Reflections 'On Fractals and comics'

About 15-17 years ago I read Benoit B. Mandelbrot's book 'The Fractal geometry of Nature'. I remember that the prologue warned that the reader's view of the world would never be the same after reading this book.
Very dramatic and sort of true. However I think that anything you study in great depth will affect the way you view the world. Photography being no exception.

Now, people who do similar things get their views of the world changed in similar ways, which creates bonding and leads to the possibility of creating something new that is considered fun by this group of persons only. Which leads us to comic strips..

Aaron Johnson
, creator of the fantastically funny What the duck comic strip, was kind enough to allow me to use a few of his comic strips here in my blog.
Reading his comic strips got me thinking about how it would be good for everyone to try and have this kind of humor when dealing with weird customers.

What I like about many of Aaron's comic strips, is how he with three simple pictures manages to sum up typical situations that most photographers can relate to.

For those of you who found these sample comic strips funny I recommend that you visit Aaron's site,, and enjoy the rest! I for sure will keep an eye on it.
I can't help it, but I have to share one last comic below, which every photographer who doesn't have a DSLR with sensor cleaning will enjoy (I'm guessing and hoping that in a year or two people will not understand what's funny about this one!)


Reflections 'On how the golden ratio smells'

Richard Dawkins, famous for writing 'The selfish gene' , is the reason for today's entry in my blog. A few years ago I read his book (2nd edition), which fascinated and inspired me very much, and it probably has affected the way I think about many things (hopefully in a positive way!).

Today I saw his TEDtalk on the web. He talks about how our scale in the universe causes our brain to map our reality in a manner that then becomes intuitive for us.

He talks about how he believes that bats might hear in color, and that for bats different sounds/echoes from different surfaces might create an impression of a certain color in their brain the same way as we perceive light of different wavelengths as different colors. The same idea could as well apply to how dogs smell and how they might smell different colors. For a longer and more detailed explanation of these ideas and theories, please have a look at the videoclip linked above.

Well, I immediately started thinking about how our human perception of colors and form has evolved from a mechanism for navigation and survival to a way of creating by manipulating color and form using techniques we call art - photography being one example. This raised a few questions in me.

What would art look like if what we perceive as green looked like red?

Would things, places or pictures of nature that we feel relax us be felt differently?

Are the colors that a dog smells arranged in some sort of visual two dimensional or three dimensional form that also create shapes?

In these shapes, does the golden ratio smell better than other ratios?

I don't believe answering these questions is of any direct interest for photography, or biology (I'll leave that to Richard Dawkins to figure out!), but they might lead to new ways of approaching photography or new ways of experimenting with colors or just spark a bit of new creative energy.


Reflections 'On RawShooter+Lightroom'

There were a lot of reactions in many forums when it was announced that Adobe is buying Pixmantec RawShooter and incorporating it's technology into Lightroom and Photoshop.
However I was surprised by the amount of negative reactions to this news, especially when I myself think it is a good idea.

I am a RawShooter Premium user because I like the quality it produces, it's workflow and speed. However since I first read about Lightroom I have secretly been wishing that Pixmantec would have a sneak peak at it and incorporate some of the same ideas, or better yet, come up with something even better. Well my wishes sort of came true!

Now, migrating to a new RAW converter has some problems. All of your previously corrected/adjusted raw files will need to be reworked in the new software. However, because you start using a new software doesn't mean that the old one just stops working, so there might not be a need to re-adjust all your old pictures. Also, one of the points of changing to a new and better (remains to be seen though!) RAW converter is that it let's you re-use the RAW 'negative' and create an even better picture.

Adobe/Pixmantec has updated their FAQ and it shows that they have listened to the reactions of what has been written in the forums. The three main points being:

1. Adobe will offer a free download version of Lightroom 1.0 for customers who bought RawShooter | premium

My first thought is 'Thank you!', it shows that Adobe cares for the current customers of RawShooter and that they listen to what is written in the forums. However I think people should be aware that they will not have time to incorporate much, if anything, of the RawShooter technology into the first release.

2. Adobe will investigate to what extent your image corrections made within RawShooter can be transferred to Lightroom.
It is impossible to make a perfect conversion of the settings so that the generated output from Lightroom will be identical to RawShooter, however getting the white balance and color corrections close plus maybe some adjustment of contrast settings would save a lot of time.

3. They will deliver support for Canon EOS 30D in RawShooter | essentials this summer.

This is good news for those who bought this camera and it shows they are trying to make a smooth transition for their existing users.

Another issue that people have reacted over is that of a monopoly or lesser competition between different RAW converters. Well, I think the people behind Pixmantec have a good product and obviously care for both quality and making money. Joining the Adobe team will insure that these people can continue to contribute with their ideas and knowledge, without doing so their future might have been insecure in competition with the bigger companies (the best products do not always win).

Meanwhile I will continue using my copy of RawShooter Premium and hope that Adobe soon releases a beta of Lightroom for Windows so that I can hopefully contribute with some feedback on it's features before it's release.


