Spring’s Here

It has been some time I have posted anything. So here it is. Another round of nature photographs. Spring (here in downunder) is on the doorstep and my little rose garden is blooming up. Here are few shots taken on a bright sunny day.

Night time photography

Last week I was in Sydney on a vacation trip. I almost did 20K steps each day, walked all over from my hotel to those enchanting places. One evening when all others were tired and decided to take a break, I stepped out with my camera and the tripod thinking of getting some night time photos. It was still a bit of daylight around, so I first went into the St. Mary’s Cathedral to take few snaps from inside. I am not sharing them here on this post though. Once it was dark, I came out of the church and planted my tripod nearby.

Here are few pictures taken during night time. There are also few pictures taken at the darling harbour where unfortunately my tripod wasn’t with me, as I was not destined to be there in the evening. However I was able to get few without much shake.

Darling Harbour – Sydney
Darling Harbour – Sydney

Harbour Bridge
Palm Trees on the pathway – Portobello Cafe?
Car light trails
If you zoom this, you can see people standing at the windows
One of many lamps at the St. Marys Cathedral
Not sure which building was this, was on the other street from the church, but gave me a great photo op

Raindrops falling on my…

Yesterday it was raining heavily. I had opened up the living room blinds to get a good view and some light too. The atmosphere was dull but not so much for me to take a quick nap. So I decided to finish the book I was reading for some time. The book was of my favourite author James Rollins “Seventh Plague” and was very near for completion, some 40 odd pages to go. Seeing the pounding of the rain and the green bushes outside the window, I kept the book aside with HEAVY heart, grabbed my camera and sat down (literally) to take shots, all through the glass. Fortunately the window wasn’t that bad, almost clean, as you will notice there are no blemshes in the photos that you could identify.

I am satisfied with the way every photo has turned up, all through handhold – no tripod. I would say out of 100 odd snaps, 3 or 4 came out blurred due to the shake (the cold was making by body shiver a bit). By the way, all the snaps are taken in Aperture Priority

After I took these shots I realised that I didn’t have to go anywhere out. All the subjects were in my back and front yard, where all the action took place.

No more commentary now. Here are the snaps, 15 of the best.

If you need EXIF data on any of the pictures, please let me know. There are many snaps loaded this time and was a bit lazy to pull metadata on all of them and type them in..!!

Again as always, do let me know how you find them. Opinions welcome.

The Moon

The following images are taken by Canon EOS 7D with a 75-300mm Ultrasonic lens. Shot in Aperture Priority (first two almost full moon images) and complete Manual mode (the crescent moon images) with a tripod. The Exif (Exchangeable Image File Format) data is given under each shot.

Taken on 16th May 2019; f/13; 1/400sec; 0 EV; ISO 500
Taken on 16th May 2019; f/8; 1/1000sec; 0 EV; ISO 500
Taken on 8th June 2019; f/5.6; 1/100sec; ISO 400
Note: As an experiment, I tried sharpening the edges which probably have added more white light to the edges but have sharpened the craters.
Taken on 8th June 2019; f/10; 1/80sec; Kelvin Temperature; 0 EV; ISO 320
Taken on 8th June 2019; f/6.3; 1/160sec; Auto WB; 0 EV; ISO 400

These are not perfect images as one would expect, but a good start. I would like to improve upon these shots using correct exposures and get into a darker place while shooting it. To avoid the shake, while shooting the crescent moon I used the self timer of 10 secs. I have the remote but was a bit lazy to hook on..!!. Due to the delay, the moon shifted to the lower left corner when viewed on the camera screen. Next time I will be sure to use a remote or a 2 sec timer.

I will be glad if critics can suggest a better approach to take moon shots and opine on above. Truly appreciate readers feedback.

Cloud Expressions

These images are straight from my backyard. You get only few seconds to capture the ever changing sky.

All images are unfiltered, which means they are not digitally manipulated other than for sizing. I used the GIMP application to add the watermark and resize (file size avg. 3MB to file size avg. 600KB) every picture.

Do let me know how you find them.

Next I will post the MOON…!!

