Every Day

Every Day

"Everyday" is an adjective. "Every day" is a noun phrase. This doesn't really speak to the subject of the photo, but I feel like corporate copywriters should know the difference.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/4, shutter 1/500 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped; curves to bring up exposure; levels for contrast.

Thoughts for improvement: The truck kind of wrecks the composition, so I wish that weren't there. I also wish I had been closer, so that I wouldn't have had to crop so much out--it's left me with a fairly low-res image.

My Latest at Life As A Human: The Popculturist Tells a Tale of Two True Grits

"The Popculturist Tells a Tale of Two True Grits":

You should know before I start that when comparing the Coen brothers’ new adaptation of True Grit to the 1969 John Wayne version, there is so much more to talk about than just John Wayne vs. Jeff Bridges. There are other performances to compare, of course — Kim Darby and Hailee Stanfield, Glen Campbell and Matt Damon, and Robert Duvall and Barry Pepper, to name a few. But then there are also questions of tone and cinematographic style to discuss, and themes, structure, and faithfulness to Charles Portis’ novel. It doesn’t come down to just Wayne and Bridges. Try as I might, though, I can’t stop thinking about anything else.

Can I Come In?

Can I Come In?

I stood and watched this dog for about five minutes and it barely moved a muscle, it was so intent on what was going on inside that building. That, right there, is love.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.4, shutter 1/800 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: straightened; cropped to 4x5; max recovery adjustment; minor curves adjustment for contrast; levels to brighten midtones; burned over the car windshield and background building.

Thoughts for improvement: I like this image a lot, but I'm not sure how well it works without an explanation. Ideally, a photograph should be able to speak on its own.

At Breakfast

At Breakfast

This dog was out with its owners for a Sunday breakfast at a likely-overpriced restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter. It was a nice, sunny morning, the mood at the table was convivial, and the streets around the little enclosed eating area weren't too crowded yet. I can think of no reason that this dog should look so sad. Unless maybe it didn't want to be sitting next to a bag of what appears to be its own poo. Though, I don't know--I mean, certainly I wouldn't enjoy that. As far as I can tell, though, my own dog rather likes his poo, so who knows?

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.4, shutter 1/800 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: minor straightening, but otherwise this is straight out of the camera.

Thoughts for improvement: I like the depth of field here for separating the dog and fence from the background, but the quality of the bokeh isn't great, which is an artifact of the lens. I also think that this would have been better just a little bit to one side or the other, to either completely include or completely exclude the fencepost along the left edge.

Smoke Break

Smoke Break

Right next to the San Diego Convention center is a very large, very modern, very clean, but somewhat sterile-feeling hotel. Around the side, between the hotel and what I think is a cargo storage area for the Port of San Diego, is the cleanest alley I can recall ever seeing. And, sometimes, in that very clean alley behind that very clean hotel are hotel employees in very clean uniforms having a dirty old smoke break.

("'Scuse me, do you mind if I take your picture?" "You want to take our picture?" "Yeah, do you mind?" "Nah, whatever.")

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2, shutter 1/4000, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: straightened; cropped; max recovery adjustment; dodged over the men, the wall, the ground, and the fence; burned over the sky and background building.

Thoughts for improvement: I wish the ashtray thingy weren't right behind the one guy's head. I also had some trouble getting both the horizontal and vertical lines straight, and I'm not sure that the compromise I made looks right. Otherwise, I'm happy.

Slow Down

Slow Down

Every time I ask a stranger if I can take his picture, the first response isn't "Yes" or "No" or "Why?" It's always "Me?" I think that's kind of funny. I wonder if, when this guy got home after work, he said to his wife, "The weirdest thing happened to me today..."

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.4, shutter 1/1600 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: crop; recovery; several curves layers to darken the man and the bright parts of the ground; levels to darken shadows and brighten midtones; burned over the man and ground.

Thoughts for improvement: As always, I need to do more work to get the exposure right in-camera.



Here's one from the archives, taken in August at the San Diego DSLR club's group shoot at Belmont Park. The ride is called the "Beach Blaster," and it involves being swung through nearly 180 degrees of arc while simultaneously spinning. I opted not to go on it, and to just take pictures instead.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX lens, in aperture-priority exposure mode (spot metering). Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/125 (+0 EV), ISO 1600. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curves for highlight recovery; lightly dodged over the people.

Thoughts for improvement: I actually really like the composition here, the use of negative space and the way the frame cuts off half of the seats. I feel like it gives a sense of action, of falling. The problem is that I cut off just a bit too much of the ride--it would be better if the lights and arm along the left side (left of the frame, top of the ride) weren't cut off, and even better, I think, if you could see the central arm that the seats spun on, which isn't in the frame at all. The girl at the top of the frame also should be a hair lower, so as to avoid cutting off her knee.

