Archive for August, 2014

Wrong Way

Posted: August 29, 2014 in Computers, Essentials
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Colorado

Paul is cruising in the wild West, somewhere near Cheyenne Wyoming, and his navigation system is bonkers. He knows where he wants to go but he can’t get there from here.

Lesson — update your GPS database, or better yet, cross-check that device with an old fashioned analog tool — a paper road map or atlas.

Road Food — Part Three

Posted: August 23, 2014 in Food
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Half a loaf is better. When John and his travel partner eat at a greasy spoon or gobble haute cuisine, they always split the entree. No bloat on the boat (or train or plane).

Cowboys and Bike Toys

Posted: August 21, 2014 in Photography

cowpokes

OLT
Old style cowpokes are iconic and uber-modern motorcyclists have a distinctive style. Grandpa wrangler and his grandson photographed at Fort Garland and cycle duo at Mineral Hot Springs. The similarity is defined by their patience with the intrepid photog and the wonderful fact that almost everyone loves to have their picture made — never be shy about asking to take a picture.

Don’t! Don’t! Don’t! DO!!!

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Photography
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Paul remembers being told to not take pics out of the window; drive-bys are a no-no. Paul knows that if you worry about rules, you miss pictures. John captured these clouds and lightning through the window of the Amtrak- naughty boy.

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Starry night
Wanna make pictures of the stars? Don’t want to see trails. Follow this simple formula for the longest streak-free times: 600 divide by the lens focal length.  i.e.  600/50mm lens =  12 second exposure or 600/20mm lens=30 second exposure.  Next is ISO.  Set it high and let it fly.  Seriously, new cameras have incredible light sensing capabilities and you can max out the ISO and be pretty assured of OK results. Some photographers recommend turning off “noise reduction” and taking care of corrections post-process. Sboot raw if you have the option, you will get more to work with afterward. There are many websites and online videos with advice on astrophotography. Not so many good monographs — check with your local librarian for suggestions. If you want to make a really long exposure with the stars in a circle — point the camera at the North Star and leave the shutter open for hours…

Nikon
As many photographers have heard, Nikon had some problems with the D600 camera body. Many owners complained that they were seeing spots. The sensor was a problem in collecting dirt/oil/dust and repairs were not always sucessful. John had this problem with his camera and sent it in for cleaning… unfortunately he did not anticipate an upcoming road trip and was going to be sans-camera for a travel foray — ARRRAGGHH. However, the Nikon Gods shined down on him and have over-night-aired a new D610 for his trouble.  Yes, a new-in-the-box camera to replace the D600.  This is the Nikon we all bowed down to in the 1970s as the standard-of-the-industry. Regardless of fault (or in lieu of suing) thanks Nikon for showing you are still first class.

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Who doesn’t want to capture the decisive moment? Paul and John are relucant to even mention the name Henri Cartier-Bresson, as we are not worthy. But the concept of the “decisive moment” is well defined. Each photog has to refine their tradecraft to even think about making a photographic moment count. Self-evident, but not always practiced, is just take pictures. You would be foolish to do strenuous exercise without limbering up first and photography requires a similar “stretching.”  Repeating, use your camera, make some pictures. Don’t fret that the image is boring or not worthy of HCB. One advantage of the digital camera is the freedom it provides to snap mindlessly (aka Zen-like). Flex that shutter finger, get your eye used to being at the viewfinder, make sure you have a sense of your lens perspective, embrace the mood of the lighting, get over the worry of bothering people and get-up in their personal space – make pictures.  Oh, and turn off the “review” function – don’t be a chimp chump gawking at the LCD!

Funicular
Planning a trip – prepare by taking a staycation and practice your photo technique before you arrive at the exotic locale. Load yourself up with gear and walk to the nearest bus/metro stop and ride for 30 minutes — get off and hoof it for an hour and try to find a way back (if you end up taking a taxi, well, you learned an expensive lesson). Try loading up for different scenarios locally before you traipse globally. What photographic gear is needed?  Is it an outdoor street shooting day or are you going to be in low-light conditions (museums, churches, bars). Do you have a particular kind of shot in mind — do you really need to haul that 600mm lens?  Where will you be when the “golden” hour kicks in? How much walking, what is the crime situation, who is your travel companion, and you have planned your dining breaks, right (see Road Food  #1)? You can get a good sense of how you will hold up by practicing as a tourist in your backyard.

