Category Archives: Photography

General photography natter — gear, thoughts, ideas, and the odd photo.

New Gear : MacBook Air

I’ve been thinking recently about a move to lighter weight laptop. My 15″ MacBook Pro has been a solid machine, but it was getting long in the tooth (a late 2008 model), and seemed to be gaining weight as it got older. Don’t we all. 🙂

The question was MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. The first-gen MacBook Air was released a while back. The rub on that machine was that it was pretty dang slow, and I never really was interested in it. You’d think that’d point me toward the MacBook Pro.

However, as I started looking to get a bit more current on my road machine, I started looking at the recently upgraded MacBook Air. The new models had better graphics cards installed, and were all SSD-based. This flash-based drive really made a convenient, “no moving parts” laptop, and consequently, made it really, really light. And, it’s simply beautiful, with typically well-thought out Apple esthetics.

Apple introduced two screen sizes, 11.6″ and 13.3″. For folks that loved the ancient 12″ iBook, that 11.6″ screen was attractive. The memory sizes were fixed at either 2GB or 4GB, and weren’t user upgradable, with the RAM being soldered to the motherboard.

In the past, Apple had delivered recovery DVDs with their laptops and desktops. With the new MacBook Air machines, they supplied the recovery code on a teency USB thumbdrive. What a stroke of genius! And, of course, without there being an optical drive in the MacBook Air, it just makes a whole more sense when trying to recover the machine while on the road. Hopefully, this is a hint of what’s to come in the future.

With all that new coolness, neither of these machines weighed more that three pounds. Three pounds?! Yep, and it still ran regular ol’ Snow Leopard, not iOS. That means that anything you use on your “big machine” at home, you can — in theory — run on the MacBook Air.

That’s assuming there was enough umph to run “real” code, and that’s what I’ve spent most of the last two weeks trying to understand.

Everything I’ve read has led me to believe that the slower processors in the 11.6″ model will run Aperture, Lightroom or Photoshop, assuming you weren’t trying to conquer the world with big editing projects, nor cataloging tens of thousands of photos. It appears that the SSD drive is helping enhance the throughput, somewhat offsetting the slower processor architecture.

As you’ve probably figured out by both the headline, and this lead-up, I bought a MacBook Air on Friday. I opted for the 2.3 pound, 11.6″ model, upgraded the processor to a 1.6GHz C2D, upgraded the SSD drive to 128GB, and got the upgraded 4GB memory option.

This was a hard call for me, as while I was doing my research, I discovered that the new generation of MacBook Pro laptops had enough power that could even replace my iMac if I wanted. After a lot of soul-searching, I opted for portability, leaving the heavy lifting to be done at the house. Very tough call for me.

So how’s the machine?

Well, so far, pretty dang good. I haven’t really tried doing anything crazy with the thing — no big photo imports, or big edits — but it’s done everything I could possibly want to do. Surfing, social networking, and other Mac-centric things I do seem to run well, and I’ve got no reason to believe that it won’t do what I need in the field, and do it with a lightweight footprint.

As part of my purchase, I also bought into Apple’s One-to-One program. I’d picked up Aperture during the App Store launch a month or so ago, but hadn’t really spent much time working with it, being pretty Lightroom-centric in my work. However, I’d really wanted to get started moving to Aperture, and knew this might force me to start moving down that path. I don’t know that I’ve got any great reasons for moving to Aperture, outside of Faces and Places, neither of which Lightroom does natively. If you haven’t looked at those features, take a gander, and you’ll see why I kinda like ’em.

The One-to-One program allows you to attend seminars, set up one-on-one sessions, along with project work with the trained instructors at the local Apple store for a year. And it’s all you can eat during that year, including online training. The cost of all that is $99, which is about the cost of two Aperture books, and I figured I could get more out of face-to-face training rather than reading a couple of books. My first “Intro to Aperture” seminar is Wednesday, and I expect that’ll just be the beginning.

Big changes in the ol’ Deauxmayne, I suppose, but it’s time to shake things up a bit, and get a little more fleet of foot. Watch this space — I’m sure there’ll be other changes to come!

