Saturday, 19 December 2009

Merry Christmas!!!! Feliz Navidad!!!

Wish you all a Merry Christmas and a brilliant 2010. May health, love and prosperity follow you all year round.

I haven't posted anything in a while and I haven't been in the mood to write since I submitted the thesis but the next year will bring lots of new things to write about.

Take care and hope to see you soon!!!

Feliz Navidad!!!

Santa and Reindeer

Monday, 30 November 2009


The last few months have been really crazy. Finishing the thesis (dissertation, as my supervisor prefers) took a bigger chunk out of me than I expected. However, it's done! I submitted my thesis on Nov 19th 2009. I'm still waiting for my Viva date but at least the monster is out there, hopefully it won't come back to bite me.

At the moment, I'm writing this post from an Ipod and wondering why we didn't have these back in the day! ethics lessons would have been far more exciting. But I digress. I just wanted to tell you that me dad came to visit and we are having an excellent time!

I also have to say that the PSP Go (my thesis submission present) is great, not perfect by any means but at least it is a nice piece of gear.

Back to the submission topic I have to say the myth is true! You look forward to this moment so much that when it actually comes you can't really enjoy it. Weird feeling. More than happy you just feel relieved and more than freedom you feel that something is missing.

The Ipod is going all funny so I'll continue with this story some other time.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Firework Season is Back in Town

With the wind, the rain and the cold also come the Gluhwhein, the merry songs, and the FIREWORKS!!! So be ready with your camera to capture the moment, in this post I’ll try to help you get the best results.

I took the image above during last year’s Switch-On in Manchester. I’ve received many nice comments and lots of views, here I tell you how to get something similar.

Find a Good Spot

Every year I see lots of people trying to get to the very front, what’s the point? If what you really want is to get good firework pictures then you want to be farther away. You really need to give some space between you and the fireworks so you can catch’em.

Carry a Tripod

I know, I know, I also hate lugging stuff around. However this is a time where the tripod is your friend. You will need long exposures to get the fireworks and give them time to spread-out in your frame so, don’t be lazy for once ;¬)

Get a Wide-Angle Lens

If you are using a DSLR get a wide-angle (10mm), you really need a lot of space to make the fireworks fit on your frame. If you are using a P&S or a compact camera then don’t worry, your lens is already wide enough.

Avoid Touching the Camera

Chances are that it will be dark enough and the movement you generate while pressing the trigger (even when using the tripod) will be unnoticeable. However, it is best if you are using a cable or ratio trigger (if you have a DSLR), or just set your camera on the timer. Even P&S now have an option for a 2sec delay, that will do.

Long Exposure and Aperture

As I said above, you need to give time to the fireworks to explode and spread in your frame, so you need to work with long exposures. How long? to be honest it is trial and error. For  the image above I used 4 seconds. You also want to get a good depth of field. I won’t get into details but try to increase the number in the aperture as much as you can without getting ridiculously long exposures (you don’t normally want to get above 10secs).

Remember the long exposure will give you a better chance to capture the fireworks. But the longer it gets the more fireworks will get cramped in your frame so it is a matter of taste and it will depend on how big the area is and the firework programme.

A Starting Point

If you like the image above and you will be facing similar conditions, then this are all the settings I used. They could be a good starting point for your first frame :D

Exposure:       4 seconds
Aperture:       f/16
Focal length:  10mm
ISO speed:      200

Now go out and shoot and don’t forget to share with me your results. I hope you find this helpful.


Friday, 16 October 2009

Irving Penn 1917 – 2009

“A good photograph is one that communicate a fact, touches the heart, leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective”. IRVING PENN

I have been very busy so I couldn’t post this earlier. By now my very scarce readers should know that I love photography and very specially “portraiture”. Well, this post is to remember one of my favourite portrait photographers.

Irving Penn, passed away on 7th October 2009. Just one day after my birthday -- did I forgot to mention it was my BDay? Anyway, Irving Penn is a celebrated name in the world of portraiture and fashion photography. He was one of the first photographers to pose his subjects against a grey or black backdrop to great effect. I love his portraits because they are full of contrast and drama.

Below some of my favourites:

Pablo Picasso

Truman Capote

More after the Jump (NSFW) >>


Gisele Bundchen, 1999 (Auctioned for $193,000 at Christie’s)

Kate Moss, 1996 (Auctioned for $97,000, Christie’s Images Ltd 2008)

Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett, New York, 1950)

More here and here. Very Recommended.


Sunday, 27 September 2009

What am I doing?

No, I’m not in Venice enjoying life ;¬) I’m at home working hard to finish the thesis on time (this is just a short -–and very needed-- break).

I’d also like to congratulate my friend Francisco (aka El Paco) who just submitted last Friday. He better start writing again in his blog. I hope to be in that situation in the following months. I have to say that even though I’m happy he submitted, I feel the pressure even more on my shoulders. We started the PhD at the same time and this really feels like things are coming to an end.

I’m not particularly afraid of change but still…


… things will never be the same.

(writing this post was an excuse to tryout the “windows live writer”, so far so good.


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

3,200kms of Travel Pleasure and Photography

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You can find the set here

Late in July I had a break from the PhD to indulge in travelling and photography :D My In-laws visited us for six weeks, and after having travelled to Rome and Paris by themselves it was only just for us to join them for eight days.

First we travelled to Paris to catch-up with my In-laws and to take Valentina to EuroDisney. I have to say it was a great time to take her there, she really enjoyed it and fell for the "magic" of the place. I posted some images here already.

