Eight Years Ago

Eight years ago, I was woken by a phone call saying “They nuked New York!”

I’ve been a science fiction fan all my life, and I pay attention to security issues (computer security professionally though not as my main responsibility, and other stuff from habit and interest). So the concept of actual nuclear terrorism was by no means inconceivable to me. However, in a short time we worked through that the situation was somewhat different from that, and I got on the computer and started watching videos and looking for individuals posting their own photos (I’ve still got a bunch of the photos I snagged off the net). But I am probably close to unique in remembering learning that airplanes had flown into the World Trade Center as a bit of an anti-climax.

For MultiLogic, where I worked from 1996 to 2000 when they shut down, I’d made a number of trips to New York, and worked with major financial clients there (though none of the groups I worked with had their offices in the WTC complex). On a trip in October 2000 I’d taken a number of pictures including the WTC. I’d also decided to go to the top of the Empire State building rather than the WTC (there were more other buildings of interest nearby; and indeed I’m quite pleased with some of the photos I got from up there). I haven’t been back to New York since then.

I have watched the constant erosion of civil rights, with one small but important exception (RKBA for self-defense), and our blundering around the world smiting right and left at random, since then, with great sadness.

Learning Manual Exposure

Suppose you’ve been taking pictures with your digital camera for a while, and you’re wondering why some of your pictures look so much better than others.  Or suppose you’ve noticed that somebody else’s pictures look a lot better than yours, and you’ve decided it’s time for you to do something about it.  What should you learn?  Well, if you’re a beginner, it’s very likely that you need to learn to understand exposure better.

This article is my attempt to teach somebody who is in the habit of  letting the camera set the exposure how to take control of  it themselves.  I hope this will get you started with the basics. There is immensely more to be learned, but I’m not qualified to teach it all, and you don’t want to try to learn it all at once anyway, it’d just bury you in details.  If this gets you started, I’ve done my job, and you’ll be able to understand more advanced articles on exposure when you’re ready for them.

These instructions are for digital cameras. The meaning of setting an ISO differs between digital cameras and film cameras; the other two are the same.

Despite common usage, you should remember that exposure is a matter of opinion.  There is no objective “right” or “wrong”; there is only “what you want” and “not what you want”. The purpose of taking control of your exposures is to be able to get “what you want” more often.

There are three controls on your camera that affect exposure: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Each of these things affects both the exposure and one other aspect of the picture. Often getting the picture you want is a matter of balancing different effects to get a compromise you can live with.

Continue reading Learning Manual Exposure


Just saw a preview of Henry Selick’s movie of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Go see it when you can (it opens 6-Feb). It’s really very good.

It’s 3D animation, and I believe it’s largely stop-motion, not CGI. It’s a modern fairy tale. It has a witch a and a cat and a mouse circus and retired actresses. It has a brave little girl, who rescues some other lost children (with the help of the cat and of a boy). It has a weird old house. It has food. It has flowers. It has other parents. And of course it has needles coming out of the screen right towards the audience (but not very many).

Really. Go see it.