News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for January, 2010

Fotomoto Featured Artist

by on Jan.24, 2010, under Photography

I was very pleasantly surprised to find one of my photos on the home page of FotoMoto this morning. FotoMoto are the print service provider I use for my photoblog – any order for a print, greeting card or e-card you place via the photoblog is processed, printed and shipped by them. Their print quality and customer service are superb so, if you’re a photoblog owner looking for some way to offer your prints for sale, you could do a lot worse than take a look at FotoMoto’s site for more information.

From my perspective, FotoMoto offers two benefits that many of the other printing services don’t offer. Firstly, it’s extremely easy to set up an account and get your images listed for sale. The process involves filling in a form on their web site then pasting a small section of JavaScript into your page header. After this, any image over some minimum dimension you specify is automatically added to the catalog and offered for sale.

The second big advantage they offer is that you only need to upload print-ready, high resolution images after an image is first ordered. As a result, you can offer a large number of images easily without having to do significant work on any until you make a sale.

I was already a delighted FotoMoto customer before this but now I guess I’m even more delighted to have been honoured with a place on their home page.

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The Austin HDR Mafia

by on Jan.21, 2010, under Photography

Austin Skyline

Practically everyone who reads this blog has heard of Austin photographer Trey Ratcliff, owner of the Stuck In Customs blog and author of the much publicised new book “A World In HDR“. What you may not know, however, is that there is quite a collection of other excellent HDR photographers in Austin. Here are a few of the guys that I enjoy shooting with and whose blogs (if they have a blog) I read regularly. In case anyone gets miffed, these are listed in alphabetical order by last name. I’ve linked to both their Flickr profiles and their blogs or Flickr streams.

If you are a fellow Austin HDR enthusiast, leave a comment with your contact details below.

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We Are All Connected

by on Jan.20, 2010, under Miscellaneous

As a teenager, I remember having one of my great (teenage) “Aha Moments” while watching “Cosmos” and realising that a very high percentage of my, personal atoms were once spewed out of a supernova. Wow! Me – the stuff of stars! Since then I’ve had many more such moments, many somewhat more obscure or esoteric but I still love the idea of being the product (albeit rather indirectly) of stellar explosion.

My love of physics took me to university to study it (yes, I’m a physicist by training and a programmer by hobby 🙂 ) and I still love marveling at the beauty of Maxwell’s Equations (not that I can derive them any more), debating the weirdnesses of Quantum Mechanics (just where is that pesky electron after it passes through one of those slits?) and trying to explain Special Relativity (though, again, the 20 years since my last lecture on the subject leaves me extremely rusty).

So why did all this come to mind today? My 10 year old was downloading some new tracks from iTunes and one of them reminded me of the backing track of a rather clever video containing 2 of my physics superheroes (Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan) that I stumbled upon a while ago. If you are in awe of your starstuff, take a look…

If you enjoy this video, you can find several others at Symphony of Science.

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Moving with the times

by on Jan.16, 2010, under Computer, Photography

I’ve always considered myself an early adopter but, thinking about it, I’m actually rather behind the times these days. We are probably the only house in Austin without an HDTV (which is doubly weird given that I used to work in software development for HD satellite and cable settop boxes) and both my computer monitors are still CRTs. My computer, until this weekend, was a rather clunky and extremely unreliable HP system running Windows XP on a dual-core AMD Athlon 64. Much as I love Adobe Lightroom 2, running it felt very similar to wading through syrup.

Things changed this week, though. In anticipation of my upcoming expedition to Utah and in celebration of the start of a new tax year, I’ve bought my first laptop and fully intend this to become my main digital darkroom machine with the HP relegated to the role of file and print server. The new machine is a Dell Studio XPS 16 with a Core2Duo CPU, 6MB L2 cache, 7200rpm hard disk, upgraded graphics card and 64 bit Windows 7. It’s an absolute screamer (for a Windows machine)!

I’ve installed 64 bit versions of all my software where these versions are available. Lightroom 2, Lightroom 3 Beta, Photoshop CS4 and Photomatix Pro 3.2 all come in “double-wide” versions and the performance difference compared to my old machine is staggering. Lightroom exports happen in a very small number of seconds and, even more impressively, I can view the effects of slider changes in the Develop module in real time! No more “move the slider, wait for the effect”!

Couple this superb performance with the fact that the display is absolutely gorgeous (allegedly having a colour gamut encompassing the whole AdobeRGB space) and I’m definitely enjoying this as my new mobile office.

Oh, I almost forgot – it’s red too.

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The blog’s on fire this week

by on Jan.13, 2010, under Miscellaneous, Photography

I just took a look at the blog traffic stats and was stunned to see that I’m receiving a huge number of visitors just now! Traffic in the last 24 hours was 20 times my daily average and 4 times higher than the previous daily maximum (which occured a week or so ago when Trey Ratcliff kindly posted a tweet pointing HDR enthusiasts at this post).

I had expected a bit of a bump after Jim Goldstein’s blog posting containing a list of his readers’ “Best of 2009” blog posts since this contained a link to my entry here. Things really took off, however, when Jim reposted the list on Digital Photography School this morning.

