Archive for December, 2008


Posted in Personal with tags on December 18, 2008 by projectxo

A couple days ago, I woke up to discover snow on the hills.  This happens once a year or so.  Secretly, I guess I alway hope that snow level will come low enough to dump some snow near my house… Anyway, it’s just the kid in me speaking.

Snow on hills

Snow on hills

Yes.  I did process this picture.  Sky is bluer,  Clouds are whiter,  and grass is greener.  Why?  Why not?


Greetings from Japan

Posted in Travel with tags on December 11, 2008 by projectxo

I am in Japan this week doing year-end reviews and getting beat up by my customers.  Luckily, there is still time for ramen.

Ozaku Ichiban

Ozaku Ichiban

What is Exposure?

Posted in Equipment with tags , , on December 4, 2008 by projectxo

Imagine yourself getting a sun-tan.  In the morning when the sun power is weak, it will probably take a couple hours before you get a sunburn.  At noon, it will probably take less than half an hour for you to get the same burn (ok, tan) because the sun is much more powerful.  Now imagine sun power as aperture, and the time it takes to burn yourself as shutter speed.   Get it?  Then… a third variable is skin sensitivity.  People who are usually under the sun (like a surfer) are probably less sensitive to sun power; therefore, it will take more time to get a burn.  So skin sensitivity is similar to ISO.  A surfer would be ISO 100; while Ginny is probably ISO 800 (more sensitive).

No a little more technical.  How does the camera know how much exposure is needed?  Some how, some genious researches concluded that 18% gray (imagine mixing 82% white paint and 18% black paint) is the optimal exposure for all pictures.  So the camera sensor will try to calculate the correct aperture, shutter speed, and ISO based on average 18% gray brightness.  This is also called “metering”.  It does a very good job most of the time.  It’s when you go outside of 18% that you start to get into interesting pictures.  Try it.

Flickr is your friend

Posted in Resources with tags , on December 2, 2008 by projectxo

I love Flickr.  I’ve learned so much just by browsing Flickr’s Explore/Interesting page alone.  It’s free and it’s fun.  Go setup an account now if you don’t already have one; show me your stuff!  Warning – Flickr is addicting.


Camera Scene Modes

Posted in Equipment with tags , , , on December 1, 2008 by projectxo

Typically, point-and-shoot cameras have a few “scene” modes which allow users to take better pictures in special occasions.  Today, we will try to figure out what the camera does in each of these scenes.

Portrait – in portrait mode, camera will try to make the background as blurry as possible (so viewer will pay attention to the person).  To make background blurry, it will open up the aperture (hole) as much as possible to decrease depth of field (DOF).  Typically, the camera will use the maximum aperture value of the camera.  Here is an example of a picture with blurry background equivalent to portrait mode (f/1.8).

Landscape – in landscape mode, the camera will do the exact opposite of portrait mode:  it will try to make everything as focused as possible.  To do this, it will close up the aperture.  Typically, it will use the smallest aperture (biggest F number) while keeping shutter speed above 1/30 (cause less than 1/30 will capture blurry picture from hand shake, remember?).  Here is a sample picture with equivalent landscape mode where aperture is closed up (f/8 ) to make everything focused.
Half Dome

Sports – in sports mode, the camera needs to “freeze” something that is moving fast.  To do this, it needs to make shutter speed as fast as possible (for example 1/125 of a second).  Therefore, it will try to set the shutter speed to a fast value while keeping aperture to a reasonable setting (such as f/8 ) for easier focus.  Here is an example where the motorcycle is “frozen” (f/22, 1/200).
Air time

Night Landscape – for example, city lights only (no foreground person).  Camera will increase ISO sensitivity to highest value (for example, 800), then balance both aperture and shutter speed.  Typically, you will need a tripod.
By the light of the moon

Night Portrait – for example, portrait in a dimly lit restaurant.  The goal is to use flash to light the person, yet capture the background in it’s original lighting.  To do this, camera will keep shutter speed about 1/30 of a second, open up the aperture (small F number), and fire the flash to lit the person. This is an example with shutter speed of 1/60 and flash on.

See, it’s really not all that complicated once you understand how to expose the sensor. Science rocks!