Blogs

Belated Happy New Year Wishes

Well, I haven't had time to do it yet, apologies.

I would like to wish all my readers a Happy 2007. May all your wishes come true and may you achieve all your personal goals. Since I am a bit late, let me take this opportunity to remind all of you to stick to your new years resolutions (fortunately I forgot, so I don't have any).

This time, I did not spend all of Christmas and New Years travelling, but we did get to go to Santa Barbara and La Jolla. During the evenings I was programming some and Dani was studying. I got to squeze off a couple of decent photos (I sense some new Wallpaper Galleries coming):

Beach near Santa Barbara

Here is my personal scoop on 2006:

Even though 2006 was a great year for me personally (this site is growing traffic every day at a rapid pace), I don't feel so confident about the world as a whole. However there were a bunch of highlights too:

Rumsfeld left: probably one of the best things that happened last year ;-)
World Soccer Championship in Germany: defenitely one of the best things that happened
High Gas Prices: Actually a good thing, since the Oil crisis finally got noticed by the broad masses. Its about time to change our habbits now and work on alternatives. I think we are going to see a lot more of this in the future.
Bye Bye Berlusconi: I never liked that guy

Somehow I get the feeling the lowlights outweigh the highlights, but I am keeping them shorter (keeping a positive attitude):

War in Lebanon, Coup in Thailand, Genocide in Darfur, Record Deaths in Iraq, School Massacres: Record Killings this Year
Danish Cartoon Crisis: I guess we need to learn much more about each other if we want to get along better
North Korea allegedly tests Nuke: Some say it was fake?

Some of the Winners of 2006:

Democrats tip the Balance in Congress: Did someone wake up from hibernation?
Socialist Governments in South America: Bolivia and Venezuela
Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen): What can I say, I didn't watch it but he surely made waves
Youtube Founders: for taking an idea that is poised to be a money pit, violating copyrights and getting their users to upload tons of content to sell their network to Google for Billions. Nicely done!
Bruno the Bear: Not a person and in the end he was shot, but he mocked Police and special forces for a long time. Kudos to Bruno!
Warren Buffet and Bill Gates: Wow. Two guys that donate about $60 Billion together for good causes

And some Loosers:

Kramer and Cruise for making complete a55e5 off themselves.
Berlusconi and Aznar: Prime Ministers of Italy and Spain

My Plans for the next couple of months:

Not to bore you with personal views ;-). No really, I am having some nice things lined up (in my head that is) to keep this site interesting for you. I will start reviewing more of the gadgets that make the life of the photographer and tech geek more fun.

I also have some nice photoshop tutorials planned that I am going to start writing really soon. The next two will be about how to retouche blooming artefacts and a tutorial on HDR images. Naturally I am always willing to listen to suggestions, so if you really want to know something ask for it.

I've got a lot of photos that need to be uploaded and put into galleries. I also want to create more free wallpapers (people seem to love them). I will probably move ahead with technology and offer some 1600x1080 and some more high resolution widescreen formats. People seem to have a hard time finding them online and have asked for it.

 

Bokeh - the least understood lens property

This guest article was contributed by Brian White from Background Exposure.

Warning: Reading this article may diminish your enjoyment of some photographs you view in the future because you will start to observe a flaw that would previously have gone unnoticed.

A camera lens has many different attributes. There is focal length, zoom, minimum/maximum aperture, sharpness, and chromatic abberation... and that's just off the top of my head. Lens manufacturers only tell the basics like focal lengths and apertures. Third party reviews will often get in to sharpness and "fringing". But most of these reviews are concentrate on subjects that are in focus. They usually ignore those parts of the photograph that are outside the range of "acceptable sharpness" since they're assumed to be unimportant. After, all, if they important, they would be in focus. Besides, it's all blurry anyway, right? Not always.

California Deserts Gallery

Cholla Tree, Joshua Tree NP Hikers at Zabriskie Point - Death Valley Highway 178 - Death Valley Yesterday I uploaded my California Deserts Gallery. It contains photographs I took during the Thanksgiving weekend. Some pictures came out nicely. Check it out.

We went to Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Anza Borrego. On the way home we took 101 through Santa Barbara. Once more a lot of driving but a lot of fun too. I think some of the pictures turned out really nice. I have also mapped the trip including some photos for each location. Click on the picture below to see the trip on google earth:

 

 

Trip Map

I am still trying to figure out how to display KML files through the Google Maps API on this site, however its more complicated than I thought.

 

I used my Garmin eTrex Legend to log tracks. I have also syncronized my camera clock to the GPS clock (simply adjusted the camera before I left on my trip). This lets me automatically find the location for each picture and put it on a map (for a little demonstration see the google map above). Its a lot of fun to have the trip on a map like that. I am still exploring what else I can do with this. Ultimately I am planning to have all my trips accessible through a map and all my Galleries on a map. This would be great for people planning a trip.

