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I Got A Niiiikon Camera

Posted by Scott

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A lot of people have been asking about my photographic process for this trip so I thought I would break it down in a post. As Paul Simon before me, I got a Nikon Camera.  A Nikon D80 to be exact.  I don’t particularly like it, but unfortunately I didn’t realize that until after the return period had expired.  That fact aside, I have been able to coax some pretty satisfactory results out of it with a lot of post work.  I am usually shooting at around 800-1000 ISO with Aperture priority fixed at F2.8 for shallow depth of field and quicker exposures for the low light stuff.  My main gripe with this camera is the hopelessly inferior auto focus system.  It simply DOES NOT WORK.  Everyone has been raving about Canons so I think I’ll make the switch in the coming  year some time.  I have been lusting over the EOS 5D ever since my friend Simon showed me the shots he got with a borrowed one.  Really incredible stuff.

I am usually shooting in FINE JPEG as opposed to RAW just to save space.  Once in Photoshop I do a lot of color correction using the Shadows, Midrange, and Highlights sections of the color balance dialog.  I think that’s the key to really getting the pictures to pop, you have to adjust all the ranges independently.  That’s when you start to get some really nice cross processing / Lomo vibes going on.  Next I like to use dynamic lighting to bring the range out.  The dynamic range of a digital CMOS sensor is nowhere near that of film.  Using software effects like Adobe’s Shadow/Highlight or Nikon’s D-Lighting can simulate an expanded dynamic range in a digital image without crossing that thin line into the unnatural looking world of HDR imaging (a technique that intrigues me on a technical level but that can feel overdone and synthetic).  Of course, the end result of all this is a rather processed looking image, something some people don’t appreciate but I myself enjoy. People tend to bad mouth digital post processing but this has never made much sense to me. Processing is a huge part of analogue photography but people don’t seem to have much of a problem with that fact.  Needless to say, the results I have achieved on this trip have made me a convert to digital photography as an artistic medium.  Before I used my digital only for work tasks like product photography and such.  Now I feel like I could get away solely with a digital SLR and never look back. I would miss the unpredictable, organic nature of film but I wouldn’t miss the all the extra time and money that goes into analogue photography.

In case you missed the reference in the title, here’s Paul Simon’s Kodachrome, a song that always makes me lament the fact that I was born about 20 years too late.

Landfall Stockholm

Posted by Scott

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Another city, another cliche aerial shot from the wing. Flew into Stockholm this evening, haven’t seen much of the city yet but it seems like a very interesting place.  It’s rather cold for what I am used to, I think it’s nearly freezing outside; about 0°C. This place really drives home the weakness of the US Dollar: I walked by a McDonalds tonight and noticed that a Big Mac will run you 60 SEK, the equivalent of about $10 USD. Yes, $10 Big Macs. Will be posting some shots from Amsterdam soon, they had the most beautiful clouds there.

Swissair Strap Tag

Posted by Scott

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Been posting so much photography lately thought I’d throw in some design related stuff that was also travel related.  This has to be the best airline tag I’ve ever seen.  Love the "SR" type on the back side.  When I saw cool stuff like this back when I was a kid I would always try to take the whole stack.  I ended up with boxes of it by the time I left home for college.  I think the majority got tossed out over the years, no big tragedy though, I grew up in California so none of it was anywhere near this good. Image via alistairh on Flickr.

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Tsukiji Fish Market

Posted by Scott

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On our last night in Tokyo we stayed up all night to go to the Tsukiji Fish market:

"The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, commonly known as Tsukiji fish market (Japanese: 築地市場, Tsukiji shijō) is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind." Wikipedia

We got there around around 3:00, well before the actual auctions started at 5:00, so we were able to see a lot of behind the scenes work and preparations.  The people there were surprisingly accommodating, they let us pass in and out of any areas we pleased and even helped with directions.  Everyone was hustling around working so I was amazed they didn’t just tell us to get lost.  The place was like a bee hive, energy everywhere, people zipping around in these small transport carts moving the catch from the docks to the market area.  Some of it was downright gruesome, the top picture was of a guy we found way in the back. He was butchering live fish one by one using some strange method involving a spinal rod and a large knife.  I seriously can’t believe that much ocean life gets pulled out of the sea every day just in one place, sort of disconcerting to think this is going on everywhere around the world every day, can’t imagine that could go on very much longer. 

