It’s summer and lavenders are in bloom. Short of making a trip to Provence, and believe me I would LOVE to go there, I’m shooting the few lavender bushes we’ve planted out front, and also planning a trip (or two) to a few lavender farms for the weekend’s Oregon Lavender Festival.

I got a couple of shots I like from the bushes that I’d like to share with you.

Our lavender bushes attract lots of bees, and being the buzy bees that they are, they can’t seem to stop buzzing around from flower to flower, which makes them rather hard to photograph. Yet there seem to be this one honeybee that have decided to be something else instead, maybe some sort of beetle, and just sit on one of the flower stalks for an extended period of time. Here’s that bee.

Unbuzzy bee

Unbuzzy bee

I like how much of the image is just awashed in out of focus pastels except for that one flower stalk with the bee.

Similarly, I like this landscape shot as well. No bee this time, but the same concept of one in focus lavender flower stalk with the much of the image out of focus and blurred.

Get your wallpaper in the link below

Get your wallpaper in the link below

I thought this image might work well for someone’s wallpaper, so I’ve made it available for your personal use without watermarking and have resized it to 1920×1200 for your download pleasure to fit your large widescreen LCD monitor here.

If you don’t need that size or don’t have a monitor with the same aspect ratio, it should still work with the right settings if you use “stretch” or “center” in Windows, and some other setting I’m not familiar with in a Mac OS near you.



Bits and pieces


Hi y’all,

For those in the US of A, hope you had a great 4th of July weekend. I was trying and failing to stay cool teepee’ing on the other side of Mount Hood. The weather hovered around 100 degrees F, and that pretty much zapped my energy to shoot any photos. On the plus side, my wife and I were with eight other good friends and we had a wonderful time catching up.

This here post is basically a collection of odds and ends I have in mind:

  • This weekend is the Oregon Lavender Festival. If you’re in the Portland area, I’d highly recommend you head out and enjoy the milder weather and take some pictures. If you’re not, maybe there’s a lavender festival near you, so check that out.
  • Next weekend is the Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk. Join in the fun and register for one! Surprisingly, there are FOUR, count them, FOUR, walks in the Portland metro area!
  • If you’ve used the new Microsoft search… uhm… decision engine, you’ll notice the excellent photography that provides the backdrop for each search. Here’s your chance to get one of your photos displayed by Microsoft. Read all about the contest here, and don’t forget that the deadline is July 16.
  • If you love to travel and photograph your travels as much as I do, you might want to check out the National Geographic World in Focus Photo Contest. Great prizes up for grabs, but it comes with an entry fee. Deadline is August 24.
  • If you’ve been chomping at the bit at getting your grubby hands on the Olympus Pen, it’s available for pre-order on Amazon. I wrote about the camera here.


The New York Times published an online article today discussing the tips on taking better photos when on vacation. They interviewed a pro photographer, Dan Lipow, asking him for his tips and tricks on shooting better.

I’m mostly cognizant of his tips, so on the risk self-aggrandizing, I thought it’d be interesting to answer some of the questions myself to see what I would do, and to also _FINALLY_ show some of the photos I took when I went back to Singapore and Indonesia in March, except the first one below from Spain…

Anyway, here we go!

Q: For D.S.L.R. photographers, what lenses are best for vacation shots?

A: I typically travel with zoom lenses for the convenience, although I seem to grudgingly accept the weight and bulk of my 17-55, 12-24, and 75-150 lenses. With my Nikon D300 with a 1.5X multiplier, it essentially gives me an effective field-of-view in 35mm terms of 18 to 300mm. Unless I’m in a confined space or am shooting wide open landscapes, I rarely pull out the 12-24.

Q: Do you recommend any additional equipment?

A: A light tripod absolutely. I have a light Gitzo Traveler GT1541T tripod with the Markins Q3 Traveler ballhead. I LOVE this combo for it’s stability and (lack-of) weight. Some of my best shots are taken early mornings and late evenings. The latter when the light is low and the people are out. Otherwise, I hate shooting with tripods…

Tucked in a corner, on tripod, in the rain

Tucked in a corner, on tripod, in the rain

Q: When on vacation, do you typically shoot in manual, aperture, shutter or auto mode?

A: Generally aperture priority, unless speed is essential. Even then, I normally use the aperture to pick the speed. To be honest, I’ve never shot my cameras in manual mode, and while I’m familiar with the Sunny-16 rule, I’ve never used it.

Q: How do you take compelling photos of your friends and family on vacation, images that have an interesting composition and don’t look posed?

A: Can’t do it. Both Mrs. Blog and I seem to abhor having our photos taken, even on vadations. So while we’re trying real hard to at least document our visits, at this point, our personal photos are quite blah and are generally made up of photos taken with a P&S in my outstretched arm.

Q: It’s best to zoom in on people, right? Seems like many people take shots way too far out.

A: Shooting people is hard. See this.

Somehow these folks were oblivious to me shooting them...

Somehow these folks were oblivious to me shooting them...

Q: Any tips on taking really interesting photos of landscapes?

