Camera Phones Are Very Cool

It really is true that sometimes the best camera is the one you have with you, as touted by Chase Jarvis and celebrated at his site dedicated to this form of photography which can be found here at thebestcamera.com.  I admit that I often forget I have this device with me when I have an opportunity presented to create something really cool.  This photo was taken in the garage at my work in the early morning.  As you can probably tell then is I am facing east as the sun is just screaming to get inside.  But what I really find cool about this photograph is how it shows light picking up the color of whatever it is reflecting off of including the pond just on the other side of the wall.  I admit this picture has been enhanced a bit with Chase Jarvis’s Best Camera App, but the difference in color is still very pronounced even in the original image.

Continue reading “Camera Phones Are Very Cool”

Nikon D3100 Announced!

Nikon D3100
Nikon D3100

Nikon is at it again!  If you have been under a rock like I apparently have been, then maybe you aren’t aware that Nikon has just announced a new camera that is going to increase the power in the amateur and soccer [insert Mom or Dad as applies] photography market.  When people ask me about the differences between professional cameras and an entry level DSLR one of the biggest differences to me, was the ability to handle low light.  There are obviously many, many other differences, but paramount to me is the high ISO performance.  The D40 for example is an excellent entry level DSLR camera in so many ways however if you try to push it over ISO 400-800 the pictures were unusable in most conditions.  Currently, when a more advanced professional camera is paired with professional lenses, amazing things can happen.  Especially in light starved situations.  But as of two days ago, the gulf between professional camera capabilities and the everyday soccer [insert Mom or Dad] shooter has just gone from being being a 7 day cruise to cross to a 5 day cruise.  And that, I think, is a good thing for everyone.  Unless you like long cruises, in which case that is really a bad analogy.  Having said all of that, I must say that this is not a review of the product, but a look at the specs of this new camera.

Welcome the new baby in the Nikon consumer line of cameras, the Nikon D3100.  Although, this baby is setup to be a giant if it meets the specs, I would certainly wait until the reviewers out there get ahold of this camera and take it for a test drive.  Having used the D40 in the past, and then reading about the horrible high ISO performance of the D3000 I must admit I am a bit cautious about looking forward to this camera.  Not that I am going to purchase this camera, but as I said if these specs hold true then the consumer market has gotten closer, although still very far away but closer, to the professional capabilities available today.  So if I am not going to purchase this camera why does it excite me?  Simple, Nikon won’t move the consumer products forward without shortly after moving the professional equipment up another notch.

If you are interested in a solid consumer DSLR then the D3100 may be your baby.  What I have noted on this camera is the 14 Mega-Pixel (So What) Sensor, ISO 100-3200 [Boost to 12800], Nikon CLS[Creative Lighting System], Auto-Focus in Video Mode, and Video recording up to 1080p.  To me, the biggest new feature would be the expanded ISO range as I love to do low light shooting.  Hopefully the high ISO capabilities are far greater than the documented poor performance of the D3000 that this replaces.  By the numbers this looks as though it could be a real winner, but as I said, if you are in the market for a new DSLR I would at the very least wait until late October before purchasing.  This gives the camera reviewers time to put it through its paces and report their findings.  May I mention as well, as you are a reader of blogs, once you have found a blogger who has given a proper hands on review of this camera try checking their site for a link to purchase it with as it helps support the blogger community.  Happy Hunting.

 

