Archive for May, 2009

Saturday, May 30th 2009

Kronskogen, Eskilstuna

Felt a sudden creative urge yesterday and headed out to Kronskogen. Nice light and some nice dandelions.

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And a slug.

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And some Lilacs in the garden.

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Friday, May 29th 2009

Ordered Some Panoramas

Today Jenny and I finally got round to sending some panoramas off for printing from Crimson. We already bought a panorama frame from IKEA (88 x 30 cm, or roughly 35″ x 12″), but haven’t had anything to put in it so far.

Screenshot of Crimson.se poster service options.

Since the printing place doesn’t do 88 x 30 cm, we stuck two panoramas in one image and had it printed at 100 x 70 cm. Plus a small one along the edge as a bonus. Obviously we’ll have to cut them out ourselves.

We’re thinking of sticking one of the large ones above our chest the drawers in our bedroom. Which one remains to be agreed on, with me voting for Paris and Jenny voting for Visby. We’ll probably end up getting a second frame and putting it above the bed …

Monday, May 25th 2009

Getting the Most out of Photos on Facebook

Image quality on Facebook is awful. That’s the simple truth. Just compare what you get at Flickr and Facebook.

Flickr:

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Facebook:

Image quality test on Facebook

Facebook just completely mutes the colours. Look at the red lights on the cars, or the red windows of the building. And sharpness is nowhere to be found. The tree is just a mushy green mess.

While Flickr’s default size is a bit on the small side (500 pixels), it still contains more than twice as much information (163 kB) as the Facebook version (67 kB).

So … what can be done about Facebook’s mangling of perfectly good photos? Well, if you do the downsizing and sharpening yourself you get more detail left at the end, in the resulting image after Facebook has done its ruthless compression.

This is very easy if you’re using Lightroom, but can definitely be done with any other imaging software as well. Simply resize your photos to 604 pixels on the longest side, which is the maximum for Facebook, and then apply some sharpening. Personally I do sharpening for screen, level High, in the export window of Lightroom.

This is what you get: (Hover to see the improvement.)

Image quality test on Facebook.

So, you get slightly more detail, but Facebook still murders your colours. Below is a comparison between Facebook version and the 604 pixel original that I uploaded (when hovered):

Image quality test on Facebook

An alternative to the hassle of downsizing and sharpening is to simply boycott Facebook for photos and just post links to your sets on Flickr …

Wednesday, May 20th 2009

Snake’s Head Fritillary by Vaksala Church

I spent the weekend in Uppsala, mainly to celebrate dad’s birthday. We had a very tight schedule, seeing Jenny’s mum and dad and my parents and some other friends, but I managed to fit in a little visit to the meadow by Vaksala kyrka.

Fritillaria meleagris, Kungsängsliljor vid Vaksala kyrka.

This meadow is one of relatively few places around Uppsala where Snake’s Head Fritillary (Kungsängslilja or Fritillaria meleagris) grows, and has always been something of a favourite spot for me. This flower is the provincial flower of Uppland and is protected by law because of its rarity.

It’s quite a charming little flower which can be either a deep red or white, or a mixture of the two.

Fritillaria meleagris, Kungsängsliljor vid Vaksala kyrka.

Optimally, I should have got up at the crack of dawn, around 5 am, to get the nice morning light. But having watched the Eurovision Song Contest until midnight that wasn’t really an option. Instead these shots are taken at about 9 am, so the light is a bit harsh.

Fritillaria meleagris, Kungsängsliljor vid Vaksala kyrka.

Fritillaria meleagris, Kungsängsliljor vid Vaksala kyrka.

Fritillaria meleagris, Kungsängsliljor vid Vaksala kyrka.

Fritillaria meleagris, Kungsängsliljor vid Vaksala kyrka.

I have some more shots in a set at Flickr.

Friday, May 15th 2009

Eskilstuna shots

Some more shots from my last photo hunt.

Nybyggda hus på Hamngatan i Eskilstuna

Fairly new buildings on Hamngatan.

Tulpaner i Fors kyrkopark, HDR

Pretty Tulips in Fors kyrkopark.

Eskilstunaån, HDR

Eskilstunaån, or Eskilstuna river if you wish, with the local heat plant in the background.

The first shot was made from three bracketed exposures using my Gorillapod. The last two were done the same way but hand-held. Slight movements between the three shots don’t matter because Photomatix can align the features of the photos when making the HDR image.

Friday, May 15th 2009

Amazing Macro

This has gotta be the most amazing macro I’ve seen for a long time.