In Focus 'Sony VAIO TX2 ultraportable laptop'

In march I traveled to Shenzen and Hong Kong to teach photography and set up a simple studio for taking product shoots. During this trip I bought a new laptop, the Sony VAIO TX2 (the name might vary depending on which country it is sold in).

I had previously been using a Flashtrax, which for those who don't know, is handheld portable multimedia device for offloading and storing digital images and music. It has a 3.5" LCD display, a 40GB hard disk drive and can directly , press a button, copy your compact flash memory cards to it's internal hard disk. It's small, about the size of a thick pocketbook, and works pretty well as a portable backup solution for digital photographers.
The Sony VAIO TX2 is a ultraportable computer, compared to a traditional laptop it's small, really small, measuring only 19.5 x 27,2 cm with a height varying from 2,1 to 2,8 cm, this is the same size as if you would stack four issues of Professional Photographer magazine and yet you would need to cut away 2 cm on the width and height!
Compared to the Flashtrax, it is certainly bigger, on the other hand it is also a lot more capable. Not only can you backup your pictures, the screen is good enough so that you can sort and do rough corrections/editing of your RAW images on.

Battery life looks very promising when reading the specs and actually delivers on this promise in practice. In fact battery time is better than the flashtrax! While working on it and simultaneously listening to music (playing mp3's from the hard disk, not using the optical drive) I get about 6 hours battery life. This is with the standard battery!

When shooting on location it's very easy to bring along the TX2 and use it for tethered shooting. The 11.1" widescreen LCD display is much better for viewing pictures than using the tiny display on your camera, plus you can look at the RAW files at 1:1 pixel size instead of judging DOF or sharpness through the small embedded JPG's in the cameras display.

For those who fly a lot there is a nice feature, you can boot up the computer into a special Audio/Video mode (without starting Windows). Here you can listen to music, watch pictures and watch DVD movies. The playback quality of DVD movies is great, bring along some headphones and you will be enjoying the best video and audio quality onboard that flight!
With the computer I got two bags, sort of like a bubushka nesting bag set. The innermost is very small and just fits like a slightly padded protection cover around the VAIO TX2. The other one is larger and fits the first bag, with the TX2 inside, plus the transformer and a few more things such as a mouse, some pens and a paper block. There is also a front pocket should wish to put in a few more things.

The design is beautiful, one of those products that earns the epithet sexy, it will proudly fight any of the MacBooks in aesthetics and good looks. Sony's designers have done a wonderful job which clearly shows in it's good looks and also feels in the materials chosen.

Specs as reviewed
1.2 GHz Pentium M processor with Centrino technology 1.5 GB memory (default may vary from 512Mb to 1024Mb in different countries) 1.24kg
11.1-inch Widescreen display with white LED backlight (4.5mm thin!)
Sony's latest generation X-black LCD™ technology, 1366 x 768 resolution
6 hours battery life with standard battery (in practice!)
Carbon fiber
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 with maximum 128MB Dynamic Video Memory shared with main memory
Integrated DVD dual layer +-RW burner
60Gb Hard disk drive
IntelPro/Wireless 802.11b/g
Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
2 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 x firewire, 1 x Memory Stick Pro / SD card slot, RJ-11 (modem), RJ-45 (network)
, mic, headset.

The screen is bright and has very good contrast and colors. My main concern with the screen was the glossy finish which I had expected to reflect more of the environment and be a bit annoying in some circumstances. It turns out that I can't really remember of being really disturbed by it, probably it sometimes reflects things that disturb the viewing on the screen, but by just slightly adjusting the angle of the computer this is quickly avoided and I probably do it without thinking about it.
I tried working on the computer outdoors during bright sunlight and under these conditions I had to increase the lightness of the screen to it's maximum. In these conditions I would not work with images, but you can easily write emails, surf the web etc. Comparing it with a DELL Inspireon laptop it was a night and day difference in contrast and readability, the VAIO was superior without any doubt. Having both side by side indoors would not lead you to believe that the difference would be big at all. I will build a hood for the screen and I believe this will make it possible to use the VAIO Tx2 for tethered shooting outdoors. When this has been tested you will be informed about the results here.

As mentioned in the beginning the VAIO TX2 is a tiny computer, yet the keyboard feels very easy to write on. I usually need a little bit of time to get accustomed to writing on a laptop as the keyboard layout and the feedback of pressing the keys normally differs quite much from a standard keyboards. But with this keyboard I was surprised of how quickly I adjusted to it.
The touchpad also feels very good and is the first one I believe is done right. The surface material gives just the right amount of friction to work great in combination with it's sensitivity. My only complain is that I wish the software control panel for it had one more option and this is to disable the touchpad automatically if I connect a mouse to the computer.

It's tiny, lightweight and very portable
Very nice screen, high resolution, good colors and contrast
Good performance and battery life
Integrated CD/DVD dual layer burner
Great connectivity

The glossy finish on the LCD screen
3D acceleration should be considered as non existent

If you think it is expensive, don't have a look at it because you will want one!

