Blogs

Geek Bonanza

Unknown Girl at Comic Con 2007

Last Weekend I visited the biggest Geek Bonanza in the World, Comic Con 2007. What better chance to pull out that camera and get snapping.

You can see the results of me going a bit nuts in my new Gallery: Faces of Comic Con 2007. No the picture to the left really isn't that representative, but its one that I don't mind showing on the front page.

Incidently its also one of the two pictures of that Gallery that I shot with my new Canon S3 IS camera. All other pictures were taken with my Canon 20D. I wish I had taken my 50mm prime with me, since the lighting was so bad that some pictures were blurry even at ISO1600, which resulted in a lot of unusable images. The prime would have allowed me to shoot wide open (aperture) and maybe save some pictures.

Obviously using the flash was not desirable, as I often waited in a spot (a scene with a message) for the right person to show up (who fit the scene).

Nevertheless I got some pretty nice material. This event certainly gave me a lot to work with.

Around half of the pictures were taken in the conference halls and the others were taken in the streets of downtown that were flooded with people.

As you might expect, there were a whole lot of people with full body costumes, but I wasn't too interested in those photos, as I wanted to convey emotions and faces.

Anyways, check out the Comic Con Photo Gallery.


First Street Photography Gallery

I just uploaded my first Candid Photos in my San Francisco Street Photography Gallery.

The Black and Whites were processed automatically with a quick Photoshop action. Unfortunately I had the highlights and midtones cranked up a bit too much, resulting in some blown out highlights. Due to the nature of the candid shots, I didn't bother too much fixing it.

I hope you enjoy the photos (comments are always welcome).

 

My first attempt at Street Photography

Kid checking out the crabs

After attending a wedding yesterday and staying over night in San Francisco, we had a few hours at our leisure before we decided to drive home. I thought it was time to check out if I could do some street photography.

For a landscape photographer, street photos is a whole new ball game. Landscape and streets (urban landscapes) couldn't be more different. The streets are in a constant flux and beautiful shots come together and vanish in less then a second.

In this post I will summarize some of the experiences I had and give you some tips in case you want to try this yourself. But let me say one thing up front, I liked this a whole lot and I will do a lot more candid photography in the future.

Why does Street Photography fascinate people?

Unlike landscape photography, street photography gives us the possibility to share a fleeting moment of someone's live. The photographer freezes time and documents urban life, something we are more accustomed to. The photographs generally tell a story. The frame becomes a window that lets us experience that moment. The photography style is related to documentary photography and the photographer is forgiven mistakes (blurry, tilts, distracting elements) as we recognize the fast action, making it impossible for to adjust everything before taking the photo.

Challenges

The challenge with this photography style is to observe the action around you and act fast. You need to be completely aware of everything that is going on around you, as you are part of the scene. You are interacting with your subjects to some degree (the lesser the better, as we don't want them to be aware of the camera). Scenes come together in split seconds and disappear. You need your camera to be ready and react before the subject even realizes what is going on.

At the same time you need to be on a constant look for interesting action. Where is something happening? Who are the interesting people?

Simply firing away at people doesn't quite cut it (unless the people are very interesting subjects in themselves). Trying to tell a story with fast action shots is the real challenge (more on this in a later article).

The main obstacle to overcome was my shy nature. Getting up close with a SLR into someone's face and snapping a photograph takes some guts (my Canon 20D shutter makes a pretty loud noise). I used a wide to normal lens, that required me to get fairly close, but is far less intimidating in case I am recognized. I only had a few hours today, so I tried to jump right in. The more confident I grew, the less people noticed me and the easier it became. Surprisingly I was completely invisible to most people, despite my gear and my obvious interest in them. It was almost surreal what happened here.

Some people did recognize what I did, but I smiled at them or kept looking and photographing in the direction they came from. Not a single person got mad or even gave me a stinky look. Only one person turned away and some people asked if I could photograph them too (which I happily did, although I have no use for posed photographs).

