Day 60-Some thoughts after 60 days

It has been 60 days since I started my project 365—or as it is this year, a project 366. After these 60 days I have realized some thing that I would like to share with you.

One, finding subjects and ideas are hard to come by. I went into this project knowing that it was not a walk in the park, but now I really can tell you that it takes some dedication and at times the realization that not every photo is or can be great. With that, I also am realizing that this project is more of a discovery of my style and vision, more than it is of making great pictures every day. Also with this, I work full time and am a father of two little boys, which really limits my time to go out and shoot.

Second, RAW rules! I know RAW files have more information in them than say a JPG file, but I have really learned to appreciate the latitude they give in adjusting a photo. With this comes another issue—storage. RAW files from my camera are approximately 25 mb in size. This means an average day of shooting 20-30 photos yields 500 to 750 mb of photos per day.

Third, my computer is starting to show its age. I use Adobe Lightroom to manage my shots an occasionally Adobe Photoshop to make edits. For the most part my computer, an Apple Macbook Pro from 2007 has been great, but when the horsepower is needed for a panoramic or HDR tone mapped shot, one image can take upwards of 30 minutes to an hour to process. Part of the time is due to me processing 3-8 Raw files, which I understand. Today, I ran a panoramic of 7 RAW photos through my works Mac and that only took about 3 minutes total.

Fourth, Your equipment is better than you are . . . most of the time. My camera is an 18 megapixel Canon T1i. I use one of two lenses: 18-55 mm f3.5-5.6 efs and a Tokina 50-135 mm f2.8. The Tokina set me back a bit when I purchased it, but I can say that I love the quality. Even with this lens, I tend to shoot my shots with the standard 18-55 mm lens that came with my camera. I on several occasions have surprised myself at how clean and tack sharp the standard lens can be.

Fifth, I have fallen in love with black and white . . . again (don’t get me wrong, I do like color too). I may be dating myself, but I shot with Kodak Tri-X for years before I went to a digital camera. I even rolled my own canisters and did all of my processing and printing in a lab. There is nothing like the smell of Dektol and fixer in the morning! I love the mood of black and white. I can visualize for the most part what will and will not look good in black and white. Along with black and white, I also love the look of wide angle shots and short depth of field. There is nothing like a shot that focuses your eye on a subject through the use of a shallow depth of field.

Sixth and last, your comments and messages are important to me not only for encouragement, but also for critiques. I am an artist by trade and can take a critique. Please note, that my skin is not super thick but I can take some critique.

Thank you for all the follows and likes. It really does help me continue in the project!

-Brad

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the decade in review . . .

OK, I admit that this is really not a design post, but I am interested in your comments as to what the biggest tech, social and overall story was for the past decade. Let me take you back a while and help jog your mind.

In somewhat chronological order here are some bullet points on what went on in the past decade. Sorry if these are more U.S. Centric, but you get what you pay for. In the end, post comments as to what you think were the top stories of this decade. I am interested in your thoughts, not just politically, but also tech-wise.

  1. Y2K or Bust
  2. Tech stock bubble bursts
  3. USS Cole is attacked
  4. Human genome deciphered
  5. Mad Cow Disease
  6. NEAR spacecraft becomes first to orbit an asteroid
  7. “I Love You” computer virus
  8. 2000 Election (the year of the hanging chad)
  9. 9/11
  10. iPod debuts
  11. 3 megapixel cameras
  12. I.R.A. Disarms
  13. U.S. attacks Afghanistan
  14. Anthrax
  15. Enron
  16. Shoe bomber
  17. U.S. attack Iraq
  18. D.C. Sniper
  19. Saddam Hussein Captured
  20. Space Shuttle Columbia explodes on re-entry
  21. Spain terrorist attack
  22. Google goes public
  23. WiFi
  24. Olympics return to Greece
  25. Water on Mars
  26. SpaceShipOne
  27. Pope John Paul II Dies
  28. Web 2.0
  29. iPhone
  30. Hurricane Katrina
  31. HDTV conversion
  32. Mars rovers land on Mars
  33. Saddam Hussein convicted and hung
  34. Green Movement
  35. Hybrid vehicles
  36. Facebook and Myspace
  37. Bill Gates steps down from Microsoft as CEO
  38. Pluto loses its status as a planet
  39. Cloud computing
  40. HD-DVD vs Blu-ray
  41. Bejing Olympics
  42. Twitter
  43. HDTV conversion 2
  44. Housing bubble-Credit crunch
  45. Barack Obama elected president
  46. Stock market crash, DOW to 6,547
  47. HDTV conversion 3- . . .
  48. M.J. no more
  49. H1N1
  50. Hubble repaired for last time
  51. Water on the moon

Remember to post a comment of your thoughts.

A Canon T1i Review

Canon T1i

This past weekend I went out and purchased my first DSLR for personal use.  After weeks of reviewing DSLR camera’s I settled on the Canon T1i or 500D as it is called in Europe.

Ever since I was a Freshman in High School and even before then, I was interested in photography. I will never forget taking my first summer school class as an incoming freshman in photography and really falling in love with the art and the mechanics of it all. Naturally I borrowed equipment from my Dad (which I am sure was from the 1960’s), and soon after was able to invest in my first SLR after mowing enough lawns. I really learned the art through Black and White photography, and then decided to minor in it in College, where I tried my hand at large format Black and White. Soon after graduation from college and making even more money, I bought my first New SLR, the Canon EOS elan IIe (I am looking to sell this if anyone is interested). This was 1999 and still the era of 35mm film. Digital however was making its ways into the scene, but I just bought what was a revolutionary eye tracking SLR camera. (I wish I had waited a few more years). A few years later I have a family and am on my second house now. Money isn’t flowing like it once was as a bachelor, so research was king in my decisions when looking for a new SLR, now a DSLR. This brings me to the actual point where this past weekend I bought what I hope to be the camera that will help me revitalize my love I had for photography.

