28 November, 2014

The HP 15c app (Geek Alert)

HP 15c (from the Wikipedia entry)

This post is not about photography.

Hewlett Packard has created apps for both Android and the iPhone that replicate the HP 15c Scientific Calculator. On my phone the app looks and acts like the original calculator — for a fraction of the price and without carrying around another device. The app is not a substitute for the real thing when there's heavy use, of course; but it's great for the once-in-a-while.

In the early '80s I bought a Hewlett Packard HP 15c. It wasn't my first HP calculator; and, because my 15c was in my shoulder bag when it was stolen from my office almost 20 years later, it wasn't my last. (The 15c was out of production by then, so I had to buy a newer model.) And, I'm confirming my geekiness by admitting that I've kept my 15c owner's manual for the decade following my 15c's "departure."

HP calculators were a cut above other brands. As a small example, you never had to worry about the numbers on the tops of the keys rubbing off — because the numbers were injected molded. They went all the way through each key. Keys might get a little shiny with use, but they would never fade.

The algorithms in the 10 series calculators were the product of renown mathematician, Prof William Kahan who (Wikipedia reports) was the architect of the IEEE 754 standard for floating-point arithmetic.

HP's "10 series" calculators had/have almost cult followings. The 15c was the choice amongst engineers and maths folk, and the 12c (financial calculator) amongst the money men. (There wasn't a "Master of the Universe" on Wall Street in the '80s who didn't have an HP 12c.)

There were three other, less famous, 10C series calculators: The 10c, a basic scientific; the 11c, a more sophisticated scientific; and the 16c, a specialist computer programming calculator.

HP calculators were distinguished by their input notation. They were not "algebraic" (with parentheses and an "=" key), but instead had an "ENTER" key. Equations were input in a different way, called Reverse Polish Notation (RPN). Briefly, instead of adding 2 and 2 as "2 + 2 =", in RPN that simple calculation is entered as "2 ENTER 2 +".

So, with a slightly more complex calculation like 6 x (2 + 3), the algebraic key entries would be "6 x ( 2 + 3 ) =" (Eight keystrokes). In RPN it would be "2 ENTER 3 + 6 x" (Six keystrokes). The more complex the formula the greater the savings in both keystrokes and time using RPN.

The 10C series calculators, William Kahan, and RPN all have their own Wikipedia pages. And if you would like to see how a 15c works, there's a (non-HP) browser version HERE.

26 November, 2014

Sony A7 family - a brand new day.

Australian Ugg Boot factory, Gold Coast, Queensland

As you may remember, I've been critical of the pressure toward full-frame cameras. With the latest, high-quality APS-C and four-thirds sensors, the 
benefits of the larger full-frame sensors didn't make much sense (for non-professionals) against the increased size and weight of those cameras.

Times they've been a changin'.

The opening salvos came from Sony with their  RX1 and RX1R. They're full frame, but have fixed lenses (excellent, but fixed) and lack built-in electronic viewfinders.

But now there's the Sony A7 E-Mount family.

While a couple of millimetres taller, the Sony A7 family members are smaller than the Panasonic GH-4, smaller and lighter than the Olympus E-M1, and in the ballpark on size with the Fujifilm X-T1.

Soon there will be an A7II, with 5-axis stabilisation. Imagine that.

I've always preferred the "rangefinder" style to the DSLR style of cameras. But these are just tools — the means to an end — the images that we want to capture. Almost every aspect of photography is loaded with compromises. It's a mistake to forget that.

21 November, 2014

The kindness of strangers

West End, Brisbane, Queensland

I've talked about how hard it is to approach strangers and ask if you can take their picture. I'd like to be able to tell you that it gets a lot easier. It hasn't for me.

Even though there are turndowns, there are many who very generously share a few moments. It gives you an appreciation for the kindness of strangers.

When I first approached the woman in the picture above, she politely turned me down. I was disappointed, but I didn't think too much about it at that time. 

About an hour later I was still in the same location in West End, and she came through again. I supposed that she was returning from whatever errand she was on. She came up to me and said that she had thought about it and that she would be happy for me to take her picture.

As you can tell, I was affected by that kindness.

If you're interested doing portraits of strangers, I suggest that you look at the amazing work of Singaporean photographer, Danny Santos. Some of his street portrait work is HERE, and I also recommend his, "How to shoot portraits."

19 November, 2014

Steady on? Thumbs up.

A dog's life.

Thank goodness for higher ISO sensors, 'cuz it's getting tougher to hold the longer shutter speeds.

Yes, it helps to keep the coffee levels down (but I've got to have some coffee). Yes, I keep those elbows in. And, yes, a high ISO is usually better than a low shutter speed. And I do lean against something solid when it presents itself.

But, because I wear glasses, it's hard for me to pull the camera in against my face, so I have an alternative:

ISO 1600 at 1/15 sec.
My right hand holds the camera in the normal way, so that I can use my right index-finger on the shutter release. I wedge the base of the lens between my left index and middle fingers. Now here's the important bit (and you can't see it in the picture): I put my left thumb under my chin and put pressure upwards.

This works best with cameras of a modest size and auto-focus lenses, of course.

When my camera only had the back LCD, I would extend the camera away from me until the neck strap (I used one then) became tight. That solids up the camera nicely.

15 November, 2014

Printing technology

Australian Ugg Boot factory, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Epson is teasing us with the details of their new ink set for the upcoming Epson P600, a 13 inch desktop with roll capability. Supposedly, this is not just advertising "new," but really new.

If you print (and particularly if you print on an Epson), then I suggest that you listen to the Epson P600 interview at the Luminous Landscape.

If the new technology is as good as they suggest, then the changes that they're talking about will require new machines, and new profiles for every paper — and perhaps some new papers.

Unlike the leaps in sensor technology, printing technologies have moved much more slowly over the last few years. It looks like that might be changing.

The new set will still have 9 ink cartridges inside (like the current UltraChrome K3 Vivid Magenta set) — at any one time accessing 8. It sounds like that's where the similarities end.

03 November, 2014


Resort 1/3, Bargara, Queensland

Resort 2/3, Bargara, Queensland

Resort 3/3, Bargara, Queensland

I'm not sure why, but if I haven't posted on the blog for a time, I feel guilty.

It's not like I'm being paid. And sadly, but certainly, it's not like a rock concert where, when waiting for the band to appear, the audience begins to chant. Maybe it's watching the blog's page view statistics drop as the days pass.

In any case, here's a recent trio of pictures. 

I'll try for something pithy to say next time.

When you fly under the radar,
you can fly wherever you want.
Just make sure that when you drop off the scope,
they don't come looking for you.
—Yllib Ybnad (b. 1948)