Sunday, December 17, 2006


One of my presents to myself this holiday season was the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II lens (reviews here, here, and here). Though newly acquired I won't be taking this monster with me to Italy; but I did manage to play with it for the last week.

I can't offer much more insights than what has already been said about this lens; it produces great images but is insanely heavy and focuses really slowly. I did want to show just how narrow the depth of field is at f/1.2, hence the picture.

One of the things I see often of people (usually amateur photographers) who first use this lens (or any other really fast lens) is to drool over how much of the background is smoothly blurry. Though interesting at first (and maybe for a couple of images) I personally don't feel that a picture with a very blurry background and buttery smooth bokeh in and of itself makes that picture interesting.

Since this lens is considered by many to be the ultimate portrait lens for the Canon EF lineup, the first thing I shot with it was portraits. Here is the first picture I took of Kim with the lens (she wasn't impressed by its massive size) wide open. On Sunday, I did a little shooting in the backyard and ended up with 3 pictures I liked (one, two and three (the last has obviously had some Photoshop work done on it, with the CS3 Beta of course :) )).

One of the other important things to realize is that even if you have a fast lens, many times you still need a flash. I took these two (one, two) pictures earlier this week with the 85L and the 430ex flash which I think helps balance the exposure.

Kim and I will be leaving for Italy tomorrow and will return on January 5th, so I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 85mm f/1.2L II, f/1.2, 1/640s, ISO 100.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Killing Shrubs

Our house has a lot of juniper bushes. In fact it has so many that much of the front of the house is blocked by the tall junipers; hence much of the front windows are blocked. Now some people would consider this to be a good thing. Block all light, keep those prying eyes out. Kim and I are not one of these people. Since our house faces south-south-east a majority of the light that comes into the house does so from the front. We generally like light, and I particularly like the ability to look out a window and see who/what is parked on the curb in front of the house.

This particular guy wasn't blocking a window, but it was blocking over half of the pathway to the front door. After weeks irritation, the day finally came on Sunday for his demise. A 1/2 hour later and a reciprocating saw and this is all that is left of the giant bush. The remaining bits are for future fun with a trim saw.

After hacking the bush down I thought the remaining gnarly bits would make an interesting B&W, hence the picture. Incidentally 4102 is our house number. I also have a picture of the entire front of the house I took at the same time.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 24-105 @ 105mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO 200.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Trees and Angels

Well its that time of the year again. Last year I found it difficult to believe it really was the holiday season as I had associated Christmas time with cold, snow and holiday lights. This year is no different with the cold and snow part (still no snow and its quite warm); however now as I drive down the street to get to our house I see many homes alit with decorations and lights.

This past weekend Kim and I put up our tree (actually we have a few more decorations other than the tree). We rushed through it a bit more this time than in previous years. The tree itself is nearly 7 feet tall; something which is not represented well in this picture. I wanted to take a picture of the tree but rather than doing the usual side shot I wanted something just a little different. Actually I was a bit inspired by Mike's last Picture of the Week post about the emotions conveyed in photography.

I have an idea of the emotions this picture conveys to me, but I won't bias your opinions by telling. I'd be curious to hear the emotions evoked by my readers.

I have a few other pictures of our tree on my Picasa Web album.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 24-105 @ 24mm, f/5.6, 1/5s, ISO 1600, cross-screen filter.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

12 vehicles in the ditch and counting...

Kim and I went to Red Deer, Alberta this Thanksgiving long weekend. On Friday the four of us drove up to Edmonton for a little bit of shopping (West Edmonton Mall). The weather in Alberta this weekend was quite treacherous with temperatures around -22 degrees Celsius and lots of blowing snow. On the drive up to Edmonton we counted 12 vehicles that had lost control and spun out into the ditch. Most of these cars were near Leduc as we approached Edmonton; it turned out most of them had fallen into the ditch either the previous night or earlier that morning. See these vehicles reminded me that this is actually a fairly common occurrence in Alberta. I remember hearing of '40 car pileups' along Highway 2 between Edmonton and Calgary while growing up.

