Self-Observation Self-Improvement

Yesterday, I did my work from home on an Internet-connected computer.

Before I began my work yesterday, I enabled the “Screen Record” function of the computer’s Quicktime app.

I took the resulting 1-hour-and-9-minute screen recording and sped it up, resulting in a 30 second video.

So, that was a fun experiment in recording myself as I do various visual-computing tasks.

Today, I began more work of a similar nature.

Almost immediately, I was distracted by trying to find the right YouTube video to play in the background while I work.

I decided on Spotify and then did some more photoshop work.

I then got the idea to record my screen again, because I realized I was being kept honest by the idea of observation via screen recording.

I was being kept honest and on-task because I knew I’d eventually have to review my own actions when I reviewed the screen-recording video.

If I dawdled while I worked, that would mean a longer screen-recording video would be recorded, and that would mean more future work for me, to have to edit the footage later.

The point is:

Start recording yourself while working.

See what happens. 🙂

P.S. Immediately before posting this, I had turned on Quicktime’s “Screen Recording” feature.

I intended to post the screen-recording video of my writing this post, at the end of this post.

Turns out I hadn’t turned on the screen-recording feature after all.

I was kept honest and on-task, for no reason.

Recording Record Revolutions

This is a video experiment involving a vinyl record album.

The Question: what does it look like when an overhead camera rotates at the same rate as a vinyl record, playing at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute?

The Answer: it looks delightfully disorienting.

The smartphone camera recorded an overhead video clip of the record player from a fixed, non-moving perspective.

Later, in video-editing software, I set the video clip to rotate at the same rate, and in the same direction, as the record spun.

The Docking Scene from Interstellar features a similar visual, where a camera mounted in a fixed position is rotated to match a rotating subject.

Use A Pinhole To Get Macro Smartphone Photos

By placing a .35mm pinhole in front of the smartphone lens, everything in front of the camera becomes equally focused.

Macro photos can be taken by bringing objects very close to the lens/ pinhole combo.

Any kind of homemade pinhole will yield results, with improved sharpness coming from from laser-drilled / acid-etched pinholes.

Pinhole being moved in front of smartphone lens (click or tap image to see comparison)

Example image follows:

With Pinhole and Without Pinhole (click or tap image to see comparison)

Make a Smartphone Pinhole With a Peanut Butter Cup

Fact 1: Certain candies come wrapped in foil and this foil frequently has several small holes in it.

Fact 2: If a small hole is placed over a smartphone camera lens, the camera gains the apparent ability of being able to focus equally on all subjects in front of the lens.

Now that we know those two facts, let’s use a peanut butter cup wrapper to give our smartphone better close-focus abilities!

I’ve set up a few small dinosaur friends on a table. Every dinosaur is a different distance away from the lens, so the camera (operator) will have to choose which dinosaur will be in focus.

Here’s what it looks like when we focus on the green dinosaur, which is about 8 inches from the lens:

Smartphone camera focusing on a green dinosaur, about 8 inches from the lens.

If the camera (operator) focuses the lens further into the background, then the blue dinosaur will come into focus, but this means that the green dinosaur will not be sharply focused.

Here’s what it looks like when we focus on the blue dinosaur, which is about 24 inches from the lens:

Smartphone camera focusing on a small blue dinosaur, about 24 inches from the lens.

It is not possible for the smartphone lens to focus equally on the green dinosaur and the blue dinosaur.

How can all the dinosaurs come into focus?

We’ll need to use a peanut butter cup!

First, unwrap the peanut butter cup from its foil and look for tiny holes in the foil.

Center the candy-wrapper pinhole over the smartphone lens and bring it close enough to the lens so that an image appears on the smartphone screen.

Smartphone camera with a peanut butter cup pinhole over the lens.

All three dinosaurs are now all the same level of focus, but that focus is not particularly sharp.

In pinhole-photography terms, all three dinosaurs are now “equally unsharp”.

By pressing the pinhole right up over the smartphone lens, we’re creating a smaller opening for the light to enter the lens, also called an “aperture” or “f-stop”.

The small aperture means that more of the image appears to be “in focus”, relative to using a larger aperture on the same lens.

Khan Academy has a video that explains why a smaller camera aperture results in more apparent focus.

There is an ideal pinhole size for any given smartphone camera and it’s a good idea to try out several pinhole sizes to see which results in the sharpest (unsharpest?) image.

