Warrant Canary

I just want to throw this out here to be clear:  Brian Johns Photography has never received an order under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

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Intro to Lightroom Classes Available

I list “digital workflow consulting” as one of the things I can offer to help you out with your digital photography but recently I’ve been thinking about putting together a more focused workshop that would help someone new to digital photography get up and running.

I’m thinking of a 2 hour workshop focusing on Lightroom that would work well  one-on-one or for a small group, offered at your place or mine.  I have an outline (below) but since it’s for individuals or small groups it could obviously be tailored to focus more on what you’re interested in.

Here’s an outline of what I think should be included in a class for people newly serious about digital photography:

  • Digital RAW concepts (RAW files, metadata, and non-destructive editing)
  • Organization of files on the hard drive
  • Importing into Lightroom
  • Sorting and rating
  • Keywording, organizing, and geotagging
  • The Develop module (this topic alone could take a day!)
  • Editing in outside applications
  • Exporting to to the hard drive and other services
  • Printing drafts and final copies

Optional topics could include:

  • pros and cons of printing online vs. at home
  • the book making module

Something like this would probably run about $100 for a two hour one-on-one class.  Please let me know if you’re interested in something like this!

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Photographing the Santa Clara Post Office

I was recently able to photograph the interior and exterior of the old (but still minimally staffed and used) Santa Clara Post Office.   My photography was to support a report being written by Lorie Garcia, our honorary city historian, about the history of the structure.   I was looking to document the architecture and state of the building in hopes that it will be able to be listed as Significant to the City of Santa Clara.

Flickr pictures are here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/56685004@N00/13118735105/in/set-72157642280014303

I was pleased to meet the Supervisor of the Post Office who was more than happy to show me around and then let me photograph virtually the entire structure.  There is an office for the former Postmaster, although the Santa Clara Post Office does not still have a Postmaster.  The entire basement is pretty much unused, except for storage.  (Note to self: I didn’t see an elevator.  How do they get heavy stuff down there?  Perhaps only down the exterior ramps?)   The heat has been broken for years although there was a repairman there today working on the boiler.

There are a couple instances of woodwork that are in very good shape.  There are lots of exterior wooden windows that are beautiful on the inside but covered with dense metal screens on the outside, presumably to keep sub or wildlife out of the windows.  Most of the furnishings that remain are 60′s – 80′s style office stuff.

By far the most interesting part of the entire building is the small network of not-so-hidden surveillance tunnels called “lookout galleries” (or LOG for short) running throughout the facility.  They didn’t have a view of the public areas of the post office – they only run through the “behind the scenes” areas for keeping track of postal employees.  The Lookout even runs through the men’s bathroom (which is in the basement) although the viewports in the bathroom have been painted over.

One unique feature of the LOG tunnels is the “breakout doors” which presumably allow postal inspectors to “breakout” of the tunnels and bust people as they catch them in the act of stealing mail.  Because the LOG tunnels are elevated a couple feet off the floor, all the doors to the tunnels are also elevated two feet off the floor.  To make the doors even more obvious, they are all placarded with large “NOT AN EXIT” signs, just in case you thought the exit doors from your room were two feet off the ground.

I found an interesting article on the Internet detailing these tunnels and the difficulty of maintaining such a thing in the current environment of building codes and accessibility:

I designed a Distribution Center for Zip Code 90017. At that time the USPS assigned a staff Architect to the project conveying all their “standards”. The most challenging part of the project was a suspended surveillance tunnel with one-way mirror viewports. The general public is not generally aware of these security measures. In this day of superior electronic systems, I questioned the need for these measures, but nothing has the legal standing of personally observing someone taking your property from the mail.

The Postal Inspection Service (Postal Police) worked on this aspect with us. Los Angeles was holding up a permit on this privately owned building due to “accessibility” concerns with the tunnel which changes planes abruptly, is painted flat black inside, and has minimum lighting. At a hearing we were able to persuade them that the tunnel could not be used by other than trained, physically fit individuals. The USPS owned central Distribution Center  for Los Angeles has what seems like a mile of these tunnels.

H. Thomas Wilson AIA
Pasadena CA

And here’s a youtube video of someone going through the LOG:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3MO-jNuYCU

There’s a whole book about this sort of thing called “Building Power: Architecture and Surveillance in Victorian America” by Anna Vemer Andrzejewski, available at fine booksellers everywhere.  And finally, the definitive word on Lookout Gallery design is the USPS’s Handbook RE-5, entitled “Building and Site Security Requirements.”  This document details design requirements for LOGs as of 2009.   Google will give you a copy.

I’m not sure if the tunnels are actually used by visiting postmasters anymore but all the tunnel access doors I found (which are very obvious because the door is two feet above the ground!) were indeed locked.  I would love to see inside the tunnels sometime, just for fun.

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The end of dSLRs for sports

As I look through ebay for good deals on a Canon 1-DmkIV for sports, it occurs to me that digital SLR cameras might not be very long for the world of high-end sports photography.  As High Def and Ultra High Def video cameras get better and better, it’s just a matter of time before the best way to capture the moment is to just capture ALL the moments, 60 times a second, and then sort through them later and pull out the stills you like.

The equipment for this is currently more expensive than a high-end dSLR but for situations where money isn’t really a big obstacle (like the NFL) I think the writing is one the wall.

Here’s a much better in-depth discussion than I could ever give over at A Photo Editor:  Is it Time To Eliminate Stills From Your Shoot?

