November 2011

Witful Wednesday #1

Hey, start of a new ‘feature’… see how long it lasts.

The fun stuff

The Five Best Toys Ever by GeekDad (via kottke.org)

Fifteen Travel Tips You Probably Haven’t Heard Before by My Little Nomads (via kottke.org)

Interesting innovation

Non-sticky sticking/holding device for your small gadgets, now fully funded at Kickstarter

Nicely designed FM radio and Bluetooth speaker, now fully funded at Kickstarter

Also interesting

National Geographic contributors create The Photo Society; awesomely designed site (without regard to content), the eye flows around nicely, typography well styled and chosen; it almost scales nicely to the iPhone display, but text is too small; is the name a play on ‘the photo-secession‘?

 

What’s the deal with putting gadgets in your pocket?

There’s plenty of advertising about putting gadgets in your pocket, usually a jeans pocket. I don’t get it!

Plenty of backpacks and bags marketed with the notion that people put their keys and gadgets in there. A lot of cases for iPhones are just to protect the screen and body from damage while mixing with other stuff in pockets, purses, etc. It’s hard to find a good belt case to house an unadorned iPhone for instance.

Why, o why?

What makes sense to me is to put small expensive gadgets and phones on the belt, where they are always accessible. If the phone rings while it’s in my pocket, it’s quite a squirm to fish it out. On the belt, it’s easy to grab and answer or look at the screen at least. Ditto to put in silent mode, I can discreetly flip the switch while in a belt pouch, not so in a pocket or pack.

And then there are the teen-somethings you see with phones/gadgets in their back pockets! What? do they never sit down? that thing is going to pop out of the pocket if they twist or bend, get crushed if they sit, or get lifted by thieves!

Why mix an expensive gadget with potentially damaging items, like putting it loosely with other stuff in any kind of bag? what? huh?

Then again, why are keys in a bag? if anything belongs in a pocket (along with wallet and ID), it’s keys! imagine that bag gets taken, you can’t drive home, you can’t get into home if you find a way to get there. huh?

Maybe the marketers are looking for some common-measurement reference point across society, as in, almost everyone knows what jeans are and the size of the pockets.

Here’s my logic: pockets are for the stuff you never want to be separated from, and only need occasionally. The belt or other device permanently attached to you is for for stuff needed more frequently but too valuable to be left in a bag. Stuff in the bag is at risk, so should be relatively replaceable stuff, or gadgets that are bulky but can be re-created relatively easily from a backup.

Also, I was brought up to treat expensive objects carefully (more especially if they are gifts), which is perhaps not as common as I thought it was.

So I suppose I see overlapping tiers of necessity/usability. Stranger than fiction, yes indeed.

Lion Spaces not ready for prime time

The concept of various Spaces, or desktops, has been around the Mac OS for quite a while, years at least. Leopard? Snow Leopard? So it makes me wonder why they haven’t got its functionality right yet.

Here are some glitches I’m seeing, still, in Lion:

  • try to command-` to change Safari windows and it only works within one space, won’t move you to a window in another space for some reason
  • in Safari, dragging a tab out of its window opens the link in a new window, but can’t be dragged into a new space; user has to drop the window in the current space and pick it up again to drag sideways
  • command-tab to change apps might move you to another space but does not always bring the selected app to fore
  • Aperture, ’nuff said? Well, command-tab does nothing; one has to manually go to its space thru the many methods for that

ESB glint

ESB glint © 2011 David Nuss, All Rights Reserved

© 2011 David Nuss, All Rights Reserved

Today is the autumnal day of the year when the sunset angle from horizon to Empire State Building to home is just right. Sorry about the odd color cast, esp in the shadows. Aperture is not doing what I want it to do and is making the computer’s fan run constantly.

[Canon S100, Aperture crop and tweak exposure, edge sharpening, color attempts]

First 100+ hours with the Canon Powershot S100

The new Canon Powershot S100 compact camera is quite a nice small camera with some power shooter features as well as compromises. I meant to post this at 100 hours but now it’s more like 10 days, alas.

Background

It doesn’t take long viewing this blog to see I shoot some snapshots.

