Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Green Lizard

The green streak on the brown bark of the tree caught my attention. It turned out to be a wonderfully fluorescent green lizard sitting upside-down on the trunk of the tree:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="451" caption="Green Lizard"]A bright green lizard on a tree. [/caption]

I am not quite sure what the lizard was looking at. Perhaps the person behind the camera was every bit intriguing as the lizard in front of the camera?

Fern Spiral

A fern leaf unrolls itself from a tightly wound spiral towards the light as it grows.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Fern Spiral"]A fresh fern leaf spirals up towards the light. [/caption]

Ferns as a group are quite old - the fossil records date back to the early Carboniferous period, so roughly 360 million years ago, have been found. Isn't it amazing that organisms are so well adapted that the species survives almost 400 million years and shows no sign of weakness?

Even though this long history is certainly not unique to ferns, I always get the feeling that a dinosaur might peek through the leaves at me when I come across a fern ... ;-)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Review: The Hot Shoe Diaries

Joe McNally's [amazon ASIN=0321580141]The Hot Shoe Diaries: Creative Applications of Small Flashes[/amazon] is about lighting using small flashes (strobes). If what you find on Strobist is not enough, this is the book to get.

Joe starts by describing his gear. He's a Nikon guy, clearly in love with his gear, and he clearly knows his stuff very well. I use Canon, so was there a problem? No. Most of what the Nikon strobes can do Canon can do too (and vice versa) so if you understand what he explains, it is quite simple to translate into the Canon world. Effectively you loose less than a dozen pages to "Nikonese".

Joe then presents a large number of his images, explaining how he lit each one of them. There is a lot of anecdotal background describing how he came to make each shot, which I found quite entertaining.

Speaking of which, Joe is very funny. I laughed out loud a number of times reading the book which is something that can not be said of many photography books. If photography and comedy turns you on, this may be the book for you ...

I found the description of how each image was created easy to understand and visualize (sketches are provided for the mor elaborate setups). Joe clearly is an experienced educator, I had no trouble following him and creating some of the effects.

The selection of images is quite useful as a number of concepts or different ways of lighting are explained which can then be combined for good effect in your own photos. While some pictures are way beyond my ambitions (I do not see myself rigging a dozen strobes to an airplane ... I do not have a dozen strobes :-)) most are directly applicable to situations and subjects that anyone might encounter. I learned a huge amount of practical knowledge.

To summarize: if you are interested in lighting using strobes, this is simply the book to get.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="111" caption="5 stars (out of 5)"]5 stars (out of 5) [/caption]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Man-child meets Gorilla-child

While visiting a zoo, I saw a wonderful scene:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="533" caption="Man-child meets Gorilla-child"]A boy touches a gorilla child through a pane of glas. [/caption]

A gorilla child was lying on his (her?) mothers back, clearly enjoying the snuggle, and resting his feet on the pane of glass that makes up their habitat.

A boy came along and, wanting to meet the gorilla, touched the apes feet through the pane of glass with his hand. He seemed a bit disappointed that all he felt was the cool, smooth glas, not the warm and soft being on the other side.

I was stuck by the thought that if it is possible for a man-child to reach out to a gorilla-child, how much easier it must be for man-child to reach out to man-child.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Panasonic DRMs Camera Batteries

Panasonic have warned customers of certain (unspecified) non-Panasonic batteries because
"Some of these aftermarket batteries are not equipped with internal protective devices to guard against overcharging, internal heating and short circuit. If these aftermarket battery packs were used, it could lead to an accident causing damage to your camera or personal injury."

So they issued a firmware update to "detect these aftermarket 3rd party batteries so such serious safety issues can be avoided." Panasonic then warn the user
"After this firmware update your Panasonic Digital Camera cannot be operated by 3rd party batteries (non genuine Panasonic batteries)."

This smells like Panasonic are locking their customers into (expensive) original Panasonic batteries using DRM techniques. Or is it really a safety issue?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Using a PrimeFilm Scanner with VueScan on Mac OS X

We recently received some photos from a family event that were - gasp - made using analog film. You should have seen the look on the face of the dozen or so children when they crowded around the SLR expecting to see a preview on the LCD only to discover that there was no LCD on the back of this camera. Talk about culture shock. ;-)

Anyways, the quality of the prints was appaling, as where the scanned images on the CD that came from the processing lab. The negative, however, looked fine to my no-longer-used-to-look-at-negatives eyes. I decided to revitalize an old film scanner I still have in a box. It is a rebadged Pacific Imaging PrimeFilm 1800u scanner, which will turn a negative into a 4 Mpxl file with 16 bits per color channel.

I like using VueScan with flatbed scanners. It is a low-cost, high-power solution and Ed Hamrick does a fantastic job of supporting almost every scanner under the sun. My experience so far has been that you plug in the scanner, start VueScan, and start scanning.

With the PF1800u it turns out to be a little bit more complicated than that:

  1. Download the latest driver from Pacific Imaging, an application called CyberViewX_SF. Localized non-english variants are available.

  2. Install the driver at the default location (/Applications).

  3. Find VueScan on your hard drive and Get Info in the Finder. You can do this by using the context menu (right-click or control-click), hitting CMD-I, or File > Get Info in the menu.

  4. Make sure "Open using Rosetta" is ticked (see below).

  5. Connect the scanner to your computer and power it on.

  6. Start VueScan.

[caption id="attachment_377" align="alignnone" width="163" caption=""Open using Rosetta" in the Finder "Get Info" panel."]"Open using Rosetta" in the Finder "Get Info" panel.[/caption]

You can skip steps 3 & 4 if you are using a PowerPC Mac. CyberViewX_SF is a PowerPC application, so Intel Macs need to be told to run PowerPC code because though VueScan is a native Intel application. I wish Pacific Imaging would update their driver!

I had some difficulties because CyberViewX_SF is not in the default install location on my system. In this case, VueScan can not find the driver it needs and complains.

If you - like I - want to put your applications in a non-default place, you can create a soft (or hard) link to it to make VueScan happy:

$ sudo ln -s /Applications/Graphics/CyberViewX_SF /Applications/CyberViewX_SF

where "/Applications/Graphics/" is the location of the CyberViewX_SF folder. That's it!

Thanks to Ed Hamrick for the great support!