Digital Photography Workshop (Class #4)

In the first half of tonight’s class we covered digital workflow &#8212 basically what digital photographers call the period that starts when one inserts the memory card containing their pictures in the computer and wonders, “What next?” The second half was dedicated to reviewing the shots each student took in last week’s Pike Place Market adventure.

In discussing digital workflow, the instructor did a good job keeping his foot out of his mouth with the exception of one lowlight. In discussing Photoshop’s 16 bits/channel mode vs. 8 bits/channel mode he once again illustrated his technical shortcomings by proclaiming, “16 bit images contain exactly twice the number of colors as 8 bit images.” (FACT)

Thankfully, the workflow portion of the class was a relatively short jaunt through the cumbersome image handling functionality built into Windows peppered with gratuitous plugs for standalone, dedicated workflow programs which cost more than most people pay for Windows. Digital workflow is such a personal thing (kinda like grooming, in my opinion) so there is no silver bullet solution that works best for everyone. Sadly, I did not really learn much from that portion of the class.

The highlight, at least for me, was the second half of class which began at the halfway point of the three-hour session following a 15-minute break. It was time for us to present the photos we had taken during the class field trip to Pike Place Market. I included six representative samples of my pictures in an earlier post though I took 24 to share with the class.

The instructor said he would project our pictures onto the wall and have us talk about each shot (what we were attempting to capture, what steps we took to capture it, etc.). He and the other students would then critique our work. He asked for a volunteer to go first. Only four of us had actually participated in last week’s trip and that same four were in attendance this evening. Oddly, the other three students indicated they had no desire to go first and I really did not care so I volunteered. That turned out very bad for them.

The very first of my photos was the black-and-white image of Pike Place Market. The instructor said he had seen that view of the market photographed hundreds of times but never in black-and-white. He went on to shower the picture with praise and gave me high marks for trying something different and succeeding. He was really impressed with the composition and my decision to go black-and-white which helps draw attention to the reflection off the damp (this is Seattle) pavement. The other students said, “Wow.” We went through each of my remaining photos spending at least a minute on each one. I received lots of praise for my work and some helpful criticisms. After we finished discussing my last photo the instructor began to applaud. The other students begrudgingly joined in. The bar had been set.

Realizing the inevitable, the other students hurriedly asked to go next. In retrospect, this was probably them hoping their work would quickly fade from memory as the class proceeded. The good news is each of the other students had one or two really nice shots and there was one other “wow” in the bunch. The bad news is each brought two to four times the number of images as I. The worst news is we spent less time reviewing their images collectively as we did mine and there was no more applause from the instructor. One of the other students conceded, “Keith made us look bad.” :crying:

Initially I was delighted my images were so well received but I neither bask in the misery of others nor relish being teacher’s pet so the entire experience was bittersweet and awkward. There is only one session remaining which is scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving so the other students won’t have to put up with me much longer.


Digital Photography Workshop (Class #3)

For class #3 we met at Seattle’s historic Pike Place Public Market. For this class we were to practice composition, flash photography and motion blur. The class met at “The Pig” (if you have been to The Market) to spend 2 hours capturing scenes in and around the market. Since our class meets at 6PM it was a typical dark, damp and chilly Seattle evening.

I have never been to The Market after dark or around closing so I was impressed with the magnificence of the neon lighting and the efficiency of the vendors as they quickly closed up shop at the end of another long work day. I hoped to make the most of my time by capturing at least a handful of interesting elements of The Market many people have never seen or subconsciously ignore.

Below I have included several of my favorite shots from the photo shoot. They are representative of the other hundred or so photos I took during the outing.

Pike Place Public Market Fruit & Vegetable Stand
Pike Place Fish Market Market Corridor
Market Flower Market Floor

Like any digital photographer I have invested in high-capacity memory cards which would allow me to take hundreds of high-quality pictures. However, I spend a lot of time taking each photo so I seldom take more than 50 pictures on any given shoot. I also tend to be my own worst critic so only a small fraction of those pictures ever make it from the camera onto my computer for processing.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.


