23 August, 2009

In Tiburon, Physics is for the Birds

Last weekend, some friends and I rode from San Francisco through Sausalito to Tiburon. We stopped for food in Sausalito and again in Tiburon after we just missed the 16:20 ferry at Tiburon. This was my first time taking my camera along for the ride, so I got to play around with a couple things I had noticed the first few times I had gone.

This statue is in Tiburon, close to where the ferry stops. I'm always surprised at how few people seem to notice it, because it's pretty stunning; it's clear that a lot of thought went into it. It's also a motorized dynamic sculpture — the fins turn back and forth in unison. And the overflowing mirror pool is a great touch.

One aspect of the trip that I especially noticed this time was the omnipresence of birds. They were everywhere, all the time. During our stop in Sausalito, I managed to get this shot of a pigeon jumping off of a lamp-post, but before it started flapping.

And in Tiburon, there were birds sipping from and bathing in the mirror pool around the statue. This one is called "Parting the Waters."

It was fun to watch the curtain of water itself. At some point while I was watching, the wind blew in just the right way to set up a standing wave on the surface. And it's pretty nifty that the cross-section is nearly exactly the characteristic exponentially-damped sinusoid. Hmm... thinking about modeling this system almost makes me want to reconcile with the Navier-Stokes equations (we had a particularly bad breakup after a class that convinced me that fluid dynamics isn't for me)… Anyway…

On the ferry-ride back to the city, this weather-beaten flag was whipping in the wind. I would have liked to have been able to shoot from higher, but I still like how this came out. I like how you can see the fog drifting past the bridge in the background.

Finally, as we pulled into the port at Pier 41, I looked out of the doorway to see what docking looked like from the inside of a boat. Seeing the size of the rope in the guys hands re-emphasizes just how much force it takes to keep one of these ferries anchored. Cool.

And since it's been a while since I've been silly, a physics joke (thanks to Jennifer Gaugler):
"So, a bar walked into a man.
Oops… wrong frame of reference."

22 August, 2009

Google Mela: The Much Exalted Addendum

After much photo-poking-at and somewhat less of that sleep thingie, I bring you more photos from Google Mela. Click Here to get to the gallery. Enjoy!

18 August, 2009

Google Mela

Last Thursday, the Googleplex saw witness to Google Mela ("gathering" in Sanskrit), a googler-organized international cultural festival. The festival celebrated cuisines, music, and dancing from various cultures around the world.

Here, a dancer whips her skirt around as she and her partner perform a Haitian salsa.

Standing on the side, I was able to watch the upcoming performers prepare while others were onstage. I found it intriguing that the preparation routines varied nearly as much as the performances — some people stretched, others ran through quick final practices, and still others had short team meetings of sorts.

This woman, who would perform a Mongolian chopstick dance, gives part of her outfit a few last tugs during the closing minutes of the Bollywood Medley group's performance.

These singers from Kostroma, the folk ensemble of Russian House Kedry, spent a couple minutes getting the black headdress to look just right.

Here, the Shim Sham Swing dancers have a final group huddle before heading onstage.

The sun was beating down ruthlessly through a cloudless sky all day long. (To get an idea for just how bright it was, I shot this image at 1/4000s at f/4.5 and 200ISO.) An insulated trailer held a bunch of large bags of ice to keep drinks (and presumably cold-served food) chilled. The performers had no such reprieve from the grill-like black stage, however.

I spotted a friend and coworker of mine wearing shoes that were too large and walking awkardly on the sides of his feet, and he explained that he had slightly burned the soles of his feet during an earlier (presumably shoeless) performance. Another member of his second performance group received a much-appreciated donation of socks moments before they were called to the stage.

A woman performs the Bharatanatyam, a classical south-Indian dance form. One thing I found interesting about this dance were the stiffness of the movements. Whereas many dances strive for fluidity, it seemed that the goal here was to maintain a certain type of posture, with extremities generally extended to the sides or straight ahead, throughout the dance. It was an unfamiliar dance style, but I enjoyed it.

In a short false-start, the Shim Sham performers initially got a few seconds of Bhangra music at the beginning of their performance. Here, one of the Mela organizers screens the upcoming music during Kostroma's folk singing performance.

The Bhangra group, including my burned-foot coworker, brought a ton of energy to the stage. I was particularly impressed that the dancers spending some time at the side of the stage seemed to put as much energy into clapping, whistling, and cheering as they put into dancing when they were in the spotlight. (Also, purple is my favorite color.)

A woman performs a Chinese silver plate dance, in which she deftly holds a silver plate on her palm while dancing. Interspersed in the physics, balance, and hand-switching displays, she also danced while holding the edges of the plate with both hands. And during a short section of the dance, it looked as if she could have held two plates, though she only had one.

Unfortunately, I was only able to find three webpages with mentions of this dance (1, 2, 3), the second of which may actually be discussing another kind of plate dance. If you know of a source of more info, I'd be delighted to find out; leave a comment.

