Category Archives: Flickr

Yahoo.com is becoming more and more appropriately named

Lately I’ve been working on a plan for stepping up my creative activities, which includes making some adjustments to my online presence.  I’ll spare you the tedious details, and only mention that one step of the plan involved creating a new Yahoo Mail account that I could associate with an already existing Flickr account.

Well, my plan has been foiled, thanks to a new and very stupid Yahoo account creation policy:  It turns out that, as of recently, Yahoo will no  longer allow someone to set up a mail account without providing a mobile phone number.  I don’t have one of those damned things, nor do I want one.  Even if I could get one and keep it running for a reasonable price, having it would make it easier for people to bother me, which I don’t want.  And (seriously people) – text messages??!?!  No way.

I may be able to work around this problem some other way, involving using an existing, unused Yahoo Mail account instead of creating a new one.  That is assuming there is no further demand for cell phone information when I set up the association with the already-existing Flickr account—an assumption which, as of today, I no longer consider safe.

An additional, worrisome question is whether Yahoo plans to extend their Nazi-esque mobile phone policy to existing users in general.  As of today, they have not done that—I just successfully logged out of my primary Yahoo Mail account and then logged back in.  They do pester with the “what’s your mobile phone number” thing at every single login now, though.  If they make that mandatory, I’d be faced with the very unwelcome choice of abandoning my old accounts entirely, or shelling out the damn money to buy one of these goddamned phones.  (I notice WordPress is getting pretty pushy about mobile phone authentication as well, although I don’t believe they require a number just to create an account.)

It actually makes me wonder if Yahoo! is getting a kickback from the phone companies to do this.  It wouldn’t be at all surprising, would it?  I can certainly believe that the large phone companies, all of whom are scum, would stoop to this sort of strategy.

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Filed under annoyances, brainstorming, doom and gloom, Flickr

Dry spell

Winter is now underway in earnest, and I’ve been in the midst of some photography blahs lately. The problem started when there wasn’t a single sunny day in the entire month of December, except for days when I was at work and couldn’t go outside. All others were cloudy, without exception. With sunrise being so late and sunset happening well before I get out of work, this was a pretty discouraging state of affairs. Even taking four days off around the Christmas holiday didn’t help—not one of them was sunny. Of course I took a stab at getting out with the camera anyway, on days when the roads weren’t clogged up with new snowfall, but I wasn’t exceptionally happy with the results.

Now that we are into January, the weather pattern has flipped and sunny days are much more common. As is typical, though, this means colder weather. Due to some car issues this year, I’m a little nervous about getting out into the middle of nowhere and leaving my car parked when it’s so cold out. A couple weeks ago it wouldn’t start due to an electrical problem. That issue has apparently been fixed now, but since then there have been some random instances of the blower shutting off briefly, or even refusing to start. Obviously I can drive the car without the blower, but it’s not pleasant when the heating system isn’t fully functional in the dead of winter. (And not being able to defog the windows in the morning is a real pain in the ass.)

I’m also getting discouraged about my new Flickr account. I had wanted to have all my old pics reposted over a month ago already, but I’m still dragging my feet. In fact, I haven’t made any progress in a while, except for deciding that there are definitely going to be some photos which will be skipped this time around. I’ve also realized it was a mistake to delete my old Flickr stream. Aside from casting off a lot of useless group subscriptions, I don’t think I’ve benefited from the switch in the least.

The final problem is more simple: I’m just not feeling all that inspired right now.

So for now, I’m amusing myself by trying different themes for this blog. I also want to take a look at the categories, because they seem like they could use some updating. There are also a bunch of draft posts that I should either finish or delete. Probably the tagging needs to be reviewed too. (Actually I hate tagging, but it is useful enough that I keep trying, as frustrating and imperfect as it is.) That’s also the main reason for this post—just to get myself doing something here, so I don’t let it slide completely, like I’ve pretty much done with my old Blogger blogs.

Speaking of which, I actually did take a quick look at my other blogs recently. Right now I have no ideas about what I would write on them, but there are at least two of them (out of four) which I would like to keep active. One is my SG-13 blog here on WordPress. I was reading some of my SG-13 posts last night and realized I’m very happy with a lot of what I did on that blog. I definitely want to get started on it again, if I can find the time.

Anyway. That is what has been up lately. :)

Oh—I believe Nikon is going to be coming out with a D90 replacement model sometime in the near future. I’d have to check but I think February was the time I heard mentioned. Sounds exciting! For a long time I considered the D90 to be the obvious choice for my next camera body. I even had the plan of purchasing one right around the time that the successor was announced, that way I’d get the D90 for a really reasonable price. Well, that time is now! And I am not ready to spend that kind of money just yet—I have credit card debt I’ve been dragging around since 1993 which is within two or three months of finally being paid off, so there is no way I’m spending $800 on a camera body until that is taken care of. However, this may not actually be a problem, since I have lately been thinking that the D90 successor might have some features that I could appreciate, in which case there is no rush. The other choice, of course, would be a D300s, and there is no rush on that either.

