Thursday, May 31, 2012

People Watching at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta

As a rule, I'm not much of a street photographer, or photographer of people. First of all, I'm a little too timid for it. Additionally, it's not something you see much of in Birmingham, so people seem wary of having their photo taken by strangers on the street. But Atlanta is a whole different animal. Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park is a hotbed of activity for tourists and homeless folks alike.

So Sunday morning, I set out from the hotel to walk around with my new (well, new to me) Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L lens, attached to my Canon Rebel T2i. With this lens being an equivalent of about 170mm on an APS-C sensor camera, it gave me a lot of working distance when photographing folks candidly, like this family here enjoying a moment together by the Olympic ring fountains or the fellow below dozing gently.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves on Memorial Day Weekend

Thanks to my wonderful wife, I had the great pleasure of going to the Braves-Nationals game in Atlanta on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. We had great seats just above the home dugout on the first base side. I've been to quite a few sporting events, but none with seats this good (discounting the time I spent as clock-keeper for high school basketball games, and on the sideline coaching junior high football). Below is my favorite photo of the bunch, and the rest are in the slideshow.

Former teammates, Martin Prado and Adam LaRoche
The Braves have long been my favorite team, dating back to the early 1990s, almost that entire time, their third baseman has been Chipper Jones. And since he's retiring at the end of the season, I was looking forward to seeing him in live action one last time; unfortunately he was put on the 15-day DL the day before the game. So Anna, if you're reading this, you may be asked to sacrifice and head back to Atlanta one more time this season.

We did, however, get to see young Nationals phenoms Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, who got the better of my Bravos on this occasion. It was my first time to see Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla in Braves uniforms, and under the leadership of Fredi Gonzales, who took the helm from Bobby Cox.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Opening the Golden Gate

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. At the time, it was an innovative miracle, and is no less impressive today. In 2007, I went to San Francisco and was able to take a couple of nice photos of this landmark. And although that city was cold, even in July (in fact Mark Twain once said: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."), I'd love to go back. Here is my favorite photo of the Golden Gate Bridge I have to offer.

Friday, May 25, 2012

ECHOER, A New Breed of Social Connectivity

Echoer is an app for iPhone (and soon Android) that enables you to see what other people around you are experiencing and thinking, not only in your social circles, but also in your immediate geographical area. The most recent and popular content becomes the most prominent, as it is "amplified" by others.

While Echoer is really just getting off the ground, I had the opportunity to ask Daniel Cowen, one of two co-founders, a couple of questions.
  • JR: How did Echoer come about?
  • DC: My co-founder and I have always been into tech, social media and location services, and it struck us as ironic that no matter how many friends you had on Facebook, or people you followed on Twitter, that you had no idea what people in the same place or watching the same event as you were thinking and experiencing. In other words: “location + realtime” was untouched.  We were also frustrated by the review space was, with outdated reviews and a cumbersome user interface. That's when we came up with Echoer. 
  • JR: What is your vision for Echoer?
  • DC: The vision for Echoer is to make it easy to see what other people are thinking and experiencing in the places around you. We are solving the problem of working out which thoughts are worth hearing; elevating the most recent and popular content above the noise. And its been designed to allow you to easily make an impact, either by adding your own voice or amplifying others.
  • JR: Do you see Echoer as a social media or something else?
  • DC:  In terms of social media or not... we see Echoer essentially as local discovery crossed with experience sharing.  There's an obviously social element to that which we will build out in due course, but the social side of things is not the priority right now. The priority is helping you discover the best and worth of what the people around you are saying.

 If you're interested in getting in on the ground floor of this new flavor of social media and connectivity, the following are methods of gaining information: Echoer's website, Teaser Video on YouTube, Demo Video on YouTube, on Facebook, on Google+, and on Twitter.

All photos on this page are screenshots from my use of Echoer on my iPhone.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Finding a Flash Diffuser for the Yongnuo YN468-II

I recently set out to find a diffuser for my relatively new YongNuo YN-468 II E-TTL Speedlite. Having found none specifically dedicated to this model, I started looking for alternatives. It came across my attention that omni-bounce diffusers for the following flash models will might fit my YN468-II: Nikon SB-600, Olympus FL-36, and Sunpak PZ42X. In order to determine the veracity of that I went to my local camera outfit (Cameras Brookwood in Vestavia), whose employee was very helpful in finding a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-600 Flash Diffuser Unit, designed for the above listed models, and which also fit perfectly on my Yongnuo.

