Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dinosaur bone



Originally uploaded by Jeremy Payne

My son loves dinosaurs. He's four. We go to the Museum of Natural History in New York a lot. I often bring my camera, but rarely get any pictures I like.

This one I like.

Support the American Museum of Natural History

Dive Rambling ...



Originally uploaded by Jeremy Payne

I shot this from about 15 feet under the dive boat on the morning of January 10th after diving the Bluff Cut on the Cades Reef off Curtain Bluff, Antigua.

I love diving ... and taking pictures. It wasn't until recently that I put them together. I've been diving for about 10 years and really love it.

Last year, in January 2007, I went diving in the BVI around Virgin Gorda and I dove the Wreck of The Rhone.* I dove with Dive BVI - great folks, would dive with them again any time. I rented a Sea & Sea underwater digital camera ... it was fun, but ultimately unsatisfying.

Earlier this month (January), I went to Antigua with my wife and kids. Since the trip to the BVI I had been itching to try again with a better set-up. My choice of the Canon G9 as my new camera was driven by my conclusion it was a terrific camera around which to build an underwater package. I ultimately put together my own rig with the camera in a housing, with a set of arms, two strobes and a little focus light.

It worked pretty well ... I saw this mature queen parrotfish sleeping in his muccus bag at about 60 feet deep at 6:45 PM on Carpenter's Rock just outside of English Harbor, Antigua.


20080111-IMG_4191.jpg

* The Wreck of the Rhone is an incredible wreck off Salt Island, BVI south of Tortuga ... it was a huge Royal Mail ship that had been converted into the world's first luxury cruise ship. It sunk in 1867 in a late season hurricane and took 173 lives. It is a spectacular dive site. The boat lies in two pieces, one half laid out flat on the bottom and one half that you can swim through.

This is a shot of porthole 26 - purported to be the porthole of the only surviving passenger.

Porthole 26

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Evening thoughts ...

Shout out to my friend KP for helping me tweak and test the template for the website in such a way as to make fit on a 1024x768 monitor.

Y0!

The Dead post was popular ... so popular that I've decided to make a regular "Show of the Week" posting with a link to a streaming version of the show.

I've also decided to add a permanent widget on the "left links" with all-time great shows that will always be there for the listening.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gratefully Yours

On in mid 80's I attended prep school in New England at Andover. It was there I was introduced to the Grateful Dead.

From 1987-1995 I saw the Dead about 75+ times and Jerry Garcia another 15 or 20 times with his side band. I loved and still love their collaborative, seat-of-the-pants style ... when it worked, it WORKED. Very rarely were they bad and often they were amazing. I miss Jerry a lot, but I listen to him almost every day.

The Dead played about 100 shows a year from 1965-1995 ... at least 3,000 live performances and that's probably an under-estimate. The Dead never made a lot of money selling records, and rarely got radio time .... but boy did they tour. Most of their shows were recorded - either by the band or by the legions of amateur "tapers" who were eventually granted official recognition and their own section of each concert hall after a while. Tapes circulated far and wide among fans ... Nakamichi tape decks were the standard issue for serious dead heads.

Back in the analog era, I used to tote around 250 cassettes with live recordings of the Dead.

Now I have 60 gigabytes of digitized recordings of over 500 shows stored on a multi-terabyte networked RAID array feeding a networked music server accessible to me anywhere in the world ... when my own collection gets old (hah!) I have access over the Internet to an archive of over 2,900 live Dead recordings on Internet.org. They have done an amazing job of cataloging the historical record. Until 2005, one could download any show willy nilly ... now (long story) you can only download shows that were recorded with microphones and not those recorded from a direct soundboard feed.

One of my neighbors (who shall remain anonymous!) is a big Dead fan as well. Over the holidays he had told me that the first show he had seen was 1978-04-14 ... so I went to the archive to give it a listen. It is too bad you can't download the soundboards anymore (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more).

Boy is it a good show ... click here to listen to the show streaming from the archive.

