Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rogers Gives a Little Back

I’ve been very hard on Rogers at times over their extremely high data prices for cell phones. Not that it’s necessarily their fault … somehow the CTRC has managed to make Canada the most expensive country in the world in which to use cell phones. Another government cluster f*ck I suppose …

But last week Rogers sent me a letter telling me that I was being upgraded from my Rogers Extreme Plus service to the real Rogers Extreme Plus service at 25mbps … a nice little boost from the alleged 18mbps I was already getting. This requires an upgrade from the Motorola Docsys 2 modem I owned to their new SMC Docsys 3 modem. Of course, that modem is quite expensive at 200 bucks because it also contains a full Wireless N gateway / router. Cool …

Well, the letter told me I would get a free upgrade to this new enhanced gateway if I brought the letter to my local store and presented my photo ID. What they did not say in the letter was that not one single person in the call center had ever heard of this deal. So I spent an hour in the store twice last week to try to collect on the offer. Finally the store guy just gave me the modem and charged it to my account, saying that he would straighten it out this week. I have to check back with them, but be warned if you receive this letter … Rogers marketing dropped the ball … again.

It’s pathetic, really … this is a company whose customer service is lambasted regularly, yet they continue to screw up again and again. I’ve said it before … the fact that they continue to have the best technology is what keeps me with them. But if Bell ever gets it together … watch out Rogers.


My speed results are quite decent … it is rare for Rogers to show the full download speed from the test sites … but there are sites that download slightly above maximum speed. I’d had downloads at 1.8MBps on the old service, so I am looking forward to what might be possible on this service. The uploads are very fast now too. It actually tempts me to spend the bucks on ultimate and go for 50mbps down and 2mbps up …

YMMV of course.

Porch Climbers

Apparently, there is some sort of strange drink the younger crowd likes to make called “Porch Climber” … the point being that, if you get through a batch of this stuff you will be crawling up the porch steps on your hands and knees. The recipe is pretty simple … 1 bottle each of rum, gin and vodka; add a case of 24 beer; add two frozen lemonades to remove some of the obnoxious taste. I had a sip and almost gagged, but I am told that the first one numbs the palate and after that it is smooth sailing.

Nick and his buddies had a fairly loud party this evening to celebrate Nick’s last day of exams, probably forever. He should graduate in November.

Anyway, I documented the creation of the recipe with the D700 and the 85mm 1.8 lens … a favorite combination nowadays. Makes wonderful images.

Here are the boys posing with the ingredients:


So you start by adding the hard stuff. They purchased a brand new blue recycle bin for the container, which could have help a quadruple batch with ease.


The 24 beers come next, and of course they bought the rum with the slow pour neck so that just kept on going and going …


Rob had the pleasure of pouring rum for about 3 hours I think …


Still pouring … but the end is in sight …


The two-four took quite a while on its own … I call this the urine shot …


And finally, the frozen concentrated lemonade …



They almost got rained out as a strom move din. The wind was whipping up something fierce and a few drops even came down … but it was a false alarm. And yes, I did a little photoshop on the clouds (ya think?)


The pool was swimmable, although I had to do an emergency shock as I had lost track of when I opened it and thus had allowed the chlorine pucks to dwindle to nothing, which in turn allowed a bit of algae to show up … slight cloudiness only … I caught it in time.


As I write this, the party appears to have wrapped up for tonight. And they were all still walking … I’m impressed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Now that’s small!

I found this quote in an article on the Nikon / Intel contract for lithography for its 45nm and 32nm chips (I think.) Anyway, the following quote got my attention …

Last year, Intel showed the industry's first working chips built using 32nm technology, with transistors so small that more than 4 million of them could fit on the period at the end of this sentence.

I think that’s pretty small … :-)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Well now … this was a first for me. A 5.5 magnitude quake rattled the living sh*t out of my house … dishes were rattling, the noise was very loud – a deep rumble that was simply scary sounding – and after a few seconds I realized that it was far too strong and persistent to be the washing machine, a truck or a plane. So it had to be a quake …



I must say that I am impressed … this was a relatively small quake and I cannot even imagine what it must be like to go through a magnitude 7 or 8 quake and watch buildings fall down. Unbelievable …

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father’s Day! (F80EXR)

Nick arrived back from a week in NYC and Boston, he had a great time. Saw a pair of Yankee games and a Sox game … walk off single to win in the bottom of the 9th with two out. Cool.

I spoke with my dad in Winnipeg for an hour this evening … a nice chat. He sounds well. Took the boys out for one of our favorite meals this evening … a bowl of Laksa, the wonderful light curry based Malaysian soup. The Singapore Restaurant down the sidestreet that is the same street as the entrance to the Coliseum theatre … don’t miss it if you are in Ottawa.

When we got back, Nick gave me a nice little gift he had picked up a month ago when they came around at Henry’s … fairly difficult to get, the employees had a shot at only a very few of these.



Yes, it’s a Canon telephoto lens hot liquids mug. Very nicely engineered with brushed aluminum interior and a silicone gasket on the tight-fitting lid. Rubber non-slip base as well. Very nice.

On the way in to the restaurant, I spotted an amazing stand of Lillies and caught this nice sun-bathed image …


And on the way to the car, which is parked behind the restaurant, the sun created an amusing shadow that looks like Nick is punching the top of my head.


