Thursday, December 25, 2008

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk in Backyard

A Cooper's Hawk was perched on a branch in the backyard this morning. Kim gets the credit for spotting it and calling me over. I only had time to take a few pictures before it flew off. Not exactly a rare bird but beautiful regardless. It seems it can be difficult to identify a Cooper's Hawk vs. a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but this site was helpful.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 500 f/4 IS, f/4, 1/320s, ISO 800.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Almost That Time

Its almost Christmas! It seems pretty much the rest of the USA and Canada is covered under a pile of snow and this is one year where I oddly don't miss it.

A friend mentioned that many people don't wish others a 'Merry Christmas' here because they won't want to offend someone who isn't Christian. I think this is somewhat silly. A simple wish of merriment is not a religious imposition and as someone who isn't Christian I wouldn't be offended if someone wished me a 'Merry Christmas', in fact I say it to others. For that matter, I wouldn't be offended if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Diwali, or any other wish of merriment. I live in a state where the majority have decided to have their religious beliefs influence their morality and then have imposed that morality to deprive a minority group from having their commitment to their loved one be unrecognized. In comparison, two words of a friendly wish isn't anywhere near a religious imposition. So a Merry Christmas to all the Christians out there, hope you find the coming days spiritually fulfilling. And a Merry Christmas to all those non-Christians, hope you enjoy the holidays and have time to spend it with friends and family!

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 50 f/1.2L, f/2.2, 1/200s, ISO 1600.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Transfixed by a Toy Turtle

Maya has started to look around her surroundings recently. She particularly gets transfixed by a snail attached to her rocker, though recently she has started to like the Turtle as well (pictured above).

Technical Spces: Canon 1Ds2, 50 f/1.2, f/2.2, 1/125s, ISO 200.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

San Jose in IR video

We've been having some interesting weather lately. I'm sure its not interesting for a lot of folks outside of the bay area but for me any day that isn't just clear skies and sunny (which it is for 75% of the year) is interesting to me. I set up my full spectrum camera with an IR pass filter pointed out the window of my office and took one image every 30 seconds for about 7 hours. What you see is the resulting video.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Tree

While I was in Singapore last week, Kim and Amy set up our new tree. We finally got rid of our old tree and bought a larger (9 ft.) pre-lit tree. I saw that Mike has posted a picture of their tree, so I decided to take this one. I think theirs looks quite nice with all the colored lights.

Techinical Specs: Canon XSi, 10-22 @ 10mm, f/22, 20s, ISO 200.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Butterflies Galore!

I had the chance to visit Sentosa Island today and one of the attactions there is a butterfly conservatory. It was great to walk around and have many different varieties of butterflies flying all over the place.

I'm just waiting now to head to the airport to begin my ~19 hour journey home.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Jurong Bird Park

I arrived in Singapore very early yesterday morning. Unfortunately it was rainy yesterday so I didn't really go anywhere other than wander around the Suntec City mall. Fortunately the weather was more co-operative today and I went out to Jurong Bird Park first thing in the morning. I enjoyed the park overall. I wasn't too impressed with the small cages in some of the park but the large habitats of the Waterfall Aviary, Southeast Asian Birds and Lory Loft were great. I also wandered around the Botanic Gardens this afternoon.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dog Chasing Ball

This weekend I was asked to photograph our neighbor's dog Casey. She's quite energetic and we went to a nearby park and I just a series of shots with her running after a tennis ball. This was also a good chance to work out the 1D3's ability to track a large fast moving target. Overall I am impressed with the keeper rate and the AI Servo tracking abilities of the 1D3.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 200 f/2 IS, f/2.8, ISO 400, varying shutter speeds.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Last night was one of those rare opportunities where the sky was clear and the moon was absent. I very quickly set up the Astrotrac and tried to image Pleides. Sadly the light pollution from the neighbors was bad and my polar alignment was quick and dirty so the results aren't that great.

Technical Specs: Canon XSi (full spectrum /w Hutech LPS), 200 f/2 IS @ f/2.5, ISO 800, stack of 15x2 min.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I suppose I should say "Happy American Thanksgiving" for those not in the USA. I'm really starting to dig Thanksgiving. Its a much bigger holiday here in the US than it is in Canada. However I really like it because it isn't quite as commercialized as other holidays. People still mostly just get together with friends and family to enjoy each other's company and good food. Furthermore its truly a secular holiday with no religious overtones which I also like.

