my flickr photostream

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

52 weeks: Week 51 wrapup

No photo for me this week. I took a bunch of photos of family around Christmas, but nothing for sharing on Flickr. I also don't have access to my iMac, so I don't have a way to process RAW images. Probably could have grabbed a cell phone shot to share, but I didn't. Them's the breaks. I guess I can have one week off...

Thanks to all of you who *did* post a photo this week. Rather than pick a favorite, I'm going to share all the wonderful holiday shots here.

"Cardinal" by kristanhoffman:


"Xmas dec" by irv_b:

xmas dec

"Xmas 2010" by DebPaul2010:

Xmas 2010

"Shooting star" by chofler:

Shooting star

Thanks for sharing your holiday with us. Have a happy new year! Last week of the project, let's see what you've got :)


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, December 27, 2010

Best of 2010

With the year almost at a close, I thought I would carry on the tradition of posting some of my favorite photos from the year. I think it's good to look back on your work and be inspired by it from time to time. So, in no particular order, here we go:

"Buttermilk 3"
Buttermilk 3

If I had to pick a favorite, this would probably be it. I love the circular lines in this one, and I think the exposure and framing are spot on. I'm very happy with the black and white conversion on this one, too. I like the tall crop, but it would work well as an 8x10, and is on my list to print.

"Photographer at Work"
Photographer at Work

Big props to Adam Baker for showing me around the falls here. (If you haven't noticed, I like to photograph waterfalls now and then.) Here he is pictured on one of our outings, doing his thing. Fortunately he decided not to move for the 1.6 second exposure, probably in the middle of a 20 second exposure of his own. It's a fairly accurate portrayal of waterfall photography - standing still in the middle of a stream for ridiculous amounts of time as your toes go numb, hunting motion and cursing the sunlight.


Last waterfall in the bunch. Found this little six inch drop just past a dam. For whatever reason, the little rapid past the falls made a triangle shape in the stream. I'm all about moving water, geometry, and black and white, so I couldn't help myself. The relatively short (1/2 second) exposure left some interesting texture in the spray, resulting in an almost painterly abstract. This is definitely on the "to print" list.

"Too Close!"
Too Close!

Technically I took this on December 29, 2009, but as it was too late to make it to last year's "best of," I'm including it here. My blog, my rules.

This photo breaks a lot of rules, and I think that's what makes it so interesting. My favorite part is the sharp focus and detail on the wing, with the rest of the bird blurring away into the background. The chopped off wing and lack of leading space leave a lot of tension and a good dynamic feel to the frame. Who knew that a pissed off seagull would be one of my favorite subjects :)

"State Street"
State Street

In the spirit of breaking rules, I give you this out-of-focus offering. I wasn't sure about it at the time (see my comment on the photo on the Flickr page), but I think it works. I like how the few isolated lights pop off the blurred background. My 50mm f1.8 has straight aperture blades which leads to those little polygons instead of round bokeh, and I like that. Those heptagons become the subject against the blurred impression of a street corner at dusk.

"Fall in Monochrome"
Fall in Monochrome

Speaking of blur, I love the depth and texture that the lensbaby gave to this fall shot. (And yes, I am the type of person who converts fall photos into black and white.) I wasn't planning the black and white at the time, but the color didn't pop as much as I had hoped, and after a quick click on the "black and white" button I realized that was the way to go. I almost always do a quick b/w conversion with my photos to see if I like them better or not that way. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised by the results.


Reverse 50mm macro is a lot of fun to play with, especially when you're in a greenhouse full of exotic cacti. The fine detail on these plants is amazing, and I like the smooth blur combined with the sharp spines on the cactus.


I like this one because it reminds me of summer every time I look at it. The slightly warm and desaturated treatment feels like a hazy summer day.

That's it for the year. Interesting to see what I've been shooting. 4 of the 8 are square crop (no real surprise). 3 of the 8 are of waterfalls. 3 of the 8 are in black and white (surprised it's not more). 8 of the 8 resonate with me in some way beyond being a "pretty picture." I am a bit biased, though. Would love to hear your thoughts :)


[title of blog] on flickr

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

52 weeks: Week 50 wrapup

© 2010 Simon Hucko

Been in a real photo rut lately. I blame the weather and general holiday craziness. Hopefully things will settle down a bit in January and I can get back into the groove with my photography. I'm not doing a 52 weeks or 365 project next year, but have some other short- and long-term projects in mind that I'll discuss more in an upcoming blog post.

