This is my submission for the obligatory fourth of July fireworks photo of the year. It was shot from my backyard, looking northwards from Poway, California. It was shot on a Pentax K2000 with a Promaster 70-300mm lens at 100mm, f/4.5, 15s shutter at ISO 100.
This photo was taken while traveling at 75mph. Thankfully, I wasn't driving at the time, else I wouldn't have been able to capture this shot with my trusty DSLR. This area, right outside of Mesquite, Nevada, could be mistaken for somewhere in the Middle East at first glance. The Virgin River, which cuts through the ground in this scene, provides for a narrow strip of green vegetation in an otherwise fairly dry desert. The contrast between these two strong elements, combined with the complementary color of the sky, results in a more-exciting-than-normal photograph. Though I'd never want to actually live here, it's nonetheless interesting to capture what so many travelers on the I-15 speed past without even noticing.
Though most Americans learn about the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in standard history classes, very few actually seem to realize the significance of this event. Many dark moments in history are preserved and remembered by photographs of destruction and despair, but very few images of the atomic bomb's sheer power exist. As stated in this article on Design Observer, the U.S. Government imposed a strict code of censorship with regards to Japan's destruction just over a month after their surrender. This was obviously put in place to lessen the realization of America's pure destructive power, and to lessen the human side of the conflict. Fortunately, some photographs survived.
Flickr user afigallo posted a comment on the previously aforementioned article, bringing to light a series of photographs taken by the user's grandfather just after the bomb dropped. These photographs, found in this Flickr set, were "smuggled" via shoe boxes, as the images were not meant to be leaked at the time. And thanks to Flickr's services decades later, these photographs can be shown to the world.
Nagasaki, victim of the world's second atomic bomb attack, was destroyed on August 9, 1945 at 11:02am. The American strike resulted in 73,884 fatalities, as well as another 74,909 injured and several hundred thousand diseased and dying as a result of radiation. Another 140,000 were killed in the attack on Hiroshima. The vast majority of these deaths were civilian casualties, as well as Allied POWs, Korean and Chinese laborers, students, and Japanese American citizens. Though defenders of the attack claim that the death toll of the war would have been much higher had an invasion been planned, opponents consider this claim illogical and the attack inherently immoral.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but I'm not a fan of American news outlets. Television news coverage in the US is fueled by commercials and profit rather than quality reporting, and many stories often hinge on being absurd at best. It is impossible to get a true grasp of the country's place in the world when your news information is filtered and censored to such a degree that we're almost always "seen" as the sole valiant source of good in the world. But unfortunately, accessing international television news stations has always been difficult, if not impossible, for most Americans. That is, until now.
Livestation is a somewhat new piece of software that aims to simplify and enhance the live online video experience. Streaming video has existed for many years now in various forms, but accessing feeds and maintaining a stable image hasn't always been easy. Livestation challenges this by offering a simple player with a direct channel lineup and an easy system for adding new feeds through a web-based user account interface. The real beauty comes in the form of partner channels. Livestation hosts a series of global news channels that are "officially sanctioned," so to speak. Though the channel selection varies from country to country, users in the United States can access two of my favorite international stations: Al Jazeera English and Frace24. Yes, feeds of these stations can be found elsewhere, but from what I've experienced, Livestation by-far is the easiest to access and carries the best quality. Though I wish Livestation offered a full spectrum of channels (aka, not just news), licensing problems most likely prohibit it. It's closest relative, Zattoo, offers a wide range of programming, but it's only available in a handful of European countries.
So why not just flip on your television and watch MSNBC/CNN/etc? Well for one thing, their content probably isn't worth your time. You'll be inundated with commercial breaks, and you'll be fed mostly information that is favorable to the United States. But more important is the fact that media delivery is quickly moving from the realm of cable/satellite providers into the hands of the world wide web. Never before has it been so easy for the end user to legally access full-length shows and movies from any broadband-enabled computer. With network sites and mega-providers such as Hulu.com, many consumers are quickly failing to see a need for their cable providers. Livestation, and similar services, are a step in the right direction in this regard.
Livestation is available as a download from www.livestation.com. The software is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux machines, as long as the computer has access to a fairly fast internet connection. Use of the service requires a Livestation account (also free), which allows for easy channel management. Though many improvements can still be made, Livestation is the first streaming television service I've tested that is actually worth using on a daily basis. I highly recommend everyone give it a try.
This photograph is another one of my former rejects. In its original color form, this photo suffered from the awkward lighting of the moment. It was morning in the desert, and the foreground of this image was in shadow due to the mountains behind me blocking the sun. The resulting file looked more like a snapshot than what I had originally seen in my mind's eye. After converting the photo to black and white, I burned and dodged various parts of the image using Adobe Lightroom. I brought out much of what was in shadow before, and intensified the sky. Though most perceive the desert as dull and dead, an entire world of beauty awaits for those who are patient enough to find it.
If you've been following my recent bloggeries, you probably know that I tend to post images in trends. A couple weeks ago, it was images edited using Corel Painter X. Now, it'll be photos edited in Lightroom to bring out detail and tonal depth. The image above was taken during a protest in Washington D.C. back in April of this year. I initially rejected the source photograph because the composition seemed off, but I was drawn back to it by the contrast between the center officer's bright orange sunglasses, and the greys of the surrounding men. Ironically, halfway through the editing process, I converted the image to black and white. Nonetheless, I think this photograph shows great depth of field and decent visual focus. Oh, and it was shot using a 70-300mm lens I picked up on eBay for $5. That's always a plus!
If you've been following my recent posts, you know the drill by now. The image above (best viewed at a larger size) was post-processed using Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter X. The actual image is from a trip to Washington D.C. in April of this year. On the flight back from D.C. to San Diego, as we flew into the sunset, a friend of mine told me to take a picture of the clouds out of the window. I usually disregard shots taken out of airplane windows as mere snapshots, but this particular shot caught my eye. I've had the original shot in my Flickr photostream for awhile now, but I decided to re-process it with an abstract vision in mind. The "painted" version obviously has more vibrant color than the plain copy, but in reality, the actual colors out the window were closer to this new version than my old edit. It's also worth noting that I took this photo with an old Pentax lens I got on eBay for ~$30. At the time, I couldn't afford the Pentax-FA f1.4 50mm I have now, so I took the poor man's route. I've since sold it back online, but there's just something special about shooting with an old lens. I'm seriously considering buying an old m42 mount 50mm Industar lens to somewhat make up for the FED-2 I sold awhile back.
Alright, so the truth might not be quite this simple. Nevertheless, Laugh-Out-Loud Cats has managed to bring humor to a situation that's becoming increasingly worse. On Monday, the fourth-largest investment bank in the United States, Lehman Brothers, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The BBC has a great article concerning how it affects the average individual. Think of Lehman Brothers as a wholesale investment bank. While you don't deal with them directly, many of your banks do. As the BBC states, "This in turn is likely to intensify the credit crunch, with potentially dire consequences for businesses and consumers." Seriously, folks. Why not just live within your means?