~Demian

Cheap Tripods and Tall Buildings

Wobbly Nikon D300s Camera On A Cheap Tripod
Scene 1 – The Hook
The Rage! The Rage! Torrents and Torrents! Flash! Flash!  It is a horrible, terrible dream.  A nightmare of mega-pixel proportions is unfolding before me.  In this dream, the dangling off of the 29th floor, over the edge of the railing, everything that supports is creaking and cracking and flexing.  Any moment now SNAP!!! and the earth will come plummeting up at terminal velocity… the crash, the smash!  Sounds terrifying right?  Wait…  You know it isn’t me falling right?  No way, it is my Nikon D300s with my Nikkor 28-70 2.8 attached turning over and over as it traveled down and down further still to its final destiny.  Suddenly, I snap back to reality as the shutter clicks and I find my beautiful camera still mounted on the cheap plastic support system that I am so ashamed to say I use for a tripod.
Scene 2 – The Story Unfolds
This is what crossed my mind with almost every shutter actuation last weekend.  You see, a friend from work rents a condo in a skyscraper downtown and was kind enough to let me and another photog buddy Russ Sanderlin, up on the 29th floor which is open to outside world.  While it was a crackin’ nice 29th floor complete with pool, full kitchen, and a bar, the views we were afforded were even more outstanding with excellent placement for taking outstanding photographs with an outstanding lightning storm off in the distance.  Out-frickin-standing!  I was totally pumped for some amazing downtown night photography shots including lit architecture which use different types of lights so I would get unique color temps as well as streaking tail lights on the highway and maybe even a lightning bolt or two from the storm in the distance.
Scene 3 – The Drama
The nightmare starts right away.  As I attempt each and every long exposure shot I see the plastic hinges flexing and crying out for mercy to be delivered from the weight of the Nikon torture device I have set upon it.  I also see the motion blur in my images one after another.  Try as I might to stabilize and strengthen, image after image is blurry as a result of the moderate winds caused by the high pressure around that part of the building.  Case in point can easily be seen in the image you see in this post.  This was just a test image taken when I first got setup so please no comments on composition or exposure, but take a look at the building detail or even more so, the aircraft light in the middle right of the image.  Yeah, that was on tripod with a moderate breeze.  This is what I fought all evening long.  I mean here I was with an opportunity to shoot from a unique perspective that I don’t usually get, but because of this stupid joke of a tripod all of my expensive camera equipment is just this side of useless because my support system was junk!  Add on top of the difficulty of getting a steady picture the danger of this junky tripod breaking and it truly was a waking nightmare every time I released the shutter hands off camera.
Scene 4 – The Nitty Gritty
So why all of the drama, just go buy a great tripod already?  If you have been into photography for any length of time you have probably heard it mentioned that you need a solid base on which to set your camera.  You can’t argue with the logic;  it really doesn’t make sense to spend thousands on camera bodies and lenses only to support them with a $35 (USD) tripod that is really made for nothing more than a point and shoot.  It is just so hard to swallow the fact that a good tripod and head setup will cost several more Benjamin Franklins or possibly even more than a Grover Cleveland to purchase a proper set of legs for your photography equipment.  I am talking about large USD denominations for those in denial.  How hard is it?  So hard many people often end up spending a lot more in the process of working their way up to a proper tripod than if they just taken the plunge to begin with as Thom Hogan explains in his post about purchasing proper support at www.bythom.com/support.htm.  If you are in the market, or even considering the purchase of a tripod I highly recommend reading his post.  I know it has certainly kept me from making the very mistake not buying enough support from the get go.
Scene 5 – The search begins…
In the end, I was able to get a few shots up on that dark, windy, and stormy 29th floor, but some valuable lessons have most certainly been learned, and learned in the only way I know.  The hard way.  Had I been better prepared for my support system, I would with out a doubt have walked away much happier with the shots that I had.  It could have been worse, instead of blurry pics as the punishment for being stubborn I could have had a shattered camera 29 floors down on the street if the plastic mount on the tripod had finally succumbed to the weight of it all.  So with the wise words of so many that have traveled the road before me ringing in my ears, let the search begin in earnest then for the ideal tripod that has the perfect balance of cost and function.  Onward I say to a more stable future!

To Be Continued…

Amazon.com Shipping is FAST for Photography Equipment!!!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it!!!

This just in…..

The world is shrinking! The world is shrinking! Wait a moment…. It isn’t shrinking?  Ok, well it certainly seems to be based on how fast I just received my new Hoya 77mm UV filters from Amazon.com. On Monday, August 2nd I realized that I had forgotten to purchase 2 new lens filters for my Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 AF-S and my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR which I was planning on lugging along on my trip to Boston later that week. The problem was, I was leaving on a 07:00 AM flight on Jetblue just two days later on Thursday, August 4th and none of my local camera shops had what I was looking for. What was I to do, I wondered to myself.

Enter Amazon.com stage left. Not to be denied, I dashed forth to my computer and was briskly whisked away to Amazon.com where my search results bore some fruit. I found a great deal on a Hoya 77mm UV (Ultra Violet) Multi Coated Glass Filter. After adding it to my cart I noticed that Amazon said I could have it shipped to my house by the next day. Certainly this can’t be true, I said to my wife, But Amazon.com assured me that if I ordered within the next few hours (it was already well after lunch), I was guaranteed to have my new Hoya 77mm UV filters in my hands by the next day.

