Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wow, what a surprise!

See 11/19/2009 update below...

Many of my friends
and family members know me as a computer geek. I've built PC's for years, constantly upgrading and tweaking, overclocking, etc... I know my way around the PC world pretty well. I've even dabbled in Linux and have built up servers for all my music.

Lately, since photography has "captured" my interest,
I've been noticing the limitations of PC monitors. I can really tell the difference now that I sell licenses on iStock. I spend hours tweaking things on the photo to increase the chances of having it accepted for sale. Now I notice the corners of the screen are a bit darker than the center. The upper left has a green tinge, while the lower right has a purple one. You can imagine how difficult it is to edit on something like this.

So...I decided to get a Mac,

The Macintosh screens are known for their quality and precision. Most photographers I know use macs exclusively. This would be my first one. The new iMacs just came out and I fell in love with the 27" version: the quad-core. I agonized for weeks over the decision and finally made it two nights ago.

The purchase experience was awesome; Whoever designed that should get a big pat on the back. No registers, staff handling the transaction form anywhere in the store are nice touches. I was in and out in no time; albeit a few thousand bucks poorer. Carrying the heavy box to the car was a bit of a chore. The box was pretty...pretty heavy!

Once I got home,
one of my daughters helped with the ceremonial "un-boxing" It was a hoot setting it all up. I plugged in the power, turned on the wireless keyboard and the "magic mouse". I reached behind the smooth round rear of this gorgeous piece of hardware, found the subtle power button and pressed it ever so gently. I felt giddy with excitement!
I heard the drive whir and the glorious chime that macs make when they start up. My daughter and I jumped back and rubbed our hands together.....


Nothing... I heard the start-up routing asking me to choose a language, but no lights, no signs video at all??? Bbbut this is a Mac! this isn't supposed to happen, ever!

I saw John Hodgeman smirking at me.

A quick call
to the Apple Store and I was invited to bring it back for a quick exchange. "Has this ever happened before?" I asked. "Not to the quad-core's the salesman answered" Hmmm Some of the Mac forums say otherwise. Maybe this is a first production run quality issue. I just hope they have a replacement in stock, one that works!

So tomorrow,
I'll schlep the pretty and heavy box back to get an exchange from the cheerful folks at the Apple store. I'll post again with the experience and hopefully it will be a *nice* surprise this time!

Update 11/19/2009
On my lunch hour today, I paid a visit to the apple store. I met a lovely sales associate there who brought a cart out to my car to gingerly transport my DOA mac into the store. After verifying that the screen was in-fact dead, she returned with a brand new machine. I was in and out in about 30 minutes. I'm writing this post from the replacement machine now. The whole experience was pretty nice. I'll give Apple credit for their customer service!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Macro Shots -- On the Cheap

I've been inspired by some of the macro photography seen on Flickr. Years ago I had a Minolta X700 SLR. Being a college student at the time, I had little money for gear. One thing I did have that was relatively cheap was something called a "Reversing Ring"

This little gem threaded onto the front of my 50 mm lens (my *only* lens) and allowed it to be mounted backwards. Flipping the lens around moves the focal point further in front of the film plane of camera which does two things:

  1. It increases the magnification
  2. It decreases the minimum focal distance (allowing you to get really close to your subject)

Essentially, using a reversing ring converts your 50 mm "portrait lens" into a really nice "macro lens" and it does so for less that 20 bucks! There are no additional optics involved. There are some drawbacks to the reversing ring however, is that neither the aperture or the auto-focus works.

Getting a bonafide macro lens will set you back about 500 dollars, but you get full aperture and auto-focus control. Still, the limited utility make this route hard to fathom for the average hobbyist. I mean, with a macro lens, you can only shoot macros, right?

There is another low-cost solution.
Something called an "extension tube" can accomplish the same task as the spendy macro prime lens, but only costs about 90 bucks. Kenko offers a set of three for about $170. An extension tube mounts onto the back of your lens and then onto the front of your camera. They have electrical and mechanical pass-through connections that operate both the aperture and the auto-focus system on some cameras. Tubes come in various lengths (measured in mm) the longer the length, the higher the magnification.

In use,
these tubes expose a whole new world of wonder. In the lead photo at the top, for example, a simple chrome handle becomes something magical, reflecting the entire room. If you look closely, you can see the blades of lens's aperture showing that it was stopped way down to get the maximum depth of field.

So consider
getting a reversing ring or an extension tube to get a new perspective on everyday objects. You'll be glad you did!

Further Reading:

Flickr Group "Closer and Closer"

Reversing Rings

Extension Tubes

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Frames Within Frames

As a photographer,
I've learned a great deal about composition. Making an image that captures the viewers interest is something we all strive for in this crowded world. Its a way we can stand out among thousands of others.

One of the ways
to compose an interesting image is to look for frames within frames. Our eyes are naturally drawn into the frame. Is it because we humans are natural-born explorers? Perhaps its because there is symmetry: the photo frame mimicks the subject frame.

Whatever it is,
composing an image like this is pretty easy to do and the results can make your image really pop. The next time your out with your camera, look for ways to frame your shot within a frame; you'll be surprised at how it turns out!