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Filed under brainstorming, doom and gloom, Flickr, meta, Nikon, photography

RIP: My old Flickr account

Well, for reasons that I’m not going to go into, it was necessary to delete my original Flickr account, the one located at http://www.flickr.com/photos/68079097@N00/.

This is a bit of a bummer, but I’m well along in getting started with a new stream. In fact, things are going so swimmingly that I may soon have to break out the plastic money and get myself another pro account.

All of the pics I have posted on this blog so far come from the old stream, so at the moment they will appear as broken. I’ll fix that as soon as I get a chance.

The link to the new account is http://www.flickr.com/photos/44497532@N08/. I will miss being one of the elite “@N00” people! :(

My old account was started in February of 2005, and had received over 17,000 views. I wonder what kind of viewage I’ll get on the new stream. As of this writing, I have 21 views. :) That’s the count for the stream, not the count for the individual pics. Once I reactivate my pro status, I’ll be getting a better look at the stats situation.

Another question is Flickr’s Explore. My old stream only had three photos reach permanent “Explore” status (another two were “explored” and then removed later, for some mysterious reason). A lot of the reason for this was that, for quite a long time, my workflow consisted of a final JPG for upload which contained no EXIF data at all. It’s fairly well-known on Flickr that you’ve got to have EXIF data in order to be considered for Explore. I know most of my old pics will still have the no-EXIF problem when I upload them again, but moving forward, all the newer stuff will have it.

Finally, I offer a suggestion to anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation in the future: If you want to “recover” some of the text data from a deleted Flickr account, use Google’s cache feature. But be careful doing that—if you access too many cached pages within too short a time, Google’s servers will decide you are committing a TOS violation and you’ll be banned from using cached pages. How long will the ban last? Who knows. I suppose it varies depending on how nasty they think you are. So be careful. As of last night, I was unable to access any cached Google page from my home internet account, even after waiting a couple of hours. I hope they lift the ban, but I’m afraid now that if I do even a little bit more, it’ll set off their alarm again and I’ll be banned forever. (Or at least until I get a new IP address, which could be months from now.) It’s possible I may already be banned forever. I hope not. :(

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Filed under annoyances, Flickr, links, meta

Pixel-Peeper

This looks like it could be a useful site:

Pixel-Peeper

Basically it has a search form on it where you can choose a lens, choose a camera, choose some other specifications like focal length range or aperture range, and it’ll search its database of photos for ones that match those criteria. So, for instance, I picked the Nikon 16-85mm VR, and the Nikon D40….and received zero matches. :) However, each menu also has an “any” option, so when replacing the D40 with “any,” I got many more results. Then you can look at the specs for each photo match or click on a link to view a full resolution version and “pixel peep.”

The problem is that most of these pics appear to be hosted on Flickr. Many, many Flickr users have their original size photos hidden, so when you click on that link it just says “oops, private page.” All you are allowed to see, in many cases, is the 500 pixel wide “medium” version. That seems like a pretty major flaw. You can’t tell very much about lens quality by looking at a 500 pixel image. Even the quality of the bokeh will look different when the resolution is reduced that much.

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Blowing out the sky…or not

[This was originally going to be a quick response to a question posed in a Flickr discussion thread (“Over exposed skies on D60“), but I found myself typing more and more, so I figured it would make a good blog post.]

The meters on the entry level Nikon DSLRs (and the D80, if I understand correctly) are tuned to ensure that darker areas aren’t underexposed, but this often leads to a problem: The sky, or other bright area, ends up “blown out.” There are various ways to alleviate this, none of them ideal.

Ideally, one could simply use a graduated neutral density filter, but such a filter has a built-in, natural limitation, namely that it works best when you can ensure that the sky is in the top half and the landscape is in the bottom. If the division between the two is uneven, as it is in many photos, then it’s not going to be as helpful. There is also a problem when the front element of the lens rotates, as it does on Nikon’s 18-55mm kit lenses.

Luckily, there are other methods:

1) Using matrix metering with the exposure compensation feature. Take a shot, check the histogram or highlight display to see how badly the sky is blown out, adjust exposure compensation accordingly, then try another shot. Be sure to center the frame in the same spot as the first time, so the meter receives the same input both times. In extreme cases, I’ve had to adjust exposure compensation multiple times to get it “right.” A single value is not going to work for every situation. I’ve used compensations varying from -0.3 to -2.7, although -0.7 to -1.7 seem to be the most common. The greater the compensation, the more contrast there’ll be in the final picture. At an extreme value like -2.7, the result is going to be questionable at best. With experience you can take a guess at your compensation value on that first shot, and save yourself some time.

2) Another thing to try is putting the lens on manual focus and setting “exposure lock” to “ON”. (Ironically, it’s possible this method never would have occurred to me if autofocus hadn’t been broken on my kit lens.) Expose an area right on the edge of the sky, hold the shutter button half down to lock the exposure, recompose, and shoot. With the lens on manual focus, you can focus at whatever point in that sequence is most convenient. Then check your exposure just like in (1). Thanks to metering the edge of the sky, the chances are much greater that your exposure will be correct on the first shot, but even if it’s not, you’ll need much less adjustment.