For a while, I’ve been shooting with the Canon G11, well, actually I’ve been using quite a few Canon digital cameras. Wait, back up a bit. My first SLR was a Canon TX, which I saved my allowance to buy, waaayyyy back in… probably the 1970s. Yes, a film camera!

Then an influential friend was using Nikons, and I got a job at a retail photo shop where discounts on Nikons was possible, so for years I was a Nikon guy. Then digital came along and Canon took the lead, so my first digital was a Canon and I’ve not used any other brand (oh wait, an Olympus for a weekend, but I didn’t like it and was able to return it) since. In the PowerShot series, I started with the S65 but did not buy all in between models.

From compacts to the 5D MkII, I’ve been quite satisfied with the products and documentation, which imho is at least half the picture, so to speak. Great gear with lousy documentation is no good.

As a pilot in a smallish cockpit, I like a compact, belt-pouchable camera, but I like to shoot raw format and have wide angle capability. So the G11 was the ticket for most snapshooting, but it’s too big for daily belt-wear. My compromise for many months has been the iPhone 4, which has produced a number of photos on this site. I’m happy to have seen the Powershot S100 announced, and now to market. As soon as it was available, I got one and have been exploring the camera and documentation (I’m one of those who downloads the full pdf user guide and actually reads it all!).

First Impressions

Canon calls the S100 as “a sophisticated pocket-friendly point-and-shoot digital camera that has the power advanced users and enthusiasts need to create standout images.”

The shipping box-quite small and light! The camera itself is certainly “pocket-friendly” in the sense of size and weight, but would I put an expensive item like this in my pocket? I’ll post on the pocket theme another day, but I somehow grew up without the desire to put everything in pockets.

I ordered the black-body, which looks good, but has a textured plastic feel, which was not quite so nice for a camera in this price range.

‘In the box’ contents are sufficient, and neatly but not elegantly packaged. Quick start booklet useful but I am one of those who reads the full manual on things so I downloaded the full pdf from Canon and read most of it.

Lack of viewfinder… I think I might get used to it and am using good elbow-tuck and hand position for steadiness, but at my age that means I might need my glasses on to read the display’s icons that close to my face.

Size and legibility of controls is fine even for my aging eyes and semi-clumsy fingers. I admire that Canon has stuck with very close to the same set of icons, colors, and controls over the years instead of moving things around and changing them frequently. It makes the transition from one model of the line to another much easier.

Number of steps to move focal/exposure point (flexizone) is too many. From the G10 days I learned to set up my favorite baseline settings as a Custom (on the rotary dial) mode, so from there, I power-on, click Function button, click down or up five times, then Menu button, then click more to get the focus/exposure box where I want. Too much work! It’s a better feature than click-n-hold, recompose, if shooting more than one shot of the same scene, where you want focus/exposure set in a fixed area.

‘Full HD video’ feature I haven’t tried much, but it should be nice to have.

I do plan to experiment with the super-slow-mo feature, which at lower resolution takes lots of images in a short time, so a quick pan or shot of action makes time appear to slow to a crawl. Maybe can be combined with the zone of focus mode for that miniature world look.

Hm. how to turn LCD display off to save battery while in shooting mode? Used to be repeated pushing of Disp would cycle the display off. Perhaps without a viewfinder they decided the user wouldn’t want to turn it off while shooting. Hm. I’d like to save battery life and sometimes street-shoot without composing.

The included wrist strap-no tightening knob, so I bought one at B&H so the wrist strap will be tighter around the wrist-the provided strap could easily slide off the hand.

Also purchased a Tamrac belt case that has double-velcro for fastening to a belt, and a big-enough pouch under the velcro flap to store a backup SD card and Whi-Bal keychain card. Got the Class 6 Lexar card since the manual suggested Class 6 speed for HD video (amazon associate purchase links below).

GPS-takes several seconds to find itself, alas. It has a feature allowing camera to GPS-track itself until the battery wears out so you can show, say, the path of a hike on a map along with the location of photos. Could be useful in some scenarios, and for security if shooting in dicey areas or going to meet shady characters (cue the suspense-scene music!).

