Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Low light photography

Here's a picture I took at the camera club's workshop tonight. The technique is in using long exposure. The light zapping over the light bulb comes from a torch light. The trick is how to make the person holding the torch light disappear from the picture. The explanation is simple. Let's say the exposure is 15 sec long. A person wearing dark clothes does not reflect enough light to be visible in the image.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eat, drink, and be merry - the Bible says?

Ecclesiastes 8:15 says "So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad."

Note that the same verse continues with: "Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun."

Many people are familiar with the saying "Eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die". To eat, drink and be merry is not an end to itself. That is not what Ecclesiastes 8:15 says. The same verse says "Then joy will accompany him in his work....". To find happiness and satisfaction in one's work is the gift of God, as we can see in the following two verses.

Ecclesiastes 5:19: "Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God."

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13: "I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God."

One interesting point to note is that while a lot is said about finding satisfaction in our work and being happy with what we do, there is equal emphasis on being happy and enjoying what God has blessed us with materially. For clarity, read the all the above verses again.

Still life - Greek couple

Here's another still life shot for your enjoyment.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Still life shot

Here is a still life shot I did just now. Recently I have been buying a number of items to set up a home studio and I thought it is about time I shot something.

What I used: a black muslin cloth, Sb900 flash, tripod, translucent studio umbrella.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Photo book idea

I had a very interesting evening with a friend today. He showed me pictures taken in his travels, which he compiles into a scrapbook. However, instead of using a typical scrapbook, he organizes the photos into A4-size pages (several related photos on each page), prints them out, and binds them into a book using a ring binder. He compiles a photo book after each holiday trip abroad, and he has about ten photo books now to his credit. The pictures tell the story, according to my friend. He does include some narrations here and there, or a scanned picture of his visa, or newspaper clipping, etc. I thought it is such a practical idea and a wonderful way to show off the photos. They are like a personal photo journal. My friend acknowledges that not everybody is keen to go through his photo books, but they are very meaningful to him. I applaud him for his effort. I also think he has a good eye for travel photography. Well done!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Privacy law?

Whenever a business organization finds it to their advantage not to tell you something, they always tell you they are not allowed to disclose the information. This implies that their hands are tied; that they would like to help you, but they cannot; or that the Privacy Law in Australia makes it impossible for them the release the information. The bottomline is, they want to keep their mouth shut. If you want to give them a strong message, don't waste your time arguing with them. Just take your business elsewhere.

My car had an accident recently. The fault lies with the other party; hence I do not stand to lose my excess, but I just had to get my car to the workshop to have it repaired. I was asked to get a quote from a workshop and I was not even asked to get a competing quote from a second workshop. Later, when I asked the workshop what was the cost, I was told they are not allowed to tell me. Isn't this open to abuse? If the workshop is in cahoot with somebody in the insurance company, they can charge the sky for the repair and nobody is any wiser. Ultimately it is the public that stands to lose through paying a higher premium.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Notes to myself: Sekonic light meter

Here's a small note to myself. You can read it if you like.

Today I learned a little bit more about my Sekonic light meter. The Sekonic light meter is supposed to tell me what speed/aperture setting is appropriate for a given ambient light. This is used by photographers to get the correct setting, espcially when you are dealing with films and not digital images. This gets a bit more interesting when you want to get the correct setting for flash photography.

In tonight's test run, at 1/60s shutter speed, the Sekonic was telling me to set the aperture at f1.0. I thought that was quite unusual. Surely I have been doing flash photography at the more usual aperture settings of between f5.6 and f11. Then I remembered that my camera flash was set to to TTL mode, meaning that the flash intensity was automatically adjusted by the camera. It was the same on my SB900 flash, which was automatically adjusting the flash intensity in the auto mode. In fact, in the TTL mode, I don't really need the Sekonic light meter to assist me. I can set the camera speed and aperture at liberty and the camera will automatically adjust the flash intensity. (Note: max sync speed is 1/250sec for flash).

To test this, I changed the flash mode to Manual. Sure enough, the light meter told me to set the aperture at f11 (whereas it was f1.0 before), as the flash was firing at full intensity in the manual mode. The picture came out correctly exposed.

