Archive for January, 2009

Bathroom Still Life

January 29th, 2009 No comments

I noticed this evening that the garbage can in the bathroom was filled up in a very aesthetic manner.  (How many times do you get to say something like that?)  I grabbed the camera and tested out a new lighting technique I learned about.  The technique is to fire the flash up and behind you so that it gives the effect of a large soft-box over your shoulder.  This throws a very nice, even light over the subject, giving lovely creamy texture and very soft shadows.

So anyway, here are the pictures:


Bathroom Trash Still Life

I like the clean lines on this, the composition, and the very soft lighting. See what I mean about everything being arranged very well?  This is as I found it.

Unfortunately I feel like this composition might be just a little too static with the shadow placed where it is. I wonder if this would have been better to frame this so that the subject was on the right with the shadow butting up with the edge of the frame.  That would probably have added a bit of subconscious dynamic to the image and made it more compelling.

Napkin Iceberg at Sunset

Napkin Iceberg at Sunset

I love how a closeup of the napkin in front totally isolates the subject without being boring.  When I look at this I imagine an iceberg floating off an icy coast with a firey sunset behind.

Toilet Paper Roll Composition

Toilet Paper Roll Composition

This one was cropped way in, and the crop was actually automatically suggested by Picasa.  (Which was pretty cool to see, by the way.)  The original crop was too cluttered and didn’t have a clear message. I really like how this view’s smooth lines define the space in just a few elements.

For all photos: I adjusted the white balance in raw mode before exporting.  They were a bit yellow due to ambient light and bouncing the flash off of the bathroom’s light yellow walls.

Anyway, hope you liked my bathroom.  Now it’s time to take out the trash….

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The Worst Song Ever?

January 28th, 2009 No comments

Dream Catch Me by Newton Faulkner is probably the worst song that I’ve ever heard. I would link to the YouTube video, but it would only hurt you. I’ll save you that pain, Dear Readers. Suffice to say that it has no dynamic range, absolutely mechanical (read: boring!) tempo, and uninspired lyrics.

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Oranges and Texture

January 19th, 2009 No comments

This afternoon I was watching an awesome show on the history of photography, and it inspired me to take a couple of shots myself.  Coincidentally, I noticed that the lighting in the kitchen window was really nice.  Here are the best two shots:

Little Cuties Oranges

"Little Cuties" Oranges

I really like the simplicity of the image and the nice consistent arrangement of the fruit.  I also really love the vibrant colors.  (This was directly as shot other than the crop.)

Stained Paper Texture

Stained Paper Texture

This was a bit of a surprise.  I noticed a piece of paper sticking out of a cookbook on the table.  Water on the paper had made the ink bleed through in interesting patterns.  I was quite surprised how well the photo came out.  It really shows off the subtle texture of the paper.  A little bump up in saturation makes the colors of the ink pop out.  I also had to push the contrast to make the texture more evident.

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Laundry Day!

January 19th, 2009 1 comment

Dore’s and my new apartment doesn’t have any laundry facilities.  We tried as hard as we could to avoid doing the laundry.  We re-wore clothes (well, at least I did), we took loads to Dore’s mom’s house to wash, and we dredged deep into the back of the closet for apparel that hadn’t seen the light of day in ages (well, since we moved).  But eventually we couldn’t pack the clothes down into the hampers any more and we conceded that the battle against our dirty clothes was lost.  So yesterday Dore and I went out to the laundromat to process the massive pile.

I was dreading this day.  I’ve never been to a laundromat before (not counting the ones I’ve dropped off clothes at in Europe).  I was expecting the worst: lots of people, no free machines, expensive, and exhausting.  So I did the due diligence thing and looked for the best reviews online.  Well, turns out that was a bust.  Apparently posting reviews of your laundromat is not exactly a popular activity.  Who knew?  Well, strike that idea.  We went to the closest place.

Well, short story short I was actually pleasantly surprised by what we found.  The Bubbles and Beans laundromat was only about half full.  We quickly found machines to use, split up the laundry and let it rip.  We filled up four whole washers (and probably overloaded those…).  Once everything was in and washing, we went across the street to McConnell’s Ice Cream and got a snack to cool off.  We headed back just in time to catch the end of the wash cycle.  I tossed the clothes in the huge dryers and get them started.  Dore and I sat down and did a bit of homework while we waited.