Lack of a hot shoe, I need to experiment with. I don’t recall reading if the S100 will properly expose with other flashes that may be slaved. With the G11 I put the TTL cord on and hold the 580EXII with a small light box or umbrella and can quickly take some minimal-setup nicely-lit shots.

ISO 6400 still produces a ‘grainy’ image especially compared with higher-end cameras. For the occasional indoor shot it should be ok. Currently I’m using Auto ISO to try to understand its logic.

Zoom range is pretty good, with 24-120mm equivalency. I occasionally could use more than 120, but it’s pretty good for a tiny camera and the wide side is more important in my shooting. Again, the goal is an ez unhindering camera to take everywhere, with more capability than a smartphone and realizing it won’t suit all needs. I certainly don’t want to take extra lenses, etc.

Aperture is a nice 2.0 on the wide end but a rather slow 5.9 on the tele end. Possibly some engineering challenges there that don’t allow a faster tele. Hope for a future enhancement.

The function ring around the lens was installed I think in the S80 or 90-ish. I’m still trying to ‘get’ it. For now I’m using it as a zoom ring but it seems to rotate the wrong direction for some intuitive reason.

I’m sort of missing the flip-out LCD screen of the G11, since I shoot at high and low and reaching-over-railings and self-portraitizing fairly often. Maybe engineers can find a suitable smallish mechanism for this in future.

There are a wealth of features listed on the Canon product page, and as I use them I may post on the results, but this is pretty much it for the getting-started view.

Latest News

Apple’s Aperture photo management software usually takes a long time to update for new camera raw formats, but in this case hallelujah, the update for S100 raw was available within days of the camera’s availability here in the NYC area.

Conclusion–for now

The Canon Powershot S100 is well worth looking at if your shooting needs lead you to its features. For me so far it is close to the power of the G11, and I am carrying it with me every time I go out and it’s light enough I almost forget it’s there. It’s out of the way for driving and flying, and if I need a low-light, wide-angle raw image it fits the bill. For day to day shooting for this advanced amateur’s needs, it is right on.

Support the site with your purchase

If you buy from Amazon thru the link below, I should get a bit of dough to help pay my hosting costs (thanks if so!).

Get the S100 from Amazon!

Cartoon: The war on vegetables

Funny, if it wasn’t so true: The war on vegetables via Daily KOS.

On the Subject of EXIF and privacy, etc.

The topic if EXIF location data came up recently in an email list I subscribe to, here is what I wrote from what I know on the topic, with any subsequent updates as well.

For those interested in the topic of EXIF data, one of the many resources/tools available is from Jeffrey Friedl, who produced a very interesting EXIF Viewer tool web page and a javascript tool that you can simply drag into a browser toolbar, target an online image, click the tool, and reveal whatever EXIF data is available with the image.

For any images you’re concerned about, use this (or other) tool to reveal the information that is available with it online, or discover info about online images you are curious about.

There are lots of comments following his original post, worth reading for those interested in the topic. His is the only tool I’ve used so far for this subject.

My understanding is that EXIF data is stored at time of capture by the camera, and the user has little control over the contents, but this data is the source of the information that the computer presents to you in photo management software. Possibly the camera has options on what to include or not (on my new Canon S100, for instance, I can turn GPS on or off, and its tracking feature on or off; you can turn off location services for individual iOS apps as well through Settings).

Your computer photo software can add many, many fields and categories of IPTC data. This can include lots of things including caption, copyright notice, contact information, etc.

Some photo web sites/apps strip or modify the IPTC data, alas. You’d need to search online and/or the t&c for this.

In Aperture, you can choose to include or not include location and face information in file exports as part of the Preferences > Export panel. I leave both unchecked, as I tend to be more a privacy fan than a ‘share everything’ person.

In iPhoto, location is an option in Preferences > Advanced.

Flickr offers a variety of settings including hiding the EXIF data.

I wish iOS offered native EXIF/IPTC data viewing and captioning, though at least one or two other apps provide the functionality.

There are probably plug-ins for exporting and uploading to strip a variety of data from photos before posting online. The word “geofence” is becoming more popular as a tool for people to protect certain areas from recording/sharing. It’s a developing area of tech/society.

