Thursday, December 31, 2009
Welcome to the end of another year! Who would have ever thought we’d make it this far? Better enjoy the next one, you never know when the world will end catastrophically. This was a fine enough year for me personally, although it seems like everyone I know on Facebook is complaining about how much it sucked and how they hope next year will be better. Perhaps I just had a lot of fun at their expense and now they’re just bitter. Not sure.
This will be the last picture posted in 2009. And, more importantly, it will also be the last picture posted this week. I’ll be back in full-force next week though. I’ll post a pretty good picture on Monday to get you interested, then I’ll sneak in something crappy on Tuesday and/or Wednesday, but then I’ll try to finish the week strong on Friday, because that’s the way I roll. That’s how it’s going to go down. You’ll see.
As with most (all?) of my wintertime pictures, I took this one while I was out skiing (Crystal Mountain this time.) We get a lot of days just like this out here in the Pacific Northwest: poor visibility, but lots of nice fresh snow. Although you can tell it wasn’t THAT big of a powder day, based on how much snow is sitting on the branches. But whatever, not the point. Actually, I don’t think there is a point, so maybe there is, and that was it.
Whatever. Have fun tonight! Do at least one thing that you’ll regret next year!
Notes: Canon PowerShot S500 (Point and shoot). 1/320s, f/10.0.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Hey everyone, welcome back from the holiday weekend! Hope you all had a great Christmas if you celebrate that sort of thing, otherwise I hope you had a really great Friday. We had some gorgeous weather here over the weekend, which meant that I was able to get 2 or 3 post-worthy shots. They’re still on the camera, but you’ll see them someday I’m sure. This one’s actually from this last summer though. This is a view of the sunset (duh) over the Olympic mountains and Puget Sound, seen from downtown Seattle. Always beautiful, if the sun and the mountains are actually out.
Today’s picture gives me a chance to talk about one of my biggest pet peeves again: pictures that aren’t quite straight. It’s something that is really easy to take for granted, but is actually really hard to get just right. For a lot of pictures it really doesn’t matter (like yesterday’s picture of a rose) but anytime you have a shot that includes something that you would normally expect to be either straight up and down (like a tree or a building) or straight across (like the horizon), it kills me when it’s obviously tilted. And it doesn’t even need to be tilted by much. Even a degree or two can destroy a picture, especially if it’s something that stretches across the whole frame. This is particularly a problem for me, because for whatever reason my trigger hand seems to be a bit lazy, and it doesn’t want to hold the right side of the camera as high as the left. So it’s always something I have to explicitly ask myself before I hit the shutter: “am I holding it level this time?” In this particular picture I believe I just about nailed it (it’s oh so slightly off, but it’ll do), but there’s actually another variable going on here that can make it even more of a pain in the butt than usual.
In the cases I mentioned before (trees, buildings, the horizon), it’s generally pretty obvious what the “true” orientation needs to be. But what about the case of a lake with a far distant shore? (Or, like in this picture, a sound.) It usually looks right if the far shore goes straight across, but what if the shore is actually curving away from you? Then in reality it should tilt upwards a bit, but in a lot of cases, that will actually make it *look* wrong, even though it actually isn’t. Frustrating, right? I know, it kills me!
I’ll go ahead and finish this post with the standard caveat to the “is it straight?” issue: you can straighten pictures after the fact with software. But I have always claimed, and I still insist, that doing so subtly degrades the picture. Why? Because of math. The image off the camera is a grid of colored pixels. In order to rotate the image, you’re re-mapping those pixels to different locations. Here’s the kicker though: the new locations don’t exactly line up with pixel locations in the image. Meaning, the center of a particular pixel will be moved to a point that’s a little ways between the original pixel location and the location of the pixel next to it. Meaning the new pixel value will need to be calculated as a weighted average of several pixels. Meaning, you’re going to lose at least a little bit of sharpness, as adjacent pixels that once had a certain amount of contrast from each other will now be blended together. Make sense? It’s not a huge issue, and if it’s a question of either straightening an image or not having it at all, definitely go with the straightening. But if you have a choice between a straightened one and one that was naturally straight, I’d go with the natural one every time.
