cartoon photographers for photokina

Laid up today with a nasty later summer cold, and Photokina opens tomorrow in Cologne, Germany.  So I was able to while away my congested and headachy morning reading all the new camera announcements on the Internet. I saved thousands and thousands of dollars, too, since I don’t particularly want to buy any of them.

And then I drew you a cartoon about photographers.photokinaphotographers Meet Neema and Josh, who are undoubtedly two of Suki’s pals from that mysterious camera club of hers that meets … somewhere else. They aren’t carrying any of the new cameras I’ve been reading about all day.  Neema is a purist, with a small film SLR, while Josh is carrying one of those big native mount mirrorless bodies so popular among sketchbook photographers.  I feel pretty good about the pose, with Josh reviewing his shots (“chimping”) with a smug look on his face, and Neema going up on her tiptoes to look over his shoulder and offer her critique.  Gotta wonder what ol’ Josh has been shooting, and if it’s for a class, what the teacher is going to say about it.

Two notes: I think this is the first time I’ve drawn a hexapod character whose second body is shaded dark.  Nice effect that.  And it’s always fun for a word lover to use the correct singular form a word that’s often used improperly.

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bokeh. whatever that is, we’ve got it. i think.

When I returned to more or less serious (kinda sorta) photography last year after a six year hiatus, I expected that I would find that things had changed.  Up until I gave up taking pictures– temporarily, it turned out– I had stayed loyal to my manual film cameras and their manual lenses.  I’d never shot with autofocus lenses or any kind of automated exposure modes on my camera body, and of course I knew nothing about digital except what I’d learned from little point and shoots and phone cameras.

But I did a little research and talked to some people and I felt pretty sure that if I “went digital” in a big way, I would find that the basics remained the same. Autofocus would be pretty much self explanatory, and when it came to exposure, the triangular dance of aperture, shutter speed and ISO (now an option you could change with each shot, rather than something you chose when you chose your roll of film) would be pretty much what it had always been.  And so it was.  Except that as I read about digital photography with ever-increasing recollection (seriously, I used to know this stuff!) I kept seeing one word that I did not understand.  What in the name of Asahi Pentax was “bokeh”?

A few questions to those in the know and a visit to the Wikipedia taught me that bokeh (pronounced “bo-kay” or “bo-keh”, from the Japanese words for blur or blur quality) is the current popular word for the blurred background created by shooting a static subject with a lens open to a large aperture.  The narrow depth of field created by the large aperture means that when the subject is in focus, the background is not.  When this blur is smooth or otherwise pleasant to look at, it can be a highly desirable effect, allowing the eye to rest naturally on the subject of the photograph.

Back in the day, we called this blur created by a narrow depth of field “depth of field blur” and we liked it.  When the blur was particularly nice, we said that. When it was choppy or crude, we said that, and made snide comments about somebody needing to get a better lens.  Nowadays it’s all “bokeh”, and described by an endless lists of phrases that sound like the terms wine reviewers use to describe wine.

Anyway.  Bokeh. I think I have it.  Here are a few images taken with the new Pentax DA*55m f/1.4.  Three shots, all taken wide open at f/1.4:

And one taken at f/1.8, with very little visible bokeh at all.tobychair-blog Corgis don’t need bokeh.  All photographs of corgis are automatically excellent photographs by definition.

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a third eye walks into a room …

I used to have a third eye, in the form of an 85mm f/2 prime lens that was pretty much a fixture on my old Pentax K1000 film camera.  85mm is what they call a “mild telephoto” on film, a length that brought you a little closer to the subject than you get with the naked eye, but not close enough to make you feel you are looking through a telescope.  It was a favorite focal length for taking portraits, and an 85 was usually though of as a “portrait lens”.  (Still is, on digital cameras that use a sensor the same size as an old frame of film.)  But I used mine for everything; it was by far my favorite lens.  And ever since I got my big digital camera about a year ago, I’ve been looking to replace it.

For various technical reasons that are both boring and a cause for endless arguments, you need a 55mm lens to get the same view of the world through the viewfinder of my current camera.  I tried a cheap but interesting “fast fifty” designed for film, with interesting results, but it was both a bit too short and wonky in its behavior on the camera.  If it had been one or the other I would probably have just lived with it, but as it is, I couldn’t get Pentax’s beautiful 55mm f/1.4 out of my mind.  This is a super high quality portrait lens with a price to match, and probably overkill for me and my goofy approach to photography, but Pentax doesn’t offer a cheaper, simpler, slower (say f/2) alternative at the same length.   It would be a used one for me, if I could ever talk myself into it, or a refurbished model if I was feeling flush.

