July 17th, 0835

HDRSOFT just released their latest Photomatix Version 4.1 for Windows and Mac's.  Visit their download page here to get your update.

July 16th, 1218

Today I saw light at the end of the tunnel, just a glimpse, but it was enough to allow me to set a tenative date for the return of our Infocus Weekly special on July 23rd.  I'll try my best to meet this date. 

This week I've completed my office space so I now have a place to work.  A photographers office can take many different shapes, but mine includes a large shelving unit for camera equipment storage, an large  enclosed storage for lighting equipment, 2 eight foot work tables, a 5 foot desk, file cabinets, chairs, a small product lighting set, lots of different types of battery chargers, printers, and of course computers.  And everything needs to be thoughtfully placed for the most efficient workflow.  Then you need to secure the room so if when you're not there and someone breaks in, they'll have to spend a lot of time to get into the office.  I'm happy to say my office is completed and ready for me to work.

This week we've also purchased our new vehicle, a large 4 door AWD sedan with heated seats/mirrors/windshield so we'll be ready for winter.  It took about two months for the dealer to find the exact vehicle and color we wanted, but he finally came through and we took delivery at an out of state dealership who was a lot more friendly than my local dealer.  Because our Cobra Mustang isn't suitable for winter driving I was worried we wouldn't have a suitable vehicle for winter, but now we do.  Now I can shop for our second winter vehicle.

The office and the car, combined with many smaller things, puts us very close to completion.  I can't wait.

Our opening Feature Destination is going to be Akulka's superb contribution covering his visit to Palau, a small island nation roughly 500 miles east of the Phillipines.  You're really going to enjoy this one.  The next week (the 30th) the Feature Destination will cover the last attraction I visited before I left Thailand.  Below is a sample from that shoot.  And for those of you fretting over critical focus, a crop of the same image.  Everyone can mess up  ;o)

 

  The next week (the 30th) the Feature Destination will cover the last attraction I visited before I left Thailand.  Below is a sample from that shoot.  And for those of you fretting over critical focus, a crop of the same image.  Everyone can mess up  ;o)

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L  @F5.6  1/60th  70mm   ISO 400

 

  The next week (the 30th) the Feature Destination will cover the last attraction I visited before I left Thailand.  Below is a sample from that shoot.  And for those of you fretting over critical focus, a crop of the same image.  Everyone can mess up  ;o)

Crop of above

 

July 14th, 2350

Imaging Resource does great reviews, and yesterday they released a full review on the Nikon D5100 entry level DSLR and the new Fuji x100.  If you've been looking at either camera you'll find these interesting.

 

July 11th, 1450

Another question I've been asked frequently is "Is the internet really that much better in America?"   Yes it is.   I had the best service and speed True offered in my area.  A 16mbps download and a 1mbps upload.  Once I actually achieved this speed (tested via www.speedtest.net) so I made a screen shot of the results.  I was really proud.   Here it is:

 

Another question I've been asked frequently is "Is the internet really that much better in America?"   Yes it is.   I had the best service and speed True offered in my area.  A 16mbps download and a 1mbps upload.  Once I actually achieved this speed (tested via www.speedtest.net) so I made a screen shot of the results.  I was really proud.   Here it is:

 

Not bad, but this was an inconsistent speed, usually we were less than half of this.  Our ping test score was usually a D or F (www.pingtest.net) which told me the quality of the connection was very poor.  Streaming was sometimes possible, but I usually had to wait 2-3 minutes for it to buffer enough to start.  Usually it would stutter.  Still, it was a huge improvement over my previous 1mbps down, 100kbps up.

So how does it compare in America?  Well.. take a look at this:

 

Yes, that reads 62.32mbps download, and 16.14mbps upload.  I get this speed any time of the day or night I run it.  My connection never drops.  My ping test is always an A which means the line quality is outstanding.  I can stream anything, even HDTV, within seconds of clicking on it.  It never stutters.  I'm also paying less than I paid in Thailand.  And I have the option of going up to a 150/50 service for a few bucks more.

