Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Firefox 3.0 and PicLens

If you use the Firefox web browser, version 3.0 is now available. It's supposedly 2 to 3 times faster than version 2 and when I first used it I noticed it to be decidedly snappier.

A pretty spiffy plug-in for Firefox is PicLens. It works with many photo or video sites. For example, if you do a search on flickr, you can use the PicLens plug-in to view the results in a cool, 3-D wall of images sorta way. Spiffy.

As a photographer one of my continual quests for learning the craft includes studying other photographer's work. One way I do this is occasionally scanning through flickr photos to find images of which I can reverse engineer the lighting. Now that I've used it, wouldn't want to do this without Piclens.

My wife has an art blog for which she needs example images for the assignment each week. She'll search google images and use the Piclens plugin to scan through them. She loves how much easier and quicker it is to view this way. (Note: her use of the images is legal under fair use laws, as she uses them for a nonprofit educational purpose. Be careful about how you use an image. Just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean it's fair, and legal, and honarable to use.)

Piclens also works on www.heywood-photography.com. So if you have Firefox 3.0 and install the PicLens plug-in, then go to any of the galleries at heywood-photography.com. Just click the PicLens icon in the upper right corner of your browser window, its right next to the search bar. Now you can see the images in the cool, wall of images style that PicLens creates. Nice.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The problem with self-esteem

What's wrong with self-esteem? Two thoughts on this. First, self-esteem is an unhealthy distortion of the healthy concept of having a sense of worth and in having an appropriate level of confidence. Second, an idea I heard told not long ago by my Personality Theory professor, is that esteeming yourself at all is problematic. Not just the self-dislike, but the self-like also. What? Yeah, I know. More on that in a bit.

The first thought mentioned above is addressed nicely in an excellent talk given in 1995 by Paul C. Vitz. I could pick at some of what he says, or at least wish to discuss with him some points he briefly made, but all in all what he says is spot on. My main gripe would be found in this statement, "... only two things can truly change how we feel about ourselves. Real accomplishment and real love." This is well and good, but he goes on to explain that in order to develop genuine self-worth, real love has to be received. What he does not discuss is the importance of developing self-worth by giving love. Giving, I would suggest, is of greater importance than receiving. (I could go on and on about love and it's definition/s, but will save that for a later post. Maybe.) Vitz further writes that self-esteem is a "narcissistic emphasis in American society [that] is a disguised form of self worship." Ouch. Is self-esteem so bad? In it's often expressed incarnation, it really is. This is because it is a distorion of a true principle, but it is not the true principle. His entire talk may be read by clicking here.

The second thought, about the problem of esteeming yourself at all, goes like this. Rather than seeking to be happy, instead of seeking to love self, one should not consider such things. Instead, we ought to focus on others. This idea would say that if I'm down on myself it is only because I am focused on myself. Turn that focus toward others in a positive, serving sort of way, and *poof* no more problem with self-esteem; no more problem with depression. An accurate sense of self-worth will then follow. While self-esteem seeks to be fed, self-worth is content, and is fed mostly by course of feeding others. (I can go on and on about depression and it's definition/s, but will save that for a later post/s. Almost certainly.)

I find myself wanting to continue, to elaborate. But this is good enough for now. Read Vitz's talk. It's good to think about.

More Vitz: Psychology As Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship

[Although a professional photographer, psychology was my area of study in school. I expect to return to psychology related topics frequently in future posts.]

Friday, August 15, 2008


This is one of my wife's and my favorite sites. You can search for recipes, submit recipes, and save them in your online recipe box, or even print them. You can search for recipes by ingredients you want, or ingredients you don't want. The reviews are key to the value of the site. Make sure to read the reviews instead of just relying on the star rating. The reviews often provide helpful tips by those who have tried the recipe before, tips that you may wish to have before giving it a go.

There are also clearly written articles, illustrated with photographs. One I found useful for the one time I made bagels is Forming and Baking Bagels. If you like to cook, or don't, but have to, allrecipes.com may make cooking more fun.