Story of Google

Recently I read a book on Google called “Google It”. It wasn’t a biography of a person but an insight into the organization itself and their founders, of course. I don’t like to read biographies of people, but this was something different. When I read the first page I got intrigued and finished the book in 3 days. It’s catchy and brilliantly written by Anna Crowley Redding. Some of you might have read the book or know enough on Google, but for those who haven’t been fortunate here’s an excerpt. Disclaimer – This article doesn’t intend to reproduce or copy-paste the book itself, instead is a gist of interesting facts, a story of perseverance in my own words.

Most of us know the founders of Google. It is a brainchild of Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin born in Moscow, Russia on August 21, 1973 and Lawrence (Larry) Page born in Lansing, Michigan on March 26, 1973. Both were studying in Stanford University. And as every student they had assignments and homework. Remember they were known to the world only after Google came into existence, so until then they were one among the crowd, nothing special other than their theories and thoughts.

In those years’ web was just in its infancy and internet was not so easily available to the masses. Now that they were student of Stanford, they had access to facilities and resources. If one had to so some research they must scoured through multiple books, articles and talk to people. If lucky, using internet would take at least 30 mins to search something on the web with no guarantee that the search will return expected results. Not much data and information were available in first place and spending time on a search wasn’t an efficient thing at all when you are working on a homework deadline.

Sergey and Larry thought of doing something for this problem and took it as their homework assignment. The year was 1996. Their first ginormous task was to download every page (used Web Crawlers to handle the task) that was on the web and then rank it to index. Oops..this is getting technical. I will not bore you on the intricacies of the process so will not delve into what they did and how they did. But can tell you that wasn’t any easy as they initially thought. Storage and speed were at premium those days. They had to beg, borrow, steal to get their job done. The outcome, an effective SEARCH tool, much faster than what was available. Word went out and students started using it. Everyday student would query, and the number of users started increasing. The duo called their homework/ experiment as BACKRUB, since it helped students as a rub would do for any aches.

Now that the tool was being popular and used by many, they had to continue to support the services they were offering. To do that they had to choose between schoolwork and running BACKRUB. Both being brought up and influenced by very intellectual and studious families, were expected to continue and get their PhDs. So, there was an emotional angle too before they could decide. They knew what they want so both dropped off from Stanford and donated 100% to the service. They must now move out of the college for two reasons, one was they were no longer a student and secondly, they now require a large space to carry out their operations which required housing of many computers, storage devices, cabling etc.

Later when the tool became popular the name BACKRUB sounded odd and not catchy. So, the duo met with their friends and colleagues to think on a new name. Many suggestions were dismissed. Someone yelled GOOGOLPLEX which immediately got accepted and short formed as GOOGOL (Googol is 1 followed by 100 zeroes or 10 to the power of 100).

On 15th September 1997 Larry and Sergey registered the domain name but misspelled it as GOOGLE. The mistake was catchy and better than the original, so they kept it. That’s how GOOGLE was born.

The issue now was how to generate money to support the ever-increasing cost of running the services as the service offered wasn’t gaining them any profit whatsoever. After many deliberations, they decided to sell their company and go back to Stanford to complete their PhDs. In 1997 they approached AltaVista (the then -year 1995- popular search service provider) and requested them to buy GOOGLE for USD $1M. Altavista rejected the offer. So, they continued with the help of few investors.

On 8th September 1998 GOOGLE Inc. officially became a company. Their first headquarter was in a garage (remember earlier I mentioned they had to move out of the Uni and find a new space) of Susan Wojcicki, the then colleague of Sergey and Larry. In 1998, Google had about 24 Million websites in their database. As the workload increased, they looked out for someone to join them and thus came the first employee (though technically Sergey and Larry were the first and second employee, but were also the owner) of Google, Craig Silverstein.

Wrapping up this article, I would like to take you to key milestones (not discussed already) in the journey of making Google to what it is today.