I had hoped to see some snow during this trip and I certainly got that; a lot more than I bargained for :)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Truck Too Full

I don't really have an interesting picture, but I do have the picture I promised in a previous blog post (the one about our moving experience and the overloaded truck). Well here it is.

On the left is a picture of the truck slowly backing up from our Public Storage unit. Notice how the truck's roll-up door is actually closed here (as opposed to fully open in the picture above when we got to the freeway). To the right is a picture of the truck as we were wrapping up in the apartment.

Craziness, I'm still a little surprised the whole thing didn't end in a disaster with our couches spread out across the freeway.

Technical Specs: Fuji F30, Full Auto.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Clamps are really useful...

The most notable casualty from our move exactly a week ago was the TV stand. One of the movers attempted to lift the stand by the top of the unit. Given the fact that it was made of particle board and the top was fastened to the sides with only a lock screw the sides of the stand with the lock screws were torn apart. After a week of looking for our clamps and the need to watch some TV (the DishNetwork guy is coming tomorrow morning) we decided to fix our stand and get our TV set up. Which brings me to the point of the post, the clamps. Oh man, those clamps are amazing, so useful and easy to use. Everybody should have a few in different sizes too. You never know when you'll need one...

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 35L, f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 400.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Giving Candy to Kids... erm... Teenagers

Edward had a little gathering at his place yesterday for Halloween. The company was good, the candy was plentiful and there was pizza. There weren't as many kids as I had expected, especially considering the fact that California weather is nowhere near as bad as Canadian weather (my sister and I went trick-or-treating in blizzards when we were kids).

The day previous I had also gotten a new toy (the Canon 15mm Fisheye lens) so I was eager to take it for a spin.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 15mm Fisheye, f/4, 1/8s, ISO 800.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Post Move Mess

So on Sunday, Kim and I managed to move into the new house. It took the 3 movers about 6 hours to complete the move, and the place is a complete mess. This is the view from the front door. There were a few casualties along the way, the tv stand was a little destroyed, one of the chairs was scraped and there were a couple of nicks on some furniture. A gash was also left in the wall in the process of removing the old fridge. The moving company also brought a truck that was too small, resulting in the movers having to use some creativity to get most of the stuff in (which probably led to some of the damage). I have a great picture on my Fuji of the fully loaded truck trying to make it down the 880, but alas the cable for the camera is packed; maybe I'll post it in a day or two.

The good news is that all our appliances got moved from public storage and today our plumber (Ron Shroff of Happy Plumbing, very highly recommended by the way) hooked up the appliances. So now its down to unpacking...

Monday, October 23, 2006

So Much Painting

Kim and I started painting the house this weekend. We wanted to paint the entire living room, dining room, family room and the adjoining hallway. Picking a colour was fairly easy, Benjamin Moore 1101 (the colour from Kim's family room in her old house). We started taping and cleaning the walls on Saturday. We managed to start cutting in (from the roof and all taped areas) which is much more challenging when you have portions of the roof that reach 15 feet in height.

By the end of the day Sunday (and it was a very long day) we had managed to get 3/4 of the way through the first coat. Now we have to finish everything up by the end of the week. Sooo tired...

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 17-40 @ 17mm, ISO 800, f/8, 1/4s.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Fun with IR

Yesterday just as I was about to leave work, Chris Cox pulled out the Kodak DCS 760 with the IR filter removed that he has had sitting in a packed box in his office for months. Since he had no intention (or the time) to play around further with IR, I borrowed it to do some experimentation. Edward was also really curious as to how IR photography worked and we had some questions on the effectiveness of camera CCDs for IR.

I finally had the opportunity to set up the camera this afternoon. I borrowed an IR pass filter and started experimenting. The DCS 760 is a beast of a camera, heavy, kludgy, slow and not easy to use. In its defense however it is 5 years old. After fidgeting for about an hour with batteries and flash card adapters (the camera takes only PCMCIA cards), I finally got the thing working. I managed to do a couple of quick shots of people, then Edward and I went up to the 18th floor to shoot downtown San Jose.

