Archives for posts with tag: Gadget

Last week I was catching up on a few articles on Digital Photography Review (www.dpreview.com), and one article that piqued my interest was this one ‘Roundup: 11 Cool Photography-related Kickstarter Projects’ (http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/10/19/110-cool-photography-related-kickstarter-projects). There were some cool proposals, and one or two of them might make it on my wish list but the thing that surprised me was the number of photography related gadgets that were proposed related to shooting photos on mobile phones. Pretty much all of them were focussed on the iPhone, which should be no surprise given that as a single device it probably has the greatest market share (versus the fragmented number of Android offerings). Even This is different from the fact that for the OS share of the market Android is definitely king in the smart phone space. But I digress. This irked me a little, because I felt like all this mobile phone photography focus was taking eyes off the prize – how do we make “proper” photography even better.

Now don’t get me wrong, I shoot mobile photos. My weapons of light are my digital SLR, my digital point and shoot, and (as a last resort) my mobile phone camera. But the last one I really don’t like. I asked a fellow amateur photographer friend of mine, who is currently in the closing stages of a photo a day for a year, whether he ever takes a mobile phone photo as his entry. He emphatically answered no! His showed me his weapons of light, which he carries with him daily, being his digital SLR or his top end digital point and shoot. And sometimes he carries both. For him, quality is everything.

So what do I think are the strengths of using a mobile phone camera. We both agreed that the ability to document at any time what was happening was a big strength. You know, pull out the phone and docu-shoot what is happening now. The ability to share the photo instantly on any social networking site, upload to the cloud, or even post to my blog was a big bonus as well. It is the one device that you have on you all the time, regardless of where you are. And the plethora of photo software options that you can install through either Google Play store or iTunes is incredible. But in my opinion there are too many detracting points around my phone camera for it to be a serious:

  1. pocket fluff is always on the glass (lens)
  2. the sensor size is pretty small so regardless of the quality of the glass the picture quality is average at best
  3. proper zoom is just… absent
  4. exposure capabilities are just poor
  5. low light shooting sucks, wit the flash being a bit mickey mouse
  6. the form factor of these “cameras” is just bad.

This list in itself would encourage me to relegate the mobile phone camera to the scrap, but it is probably the most common weapon of light I use to shoot at the Pok – and of course he hams it up for the camera too. Quickly followed by “show me Daddy!”

I trawled my phone gallery to see if there were any photos that I would be proud to post on Flickr, and of the close to 1,000 snaps I have captured in the last few years I was struggling to pick 10. 10 snaps that stood out by themselves as ones that could compete with what I can capture on a dedicated camera. But I think that these ones are cool. I would be keen to see what other people think, and if they have other “phone” snaps that, without photoshopping, they would be happy to blow up and hang on a wall in their house.

Winter sunrise over the CityReal Life Comic LuggageFiery Sunset SilhouetteStar Spangled Banner in LightsTerritorial DogGull on WatchNeon Tree under the OverpassLeaning Glass WallsSandstone SentinelI guess for me, like my photography mate, I am adding to the wish list a top-end point and shoot that I am going to carry around with me EVERYWHERE. Add maybe an eye-fi card to have some wireless capability. And hopefully up my game by shooting more often – maybe even daily. Me thinks the Canon Powershot G15 is my target addition to the light arsenal.

Next clue on my site header photo – the building has appeared in a James Bond film.

I originally thought that the title of this post was going to be “Is My Garmin Evil?”, having only just purchased a Garmin Edge 800 GPS bicycle trip computer earlier this year. Previously I had a crappy old Trek trip computer that kept on losing the link to the cadence sensor. Finally it gave up the ghost and I splurged on a Garmin. It is not the most user friendly interface, and I was surprised how chunky it was when I got it. But what a cool little gadget! After finally figuring out how to configure my custom screens, and setting up a few bike profiles (I have three – ‘Road Steed’, ‘MTB Steed’, ‘MTB Steed + Potatoes’ i.e. Pok), it has brought a level of visibility and tracking to my rides that I never had before. At first it told me to stop eating the pies and pedal faster, but being able to track my routes (or not when the steed is locked into the indoor trainer) has been absolute gold dust.

My Garmin Edge 800

So after getting the device, I set up a Garmin Connect account and religiously logged every ride into the cloud. Even reviewed my rides on the player to great enjoyment – only to get blown away after reviewing a TT ride that Dave Zabriskie did in this year’s Tour of California.

But here is where the devil steps in. I was quite proud of my GPS purchase, feeling like I stepped up into the big leagues, so was talking a lot about it with my fellow cycling colleagues at work. That is when one of them – AC you know who you are – piped up and said “Your ride doesn’t exist unless it is on Strava!” The darkness started descending…

I replied “Strava? What is Strava? Can you spell that? What is the URL?” So now my interest was piqued, in a terrible way. I was busting to get home and jump on the net to check out this “Strava”. The devil now had me hook line and sinker. I created an account, and loved the fact that it called me an athlete. At this point I had no idea about segments and leaderboards, but I was a happy little cyclist. I uploaded my first ride – this year’s 40km Ride Around the Lake (www.ridearoundthelake.org.au) and was pretty chuffed that I was 3rd in my time after setting off in the last group and giving it a good belting. But as others started logging their rides I noticed I finished 5 out of 6. OK not so good.

