Saturday, March 13, 2010

Facebook is great for sharing pictures, terrible for storing your only copies of the files

Facebook is now by far the world's biggest photo-sharing site, a task it performs well. But it only stores photos as low-resolution files. Everybody knows this, right?
People want to put their pictures in a place where family and friends can see them, so Facebook is a natural choice. But although the site is great for sharing photos, it's also becoming a default place for storing them. And that's not necessarily a good thing. Facebook doesn't have the capacity to store all the world's photos without shrinking them first. Facebook just announced that it will increase its maximum photo size by 20 percent. But even with the upgrade, the photo quality on Facebook isn't useful for more than basic onscreen viewing.

Chris Chute, a digital imaging research analyst at IDC, said that "720 pixels will provide for a richer photo experience online, but to create a 4x6 print would still require additional data."
In just three years, according to IDC, three times as many photos will be shared digitally around the world as printed -- 124 billion vs. 24 billion. And the photo Marketing Association says that 40% of households with digital cameras already no longer print out photos. So maybe it doesn't matter, and screen resolution is good enough. Or not, depending.

Just to be safe, even if you think you might never want to make a print, keep a copy of the file. You never know.

Tonight is the last night for alternate-side winter parking in Madison until next fall

Yellow and White
Soon the snow will be gone too. And the darkness -- Daylight Time starts Sunday.

Even More Yellow and White (On Black)

Friday, March 12, 2010

As I walked onto the ice, I kept in mind Chris Norris's survival instructions

CSC_0451-Fog1-smbw
During the spring thaw, Lake Wingra often produces spectacular fog displays. Yesterday afternoon, as I was looking at Lake Wingra, a low bank of ground fog came rolling in. For one moment, I could just barely make out the three ice fishers in the distance -- and then, in an instant, they were gone, just their muted voices reaching me across the fog. It was eerie, almost supernatural. The fog was dancing a wild dance on the lake. Beyond the foreground, a few treetops were visible above the whiteout, but little else.

CSC_0452-Fog2-smbwI had no choice. I had to go out there with the Nikon D90 in my hand and the Coolpix in my pocket. Sure, the ice will be breaking up soon, and I seldom venture out on the ice this time of year, especially in the fog. But this was different. I was under the sway of the magic.

The ice felt mushy and spongy underfoot, but it seemed solid, though what did I know? But this was Lake Wingra. If I stayed close to the shore, how far could I fall through -- three or four feet? Besides, I kept the Chris Norris instructions for for how to survive falling through the ice while taking photos firmly in mind. As I walked out on the ice, I mentally rehearsed how I would hold the D90 high above my head as I plunged through the ice. The Coolpix in my pocket would have to fend for itself, though it never came to that.

CSC_0453-Fog3-smbwI'm glad I did. The fog was doing wild things out there. Once I became totally surrounded by the whiteout, I gave up on my plan to get closer to the ice fishers. I had visions of walking around on the lake in circles, hopelessly lost, until dawn. I turned toward the shore, and it was like a scene out of a dream. Shapes materialized and dematerialized in shifting patterns of vapor. I felt like I was inside a cloud. The all too familiar shoreline looked alien and unknown. I stopped marveling long enough to take some photos, and then got in the car and drove back up to Monroe Street -- where, just two short blocks away, there was no fog at all.

Oh, and kids -- don't do this at home. Don't go out on the ice by yourself this time of year, especially if the water is deeper than a puddle.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Yorker cover being sketched on iPhone


I wonder what Ross would have thought. Play to watch artist Jorge Colombo sketch the June 1, 2009 New Yorker cover on his iPhone. Since then he's also done weekly iPhone drawings in a New Yorker blog called Finger Painting, as well as several additional covers.

Colombo's website shows more examples. I remember being especially fond of this one when it came out last November, because it reminded me of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting I especially liked showing the Chrysler Building at night. I thought at the time that it was probably done on a computer -- in a good way -- but had no idea the computer was an iPhone.

Colombo uses a $4.99 iPhone app called Brushes. He also used Brushes Viewer, a cool free app, to create the video. It tracks brush strokes but omits the undos. So, in the case of Colombo's cover sketch, it creates a sense of inevitability about the way the drawing seems to almost complete itself without hesitation. But what took seconds on the video was the result of about an hour's work by Colombo. Brushes Viewer also exports high-res files of Brushes drawings (up to 1920 x 2880).

I imagine it can only get better on the iPad.

Budget = D90 body street price = under $800


How to Paint Your DSLR Pink
To be consistent, they really should have painted a lens, too -- but as you'll see, the paint job was "body only." No doubt the bean counters at DigitalRev TV must have put their foot down. And maybe the camera was broken to begin with. Watch the intrepid correspondent get a shock from the innards (the flash capacitor, I imagine) even though he took the battery out. See him, mission accomplished, take his pink magenta camera to a Nikon repair center to get it repaired. YouTube watchers either thought this was the stupidest video they ever saw, and the waste of a perfectly good NikonD90 body, or they thought it was really cool. I enjoyed his voice.

