Panoramas are the next level in photographic representation

I can't believe I'd never seen this before. My housemate Alok showed this to me yesterday. is probably one of the world's foremost websites for super high quality panorama photos. 

For instance, the only high quality known panorama of what it's like at the Summit of Mount Everest:

Definitely click through to see the full panorama, it is breathtaking. Apparently this was taken with 3 exposures stitched together. Over a hundred people have died trying to climb this mountain just to see this sight.  


A few other amazing ones -- ever seen a sunrise on a snowy beach in Denmark? This one is especially remarkable because you can't observe the observer. 

Or how about a panorama of what Neil Armstrong saw on the surface of the moon? Along with nice audio of exactly what went over the radios during that famed Apollo 11 flight.

Whether it is the zen nature of an observerless observer or the sheer visual splendor of places you may never go... I for one am a fan of panoramas. If deepening our appreciation for life and art can be brought by a dedication to truer representations of experience, then panoramas are just one of many artistic mediums to achieve that. 

Nocturne by Vincent Laforet

I *loved* the visual style of this short film made by acclaimed filmmaker / photographer Vincent Laforet. It was shot with the brand new Canon 1D Mark 4 at 1080p and ISO6400. Brilliant work.

It also highlights what utterly amazing work you can do these days with < $10,000 in digital camera equipment and Macs running Final Cut Pro. You still need the talent, you just don't need the bankroll.

Technology frees the artist to create, ever more unencumbered. That's real empowerment.

EDIT: As of this afternoon, Canon asked Laforet to take down the video. Wow, right as it was going viral? Someone doesn't understand social media.

Canon unveils new Powershot G11 and S90: Want, want, want.

I want this camera. Just unveiled today for $500. Been a big Canon fan for a long time, but always wanted something smaller that I could take with me, but not give up quality. This is it. Optical image stabilization, more dynamic range, anti-noise, can save RAW format, can be used with a flash gun... I want it.

Interesting exercise in miminalism: Canon actually reduced megapixels! From 14.7 for the Powershot G10 to just 10 for the Powershot G11. But they've optimized for the right thing: low light capability. Who needs 14.7 megapixels when 10 is more than you could ever possibly want? But if I can take photos in darker places than ever, that's awesome.

They also released the Powershot S90 too --

Looks same without the hot shoe, and slimmer, and $100 less, and f/2.0 at 28mm. Full manual, RAW, and larger aperture? Might be even better.

I used to be willing to carry around an SLR at all times, but moving to San Francisco has really put a damper on that. Just can't lug a camera around everywhere while biking/riding the bus, etc. And as always, the best camera in the world is the one you have on you.

Kodak Gallery breaks the cardinal UGC rule: Let users own their stuff

I recently had a problem with Kodak Gallery. I made the mistake of using them for some photos about six or seven years ago, when I didn't know any better. Someone at Kodak has decided to make a buck off of this mistake, and the mistake of hundreds of thousands of other poor souls who also became Kodak Gallery users. They said they would delete our photos if we didn't buy a bunch of stuff.

I spent a couple hours writing a simple ruby script that let people download their full Kodak galleries without resorting to paying exorbitant fees to get an Archive CD. Or in the case of one user, NINETY archive CD's.

Here's the comment I received earlier from a Kodak Gallery user named Deepak Jain this evening that blew me away:
I've been using Kodakgallery since 2003 (when there weren't many options and I figured Kodak was a good enough name to stay around). I didn't even mind buying stuff form them until photographs became passe.

I even tried to buy their Archive CD except their system can't process > 40,000 images via Archive CD.

They keep canceling my order without comment. [ed: emphasis mine]

(Current photo storage: 62.532 GB Used,
219 galleries,
Your Archive CD Pricing:
Number of Photos: 42666
Cost of your CD: $667.85 FYI).

Works like a champ. Send me an address and I'll send you some beer or money or something.

It's one thing to charge, and it's another thing to charge a user $700. But to not even be able to process that order is incompetent and absurd. To be honest, I made the same mistake. I thought Kodak was a good enough brand. Evidently good enough to eat 70 gigabytes of cherished photos and require an open source ruby script to extricate it.