A Blog of My Favorite Smells

There are a couple of things that immediately strike me as being my favorite smells, so here they are in no particular order:

Oranges. You know when you're peeling an orange and that little bit of spray shoots up off the orange and just fills the air with that perfectly delightful smell, well I love that. And then that smell is on your hands for the next few hours.

Summer Rain. Just before it rains in the summer, the air is filled with a particular scent. I don't know how to describe it. Now what's even better about the summer rain depicted in the photo below is that it's mixed with the tangy, salt air of the ocean.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Darby Is Quite Nosy

Darby was pretty docile for a few hours after I got her home from getting spayed, so she was pretty cooperative for this photo, whereas she wouldn't have been if she'd been feeling her usual spry self. And on an unrelated note, ever since she was a little thing, Darby's uncle has made fun of her big ole' nose; if it keeps up, she's bound to get a complex; and who needs a dog with psychological issues. But really, it is large.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fultondale's Urban Revitalization Project

The City of Fultondale, Alabama, has launched a progressive and ambitious revitalization project for the Highway 31 corridor and Walker's Chapel Road. In recent years, the city has done much to improve its stock, and I applaud their continued efforts. A map of the various phases of the project can be found at Fultondale's website. While the tornado that raked much of the city on April 27, 2011, was devastating in many respects and to many people, it also provided a unique opportunity to upgrade the facilities along this corridor.

The Walker's Chapel Road site, at which land is currently being leveled and cleared, was the home of the photograph posted on Wednesday, here. And seeing as no one correctly guessed the answer, I'll have to come up with another opportunity for one of you fine folks to take home a print somewhere in the near future.

I have a fondness for objects sitting atop a hill and being silhouetted against the sky. I can't say why particularly, but whether it's a tree or, as in the present instance, industrial equipment, something just draws me to it. Offered here are a couple of photos I took one day last week, the first of which offers proof of it being the site of Wednesday's photograph.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sun-Baked Landscape in Jefferson County, Alabama

Somewhere is Jefferson County is this sun-baked landscape. I know it looks like this was taken in hardened desert lands out West, but that's just not the case. For the first person who can tell me pretty specifically where this photo was taken, I will send a free 8x10 of your choosing, from any of the photos available on my website. If you'd like to hazard a guess, just leave your best offering as a comment below, but be sure to include your email address (which it won't show), else I won't know how to get in touch.

On Friday morning, I will post another photo or two showing a broader vista and telling the location of the original. I will also announce a winner, assuming there is one.

So without further ado...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Revisiting the Rawhide with Darby

At the end of December, I posted a video of Darby with her first rawhide, as she was just learning how to go after it (here). Well now she's a seasoned professional, who knows how to dissect one in a matter of hours. But just because it's lost some of its novelty doesn't mean that she derives any less joy or satisfaction from the task.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gardening: Already Bearing Fruit

Last week, I posted about having begun my garden (here), which contains two varieties of tomatoes, cubanelle and bell peppers. Well over the course of the week, things were beginning to look a little with both pepper plants. In spite of all the rain, they were just looking wilty and withery; or maybe because of the rain, since peppers and tomatoes like dry, hot weather.

Regardless, I had to do something, since the compost I had amended the soil with in the offseason was clearly lacking some vital mineral. So I did what I was able to avoid doing all of last summer - I applied some Miracle-Gro Tomato Plant Food. And eighteen hours later, the difference really was miraculous. The next morning all four plants were looking spry and healthy, and ready to produce many tasty morsels for me.

Bell Pepper Buds
The first little tomato
Cubanelle Pepper Flower
 Having already begun to see some insect damage to leaves, I decided it was time to bring in something to manage it. Last year, I used Sevin Bug Killer Spray, and I figured if Sevin was good, eight will be better. So I brought in some arachnid help to stave off those dirty devils who are trying to eat my plants.

Well that's all I've got for today, but future developments aren't far off, so keep looking for those updates. And please feel free to offer any suggestions or help; I'm all ears, as I'm still pretty green with all this gardening stuff.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Slik Mini Pro V Tripod Review

A couple of months ago, I bought a Slik Mini-Pro V Tripod. I was looking for something compact that could serve as a secondary tripod; originally, I had in mind to get just a cheap full-sized tripod. But then I saw this one, and I was intrigued...skeptical, but intrigued. It's so small that it fits into one of the slots of my Lowepro Stealth AW Reporter D200 Bag

Oxmoor Road Tunnel in Homewood
The Mini Pro V comes with a pan-tilt head, which is removable but does not have a quick-release plate; I didn't realize the head was interchangeable when I purchased the mini-pod, but was pleasantly surprised, since I have a Slik mini-ball head  (Slik SBH-100 Mini Ballhead), that fits this mount. My only negative note about the pan-tilt head is that it does not pivot from a horizontal-to-vertical orientation; in order to change the camera's orientation, you have to unscrew the base slightly and manually turn the camera 90 degrees. Personally, in a situation in which I expected to be going back-and-forth, I would just use the Slik ball head.