At any rate, the experience is highly recommended and free.  Your best bet is to just stay up all night and go really early to catch the more interesting stuff and beat the 5:00 rush of tourists (which actually wasn’t too bad).

It’s another rainy day in Amsterdam, been hard to get as many pictures as I would like.  Tomorrow is supposed to be clear so hopefully I can play some catch-up.

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Stockholm Mingle

Posted by Scott

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Just a quick update on the Stockholm Workshop.  As you may already know, the seats for the workshop itself sold out but I’ve got word from the promoters that people who missed out on the tickets can still come to the hotel bar for the after-workshop mingle.   I will be hanging out so stop by if you want to ask any questions or just have a drink with a bunch of other designers. The workshop should end at around 20:30 so around that time we’ll make our way to the bar.  For location information go here.

Patong

Posted by Scott

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Patong is an absolutely crazy town in Phuket, Thailand where we had to transfer through from Bangkok to get a boat to Phi Phi island, our final destination. Patong is on the beach and people seem to swim and relax during the day, but the main point appears to be the nightlife. I am not sure what I came here expecting but nothing prepared me for the all out sensory onslaught that awaits after dark. In all my life I don’t think I have ever seen so many people concentrated in such a small area drinking and partying. There was a main strip with all of these open air bars and clubs down the side streets (known as "Sois").  This main drag was packed with droves of people wandering aimlessly absorbing the sights and sounds and basking in their vice of choice.  Incredibly, on multiple occasions I saw entire families with their young children wandering through these areas.  I say incredibly because many of these bars and clubs existence seemed to be predicated solely upon prostitution as each of them ostensibly consisted of a bartender and a pack of four or five girls just hanging around (although one couldn’t really be sure of the gender a lot of the time). Eventually some middle aged guy would stroll up and after a few drinks he and a girl would leave.

Visually, the Sois were a photographer’s dream, this was one place I really regretted not having a truly pro rig to take the whole thing in.  I lugged around my Nikon D80 the whole time snapping endless shots while trying not gape in awe of the insanity all around me.  Unfortunately the D80 only goes ISO1600 so it was sometimes difficult to get sharp shots in the lower lighting conditions, but most of the time there was enough ambient light to get away with ISO1000-1200 and avoid the higher noise associated with the 1600 setting.  Many times I had to underexpose and then use dynamic lighting to pull the information out of the low end.  I used to have VR (vibration reduction) on my 8800, I missed having that around as many of the shots came up really soft.

After dark debauchery aside, the daytime was a decidedly mellow affair, lot’s of strolling around in sandals and swimming.  I forgot my circular polarizing filter so a lot of the daylight shots came up pretty washed out, after the second day I sort of gave up on daytime shooting and proceeded to eat constantly. I can’t stress enough how good the food was; virtually everywhere we ate was a new high in culinary achievement.  Even the little run down shack restaurants with outdoor kitchens were great (many times they were even better than the more established eateries).  If you ever find yourself in Patong the first place I would recommend to eat is a spot right around the middle of the beachfront strip called "Chez Bernard". Get the whole fried fish with Thai chili and the squid fried noodles; you can’t lose. Unless, of course, you’re allergic to fish, squid, or Thai Chili sauce, in which case you could lose, in a big way…Because at least one of those things seem to make their way into pretty much every dish. 

The Thai people in general were really mellow and friendly but I know I didn’t get any true sense of Thai culture.  We rented motorcycles to ride up the coast one day and found a small town with an outdoor market.  There were only Thai people there and it was way out in the country so I think that’s as close as we got to seeing a day in the life of Thai culture but we were still very far from immersion on any level.  We spent the last few days on Koh Phi Phi Don island and diving the Nok islands, got some decent pictures there.  Phi Phi is a another world altogether, but I’ll save that for another post…this one is already excruciatingly long I am sure.  Hope everyone is well, I’ll see a lot of you soon in Stockholm.

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I love The Valley

Posted by Scott

xiu xiu - fabulous muscles
Xiu Xiu’s "Fabulous Muscles" was certainly one of my favorite albums from 2004.  This particular song is just simply amazing, I once started a remix of it but never finished; chalk that up on the to-do list for when I get home.  Jamie Stewart’s style is so intense and this song is no exception; he’s been accused of being over the top or too melodramatic in his songwriting but it’s just right if you ask me.  I think he’s now based out of San Francisco which makes it all that much better (There are very few Bay Area bands that I really enjoy). Hope this finds you well, greetings from Amsterdam.

Xiu Xiu – I Love The Valley

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