Deepak, I'm glad the script ended up being useful for you. User generated content sites of any kind should heed this rule: Let users download their data. Making a buck is fine, and in fact necessary. But when you're dealing with people's memories, do not hold them hostage.

Dark camera flash with infrared / UV light could revolutionize low light photography

This is some really phenomenal core technology that could finally solve the classic problem of blurry low light photos. The leftmost photo is a photo taken with a dark flash, and the 2nd photo is one taken using ambient light at high ISO (noisy!). The 3rd photo is the synthesized version that actually looks even better than the 4th reference photo taken with a long exposure.

As a photographer, one of the hardest tradeoffs has always been ISO (fast shutter but noisy, vs slow shutter but blurry) and whether to use flash (annoying, noticeable, vs. having enough light). But this sounds like best of all worlds.

At the very least, tech-savvy paparazzi will now be able to take low light photos undetected.

If I had more hours in the day, I would want to do more music and portrait photography

Like this one of my friend Mike and the band he is lead guitarist for -- The Fancy Dan Band. Must have been over a year ago!

Portrait photography is about capturing that kernel of humanity. It's the hardest to do well, but the most rewarding by far. Makes me sad my SLR is sitting alone on a shelf.

But there are many other things to be created in the meantime.

Cole and Roberta

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be asked to photograph my friends Cole and Roberta for their wedding recently. We had a blast doing portraits at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. Here are just a few of the highlights...

Shot with a Canon 5D, 35mm f/1.4L, and 85mm f/1.2L lens, all natural light.

Money = Happiness only if it's an investment in experiences. I'm living proof.

Money can lead to greater happiness for the person possessing it and those around them, if it is used to buy experiences, not possessions.

This explains why a spoiled rich kid can have all the toys in the world and still be empty inside. Buying stuff is a short term high, but money also lets you experience more too, and that's what matters in the long run. I'd add another aspect to this -- money is needed to let you connect to other people.

Last year, I spent many thousands on pro camera equipment (dSLR, pro lighting gear, top quality lenses and all the accessories). But along the way, I discovered that I absolutely loved capturing the beauty of life in photos. I got to go to concerts for free, get to know party promoters, connect with cool local SF bands, and help them on their road to stardom in some small way with my concert photography. Same with the various models I did promotional shoots with. I got to take photos on editorial assignments with a hip hop magazine Hood Star Magazine, and got to see a side of hip hop and street culture from the inside I would never have seen otherwise.

My first interaction with Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston of Y Combinator was actually through my photos of Startup School. Shortly afterwards, one of my photos appeared on the front page of the Startup School -- with thanks from PG himself. Awesome, I thought. It might well have given us a small push when we applied for YC later that year. When Jessica invites me to an event these days, she makes sure to ask if my camera is coming too. =)

I also learned the wonder that is a great, functioning user-generated content community (Flickr), and it helped Sachin and I every step along the way as we designed Posterous. Flickr addiction taught me the virtuous cycle that can happen when personal creativity gains a very real audience.

So I think the money was well spent. The experiences it purchased altered the very trajectory of my life. It put me in touch with new and awesome creative people, let me express myself in a powerful new medium, and in aggregate I'm happier and more engaged in my life now than ever before.

The next time you're considering whether or not to drop the cash on that new gadget or that trip or whatnot, think about whether it will unlock new avenues. If it will, consider it an experiential investment. Take that path and good thngs will come.

A good time at Picaro in the Mission. Cheap Tapas and good friends.

Got together Saturday night after Sachin's movers finished dropping off all their stuff. Andalu couldn't seat us, so instead we went down the street on 16th to Picaro. Way cheaper, way better. I love inexpensive food! We were celebrating Sachin's return to the SF Bay, and man am I ever glad we're in the same city again.

 Good times to be had by all. Try Picaro on 16th and Albion. Delicious and totally worth it. The whole meal with sangria cost $25 per person, probably 1/3rd of what we would have paid at Andalu.

 Welcome home, Sachin!