  • Google’s Motto – “Don’t be Evil”
  • August 1998 – Google DOODLE was born (honouring the Burning Man festival). Designed to commemorate holidays, notable events and achievements of prominent figures. This year it
  • Employee #20 Marissa Mayer – Former President and CEO of Yahoo
  • In 2000, Google launched MentalPlex (An April Fool act, it was a search technology that read the user’s mind to determine what the user wanted to search for, thus eliminating the need for typing)
  • October 2000 – Google launched new service called AdWords
  • September 2001 – Google NEWS was born (to keep people informed of all the news during the 2001 Twin Towers tragedy)
  • August 2001 – Eric Schmidt became CEO; Larry became President of Products and Sergey became President of Technology
  • In 2001 – Google launched IMAGES
  • December 2002 – Google launched FROOGLE (online Shopping)
  • 1st April 2004 – GMAIL was launched
  • 19th August 2004 – Google launched it’s IPO, trading by ‘GOOG’ on NASDAQ
  • In 2006, Google launched another service ‘TRANSLATE’ (to help multilingual communications)
  • Early 2005 – Google MAPS was launched (Google bought KEYHOLE – a digital mapping company – in 2004)
  • On Valentine day 2005 – YouTube was launched, which was bought by Google in October 2006 for USD $1.65 billion
  • In 2008, Google launched its own operating system called ANDROID
  • 15th August 2015 – Google became part of a parent company named ALPHABET. Thus, Larry became CEO of Alphabet, Sergey became President of Alphabet and Sundar Pichai (a long timer) became CEO of Google

Key Terms used in this blog:

Internet: Giant network of Computers

Web: All contents, documents, files, folders and web pages

Web Crawlers (Spiders, Internet BOTS): A program that visits webpages and reads them. Each crawler is on hunt for specific information. Once found the Spider then creates a Database (DB) or Index of what it has discovered, making the information easier to access.

Translate: It’s a free multilingual machine translation service provided by Google. It supports over 100 languages.

IPO: Initial Public Offering

Doodle: A temporary alteration of the logo intended to celebrate notable events, holidays around the world, credit achievements of scientists and innovators.

I hope you will like this excerpt. Do comment.

Science of Photography – Rules

To achieve good results or master a process one must follow certain rules. Photography isn’t an exception. There are few written rules which are said to make your photo look better because you now know HOW to take good photos. Few of the rules are listed below. I would like the readers to add more to it and suggest changes, if any. This blog combines the information of me reading (and later implementing) multiple books on photography picked up from my local library. So here’s rule number 1.

Rule #1: The “Half/ Double” rule
In my previous blogs I haven’t discussed the term Exposure. You obtain exposure by combining the values of Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture. To understand the Exposure concept better, please read the “Glass of Water” analogy. It is the easier way to understand the concept and the only analogy I found thus far. Now that we know what an Exposure means, this rule is about that.

Using any three values an Exposure is achieved, let’s say it’s our INITIAL exposure. Changing one value, will change the Exposure. In order to maintain the same exposure as our INITIAL, if you HALVE one element (either Aperture, Shutter Speed or ISO) you need to DOUBLE the other and vice-versa. For example, if you have a shot setup with a correct exposure of ISO 100, Aperture f/5.6 and Shutter Speed of 1/250, then based on the subject changes decided to cut the Aperture in halve to f/8.0 (remember Aperture is measure in ‘f’ stop and is inverse, so halving it will almost double the value), you would either have to DOUBLE the Shutter Speed to 1/125 (again the same maths as Aperture) or increase the ISO to 200.

Rule #2: The “Rule of Thirds”
When we decide to shoot a prominent subject (a mountain peak, portrait, stationary animal etc.) we generally try to bring the subject in the center of the view finder thinking if we pan the subject in the center, it will be the only center of attraction. This is a false assumption or a myth. “Rule of Thirds” is one of the Composition techniques that allows an off-center composition which is pelasing to the eye and looks more natural. Again you can read more on it from the several available resources, books and internet.

The key elements of your photo should be arranged in thirds. Divide (imaginary or use the Grid Lines, if a feature in your camera) the scene into a matrix of 3×3. The focal point of your shot should be positioned with 2/3rds of the scene to one side, and 1/3rds to other rather than in the middle or close to the edge of the frame.

Source: photographycourse.net

As you see, the stone tower is positioned to left than in the center which gives this photo an appealing sense and a greater value. Make use if those 4 connection dots to position your subject.

All these rules are guidelines. If you don’t follow, no harm, as long as you are happy with your way of subject exposure and composition. Sometimes it is better to not follow the rules to achieve a different perspective, professionals calls it as Breaking the Rules..!!

Please send in your comments, opinions, and any other rules you may know of.

Science of Photography – Focus and Relativity

The following is a guide on the Aperture sizes based on the area of reference. A crude drawing (drawn in Paint), but works to pass on the message..!!

Aperture Focus – Visual

The above diagram displays three different areas in focus, Subject, Landscape and the Horizon. To denote the focal area for each I have given them a unique id 1-Horizon; 2-Landscape; 3-Subject. Refer the following table now.

