Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Laforet's Nocturne film available today (u)

(Note: This article has been updated. Working links to the video are in the Update paragraphs.)

Once again, Vincent Laforet has sprung a fantastic video on us created with a new Canon 1080p still camera. Last year's Reverie was done with the 5DMkII. This year, Nocturne was shot with the brand new 1D Mark IV.

But get this: Nocturne was shot at night (as was Reverie), but Nocturne uses only ambient lighting from the streets of Los Angeles. No strobes, no studio lights, just streetlamps and car headlights. At ISO 6400! The lack of noise is impressive.

Nocturne can also be seen here, though it may be a little slower to load.

UPDATE Oct 21: Now, in a bizarre turn of events, Canon Japan has asked Laforet to take down the video. Laforet complied, citing "professional courtesy." But of course, this is the Internet, and the video can still be seen on YouTube.

Why would Canon Japan want to remove high-quality, viral, and free advertising for their flagship still camera? Photography Business News & Forum has some thoughts.

Fake Chuck Westfall has sounded off about it as well.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

HDRtist Released Today

HDRtist, from Ohanaware, was released today. It carries the tagline "HDR freeware for the rest of us."

HDRtist is a simple HDR creation tool. It's very easy to use: Just drag your pictures into the window, move the tonemapping slider to where you like the look of the image, and save. The slider is the only adjustment control in the program.

Above is my first try with it. While not anywhere as adjustable as HDRsoft's Photomatix, I think it did a respectable job, considering that it's free. It is also easier to use than the open-source software qtpfsgui.

Being a 1.0 release, I have to say HDRtist has been stable during my little bit of playing with it.

It does seem to take large JPEG files with no problem. To make the image above, I fed it three 7 MB files, each of which expand to about 43 MB when opened. Processing was fairly quick.

When I put 3 Canon RAW files into it in portrait orientation, HDRtist took them without complaint, but the previews of the images were blank boxes. I hit the Save button anyway, and it did make a file, but the orientation was 90 degrees off and cropped.

I'll be playing more with HDRtist later this week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm a joiner

Today I joined the Loudoun Photo Club and went to my first meeting. Tonight's meeting consisted of a little club news, and the rest of the two hours was a photo competition, judged by local Centreville photographer Sandi Croan.

Sandi did a great job critiquing photos and offering many good suggestion of the entries...and she had a tough job, because there were some very good photographs presented.

Looking forward to the next meeting, which is a talk about focus-stacking and HDR. I can't wait!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Is iTunes pre-programmed? Or biased towards some music?

Not a photo topic, I know.

When I am at my computer, I constantly have iTunes playing. And it is always with shuffle turned on.

I have 3 or 4 Beatles albums ripped from CDs in my library, totalling about 40 Beatles tracks, and I listen to a smart playlist that contains just shy of 3000 songs, which includes anything by the Beatles. The Beatles tracks make up just over 1% of this Smart Playlist, yet tonight I have heard a predominance of Beatles songs. Odd, or just randomness at work?

Wow, been a while since the last post....

I got a call from Penn Camera today about my 24-105 lens...yeah, the one that went swimming in Norway a few weeks ago.

Penn said it is fixable, but it will cost US$226 to fix it up. Not as bad as the $400 the camera store guy guessed at, but still, $226 I would have rather kept for something else.

Oh, well. I knew the hobby was dangerous when I took it up!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apple Comes Through

While on vacation last week, I had an unfortunate incident. The 5DII was the major technological victim, as was I -- I still ache in spots -- but my iPhone must have taken a hit as well, though it didn't get wet. After the fall, it no longer saw its SIM card. No amount of rebooting and re-inserting of the SIM card or cleaning of SIM card contacts would make it happy again. Initially I though it was because that I was not in the AT&T network, but returning home to the domain of the Ma Bell mothership didn't help, either.

So I made an appointment online at the local Apple Store (boy, are they busy!) to have it looked at. The Genius at the AS tried a few things, and within minutes determined that I needed a new phone. Within 15 minutes, I walked out a happy customer with a working phone, the same color and memory size as my original.

This impressed me. I was with Kyle the Genius right on time. I left the store 14 minutes after the start of my appointment with a working product, and after going home and restoring my phone from a backup, it was as if nothing had ever gone wrong. I'm a very happy camper.

And kudos to Kyle, the Apple Store Genius for being so professional, friendly, capable and knowledgeable.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Old Photos, High Tech

Newsweek has a photo presentation from the Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. The photos were taken between 1907 and 1915.

"So what?" you might ask. You've seen old photos before.

Here's the difference: These photos are in color. That's right, color, long before Kodachrome came to be. Prokudin-Gorskii shot three images of a scene, each exposure taken with a different filter. He then projected the three images to produce the color scene.

The Library of Congress purchased the glass plates after Prokudin-Gorskii's death in 1944, and, with the help of digital tech, has recently restored them. You can see them here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I've known torture and I've known pain...

...and it has nothing to do with a film with Michael Caine.

My beloved Canon 5DII and it's usual companion, the 24-105 took a quick bath in a Norwegian lake on Monday. So far, the lens seems to have recovered electronically, but there are dried water spots on the second element from the front. I took it in to my favorite camera shop, Penn Camera, for an estimate. If it's fixable, I'll be without it for 4-6 weeks and be out probably $400. Bummer.

The camera seems to be salvagable. I had it sitting on the heated bathroom floor in the Bergen hotel room for 3 days, and it partially worked, but it wouldn't take a picture. The mirror would freeze at about the 2/3 point when the shutter was pressed, and the rear display indicated "Err 20".

At least the fog in the rear and top displays went away. I noticed that it wouldn't hold the date and time settings, so when I got home I looked through the instruction book and was reminded that the camera has a little coin battery, a CR1616, in addition to the rechargeable battery. I took this out (which requires a fine Phillips screwdriver to access) and tested the battery with my voltmeter: 0.38 volts it said. The battery is rated at 3.0 V.

Having had experience with dead/dying mobo computer batteries in Mac desktops, I figured that the weak battery might be causing the camera to malfunction. Off to search for a CR1616, and found one at Walgreens for $4. With nothing to lose, I put the new coin battery in, and voila!, it seems to be working fine now. As I use it, I will post further reports.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


So I am really, really, really late to this game. Regardless, here I am. And I'm going to see how it fits me.