Strange Days Indeed: The Snappah Hits the Big Screen

The SnappahA nonprofit called Sea Studios Foundation is making a film in cooperation with National Geographic Television and PBS, called Strange Days on Planet Earth, to be hosted by Edward Norton. This film will spotlight key issues affecting the health of the world ocean and highlight cutting edge scientific research.

A producer recently contacted me to request the use of one of my studio photographs entitled "The Snappah" for use in Season 2 of the program due out this winter.

The Snappah (a play on how a Bostonian might refer to a Red Snapper) was a creative shot I came up with one day while in my class on Introduction to Studio Lighting at CDIA. The image just popped into my head of an Alice in Wonderland type of outrageous dinner setting with a fresh fish too huge for the plate, accompanied by absurd utensils, and a bouquet of something with real punch. That morning I took a walk through Whole Foods Markets for inspiration, and voila, I was smitten with the snapper.

I'm absolutely thrilled on so many levels to know that one of my images has become so successful. On Flickr the image quickly made it into Explore, Flickr's most interesting photos for a given day, and was complemented by scores of comments and favorites. To have the image used in PBS science documentary in conjunction with the National Geographic Society is a dream come true and validates all the time and hard work I've been putting into goal to become a professional photographer.

You can read more about my experience at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University in Waltham, MA.

CDIA: Split Shot - Integrating Photoshop in the Creative Studio

Integrating Photoshop Into the Creative Studio -- That's the snazzy title of the 8th course in CDIA's Professional Digital Photography program. Not too long ago, photographers that shot film could spend hours setting up perfect lighting in a shot using snoots, grids, reflectors, gobos, and other light modifiers to capture the perfect image with one shutter click. With the advent of digital photography its possible to achieve that perfect shot in far less time by shooting several versions of the set then combine the images in Photoshop using layer masks and blending. In the digital photographer's studio, the final image is often a composite that makes best use of time between setting up the lighting and post production editing.

The first exercise in this course is known as a split shot, a technique to control reflections in a set. Imagine an art director sets up a product shot in the studio composed of a couple books and some CDs, carefully placing each element in his or her preferred configuration. Then its the photographer's job to capture the image just as the art director composed it, even though the set may have elements of differing reflective surfaces or different contrasts. The CDs have prismatic reflections of the books behind them, and the books may have shadows or glossy reflections of the other books or CDs in front of them.

To achieve a well lit, final image begin by capturing the original set, then use light modifers such as cards or gobos to capture subsequent shots where one element of the set is lit properly. Weight down the tripod to completely avoid nudging the camera since later several captures will be layered and combined.

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Leopard Day 0: A Day in the Life a Mac Fanatic

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7:00 AM
Wake up early (yes, 7AM is early for me) to prepare to go to the Apple Store opening at 9AM


7:10 AM
Check the Apple website and find that the countdown still reads 11 hours. By 10/26 they didn't mean morning of 10/26. Back to bed.


4:45 PM
Leave work to head over the Apple Store at the Natick Collection Mall


5:30 PM
Join the line camped outside the locked doors of the Apple Store. A kid in front of me walks the line, returns to his father to report that they are #38 in line.


5:35 PM
The frumpy old guy next to me starts chatting with about Macs. Says that he's a web developer that works at home and uses Dreamweaver and Flash on PCs and wants to trash them for Macs instead.

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Interactive Google Map of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is a proposed development in Massachusetts that will convert a former railroad bed into a 25 mile, multi-purpose trail stretching from Chelmsford to Framingham, passing through the towns of Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, and Sudbury too . The trail is logistically broken out into three phases, each to be developed sequentially as fund-raising and litigation with abutters move along in parallel.

The BFRT website is chock full of useful information for to help support the building of the Rail Trail. The map which diagrams the route and its 3 phases is rather vague unfortunately. I decided to diagram the bicycle path's proposed route using Google Maps instead, which allows for precise plotting, zooming, and both map and satellite views.


View Larger Map

I would love to see the whole network of rail trails in Massachusetts developed to encourage bicycling for sport and commuting since the roads are so very hazardous here. For starters, a connector trail to join the BFRT with the Assabet River Rail Trail would extend the trail network to Marlborough, Hudson, Maynard, and Stow. It would be a dream to also connect it to the Minuteman Bikeway that runs from Bedford to Cambridge and provides access to the Alewife subway station and Boston.

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Morf Transit - The Burlington Vermont Welcome Wagon

While in Burlington Vermont this weekend, I setup to do an HDR image on Church Street, the pedestrian thoroughfare with cross traffic at every block. An HDR image at night requires several long exposures taken in sequence.

