Archive for the 'photography' Category



30
Oct
07

Pumpkin is done

I spent this evening working on the details in the face and scraping out the inside some more so that more light would shine through. Here’s a picture of the end product:

finished_pumpkin_blog.JPG

I’m not really sure why the colors look so bad. I’m guessing it’s a white balance issue. Anyway, even if the picture doesn’t look that great, I’m really happy with the way the pumpkin turned out.

29
Oct
07

A Halloween Project

We’ve had 2 pumpkins in our apartment for a couple of weeks now and they’re begging to be carved.  With Halloween coming up in 2 days, I thought that I better get cracking (or, carving…).  Anyway, after watching lots of postseason baseball and not getting too excited about the Red Sox, the fact that the Pirates are “my team” was confirmed again.  So, I decided to carve a pumpkin with the Pirates’ logo on it.  Here’s how I did it:

  1. I got out my Pirates hoodie (with a nice, embroidered logo) and photographed the logo:

    hoodie_logo.jpg

  2. I opened up the GIMP and applied a Gaussian blur to make the colors a little more uniform, then I posterized the image to get just white, black, red and yellow (plus a little residual junk):

    pirates_logo_blog.jpg

  3. I printed out the image and cut out the details in the face so I could use it as a template on the pumpkin:

    logo_cutout.JPG

    Seen here taped to a little curtain thing we have.

  4. I taped the template to the pumpkin and, using a permanent marker, marked in black all the stuff I was going to carve away.  I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m pretty happy with it so far.

    pumpkin_in_progress.jpg

When I get it all done (hopefully before Wednesday night), I’ll post a picture of it all lit up.  I hope it’ll look decent.  I may wind up needing a giant lightbulb to put inside it in order for a decent amount of light to shine through.  We’ll see.  Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve worked on a project that involved using my hands in ways other than pressing keys on a keyboard, so I’ve had a good time with this.

17
Sep
07

Photoblog

After a lot of messing around, a week or more of inaction, and a little more messing around, I finally got my photoblog up and running.  The bottom line seems to be that WordPress and the photoblogging plug-in don’t play nicely with 10MP images.  I had been hoping that I would be able to use the plug-in to automatically upload, resize, and thumbnail all the images I wanted to post on the photoblog, and while that may still be possible, I have given up trying to make it work.  For now, I will resize the images manually and then use the WordPress administrative interface to upload things.  This also will give me the opportunity to think about whether I want to crop the pictures at all in order to make sure the picture is composed exactly as I want it.

Anyway, my photoblog is now available at the unsurprising URL: http://imladris.mit.edu/photoblog/  (Update: this site is now down – see its replacement at http://instantforever.org)

I wrestled with the title for quite awhile, rather than choosing something lame like “insert title here”.  My initial choice was “14 Shots of the Dome”, which was meant to say something about how this site featured photography (“shots”) and about how I am a student of MIT, the most easily recognizable architectural feature of which is its dome.  I thought this title was a clever double meaning to both “shots” and “dome”, playing off L.L. Cool J’s album “14 Shots to the Dome”.  However, after some consideration, I decided not to use a name that evoked thoughts of someone getting shot in the head.

Going back to the drawing board, I began to think a lot about the nature of photography, which, I would say, is the way in which it takes a fleeting moment and records it, preserving it for eternity.  I’ve been thinking more about speaking German lately, so I thought I might want to choose a title in German.  Furthermore, the people who made both the WordPress photoblog plug-in as well as the WordPress theme I’m using are German speakers, so this seemed doubly appropriate.  In the end, I settled on “Der Ewige Augenblick”, which roughly translates to “The Eternal Instant” or “The Everlasting Moment”.  I also considered “Der Ewiggewordene Augenblick”, which would more precisely capture the idea of an instant becoming eternal, but that seems like a mouthful for English speakers.

I posted a picture last night and another one tonight.  I hope that you’ll take a look and let me know what you think.

