Monday, March 23, 2009

Wipe that Drool!

Instead of studying, I have spent the whole morning thinking and thinking of digital equipment. This is really very bad. I have never been so obsessed with something for a while now. Hmm..that's not quite true. I remember how I am always obsessed with something until I get it. It is such a human characteristic, this "greed." I remember obsessing over my PS3, and obsessing over the Wii. Now, I am obsessing over 4 lenses in particular. I am sure once I get those, I will be obsessing over a new camera (probably a D700). Woe is me. I have to stop doing this and think of something more productive, like making money!

What I should do is try to read more on photography and to take more pictures instead of trying to buy stuff all the time. Shopping and taking snazzy photos are 2 different things.

Incidentally, the other day, I was trying to take a picture of my university building at night, and the security guard stopped me. She said I am not allowed to take pictures, and only the school photographer is allowed! Where did that come from? There are 2 possible reasons why I am not allowed to take pictures. 1. It might be for security reasons. Am I a terrorist, looking for an entrance where I can plant an explosion for maximum bomb attention? That's a bit ridiculous since the school is not a military facility; or 2. It might be an intellectual property rights issue. I might start selling photos of my school as a postcard and make billions of dollars. Although the latter is more flattering, the truth is, I was only practicing and had gotten some very bad shots. Was my Nikon D80 that intimidating? I'll bet a point and shoot might even do better than the shots I took that night!

Oh well. Though the journey be rough, I will keep on going, as any aspiring artist must do! I should start posting more pictures to prove this, but I'm afraid once I start, I can't stop. That will all have to wait, then, for when school is over. It won't be too long now.

On the reading list: Scott Kelby's "Digital Photography" vol. 1 and vol. 2

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Book and Lens Swap

My father used to say that every place in the world is the same. There are good things and bad things; there are people who are polite or rude; kind neighbors and criminals; it really doesn't matter where you are. You can't expect to be happier somewhere else than where you're already at.

However, one thing I must say about the US that wasn't so apparent in other countries I have lived in, though, is that, they sure make it very easy for you to spend money! Especially with online shopping. I love Amazon. Ebay is okay, but you have to be careful because there are lots of scalpers in there, selling stuff without warranties for to much. I was hoping it would be one big garage sale, but people don't get online there to get rid of stuff.

However, it turns out that I am turning into such a lens junkie. The list of lenses I am drooling over has expanded to the 85 mm f/1.4, and of course, the 14-24mm f/2.8, the 24-70 mm f/2.8, and the 70-200 mm f/2.8. David Busch calls the last 3 the "magic three," and the 85 mm f/1.4 the best lens, a "legend" in portrait photography. All of those lenses together will set me back about US$4,000. I really don't have that much money, considering that I need to have a car yet, and I would, of course, need a car to get around for my photo shoots, right? Aside from the errands. Of course, I have to tell myself over and over, that all the photographers are right when they say that it's not the camera, but the man behind the camera who would take the best pictures. So, it really shouldn't matter what camera I have or lens. What I should do is going out there to develop my skill and my craft. Another option is to buy the lenses as cheap as I can find them, and if I don't like them (or don't use them), then sell them. In the same way, I should learn how to process photos, too. I suppose that I really can't expect the lens to do everything. I must say, I'm lazy. It's more fun to just shoot and shoot, than to sit behind a monitor correcting and editing a shot!

So now, I am going back to reading books again, to become that "photographer" behind the camera, through studying digital photography and practicing with my fancy camera (that is apparently, already obsolete, according to KR..sniff). It's sort of hard to read ebooks on digital photography because you can't really see what they mean when they compare one picture to another, using different camera settings. A real book will be better because the colors will be sharper. Of course, maybe it will be different if they make ebooks 1080p and you view it on a 1080p screen. But then, you can kiss portability goodbye!

I digress. Anyway, now, I am buying some books and, to cut down on the clutter, posting them on after I read them so that I can get credits and "order" books for free. I was hoping to save money that way, since I'm really so broke now. The idea behind the site is that, you should post 10 books to get 1 credit, and send out an ordered book for another credit. Apparently, you need 2 credits to order a book, but you only get 1 credit if someone were to order your books. I'm wondering if it is all worth it. I've had 2 out of the 3 books I posted ordered a few hours after I got them, and I can't even order a book yet. So that means I have to pay for postage first before I can get to borrow anything, and I'm not so sure people would post up their digital photography books. I can buy some used books, just from the postage cost, plus, I lose my books. The local library might have been a better option. I should go and pay it a visit soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Top 100 - Simplified Tips and Tricks

I finished reading Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks, Digital Photography 2nd ed. on the plane. Such a simple book with lots of pictures, but it's good because I find that digital photography books can be hard when you're learning on your own and are starting from zero. Until you start familiarizing yourself with the camera and the concepts, it can all go over your head. I'm sure that once I've read some books over and over, it will all get simpler. I think that there is no shame in starting from a dummies book, or an extremely simplified book, and going on from there.

I noticed that a 3rd edition had already been released. It's worth getting and reading over and over, especially when certain things just don't stick to your head!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Inner Harbor 2


This is another picture taken in Baltimore, on the left side of where that boat from the previous post was. I liked the one with the ice better, but I suppose I could have cropped that one closer and cut away more distracting elements.
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Highway 14


This picture was taken while on the passenger's side of the car, along Highway 14. It's hard to take pictures, really, when you can't just stop and shoot. Sometimes, you get a shot that's not "too" bad, at least for me, to show how different California really is from, say, Baltimore.