My photo this week was a quick product shot to accompany my Chrome OS review. When I say quick, I mean it took me about 10 minutes from opening the camera bag to uploading the photo. These little product shots are pretty easy, and are good to be able to do when you're listing photo equipment for sale. (How many bad or non-existent photos have you seen on craigslist or eBay?) Or, in my case, they add a nice personal touch to a blog post about gear. A few tips to taking photos like this:

- Find a clean surface to set your item on. I used the floor. Tables work well, cutting boards, desks, paper, whatever, as long as there isn't any clutter on it.
- Make sure the background is free of distractions. A blank wall works. I used a piece of foam that we had lying around. Posterboard or foamcore work great, too.
- Light your item. I grabbed a work light, a desk lamp can work here. (Or any other light, the brighter the better.) I used some tissue paper for diffusion, but printer paper works pretty well in a pinch (you lose more light, though).
- Compose, focus, shoot, edit. You might need a tripod if your light isn't that bright. Editing should be fairly simple if you did the first three steps. I used the foam to set white balance.

Easy as that.

My pick this week is "snowfall" by irv_b:


Along with being the *only* photo this week, Irv captured the new snow very nicely. Exposure is right on. I like the layered composition, lots of texture to hold me in the image. The only thing I might have done differently was crop in on the left to remove the trunk at the edge of the frame. Nice balance between the two main trees. Thanks for sharing your wintry wonderland with us, Irv.

2 weeks left. Would love a strong finish here from everyone :)


[title of blog] on flickr

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chrome OS and the Cr-48

© 2010 Simon Hucko. Please do not use without permission

I was somehow lucky enough to be selected for Google's Chrome OS pilot program. Since this is like winning the geek lottery, I thought I would share my experience here on the blog for anyone who's interested. I'll try to tie it into photography as I go, but there will be plenty of non-photo geeking out, so if that's not your cup of tea feel free to skip through these.

I applied for the pilot program during Google's announcement last Tuesday (along with everyone else in the world). Friday night I came home from work and found an anonymous package on our porch. I opened it up and found my sleek black Cr-48 notebook complete with Chrome OS, Google's new operating system. After a bit of jumping up and down like a little schoolgirl (not my finest moment...) I popped the battery in and began using it.

The beauty of Chrome OS is that if you're a Googlephile like me, most of the setup is already done. It really works just like the demo - open the machine, connect to the internet, log into your Google account, take a photo for your user account (optional), and less than a minute later you're up and browsing. I use Chrome as my regular browser, and have my bookmarks and everything synced, so all that was ported to the computer within minutes of logging on. (Yeah, minutes. I'm surprised it didn't happen faster, but once it did it's been pretty seamless. Might have been a software update thing.) The experience is pretty much exactly like using Chrome on any other machine, which is the point I suppose. Things seemed a bit laggy and slow at the beginning, but after a software update, a bit of use and a restart or two it's humming along nicely.

An all-web experience means that the machine is really only as good as its internet connection. So far I've only had it on the wifi at home, so it's been cranking along. The Cr-48 has a built in 3G receiver and 100mb/month free data from Verizon (along with some paid options for more data), but I haven't tried that yet. At the moment there really aren't any offline options, but I know that's something that Google is working on and trying to push developers to do as well. The Chrome "web store" (which currently is more of a "link store") should help with this.

As far as photography is concerned, the machine is surprisingly usable, as long as you shoot jpeg and have access to wifi. You can connect a card reader or put an SD card into the built in slot, upload your images to a web photo editor like Picnic or Aviary, then post them to Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, etc. Where it starts to break down is if you have a lot of images that you want to offload and store, like when you're travelling. At the moment, Chrome OS has no real file browser to speak of. You can get into a file structure when uploading images to the web, but there's no way to take images off a card and store them locally on the SSD (without going through some complicated ritual like uploading them to the web then downloading them again). I know that the point of Chrome OS is to do everything web-based, but it's a real pain to upload *every* photo to a web editor just to see if it's worth keeping. And, if you shoot raw, your only real option is to use a service like dropbox or e-mail the images to yourself so that you can open them on your photo editing computer back home. Google did say during their announcement that they know people want to connect things like cameras to their machine, so I'm hoping that means a Chrome OS version of Picasa is on its way that will let you manage photos locally and sync them to your online Picasa account. Picasa has some basic raw compatibility, too, so that would be a great solution and make it infinitely more usable as a backup when travelling. This is, of course, just speculation on my part, but if they're looking to target the consumer market at all that would be a highly desirable feature.

© 2010 Simon Hucko. Please do not use without permission

Just to be clear, the Cr-48 is bare bones demo hardware. It's merely a vehicle to deliver Chrome OS. Google is giving out 60,000 for free, so they're not going to be putting top-of-the-line hardware into it (see the specs here). It will never be for sale, except maybe on Ebay. The notebook isn't what they want us testing, the operating system is.

