IT

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PUZZLE FACADE

Published December 3, 2013 by Tony

BUILDINGS AS A RUBIK’s CUBE

Ars Electronica Exhibition Centre,

In the city of Linz in Austria, an entire building has been transformed into a giant Rubik’s cube that can even be “played” (although only at twilight).

It is the Ars Electronica Exhibition Centre, and the creator of this ingenious electronic wizardry is the Austrian student Javier Lloret, who used the project to the University for his thesis about interfaces, calling it “Puzzle facade.”

The cube’s faces correspond to different building’s area expressly illuminated with different colors, like the Rubik’s cube. The player interacts with a normal Rubik’s Cube (not colored), specially designed, which, via Bluetooth, sends the data (orientation and rotation of its blocks) to a computer placed in the building. This one runs the Puzzle Facade designed software, that transforms the rotation of the cube’s blocks in different colors, varying in real time the color of the lights placed in the corresponding building’s areas.

Because of its complexity, only two sides of the building are lit and interact with the player’s interface (the cube). However, turning the cube, the player see directly on the building how the other two cube’s sides look like, setting accordingly. This does not preclude the solution of the game, but makes it just a little more complicated.

Thanks to teachers, friends and relatives, Javier was able to work on all aspects of the project: concept, electronics, programming and realization, with the permission of the Ars Electronica Exhibition Centre.

Here for a video:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2516742/Only-brightest-solve-giant-Rubiks-Cube-An-entire-BUILDING-turned-illuminated-version-classic-80s-puzzle.html

APPLIANCE LIFESPAN

Published March 27, 2013 by Tony

PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE

It is long I had this realization that often I externalized, but now, after reading a few articles, I realize that, alas, it is true and no longer one doubt.
I guess my reflection has also been yours since it concerns the lifespan of all electrical and electronic equipment (and not only) we buy. Whether it’s a simple light bulb, a toaster, a washing machine or a television set, all these appliances no longer have the same duration of the ones that we bought many years ago.
As a boy I remember that rarely we changed a light bulb at home, but without going so far back in time, I can say that after married I have changed the first refrigerator after 22 years, although it was not yet completely irreparable. The same goes for television, washing machine and boiler. Devices which seemed almost “eternal,” and which, even if broke, could be repaired and it was worth it. It’s symptomatic that the figure of the “troubleshooter” has almost been disappeared, especially the “TV repairer” that no longer we find around, except for the authorized repair centers of the various brands.
It’s true that compared to the past the price of some household appliances is lower, as the case of televisions, but today an energy-saving bulb costs much more than an incandescent bulb, and if you’ve noticed, it lasts much, much less. In summary, we save money but buying something that lasts much less, or we pay more – for saving consumption or pollution – but in exchange we have to replace the item more often.
Truly a big deal!

The term that you must remember and that manufacturers take into account,  is “planned obsolescence,” which means that all the devices are “deliberately” built to guarantee a lower duration, through a limited useful life, as if it were a “deadline” beyond which the product must not longer ensure flawless operation or could break down even.
All this to sell more and therefore at the expense of we consumers.
The “built-in planned obsolescence” has been planned to perfection because it must neither be too short – causing the dissatisfaction of customers and damage the image of the company –  and nor too long – to lead to a loss of revenue.
At this we also must add a different policy of spare parts, according to which companies produce only a few replaceable parts, while some repair parts are too expensive or hard to find, with the aim of forcing the customer to replace the device. For example, consider the batteries which often (deliberately?) cannot be replaced because built-in and, when not more rechargeable, force us to throw the unit, as happened with the iPod (lasting not more than two years!), with MacBook Pro, or with some digital cameras.

All what I am saying has been confirmed in Germany by a study commissioned by the Parliamentary Group of German Greens. According to Stefan Schridde and Christian Kreis, authors of the study, it is extremely difficult to demonstrate this “intentionality” of the producers, of course. Producers which defend themselves saying that the “planned obsolescence” would be counterproductive because customers would consider the brand unreliable and turn to others. This could be true only if they were few companies to implement such a “planned feature”….. Isn’t it?
Also, it is a fact that until the 70’s, one appliance’s life expectancy was 20-30 years, while today it is more than 10 times lower.

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PHOTOGRAPHY LESSON

Published February 16, 2013 by Tony

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY: SOME TRICK
HOW TO GET GOOD PHOTO

Prologue.
Although photography is not my main activity or job, it has always been a passion more than a hobby. The first approach was when little more than a teenager I got my first camera, still using films of course. It struck me that at my leisure I could capture people, things and places to be re-watched later in the future. On the other hand, the old family photos always had intrigued and fascinated me. Years later, I do not remember how or why, I decided to buy the first “good” camera – in the meantime I already was working – and began to enter into the merits, reading books and magazines. My choice fell on a Pentax ME with original 50mm lens. Although at the time, Nikon and Minolta were the top, it did not seem appropriate to spend more for a first approach. But you know the appetite comes with eating, and in a short time, everything about the art of photography, from the technic to the semi-professional equipment, became my daily bread. I also attended a specific course of the then known “Radio Elettra school“, whose licenses I often saw hanging in some photographers shop, but I noticed that on a practical level, I knew more of what I read inside those files and manuals. I then started photographing at full blast, capturing everything (reportage?), as well as also developing and printing by myself, and soon the small equipment began to be insufficient for my inspiration. Thus, step by step, I bought another camera, a Pentax MX that, unlike the prior one, was manual and therefore more versatile for me, others optical accessories, a flash by Metz, winding for the creation of films, equipment for the development of color negative assisted by a magnificent magnifying machine by IFF in Florence, with the best optics on the market and then a Philips head color. In short, my small bedroom became a real darkroom where I developed negatives and printed B/W, color, slides, and Cibachrome. What a satisfaction!
Intervening during the developing and printing process brought me to get more “professional” photos. I always carried the “ME” with me, as today we always brings a mobile phone, not to miss the opportunity to portray something interesting, and over the time I got hundreds of negatives and slides. I speak of the past because years later, for various reasons, I had to put aside this passion, even if others arrived meanwhile. Some friends took advantage of my skill and competence to ask me for photo book of communion or confirmation of their children, wondering why I did not do the photographer as second activity. I would have been able to do it, but on that time Photography for me went beyond the classic and ordinary images taken at a bride, and perhaps wrongly defining it the “prostitution of photography.”