For those who do not know, the T1i has two close cousins in the Canon Family, the 50D and the 5D Mark II. The 50D being the closest cousin to the T1i. Originally right before the news of the T1i, I was looking at purchasing the Canon XSi in which a friend of mine had purchased earlier. However, the news of the T1i peeked my interest for several reasons. First, it was new, it had to be good right? OK, it was the fact that this camera was the first sub $1,000 Canon DSLR with the DIGIC 4 image processor, which has lower noise, faster frames, and the capability of doing high definition video. Second, was the price point. I wanted a camera kit (with lens) for less than $1,000. Sad to say, but the 50D was out of my price range from the start, and that was without the lens, plus no video. Third, 15.1 mega pixels. I know, the marketing hype does work somewhat for me. The more mega pixels the better right . . . well, in this case, it is a larger sensor, so I was OK with a couple more mega pixels. Last, it was a Canon. I looked at all the competitive models, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony, but came back to the Canon, because I knew the interface from my previous job, which had a Canon EOS XT, and the fact that I had one previous Canon EF Lens from my Elan IIe days. To me, research showed me the Canon T1i was my next camera.

Images Review
Let me start this section with a little background. I think the first photo on every camera should be a picture of a flower, why, well, is shot decently, it will look nice, show the camera’s tonal range, image sharpness, show depth of field, lens bokeh, and in my case let me know that the camera is working properly. In my case, after close review, I noticed several red dots on each and every photo I took, and in the exact same spot. After a lens change/cleaning, and numerous sensor cleanings, I realized the red dots were due to dead pixels on the sensor. All said and done, I was able to return mine for a new one with little questions asked.

After all said and done, the images are were very clean with the auto focus and manual focus working very well, even in lower light conditions. I tend to shoot in aperture priority as I like to be able to compose my shots more than one with a point-and-shoot camera would. The camera was quick and responsive, as well as accurate when using the auto white balance. Some people have complained about soft images, and reporting that the lens is not that great for such a high mega pixel camera. I am not sure that that is a sound argument in that, One, there are smaller sensor point-and-shoot cameras with tack sharp images, and might I add, smaller, and cheaper lenses. And two, depending on the AF mode you are in, and a whole host of other variables, sometimes manual focus is just better.

In all, I am extremely pleased with the images I have been able to make with this camera and lens kit. Even when testing this camera in several ISO ranges, the images showed little to no noise, and vibrant color.

The Video
I will be the first to admit that the Video feature is an extra for me on this camera. I wanted the camera more for photography than video. It is in an essence, and extra feature that when I need it will be great to have it. That being said, the Canon shoots two different rates of HD video, 1080p 20FPS and 720p 30 FPS video. The problem is, the 1080p at 20 frames per second is practically unusable and a huge disappointment once the action or camera moves. There is a lot of jitter once something happens to move. I guess this would be great for still life or slow life movies, but then, why not use a still image if nothing is going to change? I think Canon in their infinite wisdom missed out on the “Full HD” idea. It needs to be usable. I would wish for an update to 1080p at 24 FPS, but I will not hold my breath on that.

The 720p at 30 FPS video on the other hand is sharp and very usable video. I think the average video user will be more than happy with this configuration. I found very smooth panning was able to be accomplished, and moving objects did not have the same jagged, stuttering feel to them as in the 1080p video.

Some overall drawbacks I noticed was the auto focusing noise on the video and the lack of an audio input jack. To start, The auto focus is a bit strange coming from a camcorder. Each time you want to focus using auto focus, you need to press and hold a button. This then makes the lens motor activate, and become a noise on the video because the microphone is placed near the lens. I have hear that if the lens were a Canon USM (ultrasonic) lens, this might be less of an issue. In any case, I think manual focus is a workaround for this for the time being until I test some other methods and/or lens configurations.

As for the sound input methods, there is only one, and that is the mono pick-up microphone that is on the front of the camera. This comes to a little disappointment to me, because like I said the video feature is a nice odd-on feature for me, not the main reason I bought this camera. The sound is, well as good as mono sound will be. It works, but could and will be better as future camera versions evolve.

In my overall viewpoint, the video features need some work from Canon. I would not buy this camera for the video. This is first and foremost a still camera with video capabilities. If you are looking for video first, look elsewhere.

Final Thoughts
The Canon T1i is a great camera with extensive options for the amateur to the pro. With the wide assortment of EF and EF-S lenses able to be used, one could go broke quickly. The camera is a little light for my taste, but adding a vertical grip to the bottom gives a weight that is more hefty. The lens that comes with the camera kit is a basic intro lens. I wish that it was a USM lens, because this lens is a bit noisy audibly. The lens is however image stabilized (IS) which is great for those without a steady hand, or shooting action. The camera will also work with several other Canon IS lenses giving you options galore.

The color reproduction is accurate and vibrant and with the new DIGIC 4 image processing chip, low in noise. I find that shooting indoors at iso 800 and no flash will still produce great looking natural images. The white balance also works fairly well, but has some limitations. This is where the custome white balance feature shines. With a few clicks you can have every shot looking closer to the actual lighting you see through you eyes.

Finally, I think Canon did a great job in making a sub $1,000 camera a hit. Personally I love it, and plan on keeping it for some time as I get back into photography. I would consider this a pro-sumer camera that isn’t too hard for a knowldgable amateur or professional in need of a lighter street camera.