After that we rented a car and visited...
Belgium - Bruges
Germany - Cologne, Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg
Italy - Venice, Florence, Pisa
Switzerland - Geneva

... for an approx. total of 3,200kms. I have to say that all that driving was kind of a present for me, driving is something I miss a lot since I arrived in the UK.

Obviously I carried some photo gear with me and took plenty of photos. I will post some pics of the gear because some friends have asked me about buying a DSLR, and I want to show here how much stuff I carry with me when I travel.

Above you may see some of my holiday pictures. I am planning to feature some of the images in separate posts -- to explain how they were taken -- but in the meantime you can browse this set since I still have plenty more to add.

Thanks for following...

PS: Thanks to Roy Tanck for the Flickr-widget.



Monday, 14 September 2009

Someone is always watching...

I just couldn't let this one pass by. First, because I've always been a fan of Star Wars (lease Estar Güars) and second because I'm always weary of what might be appropriate or not to post online. Enjoy the beauty of online society but always think that something might come back and bite your...

Brought to my attention by Gizmodo from The Daily What, apparently it was a T-Shirt from TeeFury.

Now back to work.



Sunday, 6 September 2009

busy, Busy, BUSY! ...

Sorry I haven't been around lately, my thesis is still kicking my ass ;¬)

My In-Laws paid us a six-week visit last July-August, so the least I could do was to take an 8-day holiday with them. We, as you can see from the image above, went to EuroDisney! it was a great experience specially because Valentina is at a perfect age to enjoy the park. She fall in love with Mickey Mouse [sighs] now in her life there is the Mum, Mickey and then me... I just can't win there =)

Apart from the quick visit to Paris, we drove through five countries visiting eight cities in the same number of days. So in the near future I will try to post more pictures and info from the trip, a new post on holiday pics (a bit too late maybe), and another one on macro photography now that the weather is turning and we will have to stay indoors!! Stay tuned.

In case you are wondering, I made the image above using Lightroom 2 --which is a nice tool to quickly fix your pictures-- and a video tutorial from Matt Kloskowski, watch it here.




Friday, 14 August 2009

You must have a really nice camera!

Just as Michael Schumacher used to have a really nice car every time he won the F1 (7 times), right?. BTW it is sad he won't be running again innit? I was really looking forward to his comeback.

Anyway check Aaron's page for more photographic sarcasm.



Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Composition: The Diagonal Method

I am both a bit impressed and a bit shocked about something I just came across and wanted to share it with you. It has to do with the composition of your images. Have a look at the following image because I will come back to it later.


Composition I would say is the art of guiding the viewer through your image --drawing him/her to the interesting points in it. If you have read anything about composition in photography you must have read about the "Rule of Thirds". Imagine any of your pictures and divide it in nine sections of the same size (see fig. 1). This composition rule basically says that you should avoid putting your subject right in the center, instead, you should aim to position it at any of the intersections between the lines you just draw --to make the image more interesting to look at, that is the aim. And if you have a point and shoot camera and always wondered why your frame was divided in nine... now you know!

Fig. 1

Now, I have had this rule in mind for quite some time because I don't always pay attention to it. Rules are meant to be broken right? I mean, sometimes I do believe that a subject looks better right in the centre of the image, or sometimes I consciously put the interest point a tad away from the intersection lines on fig. 1. So what?

Well this is what I found, and even though it is not "scientific" it certainly surprised me. It has to do with aesthetics and Edwin Westhoff developed a method of composition that, he argues, gives better results than the rule of thirds. He called it "The Diagonal Method". He noticed that many images from master photographers and indeed many famous paintings did not followed the "rule of thirds" precisely. He also noticed that many of those images rather followed another composition logic related to the "Golden Section" --yes, you have heard of it before "The Divine Proportion", Leonardo Da Vinci, etc. Follow the link if you are interested in a full explanation, for the purposes of this post suffice to say that Edwin devised the "The Diagonal Method" around that logic and came up with the following way of dividing the frame: imagining two overlapping squares and drawing diagonal lines across them (see fig. 2).
Fig. 2

You guessed right, interest points are intended to be over any of the diagonals. And IT REALLY WORKS!!! So much actually that Adobe included the Diagonal Method in Lightroom!!

Remember the image at the top? well I did some serious cropping without knowing this technique, I even used a different ratio (1.85:1) than the ones I normally use (6x4, 6x6) and IT TOTALLY MATCHES WITH THE DIAGONALS!! check the next image with the diagonals included:

As you can see, one of the diagonals crosses the eye perfectly and another comes in between the feet of the model!! which are the things I intended you to look at. I was totally freaked impressed and decided to check some of my other recent images. Obviously it doesn't fit EVERY image but still... it works fairly often!!

See more images after the Jump. And trust me, I cropped them before knowing this Golden Section logic and they match either perfectly or within a couple of mm.


Not perfect but very close!

Bang on:

One last one:

So maybe we do like those proportions. You don't have to know much of aesthetics but normally you do know what you like and what you don't. Give it a try and see if you images are more pleasing this way.


Thursday, 23 July 2009

El Modo Manual -- No muerde ;)

I will try to translate this some other time, but since I wrote this in Spanish for a friend... well you understand.

Bruges Windmill

Este era un comentario que hice en el blog de Areli y que me parecio se podia convertir en un post aqui ya que quedo bastante informativo, creo yo.

