This page serves as a diving board into bits of photography that I find interesting.



My Camera Gear

  • Sony A37 - After much, much debate between a mirror-less and mirrored camera, I settled on the A37. With this guy, I get to keep the in-body stabilization and use all my lenses/flashes without an adapter. It's a slightly smaller package than the A100 and a huge upgrade in image quality. Plus, it has everything I need to move deeper in the world of video!

  • Sony A100 - It's a DSLR that normally finishes last in performance test but has one killer feature:
    the shake-o-meter. Inside the viewfinder, you'll see bars, much like the signal strength on your cell phone. The bars measure the amount your shaking the camera, so as the bars go down, the steadier the camera and the sharper the shot. This type of real-time feedback is invaluable to me.
  • Lenses:

    • Sony DT 16-50mm F2.8 SSM

      • This is my go-to lens. It's a bit heavy but it's worth it because it's quiet and has a great range.
    • Minolta 70-210 F/4.0 (Beer can)

      • Surprisingly handy and cheap!
    • Minolta 500mm F/8.0 Reflex (AF, Stablized, and only 200mm long!)

      • Newest lens, excited to take it somewhere!
    • Minolta 28mm F/2.8

      • Previous to the 16-50, this was my favorite.
    • Minolta 50mm F/1.7

      • Previous to the 28mm this was favorite. For years I had no idea that my copy's aperture blades were stuck. I picked up a second copy and was amazed.
    • Kit lenses: Sony DT 18-70mm F/3.5-5.6 and Sony DT 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6

      • Never use these anymore
  • Flash: Minolta 3600HS(D), HVL-F20AM
  • Accessories: Cable Relase, Polarizer, ND Filter, Grad Filters, Tripod, Glide Cam
  • Canon SD1000, Canon S90
  • Sony DSC-TX5
  • Minolta StSi - Film 35mm
  • Minolta SR-T 201 - 28mm/f2.8 and 50mm/f1.7
  • Nishika N8000
  • Other cameras I've owned: Toshiba PDR-2, Fuji FinePix 1400, Canon S230, Sony DSC-F717, Canon SD600, and Canon SD 870 IS

Sharing your pictures

Buying a new camera

Learning to take pictures

  • Read the manual and know thine camera!
  • Learn to use: flash, focus-modes, white-balance, and metering.

Panoramic Pictures

Video Slideshows - Link

  • Use of continuous mode to make videos with low frame rate
  • Sample:
  • Animoto does an amazing job of making fun 'video slideshows'. Here are my Animoto Tips

HDR - Link

  • Samples
  • I'm just starting with HDR. I'm using Qtpfsgui and Gimp along with this basic tutorial.
  • Description of Qtpfsgui algorithms and parameters
  • More involved HDR tutorial
  • CHDK script I use on my Canon SD870IS to make it auto-bracket.
  • So far, I've found even using a tripod does not guarantee you clean alignment if you touch the camera to adjust exposure levels. Thus, auto-bracketing is pretty mandatory. Even when using a tripod or sitting the camera down, I've noticed I need to adjust the alignment by a pixel or two.
  • I've also noticed using only 3 pictures is best for an HDR.
  • I seem to happy with the default settings on the 'fattal' tone-mapping algorithm available in Qtpfsgui, except that I increase noise reduction to .150
  • The A37 has an in-body "HDR Painting" setting. On the "high" setting, it seems to make the kind of crazy HDR's I like!


  • Free Software and tutorial:
  • My Tips

    • Here are some notes on my first mosaic.
    • Another one, only 6 six years later!
    • Key point: Make sure your overall picture has large recognizable, cartoon-ish patterns. Try to have varied colors with high contrast borders. If you like a really complicated picture, then try photoshopping the borders and regions until it's more cartoony, I promise the mosaic will look much better if you do.
    • Convert the overall picture to grayscale when all else fails.
    • The rest should just be up to the parameter forumlas I've noted below.
    • When making mosaics with faces, the results can look odd or even disturbing. Try adjusting the target image rather than removing offending tiles. Most likely you will need to move the eyes or nose in relation to tile boundaries. The other option is to make the area of the faces semi-transparent. Keep the real face behind the mosaic. This allows gives more detail to the face and eliminates creepy-ness.
  • Parameters

    • There are 5 main parameters, these are ones that I use:
    • Formula:

      • Width = Max(W,H)*DPI, where DPI >= 300
      • Num Tiles = W*H,
      • <= 30% change
      • Use judgement for Num tiles apart.
      • Standard Algorithm (flipping introduces doubles)
    • For a 30"x 20" mosaic:
      12000px wide - 900 tiles - 15 tiles apart - 30% change - Standard algorithm
    • For a 36"x 24" mosaic:
      15000px wide - 1250 tiles - 17 tiles apart - 30% change - Standard algorithm


  • Costco's awesome pricing scheme. Photos 20"x30" or smaller in 1 hour!

    • 13 cents for a 4" x 6"
    • 39 cents for a 5" x 7" or a 6" x 9"
    • 149 cents for a 8" x 10"
    • 299 cents for a 11" x 14"
    • 299 cents for a 12" x 18"
    • 599 cents for a 16" x 20"
    • 899 cents for a 20" x 30"
  • Posters

    • ASU - $3.00/sqft - 2-3 day turnaround.
    • Alphagraphics - ~ $10/sqft
    • 24" x 36" - ~ $15 - ask the internet
  • Metallic

Night Sky Photography

  • You'll need a tripod and a cable/remote release.

  • You can try 30-60min exposures, but you'll probably have more success using a series of 30second exposures that you can combine using this app.
  • Try making sure you have some kind of subject in the foreground. Try 'painting' the subject with a flash light.
  • How pull out all the information in your image - tutorial; specifically this video


Canon vs. Nikon vs. Sony - Link

  • If you buy Canon:

    • lots of second-hand lenses available
    • prices are good
    • many "new" lenses are old designs with so-so performance
    • telephotos are great and focus very quickly (this is their primary market)
    • wideangle lenses are embarrassingly bad
    • user interface sucks, but you can get used to it
    • many manual lenses can be adapted to it due to the short registration distance
    • the wireless flash system is a bit sad and requires an expensive addon to the camera or that you waste a top-of-the-line flash on the body as controller
  • If you buy Nikon:

    • decent second-hand selection of lenses
    • some great older lenses are sort-of compatible (depends on body: some won't AF, some won't meter)
    • prices of new lenses are high
    • wideangle lenses are great... if you have the cash
    • telephotos are OK but the 70-200/2.8 VR is an embarrassment
    • not compatible with older non-Nikon manual lenses due to long registration distance
    • the wireless flash system ("CLS") is the best available now
  • If you buy Sony:

    • stabilisation in the body
    • pro-level glass prices are on a par with Nikon, higher than Canon
    • lenses are mostly new designs, optically as good as or better than Nikon/Canon equivalents
    • second hand lenses are not as common and cost more
    • Minolta back-catalogue has good lenses but poor availability / high prices
    • not a lot of mid-range lenses available (no f/2 prime series or f/4 zoom series available new)
    • super-telephotos are OK but terribly overpriced
    • flash mount is physically different[3]
    • the wireless flash system is nearly as good as Nikon's but lacks some of its features like remote-manual and grouping
    • you get the dyxum forum, which is awesome
    • the high ISO performance isn't as bad as people make out on forums



Old Notes

Posted: March 07, 2014 | | comments