December 2007

New Year’s Eve in Nürnberg is unreal. Everyone has serious fireworks and at midnight the whole city erupts.

Nbg Fireworks

Here’s our updated and captioned photo album from our recent Christmas trip to Florida. The album was created using an amazing and free program called JAlbum.

Ups and downs of the week.

  Home at last – Good to be home where I can relax and not deal with airplanes.

  Air travel – The industry has sunken to a new low. The whole system is badly broken and needs government regulation now.

 Celtics – 24-3 and still going strong. This is turning into a banner year for Boston sports fans.

  Weather – Is it my imagination, or is this the worst start to winter we’ve had in years?

 New Camera – I am seriously impressed. So easy to get great pics.

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After a grueling trip down here which only proved how screwed up the airlines are, we finally had a chance to enjoy the weather and see some sites. Pics of Ponce De Leon Springs state park and St. Augustine can be seen here. I’ll post more in detail when we get back.

This is one happy little guy. His hole is right next to the wall where I feed the birds. He scurries back and forth filling his cheeks with seeds and carrying them back to his den. He must have quite the stash in there by now. Chippy Chippy Chippy Chippy

As I wrote a few posts ago, I bought myself a new camera. I toyed with the idea of a full Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, but they’re pricey and I felt I’d be better served starting with a lower priced model so I can learn more about digital photography before jumping into the high end of the field. So after some research, I settled on the 8MP Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18. This is a single lens reflex camera and it is digital, so it qualifies as a DSLR, but it’s still restricted to the single, permanently mounted lens (although you can add adapters and multipliers). The lens has an amazing range of 28-504mm, although at the extreme zoom end, the pics are not as sharp as higher end DSLR/lens combos produce. That’s fine. I can live with that. It also has a bit of an issue with digital noise at ISO levels above 200, but again, I can work around that. I knew all this before purchasing it. But I figure it’s only fair that I won’t get $2000-quality images from a $300 camera.

So here are a few pics, resized for this blog. Click on the images for a larger view. I’ll point out some of the pros and cons with each image. All these shots, btw, are taken on the iA (Intelligent Auto) mode. In other words, the camera did all the work. All I did was point and shoot. These are also processed as JPGs by the camera. The camera gives you the option of storing pictures as RAW files and processing them yourself. I will definitely get into that down the road once I’m comfortable with the camera. 

Here are a few pics of some birds feeding in my back yard. Note the very fine detail visible on the back of this female cardinal. This shot was nearly at full zoom with extreme cropping to frame the bird. It was also shot through a window with some glare and dirt on the outside of the glass.

Female Cardinal

Now here’s a shot of a woodpecker taken at about the same time. Note how it’s slightly less sharp. There were some differences in my shooting location. This shot was taken from a little further away and from a different window, and this particular window has some ivy hanging in front of it, all of which combined to mess with the auto-focus.


Here’s another cardinal sitting on a branch straight out from the window. Note how the auto-focus really focused on the tree trunk and not the bird.


Now here are some doves sitting along one branch. I could not get the camera to focus on the doves. Maybe it was because they were the same color as the surrounding trees, I don’t know. Note that the branches to the left and past the doves are in focus.


Now for some positives. Here are a few pics of the garden under my window. I love the color balance of this camera. This is very, very accurate to what I saw. My previous camera had a problem rendering greens properly. Not so with this Lumix. The focus here is also pretty sharp, but that is due to the generally flat field (nothing in the foreground or background to confuse things).

Snow and Ivy Snow and Ivy

Finally, here’s a picture of my impossibly cute cat, Callie, sitting on top of my wife’s dresser amongst some stuffed animals. This was shot in fairly low light, so the ISO was above 200. Note the noise in the background, especially on the wall behind her. Again, the trade-off is that this camera is very quick to fire up and get the shot and it captures images like this which would be seriously underexposed by a typical point-and-shoot camera.

Which one is real?

I’ll keep posting images as I learn. Hopefully they’ll get better and better and one day I’ll look back at this post and laugh at the rookie quality of these images. We’re heading off to Florida tomorrow, so I’ll have some sunny images to post soon. We’ll be staying in St. Augustine for a few days. St. Augustine is known for its winter lights festival, so I’ll get to try some night shots.

Update: Here are the pics from Florida. The night shots came out pretty well.

Ups and downs of the week.

  Vacation time – Off to Florida and some warm weather.

  Backaches – Bad muscle pull this week. Just in time for vacation.

 Timing – Rain tomorrow until after we leave. Then snow.

  Airlines – Fares going up, service going down.

 New Camera – I think I’m going to like it.

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We’re getting our first significant snow today and the birds were out stocking up. I had a virtual baseball game in my back yard. Cardinals vs Bluejays.

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Ups and downs of the week.

  School’s out – Quiet at work and no more papers to write.

  Winter -  6″-8″ of the white stuff coming tomorrow.

 Timing – This storm could have been next weekend when we’re trying to fly out of here.

  MLB steroid report – While I have no pity on steroid users, the report smacks of sensationalist slander.

 Fireplaces – Nice on a cold night.

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I was buying myself a new camera from Amazon and tossed in a Havoc Heli for the fun of it. It was only $24 at Amazon, although Target sometimes has them as low as $15.  Pretty cool little gadget. The cats go bonkers over it.

Havoc Heli


As for the camera? It make take a bit to get used to. It does do very wide angles and the steady shot feature is nice. I need to pick up an SD card because the internal memory will only hold about 6 pics. Here are a couple of quick shots of my cat.

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Note the noise. This is with the camera on the full auto setting and using ambient light in my living room. I’m pretty happy with the white balance (usually incandescent lighting leaves a yellowish tone), but the noise is pretty extensive in low light. I haven’t had a chance to use it outside yet. I was about to go big and get a full DLSR, but it was running close to $900. This Lumix is a “bridge” DSLR (meaning halfway between a point and shoot and a full DLSR). For under $300, I figured I’d relearn to shoot (used to own high end film SLRs) in digital mode and when I get the hang of it, move to a DLSR. By then the 10+ megapixel cameras should be coming down in price.

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