El problema de las camaras digitales es que cuando el flash esta activado tratan de irse a su zona de confort que se encuentra en 1/60 y f4.5 no es cierto? Ahi les dijo su mama que tenian que vivir. Lo malo es que esto hace que la gente se vea como venado lampareado y el fondo todo negro! (not nice). En la imagen abajo de estas lineas se puede ver un ejemplo. El fondo se supone que es un bar aqui en Manchester del que no podemos ver nada.

Photo Head - The missing one

Si tu camara tiene funciones manuales hay que perderle el miedo y hacer lo sigueinte:

1) En alguno de los modos automaticos (ie Auto o P) desactiva el flash y toma una lectura del ambiente (el fondo). Si es tardecito pero aun hay luz te va a dar una lectura como de 1/30 o 1/15. La verdad es que no podemos sostener la camara a esa velocidad (1/15) sin que haya movimiento pero por el momento no importa.

2) Cambia al modo manual y pon la misma lectura que te dio la camara y activa tu flash. Digamos que te dio 1/30 a f4.5. Deja la velocidad pero aumenta (realmente estas disminuyendo pero ignoremos eso tambien) la apertura digamos a f6 o incluso f8. Dispara.

3) La velocidad (ie. 1/30) va a controlar el fondo de la imagen y la f (apertura) a la gente que quieres retratar. Si la gente esta muy brillosa incrementa el numero de la f, si esta muy obscura disminuye el numero. Tambien puedes aumentar y disminuir la potencia del flash. En tu manual (si, eso existe) debe venir como "flash compensation" o algo asi.

4) Decia que no importa que pongas la camara en 1/30 (con practica incluso a 1/15) porque el flash va a hacer que la gente salga en foco (sin moverse). El fondo se va a mover un poco pero a 1/30 no se nota tanto. Mas vale tener un fondo interesante que algo todo negro, no? Ademas recuerda que si tuvieras luz suficiente al enfocar a tus amigos el fondo sale un poco borroso de cualquier forma (esto se debe a la profundidad de campo y se le llama bokeh y puede ser muy interesante). Tambien puedes recargarte en alguna pared, usar un poste o una botella como tripie para evitar el movimiento.

Si ponen atencion a la primer foto (la del molino) pueden ver que tanto el cielo como la modelo --mi esposa ;¬)-- tienen suficiente detalle. Esto no seria posible sin usar el flash y balancearlo con el ambiente. Espero les guste.

Ahora a practicar y estoy a sus ordenes ante cualquier pregunta. Si algo no esta claro avisenme y lo puedo tratar de explicar mejor.



Friday, 17 July 2009

My Blue Period!!

Hi, sorry for leaving you so alone and unattended, I will try to write more often, but the truth is that I've been writing enough with the thesis. Not sure yet if that is going well or not, we'll have to wait a couple of weeks to know for sure.

Anyway, today I finally took some time off in order to get around some images I took a while back. On the 27th July, a friend put together a photoshoot in a fancy studio and she invited me. BTW if you live in Manchester and need a nice photostudio then consider this one, we had a blast!!

While going through the images I noticed that lately I've been going for dark and edgy, maybe that is how I feel right now! --not very bright-- and specially liked this set of images, maybe I'm entering a "Blue Period"


The name of the model is Jessica, and she was really good. First time we worked together and I definitely will call her again. Here I was using big lights but you could do the same with speedlites (small flashes). Or if you don't have that, a pair of work lights from B&Q will do the trick. I used one light at each side, the one on the left was brighter (about two stops) and I was not using a hairlight.

Here is another image of Jessica:


She had that interesting tattoo of a star and I tried to make it pop a little.

Here another image, now for the ladies, his name is Luciano and it was my first time working with male models. I have to say that Girls are more fun!! ;¬)

Luc - Box

Hit the jump for more images.


As you can see, the theme of the shoot (at least this part) was some boxing-fighting stuff, hope you like it.

Million Dollar Baby - Jessica



On that day, we had more models and very cool make-up. I will try to post more soon!! so come back.


Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Oh, this hurts!!

Honestly, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry! this strip is so true it actually hurts :D

Did I ever tell you I'm an accountant trying to finish a PhD in accounting?? jeez. But a true photographer at heart... [sniff]



Monday, 29 June 2009


Don't you hate it when you make a promise and immediately afterwards something happens that prevents you to stick to your word? Well that's precisely what happened just after I promised to air the anti-school of photography (which is basically a collection of funny lessons covering the basics of photography).

What happened? well the thesis is what happened. I've been really trying to get it done as soon as possible and with personal, university and computer issues it's been hell!! I kid you not! bloody vista must be shot right in the eye!!

Anyway I wont promise anything but will try to write more often. Even if it is only to vent about my misery. I've heard many times that writing is a lonely process, well it is right. Nobody can help me now I must sit down and attack that keyboard until my fingers bleed!!! ok ok I'm not a martyr either hehe (for the Mexican folks exageré, exageré, exageré).

So lately I've been writing the lit review chapter and it is a real pain. You know, you have this top notch author who has a book, a paper (in top journal 1), a conference paper, a chapter on an edited book (from one of his/her sidekicks I'm sure), another paper (now in top journal 2), etc. And all of those say the same with the same data!!! sometimes at least he/she changes the order of the paragraphs so as to make your read a bit more before realising what's going on!!! Publish or perish is right but when you are checking on extant work this is terrible!! I only hope one day I'll do the same ;¬)

I did make some time this weekend to have some fun cause a friend of mine visited from New Zealand and he's one hell of a Kiwi I just couldn't let him wonder around Manchester alone!!