Pictured above is the HP Pavilion on the left with the San Jose Airport in the distance to the right. I did a little bit of work in Photoshop for the colors. One of things thats not obvious with IR is what white balance to select. I left it at what the camera thought was best (around 4700K) but there's no reason you can't try other values. I also did some massaging with the colors until I got something that looked nice. IR images also look nice when converted to black and white; which is what I did for the image below.

Technical Specs: Kodak DCS 760, Nikkor 28-70 f/2.8 @ 34mm, f/2.8, 1/15s, ISO 80.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Back to Pinnacles

Saturday was Amy's last day with us here in California. She wanted to see Pinnacles. so we set off in the morning for a nice 4-5 hour hike through Pinnacles. Each time I go back to Pinnacles I find myself enjoying it more and more; its a place I don't seem to get tired of.

It just so happened that we got a new batch of cameras to test at work, so I was asked if I could generate some real-world test images for the FujiFilm S6000fd, hence that's the camera I took with me. All the pictures from that day are available on my PicasaWeb site.

Technical Specs: FujiFilm Finepix S6000fd, ISO 100, f/6.4, 1/300s.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Yosemite Weekend

Amy (Kim's sister) arrived on Friday evening to visit with us just a smidge over a week. We decided (with little planning (a bad idea BTW)) to head to Yosemite for a relaxing weekend. Turns out Yosemite is a food catastrophe (and I really mean it). Lodging is also a serious pain with Yosemite since you either pay through the nose to stay in the park or you have to stay an hour's drive away in one of the nearby towns. We chose the latter and hence much driving was involved.

I was really hoping for some good photography opportunities so I took a lot of my gear (and my shiny new tripod rig). The results weren't inspiring, I have posted them on Picasa. On Saturday evening we hoped to shoot Half Dome from Glacier Point but that turned out to be an uninspiring sunset (and the moon didn't come up until it was too late). On Sunday evening we hoped to shoot the spectacular tufas at Mono Lake against a sunset; yet again the sunset and afterglow were uninspiring. I guess that's why people try shooting at Yosemite for several consecutive days.

By the end of the weekend, I was glad to be coming home. I'd really like to shoot Yosemite again but in the winter and I'm really keen on returning to Mono Lake to do more landscape shooting (oh and its also a good place to shoot birds).

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 17-40@35mm, f/8, 1/200, ISO 100, Lightroom & Photoshop.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Librarian Action Figure

I won this near mint condition still in box amazing action figure at a company meeting recently. The figure comes with the backdrop, books, and a computer; and then there's the push button shushing action!

It turns out the Nancy Pearl librarian action figure is based on a real person; something I didn't find out until today out of a sudden fit of boredom. There's also a Seattle Times article that talks about it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Hunt Begins

Kim and I officially started our house hunt tonight. We toured the first set of houses with our agent Jamie. We limited our search to two areas of the bay area; Milpitas and Evergreen (a part of San Jose). Milpitas has something of dubious reputation in the area; many claim it kind of smells there (because of its proximity to the bay). However I'm wondering if this is still true in areas of Milpitas that are a bit farther away from the bay and higher up on the hills. I really liked a couple of the neighborhoods in Evergreen (the ones high up on the hill looking over the valley).

Sadly, we only really liked one house we saw and it was in Milpitas. It has a lot of potential and fits a lot of things we are looking for. All the image in the collage above are from this house (first time using Picasa's collage feature). The image below is the view of the street from the Master Bedroom.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 17-40@17mm

Monday, September 11, 2006

Vienna Imperial Orchestra

On my last night in Vienna, Michael, Kathy and I went to a performance by the Vienna Imperial Orchestra. They performed several pieces from Strauss and Mozart including their most famous pieces as well as other more 'opera' like pieces that I hadn't heard. The orchestra was smaller than I had imagined but it was still an enjoyable performance.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Viennese Ball

The Viennese Ball, the special event for Eurographics 2006 was on Thursday evening and it was quite the gala. There was a lot of dancing (wish I'd brought my dance partner :) ), bur fortunately the food was also good. The hotel that the ball took place was also quite grand.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Vienna City hall

Just thought I'd share a picture of the Vienna City Hall I took on Tuesday night after the welcome reception. Its truly an awe-inspiring sight and since I didn't take a wide angle lens with me I had to resort to a lot of stitching. I'll post a better picture when I return and have access to better tools.

