Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category


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There are a number of great photography applications for iOS, which is one of the leading reasons I chose the iPhone 4 over the BlackBerrys, Androids, and Windows phones out there.

My current favorite is Camera+, which is probably the most famous of the camera-replacement apps out there. I originally downloaded it because the filters looked really great on there, and I was pleased to see that the viewfinder features a crosshatch grid to help you observe the Rule-of-Thirds.

The greatest feature in the app is one that I found completely by accident. The funny part is that it’s a headline feature of the app if you read about it on the main website (http://camerapl.us).

What I’m referring to is what the developers, Tap Tap Tap, refer to as Touch Exposure. Apple introduced tap-to-focus when the iPhone 4 was announced, which is great, but Tap Tap Tap took this a step further by allowing you to tap out a customer exposure point independent of the focus point.

Camera+ App

Example of Independent Focus and Exposure Points

Why is this significant? Because it’s rarely the case that the focus of your photograph exists right where you want the mid-tones to be. The Touch Exposure option lets you see a live representation of what each of the potential exposure points in your photograph can look like. This allows you to effectively lighten or darken your photo without losing any significant detail.

In a word, this is huge. For all the beautiful filters, for the handiness of Rule-of-Thirds lines, for the ease of the app’s Lightbox feature, the Touch Exposure is the most important important capability I have ever seen in a photography app.

In fact, it should be on all modern cameras. In the world of still cameras, the photographer would normally either use a standalone meter to get the numbers he needs to input manually into the camera, or he would point the camera’s viewfinder at what he thinks looks like a mid-tone, half push the shutter to lock it in, and then slide back over to the subject he’s photographing and push the shutter down for the shot.

The problem with the first method is that it’s time consuming and is really only the province of advanced photographers; the problem with the second is that you’re guessing at what’s an accurate representation of the mid-tone, and you’re gambling that the field of focus is the same for your mid-tone sample as the subject (after all, by pushing the shutter button down halfway, you’re usually locking that depth of field in as well).

Here are some examples of what I mean.  The first two photos were taken a couple of minutes before I happened upon the Touch Exposure feature.

Overexposed image of Gibbon Falls

Overexposed because the phone used the canyon wall to set its parameters.

Underexposed image of Gibbons Falls

Underexposed because the camera used the waterfall for its parameters.

I walked down to a different angle of the waterfall and accidentally activated the Touch Exposure.  My first attempt at using it yielded this:

This time I set the exposure point somewhere between the dark canyon wall and the bright waterfall.

A correctly exposed photo is considerably easier to deal with in post because it has much more information at each of the three major levels (high-, mid-, and lowtones).  The only thing lost was the sky, but the only thing that would have saved that was an HDR photo.  (The subject for another time.)

This photo allowed me to run it through some of Camera+’s beautiful filters and create an intentionally false-colored version that evokes memories of old 1960s photography:

Gibbon Falls


Written by Michael

17 June 2011 at 8:17 pm

Video Camera Dilemma

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Once again, it’s time to start considering an HD camcorder.  Last year, I compromised by going with the Flip Video Ultra (a small, SD camcorder), which was actually quite nice.  Shortly thereafter, Pure Digital Technologies released the Flip Video Mino (pronounced minnow, like the small fish), which was considerably thinner than the Ultra and yet still offered the same quality.  (To make matters even funnier, Pure Digital also released the Mino HD, which brings a 720P resolution to their pocket-sized camcorder.  And I would go for that in the short term if it weren’t for how framey it is during movement.)

I was miffed at all these sudden changes, but seeing as how I’m a product of the digital era, I understand well the speed of obsolescence.

This is further borne out by looking at the dramatic changes to the Canon Vixia HF-line, which was my first choice for a camcorder last year.  (Only, I didn’t really have the money then.  I’m not sure I do now either, frankly, but that’s neither here nor there…)  The funny thing about that was I was drooling over the HF10 about this time last year, only to watch it get superseded by the HF11 not long after (which improved over the original by offering 24Mbps video rather than 17Mbps among other things).

Now the HF20 is about to launch, which includes some of Canon’s latest face detection technology along with a 15x optical zoom (!!!) and 32GB of internal flash memory (twice what the HF10 had).

Seems like an easy choice then, right?  Just go for the HF20 and be happy.

Only Canon introduced another wrinkle into their product line, called the Canon Vixia HF S10, an offshoot of the line with more professional additions.  From what I’ve been able to gather since finding out about this last night, it has an 8.59 megapixel CMOS chip (vs. the 3.89 megapixel CMOS chip of the HF20).

The problem is I think this influences the still shots more than the video (since the resolution of HD is fixed at 1920 x 1080) — but having the higher resolution may result in greatly increased accuracy in the autofocus and face-detecting technologies, as well as a chance for improved color.

One feature that gives the HF20 a leg up on the HF S10 is the optical zoom.  The former is 15x, which is extraordinary.  (That’s an effective 525mm lens!)  The HF S10 has a 10x optical zoom, which the earlier HF10 has.  But it sounds like the lens quality is higher on the HF S10, though its functionality lags behind the HF20’s.

This all said, and given my limited understanding of what the HF S10 has, I’m inclined to lean towards the HF20.  It’s $400 less on Amazon, and I haven’t discerned enough features from the HF S10 to decide that this premium is warranted.

If anyone knows more about this than I do, please let me know.  I’m aiming to have a camcorder for my next Yellowstone excursion in early June.

P.S.  I haven’t forgotten about WebChef.tv.  I’ll need a video camera for that, obviously, and I’d want this purchase to work for that, too.

Written by Michael

15 March 2009 at 11:23 am

15 Minutes in Yellowstone

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Despite the hypocrisy of it, I’ve violated the very rule I say home video makers should try to avoid: movies that are longer than 5 minutes. Well, three days of craziness in Yellowstone National Park back in May 2008 makes for three times the video! I thus present 15 Minutes in Yellowstone. Enjoy!

Production Notes: filmed with Flip Video Ultra; edited in iMovie ’09; map animations created in Keynote ’09; and soundtrack sampled from iLife ’09 audio suite.

P.S. This is more or less a remake of the Yellowstone 2008 (Prelude, Days 1-3) videos as one film. There’s not a whole lot new that you haven’t seen if you’ve watched those, but check it out anyway to see what I did with it.

Written by Michael

7 February 2009 at 8:40 pm

Pairing a Bluetooth Headset with a BlackBerry

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I never got around to linking to this video I made back in December 2008:


Written by Michael

25 January 2009 at 11:51 pm