And then there was this instant rebate program, which offered me a brand new lens for the price of the refurb, and free shipping …  Are these the first images of my new third eye?  (That lens hood looks classier than the old collapsible “rubber baby buggy bumpers” we used to use.  And yes, it stores backwards over the body of the lens.)  Tomorrow, some samples.

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coelacanths on the menu

Had a bit of a surprise at lunchtime, when I got around to reading today’s Chicago Tribune.  On the front page was a fascinating article about the new Spinosaurus discoveries announced today. It’s a topic of local interest since lead scientist Paul Sereno is at the University of Chicago.  And also, giant aquatic dinosaur.  Everybody loves a giant aquatic dinosaur.  Apparently this Spinosaurus beastie is the largest predator ever, bigger than a T.rex, even. (Well, longer, anyway.  It probably weighed about the same.)

As instructed, I turned to page 11 to read more, where I found this useful infographic. spinosaurus infographic1spinosaurus infographic2Uh oh.  Good job hiding in those underwater caves, ancient coelacanths!  We’re glad some of you survived to the present day, while the scary Spinosaurus is buried in Morocco and is also coming to PBS. The Spinosaurus discoveries will be featured on Nova the first week in November. The coelacanths are smug about this, since they starred in the Ancient Creatures of the Deep episode of the same program way back in January 2003, while still not extinct.

(infographic from Chicago Tribune, September 12, 2014, section 1, page 11. Data from the University of Chicago. Spinosaurus art by Davide Bonadonna.)

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best of the drawing of the day, week 125: conspirators

drawingoftheday-week125-conspiratorsI don’t know what these two are up to, but I bet it’s “no good”.  They just look like a suspicious pair: the skinny baseline boy in punk gear and a cardigan sweater and the stocky hexapod gal with the hoodie and the eyepatch.  And that doesn’t even take into account the small Mysterious Animal she is carrying in the box.  Maybe it is the brains of the outfit?  Or maybe it is going to be bribed to wait in someone’s locker and leap out when least expected?

Or maybe they are just three classmates, innocently talking about homework assignments and who said what about who.

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a visit to historic italia

No wonder Italy is such an interesting place.  Watch out, Stromboli!historicitalia(Placemat sketch, Italian restaurant division.  It’s times like this that I wish I could get into the habit of carrying one of those little Sharpie pens along with my regular ballpoints– this would have worked better with a pure black line.  And a little bit more time.)

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the mysterious snowflake gown

I’ve started carrying the small camera around on more of my walks, and last week I saw this slightly mysterious arrangement of objects. mysterious gown-cropped-blogWhy, I wondered, was the ice blue snowflake gown hanging in the window in the last hot green days of summer?

There’s a story there somewhere.

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tumblr sunday on monday– iowa’s numerical fun fact

Iowa hung this post from the tumblr of “thepowerofmoonlight” on The Bulletin Board the Number People Use (the one outside the Math and Statistics bay in the SciTech Library) and posted it on the general Noakes Library tumblr, too.  After all, she says, everybody uses numbers.  Don’t forget to tip your server!arabic numbers

“Learnt an interesting thing today on this Arabic course,

The original Arabic number system looked like this, the one we now use.

It was designed so each character had the corresponding number of angles to the number, so the number 1 has 1 angle, 2 has 2 angles, 3 has 3, 0 has none etc…

It is so obvious now, I’ve always assumed its one of those things that just is, with no logical explanation, but here it is, perfectly simple and satisfying.

(From tumblr, via thepowerofmoonlight.  Visit the Noakes Library Archives and Bulletin Boards tumblr here. )


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i’m going to make a font out of my hand lettering–any advice or suggestions?

I’ve decided I’m finally going to make a computer font out of my hand lettering. Several fonts, actually, I hope: one of all caps, one of bolded all caps, and one of my upper and lower case printing, all of which will enable me to set paragraphs of text that resemble my comics lettering, hopefully closely enough to blend them in with panels and pages of comics.

If anyone out there has ever done this, I would really appreciate any advice or suggestions.  Are any of the simple online tools for this purpose noticeably better than the others?  How well do the fonts actually work?  I am particularly interested in getting these fonts to work with open source software like Open Office, Libre Office, and Scribus.

You can reply to this post, or email me at the usual place–  Thanks ahead of time for your help.

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american politics made simple

Overheard at today’s local festival parade, where local groups compete for public attention by throwing treats and trinkets to the neighborhood crowds waiting at the curbs:

“The Democrats have better candy than the Republicans.  And beads.”IMG_20140906_152209My beads did indeed come from the Democrats.

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