Ultimate Ears Launches Ad Campaign Featuring Seal Photos

This was a nice surprise in my inbox this evening… Ultimate Ears http://ultimateears.com/ has kicked off an ad campaign featuring Seal (among other artists) and are using a couple of my photos from the European SOUL tour. (If you haven’t seen the tour galleries yet, check ‘em out here, here and here).

Here are the two original images, followed by the ad promos. Maybe you saw these in your email this week, too!

Original photo of Seal from the European SOUL Tour 2009, shot in Vienne, France on July 06Ultimate Ears mailer as it landed in my inbox. Click to open the campaign page on ultimateears.comOriginal photo of Seal from the European SOUL Tour 2009, shot in Vienne, France on July 06The current front page on www.ultimateears.com (this image is on rotation; reload the page if you don’t see it the first time)

Google Voice is Taking Over… But I’m OK With That

I have been trying to find the proverbially perfect “single phone number” service to use for my business. Google Voice has come close, and while it’s not perfect, it recently got a step closer (and we’ll just ignore the craptastic no-app on the iPhone problem). Sadly AT&T service leaves something to be desired at my home, so I broke down and got a landline for the first time in five years. No one has the home phone number, but I set the Google Voice number to ring both iPhone and home phone, and started gingerly giving out my new GV number.

Recently something weird started happening… I was getting calls on my home phone that shouldn’t have been there. People who didn’t have my GV number were getting through on my landline. And today I realized that if I rejected a call on my iPhone, my home phone started ringing. It’s the googlepocalypse! So somehow (and really, HOW is this even possible), Google is intercepting calls to my iPhone and redirecting them to my home phone. Without the GV number ever being involved. Crazy weird.

Then a little digging turned up an advanced feature in GV settings where before going to voicemail, your calls can be forwarded to your other numbers… even if the call is to your mobile phone directly. I repeat, crazy weird. But the problem here was that I don’t have voicemail on my home phone, so any calls coming to my iPhone that didn’t ring there (‘cause I’m out of range, i.e. most places at home, or out of range anywhere else in the world), were potentially never known about. They weren’t showing up as missed calls on the iPhone (never rang there), weren’t showing up as missed calls in Google Voice (that number wasn’t dialed), and there was no voicemail (no vm on my home phone)—so no record of the call. Yeah, that’s great for business. 

Today I finally figured out the RIGHT way to set this up. You have to let Google’s voicemail be your one and only voicemail. Which I’m OK with. Sure it means I don’t get visual voicemail on the iPhone anymore, but I do get transcripts (well… close to it) as both an email and a text on my iPhone, and just one tap on the email lets me listen to the original message.

Here’s how it works, then how to set it up. 

  1. Anyone can call my iPhone (the same number I’ve had for most of this decade)
  2. If the phone is off or out of range, it rolls over to my home phone. BONUS—if I’m at home and I don’t want to answer my iPhone because I know it’ll drop the call, I can reject the call (double-tap on the lock button), and it will immediately start ringing my home phone!
  3. And if I don’t answer either phone, it goes to voicemail—to Google Voicemail. And I then get a vm notification and transcript (transcrapt?) by email and SMS.

And here’s how to set it up. 

  1. Go to google.com/voice and click Settings
  2. From the Phones tab, click the Edit button under your cell phone
  3. At the bottom, click Show advanced settings
  4. At the very bottom again, it has Forwarding Options. On mine (by default?) it was set to Ring my other phones before going to voicemail. That’s what you want.
  5. Now here’s the kicker… you have to click Activate (there’s no visual indication if it’s currently activated or deactivated)
  6. This will walk you through the steps to enable Google Voicemail for your cell phone. It includes punching in a number string on your iPhone to forward missed calls to Google.

Here’s the page you’re looking for, with the relevant bits highlighted.

So will I change my number on my business card to my Google Voice number? Probably… the service is getting better and better. I like the idea of the advanced call controls, but they still aren’t quite there yet. Like I want to set it so my family can reach me 24/7 but no other calls come in during the night, and I want it to intelligently update the time zone based on where I am. Not like the iPhone doesn’t know exactly where it is at any given time. Obviously I want to make outgoing calls from my iPhone without having to go through a stupid web interface and have the system call me back when I’m making an outgoing call. But it’s getting there. At least I hope it is.

Ultimate Photo Pants—Revisited

If you watched the TWiP podcast on Monday, or listen to the audio podcast when it’s released, you may have heard us poking fun at the “Photo Pants” again. I promised to repost the old blog entry, so here it is… Photo vest? Try photo pants!

These things were invaluable on the Seal and John Legend shows. The knee padding alone makes them worthwhile, and all the extra pockets are a fantastic bonus. I can’t recommend them enough!

