January Reflections

All in all, a good day
I have certainly hit the ground running this year, at least in terms of photography. I decided to attempt the 2009 Photo Challenge so I’ve been taking a lot of photos. I’ve only missed one day so far, which means I’ve posted 34 photos for the challenge alone. I’ve also posted about 40+ other photos to Zooomr and Flickr. That has to be one my best months ever with about 75 photos in the month.

I’ve also been very pleased with the quality of the shots I’ve been posting, and several have received a lot of faves and views. While I’d like to think I’m growing as a photographer, I’m certain the 2009 Challenge has helped me improve. In fact, a friend is buying prints of three shots taken specifically for the 2009 Challenge. That will be my first photography sale. I’m also contributing a photo to a fund raising auction for my kids’ school later this month.

One of the high points of January was my first photowalk with Jeremy Brooks and Andrew Lighten. I was on a jury in San Francisco and Jeremy and I decided to meet up one evening. It just happened that Andrew flew into SF that day. Hanging out even for a short time with other photographers is very rewarding. Thanks guys. I’m definitely going to make more of an effort to get to other Bay Area photowalks this year.  This is one of the shots I took on that walk:
Night on the Bay

January was a good start to the year for me. I know the economy sucks and California is heading into a severe drought, but I’m looking forward to this year. And looking back, this is my favorite shot of the month:
Day 28 - Water

One final thing, I want to give a little promotion to the PhotoNetCast podcast. I’ve only recently started listening to this and have really enjoyed it. It’s entertaining and informative. I know everyone listens to TWIP, but you should also listen to PhotoNetCast. Really.

Saying Goodbye to My Little Mule

Say goodbye to my little mule
This past weekend I said goodbye to my 1982 Toyota pickup. It’s just a beat up old truck, but I owned it for 13 years, significantly longer than any other vehicle. It was a good truck that served me well for many years.

In September when the registration was due, I took it to get the bi-annual smog certification. I had my doubts about whether or not it would pass because two years before it had barely passed. Sure enough, it failed. I applied for repair assistance and was granted up to $500 for emission related repairs from the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). I took it to a shop, which said it needed a lot more than $500 dollars and a lot of non-emissions related repairs. Essentially, the cost of repairs was a lot more than the truck was worth.

The BAR has a program that pays people to junk old cars that can’t pass smog. Because of pollution, the state is trying to get old cars off the road. The program encourages people to get polluting vehicles off the road by giving them more money than the car is worth (at least in my case). I rarely drove the truck and I had felt guilty about driving after it barely passed the smog test two years ago. It was a work truck that cost me more in insurance, smog, and registration in a year than the truck was worth and since the state was willing to give me money to junk it, I applied for the retirement program in November. Last Friday I drove it to the junk yard and they gave me my “vehicle retirement” check right there on the spot. It was a nice chunk of money for such an old vehicle, especially sense I don’t have to insure it anymore.

The markings on the truck are required by BAR. Junk yards are prohibited from selling the truck or any parts, so they mark all the body panels, and even the rear view mirrors. There wasn’t much usable on my truck. The passenger side of the cab had been partially caved in by a tree branch about 5 years ago. Some home body shop repair with a sledge hammer got the door open after that incident, but it still had to be slammed shut. The left front fender was a brown because I had to replace it after a small fender-bender. Every body panel had a dent of some kind. The truck is probably a smashed lump of plastic and metal by now.

I’ll miss my old truck, it was good to have around, but I also know it’s better that older cars be taken off the road.

New Camera

It’s been an unusually slow week for posting this week mainly because I’m getting a new camera. I’ve had a Canon Digital Rebel XT (aka 350D) for over two years and absolutely loved it. It took great pictures and met all my photographic needs. It had the features I needed at a price I could manage. Sometime over the past few months, I noticed spots in some images, mostly in photos of the sky. At first I thought it was on the lens, but then I got a new lens and the spots turned up in exactly the same place in my images. Here’s an example from my new lens:
Trinity Alps

In the sky there are two dark areas, one on the left and one on the right (which is hard to see). You might have to go to Zooomr and view the larger size to really see them, but they are there. I know they aren’t that noticeable on this image, but on others they are more pronounced, and I know they are there. It’s annoying. It’s probably dirt on sensor, or it could be something else. I’m not sure, but I bought the camera at Costco so I returned it today and ordered a Canon 30D. I wanted something compatible with the new lens, and the 30D is the same price now that I paid two years ago for the XT.

I read some comparisons of the XTi and 30D and was concerned over the XTi’s performance using higher ISOs and the quality of the images. I have a friend who has the 30D and takes some great pictures, so I figured it was a safe bet.

So my new camera should be arriving by the end of the week. I’ll post some shots as soon as I can. I’ve got a couple of outings planned for shooting already.

Is $20 that much?

Three days ago Zooomr announced paid Pro accounts for $19.95. Every Zooomr user saw the add for accounts when the logged in (except the the Pro4Life members, I assume) so pretty much everyone that uses Zooomr knows about the new offering. What does $20 get you on Zooomr? At this point, not much, just the promise that you won’t see ads and some “cool and interesting” features that Kristopher is developing.

So how does the Zooomr community respond? Judging by the comments on the blog entry, a lot of people are annoyed or down right pissed off. Many people posted positive comments, but I was a little surprised by the complaining. The major theme of the complaints is “Zooomr doesn’t work yet, why should I pay for a Pro account? When all the features work, then I’ll pay, maybe.”

Let’s just look at this logically for a moment. Zooomr is free. Zooomr is still in beta. Zooomr is the coolest photo sharing site on the web. How can you complain about a free beta version of something that while still in development is better than any other service? If you don’t want to pay, then don’t. If you want to wait, then wait, but cut Kris and Thomas some slack. They are doing great work and haven’t asked for anything in return until now.

