Archive for June 2009

 
 

What Sold Me on iPhone

I’ll tell you the moment I fell in love with my iPhone, and it didn’t come until day three or four.

I needed to change the date of a doctor’s appointment I had coming up.  I had entered my doctor’s phone number in my address book on my laptop, so it had already synched up to my iPhone.  Great.  A couple of taps, and the phone call is made.

After I made the appointment, I realized I’d be going to my doctor’s office straight from work for the first time, and wondered what the quickest way to get there would be.

There’s an app for that: Google Maps.  I typed my doctor’s name and town into the search bar, and the first red pin on the map five seconds later was right.  I tapped on it, and it brought up a contact info screen with her name, address, and phone number.  I tapped on the “Add to Contacts” button.  I chose “Add to Existing Contact,” since she was already in there.  And bam, her address and Google Map location was saved into my address book.  No duplication.  Fit right in.

As for getting from work to her office?  I went back to Google Maps, where I had bookmarked certain locations — home, work, etc.  A couple taps later, I had the most direct driving route from work to the doctor’s.  When the time comes to drive it, I can turn on my GPS and see my progress in real time.  ( I used that feature to drive around a traffic jam in town already once. )

So easy, so smooth, so quick.

All of a sudden, I’m interested in maintaining an address book seriously for the first time in my life.  My phone makes it easy to wield it.  And the fact that I can easily access it all while I’m on the phone (assuming the ear buds or Bluetooth earpiece are in) is a wonderful bonus.

I will refrain, however, from taking my doctor’s picture in her office to add to my phone book.  That might be going a bit too far.

Two years is a big delta

No App store? Edge network connection? Piddling 1.3 megapixel camera phone? 8 GB storage, at best? No Video? $599 price point? No GPS? Mono BlueTooth connection? No compass?!?

Why in heaven’s name did you people buy iPhone 1.0?!?  That must have been like living in the stone age, and hunting for berries for lunch. . .

And why do I get the feeling I’ll be asking similar questions of myself with the 3GS in a couple of years?

A picture to hold you over. . .

OK, so the iPhone writeups are going slower than expected.  In the meantime, here’s a bonus picture:

Long Shot It’s a picture filled with braches.  But what’s the black splotch in the middle?

Closeup on bird

HIS EYES!  THEY PIERCE YOUR SOUL!

Have a great weekend.

iPhone: Day One

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I drove over to the Apple Store last Friday, not sure of what I might find there.  I arrived at 11:45, and walked out with my new iPhone 3GS 32 GB black model in less than a half hour.  I only stood in line for 5 -10 minutes.  My name was on their reservation list, so I got to sit on the short line of a half dozen people.  This being Apple, the reservation list was organized by first name. They want to really really know you, as a friend.

The late-comers were on a second line about twice as long, and moving half as fast.  The store was virtually closed that day to all but iPhone buyers and those with Genius Bar appointments.  And the Genius Bar was booked through Tuesday, I heard the concierge tell one person.  People who wanted to walk in to buy computers ($1000+ items, mind you) were told to wait outside until they could find an available sales person.

The concierge introduced me to my salesperson, who found me in the computerized system easily enough (minus the glitch about a space being in my last name), and started taking me through all the steps.  The only hang-up?  My credit authorization wasn’t in the system, so she had to call AT&T to verify that.  That took at least five minutes.  She said to me, “We’ve had that error a few times today.  Nothing to worry about.  You’d think AT&T would be able to figure that out and get their servers working.”  “No,” I said, “nobody expects anything from AT&T.”  She didn’t say anything back, but she laughed a knowing laugh.  I don’t blame her for being reticent to blast an Apple business partner, but she knows as well as everyone else in that store where the weak link of the iPhone is.

They took my credit card and two gift cards I had saved up for the purchase, had me digitally sign a thing or two, emailed me my recent, and then took me over to another table filled with tech people whose job it was to plug the iPhone into iTunes to start it up.  After that was done, he asked if I wanted to set up an email account on the phone.  I did.  They listed Gmail as a possibility, so the tech handed me the iPhone and told me to go ahead and type in my name and password.

::gulp:: I’ve never typed on an iPhone before.  Now, here I was, standing in front of an Apple employee with hands that felt like sides of beef, trying to tap out my user name and password.  You don’t get the benefit of autocomplete when you’re doing that, by the way.

Took me three tries, but I finally got it to work.  My main problem came in typing the password, since keypresses are automatically replaced with stars as you type.

I pretended that I was trying different passwords and they guy laughed, “Yeah, we get that a lot.”  Did he know I was lying?

And by the time that flop sweat dried up, I was headed out the door with my new toy.

Let the learning curve begin!

Tomorrow: The Coolness of the New Toy.

