My favorites for week 46, 2010

Big GrinSomething to laugh: my favorite comic strip of the weekabout solutions for customer

The fashion industry apparently creates solutions and then seeks for customer fitting to the solution. Do other industries work the same way, or do we first seek for customers and then create solutions for them ?

Isn’t it amazing what questions can come up from a simple comic strip like this one from “Herman” ? Today another nice one appeared around that topic.

NerdSomething to watch: my favorite video clip of the weekabout a 17 Gigapixel photo

Isn’t it amazing what level of detail you could explore on a 17 Gigapixel photo ? Do you recognize by the way that wonderful place where this photo has been taken ?

http://www.youtube.com/v/2Cv7IdXKgtM&rel=0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3

  Something to enjoy: my favorite photo  on flickr under a Common Creative licenseabout scuba diving on the Maldives

The Maldives are certainly one of the best places to go for scuba diving. I have been there some years ago after I had learned scuba diving and thus this has been the place where I did my first real dives. Nautilus Cruises from the Maldives published a few impressive photos this week from this scuba diving paradise.

Whale Shark at Gangehi Maavaru, inside the lagoon!
"Whale Shark at Gangehi Maavaru, inside the lagoon!" by Nautilus Cruises (Maldives).
Lankan Manta Point
"Lankan Manta Point" by Nautilus Cruises (Maldives).

Something to talk about: my favorite quote of the weekabout remaining to-do’s

One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.

It’s probably okay to always look for improvement, to even strive for perfection, even the latter is hard to do in a world of very limited budgets and the desire to be fast on the market. It is the philosophy behind the Japanese principle of Kaizen.

Nevertheless, this should not stop us from sometimes leaning back and being satisfied for a moment and celebrate the achievements and success we have come up with so far. Moving forward all the time probably is not a healthy attitude. Spending some time on resting is equally important. Since I do mountain hiking a lot during my vacations I know what I am talking about.

First experience with underwater photography and the SeaLife DC800

As promised in my last posting about my scuba diving safari through the Southern part of the Egypt Red Sea here now comes my report about lessons learned and first experience with underwater photography in general and the SeaLife DC800.

SeaLife DC800 Underwater
Housing

I purchased the SeaLife DC800 from divestore.de for around € 700 as a package together with a flash light SL 961 and a bag. It is supposed to be a camera suitable for beginners as well as satisfying advanced photographers. The camera comes with numerous programs especially also for underwater photography. A “Sea” mode allows taking good pictures also without a flash light and further options allow to specify whether you are in the blue ocean or green river water. It is a 8 mega pixel camera and allows capturing videos in VGA resolution. The flash light has the great advantage to support an automatic mode as well as adjusting intensity manually – which turned out to be a real important feature.

My very first underwater shot with the SeaLife DC800
"My very first underwater shot with the SeaLife DC800"

Befoe using the camera under water I tried it out on land, as recommended in the instruction manual, without and with housing. The first pictures I shot to me appeared to be less brilliant and sharp than the one my Sony Cybershot DSC-S90 delivers, which of course is well known for its good quality photos.  The results however I now brought back from my scuba diving safari have convinced me that I have made a good purchase with a good cost/performance ratio. People who know what you would have to pay for a professional underwater camera or video camera probably would agree with me.

I spent almost the entire last Sunday to create a slideshow with Windows Movie Maker including combining my video clips to a 8 minute video, burned it on DVD and watched it on my LCD TV screen: absolutely nice and convincing ! Throughout my slideshow one can see how my skills taking underwater shots improved. At the beginning I had some problems with using the flash light properly and lots of photos are too dark ( see my lessons learned further down below ). Later on photos turn out to have more light and color and some time I also got the idea to use the zoom function and take closer shots.

A few of my photos and some video clips are available on my flickr-Account.

As I mentioned in my last posting here underwater photography is more complicated than taking photos on land.

Too dark shot

First of all on land you usually stand secure on both legs ( most of the time Winking) while under water you first have to maintain a proper buoyancy before pushing the trigger. Additionally you try to find a nice view angle to your motif and may be a point at a rock or reef to hold to for a more stable position. During that you have to avoid hitting the sand with your fins since then the sight very quickly might turn into a milky environment ruining your photo.

Another challenge is the proper adjustment of your flash light intensity. The SL 961 as most probably most flash lights has of course an automatic mode but this turned out not to work well in all situations. As long as you take a picture of a fish may be 2 meters away in blue water it works quiet well, but as soon as you are getting closer to something or in case you have sand or light corals as a background the flash intensity appears to be too high. Luckily – as a real valuable and important feature – the SL 961 comes with a control dial to manually adjust the flash intensity on a scale from 10 to 1. In those situations I just described a setting of 2 or 1 turend out to be sufficient to get a photo with the right amount of light.

Shot with too much light

As many beginners I went through a couple of mistakes at the beginning I like to share here with you:

  • Wrong adjustment of the flash light angle. I assumed wrongly I should have the flash light arm adjusted in a way that the flash light was more pointing downwards to get a good light for a photo in 2 meters distance. This yielded photos being too dark and it turned out to better have the flash light more pointing straight forward or just slightly down.
  • After the first re-charge of the camera and putting it back into the housing I forgot to set the slider on top of the camera to the “capture” position; I left it in the “display” mode. In this situation there was no way to get the camera into capture mode under water. (Unfortunately this happened during the dive when we met a shark under our boat Sad). This is mentioned in the instruction manual but a good hint for further dives is: turn on the camera once before jumping into the water to see whether it is in the correct mode, especially after you had taken it out of the housing before the dive. Once the slider is set right the camera is in a mode where you can change to all other modes through the DISP key: you can view all your pictures under water and you can also put it into video capture mode.
  • One time it happened to me that accidentially I pushed the power switch instead of the tripper to stop a video capture. This caused the camera to hang up completely thus it became unusable for the rest of the dive and after getting back on the boat I had to remove the batteries to fix that situation. Luckily this happened towards the end of a dive.