 

Yes, that reads 62.32mbps download, and 16.14mbps upload.  I get this speed any time of the day or night I run it.  My connection never drops.  My ping test is always an A which means the line quality is outstanding.  I can stream anything, even HDTV, within seconds of clicking on it.  It never stutters.  I'm also paying less than I paid in Thailand.  And I have the option of going up to a 150/50 service for a few bucks more.

Why post this here?  I get a lot of questions about how I found this or that in America as compared to Thailand.  Eventually I'll write some detailed pieces drawing comparisons.  But this short comparison of internet service is very representative of every infrastructure service I've used since being back, as compared to Thailand.  Would we really expect anything else?  Of course Thailand has it's advantages and we'll cover those as well.  I feel lucky to be one of the few who was privileged to live in Thailand for a total of 10+ years, and I felt more lucky to walk under the "Welcome to America"  sign at Los Angeles International as an American citizen.  It really isn't about Thailand vs. the West.  It's about making the best of wherever you live.  I feel I did that.  More later..

 

July 11th, 1425

Several of you have emailed me saying "Come on Steve, you're showing us base ISO 200 images and any camera makes good images at ISO 200.  Show us a high ISO image and maybe what the bokeh looks like as well!" 

Guilty as charged.  But in my defense I must say I find the Fuji x100 so easy to brace and handhold, that for static subjects in low light conditions I have absolutely no trouble getting clear sharp images at ISO 200 with shutter speeds approaching 1/2 of a second or better.  How's that for an endorsement?  But I do want to show you what to expect at higher ISO's, so this image where I left it at ISO 3200 by mistake is a good example.  I shot this hand held, late afternoon, natural light coming in the door of my storage area, while bent over some boxes that were in the way and I was having trouble balancing.  I needed the shots to show the condition of a set of racing tires I put on Craig’s List.

No sharpening, no noise reduction, no exposure or levels adjustment, not a single adjustment.  This is right out of the camera and resized to post here.  Still sharp?  Still noise free?  Yep, that's what you can expect from the Fuji x100 at ISO 3200.  Now that we covered that, did you notice the the wonderful transition into bokeh?  And the creamy bokeh?  Oh, and this isn't a 1:1 crop, this is the entire frame reduced to a 550 pixel jpeg for web posting.  The 1:1 crop of the quarter is very sharp.  It would have been sharper still if I'd braced and not been teetering around if I'd used an appropriate shutter speed.

 

No sharpening, no noise reduction, no exposure or levels adjustment, not a single adjustment.  This is right out of the camera and resized to post here.  Still sharp?  Still noise free?  Yep, that's what you can expect from the Fuji x100 at ISO 3200.  Now that we covered that, did you notice the the wonderful transition into bokeh?  And the creamy bokeh?  Oh, and this isn't a 1:1 crop, this is the entire frame reduced to a 550 pixel jpeg for web posting.  The 1:1 crop of the quarter is very sharp.  It would have been sharper still if I'd braced and not been teetering around if I'd used an appropriate shutter speed.

Fuji x100  @F5.6  1/40th  ISO 3200

 

July 11th, 1400

I wanted to share another image from my travels over the last few months.  This was taken at Diamond Lake Oregon towards the middle of June.   It was snowing as I turned my rental Dodge Ram 1500 into the lodge parking lot so the surprise of the lake still being froze over was somewhat lessened.   What wasn't lessened was the natural beauty I've been missing for the last 6-7 years while in Thailand.   The closest I found to such natural beauty while in Thailand was during my visit to Pai in the Mae Hong Son province. 

When framing a wide angle composition you always want to look for an object to anchor the foreground and lend scale and perspective (the log), a mid-ground to draw the eye (the boat house and if you look closely the boat), and the background to set your scene (the lake, treeline, and sky/clouds).  This formula almost always results in interesting landscapes viewers will spend time studying.  I'll have more from this set to share once we start publishing again.

 

When framing a wide angle composition you always want to look for an object to anchor the foreground and lend scale and perspective (the log), a mid-ground to draw the eye (the boat house and if you look closely the boat), and the background to set your scene (the lake, treeline, and sky/clouds).  This formula almost always results in interesting landscapes viewers will spend time studying.  I'll have more from this set to share once we start publishing again.

Fuji x100  @F8  1/850th  ISO 200