Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Giant reindeers...

at the Eaton Centre. Dec 28th.

The nice people you meet

Saw Kevin at the Eaton Centre to buy his used Sony hot-shoe adaptor. Just outside, at Albert and James Streets, I had...
the best Polish sausage I've had in years, and...
met Carlos, a gentleman.

The ethical guide to eating out

Read this link and the next time you go out for a meal, it will make you think deeply, as you look into the eyes of your server/waiter/waitress!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Guelph @ ISO200, @ISO6400 and @ISO12800

Our Lady of Lourdes @ ISO200
 War Memorial Hall, UoGuelph @ ISO6400
Lincoln Alexander Hall, UoGuelph @ ISO6400
Delta Hotel @ ISO12800
Sony a65, Dec 26th

Guelph panoramas

 Gordon Bridge on the Speed
 College and Stone at dusk
 Guelph gazebo at sunset
sculpture on the Speed
Sony a65, Dec 26th.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Woman's rant against the atrocities committed in The Democratic Republic of Congo

A participant in a demonstration (Queen and Bay, Toronto) against the atrocities committed in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a result of the mining of Coltan. The DRC supplies 75% (!!!) of the world's coltan. Without Coltan, none of the hundreds of millions of cellphones would function.

One more video on the what is happening in the Congo:

Protest on Queen and Bay, Toronto

Stumbled across this gathering protesting against the continuing atrocities in The Democratic Republic of Congo, fueled by the rush to mine the mineral Coltan, a key component in electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops, aircraft engines, and military equipment.
It's one thing to read about this in print; it's a totally different experience when you hear their pleas for help personally. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to look into the eyes of the victims of these crimes against humanity.
These crimes include child labour, recruiting children to be child soldiers, mass rapes, environmental destruction of wildlife habitant, and the contamination of the soil and water supply to last for hundreds of years.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vaclav Havel: The world could use more of his kind.

photo from the Toronto Star by Petar Kujundzic/Reuters

Typhoon update: "it may be just a two-lane bridge but..."

I must have gone over this bridge linking the towns of Tanjay and Bais thousands of times in my years growing up in the Philippines. The national highway that snakes around the perimeter of the island of Negros is the ONLY artery that links the towns and cities, almost all of them on the coast of this mountainous island. Losing a bridge (and losing any section of this road due to heavy rains or landslides) means losing the hospitals in the capital city of Dumaguete, people are unable to go to work, foods and essential supplies cannot be delivered. In a word, everythign grinds to a HALT!
When I was there in July, whole sections of this national highway were under renovation; steady but painstakingly slow progress due to the lack of proper equipment (forget electrical tools... miles of steel bars have to be sectioned off with hand hack saws, for example). Now, all that valuable work is all for naught.
Here's a YouTube video of this particular bridge as posted by a kababayan (fellow countryman):
One more video of a road being washed out:

Many thanks to the posters who raise awareness of the damages from this typhoon.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Typhoons, then and now: one person's perspective

The Philippines has always been ravaged by typhoons (also known as hurricanes in the west hemisphere) several times a year, for as long as man has been around. Growing up in Negros Oriental, we were usually spared the full force of typhoons bearing down from the Pacific Ocean by other islands  east of us  (Cebu, Bohol, Samar). As late as the 60's and 70's, as in other parts of the Philippines, the mountains were forested and the lowlands were less populated. There was flooding (esp when swollen rivers met high tides) but it seemed that calamitous disasters were limited to the coastal areas.
I found this YouTube video which illustrates a storm through a child's eyes. "Bagyo sa Dagat" means "storm on the sea",

Typhoons meant days off from school, smelling the perversely-intoxicating post-storm air, wading through ankle-deep waters (oblivious to the health risks), and surveying the debris strewn along the swollen riverbanks and the coast. Downed coconut trees across fences and roofless houses were fascinating to look at. Of course, typhoon damages were very real to the farmers and the homeowners. Roads and bridges have to be repaired and the cost to an already impoverished people is very difficult to imagine. But that was for the adults to worry about.
Here's a YouTube photo composite posted yesterday, one day after Typhoon Sendong battered the southern Philippines, showing  the very real damages a typhoon can inflict:
The aftermath: damaged infrastructure, contaminated water, ruined farmland, lost lives. What are we to do?



Monday, December 12, 2011

A wedding video, Part 5 of 5


While Sarah and Jayne do the Stills, I do my video thing. Music by Feist,  "In The Park"

A wedding video, Part 4 of 5

Aaron getting ready for his wedding to Catherine!