The Legend is a pretty versatile tool. It is as accurate as 7 feet (with a clear view of the sky). I also use it to do trip planning and to find photo opps on google earth or even navigate. Even though its display is not good enough for navigation in your car, the unit is more for outdoor use.

So when you ever set out to shoot the sunset in a remote location again, simply set a waypoint at your car and you will always find your way back. Its impossible to get lost hiking with this little gadget.

The beauty of traveling

Joshua Tree National Park

Recently I have been very busy with a few personal projects and writing tutorials for this site. Its a lot of fun too, especially since I have gotten some really good feedback (and some discussions that I also enjoyed). Everyone has a different view and I never claimed to be the most technical about these things. I simply write what works for me and what doesn't. Ultimately everyone needs to figure out what works for them.

All this work has really distracted me from my photo work. Fortunately its the holiday season and since I am always working, this means I will finally have some more time to get out there and do what I love most (no not partying, I mean taking photos).

I got a little taste during the Thanksgiving weekend when I did a flyby of Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Anza Borrego. Having just a few hours in each park (one day in Death Valley) is really challenging. There is only so much you can do in so little time. If the weather for sunset isn't right or if you are in the wrong spot, tough luck, that was your one chance.

I have had this discussion with a fella on some forum. He (and others) felt that Joshua Tree wasn't such a great park. I have to say I couldn't disagree more. For a photographer its one of the most interesting parks ever. The park somehow always reminds me of Lost World. It is also very popular with climbers, so it was no surprise that at least 50% of the visitors were dangling from some rocks or cliffs.

While I was looking at some files today, I ran across this picture. I really like the mood of the picture (don't be fooled it was very cold). I like how the person sits facing the sun obviously distracted by a book or something. The picture says pretty much exactly what I like when I travel (but rarely find). Getting away from the hectic days and finding some tranquility in nature. And nature always delivers.

For one reason or another I get a lot of inquiries from Art Students about some sort of biography or a set of questions for their report cards. One of the most asked questions is why I like to be a photographer. I guess there are maybe a million answers and I often give a different answer depending on the day. One of the most important things is that I get to go places. I push myself out of my lazy behavioral patterns and I am rewarded with beauty. Even better I get to take it home. In capturing the moment I can preserve it.

I guess I will be able to upload the trip pictures some time this week. I am also working on some new geotagging features, but I am not sure yet when I will be able to integrate them.

Photoshop it Later

During the Thanksgiving weekend I toured 3 Deserts in California (Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Anza Borrego). I am sure I will have the pictures up soon, after writing another part of my Worklfow Tutorial.

While I was in Anza Borrego, I saw a group taking photos of each other. The group members were sitting in the shade, while another member of the group whipped out his digital camera to take a shot. He snapped it quickly and then realized that he had forgotten to enable the flash. The faces of his friends were too dark against the bright sky. With the comment "I will photoshop it later" he stashed the camera away, without considering taking another picture.

Photoshop is a phantastic software, but it cannot do magic. While he may be able to increase the brightness on the faces of his friends, he will most certainly get a choppy histogram if he overdoes it, will defenitely increase the noise and probably loose detail in the highlights if he doesn't blend the original and the "enhanced" pictures.

I had a discussion with one of my collegues, who also believed that you can turn bad photos into good ones by means of digital photo editing. I see this kind of misconception among many hobby photographers, so let me say a couple of words. Digital Photography is so much easier, right? Wrong!

There is no substitute for a good photograph. You can use Photoshop to make Enhancements to the color saturation, increase sharpness and do a whole bunch of useful things (including adjusting brighntess levels), however you will not get the same result as you can get with a photo that is exposed correctly in the first place. You cannot turn a blurry photo into a sharp photo simply by applying sharpening either. It is more a means of increasing the perception of sharpness by increasing the gradients between pixel brightness levels. Please do not try to "fix it in Photoshop" or to "Photoshop it later".

Fortunately while I was discussing this with my collegue I had the September Edition of "Outdoor Photographer" around and as it so happens, the Editor (Rob Sheppard) made exactly this point in his editorial column. He insists that Digital Photography requires the same kind of expertise behind the camera as it did with Film Cameras. I couldn't agree more.

Even if the person I encountered would be able to "photoshop it later", he would need at least 15-30 minutes of work on a difficult exposure, vs. 15-30s of work to recompose the shot and press the shutter one more time. Which one do you prefer? As my physics teacher used to tell me, Power is Work divided by time (this works better in German where Power (Leistung) also means accomplishment.

Next time you set out to accomplish some great photos or to take a powerful shot, try to remember this. Shoot again if the photo is less then perfect.