They conceded me a photograph of the two of them together … only on Father’s Day I suppose …


All of these shot with the F80EXR with flash. A fine camera …

Thursday, June 17, 2010

F80EXR Reviewed at DPReview –- Errors in Interpretation


It was with much anticipation that I opened this brand new review to see how the best current Fuji long zoom compact fared against a rather impressive number of compact cameras. Of course, as I have mentioned before, pretty much all reviewers so far have screwed the pooch on their tests of EXR technology … no one has used decent images shot in the binned modes so the camera’s real abilities never show up.

Edit: I am pretty critical of the review in the rest of this review review (yes, that’s correct grammar … I’m reviewing their review) … and a user in the Fuji Talk Forum correctly pointed out that all camera owners could say that their cameras’ special modes also did not receive special treatment, so the review was fair.


The EXR technology is unique in that it is effective in reducing the pixel density by half. This brings pixel densities very close to those of the early Fxx series of cameras and I maintain that in these shooting modes, the F70EXR and F80EXR wipe the field at ISO 400 and above. None of the other cameras in this field have that kind of potentially dominating technology. Not one.
Just in case you are new to my blog, I was pretty disappointed with mistakes Fuji made with the F80 … they added higher saturation and unneeded pixels, so the camera tends to show heavy blue channel contamination as soon as the light is even remotely challenging. The F70 does not have that problem and retains better detail to boot, but Fuji “wisely” replaced the F70EXR after only 6 months, no doubt trying to maintain their unbroken record of eliminating their best cameras much too quickly … 
Ok, that was catty. Sorry. But Fuji deserves whatever ridicule they get for replacing great cameras much too soon. It would be a different story if they did a wonderful job with the successors … but that really has not happened. Remember the F50fd? Yuck. Remember the S700? Yuck. 
But all is not actually lost … the F80 is actually quite good when shot properly and when you don’t try to rebalance poor light too much. That always emphasizes the weak blue channel … so just leave it alone.
Ok … back to DPReview … much anticipation yada yada yada … well, it really did not shine. And I know how good it can be, so I was now wondering how they shot it.

As I went through the review, I realized how tricky it is to shoot these cameras well. Another knock for Fuji. The reviewer, one supposes, was too busy to learn how this camera really works. And apparently too busy to inform himself by reading my blog :-)

But that’s not my only gripe with the review. There are omissions and errors in a few places. Let’s go through them.

Page 4 – The F80EXR Page
On If we owned the F80 EXR, we would tape up the shooting mode dial so that it never comes off 'EXR'.
There are limitations with EXR mode. And EXR Auto is evil, the cam is draining the battery at a frightening rate. Further, this cam should *never* be shot at 12mp. P mode does all the tricks with none of the pain.
The most obvious source of confusion in the menu system is a 'dynamic range' setting, which is available in all modes (including 'D-Range Priority' EXR) but is in fact quite unrelated to EXR. 'Dynamic range' is in fact a conventional d-range optimization function, designed to protect highlight detail. Options run from 100%-400%, and when selected, the entire shot is underexposed to retain highlights, then a different tone curve is applied to present the correct final exposure. Confusingly, even when you're shooting in the D-range priority EXR mode, dynamic range optimization is still an option, albeit with an extra 800% level available.
At L size it uses the software implementation common to the S100fs et al. But at M size, DR400 is available at 100 ISO, which tells us that it is binning. And it makes images that are identical to EXR DR but without that mode’s limitations.
It is a shame though that Fujifilm doesn't have the confidence to make the EXR modes available universally. The only way that you can shoot in the excellent DR mode is to switch the shooting dial to 'EXR' first. This is annoying, and a little confusing, since the 'HR' mode for highest resolution actually results in exactly the same output as you'll get from turning the wheel away from 'EXR' to one of the other shooting modes.
EXR DR mode is enabled as soon as you set the camera to M size in P mode. Only at L size do you get the same output as HR Mode in other shooting modes.
We were disappointed with the performance of the F80's 'Pro Focus' mode as well. One of the 'Special Program' (SP) modes on the mode dial, Pro Focus combines two or three frames taken at different focus points together, to deliver the illusion of a smaller depth of field. It only really works where there is some depth of field available (i.e. at the long end of the zoom) and in our testing, it's benefit is marginal, at best.
I agree. But two things: (1) Images are usually unacceptable even if the camera will play ball because of really messy edges. (2) Pro Low Light mode is not mentioned at all, and that is the SP mode that sings and dances.
It is a shame though that (for some reason) the highest available ISO setting in 'SN' mode is ISO 1600. Like SN and DR modes, the ultra-high ISO settings are also achieved by pixel-binning (the highest 12,800 setting outputs a 3Mp file) and it does therefore seem odd that you have to switch out of the EXR setting to access them.
It may seem odd … but once you understand that P mode at M size is binning, then it all falls into place.
The key selling point of the Fuji F80 EXR is undoubtedly its triple-mode sensor. Whilst it is a solid and (generally) reliable compact camera overall, its sensor is genuinely unique, and offers significant improvements in image quality if used correctly.
Ironically, I think that the reviewer generally shot the camera incorrectly.
It is a shame though that its interface isn't better designed, and the EXR modes more sensibly implemented.
I agree with that. My how to shoot EXR sensors article would have been very helpful with respect to settings to avoid like the plague. And especially for the roundup where they were all compared ... shooting the cam at 12mp guaranteed a beating, and it got one.
HR mode 
In most situations, the F80EXR uses its high resolution 'HR' setting in which it uses the full 12Mp resolution output from its sensor much like any other camera. This is also how the camera behaves when it's not placed in EXR mode. When the mode dial is set to EXR and 'auto' is selected, the camera will default to HR mode when it determines that there is enough light for it to offer the best quality result.
HR mode is not the best quality result by any stretch of the imagination. Upsizing a 6mp image beats a 12mp every time.

