Thursday, June 29, 2006

Corner Office

Behold my new corner office! Not exactly the kind of corner office I was envisioning but I supposed I should be happy that I even get an office with a door.

The whole team moved back to our old floor this week and in the process a few offices got shuffled. Some people are happier than others with the shuffle.

Since I can't stand having my back to the door, yet can't stand to see people walk by constantly my first order of business was to wallpaper my window. Unlike a few others I actually do get a lot of natural light (from far away windows) and I am willing to tolerate natural light if it comes with a view. Sadly (for me that is) all this natural light came with no view whatsoever, hence the wallpapering.


I also took the opportunity to move all my nerdy computer science and graphics books to work (since I rarely ever do any coding at home anymore).

Overall I like the arrangement of my new office (the walls aren't completely sound proof but I guess I can let that slide; also with the new AC system my office stays nice and cool (well at least until someone on the other side cranks up the heat)). I'm also close to the exit, so when the day comes that Edward finally snaps hopefully I'll be able to make a quick exit :)

Technical specs: Canon 1Ds2, Tamron 28-75@28mm, f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 3200.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

MacBook


Woo hoo! My shiny new MacBook was delivered yesterday thanks to Amazon. I sold my Dell Inspiron 8600 a couple of weeks ago mainly because it was too large to be effective for travel (I really liked that laptop, amazing display and very fast). My intention was always to switch to a Mac for a laptop (I almost bought a 12" iBook two years go) and so when Apple released the new 13.3" MacBook with the new Intel chips I jumped on the chance.

So after I ordered the MacBook (I chose Amazon because they offered a $100 rebate (the reasons for which I figured out later)) I started reading about many of the problems people are having, including a nasty discoloration problem with the palm rest and a myriad of heat problems. Upon reading the Amazon rebate closely I noticed it said that I couldn't return the laptop once I had applied for the rebate. Clever, I get a MacBook, if its a lemon I have no choice but to keep it and hope Apple even acknowledges and fixes the problems, yes very clever. However I have until July 20th to file for the rebate so I'll be putting off doing things like upgrading the RAM until I am sure I am keeping it.

So far so good, I don't have anything blocking the rear fan. The MacBook runs really hot (like burn your laps hot) after a couple of hours of use; but so far no strange grinding or the sounds of fans working too hard (or the kernel panics that go with overheating). I really like the MacBook, the new keyboard though it looks strange at first working really well; as does the trackpad (and I usually hate trackpads). The display is great (doesn't compare to the 1920x1200 WUXGA I had on my Dell but its still quite nice). One of the things I really like about the Mac is the lack of crap that gets pre-installed. Sure there are a few Apple applications pre-installed but most of them are useful and none really get in the way. In contrast one of the things that pisses me off about Dell machines is the bloated crap that comes pre-installed. For every Dell machine I have owned (or had to work with) I have always had to reformat the drive and reinstall a fresh copy of windows.

Anyway, happy so far, I'll post updates if that changes. Oh yea and built-in iSight and a remote are great ideas.

Technical specs: Canon Rebel XT, 17-85@66mm, f/5.6, 1/60s, ISO 800, Lightroom twiddling.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Photoshop goes bowling

I had a great day at work today! The morning started off as usual, but it was around lunch that things got fun. They (I use the term they because though I know who organized it, I'm not sure who had the final authority) decided to feed us all and take us bowling in the afternoon; apparently it was to be a team building exercise.

After politely standing in line we were treated to a feast of BBQ and these tasty little cupcakes with numbers on them (if any of the other guys know what the numbers were for, please chime in).

As you can see the food looks (and was quite tasty). And no, we don't normally eat with our cameras :)

After lunch we all drove to a nearby bowling alley. We were arranged into pairs and assigned lanes beforehand. Some of them (like Edward) were so excited to go bowling they even brought their bowling digs.


My bowling partner was Andy (top most picture) who managed to do fairly well considering he was using a 19lb ball. I stuck mostly with the 14lb balls.

After the two rounds it was time for the awards ceremony. We had various awards such as top scoring pair (which we didn't win), lowest scoring pair (which we also didn't win) and first person to shoot a Turkey (three strikes in a row) which I also didn't win. However with my score of 171 in the first round I did manage to get the prize for top invidual score (which was close as there were others very close behind); for which I got a very nice bottle of Don Julio (woo hoo).

Pictured above are Russell Williams and Tom Attix.

