I Shoot Photos, Don’t I?

Multiple Exposures on Canon EOS 6D

One of the many great features of the Canon EOS 6D, aside from its full-frame sensor, GPS, WiFi, and its price, is its support for multiple exposures. Canon released a video earlier this week showing how to use the feature.

The first time I used this feature was almost by accident during the Center for Holographic Arts closing party in April. I was trying to capture both the backlit plate on the overhead projector and the two men standing in faint light.

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Ultimately, I settled on using HDR to make the photo because the lighting for those two subjects was too different to use multiple exposures. But I’ll play around with this feature now that I better understand its purpose.

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Phonograph Micrographs

Do you know how a record stores sound?

Since I’ve been teaching undergraduate survey courses in communication, such as media industries or media technologies, I’ve had to learn how certain recording technologies work. One of those is the earliest sound recording devices of the nineteenth century.

Sound is vibrational energy that displaces air. To record sound you need to capture those vibrations.

The earliest sound recordings, such as those developed by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville in the 1860s and later by Thomas Edison and Emile Berliner in the 1880s, are like fossils of those vibrations. A needle that fluctuates carves those vibrations into a surface: Scott used lamp black, Edison used tin, and Berliner used zinc and beeswax. Those sounds and their vibrations are preserved inside of these tiny grooves.

The other day, I saw this image on the Facebook page for Copyright, a house music group from the United Kingdom. If you’re wondering if I am all of a sudden listening to house music, don’t fret. I’m not. It was shared via Goner Records, a rock ‘n’ roll label and music store in Memphis.

The shared image is two magnified photos of a record-player needle riding the grooves of a vinyl record. But with most things people shared online, it’s hard to tell whether the image is real. It looks plausible, but I’ve been burned before on sharing other things that “look plausible.”

After a few minutes of searching the web, I found a more reputable source for magnified images of a vinyl record. In 2005, students in an optics class at the University of Rochester magnified several small objects to demonstrate the capabilities of a scanning electron microscope.

One of the objects they magnified was a vinyl record.

The grooves of a vinyl record magnified 500x. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.
The grooves of a vinyl record magnified 500x. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.
The grooves of a vinyl record magnified 1000x. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.
The grooves of a vinyl record magnified 1000x. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.

These look a bit different than the viral image I saw on Facebook, and they’re not marked up with explanatory text and watermarks. However, they show how sound in its physical form as ridges along an otherwise smooth groove.

If you’re wondering about more modern sound recording devices, such as compact disk, they did that, too.

The pits of a CD magnified at 20,000x. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.
The pits of a CD magnified at 20,000x. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.

This image is actually magnfied 20x more than the vinyl record. I’m guessing they did so to reveal a perceptible variation in the disk surface. Because a CD is a digital storage medium, you’re not looking at sound. You’re looking at representations of digital information, which in turn, must be converted back into vibrations that we hear as sound.

I’m glad these students magnified both a vinyl record and a CD, among many other things. If the prognisticators are correct in predicting that we’ll one day buy more vinyl records than CDs, we may wonder what the CD looked like, how it worked, and why we resorted to such a complex way of storing sound when a simpler solution[1] existed for over a hundred years.


  1. and superior with respects to fidelity  ↩

Fool Me Once…

Today is April Fool’s Day. Since yesterday, I’ve been on high alert carefully scrutinizing anything that could be a prank. I usually forget about today—being too preoccupied with this, that, or something else, but this year, I was expecting it so I’ve been fully prepared. Although this heighten skepticism has taken most of the fun out of today, I did get a few choice pranks.

Make a Photo without a Camera

The folks at Lomography, makers of analog film cameras for the hip art-school set, has announced a new spray that will allow you to slowly expose an image onto a roll of film.

I fell for this one at first, partly because I saw it on March 31. It seems completely feasible until you read that it takes up to 24 hours for a decent exposure. I thought that was a typo. But the giveaway in this video was in the time-lapse sequence, where the guy stands with the roll of film in the dark. I’m no expert in Greek, but I know you need light to make a photograph.

Canon Wildlife Camera

Speaking of photography, I saw this announcement come across my RSS feed this morning from The Digital Picture, an expert website for Canon photographers.