The fancy ball is tonight which should be really interesting...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Eurographics 2006 Welcome Reception

Last night was the welcome reception for Eurographics 2006. They had told us the reception would be held at the Vienna City Hall. What they failed to mention was that the city hall was inside a palace. It was quite a sight to behold as I walked up to the palace and realized that was where I would be having dinner. The inside of the palace was as elegant as the outside and the reception was fantastic; one helluva way to kick off the conference. I took a ton of pictures of the place, but sadly I'm not sure if any picture can truly do justice to the place.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Unusual graffiti

Gladimir, Michael, Cathy and I went went walking around the city today. We eventually arrived at a fair with a giant traditional Ferris wheel. On the way there we walked by this building (I think it was a school) with funny graffiti. Perhaps you can tell me what it means? It makes no sense!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Walking Tour of Vienna

The conference organizers were nice enough to put together a (very quick) walking tour of Vienna last night. I also managed to meet up with Gladimir, Michael and Cathy and we all went around on the tour. It lasted about 2 hours and we saw everything from St. Stephen's Cathedral, Mozart's place (he didn't die a poor man by the way), a Palace and Hero Square.

As we proceeded along the tour its really interesting to see the juxtaposition of new and old in Vienna. Many of the buildings are quite old (or at least have been rebuilt to look old after they were damaged during World War 2). There are many statues and monuments as you walk around and many times these monuments occupy the same area as such modern signs as Versace or McDonald's. Its always different (in a good and fun way) for me when I visit a place that has a really long history.

Graphics Hardware Lunch

Today was day 2 of Graphics Hardware. I woke up before 5am even though the workshop didn't start until 9 (stupid jet lag). The workshop overall was quite well organized and even
included lunch at a nearby restaurant. Knowing very few people at this conference I joined a somewhat random group made up of friendly ATI and Sony people. It was an interesting lunch and it turned out there were a couple of people there with interests in photography. After lunch we still had about 45 minutes so we decided to look around inside a nearby church.

Technical Specs: Canon 30D, 17-55@17mm, ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/20s, IS on, Lightroom.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Long Flight Later...

... I arrived in Vienna. So today... erm... or is that yesterday, don't know I lose track because I left San Francisco at 8am on Saturday and its now 5pm on Sunday here. Either way it was a total of 15 hours of flying plus a few more of sitting in airports; glad to be here. For those who don't know I am in Vienna this week to attend Eurographics and the Graphics Hardware Workshop. It should be a fun week, there are some really interesting paper sessions and Vienna looks like an interesting city (so far I think its easily one of the oldest cities I have visited). My hotel room is small (forgot that about Europe) but after all that flying (if you are flying across the Atlantic or have several connectors, business class is totally the way to go, and even then its totally draining) I was glad to see it.

Too tired and hungry to write anything witty, maybe tomorrow :)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Wedding Mayhem

Phew. So our wedding was a week ago. Exactly a week ago, we'd finished cutting the cake and Kim and I were busy greeting and chatting with our guests. It seems that as time progresses more and more of that day becomes a blur. My cousin already has an album up of pictures he took (Kodak gallery warning). I had originally intended to post something a day during the wedding time just to record some of the mayhem; but I didn't have the time to do even something quick. Hence I will try to recall what I can.

Both of our parents arrived Wednesday night; with Kim's parents and Amy's flight arriving at 11pm, it was nearly 2 am by the time we got to bed (had to rent the vans, drive them to the hotel, etc...). On Thursday morning we had to be at Willow Heights by 10am (hence we needed to get up at 7) to show our parents the place and to drop off all the beverages. During the remainder of Thursday Kim and I went shopping with our respective families to buy stuff for the wedding. That evening we had a big family dinner at Coconut Grove (one of the few places that can satisfy psuedo-Chinese and Indian (not to mention vegetarian) food desires).

