Photos from Thanksgiving 2011

Adrian is Incredulous

I visited my family in Charlotte, North Carolina over Thanksgiving. Pleasantly, my brother Adrian was able to come too— in the past few years, Adrian had been living in Cape Town and hadn’t been able to make it to Thanksgiving.

I really debated which lens to shoot, whether my 50mm f/1.4 or my 17–55 f/2.8 IS. Theoretically, the 50mm could let in heaps more light (and potentially allow for sharper shots), but on the other hand, the image stabilization of my 17‐55 does quite well toward reducing camera shake too.

In the end, I went with my 50mm, although I’m not sure that was my best option. Sure, the 50mm f/1.4 could theoretically let in four times as much light (2 stops) as the 17–55mm f/2.8, but as I was processing the photos later, I came to realize that IS often provided more than two stops of stabilization. So, for example, shooting at f/1.4 at 1/30sec on my 50mm often resulted in blurry shots, but if one takes the equivalent exposure of f/2.8 at 1/6sec, I know my image stabilization would be able to handle at least some of those.

At this point, you might be thinking, “f/1.4 at 1/30sec? That sounds like a ton of light.” And with a more modern camera it probably would be. But with my 4-year-old Canon 40D, I can’t really go above about ISO 400 without running into serious noise issues. So while you 5D Mark II shooters probably don’t give a second thought to shooting at ISO 800 or even ISO 1600, those options are pretty much out of bounds for me.

All told, I did enjoy the freedom—as it were—of not having to worry about zooming my lens to compose a shot (since one can’t with that lens) and the 50mm is also considerably lighter as well. So perhaps I might lean toward my 17–55mm the next time I shoot that type of scene.

Camera fiddly bits aside, I believe we had fourteen people for Thanksgiving (including my family), which is a pretty good number, but not altogether as many people as we had last year. Because some of our relatives were driving in from out of town and we weren’t quite sure if they might run into traffic along the way, we asked guests to come over around 4:30/5:00.

As we’ve done in past years, we cooked our turkey on the grill over the course of several hours—like usual, my dad put the bird on around 2:30 or 3:00. On some of our previous Thanksgivings, we asked guests to come over nearabouts that time, which allowed for a couple hours of chatting and nomming hors d’oeuvres while the bird cooked. With guests coming over a bit later this year, we had slightly less gabbing time before the turkey was ready.

What I came to realize later is that the hour or two of pre-turkey chit-chat is when I would ordinarily take most of the day’s photos. And with this year’s shortened carousing time, maybe I should have been quicker on the draw to get a few more photos in. But mentally I was still on the timeline of previous years and so I kinda dropped the ball on some of my picture taking.

Picture stuff aside, I still had a great Thanksgiving—everyone was super nice, we were all in good spirits, and hardly anyone talked about politics. (Thanksgiving sans political banter? Mon Dieu!) Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, but this was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.

Goodbye, Brad

Brad and Ari Chatting Away

My friend Brad Graham has passed away, seemingly of natural causes. I heard about it this afternoon and I made an effort not to cry at work, but now that I’m at home, I’m not doing a very good job of holding things back.

I knew Brad from SXSW. Some people like to use the cliche that “so-and-so was the nicest person you’ve ever met”, but Brad really was the nicest person you’ve ever met. Whether you may have known him for five minutes or five years, but he’d treat you like a friend that he had known for ages.

Goodbye, Brad.

Photos from Seattle

Sunset with a Ship

I’ve been working on a project for a client based out of Seattle since early June. Each week, I’ve been flying out on Sunday to Seattle, and then flying back to Dallas on Friday. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I’ve been working on the project with two other guys from my company and they’ve put us up at the Washington Athletic Club. And, yeah, even though that probably sounds like a Gym Extravaganza or the like, it is actually a regular hotel (though it does include a couple floors of exercise equipment, natch). The hotel has been generally pleasant and that staff has been very nice. (I think I’ve learned most of their names by now.)

What’s interesting or peculiar — depending on your point of view — is the decor. It kinda looks like the hotel was built several decades ago. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean, everything is clean and well maintained. It’s just that the fixtures, the lighting, and even the carpet makes me feel like I’m stepping into another era. I mean, their uneven hallway lighting kinda makes their interiors a little gloomier than they really need to be. Well, no matter — wonky lighting aside, the hotel is generally fine.

Other than some shots of the hotel, I also included some pics from a recent photowalk around the area after dinner one evening. If you happen to be the type that peers into Exif data, you might notice that all my exterior shots were taken in shutter priority at 1/100 sec. “So”, you might be thinking, “why take exterior landscape-type shots in shutter priority rather than aperture priority?”

Well, as is turned out, I didn’t have my tripod with me at the time, and especially with the setting sun, I knew that I didn’t have that might light to spare. I also only had my 50mm f/1.4 lens with me at the time and I knew that I could safely hand-hold shots at that focal length down to maybe 1/80 sec. So that’s why I chose to force my camera to take shots at 1/100 sec. Pleasantly enough, that strategy seemed to have worked — though not every single one of my shots was a keeper, none of the shots that I tossed aside were due to camera shake.

Last but not least, I’d also like to give a shout-out to a little gizmo from Manfrotto, their Hot Shoe Bubble Level. Yeah, just like the name implies, it’s a tiny level that fits in the hot shoe mount of your camera. It’s not exactly cheap — it’s about $30 — but the thing works marvelously. When it comes to hand-held landscape-type photos, a level shot can sometimes make all the difference.

For instance, this hand-held sunset shot may look perfectly level, but that?’s because it is. I measured the waterline in Photoshop (so that I could minutely rotate shot, if needed), but the shot was dead-level right out of the camera. For anyone that takes hand-held landscape-type shots (or other shots that need to be level), I can heartily recommend Manfrotto’s Hot Shoe Bubble Level.

First-Person Shooters Improve Eyesight

LiveScience reports on a study which concluded that “action video games that involve firing guns can improve your eyesight”:

A group of 10 male college students who started out as non-gamers and then received 30 hours of training on first-person action video games showed a substantial increase in their ability to see objects accurately in a cluttered space, compared to 10 non-gamers given the same test, said Daphne Bevelier of the University of Rochester.


First-person action games helped study subjects improve their spatial resolution, meaning their ability to clearly see small, closely packed together objects, such as letters, she said. Game-playing actually changes the way our brains process visual information. […]

I think this may be just the motivation I need to play Doom 3 more often — it’s for my own good, right? ;).