Fresh Art : Works from the Four Corners

In the fall, Becky and I drove to the Four Corners region of the US to enjoy a couple of weeks of fun in the desert. We saw rain and snow, sun and clouds, mountains and desert. Here are a just a few images from our journey.

Wagon Wheel
Wagon Wheel
Green in the Desert
Green in the Desert
Monochrome Desert
Monochrome Desert
Ocean of Sand
Ocean of Sand
Desert at Sunset
Desert at Sunset
Orion Rising
Orion Rising
Comb Ridge
Comb Ridge
Moki Dugway
Moki Dugway

Goosenecks, Wagon Wheel, Green in the Desert, Monochrome Desert, Ocean of Sand, Desert at Sunset, Orion Rising, Comb Ridge and Moki Dugway are available through my online gallery in a variety of sizes.

2010 and My Tech

Braddog has a yearly tradition of reviewing the tech that has shaped his year just passed. I was inspired to do the same!

#1, iPad. I had no idea that it would become so pervasive in my life when I bought it.

#2, DVR. I snuck into the late 90s this year by switching to UVerse, and gaining use of their DVR technology. Again, I had no idea just how much I’d be using it!

#3, AppleTV. A new addition this year, and one that has not only entertained my not-so-techhy wife during her recovery from foot surgery, but has also converged a lot of varied and entertaining content in a room that had none.

#4, iMac i7. This new machine could’ve been ranked higher, as I use it daily for so much of my online life. But the real gain here was real estate. I displaced a eight-core MacPro, gained a bigger screen, and lost almost no processing power.

#5, Lightroom 3. This software jewel has become my electronic shoe box of photos. I keep a personal library of just over 100k photos (yeah, I’m a pack rat), along with an archive of old family photos from both sides of the family. Lightroom makes it just flat easy to maintain all this, and keep some sanity around finding images that I’ve shot, along with history that others in my family have captured.

And yes, you could put guitars on the list, but my guitars are acoustic, and despite having some electronics in them, and occasionally being pumped through my Marshall amp, I didn’t feel like they fit in the list.

It’ll be cool to see what 2011 holds for me. Will there be any fundamental shift as big as the iPad in the cards for this year? Who knows, but I can’t wait to see!

FST II : Day Six – A Hike into the Desert

I awoke this morning just before sunrise, and was treated to a view of the desert floor beneath us being lit by the sun as it rose, hidden behind Merrick Butte. This lit the valley floor very selectively, and kept my images from being blown out by the full disc of the sun.

The View has a 17-mile driving trail — the Valley Loop — that can be taken without the aid of a Navajo guide, so Darla and I decided to take a spin through it. It was quite a drive, taking us a few hours to cover the unpaved, rough road. There are about a dozen marked stops along the way, and we took full advantage of them, taking the time to gaze at many of the buttes in the valley floor.

At one of the stops, we met Ron Atine, a Navajo nation member, selling jewelry. We got to talking, and learned that he led tours into the desert to Sand Spring, just across the gulch from where we met him. He told us that he had another couple going with him tonight into the desert, and wondered if we’d be interested. With her knee problems, Darla elected to pass, but I decided to take Ron up on the invitation.

After taking Darla back to the hotel, I drove back down into the valley, and met Ron, helping him breakdown his sales setup so we could get started. Another couple from Europe was there to go along. Ron zoomed down into “proceed only with a guide” roads down into the gulch, and I followed closely behind. The Europeans were having some trouble keeping up, despite them being in a Ford Escape with 4WD. They finally caught up, and we began our march across the sands in the desert.

The sandstorm had re-sculpted the dunes, making for the most pristine sands I’ve ever seen. It was simply gorgeous. We walked a ton — and hiking in the sinking sand was tough! — but saw so much beauty in the desert as the sun set. It’s a trip I would definitely do again!

Santa is Coming!

So, you might ask, “How do you know Santa is coming?”

I know because I’ll be photographing his visit at Mozingo Music in O’Fallon on December 4th!