Bright and early on 8am Friday morning Kim and I went to buy all the wedding flowers. We need several dozen roses and carnations; roses for the garlands and to give to all the female wedding guests; carnations for the garlands. The flowers were all stored in two buckets until they were needed. For the rest of Friday afternoon Kim came with me and my parents to finish much of the shopping needed for the Indian ceremony. For lunch on Friday we went to Bombay Garden (in Fremont). I'm rather fond of Bombay Garden, the lunch buffet is reasonable ($10) and you get a lot of food and can sample both north and south Indian cuisine. The mango icecream is also amazing. It turns out this was also Allen's first time trying Indian food. He seemed to struggle with the utensils a bit and commented on how flavourful the food was but he also looked like he was having a good time. On Friday evening Kim and I invited all of our out of town friends and sisters to dinner at Krungthai. I had planned to bring my 5D and newly acquired 35L but in all the hurry I left both at home hence no picture :(

As Saturday ticked by the stress of all the wedding planning was starting to get to us (no nervousness mind you, just tired). We both spent the day running around, getting things together. Our dinner consisted of Chinese takeout at 10pm, after which we went a loaded the banana trees into the van. We both knew we needed to get sleep so we tried to get to bed as early as possible (I think it still was 12 by the time I managed to fall asleep).

As the big day arrived there was much to do for me in the morning. I had to drop Kim's mom off at the apartment as Kim was getting her hair and make-up done. I also had to drop off Amy, Sue and Jan for their hair and make-up. While that was happening I raced back to Komala Vilas for a special wedding day brunch my parents had arranged for my relatives. After much running around I managed to get up to Willow Heights by 1. I think it was at that point that I stopped worrying and started having fun. We managed to start only 20 minutes late but were able to stay more or less on schedule for the rest of the day. In the end I think all our guests had a good time and the day was worth all the time and money spent over the last 8 months. I think for the first time in a while Kim and I had a very restful sleep that night.

On Monday we actually slept in! Well 7:30 is sleeping in for us these days :) We had a nice breakfast at Willow Heights then drove back to see our parents. Kim's family wanted to visit San Franciso but before heading out Kim and I did a quick photo session with her saree and our garlands (the top-most picture). We also stopped off at Pho Queen (down the street on Lawrence and Tasman) for lunch; not a bad place to get decent Pho for cheap.

While in SF we mostly stuck to Fisherman's Wharf where I was able to endulge in a crepe once again (I went for the Ghirardelli chocolate, Kim the Strawberry). After a quick drive-by tour of Chinatown we headed back to the hotel. On a side note Kim and I discovered a Thai place in Milpitas (on Calaveras blvd.) that wasn't too bad.

Thursday morning Kim and I woke up early (6:30) to drive Kim's aunt and uncle to the airport (SJ) and then to also drop off Kim's parents (and Amy) at SFO. Then for the rest of the day Kim, Sue and Allen came with my parents and sister for another day in SF. Like the day before we again hit Fisherman's Wharf (this time for lunch) and again I indulged myself with a crepe :) On our way up we stopped off at a beach just outside Pacifica; turns out it was Allen's first time to a beach. He seemed to be having fun though.

We managed to see and do a lot that day including hitting the Ghirardelli factory (and indulging in the sundae), driving up to Muir Woods, and finally catching a sunset by the Golden Gate bridge.

On Wednesday I drove with my parents to the airport and dropped them off. I went back to work but was only there for a bit since I was too tired. Things have slowly started to get back to normal (though the apartment was a total mess until today). We also just now finally managed to go through and open all the gifts (thanks to everyone for their generous gifts!).