Some of my favorites:

Chocolate chocolate chip cookies I like them cold from the refridgerator, my wife likes them fresh from the oven.
Canola Oil Pie Crust
Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Whole Grain Waffles
Aussie Chicken

Monday, August 11, 2008

Joelle Einerson Photo Shoot

I recently had a photo shoot with Joelle Einerson. She's at the beginning of a bid on the LDS pop music scene, and is in the process of recording her first album. Prior to the shoot she expressed an interest in photographs that were "edgy." Mind you, when she played me some of her newer songs to help me get a feel for her style, she jokingly referred to the songs as her "heavy metal." Pure hyperbole. This new stuff of hers was simply a step into something fast and lively in comparison to the gentler strains of say, her song Treasure Inside, which as of this writing is the first song on her myspace page. Edgy is relative.

We talked location, scouted out some places, and two days later went to shoot.

At the start of a shoot I like to start with some ideas in mind, and allow for a lot of on the fly creativity and exploring of different ideas. A photo shoot often starts off a bit slow, a bit stiff, and loosens up after a bit. So I usually start off with simple and basic to warm up, and this shoot was no different. Especially since I was trying to capture one of the images she wanted, a simple close up shot. In the photo at left a flash in a silver umbrella was about 4 feet directly in front of her as I shot with the camera right up underneath the umbrella's edge. From this initial series of photos I think I prefer this shot better, but the expression at left might be more "edgy," if you will. But, this shot just represents the simplicity of the first series of shots, and as can be seen by her selection of photos she put up on her myspace page, it isn't a favorite. It could also use a touch of post production to make it pop a bit more, but probably not worth it, since there's so many other, better shots to choose from. (None of these photos have had anything but minor color correction or contrast adjustments.)

In lighting the entire shoot I went with anything but edgy light. Instead, I shot with a single strobe in a silver umbrella, usually placed within five or six feet of her. And sometimes I used no strobe at all, opting for the available light only. Any edge or attitude I decided should come from her expression and posture, and in some cases the camera angle and composition. I felt that too much effort at dramatic lighting might not reflect the feel of her musical style. The one light in an umbrella set-up was also a bonus because it is so simple. It's easy to control without a lot of fuss. And since we were planning on a lot of exploring without firm ideas of what images we wanted to create exactly, the umbrella was a good option for beautiful, no worry lighting. With such simple lighting, expression is key. So I tried to draw that out, sometimes actively, as I spoke with Joelle, and sometimes passively, just letting whatever she expressed to come through unbidden.

Serendipity is happily a common experience when shooting. Such unplanned for, but actively sought for bit of creativity in the process of shooting often creates the best images. Two of my favorites were such happy chances. In this first of the two, I saw the electric meters all lined up in a grid on the old building we were shooting behind. I liked the pattern and thought that if I could blur them out so they weren't quite recognizable, it might be a pretty cool shot. We were in the shade so I opted to skip out on the flash, but had my wife and lighting assistant, Karleigh, use the umbrella to shade Joelle from the sun that was just barely peeking over the roof of the building behind her.

In this second of these two serendipitous shots, I had seen the stairwell leading up into the building across the street, and noticed the wallpaper, thinking it might be a nice backdrop. After a few shots on the stairs we went up them and there was this fantastic skylight, sending gorgeous light down. Combine this with the color and symmetry of the background, Karleigh holding up a reflector on Joelle's left side, and voila, for me it was a tie for shot of the day. The photo at top being the other.

All images can be seen larger by clicking on them. For kicks, you can see the entire shoot, the good, the bad, and the ugly, by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Photorec Rocks

A couple months ago I had some images go corrupt on my CF card (how does that happen? more on that at the end of this post). I tried the RescuePRO software that came with my SanDisk Extreme III cards, but while I have been more than pleased with the cards, the software was a bust. Doesn't have the ability to recover raw image files. Hnn?! If I had shot in jpeg, it'd have made an effort at recovery, but I don't shoot in jpeg.