Thursday, May 14th 2009

The Need for Speed

At the end of March, we launched a new version of our website at Eskilstuna-Kuriren, ekuriren.se. We replaced our ancient content manger with a new, modern, flexible system known as Polopoly. Polopoly is developed in Sweden and used by many of the large Swedish news sites.

The launch went smoothly, but soon we started getting e-mail upon e-mail from users about speed problems. After a while it turned out that many Internet Explorer users were having huge problems both loading the page and scrolling the page.

Apparently, when loading the website in Internet Explorer it can sometimes make the whole computer slow down to a halt, forcing a hard reboot. If you manage to load the page, it can scroll painfully slowly.

Obviously, this mainly shows that the site hasn’t been properly tested. A huge majority of our visitors use Internet Explorer. Or at least they used to. Perhaps the percentage has gone down now, from people simply giving up on us. It truly amazes me how the developers still haven’t properly managed to sort out the performance issues. They have supposedly been working on this from day one, which is almost two months back now.

While I still haven’t actually heard a precise technical explanation of what the problem is, this experience shows in a very tangible way how big a difference there is between Internet Explorer and the more modern browsers when it comes to speed. Whether it is the scripting engine or the rendering engine or something else that is causing the problems for Internet Explorer users I don’t know.

What I do know is that we simply haven’t had a single complaint about performance from Firefox or Safari users.

Here’s to hoping that the site admins get the issues sorted as soon as possible and that all browsers will be able to display our news site without the user suffering serious illnesses from frustration.

Thursday, May 14th 2009

Stunt kids by the library

Had a good photo hunt yesterday. I was mainly looking for some nice old ruin of some kind, but didn’t really find what I wanted. Still I ended up having some fun with some acrobatic kids outside the library.

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I never asked what the guy on the bike was called, but the other two are Cristian Bati and Philip Nordström. They call themselves Ultimate Upgrade and have a few videos on Youtube where they do this kind of stuff too.

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Wednesday, May 13th 2009

Tingeling

After having watched the first semi final of the Eurovision Song Contest, the Swedish interval act Tingeling is about ten times funnier than it was the first time I watched it: (Skip to 4.15 for the music part.)

This was done as a parody on Russian culture, and then the Russians themselves go and do exactly the same thing for their real, 100% serious interval act:

But the thing that kills me is that the Russian embassy in Sweden handed in an official complaint to SVT (Swedish television) saying that the parody was humourless and insensitive. (Or something along those lines.)

And while we’re on the subject of interval acts, the best one I can remember was the Stockholm 2000 one:

Monday, May 11th 2009

An Old Favourite (3)

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Me and crazy Silvana got up really early one morning in Sundsvall and walked up the north mountain. That’s two years ago now. Time really does fly. This was one of the best shots I got.

The same morning a woman was found frozen to death in the city harbour. A few of my photos covered the area where she was found so I sent them in to the police, thinking they could see if she was in them (as a tiny speck) or not and use the time-stamps.

Saturday, May 9th 2009

An Old Favourite (2)

This one I dedicate to Patrick Finch whom I met for the first time this week.

I hereby rename it Tuna Park.

Shopping @ Tuna Park

Friday, May 8th 2009

Paris: Tour Montparnasse

Day three was spent entirely at Disneyland Paris. Since it wasn’t a very photogenic day, I’ll just leave it out.

So, on to day four. Which consisted mainly of two things. L’Arc de Triomphe and Tour Montparnasse.

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The view from our hotel window.

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Handheld, triple exposure HDR of the Arc.

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Jenny resting her feet (and waiting for me to finish taking my photos).

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Tour Montparnasse. Huge (~210 meters) office building with the top floor + roof open for visitors.

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The lift did 56 floors in 38 seconds!

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Great view from the top. Very nice and relaxed since there weren’t many people there really. A great visit for any photographer.

Thursday, May 7th 2009

An Old Favourite (1)

Having the possibility to post large photos I feel inspired to look through my favourites.

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This shot was inspired by a set of photos I saw in a photography magazine of vegetables. I went out and bought a few different veggies that I wouldn’t normally buy, used my desk light for lighting and a big white sheet of paper for the surface.

Thursday, May 7th 2009

IE8 Sorted

After finishing my slight redesign here I found that IE8 made a complete mess of it. Turned out of course that I had forgotten to change the doctype into something other than XHTML Strict, which IE still doesn’t understand.

I went with the nice, simple HTML 5 doctype, which seems to be the best option:

<!DOCTYPE html>

That was all that was necessary and now, miraculously, my blog looks … decent in IE8! Looks like it has finally understood my max-width rules as well! Amazing stuff.