Technical Specs: All shot with Canon 30D, 10-22@varying focal lengths, ISO 1600, f/8 or f/3.5 for most at varying shutter speeds.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Day trip to Monterey


So Kim, Billy, Alison and I were standing around in downtown Palo Alto around 10:30 today after a brief visit to the farmer's market. We wanted to do something, go somewhere, see something cool, but what? Somehow the idea came up that we should drive to Monterey and Carmel and poke around there. So about 1/2 hour later we were in my car speeding to our destination. We stopped at the Baja Cantina for a tasty lunch (I highly recommend the place, but if you don't believe me, check out these other reviews). We then drove around Carmel looking for a spot to park (spectacularly unsuccessfully might I add). We managed to stop briefly for a quick view of the beach and the spectacular waves.

Oh yea did I mention you get a 3 for 1 special today? I couldn't stop myself with just one little picture.

On our way out of Carmel we spotted this mission (turns out it is the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission). There is a graveyard in the back (in where I got a couple of interesting pictures that I am in the process of editing and posting in my California Gallery). Curiously the graveyard has very old graves (as in 18th century) as well as much newer ones (as in the 1980s); I wonder what it takes to get a grave there. Also, since there was a wedding going on in there today we didn't get a chance to take a peek inside. Which makes me wonder what it takes to get a wedding there as well. Someone I suspect mucho $$$ might be involved.

After my somewhat morbid photographing session in the graveyard we continued on our little road trip towards Monterey.

Cannery Row is a famous tourist attraction in Monterey. Its basically a street with a beach tons of restaurants and various other tourist traps. We walked up and down the street before getting bored and leaving. Oh yea and Monterey has those funky trolleys like San Francisco for the tourists to get around (though San Francisco's trolleys are much cooler). On our way out of Monterey we found the Old Fisherman's Wharf and walked up and down the boardwalk (Kim saw some people fishing and got all excited).

We eventually managed to get back on the highway and make it back home. All in all it was a day well spent doing nothing. The weather was just gorgeous with not a single cloud in the sky. Now I'm tired. Good night.

Technical Specs (for each of the pictures in order):
Canon 30D, 10-22@22mm, f/8, 1/500s, ISO 100, cropped, output sharpening.
Canon 30D, 10-22@10mm, f/8, 1/800s, ISO 200, cropped, shadow highlight, curves, output sharpening.
Canon 30D, 10-22@15mm, f/8, 1/160s, ISO 200, cropped, shadow/highlight, curves, output sharpening.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Canon 1D


The Canon EOS 1D when introduced in 2001 at its $5600 street price was the first Canon 1-series DSLR targeted at professionals. If you ever read the Canon SLR Forum on fredmiranda.com then you'll know there are lots of posts on there that poo-poo the high ISO performance of this camera and conversely there are many die hard 1D fans who believe its bad rap is undeserved. I've been meaning to play with this camera for quite some time, and finally this week I had my chance (actually I could have borrowed it anytime I wanted since it seems to be the 'old' 1-series that no one here wants).

I slapped the Tammy 28-75 on there and started shooting all kinds of nifty things, first around my office, then around my apartment complex. I took a bunch of ISO 1600 shots since that is what I was really curious about. I then loaded them up into Photoshop (boy do 4 megapixel files sure copy fast and load fast in ACR), did a little tweaking and printed them off (I am now a firm believer that prints are one of the better ways to judge noise). Surprisingly (or not if you listen to the 1D fanboys), I didn't find the ISO 1600 noise that objectionable, especially when the image was well exposed. Now granted, my 30D would eat it for lunch at just about any ISO, but to my eye the 1D seemed to hang on the details quite well. I can't quite explain it, but the photos also have a very different 'quality' to them when compared to the 30D, I'll have to borrow the camera for an extended period of time and do a lot more shooting with it to really figure it out.

So all this got me thinking. If a 5 year old camera can still generate fantastic pictures, am I being unreasonable lusting after the 5D or the 1DsMk2? I mean do I really need a FF sensor, 12 (or more) megapixels, weather sealing or a 45 point AF? Should I just stick with what I've got and be happy? Hmmmm... perhaps....


.... nah! Who am I kidding, I want toys dammit!

Oh, the picture, yea those are the prints of the shots I took yesterday and today with the 1D. Perhaps I'll post some of them in my PBase galleries at some point.