Today, with the digital era and by automatic cameras – that are real miniature computers – photography is within everyone’s reach, with satisfactory results, sometimes excellent. Everybody, even if does not know technical terms such as diaphragm aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, or exposure, really everyone can get a good photo simply pressing the shutter button.
The exposure of modern digital cameras, with autofocus and management software, allow us to get perfect photos, and the only thing we must care is the framing and composition. For this reason, here you will not find a manual about technical issues, things important for professionals, but unnecessary and tedious for those using a camera occasionally for personal and family photos. Therefore, I’ll be talking of other, simply helping you to make better use of the camera to get better pictures from the point of view of “composition” and “framing”.
As said, “technical parameters” are selected directly by the exposure meter of the camera that during the pre-snap measure the brightness of the scene and, in automatic, adjusts the exposure to ensure a correct photo. To realize how much is wonderful the technological object you have in your hands when photographing, realize that as soon as you press the shutter button, in less than a second, the unit has focused on the subject (or object), has set the color temperature (called white balance), and has selected the appropriate values for shutter speed and diaphragm aperture. After the shot, the  software included with the unit, start to work, always in hundredths of a second, applying any selected effects or, as far as possible, corrects small vibrations noises, very frequent when using devices so small and light. Then, storing the (digital) image and finally showing it to you on the monitor. What do you want more?!

In photography, the term “Framing” refers to the subject/object and background and their perspective. Practically, it refers to the part of the scene that the photographer wants/needs to capture.
Instead, the term “Composition” refers mainly to the subject/object in relation to the surrounding environment, called “background”. Practically, it refers to the position of the main subject/object compared with others elements or with the background visible in the scene.


ADVICES FOR BETTER PHOTOS

 

@ PORTRAITS @


In the case of portraits, not just concentrate on the subject, but get used to control its position within the image, and the background.
It’s not nice, for example, to see a person portrayed with a trunk of a tree or a pole that seems to emerge from his head, or, in the case of scenery in the background, with the lines of the horizon that seem to come out of his head. A rich and colorful background can distract from the main subject, unless it is blurry. Many cameras have a special “Portrait” mode.  By adjusting the aperture automatically, this function ensures that the subject is always in focus, while the background kinda blurred.
If you want to give more emphasis to the subject, move closer and try not to take half arms or legs, the better is half bust or whole figures. For portraits, but this applies to all photos in general, remember the “rule of thirds“, perhaps the most famous in photography, which helps to create a centre of interest and get harmonious and balanced compositions.

rule of thirdsWhile looking through the viewfinder, try virtually to divide the area into 9 parts (see the image above), as if it is crossed by two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. The central area is obviously the most interesting, and for this called “golden area“, also known as static area, where our eyes fall for first when looking at any photograph, then moving on the four lateral sides, called “strong lines”, or “lines of force”, from which the eyes collect more information after watching the centre of the photo. In most cases, we spontaneously place the subject to the center, in the golden area. This is not wrong because the subject in the portrait is the static element of interest, but to break the immobility that this kind of framing involves, we should try to bring some element of the subject in the “strong lines”, for example, asking to the subject to tilt a little the head, so that it covers the area 1 or 2, or let the subject’s hand or arm to invade other lines of force. Obviously it is not advisable to place a part of the subject in all four lines of force, getting too many centres of interest that would create an imbalance in the image and a chaotic composition.

Look at the two pictures on the left, two common portraits where, unfortunately, the rule of thirds is not met. In the first case, the subject is in the centre of the area, but only part of the face, while the others centers of interest all absent: an image monotonous and uninteresting.  In the second case the player is positioned in a wrong way, with the impression that he is appeared by chance in that shoot.
Notice now, how things change in the two portraits on the right.
In the first, we see that the girl fills almost the entire image, gaining much emphasis. Even if the subject is wholly in the central zone, eyes and hands are placed on the grid lines of division or nodes of intersection, invading the strong lines.

In the next photo, the player invades the “point of force” (2,4), and the result is an image more pleasant and little static compared to the prior.


To transmit something

Still about portraits, the best are those that reflect the person spontaneously, then “natural”. If the photograph also conveys emotions and other things, even better.