A Media Browser for Multiple Aperture Libraries

I don’t want to get into software reviews on this site (hmm that’s the second time I’ve said that in as many posts…), but this one is too cool not to share.

I have multiple Aperture libraries, as I keep some client photos in a unique libraries (like the Seal photos, which number over 17,000 on their own), and I have a personal library that spans photos from 1997 through 2009, and this year I decided to start a fresh new library to speed things up a bit, and so now I have my 2009 and later library as well. While this offers several advantages, one of the disadvantages is that utilizing the OS’s built-in media browser is limited to only the last Aperture library launched. And I like using that browser, as it’s dead fast to find a photo and add it to a blog entry, email, etc. So off I went last night to the great land of Google and looked for a media browser that would show multiple libraries. And I found one.

iMedia Browser by Karelia Software does exactly that. On launch (with no configuring required, honestly not sure how it managed that), it showed all my Aperture libraries at once! Which means no more re-launching an Aperture library just to find the one photo I want… now I can access them all at once from this handy little piece of software. It even has an option to add an icon to the menu bar so that with one click, the browser opens instantly to reveal all my photos, and one more click sends it away. Double-clicking on any image opens the full-size JPEG file in Preview. Nice!

The iMedia Browser looking at all my Aperture libraries at once!

I love my E-P1

I’m not gonna get into any kind of big review on the Olympus PEN E-P1, that’s just not my thing. But suffice it to say, I love this camera. The 17mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 pancake lens is sharp and has a nice shallow depth of field when I want it. I’ve never been happy with any point-and-shoot camera before, and I’ve gone through a few trying to find “the one”. With the iPhone 3GS camera being so damn good, and all the awesome apps for it making it even more fun to use, any standard point-and-shoot has a lot to compete with. So this camera is the camera I carry when I don’t want to take my dSLR, but the iPhone isn’t enough. It doesn’t fit in my pocket, so I found a cool leather Leica-like strap on eBay and carry the camera messenger-bag style along with my murse (yeah, I said it) and that’s just fine. It’s light-weight, great quality, and it just looks cool. While it shoots RAW (although to-date Aperture doesn’t support the .ORF files), it takes twice as long to write the RAW files so I end up shooting JPEG. And besides, part of the point for me of carrying a camera like this is that I don’t want to spend time fiddling with the images in post. I just want to shoot and share as quickly as possible. So part of that means I shoot with the fun “art” modes quite a bit. I never thought I’d use modes like that, but I really like them. The “Grainy Film”, “Soft Focus” and “Pin Hole” modes are the ones I use the most. Using these also means it takes the camera longer (several seconds) to apply the effect and write the file, but in a way that slows things down and makes you think about the shot more—knowing that it may be the only one you get (especially if you’re asking your four-year old to pose). Here’s two recent shots from it, again really just snaps, but I love the look of them. And that’s what photography is all about anyway, isn’t it?

Alenka, downtown LAYours truly. I don’t know why I like this photo, I just do. Kinda “Hollywood” I guess.

Possible Lexar UDMA and Snow Leopard problems?

Note: I’m posting this in an attempt to solve a problem, NOT to slag off any of the companies involved here. I have friends in all of these places and all I want is to find a solution!

This is a shout-out to see if anyone else has noticed similar problems to what I’m seeing, and to try to narrow the source down. I think the problem is related to the Lexar Professional UDMA FireWire® 800 CF Card Reader and Snow Leopard. Here are the problems I’ve seen since upgrading to Snow Leopard. In order of connection to my Mac, I have two Lexar readers, a Drobo, and then two G-Drive 1TB drives. Removing the two G-Drives made no difference so I put them back on.

Every problem here is intermittent and no where near 100% reproducible. Naturally.

  1. When copying files from a CF card to the Drobo, the Drobo has spontaneously dismounted and powered down (or powered down and dismounted? Don’t know, happens at the same time). I have since moved the Drobo to the front of the FW chain (it was in the middle) per Drobo support advice to see if that helps. The CF card readers are now behind the Drobo, and the G-Drives behind the CF card readers.
  2. On ejecting CF cards (first dismount just fine; then physically eject), Finder pops up the “this disk is unreadable; do you want to format” message. There are other drive(s) mounted, but if you click the “format” button none of them require formatting.
  3. I once had the Finder completely crash (that cascading grey screen of death) when I dismounted two CF cards simultaneously, by selecting both CF cards in the a Finder window in column view and right-click choosing ‘eject’

Please comment if you’ve seen anything like this, or if you have a similar setup, be on the lookout for problems like these and please report back!

Thanks. I’ll pass any findings I have on to Lexar, Data Robotics (Drobo) or Apple.

 

Custom ear protection, from Etymotics

For those who are friends on FaceBook, you may have seen this funny little photo up recently. I got a lot of “what the heck is that??” questions on it, as you might imagine!

