand Prix, with heavily tinted windows, stood out like a sour thumb. What made the car even more suspicious was the smoke tinted plastic over the rear license plate. You couldn't clearly read the license, in violation of Florida statute 316.605.

I drove to the first turn on Banyan from Apopka Vineland, turned left onto Mulberry Lane, made a U-turn on  Mulberry, then drove back towards Apopka Vineland and past the car. That's when my wife and I both saw the Orange County Sheriff in the driver's side with the window down. I drove back to the Banyan entrance, made another U-turn back onto Banyan, then drove back to Mulberry and turned left again and stopped. That's when things got interesting.

I carry three cameras with me most of the time; my Olympus E-1, E-3, and E-P2. I've got the 12-60mm mounted on the E-1, the 50-200mm mounted on E-3, and the 17mm pancake on the E-P2. When I pulled onto Mulberry I pulled up enough not to be on the corner but still have a clear view of the car. I pulled out my E-3, and while sitting in my car with the window down, proceeded to take a series of photos. It's rather hard to hide the use of the E-3 with 50-200mm. That's when the officer noticed, started his car and decided to come in pursuit of me.

When he started moving I put the E-3 in the back and started down Mulberry moving myself. He then turned on his lights and pulled us over. He then walked up and asked me if he could help. I told him I lived in the neighborhood and I pay attention to the unusual. That's when he asked to see my ID and registration. I pulled out my license and showed it to him. Before I could reach for my registration he said "that's fine", that he wanted to make sure I lived in the neighborhood. I wonder if I would have been ticketed for some trumped up charge if I hadn't.

Orange Counter Sheriff Unmarked Rear
Unmarked Orange County Sheriff Car - License # Q2O-2FN

If the officer hadn't decided to chase me down and harass me, I wouldn't have been provided this wonderful view of the statute-violating tag on the rear of his unmarked vehicle. This is the kind of licence cover that would earn a civilian a ticket every time a cop sees it. The only way I was able to read his tag clearly was to post-process the image to black and white with Lightroom 3.4.1 and Silver Efex Pro 2 in order to make the license clear enough to read.

I'm not exactly thrilled to say this, but I've finally had a taste of what you read about on the web site Photography is Not a Crime. I've photographed a lot of speed traps, but I've never been harassed for it until now.

Florida statute 316.605 Licensing of vehicles.—

(1) Every vehicle, at all times while driven, stopped, or parked upon any highways, roads, or streets of this state, shall be licensed in the name of the owner thereof in accordance with the laws of this state unless such vehicle is not required by the laws of this state to be licensed in this state and shall, except as otherwise provided in s. 320.0706 for front-end registration license plates on truck tractors and s. 320.086(5) which exempts display of license plates on described former military vehicles, display the license plate or both of the license plates assigned to it by the state, one on the rear and, if two, the other on the front of the vehicle, each to be securely fastened to the vehicle outside the main body of the vehicle not higher than 60 inches and not lower than 12 inches from the ground and no more than 24 inches to the left or right of the centerline of the vehicle, and in such manner as to prevent the plates from swinging, and all letters, numerals, printing, writing, and other identification marks upon the plates regarding the word “Florida,” the registration decal, and the alphanumeric designation shall be clear and distinct and free from defacement, mutilation, grease, and other obscuring matter, so that they will be plainly visible and legible at all times 100 feet from the rear or front. Vehicle license plates shall be affixed and displayed in such a manner that the letters and numerals shall be read from left to right parallel to the ground. No vehicle license plate may be displayed in an inverted or reversed position or in such a manner that the letters and numbers and their proper sequence are not readily identifiable. Nothing shall be placed upon the face of a Florida plate except as permitted by law or by rule or regulation of a governmental agency. No license plates other than those furnished by the state shall be used. However, if the vehicle is not required to be licensed in this state, the license plates on such vehicle issued by another state, by a territory, possession, or district of the United States, or by a foreign country, substantially complying with the provisions hereof, shall be considered as complying with this chapter. A violation of this subsection is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.

