HDR Photography

I decided to try creating some HDR photographs during my recent trip (with my new Tripod).

Here are a few samples (using Photomatix). Click the images for full size views.

Original 'normal exposure' image:

HDR Image (Tone Compressor):

HDR Image (Detail Enhancer):

There are tons of tweaks with both Tone Compressor and Detail Enhancer so you can make each one look radically different. For these landscape shots both HDR options look much richer than the original normal exposure. The Detail Enhancer is more surreal and obviously not a traditional photograph where I think the Tone Compressor done right could look like a traditional picture (just with more dynamic range than normally seen).

Tripod: Gitzo 2932

I recently bought a Gitzo 2930 Tripod. It is part of their Basalt line, which is between Aluminum and Carbon Fiber. I couldn't justify the cost difference for a Carbon Fiber tripod but I wanted a light tripod that would be with me for years.

So far, I've been very pleased with the results. I carried it down into the Grand Canyon on my recent hike for some self portraits and bracketed shots for HDR.

I really like the build quality and locking mechanism for the legs (the kind you twist, but they work and require only about 1/2 turn). I can setup the tripod in seconds and it has been stable for everything I need.

This model does come with a center column to extend up, which I recently used to get a picture from an angle I could not have otherwise achieved. I had the camera up above my head angled down, and used live view to compose the shot. The hook to attach a weight/bag really came in handy when I did this. I was really surprised at how much additional stability it provided.

Achilles vs. the Grand Canyon

No, I didn't hike to the bottom.

But, after my Achilles surgery this past November I was very excited to get a real hike in. I finished my physical therapy/rehab a few weeks ago and I am cleared for most activities that don't involve jumping.

We started at the South Rim and hiked down 3 miles on the Bright Angel Trail. 3 Miles may not seem like a lot (6 round trip), but it was also a 2,100 ft. drop (and climb) in elevation. My ankle was a bit sore (as were a few other muscles) but overall my ankle did fine and I'm happy to be active again.

Here is a shot back up the canyon from the 3 mile rest house.

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime is awesome. Amazon Prime is simply this: you pay $79 for a year and they will ship all of your purchases 2nd Day for FREE. And if you can have your order overnight for $3.99 per item.

If you make enough purchases it pays off, and with the service they've provided recently it is certainly worthwhile.

I ordered my Kindle on Sunday evening. When I got home Tuesday it was waiting at my doorstep. I didn't overnight it, this was the 'normal' 2 day shipping.

I ordered Joe McNally's latest flash book Hot Shoe Diaries on Wednesday, and toyed with overnight delivery so it would be here before I went on vacation. But the estimated shipping date wasn't until next week so I just went with the normal 2 day shipping. I got the email that it shipped today and was slightly disappointed that I didn't overnight it. To my SHOCK, it arrived Friday evening by MESSENGER SERVICE. Amazon sent the book to my by messanger for free.

I'm not sure how they're making money on this, but I don't see a better way to buy.

Kindle 2 Second Impression

I posted my first impression with the Kindle a few weeks ago and I wanted to follow up with my thoughts now that I've had some real time to use it.

I love it. I've read more in the last few weeks that I did in the previous 6 months, and while the newness of the Kindle is part of it, I believe the convenience will stand the test of time.

My thoughts here will be about the Kindle, but will be more focused on how it changes my behavior. At the end of the day* a new gadget isn't about how many pixels it has, but how using it changes what you do.

I now take the Kindle with me anytime I might be be waiting 5 minutes or more. I'm in Physical Therapy from my Achilles surgery, and I started reading during the warm up and ice down parts (10 minutes each). These are small periods of time, but escaping into another world makes the time much more enjoyable, and makes me a happier person.

I carry it in my work bag every day, just in case. I would never do this with a real book.

I find it much easier to read than a laptop, or even a book. Once you get the hang of it, it is really easy to curl up with the Kindle and comfortably page through your book with very little effort. I really noticed the difference when I took a break from my Kindle and checked my RSS reader on my laptop. It just wasn't as comfortable or enjoyable of an experience, and I found it much harder to read even moderately long posts.

I've read books through the Amazon store ('Daemon', and 'Predictably Irrational') and books available freely (an Algorithms book I've had on my laptop for years and have not read, and Cory Doctorow's 'Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom' and 'Eastern Standard Tribe' (just started this today).).

It is easy to convert books into Amazon compatible formats using either Amazon's free service (or pay if you have it delivered directly) or Mobipocket Creator (Non-DRM Mobi files are compatible with the Kindle).

It is easy to read. The page turning delay/flashing does not bother me (it may help that I have the older Sony Reader as a baseline) and the text/background is very readable in good light. My daughter was sick today and I spent the better part of the day reading the Kindle with no more eyestrain that I would expect reading a normal book.

It is easier to hold than a real book.

The battery is good enough. I'm not sure it'll last a week with real use but it certainly lasts most of a week. I did start turning off the Wireless (very easy to turn off and on) when I'm not using it to save battery life. I started today with a full battery and am still 3/4 after reading nearly the entire day (without wireless most of the day).

The built in dictionary is great. I've used it at least once with every book I've read (yes, my vocabulary is that bad). The web browser is passable, mostly useful to display Wikipedia pages when the dictionary is insufficient.

I have not tested any newspaper or magazine subscriptions yet. I currently read the Economist (on paper) but I plan on suspending my subscription and testing out the two week trial subscription to the Wall Street Journal (the Economist is not available through the Kindle store). We'll see how this turns out, but I look forward to not having to deal with propping the Economist open so I can read hands free while I eat my breakfast. We'll see...

All in all, I'm very happy with the Kindle 2. I'm headed on a relaxing week long vacation soon and am very excited to carry just the Kindle instead of a bag full of books. It is impossible to run out of books to read with the built in Amazon Store.

* I put this in there for you Brad.

Predictably Irrational

I am about 1/2 of the way through Predictably Irrational and am really enjoying it. While I think much of the topics covered fall into the obvious/previously covered category, it is interested to be reminded at how predictably irrational we truly are.

The first chapter 'The Truth about Relativity' covers concepts I've known (I've been known to (over)use the term 'it's all relative'), but provides empirical evidence that really demonstrates how predictable irrational behavior is. It really puts 'keeping up with the Jones'' in perspective.

The second chapter covers the concept of an anchor price. Our perception of what what something is worth is based on our first purchase or near purchase of that item, again with some interesting experiments to support the ideas.

Chapter Three covers the cost of zero, or why we alter our behavior when something is FREE FREE FREE!.

Chapter Four is another chapter that rings true for me. The title is 'The Cost of Social Norms', IE when it is a bad idea to offer to pay your Mom for Thanksgiving dinner! But for me it reminded me of my experiences developing Open Source software, and how they changed when I got paid.

I could have read the book straight through, but I wanted to take a break so some of the ideas could sink in before continuing. It is amazing how much reading you can get done when you have a sick kid sleeping on your lap all day!