Digital Photography Workshop (Class #2)

In a previous post I discussed my enrollment in a digital photography workshop and my first impression of the instructor (summary: not good).

He did much better during the second session as he was more in his element discussing creative aspects of photography such as lighting and composition rather than the technical elements. I left the second session feeling more informed and educated which is more than I can say after leaving the first session.

Next week is session 3 and the class will meet for some on-location work at the world famous Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. Our class meets in the evening so we are hoping for some good night shots to capture scenes of the market few people actually see.


Digital Photography Workshop (Class #1)

As mentioned previously, I am taking the Digital Photography workshop at Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) in Seattle with the goal of improving the quality of my photographs, specifically, and getting more enjoyment from the creative aspects of photography, in general.

The workshop consists of five 3-hour courses that are held from 6-9PM on Thursdays at PCNW. The six other students and I had our first session on Oct 27. First impression: Not good.

Here are a few lowlights that led me to re-read the fine print regarding workshop reimbursements:

He started the class by informing us of his qualifications including 12 years as a professional photographer, 5 years teaching and an avid digital photographer since the inception of digital photography. I lost all respect when he made the following statements (and stuck to them after being further probed/challenged by me):

  • He does not own a digital camera.
  • A camera’s resolution determines the quality of the pictures it produces regardless of the size of its image sensor or the dimensions of the pixels on the sensor. For example, a current 8 mega-pixel consumer point-and-shoot camera will produce higher quality pictures than a current 6 mega-pixel professional digital single lens reflex camera. (FACT)
  • Merely opening a JPG/JPEG file for viewing and closing it (no editing, no re-saving) degrades the image quality over time because JPG/JPEG is a lossy format. (FACT)

My jaw literally dropped when I heard the last two at different points in the presentation. I balked at both. The instructor tried unsuccessfully to parry my contempt-laden ridicule of the sheer lunacy of his words. For the 3rd bullet I even asked if this were true for images hosted on the web that get viewed thousands if not millions of times. He said, “Yes, the images lose a small amount of quality each time they are viewed.” Other people in the class chimed in on that one as well asking about images burned to CD-R or marked read-only. He held firm. I grew silent and somber upon recalling the adage “Never argue with a fool since people might not know the difference.” All I could do is shake my head and state, “I have never heard that before.”

He has exactly two more sessions to tighten up his game and make me a believer before I pull a Fitzgerald and draft an indictment of his competence. Right now, my vote is:

Thumbs Down!


Amsterdam – Day 3 (Sat – 11/27)

Editor’s Note:
All posts dated between November 2004 and June 2005 were imported to Keith’s Amusing Musings on January 21, 2006 from my previous travel blog. I decided to delete that blog and move all its content here which some readers may find disruptive considering Keith’s Amusing Musings did not come online until October 2005. The good news there will be only one blog, Keith’s Amusing Musings, going forward. Enjoy these older stories.

Unfortunately, our bodies had not adjusted to the 9-hour time difference so the day started early at 3AM.

Since I was unable to force myself to sleep, I decided to use the wee morning hours to take a few pictures of old Amsterdam around our hotel. TB was having no part of it and opted to lounge in the bed. After getting dressed and gathering the photo equipment I was off.

The early morning air was brisk but not too cold. Since it had stopped raining just a few hours earlier everything was still damp. Traipsing around a foreign place alone during the late night/early morning I was somewhat concerned for my safety. The otherwise tolerant Amsterdam community was still reeling from the murder of Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, and the anti-Muslim backlash in its wake. However, as an aspiring photographer, I was determined to begin capturing parts of our trip that would otherwise go unseen. Also, since I was armed with my tripod I figured I could mount a solid melee attack if provoked. :shocked:

Hotel PulitzerFor my first shot, I decided to photograph the Hotel Pulitzer’s façade. The first thing I noticed was the number of people out and about. Pairs of women on bicycles, groups of guys on foot, the occasional taxi, I was never alone which surprised me given it was an early Saturday morning. I guess New York is getting some competition for its billing as “The City that Never Sleeps.” I setup the tripod low to the ground (the center of the lens was about 18” from the pavement) to capture the brickwork leading into the hotel in the foreground with the hotel’s main entrance in the background. This required that I sit on the damp ground to take some meter readings and compose the final shot.