And is $20.00 really that much? If you’re posting pictures on Zooomr then you have a digital camera. Odds are you spent at least a few hundred dollars (or a few thousand) to get the camera. You pay monthly for an Internet connection. You paid for your computer. All this adds up to a lot of money. I personally a have less $3000 into my camera, computer, and software so $20 is nothing. If you use Windows consider this – Windows costs a lot for an OS, and it is about the buggiest thing I’ve ever seen, still millions of people use it everyday with no expectation Microsoft will ever turn out a better product. I know Zooomr will work, and it will work fabulously.

Zooomr is only asking $20. That is such a small amount of money for anyone who can afford even the most basic point and shoot camera. If you go out with some buddies for the night you will easily spend $20 before you even start to feel a buzz. It’s such a small amount of money that I can’t believe people are complaining.

True, at this point you don’t get much for it. Just think of it as a donation to Zooomr. I ate out with my family and a couple of friends from out of town last night. We left a $20 tip for the waiter (it was not overly generous based on the bill, but respectable). Kris and Thomas have done a lot more for me than the waiter did. Rauol Pop makes some good arguments for upgrading to a Pro account on his blog. The most obvious one is that Zooomr doesn’t have limits on uploads. He also mentions some bugs that got fixed recently.

The price of the Pro account is not worth complaining about. You can afford it. The features will work, you know they will. Be patient, show your support, and pay the $20.

Search your soul, you’ll probably realize you’ve used $20 worth of Zooomr features, even the ones that don’t work yet.

I’ll have a photo tomorrow, I just had to get this off my chest and support Zooomr.

I just can’t keep up

I’ve been trying to get five minutes to get a post up, but life seems to conspire against me. A quick note, then the photo.

First, check out 6 Million Peopleon flickr. I came across this from Thomas Hawk’s blog post, and the next day made my first contribution. Go take some portraits, post them, and honor those that died.

Now, the photo for the day (or week, as it seems to be lately)

Weight of the worldWeight of the world Hosted on Zooomr

I made a point last week of getting out at lunch and taking some pictures. Actually, I think I only took pictures of this fruit stand. I geotagged it on Zooomr if you’re interested in the actual location. I’ve driven by this place thousands of times and never
stopped. It’s located on a busy commute route, so lots of people drive by. This one time, early in the morning there was a guy leaning on the outside wall, reading a newspaper and I thought, what a cool shot. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera. I went back the next day and took some shots. I’d realized, again, that the things I see everyday hold great shots. This shot isn’t spectacular, but it captures the old time feeling of the fruit stand.

I hope to find a few great shots in my everyday life.

I’ve been lazy

So I haven’t been out shooting, so have had nothing to post. There are a billion excuses, but no one wants to hear them. Bottom line, I need to get out and start taking pictures, even if it’s of the ground.
I have found a couple of sites worth mentioning, and signing up on. The first is JPG Magazine. They run a lot of “theme” contests where you submit photos on a theme, then other members vote. Winners get published in the print version of the magazine. Hundreds of photos get submitted, some of which are so-so, but there are a lot of really stunning photos in every theme. Check out the current themes at http://jpgmag.com/themes/.
The second site, which has a tie-in to JPG Magazine is 9 Rules. There is a photography group that also has members post photos based on a theme. The best picture in the current theme gets a free subscription to the print version of JPG Magazine, courtesy of publicenergy. I actually came across 9 rules via publicenergy’s blog. He has some really amazing infrared shots. Worth checking out.
In other news, I bought a 4 gb compact flash card so I can shoot more RAW photos. I brought my camera with me to work today, so I’ll go out at lunch and find something to take pictures of. Anything. I also recently bought a Gorillapod that I have yet to use to any great extent. Hopefully by Monday I’ll have something to post.
I have been putting some images on Zooomr if you want to see a few newer shots.


So, Wednesday night I was replying to a comment on Zooomr for the Flower Fairy photo and decided to go grab the manual for my camera to check something. I snagged my little toe on the corner of the couch and broke my foot. Damn. I should have taken a picture of my foot with the toe sticking out a sideways. It wasn’t straight out, but definitely not pointing the right direction. I have a few photos I took the day before that I’m going to post, but it may take a couple of more days.

I went to the doc yesterday, but didn’t get the call back until after I left work, so I didn’t get the message until this morning. The really lame thing is that I went the see the Giants last night (they won, Zito was great) and had to walk a long, long way from the car, then back. After the walking I had an idea it was broken, so I wasn’t real surprised by the message.

If I can get the x-ray, maybe I’ll post that.

In the meantime, check out publicenergy. He has some really cool infrared shots.

Wikimedia Photo of the Year

Wikimedia is Wikipedia’s somewhat lesser known counterpart for media, including lots of photos. Apparently there was some kind of contest to choose the best photo of 2006. I found out about it today via Digg. The photo that won is really stunning. You can view it at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Picture_of_the_Year/2006. I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and this just adds to my desire. Maybe someday.

About the photo, the final version was retouched and enhanced. The photographer posted the original to Wikimedia as well. I respect that because I often wonder when I see a stunning photo just how much it was edited. Photoshop is a great tool, but I have to question where the line is between artistic photos and realistic photos. I tend to be more minimalist regarding editing photos, and don’t get into the heavy enhancements or filters, but seeing the difference between the original and finished photo makes me want to learn more about retouching photos. I think the retouching done on this photo added to the visual impact without distorting reality.

Kudos to the photographer Joshua Strang.