That having been said, and because I know people are curious, the Cr-48 is a pretty nice machine. It's sort of like a spy laptop - the all-matte-black finish and lack of any logos or stickers complements a nice clean design and makes me want to wear a tux and drink a dry martini (shaken, not stirred). It's not ultra-thin or super light (just shy of 4 pounds), but it's small enough to easily slap closed and carry with you anywhere. Boot-up time is measured in seconds, and if you just put it to sleep by closing the lid it resumes instantly (meaning you can close it, carry it, open it, and be right back where you were with no waiting). Battery life seems pretty good - I haven't pushed it to the advertised 8 hours of use, 8 days of standby, but it seems like it would be pretty close to that. The full sized keyboard is quiet and nice to type on (feels a lot like an Apple keyboard, actually). The trackpad is large, and works well to mouse around the screen. I'm a bit of a lazy typer, though, so I find myself bumping it with my palms sometimes, sending me to another part of the screen. Scrolling is done with two fingers, and is a bit rough (it'll randomly jump around, causing me to blow by whatever I was scrolling to). Call me old-fashioned, but I like using the edge of the pad to scroll. There's no horizontal scrolling yet, either, which is a bit of a pain. But, multi-touch support is good, and hopefully my difficulties are just hardware related. It's a bit underpowered when it comes to multi-media. Youtube videos and flash games seemed to run just fine, but I've noticed some issues with video from other sites (Vimeo especially). This can probably be helped with better hardware acceleration support, but will be a limiting factor on this device. I expect the commercial products coming out next year to handle this better.

As it stands right now, a Chrome OS notebook is definitely a second machine. You're still going to want something running a more robust operating system for things like photo/video editing and storage, gaming, and other stand alone apps that you use. However, it's a great solution for a second machine, especially with multiple users. My wife and I each have an account set up on it, and we just leave it on the coffee table. Pop it open for some browsing and e-mail, pop it closed and set it back down until you need it again. Sure, we each have Android phones, but it's so much nicer to work on a bigger screen with a real keyboard. I also see this as a great travel computer. Again, it's a nice step up from the smartphone in terms of usability, and the built in 3G can be a nice feature on the road. It also has great battery life, which means you can bring it for a few days and not worry about the charger (as long as you don't plan on using it heavily). Once the photo thing gets worked out a bit better this would be an excellent backup solution for photographers who are travelling - use the laptop as a local backup and put the keepers up on the cloud to make sure they don't get lost.

Since Chrome OS is still in early beta, I look forward to growing with it and seeing what it becomes. As it stands, there's a lot of potential there, and with the right set of software and features this could be an "only" machine for some people (think about your parents or grandparents who don't do much more than check e-mail and look at your Facebook photos). I'll post updates as things change, especially as some of the hybrid web/offline applications become available. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I'll answer as best I can. I'm certainly no expert, but I'm happy to share my impressions and opinions.

For even more info, check out the nice in-depth review over at Engadget


[title of blog] on flickr

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

52 weeks: Week 49 wrapup

© 2010 Simon Hucko

This week's photo started as just a test shot for exposure on a short walk I took the other day. I never trust my meter in the snow, so after adjusting up a little I grabbed this shot to make sure I was where I wanted to be. The highlights on the snow just clipped on my camera, which meant they would be there in post, and I had good shadow detail in the trees. When I popped this open on my computer, I found that I liked the rule-of-thirds framing and the contrast between the textured trees and the mostly blank snow. I desaturated the image a bit to help put the focus on the texture.

My pick this week is Artisan by slithy-toves:


I like the lines and shapes in this shot. It has sort of a disjointed geometric feel to it that comes together into an interesting composition. The animal head and the colorful sculpture add points of interest, and help anchor me while I'm following the lines around. The bit of reflection on the frame is a nice added detail. Nice find, Stacey.

3 weeks to go...


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, December 13, 2010

Big Building, Tiny People

I dropped a little gem in my ramblings about last week's 52 weeks wrapup, and thought it deserved its own blog post. Often times (especially on vacation) we want to take a photo of people in front of a building or other landmark. The problem is one of scale - the landmark is typically much larger than the people you want to photograph. How do you compensate for this?

Pretty easily, actually. Use a moderately wide-angle lens, frame your photo so that the landmark/building fills the frame (or however you decide you want it), then have your subjects move toward the camera until you get the framing you want on them (full length, 3/4 shot, head and shoulders, or in the extreme example above just the face). Make sure the people aren't blocking too much of the background - adjust your framing and position of necessary. Stop down your lens to a relatively narrow aperture if possible (f/11-f/16) to ensure enough depth of field to keep the people and the landmark in focus (the wide angle helps with this, too). Setting your focus to the hyperfocal distance will max out your depth of field and make this process easier, but if you don't have that figured out (or don't have a distance scale on your lens) you can pick a focus point about 1/3 of the way into your scene, that should cover it. If you can't use a narrow aperture, focus on the people and let the background go a little soft.