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Having the latest equipment is a great thing — state-of-the art. But if you are headed to an area rife with crime or are lax about watching your gear when on the road you can save some nigthmares by downsizing for your trip. Either pack the new three-thousand-dollar D810 that any thief would be happy with or cruise the used marketplace and get a lose-able 10 megapixel Nikon dx body with a beat-up 18-55mm Nikkor for $100 bucks. Just saying…


moon
There are many apps for figuring out celestial comings and goings. One of the most simple to use is LunaSolCal which provides Sunrise, Moonrise, Sunset, Moonset, Moon Phase, length of day, alarms, etc.  Efficient and inexpensive.
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Ying and Yang in the newsroom. When working for daily newspapers one lesson learned was that the editors did not give a shite how you made a picture. They either liked it or rejected it. The sad song of , “I trudged through three foot snow drifts and got frostbite” were meaningless if the pic was a boring white blur. Conversely, a simple silhouette (some of you know who I am talking about) that took no thought and was a f8 and be there often could get front page play. Paul and John have two ways of dealing with this dichotomy. Paul goes with the Zen flow. When the editor asks, “Wow. Just wow. Stunning picture. How did you get this shot?” he answers, “Yes.”  John’s reaction to a rejected picture on the other hand was usually to swear bodily harm at the editor (and his mother) at top of his lungs and skulk out of the newsroom. Future posts wil delve into “how did you get that shot?”

Road Food — Part Two

Posted: August 8, 2014 in Food
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Fish and Chips
Nothing to look at here — keep moving. Fish and chips lunch at Goderich Harbour Restaurant.

Road Food – Part One

Posted: August 7, 2014 in Essentials, Food
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Toronto
The classic downtown diner in a small town — NOT! They are rare my hungry friend. Here is a brief list of options for road-food-itis

  • Carry a snack at all times, preferably one with a smattering of protein. Paul always has three or four cheese cracker packets in his pocket – John opts for KIND energy bars
  • Hydrate. Keep a water bottle in the vehicle, stop and drink on a regualr basis, even if you are not thirsty
  • Trust but verify. The million travel websites and food rating links are not always reliable — you got a mobile phone — call ahead
  • The county seat/town square gambit.  Lawyers and judges (and cops) gotta eat and often demand chow a cut above fast food; look for the court house
  • Keep time in mind. Driving all night is driving into the zone of all-eatries-closed
  • Lastly, plan your day around food. Eat to live, or live to eat, you have to have nourishment to avoid getting hangry

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Paul set out on a 66 day cross-USA photo safari in his 2003 Dodge van last year. The $4000 bargain now has 130,000 miles and is still running great. Gas mileage is better than the full-size vans he had in the past, with highway driving getting 22 mpg. Paul has spiffed it up with bedding, power inverter, and other hidden goodies. Mega-trip number two starting this month!  John on the other hand is a whore to fashion (!!!???) with his three-letter black convertible.
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Mac or PeeCee?

Posted: August 7, 2014 in Computers, Macintosh, PC
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John and Paul  fall on two sides of this question. John is a Mac fan-boy and has been since 1984 with his original Mac 128  and even spent time wroking as a Mac “specialist” at the mall Apple store. He has owned at least a dozen over the years (this may be why Apple stock is at record highs).  John also bought into the whole iOS thing with an iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, etc. Paul uses a PeeCee portable computer and has had a bunch.  Most die from viral infections or just kluge-up and expire. Truth is that in today’s world the computer is a commoidity and you now just plan a replacement schedule of 2-3 years (usually the Mac will give you an extra year or two of service – negating the higher up-front cost). Of course the real answer is as simple as the question “what is the best camera?”  They are tools, and as such are used to produce – in our case – fantastic photographs. Use what you are comfortable with, and of course, what you can afford. Many photogs would argue that Mac is the way to go – simpler, more consistent components, long-term support. But is the tide turning?  Apple is no longer a “computer” company and its consumer focus… well just say is is not recieved well in some circles. And the interchangeablity of software between the two platforms negates any advantage.  So don’t be a slave to the manufacturers  (ha, be a slave to software sales/updates) and get out and make some pictures. Heck, the computer in your camera can probably process your RAW files better than many ‘puters.