Podcast Recommendation: Martin Bailey

We’re going to start talking iPhone soon, but here’s a podcast worth listening to, if you’re photographically-inclined:

The Martin Bailey Photography Podcast (link opens iTunes) is unique on the list of podcasts I listen to.  It’s the only one that blends its audio presentation with still frames.  (There is a plain MP3 version without the slideshow accompaniment, but that sounds tedious to me.)  Bailey is a semi-professional photographer, I suppose.  He has a day job, but spends the rest of his time specializing in nature photography.  Here’s the twist:  He’s a Briton living in Japan.  His podcast is often half-travelogue, half photography primer.  He tells the stories behind the pictures, the technical aspects of the pictures, and more.

His presentation is very calm and methodical, lasting about a half hour or so per weekly episode.  You’ll learn about photography, Japan, nature, and a whole lot more along the way.  It’s a great show.

Check out his portfolio at MartinBaileyPhotography.com.  Beautiful stuff, and he’s a Canon shooter, too. Those are turning into a rare breed these days. ::sigh::

Previous Photography Podcast Posts:

The Tyranny of Creative How To-ism

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a writer.  So I read a lot of Writer’s Digests books.  I visited all of the creative writing websites.  I checked out the magazines.  It didn’t take long before they all started to sound alike and say the same exact things.  It quickly became apparent that there was more money to be made in teaching writing than in writing.

It’s the same damned thing in photography now, isn’t it?  Check out the magazine rack at Borders or Barnes and Noble for three months.  You’ll see the same topics floating through them all.  Each month, one magazine will be devoting an issue to black and white photography, with the featured tutorial about how to properly convert a color pic to black and white in Photoshop three different ways.  You’ll see how to shoot better landscapes.  (Point your camera a third of the way into the scene, put the camera on a tripod, squeeze the aperture shut as far as you can, and only take pictures during the Golden Hour.)  You’ll see how to “paint with light.”  (This is a particularly British fascination, it seems.)  You’ll learn how to take HDR photos.  Then there’ll be the Macro Photography issue, complete with a cover shot of a really big flower, close-up, or perhaps a lizard’s eye reflecting the ring light.

They’ll all be reviewing the same “new” and “hot” item, which came out three months ago and that you grew tired of reading about on the web two months ago.

Over and over and over again.

And you’ll likely see all the same platitudes here on this website in the months ahead, if I continue to focus on photography. The magazines will have some pretty pictures, though.  And half of them will be critiqued for bad cropping, ignoring the rule of thirds, complicated backgrounds, and poor level adjustments.

I haven’t looked too deeply into it, but I bet there’s a similar circle for artists’ magazines.

The creative endeavors attract suckers who want to be that creative for a living, but who don’t realize that the “living” is more business than creative.  There will be more money and more work for top notch photographers in writing about photography, making DVDs about photography, and doing workshops than there will be in shooting.

If you’re just getting started in photography, by all means, indulge yourself.  (And buy the British magazines.  The ads will be useless to you, but the presentation is ten times better.) I did read all of those magazines when I started and I learned an awful lot that way.  I still subscribe to one, as a matter of fact, for light reading material.

Just realize that after six months, the snake will begin gnawing on its own tail.  Don’t throw bad money after good. Just walk away and learn, yourself.  Or spend that money on reference books you’ll use repeatedly and not throw away — like Lightroom or Photoshop manuals.

And, above all, get out there and take pictures.  It’s the only way to learn.  Everything you’ve read, everything you’re seen in a training video, and everything you’ve listened to on a podcast is all theoretical nonsense until you begin to apply it.

More Photography Podcast Suggestions

TWIP is “This Week in Photography.” Hosted by former Apple and Adobe marketer Frederick Van Johnson, it’s a weekly venture into the world of photography, with the news, the reviews, the picks of the week, your questions answered, and an interview with some photo luminary.  Other regulars include Alex Lindsay, pro photog Steve Simon, and Ron Brinkmann (now at Amazon).  Scott Bourne co-founded the show before moving on to start his own a year later, but we’ll get to that next.

The show has improved a bunch this year, speeding its way through the boring boilerplate stuff and eliminating the running gags turned time wasters.  On the other hand, the production notes are referenced way too often, taking all the magic away from them.  Seriously, knowing everything that’s going to happen on the show ahead of time is a good thing to do.  Telling the world as you go along that you’re paying close attention to it kinda defeats half the purpose.

Also, every other sentence in the show is followed with, “And we’ll have a link to that in the show notes.” That’s a general pet peeve of mine with most podcasts, but it gets really annoying on TWIP.  I can assume the show notes will have everything in them, thanks.  It’s obvious.