Canon Digital SLR comparison

Rebel XTi - Digital SLR Camera w/EF-S 18-55mm II Lens, Black

Many people ask for my advice on Digital Camera hardware. In this review I will check out the latest lineup of Consumer and Prosumer Canon Digital Cameras. This review is intended to guide you through some of the choices for Canon SLR cameras by giving you a quick comparison of various Canon Cameras.

Generally I believe that Canon and Nikon are the world leaders in Digital SLR technology with Canon having an edge over Nikon. Canon was the first Camera maker to introduce an affordable Digital SLR (the famous 300D) in 2003. This was my first Digital SLR and it is still in use as a backup body. Canon was also the first company to introduce a full frame Digital SLR (the 1Ds Mark 2) in 2004. With an unparalleled resolution of 16.7 Mega pixels, the 1Ds Mark 2 is still the single best Digital SLR on the market today (after more than 2 years). In 2005 Canon introduced the 5D, another wonder of technology. With a full frame sensor and 12.7 MP it is priced well below the 1Ds Mark 2 making it an excellent choice for the Semi Professional and for the Professional Markets. Recently Canon has introduced the 30D and the Rebel XTi (400D) a 10.1 Mega pixel Consumer SLR.

In this Review I will compare some of the Canon Cameras and give you my personal opinion on them. Hopefully this will be useful for those of you looking into buying a Canon Digital SLR. Nikon has a fantastic lineup too, but I am a Canon guy and I know Canon Cameras better. I also believe that Canon has a technology edge.

I currently own a Canon 20D, so my comparisons will be based on my experience with that camera. I have had this Camera for a long time and I am extremely satisfied with it.

My Photo Store

During the last couple of days I have been working on creating a store where you can buy pictures. I have been getting a lot of emails asking for this, so here is it:

My Store

It's still in its early stages (the left menu is not yet integrated and the header still looks different). Eventually it will be fully functional but for now there is still a lot of work. So far I have uploaded over 7 GB of pictures (over 1000 pictures) for purchase. Initially I may upload as many as 3000 pictures there (not sure yet). Anyways, if you are interested in purchasing a picture to hang on your wall, check it out.

This week I will also continue my series on the digital workflow that I have put on hold to create the webstore and I will give a rundown on the Canon lineup, since I have so many people asking me for advice (maybe because of Chrismas? ;-) )

The Seitz 160 Megapixel Camera - a scam?

Seitz 160 Megapixel Camera

I was going through my log files the other day and I noticed a bunch of new sites referring to my 222 Megapixel Machu Picchu Image. Usually that's nothing special, the picture got linked on many sites. However I like to check most incoming links and what I found reported there was pretty amazing. My image was used as an example to demonstrate the resolution of a 160 Megapixel Digital Camera, that is expected to hit the market in 2007. While I had to manually stitch 35 images of my Canon 20D camera, this bad boy will be able to achieve a similar resolution in one shot. Looking at the picture above I do have some doubts as to if the optics can handle this kind of resolution though. Considering that for my 20D, I will not get a significant improvement beyond about f/16 (Limits of Diffraction), the image sensor must be gigantic. From the picture, it seems the lens is not nearly big enough for such a large sensor.

The sensor of my 20D is 24mmx18mm. The Machu Picchu Image did use a 7x5 matrix (7 columns, 5 rows). Lets subtract 20% for overlap, the effective sensor size was 0.8*24*7 x 0.8*18*5 = 134.4mm x 72mm. Lets assume the pixel size of the 20D and this bad boy were the same, I would need a sensor of 134x72mm for the Machu Picchu Image and a lens large enough to cover this sensor edge to edge (no vignetting). This lens doesn't seem big enough. A smaller pixel size would certainly accomplish this, but then the Limits of Diffraction dictate that you will only be able to obtain a very small depth of field.

I have seen many articles popping up about this camera and despite the size of this camera, noone has ever dared to question the limits of the optical resolution. In the heads of most people a digital camera is always limited by the sensor alone, but that is simply not true (and a reason why I believe that even most consumer point and shoot cameras above 7MP are limited by their lenses already).

From my experience with the Machu Picchu Image, there is another limitation to consider here. Lets assume that the sensor really is about 134x72mm (yes I know that would be for the 222 MP model, but who says they are not already cooking that one up). Since 134 is approximately 3.7 times larger than 36mm (standard film size), such a sensor would have a crop factor of 1/3.7. This means in order to obtain the same Field of View as a 50mm lens on a normal film camera, we need a 50mm x 3.7 = 185mm lens. Unfortunately longer lenses compress depth of field accordingly, which means a high f-stop number is required (an effect well known to the digital SLR crowd). A consumer point and shoot camera usually has a crop factor around 2.5, which means those cameras have very small sensors and are capable of achieving great depth of field. As a consequence, this giant here would need an even higher f-stop, again pushing the Limits of Diffraction.