Thursday, May 7th 2009

New Design Done

Well, this is the new modified design. Nice and tight and snug! Obviously the font size in the left column isn’t web 2.0 compliant, but you can’t get everything.

For comparison, here’s a screenshot of what it used to look like:

Screenshot of my old blog design.

So what has changed? To start with I removed a couple of things from the right column and moved what was left to the left column. Then I made the left column quite a bit tighter to allow for 1024 px images in my posts. I tried to use a sans-serif in the left column but the combination looked really weird.

I decided to revert my choice to use a downloaded font, for two reasons: A, i find Georgia is actually prettier than Dustismo and B, I don’t really like how Firefox 3.5 (beta) deals with downloaded fonts at the moment.

Firefox will display the page with the fall-back font first, and then redraw the page when the @font-face font is downloaded. This behaviour is annoying when viewing the page – Safari does this much better. Safari simply waits with displaying the text until the font is downloaded.

While I was fiddling with the design I decided to remove the alternate stylesheets for a slight simplicity win.

I have considered implementing columns in my posts, but I’ll need to think that through properly first.

Edit: Argh!! Internet Explorer 8, supposedly CSS 2 compliant, messes the design up completely. I’ll have to look into that some other time.

Thursday, May 7th 2009

Test post

This is just a test to see if large photos actually are visible if you’re not logged in to Flickr.

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Edit: My blog may look more or less weird while I mess around with the design. Sadly I have no good way of working on it offline.

Wednesday, May 6th 2009

Blog Redesign?

I’m thinking of perhaps redesigning or at least re-arranging this blog a bit. I want to try to make one side column instead of two, mainly to allow 1024px photos in my posts. This is 2009 and it feels just a bit 2004 to have what feels like 500px thumbnails. (On a side-note: Why hasn’t Flickr increased the default photo size yet? Surely they must do at some point?)

I’ll make sure the new design fits on a 1280px wide screen though. That’s what I have myself and obviously the world will just have to adjust if they have anything less.

Wednesday, May 6th 2009

Some recent shots

Edit: Republished this one too with larger photos.

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Skjulsta, Eskilstuna.

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Triple-exposure HDR with my Sigma 17-70mm, f/8 @ 17mm.

Wednesday, May 6th 2009

Paris: The Louvre, et al

On day two of our Paris trip we visited the Louvre, Galeries Lafayette and Notre-Dame.

Edit: Republished with larger photos.

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At the Louvre there were about a million people in the Mona Lisa room. All trying to get the same photo.

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This woman obviously didn’t think much of the frame, since she seems to be trying to crop it out of the picture.

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Since it was raining this day, we had our picnic at a Metro station. Not the most romantic location, but at least it was dry. Meanwhile I had a little shutter-speed fun and managed to catch this one-legged man who actually wasn’t jumping to get where he was going.

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Galeries Lafayette. The only thing we could afford was some pie at the cafeteria.

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French parking.

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Nothing beats having a pigeon on your head.

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Jenny consulting our trusty map at one of the many Italian restaurants we visited…

Tuesday, May 5th 2009

Autofocus test of the Sigma 17-70mm

While reading about the Canon EF-S 17-55mm, which I’m considering getting second hand, I saw an autofocus test where it performed flawlessly. That is, finding perfect focus 20 out of 20 times. Not all other lenses tested did though. The Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 and the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 missed a few. (See the test towards the end of this page.)

This got me curious about how well my own lens focuses. (Obviously, the camera plays a part here too, probably a fairly major part.) Anyway, I set up a similar test with my Sigma 17-70mm on my Canon 30D.

I put the camera on my tripod, about 1.5 meters from a frame with our wedding photos. I aimed the centre focus point at the dark edge of a photo, like this:

Autofocus test of the Sigma 17-70mm lens.

Then I manually set the focus at infinity (or beyond infinity actually), activated the autofocus again, and simply pressed the shutter-release (cable).

I repeated the process twelve times, and then did another twelve setting the focus at the closest focusing distance and another twelve setting it at about 0.7 meters.

In all three cases, the lens got 12/12 sharp, focused shots, like this 100% crop here:

Autofocus test of the Sigma 17-70mm lens.

These shots were shot at 48mm, 1/20th sec, f/4 and ISO 400, to give you a feeling of the amount of light. The room wasn’t dark, not very bright either.

Not a very thorough test, but at least it shows the autofocus is no where near lousy, as some people try to make out about this lens.