Scott Bourne left the show earlier this year to start his own podcast and blog, Photo Focus.  The podcast is 40 minutes long or so, and released three times a month.  (On the 5th, 15th, and 25th of the money.  His iPhone show had a similar schedule, once upon a time.)

In Bourne’s show, he and co-host Rick Sammon (pro shooter and photography educator/book writer) take rapid fire questions from the audience and answer away. There’s usually one short guest spot from a known name in photog circles to answer a couple of qurestions, too.

Bourne hosts the show with the iron fist he could never used on TWIP to keep everything on topic and moving forward. He occasionally lapses into his old school radio talk show host voice, which is a little jarring from a guy I’m used to hearing more conversationally on Mac Break Weekly.  And Sammon has two or three pet phrases that will make you want to scream after you’ve heard them for the 100th time, no matter where he is.  (The camera looks both ways, you know. ARGH!  I GET IT! STOP!)

It’s a good show to learn a little about a lot.  You’ll see some recurring answers as you listen, but that’ll help you learn, too. The show is all of six episodes old right now, so feel free to start from the beginning.

Oh What a Difference a Week Makes

An update to last week’s Apple Linguistic Mess post:

Apple iPhone Email, June 9:

Apple iPhone Email, June 9

Apple iPhone Email, June 17: Apple iPhone Email, June 17 Same guy in blue, but now talking about your “pre-authorization” instead of how you can “reserve” an iPhone.  You’re “saving time” now, not “get[ting]” anything.

There are two possibilities here:

Last week, a reservation meant that there was plenty in stock and you’d be guaranteed your reserve.  This week, it’s getting closer, supplies are dwindling, and so you can’t be guaranteed an iPhone anymore.

Or, they realized that their language last week was dead wrong. As I’ve often said in the last week, making a reservation at a restaurant doesn’t give you “First Come, First Served” seating.  The small print last week indicated that.  The message was decidedly mixed.

I’d have pre-ordered my iPhone and had it shipped home, but I have two Apple Store gift cards I plan to use for this purchase.  The Apple Store doesn’t have a spot for them in its check-out process.  As wonderful and advanced a company as Apple is, it can’t even get its gift cards to work on-line?  (It was purposeful for the original iPhone, when they were limiting how many phones a single person could buy and needed your credit card for tracking purposes.)

We’ll see what happens on Friday, but I’m decidedly not optimistic anymore.  There’s a chance I’ll get an iPhone, but I’m not betting on it.  I’ll be one of those lunatics who checks a website somewhere daily to see where the next batch of units is shipping, and drop by there with my fingers crossed and money clutched in my hands. . .  ::sigh::

Photo Podcasts, Part One

When I decided almost two years ago to get serious about my photography, I knew I had a lot to learn.  And as anxious as I was to get a camera and start shooting, I had to save up the money for it — which meant, mostly, selling a bunch of DVDs on the Amazon Marketplace.  It was well worth it, but it left me with about four months of research time leading to the purchase of the actual camera.

I read tons of photography magazines and listened to wall-to-wall photography podcasts.  We’ll talk about my frustrations with the magazines another time.  This week, I want to mention some of the podcasts I’ve listened to, and continue to listen to.

I don’t remember which one was the first anymore, but one of the early ones had to be Digital Photo Life.  Back then, it was The Digital Photography Show, but it recently switched networks and started from scratch again.  The show is hosted by two photo enthusiasts, Scott Sherman and Michael Stein, who once took a photo workshop together and decided to start a podcast.

Each week’s show features giveaways, interviews, news, and reviews.  Scott’s a Canon shooter; Michael’s a Nikon shooter.  So it’s all balanced out.

Recent shows have either been “too beginner” for me or an interview with a spokesman from a company hawking their wares.  I’ve grown tired of such interviews now, but when I was just learning about these things, I ate it all up.  So it might still be good for you.

My biggest gripe with the show today is that the boilerplate stuff goes on forever, with more websites and gmail addresses than you could shake a stick at.  One show literally didn’t start for 18 minutes.  That wasn’t good.

Still, it’s an entertaining show with personality and enthusiastic hosts with a great camaraderie.  Give it a shot if you’re looking into this kind of thing.

The only catch is that the show is on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, due to some family issues. Still, there are a lot of shows in the archives you can listen to for all the tips you need.

More podcasts to come. . .