My ear full of pink bubblegum

Of course what it is, is an ear mold. It’s pretty funky; the audiologist mixed up a pink paste and a white paste with a putty knife, shoved the resulting mixture into a syringe, and then after carefully placing a foam tip attached to a long string deep inside my ear canal, injected the goop into my head. It took a few minutes to dry, then she coaxed the hardened mold out of my noggin’ and shipped it off to Etymotic Research.

Etymotic makes very high end audio monitors for professional musicians, as well as very high quality headphones for iPods and iPhones. I have a pair of their hf2’s for my iPhone and love ‘em to death. I beta tested a series of mushroom-shaped, no-squeeze-to-insert foam tips for Ety last year and have been extremely pleased with them, and at that point stopped carrying my Bose QC2’s. Anyway, for my next round of shooting gigs, I decided it was time for custom ear protection. Again Etymotic to the rescue. They make something called Musicians Earplugs, which don’t just protect your ears by muffling the sound, but quite literally lower the volume on all frequencies at the same level, effectively “turning down the volume”. This means I’ll be able to stand nearer the massive speakers at concerts and shoot without concern—and be exposed to the loud music night after night without worrying about my hearing. Anyway since the earplugs were being made, I also got custom tips for the hf2’s, and now my music sounds better than ever before. The package of tips just arrived yesterday; here you go:

Musicians Earplugs and custom tips for the hf2’s from Etymotic Research

Safety first! Mother will be so proud ;-)

Photo vest? Try photo pants!

As photographers, we’re always looking for the perfect bag, vest, pockets, sling, whatEVER we can get our hands on to cart around the piles of gear we (think we) need to do our jobs. The gear has to be accessible (no point carrying a lens if it takes 20 minutes to get it out), secure (no good dropping your 50 f/1.2 when you lean over the guardrail at the pier), and comfortable (no fun nursing a sore back half-way through your day).

Everyone has their own preferences of course — shoulder bags, backpacks, wheeled cases, soft or hard, vests, belt systems — or more specifically, everyone has specific systems for special purposes. And just the other week, I found a new one. A system, not a purpose.

I was in a “workwear” clothing store, one of those places where the denim jeans are as thick as English toast (and just about as stiff), and every shirt comes in just two colors — khaki or blue — when mine eyes fell upon a set of Carhartt “no-strap knee pads”, designed to slip into a special pocket on special jeans to pad your special knees while on them, but stay out of the way when you’re not. I probably stared at the display for 5 minutes before the hamster in my head started turning the wheels and I realized — these could be great shooting pants!

It turns out Carhartt doesn’t make a pair of pants with loads of photo-friendly pockets and these magical knee-pad slots, however a little help from the nice man at The Workingman’s Emporium (at North First & Devine in San Jose) uncovered something called Tiger Trend Clothing. And now I present, photo-pants nirvana.

First off, the kneepads. How many times do you drop to your knees to get a shot, or kneel down to wait for a shot? These built-in pads are just fantastic. 1/2-inch of gel padding under each knee is heaven no matter how long you’re down there.

Joseph in Tiger Trend Pants. Photo credit: Egan Schulz

And the pockets are great. But there aren’t just the standard side, back, and knee pockets (which are all really well designed on their own), and the tool-hooks for clipping things to, but there are also two additional “pouch” pockets, designed for tools, that snap-on into position on your front, then slip through your belt for security. These are deep enough to hold a pretty long lens (I kept a 70-200 f/4.0 in one), and have their own external pockets as well — one of which I swear was designed to hold lens caps.

The position of these pockets sounds like they would get in the way — but they don’t. In the photo above, you see them sticking out to the side as I’m crouched over. They just naturally moved that way, and I don’t remember even one time that day feeling like they were in my way. To be fair, if I was going to start running at full-tilt with a long lens sticking out of a pocket, I’d want to grab it as I ran, but at no point in this first day of use did I feel like any gear was ever in danger of falling out or getting in my way.

On top of all this, these pants are made to take a beating. The material is thick, feels like it’ll last forever, and according to their website, the “knee area and cuffs are reinforced with Oxford Nylon to prolong garment life”. So these should last.

Tiger Trend Pro Pocket Pants

The Tiger Trend website pictures don’t do the pants justice. Check them out, and if you’re in the San Jose area, stop in to The Workingman’s Emporium at N. First and Devine and try a pair on.

Canon 1Ds Mk III: auto-noise reduction & UDMA cards


I've been using the new Canon 1Ds Mk III recently, and as with pretty much any gear I play with, one of the first things I'll do is dig through the preferences/ settings of the kit. After setting up the Mk III as I wanted it, I went out to take my first shots. One thing I noticed right away was that I was only getting two shots off before the buffer was filled! When you look through the viewfinder of this camera (as on most Canon pro cameras), you'll see a display of how many frames you can fire sequentially before the buffer fills and your fps drops below maximum.





