Tag Archive for Photography

"Click! Take a pic!"

The Canon EOS 450D (aka Digital Rebel XSi) has been formally announced, and it shall be mine. (Provided it doesn’t come with Rosie Perez’s voice.*)

I’ve been wanting a digital SLR for a long time. I’ve used an old 35mm camera in the past, and I really enjoyed it compared to using a point-and-shoot digital. Looking through the lens gives you better control of the shot, including the framing and focus. My 6-year-old Canon PowerShot G2 was top of the line in its day, but now with its stuck pixels and its focusing frustrations, it’s time for an upgrade. The nice thing is with the changing technology I can buy a much beefier DSLR for the same price I paid for the G2.

I’ve been watching Digital Photography Review for more information, and they didn’t disappoint: they’ve got a brief hands-on with the 450D and a summary of differences between it and its predecessor, the 400D/Digital Rebel XTi. It looks like Canon’s packing in some solid features, and that’s got me drooling all the more. I read somewhere that it doesn’t ship until April, but if I’ve been waiting over two years to get my hands on a DSLR, I guess I can wait two more months.

Maybe.

The question, then, is will the investment result in better pictures? I sure as hell hope so. If nothing else I’ll have a lot more fun taking pics. Of course, judging by what I saw out of my friend Richard’s Rebel and Speedlite, the softened flash alone is worth the price of admission. I’m sick to death of blown-out faces and subjects’ uncontrollable blinking in my pics.**

The first step to improvement will probably be jumping into the Digital Photography School forums. It looks like there’s a lot of great advice flying around in there, and it’s a lot faster (and cheaper) than trying to take a photography class at a local community college.*** DPS also has a great blog with some cool tips.

With photography more on my brain than ever, I’ve started thinking more about digital workflow. I’ll need some processing capability for RAW no doubt, which means some extra software for the GIMP on my Linux box. Of course, if I do make the Mac switch, that will change things significantly. It’s a little premature to be worried about the Lightroom vs. Aperture debate, so instead I turned my attentions to iPhoto on my MacBook and compared it to digiKam on Linux.

If there’s one app that I think I’d truly miss in Linux, it’s digiKam. Both it and iPhoto perform the same function: importing and organizing your pictures. They both allow easy sorting and importing, and they both support tagging. iPhoto’s presentation is a little bit cleaner, but feature-wise they’re more or less the same.

The key difference is in the back ends, and maybe some of the Mac folks can speak up here.

What I like about digiKam is it drops pics right into the filesystem. If I need to find my pictures in any other application or through a file browser, I know right where to find them because the albums are a mirror of the folder hierarchy. If I change the names of the picture files on import, that name is applied to the file name, replacing vague camera filenames like IMG98939.JPG. The added benefit here is if for any reason I lost the digiKam database with my tags and such in it, my files are untouched. If I have to access the drive remotely (via SSH/SCP, which I do often) or have to recover files with a drive enclosure or similar method, I have a good idea of what I’m looking at.

iPhoto, on the other hand, drops everything into a package of some kind. The files appear to be copied to the filesystem, but it looks like the titles are only part of the iPhoto Library package and database. I did figure out there are both Original and Modified folders inside the iPhoto Library package, and there are folders for year and then Event, but the image filenames are still IMG884737.JPG. Having an automatic backup if I edit a pic (an untouched original and the new, modified file) is not a bad idea, but does this not take up extra space?

How will this affect remote access? If I use SSH to access a Mac, or if I connect via SCP to copy a handful of pictures to a remote computer, am I going to be able to browse — via the shell or a SCP GUI like WinSCP — to my pictures and copy them? Am I going to have to upload pics to Flickr and fetch them from there? Or is there some other Apple sharing method that I may not be aware of?

And most importantly, if my darling rugrats shove my Mac off a table and shatter it, am I going to be able to access my pictures — and recover tags, titles, and other data — if I yank the hard drive and drop it into an enclosure?

Why does iPhoto do it this way? Inquiring minds want to know.

*For those of you who don’t have rugrats, Rosie Perez is the voice of Click the Camera on Go, Diego, Go! And she sings. It’s truly the work of the Devil.

**I have about a tenth as many pics of my wife as I should because she can’t keep her frickin’ eyes open. If I show you a good shot of my wife, chances are it was taken outside in broad daylight in the middle of summer. As a result she’s probably wearing sunglasses, too.

***I tried to take the photography class when I was in college, but the single section offered was always filled within about 6 nanoseconds of the start of registration.

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.

In Your Face

Magnified

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

Do people really subject themselves to this stuff?

