Archive for June, 2005

Pentax meets Canon

Lately I’ve been experimenting with using older lenses on my Canon 10D. My father had a fairly extensive set of Pentax M42-mount and Rollei bayonet-mount lenses. They’re manual focus, like just about all equipment of that era, but the optics are excellent. And unlike the expensive modern equivalents they’re in my camera cabinet just waiting to be used.

Here’s a pic taken with one of the telephoto lenses:

Lens Test - Bunny 1

But for some really great sample photos check out Yu-Lin Chan’s pbase gallery. He’s got an impressive collection of Pentax lenses which he’s also using on his 10D. The photos he’s taken are organized by lens and include comments on the optical characteristics which also makes them a great reference.

The Canon EOS mount is particularly well suited for this sort of experimentation, and adapters for a number of manual focus lenses are readily available. I have an adapter for M42 mount (aka Pentax or Universal screw mount) lenses that I purchased a few years ago via ebay for my Peleng fisheye. I don’t have an adapter for the Rollei QBM lenses yet, but (thanks to a helpful hint from Mr. Nick Roberts) I see they’re also available on ebay.

It’s nice to ressurect old equipment and make it useful again. And it’s a nice reminder that today’s digital cameras rely on optical principles established many decades ago.

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Malls of America

Here’s a cool site: Malls of America.

Nifty pictures of shopping malls from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s

I think I’ll take some pictures next time I go to the mall, you know, for historical purposes.

(via BoingBoing)

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Eminent domain is the legal justification by which the government can seize private properrty. I’ve always hated the idea, but I must admit that it’s occasionally necessary, provided it’s done rarely, there’s fair market value compensation, and it’s only done in cases where the land will be used to serve a public purpose.

Unfortunately, the latest Supreme Court ruling on the subject is really bad news. They’ve ruled that it’s ok for the government to sieze private property from individuals so it can be given to private businesses that will develop the land in ways that supposedly provides more tax revenue to the government. If you think that sounds self-serving and ripe for abuse, then I’m sure there are a bunch of brand new former homeowners in Connecticut who’d agree wholeheartedly.

So now, apparently, the only justification the government needs to take away your house and land is that the
government wants more money. Have you ever met a government that didn’t
want more money? Me neither.

There’s lots more info and discussion from the legal eagles on Volokh and SCOTUSblog.

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I’ve previously linked to the famous Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad. This page of Surprising Expiration Dates also looks handy.  Looks like the winner in the condiment category is Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins of course) at 10 years.

The food expiration dates seem reasonable, but I don’t know about some of the household items. Why would bleach go bad after 6 months? What is there to go bad? Dish detergent expires after a year? Dunno ’bout dat.

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Michelle Malkin has an excellent roundup of news and views about the Idiot from Illinois, Dick Durbin. For those of you who haven’t been reading your blogs, Sen Durbiun (D – Illinois) compared American soldiers to Nazis, Pol-Pot, and Stalin. Because, of course, choosing interrogation methods that are deliberately designed not to injure prisoners is exactly the same as deliberately killing civillians as cruelly and as frequently as possible. At least in Dick’s world.

He compounded his offense today by issuing a self-righteous statement and refusing to apologize. I seldom use strong language, but Durbin is a contemptable opportunisitic asshole. And every Democratic senator who tries to let him slide on this is rapidly heading in that same direction.

UPDATE: Lileks writes about this today on his new Screedblog:

And why do I keep talking about this? Because they do. As the Durban flap demonstrates: It just never ends. And it won’t. There’s too much political hay to be made undercutting the war, and the consequences be damned. If they want to defeat the war to defeat Bush, well, noted. If they truly believe that the United States is in the same group as the Nazis, the Soviets and Pol Pot, then they’ve shown they have no perspective, no judgment, no sense of nuance, shall we say. And the idea that such comparisons might be picked up in the Middle East and broadcast with glee is irrelevant; they’re parochial to a fault, and care little for anything beyond their reputation and power in Washington.

You should read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Durbin finally says he’s sorry. I still think he’s a doofus, but he seems sincere. Apology accepted.

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There’s an interesting dicussion going on over at CQ about a Reuter’s photograph from Iraq that appears to be staged. I think he’s probably right about that. It purportedly show "insurgents tak[ing] up positions" but the friendly gunman over to the right is almost certainly posing dramatically for the camera, rather than actually preparing to shoot anything.

Some of the comments go even further, suggesting that the picture is a Photoshop composite of two different actual photos. I don’t that’s the case myself, especially since it’d be much easier to simply ask two guys to stand where you want them to be, but it is possible.

This isn’t the first time a photograph from a wire service or a newspaper has been called into question, and it certainly won’t be the last. It’s very very easy to create convincing fakes in Photoshop. Even when the photo is authentic, the policies of various publications who hire locals to take action shots calls into question the timing and circumstances of the pictures. Is a shot really of what they claim it is? Was it taken when they claim it was taken?

There’s a very simple way that any newspaper or wire service could use to answer all these questions and to reassure their readers that they are, indeed, an accurate source of news. All they have to do is make the full sized, original photo available for download.

Even today, in an era of broadband connections and high-resolutions most online news photos are hardly better than thumbnails. Not only is this annoying, it almost makes it very difficult to verify that a photo hasn’t been manipulated; resampling covers a multitude of sins. Far more important, though, is what isn’t visible.

All modern digital cameras stamp each file they create with hidden data called EXIF fields. At a minimum the EXIF data will show the date a photo was taken, the camera model used, the exposure information (shutter speed, aperture), and the focal length of the lens. Using this simple information, anyone familiar with photography can gather a huge amount of insight about a photo. Right away you know the time, the date, the approximate distance of the photographer from the subject, whether anything was moving (requiring a fast shutter speed) or whether people in the picture are likely just holding still for the camera.

