News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for October, 2010

Camping at Space Center Houston

by on Oct.25, 2010, under Photography

Cameron and I had a lovely time this weekend camping with the Cub Scout pack at Space Center Houston. Whereas quite a few of the Cub Scout camps are intended purely for the boys, this was one that Dads (and Mums) could appreciate too and I had a blast.

We arrived on Saturday evening and, after dinner, the Space Center staff took the boys through various aerospace-related science experiments and exercises including some basic information on control surfaces (illustrated using Space Shuttle gliders that were being thrown around for the rest of the weekend), spacesuit design (design a suit using various materials to protect a water-balloon from falling spikes simulating micrometeorites) and reentry deceleration (protect an egg placed inside a Space Shuttle model that is slid down a 45 degree wire into a static plate). All in all, loads of fun.

Everyone slept overnight either in the center theaters or on the floor amongst the exhibits. On Saturday morning, Cameron and I woke up early and explored before most other people were up. This gave me a great opportunity to get some shots inside the Space Center before the crowds arrived. After breakfast, we all boarded the tram for a tour of Johnson Space Center and the rocket park where I again managed to spend quite some time taking more shots of the Saturn V (no doubt these will appear over on my photoblog over the next few weeks).

I’m enormously impressed by the programs and staff at the Space Center – they put a lot of effort into this camp and it was greatly appreciated by all of us who attended. If you are a Boy Scout or Girl Scout leader and you’re within striking distance of Houston, you can find out more about overnight camping in the center here.

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We’ll Miss You Alex

by on Oct.22, 2010, under Family, Miscellaneous

Alex WallaceSome days, the frailty of life and the general uncertainty of existence gets beaten into you with a large baseball bat. Today was one of those days.

After work, I received a call from Nikki who told me that Alex Wallace, my friend and fellow tenor in the Central Presbyterian Church choir, had been killed in a traffic accident this morning on his way to work. He was 42 years old.

In any tight-knit group, like the CPC choir, there are always people who stand out as the “glue” of the organisation. People who everyone gets on with. People who go out of their way to make newcomers feel welcome. CPC choir had a lot of people like this (which is one of the reasons it’s such a special group and one of the reasons I miss it so much after our church move earlier this year) but, of them all, I’m sure I would not be contradicted if I was to suggest that Alex was the best. Aside from being a great singer, his humour caused uproar during rehearsals and his ability to reach out and make everyone feel so welcome and so part of the group was legendary. Even after we left CPC, his friendship and outreach continued via emails and some of the nicest, most complimentary Facebook posts you will find anywhere. He’ll be sorely missed by a huge number of people.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends in Austin and his home town of Kerrville, Texas.

Update 10/25/10:

Alex’s memorial service will be tomorrow (October 26th) at 2pm in First Presbyterian Church, Kerville, Texas. I’ll be there singing with the CPC choir again (though I wish this was under different circumstances).

Saturday and Sunday were the 2nd and 3rd highest traffic days this blog has had in the 7 years it has been around. The only higher traffic day was when a post got linked to an internationally-reknowned photography site at the beginning of this year. I think this gives some indication of how popular Alex was – about 500 people have read this post alone since Friday night.

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Photoshop Fun

by on Oct.17, 2010, under Photography

Planet Austin

Very often, I see images and wonder “how was that done?”. Over the last couple of years, I’ve enjoyed several of these “tiny planet” pictures so this morning I decided to see if I could do one myself. Rather than being clever and figuring the technique out, I spent a couple of minutes on Google and found a great tutorial on Photojojo describing the steps required to build a circular image from a panorama.

The image I started with was the same image I used to derive this, more or less normal looking panorama. Since it wasn’t a 360 degree panorama to start with, I had to crop and clone to make the edges (almost) match before applying the polar distortion to create the result.

Now that I know what do to. I’ll likely shoot a few more panos with a view to generating “tiny planets”. Give it a shot yourself – it’s pretty easy and the results are certainly different!

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Thinking in Sets

by on Oct.10, 2010, under Photography

One of the main differences between art photographers and documentary photographers is that those of us on the art side of the fence tend to work with single images whereas our documentary colleagues think in terms of groups of images or stories. For the mostpart, I’m an art-side-single-image guy but once in a while I’ll shoot a few images that I think work well as a set. Normally I’ll shoot something I like then start seeing other complimentary subjects and end up with a collection.

This happened to me in Boston a couple of weeks ago while wandering around the historic Beacon Hill neighbourhood. Many of the buildings there had strange, short doors at or just below street level. I presume these are to allow access to the basement and were probably used to deliver coal or firewood in the past. I shot several images of these doors and ended up with a set that I rather liked.

Tiny Door III, Beacon Hill, Boston Tiny Door, Beacon Hill, Boston Tiny Door II, Beacon Hill, Boston

Another prior example of this was a set of images I shot of the Texas State History Museum one morning last year. These hung as a group in my last exhibition.

Texas State History Museum, Austin

Lone Star, Texas State History Museum (HDR)

Museum Star, Austin, Texas

While I don’t do this very often, it can be an interesting exercise to try to come up with a set of related images, either different compositions of the same subject or different but related subjects. Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.

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Photomatix 4.0 Released

by on Oct.06, 2010, under Photography

The latest version of HDRSoft’s excellent Photomatix Pro software has just been released. I’ve been using the beta version for a couple of months and strongly encourage you to upgrade. Version 4.0 includes a fabulous new feature to help you remove ghosts from your merged brackets without the need to jump over into Photoshop and mask stuff together.

The upgrade is free for current version 3 license holders. If you are buying the software, you can use coupon code “DaveWilson” when you check out to receive a 15% discount.

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Alt Perspective on Brian Matiash’s Blog

by on Oct.03, 2010, under Photography

HDR guru and photographer friend Brian Matiash did me the honour of publishing a guest post by me over on his blog today. This contains a collection of some of my favourite images and links to this blog and various other of my online hangouts. People reading it may also be interested in looking at my photoblog since it contains images that are quite frequently different from those on the other sites. You can find it at

Thanks to Brian for adding me to a list of photographers whose work has inspired me over the last few years. If you are interested in HDR photography but don’t already follow Brian’s blog, you should head on over and see what you are missing.

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HDR Tennis on Facebook

by on Oct.02, 2010, under Photography

HDR TennisI’ve started a new page on Facebook called “HDR Tennis” that may appeal to photographers interested in HDR and a bit of friendly competition.

Every couple of weeks, a group of invited photographers will post their version of an image derived from a set of exposures submitted by one of the group. Readers will be able not only to vote on their favourite picture but also to grab the same images and have a shot themselves. If you upload your own version of the image and indicate that you want critique from the experts, you’ll get feedback in the comments.

The first competition is underway and we have about 20 submissions from readers and 7 from invited photographers. There’s a lot of great commentary being posted and I’m very happy with the level of interaction that’s going on. Head on over and take a look.

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