Today Kim realized that we had forgot to ask our photographer to take shots of our rings to include in the wedding album; so we improvised a mini studio in the dining room and took a few shots ourselves; hopefully Mark (our photographer) can include one of them in the album. Hopefully things will fully return to normal in the next week or so and we can actually start doing stuff on evenings and weekends again :)

Finally a big thanks to all our friends and family who came to our wedding; especially those who endured the discomfort of air travel these days.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Monterey Bay Aquarium

With the wedding fast approaching you'd think we'd be hard at work doing planning work and not at the Monterey Bay Aquarium huh? Well actually we are hard at work, its just that my sister Janani arrived Friday evening and we figured we should have at least one day where she could see the California sights. Since Kim and I hadn't been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium either, it seemed like a good choice. Edward also joined us for the day. Sadly I don't have time to talk about all the interesting marine life we saw so I'll just post a whole bunch of pictures (click on them for larger versions) instead :)

Oh yea I shot everything at the aquarium with the Canon 1D (mostly at ISO 1600 too) and it performed really well. As you can see when sized for the web the noise isn't too much of an issue (I watched my exposures), the full size images exhibit a bit more noise, but once they're run through NoiseNinja everything is ok.

Fun's over, now its back to getting this wedding planned and done. I'm going to try to post wedding related stuff for the next several days; lets see if I have time (my posts will be short).

Technical Specs: Canon 1D, 17-40 f/4 @ 40mm, ISO 800-1600

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hair and Makeup trial

Today Kim got her hair and make-up person to come over and do a trial before the wedding. That way they can do all their experiments now and when the big day comes she can just come in and do the exact look that Kim wants with efficiency. It was an interesting learning experience, especially when it comes to make-up.

Something I knew before but was able to really see was the fact that makeup doesn't show up easily on camera. What I mean by that is you really have to lay it on thick otherwise the person just looks like they aren't wearing any. For a wedding this has an interesting consequence; on the one hand you want your wedding pictures to look great; but on the other hand you don't want around looking gaudy at your own wedding.

We did several experiments that night (Kim was worried about having too much make-up on) so we went back and forth taking pictures, adding more make-up, taking pictures, etc. I think we finally found an amount that Kim was comfortable with but would also look nice on the camera.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, Tamron 28-75 @ 75mm, ISO 1600/1000. Excuse the color cast it was a rather nasty mix of tungsten and fading sunlight.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Visiting Customers

Yesterday I went on my second on-site customer visit (my first was a couple of months ago to PDI). This time we went to two retouching/processing/printing places in San Francisco. The first was dmax imaging which where the above picture was taken. These guys have all kinds of nifty clients and they do a lot of work with advertising. Naturally they are heavy Photoshop users and routine push the product to its limits. Apart from learning about how customers use Photoshop (and getting their feature requests and pain points) the customer visits are also sometimes really interesting for the tidbits of information you learn about their business.

In this case I learned a LOT about printing large (both in size and volume). I had always figured that with the quality you get out of an Epson 9800, it would be sufficient even for large print houses. Turns out the total cost of doing a LOT of prints and the relatively slow speed of an inkjet like the 9800 makes these big print houses look for other solutions. One such solution is the Chromira 50 (pictured to the left) which is this massive photographic printer that uses LEDs to expose photo paper. This means that the printer requires a dark room and the paper must be loaded in complete darkness (not easy feat considering the size and weight of a roll of paper).

The second place we visited was newlab. These guys offer all kinds of printing services such that even you or I could drop stuff off to get printed. They also get a lot of film related stuff; hence I saw a lot of high quality drum scanners. One of the really cool things I saw here was a genuine old school darkroom (pictured left); something I haven't seen since I was in high school and something that is becoming more and more rare. If you do ever get the chance to visit these guys in person, I would highly recommend checking out some of the work they have in their 'lobby' area. These prints (done by them of course) were part of a project they did for the whole San Francisco earthquake centennial. They scanned up a bunch of the original negatives and reprinted them. Not only are the prints exquisite but the shots are truly inspiring.

I had a great time and am looking forward to more customer visits (I think I have one next week).

Technical Specs: Fuji F30