Fake Canon 1D W (Wildlife) for April Fool's Day 2014

This is a very compelling prank. A camera like this makes some sense. However, as far as I know, no one has ever made a flagship (D)SLR camera specifically for one application. (Okay, fine, Canon has made two cameras specifically for astrophotography.) As I skimmed the article, I thought it was real, until I realized what day it was.

Bryan, the site’s owner, even included a link to the B&H website so you can pre-order this camera. However, that link takes you to an “April Fool’s” page, revealing that you have been had!

Apple Buys iFixit

A good April Fool’s Prank is one that seems plausible and incredible at the same time. Apple buying the hub for online do-it-yourself repair manuals seems both plausible and incredible. The press release includes some very humorous details, admitting they sold out.

“Everyone has a number”, admitted Kyle Wiens, iFixit’s CEO. “I didn’t think there was a reasonable number that would make me say, ‘You know I was going to change the world with repair documentation but here’s a number.’” In the end, Apple gave us a number that we couldn’t refuse.

I saw this from the spoil-sports at MacRumors, who not only revealed this and other “stories” to be April Fool’s hoaxes, but admitted that they did not intend to “participate” in any prank news stories. That makes sense since some of the rumors they reference are a bit unbelievable, even if some are spot-on.

Hulu Announces New Spin-Offs

Hulu announced two new spin-offs of hit series available on the streaming service, including one where Hannibal gets a cooking show.


The other is, The Field, a spin-off of the critically acclaimed series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which I haven’t yet seen (shame on me, yes, I know). 


Honestly, I figured out that these spin-offs were fake. However, I was very impressed that they went through the trouble to make two very good looking videos. 

Fake United Jeff’s Improvements for United Airlines

The Twitter account for the fake Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Airlines, is one of the few Twitter feeds I read like a blog, where I scroll back to each tweet until I read them all. Today, he’s been dispatching fake announcements to improve United Airlines, such as this one to solve the labor dispute between the airline and its two sets of pilots (former Continental and former United).


Some, however, are more sensible, so much so that you know that they’re fake.


I really hate the new logo, and I’m not alone.

EFF Reports that MPAA is to Update its Copyright Curriculum for Kindergartners

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sent out a “very special” issue of its newsletter, the EFFector. 

A few of the stories were pretty obvious pranks. For example, they mention an NSA program, IMPENDINGSLUMBER, that is designed to “intercept children’s bedtime stories.” But one was a little too close to reality to be an obvious prank. Here it is in its entirety:

Citing numerous psychological studies that indicate children under the age of eight respond primarily to fear-based cues, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is adding another character to its “Sharing Is Bad” copyright curriculum: the “Fair Use Creep,” a four-headed monster in a trench coat. “We think these children will respond well to characters like the Fair Use Creep,” said MPAA chief Chris Dodd in a press conference Friday. “And by respond well, we mean cower in fear.”

Doesn’t it seem a bit extreme for the motion picture industry to infiltrate children’s curriculum with lessons on copyright maximalism? This must be a joke, right? Sadly, it’s not.

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Andrew Whyte and Legography

Andrew Whyte, a long-exposure photographer working in London, made a series of photographs featuring a Lego-sized photographer and Lego-sized camera. At first, it’s funny and cute.

But then you really start to appreciate the remarkable attention to detail of each image. The Lego figure sports different outfits matched to the climate and setting. The poses in each photograph evoke the struggle of finding unconventional vantages photographers seek when shooting an image. Finally, the variety of terrains in the series arouses my own wanderlust to go out and shoot more.

Consider me moved. I bought a print, and it came today.

Lego, Bicycling, Summer, Photography: Everything in this photo makes me happy.

Lego, Bicycling, Summer, Photography: Everything in this photo makes me happy.

Speaking of long exposure photographers, check out the work of Matt Lambros. His photos of abandoned movie theaters is not only a great documentation project for architecture and film exhibition in the United States, the photos themselves are hauntingly beautiful.

Canon Explains Exposure

It might seem counter-intuitive, but the more expensive your digital SLR camera is, the fewer automatic controls it offers. Once you get to a certain camera tier, such as a full-frame digital, you won’t find the same automatic modes that are essential in consumer-level models that cost less than $700. You’ll need to make some decisions about ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

Animation propellor

Canon has published a web tool, cleverly titled “Outside of Auto,” that explains and illustrates how changes to those settings will affect your final photograph.