Some high-end digital cameras (mostly used by photojournalists, conveniently) also have GPS modules are available. A camera with one of those will stamp an image file with the location where a photo was taken, as well as all of the above information.

So, my simple proposal is that all newspapers, wire services, and independent news photographers who want to be taken seriously begin posting the original, unedited, complete, and untouched files to the web for public download. The files may be JPG or RAW format, however they came out of the camera. If there’s a question about a photo then the photo and the data can simply speak for itself.

Will the mainstream media do this? I doubt it, at least not just yet. They’d likely cite copyright concerns, licensing agreements, etc. But they said the same things years ago about putting the text of their stories online, and again when online transcripts became common. I suspect that bloggers will lead the way, as usual these days. They don’t have the resources of Reuters or the NYT, but when a Flickr Pro account with virtually unlimited storage and bandwidth is a trivial expense, so there’s no reason for a blogger not to make a newsworthy photo available at full-size. People will soon come to expect it.

I humbly predict that the first organization that takes this advice will become the most trusted source of news photography on the web. Everyone else will be scrambling to catch up. Want to stop this sort of damaging speculation? Then hop to it, Reuters.

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Invasion of Space by Female would be an awesome name for a band. But today it’s just one of the horrible, inhumane, blood-curdling methods of torture used in the Gitmo Gulag of Evil.  Read more of the gut-wrenching details if you dare! Yet more Bushitler horror here and here.

tell me, you have the man in custody who is the planned 20th hijacker. The man who planned and excuted a scheme, together with 19 companions, to incinerate 3000 innocent people at the behest of an insane millionaire in Afganistan. And who would, quite likely, happily carry out another such plan if given the opportunity,

It’s quite likely that he knows of other such plots, and that he has useful information that would save lives and help catch his associates. It’s vital that you discover that information. How do you effectively interrogate him? Well, if "spill water on his head", "don’t give him a chair", "puppet shows", and "have cute women and barky dogs in close proximity" seem too harsh to you, then you are not the person I want running the interrogation. Or the country. Sorry.

Idiots like Senator Chuck Hagel have tried to smear the millitary and the administration with unfounded allegations of torture and abuse. When asked for the damning specifics the best they can come up with is this? They need to go away now and let the grownups get back to work.

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Sic Semper Tyrannus

"Thus always to tyrants", the words John Wilkes Booth shouted as he asassinated the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

Today Lincoln is often named among the greatest Presidents, and with
good reason, but at the time he was hated. The country was in midst of
the bloodiest war it would ever see. Southerners despised Licoln for
obvious reasons. He stood in the way of what they regarded as their
right to secession, and his stated intent to abolish slavery would
destroy their lifestyles and economy, not to mention elevating an
"inferior" race to full citizen status.

After so much death, many in the North were now ambivalent about the
war and wondered if it was really worth it. Lincoln also angered many
by exersizing emergency powers to circumvent the Constitution, and
suspend habaeus corpus, famously asking "Are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself to go to pieces, lest
that one be violated?" 

In retrospect Lincoln was correct – the North was riddled with
Southern sympathizers, saboteurs, and spies – but at the time it was easy to paint
him as a power-mad dictator bent on making himself into a new Ceasar. Many people, including Booth, convinced themselves of that. And they wanted him dead.

Meanwhile, European elites generally viewed Lincoln as an uncouth, unintelligent, belligerent fool. Dangerously pursuing a ridiculous policy of agression that would inevitably overflow into the rest North America.

Any of this sound somehow familiar? This fascinating post by Neo-neocon (via Dean) puts the anti-Bush rants of the left into a more useful historical perspective.

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I didn’t know that moviemaker Stanley Kubrick was a photographer, too. But he was. And a good one at that, judging by these previously unpublished photos. The first photo of Chicago at nighttime is my favorite.

via BoingBoing

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I missed this story earlier this week, but apparently Walmart has enacted a policy of only printing your crappy digital photos. Well, they don’t put it quite that way, but it looks like the only result they’ll be satisfied with:

Photofinishing labs increasingly are refusing to print professional-looking photographs taken by amateurs.

The reason: Photofinishers are afraid of infringing on professional photographers’ copyrights.

Spokeswoman Jackie Young said Wal-Mart is "a littler tougher than the copyright law dictates."

"We want to protect professional photographers’
rights," Young said. "We will not copy a photograph if it appears to be
taken by a professional photographer or studio."

She related the case of a bride whose wedding
photos were rejected by Wal-Mart because they "looked like
high-resolution quality."

"It caused a little bit of a stink," Young said.

As it should. Obviously I won’t be taking my photos to Walmart. Not that I was planning to anyway.

This is what happens when copyright laws are enforced beyond the limits of common sense. I’ve taken pictures for money, so I suppose that makes me a "professional". But I accept as reality that my clients are perfectly able to make copies of my photos whenever they want. And that’s fine. They paid me to take photos, not make printouts. The photos are theirs now, though not exclusively so.
It would really be hypocritical for me to think otherwise. I must admit that I have no qualms whatsoever about scanning and printing copies of prints that I’ve paid for. I have a portrait studio print of my late father from twenty years ago. Why in heaven’s name should I have to return to that studio for another copy? That’s just silly.

It’s vaguely possible that I’d feel otherwise if I really made a living taking pictures, but I don’t think so. The days when expert printing, and even retouching, required a professional are long past. Yes, a pro might be able to do better under some circumstances, but most people don’t care. And if they do, they’ll devise a  work-for-hire arrangement to get the job done, as they’d do with any other professional service. If professional photographers intend to thrive in the world of digital photography then they’ll need to do it by serving their customers, not trying to make them lawbreakers.

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