29 March, 2012


A woman takes careful steps between two open grates in Manhattan, NYC, NY.

28 March, 2012

Boom! 24 Hours of LeMons

This past weekend was the 24 Hours of LeMons "Sears Pointless" race, held at the-track-formerly-and-sometimes-still-known-as Sears Point. I went up on Sunday, after Saturday's maelstrom had abated, and took some pictures. This post is just a teaser; more photos to come as I get through them.

Above, members of Team California Mille disassemble shattered parts after the clutch plate on their Alfa Romeo GTV-6 exploded, leaving their bell housing and other parts of their transmission casing in pieces. Judging by the official timesheet, their car (#34) got back on the track after a 3½-hour delay, finally finishing in position 130 after completing a total of 147 laps.

25 March, 2012

This is Water

Happened through downtown Mountain View around 2:00 am this morning in the rain. Decided to go for a stroll, and spotted a fire engine that was backing into the roadway to take off. In stark contrast to the tightly-clothed clubbers who took respite under every available overhang, these firefighters didn't seem afraid of a little water.

21 March, 2012

Pick a peck of pollen specks

I spent around 20 minutes shooting some bees on Monday and managed to come up with a frame that I really like. The NEX-7 is great; I used manual focus for this shot (as with all of the bee photos that I've put up), and the EVF magnification really helps to get the focus spot on, even for small subjects like insects. It was especially helpful in this case, since 16mm (24mm-equiv) is a little wider than I'd have liked, which made the bee somewhat small in the frame.

Even so, I'm psyched. This is the first time I've been able to take this kind of photo with a camera other than my DSLR, and to be able to do this kind of photography with a camera that's always on me is awesome. Given the small details, though, bigger is better, so I'm going to try an experiment:
Click on any of the resolutions below to download a free, wallpaper-sized copy of the photo. Enjoy!

15 March, 2012

The Emperor's Old Camera: A Rant

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me complaining about my X100. Much like the Canon EOS 300D 8 years before, the X100 practically created a new camera segment, but was too mediocre to capitalize on the promise of that segment. Now, granted, the X100 was a lot closer than the 300D was — I believe my friend Brandon described it as "a hair's breadth from greatness." And for me personally, it was certainly transformative to finally have a camera which could stay with me everywhere I went.

But while the X100's hardware was fantastic, the firmware made it utterly maddening to use. The manual focus was unusable unless you had all day to twist the focus ring. There was latency hiding behind every action, and it was typically fairly long yet unpredictable. The mediocre autofocus took forever and prevented you from shooting until it had finished hunting. It could have been the perfect tool to capture a moment in front of you, but it always seemed to find some way to keep you from taking that shot. And so I've come to feel like the good images that I have taken with it have been in spite of, rather than because of, the camera. That's no way to think about a camera.

Yesterday I finally got a Sony NEX-7, and even in a few hours of using it, the juxtaposition has made it blindingly obvious what the X100 could have been. With the NEX-7, not only does the manual focus ring actually do something, there are actually useful features that make it easier to manual-focus quickly and accurately. The camera isn't just "fast," the shooting latency is in pro-DSLR territory at 73 msecs (MF, non-prefocused). One of my constant frustrations with the X100 was that you could always shoot exactly one frame quickly, but after the first one, sometimes you'd hit the shutter release and the camera just wouldn't actually do anything. The NEX-7 actually takes a picture when you hit the button, which doesn't seem like a difficult concept, but maybe the Fuji factories only stocked Schrödinger's shutter release or something…
After noticing this girl on the ground, I pointed the camera, mashed the AF button, and took three photos without looking through the viewfinder. Each one was accurately-focused and properly-exposed. The AF itself was positive and immediate; there was no hunting, even though the lighting was rather dim. The camera liberated me from thinking about the technical aspects of the photo, and enabled me to concentrate on the moment at hand. That is how a camera is supposed to work.
By contrast, I used my X100 to shoot this photo, with beautiful, afternoon window light coming through the large, glass façade of the restaurant. Even so, I struggled to take a good photo of my friend, Andrea. Sometimes, by the time I actually took a photo, the expression I'd tried to catch was gone. Other times, I was lucky with the timing, but the camera had inexplicably focused on her jacket. I was fighting with the camera instead of working with it, and that's how this entire year of shooting with the X100 has felt.
One more photo from the NEX-7. I spotted this moment between Drew and his son, and I decided that a plan view would be an interesting way to compose it. I held the camera above them, pointed it down, hit the AF button, and took two frames. This was the first one, and again, it was perfectly focused with zero effort; every last tiny fingernail is tack sharp. There's not much that will build a photographer's confidence like a camera that just does what it's supposed to do.

14 March, 2012

Cirque du Soleil: Totem Visits Google

I shot my first ever circus performance years ago in Boston. I posted the photos back in 2008 in a post simply called Circus Smirkus, after the name of the group. By some extraordinary feat of good fortune, every circus post since then has been of Cirque de Soleil, including last year's post Vegas, O Cirque de Soleil!, as well as today's sneak peak at Totem.
Performer Massimiliano Medini (right) holds Denise Garcia-Sorta as the two spin on a small platform with roller skates.
Medini and Garcia-Sorta gaze at each other during a slow moment in the performance.
The two reach for each other's hands as Garcia-Sorta prepares to step back down onto the platform.
Garcia-Sorta, who wears a skin-colored leotard, spins in one axis from Medini's neck as Medini spins her around in another axis. Singer Christian Laveau sings and drums in the background.
After the performance, three Totem staff answered a variety of questions. Here, Artistic Director Tim Smith listens to a question from an audience-member. Head of Wardrobe Amanda Balius (obscured) and Tour Manager Jeff Lund (not pictured) also answered questions.

07 March, 2012

Red Baraat

A few weeks ago, the NYC-based bhangra/funk band Red Baraat came to visit us at the Googleplex during their West Coast tour, which was centered around a performance at TED. At Google, they played outside of the BigTable cafe, raising a euphonious ruckus and generally doing their best to get folks on their feet at lunchtime.

Above, bandleader Sunny Jain (left) and other members of the band clap as trumpeter Sonny Singh plays a solo and dances.
MiWi La Lupa (Michael Williams) glances at the camera while playing the bass trumpet.
Jain plays the dhol and looks toward the camera as the bandmembers romp around the courtyard.
Soprano saxophonist Alex Hamlin plays a boisterous solo from atop a retaining wall, mere inches from audience members' plates.
Jain sings and shouts as the band regroups near the conclusion of one of the songs.

03 March, 2012

PAW: A Friend

A quick portrait I shot of a friend.