My College Years as Captain America

For the first time in decades, you're looking at how I looked in college. Magnificent physique, incredible fighting skills, nifty wardrobe, a hot babe at my shoulder to answer my every beck and call, and Tommy Lee Jones was a bud.

Well, maybe it's how I desperately wanted to look in college.

I remember Capt. America from the 1960s in both Marvel comic book form as well as cheap TV cartoons. Remember the TV theme song?

When Captain America throws his mighty shield,
All those who chose to appose his shield must yield,
If he's led to a fight and the duel is due,
Then the red and the white and the blue'll come through,
When Captain America throws his mighty shield!

It's interesting that Chris Evans is playing Capt. America. His last superhero role was as Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, one of the Fantastic Four, another Marvel property. And it wasn't in one movie, but in both Fantastic Four movies. Which makes me wonder if they'll ever make a third Fantastic Four movie, and if so, if they'll use the same original cast or if they'll reboot it like they've done twice with the Hulk.

Oh. And one other fun movie to see Chris Evans in is "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World", in which he appeared as Lucas Lee, one of the seven Evil Exes. What was awesome was Lucas Lee's stunt team, dressed in the same leather jacket and facial hair as Lucas himself. And watching Scott have to battle them all off. I liked Scott Pilgrim. Even Rotten Tomatoes gate it 81%, which is unusual. RT and I don't always see eye to eye as it were on what's worth watching and what isn't.

Anyway, to get back to the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Chris Evans, I also remember some of my Marvel comics Avenger stories, and if my memory serves me right, the Human Torch was a member in a number of the stories. It will be interesting to see if the Avenger movies follow the same outline as the comics. If the movies do follow that outline then it will be doubly interesting to see who's cast as the Human Torch.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: Hot N Juicy Crawfish

The Short Version: Avoid at all costs.

The Long Version:
A new restaurant opened in the Dr. Phillips area on Sand Lake Road. It's called Hot N Juicy Crawfish, and it aims to serve shellfish, primarily the namesake crayfish. My wife and I love seafood and shellfish, so we decided to head over and try out Hot N Juicy. After an hour-and-a-half experiencing poor service and not the best in seafood, we both left wishing we hadn't. Our night at Hot N Juicy was one of the worst, if not the worst, dining experiences in out life.

Hot N Juicy Crawfish

This isn't the first night they opened; on they're website they've still got a special for July 9th (which is expired, naturally), but Friday night was close enough to opening night that they still had a training manager walking about while we were there.

We arrived fairly late, around 8pm. The place was near to empty of patrons. For the next hour-and-a-half we would slowly be served two plastic bags of boiled seafood (one pound of crayfish, one of shrimp), a pair of rather flat rolls, and an appetizer of soft shell crabs on a bed of spicy french fries.

Sample Crawfish - Hot N Juicy Crawfish

The crayfish and shrimp were boiled in garlic butter with no additional spices. When we placed our orders we asked for the appetizer as well as the rolls. We were hoping to get the rolls and appetizer before the main meal. Unfortunately the appetizer showed up right after my shrimp but before Jude's crayfish, and the rolls didn't arrive at out table until we'd asked for them... twice.

Jude's crayfish were tough to get into, with very little meat. She had to ask for a simple tool to help scoop out the limited meat that came in her crayfish. My shrimp were tough to nearly impossible to shuck. I've eaten boiled shrimp since I was 6, and I know how to cook 'em, shuck 'em, and eat 'em. My bag of shrimp were of poor quality. I suspect that they'd been deep frozen a good while before they got to the restaurant. My shrimp were so bad I did something that night I've never done before; I left a few shrimp behind because I just got tired of the whole experience.

Sample Shrimp - Hot N Juicy Crawfish

The bill added insult to injury. Jude's bag of boiled crayfish was $10. My bag of boiled shrimp was $12. The basket of soft shell crab we shared between us was $12. And I'm talking small portions. Sitting on top of a lot of spicy french fries neither of us cared for. We came for seafood, not empty starches.