A “souvenir photo” that we see after many years, will be more enjoyable if it conveys the emotions of the moment in which it was photographed. Moreover, this is the philosophy of the famous word “cheese”, we ask for to any person before shooting…. a person who “smiles” seems more spontaneous and natural, as well as transmitting serenity and joy. Consider, instead to photograph a farmer, you could also make him smile, but better through a “close-up” and a “black and white” image, which enhances more wrinkles and aging due to his work,  this photo will have its own charm.
Given that today we do not waste films or printing anymore, and you can immediately delete bad photos, I strongly suggest you to shoot, shoot and shoot, because with many images it is  more likely to ‘catch’ the right one or “carpe diem”, and this speech is a must if the subjects are children and animals. Often, the photographs taken by surprise by their naturalness are just the best.


The Gaze

To deepen, portrait framing can be divided into:
– Extreme Close Up: framing the face;
– Foreground or Close-up: filming from the shoulders up;
– Piano medium or medium bust: filming from the waist up;
– Medium Shot: filming from the thigh up;
– Full plane: filming the entire figure.
Unless you want a Camera-Shotsparticular effect, the focus should be taken on the subject’s eyes, and particularly if it is a close-up/foreground. Since in photography, the direction of subject’s gaze acquires great importance, do not just limit yourself to let him look into the lens, because often the most interesting portraits are when the subject is looking elsewhere. I think it goes without saying that a person with eyes closed is completely to avoid.
If we do a portrait of a person who wears glasses using the flash, the light glare will be inevitable!  Using the built-in flash is not easily avoid reflections.
In these cases, the only way is to put him slightly half-face.

Angle and perspective

The classic photo when shooting portraits is to place the camera at the subject’s eyes plan.
Ok, but also try to change perspective climbing on a chair or kneeling, such as when photographing children, or, where possible, ask to the subject to change positions… a new point of view may yield unexpected results but interesting.
Remember that in the close-up the background becomes a very secondary area and should be neutral and uniform (blurred). In addition, it’s you who during the shoot can make a person more photogenic, for example, if the subject has a too pronounced chin or a double chin, shoot by a higher angle to not emphasize it. If we are dealing with long or aquiline noses, better not to shoot them in profile; on the contrary, in the presence of small noses or round faces, shoot by 3/4 (lightweight profile) with side lighting direction. For long and thin faces, front shoot and light are most suitable.
If you are photographing short people, filming them from the high not do anything but make them even shorter. To avoid emphasizing big ears, do not shoot the subject head-on. Freckles, if a defect for you, can become less visible using a yellow filter over the lens and a more diffused light. In case of baldness, do not photograph the head from above, of course.
To end, when photographing people on the street, try to get more close to the subject, unless you’re shooting, deliberately, a busy street or the context rather than people.

Setting & Light

In any case, it is always necessary to pay close attention to the light.
If photographing outdoors, especially with sunlight, you should place the subject in such a way that the sunrays do not hit directly the face, otherwise you will have white areas of the face, burned by the strong light, while the eyes are semi closed because of the glare. Needless to tell you not to put the subject half in shadow and half in the sunlight.
Although in general we try to avoid the flash for portraits, if you are on the beach for example, do not be afraid or ashamed to use it, because it is often the only way to avoid unsightly shadows (it is called fill light or fill-in, and if your camera allows, reduce the flash output).

In the photo above, for example, the strong natural light illuminates the background and defines the contours of the subject, while the flash has been useful for eliminating any strong shadow.
As general advice, you should never photograph with the sun high in the sky (at noon), and as many know it is convenient to keep the light behind us, in front of the subject, although it is preferable the light of early morning or late afternoon, and if lateral to the subject. If we also use the flash, then we must consider that we have two sources of light available, and since we cannot regulate or direct the sunrays, can do it with our flash, at least. Place the subject in such a way that sunlight illuminates mainly from one side, for example 45 ° to the left, and placing yourself the other side, make sure that the flash goes to illuminate the shaded area (right); if the case, put the camera in a vertical position so that the flash is more oriented to the right.
As in all cases, there are no fixed rules for the ambient light where settings vary from case to case, and often simply moving a few feet, the situation changes radically.
Therefore, shoot… shoot and…  shoot.
The optimum conditions of light are with overcast sky, so that you have plenty of light but very widespread, as the scattered light is the absolute best because illuminates evenly without causing shadows. Sometimes, better to photograph in shaded areas rather than in the sun. In shade is much easier to get a photo lit up properly, like the one of the child you see on the left. On the right, however, the photographer has masterfully taken advantage of the harsh shadows for an interesting creative effect.
If indoors, having available a single flash, inter alia built-in, try to exploit always the natural light coming from the outside. In this way we could rely on two sources of light such as often the experts do (the flash light is in fact qualitatively similar to sunlight). Open balconies, windows and shutters so that more light can enter, then placing the subject closest to it. Here, too, try to use the flash as little as possible because there’s nothing worse than a flash fired on a person’s face!
Avoid close-ups by flash and in this cases, cover the flash with a paper towel (WHITE!) or toilet paper to reduce its power and spread the brightness. For best results you should direct the flash light on a side panel or on the ceiling (if they are white!), but by built-in flash this is not possible. Please remember that any white or silver surface, like a cloth, a piece of polystyrene or a car sunshade panel, reflects light and helps us to bring it where is less, and to lighten the shadows, at least. Also, beware of the red-eye caused by flash whose light inevitably affects the retina of the eye. Today, all the cameras are equipped with an anti-red-eye option, which when activated, leads the flash to emit a series of small pre-flashes before the final one, in order to restrict the diameter of the pupil. In this way, surely the chances of having red eyes decrease, but the price to pay should not be underestimated since the subject, dazzled before shooting, can take unnatural expression, while after the first flash it also instinctive goes to close the eyes. A good way to avoid the red-eye without making recourse to this camera function, is not to direct the flash in the eyes and not to let the subject look into the camera, and the best choice would be to direct the flash on a reflective surface but, as mentioned, this is not possible with built-in flash. Looking at the photo on the left you realize how the ambient light is important to convey certain emotions, and in this case the use of flash would ruin the outcome. Of course, the use of black and white photo, in this case, helped the desired effect.