To 95% of my subjects I was invisible. A part of the scenery or maybe just a minor annoyance.

Below are a few more shots, but to see the rest you will have to wait a week or two until I have thrown up the gallery.

Amazon Marketplace and Ebay Fraud

Fraud at AmazonCanon 5D + 24 - 105mm L LensI love buying equipment at Amazon. Its convenient and I trust them. They have excellent buyer protection and are very responsive to claims.
I also buy at their Marketplace where people and small businesses sell their stuff. Amazon's protection covers this too, but that doesn't mean you should be completely careless, as they only cover you up to 5 times for life.
Unfortunately scammers have found out ways to use Amazon Marketplace steal your hard earned dollars.
Especially high priced electronic items (and that's what I usually buy there) are being used for this kind of fraud.
Obviously people lose all reasoning skills when something is being sold at incredibly low prices, although above all that should be the first indicator that something is wrong.
When I was looking at some items, I ran across the Canon 5D + 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens package offered at just $1400 (the next cheapest package price was around $3400).
The lens alone is easily worth almost $1100 at Amazon.
I was pretty sure this was just another scam, but I decided to send the seller an email and poke around a little to see what he would tell me.
I sent him an email asking about some more details. 

Me: I noticed that you are selling this camera with lens far below the normal price range.
Is there anything wrong with the camera, is this a mistake ?
He promptly replied within the hour:
Fraudster: Thank you for your express interest in my Canon EOS 5D Camera.
First of all i want to tell you that my products are brand new in box,with 12 mounths manufacturer warranty from Canon, with all the cables, accessories etc.
The price for immediate purchase of 1 Camera is only 1400 USD and the shipping, handling and inssurance are included.i sell so cheapp because i have a stock liquidation.
tell me if you are intrested to buy it so we can make the next step.
So lets see. He could easily sell this package for $1000 more within one hour. He made up some reason (clearance) to make the deal sound legitimate.  A bunch of spelling mistakes don't look very professional either. Lets poke a little more:

About Stitching and Color Space

Point Reyes Farm in FogPoint Reyes Farm and Fog

Often I get questions via email and I think the answer to many of them could benefit others as well, so I decided to introduce my new series From the Mailbox where I will publish a few of the questions and answers. Don't worry, I won't reveal any contact information, so your emails will be safe.

 

Hello Andre, Thanks for so much information. Couple questions: 1. Equipment: For your stitching I see you use a 50 prime. Have you tried say 180mm Telephoto lens? 2. I use a mac... What Stitching SW would be good? I've tried PTGui ...seems ok bu the final file is always a smaller than what i get from CS3. 3. The instructors for Photoshop at the UC ext. courses there in Cupertino always said to use Adobe RGB color space. Now I see that people say sRGB might be better. I upload photos to the web and did A-B comparisons and they look very close to me. I've heard said that Adobe RGB web photos have dull washed out reds. Any thoughts? Maybe a tutorial on uploading photos to websites. Keep up the good work.


 

 

Reply:

I just returned from my weekend trip, so I will try to be brief. Don't hesitate to send me some more questions if things aren't clear yet. For the Machu Picchu Image (222 Megapixel Mosaic) I have used a focal length of 200mm. It's really just about how much resolution you want to get. I don't limit myself to 50mm. It was just an example. Stiching: I use PTAssembler on PC. I think PTGui is good. The size you get is probably related to how the control points are calculated and how things are warped (I know thats a poor explanation, but check this link ) About the color space: I use ProphotoRGB for editing and sRGB for output. ALWAYS use sRGB for display and printing, but use something with more Gamut (Adobe or Prophoto) for editing. Convert using the Adobe Perceptual Engine. Most people's monitors and browsers are not calibrated and sRGB will defenitely look better. AdobeRGB contains too much gamut and will result in out of gamut colors on many peoples screens (posterization effects).

 

In my hasty response I forgot to mention my article on color calibration, that might be a good source of information. LCD monitors that you buy these days at Electronic Outlet stores are not very good and are over saturated and usually have a cold tint (blue / green). They need to be calibrated in order to render color correctly. Otherwise your prints will not match your monitor output.

