Archive for the 'blogosphere' Category



25
Aug
07

SLR photography: a retrospective and a new chapter

Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog post asking my readers about digital SLR cameras. I was theoretically considering getting a digital SLR because I wanted to learn to take beautiful pictures. A former member of my research group had recommended learning SLR photography using digital SLRs because you get instant feedback. However, in the comments responding to my post, a couple of people suggested getting a fully manual film SLR instead – at least initially – so I would be forced to learn how to use an SLR properly. Then, once I had mastered taking pictures manually, I could move on to a digital SLR and actually take advantage of its features, rather than treating it as an expensive point-and-shoot. I took their advice and got a Pentax K1000 from eBay. I took lots of pictures with it and even entered my first photo competition with a picture from the Omaha Zoo, taken with my K1000.

Since last August, I have aquired 2 other film SLRs, both as gifts, in addition to my K1000. The first – a Konica Autoreflex T – was given to me by my wife’s uncle during our trip to Omaha this spring. I’ve probably taken 3 or 4 rolls of film with that camera. I like it, but I don’t know how to use it as well as my K1000. This mostly hinges on the metering system, which recommends the correct aperture to use rather than telling you whether your currently selected settings would produce a properly exposed picture.

In addition to the Konica, when my friend Scott moved out of Cambridge, he gave me a Canon EOS IX Lite, which uses APS film. This is a much more full-featured SLR than my other two, including auto-exposure, auto-focus, aperture- and shutter-priority modes, fully automatic shooting, and other goodies. He also threw in a Canon 22-55mm f/4-5.6 wide-angle zoom lens and a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 telephoto zoom lens. These are both auto-focus lenses with built-in motors, so it’s a very nice package. I used this camera primarily when my brother-in-law and I took our Photowalk in the Back Bay. I like it a lot, but the APS format is dying and both the film itself and the developing is getting expensive and hard to locate.

By the time I develop all the film I have, I’ll have taken 25 rolls of film with my various film SLR cameras. I feel like I’ve gotten much more proficient at taking pictures. I’ve developed an eye for what constitutes a good photo and I have a sense for how to compose pictures. I’ve learned about the effects of shutter speed and aperture. I’ve experimented with different film speeds and types, including black and white print, color print, and color slide. In short, I think I’ve accomplished what I had hoped to accomplish with my foray into film: I’ve learned how to use a manual SLR. Sure, there’s room for improvement, as there will always be, but I’ve definitely got the basics figured out.

In addition to having accomplished much of what I hoped to accomplish through the use of a film SLR, lately I have become more keenly aware of how expensive using film is. The cost of film plus the cost of developing has been preventing me from experimenting and I felt like my photography was beginning to stagnate. So, I began to think about a digital SLR again. Unlike many of my friends who, by virtue of the many lenses they already owned, were locked into buying a digital SLR of a particular brand, I haven’t invested much money in lenses, so I was free to consider cameras from many different manufacturers. After spending lots of time on dpreview.com and reading many reviews written by camera owners, I came to the conclusion that the Pentax K10D is a great value, providing many advanced features that are only available on significantly more expensive cameras from Canon and Nikon.

This summer, Pentax instituted a rebate program, which could give buyers a rebate of up to $150 if they bought the camera along with one of couple of possible accessories. The last day of the rebate was July 31st and, in the days leading up to it, I agonized over whether I should take the plunge. I like to keep my options open, so I find decisions like this stressful. Anyway, in the end, I bought a K10D with the kit lens and a telephoto zoom lens from Willoughby’s in New York. I’m suspicious of many of these New York-based camera stores because they have a reputation for ripping people off, however, so far, I’ve been happy with Willoughby’s. I had to have one of the lenses replaced because, at some point during shipping the lens cap had become loose and had been rubbing on the front glass of the lens, producing small scratches and scuff marks. They were helpful on the phone, paid for the shipping to return the lens to them, and got me a replacement very quickly. So, all in all, it’s been a positive experience.

So, long story short, I now have a digital SLR and I’m learning how to use it. There are a lot of things to master, even if you’re not shooting manually and I’ve gotten pretty good at using the delete button. However, I’ve also taken some pictures that I’m really happy with. Unfortunately, while we were in Pittsburgh, it was overcast much of the time and I have lots of pictures in which the sky is overexposed. If people have any recommendations on how to minimize this problem, I’d be interested in hearing them. Also, I may try to set up some kind of photo blog on my server, so if people want to give me recommendations on what software I should use, I’d be interested in that as well.

10
Aug
07

Happy Anniversary, Heather!

Today is our 5th anniversary. In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years already.  On the other hand, to an extent, it feels like we’ve been married forever.  Anyway, I’m very grateful for our time together and how Heather has enriched my life through her companionship and support.

03
Aug
07

It’s August 3rd

— time for another blog post from Pat.

17
Apr
07

Update

For those of you who evidently gave up posting comments on my blog for Lent, I just thought I’d point out that Lent is now over and you can resume posting.