Unique IdAperture SizeWhat’s in Focusf/stop
1SmallerEntire shot in focusf/32
2MediumMost shot in focusf/11
3LargestSubject in focus;
everything else behind is
blurred
f/4.0 or
f/1.8

The following is a GRAPH (drawn in Visme, an infographic software), visually depicting how the Amount of Light changes when Aperture Size changes and how the Depth of Field (DoF) varies and how the Focus changes. Me being a visual guy, I understand such relativity better when shown in picture.

How to read the above graph:

The larger the aperture (f/1.4, f/1.8) – Less Focus and Shallow Depth of Field
The larger the aperture (f/1.4, f/1.8) – More light can come in
The smaller the aperture (f/22, f/32) – More focus and Deep Depth of Field
The smaller the aperture (f/22, f/32) – Less light can come in

Note: The numbers representing “Amount of Light” are just indicative to show an ascending growth. They are not scientific data. Probably if I research I can replace them with actual scientific unit of measurement called Candela (for curiosity sake,Candela is the standard SI unit for measuring the intensity of a light source for photography), but I won’t. I want to keep this as simple as possible for everyone to understand.

Readers, please let me know what you think about the visuals. Do they help?

Science of Photography – Elements

1: Shutter Speed

“Amount of light let in through the shutter is directly proportional to the amount of time the shutter is opened”

For example, an exposure of 1/500 of a second lets in TWICE as light as 1/1000 of a second. The following picture (Googled) might help understand the factor.

Effects on subject with changes in Shutter speed

Usage: On your camera select the Shutter Priority mode (TV or S). Use, when your subject, or any part of your shot is moving or when there are issues with getting enough light for a correct exposure.

2: Aperture

“Controls the amount of light that is allowed through it to hit the sensor”

A large aperture enables more lightto hit the sendor for the duration of time shutter is open. Aperture is usually expressed in f/stops (f/1.8, f/5.6). For example, a SMALLER f/stop (f/2.0, f/3.5) number indicates a LARGE aperture . Conversly a LARGE f/stop (f/16, f/22) number indicates a SMALLER aperture. The following picture (Googled) might help understand the factor.

Effects on subject with changes in Aperture

Usage: To acheive a good “Depth of Field-DOF” – The amount of an image that is in FOCUS. Shallow DOF means little of the image is in focus; Deep DOF means more of the image is in focus.

On your camera select Aperture Priority mode (AV). This mode gives you the freedom to select desired aperture value such as f/16 or f/22 to get a deep depth of field, while the camera take care of the shutter speed and ISO.

3: ISO

“Measurement of your camera sensor sensitivity to light”

Higher the ISO number, the camera is more sensitive to the light and produce more digital noise.

The higher the ISO the picture will have more noise (more grainy)

Usage: Usually most of the advanced cameras will have this set to AUTO. It starts from 100 and can go to 1000’s depending upon the size of the camera sensor. In broad day light when outside ISO100 works perfectly fine. If you are inside with less light to capture a photo, increase the ISO. In summary, LOWER the ISO when shooting in brighter light, INCREASE the ISO when shooting in dim or less light.

This blog is meant to be a refresher for some and information for others who are just entering into the world of DSLR. By no means I am planning to create or recreate a book on Photography. This is the first blog on the science. More will follow soon.

Trip to Uluru – Day1 Uluru

I have been on many camping trips in my 10 plus years of stay in the USA. First 4/5 years we did strict tent campings, then moved to cabins/yurts, and later started on remote campings (no electricity, no gas, no water, just a wooden or stone made house). I enjoyed every bit of it, being an avid nature lover. My very first camping trip was Uluru since we migrated to Australia. The Outback adventure tour was something out of this world, though. This was a trip that even the trip organizing company (name withheld) didn’t quite know about. This blog is not about the Uluru rock (a.k.a Ayers rock) but the time spent there. One can read about all the facts of Uluru on the internet if interested.

