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Tag Archives: photography

Although I said that Google Photos was not the solution that I needed to backup my photos online, I ended up starting the process of uploading all of my photos to the service. It’s taking a long time since almost 50GB of photos so I’ve been doing them overnight. Although I’m not going to use it as backup, I think it’ll be worthwhile to have them online for future use.

I usually organize my photos by year and since I already have another way of backing up photos online, I think my online collection might tend to be a year behind (so as to not upload photos twice as they take a long time). I’m also thinking that I will upload all photos that I’ve come across, not just the ones I’ve taken. So any photos that people have sent or shared with me I’ll just upload them. Hopefully Google will have some neat algorithms (their Assistant results so far have been underwhelming) or scalable UX to navigate them in the future.

At Google I/O, Google announced that their photo service is evolving yet again from Google+ Photos to just Google Photos. Although I’m still using Picasa Web Albums, this was of interest to me because now they claimed that you can store unlimited photos up to 16MP in resolution (I don’t have any 16MP+ cameras). Is this a solution to my photo organization prayer?

In the past year, I had already uploaded, backed up and trusted my music to Google Music. So it’s not a stretch that I would take advantage of free unlimited photo backup from Google right? Well after perusing the service, I don’t think I’m going to use it for three main reasons:

  1. It doesn’t save the original file – that defeats the ability for it to be a backup
  2. I don’t think the interface will scale – I have a lot of folders/albums (100s? 1000s?) so I think the one long feed UI will be problematic. I would rather have a more hierarchical view so I can sort them by year
  3. Photos are more personal than music – While your music collection speaks something about you, it’s not nearly as personal as photos of your friends, family and life. I’m not quite ready to share all of that with Google in a structured manner

While I was hopeful that Google Photos would be a saviour, looks like I have to keep waiting for the perfect service.

One of the reasons we went to the US over the Labour Day long weekend was to perform a tradition for Jovian that we started with Apollo, namely to celebrate their 2 months birthday by 1) Going to the US, and 2) Having 20 nuggets (for $5!). When we did this with Apollo, we took some photos so it follows that we should do the same for Jovian. And once we have photos of both kids, of course it would be natural to compare them!

So here they are:

To set up Jovian’s photos, we went to the exact same McDonalds as the first one, sat in the exact same seats, and as you can tell from some of the photos, there were a bunch of other things that were similar. The hardest thing to get similar was to get Jovian to act the same as Apollo. It’s hard telling a 2 month old to do something.

Then, to practice our Equal Opportunity Parenting, we let Apollo re-take his two month old photos! Of course, he had to wear the same clothes as before.

Over the last few months I’ve been working on an mini project with my photos. Yes I know, I have lots of projects with my photos and usually they just amount to some thinking and no real action, but this one isn’t that tough and is actually kind of fun in a non-photographic sort of way.

This project starts due to some work I did over the last few years to digitize my family’s (physical) photo collection. I basically have all my family’s photo albums that I have access to scanned. That took awhile, but it’s all done; the problem is that they’re loosely organized in folders, such as family photos, school photos etc. Now what I’m trying to do is to organize them by year. And that’s a much harder challenge.

We have it great now, with digital cameras and EXIF data, because our photos are tagged with timestamp (and even geolocation). Some past photos put a date watermark in the bottom right corner, and that’s really useful; but the majority have no such data. So this ends up being a huge detective game where I’m trying to place photos in time based on my memory, what people look like, and the environment. Lucky for me, I’m in most of the photos and I basically look different every year.

Still it’s kind of tedious but also kind of fun. It’s not something I need to complete overnight, but it’ll probably entertain me for a few months.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about putting my photos on the cloud (1, 2, for example) but have always been stuck because of scalability issues. And plus, it sucks that you need a network connection to see your photos.

One day, I had an interesting idea. Instead of putting all my photos on the cloud, why don’t I just carry them around with me! I have a phone and there is “16GB” of storage. What if I can fit all my photos on my phone? It’s certainly not possible with 16GB only but I decided that it’s not important to have full resolution photos (I settled on 720p as the max resolution) and I can live with some compression because the point is not to carry around photos for editing – but to have my photos with me.

So I batch processed all my photography and resized it to 720p with decent (JPG 80) compression. Photos ended up being around 100-200kb each. And all of my photography from 2012 ended up being under 250mb! In the end, for not more than 3GB of space, I can carry around my entire photo collection; and with new technologies to output from your phone (via HDMI or chromecast etc), it should be even easier to browse the photos.

I can even sync this up to DropBox if I want it on the cloud!