A wedding video, Part 3 of 5


Overcast skies and happy people: recipe for a great photoshoot!
Canon 60D, Tokina 11-16f2.8, Tamron 17-50f2.8, Manfrotto monopod, Azden shotgun mike (I wouldn't recommend this mike... I think either the Sennheiser or the Rode is a better value).

A wedding video, Part 2 of 5

This segment was a little too difficult to edit. Key moments in the footage weren't in proper focus, a shortcoming of manual focus DSLRs without the proper (expensive) rig setup (hello Sony VG20!). While most wedding highlight reels favour 1-2 sec clips, I couldn't resist lingering on Catherine's (and Aaron's) faces for tens of seconds at a time... it just feels more comfortable in the dappled light of a spring day... languid and unhurried... living in the moment.
The audio was unuseable due to the wind noise and this is where a lav mike would have come in handy!
Technical details: Canon 60D, Tokina 11-16f2.8, Tamron 17-50f2.8, Canon 70-20f4L, Azden shotgun mike, Manfrotto monopod. Edited in iMovie'09
My video education (adventure) goes on!
Music by Martin Sexton "Marry Me", Alison Krauss "I Will", Janet Monheit "I'm Glad There Is You", and Creedence Clearwater Revival "Hey Tonight".

A wedding video, Part 1 of 5


A beautiful, intimate wedding with a close circle of friends at the Old Mill. Catherine is preparing for the ceremony with Julie. Photography by Boston Images. Videography by yours truly.
Technical details: Canon 60D, Tokina 11-16f2.8, Tamron 17-50f2.8, Canon 50f2.5macro, Rotolight, Azden shotgun mike, Manfrotto monopod. Edited in iMovie'09
Music by Jack Johnson: "Angel" & "What You Thought You Need"
Many thanks to Catherine, Aaron, and  Sarah/Jayne/Chris from Boston Images for allowing me, and giving me the space, to shoot my very first wedding video.

Soft High-key Picture Effect on the Sony a65

Program Setting; what any normal camera with centre-weight metering would produce. Auto ISO at ISO250, 1/15sec at f4.0, using DT16-50 f2.8.
Soft High-key Picture Effect. Both photos taken handheld (with Sony's patented SteadyShot in-camera stabilization on). Auto ISO at ISO1600, 1/15sec @ f2.8, using DT16-50 f2.8.

Twilight Mode on the Sony a65

 
The twilight mode on the a65 has to be one of the most under-rated feature on this revolutionary feature-laden camera. Both photos shot hand-held, meter locked by first pointing it at the dark-brown hutch. 1/60 @ f4, ISO1600, using DT16-50f2.8.
Twilight Mode should be doable from RAW but first, this would require a tripod, bracketed exposures (unless one knows exactly what area to meter), and proficiency in Photoshop to extend the dynamic range to avoid clipped highlights and blocked shadows (unless desired).
Whereas in Twilight Mode, it's just a few clicks of the dial.

Friday, December 9, 2011

it's like stumbling across a vein of gold ore!

Just shot an event yesterday with the a65, stills and video. Just processing the image files now but I have to say in all "brutal frankness" and after using the 5D (two shutter mechanisms worth) and the 5D2 over 5 years, that this Sony technology (semi-translucent technology, or SLT) will be the wave of the future, esp now with the 2.4M pixel OLED viewfinder. I shoot with the traditional optical viewfinder 6 days a week and I don't like it anymore. And this 24MP resolution on an APS-C sensor!! This really blows the FF sensor out of the water, esp on a camera that cost me less than a thousand for the body!!
I had my serious doubts about noise but  ISO12800 is not a big problem if the exposure is right and any image is better than nothing. And if it is a perceived irritant, I've heard that Topaz Denoise is an amazing plugin for reducing noise.I'm a camera slut...I'm only loyal as far as the tools allow me to express myself... I go where the technology goes and I realize that it's the photographer not the camera... but I know of what I speak of. But don't take it from me...if you are a Nikon/Canon user, and you have a few thousand dollars invested in lenses, and maybe planning on adding on to it, you owe it to yourself to try the latest Sonys. You could always sell it on Craigslist at a slight loss.
Other pluses:
ability to take other lens mounts
focus peakingoption to use lenses on the "rangefinder-type" NEX series
PHASE-DETECT CONTINUOUS FOCUS FOR VIDEO!!!
(sample photos  on this blog to follow shortly)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Sony a65 set-up for Stills and Video