Now that I’ve made so many notes I think I’ll put this on my blog and update it with additional resources from this thread.

Privacy of your location is an ongoing theme these days, it’s a challenge of living in the times we do, to work that balance of your personal and public lives. Some would advocate there is no difference, which leads to the following rant. [location rant->]Personally, I turn off every location service I reasonably can, deny when apps ask for it, and pay attention to the feature when using devices that have location as a feature. I’m of the opinion we need to establish better national privacy standards; other nations are far ahead of us. A person’s location should be considered their property imho, and companies that want to use that data should be up front and compensate users for the use of the data, instead of hiding their collection and sales of the data in t&c, which very few read [<-rant over].

Clever find of additional photo buttons in iOS5 photography

iOS “Cable releases” at Macworld’s Mac OS X Hints.

Shoot the turkey first, then the pumpkin pie, part 2

[Coontinued from previous post, which began]:

Use this holiday weekend as an exercise in enhancing your visual storytelling skills!

If you want to go beyond simple multiple photo documentation of an event such as Thanksgiving, or are maybe disappointed in past results, try out any or all of these ideas…

During the shoot

Keep your camera handy! Think about your list, or even check things off a written list. Shoot with available light when possible, and if you have a removable flash, try bouncing it off ceilings, walls, etc for softer light and try to blend it with natural light. Bring a tripod if you can, and use it for those slow-shutter settings or group self-portraits.

Digital ‘film’ is cheap, so shoot different angles, use different lighting on the same shot to ensure some choices. Have people turn or move for better lighting. Consider using helpers if an extra hand is needed for something, then they’ll be more engaged and interested in your project.

Look for meaningful details like namecards, nice decorations, hand-holding, as these things add depth to a visual story.

Keep your ears open for quotes that you could use for the title of the end product, be it book, web page, video. As in, nephew Jimmy leans over to Grandma Josephine and says “this was the best turkeyless day ever, Gwandma”, and that becomes the title or a featured page for this vegetarian holiday. If you didn’t capture the original, write it down or record it yourself, into a smartphone or camera video clip, just as a digital note to self for later deleting.

Think about sounds that may occur that will help with a video later, like songs, story telling, plates and silverware clacking, and record the sounds with a smart phone or a simple video clip with the camera (you can extract just the sound, so the video part doesn’t need to be any good). Sound makes a huge subliminal impact on the effectiveness of any video. Maybe a volunteer with a smartphone can get a minute of instruction and be your documentary partner.

Move around, occasionally think about what you have captured and what not. Keep yourself tuned into things for ideas not previsualized. Ever so often take your mind out of the immediate activity and look around at the big picture of the event, force yourself to broaden your view, turn your head, open your ears and observe instead of participate.

These are a lot of ideas, many of which can make you the outsider if taken to extreme, and if the event group is not used to this kind of documentation, it could be awkward. Remember to be sensitive to that and make a balance of participating and documenting, not that it becomes the year remembered as ‘the Thanksgiving when the family photographer lost touch with us’!

Make or get a list of attendees for ease of distribution later (if the host uses a guest log, photograph the page[s]).

Post

Don’t stress out if you missed some shots or thought of other ideas later. In some cases, you can go back to the venue and do some detail shots. In other cases, chalk it up to learning. The idea is to have enjoyed it and enhanced the value for all by bringing your special talents to the event.

If you don’t already have a workflow for this, or are unsure of how to use your software for a project like this, an event like Thanksgiving can also be a way to gift yourself the gift of knowledge you can use to help make the participants happy. At least learn the basics of your software to make it a more pleasurable experience for yourself.

For a photo book or web page, scan through the shoot a couple of times, discarding the real loser shots, marking the promising ones. Take a break, come back, and refine the selections til you have your favorites. Keep thinking too about looking for one image that sums up the whole event, for the cover, and another that closes it out. Lay the photos out in various sizes, write nice tight captions and titles when appropriate.*

For a video slideshow, think about titles, music, integrating the sound clips you made, maps you can insert, opening montage scenes if you want to use them. If your camera shoots high quality video you might be able to take out a couple of stills from a video scene. Try not to overdo visual effects; rather, use a few of them consistently, with meaning, instead of the whole list of effects.*

*Book layout and video making are entire subjects on their own, alas. Many software packages can make pretty decent automated products. Gift yourself again with more knowledge by reading books from the library, buying some, watching instructional videos online, whatever suits your learning style.