The path across the frozen arctic tundra was blocked by a pair of towering shadow ghosts

The Frozen Path Was Blocked by a Pair of Towering Shadow Ghosts
Drove down to Lake Wingra to look at the fog last night. My own double shadows loomed over me, each cast by one of the headlights. Spooky even though I knew what it was.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Just fooling around with a cool new online drawing tool. The title came later.

You Can Quarantine Technology Behind a Wall but You Can't Keep It Out
You Can Quarantine Technology Behind a
Wall but You Can't Keep It Out


Just an experiment: Spent some time this afternoon doodling with Harmony, a cool online drawing tool. More about it here. (Thanks to Holden Richards for the link.) The wall was one of the doodles. Pasted the line art into an old photo and did a bit of shading. I still prefer the original photo, but what the heck, I had fun playing.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

They were tearing down Liberty yesterday and carrying off the pieces. Hardly anybody noticed.

Disassembling Liberty in the Fog
We were walking along Lake Mendota to the UW Memorial Union yesterday afternoon when we saw Lady Liberty quietly being disassembled in the fog. Piece by piece, large styrofoam chunks of her forehead were being carried off and stacked up on the Union Terrace. It was a strange, surreal scene, made stranger and more eerie by the fog. The absurdity briefly reminded us of Polanski's short film, "Two men and a Wardrobe.

Disassembling Liberty in the FogLiberty being demolished. The stealthy ritual in the fog. Virtually no one there to witness the disappearance. It's hard not to see some metaphorical resonance in all that, some symbolic commentary on the tattered state of our democracy, but we're not going there. Besides -- been there, done that.

Disassembling Liberty in the FogStill, it does seem strange that Lady Liberty's torch never went up this winter. There she stood, buried in ice and snow nearly up to her eyeballs, and her torch was never held proudly aloft but just lay there, abandoned on the frozen tundra at her side.

We asked the two guys carrying the wardrobe-sized chunks of Liberty what had happened. "One of the pieces we needed to put up the torch was lost," we were told. "We looked everywhere, but we just couldn't find it."

There's that metaphorical resonance again. It just seems unavoidable.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Onetime fan of Canadian healthcare: Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin wowed a sold-out crowd of Canadian conservatives in Calgary. She sure knows how to bond with her fans. Palin, who grew up not far from the Canadian border, near Whitehorse, reminisced about her youth.
"We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada," she said. "And I think now, isn't that ironic."
That's an understatement. Via Yglesias.

Open your eyes and really see the stars

The White Mountain from charles on Vimeo.

It's hard for most of us to see the stars. Get away from the light pollution and watch the stars really come out. Amazing time lapse video on Vimeo by Charles, shot on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, with a Canon 5D MK2 and a variety of lenses. (Be sure to click the little thingie and go full-screen.) Via PetaPixel

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Paging through the photographer dude's book while watching this year's Oscars

Leafing Through the Photographer Dude's Book While Watching Oscars
Needed some sort of distraction during these lame Oscars, while waiting to see if His Dudeness would finally win the Best Actor award. Martin and Baldwin as cohosts -- what happened? The humor was missing in action. And what was with that tribute to horror movies? Classy move, Academy.

In contrast, Jeff Bridges is far more impressive as a photographer than Martin and Baldwin were as hosts. For years he has shot black and white candids on his movie sets and then printed them up as gift books for cast and crew. What makes them interesting is not only his good eye, but the fact that he shoots with the legendary Widelux panoramic 35mm film camera. His book Pictures is available on Amazon and features selections from the photos he shot over the years (shown above, Bridges and his brother Beau on the set of The Fabulous Baker Boys.) Although the book's photos aren't online, you can see some examples of his technique from more recent films on his website. And here's a striking Bridges image that was used as a poster for the 2004 New York Film Festival.

Even the book couldn't distract me completely from a program that just got worse and worse. Those awful, cringe-making introductions of the Best Actor and Actress nominees -- unbelievable! (And for that they took away their clips, the only chance for some in the public to see what they were getting the award for?)

But at least Bridges prevailed in the end. He received his long-overdue Oscar -- as so often happens, for an OK movie, but one that was far from his best. The Dude abides.

Fire and/or ice -- which will it be for print journalism as we know it?

Fire and Ice: Which Will It Be for Print Journalism As We Know It?
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-- Robert Frost, "Fire and Ice"

I've documented both. Fire is great for venting. I subscribed to the print edition of Madison's Capital Times right up to the end, but when it ceased daily print publication two years ago, I burned the last issue in protest. My Flickr friend Hugh torched his local paper, the LA Times, after its latest outrage -- and he made a video.

But I think Frost is right. The real threat to dead tree papers isn't fiery anger and outrage. It's ice cold indifference. I read the Capital Times almost every day of my adult life (and its competitor, the Wisconsin State Journal, almost as often). Sadly, now that the Cap Times lives mainly on the Web, I rarely go there anymore. In print, it had a great, scrappy history. It had a soul, and a role in my life. On the internet it's a very small fish in a very big sea of data, and as I navigate this ocean of information, the Cap Times rarely shows up on my radar (maybe occasionally on my Twitter feed). It's almost as inaccessible to me as that paper frozen in the ice of Lake Mendota which I photographed a couple years ago. I'm not indifferent, but much of the world is, and has moved on. That's the cold reality.