Jul 312011

I was recently invited to go watch/photograph the Berkeley Kite Festival with family and was overjoyed, as I was wanting to capture images with bright colors. I also wanted to try capturing some panoramas with kites… However, for some reason, I got turned around and thought the event was happening over in Crissy Field. Yes, I realize the event is called The Berkeley Kite Festival. It was a face palm moment for sure.

However, I’m a big believer in making lemonade out of lemons, and here is my lemonade from my lemon moment:

Golden Gate Bridge – shot from Crissy Field
(click for larger image)

Different Crops

The image above is a 12″x36″ crop of the full panorama that I created. I chose this crop because it would better fit SmugMug/BayPhoto’s widest crop size. While it fits and looks nice, I kinda preferred the origin wider version:

Golden Gate Bridge – shot from Crissy Field, original crop
(click for larger image)

I much prefer this version, since it contains foreground elements in the left side of the image. However, it  is wider than what is available via SmugMug/BayPhoto’s normal print sizes. :( I might make prints of this available personally, if there are people interested.

Shooting The Panorama

Alcatraz – Shot from Crissy Field
(click on image to see bigger version)

For those who are interested in how I shot this, settings/setup follows:

  • Sony Alpha DSLR A700 w/Tamron 17-50m/2.8
  • ISO 200
  • 1/320 seconds
  • f/11
  • 17mm
<li>Manfrotto tripod and panning ballhead (see my <a href="http://blog.wingtangwong.com/p/my-gear-list.html">equipment page</a>)</li>
Because I was using the vertical grip on the head, I shot the image sequence horizontally. I had shot some 40 images, shooting multiples per slice, so I can pick cleaner images to choose from. I ultimately ended up stitching together 18 images in Photoshop CS5’s PhotoMerge. Post processing of the 165MB TIFF file in Lightroom 3.

Golden Gate Bridge – Shot from Crissy Field
(Click on image to see bigger version)


What pleasantly surprises me every time, is how much detail I can get out of this camera. In the original, there is no part of the image that you cannot zoom in and make out details. It’s just amazing, and I’m falling in love with tripod mounted landscape photography, especially panoramas.
I was in a rush, so I headed back to the car with my family, who were VERY patient with my indulging in some opportunistic panorama shooting, as we raced off to the Berkeley Marina to catch the kite festival. :) Too bad, since I had wanted to re-shoot the sequence using the 70-200, in vertical orientation, to get a closer and more detailed shot of the bridge itself. Maybe next time.
Unsafe Cyclists At Crissy Field
The one major annoyance with Crissy Field were the pro cyclists. I understand that they like to cycle fast and are very precise bikers. However, zipping through a PARKING LOT with cars backing out of stalls in excess of 35mph is a recipe for tragedy. While leaving, I was backing out, glanced back, saw it was all clear, looked around and looked back while starting to back out again, only to be treated to a near hear attack, as a cyclist literally zipped past my rear bumper with inches to spare. This was NOT an open road or a street parking spot. This was a PARKING LOT with gates around it. Cyclists were cutting through the parking lot as a short cut. All the casual cyclists were much more cautious and taking things slow through the parking lots. I’ve heard of the animosity between cyclists and drivers. Incidents like this makes that situation worse. Had the cyclist actually made contact with my car at the speeds that he was travelling at, he would have been severely injured.
As a driver, I work hard to make sure I am driving responsibly to ensure my own safety as well as the safety of those around me and my car. When people act irresponsibly, like that cyclist, it makes the situation unsafe for all involved.
Jul 292011

Just read some rumours from Sony Alpha Rumours:

Of note, for me personally, is that they are rumoured to be dropping the CF card slot in favor of SDHC.
The comments seem to lean towards the line of thinking of: “Why are people bemoaning Sony dropping an outdated flash card format in favor of a more modern and better card format!?”
Let’s see. Current high end SDHC cards are rated at class 10. Ie, min sustained speed of 10MB/second, potentially going higher. ~ Source ~
In real world testing, the high speed SDHC cards clock in at around 26-27MB/second when they perform above their rated 10MB/second. Contrast this to a 233X CF card in the same test that achieves 26MB/second. ~ Source
Now let’s look what CF is actually capable of and has had on the market for a few years: 600X CF, which are rated at 80-90MB/second. They easily max out my USB2.0 and FW800 adapters in the 34-40MB/second range. 
On my current Sony Alpha A700 DSLR, the difference shooting with a 233X compact flash card and a 600X compact flash card is like night and day. My shooting buffer, the number of shots I can shoot before I need to wait for images to flush out, is effectively doubled from around 7-8 images to around 15-16 images, when switching out 233X to 600X compact flash cards.
Compact flash is continually being updated to perform. This is not surprising since the Compact Flash standard uses hard drive ATA standards. The new CF-1 standard that is coming out will be based on SATA standards. I honestly don’t see SDHC or UHS-I (SDHC’s successor) matching up anytime soon.
Why then, Sony, would you drop CF in favor of SDHC and your memory sticks? The size difference of the socket is not all that different and the pin-to-socket connectors employed in CF are significantly more reliable and shock resistant than the slide-to-contact connectors employed by SDHC, UHS-I, and MSPD.
It boggles the mind, especially if the claims that the A77 will be able to achieve 10-12fps at 24MP.