With this approach, I have some drawbacks which are:

  • Not a viable backup for my photos
  • Introduces another step in “photo processing” (although I’ll probably only update the photos in my phone several times a year)
  • Not high resolution or original quality
  • Difficult to see on large screen for now

I never was a big instagram fan. Originally, it was because Instagram was only out on iOS. Then it got released on Android so I downloaded it, created an account, and tried it out. I didn’t actually take any pictures because filters don’t appeal to me and I already had a couple of photo taking apps on my phone. I also didn’t use it as a social network because I didn’t know or care of anyone to follow.

So I uninstalled it and let it be.

But then recently, I’ve been travelling without my SLR. My cellphone‘s camera is decent enough during day time that I value travelling light over having a better camera with me. I ended up taking a lot of photos – more than I want to post onto Facebook (it would start feeling like spam); so I started posting onto instagram. Of course, then my trip ended and I didn’t feel the urge to post any more photos. So strangely, I found a use for instagram – as a travel app!

When Pano was on sale for 10¢ on Google Play, I bought it on a whim. It seemed like it was easier to create panoramas than setting manual exposure on my SLR, taking a bunch of photos, and then stiching them together on the computer with Hugin. With Pano, at least it did some automatic detection and stitching for me, even though I was restricted to a 1D view.

Then Android added functionality to create panoramas by panning your phone, which was great because that was even easier than Pano! I tried it a couple of times but was sorely disappointed because the resolution on the panoramas were horrible! I ended up continuing to use Pano for my on-the-go panoramas.

Then Jellybean (Android 4.2) added Photosphere functionality – which was supposed to be even better panorama capability. I didn’t really get it, because panoramas don’t look right if you take photos of an entire sphere around you. Eventually I got around to trying it, and I guess the “sphere” part is just meant to be catchy. You’re only supposed to take a concave section of the sphere around you.

I’ve tried making a few photospheres now, and it works fairly well given the expected constraints (if your scene keeps changing, such as if there is traffic in front of you, it won’t work well!). The above is a photosphere of Times Square while below is a photosphere of the basilique at St Joseph’s Oratory.

The good thing about the ability to take photospheres is that helps with the limited wide angle ability of the lens on a cellphone. If you can’t step back, you can at least try making a panorama!

Two years ago, I complained about my inability to move my Gallery2 installation (now with 32k+ photos) to the “new” Gallery3. Two years later, I decided to try again, because I figure that by now all the kinks should have been solved in the import process right? Well I was wrong. I still can’t import my photos so I’m still stuck using photo software from web 1.0 to host my photos online. That’s just wrong!

But I can’t find a good solution to this problem. I blogged recently about my intent to put my photos on Picasaweb but that is not easy to do! My current gallery has 771 albums and takes up almost 40GB of storage. It will just continue to grow in size (especially with my new camera taking photos at higher resolutions). If I forget about backing up my originals online, and let Picasa compress my photos (to say 600kb each), that’s still 18 GB of data to transfer. Then I have to ensure it is organized properly.

Personally, I see Picasaweb as a curated photo collection, but it takes even more of my time to filter, select, and post my photos.

I’ve done searches every few months to see if there is better software out there to help me organize photos, but every other PHP script is, like Gallery2, stuck in Web 1.0. I’m resigned to the fact that I should backup my photos by mirroring them offline, but I still don’t have a good solution to put ALL my photos on the cloud. I’m just surprised that other people haven’t run into (and solved) this problem – whenever I search for issues on importing from Gallery2 -> Gallery3, users are talking about only hundreds (and in the odd cases) thousands of photos. Surely, there must be people out there trying to manage photo collections of hundreds of thousands?

I bought my Nikon SLR back in Oct 2006, 6 years ago. It was used and had 22,000 actuations on the shutter. The D50 shutter is rated for 50,000 actuations and I’m in the 46,000s now so it may be nearing the end of its life.

But it has fallen apart in other ways, the leather trim on the side has fallen off in the past (and “fixed” with super glue), and there are a lot of minute particles in the prism. Nothing that prevents it from actually working yet, but it feels a bit old.

I had thought about upgrading for years, but the time was never right and the need was never there. The upgrade path would have been the D90 when it was available, but I never ended up buying one. Then the D90 was superseded by the D7000 2 years ago but I didn’t buy that then either. Now, the D7000 is near the end of its life (it is rumored that its successor will be announced soon), and I finally decided to buy a D7000 to upgrade my camera!

It seems like a silly time to upgrade, but I think camera cycles are different than other electronics. When the D7000 replacement comes out, there will be a price premium on it for several months, before it settles down into its normal price range. Waiting for 1) the replacement, and 2) the price settling, might take 6 months or more. Plus, I noticed that the D7000 prices (body only of course) have dropped by 30% over the last little while so that I could get it for sub-$1000 tax in. That price threshold was a psychological barrier for me, which was finally overcome.