Sharing of songs; now and before

A friend of mine just sent me a song book via email, The file size is just 1.8Mb, but it contains 120 pages of songs complete with guitar chords. At approximately 6-8 songs per page, there are at least 720 songs in it. Before you start thinking about copyright implications, these are very old Christian songs we used to sing in the old days. Actually many of them are not familiar to me. I will get some people to sing them so that I can record the songs and make them more useful for me and for others. I don't know about you, but I love to play the very old songs on my guitar. The lyrics are beautiful and they are great when you are in the mood to worship.

Here is how it was done in the "BC" (before computer) days. When I was a teenager, photocopy machines were not yet available. If we found a song we liked, we would look for the lyrics in the magazines, or borrow somebody's songbook. Then we would hand-copy each and every song into a notebook.To learn the songs, we would tune in to the radio, while the more fortunate ones have the luxury of playing cassette tapes or vinyl records on a player. It was not easy at all to distribute your favourite songs to your buddies. I wonder how many kids today appreciate what is available to them now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Check before buying a used vehicle

A tenant staying at my friend's house had a rude awakening this morning when her car was towed away by a car repossessor. She had just bought a second hand car from a used car dealer. Mine you, it wasn't even from a private individual. Apparently she paid for the car in full, but the used car dealer did not settle the outstanding amount with the bank. The dealer folded up the business soon after the sale and the poor girl is now in a quandary.

The lesson here is: always do a check with VicRoads before handing over your money if you are buying a used vehicle, even if the dealership looks big and established. VicRoads provides such a service. For a small fee, VicRoads will tell you if the vehicle is still under any finance.

But the fruit of the Spirit is ...

Galatians 5:12 says: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

The conjunction "BUT" is a key word that I have often missed when reading this verse. The word is used to join another phrase or idea to show contradiction. In the context of this verse, in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit are the desires of the sinful nature. (Gal 5:16-17: "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.")

Incidentally, Paul was speaking to the Christians in Galatia. Non-Christians often have a false expectation that all Christians are immediately "goody two shoes". Clearly from the above verses, all Christians are warned not to gratify the desires of our sinful nature. We all have a sinful nature, Christians and non-Christians alike. Here is what is opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. Gal 5:19-21: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Note that Paul's reiteration was to the Christians: "I warn you, as I did before....." Christians, like non-Christians, are just as vulnerable to the desires of our sinful nature. The difference is that we have crucified the sinful nature and Paul exhorts us to now live in step with the Spirit.

The lucky country under threat

Australia is a wonderful place for people who have saved enough for retirement, and at the age when their children are old enough to be independent. Young people do not have it so good; like anyone else in any developed country they have to work hard and save hard. An established older person, say in his 50's, would have paid off his mortgages by this time, seen his children through child care and school, and basically only needs to work for his everyday expenses. This he can do by working part time. He can even build enough savings to travel a few times a year. As for health care, Australia has a free health care system for everyone. Indeed this is a lucky country.

However, this may not last forever. When people are left to wallow in comfort they tend to get complacent. Complacency allows threats to creep in. Big corporations start to dictate what the government should do. Australia is becoming a country of big corporations for retail, banking, energy, telecommunications, etc. A country run along corporate lines is only interested in profit and loss, or budget surplus and deficit. It does not put the people's interest ahead of Big Corporation's interest because it reasons that if Big Corporation is happy then people have jobs. And if people have jobs, they have nothing to complain about. Elected government's KPI (Key Performance Index) is winning votes, while Big Corporation's KPI is making more money each year. How else can you explain that even in a recession the local government sees it fit to increase council rates by 10%? Why does the government allow the utility companies to hike up water, electricity, and gas rates at this time? As I see it, the standard of living will come under increasing pressure, beginning with young adults who are just starting out.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

For God so loved the world....

Loving and caring goes together. You can't fully love someone unless you care for him or her. If your spouse says he or she loves you but is totally indifferent to your happiness or well being, then you probably will not appreciate that love very much. Yes, it is possible to love and not show any care. This form of love is very immature. As an illustration, picture a spoilt wife who loves being treated like a princess. She truly loves her husband, but puts her own comfort and well being above every one else's.

A better expression of love is showing care at the same time. Continuing with the illustration above, picture a wife that cares if her husband is unhappy or unwell. She feels sad when her husband is sad. But if she does nothing other than feeling sad or sorry, it is love with concern, but devoid of action.