16
Feb
07

Vacationing

Tomorrow we will be leaving for a ski trip sponsored by my research advisor, Craig Carter. For those of you who don’t already know this, I might as well say this now: my advisor’s brother, Chris Carter, is the creator of the X-Files. This means I have 2 degrees of separation with Chris Carter and probably only 3 degrees of separation with much of Hollywood.  Not bad.

Anyway, we will be going to Sunday River, which is a ski resort in Maine. The nearest town is apparently Bethel, ME. I was looking up the area on Google Maps today and I noticed that near Bethel are towns with the creative names: East Bethel, West Bethel, North Bethel, and, my favorite, Northwest Bethel. It’s probably just a matter of time before some disgruntled citizens on the western outskirts of Northwest Bethel secede and form a new municipality: Westnorthwest Bethel.

Anyway, since I won’t be near a computer (or internet connection) for a few days, I won’t be able to make any blog posts until Sunday night at the earliest. I hope you all have a good weekend without me.  If you’re not in the market for a car, I may be able to help you celebrate Presidents’ Day anyway.  I have a bunch of posts I’ve been working on but haven’t finished, so perhaps I’ll get one or two of those done on Presidents’ Day.  And maybe I’ll even have a picture or two to share…

16
Feb
07

The power of a picture

I decided the other day that I should really have a camera on my person at all times.  This is because I often see things that are funny and/or somehow noteworthy that I think would make a good blog post.  Unfortunately, simply explaining what I saw is generally not that funny or interesting.  However, if I had a picture of the funny/noteworthy item, the post could be much better.  For example, this whole line of thought was prompted by an experience I had last Saturday when Heather and I were out on a date and Elizabeth was at home with a babysitter.  We went to John Harvard’s, a local brewpub.  On their beer menu, they list a couple of attributes of their beers – the specific gravity and the alcohol by volume and maybe a couple of others.  According to the menu, one of their recent specials had 78.1% alcohol by volume.  That’s 156 proof!  This was obviously a typo.  Anyway, I found myself saying, “Man, I wish I had a camera to take a picture of this menu!”  It’s somewhat funny when recounted in text, but it would be much funnier if I had a picture to show you.

To illustrate this further, I could tell you that my tennis rating in Wii Sports is now off the chart that is used to display a person’s rating.  This is not that funny.  However, when I say this and add the following picture, it is much funnier:

off_the_chart.jpg

If I weren’t a poor graduate student, I might buy myself a camera phone or a really slim digital camera to have with me all the time.  Alas, I am a poor graduate student, so I’ll just have to come to terms with not being able to photograph everything I see that I think would be great for my blog.  Oh well.

09
Feb
07

New additions to the blogroll

Tonight I decided to go ahead and add two new blogs to my blogroll. I’ve been reading these blogs for the last few months and I really enjoy them. I hope you will, too.

I met Liz over Christmas break. She is a friend of my friend Adrian, who is Rad (and also on my blogroll). She enjoys skipping and apparently rides horses with skill and enthusiasm.

I have never met Sarah Louise, author of Many Pink Sneakers; I found her blog through the infamous Urban Saddle (also on my blogroll). So, she has the distinction of being the only person on my blogroll whom I have never met. Congratulations, Sarah Louise! As a male, I am not generally drawn to pink (though I do like orange); however, I have found her posts encouraging, edifying, and entertaining, so she’s wound up on the shortlist of blogs I read.

Anyway, I encourage my readers to check out all the blogs on my blogroll. There’s something for everyone.

02
Feb
07

Blogging now a family affair

Last night I set up a blog for my wife, Heather, on the same server that hosts this blog. If you know me, you probably know Heather, too, so you might be interested in checking out her blog. I’ve added her to my blogroll, so you can click on the link and get started.

21
Jan
07

A disturbance in the force

Just a heads up for those of you who can’t live without my blog – it’s going to be intermittent at best over the next two days. Today I began the process of reinstalling Windows on my home computer (rechner). Actually, I was going to reinstall Windows on my machine, but in the end, I bought a new, larger hard drive and I’m installing Windows on it. Anyway, I normally use wireless to connect it to the network, but the wireless isn’t super reliable, so while I’m in the process of downloading service pack 2 and the myriad other security updates, I’m going to use wired ethernet. Unfortunately, we only have 1 ethernet port in our apartment and it is normally used to connect imladris (which hosts this blog) (Update: used to host this blog) to the network. So, while I’m in the process of installing stuff, I’m going to have to disconnect imladris from the network so I can use the ethernet port for rechner. This means my blog will be down until I get all that stuff finished. Sorry. I hope to have most of that work done by tomorrow evening. However, that’s not all. They’re shutting down our electricity on Monday in order to replace a transformer nearby, which is going to mean that the computer will be offline again for part of Monday. I think the power shutdown is only going to last an hour, so I’ll try to get the computer back up and running as soon as possible once the power’s back on. Anyway, I hope you’re all having a nice weekend.




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