Groups Portraits

If you have to photograph a large group of people, as a general rule, you should photograph them in groups of 3 or 4 people at a time, so you have more time to devote to detail and easier to control their expressions. On the other hand, if the group is large, to frame them you should put so far away that the individual faces (on the photo) become quite invisible.
Avoid putting all the people lined up next to each other in a row, although the memory of a moment, such a composition would be unpleasant. Try, in these cases, to create different levels of interest with someone standing and someone else sitting or crouching, with all faces equally illuminated. Unless you’re doing close-ups, the background becomes important here, and can help us to get interesting shooting. If people are in the sun, tell them to keep their eyes closed until you are ready to photograph, then after a simple “Ready!” …  shoot,  sure that all eyes will be wide open.
If you are indoors and want to shoot the subject together with the environment, for getting a balanced composition keep in mind the rule of thirds. You can place, for example, the person on a vertical line of force (2,4 or 1,3) with the gaze in the opposite direction, or place the subject on a point of force (3 or 4) with the background object placed higher in another point of force, creating a diagonal line that strengthens both elements. The photo of the statue on the right, follows these rules.
In the funny family photo on the left, the strong light through the window has been exploited to get a light and homogeneous background, while the flash has illuminated the subject who would otherwise be in backlight (see backlight paragraph below).
For indoors portraits, such as during party, increase attention to the background that may distract, as it is not nice to see some glass reflections behind the subject.
Caught emotions approaching to the person, and show the candles in birthday photos, better if you’re in the dark turning off the flash, hold the camera very firmly somewhere (on the back of a chair, on a table, against a door’s frame) to prevent images from being blurred or shaky (see photo on the right).
Finally, when photographing groups or people in the street, try not to take some who are furthest away, in the framing’s sides, to prevent to cut them in half.

Flash, Motion and Focus

Always remember that any flash has a very precise scope, depending on its power. It’s unimaginable that you can photograph by flash at a concert, while in the bleachers, with the wish to shoot the artist on the stage, several feet away. The speech is the opposite of what I said about the close-up, where the light was too much, while away from the subject the flash light goes gradually decreasing. In most cases, with small digital cameras, 4 meters becomes the maximum distance that the flash’s light can reach, and so 2-3 meters are optimal to have a good illumination. Keep this fact in mind when shooting a group of people placed at distances greater than 4 meters.
The flash unit becomes necessary and indispensable when it is necessary to block the movement of a subject/object, to prevent blurring.
I refer, for example, to photos of sports events, where you need to shoot the cars, motorcycles or animals. Because of its short duration of the light, the flash “freezes” any movement, whatever the object is, a moving hand or a car running at 200 km/h. Regardless of the kind of flash, which in the presence of strong ambient lighting may also not be used, there are two methods for filming objects in motion. Suppose that you are attending a car racing, the first method is to keep track of the car, following it with the camera, then shooting at the appropriate time (panning method,  see pic on the left).
In this case, the car will be in focus and its movement blocked by flash’s light or by the choice of a very high “exposure time” due to a strong ambient lighting, while everything else, like the background, will be pleasantly in motion due to the movement of the camera, that is shooting while following the car. Basically, it’s as if it were the environment to move instead of the subject. This is typically the best and most used method.
The second method is got by operating on the contrary, staying with the camera perfectly steady and shoot when the car passes, trying to focus on it of course.
In this case everything is stationary, both the object and the background, and any “motion” effect is lost.
To the right is an example of immobility.
The flash can also be useful in all those other situations where for one reason or another you cannot keep the camera steady (filming while you are on a boat, if you are on an unstable stand, if you tremble with your hand, etc..).
In all cases, always try to focus properly the subject, and for this the digital cameras are there to help you through various functions, like selecting the area of focus, or by choosing more people’s faces to focus, or even “follow” the selected subject to photograph (in the case of subject in motion).
Remember, a blurred image is an image unusable.
When shooting people or animals in motion, it is convenient to leave space for action in order to make the composition more dynamic and allow who will look the photo, to understand where and how the action of the subject is held.
Despite the autofocus is fine for most occasions, there are cases in which the possibility of having a “manual” focus can come in handy. An example is a scene in which there are many elements almost all nearby, in this case the autofocus arbitrarily choose the subject to focus that may not match what you are interested. Or in the case of particular effects where you want to deliberately blur the foreground element in favor of another, in this case the autofocus will hinder your purpose.