The Catch. There must be a catch, there is ALWAYS a catch. I knew what the catch would be, I knew… You know… The shipping was going to be insanely expensive. Like through the roof insane. Undeterred and in a flash I had added 2 of the Hoya 77mm UV filters to my cart and was heading off to checkout in the hopes that the shipping total wouldn’t make me toss my cookies (read that as a really bad browser cookie pun). In the checkout screen I selected next day shipping, still guaranteed to get to me by the next day, and oh my was the cost not cheap. But the more I thought about it, it was cheaper than I expected by almost half. To overnight two Hoya 77mm UV filters for my Nikkor lenses when the order isn’t placed until almost close of business east cost time, and only charge just this side of $18 (USD)..?  Needless to say I pulled the trigger and sure enough the Amazon supplier, Kellards Photo & Electronics, had it packaged and shipped within hours. I happened to work from home the next day, sick as a dog mind you, and shortly before lunch the big brown truck (UPS for those who don’t know) pulls up and drops off my new Hoya 77mm UV filters.

I know, I know, what is the big deal you may ask. Well, of course I knew about overnight shipping, but when I am dealing with a second hand reseller via Amazon.com or ANY site for that matter I don’t have a high level of trust in the shipping and handling process. In the end I got my new filters on time and had a good trip to Boston, MA. Maybe I am making a bigger deal of this than need be, maybe I could have just written a little blurb saying, Use Amazon.com overnight shipping!!!  But I felt it deserved more. In this world it is hard to find service that truly surprises you in a good way the way Amazon.com did for me.  So next time you are in need of a quick shipment of that new Nikon D700 you just bought, you can trust that Amazon.com will get it too you super fast!

~Demian

Java Date API’s vs. Joda Time – What month is it?

As a java developer, I have a special place in my heart for the Java Date object and it’s related utility classes. In a series of posts I am going to exhort the benefits of using the Joda Time library and abandoning the Java date and time objects. From their site, the Joda Project is “…a Java open-source project that seeks to improve core Java functionality.” While they have a couple of other projects, the most active appears to be the Joda-Time project where the current version 1.6.1 was released on 2010-08-08.

We will start with a VERY basic example by comparing the simple task of pulling the current month full name and partial name. In Java there are several ways to do this, but I will choose to show a couple of the more common ways.

 

Java Calendar Object: Get the name of the current month:

 

As you can see, using the Java Calendar Object takes a bit of work to get the desired result. Oh, and if you also want short month names, you have to create that too.

Java SimpleDateFormat Object: Get the name of the current month:

 

Wow, so we have now effectively made the job a lot easier with the SimpleDateFormatter object. Or have we? You still end up having to create and work with objects which aren’t actual date objects. Klunky to me.

Joda-Time DateTime Object: Get the name of the current month:

 

Ahhhh, this is better. With the Joda-Time library it is as simple as calling a couple of methods to get the current month full name or short name. It really is intuitive and easy.

The Result:
Ok, so not a lot of complex code here, but this is just a sample of more to come. As someone who has struggled to find a happy life with the Java Date implementation I have found Joda-Time to be a breath of fresh air. Check out the Joda site and take the Joda-Time library out for a spin. I think you will like the results.

~Demian

Continue reading “Java Date API’s vs. Joda Time – What month is it?”

At the starting gate…

Come one! Come all! To the greatest spectacle known to man.  Come see the blogging, photography, software writing, freak guy…  Or something like that.  Hey, what am I supposed to put in a first post of a blog?  This is officially my first post of my blog found at www.demian.is.  You should visit that link sometime…..

Ok, well as you may notice I can’t really call this my first post since you obviously see there are others below.  It IS however my first post at my new home here at www.demian.is, and all of the other posts prior to this are from a previous blog that I used to grind on.  I am finally committing to creating what I wanted to create years ago which is a blog that I can update with my photography, my code, and a couple of articles a week that aim to help the technology world out.

THE PLAN
The plan here is to post for myself and for anyone else that my painfully learned life lessons can help.  Once I get everything setup on this site I will be writing two articles a week that are aimed at either helping someone through a problem, reviewing something like iphones or cameras or code, or highlighting something that would be useful to someone.

So, sit back and relax…
As I am just starting back up it may take me a few weeks to get into a proper rhythm, but give me time.  This should be one heck of a ride.  Stay tuned as there is MUCH more to come.