Summary so far: A lot of errors on page 4 in my opinion. Perhaps it is Fuji’s fault for making the user interface so complex. But I think the reviewer should have informed himself a bit better on this camera.
And the situation doesn’t get much better.

Page 14 – Movie Modes
No discussion of audio. The audio on the F80EXR sucks. Interesting, because it is blindingly obvious when a 10 second clip is shot in the office. Big omission in my book. This is one lucky break for Fujifilm.

Page 17 – Studio Comparison at 400 ISO
At this ISO, high resolution is really starting to hurt the F80EXR. And it really shows with the tree from the Bailey’s label. Shooting the camera at M size and upsizing to 12mp would have made a world of difference. But that’s more work than DPR has ever seemed able to do. They have gone as far as normalizing sharpening settings now and again, but they never normalize resolution, which would help a great deal here I think. It would have allowed shooting at both 6mp and 12mp and fairly comparing the results.

For example, normalizing everything to an 8x10 (3000x2400) and showing us those crops would eliminate all doubt as to which camera to buy for most people. The F80EXR would have to be upsized from 6mp and downsized from 12, most others would be downsized. The 6mp mode of the EXR cam would likely clean all of these others’ clocks at 400 and 1600 ISO. As it is shot, it looks mediocre …

Now Fuji cannot be upset here … their user interface just sucks. And it must never have occurred to them to simply bin everything and upsize when 12mp was needed. What a different THAT would have made to these test results.

Page 18 – Studio Comparison at 1600 ISO
There is no way on God’s green earth that any EXR sensor should be shot in high resolution mode at 1600 ISO. And especially not a 1/2” sensor with 12mp on it. And that’s what was done for the main test on page 18. Of course, the image looks horrid.

The F80EXR is given kudos for managing the high contrast details on this page fairly well in the corner crop. Yet I know for a fact that an upsized P mode image would have done far better. The camera itself would never choose to shoot at this ISO in anything but a binned mode.

The reviewer actually does shoot the camera in EXR SN mode at 1600. But unfortunately he totally blows out the highlights! And that occurs right where the corner crop is, wiping out half the detail he is trying to preserve.

SN mode is also very high contrast because DR100 is the only DR mode available. If you shoot P mode with DR400 at 1600 ISO, the camera appears to handle dynamic range much better … and that helps with shots like these.

He goes on to say:
Whilst images shot in SN mode certainly look better at a pixel level than those shot in the conventional, full-resolution mode, it is fair to say that the improvement is hardly dramatic in high-contrast areas, and subtle to the point of being almost invisible in small prints.
Really? Images are not made up only of high contrast areas. It’s the large swatches of low contrast details that are thoroughly destroyed by HR mode at 1600 ISO, and that is *plainly* visible on small prints.

The rest of the review goes on to use the crappy 12mp images and the F80EXR gets lost in a sea of mediocrity. These cams all suck at 1600 ISO. But shot properly, the F80EXR is considerably better than the rest. We’d never know though, were it up to this review.

Now … before I go on to show how I would interpret the images from this review, I should note that the reviewer and DPReview staff in general would make one very simple argument in their defense: there is no time to explore the special modes of every camera, so they did the best they could. To which I of course reply: of course. But unfortunate. The fact is that this site is where enthusiasts go to get the scoop. But the reviews are a big undertaking, and this case shows that the enthusiast is short-changed in favor of J6P.

Reinterpreting the Images From This Review
So before we get going here, I will state up front that DPReview.com holds the copyright on the images from which I take crops and that I claim fair use of said copyright for educational purposes.

DPReview shot two test images at 1600 ISO … we have the 12mp test image shot in HR mode and we have the totally blown out 6mp image. Now, first we deal with the HR image. How could they have shot this one in HR Mode when HR Mode does not offer 1600 ISO as an option?


Oops. :-) 

It doesn’t really matter what mode was used, but it just underscores again that this cam was shot like a mom and pop cam.

Anyway, you can clearly see the near-total lack of low contrast detail in the so-called “HR mode” image at the top. And there is some extra detail in the SN image at the bottom, but not as much as might be expected. Why is that you might ask? Well, I’m guessing it’s caused by pushing all the mid and high tones into the shoulder of the histogram … this makes the differences in tones much less visible … i.e. it lowers the contrast in these tones.


You can see the data smashed over onto the right hand side … now that’s what I call “exposing to the right” :-) Interestingly, the data on the left is at the edge of the histogram, indicating that the tone curve is also too harsh, since it created a wider tonal curve than can actually fit. That’s a basic flaw with SN mode … DR100 just plain sucks as the tone curve is very harsh. I *never* use SN mode for that very reason. Crappy capture equals crappy image.

This special section of the review needed an image whose exposure matched the exposure of the 12mp image, so this one should have been discarded and reshot. He had to have loaded it into photoshop to use it for the review which means that he had to have seen the blowout, so I fail to see how invalidating his own conclusions served anyone here.