This exposure lock method is easier with autofocus off. With autofocus on, you’ll soon find yourself in a situation where your focus point, your metering point, and the center of your composition are three different spots, and it gets pretty hairy trying to handle all of that (especially if you prefer the left eye like I do, meaning the AE/AF-lock button is mashed right up against your face!). In fact, wanting to avoid this situation was the main reason I decided to learn the next method:

3) Just use manual exposure mode. If you want autofocus on, this will often work better than (2). Adjust the shutter speed and aperture explicitly, then check your results as in the other two methods. I find that manual exposure works best in the winter. In the summer, the presence of green vegetation increases the possible variability of the lighting, and adding a polarizer adds yet another variable, so eventually it gets to be too much to keep track of. That’s why I’ve never entirely given up on methods (1) or (2). However, in situations where the lighting is pretty consistent, this is actually the easiest method.

Wondering what values to start with? That’s not really all that hard. There’s an old heuristic called the “Sunny f/16 Rule” and it goes like this: On a sunny day, you can set your aperture to f/16, your shutter speed to the reciprocal of your ISO value, and the chances are good that this exposure will be right. Whether it turns out exactly right depends on various things, but it’s always a good starting point. You probably don’t want to use f/16, so when you move the aperture down, count how many steps you go, then count that many steps faster on your shutter speed. On a Nikon D40 at base ISO 200, then, the starting point would be f/16 at 1/200 second. But I’d rather shoot at f/8, which is two stops down (or six clicks on the wheel), so then I’d bump up the shutter speed two stops (six clicks) to 1/400 second. Easy! :)

4) I’ve tried abandoning matrix metering in favor of center-weighted, but gave that up after a couple of weeks because I found it was leading to even more tedious adjustment and fiddling than matrix metering. Instead of just needing negative exposure compensations, I now found many of them ending up on the positive side, making the whole process into a complete bother. How I managed to survive for years shooting film with a center-weighted camera is beyond me. :)

5) There’s always HDR, which I haven’t tried, mainly because it’s a computer intensive method (the less time I can spend in front of the computer, the better!). I will hazard a guess that this is the most complicated method of all. Or perhaps the method requiring the most art. :) I’ve seen plenty of cheesy, tasteless HDR compositions. A few of them look really superb, though (whether done with a realist aesthetic or not), and in extreme situations, I am sure that this is the only way to really get the shot.

6) I have found that a circular polarizer can sometimes help. When it does, it’s because the polarizer is actually darkening the sky, thus reducing the overall contrast. But that means it works less well when that darkening effect is minimized, such as in the late afternoon or early morning, or when the air is hazy. Unfortunately, these are precisely the times when the contrast problem is likely to be greater.

7) Whichever of the above methods you use, be sure you are shooting RAW. It has better dynamic range, and overexposed areas can often be “recovered” in post processing. That doesn’t work with JPG images.

So that’s basically it, there’s no “easy” way out, strictly speaking, unless you want to get a camera body that has some type of in-camera dynamic range expansion. I’ve seen some samples of this from the Pentax K-7, and they look somewhat fakey to me, not as good as a high-quality, manually done HDR image can. (Perhaps this is a matter of setting parameters in the camera, though.)

One final thing—sometimes you actually want to blow out the sky:

Evening Glow

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Filed under Flickr, Nikon, photography

An old fave, found anew!

(I originally posted this on my Flickr profile page a couple of months ago…but I think I’m going to just move all the updates on that profile over to here. I’ll put today’s date, since I don’t want to get into the confusion of retroactive posting.)

Update 8/15/09 – Hmmm. This profile seems to be turning into a pseudo-blog of sorts. Hopefully that’s an acceptable use under the Flickr TOS. :)

I lost a contact today. No idea who it was. I just know that this morning I had 128, now I have 127. It bothers me when contacts just randomly disappear. Were they deleted? Did they just get tired of Flickr? Have I been blocked for some unknowable reason? No way to tell, most of the time.

In better news, an old favorite photo that I thought had been removed from Flickr has, it turns out, not been removed, it was just hidden for a while. Here it is. That pic was Explored all over the place a couple of years ago, back when Explore actually meant something. It’s one of my all-time Flickr faves, which, for some unfathomable reason, I actually forgot to mark as a favorite back when I first saw it. Huh. Weird. Well, I have faved it now, so there. :)

Photography update: I am still shooting, but have gotten involved on another project that is taking quite a while to finish. I’ve been needing to do it for quite some time, but was never able to make much headway on it with my old computer, which just didn’t have the horsepower for it. Well, my new one does, so now is the time. I was originally hoping to get it done by the end of August, but now it’s looking like Labor Day or even mid-September. Anyway, it means the post-processing side of my photography equation is on hold for the time being.

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