The Allerton Hotel in Chicago has these mirrors in the bathroom that blow your face up to something like twice normal size. Even in the picture I took of my magnified mug, I can see the line of my contact lens against the white of my right eye.

I didn’t think much of the mirror when I first spotted it, but then my hair caught my eye. Turns out it was my stubble. I thought “holy crap I need a shave,” only to look at the regular mirror to see little more than a shadow. Then I saw a red mark. An ingrown hair? The start of a pimple?

Either way, it didn’t look good.

In seconds I was sweating all manner of small stuff, not a one of which I could even remotely see in the regular mirror. Things even a high-def camera couldn’t pick up. If anyone got close enough to see what I was seeing in that makeup mirror, they were either the Wife or they were looking for a beating.

If there really are people out there maintaining their face right down to the millimeter in one of these things, they have some serious issues.

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.

Demon Alcohol

Death on the Rocks

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

Decades of alcohol abuse killed someone in my family, and that was more or less where the inspiration for this photo came from. I made it a self portrait for the 52 Weeks group on Flickr because it’s not hard to spot the pattern of addiction in my family. Based on some of my own behaviors I wouldn’t be surprised if the genetic predisposition runs strong in my DNA.

I didn’t intend this to be preachy or heavy-handed, I just thought it would be a cool pic to try. I made a black-and-white version of it, too, which can be seen here. I’ve got a few nits with it, but in general I’m pretty happy with it.

I’m still going back and forth on whether or not I want to attempt another run of 52 Weeks photos. I’m hoping to pick up a DSLR camera by Spring, and it occurs to me that may be a reason to try again. Not just because I’ll be excited about the new camera (which will make me want to use it more often) but because I can find out if a DSLR really can make a difference in the quality of my photography (the theory here is the broader capabilities enhance creativity). It would be a fun experiment to compare my first 52 Weeks with my second.

I’ve got seven more pics for my first round, so I’ve got plenty of time to make a decision. In the meantime, I’m hoping Canon really does announce a successor to the Digital Rebel XTi later this month. Buying a current model might be cheaper, but if predictions are accurate, LiveView would be easier for the Wife to use and a movie feature might be handy at times.

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.

A Year in Pictures

What a difference a year makes.

Despite falling behind on my 52 Weeks Flickr group contributions, I now have an entire year’s worth of self portraits in my 52 Weeks set. Sure, I’ve got 8 more to post, but time-wise there’s a year in there and it’s neat looking back and seeing if things have changed at all.

For example, there was my beardless phase, which I recently abandoned:

The Yin and the Yang

Not to mention the time I busted my head in Pennsylvania:

Home Lobotomy

Yeah, good times.

I can also play the then-and-now game. The following picture was taken in March, shortly after I joined the Academy of Okinawan Karate:

Academy of Okinawan Karate

Compare it to the picture I took just last night:

American Karateka

Higher rank, better gi, looking a little leaner… not too shabby.

A year goes by quick, but as we’re experiencing it, we don’t always see the big changes. I’m glad I participated. It’s kind of a pain to remember to take the pics and keep on top of dumping the pics to the computer and then uploading them to Flickr, but I’m tempted to do it again this year.

I really don’t know how the 365 Days folks do it, though. I’d almost have to cop out and use cell phone pics to post directly to Flickr. I’m sure my cellular provider would love me for that…

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.

2008: The Year to Come

It’s been an interesting start to the year already, but there’s a lot on the horizon.

For starters, Muy Mal is officially back, complete with a rockin’ new look provided by Russ Dickerson. John and Weston have already posted their first contributions and mine won’t be far behind. I’ll be wrapping up Down Vendetta Road and sometime this Spring I’ll tackle the next volume of Bastard Precinct. Our plan is to tie up all the loose ends on the site by June.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve got two book releases due. The German edition of Deadliest of the Species, Das Tödliche Geschlecht, will be released soon, and I’m writing a novella to go on the back of a second book that I’ll be able to announce soon.

I’ve signed the signature sheets for both In Laymon’s Terms and Brimstone Turnpike, so we should finally see them on the market. It’s been so long for both of them that I’m a little worried they will no longer be representative of my current writing style (especially In Laymon’s Terms), but that’s just part of the business. I dug around, and it turns out I was hoping to see the release of both books at least three years ago. Argh. ILT contains a short story and Brimstone has a novella.

I actually made progress on the To Fight With Monsters front, completing To Confront the Enemy over the fall. To Rise from the Ashes is next, and the whole package will go to a publisher as soon as possible.