I'm on spring break, and of all the places, I had to come to Lancaster, California. Nevertheless, I thought I might take some pictures anyway, whether good or bad. Unfortunately, I need to get some studying done over the spring break, too. So instead of my D80 and my big bag of lenses, I had to pack some of my readings for university. I did bring my Canon SD880 IS. I am trying not to miss any opportunities to take photos, whether they be good or bad. I have to practice composition anyway, and I don't need my big camera for that! Of course, right now, everything I'm taking is on Auto Mode. It makes life so much easier though, but I won't learn from doing that.

I also started using Picasa. It makes uploading and blogging pictures much much easier, too.
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PS3 Blues

About a couple of weeks ago, I said that I will test and see if Shin Megami Tensei worked on my PS3. Yes, it actually did play! It seems like the PS2 emulator in the PS3 works really well. Too bad that the new units had done away with backward compatibility.

I must say, I love my PS3. I love the graphics, the speed, the blu-ray capabilities, the way it can do an automatic slide show of pictures in your SD card. It's all really awesome. BUT, while we were showing a guest of ours the neat things the PS3 can do, it suddenly stopped reading disks! It stopped right in the middle of loading Grand Theft Auto IV.

I checked online to see what the problem could be. Apparently, a lot of people experience that same problem. How come I never saw those sites when I was checking for PS3 reviews? I was also worried that maybe Sony won't honor the warranty anymore (I bought the unit in July 2008), because I can't find the receipt, and I had bought the unit, of all places, from Circuit City, so I can't do another receipt. Good thing Sony accepts other documents as proof of purchase, i.e. card statements. If ever it was out of warranty, I read that Sony would have charged 150 dollars for repair. Yikes. I might as well buy a PS2 for 130! After all, most of the games I play are PS2s anyway (cheaper). But then again...who would want to go back to using PS2 Memory Cards after experiencing virtual memory cards saved on the PS3 hard disk? I want my PS3 back!!!!

In the meantime, I thought I might as well get that zelda game I always wanted, and try playing with the Wii while waiting. I think that the PS2 is even better than the Wii...okay, please don't kill me people! The Wii is fun, I guess, if you play with other people. Most people are too busy, though. I must be the only person my age who is still into those "Mickey Mouse" things, as my dad calls all animation and video games, no matter how violent, gory, or bloody they are. I think it's an interesting concept, though, that you'd have to move while playing the game. But, if you wanted to use that as a way of getting fit or losing weight...well...I think people would be better off getting a treadmill!

I called Sony finally, and they were very nice about it (contrary to what the people on many of the forums I read said). They sent the box last week, and I sent the unit back the other day. Electronics and gadgets are quite iffy anyway. Blu-ray technology is quite new, so it's understandable I suppose, that you'd get quite a few problems here and there.

I just hope I get my unit back soon so I can play again!

Nikon Lens Problem?

From an earlier post, I said that I was using a 24-120 mm lens. Apparently, according to Ken Rockwell, it is one of the worst lenses ever made by Nikon! Ugh! For so long now, I have been wondering why my shots aren't as sharp as I would like them to be. I thought it was because of my hands, or lack of a tripod,...or something (maybe it was both). Finally, I began to wonder if maybe my lens just wasn't making the cut. So I've been checking reviews, and of the worst lenses ever? Sniff.

Anyway, I really don't have the money right now to upgrade to another lens, considering I'm just a beginner, a student, and I have no job. Soon, I will just be a beginner, with no job! At least that will give me all the time in the world to take pictures, although without the money to travel for more interesting photos. Greedy me!

Right now, on my lens wish list, I have 2:
1) 18-200 mm
2) 14-24 mm f/2.8

My D80 is also getting obsolete. Technology just moves way too fast! Maybe what I will do in the meantime is just learn composition with the stuff I have. I mean, a beginner like me can't afford to spend on all those gadgets.

I just read some reviews on Amazon. Some people said that the 24-120 mm lens is excellent. It appears that it is the VR that causes the pictures to be less sharp. Someone mentioned that one should turn the VR off under normal light. I should give try that out. Otherwise, I will just have to wait some more. In the meantime, I will have to make do with what I have, which is already a lot for a beginner! Lens reviews by photographers are really confusing. For example, Ken Rockwell loves the 18-200 mm lens, but you can see some bad reviews about it, too. If some people tell me that I have to know my own mind, well...I don't, because I haven't had enough experience with lenses. All I know is that sometimes, a point and shoot camera seems to take better pictures than my SLR does, and costs so much less!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Inner Harbor, Baltimore


I suppose this is a cliche'd picture, taken on a sightseeing trip to Baltimore in January 2009. I don't know why pictures I take tend to be a little fuzzy. I guess my hands might not be so steady, and I seem to be too lazy to bring a tripod around. I think this picture would have been better taken using a wider lens with a wider aperture setting. It's too bad that the red buildings on the back can hardly be seen. Plus, a tripod would have helped quite a bit, too!

I still don't know how to use photoshop, I'm sure I'll learn as I go along. The books I've been reading haven't been too helpful, especially since I can't seem to apply the principles yet. Maybe if I take more pictures, it will all start making more sense to me.

What grabbed my attention in this scene that made me take the picture are the small ice formations on the water that formed a certain natural symmetry.

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