Finally, more photos are coming. I tried to get this up as quickly as possible, and will post collections of other photos as soon as I can get those done as well. To conclude, a favorite quote:
"Life without music is unthinkable. Music without life is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace." — Leonard Bernstein

15 August, 2009

Light in the Dark

I was riding home from a friend's house along Bayshore Road (which runs parallel to 101, Bayshore Freeway) when I noticed that the moon was a stereotypical crescent shape. I kept riding for a bit and ran into a short area where the tall grasses on the bay side of the road were lit by lights from across the freeway. I stopped to take some photos and came up with this.

The lights were coming from directly behind me, so my shadow was well within the frame. Since I hadn't done so in a while, I went ahead and played around with some self-portraits also. It was fun trying to hold still for 10 seconds. Anyway, the following is one that I came up with.

"Do not say, 'It is morning,' and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name."
—Rabindranath Tagore

14 August, 2009

Amanda Fucking Palmer

A few weeks back, Amanda Palmer came to Google to play a bit. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the first two songs, but the second song was a cover of "Tainted Love," which made me happy. I'll have a longer and more timely post soon; possibly tomorrow, but this will be quick.

I really like how you can see the reflection of the inside of the piano in this one.

It was fun watching AFP and her cellist, Zoe Keating, synchronize for the the strong beats in "Tainted Love;" it looked like Keating moved her bow slightly beforehand and AFP went off of that.

"Ooh, shiny" — As you might have noticed, I like reflections, and I think this turned out well. I especially like the nice curve of the microphone cord at the top of the frame. (And if anyone from The Tech is watching, yes, that was a bouncy-bouncy.)

After I left, AFP and other folks present (including some audience members) went on to record a music video for "I Google You," a song originally written by Neil Gaiman. To close, a short verse from the song:
"And I'm pleased your name is practically unique
it's only you and
a would-be PhD in Chesapeake"

08 August, 2009

Day in Decline

It's been a while since I show any night photos. On the way home on Thursday, I liked how the sky looked, but couldn't figure out a decent composition. When I got home, I messed around with a flowerpot on my balcony and came up with this. I really like how the highlights on the silhouette and the muted colors in the background hint at the shape of the potted succulent.

Yesterday evening, I got home a bit earlier and noticed the shadow of my apartment on these trees during sunset. I grabbed my camera, worked out a decent composition, and took a few shots, but they seemed to be missing something. Right on cue, a car pulled up and started to park as another drove past. I like the yellow of their headlights.

I also haven't done a comical quote in a while. Here's one from writer and comedian A. Whitney Brown:
"I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants."

07 August, 2009

2009 Watsonville Crit

A few weeks back, I went down to Watsonville to watch my friend Nils race in a criterium there. When I arrived, the 35/45 Master's race was at around the half-way point. The young guy in the background was racing the peloton as it flew past, and the race itself was a battle of breakaways, attacks, and counterattacks.

On one seemingly-brutal lap about 10 minutes before the finish, William Dunham (above) screamed silently as he strained to stay on the tail end of the peloton. He finished 10th in the 45+ age group.

This is Nils. He was in leading breakaways for 31 of the 34 laps in the race. For the first 10-or-so laps, he was on a solo break, when he had a crash with a lapped rider and flatted. After his free lap, he joined Josh LaGrange, who had launched off the front and the two built and held onto a sizable lead until around 10 laps to go.

From around 10-to-go, it was clear that the peloton were making headway and closing the gap to the two leaders. Here, Keith DeFebre, who placed 6th in the Masters 35+ race, takes a break from chatting with a USCF official in order to check the time gap from the lead break to the peloton.

With a few laps to go, David Benkoski soloed to bridge the gap to the leaders. And with two laps to go, the peloton finally closed the gap to the lead group to set the field for a group sprint to the finish line.

While watching from the sidelines near the finish line, Masters racer Mike Gadow teaches a young rider about the cheap (non-drive-side) and expensive sides of a bicycle — on a race bike, the rear derailleur alone can cost upwards of $300. "If you have a crash, try to go down on this side."

At the line, Benkoski sprinted clear of the field for the victory. Nils crossed the line in fifth place and LaGrange placed seventh.

You can find more photos here. And to close, a quote on cycling from three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond:
"It never gets easier, you just go faster."

04 August, 2009

On Printing (Print On)

Very nearly a year ago, I mentioned in a post on this very blog that I was hunting for ways to make my photography foot its own bill. I mentioned at the time that I was looking into stock photo sites like Photo Shelter, as well as online print houses such as MPix. Quite fittingly, this printing press photo was one of the images that appeared in that post.

In the time between then and now, I've done a lot of reading, a lot of research, and even some soul-searching. This past Sunday, I came up with a plan. Now, the plan is in action.