@LANDSCAPES@

If for portrait composition and framing are important, for landscape they instead become necessary and basic, because without a main subject it is easy to get monotonous and insignificant images, and thus we should try to get landscapes able to transmit emotions and strike for their originality.
Unless you’re photographing a landscape with a person in backlit, because of the high background’s lighting, flash becomes useless and unnecessary for landscape, even regardless of the amount of light present. Therefore, you only must consider the lighting of the scene and, depending on the time when you shoot, from sunrise to sunset, you will have more or less light and different colors. But this is not a problem because in case of low light, like sunsets (photo on the left), just keep the camera steady using, if the case, any available stay (walls, fences, rocks, logs, dustbins, or even the a friend’s shoulders). For nightly landscapes it is not advisable to shoot (see on the left) without a very stable and safe stay, like a tripod. In fact, to photograph landscape at night, the “shutter speed” is too long (many seconds) and even the steadiest hand would not be able to keep the camera still for more than a second, getting inexorably as result an image in motion.

Also for landscape, must be applied the rule of thirds, by referring to the lines of force.
To give dynamism and sense of depth, in general, the horizon line must be in the highest part or lower, nearer to the first or to the second horizontal line of force. In the photo on the right, the field that was the predominant element, has been emphasized, and placing the horizon at the top has given more dynamism and drama to the photo. In the next photo, instead, it has been given more prominence to the sky, they definitely deserved it. Remember, then, that the horizon is straight by nature, and shouldn’t be tilted, therefore, do not tilt the camera when photographing landscapes with visible horizon.
Often, the presence of some element in the center or placed on the sides of the image helps to give more depth to the scene (see the image on the right), as could be a tree’s branch, for example, but note that our eyes need an interesting subject on which dwell, so try to include some element of interest. A cloud in the sky, a mountain, a tree, a boat, etc., leads to a more interesting picture and beautiful to behold. Sometimes the presence of an object of known size, as it can be a person in the distance, included in the landscape, can be used to give the right proportions to the scene and its true extent.

The lines are very important and often the one supplied by rivers, fences or roads serve to direct the eye to the main center of interest. Diagonal lines or with original angles attract more attention, making the image more interesting.
As for portraits, the worst light for landscapes is sunlight at noon. Better to photograph in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is low. Photographing landscapes means in most cases filming the sky, and except in special cases, completely white and empty skies does not help to have a pretty picture. For this, clouds or colorful skies help us. You can have interesting pictures when there is bad weather and the rain even. In any case, use the “landscape” option if it is included in the menu of your camera. When photographing architecture and interiors, play with the prospective and avoid distortions; place the camera so that the vertical lines of the building are as straight as possible. If the case, drift away and try not to shoot from the bottom up, this that brings buildings to take a pyramid-like shape. Avoid finally, poles and wires that disfigure the scene.

@Fireworks@

To photograph fireworks, as for night shots, a stable tripod is essential, useless to try holding the camera with the hands! Important is the choice of the place where to stand, preferably not too close or far from the firing area and where people do not pass in front of the camera. Keep it in mind that fireworks requires long exposure times and in the event that the camera allows it,  you can get the shutter open for as long as you want until you release the shutter button (Bulb mode), with the possibility of taking even more explosions on the same frame (see the image on the left). If your camera allows it, please select the option “fireworks” in the menu, preparing the camera for this kind of photo.
It is not easy with automatic cameras, but as always, take a lot of photos to be more likely to get some perfect picture. Timing is another important element for the success, you must shoot at the right time, just when the explosion is occurring. For framing and focusing wait the first explosions, so, once adjusted, you are ready to take the next shot. Consider that despite the darkness, the light of the fires is very strong and should not be used big openings of the diaphragm, getting photo overexposed.
If you have the option “Bulb”, someone recommended to obscure the lens with a cloth or a hat, and then press the shutter button and wait for the explosion. Put away the cloth when the time is right and then cover it at the end of the explosions, and repeat this for the desired number of explosions you want to catch, and eventually re-press the shutter to finish shooting. Generally, it is better if the fireworks are on a black background with no other distracting elements in the background.

@Backlighting/backlit@

How many times have you take pictures with the sun behind a person or a landscape where most of the image is a very bright sky?
The images obtained will be, a black subject in the first case and an image too dark in the second case. It is called “backlight” or scenes in which the main lighting is very strong behind the subject/object we are photographing. The same applies, for example, with photos taken in the snow where the brightness is further accentuated by the white glare of the snow or in the case of sunsets.
Forgive me, but to understand more I have to open a small technique parenthesis.
In photography, the term “exposure” refers to the amount of light needed to get a picture properly exposed, and is due to the time that the camera’s shutter remains open, together with the diaphragm aperture.
Exposure is measured in EV (exposure value) and depends on the sensitivity or ISO values of the camera sensor, with values typically ranging from 100 to 3200. High sensitivity values are used to photograph dimly lit scenes, while with very high sensitivities (from 800 onwards) you can also catch some scenes lit by candles. The drawback is that “high ISO” gives images with a lot of noise that can be compared to the grain in the old photographic films.
The exposure is calculated from exposure meter’s camera during shooting, even in relation to the selected settings. In the case of backlight, the exposure meter measures the light that, being very intense, gives back a shooting (exposure) with a couple time/aperture more appropriate for the highlights, but under-exposed towards other elements in the scene. To avoid the “backlight” you should therefore make sure that, despite the strong brightness, the exposure is different, with a lower shutter speed or a bigger diaphragm aperture. To do this, prepare the camera for over-exposure (+ EV), or select the appropriate “Backlight” function if present.