Our total bill that night, including tip, was a little over $40. For that amount of money I could have walked down to the Publix in the same complex and gotten fresher shrimp, cooked it better than what I had, and fed both Jude and I. Along with better rolls, good Publix slaw, better condiments, and fresh ground horseradish for a decent cocktail sauce.

While I'm at it I'd also like to introduce Fresh Catch Seafood Market, which is a block east of Hot N Juicy on Sandlake and a block north from there on Turkey Lake next to Gold's Gym. If you've got to have seafood, and if you want it truly good and fresh, they buy it fresh from a real market and prepare it yourself. Don't waste your money or your time on Hot N Juicy Crawfish.

Fresh Catch Seafood Market

Normally I'd write this on Matthews Reviews, but Hot N Juicy appears to be a local phenomenon that's hopefully not in danger of showing up in Toronto any time soon. Besides, Matthews' ratings only go to down 0. Hot N Juicy deserves a negative rating on execution.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday the 15th

So it's Friday the 15th. That special date two days later than the 13th when the undead with cameras come out of hiding and roam the landscape capturing the souls of the living...

So today, at the height of the heat and the humidity called lunchtime, I headed out to swelter again with my Olympus E-P2 and the Zuiko Digital 50mm macro and captured a few images. Fortunately for the living I didn't see any that had souls worth the trouble of capturing. So instead I turned my attention to what you see below.

Tiny Lavender

Today's little lavender flowers were in the same bed as yesterday's yellow flowers. There's more types that are blooming, but I like to spend a few minutes on just one type per day. It gives me something to look forward to my next trip past the same spot.

These little guys were even smaller than the yellow flowers, requiring I get even closer. I opened the lens up to f/4 to pick an even higher shutter speed. I felt that if the depth of field were deep enough, and the lens sharp enough at f/4, then the high shutter speed would eliminate any detail-destroying motion blur via the camera or the flowers themselves.

Urban Automotive

This flaming yellow Mexican-style building was taken late afternoon on Thursday, as I was driving home from the Toyota dealership. I'd had to drop the Prius off to have them look at the A/C blower; it was deciding to intermittently quit, which is quite annoying during the heat of the day. This is just east of the intersection of Old Winter Garden and Mercy Drive, on Old Winter Garden.

Sandhill Cranes

The sandhill cranes are back and feeding around the office. I can't tell if they're the same pair I've seen around here over the years. I got close enough with the E-P2 and the 50mm to grab a few photographs. I'm always wary of these guys; when they stand up straight their bills are at the same level as my biceps on my arms. I don't get too close so they can hit me. They tend to back off if I do get too close. I try not to chase them, as I don't want them flying off. I increased saturation all over the photo, then turned off the green channel's saturation to make the grass look black and white.

Luncheon Garbage

I wouldn't have known this was here if I hadn't first smelled it a good distance from the dumpster. If you thought the living dead got a little ripe in sweltering heat, then you should have been around to get a snooze full of this lovely bouquet.

This charming spot lies behind the new IHop restaurant, where the Krispy Kreme once served coffee and doughnuts. I took a quick look into the dumpster and saw that it was less than half full. I have no idea why dumped the bags were too lazy to put the rest of the trash in the dumpster, but there you go. This was post-processed again with Silver Efex Pro 2. I was looking for a black and white effect that would pick out all the details in the photos. This almost, in certain areas, looks like HDR. Almost.

Study in BMW Textures

Something about the play of light on this BMW wheel in the parking lot caught my eye. Silver Efex provided just the right preset effect to bring out the detail and texture of the wheel.


Everything taken with the Olympus E-P2 and the ZD 50mm. Post processing done with Lightroom 3.4.1 and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Post Processing Tools — Silver Efex Pro 2

New software was delivered to la casa Beebe today from B&H Photo: Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro. B&H had it on sale for $129. I purchased it because I've seen some remarkably interesting black and white digital images processed with it, and I wanted to experiment with it. This version was still eligible for an upgrade to version 2. As soon as I unwrapped the first version I registered it online. Several hours later came an email with a link to download version 2. I was able to save about $70 over purchasing version 2 outright.