A: This doesn’t just apply to landscapes. Most tourists shoot from the same place where everyone else shoots. That could make great postcards shots and could impress the people back home, and if that’s what you’re looking for, great! Hey, I have tons of those! But if you’re out to shoot something that can’t already be seen on the postcards there, walk around and see if there’s something to discover.

Inside a storehouse shooting out

Inside a storehouse shooting out

Q: Any advice for users of point-and-shoot cameras? Ways to better use the scene modes?

A: A P&S won’t give you the same flexibility as an SLR, but within the range of what it can do, it can rival the quality of the SLRs. I’d say that every photo in this article could’ve been shot with a decent P&S. What’s important is learning how your camera works and working with it instead of against it.

My final parting shot is one I took in a mall in Singapore. I like how the large round blackness and blueness of the fountain contrasts with the warm tones of the small tables and chairs. The lady right at the edge, to me, adds interest.

Look for a different point of view? Try looking down

Looking for a different point of view? Try looking down

I’m no pro photographer by any means, and I’m still figuring out my way on how to maximize the image quality while on vacation, so if you’ve got a good tip for me to improve, drop me a comment. Please! If you’ve got a representative photo, send a link as well.

There are several more photos not shown here from my Asian trip. Check them out in this gallery.



One of the most interesting news I read in the past few days, apart from iPhone related ones, is the announcement of the Olympus E-P1.

Here is a tiny camera, smaller than a Canon G10, that has a interchangeable lens system, and has a decent sized imaging sensor — not quite the APS-sized cropped frame SLR sensors (~1.5X multiplier), but way bigger than the miniscule sensors in the typical P&S cameras, having a 2X multiplier.

Here is a camera manufacturer going out on a limb starting from a well-thought out format, IMHO, the Micro Four-Thirds system, building the smallest camera they can, removing elements they feel added unnecessary bulk and coming up with this camera. I don’t always agree with the decisions they made, such as not having a viewfinder without an accessory, but I respect them for accomplishing what they did.

Why would I be interested in this camera any way since I already have an excellent system in my Nikon D300? Good question. You can’t always, and don’t always want to, carry a big SLR around. The SLR brings along issues of bulk, security in questionable places, and difficulty in shooting some subjects simply because a black SLR is so imposing (see my write up on street shooting). This smaller, practically P&S camera brushes away with many of those concerns. It’s nearly pocketable, with the folding 17mm lens, it’s small and unobstrusive, and it’s not as menacing to others. It sure doesn’t seem professional looking, but that’s part of its charm.

All that means nothing if the image quality doesn’t hold up. But it sure looks good at this point. Check out the ISO 6400 sample image on dpreview’s sample gallery from the E-P1. The colors might seem a little more washed out at high ISO, but I can happily live with the noise level in a pinch. You can read the entire preview of the camera there as well.

It does HD (720P) video as well. I don’t know too much about this feature, but it opens up what can be done with the it.

So what’s not to like? As I’ve mentioned, no viewfinder. It’s just much faster to use a viewfinder for certain types of shooting, such as street, although NOT having to bring the camera up to your face can sometimes be a boon as well. It doesn’t have a built-in flash for those few occasions, but given its size, I can afford to carry the accessory flash. The 3″ screen only has 230K pixels. The SD card slot is blocked when mounted on a tripod. I’m nitpicking here. Oh, and I would’ve preferred in a nice inconspicuous black. A big unknown at this point is how responsive the camera is — can this be the shooter’s camera?

At about US$800 for body and 14-42mm lens, it’s not exactly cheap, but given what you get based on the specs, it’s not unreasonable.

Olympus has revealed that there’s more in the pipeline with cameras with electronic viewfinders coming up, and folding lenses to be announced.

I’ve been waiting for something like this since I first contemplated replacing my film SLR with a rangefinder camera, where the latter were too expensive for me and had limited zoom lenses. I’m glad to see that the idea  has come around for digital cameras. Exciting times indeed.


iphone_3gsThis is so yesterday, literally, but the new iPhone 3GS (‘S’ for Speed!) was finally announced yesterday at WWDC and what has been rumored, speculated, dispelled, confirmed, dispelled again, finally happened.

The geek that I am, I eagerly awaited the announcement, and kept reloading the live blogging by Engadget as I combed over the post to extract morsels of information from between the lines.

The best camera is the one you have with you. That old cliche rings true for me, and I’ve been (mostly) contentedly carrying my iPhone 3G around for 3/4 of a year now, taking pictures with its mediocre 2MP camera, wishing for better quality and macro capabilities, but still finding some creativity in the process.

I really didn’t think Apple would announce a new phone just a year after the big announcement that is the iPhone 3G, so when rumors started flying, I was intrigued.

Now that it’s out, I’m quite happy with the new specs of a 3.2MP camera with autofocus and white balance, better low light capabilities, and even macro down to 10cm! All that sounds brilliant, but upgrading early comes at a cost — an extra $200 to be precise. So the debate starts on whether it’s worth it.

At this point, I’m saying yes, and I’ve gone ahead and preordered it, but I suppose I can still change my mind before the June 19th delivery date.

The best camera is the one you have with you. Except when you can afford to pay an extra $200 above the price of $299 for the 32GB version.


Written by Top Lertpanyavit