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Another way to trick the exposure meter, is to point-and-focus against the main subject/object only, then pointing and shoot, without removing the finger from the shutter button. In this way, the camera sensor will read the light coming from the subject (in the shade), causing the exposure meter to adjust exposition on that. It’s obvious that in this case, the subject will be better exposed, but with a strong over-exposure to the remaining part of the scene.
To realize the above, note the two photos to the right, where the first was exposed for the area outside the hole, and the second for the inside of the cave. In any case, unless you want particular effects or silhouette, (such as the photo above) it is better to avoid substantial variations in brightness, as backlight scenes are.

@Depth of Field and Macro@

Macrophotography is a photographic technique that allows to obtain,715 through strong enlargement ratios, pictures of very young subjects at close distances. Most digital cameras allow you to take “macro” images, by selecting the appropriate function.
While it is true that it is enough to focus, frame and shoot, to get satisfactory results you need to know a few things. Without going into details too technical and theoretical, know that when the shorter the distance between the lens and the subject the shallower the depth of field available.
“Depth of field” is defined as the distance in front of and behind the subject that still is in focus, and thus clearly visible. It depends by the aperture (f/ values), where with lower values (small f/ values) the “depth of field” decreases dramatically. To illustrate this, suppose you have a scene with two packs of cigarettes on a table, about 10 cm. meter away from each other, and to focus on the first pack with the camera nearly 30 cm distant. Despite far away each other, and only the first object on focus, if the lighting permits and the camera uses a very closed aperture (bigger f /  values), we will have a photo where also the second object is sufficiently in focus.
The first photo on the left was taken with exposure values 1/125 sec. and aperture f / 3.5, and thus with a very open aperture that gave back a very small depth of field. The second picture by values 8 sec. – F/32, and as you can see both packages are in focus.

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If instead to photograph the first object at a distance of about 30 cm. I go up to about 10 cm. to obtain a sort of macro, even using the previous values (f/38), the second package is no longer in full focus now, precisely because, as said, at closer distances the depth of field decreases.

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This is a fact to be borne in mind in macro photography where at higher magnifications it becomes almost impossible to have all the elements of the scene in focus.
Note also that although the lighting conditions were identical, approaching the target object, the scene is less enlightened, and this leads us to consider that the macros require adequate lighting, greater than the one required to photograph the same subject to greater distance.
We often need to use the flash but due to the short distances between the camera and the object, the flash may not fully illuminate, and it is possible that some parts of the object, receiving too much light, will be over-exposed. In the absence of an external flash or special illuminators specific for macro photography, there are several solutions “homemade” that I can recommend.
Try to use the sunlight by placing the object in the most enlightened zone, unless you’re filming an insect or a plant in its natural environment. If you need to use the flash, reduce and spread more its light using a piece of white tissue paper to put onto the flash, and surround the object with white cards or sheets of paper, so that the light is reflected as much as possible.  A tripod is indispensable!
Take different shots and if the device allows it, try to use the “manual” function, to try different combinations of exposure.

Conclusions

Beyond the rules and concepts described in this article, on which there was certainly a lot more to say, remember that photography is an art and as such all experimentation and transgression can lead to unexpected and surprising results. Who loves photography and often engages in shooting, he knows that practice, sensitivity and good taste are worth more than manuals. Sometimes just a little ‘imagination and a good opportunity to realize a great photo. Light is the most important and essential thing for good photographs, without light we would not have colors! Therefore avoid to shoot in low light, even if it you seem to be enough for you, the exposure meter does not fit the little light as our eyes!
Always take multiple shots of the same subject under different conditions, and remember that in photography there is not only the horizontal plan, but also the vertical.
Remember, at last, that a good photographer loves and respects the environment and nature.

INTERNET and CHILDREN

Published February 10, 2013 by Tony

INTERNET RESTRICTED FOR CHILDREN?

PARENTAL CONTROL

For years now, the controversy whether children must have free access to Internet is going on. Months ago, there were rumors about the new technology developed by Facebook that would allow (officially) the registration also to under 13. I put the word “officially” in brackets because we know that millions of kids already attend social networks regularly, inputting a false date of birth. From long, Windows gives the possibility to add filters to the browser (for blocking adult contents) or restrict access to the computer by using the users account.
But the question remains, restriction or not?!
As always, various discordant opinions about, and  now I will have my say.

As with everything, it takes common sense, as we must reason with knowledge of the facts and free from any bias, without getting caught by excessive obsessions or easy generalizations.
The first thing that sounds unpleasant here is the word “limitation”, which indicates lack of freedom.
From time immemorial, any “prohibition” and “censorship” were always fought hard, from the freeing of the slaves, to the free sale of alcohol.
How many other things  were “banned” until the last century? Rock music, for example, which for many was considered sinful, encouraging sex and drugs. Woodstock was our reply.
Today it is said that Internet is dangerous for children because of pornography, for talking to strangers and, even worse, for case of enticement. Ok, let’s talk…..