These eyes of Lulu, Take 2

It didn't take long for me to get in trouble with Silver Efex. I processed Lulu's earlier photo (below) with one of the presets, 034 Yellowed 2. I like the tone and overall treatment, but I'm not to crazy about the torn edges effect. Oh well. Half the fun is learning, not just Silver Efex, but all the other tools in my digital darkroom.

The original photo (below) was taken at ISO 1600. The original color raw frame shows a fair amount of chroma noise in the mid-tones and out-of-focus areas. Using Silver Efex I'm trying to produce a more natural grain-like pattern, especially in the out-of-focus mid-tone areas. Silver Efex appears to give a bit more acutance to those areas in focus, such as Lulu's fur on her face. It also helps to make the eyes a bit more distinct and dramatic.

These eyes of Lulu

Both of these look a lot better as full-sized prints.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Until Further Notice

A good portion of what I'm about to post and upload is going to look like crap. Hopefully, it won't look like everybody else's crap. I'm in a foul mood, casting about looking for a way to break it. So I've decided to start breaking all the rules of so-called "good photography". All of this is for my personal satisfaction. If you find it satisfying, good. If not, then ignore it. Or better yet, if you really feel strongly about how bad it is, leave your opinion why you think it's crap (or worse).

Fern 2

This is resurrection fern. It's an air plant native to Florida and the Southeast in general. It takes its nutrients from the bark of the tree on which it grows (a live oak in this instance). During the dry season it turns brown and curls up, but give it a little moisture, such as rain and/or high humidity, and it greens up.

I'm fascinated by the textures on the leaves such as the spore bodies on each leaf, appearing as small regular green bumps from the top. Every time I see it growing I'm reminded of old science fiction stories such as Larry Niven's "The Integral Trees.", or the old Yes album art, or the floating mountains from the movie Avatar.

Yellow Flowers

Yellow. The color of the sun in summer. These flowers, who's name I do not know, are part of a bedding close to where I work. As I get close to them I see little insects crawling within the florets at the center of the flower.


Olympus E-P2 with Zuiko Digital 50mm 1:2 and Panasonic DMW-MA1 adapter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Florida is sub-tropical, as is most of the southeast, north through South Carolina and then west across the Mississippi and on across to the west coast (bypassing the hot southwest and Death Valley). Here in Florida, when there's no drought, and the rains are plentiful enough, the heat and humidity combine with ample rains to allow all sorts of ferns to grow, both on the ground and up in the trees.

And even when there are unusually dry conditions all it takes is a relatively small amount of rain in the form of afternoon thundershowers over a period of a week for the ferns to start to flourish. Considering all the invasive species we've introduced in Florida over the centuries, I have no idea of these ferns are native or not. But they are beautiful, and easily spotted just walking around at lunch.

Tree Ferns

Ground Fern


Taken with an Olympus E-P2 with a Zuiko Digital 50mm 1:2 4/3rds lens and DMW-MA1 adapter. Post processed in Lightroom 3.4.1.

The Olympus E-P3 — "Almost On Par"

It's cruel to compare at times. Consider, for example, everybody's favorite kicking boy, the FourThirds system, and it's evolutionary follow-on, µFourThirds. Today we're continuing to cover the E-P3's high-ISO performance.

The Phoblographer ran a high-ISO comparison test between the E-P3, the Canon 7D, and the Canon 5DMkII. Let's take a moment and compare some of the salient features of all three cameras used in the test.

E-P3 Camera Comparisons
ModelE-P360D7D5D MKII
Date ReleasedJune 2011August 2010August 2009September 2008
Price (body only)$800$1,000$1,700$2,500

Phoblographer is comparing the E-P3 against two cameras with progressively larger sensors introduced between two (7D) to three years (5D Mk II) prior to the E-P3. The conclusion comparing these three cameras (using the JPEG output from the E-P3) is:
Based on the image samples, the Canon 5D Mk II is still way ahead of the other two cameras. However, the EP3 is almost on par with the Canon 7D’s high ISO output results.
Almost. Yes, the 7D price is twice the E-P3's, and the 5D's four times that. But you could drop back to the Canon 60D, with the same sensor, a lovely 100% bright pentaprism view finder, and an equally lovely articulating screen on the back for just $200 more.