While in the middle of the sequence, this driver from Morf Transit taxi service pulls up to wait for a client and stops right in front of me, although there was plenty of space in front of and behind it.

Morf Transit's Beligerent Driver

For 5 minutes I wait patiently with my wife beside me, just chuckling to ourselves over his parking tactics. No bigggie..

After 10 minutes I'm wondering if I should just move closer to the church in the distance and start over. The driver begins honking his horn to notify his clients that he's ready.

At close to 15 minutes of waiting the driver continues honking, and rolls down his windows to get some air. I took this opportunity to request if he wouldn't mind pulling forward a bit, and the conversation goes roughly like this:

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Adobe MAX 2007 - I'm there in spirit

Making Hard Things Easy


As Jason Delmore, ColdFusion Product Manager, says:
"You really distilled our CF message".

CDIA Sneak Peek: Videos of CDIA Photography Studio

Here's a few glimpses into Studio C at Boston University's Center for Digital Imaging Arts. About a fifth into the program, the Professional Digital Photography students move into the studio to learn flash photography using strobe kits, soft boxes, gels, and other creative equipment.

First here's a few of my shots from this weekend, followed by a couple quick videos around the studio to watch students at work and play.

Coffee Talks Whipped Decadent


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CDIA Introduction to Lighting Theory, Its a wrap!

This week we wrapped up another great photography course at CDIA, Introduction to Lighting Theory DP114.

This module will explore and demonstrate the use of light so that students of light will be able to recognize the physical properties of light: direction and quality; hard vs. soft; and that they be able to modify light to suit the needs of their photography. Students will also learn how to identify and work with varying color temperatures.


Of most practical value to me was learning how to use a light meter to measure incident light (the actual light hitting a subject), whereas the camera's TTL metering measures reflected light (the brightness of light reflected off a subject). We also learned how to use light glass and metal and work with their reflective properties using diffusion screens, reflector discs, or gobos, and either natural ambient lighting or photoflood (constant) lighting indoors. Before moving on to indoor settings with artificial lighting, we initially honed our skills with portrait shooting outdoors using ambient lighting combined with the tools mentioned earlier. My favorite part of the course was learning how to do Black Line and White Line Photography with glass, also known as Bright Field and Dark Field.

The strength of the class was the actual instruction of lighting theory, lessons which I found highly valuable. The weakness was we were expected to peform all our shooting in groups of 3 or 4 during short bursts of time in class when we'd have to set up tables and lighting and later break them down, and I felt unable to achieve a satisfactory level of quality in my photography because I felt rushed.

Halfway through the course I realized I needed to set up a home studio where I could spend longer periods of time and have the freedom to play around and test various lighting scenarios. To that end, I spent a day running errands to Home Depot for clamps and extension cords, to JoAnn Fabrics for inexpensive black cloth to line the walls and velvet to shoot small objects on, to Staples for black and white foam boards, and finally to Hunts Photo and Video in Melrose to purchase a Smith-Victor 4 Light Photoflood Kit. Total cost for the whole basement studio was close to $600, not including the ping pong table already in the basement.

Next week we refine our lighting skills and learn to use strobe lighting or flash in course DP111 Introduction to the Studio.

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Ubuntu @ the Library -and- Vista SP1 Will Install XP

Jessamyn, a Flickr contact and the daughter of one of my friends at my photo club, recently posted a great video on YouTube about installing Ubuntu Linux. As a Librarian in Vermont, she was tasked with repurposing several computers donated to the library, each of which had a potentially unlicensed copy of Windows installed on it. Watch Jessamyn wipe the Windows off the computers, install Ubuntu Linux, and show how great Linux really is. She captured the whole procedure in this short and humorous video.

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An Experiment with Improved File Upload Handling in CF 8

ColdFusion 8 Application Server offers an important improvement regarding memory utilization during the uploading of large files via the CFFILE tag. This entry will offer an experimental observation to demonstrate the improvement in CF 8, but first I'll expand upon each of the related settings and provide some usage scenarios.

Request Throttle Settings
The ColdFusion 7.01 Administrator introduced new file upload settings to better control file uploads. The broadest setting is called Request Throttle Memory, with a default of 200MB, where its purpose is to regulate the cumulative impact of all concurrent large file uploads on the ColdFusion server. The adjacent setting for Request Throttle Threshold, default of 4MB, is the minimum size of file uploads for which the throttle should regulate, anything below the threshold is ignored by the throttle. Further up on the Settings page is also the new field Maximum Size of Post Data, with a default of 100MB.

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