I also had a day-long photoshoot on Saturday. First photoshoot since I dislocated my shoulder and it was simply brilliant. I have some good shots that I'll share with you soon no promise, just saying). After all day my shoulder hurt a bit and my legs even more. This thing is not easy ;) need to join a gym or something.

Ok, that's what been going on. Bear with me and I'll show you some shots and also some basic photo tips.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Beneath murky waters - Revisited

If you follow this blog you might remember this post about the Manchester Canal. Well at that time I asked my friend Francisco (aka Darth Tradd) to write a short "Noir" story for me relating the canal with some obscure crime or something, he has a great imagination and I'd say he can write as well.

Sadly, he was busy at the time and I had to come-up with my own story to accompany the pictures. A rubbish story to go with some very good pictures of rubbish floating by the canal, I had to say all that to avoid saying "rubbish pictures" but I digress. After almost a month Francisco got some time and wrote this piece for which I'm very grateful! (he even linked back and included my pics).

If you follow this blog in English I'm sorry, the story is in Spanish so chop chop and head to the closest Spanish Institute so you can read it within a year's time. :D

Gracias Paco!!


Mexican Cultural Evening 2009

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Mexican Cultural Evening 2009

Last Friday at the Instituto Cervantes in Manchester, the Mexican Society presented the now traditional "Mexican Cultural Evening 2009". It is a very nice event in which one gets to listen traditional Mexican Music as well as some very well rehearsed traditional dances. This was the seventh instalment of this event.

The place was a bit small to be honest so there was no way of avoiding the heads popping into my frames. This time I chose a very fast zoom lens to get the action, a Tamron 28-75mm, 2.8, the 2.8 is the maximum aperture which means it lets in lots of light (the smaller the number, the more light gets to the sensor), most of the point and shoot cameras have a maximum aperture of around 4 which is considered pretty slow.

Hope you like the pictures. More pictures from the event on Facebook, you don't need to register or anything.


Thanks to Roy Tanck for the widget



Friday, 5 June 2009

Finally it's coming! The Anti-School of Photography

Yes that is right! I'm preparing a programme that includes a good range of photography "Anti-lessons". Hopefully I will learn lots by planning them and you will also get some valuable information the fun way. I started this project a while ago but never really saw it through. This might be the chance.

Any age is a good age to start

As you can see from this image, any age is perfect to start with photography :)

So write down in the comments if there is something that you would like to learn and I'll try to include it. Might be a good idea to register as a follower so that you can get a notice every time I update an anti-lesson.

More to come...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Photography's Serendipity

Image by Art Wolfe

I just wanted to share with you the latest article from "The Luminous Landscape" a great photography site that I normally follow. Give it a good look!

In his article (click on the immage), Art Wolfe explains how did he get the picture above. I think it's a great image and loved the way he shares his outtakes with the readers. I picked the title for this post because I believe photography is a little bit of technique, lots of patience and a great deal of luck (not chance, because you make your own luck in photography by choosing the subject, the site, the equipment, the time of the day, etc) and the article shows precisely that.

Have a look at the different outtakes and pay attention to "Pic 3 Flash Failure", do you see any similarities to your party pics? I believe anyone could have taken that image and that is why I really enjoyed that article. It is not the equipment but how you use it, and sometimes you are bound to have some bad pictures. The key is to persevere! as he did and he went away with a great image to show for his trouble.

I'm working on a series of photography tips, stay tuned.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Beneath Murky Waters...

She made a run for the alleyways near the canal in a desperate attempt to lose him. She had no clue on his intentions but had no plans of finding out, not with the news she read this morning – “Sixth victim of the Jackal found in a dumpster” – suddenly the idea of walking back home with the obnoxious Johnny from the office didn’t sound too bad.

Amanda was kicking herself for not driving to the club tonight; drinking and driving seemed like an excellent idea at that moment. Wearing those high heels was not helping either – she was proud of her legs and those heels were the perfect final touch, so much for that now! She stopped a moment to listen … nothing … “where’s everyone?”… no sound! … “maybe I lost him!”… two more steps… damn clacking noise! … a shadow!! … silence.

Amanda was nowhere to be seen, only a couple of rain-washed blood drops that went unseen by the inspectors searching the alleyways…

I know, I know terrible story! that's why I'm a photographer and not a writer. However the pictures I want to show today made me think in criminal novels and wanted to give it a shot. Obviously it's more difficult than I thought ;¬)

With TV shows like "Life on Mars" shot in my adoptive city - Manchester - I always considered the canal banks like something mysterious and full of stories. Despite being renovated now I cannot stop thinking it could have been a good place to hide something or err someone...

"“What the hell does that fish mean?” ... "It's a Sicilian message. It means means that Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes"”

Last year I had the chance to take some pictures when the water level dropped in the canal for some reason and this is what I found. No skulls or anything like that though ;¬) only rubbish.

Flying home see more images after the jump >>

Can this be considered urban art?
Urban Art?

City's Archives?

Canal Rubish?

Let me know what you think!!


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

What camera to buy?

Recently I have been asked by three different friends (that don't know each other) to recommend them a "good" camera. When I asked why they needed a new camera the answer was more or less the same:

"Because I want to take good pictures!"