In producing the final product, think about the recipients’ capabilities. That is, don’t send a link to a streaming HD video to participants without broadband, or large email file attachments to those with limited email sizes. In laying out photos and writing captions, don’t make them too small, rather err on the large side for those whose vision is not as young as it once was.

The End

So, what does the title mean anyway? Actually the title came first and led to presenting these tips in the context of a chronological story. There are of course other ways to do this. Consider trying a different technique each event to broaden your toolkit!

Bottom line, remember to have fun and enjoy the event, don’t let the documenting get in the way.

This was a longer post than planned. Maybe I will split it into two different days.

Shoot the turkey first, then the pumpkin pie, part 1

Use this holiday weekend as an exercise in enhancing your visual storytelling skills!

If you want to go beyond simple multiple photo documentation of an event such as Thanksgiving, or are maybe disappointed in past results, try out any or all of these ideas.

A think-ahead example

Many photo-storytellers previsualize events, planning on paper or in their head how to tell the story, and there are many ways to tell a story so let’s take the simple chronological story as an example.

Imagine how you will tell the story verbally in the future (or how you have in the past), then either think about how to translate it visually or write it down and create a checklist, or storyboard. For instance, let’s say the story is told:

“We went to Aunt Martha’s up in Cloverdale, and the whole family was there. Martha and Bill had decorated the place splendidly for the holidays. The cooks brought the meal to table with Buster and Molly yapping at their heels and brought the sportsters in, and we said grace and dove in loudly. Later the dishes were washed and plenty of stories told before splitting up til next time.”

This simple story can be broken down into a long list of individual photos:

  • We–perhaps you dressed up nicely for the event, so take a nice self-portrait before heading out or as arriving
  • Aunt Martha’s–plan to take a photo of the place when the light is right, as you arrive or during the event
  • Cloverdale–use a digital map or even a photo of your finger pointing to the place on a paper map
  • whole family–arrange a time and place with host for a group photo(s)
  • Martha and Bill–will be flattered if you arrange a time and place with nice light for a cozy thankful photo
  • decorated splendidly–detail photos of the things you found nice
  • cooks brought meal–a sequence of the cooking group, or video with sound and clip still; document the layout of goodies
  • yapping–photos of the pets and audio clip of the sounds, an intentionally blurry photo would add sense of action
  • sportsters–shots of them playing outdoors or couch potato-ing
  • said grace–photographing instead of participating may be an affront to some, consider if appropriate; record audio
  • dove in–action photos including details of hands scooping, cutting, and some sounds for the loudly part
  • washed-thank the clean up crew by showing them in action, they’re part of the event too
  • stories–photograph and record audio
  • splitting up–fond farewells, car loading (a good record of when they had what car), driving/walking off
  • next time–think of how to portray it as a challenge! or at the least mention the plan at the end of the photo book
  • etc. etc. etc. you get the idea

That’s the previsualizing, which serves as a baseline from which to deviate as the event transpires. You might do more or less or something completely different, but the process gets you in the thinking/observing mode.

Prep n pack

Hopefully you’re fully comfortable with your gear and all its modes. If not, consider spending a bit of time reviewing the manual, as you want to be fluent in twisting dials and punching buttons for the different modes that can make better photos throughout the event. In this example, maybe do a dry-run of a normal everyday dinner or other even to practice.

Think about contingencies like the battery running out of juice or card becoming full, and charge the battery ahead, take the charger with, empty the card, get a new one, be ready to back up on site if necessary to a mobile device or laptop, lay out the goods or make a list and as the event gets closer, review the layout or list for anything forgotten. Clean the lens with an appropriate cloth.