01
Sep
07

Potential Outage / Coming Attractions

So, I’m planning to add a photoblog to the offerings here on imladris.mit.edu.  In particular, I’m thinking about using the so-called “Yet Another Photo Blog” plug-in for WordPress, since I have a decent amount of experience with WordPress and I already have 2 WordPress installations on this server.  However, as I was looking into adding a photoblog, I realized that having 3 separate WordPress installations would be a pain, since it would make 3 times the work for me when I want to upgrade to a new version of WordPress.  So, I’ve decided to try to consolidate things and run my blog, Heather’s blog, and my new photoblog all from the same WordPress installation.  How is such a thing possible?  Well, after looking through the documentation at codex.wordpress.org, I found the Allan Mertner/Stephen Rider symlink hack.  I plan to try to get this running in the next day or two.  However, I’ve had enough experience doing things like this to know that it rarely goes as smoothly as one might hope.  So, be forewarned that this blog, and Heather’s blog, for that matter, could be out of commission for a day or two.  Once everything is set up, I’ll post again and let you know where you can find my new photoblog.  I have a pretty big backlog of pictures, both from my ~20 rolls of film (with 4 more yet to be developed) and from the 600+ pictures that I’ve taken with my Pentax K10D since I got it, so I hope to be able to give my readership a picture a day for the foreseeable future.

28
Aug
07

Allow me to recommend…

bishop_allen.JPG

This is a picture I took of the Cambridge street from which the band Bishop Allen took its name.  Apparently, the two main guys lived on this street before they moved to New York.  Anyway, before our trip to Pittsburgh I downloaded their album, The Broken String, which I have listened to a lot recently.  Adrian recommended it and I agree with his recommendation.

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.

20
Jul
07

Adrian shows us how to get enthusiastic about the wave

At the July 5th Red Sox vs. Devil Rays game:

adrian_wave.jpg

This picture could fit into Liz’s set of pictures of her and Adrian’s trip to Boston over the 4th of July.  Adrian has a summary of the game on his blog, though he doesn’t mention the wave…

09
Jul
07

New photos

About 2 weeks ago, I got 5 rolls of film developed.  If you’re interested in checking it out, I have the rolls posted on my online gallery.  The new rolls are the last 5 rolls on this page.  (Update: this gallery is now located here.)

Enjoy and feel free to leave me comments, either here or in the gallery itself.

03
May
07

Colin and Heather’s first Segway experience

You may have heard of these.  You may have seen one whiz by at some point.  Maybe you’ve even seen a police officer or mail carrier on one sometime, but how many of you have actually ridden one?  (I’m actually guessing that the Segway experience of my blog’s readership is probably much higher than the national average.)  Well, a guy who lives nearby has one on loan from the company as part of a project he’s involved with at the MIT Sloan School of Management and he was outside today basically giving rides to anyone who was interested.

It takes a few seconds to get used to.  Your normal inclination is to try to prevent the thing from falling over, since it has only two wheels and you essentially stand on the axel (if there were an axel) between them.  However, you don’t need to try to balance it yourself – that’s what all the accelerometers and motors are for.  To just stand there, you just stand there on top of the thing just like you would stand on the ground.  To go forward, you lean forward or push forward on the handlebars.  To go backward, you pull back on the handlebars.  To turn, you push right or left on the handlebars.  It’s very intuitive and it works really well.  Everybody who rode it tonight was amazed at how cool it was and how easy it was to ride after a few seconds of experience.

Anyway, we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words.  If this is true, I wonder how much a video is worth.  In any case, I posted a video of me riding the thing (note that it basically has a turning radius of zero) and a video of Heather learning how to ride it.  They’re neat and if I had a spare $5000 lying around, I’d be tempted.  A guy who lives nearby who will be graduating soon and starting a job with a nice signing bonus stated tonight that he’ll be buying one as soon as he’s done.

07
Apr
07

Trip to Omaha in Google’s new “My Maps”

If, like me, you read websites like Slashdot and Ars Technica, you are probably aware that Google just came out with an interface for adding your own content to Google maps, called “My Maps”. Google’s description of how to access this feature and edit your own maps is here. Evidently, these are called mashups, for some reason. Anyway, I’ve been interested in geo-referenced photography for awhile, so I thought I’d give it a try. As a first attempt, I took pictures from our recent trip to Omaha and pasted them into the appropriate locations on the map. You can see my work here. I’m still learning all the features, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. A couple of issues that have come up:

  1. I would like the links I provide to full-size pictures to spawn a new window using the target=”_blank” statement inside the <a> tag. However, whenever I add it manually and subsequently save the map, the target statement disappears. If someone can help me figure this out, I’d appreciate it.
  2. I created the placemarks in non-chronological order. Now, I’d like to reorder the links to those placemarks in the bar at the left side so they’re in chronological order. However, there doesn’t seem to be any way to do this. Again, if someone knows how to do this, please let me know.

Please let me know if you have any ideas for how I could improve this. Thanks.

Update: I just revised the map. The placemarks are now in chronological order down the left column.  I have also added a few more placemarks and pictures, as well as comments for each placemark.  I hope you enjoy it.




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