But he could still have saved this section of the review by creating a version of the 12mp image with levels adjusted to match the histograms. I have done just that and I am seeing that the SN mode image crushes the 12mp image.

Here are the two images with their histograms matched.

SN Mode (the blown out image)


Original 12mp image adjusted in levels to match

And even at these tiny, tiny sizes, you can see slight differences. The latter image shows color noise so strong in the color and grey wedges that it is actually visible on my TN monitor, which has a brighter than normal white point (just like almost everyone that reads DPReview these days.) Here is a set of crops for you to examine from the 800 pixel version of the above. This is a highly compressed (in size) image that is fairly similar to looking at a 4x6 print. 

So … what does the reviewer say about prints this size?
Whilst images shot in SN mode certainly look better at a pixel level than those shot in the conventional, full-resolution mode, it is fair to say that the improvement is hardly dramatic in high-contrast areas, and subtle to the point of being almost invisible in small prints.
Well, I can see differences at 400px wide, and the differences are very clear to me at 800px wide as shown in the above crops. So again, how could they be considered invisible? Here’s how: by examining images that are at least 1 stop apart in exposure and drawing a completely false conclusion.
Once normalized in exposure, as I did above, the differences become quite visible. And here is a list that I can see:

Top crops:
  • Massive noise clearly visible in HR grey scale
  • Fur is softer
  • Coin is much softer
  • Needlepoint is much less detailed (smearing)
  • Lots of noise in the box and color swatches at the bottom
Bottom crops:
  • Same issue in the grey scale
  • Massive blue channel contamination ruins the color swatch, 3rd row from the bottom is destroyed
  • Heavy noise in the Bailey’s bottle and the cup
  • Much more detail in the top left part of the feathers
So … for small prints or the web, will anyone care? Probably not. But this is pretty good light, and already the color blotching is ugly. Imagine a face by candle light. Total destruction.
Moving on to my final points. Returning to the concept of normalizing to 8x10 images (for example.) The reasoning behind that is that people should not be *forced* to stay at 4x6 or web image size. It should be possible with images shot in any light (i.e. at any ISO) to be processed into a decent 8x10 image. So let me now show you crops at that size to see whether the HR mode image has a chance of making a decent 8x10.


Now, I only want you to look for three things in of these crop pairs:
  1. Does one side give you more of the feeling of 3-dimensionality?
  2. Does one side show less color noise?
  3. Does one side retain more detail?
The answers, of course, are pretty obvious …
  1. SN mode. Very significant difference that will show up in any print, and especially in an 8x10.
  2. SN Mode. Several areas have significant pollution in the HR mode crops. Very little in SN mode.
  3. SN mode. Many areas in the HR crops are almost devoid of detail. NR has wiped it clean.
So … do you see what I mean? The 12mp image has the advantage here … is is downsized by 25% to be sized to an 8x10 image at 300ppi. The 6mp image is upsized by a small percentage and yet it pounds the 12mp image in every way.

So … Fuji … get your act together. You cam could have legitimately been marketed as a 12mp cam (sensor has 12m photosites) with all images shot binned and upsize in L mode. Better detail, better noise, better every-fricken-thing!

DPReview … come on. This camera behaves much better in P mode at M size. Perhaps it is time that you began normalizing to a specific size (e.g. 8x10) as does DXO Labs so that your conclusions and crops always have a truly common feel to them. You are leaving far too much in the reader’s hands right now, and you cannot easily review a cam at much smaller resolutions because they look like a joke when crops are compared.

This camera *could* have wiped the floor with the others at higher ISOs …

The final comment from the reviewers:
The JZ500's 'big brother' the FinePix F80 EXR is a mixed-bag though, and although it gives superb results in its 'DR' mode, the EXR functionality that sets it apart from its competitors is poorly implemented, and overcomplicated.
As is the review without any effort to normalize the outputs of these cameras to some useful standard.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

DPReview – Bounced again – What is going on?

Yeah … maybe this is enough now. An argument the other day was prolonged by constant pointless baiting by the user mentioned by the moderators here. HS10.


Edit: While I was unable to turn the other cheek, I was *not* the aggressor … HS10 is mentioned here explicitly because he stalked me through several threads and threw bait at me repeatedly. What I just learned is that he was *not* banned, but I was as the responder.

Edit 2: Someone speculated today that Royslaw, one of those posters who likes an argument and prolongs it through the time-honored technique of tedium and obfuscation, has apparently been banned with me. And since I also had a few bouts with him earlier in the week (but not long ones I thought), maybe that's who the moderator really meant? Could they actually get that wrong? Is banning someone so small a thing nowadays?

Time to take a break again I think.

Update: Apparently not yet ;-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rogers – Robber Barons Never Had It So Good

It’s been a while since I had a good rant on Rogers … and my latest bill has me shaking my head. I was in the USA for a while recently and I used my phone sporadically … I used 5 minutes of airtime and sent 12 messages in total.

So what should that cost me? Pretty close to zilch, going by the value of what I used.

But no so with Rogers … the air time is almost tolerable at $7.80 for the 5 minutes … basically $1.56 per minute. Robbery, but the kind that won’t upset you unless you use your phone for real. Of course, why carry a phone if it might cripple you financially to use it? I don’t know the answer … perhaps Rogers does. Somewhere down in its department of ruination or wherever it is that they hatch their roaming prices.