I've held the 60D. It reminds me a lot of the Olympus E-30, the 12MP DSLR Olympus announced in September 2008 for $1,300.

I'm not interested in spending $800 for a 2011 camera with "almost on par" high ISO performance compared against a sensor system that was introduced nearly two years ago with the 7D and is available on either Canon's 60D or (for less cost than the E-P3) Canon's T3i.

Using high ISO performance as a major purchasing criteria, I'd be better off spending a few hundred dollars more for a Canon 60D that has so many more features and considerably more potential.

Olympus AU has been cheekily tweeting to "get a real camera", and the URL redirects to I agree, get a real camera; buy Canon.


Two from the DxOMark website. First is a review of the E-P3's sensor, which states up front
"We have tested the PEN EP3, the latest 4/3 camera by Olympus and the first results are now available. The Olympus PEN EP3 apart from changes on the exterior, it is pretty much the same sensor as the Olympus PEN EPL2 and Olympus E5."
In comparing the E-P3 with my E-P2 and the E-PL2, there is indeed very little difference. If anything, my E-P2 is just marginally better than the E-P3 in all aspects except low-light ISO; the E-P3 has a score of 536 while my E-P2 has a score of 505. I doubt I (or anyone else for that matter) could tell the difference. If anything, the overall score of the E-P2 is five points higher than the E-P3. I know what the Olympus defenders will say; Olympus re-jiggered the sensor for better autofocus. But I stand by my original assessment; if the sensor's image quality is lagging with the rest of the industry in the price bracket it wants to compete in, then everything else is irrelevant.

DxOMark has been called irrelevant, especially when it shows low scores for your current camera when compared to others. I'm not comparing across brands, I'm comparing within the Olympus brand, where you really are comparing apples to apples. And when I see the numbers barely budge between models, from the E-3 to the E-P2 to the E-5 and the E-P3, then I call shenanigans on the whole shebang.

Update 2

Who knew that Twitter could be such a font of wisdom?
@zarias Remember that if your focus is on the tools of the trade then you have lost sight of the whole reason to be a photographer.
Yeah. From the same line of reasoning that says it's not the camera, its the photographer that takes the photograph. From the same platitude-spouting group that walk about with multiple-thousands-of-dollar Canons, Nikons, and Leicas dangling from their necks like so much expensive bling. I feel so inspired now.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Simple Things

Coleus Canina
Coleus Canina
There are times when you walk outside and look down and see something you've seen innumerable times before in a slightly different way, such that you stop ignoring them for a time. These coleus are an example of this. I think it's due in part to the fact that I just need to pay more attention to the simple things that grow naturally.

Perhaps it's the variegated crimson and yellow-green leaves, or the not-so-simple fractal-like patterns the colors form on the leaves. But the coleus are growing in full now, outside in the beddings around Research Park, all differing colors. I think I will concentrate on them and the other flowering plants for a few days. As a form of escapism.

Coleus Canina


Taken with the Olympus E-P2 and Zuiko Digital 50mm with DMW-MA1 adapter. Post processed in Lightroom 3.4.1.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

End and Home

Outside In

When Megs and I went to see the movie "Super 8" at the Challenger Center the night before, we passed these locations that are part of the overall block where Challenger Center is located. I decided to come back and take a few photos before I left for the drive back to Orlando.

It was kind of hard to take these, as both Megs and I knew I'd be leaving. I know Megs is a graduate now, and in her early 20s, but it's still hard to leave her. We got a lot done in her apartment, cleaning and packing and getting ready for her to move out and on to something new. I would have given just about anything to have stayed one more day, even if it was just hauling more stuff to Goodwill or scrubbing floors.