The shot to the right actually consists of two separate images blended together using Adobe Photoshop. The first photo was taken after metering the highlights & midtones. The second photo was taken to bring out the shadow detail. This is the digital equivalent of taking multiple exposures on the same negative in film photography.

The second item on my photo to-do list was to capture one of Amsterdam’s famous canals with some combination of a bridge or landmark in the background.

Westermarkt TowerWestermarkt Tower Close-Up As luck would have it, Hotel Pulitzer is a block away from Westermarkt (“western tower”) located on the corner of Prinsengracht & Raadhuisstraat. You may recognize Prinsengracht as the street on which the Anne Frank house is located (one block north of Westermarkt). I took the shot to the left which shows Westermarkt and the Prinsengracht (“prince canal”) just outside Hotel Pulitzer. I took the photo to the right shortly thereafter to better showcase the architecture and grandeur of Westermarkt.

I had to do the “double exposure“ trick for the photos above as well. Doing so allowed me to capture details in the tower and its surroundings. Such is the expense for taking pictures before sunrise with minimal natural light and insufficient artificial illumination.

Amsterdam Side StreetThe last photo I took on this outing is to the left. It’s simply one of many secondary thoroughfares running radially toward the city center intersecting Prinsengracht. It gives a feel for the density of the homes and shops typical throughout Amsterdam. It also highlights the quantity and quality of masonry found throughout this historic harbor city.My hands were starting to get cold so I headed back to the hotel to kill some time processing the photos and beginning the day’s blog entry. It was now about 5:20AM.

By the time TB was ready to start our day of touring I had already been awake for 7 1/2 hours. We decided to head down to the Pulitzer restaurant for a “full American” buffet-style breakfast. Apparently, “full American” adds eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes and other cooked foods to the pastries, cereal, juice/coffee/tea of the continental breakfast. Since we were in Amsterdam we decided to do as Americans do (uhh, wait a minute). Thankfully, they also provided smoked salmon and fresh-squeezed orange juice which made the €25,00 per person (~$33.00…for breakfast!) price tag infinitesimally less shocking. We Americans have been hearing the market reports stating how the U.S. dollar is lagging other major foreign currencies (particularly the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen). Well, nothing drives this home quicker than a European vacation. Look at it this way: Things cost roughly the same in Amsterdam as they do in the U.S. For example, the hotels here also attempt petty larceny charging €4,00 for the bottled water in the minibar. The kicker is $100.00 in U.S. currency currently converts to about €77,00 (before commissions) so that bottle of water costs us poor Americans about 30% more in Amsterdam. Expanding ones geographical & cultural horizons through foreign travel isn’t cheap but it’s worth every cent.

€ is the symbol for the euro which is the new currency adopted by the majority of European countries (with the notable exceptions of Great Britain, Denmark and Sweden) which began circulating in 2002. I should also mention Europeans use the comma the way we do the period and the period the way we do the comma when numbers are involved. I guess this is inline with driving on different sides of the road and using different units of measurement. On the last issue, I actually wish the U.S. would convert to metric (we all know “two liter” and “400 meter relay” so we’re practically there, right?) but I digress.

Immediately following breakfast we headed to our first destination, Centraal Station, to depart on a canal tour. We made a quick stop at the AVH supermarket near the hotel to buy a strippenkarten which is basically a multi-trip tram ticket that can be used multiple times on the same trip by different people. The price for the “strip card” was €8,50 and would get us both to Centraal Station and back following our canal tour in addition to getting us back to Centraal Station on Sunday to catch a train to the airport. We had already confirmed with the concierge that we needed to catch the #13 or #17 tram to reach Centraal Station and we only had to wait a short time before the #13 arrived. The Amsterdam public transportation system, like other European cities, is top notch. The electric trams are modern with displays showing the next stop, news and weather information. The entire process of boarding and unboarding the tram was highly efficient save for the ticket clerk who sits in a small booth onboard the tram and validates tram cards, stamps strippenkarten, and even sells tram tickets for passengers who come aboard unprepared. Having a single person responsible for all these activities at each stop tended to create a logjam whenever large groups boarded the train.