So what to do ?

I did some pokin' around the internet and came across somewhere (I think it was a forum at photo.net) a recommendation for Photorec, a free program written by Christophe Grenier. While it's free, donations are accepted. On a Mac (OS X), it runs in Terminal, so it isn't pretty, but it rocks. There are also versions available for Dos (?), Windows, Linux, Unix, BSD, and OS/2. Click here to download the version you need.

Photorec even recovered a few files from over a year ago, and I've shot thousands of images on this card since then, and formatted the card dozens of times. Not sure how that works. Although, some of the images from my recent shoot, the one's that got corrupted, were lost. I gather that's not a fault of the software, but simply that some of the images were corrupt beyond saving.

If you're not geek enough to understand the selections you need to make in Photorec in order to recover your images, there's a step by step guide. If you're not geek enough to understand the step by step guide you can email Christophe. I did, and he responded within twelve hours. (Tip: when you get to the point where you need to choose which directory to save your images to, select a directory, then press the Y key.)


After downloading Photorec:

1. I unzipped the file called "testdisk-6.10.darwin.tar.bz2"

This created a folder called "testdisk-6.10" (There are two programs that are part of the download. Testdisk is one, and Photorec is the other. Both are part of the same zip file.).

2. Inside the testdisk-6.10 folder is another folder called Darwin. I opened it and clicked on the file called photorec. The Mac version I used doesn't have a pretty icon, just a gray rectangle with the word photorec next to it.

3. Upon clicking the Photorec icon, Terminal opens and you simply follow the prompts.


Here's my own step by step guide. That is, this is what I selected when I ran Photorec. Not sure if it makes any difference on some of these if I had selected another option:

Disk selection: my CF card
Partition type: none
File opt: crw [which recovered my cr2 files nicely]
For the file partition type I chose FAT.
Then I selected a directory to save the files to and pressed the Y key.


But why do files ever get corrupted?

[Edit: click here to read my post on CF card file corruption.]

I never had the problem until I got a card reader. Before then I had just plugged in my camera to my computer in order to upload images. Since I got my card reader I have now had two instances of corrupt/unreadable images, one time each on two different cards. The images were initially readable by my camera, then I took out the card, tried to upload with my card reader, and poof, corrupt images. My camera couldn't read them after that. Thankfully there's Photorec, but what caused the images to corrupt between taking the card out of my camera and trying to upload to my Mac with a card reader? I'll look into it and report what I find.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

First post: Mooving away from the bottle

Okay, a new blog. It'll be abouta whole lotta stuff that interests me, with the intent to be heavy on photography. Here's the first post (not about photography)...

As I listen to my nearly 18 month old son Jadon cry because he wants his bottle as he falls asleep (this is the week we belatedly decided to get him completely off the bottle), I decided to research a bit on what I've only heard about, and that is bottles are bad for the teeth. Figured what I learned would either allow me to give it to him and have a little quiet, or bolster me for the few nights I expect it will take him to go to sleep quietly without a bottle. What I learned has bolstered me. A temporary and ultimately selfish fix is to give the bottle to him. Why is he crying? Because he's sad, of course. Sadness is not bad thing (it is, in fact, necessary), but not learning how to cope with it is. Letting him cry in this situation, allowing him to learn to deal with it, will be an incredible service to him. And in a few nights he'll be sleeping quite nicely without a bottle, with better oral health, and less moolah spent on moo juice to boot.

Here's a few links:

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Defined
When Baby Won't Go To Sleep On Her Own
A picture's worth

The second link above is for those who just have to "be there", in some way, for their child. I completely understand that desire to be there, but I often try to take the most practical course, and for me, sitting next to Jadon as he cries and cries isn't so practical. We're going the macho (and much faster) route and letting him cry it out alone. And he'll actually cry for less time that way, too, sparing him and us. ...Hey, he's asleep already.