Locking Down - Time to self-isolate and wait for the storm to pass
16 March 2020
It's only been two weeks since I uploaded my previous entry to this blog. In the short time that has passed, COVID-19 cases have expanded across the globe forcing countries seal off borders and people everywhere to take drastic measures to stop the spread of the virus.
I get a lot of questions from others because I am a molecular and cellular biologist by training. I remind them that 1) I'm not a medical doctor, 2) I'm not an epidemiologist, and 3) I'm not a virologist. But, I do try to answer questions about the mechanics of viral transmission and infection when I do have the knowledge to provide.
People are scared. There's plenty of reason for them (us) to be scared, but there is also considerable reason for hope and to look to the future. We, as humans, have experienced this sort of epidemic/pandemic behavior throughout our evolution. We have experienced it when we had no idea or understanding of what the cause was and when we had no way to try and fight it or mitigate against it. Today, we can at least understand the mechanisms of transmission and also provide real means of controlling the spread and assisting those who are infected. Globally, this is what is happening right now.
To be sure, there is going to be more sickness and death before things get better. But it's important to look for the glimmers of hope that may be just around the corner. It will help us as we cope with the challenge at hand and it may help to speed the recovery.
As I write this, the first human vaccine trials are being conducted in Seattle to see if the mRNA-based strategy of antigen delivery and presentation will provide substantial resistance against SARS-CoV-2 infection. We can only hope that it works as planned and, if so, there will be immediate mobilization to produce the vaccine for general distribution. It will be months, perhaps, before a vaccine candidate can be put into full production, but that's still much faster and more systematic than any response in our history.
I wish all of my readers the very best and hope that each of you and your loved ones remain healthy in the trying days and months that lie ahead.
Leap Year 2020 – Ramblings from the kitchen when the weather just plain sucks
29 February 2020
As I write this on Leap Day in the middle of storm Jorge’s visit to Ireland, we have 45 mph winds driving horizontal rain. This period (largely November through March) is the most miserable time of year to be living here on the west coast of Ireland. Somewhere on the horizon of time, probably about April, we will get decent weather again. Until that happens, all I can do is hope the these days of brutal winds and rain will lessen as we approach (actual) spring.
Today's Worry – the headline around the world on this Leap Day 2020
Many photographers embrace the bad weather and it’s true that ugly weather can make for dramatic images. I’ve gotten very good at keeping my camera equipment reasonably dry even in completely shit weather. I only own one lens with weather sealing (a Pentax 55-300 zoom) and a couple of weatherized camera bodies, but I’ve still managed to get out and about in the lousy weather without killing any cameras or lenses. That doesn’t mean it’s always an enjoyable or fruitful experience, however. Days like today are over-the-top and I don’t even think about venturing out.
Old City Blues – NEX-6 and Sigma 30mm f/2.8 ART
I spend more time with monochrome photography in bad weather than in good. I try to let the gray, flat light help me to see interesting black & white compositions and also to help me concentrate on details rather than bold scenes.
Alley Brides, Dublin – NEX-6 and Sigma 30mm f/2.8 ART
Recently, I decided to experiment with ND gels in behind my Sigma 12-24mm for some long exposures. It turns out that the Irix ND gel filters available for their Firefly and Blackstone lenses will work quite well in the older-style rear filter holder that’s included on many of Sigma’s wide angle zooms. They require just a little bit of trimming, but otherwise, the Irix gels are right at home in the Sigma filter holder. By stacking a couple of gels in the holder, I can achieve a 10-stop reduction in light transmission with ease and I don’t have to mess with trying to fit a giant filter holder in front of the bulbous element and permanent lens hood of this particular lens.
Winter, Barna Pier – A7 and Sigma 12-24 with two ND4 gels
I’m really looking forward to spring. Let the days of sun not be too far in the distance.
Motorola One and Android One - A One-derful Pairing
8 February 2020
After experiencing infinite frustrations brought on as a result of the non-removable bloatware that came with my Samsung phone (mostly courtesy of AT&T who doubled the bloat), I decided that my next phone would have to be different.
Android One was immediately intriguing because of its promise of a “pure Android experience” and an absolute minimum of bloatware on products sporting this version of the OS. Plus, it comes with a guarantee of extended updates and compatibility that will help ensure a longer service life. I do not buy new phones unless I really have to and Android One goes a long way to ensure I could feasibly not have to replace my phone for several years.
I looked at mid-range offerings from Nokia sporting Android One, but none of them really got a lot of high marks in the performance department. Motorola, now owned and operated fully by Lenovo, had a few Android One phones on the market which had gotten generally good reviews. I decided, with the help of one of my favorite local, independent mobile phone retailers, to buy the original Motorola One (aka, the Moto One).
At left: The Moto One – reflecting in the day’s rain
My particular version of the Moto One has only 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of onboard storage (a 4+64 version is also available in most markets). However, I am totally amazed at the speed and efficiency of the beast, undoubtedly a result of the lack of extraneous crap running on the phone at any given time. I have already added a very conservative 32 GB SD card to boost storage capacity, but I have the option of adding much, much more (at least 128 GB) if I need to.
The rear camera is a dual lens/sensor setup (2 Mp + 13 Mp) designed to work with Google Lens. My main interest in this camera combo is the ability to add Open Camera and use the 13 Mp sensor to capture DNG files. The main camera and sensor sports a 26 mm-ish equivalent field of view and an f2.2 aperture which is, unfortunately, fixed at that large aperture. Overall, it does a decent job of capturing sharp images, but I have noted that it is slightly decentered; the left side of the frame is definitely softer than the right.
Running either Open Camera or the OEM Motorola built-in camera app works extremely well, but RAW capture isn't possible with the latter. I’m still adapting to the focus habits of the Open Camera app, but I get great results going full-manual with it. I have added Snapseed 2.0 and Polarr to the suite of on-board editing tools and these are quite useful on the go – even if I use them to quickly adjust images from my mirrorless cameras downsized to ~6 MP. Not bad!
The Devil Made Me Do It – 1243 ISO (!), 1/14 sec, f2.2, developed from a DNG file
I got this phone for €135. In general, this phone and it’s bloat-free Android One setup are quite impressive for the price. Now we’ll just have to see if I ever will get used to the ergonomics of using a phone for photography. (As of February 2020, the phone still feels like it’s alien when I use it for photography!)