But the real kicker is the text messaging. (I won’t even bother with Data Roaming, as it will send you to the poor house faster than you can shake your head.)


So what do we see? Yes … $0.75 per message. Not bad if you don’t have a conversation … that could quickly cost you 50 bucks. But think about it in terms of the actual data you are sending over the network. I average 50 bytes per message at best. So now we’re at 600 bytes for $9. That’s how much per megabyte? Let’s see … about $15,000 … and per gigabyte that adds up to, and I am not kidding … 15 million dollars :-)

That’s Dr. Evil territory … but wait, this gets much funnier.

Say you have a TB of data you want to send. Bear with me … I’m just showing you how ludicrous their charges are on a per unit basis …

You could dump the data to a 1TB hard drive, which can be had for under $100 anywhere these days. So … $100 plus, say, $100 overnight almost anywhere in the world. $200 to send 1TB of data anywhere by tomorrow.

If you were to pay Rogers their text messaging prices for that same data, and let’s be generous and fill each text message to the maximum 160 characters … you would spend … wait for it …. it’s really, really amazing …


Ok … that’s a bit unrealistic … but do you see how simply outrageous the cost of transmitting such a chicken-sh*t sized message is by Rogers’ roaming prices? It’s beyond ridiculous …

Now … let’s pretend that was totally unfair, although they really do charge that much …

Instead, let’s look at the cheapest data roaming method … which will be a one time fee of $60 which includes 75MB followed by $0.80 per MB after that. That should come out a lot cheaper. And it does. It is also realistic, since it is the only way to send lots of data from your phone without hitting a wi-fi location …

So … 1TB sent via this method from my phone using data roaming comes to …


Now *that’s* cheap!

Shaking my head …

Sharp Dressed Man -- Viral YouTube Video -- Incredible Drummer

Just watch this guy go ape-sh*t ... it's worth the price of admission ...

Monday, June 7, 2010

F80EXR Shoots a Crombie McNeill Workshop

I missed the first of this years’ workshops but managed to catch the second one on the weekend. We all drove up to Smiths Falls, about an hour South-Southwest of Ottawa for 10am on Sunday the 6th (66th anniversary of D-Day by the way.)


I somehow got confused about the time and arrived an hour early, which meant a little time to do nothing. I went up some steep stairs at a municipal building where we were to meet and found a door that was locked. No landing there so I turned around and came back down, grabbing the hand rail and sliding my hand along it as I always do. But this handrail was busted and I slid my middle knuckle across the broken edge of the brass piece that was supposed to be holding the rail on … slicing a 1/2” gash in my knuckle as I went by. When I arrived at the bottom, I noticed that I was bleeding like a stuck pig, so to speak.

I wandered out front to see if there was a pharmacy nearby and of course there was not. But the building I was in had another entrance 30 feet away and that was a police station. I wandered in there and asked the officer at reception for a band-aid … holding up my finger, which was now covered in blood. She asked if I needed to go to the hospital and I said no, it was a small gash. So they got be some band-aids and I washed it off and left.

Back to the entrance with 45 minutes still left to wait. It was raining so I stood on the top step of the first entrance and took out the F80EXR. There were huge Maples on each side of the entrance and with the leaves covered in droplets, I tried to capture an image. The image I got was a bit dull, but ends up looking kind of nice after a pseudo-HDR treatment by Topaz Adjust 4.


And across the street, through the trees, is a bit of Canadiana that anyone should recognize …


After a while, I went to sit in my car and wait with the music on. At about 9:45, Crombie and a few others arrived and I followed them up the stairs to the big room. Interestingly, I had gone up the wrong stairs when I cut myself, so that was a pointless injury :-)

The room in which we met was rather huge with the creakiest floor I’ve ever seen … everywhere you stepped it screeched.


I wandered about and chatted, shaking hands with a number of people I had not seen since last year’s final workshop, which was the market if I recall correctly. At one point, I noticed some cameras set up on tripods and thought I’d get some kind of clever shot of them with their owners in the background. It turned out ok, although I took it to black and white to easily handle the color noise that shows up at 1600 ISO.


Edit 6 Feb 2011: Bonnie added the some of the names in comments on this series of posts. Thanks Bonnie.

The leader of the group we planned to photograph is George, and he is a swordsman. George came in at some point and laid his practice sword (blunted) down on a long window ledge. I shot an image, but with the grey skies and otherwise dull presentation I again decided to use pseudo-HDR courtesy of Topaz Adjust.


For reason’s unknown, I did not photograph him as he demonstrated certain movements with the sword … kind of like patterns (kata for those familiar with Karate.) And when we arrived at the rather rain soaked grounds, mainly shot with the D300 and D700. I did get a few shots near the end though. I shot images of a fellow in a red beard (Mike) who really looks the part. These again seemed to need a little something extra so I used Topaz quite liberally. I did process the eyes in most cases, though, else they looked quite dull from the flat light in which we shot.


Click through to see the 800px version and you must agree that the F80EXR is capturing a significant amount of detail for a 6mp cam. Below is George, the group’s leader. He teaches several sword fighting techniques and studies the history of all forms of ancient sword-mastery. He also mentions that he is a Druid and practices an ancient Norse (Viking) religion. All very interesting.


By this point you’ve probably noticed that I am not mentioning any names. The reason being that I have a rather poor memory, so I have asked Crombie and Paul for the names of all the people we photographed. Paul is working on that as I post this so at some point in the future this will be edited. If you come back later, you will see names and this will obviously be gone.