Because these settings are inherent to all photography, they apply to any make of camera, such as Nikon and Sony, Holga and Leica, iPhone or Samsung. And yes this applies to film as well as digital.

Buy My Awesome Macro Lens [Update: Sold]

Canon EF-S 60mm Macro for Sale

Once again, I am pruning my lens collection to make room for other awesome lenses in the near future. Up for sale is a Canon EF-S 60mm USM macro lens. My ambitions to master product photography, especially shooting Sarah’s jewelry collection, didn’t turn out to be the all-consuming hobby that I had anticipated.

Macro lenses obviously excel at shooting really close up and at shooting small objects, like coins and insects. In my case, I used it to shoot coffee brewing.

Coffee Brewing

Macro lenses can also be used for shooting distant objects. At the recommendation of a professional photographer, I used my macro lens to photograph the annual Manhattanhenge event from Long Island City.

Manhattanhenge from Long Island City

I’m not exactly sure what the advantage is of shooting distant objects using a lens designed for shooting close-up, but the photos were pretty great.

Much like I did with selling my 35mm lens, I’m willing to sell it in person or online. If you are in the New York area and are shopping for a Canon EF-S 60mm macro lens, contact me and we’ll set up a meeting. If you prefer to shop through Amazon, I have listed the lens there too.

The above links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you buy something through those links, I will earn a commission fee.

Update: The lens sold last night.

Isn’t That Staged, Too?

This photo accompanies a ludicrous article considering whether it is more dangerous to ride a Citi Bike or to take up Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting. The caption that describes the photo, “cops respond to an East Village Citi Bike location June 19, after an accident involving one of the bikes,” implies that using the bike share program is dangerous because, you know, those pesky bicyclists!

However, the image on its own is pretty misleading. It presents a pretty good lesson for how photographs can be used outside of their fuller context. The cops had taped off the bike share station in this photo not because some reckless cyclist was riding the wrong way through a red light. It was because an alleged drunk driver ran off the road on Second Avenue and struck a few pedestrians and a Citi Bike rider. The collision sent debris from the crash site across East 4th Street to the Citi Bike station across the street. The bike-share rider was injured.

Evidently, MMA is also safer than standing, walking, and driving. Perhaps we should give that up, too.

Embedding Photos with Flickr and Gallery

Since I switched over to WordPress for managing this website in 2009, I have been using an even older platform for sharing my photos: Gallery. Although it took a lot of tweaking, I managed to get WordPress and Gallery to work nicely via a plugin called WPG2, which I am pretty sure is deprecated by now.

Using WPG2 as “middleware” between WordPress and Gallery 2 has made it really easy to embed an image in a blog post. All I have to do is add a bit of shortcode. The code is based on Gallery’s own item number for an image. For example, the image located at http://juanomatic.net/photos?g2_itemId=47586 has an item number of 47586 . To embed this image into a post, I simply include WPG2’s own <wpg2> and </wpg2> wrapper around the Gallery item number.

<wpg2>47586</wpg2>

When added to a WordPress post, the code above will call the appropriate image from Gallery and display it according to the size stipulated in Settings > WPG2 > WPG2 Tags. In my case, I’ve set everything to 500 pixels to allow landscape-oriented images to take up the entire width of the content area, but you can set it anything you want.

8424712368_36232d7174_b_d

However, given the increasing size of my photo gallery, which is now approaching five gigabytes, the fact that both Gallery2 and WPG2 are by now pretty old, I pay for a Flickr Pro membership, and having my Flickr images on served via WordPress.com can produce retina-caliber images, I am tempted to migrate from Gallery to Flickr. Both WordPress and Flickr natively support oEmbed, a pretty common way to share content, with only requiring a simple URL. That makes it possible to include in a WordPress post, something like this to embed an image in a post:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/juanomatic/8424712368/

oEmbed works with several popular platforms, such as YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare, Soundcloud, and many more. When I try to embed a Flickr image inside of a WordPress post, it generates an image, as one would expect, however, it is not the 500 px size I want.

Why do I agree to do this?