Many of us have much more to be thankful this year. With the current economic situation and with many people losing their jobs and homes, the rest of us have a lot to be thankful for, I know I do. So lets try to enjoy this day and hope for better ones for all.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back to Baylands

Its been a while (about 3 months) since I last went out for bird photography. I've shuffled around some of my gear ending up with stuff which will be a better fit for me. I arrived at the Baylands at 6:25 this morning and was obviously way too early. There was pretty much no light until about 6:45 and the best light was closer to 7. I didn't see anything I haven't see at the Baylands before but it was still great to get out and do some shooting.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 800mm f/5.6L IS, f/5.6, ISO 400-800 varying shutter speeds.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

White Ginger

This White Ginger was the first of the ginger plants in Kim's Tropical garden to flower. The scent of the flower is truly remarkable, if you ever get the chance to smell a ginger flower, I recommend it.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70 @ 70mm, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 400, 2 strobes fired. Stack of 3 images at 3 focus depths.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

AIC Day 2

Today was Day 2 of the Advanced Imaging Conference. Unlike yesterday which had multiple tracks of tutorials, today had a set agenda with a variety of speakers on a variety of topics.

I also spent more time today wandering around looking at the various vendors. A majority of the stuff is way out of my reach including this impressive looking RC truss priced at a show special of $29,900.

One of the talks in the afternoon was by Dr. Alex Fillippenko on Dark Energy. Dr. Fillippenko is definitely a very talented lecturer and it was a very lively session.

Dr. Fillippenko was so popular, he had quite a following during his Q&A which ended up lasting the entire afternoon break.

The final talk of the afternoon was by Chris Ford who gave a very visually impressive talk on doing 3D Astronomical Rendering. His talk was quite timely since its possible to do most of what he suggests with the 3D capabilities in Photoshop CS4 Extended.

Near the end of his talk, Chris demonstrated stereoscopic rendering and had the audience wear 3D glasses.

I really enjoyed all of the talks and have been quite impressed with the conference. I am definitely planning on returning next year.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Advanced Imaging Conference

Today was day 1 for the 5th annual Advanced Imaging Conference. The conference brings together astrophotographers all over the US (and a few from around the world) to learn about the latest technology, techniques and tips. I was invited to attend for work and the conference being in San Jose helped.

This day was mostly filled with workshops mostly focused on using various software for controlling cameras, alignment, stacking and processing images. I found these sessions very useful as I have been confused on what the various packages (like CCDStack, MaximDL, ImagesPlus) have to offer.
I had an opportunity to walk around and visit a few exhibitors as well including the makers of one of the best German Equatorial Mounts out there, Astro-Physics (top picture). Ah, if only I had $10k to blow on a mount :)

One more interesting thing I saw was a 4'x7' print of the veil nebula. The image was a mosaic of 4 images, each captured with an SBIG 11000 CCD on a Takahashi 4" refractor (FSQ). Ironically, the whole set up was mounted atop a RC scope on a Paramount.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's sessions, should be fun and informative.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lady Bug on Rose

I discovered this photo today while going through my image collection today. This was taken earlier this year (May) at the San Jose Rose Garden. The rose garden has an impressive variety of roses which usually bloom in May and November.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XSi, 60mm macro, f/8, 1/800s, ISO 200.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Saw this little fella while working out in the front yard yesterday. Kim wasn't as happy since he and his friends have been munching on a lot of the plants in the yard.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Hallow's Eve

This is Maya's first Halloween. She's wasn't particularly enthusiastic, but she was cute regardless.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 70-200 @ 70mm, f/3.5, 1/6s, ISO 400, Strobes fired.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I haven't had too much time to do much shooting these days so on Saturday I took about 5 minutes to wander around the house and yard taking a few pictures, this was one of them.  