In reality, the D7000 is a tangential upgrade which I don’t really need (short of my D50 truly falling apart). There are only a couple of things which I see immediate use for:

  • Better noise processing and image sensor technology
  • More than the 5 AF points that the D50 has
  • Fast continuous shooting
  • Better high ISO performance

The last two points are the most important to me right now. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures of Apollo indoors, and am already at the ISO 1600 limit of the D50 while still getting some blurry shots. Having these features will help and it’s worth getting “last year’s model” rather than waiting 6 months or more.

I remember having a conversation in 2005 about having all my photos online (i.e., the term we used before it became the cloud) and now 7 years later, I’m still struggling with putting my photos there.

It’s not that I don’t have a solution; I do have all my photos online using Gallery, but Gallery is old (feels like it’s from 2005), and the new version (Gallery3) doesn’t have the archiving features that I need (also I tried upgrading a few times and it didn’t work with all the photos I have).

One big reason why I’ve been thinking about it right now is because I want a solution to show my photos on phone or tablet – basically when I’m on the go. There are a lot of ways to put photos on the web (Flickr, Picasaweb, Facebook, etc), but not a lot of ways to view them. I have a bunch of photo albums on Facebook, but the Facebook app is too slow to view photos through (plus you need to have be online).

I’ve been thinking of using Picasaweb, but the problem there is you only get 1GB of free space. That’s not a lot of photos, even if they’re optimized. I also have to reorganize them and pick the best ones to show; which is a good idea in principle, but I have too many photos to go through!

An ideal solution would be some integration with Gallery, and there is such an app for Android (Regaldroid), but it’s just not very pretty or smooth.

So right now there’s no good solution, which is weird, because a lot of people have a lot of photos on the web!

I bought a new camera this month! It’s been a long time since I got my dSLR and I have a few problems with it recently; the leather has started peeling and one time my mirror locked up mysteriously. So I went out and bought a different camera.

Well my dSLR is still serviceable so instead I bought a camera that was more compact. I got a Panasonic GF2 (“last year’s model”) pancake kit which has a 14mm (28mm effective) lens. It was relatively cheap being $400 with a free battery. The GF2 is a micro four thirds camera, which means it is almost a SLR (missing the mirror and the sensor is not as big) but in a smaller body. In fact, it’s really only as big as some of the more prosumer point & shoots – almost pocketable. Yet it retains all the advanced SLR level features, plus it does 1080p, stereo sound recording.

The drawbacks are supposedly that the focus is slower (doesn’t use phase to focus), the (minimum) depth of field is larger and the noise performance is poorer. I haven’t experimented too much yet, but I do notice all three drawbacks (as well as the fourth – its a prime lens).

But I think it works for a specific usage, as a walkaround camera. I am tired of bringing my SLR around on vacation, although I love having the flexibility of the 18-50mm range with fixed f/2.8. This camera seems like a good balance and much easier to carry around. Now I just need to put it to the test.

My project this week was to go through all the photos I have taken and pick out some highlights to put into an album. I try (more in the past, less so now) to take photos to help me remember the past, because my memory isn’t that great; but in practice I’ve realized that I take photos, file them, and then never look at them again. That’s kind of a waste of all my effort!

So I want to change that, and the approach I’ve taken is to select some memorable ones and put them together into a physical album. I like having a book to share and reminiscing over rather than sitting in front of a screen and looking at a slideshow.

It has kind of snuck up on me that I’ve had a digital camera for almost 10 years now (since 2002). Looking through my photos, there is a huge difference between the image quality of my first camera to now (even comparing P+S, not to SLRs). The photos from 2002 had a lot of fuzziness and noise, even in good light. Although I would say that phone cameras are still not at 2002 P+S levels.

I read a little bit over the last little while:

  • The Prince Who Blew Through Billions
    The specifics don’t really matter in this story too much because the numbers are too big and the situations unbelievable, but it’s not every day that you’ll get a look into the life of a billionaire playboy. It’s like a movie, but even more unbelievable.
  • Looking for Someone
    A story in the New Yorker about online dating. Not so much the stigma or acceptance, but there’s also a lot of information about how the various dating services work.
  • How to Land Your Kid in Therapy
    An article about overparenting. A lot of it is common sense and a survey of recent themes; but randomly, I thought that the structure of this article was well done.
  • Polaroid’s SX-70: The Art and Science of the Nearly Impossible
    The story behind Polaroid’s revolutionary camera, and how the company fell apart afterwards. The author likens Polaroid’s founder, Edwin Land, to Steve Jobs. But I can’t really tell whether there is hyperbole to make a good story, or whether he was truly like that. However, I can imagine that the product was thought of as a miracle device like a smartphone.
  • The Joy of Stats
    I can’t really tell what this article is about. It’s a little bit about stats, a little about Jewish people, a little bit about Mark Cuban, and a little bit of a report on a MIT stats conference.