That immediately brought to mind this comic from WTD of Aaron Johnson:

There is the common belief (or so it seems)-and not particular to photography but to any craft- that the tools make the master and that is definitely not the case (I'm not saying I'm a master BTW).

We tend to be obsessive about gear and leave the technical aspects of the craft for later (once we have got that expensive "full of bells and whistles" camera). I totally understand that because I used to think exactly the same. But now I know better: Cameras don't take good pictures!, it is you who tells the camera what it should see. Even though cameras are now very advanced micro-computers they do not have a brain to decide what is the right feel you are going after in a particular image.

Feeding Hands(Taken with Canon 40D 10.1mp DSLR)

So forget about the myth saying that "good cameras take good pictures!" I am not picking on anybody in particular here but I thought it would be a good time to explain some things about photography and its tools and this is an excellent forum to do just that. Myth-busters kinda style mind you (hence utterly uninformed rubbish). Keep reading at your own risk :D

Hit the jump for more!!

Disclaimer: I'm neither implying that I'm an expert on the subject nor that I have tried every camera in the market. Also, I don't favour or get paid to favour any particular brand over another. I talk from my own personal experience and about what I've learnt when I made myself exactly the same question. I hope this can be considered an eye opener for some of you thinking about parting from your dough for a new camera.

My mobile (cellphone) has 8 mega pixels!

Users have become obsessed with mega pixels and the companies have follow them by offering just that. More and more mega pixels contained in smaller cameras. The only thing it means is that now we have more mega pixels compressed in smaller sensors! In plain English: you can fit five people within an old beetle or in a Land Rover. Certainly your five subjects inside the beetle will end up all cramped after a couple of hours. The same happens with this new mobiles or pocket cameras the pixels are so cramped together that you are not really getting the promised resolution.

Sensor Size: just as a reference, popular compact cameras have a sensor around 0.5 cm2 (0.45 on the new Fujifilm F200EXR and 0.43 on the canon G10). In comparison a midrange DSLR like the 40D has a 3.3 cm2 and still it's pretty small when compared with an 8.64cm2 sensor of the fullframe Canon 5D MKII (same as in the Nikons' D3 and D700). You do the math, megapixels mean shit under those circumstances! there is just no comparison [Click here for more info]

Another point to take into consideration is that it all depends on what are you going to do with your images. Are you planning on plublish them in a magazine? or you only need to print the odd 6x4 and to upload to facebook or flickr? If the latter is the case then you don't have to worry about megapixels and you won't know the difference after 6MP. If you are going for quality you have to worry about the size of the sensor and the performance under low light conditions (aka high ISO performance).

I want the perfect camera! small, fast, great under low-light conditions and with a lens that covers from wide-angle to super zoom (10x)
err... if you really find something like that let me know. I'd like to marry that thing. Oh sorry, I am married already! in any case what I am trying to say is that there is no such thing!!

Lets say there are three groups of cameras each of them with pros and cons. The first group includes the "Point and Shoot" cameras, the second the "Compact Cameras" and the third comprises the "DSLRs" or the big chunky ones. You have to decide which one is the best for you according to some questions I'll write at the end of this post.

The point and shoot (PS) cameras are the very little ones, pocket size that you can take everywhere! as their name implies these are very easy to use because of their automatic settings. If you are looking for memories, this is the group for you. Because you will take the camera everywhere (until you lose it), and these days they come with good video capabilities. Sadly you will get tons of those party pics where everyone seems to be close to dying ;¬) and no matter how much they promise you their little flashes are super intelligent, let's accept it: they suck. Pros: the small size and lightness, images good for web display and the odd small print, huge amount of megapixels to boot. Cons: no manual controls, limited zoom (around 3x), very small sensors, normally not very good at night. Not a creative solution per se but remember you can be creative with anything, even with your iphone camera. I don't know much about this group but if possible try it at the store before buying and ask about shutter lag (that is the time between pressing the button and the thing actually taking the picture) and flash recycle times (I believe that cameras with dedicated batteries are faster than AA batteries cameras).

The "Compact Cameras" sometimes they actually look like small SLRs and bring manual settings to the table. That is, you can change the values for aperture and speed manually. It is normally done either by accessing the menus of through combinations of keys. Not very straight forward but the option is there. If you have previously own a PS and noticed that many of your pictures came out pretty flat, good news! it's not your fault it's the camera's. They are programmed so that they could do fairly regular under most conditions and sometimes "properly" (according to the camera) exposed pictures are flat and colourless. If you want your pics to be vibrant try under-exposing them just a little bit. That's when the manual settings come in handy!

In addition have you noticed that when the background is bright either your subject looks too dark with a nice background or your subject looks ok with a totally white background (we call it burned)? Or that when you take a picture of your friends in a museum they look ok but the background goes pitch black? well that is what the cameras are told to do straight from the factory! with the manual settings and the flash you can even things out (I will post a tutorial some other time). Believe me, having at least some manual settings give your creativity wings. Now, Pros: better optics, bigger sensors compared to PSs, more zoom (10x or so), manual settings. Cons: fixed lens, they start getting bigger, slow shutter lag compared to DSLRs, it takes sometime to get ready (moving that long lens is time consuming when you turn them on), bad high ISO performance (there are always exceptions). Tips: look for one with a hotshoe (promise to post a glossary soon), it will let you put a professional flash or control another flash if you ever have the need. A camera I've used and I'd recommend is either and old Canon G9 or the new G10. This camera is still small and packs very good optics as well as image stabilization. Having said that, I took the picture below with a Fujifilm S-5000 very old for today's standards but I was very happy with it. I sold it only to buy my first DSLR.