Moving along next, we have love that is coupled with care and action. A loving and devoted wife not only cares but makes sacrifices for her husband's happiness. By sacrifices, I mean doing things that require time or effort, or simply making way for the other person. This is the way that God loves us. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." God doesn't only loves us. He doesn't only cares for us and does nothing. He loves us, and He sacrificed His only begotten son, so that we may have everlasting life. Love is followed by action, so that the object of His love benefits. That is the way He loves.

In Mark 12:31, Jesus said, the second greatest commandment is "Love your neighbour as yourself." I don't think this verse is exhorting us to simply develop a feeling of love for our neighbour. True love requires a sacrifice that result in someone else's benefit. Not necessarily big sacrifices all the time, but nonetheless giving up of something that is of importance to yourself. The ultimate love calls for the ultimate sacrifice. John 15:13 says "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." That's Christ's love.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Getting the best print for your photo

Today's talk at the camera club was given by Graham, the owner of the Digital Works professional print shop in Hallam. Hallam is about 20min drive from my house and I have sent my photos there for printing. The two hour talk tonight was very educational, as it concerns a very integral part of photography: how to get the best print to show off your photos. I am writing this down so that I do not forget what I have learned tonight. Of course, this is only a fraction of what Graham delivered.

First of all, one must be aware that in the real world what we observe is reflected light. After taking the picture, we view it on a computer, which is transmitted light. When the picture is finally printed, again, we view the picture in reflected light, hence it is closer to reality. Whether on a computer or in print, the picture you see is pretty much affected by the ambient light, which can vary a lot. Even daylight varies at different times of the day. Artificial light is consistent; albeit consistently wrong. To get the best and consistent viewing light on your computer while doing post processing work, Graham recommends the Phillips TLD 95, which can only be ordered from a wholesaler (Middy's - closest to me is on Mountain Highway in Bayswater).

There is a difference in quality between prints made in a mini lab like Harvey Norman, and in a professional lab. Although both use photographic paper (not photo paper as sold in Harvery Norman. Photographic paper is light sensitive, as used in the old days), a professional lab uses a better quality photographic paper which has higher silver halide content. While a mini lab always tries to optimize your pictures for you, a professional lab faithfully reproduces your image on their machine which is calibrated several times a day. Digital works gives you a choice of Matte, Gloss, or Metallic paper. Graham explained the difference between them and when you might want to use them. Also, you can choose to protect the print surface using different types of overlay (not laminate), and mount the picture in canvas, foam board, or just normal mounting board. Plus you can print up to very large sizes.

Graham says that very large prints do not necessarily require anything more than 200 dpi resolution to get good quality printouts. At 200 dpi they may look soft when viewed at close range, but he demonstrated that people viewing large prints always stand a few feet away. At that distance, you don't worry about pin point sharpness.

He believes that the sRGB colour space, although smaller than Adobe RGB, is most suitable for image capturing in most cases, as the printing equipment and photographic paper are only able to handle sRGB. I must say I learned quite a bit about colour gamut tonight. He also explained about the gamma adjustment and how it affects black and white tonal range. I must try this out.

I think that is more or less what I have managed to retain from the 2-hour talk tonight. I walked away convinced that if you are serious about getting the best quality print, you will need to use a professional lab. A home-use printer invariably uses inkjet technology. Even with the better chromagenic ink (of which I frankly don't have a clue about), Graham demonstrated side by side that the lab-processed picture is noticeably better.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Buying a motorcycle for my son

Every parent must have the same angst as I did when my son asked for a motorbike. In no time, when you start talking about it to your colleagues and friends, you'll hear all the horror stories of people they personally know who have had an injury from a motorbike accident. How does one say no to a young adult? They want to experience the world. I myself have gone through the same stage in life and I ought to know the feeling. The only reason I gave in is because I trust my son to do what is right to avoid getting into an accident. Having said that, there is still the element of risk. I can only put my faith in God.

With that philosophically worked out, I went to look at some motorbikes with my son. He had already narrowed down his choice to the Honda RVF (a 400cc bike, which is the maximum permitted for a new rider). As this is not imported new into Australia, we could only look for used ones which are imported from Japan and sold as reconditioned bikes. The first one we looked at was privately owned. Cost: $8500. That was the first time I had an actual look at a real life RVF. I thought the size was about right for him, but we thought it would be prudent to check out the ones in a shop. Going to a proper shop gives you added confidence of after-sales service plus a six-month warranty. We found a few RVF's, in the colour we wanted, and costs $9100 (just a bit more). Happy with what we saw, we decided that was what we will get. I left that place thinking I would buy a bank cheque and come back for the bike the next day. Well, before the day was over, we ended up buying a new bike, but not from this place.