Want a different way of looking at the issue? Okay, here you go. Imagine a sheet of graph paper. Let’s say you want to draw a horizontal line on that paper by filling in squares. Easy enough, right? You just fill in a row of squares. Same with a vertical line. A 45-degree diagonal line kind of works. But any other slope of a line, and you get into averaging. Meaning, you start doing things like filling in two squares next to each other, then you move diagonally for one square, then diagonally again, etc. If you look at it from far away, it looks like a line of the correct slope, but up close it’s clearly kind of a hackjob. So when you straighten an image, you’re doing the same thing. You’re taking lines that were originally at one slope, and tilting them along a grid. So the result will average out to look decent, especially from far away, but you will have lost some detail in the averaging. Long story short, it’s a better idea to just try to take the image straight the first time.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron 28-300 mm VC lens. 1/320s, f/9.0, ISO 100. Focal length: 154mm.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Yeah, I know, I know, I promised either a baby ostrich or a barbed wire fence today. Or at least something keeping with the theme of using only crappy and/or weird pictures this week while “nobody was around to read the blog”. Well, I couldn’t do it today. Because, you see, this is the last post until sometime next week. Which means, all of the random folks that land on this page between now and then will see *today’s* post as their first and most likely *only* impression of me. So I had to make it a good one, right? Don’t worry, you’ll get to see at least one of the mediocre pictures that you want next week.
Today’s shot is another one taken with a macro kit, basically a set of magnifying glass type things that you screw onto the front of your lens. But this was a somewhat different set up than you’ve seen before, because this was taken with a lens that I bought at the end of the summer, a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, and because it takes a different size of filter than the lens I formerly used with my macro kit, a brand new macro kit. But it’s the same idea.
The macro kits do work as advertised, allowing you to focus more closely and get further in than you would be able to otherwise. But they can also add sort of a hazy, dreamy feel to the pictures (particularly at the far end of your zoom), which may or may not help the picture. This picture is a perfect example. It looks like it’s been extensively photoshopped, but in reality I only did minimal post-processing on it. If I had the original handy, I’d post it here as well so you could see. Perhaps I’ll do that later. Definitely a great toy to play around with, and it can definitely get you some really interesting images that you wouldn’t get otherwise. But it’s also definitely not something you want to keep on your lens all the time.
Okay, that’s it for this week. Have a great holiday if you’re in to that sort of thing!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
So yeah, here’s another one that doesn’t really fit with the usual theme here. Perfect for Christmas week. I’ve actually been waiting a really long time to find the right chance to squeeze this picture in there. To sneak it under the radar, midweek sometime when not too many people would even notice. It’s cheezeball, but I like the color.
This was taken back in my clubbin’ days. Back when, you know, I was hip, and all that. Ooooohhh yeah. Way back in the day, right? Heck yes. This was at the Last Supper Club here in Seattle. Good times. A nice, slow exposure (a quarter of a second) to make the laser light look like the solid bands that you see, and also to make all the normally recognizable ordinary stuff that I hate so much get blurred into something else. Yessssss.
For tomorrow, you’re either going to get a baby ostrich or a barbed wire fence. We’ll see what kind of mood I’m in.
Notes: Fuji Finepix F30 (Point and shoot). 1/3s, f/5.0, ISO 1600.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Welcome back everyone! As you can tell by the very fact that I did indeed post something today, my traffic looks to be improved. Still not sure what happened at the end of the last week, but it sure seemed like most of you decided to go outside and play instead of sitting inside reading my stuff like you should. But since I did kind of already mentally check out for the holidays, I’ve decided to compromise, and use this week and next week (I’ll probably only post 2 or 3 times next week) to post some pictures from the backlog that are either not really that great, or just.. kind of weird.
This one definitely falls into the weird category. I saw this vine thing on a hike one day (I’m not going to say which one, due to my aforementioned hesitation at admitting to yet another picture from the Shi Shi Beach trail – although to be fair, it’s been a month since I posted one. Well, posted one that I actually identified as being from that hike anyway.) I thought it was really cool how those two strands danced and curled around each other, but the resulting pictures were still a bit weird. As in, I felt like when I looked at the picture I started by noticing the cool, playful pattern, but then right at that moment where you’d say “Oh, cool, that’s a [whatever]! Awesome!” I instead found myself saying “Oh, cool, that’s a …. umm… uhh.. what the hell is that?”. So it felt like it had a great build up, but then a crappy, poorly thought out, meaningless ending. But this and the other couple of pictures I got of this.. thing.. are both somewhat interesting photos in my opinion, so it fit perfectly with this week’s theme. (Oh, we’re doing weekly themes now, are we?)
So, there it is. Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what crappy and/or weird picture I decide to use to take up the dead-space between now and the end of the year!
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron 28-300 mm lens with Hoya Macro Kit. 1/250s, f/5.0, ISO 800. Focal length: 50mm.