There’s a spark of interest in Powerless, which I’ve decided will be my next novel. I’ve written two other novels since Deadliest, but I’m really not happy with either and they’d just about have to be rewritten from the ground up. Given I’m more excited about Powerless and it needs the same amount of work, I may as well pour my concentration into it. At the moment, all I’ve written on it so far is printed and waiting for me to edit and reintroduce myself to. There’s at least one chapter that will be excised, one that will be chopped in half, and then I need to tweak the location and geography throughout.

Last week I sat down with a publisher and discussed several things. It’s too early to announce anything, but we had a great conversation and we’ll be getting together again soon. Our conversation includes Wounded Gods and at least one other project which I’ll slap with the working title The Shattered Man. I’m excited about the direction we’re headed in, and if it continues I’ll be talking a lot more about these projects soon.

That’s only the projects already lined up, of course. The next step is to build toward the future, to put together some more sales and make sure 2009 will look as promising as 2008 does.

On a personal note, I’ll be continuing my karate training. If I work hard, I could (and should) be a purple belt by the end of the year, which is two ranks from my current blue belt. I’m also going to try to attend more kendo classes at my school, and I may even explore aikido in the fall if a local community college continues to offer it.

I’ve officially changed the Fatty post category to Fitness. I think losing 30 pounds last year has earned me that much. This year I’m setting a smaller goal to cut 20 more. When the weather warms up, I’m going to try to motivate myself to try the Couch-to-5K-Running Plan. It’s a long shot because I hate running, but I’m realizing it’s the best way to both cut weight and improve cardiovascular health. I’m trying to think of it as a good way to improve my endurance for karate class and sparring matches, too.

I’m going to try — again — to do more with my camera. I consider myself an amateur photographer at best, but I really do enjoy taking and sharing pictures. I’ve still got a lot to learn about digital post-processing, so that’s one of the areas I’ll concentrate on this year. It’s also high time I start saving up for a good DSLR camera and dump my aging, point-and-shoot PowerShot G2. If I get active enough I’ll start a Photography category on this blog.

That about covers it. I’d say it’s more than enough to keep me busy this year, too.

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.

2007: Year in Review

If someone were to ask me how this year went, my first reaction would be to call it a write-off. Then I got to thinking about it, and it actually hasn’t been so bad after all. Let’s look back, shall we?

I started the year by selling the German rights to Deadliest of the Species to publisher Otherworld Verlag. The book was pitched to retailers this month, and it will see publication early next year under the title Das Tödliche Geschlecht. I followed that up over the summer with another book sale which I’m still asked to keep under my hat.

Restore from Backup, my novella collaboration with JF Gonzalez, was released from Bad Moon Books. The hardcovers sold out on preorder, but you can still get copies of the trade paperback.

Moonstone Books published The Phantom Chronicles, a prose anthology of Phantom tales including my short story “The Servants of Set”. Moonstone is also the publisher of my comic book Werewolves: Call of the Wild.

I received word today that In Delirium II is shipping. This anthology includes a reprint of “Crazy for You” by myself and Brian Keene. This story previously appeared in Crime Spree. The book doesn’t appear to be listed on the Horror Mall yet, but I imagine it will be up for order soon.

Finally, I attended two comic cons — one large and one small — and did signings at two comic shops. I sold enough comics to pay for the trip at the small comic con, and I was well satisfied with the results of the large con and the signings. I also had fun, and probably picked up a few new fans to boot.

I’d like to have accomplished more, of course, but I don’t feel I should be complaining.

In personal news, I joined the Academy of Okinawan Karate in March and started studying Shuri-ryu, a style of karate. I climbed the ranks from white belt through yellow and to blue belt, and I’ve learned a lot of cool things. Between classes and home exercise, I’ve managed to lose 30 pounds and I feel better than I have in years. I’d have to say that’s the best accomplishment of the year. My class and workout schedule may have put a dent in my writing productivity, but I feel like my health improvements will keep me writing for years to come.

I joined an active Flickr photo group called 52 Weeks, where users post a picture a week for a year. I did fine for a while, but the last few months I’ve fallen way behind. I would like to have posted an honest week 1 and week 52 pic right now, but it’ll have to be off a little bit. You can, however, see my contributions so far right here.

Finally, I expanded my computing horizons by picking up a MacBook at work. I’m sure I’ll be talking more about it in the future (and I’m writing this post on it now), but this gets me closer to being a triple threat in desktop computing.

There are a few things I wish I’d accomplished or wish I’d done better, but hey, that’s what next year is for. Overall, I’m content to call 2007 a win.

Onward and upward.

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.