I noticed the following two strange behaviors of my camera :

  • When turning on the flash light initially the red light does not turn on and I am not sure whether the flash light actually operates properly. Only after moving the slider to the TEST position once the red light then turns on right away after setting back the slider to ON.
  • Below a depth of 30 meters my camera started to behave real strange:  When pushing the DISP button it started to ask me whether I want to delete pictures.  Hmmm ….

Overall I am happy with the SeaLife DC800 now allowing me to capture nice remembrances of my dives. It is handy and delivers good pictures, especially the quality of videos surprised me in a positive way, and in combination with the flash light SL 961 it is a real powerful equipment to take nice underwater photos.

My favorite flickr CC photo of the week: about a suncrack

Suncrack
"Suncrack" by Evgeni Dinev.

No idea what a suncrack is ? Me neither, but it is the title of this wonderful shot by  Evgeni Dinev from Bulgaria. Evgenis has more awesome shots in his stream of flickr photos – worth to check out !

My favorite flickr CC photo of the week: about The Force

Day 53 - Brick (Levitation)
"Day 53 – Brick (Levitation)" by AlwaysBreaking.

Is The Force with you ? Nice idea by Gary H. for this photo. He claims he has not used Photoshop for this. In case you don’t know what I am talking about, read here.

My favorite flickr CC photo of the week: about a maze of mirrors

Maze of Mirrors
"Maze of Mirrors" by laanba.

Somehow I love this photo because of the message it delivers. Laurie writes in her description of the photo: “As I was wandering around near the Alamo I came across a place called "The Mirror Maze." You KNOW I had to go in.
Here is an example from the maze. I know it looks like it is a straight hallway, but you couldn’t walk more than one or two of those triangle wedges before you ran into a mirror. You had to wear gloves so you wouldn’t get the mirror dirty. It was so much fun.”

I found this to be a nice analogy with project management or life in general. You create your plan and think you can travel along the timeline as you planned it and convert your gantt chart into reality. But then all the unknowns get into your way and start messing up the path you intended to follow. You can create plans, but you can not see the future. The future you see ahead of you is simply your assumption how it will be, an illusion.

My favorite flickr CC photo of the week: about clouds, birds and a sea lion

This week with four shots from my favorite flickr photographers publishing under a CC license, simply because I could not make up my mind which one is the best.

Bruant Hudsonien / Américan Tree Sparrow
"Bruant Hudsonien / Américan Tree Sparrow" by Eric Bégin.
Space Invaders
"Space Invaders" by nickpix2009.
There's a pool party at sunset - everyone mark your chair with a towel
"There’s a pool party at sunset – everyone mark your chair with a towel" by Stuck in Customs.
Old Blue Eyes
"Old Blue Eyes" by Thomas Hawk.

Image searching

We are pretty used to search the net by typing in some search terms and obtaining sooner or later the information we are looking for. We know how to narrow down a search by using a “+” prefix or the keyword “AND” ( depending on what search engine one is using ), we can search by tags and we use convenient firefox search tools to search particular sites. We know where to always get an answer ( Wikipedia ) and we know that if Wikipedia would not exist we would be pretty much lost without google.

DSC01227
"DSC01227" by whorus3.

What you probably don’t know yet is that it is also possible to start a search with a given image. TinEye is the service I am talking about, it has been mentioned in Lifehacker a few month ago. And even you might know this you might have asked yourself the question what this could be good for.

Let me give you an example. Last week I featured this photo on the right as my favorite flickr photo of the week published under a CC license in my company internal blog. Like many photos in flickr it did not come with any meaningful title or description what it shows, but I was curious to learn more about this particular gate and where it is located.

TinEye helped me to find out. I pasted in the URL to this photo and retrieved this list of search results. I was truly surprised to find indeed a lot of similar images of the very same place. After following a few of the links and ending up on some pages useless for me because they only contained that image without any further information or they were written in some foreign language I finally ended up here and learned that this is a “Famous floating torii gate”. Now I had found the right term to look up more details in Wikipedia:

A torii (鳥居?) (IPA: /ˈtɔriˌi/) is a traditional Japanese gate commonly found at the entry to a Shinto shrine, although it can be found at Buddhist temples as well.

The particular gate on this photo is located at the …

Itsukushima Shrine (Japanese: 厳島神社, Itsukushima Jinja) is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima (popularly known as Miyajima) in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan.

I think this is an impressive example and case study how image searching can be of any use.

Tineyes search index currently still is pretty small. If I search for a particular place where I have been during my trip to Norway in 2004 I find nothing. Searching for a more popular spot in San Francisco at least retrieves 2 search results. A search for the famous Golden Gate Bridge using this photo fails, but when I use this photo from wikipedia I get several findings: multiple usages of obviously the very same photo at different places, a creative manipulation of that photo and also similar shots. One purpose of Tineyes of course is to find out who has stolen one of your photos e.g. from flickr to use it somewhere else. For example this portrait of Galileo Galilei also used in Wikipedia has been used at 47 different other locations in the internet.