Archive for December, 2008

my stubble is strong!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Well, I’ve replaced all the flash galleries with good old-fashioned hand-coded html, including a new section of bird images. Not necessarily good hand-coded html, but for the most part it seems to work, at least in Firefox and Coda’s webkit-based preview. If anyone sees anything that doesn’t work on their browser, or anything more mundane like a broken or inaccurate link, let me know.

Holiday Stubble

There’s also a lot of best practices stuff that I simply haven’t done a great job with (like sizing of elements, for example), and that stuff is probably going to just have to wait for now. So if you have a weird size monitor, suck it up. Just kidding.

Some things that may make it on to my list of site updates for the coming year (or not):

  • Gear reviews
  • Book reviews
  • A new project

No promises, though. This is definitely not a new year’s resolution.

laws, sausages, and vanity fair covers

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

I certainly don’t have any experience relevant to this issue, but man, if I were a world-famous photographer, I would really cringe at the idea of handing crappy shots to a retoucher. Just seems wrong.

Hopefully the retoucher got paid, though, given Leibovitz’s recent litigation problems…

I’ve had to turn a bunch of photos that had no sense of anything technical in to an image worthy of the brand name Leibovitz. Pieces that were supposed to fit had to be horribly distorted to match her post-shoot preproduction mockup made by a low res retoucher on her staff; many times she needed to use a tripod and did not; I also had to match images from different cameras and films together as well. Bottom line is, what is handed to the retoucher is a big pile of doo-doo handled by dozens of her staff—then have to produce images that look impeccable.

The Online Photographer: A Note From Underground.

You can see by my stubble that I am a web designer

Monday, December 29th, 2008

During my time off for the holidays, I’m growing some epically (is that a word) scraggly stubble, and I figured that was a sign that it was time to update my web site. I’m in the process of working on that now. I bought a copy of the excellent Coda from Panic Software. Not that I’m qualified to use it (I vaguely recall just enough about html and CSS to get myself into trouble), but it’s a very useful tool for creating and maintaining sites in a rational and bloat-free manner. (Coda being bloat-free, not necessarily my site.)

Holiday Stubble

I’ve already fixed some minor problems and started putting myself on a better footing to keep the site up-to-date going forward. I’m also going to take a crack at replacing the flash galleries with plain html. This is partly a preference for not relying on the software tools I used initially to create those galleries (sad to say, it was iPhoto), partly to do with editing and updating these things, and partly an ideological bias against the increasingly commonplace overuse and abuse of flash in web design today. Not, again, that I’m qualified to wage a one-man war against flash, but I know that when I visit web pages, I always find it heartening to encounter a photograph that isn’t encapsulated in stupid a flash interface.


Note that this does not indicate any claim on my part that I’m going to write standards-compliant HTML. Seriously, that’s probably not going to happen, no matter how long my stubble grows.

Strobes and Birds

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

The weather in California lately has been uncharacteristically…weathery. We’ve had cold, and rain, and even snow in areas that don’t normally see any, ever.

This makes it the season for two kinds of shooting — (a) birds are often most active and available at the times which are least comfortable be out in, but are worth it anyway,

American Coot (View Large/Original)

Snowy Egret in Flight

and (b) experimenting with lighting still lives. This is something I’m getting better at. I had to break down and buy a second flash (the somewhat too fashionable Strobist special (the SB-24), and while I’m still not particularly fast or deft when working this way, it’s a tolerable way of passing a cold afternoon.

Black and White Veggie Bits

Pillars (View Large)

Failed: hand-eye coordination, awakeness, tea

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Wonder if I'm awake...

If I’m still so tired that I can’t make the change tin when I toss the change from my morning breakfast (read: bag of salt and vinegar chips from the vending machine) at it, then the tea the change lands in by mistake is not doing its job in waking me up.

I don’t know about impossible, but…

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

I’m pretty sure the combination is illegal in Utah.

I recently received a press-release in the mail where the photographer claimed affinity to both Wittgenstein and Foucault. Is that combination possible!?

Couldn’t have said it any better (Conscientious)

Big lens, big moon

Friday, December 12th, 2008

My new 400mm f/5.6 ED AIS and TC-14B arrived today. I’m going to be using it mainly for birds (of course), but I didn’t have any birds handy, so I pointed it at tonight’s perigee-tastic superhuge moon:

Full Moon at Perigee

Full Moon at Perigee

Astrophotography will probably never be my thing, I know…

Nick v. Wireless Flash

Monday, December 1st, 2008

I just got a Cactus V2s wireless flash transmitter and receiver — not exactly top-end technology, and not crazy reliable, but crazy-cheap, and that’s often what matters most.

I tested them out using a Lollyphile Absinthe Lollipop, my Vivitar 285HV, and a couple pieces of paper towel:

There were a couple of failures to trigger (2-3 out of probably twenty or thirty shots), but otherwise, they work just fine…

Here’s one directly backlit:

Lollyphile Absinthe Lollipop (BW)

The same image in color with less cropping:

Lollyphile Absinthe Lollipop

Here’s a front-lit version:

Lollyphile Absinthe Lollipop

The black and white image is by far the best, I think. It’s also the one which I find most heartening in regards to flash photography and me. The reason I find it heartening is this: shooting with strobes is (so far as I can tell) all about controlling the process to control the results. It’s like previsualization in that respect, and that’s a problem for me — why engage in an activity when you know its precise outcome in advance? Where there is nothing unexpected, there is no sense of reality. (Per Simone Weil.)

In this case, the flash is revealing the inner structure of the lollipop in a way that I could never have fully previsualized — the flash can, in this instance, be a tool of discovery, rather than an instrument of control.