The legs of Mini Pro V extend a couple of inches, and lock in place by a tightening ring. The center column is also extendable for about three inches of additional height. And on the bottom of the column is a suction cup for those times when the pod is sitting atop a flat, suitable surface; that cup has quite a grip too.

This tripod's miniature stature lends it to non-traditional methods of operation. I have seen it used as a chest-pod of sorts for stabilization when using telephoto lenses. I used it against the wall of a tunnel (below) in order to get a 1/10s exposure with my Canon Rebel T2i and 20mm f/2.8 lens.

Canon EOS 3 with EF 20mm f/2.8 mounted on Slik Mini Pro V Tripod
 For my money, it was a great purchase. I can't wait to get it out at night for some long exposures; I have plans to use it this summer for some wide-angle Milky Way shots with some foreground. The Slik Mini Pro V has its limitations, but it's stable and adaptable enough for my purposes, when my main tripod is otherwise being used or I'm on a long trek and don't want haul the bigger tripod.

Canon Rebel T2i, EF 20mm f/2.8, 30s @ f/22, ISO 100

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Short, Unhappy Life of the Dandelion

Canon Rebel T2i, Canon EF 135mm  f/2.8 @ f/2.8
One hour time lapse, photo shot every six seconds

Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting Back into the Gardening Grind

With last year's success in tomato-growing, I have decided to expand my horizons. Last year, I had three Better Boy tomato plants going strong, but I didn't just really love that variety. So this year I got what I thought were two Pink Brandywine Heirloom plants, but once I got home I realized the plants bear different leaves (top-right and bottom-left); so presumably, I have one Pink Brandywine Heirloom and one of another variety. 

I also quite like peppers, so I got a Yellow Bell Pepper plant (bottom-right) and a Cubanelle Pepper plant (top-left). I wasn't familiar with Cubanelles when I picked it up, but they're listed as a sweet pepper with some heat, similar to an Anaheims; they're good for roasting, frying, or stuffing.

Fortuitously, it rained the day after the vegetation was planted, aiding their transplantation. In 70-90 days, all of them should be bearing ripe fruit, so I'll be sure to keep you updated.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

SuperMoon Eve

Tomorrow evening on the lunar calendar agenda is an event known as the "supermoon" or super perigree moon. The moon will be at its closest point to earth it will be this year, while also being a full moon; according to NASA, the moon will be about 15% larger and 30% brighter than other full moons in 2012. The zenith of the event will be at 10:35 CST on Saturday, May 5. As this is the largest the moon will appear to be for at least the next year, get out your telescopes and telephoto lenses to peer at our atmosphere-less smaller neighbor.

More photos of the moon and other heavenly bodies can be found at my gallery, The Heavens.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Big Changes Afoot for Darby

Unbeknownst to Darby at the time this photo of her was taken last Friday, big changes were on the horizon. As much as we love Darby, she's just over six months old now, and we don't want those scoundrel neighborhood boy dogs to like her to an equal degree, but in a whole different way. Over the course of the next several days, we had several heart-to-hearts telling her what was about to happen -  Dr. Hankes was going to harvest her girl parts. Yesterday was that day, and all went well. And I'm going to pick her up this morning in a couple of hours. It's really bizarre how attached you become to these critters in such a short period of time, and how much you miss them (even though they can sometimes be overbearingly obnoxious) when they're not around.

But the real chore is still at hand; I am supposed to keep her calm for the next three-to-five days. No running, jumping, or other tomfoolery. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Trip to the Birmingham Zoo with Tyler

I had family in town last weekend, and on Sunday afternoon, we decided to go to the Birmingham Zoo. I thought with all those animals about, it would be good fodder for the blog for a few days, photographing zoo critters. But what I found through my viewfinder more often than not was my 19-month-old nephew, Tyler.

Tyler on the Carousel at the Children's Zoo in the Birmingham Zoo

Appropriately however, Tyler's dad has nicknamed him "Monkey," so perhaps not all was lost.

Can you find any resemblance?