Anyway on this 1Ds Mk III I was seeing only two. (I never did switch to JPG to see what I'd get there, as I'm not really interested in JPG shooting on this camera). My first thought was that this was because my CF card wasn't fast enough. Even though my cards are Lexar 2GB 133x cards, they are not UDMA cards. I basically accepted that this was the case (these are 21megapixel files after all), shrugged my shoulders and picked up a UDMA card.










Imagine my surprise when the UDMA card made no difference. So I started looking through the settings, trying to figure out what the problem could be. Digging back into the C Fn's (Custom Functions), I noticed that I had both Long Exposure (C. Fn II-1) and High ISO (C. Fn II-2) noise reduction turned on. I know that the idea behind the long exposure noise reduction is that the camera will process for as long as the exposure was; i.e., a 20 second exposure means a 20 second post-process before it's written to the card. OK.


Just out of interest I turned them both off. And guess what… up shot my continuous exposure count to 12! And in reality, it's more like 15.


This smelled like a bug to me. Because even at ISO 100, if I turn on High ISO reduction, the count drops to 4. Turn it off, it goes back to 12. ISO 100 does not count as high ISO!


Likewise, turn on long exposure noise reduction to "auto" or "on", and it drops to 10 frames in display. This is with a manual exposure set to ISO 100, f/2.8 1/8000th second. Not exactly a long exposure. And it actually stops after 11 shots fired.


So obviously this demanded some research. After some digging, here's the information I came up with. Even though the camera does not utilize the noise reduction at exposures under one second, having it enabled still affects the cameras buffer performance -- and this has been the case in all EOS bodies. The user should not have to turn this on or off if the exposure goes over or under one second, so IMHO this qualifies as a bug.


As far as the High ISO noise reduction, this is a misleading term as when enabled it does process the files differently at ALL ISOs. The higher the ISO the greater the correction, but even at ISO 100 it is handling the files differently to optimize image quality and keep noise to a minimum. This is why the buffer is reduced in this case.


So what's better, let the camera do the noise reduction, or let Aperture do it ('cause that's the software you're using, right?!). If you're shooting RAW, the noise reduction is NOT embedded into the file (thank goodness). Apparently you can alter the embedded reduction settings using Canon's Digital Photo Professional software (never used it myself), or if you're using Aperture (or anything else) to do the RAW decode, that camera data is thrown away and the software does its own thing.


So the short answer is… if you're shooting RAW, turn off the noise filters. If you're shooting JPEG, turn it on. Of course in my not-so-humble opinion, there are only fringe example reasons of why you would shoot JPEG anymore. It's all about the RAW file, baby.


As far as the UDMA / non-UDMA cards are concerned, it turns out that until the buffer is filled you will not see the write speed of the card in action. This will only be visible when the red "writing data" light is on and you see how fast the images are transferred to the card from the buffer. Basically the real question is not how fast you can shoot to the buffer, but how fast can the buffer transfer to the card and clear it for new shots. To test this, just hold down the shutter release on continuous for a set amount of time. In a test of one minute, with my Lexar 133x card I was able to take 64 pictures in one minute; with the Lexar 300x UDMA card I was able to take 77 shots in the one minute. This is a substantial improvement! Of course I think this would be more interesting in a camera like the 1D Mk III, which is all about shooting as many frames per second as possible.


So did I need the UDMA card? For my purposes, no. BUT I now have an 8GB card, which with a 21Mpixel camera is handy!


custom iPhone icon


'cause I'm just a geek like that, I had to add the custom iPhone/iPod Touch icon to this blog. So now if you navigate here on an iPhone or iPod Touch, and make a webclip (choose "Add to Home Screen" with latest iPhone/iPod Touch updates installed), you now should get this custom icon:




Please let me know if it doesn't work for you. The iPhone/iPod will automagically round the corners and add the glossy sheen. Cute.


For the 411 on how to do this, everything you need to know is here and some additional info is here (although I got what I needed off the first link).


Basically you simply add a graphic to the root level of your server, or if you don't have access to that, then add some code to the <head> of your site pointing to the graphic elsewhere.


You can add that code in the blogger by clicking [Layout] from the dashboard, which takes you to the [Template] tab (yeah, the names don't match, I know). Click [Edit HTML] and add the code after the <head> line. You need to host the icon image somewhere to link from, so what I did was upload it to this blog as a custom picture, note the URL of the picture on the page, then remove the page element. Blogger doesn't delete the image from the picasa album it loaded it to (FYI if you didn't realize, all your photos you post on your blogger blog are added to a picasa album).


Convoluted but it worked! (And it actually took more time to write this post than it did to create and add the icon)