 
 
 
a65 (a77 would be too big for this setup),
HVLF43AM Flash (the 58AM would be too big for this setup),
ThinkTank's CB Junior bracket w/ enough room for an LED light.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A study in contrasts: a warm holiday dinner for the 99% and an ad for the 1%

I have just come back from shooting Stills and Video, part 2 in a series of 3 Holiday Dinners for the Toronto Mission City, whose purpose and vision is to transform at-risk communities. "Concepts" such as sharing, giving, appreciation of the small things in life, and a sense of community, are still fresh in my mind.
I unwind by reading the paper and this is what I see:
Selected phrases from a full-page back page ad (read: expensive!) in the Saturday Globe and Mail for a condo development with individual units in the million+ $$ price range. The copy writer must have had a field day!
why is it "instinctively home"? 
 what about common sense? what about scientific reasoning? what about financial reality?
 ???
 ... and not with the sweaty, smelly masses?
 but this "home" screams "I am filthy rich!"
 like a plain-looking Rolls Royce,
 what exactly does this mean? tender ratios? 
 a building that promises a religious experience?
are we all driven to belong to the 1%?
obviously... not unlike our instinct for a full stomach, our instinct for a warm bed...
East-end London European? Athens European? Bucharest European? Marseille European? Sarajevo European? or is it a cozy, "familiar" Hallmark card  mish-mash of Paris, London, Milan, and Vienna?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

iPhone Diaries #434: "Food Drive"

I just hate it when I have to go through a gauntlet of fresh-faced healthy kids with their parents and coaches collecting money for their sports teams, especially hockey teams. Perhaps "hate" is too strong a word; "dislike" is probably more apt. It just seems to me that a purely discretionary sport, particularly a money-intensive sport like hockey, should not be collecting money in a manner that preys on our altruistic natures. There is the "guilt" factor too; one feels like a grinch when the wide, innocent eyes are passed by without handing over a token quarter or a loonie (or the register receipt).
So it was with trepidation that I approached the entrance to our Zehr's supermarket this morning on seeing a group of hockey-jersey-clad youngsters manning both doors. Trepidation was washed over with relief on seeing that these kids were handing out  slips of paper reminding everyone of the disadvantaged amongst us (see photo).
What an excellent gesture! The coaches and parents should be commended for an exercise that not only benefits other people but also instills in children lessons in sharing.  I would gladly share a bit of my bounty every time a group devotes their time advocating for their neighbours, a prime example being the Salvation Army. Arguably, a dollar going to a sports team is a dollar less for those who could really use it.

Now don't get me started on the people who exploit children by asking them to sell chocolates based on commission pay coupled with blatant lies about the proceeds supposedly going to help needy children.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Love-at-first-sony! This relationship had better work. It will be too expensive to switch (yet again)..

I just picked up the a65. I was in line for the a77 but it's not in stock. I could switch within 2-3 weeks if the a77 comes in but if there's such a thing as love-at-first-sight, it's happened to me! I've been around the block (Nikon D100, D70, D80, D90, Fuji S2PRO, Canon 5D, 5D2, 40D, 60D, Olympus E1, E3, E-30, E-330) averaging over 100,000 clicks a year at work and at play.... but this a65  is the real sweetheart. I might just stay with this instead of the a77.... or use this a65 as a backup to an a77.

Some major plus points:
-SteadyShot allows me to shot 1/2nd sharp (f2.8 at 75mm equivalent). Without SteadyShot, my sharpest is at 1/30th (50-year-old hands will do that to you).
-Focus Peaking.... a godsend when using manual lenses.
-EVF.... I've forgotten about optical finders already.
-Ergonomics, controls... usually an acquired taste but just overnight, I'm already comfortable with it.
-24MP sensor... noisy at 3200 but I expect noise at !SO3200. Anyways, its a killer resolution and one has to use a premium lens to realize this potential. I got the DT16-50 (should have been classified as a premium G lens) and it is NICE!

Some minor plus points:
- lens corrections in the camera body,
- panorama feature,
- twilight mode really works.

So-so HDR but then I'm used to Photomatix.

I have a video shoot this Saturday and on Monday (4 hours each) so we'll see how the video works for me. It better because this is the main reason I switched from Canon to Sony.

The major downers for me are: 
-the lack of weather sealing (a77 has it). I shoot weddings and I've been splashed a few times so it matters.
-The a77 also has 150,000 actuations versus the a65's 100,000. The $400 price difference is about the price of a shutter replacement.
-No PC sync socket. A must for using pocket wizards.

I love this camera! I hope this love-at-first-sight becomes a long term relationship! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In-sanely In-expensive!