Tron: Legacy

In retrospect, I'm not really sure why I was so excited when I first heard that Disney was finally making a sequel to Tron. That is, I know why--the original movie had rocked my young world with its lightcycles and frisbee combat and glowing costumes, and the prospect of spending more time in that world blinded me to the question of what a sequel would actually bring that was of value. Well, what was the sequel worth?

At the opening of Tron: Legacy, the hero of the original film, Kevin Flynn, disappears on the verge of some major discovery. He leaves behind a young son, Sam, who grows into a troubled young man. Like his father, Sam eventually winds up getting transported into the world inside a computer and must find his way back out while also stopping the machinations of an evil program bent on world domination.

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it's because the plot of the new film is essentially the same as the old one. But while that sounds like a big knock against Tron: Legacy, it's worth pointing out that the "stranger in a strange land" scenario is actually a fairly standard sci-fi plotline, aside from which, Tron has always been more about the visual spectacle than a gripping plot or complex characters.

And what about those visuals? You'd think that with 28 years of technological innovation in the film industry, this new film's effects would rock the socks off of it's 1982 counterpart. Well, they did. But the problem is that with those 28 years of innovation came 28 years to get used to visual effects. When Tron first came out, the effects were so amazing that they ran the risk of making people's heads explode; no one had ever seen anything like them before. Now, on the other hand, simply having cool action sequences, computer-generated graphics, and a weird aesthetic isn't enough to blow anyone's mind. We've simply seen too much cool stuff in the movies for this to really make an impact.

What, then, does this long-awaited sequel really bring to the table? Fan service. Miles and miles of fan service. The movie is jam-packed with references, both to the original film and to other classic science fiction. The problem with fan service, though, is that if you don't get the references, there's no payoff for you, and if you do get them, you focus on that instead of what's actually happening in the scene. For example, I snickered a bit at a line cribbed from War Games, and while that was kind of fun, it also completely undermined any dramatic tension the scene might otherwise have had.

At the end of the day, though, Tron: Legacy isn't a terrible film. Much of the plot and the fictional world are either derivative or nonsensical--all the pseudo-mystical technobabble was a little tiresome but not awful--but as a brainless but inoffensive action flick, it wasn't bad. In that way it actually has even more in common with its predecessor, which, if you go back and watch it today, really doesn't hold up all that well. Unfortunately, Tron: Legacy isn't really competing with Tron; rather, it's competing with our memories of that film, and that's a fight it just can't win, not even with two identity discs.

Viewed: 1/1/2011 | Released: 12/17/2010 | Score: C-

IMDb Page



There are several little girls who like to hug Jason over and over again, one of them being his friend L. This shot is from our cookie-decorating get-together last month, and, as you can see, Jason had already reached the point beyond which he was willing to put up with repeated hugging, and had progressed to the "running away" phase.

You know, when I was younger (sure, older than Jason is now, but you know what I mean) I would have killed for the kind of attention he gets from girls. I suppose he'll get there soon enough.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (in Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode, TTL flash mode (+1 EV). Aperture f/4, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curves to increase exposure; levels to darken shadows and midtones for contrast and color pop; lightly dodged over Jason; added edge sharpening.

Thoughts for improvement: I think the reason this one didn't make the cut the first time around is because of all the clutter in the frame. The photos on the wall, the door behind L's head, the balled-up sweatshirt, the baby gate, and the edge of the wreath sticking into the frame--it all detracts from the focus of the image, which is L and Jason. I absolutely love the capture, though.

Model Shoot

Model Shoot

I had hoped to get out for some street candids this weekend, but what with the new bed and Jason's music class starting back up and needing a haircut and so on and so on, I didn't have time. So, Sunday afternoon I took about 15 minutes and tried out some lighting techniques with Jason at one of the neighborhood playgrounds. Here I was trying to both overpower the ambient light with my flash and to cross-light using the sun as a fill/rim light. I'm not sure I'm quite ready for prime time with this technique yet, but even so it seems to have worked out pretty well, which is exciting.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (in Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode, TTL flash mode (+0 EV). Aperture f/8, shutter 1/500 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: a bit of retouching around his mouth; light skin smoothing over his face; curves to increase exposure and contrast; levels to brighten midtones; reduced overall brightness; brushed in Intensify Contrast adjustment on his eyes; lightly dodged over his eyes; added vignette; added sharpening.

Thoughts for improvement: Well, the expression is a little "deer in the headlights" and I wish I had thought to bring a rag to wipe the spit off of his mouth. So, as a portrait it's less than ideal. But as this was mostly a lighting experiment, I think it was pretty successful.