Just Another F-15 Refueling...

I love interestingly composed pictures and I love fighter jets... so this picture pretty much does it for me. I love how the the sunset (or sunrise) sunlight casts itself over the back of the plane, while the background is a deep navy blue. Although the F-15 may be docking to refuel mid-air (you have to agree this is one of the cooler things in life), it is remarkable how sharp this picture is. Then again, the photo was featured in Boston Globe's "The Big Picture," so the photographer is obviously talented.

Gorgeous Time-Lapse Photography

Most of these clips were made on or near Hwy395 in the California desert. Some in southern Arizona. I'll post some pics of rigs I used when I get a chance.

Intro music is by me and main track is by Dj Scott Stubbs. Some of these clips are long or hyper lapse which is catching on. Here's a clip of the railroad track dolly I used:

Ninja Moxie

So our tabby cat named Moxie absolutely loves her blue string. We've spent probably a hundred dollars on cat toys, but no, she loves this string more than anything. She pulled it out of one of my blue sweatshirts and has been playing with it ever since. In this case, she burrowed herself under our doormat to hide from her enemy/best friend poised in attack position.

Hardly any processing was needed, but I did use Adobe Lightroom 3 to up the contrast and brighten the shadows. After using Lightroom for a couple weeks now, I'm starting to really like it!

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikon 35mm AF-S DX
Focal Length: 35mm
F number: 4
Exposure: 1/60

The biggest problem with the iPhone nobody is talking about

Everyone knows about how awful the newest iPhone's antenna is. Basically you hold the thing in your left hand and you'll see your signal plummet to the point where you can't actually make a call. Now, I haven't had as bad an experience as others - in fact I've found the reception is quite a bit better than the original iPhone (iPhone classic?), iPhone 3G, or even the iPhone 3GS. Apple hasn't really talked up the fact that the phone intelligently picks the best cell tower for your call, rather than prioritizing the cell tower with the strongest signal (techie and hard to market). But I digress, this is the problem nobody is talking about:

The antenna problem is a hardware problem. No software will "fix" the problem due to the fact that the metal antenna is located on the outside of the device. This has never been a problem because nobody has ever stuck the antenna on the OUTSIDE of the phone! Remember the Motorola Startac? It had a telescoping antenna that you could pull outside the device, and I bet if you cupped that thing in your hands, the same exact problem would occur. Still, I digress.

This is the biggest problem. When you hold the antenna directly, you immediately attenuate it's signal. That's a fact - the human body is a fantastic antenna attenuator, unfortunately. Now, when any phone does not have a good signal (think only one out of five bars), it sends more power to the antenna to boost the signal. Have you ever been stranded in the middle of nowhere and you're phone said "Emergency Calls Only" on the screen? What this means is if you need to call 911, the phone will power the antenna to the point where it is dangerous to have by your head, but able to connect to the police/fire department. Did you read that last part? Let me reiterate, it powers the antenna to the point where it is dangerous to hold by your head.

First lets see what Apple says in their iPhone User Guide:

The SAR limit applicable to iPhone set by the FCC is 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg). The SAR limit applicable to iPhone set by the Council of the European Union is 2.0 W/kg. Tests for SAR are conducted using standard operating positions (i.e., at the ear and worn on the body) specified by the FCC and the Council of the European Union, with iPhone transmitting at its highest certified power level in all tested frequency bands. Although SAR is determined at the highest certified power level, the actual SAR level of iPhone while in operation can be well below the maximum value because iPhone adjusts its cellular transmitting power based in part on proximity to the wireless network.

The iPhone 4 has poor signal, nobody can deny that. Now, if the iPhone operates in the same way as pretty much every other phone on the market, the lack of proper signal could actually be really dangerous to people. Yes, the FCC mandates that phones do not exceed a certain level of radiation (1.6W/kg) as it states above, and the iPhone 4 did pass this requirement in order to be available on the market. This maximum radiation level (SAR level) is not for continued use, rather, only for times when the device needs to power the antenna to its highest level for emergency calls. What worries me is that if the iPhone is constantly adding power to the antenna, the SAR level is closer to the maximum, which is not safe to have near your body over a long period of time. The barrage of tests that have occurred since the release of the iPhone 4 have only been testing signal strength with a focus on dropped calls, not SAR level. I'd like to see these test done and I think I'm going to use my bluetooth headset a lot more often (Go buy a Motorola one, please).