Eric (of Mozingo) had asked this week if I’d be interested in doing something with their annual visit from Santa. I went by, and we talked about what they’d done in previous years, and what his ideas were for this year. When he asked what I’d charge for something like that, I answered, “Will photograph for guitars.” 🙂 (I’m not actually expecting a guitar, btw!)

He pitched to idea to the higher ups, and it looks like it’s a done deal. I’m pretty excited about it. I don’t usually photograph people, so this’ll be a lower pressure way to do some of that in a pretty controlled setting. Mozingo’s been very good to me, and they will, I’m sure get some benefit from the gig. And me, well, I’ll get to extend my experiences in photographing people, and probably walk away with some music related swag for my playing enjoyment!

Fire Training

I was invited by our facilities manager to photograph some fire rescue training taking place at our building. Our small, four story building is the tallest building in our servicing fire department’s area, so they decided to host a training session, with our help. My task? Photograph the outdoors side of the event.

We have two buildings on campus, and I was free to shoot from the top of both of ’em. The shots from across the parking lot were cool, but the it’s the shots from right above the fire trucks I liked best. The image you see here was shot by leaning slightly over the edge of our building to get the angle on the ladder. (Don’t tell my mother I leaned over the edge of a four-story building.)

It was really a lot of fun, and gave me a chance to shoot some PJ — which I don’t get to do very much — and a little artsy stuff as well. That’s a great combination, and from what I understand, our facilities manager really liked the images.

Maybe this’ll open the door for some additional opportunities to shoot from the rooftops!

PW Update

Just an update on the “America” photo contest Ree Drummond was running over at The Pioneer Woman. The short answer is that my image didn’t take first place, but one of the two I expected might win did.

Frankly, I was just thrilled to have one my images selected as a daily finalist, and way thrilled to have been selected as an overall finalist. Very, very cool. And I netted a gift certificate to B&H Photo… Like I need more excuses to shop with them!!!

More Awards

Last week, I got a package that held a little surprise for me… two of my images from the BMDCA Speciality, and two 4th place ribbons! These images were from the “puppy” category and the “computer enhanced” category. I’d seen in the bulletins from the Specialty that I’d taken a couple of 4th places, but I wasn’t expecting ribbons. More stuff for the dog walls!

Scott Kelby’s 3rd Annual Worldwide Photo Walk

After attending last year’s photo walk, I decided I wanted to contribute more this year, and have volunteered to lead a walk in St. Charles MO this year. This year’s WWPW will take place on July 24th, 2010, and, thanks to Amy and Sarah, we’ll be starting out at Framations, at 218 N Main Street in downtown St. Charles.

So, what’s a Worldwide Photo Walk, you ask?

It is the largest global social event for photographers, and this walk in St. Charles is just one part of it. Last year, over 900 photo walks were held with over 32,000 photographers of all skill levels participating. And the best part? It’s free!

If you’re interested in finding out more about the photo walk, click the logo above, and if you’re interested in joining us in St. Charles on July 24th, click here for details!

Big Upgrade Day

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve already heard that iPhone 4 has been announced today. And I want one. Period. AT&T was “nice” enough to move up my upgrade date, so I’m eligible for an upgrade immediately.

So what do I like about the new iPhone? Well, the design is really industrial, a look I really love. Video calling — “FaceTime” — looks quite cool, although the reliance on wi-fi for that seems like a bad thing. I suspect that it is bandwidth intensive, and that’s keeping the 3G use of it at bay. At least until Apple thwoks AT&T about the head and shoulders. 🙂

I like the new camera, along with the capability to record 720p HD video and edit the video right on the phone. That’s way cool. And then there’s the big ol’ display. Well, it’s not actually bigger, but it’s got well over twice the pixel density of the old phone. Shweet. I’ve gotta think that come June 15th, I’ll be pre-ordering.

Now if I can just find someone who wants my iPhone 3G….

The other upgrade just released tonight is Lightroom 3. This has been in beta for quite a while, and it looks like it’s finally ready for primetime. I’m thrilled, and need to look into that upgrade, too. More on that later.