So here's how this goes. The images are now links. If you like a photo, or if you want to see a bigger version, just click it. You end up at a place where you can see larger versions, get prints, or possibly just browse through the photos without having to jump from post to post. My other gallery will remain as a place to see photos in high volume. This new site will be a place to see them in high quality.

To get a print, click the photo here, then look for the "Add to Cart" button in the top-right corner of the screen or in the pop-up menu of the image on that page. You'll then be able to pick paper size, quantity, finishing options (like mounting and framing), and all that jazz. Checkout is quick and easy; you don't have to get an account to buy things, and can pay with a credit card or PayPal. And to give you an idea, a few prices are $2/$4 for a 4x6, $6 for a 5x7, and $8 for an 8x10. I might end up changing things around a bit, though; feel free to complain.

If you're interested in a photo I don't have up, just send me an email or leave a comment, and I'll do my best to have it up in the Requests gallery within 24 hours. I keep almost every photo I've ever taken, so feel free to ask about photos I may have shot for The Tech, or even before that. Also note that I've only gotten through the July and August blog photos so far. I'll be working to get through the rest of them in reverse chronological order throughout the next week or so.

*Phew* It's been a long time coming. If you're interested, there are more details below. Either way, I really like this quote from Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt, "I guess if you take a picture and you want to have a certain meaning, and people get that meaning, that's nice. Otherwise people can like my photos on any level and I'm happy."

This is a photo of Graham Ramsay, an artist and a mentor to many, and one of my photographic mentors for a few years, now. Here, he's looking through some medium-format negatives that a friend, Biyeun, had shot during her time in Uganda.

Now, the gory details: As part of my research, I ordered around 40 prints from the MPix lab, including a couple 12"x18"s, on Thursday evening, 18 December. That's only a week before Christmas. MPix whipped through the prints on Friday and shipped them out that same day. I had the prints in hand Monday morning, with hours and hours to spare before I left the country that evening.

So MPix is incredibly timely. Beyond that, the prints were stunning, and the packaging was fantastic. It was more than sufficient to give me confidence that anything I order will arrive in perfect shape, but also not so bulky as to be wasteful.

Around the same time, I saw an email that MPix was teaming up with Zenfolio to provide a gallery solution for photographers. I failed to put two and two together and look into Zenfolio until a few weeks ago, which was a major oversight.

When I finally looked, I was set to dismiss it when I saw this amazing waterdrop photo on their homepage. I looked to see if the photographer had other nice photos (he does), and the interface sort of grew on me. The site is super-slick, incredibly well-thought-out, and fast. It does what you need and gets out of your way.

So this past Sunday, I started thinking that Zenfolio might be for me. I searched around a bit and all I could find were rave reviews, including one back from 2006. In addition to seeing that they were well-liked, it was also reassuring to learn that they've been in business for at least a couple years, now. That same night, I got an account, messed around a bit, and have been frantically processing and uploading large versions of the blog photos since then. There are a lot more nights of frenzied photo-editing ahead, but at least for this first milestone, the end is in sight.

"Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong."
—Ella Fitzgerald

02 August, 2009


Every once in a while, I take a photo that is good beyond my wildest expectations. Usually this happens when I'm on my game, and happen to get lucky so that other stuff falls into line as well. If you can't tell, I really like this photo :o)

After years and years of watching all variety of motorsports on TV, I went autocrossing for the first time last Sunday. The Golden Gate chapter of the BMW Car Club of America holds a monthly autocross at Marina Airport, and a friend invited me out. I showed up and got my butt summarily handed to me by the rest of the cars in the non-BMW class; but I still had a good time.

This was also only my second time shooting cars in any sort of race situation, so I was curious how my photos would turn out. It felt like all the photos were the same as I was shooting, but after looking at the results, slight changes in timing and composition made for significant differences in final appearance.

As always, I tried to pay attention to the details that were… not really behind-the-scenes, but at least details that a spectator might miss without keeping their eyes on the sidelines. What do you miss by watching a race on television?

One thing that stood out was the attention to tire pressure. On the road, many (if not most) drivers don't think about tire pressure until they have to pull out the spare. By comparison, some people at the autocross adjusted pressures after nearly every run, often in an attempt to tweak the car's handling to better suit the course. Here, one of the drivers preps a Volvo S40 that also ran in the non-BMW class.

Another thing you don't see: ride-alongs. A skilled co-pilot can easily point out things a driver might not even know that they could improve. For instance, knowing where to look is a crucial aspect of being able to safely drive fast.

Finally, you often miss the drivers' personalities. This driver had an appropriate sticker on his helmet. Another driver hung a small stuffed Domo-kun from his rear bumper.

That said, the magic of lots-more-photos continues. More photos!

Finally, here's a quote (not sure where I found it) that sums up my first autocross experience. Cheers.
Good judgement comes from experience.
Experience comes from bad judgement.