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 65mm MP-E, f/11, ISO 800, 1/120s, MT-24ex fired.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Photoshop CS4 Extended improved upon several of the 3D features found in CS3 Extended. As I mentioned before, one of those features is a ray tracer and one application is the insertion of 3D objects into photographs. I've written a short tutorial that goes over how to do this and will hopefully help someone create something far better than my simple Buddha example here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Extended Depth of Field in Photoshop CS4

Adobe has started shipping Creative Suite CS4 today so I figured I'd talk about one of the useful new features, the ability to stack images at different focus distances to create a single image with extended depth of field. I have a short tutorial here:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Congratulations Karen & David

Congratulations to Karen & David who were married this past Sunday. I was the photographer at their wedding and had a blast. The venue was gorgeous and the weather co-operative so we got lots of great images.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tiny Hands

Maya came home from the hospital on Thursday and its been a busy time since. I apologize to those who have emailed me to whom I haven't replied, I'll get to you eventually I promise. Things are going well and we'll hopefully get ourselves into a routine in a few days. Maya really is a pretty small baby and this picture shows the difference in size between her tiny hand and her mom's.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-170 @ 70mm, f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 1600.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

She's Got Her Dad's Hair

Well sort of. She's got a lot of hair like her dad but I don't think it has the same curl to it that my hair does, so in that regard she's more like her mom. Another day at the hospital and I'm pretty beat. To think the real fun starts when she comes home, then she's in our care 24/7 with no help from nurses. I'm very glad my mom is coming down tomorrow, we'll definitely need the hand.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Say Hello to Little Maya

Little Maya was so excited to come out and meet her parents, she decided to do it nearly 3 weeks early. She was born today at 7:10 PM weighing 6lbs. Both mom and baby are fine and are resting; I'm going to catch a few zzz's and head back to the hospital in the morning.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Deneb and Andromeda again

Another clear, moonless night last night, so another astro session. This time I really wanted to try and capture the nebulosity near Deneb well, so I I took 19 2 minute exposures and stacked them. The resulting file after processing is about 4500 pixels across and has pretty good detail, I think it will an excellent large print.

I also tried using the 300 f/2.8 IS for astrophotography for the first time last night to get a better image of Andromeda. With the increased focal length, I had to drop the exposures to about 80 seconds and shoot wide open (at f/2.8). This also meant I had more images to stack (about 60). Again, I am pretty happy with the results, but I may need to tweak some of the processing just a little bit more.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Andromeda & M52

We had another clear night yesterday so once again I tried to image Andromeda. This time I captured a stack of 15 2 minute exposures. I also used slightly different processing options to generate this image. I think the central core is better defined here than my previous attempt.

I also managed to capture a series of 10 images of M52, an open cluster located in the milky way band.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XSi (full spectrum), Hutech LPS filter, 200 f/2.8 @ f/3.5, 2 min, ISO 800.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Deneb & Andromeda

The Clear Sky Clock warned me of a relatively clear night last night and sure enough at around 8 PM, looking upward the seeing seemed like it could be decent. Light pollution was still a major problem but I decided to set up the Astrotrac and try anyway. It has been several months since I'd set it up and have missed the opportunity to image summertime DSOs. In particular I wanted to photograph M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), however it was still too low in the horizon and so was blocked by the house. I decided instead to kill some time by imaging the region near Deneb. The nebulosity (including the North America nebula and the Pelican nebula) near the star Deneb is one of the most impressive regions in Cygnus. My timer remote was being uncooperative so this image is the result of stacking only 2 images, both 2 minute exposures. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the result, but I'll definitely be trying again as soon as I can with a lot more images in the stack.

I also managed to image M31 before heading to bed. This was the result of stacking 5 images, each 2 minutes long.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XSI (full spectrum) /w Hutech LPS filter, 200mm f/2.8 II, f/4, 2min.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cat is out of the bag (Photoshop CS4)

Adobe announced the release of Creative Suite 4, which includes Photoshop CS4. The web is abuzz with many new features in Photoshop CS4, but I'll talk about one new feature in the Extended version, the ray tracer. The ray tracer in Photoshop CS4 Extended is used to do both interactive rendering (can be used as a software fallback if OpenGL doesn't work on your system) or final quality rendering (to render images like the one above). :)

The above scene is the Sibenik cathedral model (modeled by Marko Dabrovic). I loaded the scene which came with textures. I placed two light sources to get the look I wanted. The above image highlights a couple of features in the ray tracer including: 32-bit HDR rendering; soft shadows; and diffuse inter-reflection.

So why should anyone care about 3D in Photoshop? Obviously one could easily render the above scene in a plethora of 3D rendering packages. However there are other use-cases where this ability can really shine. One example is painting on 3D models. Photoshop's core strength is in image painting and editing tools. Now those same tools can be used directly on a 3D model. This should really help the workflows of texture artists.