The tutorial sounds like a good idea too, maybe spiced up with some general color recaps.

The picture on the left is a quick B/W conversion with some curves adjustments (mainly contrast boosting) of one of the photographs I took this weekend at Point Reyes. During the summer months Point Reyes sees more fog then any other time of the year. Fortunately thats not bad news for us. While most tourists chose not to get out of their cars, I used the chance for soft light.

Self Portraits

For some odd reason people sometimes ask me for pictures of myself or for a biography, so I decided to throw up two self portrait shots.

I think they are fairly original to show here (as most people I don't like seeing myself on photographs, maybe because the camera always adds a few pounds ;-) )

In this shot I chose to clone myself (click for a large version).

Stitched Replication

Its not exactly a self portrait, since it required someone (thanks Dani) to take the shots, but since it was my idea to clone myself, I think it somehow still counts as a self portrait.

I like how the dude on the left looks sceptically at the two guys on the right goofing around. I am a Gemini and we are said to be many people in one. I am basically two goofy guys, one skeptical guy and one guy looking for a photo opportunity all rolled into one.

This photograph is actually 4 exposures put together. I have not replicated myself with Photoshop but with Panorama Tools (which is much easier anyways).

Below is another shot that I took today in the sun.

Don't hesitate to ask

Machu Picchu Panorama

I haven't really linked the above image much from within the site. It's a 222 Megapixel Image of Machu Picchu, that allows you to zoom and pan around inside a flash application (screenshot). It's a lot of fun to go and discover this great city that has inspired so many people.

The page attracts a lot of comments and recently Peter has asked me to give some more details on the creation of the image. I have already a Tutorial on High Resolution Images and I simply added a lengthy comment answering those questions.

The bottom line is this. If you have questions, don't be shy. Just ask. I am more than happy to answer to the best of my knowledge and it might even give me an idea for a new tutorial.

So if you have been wondering about something related to Photography or Image Processing I would like to encourage you to simply post a comment and ask or if you feel uncomfortable posting in public, just email me. I will give comments priority though, since I get a whole bunch of emails already and since I don't like to have unanswered questions on the site ;-).

BTW: The compression artifacts you see in the zoomed-in part are caused by the high compression level of the flash application.

Don't delete images in the field

Lighthouse SunsetPigeon Point Lighthouse
Yesterday I witnessed a wonderful Sunset at Pigeon Point (close to home).
I was cruising around having a nice Saturday and came by the lighthouse at around sunset, so I decided to wait. I have photographed the lighthouse before, but I still need to upload those images.

So here I am, having written this article about Photo Mistakes telling people that it is one of the greatest blunders to delete images in the field when I did it myself and lost a really good one in the process.
When I am watching sunsets, I am always hoping for some seagulls to pass by. Yesterday I was passed by a seagull in close range and I already had my long lens on, so I kept tracking the bird and taking photos along its path, hoping for it to fly by in front of the sun (he actually did and I had a perfect photo of a silhouette against a huge sun disc).
Nice, but what to do with the other images of the series. Well, my compact flash wasn't nearly full, so I shouldn't have bothered.
I scrolled through the images deleting one by one and as it so happens, the hand is faster than the eye ....
Sometimes Digital Photography can be a curse as well. Generally I consider it a blessing, being able to take so many images and verify the results so easily, but the delete button is so damn easy to use.
I guess I will tape mine off for a while, until I have learned to keep my fingers off this useless button.
Seriously though, with a large compact flash and an image tank in my backpack I won't need this button. It does more harm than good will ever come from it.
So why am I always drawn again to this magical button? It's not like someone is going to review my pictures right there. I get to sort them out all by myself, and yet I cannot stand knowing that there are a bunch of "not so good" images stored on my memory card.
At least Pigeon Point Lighthouse came out pretty nice. This time I didn't bother asking the stoned caretaker to close up a little later. I found an even better spot outside.