For those who wants to check out some spec pages for CF/SD:

  • http://www.photofast.tw/products_MemoryCard.asp (Disclaimer: I purchase and use Photofast CF cards)
  • EDIT: (August 5th, 2011)
    Looks like there are some REALLY good performing UHS-I SDXC cards out there:
      • TOSHIBA Premiugate UHS-I SDHC Memory Card 32GB SD-E032GUX (95MB/80MB)
      • Panasonic 32GB SDHC UHS-I Memory Card RP-Sda32Gj1K (95MB/80MB)
      • Delkin Elite 633 UHS-I SDHC Memory Card 32GB
      • All three of these cards are offered in 8/16/32GB versions and all provide 95MB/second read performance and 80MB/second write performance, with compatible and properly implemented UHS-I interface.

        As others have noted, those testing this on the UHS-I enabled Nikon D7000 don’t really see a difference between say the 45MB/second write speed Sandiks UHS-I cards, in which case the bottleneck is the camera. :p

        I’m looking forward to checking out how well those cards perform on the Sony Alpha A77 dslr… since I will at least need to buy one card(32GB?) though more likely than not… 2. Given the larger file sizes (24mp image files vs 12mp image files I currently shoot) and the option for movies(rumored to be 28mbps 1080HD video streams), even with my existing CF cards (2 x 16, 1 x 32), I would be finding myself filling up cards too quickly. *SIGH*
        Jul 262011

        I recently purchased the Apple Mac OS X Lion upgrade. I have not installed it yet, just bought and downloaded it. I’m waiting for all of the issues to shake themselves out.

        Being a user of Adobe products: Lightroom & PS CS5 w/plugins, I wanted to give the platform time to settle down before plunging ahead. After all, what good is an upgraded OS without working applications?

        • Adobe has put up a support page, detailing some issues that Lion users may experience.
        • Rosetta, the Apple PowerPC emulator is no longer included. So any plugins/applications/etc. that depended on it will now stop working.
        • FotoQuote/Fotobiz has likewise sent out emails detailing compatibility issues with Mac OS X Lion.
        • The Java runtime environment isn’t installed by default by Lion, causing issues for users.
        • The swiping/preferences panes/auto-recovery don’t work out of the box for third party applications not specifically coded for those features.
        • The ~/username/Library folder is now hidden, causing some issues for people.
        • USB-to-Serial adapter drivers stopped working for some, due to the drivers being 32bit and Lion being 64bit only.
        Naturally, folks using Apple’s own products, like Aperture, iWork, iPages, etc. won’t experience these issues, since they got updates… but that is little comfort for those of us who do use third party applications.
        Will be keeping an eye on how things go, but will hold off on upgrading to Lion for the time being on either of my MBP(s). On my other laptop, I have some children’s PowerPC Mac games and applications. For them to stop working would cause a pretty serious IT support nightmare at home…
        Jul 132011

        I was out recently photographing, our apartment’s very cool and manager, Julie Anderson:

        Julie – Portrait shot for Strobist Boot Camp III – #1

        Things were going great until we tried to move to a new location, and I was breaking down my lightstand: the umbrella holder snapped off of the lightstand!

        At first, I thought the brass interconnect, lovely called the “brass monkey” by many, had broken. As it turns out, it was an el’cheapo $1.50 1/4″ to 3/8″ thread converter I had used to marry some disparate parts together, which broke.

        Unfortunately, this curtailed our shoot, but thankfully, I was able to get some shots I liked.

        Lessons learned:

        • Backups! – ALWAYS have backups.
        • K.I.S.S.  – If I’m hacking together different parts together to save $8 on the correct part, I’m probably setting myself up for some pain down the road. Time to re-evaluate and clean up my setups.
        Thanks to Julie for taking time out of her busy morning to model for me!
        ~ W.