Manchester 12(Taken with compact camera Fujifilm-S5000, 3.1mp compact camera)

And the last group, the DSLR for Digigal Single Lens Reflex, remember the old Reflex cameras you maybe shoot with film at some point? well these are their digital equivalent. You have total manual control as well as fully automatic modes. The lenses are interchangeable which means now you have to pack much more if you want to get the same focal length as with PSs or Compact cameras. The benefits? better optics (depending on the lenses you buy), very short shutter lags and recovery times, more frames per second, very good focusing systems and good high ISO performance. I don't regret moving to this last group but I have to say that my wife complains that I am not taking as many family pictures. It is just too cumbersome to carry the equipment everywhere so if you go this road keep your old PS just in case you need to keep a memory and not a piece of art every now and then ;¬)

In sum, you have a huge array of products that cater for all needs, you only have to figure out what are your needs!! For that you need to ask yourself some questions:

How often do you want to use the camera?
How much are you willing to carry with you?
What kind of photography do you like? street, buildings, portraits, sports, etc.
How close will your subject be?
Will you be willing to swap lenses and consider the extra weight that implies?
Are your subjects fast moving (like kids, pets, footballers)?
How much do you want to spend?

Take a moment to answer those question and you will learn a lot about why you want a new camera. If you want to free your creativity without concern about the heavy lifting then go DSLR. If you want an all round good performer but without the weight and burden of changing lenses and shutter lag and low light performance is not a must then go Compact. If you can't be bothered and are sure that you won't take any fancy camera out for a spin then just get a PS or your mobile will do.

If you want to compare cameras and read reviews try this site (Digital Photography Review) and if you have more questions send me a line and I will be happy to help.

Back to PhD mode...


Saturday, 2 May 2009

H1N1 en la Ciudad de los Palacios

Please hit the jump if you follow us in English...

Antes que nada si estas buscando información específica y objetiva sobre la enfermedad y la epidemia te sugiero mejor consultar aquí y acá ya que mi intención mas que informar es comentar algunas imágenes e ideas con las que me he topado y tal vez dar mi punto de vista como alguien que se encuentra lejos de su familia y amigos en estos momentos de angustia (porque la amenaza es real sin tampoco llegar a pánico desmedido).

Ya saben que mis imágenes se encuentran principalmente en Flickr y es ahi en donde me encontre esta imágen del Angel de la Independencia que junto con el texto incluido en ella -y del que copio parte en este mensaje- me puso a pensar (la imagen y el texto pertenecen a Tomás Chávez Hurtado quien me permitió amablemente usarlos en este bló y si das click en la imagen te llevará al sitio original checa sus demás fotos).

"La ciudad de los palacios es ahora la ciudad paralizada, desolada unas cuantas gentes con cubreboca (los que tengan posibilidad de conseguirlos) mirándose unos a otros desconfiando de todos, prohibido escupir, toser, tener fluidos nasales, cuanto tiempo pasara para que superemos esto.

No concibo ver esta ciudad sin gente, sin músicos callejeros, con estadios vacios, no hay lugar para tomar un café con los amigos, o un buen tequila en una cantina del centro, nos sentimos solos, ni siquiera nos vemos entre familiares, hasta de ellos desconfiamos, y esa esencia que nos caracteriza a los mexicanos se quedo atrás del cubrebocas, la gente no ríe, no platica, que pensaran, tienen la mirada ausente, que tanto cruza por su mente que hay momentos en los ojos se llenan de lagrimas, así es como se manifiesta el miedo".

Ahora a lo que quería llegar es a que aprecio las imágenes y pensamientos de gente como Tomás ya que al estar lejos de casa la unica manera de tener una imágen mas clara de lo que viven y sienten mis coterraneos es a través de ellas. Es difícil concebir un paro nacional de esta magnitud y solo puedo imaginarme lo impactante que debe ser el verlo de primera mano. Un aplauso (ya me sentí José José ♪♪) para la gente que sigue las recomendaciones y para los que no pues un buen coscorrón, más vale jugar a lo seguro. Ya después se verá si se requería en relidad o no.

Gracias por leer esto y espero pronto podamos reirnos de esta como lo hemos hecho de muchas otras anteriormente con una buena pinta de cerveza o mejor aún, un buen tequila en la mano.

:) Si quieres reirte de mi mala traducción sigue leyendo si no, pues hasta pronto!!


I found this image on Flickr and along with the text accompanying it made me think about the pandemic infection that we are witnessing. I've tried to translate its message as best as possible and after that I made a comment (the image as the quoted text belongs to Tomás Chávez Hurtado and you can see more of his flu-images if you follow the link in the image). The image depicts the Independence Angel which is considered an icon of Mexico City (aka La Ciudad de los Palacios - The City of Palaces).

"The City of Palaces is now the paralysed city, desolated, a few people with mouth covers (if they managed to find them) looking at each other, suspicious of everyone -Prohibited to spit, to cough, or to have a running nose - how long would it take to overcome all this?

I cannot see this city without people, no street musicians, vacant stadiums. There are no places to have a coffee with some friends or a good tequila. We feel alone, we can't even trust the family.

That essence characteristic of the Mexican people was left behind the mouth cover, no laughs, no chatter. What are they thinking? they have a vacant stare. What's in their minds that at moments they have watery eyes. That is how the fear shows itself".