I love Megs dearly, but towards the end she let things go as she concentrated on her classes, projects and grades; the apartment needs a little love now.

Bicycle Stand

The more I walk around Tallahassee the more I realize what poor shape the whole city is in. Even the center near the state capital is showing signs of wear and there are parts of major buildings with interiors that are incomplete. Right now I'm busy trying to help Megs shift from being a student to living a post-graduate life. The last thing she needs is for her old man to go around photographing the general decline. It's depressing.


I'm officially back in another black and white mood. When I got home today I ordered a copy of Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro. I want to get back to the classic look of black and white that I remember. Good thing it works with Lightroom and Photoshop. I'm going to go back and work with some of my recent black and white images and see what I can make them "better".

Camera was the Olympus E-P2 with the M.Zuiko 17mm.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Super 8

Super 8 TicketAfter a long day in Tallahassee helping Megs get her apartment in some form for a final checkout by the end of the month, I took the young lady out to dinner and a movie. Dinner was a local Mexican restaurant where she got her favorite pulled chicken enchiladas. The movie was "Super 8", J. J. Abram's version of "E. T." for middle schoolers. With a much bigger and angrier alien and lots of Michael Bay-style explosions.

The movie was interesting enough. What was more interesting was watching it with a young woman (Megs) who's spent the last four years studying art, film, and photography (and graduating with high honors).

The biggest conversation was about J. J. Abram's continuing obsession with anamorphic lens flair. Note to J. J. You spent hundreds of millions on two movies and you can't afford decent optics?

There's two cinematographic affectations I can't abide, and they are both loved and adored by J. J. Abrams. The first is shaky-cam, which was abused in 2008's "Cloverfield". He wasn't the first; the reboot of "Battlestar Galactica" used it quite a bit for the external shots of flying spaceships (along with amateur zooming and cheap-style autofocusing). But Cloverfield certainly pushed it to the point of motion sickness.

On J. J. Abrams' reboot of Star Trek, the movie was saturated with anamorphic flair. So much so that he had anamorphic flair added to all the CG shots used in the movie. In "Super 8", it was actually toned down quite a bit. But paradoxically, when it did show up it was far more jarring to the scene than if he'd covered the movie with flair like he did with Star Trek.

Like the end of the movie and the launch of the alien's spacecraft. Or the odd placement at odd times in various scenes. Especially when there was a lot of black areas (night) and you'd see one or two long, horizontal bright blue flair lines.

During the early part of the movie you heard Walter Cronkite's coverage of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident near Harrisburg Pennsylvania. That accident occurred 1 April 1979, so that gives us a pretty concise anchor in time for the film. Which made it two years after the first Star Wars movie (1977). And what should I see in one of the kid's rooms but a model of Darth Vadar's TIE fighter...

It was a comfortably watchable movie. The best part was the kid's zombie movie shown during the ending credits. Romero Industries indeed.

These Eyes

I love black and white. I love the accutance and detail you can achieve. I love the apparent detail you can record. I love the break from color.

Yes, my lips are very flexible...

Little One. Ruby has this expressive face (for a Lab). The way she cocks her head, moves her eyes, and sets her ears and head are almost infinite. She knew I was packing to leave for the weekend and leaving her at home. It's almost like she's asking to go along.

Dining at Robotos

Back in Tallahassee (just me this time) and another meal with Megs at Mr. Robotos Japanese Grill. The girl in front is probably wondering who the old creep is with the camera.

These eyes of Lulu

Lulu is the most cantankerous of the three cats that live in my house. You can't pet her, you can only hold out your hand to her to sniff. If she sniffs you and she's in a good mood then she'll put her head under your hand for you to rub her. If she's not in a good mood she either pull away or put her paw out to push your hand away. When she sits like this she reminds me of all those Cheshire Cat drawings I ever saw. And those paws are the most hand-like I've ever seen on a cat.


Everything shot with the E-P2 and 17mm. Everything shot high ISO (800 to 1600).