1 – It is well-known that every “no” always gets the opposite effect, increasing curiosity and the desire to transgress. But, let’s analyze the situation in detail, because in addition to the downside, you should consider other possibilities.
2 – In addition to the computer, nowadays internet is easily accessible via tablet, ipad, iphone and any mobile phone. So every parent also should monitor the use of these devices or limit their use, where this could be possible.
3 – Our children are not always at home and, street or stores apart, they are often at classmate and friend’s home. With this in mind, then should parents also forbid to go out or meet up with their friends?
4 – Today, about IT-based, kids are in most cases better prepared and skilled than their parents, so any “block” could easily be removed and put back without anyone noticing.
5 – With regard to the pornography, porno magazines have always existed and will continue to exist, thus obscuring Internet the problem is not entirely solved, provided that the porn is. Millions of kids in the past, myself included, have watched porno magazines and not for this old generations were traumatized or became sick.
6- The last concern, from what I read around, is the soliciting of minors. Apart from the fact that statistics in hand, cases of solicitation over internet represent a very small percentage, but do you relatives really believe that if an adult wants to lure your child he/she can do it only via internet?! Adults that eventually your child can meet on internet are infinitely less than those meet every day at school, on the street or on the bus! The world outside our windows is full of sex, drugs and bad affairs, useless to blame internet. To me it is absurd that parents filter internet and not talk about sex with their children, for instance.
7 – Finally, my last point concerns the nature of your children. Restrictions and prohibitions are of little use if they have a strong and determined character, and if they have made up their mind to do something. By Internet or not, stubborn kids usually manage to experience what they want do, in one way or another. Every parent knows their children, and if the family is healthy and the child has always received a sound education, whose parents are an example, needless to worry. Children already know what is good and what is bad. If we give them confidence in everything they usually do, we must also give it in respect of internet.

For me, every complaint about internet is misplaced and anachronistic. Today, Internet (including social networks) is the opposite of loneliness, boredom, silence and ignorance. Internet, as well as a way to get knowledge, is a window on the world, but please do not forget that  you have others windows at home that are real!
Fortunately, although for parents their children always seem candid, naive and childish, they generally are smarter and more mature than people think.
For comparison, for me restricting the use of the internet is like if we wanted to limit the number of murders by limiting the sale of bullets!
If these 7 points are enough for you, then please, let kids alone, and let’em live their own life without prohibition, limitation or deception.

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ACXIOM AND PERSONAL DATA

Published February 8, 2013 by Tony

BIG BROTHER IS THERE

Big Brother really exists and is located in Conway, Arkansas.
Here, day and night more than 23 000 computers grind information of millions of people drawn by any source in the web. These servers are not operated by CIA or Google, but from a little-known and discreet company called Acxiom, that knows everything about millions consumers and Internet users in America and in the world.
Acxiom (Acxiom Corporation) is a marketing technology and services company with offices in the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. It offers various marketing and information management services, including multichannel marketing, addressable advertising and database management. Acxiom collects, analyses, and parses customer and business information for clients, helping them to target advertising campaigns, score leads, and more.
Likely, on Acxiom’s servers are stored age, race, sex, weight, height, education, sexual preferences, political opinions, buying habits, dreams, health, and who knows what else, of nearly all Americans and of many Europeans.
The New York Times says that, according to experts, Acxiom has collected over the years, the largest body of data ever on consumers.  His computers process more than 50 billion data per year and it is said that in 2011 about 500 million people had been “indexed” on these servers, for each of which had been found 1500 information. These information are then reviewed, classified and catalogued by the software, to make them available for a fee to companies that request it. Obviously, Acxiom’s customers include banks, manufacturers, e-commerce companies and department stores who want to know more about people’s tastes. A very profitable business, given that in 2011 the Acxiom had a turnover of 1.1 billion U.S. dollars with a profit of 77 million. According to the company’s leaders, everything is perfectly legal since they provide only to collect information available in public records, on the internet or on social networks. In the United States there is a growing fear for “database marketing”, especially if conducted on a large scale that can have unforeseen and disturbing developments. It is expected, in fact, that this company does not want only to collect and sell such data, but has also developed a software, that based on the data collected, will influence consumers actions. (See the picture)
Not to mention the ethical implications when a commercial company starts to “handle” sensitive information such as health status, political or sexual preferences.  I guess that as minimum the consumer should know, with certainty, what use is made of his/her data and which companies are buying them.

1a Image32For curiosity, Smith does a search and visit a site that sells printers. images
1b images

Later, Smith login in his Facebook account and finds advertising about printers.

When subsequently Smith visits an e-commerce site….. ecommerce-bo

…will find a special offer for a printer for him!

source: Panorama June, 27, 2012

DIGITAL MEDIA LIFETIME

Published February 8, 2013 by Tony

RELIABILITY AND DURATION OF STORED DATA

I’m not a centenary, but during my short life I however have seen a number of technological changes in the field of multimedia storage.
I was just a boy when tape-cassettes began to take the place of bulky stereo8 cassettes, years in which still held sway vinyl discs.
Who kept them in the car was forced to have a box in the bonnet to cram them all.
Then, at the first stereo player change, people took the opportunity to buy a new cassette player and many, slowly, had also to buy back the titles of their favorite artists on tape.
A few years later I then attended, happily, another major change, the arrival of VHS, which sent  the old Super8 mm film in retire. A great innovation!   

This format was so successful that in the world the VCR is considered the most common unit after TV-set and fridge!
Even camera adopted this new support, at the expense of the first Betamax and Video8, both Sony branded.
To create more manageable units, the support was then miniaturized, creating the mini-VHS (VHS-C), that kept intact its technical characteristics.
I think because of this change, many have lost so many old cherished memories, on that time recorded on film, aside from those who, informed or by chance, were able to transfer anything on VHs, by himself or by special laboratories on fee.
Do we not expect at all that after about 20 years things would change again!?
In fact, today, we can say that VHS, after a long agony, is died, permanently replaced by DIGITAL support.