Here is what happened. We decided that the previous shop that sells the used RVF does not have a good range of motorcycle outfit. Before we went to the bank we decided to look for the outfit. After all, you cannot pick up the motorbike if you don't have at least a crash helmet with you. We went to a place on the Maroondah Highway. It was immediately an eye opener for us. There were several big motorcycle dealers there. We went straight to the Honda dealer. It had a huge showroom with all the latest Honda and Ducati models. The bikes were all so very attractive. I couldn't help admiring them. I persuaded my son to get a new bike instead of a used RVF. Fortunately he was sensible enough to let go of his dream bike and listen to me, which made it easier for us to start some serious shopping. For just $2000 more than the RVF, we got him a Honda CB400, which is also a 400cc bike like the RVF, but has all the technological improvements of better brake system, fuel injection, and a water-cooled VTEC engine. Of course, all that on a spanking new body, as compared to the 15-year old RVF we almost bought. What a day! Of course, we also bought the complete motorcycle outfit from them, which was why we went there in the first place.

(Uploaded picture on 10th July 2009. Here is Sean on his bike. Just got it today. Came with a beautiful number plate: HW 008)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Living off the land

A friend of mine described to me what a special feeling it is to pluck fruits off your own trees. He says he'd like to retire on a farm and grow his own food. In the newspaper today, there is a country town in Victoria that offers a farm for $1 rental a week to anyone who would want to live there. The town has been facing a dwindling population and the move is meant to attract people to stay there. So it seems that my friend's dream is not difficult to realize after all. When you start to think about it, you will perhaps envy the islanders who live in places like Cook Island, Samoa, or Tonga. The people there probably live very simple and carefree lives, unspoiled by the trappings of a materialistic city life.

As I ponder on the above, I realize we are all born to do work. Life in the city requires us to do work for monetary gain. We exchange the money for food, household conveniences, utilities, and paid services. Life on a farm or on an island also requires ones to do work, albeit a different kind. You may have to catch or grow your own food, fix your own straw house, or row your own boat for transport. If you ride a horse, you have to feed the horse and groom it.

Do you want to live a carefree life in a farm? Or have a perpetual "holiday" on an island? Many people actually have the means to do so. Yet they don't make the move. This is because they want such a lifestyle AND the trappings of modern life WITHOUT having to do work. They want it all. That is why such a lifestyle remains but a dream for almost everyone.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A grateful heart

At the post office today, an elderly lady walked into the shop. She paid a bill and then left. However, she left her credit card wallet behind. When the next customer pointed it out to me, I quickly went after her. I saw a figure across the road that might be her. By the time the traffic light changed, she was already quite far off. She was a fast walker for her age! She had already gotten into her car by the time I caught up with her. Naturally she was pleased to get her wallet back. In the afternoon, she came back with a handsome gift (see picture below). A little note says: "With my very grateful thanks. Deirdre Lazarus".

I was really touched by her generous spirit. She might not know it, but she has something special inside her: a grateful heart. It must have taken her a lot of trouble to get the gift. It was exquisite in taste, beautifully gift-wrapped, and accompanied by a thoughtful note. Surely it would have been less trouble for her to return for the wallet at some point, than to go through the trouble of thanking me with a gift. What a beautiful person.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I just got back from Tasmania. Our friend has a riverside house on the Tamar River. We spent two nights there. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. In this blog I just want to talk about oysters. This property has a long frontage on the estuary. As you can see from the pictures below, when the tide goes down you can see lots of rocks. The oysters cling to the rocks. You can pick them off the riverbed when the tide goes down as the really nice ones are submerged most of the time. The oysters are nice and fat; much nicer than the ones you usually find at the market. I am sure there are few places left in the world where you can pick fresh seafood as you please. Most places will be over-harvested in no time.

I can imagine that in the ancient days when people hunted or fished for food, life must have been much more pleasant then. People nowadays have to pay lots of money for the privilege to hunt. We have to take precious time off to go somewhere for a fishing holiday. Can you imagine how blissful life must have been when people could just pick from the trees, or catch something from the ocean when they wanted to eat? This short holiday in Tasmania gave me a taste of what that life was like. The oysters were simply everywhere; I just had to reach down and pick them up. What a life!