We arrived at Centraal Station without much fanfare in under 10 minutes. From there, we had a short walk to the Holland International ticket booth to purchase our canal tour tickets for €8,50 per person. We then queued (European for “stood in line”) with about 40 other people to wait for the next vessel. Our tour was scheduled to depart at 11:45AM so we had about a 20-minute wait.

Once we got situated on the tour boat and things got underway the one-hour tour was pretty uneventful. We toured each canal enveloping the city center and also cruised along the Amstel river for a bit. We learned about the different types of gables present in Amsterdam architecture (both homes and warehouses) and how every home (new and old) has a hoisting hook at the top to provide a method for getting furniture and supplies to the different levels. Apparently the stairways within the homes and warehouses are built narrow and steep to save space which makes it impossible to carry large items up them. The last interesting thing we learned is Amsterdam was originally a marshland so all the buildings sit atop wooden and concrete piles that go 30-40 meters down through the peet to firm sand. In fact, Amsterdam got its name because a dam was built on the Amstel river to protect the early inhabitants from flooding. The settlement became known as “Amstel Dam.“ I’m not sure how the L became an R but that’s how Amsterdam got its name, so we’re told.

At the end of the tour we decided to take a walk around the area and just started wandering aimlessly. Our walk took us past restaurtants and shops including a sex museum which we didn’t bother to explore. In some bizarre way we ended up doing a big circle back to Centraal Station. It was around 2PM. Since we planned to visit the Anne Frank house at 5PM we decided to go back to the hotel to rest beforehand. We proudly boarded the #13 tram with strippenkaarten in hand. We noticed there seemed to be a lot more people traveling by tram at that time and things got crowded pretty quickly. We waited patiently for our stop (Prinstengarcht/Westermarkt) to be announced as the tram whisked us away. Several minutes passed and TB asked me if I thought we had been on the tram that long on our way to Centraal Station. It did seem we had been on the tram longer than before but I wasn’t sure and, always the patient one, said things were probably going slower due to the increased traffic and tram occupancy.

After several more minutes we still didn’t recognize any of the areas, landmarks or stops so I asked TB to look at her map. By the time we realized we’d missed our stop the tram had gone beyond the area covered by the map! As it turned out, our stop was about 4 stops from Centraal Station. We were 10+ stops beyond that. We casually strolled off the tram at the next stop to avoid looking like lost tourists as we proceeded to catch the next tram back. We both kicked ourselves for making such a rookie mistake since we pride ourselves on having detailed information and flawlessly navigating directions during our travels. Of course, one positive is we briefly saw other parts of the city that we had not planned to visit. We boarded the inbound tram and were disheartened to learn, since we overshot our stop by so much, we actually went outside the zone limit usually covered by 2 of the 15 available stamp slots on the strippenkaarten. The inbound trip would require 3 slots per person which meant we would only have 5 slots remaining to get us to Centraal Station when we departed Sunday on our way back to the airport. We didn’t know if 5 would be sufficient for the both of us.

Back at the hotel, TB took a nap and I worked on the blog entry and picture processing until the time came for us to head to the Anne Frank house. The Anne Frank tour is a must-do for anyone visiting Amsterdam the first time. The lines have a tendency to get long as the tour is a self-scheduled, self-paced stroll throughout the house in which Anne, her family and 4 others hid to avoid the Nazis. The tour cost €7,50 per person and, indicative of its popularity, its program was available in 8 languages. It took us about an hour to complete the tour. The most memorable parts for me were seeing the small quarters the 8 people were restricted to for 2 years and being able to read (actually “look at” since I don’t know German) a couple of Anne’s actual composition books which comprise her diary.

We returned to the hotel at around 5:45PM and just hung out in the room watching The National Geographic channel. We ordered room service at around 9PM and watched more TV. TB went to bed around 11PM and I stayed up until almost midnight working on the pictures, editing the blog and tinkering with the camera.

Dutch vocabulary word of the day: huis (HOOSE) which means house.