So I thought to myself, ‘Surely there are routes that I could be the KOM on’. So off I went to discover how bad a rider I was. It is pretty disheartening to see yourself in the lower half of the leaderboard by a good 15km/hr slower than the top dogs on a route that you have belted out and is one of your local rides. Disheartening is an understatement, totally deflating is probably the more accurate description. But the evil that Strava plays on is the competitive nature of every cyclist – I gotta go faster and beat that time!

The good part of Strava is that it has motivated me. Motivated me to keep riding, upping the kilometres, and religiously tracking every one of my rides. The evil part is what it has done to my regular night training rides. I scope out my route, analyse the segments on Strava and then for a short 300-600m or so in the middle of my ride I try to go out and absolutely smash it. Just for a KOM. Of course the Strava trophies will keep piling up, and I get PRs, and my followers give me the kudos. But I reckon I am going to write myself off one day trying to get one of these KOMs.

There is a route around Canada Bay, commonly known as the Bay Run, which has numerous segments marked up on it. I targeted one segment in particular because it is a good indicator of how I am progressing -the N-S route along the Iron Cove duplication bridge. 400m of paved flat goodness. My first couple of feeble attempts were not well thought out, I was hitting the start of the segment at less than 30km/hr, no chance for a Top 10 let alone a KOM. But then I had an ingenious scheme. I had just finished the two day 200km Sydney Ride to Conquer Cancer (http://sy12.conquercancer.org.au/site/TR/Events/Sydney2012?px=1142452&pg=personal&fr_id=1070) the weekend previous – and after months of training with a pretty good hit-out on the ride, I had steel in my legs and bravado in my ride. To add to my scheming, I plotted a new route that dropped me in from the North on Victoria Road and allowed me to get up to 45km/hr at the start of the segment. I got on the route and absolutely buried myself as deep as I could go. I got to about 50m to go and ran out of steam but the momentum I had gained carried me fairly well in my mind at the time. I couldn’t wait to get home and connect up the Garmin to see if I had any success. This is the truly evil part – I rushed home, kicked my wife of the laptop, and plugged in the GPS into the USB slot…. Uploaded new rides… then boom 3rd place! Awesome, 3rd place! 50.3km/hr! Awesome! Quick let’s check out the Leaderboard in more detail – WHAT! The guy who was in first place clocked 100km/hr? How could this be? Is he the spawn of the devil? how could this be? He bettered the one other guy that was ahead of me by 48km/hr.

I was fuming.

I told my wife that this guy had to be a friend of the devil. How could he have possibly logged that fast a ride. He was faster than Cav, Griepel, Sagan, and Farrar all rolled into one. He was robbing me of a 2nd place.

At that point my wife, with the cold hard sense of someone who couldn’t give a sh!t about this website informed me “he must have left his GPS on his bike while he had it connected to his roof racks on his car.” My wife is not stupid. And with that she shook her head and left me in front of the website to suck eggs.

So is Strava evil? Maybe not, because it has motivated me to ride and train. The daily updates I get from all my cycling buddies get me fired up. But listen here Mr 100km/hr Speed Demon, I have you in my cross-hairs. Time to giddy up and spin a bit.

 

Lucifer: Father of Pok – go spend a week’s wages and buy a power meter.

 

It was an early start to the day for this photoshoot. I caught the first train from Town Hall to North Sydney crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge before sunrise. Very quiet ride, and I can tell you I was missing the zzzz’s. My partner in photo shooting crime, Grumpy Burton, picked me up in his jeep to head to the target spot at Middle Harbour. We got there just as pre-dawn hit, and what looked like some interesting cloud formations turned out to be a messy wash of sky. We were greeted to one of the many cruise ships visiting Sydney. The results were a bit disappointing, but I have washed a few of the shots through Photoshop to bring out some of the colour in the clouds. Middle Harbour Sunrise - Cruise Ship entering Sydney Harbour Middle Harbour Sunrise - Sun Peaking through the Clouds  Middle Harbour Sunrise - Sun struggling after its riseAnd it looks like we weren’t the only ones out and about. Middle Harbour Sunrise - PaddlersEven though it was not as striking a morning as we hoped, Grumpy pulled out a handy little camera carrier. Middle Harbour Sunrise - Quadcopter launchingGrumpy built this quadcopter himself, and it is a cool not-so-little flyer. It has four carbon fibre rotors with brushless electric motors and electronic controllers. It even has a GPS to hold its position. But the best mod that Grumpy has installed has to be the Go-Pro HD camera that he has pinged to the front and that you can see in the photo above. He has uploaded the video from this morning on the YouTube, check it out below. You can see me plenty of times in the video on the edge of the cliff at Middle Harbour.

Super cool! Grumpy is a pretty sharp shooter himself, check out his Flickr page – Grumpy Burton Flickr. His blog site is Fotonic Exposure and it is over on Blogger.

If anyone is interested to know where the location for this shoot was, have a look at the map below. The green arrow is the point where we were shoot and Grumpy was flying.

Middle Harbour Sunrise Shoot Map

Next clue for my header photo – the building is located in a large European city. Time to giddy up and plan the next shooting excursion.

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