On our trip to NYC, we went to this café called D’Espresso. It’s a recent spot and its claim to fame is that its decor is like a library, sideways. Here’s what we saw:

I guess if you turn your head and chant “it’s sideways” three times, it kind of looks real. Part of that is the fault of my p+s camera, but it’s also because it wasn’t that cool.

Of course, when I first read about it on this blog post, it did look cool! It was so bright and big! That’s why we checked it out. But we look to be semi-fooled by good lighting and a wide angle lens. I guess we never learned from looking at real estate postings.

Over the last two years, I’ve been waiting in anticipation of the new release of Gallery – the software which I use to host my photos on my website (and thus have an off-site backup). Gallery 3 promised to be a complete rewrite of Gallery, incorporating all sorts of newfangled Web 2.0 features and performance considerations; although I would have just been happy with a better permissions UI. But hey, technological upgrades are great (I mean who would get a iPhone 3GS now that iPhone 4 is available).

Finally last week, Gallery 3 was released. I kind of gave up on it for a year, because they would announce a release candidate and a schedule, then miss the schedule by a few months. But nevertheless, it released. I’ve probably installed it over 10 times now and am ready to give up (or at least wait till Gallery 3.1).

Sure it’s more spiffy, but it doesn’t work in two crucial ways:

  1. It doesn’t import my photos from Gallery 2 correctly (it stalls every 500 photos or so, and I’m not going to create new albums for my 25000+ photos), and
  2. It doesn’t keep my original photos during import if they have been rotated

If Gallery 3 doesn’t work as a backup tool, and takes forever to setup, it kind of defeats the purpose of using it!

On Friday, we enjoyed fine dining at Splendido. We decided to go to Splendido because it is highly thought of by the foodies on Chowhound, and was mentioned much more than the stereotypical high-end Toronto fare (i.e., Canoe, North44).

After scouring the boards for awhile, there were a few things we wanted to try, the first was the 88 Harbord:

The 88 Harbord, is also the address of Splendido and has the unique distinction for me of being even more bitter than alcohol itself! However, even though it mixes 3 different liquors, it doesn’t taste like alcohol and manages to go down smoothly (due to I assume the peach nectar).

For starters, we tried Victor’s Foie Gras Parfait which is one of their signature dishes. I think the head chef, Victor brings it out for you and describes the dish, but I forgot to study beforehand and remember what he looks like.

Since I’m not a connaisseur of foie gras, I can’t really comment on quality, but Pauline said it was pretty great. I actually thought the rhubarb purée that accompanied it was more interesting and tangy. I guess that is like how babies like to play with the box instead of the toy that came inside it.

The other signature dish we wanted to try was the Pappardelle with pulled rabbit. This is apparently the second time I tried rabbit, and I focused more on trying to remember the taste this time. There isn’t a lot of it actually, it doesn’t taste like chicken per se, but it is kind of tasteless. I guess you could say it’s like chicken breast. The texture was also like pulled pork, which makes sense doesn’t it?

Ironically, the first time I had rabbit (I think) was at Noté Bene whose chef (David Lee) was the former chef of Splendido.

Next was the Tagliatelle with Tunisian octopus. I found this dish more interesting since there was a combination of different flavours. The octopus were big and cylindrical while soft and chewy, unlike squid/calamari at all. I tried to think back to when else I had octopus; there were the octopus balls in Japan, but I can’t really differentiate octopus and squid in my memory.

The octopus was are second choice because we actually wanted to order the Orecchiette instead, but since Splendido hand rolls its own pasta daily, they had run out of it for the night (we had a late sitting – 8:45PM)!

The last dish we had was the Halibut. We weren’t a big fan of this, although it was prepared very well (juicy but seared on the outside), it didn’t have the wow factor in ingredients or taste of our previous selections.

I took these pictures with our new P+S camera, the Canon SD1200IS. I think it did OK in the low light; it took pictures at 0.8″ and 0.6″ which turned out alright (as long as you have a steady hand). However I found out later that Auto ISO only goes to ISO400. I could have had a couple of clearer pictures if I manually set it to ISO800 or ISO1600.