Edit 6 Feb 2011: I never did receive the names. But Bonnie kindly provided some of them in her comments.

Here are a couple more images of Mike and then George.



So why go black and white on that last one? Well, because I screwed up and shot him against the grey sky and that looks simply awful in a color image if it dominates the background.

Always watch your background and shift your angle if it sucks.

A woman (Joanne) and her husband (Dave) arrived about half way through the festivities and, although I did not photograph Joanne with the F80, I did get one of Dave. He is cut of rather masculine cloth … and wait until you see Joanne later on when I post the images from the D300 and D700 … they are a terrific match.


There was also a family there with two daughters, all dressed in period costumes. I only managed to capture the mother (Rhella) with the F80 … you will see the daughters and husband (still no names for them, sorry) in a later post.


And that was about it for the compact at this venue. I did shoot one of the models, her name I remember as Selina.


Again, I think the F80EXR did a marvelous job of that image. Terrific detail.

Now … on to the water treatment plant. We arrived and the Smiths Falls economic development manager gave us a short talk welcoming us to the town and saying that he hoped that these workshops would be the start of a strong period of growth in this area -- with the town having many such historic venues, there is no shortage of period locations for interesting photography.

After that, he showed up the building, which is very much an industrial space that looks abandoned. The filtration systems with their enormous vats and catwalks are still running, but this is no doubt to avoid fairly severe bacterial issues while they work on a plan to tear it all out (although perhaps they are retaining the capacity in case tragedy strikes the other plant … who knows.) The vat room was the only part of the plant that was off limits, as it is a moderately dangerous room.

Now, again, I shot pretty much exclusively in here with the D700 as the light was pretty tricky. Near the end, I packed it all up and pulled out the F80 for a few last shots. Turns out that more was happening than I expected :-)

First, Erin and her significant other were posing near a window in some pretty glorious light. I shot several images and processed one of them in black and white pseudo-HDR and the other in high contrast with my threshold / glow technique. Both are pleasing, but I prefer the second one.



And the last series of shots is of Sandy. She is a gregarious sort, which makes her really easy to work with. Always full of suggestions and posing fairly quickly. Here, I caught a quick image with the flash enabled to fill in the shadows. Not bad I think … once cropped and processed of course.


She then walked into a corner where the compact could not follow. It simply cannot shoot without flash and the flash shadows would have killed any possible image against a wall. So I shot the scene instead … and you see a photographer in the close foreground and you see Crombie just after he has positioned her, now facing me.


That’s a Canon G11 strung around his neck. He also shoots a D90 with grip and a lovely Sigma 50mm 1.4 (a superb lens with stunning sharpness.)

She went back into the window and sat on the ledge, giving us the opportunity to shoot her in silhouette … where the compact is again out of its league if I try to fill flash. But … I happen to be a huge fan of high key imagery, so I simply turned up exposure compensation to blow two stops high and got an image I quite like. Further processing to black and white and more glow gives me a shot that is very pleasing.


And that is just a small taste … I will be posting images from the D300 and D700 as time permits. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

DPReview says “Stop Annoying People” – Banned Again!

In an astounding turn of events, I woke up this morning to a ban … just a short 1 day break … but a ban nonetheless. Now, I have been banned enough that I have become very careful to stay out of petty bickering.

The only thread that could possibly have led to a bunch of complaints would have been one of Alan’s (ASR45) threads in which he posted some horrid images and I critiqued them. But I was dead right and proved it with a couple of examples. It was a *technical* critique ... nothing personal. This ban was completely unjustified.

Edit: I just verified it and *yes* … my examples have been deleted. Alan, one of the most childish of all of the posters at FTF, had it removed and complained. It is possible that Brad99, one of Alan’s new sycophants, also complained because he tried to argue that these images were actually good. See for yourself by clicking through here … you won’t see me prove that there is rampant barrel distortion, but I did.

Stunningly, several people apparently complained and the mods sat me out with no attempt to find out how petty these complaints really were … and since I used clips of his images and they have been deleted, no doubt Alan claimed copyright (which is of course bollucks, since I can easily claim fair use for educational purposes.) I assume that Alan framed his complaint with the words “waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”


I have railed against this tendency to give over control of the asylum to the inmates before … but never has it been so blatant as with this specific ban.

It’s just shocking that such a childish tactic as complaint button pressing (it is called the “baby button” now by anyone mature enough to see it for what it is) STILL WORKS!

Pugfest 2010 – May 30 – D700 and F70EXR

What’s a Pugfest you might be asking? Well, it’s a semi-annual gathering of *lots* of Pugs and their owners. Kids come along too so it’s fun for all. The host and organizer for Pugfest is Anne Moreside, and she has a website for Pugfest here. For a history of Pugfest, which started as the Pugnic, read this page.

DSC_2862_anne[1] Anne Moreside

But let’s rewind this a bit. The weekend of the Pugfest, Karen and I took her pugs Spike and Sophie over to the Mississippi River for a little walkabout in the water on Saturday afternoon. It was a hot day and the water was very nice. This was about 2 in the afternoon. I had the D700 with me, which I would have again the next day at the Pugfest.