Not a great translation but you get the idea. Now the only thing I wanted to say was that being away from Mexico at this moment is difficult to discern what is real and what is not. I wonder if the media has been responsible but in a sense we all know the answer - they profit on bad news- but if that is the case then whom is there to trust? The WHO? Our families and friends? Looking at the plethora of images available and the conflicting information in the news I wonder if my family there is at risk and if we are safe and prepared at the other side of the world.

I am not from Mexico City and it seems that things in Guadalajara are still pretty stable. However people have already run out to buy antivirals, vitamin C, etc. to weather the storm at risk of leaving people with real needs with no stock. Being this far away it is difficult to trust the one that says everything is fine versus the one that says the world is over.

I consider myself and optimistic so I won't dwell in this too much but I wanted to share this with you because reading what other individuals have to say (not the government or global organizations) has been a good way to get a picture (pun intended) of what is going in others head -interesting at times and shocking at others.

I really liked this image cause it shows there are still some sense of humour around and the text because it tells a story. A story of a city of 20 million people that stopped and that is a huge thing to consider.

I am sure we are coming out of this, but it will require responsible actions from all of us. Get informed, take this seriously without spreading panic and be tolerant.

Till next time writing from sunny, rainy, windy Manchester (wish it'd made up its mind already) :¬)
Back to the thesis!


Sunday, 26 April 2009

Easter Weekend in Wales - A Photographic Paradise

Finally I managed to do some typing after dislocating my shoulder (see previous post), obviously I have some stories to tell. A couple of weeks ago we visited some friends in Llangollen (in Wales), we met them last year thanks to the Rotary Club and they invited us again to stay for a couple of days.

I've never fancied living in the countryside but after seeing how they live I surely have to consider it again (maybe for retirement? ok, not really). Last time I was absolutely in love with the look of their house but I couldn't summon the courage to ask them to pose for a couple of portraits. Well this time was different.

The portraits were done on the very last day of our visit and it took some convincing from my part. At the end I think they were very good subjects ;)

For the first shot I chose the living room, one of the easy chairs was just by a Coat of Arms that I considered interesting. They are not sure who commissioned it, it was already there when they bought the house many years ago. R was willing to pose for me and I thought that Holly (a springer spaniel? was a nice touch). As I said before, time was of the essence and I didn't want to make them loose their patience with some "silly" portraits.

A Man and His Dog

This shot was lit using a 580ex shot through an umbrella hold by my wife. On camera I had a 580exII as a controller and pointing up just for some fill. My main goal was to avoid reflections on those glasses. At the end I was very happy with the shot. Especially because a year before I didn't venture asking and I was dying for it. If I ever have another chance I will try to move the easy chair a bit farther away from the coat of arms to be able to use a separate light on it. I hope you also like it.

After that shot we took some more just for fun with Valentina in them as well and playing with the dogs. Lotsa fun!!

The other portrait was trickier specially because J was not as convinced of having her portrait taken. After all she agreed. For her I had planned in advance a shot in the staircase, in this place they have lots of images from their kids (the youngest now my age) at different stages on their lives (weddings, graduations, etc) so I thought it was a special place to do this shot.

It was not difficult to light it up since all the walls and ceiling were white making the bouncing light from the flash very soft. I took several pictures but this one was my favourite. I'm using a 580exII on camera pointing up and ahead to use all the bounce from the ceiling. I also used a shoot through umbrella at my feet with a 580ex just to add some fill to her face. This was my favourite shot and prolly the only one in which she is not looking forced to pose :) sorry J.

A Woman and Her Memoirs

This was Easter weekend so we had an egg hunt on Easter Sunday in which Valentina got plenty of chocolate eggs. Read and see more after the jump...


Before getting into the egg hunt I want to show you a shot of my wife. I took this shot just to see if the shot in the staircase would work. So consider this my homework, it is very good if possible to try your shot with the assistant (if you have one) before the actual subject arrives. That way you can solve any lighting or location issues beforehand.

The Staircase

I had the joy of having some wide angle fun while Valentina was looking for her Easter eggs. Here some of the pictures, nothing fancy in terms of photography technicals:
The Egg Hunt-1

The Egg Hunt-2

Sorry for making this post so lengthy!! More to come.


Sunday, 19 April 2009

About Pain, Dislocated Shoulders & Technology

(Written using handwriting recognition software. I apologize in advance for the typos.)

Ouch! the sumbitch really hurts.

Yep that is right, yesterday I dislocated my left shoulder for the first time -apparently once it happens it could become recurrent. Yikes!

(if you don't want to read about how it all happened, hit the jump to read about how I expect technology to help me through now).

How did it happen? I'm still figuring out. But I was playing in the pool with the kids when I tried the ultimate underwater twistting maneuver -which only resulted in me ultimately twistting my shoulder, bleh!. I have to confess that my personal opinion of the NHS was pretty bad, but in this case they really shined. Special thanks to the ambulance guys, they were ace! And the gas they pack is fu@%ing brilliant! I'm telling ya! I really felt like flying.

Now about the pain, I've never felt so much pain before. I'd had some major bumps before -like ripping the ligaments on both knees and a heavily sprained ankle- but this was much worse. At some point I even asked Ernesto (my host) to pull the shoulder back in place. Glad now that he chickened out cause we could've caused more damage to the shoulder, maybe pinching a nerve or a blood vessel.