I guess this is a pretty pointless meta-post but, hey – it feels good to be welcoming so many visitors. If some of you hang around, I promise to start writing more interesting posts as 2010 moves on 🙂

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Lots of Bests of 2009

by on Jan.12, 2010, under Photography

View From The Top

View From The Top, originally uploaded by DaveWilsonPhotography.

Jim Goldstein has just posted a list of 123 “Best of 2009” posts by the readers of his blog. There is some superb work in there and, if you’re looking to add a few more photoblog RSS feeds to your reader, this would be a great place to start. Thanks again, Jim, for gathering these links and posting the list!

The picture I’m posting here is another one that I probably should have added to my own “Best of 2009” post. Maybe I’ll expand it to 10 images at some point? This was taken from the observation deck of the Rockefeller Center in New York during my trip there in October this year.

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Photo Resolutions for 2010

by on Jan.11, 2010, under Photography

It’s taken me an extra week, but here are my photography resolutions for the upcoming year:

  1. Take at least 1 excellent portrait of each of the members of my immediate family.
    Thanks to Joe McNally and his wonderful books, I’ve been doing a lot more with off-camera flash this year so I’m keen to put this new skill to use and make some good images of Nikki and the kids. Now all I need to do is convince them to let me….
  2. Find a venue for at least 1 solo exhibition.
    With the unfortunately closing of the Blue Goat Gourmet Cafe & Gallery in December, my show which was scheduled for October will now have to find a new venue.
  3. Exhibit pieces in at least 2 juried shows.
    Submit art to various juried exhibitions in Central Texas and exhibit pieces in at least two shows during the year. Last year I had pieces hanging in 4 exhibitions but I’m lowering my goal here since I want to spend more time on other goals.
  4. Finish reading the pile of photography books I’ve bought or been given this year.
    Actually, the pile has been growing for a couple of years since I’m a terrible book hoarder and buy at a rate rather above my reading speed. The current list includes both of David duChemin’s books, “Visionmongers” and “Within the Frame”, Paul Nicklen’s “Polar Obsession”, Scott Kelby’s “Digital Photography Book (Vol. 3)”, a large tome called “Through the Lens” from National Geographic, Robert Adams’ “Why People Photograph” and Jan Phillips’ “God is at Eye Level – Photography as a Healing Art”. I should probably “Ansel Adams – An Autobiography” and various other older books too. You get the idea?
  5. Expand the number of images I have on sale via Getty Images.
    I went into the Flickr/Getty collaboration with very little optimism that I would sell much but have been very pleasantly surprised. Despite the fact that their photographer payments are extremely pathetic (20%), they do get buyers’ eyes on your photos and I’ve sold something every month. I have many more images on other stock agencies and my own sites but they get very little traffic so I’ll be concentrating on adding to the Getty collection this year on the grounds that 20% of something is a lot better than 80% of nothing.
  6. Figure out how to effectively market art photography.
    The $64,000 question. I will be spending some time trying to figure out the best marketing strategies for my art photography. I have various avenues open just now but it’s not clear which offers the best return on investment so I’ll be researching and experimenting in this area too.
  7. Create a coffee table book
    I would like to finish one local project and produce a photo book of the resulting images in the second half of the year. I tend to think in terms of one-off images but I would like to spend more time working on projects producing a set of related images.
  8. Continue having a lot of fun creating images.
    This should really be number one. The main reason I take photographs is because I love creating new images!
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FIRST Robotics Competition 2010

by on Jan.09, 2010, under Computer, Miscellaneous, News Commentary

The game for this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition, “Breakaway”, has been announced and it looks like it should be a fun one! Teams now have a frantic 6 weeks to design, build and program their machines for the competition.

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FIRST Kick-off Almost Here

by on Jan.06, 2010, under Computer, Miscellaneous

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you will know that I highly approve of Dean Kamen’s FIRST organisation. This weekend sees the kick-off for the 2010 FRC competition and the start of the 6 week design and build period leading up to regional competitions in March and April. If you can make it to any of the events, I would encourage you to go along and see just how cool they are. Talking of cool, they even managed to get Neo to do a PSA spot for them this year…

Edit: A more knowledgeable colleague just pointed out that the Keanu PSA was actually prepared for last year’s competition. That answers my question about why it doesn’t contain any footage from the 2009 competition. Oh well…

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A Million Points of Light

by on Jan.05, 2010, under Miscellaneous, Photography

Christmas and New Year are behind us but I thought I would take one last chance to post a Christmas image before I put them to bed for another 12 months or so.

This picture was taken at the Pedermales Electric Co-op’s head office in Johnson City, Texas a week or so ago. Johnson City does a great job with its Christmas light display (their courthouse is literally encased in strings of lights) but the PEC display is the one that really draws the crowds. The actual office complex is surrounded by Live Oak trees, each one of which is completely filled with white lights. Visitors can walk among the trees and the effect is quite mesmerising.

Supposedly there are somewhere in the region of one million lights used. By my reckoning (with a bit of help from HowStuffWorks), this display sucks somewhere in the region of 500kW of power but I guess that’s not a problem to the electric company.

I’m glad I’m not paying the bill for the power – PEC charge me around 10.4 cents per kWH. Assuming they have the lights turned on 6 hours a day for the whole of December (I’m guessing since I don’t know when the display starts and whether or not they turn the lights off late at night), this would cost just under $10,000!

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