There are serious issues with trying to photograph Pugs. The black ones like Spike are, well, black. There is little light reflecting back at you so you need to retain massive shadow detail to see anything of the animal. And the fawn ones have black faces, so you have very light colored coats and black faces … what do you expose for? My point being that photographing Pugs is just about as challenging as photographing a bride and groom in black tux and white dress. Very high dynamic range in the same frame. Heaven help you if the sun is out … because you are toast.

So Saturday was a warm up for me … shoot the pugs and see what happens. The sun was out (oops) and the images are not at all what I would have hoped for. There are enough issues that I processed some of them with Topaz Adjust for an HDR look, which helps mask extra shadow noise from pulling up out of the basement as I underexpose to protect highlights. Yeesh … this was tough.

So here is the Mississippi River … a rather pretty little thing that is not related to the big one in the USA.


A hazy day, but plenty of light to screw up the images. Looking across the river to the landing and fair grounds, we see a diver and some boaters.


If you want to see what the camera can see, here it is.


That is the D700 with 70-300VR on it. Ok … nerd break over.  


Here is an incredibly difficult exposure. Spike facing towards me with the sun behind him. All the important stuff is in deep, deep shadow. Remember to click through on all these images to see the larger versions. 

Here’s an image I really like, but found that Topaz made it more interesting to the eye. It brings out all sorts of detail in the river bed that is not otherwise visible. And Spike’s fur is much better defined.


Here, Spike is playing in the deeper water behind some reeds. He’s just so cute …



I was actually unable to rescue any images of Sophie from that shoot. The sun bouncing off of her coat was overpowering. My fault of course, I have not shot such challenging subjects outdoors in a long time. Being out of practice makes for a nightmare.

So the next day, Karen prepares the pugs by tying on a cute Canadiana scarf so that they are instantly recognizable. Once you are at one of these you get the purpose instantly. Dozens and dozens of fawn Pugs, and they all look awfully similar.

I shot the two of them in the house before we left. The light comes from a nice big window and there was cloud this day, which makes for wonderful soft light. Much better for photography, or so I hoped.

Sophie first … she is so patient you simply cannot believe it.


That’s the D700 with the spectacular 85mm 1.8 on it. And little Spikey is next …


This light I am definitely liking a lot more than the brutal light of midday by the river.

And so we are back at Pugfest again. I hope the detour was not too much of a bore …

As we arrived, there was a challenge running for the Pugs to get through the tunnel. Prizes had already been given and there was one left. Karen lined Sophie up to give it a shot as she had done it before, but alas she was bumped away from the entrance by a more aggressive Pug, who I presume claimed the prize. Sophie took the longer way around :-)


The first major event is the Pug race. The owners line the dogs up and have someone hold them while they back off across the race course (about 20 feet away.) Here they are at the start. Sophie stands at the left end being held by Karen’s daughter Mallory, who suffered a broken ankle requiring surgery in a freak ATV accident last week. This image you really want to click through … the larger one is much easier to see details in.



A close in shot of Mallory with Sophie shows that Sophie is relaxed as always, ready for battle. Although probably quite happy to take a nap should the situation call for it. Note the I Heart New York T-Shirt … the spoils of the NYC tour I took with Karen a few weeks ago. Blog for that still pending after last weeks computer disaster(s).

Here, we see Sophie on the far left (pointing towards me, we didn’t ask for a ruling on the interference of that other Pug :-)


Sophie was pretty close to 3rd if not in a dead heat. Fun to see them all trying to run when they don’t really know what is going on. After the race, Sophie needs a drink and Spike joins her. Here, it is obvious that the soft light is really helping. The Pugs are both nicely exposed and there it lots of detail everywhere (although truth be told, Spike’s face is not sharply detailed here – I could not make a large print of this.)


Here’s what it looks like when I unleash Topaz Adjust on it.


Each style has its charms.

There were numerous dogs in the park of other breeds. The park was not reserved, so there is nothing one can do if an aggressive breed should suddenly join the party. Luckily, the non-Pugs were very well behaved this day. Kudos to them and to their owners.

Of course … what do dogs do all day? Other than eat, sleep, poop, and lick themselves (because they can of course) …


I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate.  

The water dish was left out for others to enjoy, and here is a very nice looking fawn Pug.


Some of the Pugs have the most interesting eyes. Marty Feldman eyes in fact …



See the expression? The resemblance is uncanny :-)

Right around this time there was a “stay” contest. Whose Pug could sit the longest? I don’t seem to have any decent images of the lineup … it was *really* jumbled, with owners everywhere holding their hands out and shouting “stay!” as they backed away.

Some of the dogs made 3 seconds … and some did fairly well. I think this one did well enough, as he happily sat for pictures for quite a while. Love that little tooth on the right grabbing his own lip. So cute …


There were a number of young children at the fest, as would be expected. Their pets were competing after all. The kids were not much heavier than the Pugs and there was a real mismatch in strength. Some had to almost sit on their dogs to control them.



Here’s a shot that just screamed for Topaz. I wonder if you agree? If these two were together (I don’t think they were) then this shot screams for being framed and mounted on a wall. Such nice expressions across the board.


The kids and the Pugs spend the whole day looking at knee caps. What an interesting world they live in. Very hard to imagine until you look at an image like this.


Most of the day is spent milling about anf mixing. Being a raging nerd, I shoot images while milling. And the dogs sniff each others’ butts and sometimes they play. And when they play they run like bats out of you-know-where. And when they run, they sometimes chase. And when they do that, they sometimes play Lion trying to kill Gazelle :-)

At least, that’s what this sequence looks like to me.