Assuming the beer is San Miguel Beer, the best beer outside of Germany, 20 pesos is equivalent to $0.47CDN! Or a case of 24 for less than $12CDN. Typical ad for a club in Dumaguete City.
-photo courtesy of PLOD.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

iPhone Diaries #433 and Book Review: "Small Acts of Resistance", by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson, and on a related matter, the relevance of the Occupy Movement

One would have to be on a deserted island not to know about the Occupy Movement in various cities around the world. The chattering class has written about it and invariably, it's been about how pointless the exercise has been and will be, and how it has inconvenienced most people. Time, and history, will surely tell that this movement is at a seminal crossroads whereby Western society realizes that the 1% has subverted democracy to the detriment of the other 99%. The Occupy Movement is an act of resistance.
Now on the book, "Small Acts of Resistance".
Most people in North America have never heard of baby strollers and the role this communal act played in bringing down the communist regime in Poland. This happened in Swidnik, in eastern Poland. A very innocuous, almost silly exercise became one of many acts of civil disobedience that brought the communist Polish government, and shortly thereafter, loosening the Soviet Union's iron grip on eastern Europe.
There was the designer for the lowly Burmese one-kyat note who softened the physical features of the widely respected Burmese General Aung San so that it resembled his dissident daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi. This quietly subversive act was one of the rallying points for her party's overwhelming victory in the 1990 general elections (ignored by the ruling junta, at their peril).
We learn of Rosa Parks (December 1, 1955) who refused to move to the back of the bus. But do we know Claudette Colvin (March 2, 1955) who was arrested and thrown out of a bus under identical circumstances?
Some of us have heard of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. But have you heard of Carl Lutz? He saved tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest.
India's Mahatma Gandhi is rightfully revered for espousing civil disobedience. But outside of the Indian subcontinent, who among us has heard of the Pathan (Pashtun) leader Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who is arguably just as remarkable as Gandhi.
Numerous individuals are mentioned in this book. There is Edmund Dene Morel, a junior clerk in a shipping company who exposed the horrors perpetrated by King Leopold of Belgium in the Belgian Congo.
There is Peter Benenson, saddened by the incarceration of two Portuguese students simply by raiding their glasses to liberty, who started Amnesty International.
There was the aptly named Lovings, Mildred and Richard, who brought about the end of miscegenation in the United States! When Barack Obama was born in 1961, the "miscegenation" of his white Kansan mother and black Kenyan father "was illegal in more than half of America's states".
In 1994, Boris Dittrich, a 39-year-old Dutch judge', led efforts for  the first state-sanctioned gay marriage;  similar laws have followed around the world. 
More famously, Muhammad Ali refused to go to Vietnam saying, "Ain't no Viet Cong ever called they ask me to put on a uniform nigger". He said, "Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam, while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?"
Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial instead of Washington's Constitution Hall (where she couldn't perform because she was black).
The U.S. general Alberto Mora who argued publicly, against the acceptance of, and the use of,  torture under the Bush Administration.
Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno set up a huge hoax to entrap Dow Chemical (Union Carbide) into accepting responsibility, and therefore shining a spotlight on the Bhopal Chemical spill in India.
Less stirring but just as significant are the Iranian taxi drivers refusing to pick up turbaned men (mullahs).
There's the Iranian women sneaking into soccer stadiums in defiance of the mullahs.
The Burmese sticking pictures of the hated general Than Shwe on stray dogs to show their defiance of a curfew; dogs, afterall, are not subject to the curfew.
Just as remarkable and significant are the groups.
The workers at the Sarajevo paper, Oslobodjenje, showing defiance against the Serbs and the inattention of the rest of the world; the Afghan television show, Afghan Star, for art and women's rights; the daily protests on Plaza Mayor that led to the ouster of the Peruvian president, Albertio Fujimori (and his subsequent conviction); Belgrade's anti-Milosevic Radio B92.
There are many more mentioned in this book! They did what they did because they felt it was the right thing to do. they didn't wait to be told

One has to  read this book to just get a glimpse of the efficacy of civil disobedience and that any act of resistance, no matter how small, can be  very effective, in the short term and in the long run. This is a very inspiring book!!
The Occupy Movement will soon take it's place in a future book of social revolutions! 
"The history of nonviolent action is not a succession of desperate idealists, occasional martyrs and a few charismatic emancipators. The real story is about common citizens who are drawn into great causes, which are built from the ground up". - Peter Ackerman and Jack Du Vall, A Force More Powerful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

POPULAR POSTS