Here is an explanation by an electrical engineer I worked with at Motorola:

The RF circuitry basically transmits at a power level based on the communication it has with the cell tower. The RF amplifier has a power table that is dynamic. So if the signal coming from the cell tower becomes weak, the amplifier emits more power so that it could obtain a signal. The radiation, like you said, is increased as the power is amplified. The iPhone 4G's issue is the degradation of the antenna due to poor human effect antenna design. That is why they are suggesting the bumpers so that there is a buffer that is non conductive and gives the RF energy an area to flow outside of the human body.

We'll see what Apple announces today. I'm betting it's free bumpers so that the antenna doesn't get attenuated by the human body. I hate cases - why destroy the gorgeous design with a stupid plastic case? Still, I'll choose the POS case over liquifying my brains.

Off the SD Card: Rainbowlt

I know, I know. Last "Photo of the Day" was a shot of the city, but I just couldn't resist. We've had a couple monster storms come through Chicago over the past week, and the last one really provided some amazing scenes. As crazy as this photo is, you really had to be there. Imagine hearing a tornado siren (think off-tune nuclear siren - really spooky), watching a full double-rainbow appear, and seeing the sky light up with multiple lightening bolts - all at once!

*UPDATE: Insane HD video of this storm... must see!

Bonus picture and photo description after the break:

Off the SD Card: Night Clouds in Chicago

Back in February, I snapped this photo from our balcony just before sunrise. The color in the sky was a gorgeous blue and the moon was crisply visible. I knew the cloud definition and colors would be enhanced if I took a multiple exposure shot and post-processed as an HDR, so I flipped my D90 to bracket mode and took three shots. Even though there was a fair amount of light, I decided to use my tripod to avoid any movement between the three pictures. Each one turned out great, but combining them into a singular HDR image really captured that moment well.

Date Taken: February 11th, 2010
Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: 18-200 VR
Focal Length: 18
F number: 3.5
Exposure: 1/10

Off the SD Card: Thunderbird

Yikes - long time since the last post. Here's a photo I took from last year's Chicago Air and Water Show. This picture has been featured here before, but I retouched it using Photomatix HDR software. I think it adds depth to the clouds and makes the image more interesting. Here are the photo's stats:

  • Camera: Nikon D90

  • Lens: Nikkon VR 18-200mm f/5.6

  • Focal Length: 200

  • F Number: 5.6

  • Exposure: 1/1,250

Next Generation iPhone

Now that the next generation iPhone is out in the wild, what are we to make of it? First of all, I really like the new design. I never really liked the rounded-back that the iPhone 3G and 3GS had. Aside from the two-tone back, the original iPhone I think had the best design, and I think the latest ID really pays tribute to the original.

Personally, I think the model Gizmodo got their hands on is 100% real, but head over there to read more...

Off the SD Card: March Sunrise in Chicago

The only thing that rivals the beauty of a brilliant sunset is a gorgeous sunrise. It must have been a pretty calm night in the Windy City for Lake Michigan to be as placid as it was. Paying the extra dough for a West-facing apartment is definitely worth it!

Not much was done to this photo - only slight boosts in saturation and sharpness. I'm thinking the photo could benefit from slight vignetting - what do you think?

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikon 18-200mm VR
Focal Length: 18mm
F number: 9
Exposure: 1/13
Taken March 24th, 2010

The Future is Now: Photoshop Edition

Ok, so maybe not right now, but still... this is incredible! Watch the video and be amazed. For those without flash, or those that don't have time for the video, basically what this shows you is the next generation of photo retouching. Up until now, removing objects from photos has been a painstaking task. In the next generation of Adobe Photoshop, deleting objects, lens flares, even shadows will be easier than ever.

What will come of this? For one, it is going to make my photo editing process a whole lot quicker. It's going to be so easy to create fake iPhone 6G leaks!

Off the SD Card: Boozer!

