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Showing posts from July, 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 …

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…

Why Kirk Tuck Might Be Wrong About That™

Up-Front Disclaimer
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.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 compo…

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.


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.


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!

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 o…

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.


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.


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 a…

A Heavy Weekend

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 th…

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.


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

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.

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 p…

Toyota of Orlando

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.

Background

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 l…

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.


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,…

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 mov…

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.


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 …

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.


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 th…

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.


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…

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).


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…

Pteridophyta

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.



Technical

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 ComparisonsModelE-P360D7D5D MKIISensor4/3rdsAPS-CAPS-C135Resolution12.1MP18MP18MP24MPDate ReleasedJune 2011August 2010August 2009September 2008Price (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 E…

The Simple Things

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.



Technical

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

End and Home

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.


The more I walk around Tallahassee the more I realize what poor shape the whole city is in. Even the center near the state cap…

Super 8

After 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, whi…

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.


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.


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.


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 Ches…