After a very brief 40 minutes the clothes were bone dry.  I couldn’t believe it.  I expected at least an hour.  I think that 30 minutes probably would have been more than enough.  We attacked the huge warm pile and in just a few minutes had everything folded up.

We loaded up the car with all of the clothes and headed to the store to pick up stuff for gumbo.  Total time: about 2 hours 15 minutes.  Total cost: $13.25.  That’s way less than I was expecting.  Hooray!  I’m not dreading the next time nearly as much.  I might even enjoy it.

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Reaction to Rorschach

January 16th, 2009 2 comments

Dore is studying the Rorschach inkblot test this quarter, which of course means that once again I get to be her guinea pig.  So how did I fare?  Well, lucky for me she hasn’t gotten to the scoring part of the course, so I guess I dodged the bullet. :-)  I have to say, though, that the test is interesting.  For anyone that hasn’t heard of the test, you are shown a series of ten ink blots, and you have to try to find images in each one.  Your responses are then used to determine how crazy you are.

My preconceptions going into the test were:

  • Everyone sees a bunch of sexual imagery in the blots (at least that’s what pop culture would have one believe)
  • The blots are all black and white
  • There are a ton of pictures
  • The test only shows anything of interest if you’re really messed up

So now I’m starting to take the test, and it’s actually quite interesting.  Here were my observations of the test:

  • At first, I was working against my initial perceptions.  I actively avoided anything sexual in my responses.  Not because it was uncomfortable, but rather that it felt very clichéd.  I really didn’t want to give the answer that everyone else does.  Turns out that’s probably the wrong approach; odd answers means you’re crazy.
  • Some of the blots were ridiculously easy to find images in.  I would immediately see a very strong image, often with a full story behind it.
  • Other images were very hard to place.  They just didn’t look like anything.
  • You not only have to see something in each blot, but you have to show the tester what you saw.  This proved to be way more difficult than I expected.  Just saying, “it’s two bears giving each other a high five” (an actual answer) wasn’t good enough — I had to show exactly what I was seeing.  This proved especially difficult when Dore had seen something else in the image that conflicted.  I finally saw what she was seeing, but it took me a while.  It was a lot like the vases and faces illusion.
  • They’re not all black and white.  And the color adds a ton of new possibilities for seeing crazy things.
  • There are a bunch of extra things that could be inferred from your answers.  Themes in answers, how they differ from the norm, and other things that you say can and will be used in interpretation.
  • I think that the test is very much influenced by the perception of the tester.  I wouldn’t want to have this be my only test of sanity.
  • Most of my answers tended to be whimsical and have funny stories attached to them.  At least a couple of the images I saw made me laugh out loud.
  • I also used white space a lot to construct images.  I think I looked at the blots like photos, and in several cases I was looking at both the dark parts and the light parts to reconstruct a scene complete with lighting.  Now if only I could do that to envision what I’m going to do with a photograph….

Dore thought that:

  • I talked too much.  She just wanted to get her homework done. 🙂

So overall it was fun, but not something I’ll be ecstatic to repeat anytime soon.

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Stupid Repetitive Songs

January 15th, 2009 3 comments

I was listening to the radio this morning in the car, and I realized: there are a ton of really catchy songs out there that are really missed the boat.  I listened to the first 30 seconds of a song that was really good.  Then the second 30 seconds repeated the first.  And the third.  And the fourth.  By the end of the song I was totally turned off.

Is it just me, or is that happening more than it used to?  Very few of the older rock songs don’t do that.  I might suspect that it’s just because I only know the good music from the previous decades, but the fact is that I can’t think of any recent songs that don’t repeat themselves.  Where is the story telling?  I miss it.

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Quick Thought: On Goals

January 15th, 2009 2 comments

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about goals.  It seems that the older I get the harder it is to set goals, even very small ones.  My friend Justin and I talked about this just the other day.  I thought he made a very good point that when we were younger we used to just pick up and do things without a second thought.  You’d come up with a goal and bam you were acting on it.

