Saturday, September 22, 2012

Looking At Ourselves

Two-thirds of all American adults and one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. That's a direct quote from this article in today's (Saturday) New York Times. We are a nation of fast food junkies. It's just easier. Wen I was a kid and I told my mom I was hungry, she gave me a piece of fruit or made a sandwich for me. Now I see so many parents who are just too busy to be bothered, and giving a kid a packaged snack that's loaded with sugar and/or salt is just easier and more convenient. The kids are enticed by the advertisements that are all around them, and the parents, however well-intentioned, are also. The big food processing corporations do not put the health and well-0being of the general population at the top of their priority list.

Great advancements have been made in medicine and pharmaceuticals to combat the illnesses and diseases that excessive diets foster, so it's become easier to stuff our faces with unhealthy sugary drinks, french fries, fatty meats, and rich desserts, and deal with the consequences at the doctors' offices. 

Earlier this year, at the insistence of my cardiologist, I lost ten pounds. I didn't think I was particularly fat, and neither did many of my friends and family. After I lost the weight my blood pressure dropped from 140/80 to 120/70. If ten pounds can make that significant a difference, what effect could thirty, or forty, or fifty pounds have? Those extra pounds were the equivalent of me carrying around a bowling ball all day long.

Here's just one definition of obesity. If you're too tired to go to the link, here it is in a nutshell: Obesity is an abnormal accumulation of body fat, usually 20% or more over an individual's ideal body weight. And if you have any doubts about what is a 'normal' weight for your height, here is a medical chart. So, 20% over the top number of your weight range is not 'plump' (pleasingly or otherwise) it is obese!

To wit:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Improved Fuji X-Pro 1

I was out for a photo walk yesterday afternoon in the midtown NYC area. I needed to give the most recent firmware update for the XP1 a real-time street test. I've liked using this camera since the first day I've had it, and until now have learned to live with its few quirks. The most recent update has completely solved all but one of them. My greatest concern was with focusing. Now the autofocus speed is snappy and the manual focus is much more responsive. Accuracy is a non-issue. The camera is a joy to use.

My one remaining beef with Fuji is with the auto ISO function. The X-100 allows for setting the minimum shutter speed when in auto ISO. How or why the manufacturer missed including that functionality with the XP1 is a mystery. For now, if I want to use the auto ISO feature - and it's a function that is invaluable for street shooting - I have to set the camera in manual mode (for aperture and shutter speed) and check often that the settings are working well in the ever changing light and shadows on the street.

Both of these shots were taken on Fifth Avenue with the Fuji 18mm lens (28mm equiv.). I'm really looking forward to receiving the 14mm lens when it's finally released, hopefully in a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nik Software/Fuji X-Pro1

I've been waiting for the announcements and pronouncements from the Photokina show in Europe. One in particular to which I've been looking forward is the firmware update for the Fuji X-Pro1 camera and lenses. That came through today. After the update I put the camera through its paces and I am pleased to be able to report that, albeit on a very limited basis, the update fixed quite a few problems - the one remaining issue is to make the auto ISO feature full functioning by allowing for the setting of a minimum shutter speed. The focus speed is greatly improved, and auto ISO 6400 has been added.

On a more discouraging note, Google announced that it was purchasing Nik Software. I dearly hope that Google uses some intelligence in allowing Nik free reign to continue its path of innovative development for photography software. The motive for Google's acquisition is rather transparent. They're after the Nik Snapseed product to compete with Facebook's integration with Instagram. That in itself is fine, to my mind Snapseed is lightyears ahead of Instagram. But does this mean the demise of the other Nik products upon which so many of us photographers depend? Only time will tell. There are other photography plugins marketed by On One software and Topaz. But they don't hold a candle to the brilliance of the Nik functionality, without which I wouldn't be able to produce images like this:

No pictures!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fuji X-Pro1 Extraordinary Tonal Range

The Fuji X-Pro1's revolutionary sensor design has created some baffling problems for the tech wizards at Adobe - they can't seem to get a handle on how to interpret the RAW data from the sensor site configuration so that the pixel peepers are happy campers. I, however, not being one of them (pixel peeper, that is) have been quite satisfied, especially because most of my work gets converted to b/w.

I am usually quite happy with how the tonal range captured by the XP1 fits neatly into my processing workflow. I liked this shot very much but had not much expectation that the deep shadows on the girl's face would have enough detail because of the brightness of the scene and the direct blast of sunlight falling on her hair and shoulders. As I started to adjust the local contrast on her 'shady' side, I saw that the camera had captured all the details and they just popped into place.

Texting on West Broadway

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Caught In The Act

The weather was beautiful in New York this weekend. Most of the tourists gone, leaving the streets to the denizens. SoHo was jumping with women hoping to be noticed in their fall fashions and itching to shop at the trendy clothing stores. Washington Square was buzzing with people who came out to recognize and commemorate the one year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. New York was a paradise for streettogs (such as moi).

As sneaky as I try to be, sometimes I am caught in the act!