The ambulance arrived in less than five minutes, the pain was getting worse while the shoulder was cooling down. Just getting the trousers on was epic. Once in the ambulance they offered me a pain killer -at the beginning I refused but the guy knew what was coming and he got it ready anyway- as I said before "oh, blessed gas from heaven". After the first corner (and a big scream later) I was holding to the mask as if my life depended on it.

After a couple of hours, a couple X-Rays, some morphin and some other white cocktail they patched me up and sent me home with a sling and an appointment to the fracture clinic next Thurs!

Now this is a pain in more than one sense. While there is no good time to get injured, ever, certainly writting up a thesis while running out of funding is no joy. But taking this with some philosophy, it forces me to try out some of the technology available for disabled people. More after the jump.

We normally forget that there are people struggling day in and day out to perform tasks that you and me take for granted. Like typing on the keyboard -which I can't now- damn key combinations! However, FEAR YOU NOT cause there are tools to help someone disabled or injured to perform those tasks easily. Yeah right!

So here I am trying this handwritting recognition software that comes pre-installed with Vista.

While certainly I cannot write up my thesis like this it certainly provides a good option for writing some short texts. Even writing down this post is proving to be quite tiring.

I've tried voice recognition software before and this seems to be as frustrating. Problem is, first you need to give the program quite a bit of time to learn how do you write. And while here you don't have the problem of the accent you start blaming yourself for not trying harder to improve your caligraphy as a child. It also requires some heavy concentration and I'm feeling really exhausted.

This program has three writing modes: the writing pad, the character pad and on-screen keyboard.

In the Writing Pad (below) you can use free-writing in which the computer tries to guess what you are writing. The problem is, you don't have much control over the editing of the text. It is difficult to insert spaces (you end up either with none or too many)or tell the software what goes capitalized or not. Apparently it improves the more you use it. It is very good -however, for a quick text or maybe chatting. In this mode 13 where I have more typos -as you can see.

Then we have the character pad (below these lines), it's proving to be my "favourite" so far. You have little boxes in which to write, just like filling-in a form. So far I hate letters "t", "y", "g", "i" and "l" other than that is very accurate. Downside is that the program is not using its database to guess the words. But you are "spelling" everything so to speak. You can teach the software so it can improve accuracy, the fact I write a lot using my PDA is not helping cause here you have to think you are writing on paper instead of the modified alphabet on the PDA.

Finally, you have the On-screen Keyboard which is self-explanatory really. I only have to say it is very slow to write anything but still useful to insert symbols.

It's taken me a long time to write this. It was mostly an exercise to get used to the technology an evaluate its usefulness in the following weeks. I'm supposed to rest my arm for a couple of weeks and the Doctor said No TYPING but I can't really stop working on my thesis altogether. I think this will prove helpful but I will also install the Dragon Naturally Speaking as a voice recognition software.

Wish me luck and avoid dislocating your shoulder it does hurt!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Curry, Blogs and Bloggers!!!

If you follow this blog in English bear with me this post had to be written in Spanish but the blog will come back to normality soon, I promise.

Bueno pues empujado por el buen Francisco (aka Dtradd) tenía que contar lo que sucedió el pasado Jueves Santo en Manchester.

Me contaba el buen Paquito (eso le va a encantar!!) que anteriormente cuando los blogs no eran tan comunes la gente hacía mucha alharaca cuando se reunían a contar sus experiencias como "bloggeros". Así se dieron reuniones apodadas como: Tortas y Blogs, Chelas y Blogs, Tacos & Blogs, etc. De ahí el título de esta "meme" (como diría el buen Juan).

Bueno pues en esta ocasión tocó en la lluviosa ciudad de Manchester. Aunque la reunión no se hizo específicamente para hablar sobre blogs, si estuvieron presentes varios bloggeros de afición ya muy comprobada - el ya "linkeado" Francisco, Juan y Hector. Ellos tienen mucho mas tiempo escribiendo mientras que mi bló aún no cumple ni el mes.

(Hay que presionar el More>> para seguir leyendo)

La reunión empezó muy bien con unas chelas para abrir el apetito en el Varsity (Oxford Road, aparentemente muy fácil de confundir con otro cerca del centro) y después de que llegaron otros amigos nos fuimos a un restaurante (Pink Garlic) a disfrutar de un curry.

Para ser sinceros el curry no es lo que más me atrae pero eso no me detuvo (ni a los otros) de comer como si recién hubieramos salido de una larga vigilia en el desierto.

Si bien es cierto que tire el mango lassi como no se olvida en apuntar el buen paquito pues en mi defensa tengo que decir que la mesa bailaba un poco por lo que se cayó mi botella de agua sobre la jarra de delicioso mango lassi. Además, el efecto fue positivo puesto que el susodicho tuvo que moverse al final de la mesa. Sus aventuras amorosas estaban atrayendo demasiada tensión y se me estaba terminando el tema de conversación al no poder mencionar a la nueva susodicha que era en realidad el "hot topic" de la semana. Bueno, eso si es que existe porque la verdad no la he conocido en persona.

La verdad fue bueno poder ver a Juan y a Hector nuevamente pues se marcharon de Manchester poco después de haberlos conocido (Hector a Oxford y Juan a Alemania).

Tristemente pensé que alguien mas tomaría las fotos y no lleve ninguna cámara conmigo. Pero aquí incluyo una foto de hace tiempo en la que aparecen Juan y Hector respectivamente a la izquierda de la foto.


y otra del buen Francisco aterrorizado por las alturas. O mas bien por lo enclenque del teleférico.