Maybe it’s part of growing up and gaining responsibility, but I think there’s something more to it than just that.  I think there’s a tendency to look at something that you want to do and think, “Yeah, I could try to do that, but I might fail, and then I’m back where I started, but with less time.”  But you’re really not.  Failure is a good thing — I’ve learned way more from failures than from any success.  Perhaps it’s tied to a sense of our own mortality.  We perceive that we have less time to waste on “failure” and that we have to get everything right the first time.  And that’s stifling.

When I was a kid failure meant nothing, because I had plenty of time to do it right.  And that was when I did a lot of really cool stuff.  I need to start living like I did when I was a kid, and not worry about the failures.  I’ll certainly learn a lot more.

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Walk to Work: Tree Texture

January 14th, 2009 1 comment

On my walk to work this morning I snapped a few photos.  By and large they were awful. :-)  But I did manage to get one decent one:

Tree Bark Texture

Tree Bark Texture

The original was a bit boring, so I darkened the shadows a bit to add contrast and added a warming effect.  Lastly I pushed up the saturation just a little bit to bring out the colors.  The original was also overexposed in the bottom part of the frame and didn’t have much going on, so I did a quick crop which added a lot to the composition.

As far as what I was thinking when I took the photo, I was looking for:

  • Interesting texture
  • Good lighting
  • Some lines that suggested an interesting composition
  • No clutter

I actually walked all the way around the tree looking for these elements.  As I walked I pictured a rectangular frame of varying sizes to try to previsualize what the shot would look like.  Some other elements that I had to take into account:

  • The light was good strong mid-morning (not too high or low)
  • I had on the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens.  I wasn’t going to be doing any extreme close-ups, but I could get reasonably close.
  • I was shooting hand held, so my aperture was fairly wide (I think this ended up at f/4 or so)

So how did I fare?  Well, let’s see:

  • Texture: Great.  I love how the cracks in the bark pull you in and make you want to touch the bark.
  • Lighting: Nice.  The medium-low light gives good contrast and interesting shadows.  I really liked the shadowed upper half fading into the more contrasty bottom.  Adding some warming added very nice colors (if a bit better than in real life) that really pop without being over the top.  (The original colors were very gray.)
  • Lines: Good, once I cropped the bottom off of the photo.  The composition has some nice leading lines that draw you through.  Having the focus of the picture in the center works well with the square crop.  Nothing feels cut off, nor are any areas “dead” without any relation to the subject.
  • Clutter: Nice.  There is nothing extra in the frame, and no distracting out-of-focus areas that pull the viewer’s attention off of the overall picture.

So overall I’m pretty pleased.  I think I accomplished what I set out to do in this shot, even if it needed a bit of TLC in post.

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Walk to Work: Avocado Surprise

January 13th, 2009 3 comments

I managed to squeek squeak [thanks, Mom :-)] off three pictures on my walk to work.  The only one I’m sort of happy with is this one:



The lighting is pretty good, if cool, and I liked the odd position of the fallen avocado next to a couple of what appear to be some sort of bulb plant.  The framing and composition are okay, and I don’t see much of a way I could have improved them. I’m glad that at least there is not a lot of extra clutter contending for attention, and in that respect it works pretty well.

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This Weekend: Walk to the Mission, Bike Rides, and Scotch Tasting

January 13th, 2009 2 comments

Dore and I had quite a weekend!  On Saturday, we took a walk to the mission this weekend.  It was really nice, but I didn’t expect it to be quite as rigorous as it was.  I took my camera along with us, and managed to snap a couple of shots, but for the most part didn’t shoot too much. The lighting was pretty lame — it was the middle of the day — but despite that I managed to find a couple of shots that worked pretty well.

Santa Barbara Mission

Santa Barbara Mission

View Down the Hill from Rocky Nook Park

View Down the Hill from Rocky Nook Park

On Sunday we went out for a bike ride.  We finally got Dore’s bike all put together and tuned up, so we rode all around downtown Santa Barbara.  We rode down to the beach and saw the weekly art fair, then we went out to Dargains for lunch.  It was delicious.  Afterwards we went back home and got cleaned up, then went over to Maria’s house for a scotch tasting.  I only took one single picture the whole day, but it actually came out very nicely.

Mmm... Scotch

Mmm... Scotch

This one works quite well as a black and white as well.