CD, DVD and Blu-ray with digital cameras and DVD players/recorders, represent current technology.
Even what was the long-lived support, impossible to disappear – the photographic film –  has disappeared from the scene, replaced by cameras and digital cameras.
It all started with computers, of course, because digital media are born to stock up on computer data.
But despite digital devices and computer are newcomers in the field of popular technological innovations, in their short history they already count “dead & missing” both in terms of digital media and software.
For those who do not know, the first popular media storage for PC were the 5 1/4 and 3.5 inches floppy disks.
5-inch and quarter were the first to die, but today floppy disk are not even installed on new computers!
Needless to have 1024 Kbyte when a CD can hold 700.
But again, expense and time wasted!
Because after CD then the DVD came, with its 4.7 GB of space, which for sure will soon be replaced by the double layer with twice the capacity and double-layer and double-sided!
Besides, on the scene then Blu-ray came.
And who knows what will happen in next few years!
But important and radicals changes also took place in relation to operating systems.
DOS, Windows, and Linux, just to mention the most important founders of the most widely SO used around the world.

To do an example, if in the ’60s Mr. Tom had recorded the film of his marriage, in the 80s not to lose it, he was forced to transfer it (with loss of quality) on VHS. A few years ago, before the VHS disappeared altogether he had to copy it to DV tape or DVD, with further loss of quality. In 40 years three methods of recording are changed and, beyond the degradation due to the time, the next two transformations have deteriorated greatly the quality of the original, despite the best qualities of the new media.

Instead, Mr. John who had kept data on a floppy disk, was forced to transfer them to CD, and wishing he could then burn them to DVD, but here, despite the fact that at the level of bits (digital) there was no loss quality of the copies, we must consider more important factors, about the operating software for the translation of data.
An application or document (a letter, a presentation or a slide-show), created in the 70s under DOS environment no longer works with computers operating under Windows. The same could happen in the future with what we’re going to create and keep today.
Nothing is certain.

I shudder and am taken by a strong discomfort in thinking that primitive men sent signs engraved on the rocks that have survived more than 2000 years and that if well preserved today, after 5000 years, even an ancient Egyptian papyrus is still perfectly readable!
Instead, today, Tom finds himself, after only 40 years and many adventures, with data strongly degraded and the risk of losing them in a few more decades.
Mr. John, instead, with the inability to have access to digital data stored no more than 30 years ago.

Every time I keep some digital photos burning them on CD or DVD, I think about the alterability of data and lifespan of the physical media.
Despite yellowed, in old albums, with pleasure, satisfaction and amazement I still find photos taken more than 100 years ago by my ancestors, while among computers, peripherals, and programs I have lost, and perhaps will continue to lose, data and digital information.
How many times does that damn “track 0” gave back a defaced floppy, or we have received the message “unable to read the CD,” bringing us to lose the data stored?
Not to mention, then, hard-disk, which once marred, put us practically our knees!
One wonders if this is true technological innovation and what are the limitations to keep in mind.

CD & DVD
Without a doubt, today the most popular and practical solution to store digital information is given by CD and DVD media.
Bill Gates’ aim, a computer in every home, is now a reality and if you add common DVD recorders and cameras that record directly onto (mini) DVD, this supports this statement.
Previously I mentioned the obsolescence of the hardware and software, necessary for reading electronic documents, and especially multimedia data that are more complex and therefore more critical than just a simple ASCII text. The duration of physical media digital media (electronic, magnetic or optical) is not known with certainty, and is likely to be lower than the data set in stone, on papyrus or paper that our ancestors used in the past.

But as said, if the problem was only the duration of the physical support, it would be enough periodically copy it, apart from the inevitable “oversight” that would, as often happens, brings to lose data. In fact, the mere preservation of a cd-rom, or its regular copy,  becomes useless if a reader or machine (hardware) does not survive, together with the existence of programs (software) that can understand  and translate those data into a human-readable language. In general, the risk of persistence in time of the electronic documents are:

1 – Lack of physical duration of media for data storage (CD-ROMs, DVDs, hard drives, tapes, etc.)..
2 – Hardware Obsolescence for decoding media (readers, drives, etc..).
3 – Obsolescence of software for the interpretation of the data (word processors, different program reading and sharing format, graphics programs, presentation programs, browsers, etc..).
4 – Obsolete hardware and Operating Systems.

Market strategies, at least for the moment, there are none, since in this situation is precisely the market (companies) to earn, and innovation lies, both in terms of costs and  of data loss, on the shoulders of consumers .
Those who, like me, had the chance to see the picture of his great-grandfather or have in his hands a postcard sent by his father in 1946, during the II war, they now are worried that with the advent of digital, their great-grandchildren wouldn’t do the same in the future, by electronic documents preserved today.
According to the characteristics declared by digital media’s manufacturers, a CD or DVD should last many years (according to many factors from 3 to 30?), but in reality this is hardly the case, and from personal experience, even if having preserved diligently the supports, I have often found, after a few years, with CD partially or totally illegible.
For this, for some time, I’m doing multiple copies of my personal memories (photos and videos), and since this problem also applies to the old magnetic media (cassettes, VHS tapes, reels, etc.). time ago, with patience & time, I also digitalized some old family memories. A lot of work!

To conclude, here are 5 steps to consider for the protection of our electronic documents in relation to the duration:

1 – Check periodically your media and their readability
2 – Adoption of more standard machine languages and software.
3 – Constant data transfer on new digital media.
4 – Translation and transporting data by the new languages and software, which change over time.
5 – Choose, how a further alternative, archives available online.

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