So this is my cat Boozer. She's a half tortoise shell half tabby mix and she takes wonderful 35mm photos! No post-processing was applied to this photo - my D90 was set to my custom "Vivid" setting to boost the saturation. As mentioned, I used my Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens with my S600 flash attachment. The funny thing is, Boozer and my other cat, Moxie, pretty much overdosed on catnip like 5 minutes before this photo, so she's totally in a haze in this picture.

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikon 35mm f/1.8
Focal Length: 35mm
F number: 3.5
Exposure: 1/60
More pictures of my cats' drug binge after the break…

Wallpaper of the Day: Theaterplatz Dresden

To me, the best part about HDR photography is usually the clouds. I've explained the basics of HDR before, but this photo uses an entirely different technique. First of all, it doesn't even look like a photo! Sure, the architecture of the Dresden Theater is enough to make the picture beautiful, but the way the artist blended the images together really make it surreal.

According to the Photographer (dhfotos):

A high dynamic range (HDR) panorama of the Dresdner Hofkirche, the Residenzschloss and the Zwinger. It's a part of a 360-panorama that took me twelve hours to create.

Canon EOS 50D, EF-S 17-85, Stitch (Hugin), HDR (Qtpfsgui), Finish (Adobe Lightroom).

51.053678, 13.736063
12 hours of work really paid off! Head over to to download other resolutions.

Bringing Aero-Snap to Mac

Ever since that crazy Wells-inspired Superbowl commercial for the first Apple Macintosh in 1984, the cultural divide between Mac and PC has been epic. To most, the argument is black and white, but for me, I use both on a daily basis and enjoy using each platform for certain tasks. Apple has stolen from Microsoft probably as much as Microsoft has stolen from Apple. Whatever the case may be, I like to find useful third-party software that brings better functionality from one platform to the other. In this post, I'll show you how to adopt one of Windows 7's best features, Aero-Snap, into OS X.

Make Use of QR-Codes

Everyone knows what a standard bar code can do, but not everybody knows about the latest in scanning technology: the QR-Code. Basically, the code is square and allows for cameras to easily scan and interpret the code. Using a simple app like ShopSavvy for the iPhone or Barcode Scanner for Android, you can scan a QR-Code simply using your phone's camera. On my Droid, I was able to scan the QR-Code to the left in about a second.

So how do we make use of these things? Using this QR-Code Generator, you can easily create your own URL links, phone numbers, or even an sms message! The QR-Code to the left sends you right here, to

For most scenarios, having a simple hyperlink will do the trick, but if you're trying to link to something thats only available on the phone, using a QR-Code is MUCH faster than having the user type it in manually. Try it out - the code to the right links you to the Barcode Scanner app in the Android Market. How am I going to use it? I'm going to print this QR code on the back of my business card, making it easier for people to find my website.

Do you use barcode scanners? Have any suggestions on how best to use QR-Codes? Say so in the comments!

My New Browser Homepage:

Opera, Chrome, and Safari may have their own "speed dial" homepage variations, but for those that use Internet Explorer or Firefox: start using fav4! Its extremely easy to setup, and provides a very elegant and simple homepage or new tab page:

  1. Point your browser to
  2. Pick your top 4 most visited websites by dragging them into the drawer on the right
  3. Select any additional options (like adding a search bar at the bottom)
  4. Set your browser's homepage to
That's it! If you'd like to have it show up everytime you open a new tab in Firefox, download the "New Tab Homepage" addon here.

Milky Way Time Laps

The White Mountain from charles on Vimeo.

Who doesn't love time lapse videos? And who doesn't love space? This video is just awe-inspiring, but what's really amazing is that the entire sequence was shot with a Canon 5D Mk2!

Here's the information that the photographer, Charles, provided:

Location: Mauna Kea, Hawai'i
Camera: 5D MK2
Lenses: Tokina ATX-116
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye
EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L
EF 24-105mm f/4L
EF 17-40mm f/4L
Music: "That Is Why I Am On This Porch" from the movie
"The Village" composed by James Newton Howard

All night scenes were shot with ISO6400, 30 sec exposure, 15 sec interval and on f2.8 lenses (except from 0:34 to 0:43, which was shot with a f4 lens)
Head over to Vimeo to check it out in HD (you really should).