Archive for the 'technology' Category

23
Jul
08

shadows

As you may have noticed, indoor lighting (especially industrial/corporate lighting) rarely makes things look good.  For a long time, I believed the marketing hype of the light bulb makers that this was due to the light’s color temperature – that if I used (more expensive) bulbs designed to simulate the Sun’s spectrum, I’d get better photos, and things would look better in general.

But now, I don’t see light temperature as the problem.  Instead, I think the problems with indoor lighting and photography mostly stem from a lack of shadows and contrast.  Lights designed to make sure everything is well lit prevent anything from being hidden or masked.  This makes photos inherently less interesting, because everything looks more bland.  Using a cooler light bulb won’t solve the fundamental problem!

21
Jul
08

gearhead and anti-gearhead

As I brace myself for shooting Fringe again (last year, I shot thousands of photos), I find myself surprisingly un-anxious about gear. I’ll be using the same Nikon D40 body I used last year. My primary lens this year will be a plain 50mm f/1.8 Nikon, which doesn’t autofocus on the D40 body. I don’t know if I’ll even use any other lenses. Since last year, I’ve invested in a split-prism focus screen, which makes using a manual lens much easer. I’ll also be bringing along a monopod for stability this time around. No flash, of course.

I’ve considered getting the new Nikon 55-200mm VR (although it’s awfully slow), but if I want some zoom it might make more sense to rent a pro lens. And I’ll bring along the stock kit lens for wider angles (it’s actually very nice). I feel slightly disadvantaged in that I won’t be able to use a long lens on a tripod like a “pro”, but getting in close is part of my technique. Go with your strengths, man.

I don’t really need more gear, or even much want it.  I’ve built my photography style around a sort of modernized Cartier-Bresson approach… small camera, “normal” lens, no flash, get in close and be unobtrusive.  As I’ve written before, I find long lenses for photos of humans make me uncomfortable, socially and politically.  I get good photos of people, especially non-portrait photos, but it requires me being close enough to the subject to get a feel for what they’re feeling.

Let the pros have their pro approach, I guess.  But it doesn’t work for me.

20
May
08

simple is hard!

I recently got my first bicycle in many years.  I started out looking for a road bike, but discovered single speed and fell in lust, then tried fixed gear and fell in love.  This isn’t terribly surprising, given my predilections in other areas.  Fixed gear has great immediacy.  You can’t just coast and stop thinking about what you’re doing – if the bike is moving, the pedals are moving.  And because of this, you need to plan ahead some – slowing for lights so you don’t need to stop completely, building up momentum for hills, etc.

Last night, I told one of my bandmates about my new bike, and the joys of fixed gear riding.  I said “Isn’t it just the kind of bike I’d get?”  And she said, “Yes – as hard as possible!”  To this, I replied “Simple is hard!”  And fixed gear is the simplest kind of bike there is.

09
Apr
08

mojo

Some instruments (or other tools) have “mojo”… there’s something magical about them that makes them play or feel or work better, compared to equivalent instruments.   Sometimes it’s general mojo that works for everyone; sometimes it’s mojo with just one individual.

Many people would argue that there’s nothing magic, that there’s no such thing as mojo, that there’s a scientific explanation for everything unique about an instrument.  Maybe there is.  But who cares?  “Mojo” makes a nice explanation for a real phenomenon – or at least as real as our flawed perceptions.  Those who argue vehemently against “mojo” aren’t arguing against the qualities of a given instrument… they’re arguing against a worldview that they feel is animistic, primitive, and otherwise wrong. 

And I suppose that’s important to them, too.  But once again, it gets back to fear… fear of being ruled by the irrational.

14
Sep
07

G.A.S.

One thing the music and photography hobbies have in common… Gear Acquisition Syndrome, aka G.A.S. (sometimes known as Guitar Acquisition Syndrome in music circles, but it means the same thing). It’s also a verb… for example, right now I’m GASing for a ribbon microphone. I don’t really NEED a ribbon mic. It’d be nice, but there are things I need more. But it’s G.A.S.  Meanwhile, I’m having minor GAS for a prism focusing screen with grid lines for my Nikon D40.  I’ll probably sate that with a $25 Chinese Ebay prism screen, rather than springing $95 for a custom one with grid lines.  It’d actually be useful to have 35mm-style manual focus support, considering the shortage of affordable AF lenses for the D40 and the many exciting used MF lenses for those of us who aren’t afraid to do our own metering.

The online communities for the photo and music hobbies are basically just big GAS parties, and the magazines are worse. It’s very seductive, the temptation to think that next lens or a new guitar will solve your artistic insecurity.

13
Sep
07

fighting your tools

Ig on the IG BLOG wrote about how you gotta fight your guitar a little.  I generally concur, but I think the idea extends to other tools as well… I like my cameras to fight me a little as well.  But it’s not just that I want my guitars/cameras to fight… I want them to fight me in useful ways, in ways that make me a better musician or a better photographer.  I don’t want just any old thing to be harder.  For example, if my Telecaster isn’t set up just right, it frets out on bends above the twelveth fret.  I HATE that.  It limits me, as opposed to fighting me.  On the other hand, I like using a manual focus lens on my autofocus camera.  It fights me, but it makes me more conscious of what I’m doing.

That’s the advantage of a guitar that “fights” you, I think… it keeps you focused and concentrating, and not just doing something too effortlessly.

12
Sep
07

protective camouflage

I do most of my web hosting at dreamhost.com, which has worked well for me.  I can install WordPress there (and have, for extraterrestrialhighway.net).  But for daily blogging purposes, I stay here.  Why? 

Well, here I get the benefit of a large community to protect me from “predators”… spammers and site hackers.  I don’t have to worry about the security stuff as much here, because the WordPress.com community has much more interest in keeping that stuff away than I do.  I could go for days without checking one of my other websites.  It could get defaced or used as a spambot and I’d never know it.  For that matter, I prefer hosting services over setting up a Linux box and running my websites from home, even though I could.  Paying someone $10/mo is worth it just for the backups and security patches!

Y’know, given where this idea is going, the title sucks.  But it’s a cool phrase, so I think I’ll keep it.