Another use of this feature is in digital insertion. Imagine working on a composition in PS and you want to insert a simple 3D object. Now you could grab the model, fire up your external 3D package, flip back and forth with the image in PS to get the lighting correct, render the image out, import it as a layer and finally composite your image. Or you could import the model directly into PS, set up your lighting with the 3D in place in the composition and then just render.

In the coming days I'll try to get some tutorials up detailing how to use some of the features in the ray tracer as well as some other non-3D Photoshop CS4 features that I've found very useful.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lizards and Flies

I was out working in the yard today and noticed several little lizards darting about. This guy was sunning himself on a rock and remained fairly still. I quickly grabbed my camera and to my surprise, he was still there. I grabbed several shots until he eventually scurried away.

I then spotted a fly which temporarily landed on a tomato plant, so I also snapped a couple of shots of the fly.

On a different note, this week Canon announced the replacement to their widely successful 5D camera, the 5D Mark II. Along with sporting a 21mp sensor capable of shooting at ISO 6400 (and up with 25,600) it also features the ability to capture 1080p HD video at 30 FPS. Some have bashed this feature as nothing but a gimmick but others including renowned and Pulitzer prize winning photographer Vincent Laforet are very excited about it.

I'll reserve judgment until I try it out for myself (I'm especially curious to see if it suffers from the same "jello" effect from the rolling shutter that the Nikon D90 does).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rippling Moon

Last night, the moon happened to be in a good phase (not full) and a good location (fairly high up at around 10pm) in the sky to photograph. I took a stream of images with the 600 and put them together in an animated GIF and you can see just how poor the viewing was. There is a shimmering or rippling effect over the surface of the moon and is this is an example of somewhat poor Astronomical Seeing.

I did manage to stack the 9 images I captured in Photoshop and then did some careful sharpening to try to extract detail. Pictured above is my result.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 600 f/4 IS + 2x + 1.4x TCs (1680mm equiv.), f/11, 1/80s, ISO 800 (9 image stack).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Congratulations Sukanya & Gregory

This weekend I flew to Columbus, Ohio to attend my cousin Sukanya's wedding. The day went smoothly and everyone had a great time. It was also a chance for me to see my cousins whom I hadn't really talked to in two years. I've got several hundred images from the day which I need to process in the upcoming weeks.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 24-70 @ 42mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 400.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Afternoon in SF

I've driven past Golden Gate park many times on my way up to either Muir Woods or San Rafael and each time I drive through the park I tell myself that I should stop in and visit. On Monday, we decided to visit the park since we had to head up to SF anyway to drop off my sister.

A park of its massive size, I was mentally prepared to have my mind blown by amazing sights. In particular I really wanted to see the Japanese Tea Garden about which seems to be quite lauded.

My mind was blown, blown by how lame it was. Of course there is my usual complaint of many big cities, the difficulty in finding parking, but I can most deal with that if the venue is worthwhile. In this case, it seems as though a majority of this vast park is just set up for people sit on the grass and have a picnic. Ok, well that was a disappointing, but no big deal, a big city needs such parks so that those folks who don't have large backyards can go somewhere to enjoy some grass and toss a Frisbee around. I figured the arboretum and tea garden would be amazing. We walked through the arboretum and that was such disappointment I was questioning if hadn't inadvertently missed it.

And then there was the Japanese Tea Garden. First they claim that the garden is free on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but they still charged $5 on Monday probably because it was a holiday. Fine by me for an amazing tea garden experience. Sadly, that wasn't to be. The garden was small and there really was nothing special about it. No ornately arranged plants, no rock garden, very plain and very boring. About the only mildly interesting thing is this bridge. Now this is the second so called Japanese garden I've been to in the Bay Area which has been a disappointment (the first was Hakone Gardens). Am I just expecting too much? Of course I've seen far better gardens in Tokyo and Osaka but my expectations were definitely not to their level.

So we got bored fairly quickly and decided to head to the Golden Gate bridge and go for a short walk along the bridge. It was one of those rare days where the bay was clear so there was a good view.
Since I didn't get a chance to see the conservatory of flowers this time, I may consider visiting the park again to see the conservatory but my hopes aren't very high.