Tag Archive for flash

Photos: Time to Go RAW

I shot a bunch of pics at the Academy of Okinawan Karate’s Friends & Family Day event a week ago, and I’m thinking more and more that I need to bite the bullet and switch to RAW format shooting. With time at a minimum, I’ve been afraid to spend the extra time tweaking and adjusting pictures, learning new software, and adapting to a new workflow. However, my pictures are starting to suffer as a result, and if I’m going to do something, I may as well do it right.

Here’s a good example:

Bo Sparring 2

Shihan Joseph Walker and Mr Joey Johnston spar with bo

I don’t hate this picture, I think it caught the action fairly well (you should see how fast they were moving). As always at these events, I used a 50mm prime lens with a wide aperture to freeze the action in the low light. Normally I also set a custom white balance off of somebody’s gi (uniform) to ensure the whites are where they belong. In the past, this has worked fine for me.

However, I’ve been standing in different positions, and the lighting has changed somehow. There are different dim areas, and I’ve been getting a subtle yellow to off-white hue on the pics. The gis in the picture above should really be crisp white and pop, just as they’ve done in the past. I can’t think of anything else I did different while standing on the sidelines.

You can see some of the same issues (and different white balance results) in the rest of the set. If I shift to RAW (or RAW+JPEG), I’ll be able to mess with the white balance in post and nail it for each picture.

In theory, anyway. I need to sit down and learn how to do it. With The Pack: Lie with the Dead already later than I wanted, it may be a little while longer before I mess with it.

In contrast, take this simple self portrait I shot on Thanksgiving:

My Ugly Mug

My ugly mug

The lighting is clean and even, and the white balance is just fine. I should probably get rid of that reflection/glare on the door jamb by my right cheek, but this is just a quick-and-dirty example. This picture is right off the camera, unretouched. I used the 18-55mm kit lens with an external flash bounced off a white, stucco ceiling.

The trade-off in the dojo is missing some of the action with the flash. I have to time things just right, and I have to be close enough to the action for the flash to be effective.

This Saturday the dojo will hold the annual Winter Tournament. It will be a good time to start from scratch and rethink my process.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Xubuntu Impresses

I’ve pretty much written off my good old Dell Inspiron 8000 as an obsolete clunker doomed to crawl along, but I keep it around because I can still run Linux at a reasonable speed on it, connect via wireless in various places, and get some writing done on the road. I most recently ran Fedora Core 5 on it with Fluxbox loaded up as the window manager. Fluxbox is very sparse and minimalist, but it works, and I figured that install would take me through to the laptop’s end of life.

That end of life is looking farther and farther off, however, as I can’t afford to just go out and pick up a cheap laptop, much less a shiny new MacBook. I may as well get the apps as current as possible, so last night I installed Xubuntu 7.10, a spin-off of Ubuntu 7.10 that installs Xfce as the default desktop. Xfce is supposed to run better on older hardware than its more-popular cousins KDE or GNOME, but I saw a negligible difference between it and KDE on my laptop under Flux/FC5.

Not so under Xubuntu. I didn’t see an improvement in boot time (not unexpected), but the desktop did load faster and I didn’t experience a lot of the drag I did before, even under Fluxbox. Flux got the job done, but it’s nice to be back into a fairly modern desktop again.

After that, it’s all Ubuntu candy. The Synaptic package manager impresses me more every time I use it. Firefox and Thunderbird are both current, and the Ubuntu folks didn’t make the idiotic decision to skip Firefox 2 like the Fedora gang. The Software Sources (the sites Synaptic downloads its software from) are much easier to manage, and within five minutes of first login I had Flash 9 up and running. Sound worked out of the box.

Wireless threw me at first. My Orinoco card had a green light to indicate it was running, yet I didn’t have an established connection. Then I spotted the network management applet up by the clock. Click, click, click, voila! At least as easy as using Windows XP’s wireless manager (and easier than some of the vendor-supplied managers).

I started surfing around, and it was a good ten minutes before I noticed the fonts. The fonts are sharper and clearer than I’ve seen on Linux in a while, and they’re at least as sharp and clear as the new IE fonts (which, admittedly, look pretty damn good). It’s not that there was anything wrong with the fonts under FC5, it’s just these are much cleaner and clearer, even under the high resolution. Then it dawned on me that Xubuntu managed to figure out my display resolution on its own, too! I used to have to select a better resolution by hand on this laptop. Under Slackware it meant tweaking X by hand, and under Fedora I had to choose the correct display.

In fact there was zero configuration on this install, period.

The installer asked maybe a half dozen questions: what language I speak, how to partition the disk, my timezone, who I am, and for a password. It then cooked along and presented me with a working system minutes later. People talk about the difficulty of installing XP all the time, but I never saw a major difference until now. This installer runs circles around just about every other installer I’ve ever used.

I still have to dig around and see what else is in there, but it’s looking like I’m going to be an Ubuntu convert. The sticker goes on the laptop chassis this evening, I’ll be installing Ubuntu (or more likely Kubuntu) on the home PC sometime soon, and I look forward to testing Xubuntu on some of the old hardware I’ve got floating around at work.

Linux doesn’t get much more ready for the desktop than this.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.