Just for comparison's sake, here's a shot without my big mug in the foreground:

You can see how small the people get as they get closer to the arch. If I had stood right next to the thing, I would have been about 5 pixels high in the photo. Not very memorable.

I think that most people sort of figure this out when they're at big landmarks on vacation (if for no other reason than it's easier to get a non-crowded shot when you're farther away), but knowing why it works lets you apply the same technique to more every-day type shots, like the photo of my wife and me in front of our house. It's a good thing to have tucked away in your photographic bag of tricks.


[title of blog] on flickr

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

52 weeks: Week 48 wrapup

Home Sweet Home
© 2010 Simon Hucko

Only a day late this week. Phew. This was the *only* photo I took last week. I thought about cheating and putting something up that I took earlier, because frankly this is pretty much a snapshot, but oh well. They can't all be winners.

Self shots like this are pretty easy to set up, especially if you have a remote (which I highly recommend). I set exposure manually and checked the histogram before popping the camera on the tripod. I guesstimated the hyperfocal distance and set that manually, too, so that everything would be in focus. The trick for these wide angle "people standing in front of stuff" shots is for the people to get as close as possible to the camera so that they fill more of the frame. If we had stood on the porch, we probably would have been about half the size, and our faces wouldn't have shown up very well in the photo. I raised the tripod up pretty high to eliminate some of the perspective distortion, so that the top of the house didn't converge too much. (I corrected it even further in Lightroom to help get rid of that "wide angle" look.) The 2 second timer on the remote let me get my hand back in my pocket after tripping the shutter. 6 shots later, we were done. Quick edit for contrast in color, then off to my parents for their Christmas newsletter. All told, it took less than 20 minutes from getting out the camera to clicking "send" on the e-mail. It's not award winning art, but it's a nice photo of my wife and me with our new house, and is something we'll be glad to have years down the line.

My pick this week is "Big skies over Manhattan" by chofler:

Big skies over Manhattan

I really like where she placed the skyline in the image - the low horizon and wide angle really show off the clouds. There's an interesting play of light and shadow on the buildings, too, I'm guessing as a result from the scattered clouds. I think this would have even more impact printed large, as you lose a bit of detail at web res.

4 weeks to go!


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter/Holiday Roundup

First Snow
© 2010 Simon Hucko

I don't have anything fresh for the blog this week, so it's time for a few winter/holiday related links! (Sort of like the dreaded clip-show on TV, only hopefully a little more rewarding.)

- The thermometer is plunging, and you might be worried about taking your camera out in the cold. Don't be.

- Around here, cold weather means snow. Learn how to keep it from fooling your camera meter.

- Shh! Here's the secret to shooting Christmas lights.

- Getting together with friends and/or family? Here's a few tips for capturing the event.

- Finally, if you're lucky enough to be getting away on a vacation, I have some thoughts on managing your vacation photos.



[title of blog] on flickr

Friday, December 3, 2010

52 weeks: Week 47 wrapup

© 2010 Simon Hucko

Suuuuper late this week, sorry everyone! I think Thanksgiving threw me for a bit of a loop. I should be back on track for the rest of the month.

My photo this week was one of the very few I took on Thanksgiving. The light was bad (ie there wasn't much of it), so between that and the food/wine/family, I decided to keep the camera in the bag most of the day. It happens. I manged to grab this shot of everyone being entertained by the Wii. Nothing amazing, but it was a moment, and I think I captured it pretty well. Picking a white balance was a little tough, as it was mixed incandescent lamps and cool cloudy sunlight through the windows. I think I ended up somewhere between incandescent and daylight so that neither one was too far out of whack. It still looks mixed, but your brain expects it to, so it works. (I think. If you disagree, feel free to say so.)

This week's pick is "Hofler family Thanksgiving" by chofler:

Hofler family Thanksgiving

This goes with my non-official Thanksgiving theme for the week ;) The title and description say it all - this is how her family does Thanksgiving. This is why I love phone cameras: it's so easy to share part of your life with everyone else. That voyeuristic (for lack of a better word) look into how other people see the world is very intriguing to me. Thanks for the glimpse of your holiday, Catherine. Looks like quite a feast

We're into the final month of the year. Hard to believe that 52 weeks is almost over - only 5 more to go! Let's finish strong :)


[title of blog] on flickr