My Day Job



Originally uploaded by Jeremy Payne

A little more about me ...

In my "day job", I work for a company called Capital IQ. I've worked there for about 5 years now. We build and sell a web-based research and workflow platform for financial services professionals. It has been a pretty big success and an amazing experience.

At the end of the day we are a technology-driven company. We collect and database loads of information from scads of different sources ... we then scrub it and "link" it up to web-based tools that allow our clients to sift through, filter, retrieve, manipulate, display and otherwise utilize the vast quantities of data we offer in a web and excel-based environment. 10's of thousands of professionals are using our product every day at over 2,500 or so firms worldwide.

Over the last few years, I've learned a lot about modern portfolio and investment theory. I had an MBA in finance, so I had at least some of the terms down ... but the last several years spent talking to hedge fund managers, equity quants and others about the "quest for alpha" has been eye-opening ... the intellectual challenges in and around the area of active portfolio management are fascinating and the rewards for solving them spectacular. This is a theme we will explore on these pages in greater detail in the future.

That said ...

I'm likely gonna buy a DSLR at some point. I've narrowed my choices down to three cameras:

Why? Because they are fast, with superb optics available and they produce clean, crisp images. Don't get me wrong - my Canon G9 is an amazing camera and I'm not talking about getting rid of it. Every time I think I've made up my mind, or someone talks me into the Nikon or the Canon ... I keep coming back to the Olympus. I had an Olympus SLR and just loved it. Leica is making lenses for the 4/3 system. I'm tempted ...

What's the hesitation? Conventional wisdom says go Nikon or Canon for a few reasons.

  1. More "glass" (lenses) out there ... to buy, both new and used and to rent
  2. Bigger sensor = Better Image Quality - particularly in low light
  3. In-body image stabilization not as good as the in-the-lens

On 1) ... seems to be plenty of lenses out there, especially now that the 4/3 system is a "standard". My old 50MM Olympus 1.8 was an awesome piece of glass and it will fit with an adapter on the E-3, as will all my old OM lenses. Also, the availability of compatible Leica lenses is very interesting but they are apparently very hard to get and out of stock everywhere.

On 2) ... the sample images I have seen look terrific, but I worry about this. One of the big reasons I would be buying an SLR would be to get a bigger sensor ... part of me thinks I'm nuts to buy the DLSR with the "small" sensor.

On 3) ... I think 99% of of time, the Olympus in-body system should be just fine.

Dunno ... will be thinking about this ... a lot ...

Monday, January 28, 2008

My New Camera ~ Canon Powershot G9


I love my camera ... a Canon G9. It is a true workhorse. The resolution is high - 12.1 million pixels on a 1/1.7 inch sensor. At low ISO - 80 or 100 and with good light, the results are just outstanding.

The sensor isn't big, but it is bigger than most compacts. Still, at ISO 200 and above you start to see the effects of noise.

While not an SLR this is no simple point and shoot. The feature package and capabilities make this a powerful camera.

Here are some stand out features:

  • Shoot RAW or RAW + JPG or JPG
  • Two Custom White Balances - was very useful underwater
  • Two Customizable Shooting Modes
  • Hot Shoe for E-TTL Flash with EX Speedlites
  • Excellent Macro at super close focus
  • Spot Metering
  • Face Detection AF, 9 Frame AIAF, Flexizone AF
  • Huge bright 3.0" screen
  • 35-210MM 2.8-4.8 zoom
  • 3 stop optical image stabilization
  • Quality underwater (up to 40M) housing from Canon for under $200
  • Hirez 1024x768 15fps movies - looks just terrific when burned to DVD and played on TV
  • Sturdy, retro look and feel with pleasing ISO and mode dials

Takes just GREAT pictures. I use Adobe Lightroom to import and develop the RAW files. We'll talk about Lightroom another day.

Later!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Fake" Tilt-Shift

I read about the photographic technique of making "fake" tilt-shift images in The New York Times on December 9th and by December 29th, the online edition of the The Times of London had "accidentally" (mis) appropriated one of my tilt-shift images hosted on Flickr for a piece they wrote on the technique.

Too funny!

The technique involves taking real-world objects and making them look like scale miniatures by selectively blurring parts of the image. The mind is fooled into thinking the image is on a very small scale - when done right - because such a narrow depth of field so "far" from the camera lens could only be "real" if it were not "far", but merely inches away.

I use Photoshop CS3 to do the selective blurring and a couple of other adjustments to arrive at the final image. Here's a quick tutorial on how to do it:

1) Take the "right" picture ... good candidates have depth, distance and scale. Downwards looking perspectives are helpful. Open the image in Photoshop.

2) Switch to "Quick Mask" mode by hitting "Q".

3) On the Tools panel, select the "gradient tool" ...



4) At the top on the Options bar, select the Quick Mask with three bars - two dark bars around one light - so that you see this:



5) Now place, click and hold the cursor on the place in the photograph you'd like to highlight and remain in focus ... then click-drag the mouse towards the top or bottom of the image. The direction you drag will ultimately be at a 90 degree angle to the focus band you will be defining ... if you don't know what I mean, that means you haven't tried it yet ... go ahead, try it ...

You should now see this:



The red-shaded area will ultimately be what gets blurred. The thickness of the "focus band" is determined by the length of the line you draw when you create the Quick Mask. Play around ... while in Quick Mask mode, you can try over and over again.

6) Press "Q" to leave Quick Mask Mode.

7) Filters > Blur > Lens Blur ... this is only available in Photoshop CS - but I've done the technique with other "blurs" ... you'll have to get creative if you don't have CS.

On the Filter panel, make sure the Source says "None" and click the "Invert" box. Set the Radius to somewhere between 50-90 ... play around and see what it looks like. There are two kinds of preview in the Lens Blur dialogue and the one that says "faster" is MUCH faster ... unless you have serious hardware, stick with "faster".

You should now see this:



A little Specular Highlights adjustment doesn't hurt. Be careful and keep the threshhold high - very near the top of the dynamic range.

Almost done ... click OK.

8) Some optional adjustments ... like salt and pepper ... adjust to taste ...

  • Image > Adjustments > Curves ... Adjust the tone curve to give a bit more boost to the top end ... something like this:

  • Filter > Distort > Lens Correction ... Use a Lens Correction filter to add some barrel distortions ... sometimes helps to add the sense of being very close with a wide-angle lens

  • Filter > Sharpen > Unsharpen Mask ... Use an unsharpen mask with a very low radius (0.6-0.9) and high amount (90-150)

TADA!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Welcome to JSP's Place!

I'm Jeremy Payne and welcome to my website! This is the third incarnation of something that started with a travel blog I tried to keep while away with my family in Antigua in January of 2008. That blog was hosted on Wetpixel.com. Wetpixel is a incredible resource if you want to learn about underwater photography. The second incarnation was a little page I built and hosted on my home server. I use Adobe Lightroom to process my RAW files and manage my digital photo assets and it has a very handy Web Gallery exporter.

I'm a photographer who likes to scuba dive and have recently started to put the two together. If I'm lucky, this website will be full of pictures from the under the world's oceans ... in between, it will be a place for my art, my thoughts and what not.

Back in the film era, I used an Olympus OM-2S a lot.

This is an example of something shot on Kodachrome slide film in 1986, scanned on my HP flatbed scanner in 2007 and then processed in Photoshop/Lightroom.

Boy in Jerusalem, July 1986

I had to really muck with it to get rid of the noise and banding from the scan. Scanning slides is something I need to learn more about. We'll revisit the topic of scanning slides and prints at a later date ...

The first digital I got was a Nikon Coolpix 4500 that I bought in about 2000. The resolution was 4MP and shot uncompressed TIFFs - one every 12 seconds or so! I just sold that camera for $125 to Secondrotation.com.

Now I have a Canon G9 - I love it. A complete shooter that fits in your pocket. Much more on that later ...

Stay tuned!