Note: Sony recently announced the TX3 version. It has been upgraded with the new Intel Core Solo CPU (even better power efficiency), a fingerprint reader, built in tv digital tuner and a G-Sensor Shock Protection to protect the hard disk should you drop the computer.


Into the Limelight 'Another macro shot'

Picture data: f3.2, 1/2700 sec, ISO 100

Still trying to figure out where the picture data should be placed. I want it easily found, without intruding too much for those readers who really don't care and to follow a consistent design, so that those who care can easily find it. Maybe I should just place it at the bottom of the picture?
I was thinking of adding a poll feature, didn't really know what I would use it for, but now it might come handy, so that you, the bellowed reader, can vote on where you would the picture data to be.

This macro photograph is another one from the same series while testing my new Canon 100 mm f2.8 macro lens.
What I like about this picture is that it gives a very strong sense of movement, yet the leaves of the dracaena are completely still and it has been photographer at 1/2700 sec!
All the feeling of movement is created by the short depth of field with focus set very near, the nicely rendered bokeh of this lens, and the composition. Something else that made this picture a keeper for me, is how the dark pointy greens give a calm and sad feeling and at the same time the light blue colors and light tell of a nice sunny summer day.


Into the Limelight 'El primero'

Here is one of the first pictures taken with my new Canon Ef 100mm f2.8 macro (an In Focus feature will be come when I've had more time to evaluate this lens)
I bought this macro as a complement to my excellent, yet very special and hard to master MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro. With the new macro a can now cover the range from 1x macro and up.

The picture was taken from beneath the plant (a dracaena of some sort) up against the blue sky using natural lighting. In the RAW converter I then tweaked the picture so that it would only consist of these specific shades of green, removing the blue sky and bringing out the details in the center of the leaves.
The balance between the light green and the shadow parts, both in respect to each other and how their contrast work together, was important, I did not want the image to become heavy. It should have a clean sense of movement and at the same time being static and the beautiful patterns of it's whole as well as in the tiny details.
Changing the blue sky into green would have been easily accomplished in Photoshop, but it was an interesting exercise in using color temperature, ting, saturation, hue and some color balance to get the results I sought without the need to exit RawShooter premium.

Picture data: f2.8, 1/2000 sec, ISO 100


Or prologue or introduction. No matter what you wish to call it, you are most welcome!

I'm glad that you have taken the time to read through these pages. My goal is to write about subjects that somehow indirectly might effect a course of action which in the end produces a number of pixels, in one medium or other, that creates an emotional response to someone viewing them.
In simpler and less confusing words; I hope to contribute with knowledge and experience in such a way that you might easier or better create something for others to enjoy!
Still confused? Well, just make sure to bookmark this page, visit periodically, read, laugh, ponder, look at the pictures, write some comments, and then when you least expect it, things will clear up!*

* Warning! Continuous exposure to this site might change things in your life. Some people might notice that they start looking better, smile more often, rise up from their seat on the buss just to let an old lady rest her legs, feel smarter (without alcohol) and in very rare cases start following white rabbits.

Into the limelight
Once in a while I will be posting Limelights, these will be sort of a 'picture of the month/week' without the restriction of being bound by a certain time interval.
A little about why I chose the word Limelight...
From I found the following definition of Limelight:
  1. A focus of public attention.
    1. An early type of stage light in which lime was heated to incandescence producing brilliant illumination.
    2. The brilliant white light so produced. Also called calcium light.
My own 3rd 'definition' which complements the above two is more photo oriented:

3. A specific range of hues which one would call lime colored

I'm guessing the exact format of these will take shape as more of them are being done and also from feedback from you readers.

In focus
When you stumble open the title 'In focus' you will from now on know that it is a review you are reading. Reviews will be written about different tools or things that might come handy for you who wishes to improve on your productivity or creativity, whether you do photography, design or graphical artistry. Some things might be more aimed at the professionals and advanced amateurs while others to anyone who just enjoy being visually creative.

Yes, the word play was chosen on purpose. Again from looking at how the word Reflection is defined on the site
  1. The act of reflecting or the state of being reflected.
  2. Something, such as light, radiant heat, sound, or an image, that is reflected.
    1. Mental concentration; careful consideration.
    2. A thought or an opinion resulting from such consideration.
  3. An indirect expression of censure or discredit: a reflection on his integrity.
  4. A manifestation or result: Her achievements are a reflection of her courage.
  5. Anatomy.
    1. The folding of a membrane from the wall of a cavity over an organ and back to the wall.
    2. The folds so made.
My idea is to try using the word as it is explained in number 3 (in bold above). Hopefully these thoughts will get you to take a pause and reflect upon the same subject, maybe even reflect back your views to me.

I hope you will enjoy and find plenty of interesting things to read in these pages, you are more than welcome to send me feedback, questions or ideas!

Your sincerely,
Roberto Chaves