As you can see, the image is only 320 pixels wide. That’s because when WordPress makes an oEmbed request from Flickr, it sends three (maybe four) pieces of information.

  1. the URL of the Flickr page where the interesting content (i.e., my image) lives;
  2. the maxwidth of my theme so that Flickr provides a right-sized image;
  3. the format of Flickr’s response. WordPress and most others prefer JSON but XML is also common.
  4. It might also send the maxheight of my desired content, which I understand WordPress defines as 1.5 times the width by default.

My theme does not actually specify the width of the content because in previous versions of WordPress, the user had to specify desired sizes of embedded content in Settings > Media. However, since WordPress 3.5, you now have to add a function that specifies the content_width. To comply with the requirement, I added the following to my child theme’s functions.php file:

if ( ! isset( $content_width ) ) $content_width = 500;

Looking around the wp-includes/class-oembed.php file in my WordPress installation, it appears that when WordPress makes an oEmbed request, it uses the content_width value for the value of maxwidth. Since I added that value to my WordPress theme, the request should be for an image from Flickr with a maximum width of 500 pixels. Flickr actually natively resizes images to 500 pixels, among a variety of other sizes, for viewing on their website. For oEmbed, however, it only serves a 320-pixel image. I found that when I change the content_width value to anything greater than 640, it serves a 640-pixel image. The same is true for values higher than 1024. But if content_width is any value between 320 and 639 pixels, it will only serve a 320-pixel image.

How do I get Flickr to serve a 500-pixel image? Looking through countless message boards, it appears that Flickr not only used to serve 500-pixel images via oEmbed, but also restricted the size of images to exactly 500 pixels.

Not being able to easily embed a 500-pixel image from Flickr has left me with a few options:

  1. Continue using Gallery2 and WPG2 for the image gallery and embedding.
  2. Use a theme with content width of 640 pixels. This is actually a pretty good idea since I can use or devise a single-column theme that looks good on desktop, mobile, and tablet environments.
  3. Look to yet another image hosting solution. I would think that 500px.com would be a perfect solution, since I’m looking for images of exactly that size, but they don’t support oEmbed.
  4. Deal with teeny, tiny 320-pixel images. Nah!
  5. I could also change the CSS to make images in the content layer no greater than 500px wide. But this seems like inelegant solution because that would require changing the content-width value to 640, which could cause problems with other oEmbed content I might add later.

Canon and the 35mm Mid-Range Niche

Canon has announced two new EF lenses that appear to improve on existing offerings. One of which finally fills the gap between a $300 lens and a $1,500 one at the versatile 35mm focal length.

The first is a 24-70mm f/4 L zoom lens. With a list price of $1,499, the lens is a little out of my price range at the moment, although it’s an intriguing option were I to afford the yet-to-be-released Canon EOS 6D.

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The second lens is a bit more intriguing. It appears to be an upgrade to its 35mm f/2 prime lens. The lens adds an ultrasonic motor, which is long overdue. I used to have a 35mm f/2 lens, and it was a great starter prime lens for me. But the slow, and not to mention loud, auto-focus mechanism pushed me towards the 28mm f/1.8 USM lens. The puzzling thing about this lens is the price. It is listed at $849, which is over $500 more than the existing 35mm f/2 lens. The rationale for this hefty premium might be because of better optics, the ultrasonic mechanism, and presumably a better build quality. The 35mm lens felt very close to the 50mm f/1.8 (a.k.a. the “nifty fifty”) in terms of build quality: a little light and a little fragile. But it could also be because of the addition of image stabilization. I understand that it can be a great feature for long lenses, but it seems unnecessary for a 35mm wide-angle lens. Judging this lens is premature without having used it or seen it, but I can already identify that this is not a necessary upgrade for me, since I’m perfectly happy with the 28mm USM lens.

Canon must have released these knowing that they are filling particular niches. Indeed, Canon finally has a 35mm lens that fits between the old f/2, at $319, and the f/1.4 L, at almost $1,500. Those of us who wanted to upgrade the Canon 35mm f/2 would have to go to a different focal length, either 28mm or 50mm or upgrade to the L glass. But now Canon gives its users another option for very a versatile focal length and should satisfy users of both full-frame and cropped-sensor cameras.

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