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Hunger Bowl 2013 – thumbnail gallery

And finally, here’s the same gallery as the last two posts, but with the Thumbnail Gallery from Dot On Paper:

The University of Washington Huskies beat The Brigham Young Cougars 31-16 in the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California on December 27th, 2013fighthungerbowl_2013-0582fighthungerbowl_2013-0634fighthungerbowl_2013-0795fighthungerbowl_2013-0859fighthungerbowl_2013-0967fighthungerbowl_2013-0977fighthungerbowl_2013-1000fighthungerbowl_2013-1451

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Fight Hunger Bowl – Nextgen Gallery

Since this is a blog about photography, I’m working on getting more images into the blog.  This post is essentially the same as my previous post but using the Nextgen gallery.

 

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Holiday wrap-up part 1: Fight Hunger Bowl 2013

I shot some sports with my new-to-me camera over the holiday break and I wanted to share some of the results with you.  To start off, the Fight Hunger Bowl featuring the University of Washington and BYU:
Continue reading

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Getting back into the swing of things

Now that my Iron year is over I’m looking to get back into more photography.  I’ve got a few interesting photography things happening:

  • I’m shooting the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on December 27th.   I shoot this football game at AT&T Park in San Francisco almost every year and it’s usually a lot of fun.  The venue is amazing for baseball but really weird for football.  Luckily this is the last year it will be held up in AT&T Park because next year it’ll be at the brand new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
  • I’m shooting the Cal Poly vs. Stanford men’s basketball game two days later on December 29th at Maples Pavilion at Stanford.  I last shot there in 2005 and I’ve been going through my old shots to psych myself up for it.
  • I just bought a new-to-me camera for shooting sports.   More about that below.
  • There’s a new opportunity to shake up my photography that might be interesting but I can’t talk about it just yet.  I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.

The camera is a Canon 1-D mkII, which was introduced in 2004.   You can read all about it at DP Review.   Back in 2004 this camera cost $4,500 and I used to rent it for $100 a day for special sports events.   It takes 8 megapixel pictures, has a great 45-point autofocus system for sports, and shoots 8 frames per second.  If you read Sports Illustrated 6 – 8 years ago you’ve seen plenty of photos from this camera.

The funny thing about digital camera bodies is that the cost depreciates like any other high-tech item.  So this camera that cost $4,500 9 years ago now costs $250 on Craigslist.  This particular unit was used by the San Jose Mercury News and has about 250,000 shots run through it.  The shutter is rated for 200,000 shots and it apparently broke sometime in that past and was replaced but the guy couldn’t remember exactly when, so there’s no telling how much life it’s got left.

It came with 5 (yes, 5!) batteries but apparently they are all old so I invested $32 in a new one which should give me about 1,600 shots.   Way more than needed for a football game or a basketball game.

I’ve learned something funny about buying a 9 year old camera:  The rest of the technology world has evolved so far in 9 years that some thing that were a real pain in the past are not longer a pain.   Sure, this camera only shoots 8 megapixel files at 12 bit color depth, but do you know how fast Lightroom will process a 5 megabyte camera file?   Like lightening!

Back in the day I seemed to never have enough memory to make it through a full day of shooting a football game, the pregame, the trophy presentation, etc.   Now I have a 32 GB SD card that cost $40 and has a capacity of around 2,000 – 3,000 shots.  Problem solved.  My new MacBook even has an SD card reader built in so I don’t have to carry a card reader and cable.   Super!

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Recreating Vermeer’s paintings: article in Vanity Fair

I just read this article in Vanity Fair about a huge experiment to recreate what may have been the Dutch painter Vermeer’s secret weapon to create such incredibly photo-realistic paintings all the way back in the 1600′s.

This article covers Vermeer, painting, photography, camera obscura, optics, Penn and Teller, digital image analysis – the whole 9 yards!   Very fascinating.

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Printing at Costco

And now, back to photography…

I just discovered printing at medium-large prints at Costco and this might change my thoughts on printing drafts of photos.  As you know, I’m all about the print and images look different on paper than they do on screen. You usually have to go through a few revisions on paper before an image is really “right” and the turnaround time on prints really slows the process down if you don’t have a photo-quality printer at home.

I’ve always known Costco had a photo department but I never really noticed their “poster” sized printing before.  It turns out that for $6 you can get a 16×20″ print, and for $9 you can get a 20×30″ print.  These prices are less than half of what mpix.com charges, and there’s no shipping, and they print them while you wait.  The prints are from an Epson 7890 with a 20″ roll of Fujifilm Photo Paper Satin 270 – an entry level paper.

You can choose to have your order processed without color correction and they only have one printer, so the consistency from job to job should be pretty good.  Prints smaller than 16×20 are printed on a different printer so the color won’t be exactly consistent, but you can gang up four 8×10′s to forma single 16×20 and it will be printed on the big printer.

This is a fabulous deal for draft printing and is pretty close to the cost of materials for this sort of print.  These costs are so low that it could really change the way I think about print proofing.  This means 8×10 test prints are $1.50 each with about a 30 minute turnaround time.  (60 minutes including driving and parking)

The Epson 7890 will take rolls up to 24″ wide and the photo guy mentioned that they might start stocking 24″ paper which would let them offer 24×36 prints as well.  I would guess they would charge around $15 or so, which is a really amazing deal.

I envision the final versions of most of my work printed larger than 20×30″ and usually mounted too, so having a place like The Picture Element is still important for final versions, but using Costco for printing proofs might become a regular part of my workflow.

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