At the site, if there are pets and kids, consider asking the host for a safe place to stash the items you’re not using or carrying constantly. If using multiple storage cards, pre-plan where you will carry them, perhaps in a dedicated storage box like a Pelican or similar, in, say, the left front pocket, or a vest pocket, etc. Know where the cards are so you don’t lose track of them! consider locking them with that little slider when you fill the card.

[This post turned out too long, so… NEXT: During the shoot, Post, and The End…]

All about money

Well maybe that’s overstating it, but check out this fairly overwhelming chart, zoom in and out, look at the amazing thought and detail and imagine the amount of research it took to do this.

I’m in no position to vouch for the accuracy, but xkcd charts in the past usually get pretty good reviews for accuracy from multiple blogs.

Check out: Money:

the xkcd money chart

Apple Dictionary interface woe & wishes

In the previous Dictionary, the user could tab to highlight the whole word search field, and when switching to Dictionary via command-tab, the word would be highlighted. And as usual in Mac OS, since the field was active, it would be surrounded by a blue highlight.

Now we have the Lion version of Dictionary, which is enhanced and in some ways better, but this tabbing while in the application functionality needs fixing. That is, when in the app, say scrolling through the word list in the left sidebar, clicking on a word, the word entry field is no longer highlighted, and if the user tabs, the word in the field is not highlighted, nor do you get the blue line around it, but it is active. If you type, the typing appears. Hm.

Also, if you are typing a word in the word field, the highlight of the text and the blue line disappear, but if you misspell, or want to look up another word, you can tab and start typing again and that works, again although the field text is not highlighted nor surrounded by the blue line.

So… functionality is the same, but the visual indicators are not consistent.

I still wish they would offer dictionaries in other languages as options in addition to the current all-English options.

Oh, and wildcard searching would help, too. Like, you know the word ends in ‘gine’ but not the part before, you could search for “*gine” and all the results would be words with that ending. Try something like that now and you’ll get some results close, but some totally unrelated results, not limited to the ‘gine’ ending.

Tell Congress: throw away SOPA and start to lead

The US Congress is expected to consider idiotic legislation 11/16 to try to further let lobbyists strangle the Internet.

Visit AmericanCensorship.org as well as other sites like the links on the EFF SOPA page and make up your own mind. We already contacted our reps, who are probably at least as oblivious and subservient to special interests as any.

Your Internet freedom is at stake. Tell Congress to start leading the world in Internet freedom, not further devolve in the corporate/police-state direction we are going. Maybe it’s not too late to give up hope for the American experiment. Worth a try.

Time travel with iCal

The Lion iCal of course has its new look and way of entering events, and as I use it in both my old ways and trying out new ways I’m discovering some interesting things, and will share them along the way in posts.

Today’s thing is time travel with iCal, or checking out what you did in a previous life. In my case, things were pretty quiet in December 999:

iCal 12/999but how did I get there? I didn’t see any rush of stars, hear the sound of solar wind, feel my hair blown back ‘by an unseen wind’ (really old tv reference).

As I experiment with new event data entry, I’m trying to learn the iCal syntax of how these things work (briefly dipped into the Help document, which was frustrating). In this case, I wanted to go to a date in 1999, so I used the View > Go To Date… menu command shortcut, shift-command-t, keyboarded the month, tabbed, the date, tabbed, keyboarded 99 and clicked enter, and whoosh, there was December 999, showing in its empty brilliance. No Time Machine animation, no flipping of thousands of calendar pages, changing calendar style to rock-n-chisel, nothing the least dramatic, alas.

Just now experimenting with the Go To Date… sheet, typing various numbers with the year field highlighted yields a variety of different results, including the year 3000!

Now to discover the Easter Egg key combination to actually go in time to the dates!

Behold Hills of Troy

© 2011 David Nuss, All Rights Reserved

© 2011 David Nuss, All Rights Reserved

 

So last week I was in Morris County NJ for some work-related training and one sunny day I decided to study at a park in the sun. On the way to find a place to sit, the strong light and colors of the kids playground was calling out to me, so the iPhone and I had some fun for a bit.

[iPhone 4, slight lightening and darkening applied in Aperture, no cropping; also posted with a filter on Instagram]