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

I always mean to, but usually end up forgetting, to try and take some panoramas. On this trip to Europe, I remembered for once (or twice)! I think the catalyst was that there Belgium had a large number of public squares where there was a lot of open space surrounded by intricate buildings. Each building by themselves is not noteworthy to take a picture of, but the environment that they contribute to is memorable. I ended up doing two panoramas. One in Brugge and one in Brussels, and I put together a little page to view the panoramas (and any future ones I put together).

A couple of months ago, Sheet Music Guy sent me a crazy link about Weezer and Lil Wayne collaborating on the next Weezer album. What was amazing was not that they were collaborating or that Lil Wayne is now serving jail time so I dunno how that will work, but the crazy album art. I couldn’t believe they would seriously put that as their album cover.

Ok so it was just a photoshop job, but their real album cover is still bizarro. If you haven’t gone to either of those links above then the rest of my blog will make no sense to you.

Ok, now fast forward a few weeks ahead (but still a couple of weeks ago because I’m tardy in taking photos off my phone) and I’m in a Chapters flipping through some magazines. I pick up a National Geographic special issue about the best photos of the year and I see the same crazy picture!!

Last year, Picasa Web Albums released a feature called name tags that used facial recognition to group the people in your photos together. I was excited this week because the technology has finally reached the desktop client! I loaded the new Picasa and it began crunching through the 20,000+ faces in my photos.

It’s a cool technology, but the current execution is a little less than desired. I have a bunch of weird objects which it thinks are faces (like a rice cooker), many “faces” of statues and paintings, and a lot of dark/cloudy/misaligned/sideways-facing faces. I would rather they just not consider these as faces.

When it works, it works really well. It was able to cluster several thousand faces in my photos, and now I have all sorts of facial data that I want to do neat things with. Too bad the Picasa isn’t easily accessible so I’m relegated to making collages. Here’s a slice of my many faces:

The Beaches jazz festival is probably my favorite street festival in Toronto. It’s not overly crowded like the Taste of the Danforth and there’s free, live music! We went on Friday after seeing Harry Potter.

We didn’t listen to as many acts as the last time I went, since HP was two and a half hours long (!?) and the festival ended at 11PM. But they were quality. The first act we saw was Scott McCord & the Bonafide Truth. We saw them preparing and they all had cowboy hats on so I was worried they would break into some country twang. Fortunately, they just played some great music to dance too, and there was a crowd of random people dancing in front!

After awhile, we walked on and came across God Made Me Funky. What caught my ear was a tribute to Michael Jackson. The mixed in a bunch of old MJ disco/funk classics like Wanna Be Startin’ Something, Off The Wall, and included Rihanna’s Please Don’t Stop The Music and Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back!

Live covers are awesome, and I just caught the end of Sultans of String performance where they covered The Who’s Pinball Wizard made famous to me by Rock Band. They had a real drummer (as opposed to the video on their website) which had an awesome drum solo at the end. Too bad I can’t play drums like that!

This was also an excellent opportunity for me to test out how my kit with IS would work in low light. I tried to stress it at 55mm (and thus f/5.6) with ISO1600 and the IS was useful, but not infallible.

If there was ambient light, then it’s ok, but otherwise things started getting blurry (i.e., all my pictures of the bands). Plus focusing was a bit off.

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

Next on our tour of random places in the world is North Korea. I will probably never visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in my life, but it sounds like an interesting place (I mean, they grow giant rabbits for food….I swear I blogged about this before but I can’t find it).

I’ve seen some pictures of DPRK before, and I was struck by how stuck in the 60s all their infrastructure is. Here’s a photo (and a) essay of some Austrian’s trip through North Korea. They’ll just building a tram system in their capital city!

The Windows XP default wallpaper looks like it is computer generated, but it’s in fact a real picture (I’m sure there was some photoshop – the saturation looks pumped) taken in a real field. Here’s the backstory of the green field and blue skies. There’s also a picture of the field as it looks now, which is kind of like the fortunes of Microsoft.

I learned a couple of surprising things the other day:

  1. Some things are better together than apart, (like NKOTB – although Jordan Knight’s self-titled is not too bad), but as I found out Coffee and Beer is not one of them. I guess it doesn’t help that I didn’t like coffee or beer to begin with. Pauline ordered this at the Mill Street Coffee Porter at the Mill Street Brewery in the Distillery District.
  2. I’ve had an inkling of this previously, but the flash on my K200d is pretty good. It’s better at balancing than my D50 so there isn’t the deer caught in headlights affect.

Here’s a bonus point, 2.1 – it turns out that the camera DOES matter, and it’s not just the photographer. Those websites that rant about how you need to improve your photography instead of spending money on a new and updated camera? Ha BS, they’re just trying to sell their site!