Top left was shot when they were running incredibly fast. Note the gait on the chased Pug …. it’s a full-on gallop with the rear legs crossing in front of the front ones. Wicked. Image two in the middle was shot 10 seconds later. They are running in a circle, so they’ve gone around me and are curving again. The chasing Pug has clamped his jaws onto the chased Pug … and is almost airborne :-)  And finally, image 3 on the bottom right was shot 4 seconds after that. The chasing Pug had enough energy to unclamp from the chased Pug’s butt and leap forward to its neck. I’ve seen video of gazelles being taken down and it looks just like this … I am seriously impressed by the intensity of Pug games.

By the way … I simply pasted these three crops into this configuration with great gaps of empty space that I used Adobe Photoshop CS5’s new content-aware fill to fill in. I then selected some of the edges and asked it do replace the edges with something else. Just keep doing that until you get what you have here. I think it took me 4 or 5 selections. I did nothing else and fixed nothing up. CS5 is simply *amazing* at filling in backgrounds with reasonable guesses.

Here’s a rather larger dog that wears a red scarf just in case it is mistaken for a Pug :-)


At this point I am standing about shooting the Pugs as they go by. Here’s one that whooshes by me and I swoop the cam down by my feet, panning as I go. I let off one shot and it’s not half bad.


Some pugs looks a little like monkeys when held in certain positions.


But in fact this fella is pretty cute.


… and he’s got a nice dog …. ba da bing!

Humor’s pretty tough to get across in a blog …

Now …. remember when I mentioned about the value of having scarves on the dogs?


It’s like that *all* the time.

The odd Pug gets a bit over dressed. Although perhaps this is just a reflection of the wedding-like difficulty of getting good exposures.


Here’s a Pug that probably wonders why people stare at it … the foo foo bow might have something to do with that :-)DSC_2913_scarf[1] 

Although many of the owners are in the older crowd … my crowd … there are a number of young Pug owners out there.


Here’s an owner just relaxing with his Pug … gently stroking its ears …


His Pug appears to have a damaged mouth … I’m told that the tongue is always hanging. It’s quite unique, and kinda cute.


Suddenly there is a bit of activity as Anne begins handing out awards for cutest wrinkles. Four dogs are named, but only two are here for me to photograph. Sophie is one of them, taking 2nd place if I recall correctly. Karen has to apparently wake her up for her picture :-)



That’s better :-)

I don’t know the name of the winner, but wow … that’s a lot of wrinkles.




Everywhere you look, someone has a camera. There should be a lot of good images from this fest as the light was pretty soft today. Not much of a challenge even for small sensors.


I happened to catch a pair of Pugs running with one of them appearing to say “hey! how’s it going?” … or maybe the Joey-esque … “How yoooouuuu doooooooinnnnnn?”


And yet another fawn Pug with a happy owner.


The young ones again … playing around with the Pugs and a camera.


Pugs are very gentle creatures (the Lion up above notwithstanding :-) and it is sweet to see them just checking each other out.


And another portrait of a fawn Pug and a happy owner.


Hey! Where the heck am I?


A lovely portrait of a red-harnessed fawn Pug.


Shake, rattle and roll. Click through to see hairs flying off the back. Cool …


And here is Mr. Red Harness with his owner.


A yellow-scarf Pug with Marty Feldman eyes …


A man in uniform ….. looks like a bruiser.


I believe that we are finally seeing Anne’s Pugs, Clancy on the left and Cora on the right.


Anne posing with Cora.


And now with Clancy.


I don’t remember this Pug’s name, but if you ever wondered where Lucas got the model for the Ewok’s face …



They get quite pretty as they get older.


I think this is the owner.


Some of the Pugs get a little big for their legs. Makes it awkward toi sit. But they manage.


I think the underwear might be overkill, but the bikini is kind of cute anyway …

Spike found a friend … I have many shots of these two playing, but I like this one.


Still checking each other out … a party is starting.


Gotta do what dogs do … else the relationship is incomplete.


Now … following each other to the bathroom might be a bit much …


See the oncoming pug as it approaches? Well …


Always time for a quick sniff on the way by :-)

Here’s a manly pose … helped along by the prominent “Bite Me!” tag …


  A beautiful unmarked, untagged, unscarfed Pug … obviously having a disagreement in the elementary school yard :-)


Or maybe that’s just how it expressed its desire as it sneaks around :-)


At this point, I put the D700 away and took out the F70EXR as we prepared to leave.

First, I shot the lady who was at the registration desk with a poster for Royal Canin, a sponsor of this event and who graciously donated some prizes (reasonably large bags of dog food.)



My American friends can order directly from Amazon at this link.

A quick shot of Sophie.


This might be Cora in the lady’s arms with Anne about to do something …


I think this is a close up of Cora … it turned out ok, but clearly I would have preferred a faster shutter speed to cut down on the movement …


The red harnessed black Pug gets some attention.


Well … that’s all I got. Around 70 images … I hope you enjoyed this little trip through Pugfest.

There was a poster distributed at the end for the 3rd bi-annual PUGSTOCK, a fundraising event. This will occur on Saturday 13 June, 2010 from 1pm to 3pm at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre in Ottawa. This is in support of the non-profit Under My Wing Pug Rescue organization. Like the Pugfest, this is a biannual event (twice a year.)

Be there or be square …