Demian Seiler

So this Blue Screen of Death…thing.

It is time to let this one go. It just doesn’t happen anymore. Honestly since Windows XP came out in 2001 I have managed to incur the dread BSOD maybe 4 times. Of these 4 occurrences I would say I have gotten a BSOD once if at all after Windows XP Service Pack 2 came out. Realize I am not saying it doesn’t still occur at all, but it is so rare now, and when it does occur you have to either be doing something truly off the wall or have a machine that has fallen into a seriously poor state of repair.

I am not just a regular schmo checking email and surfing a few websites. I maintain many Windows PC’s, Windows Servers, Linux Servers, and even a couple of Macs. I do check email and surf the web obviously, but I also code with ASP, .Net, Java, WebObjects, SQL, etc… I work on Windows XP machines all day long and then come home and use them as well as my new Macbook Pro. I have been using Windows since Windows 3.1 and I have to say it is only getting better. Of course there are things I hate about the OS, such as the new DRM changes Microsoft has put in Vista.

Enough already! I am not trying to get into a holy war.

As I have said before, I am not a fan boy of one technology. I choose the best of everything and make every attempt to mash it all up. I suggest more people stop playing politics with their choices and start making informed decisions for the need.

Sorry for the rant…

Demian

The "Switch" is on.

First let me say that I am in no way a fanboy for any one platform. I am the type of person who attempts to pull the best from every option. I love the Apple hardware and at this point even some of their software. I see the advantages of many of the Microsoft products. I embrace the free world of Linux. Yes, it is true, I want to have my cake and eat it too.

Isn’t this how we should all be to some degree though. Why settle for one method, implementation, or product when the capability to aggregate some, if not all, the positives offered by companies exists. Obviously in the past this hasn’t always been possible, but since the first trash-80, technology has trended to convergence. Mobile phone/PDA/MP3 Player/Video Player devices exist today. Some are more mature in the convergence walk than others, but the trend continues.

Generally speaking, I believe the everyday consumer wants convergence and standards for technology. They do not care about Mac vs. PC or iPod vs. Zen. They just want something that works. They do not want to carry multiple devices. They just do not care about the battle lines between competitors. You will not see the general public wearing Microsoft Shirts or Hats as if it were their favorite sports team or preferred automaker. There is no loyalty here. It just has to work and work for everyone.

An example; My in-laws are nothing but Apple users. They aren’t musicians, photographers, or directors. The Mac is used by all of them because one of them, my wifes uncle, is a Appleholic. He has been a mega Mac guy forever, possibly all the way back to when apple introduced the world to “Lisa”. My household on the other hand has been 85% Microsoft and 15% Linux. On occasion one of my in-laws will send a file to my wife in a format that is not native to Windows world. She of course has a problem opening this file and then complains to me about it. She, in this instance representing the general public, not only doesn’t care about Mac vs. Windows vs. Linux, she is actually upset by the lack of integration. She wants convergence! Incidentally, I want convergence as well so she will stop yelling at me when she can’t open a file.

So that brings us up to the here and now…

I have purchased a 17” Macbook Pro and so far, so good. I will be using this for most of my day to day non-work related activities. Things such as emailing, surfing, blogging, netcasting, communicating, photo editing, video editing , audio editing, and maybe some j2ee development will be the order of the day.

My primary goal is to document my adventures in “Switching” to the Mac as my primary machine where it makes sense. I have no plans to leave Windows or Linux behind. As I said, I want my cake and I want to eat it too. I am planning to have a netcast to accompany this blog. If all goes well the first netcast will be up in a week or less. In both of these mediums I will be highlighting tips, trick, processes that are new to me and that I find useful as well as any interesting news that comes out about tech and my Mac.

Good Luck,

Demian

I couldn’t resist…

Congratulations me! I am now the proud owner of a 17″ Macbook Pro. More specifically I am the proud owner of a 17″ Macbook Pro running Vista like a champ! I don’t mean to brag, but the Vista Experience Index is a smooth 4.7.

And once I update my Macbook Pro to a perfectly plump 3Gigs that score should jump to 4.9. What does this mean? Well in short it means I have no problems running Vista with Aero Glass.

I am truly impressed with this setup and I am still only running the Windows XP drivers for this setup. I would imagine once Leopard comes out with the new version of Bootcamp they will have drivers for Vista that will make this matchup work even better.

More later

until,

Demian