Current Photographic Arsenal

  • Canon XTi (400D)
  • Canon 430 EX ii Flash
  • Canon 50mm f/1.8
  • Canon 70-300mm f/45.6
  • Tamron 28-70mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8-4(???)
  • Canon remote
  • Tripod (Cheap Sunpak thingy from Best Buy — don’t follow my example here.  It does the trick, but I wouldn’t trust it in rugged terrain. I don’t use it that much, either.)
  • Manfrotto monopod (Still haven’t used it, but couldn’t pass up the special deal Adorama had one week.)
  • Rocket Blower (gets the dust out!)
  • Camera Backpack Bag (big enough for camera, all lenses, flash, laptop, and additional random storage)
  • Umbrella – I’ve gotten some great pictures with this baby, but don’t use it too often
  • eBay triggers to set off the flash remotely (manual use, only)

Lesson to be learned: Probably none, though you could take away from this that third party lenses aren’t bad.

Why I Love My Tamron 28-75mm Lens

Tamron LensFor a long time, the 50mm prime lens was my go-to lens. It operates very well in low-light, and most indoors pictures are low light. It takes sharp pictures at the right f-stop, but it also produces wonderfully soft narrow depth-of-field pictures. It’s great for taking pictures of people from the chest or shoulders up.

Problem is, if you want to take a full body pic, you need to be standing ten feet or more back on a cropped-sensor camera. You’re in trouble. You don’t always have that much room, particularly in the clear.

I could — and often did — use the wide angle lens, but it’s too wide. Even at 28mm, you often get distortion as you move out towards the edges. I’ve got a picture of my daughter I took with that lens that works, but if you think about it for too long, it’s bizarre. She’s sitting down, facing the camera. Her head at the top of the frame is huge and bulbous. Her feet at the bottom stick way out. And her body is itty bitty. It’s almost a chibi. But that’s what a wide angle lens does to people, close-up.

Show with a Tamron 28-75mm lensThe 70-300mm is completely useless to me indoors. At 70mm, you need to stand ten feet back just to get head-and-shoulders. It’s a great outdoors lens for sports or nature or animals, but it’s not great indoors at a family event.

That’s why I went for the Tamron 28-75mm lens. It provides a little extra zoom in either direction of the 50mm. Now I can get multiple people standing across the frame without backing up terribly far, but I can also get a candid shot of someone across the room without them knowing it at 75mm.

And, best of all, it’s f/2.8 throughout. Cheaper lenses allow a much more open f-stop at the lowest zoom. You’ll start at f/2.8 or f/3.5, but you’ll quickly move to f/4.8 or f/5.6 by the time you rack out (zoom all the way in) the lens. Getting f/2.8 throughout is huge. It lets in a large amount of light. It allows for a shallow depth of field at any distance. And it produces great images.

It’s the best of both worlds. And, being Tamron and not Canon, you’re not paying through the nose for it. Sure, I’d love to own a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L lens (IS or no), but I can’t afford it, it wouldn’t work for the pics I mostly take, and (from the reviews I’ve read) the pic won’t be that much sharper than my Tamron.

Looks like the NBA Championships Are Over

Here’s what was buzzing on Twitter at 11:30 last night:

Lakers Won, Right?

I’m guessing the Lakers won, then?

The Shield’s Final Season DVD

The greatest season of television I’ve ever watched is now on DVD:

Commentaries on every episode.  Great cover art, too.

It’s releases like this that make me want to jump back into the New DVD Releases pool. . .

Update: Best Buy is offering all previous season of “The Shield” for just $19.99 this week.

AugieShoots.com – The Past 30 Days

Let’s see, we have spitting animals, a parade, a carnival, and more clouds.  Fun!

AugieShoots.com is the home of my Photo of the Day.  And every one of the pics in these last 30 days were taken in the last 30 – 35 days.  That might just be a first, too, for the year.  Didn’t need to go into the archive to fill days.

(This would be a lot easier if the site was “A Picture of My Daughter a Day.”)

30 Days of AugieShoots.com

Manual Mode

My flash also allowed me to try something new: Manual Mode.  It’s scary, it’s not always easy, and it’ll definitely slow you down.  But I think my best pictures ever have come in Manual mode, often while using a flash and going for a specific effect.  Being able to control aperture, shutter speed, and ISO manually is huge.  It often means taking experimental shots to get your lighting right, but after that it makes for better pictures that look more like what you were expecting.

On the other hand, in a place where lighting can vary dramatically from shot to shot (outdoors, shooting into the sky instead of the shade, for example), it can get very frustrating.  There, you might be better off in Aperture Priority mode.

I take most of my pictures in Manual mode today.  It’s a lot of fun to take the same picture repeatedly while cycling through various f-stops or shutter speeds to see the differences it makes.  I’ve learned a lot about photography that way.  And once you get the right exposure locked in, it’s a beautiful thing, just as you wanted it to be.

Digital pictures are cheap, and easily disposed of.  Don’t be afraid to take test shots.  Play with Manual mode, at least, and learn what you can about the technical aspects of photography, and how different settings influence pictures in different ways. Just don’t ask me to manually focus.  That way lies complete and utter madness.