Technical specs: Canon 1D, Tamron 28-75@28mm, f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 800, Curves, NoiseNinja and output sharpening.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rose garden


Had some time to kill this afternoon so we decided to check out the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden. The garden was absolutely beautiful with so many different varieties of roses. Its too bad I only found out about this now because their season is apparently November and May. Anyway still managed to snap lots of nifty pics (which I will have to process during the week) including this little guy hanging out. Since it was late in the rose season there weren't too many other critters about.

Technical specs: Canon 30D, 100mm macro, f/5, 1/1250s, ISO 320, NoiseNinja, Hue/Sat and output sharpening.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

S.E.T.I. Open house

Today the S.E.T.I. institute held an open house / science fair partly to educate the public but also to help raise funds. I didn't even know this but it turns out the S.E.T.I. institute is located very close to where I live (in Mountain View, actually they are just down the street from Billy). So Edward and I decided to go check it out. This was taken in the lobby as Edward and I registered and signed up to become S.E.T.I. supporters. I chose the economical entry-level donation, where as Edward chose to be much, much more generous (I guess he really wants us to find aliens (but not the illegal kind!)). We got some interesting loot for our donations and got the chance to walk around and take a look at the various exhibits. Edward even managed to score a juicy hot dog. The SJAA (San Jose Astronomical Association) had a couple of telescopes set up outside to look at the sun. We managed to see some very cool sunspots. They also had a raffle for prizes, I got one raffle ticket but Edward due to his new-found elite status got 15. We didn't feel like sticking around until the draw, so we took off; I guess they'll call us if we won anything.


Technical specs: Canon 30D, 10-22 @ 10mm, f/3.5, 1/40s, ISO 100, mild curves and output sharpening.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Wedding Pictures


So after weeks of business I finally had the chance to process some of the wedding pictures I took at Mark & Vicky's wedding three weeks ago. There were a ton of pictures and I didn't have a lot of time, so I just quickly processed a lot of them just to be able to get them up. I am then going back and for a few of them doing some focused Photoshop work. This is one of the pictures that I managed to actually do some editing.

I quickly selected the background from the foreground and used Lens blur so that Mark and Vicky would pop out a bit more. I was a bit of an idiot when I shot the wedding. See I was using a flash for fill light, however instead of setting the camera of Aperture Priority and using a fast shutter speed, then setting the flash to high speed synch mode, I used Shutter Priority which resulted in a slow aperture hence large depth of field. Hence the background blurring work. Alas, lesson learned. I also lowered the saturation and lightness of the background, again to give the foreground couple a bit more pop.

Technical specs: Canon 30D, Tamron 28-75 @ 45mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 1200, Flash fired, lots of PS manipulation.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gabby


Once again, I was just finishing up processing all the live performance shooting I did in St. Lucia three weeks ago (good grief, has it already been three weeks?). This one was taken on the last night we were there. Co-incidentally that was the night the resort was holding its great grand opening (apparently the resort was recently renovated). Among the other VIP present (such as the Prime Minister of St. Lucia) there was also special entertainment, in particular Gabby of Barbados who is somewhat of a cultural icon and Caribbean legend. He is quite an animated performer and I really enjoyed his music.

Technical specs: Canon 30D, Tamron 28-75 @ 75mm, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 3200, mild curves, NoiseNinja.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

On the road


Went on a little shopping trip up to Berkeley today. This was taken just as we were passing Oakland. Since I wasn't driving I took the opportunity to sit back, relax and put my feet up. Shopping was interesting, mostly hit the Indian stores on University avenue and had an Indian buffet lunch in some random restaurant on San Pablo (food was a distinct 5 out of 13, definitely won't be going back there, the worst Idly I have ever had, though the Sambar wasn't too bad).

Technical specs: Canon Rebel XT, 35mm f/2, f/4, 1/1600s, ISO 100, a little rotation adjustment, mild curves, Photokit Color Vivid Chrome, web sharpening.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thriller



So I had a little bit of time to process some of the live performance shooting I did in St. Lucia. I did about half of them, then got tired; there's just too many darn pictures. So at the Almond Morgan Bay resort, they have what they call an international dance troupe that did performances most of the nights we were there. Each night was a different theme and different type of performance. This was taken the night they re-enacted some show tunes followed up by an excellent re-enactment of MJ's "Thriller" music video. Though they didn't do the vocals, the dancing was very good (they even had convincing looking and acting zombies).

Technical specs: Canon 30D, Tamron 28-75@56mm, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 3200, digitally pushed 1 stop, NoiseNinja, then curves in PS.