The day came. The plan was to fly from Melbourne to Alice Spring. Stay that evening and start bright and early morning (5am) on a 6hrs trip into the outback. There were 3-4 pick-up locations and our hotel was on the second pick-up point. We three (me, my wife and our son) and other two –  elderly but young couple from Melbourne- boarded with us. It was a mini-bus, a bit set back, as I was hoping for some sort of a rugged 4×4. However, since the group had 15 members, they had to arrange for a mini-bus. The driver, a happy go lucky guy, helped us put our luggage in the caravan attached at the back of the bus which also housed all kitchen stuff – utensils, food etc. Sleepy, we settled in, as the bus made few more pick-up stops and when all were in, we started the arduous journey into the most awaited arid landscape, which I have only heard and read about.  It was something we three have never experienced, not even the Arizona, Nevada landscape come closer to this. We were aghast by the flat land, red sand, sun beaming strong – even in early morning and no human being visible anywhere. It was September of 2015. We choose this month as it is still winter and a better month to be in Uluru.

img_3240

On the way, we stopped to collect woods for our evening itinerary. This trip being completely in the outback, there were makeup tents and cooking areas and common toilets/bathrooms in some areas. New day, new site, a new camp was the theme of this trip. NO permanent establishments on any sites. We later found out that the cooking was to be strictly on coals as we were bare with amenities on this trip, leaving an absolute nomads life. Hence the wood collection. All of the group members soon embarked upon wood hunting and soon there was a huge pile of woods, good enough for that night and early morning. This was then a routine every single day.

woodcollecting

Firewood collection and loading

We were driving through the rugged terrain of Kata Tjuta National Park with the sun blazing up in the sky and air-condition in full swing inside. The temperature was soaring as the day progressed. We were taking it all in what the landscape has to offer. We did stop for some refreshment at one of the locals. Our driver and all of us helped cook breakfast at the facility. A different experience altogether.

20150928_072034Pancakes – from scratch – in the making. There was an area with a shelter provided with a portable gas and a grill. Any bacterias that would be lurking in this facility would have been dead already due to the heat :-). We lived with this assumption for the entire 5-day trip..survival of the fittest?

The afternoon was devoted to enjoying the sites of Uluru, including a visit to the cultural centre to learn about the Tjukurpa (Aboriginal law/religion), a full base walk (10 km loop, 3.5 hours). There was an option to climb the rock but we decided to not do it in order to pay respect to the culture, so we base walk instead. Uluru is a sacred site and Anangu, the indigenous custodians, respectfully ask visitors not to climb it. We all were wondering how the rock could be climbed as we didn’t see a way to do so. The rock is completely smooth with no crevices or outgrowth to hold on to. However, on one side we saw a few metal bars with a rope running along to hold while climbing. But we didn’t see anyone doing so. Glad that people respect the belief of the custodians.

It was then time to view the magnificent sunset on Uluru, with a champagne by the side.

20150925_183507

Uluru – during Sunset

 There were hundreds of tourist buses and thousands of tourist flocking to see the sunset. The shades on the rock vary as the sun sets which is a visual treat. It was time to leave the site as we had another long day the next before we cook our dinner and settle in our remote campsite for the first night. As soon as we were back at the campsite, we all begin doing chores. Some of us started helping in the kitchen, cutting veggies, making the dough, preparing stuff we haven’t seen, few of us brought down the twigs and wood from the top of the van, made a big pile and lit it. The primary objective was not to generate some heat but to make coals. Our dinner was going to be cooked on it soon.

20150926_212804

If my memory serves right, we had a chicken dish, a beef stuff, a vegetarian dish for few and a nice local damper (Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread, historically prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travelers. It consists of a wheat flour-based bread, traditionally baked in the coals of a campfire or in a camp oven: Source Wikipedia). This was an instant HIT. Never had tested such a thing until that evening.

After having a nice warm dinner and a clean-up, we all were given an option to either sleep in the tents (temporary canvas tents already installed on the grounds, enough for all of us) provided or sleep outside in the swags.

20150925_220106-ED

Swagged

The idea of sleeping outside under the open sky was appealing and at the same time was scary as we didn’t know if any night crawlers would want to snug with us. But the enthusiasm overpowered over scariness and ALL of us decided to sleep on the ground. Our bags were sleeping in the tents…!!. It was a unique experience. Sometime in the midnight around 2am, the temperature dropped and we all begin shivering. Good that the fire was burning to keep the area warm enough. We all have positioned our swags around the fire. We were all tired and soon were snoring. We had an early start the next day to view the sunrise over Uluru. Good Night folks…..Sleep tight, don’t let the crawlers bite…!!

Read More

%d bloggers like this: