somewhat daily mutterings

/Creations New Site: www.mikethomasarts.com

I recently had the opportunity to donate usage of one of my watercolors to a hospital fundraising effort. The hospital wanted to use the painting for the cover of a brochure. How could I say no? When they asked how to attribute the image, I said, just my name, and a URL for (the then non-existent) www.mikethomasarts.com.

my painting on 'the kentucky bash' brochure

Well, now it exists :-). It's just a placeholder. I may be able to build a business there. Then again, maybe not! At least I can find out how many visitors I get, and know how effective that brochure was as a traffic-grabber (at least until google indexes the site, which it will, now that I've mentioned it here). At this point, most of the hits were created by me repeatedly looking at the site while I designed it.

Posted: Sat Sep 19 16:50:09 -0700 2009

/Creations/Art There's No Action...

...as my Man Elvis (Costello) once said. Why no action at samoht.com? Oh, I've been busy I guess. I'm actually spending a lot more time doing artwork and (minor) journaling, and maintaining a presence for that stuff at flickr.

The Oasis Bar, downtown Littleton, CO

I suppose I could figure out how to write an API for my little homegrown weblog engine to allow me to post stuff from flickr to this site autmagically, but I'm not driven enough to do that (yet). So bear with me as I obsessively attack something (the art thing) that I will eventually give up again.

Posted: Thu Jun 14 08:17:36 -0700 2007

/Creations/Photography Aperture 1.5 Rocks

I updated to Apple Aperture 1.5 a few days ago. The upgrade went smoothly, although the library conversion preview generation process took a very long time (a couple of hours for my 27G library). Now that I've had a few days to use 1.5, I can say with confidence that this is a really great release. The whole app seems much snappier, and they've added a bunch of new features. Here are the changes (features and fixes) that are important to me:

  • All operations and GUI controls seem more responsive. For example, I can actually start reviewing images in fullscreen immediately after upload now, without suffering tons of whirling beachball cursor activity. I believe this might be because Aperture is working on the preview images, rather than doing everything in memory. I don't know the architecture of Aperture, so I could be completely wrong. But who cares -- the performance is great now.
  • More stability. I had a lot of trouble with crashes moving into and out of full-screen, using two monitors, in previous versions. I haven't had a crash on the new version yet.
  • Much finer control of sharpness adjustments
  • Better color control (more at James Duncan Davidson's site). You can now make saturation/hue/brightness adjustments to particular ranges, which saves trips to Photoshop or Elements.
  • A much better, centered loupe mode that is not attached to the cursor. You can place the loupe on the image and leave it there, and make adjustments while watching the effect -- great!

Posted: Fri Oct 06 12:05:01 -0700 2006

/Creations/Photography Canon to Offer 50mm f/1.2L

A fellow flickr-phile just told me that Canon is releasing a 50mm 'L' lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.2. This is great news! I recently bought the fastest 50mm, the f/1.4, and love it but I wondered at the time why there was no 'L' offering. So now there is, and I'm going to have to start saving for it!

Posted: Sat Sep 02 09:36:49 -0700 2006

/Creations/Photography Hello, My Name is Mike Thomas, and I'm a Flickr Addict

I've been a flickr member for, oh, about a year. However not until recently, when I became a member of a photo club that uses flickr as its "photo repository", did I really spend much time on the site. Oh, how I wish I had that innocence back. Once I discovered the array of interest groups, commenting and organization tools, and some truly top-notch photographers and artists, I was hittin' the flickrack-pipe hard.

But it's not all wine and roses. My ass is sore from sitting here, rating others' photos and having others rape ... I mean rate ... mine in turn. Here's one example of a favorite photo of mine getting the business (click the photo to see the comment-carnage at flickr).

portland botanical gardens

On the other hand, I've learned that I'm a reasonably successful "bokeh photographer" if that's even a legal construction. I guess I have an eye (and certainly an appreciation) for that style of photo. I've also "met" some pretty interesting, talented folks, so in the balance it's been a great time.

If you would like to follow my flickr-diction via RSS, flick, I mean click, here.

Posted: Sun Aug 27 21:42:27 -0700 2006

/Creations/Photography HDR Photography Experimentation

I've lately been experimenting with HDR (high dynamic range) photography. So what is HDR, really, you ask? In a very small, imprecise nutshell HDR uses software to combine multiple identical compositions, taken at different exposures (under exposed, normally exposed, and overexposed), to take advantage of details not captured in the normal exposure.

Imagine taking a picture of a very contrasty scene. You've probably taken photos where the detail is either hidden in the shadows or in the highlights. If you were to adjust your exposure to get detail in one area you lose it in another. The HDR solution is to take multiple shots with different exposures and combine them into a 32-bit image (which is unviewable), and then to use another softare tool (a tone mapper) to smash the bits back into a viewable depth (8, 12, or 16 bits).

Cottonwood Tree [HDR Gallery]

When used properly (not saying that I do), HDR can provide incredible results. Sometimes though, it can come off as a gimmicky processing trick (probably like mine). I'm experimenting to find the right combination of techniques to get natural-looking improvements on very contrasty scenes.

The software I used to do the HDR processing of the photos in my HDR Gallery is Photomatix Pro, which sells for about $100. There's a lot more detail on HDR and other dynamic range enhancement techniques on that site.

Posted: Sat Aug 05 15:11:30 -0700 2006

/Creations/Photography Men in Kilts: Photo Album Posted

I just posted a new album of photos taken at the Scottish Heritage Fair in Elizabeth, CO. I attended because my nephew Chad was a contestant (and took 2nd place, BTW!). The last time Chad competed I shot video; this year was all still photography. My main tools for this shoot were the Canon EOS 30D and 70-200mm 4.0/L lens, mostly monopod-mounted.

Chad throwing the stone [more]

Posted: Sun Jul 16 15:56:28 -0700 2006

/Creations/Photography Backyard Denizens

I put my new Canon 70-200mm f4/L lens to work today in the back yard. I had just refilled the bird feeders and thrown some feed on the ground, so the activity was very high, especially amongst the squirrels. This gave me a perfect opportunity to practice using the lens.

Backyard Squirrel, f4 @ 1/500, ISO 400 [bigger]

Backyard Squirrel, f6.3 @ 1/500, ISO 400 [bigger]

Both shots show off the decent-to-neutral bokeh that the lens provides fully open (not as nice as a faster 'L' lens, but this lens costs less than half the f2.8 version, and weighs a lot less, too!). The shots also show off the sharpness of the lens (the second one especially so, I think). I used Apple Aperture to "process" the photos. I did a bit of levels adjusting, but no additional sharpening.

Posted: Tue Jul 04 11:15:19 -0700 2006

/Creations/Photography Capturing Action with the Canon D30

Here's a shot of our dog Katie at play. Not that this is the greatest picture, but it was easy to capture in dusky conditions with the D30. I put it into "sports" mode, which automatically puts it in continuous shooting mode (at 9 frames per second), with "AI Servo" focus and shutter speed priority. I really should have bumped the ISO (this was shot at 400), but I just didn't think of it (I was having too much fun yelling "Yeah, baby! And I'm spent...").

Katie at play. f5.6 @ 1/50, ISO 400, cropped

I've been experimenting with raw capture, which gives you more options when adjusting photos in software such as Apple's Aperture. As luck would have it, I shot some outdoor pictures recently (not worth publishing) with the camera set on tungsten white balance. Whoops! With a little practice, I was able to rescue them by setting the white balance in Aperture.

Posted: Mon Jun 26 19:59:51 -0700 2006

/Creations/Photography Shots from new Canon EOS 30D

I'm very excited to have bought a new camera today - a Canon EOS 30D digital SLR! So far it has way exceeded my expectations. Everything is fast to the point of being instantaneous. It's so nice to just be able to point and get immediate capture of whatever you've pointed at, with no waiting for focus, shutter lag, image store, etc.

I bought the body with the 17-85mm IS (image stabilization) lens. This lens is amazing. The photos shown here were shot hand-held in relatively low light. The camera's image quality is awesome. The sunflower was shot at 800 ISO, and the image quality is still great.

Flower Bud, f5.6 @ 1/50, ISO 200

Sunflower, f5.6 @ 1/50, ISO 800

More on this great camera later.

Posted: Sun Jun 18 22:17:20 -0700 2006

/Creations/Photography Bees-ness

I was sitting in the garden the other day. The bees were very busy, and the light was just right, so I had to take a couple of shots of them doing their business.

Both shots were handheld, taken in slanted, late-afternoon sunlight with my Canon G3. I didn't do a lot of processing on the photos, just a little tweaking of sharpness and contrast in iPhoto.

Posted: Sat May 28 17:29:44 -0700 2005

/Creations/Art "The Machine"

As promised, another scan of artwork from my "archives". This one is in pastel and pencil.

The Machine, 1987

Posted: Sun Dec 28 14:17:34 -0800 2003

/Creations/Art Another Scan from My Sketchbooks

I was reminded, as I continued scanning my sketchbooks, that I once had a sort of fetish about drawing packages. By "packages", I mean packages wrapped in brown paper and tied up with twine. Really. Here's one:

Package, 1986

It's also around this time (and perhaps on this very drawing) that I started my "scribble" thing. It might be hard to tell in the above image, but there are light scribbles on this drawing, especially near the twine and the sides of the box. I don't know how it started, but it continued with future pieces, including my larger paintings and pastels.

Posted: Mon Dec 08 22:24:57 -0800 2003

/Creations/Art First Art Collection Published

I mentioned in a previous post that I'd bought a Scanner and started scanning my artwork. I've completed the first "collection", from my high-school and early college days. It has been published to my .Mac site. Eventually I'll update my artwork page to reference the collections.

Robot, 1979

Posted: Sun Dec 07 07:51:40 -0800 2003

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