Below are the results of various other pinhole sizes: 1mm, .35mm, .25mm, .1mm, and .05mm

Unedited footage of all the pinholes, plus some bonus candy-wrapper pinholes:

Put A Pinhole On Your Smartphone Camera To Get Macro Closeups

Most smartphone cameras have a limited ability to focus on objects very close to their lens.

Place a piece of foil with a pinhole over your smartphone camera lens and it will be able to resolve images very close to the lens.

For more information on how this is working, try an online search for “pinhole photography”.

Regarding questions you may have:

-Any kind of needle will work, just be sure to twist it slowly as you press it into the foil.

-Any kind of foil will work, including candy bar wrappers (and mini peanut butter cup foils).

-Any kind of smartphone will work, with some smartphones showing more corner-darkening than others (this is called “vignetting”).

Some fun things to photograph:

– Your eyeball – Postage stamps – Sand – Pizza – Denim – Your mouth – Magazine Ads – Wood – Ants – Flowers – Fingers – Pizza – Snails – Water drops – Your nostril – Coins

If there is sufficient interest, I’ll provide a follow-up video with more specifics and examples.

Have fun with your new lens on life! 😀

Johnny Weir’s single ice skating performance, doubled.

I watched ice skating for the first time last night.

Great stuff.

I loaded up a 2006 Johnny Weir performance in Torino, at YouTube’s suggestion.

I crossed my eyes while watching it and -BOOM- there were TWO Johnny Weirs!

At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to use a video-editor trick to duplicate the effect.


Two Johnny Weirs for your enjoyment, AND you can keep your eyes un-crossed. 😀


Keeping Bus-y

You’re sitting on the bus one early spring evening. It’s going to be a long-ish ride: 90 minutes. Time enough to make it through a few chapters in your book, or perhaps to compose a love letter to your sweetie using your smartphone. What’s that? You don’t have a book? AND your smartphone is sitting at 2% battery life? Oh no! What to do?

If you’re a photographer, you’ll take the opportunity to reach into your bag (backpack) of tricks (gear) and grab your light-tight box with chunks of glass sticking out of it (camera) to take some photos. In this particular case, it’s a Nikon D810 with a Zeiss 21mm f2.8 lens, courtesy of Borrowlenses.

Curiosity strikes as you wonder how a low-ISO, long exposure might look on this bus. Setting up your “compact” tripod that just barely fits in your backpack, you align your first shot.

Nikon D810, Bus, Tripod

Dial down the f-stop to f22, the ISO to LOW 3 (actually ISO 31, according to the EXIF info), and the exposure duration to T Mode. It’s time for the inaugural press of the shutter. Now: we wait…

And wait…

And then just a bit more waiting…

You press the shutter to end the exposure, 77 seconds later. And the resulting photo?

That guy on the left was motionless for nearly a full minute of this, so enrapturing was his smartphone.

It’s not without it’s charms. As a test, it’s a successful failure. What happens when you turn the camera 180 degrees and record a subject who is aware of the camera and can try to hold as still as possible for the exposure duration? Well, you’re about to find out!

Long Exposure, San Diego MTS, Man looking out window

A few things can be learned from these two experiments.

  1. Long exposures on a bus mean an overall lack of clarity, even with a tripod. All those vibrations are translating right up the tripod legs and into the camera.
  2. An aperture of f22 mean smaller points of light, which means more opportunity for distinct light trails.
  3. It’s not easy to hold an expression for 30+ seconds. Ever wonder why nobody smiled in photos from 1860? Those were multiple-minute exposures; they weren’t sad, they just didn’t want to sprain a cheek bone.

Now then, you decide to eschew a human subject and just see what happens when you point the camera out the window. Same settings as before, about a 30 second exposure.

Long exposure, Light streaks,

The bus’ up-and-down motions give these lights a little bit of a wave pattern. Interestingly, there are no LED lights visible in this photo. They’re most readily identified in long exposures by the fact that they look like dotted lines, instead of continuous ones.

Time to try something totally different. You’ve got your camera angled downward slightly and you release the pan-lock lever on your tripod. Now, if you leave the camera to its own devices, it will gradually list downward as gravity exerts its immutable forces on it. What happens when a considerably-shorter exposure is used and the camera just does its thing?

Long Exposure, Red,

At first glance, not much to see here. But wait! There’s a person visible in this shot! In fact, they’re the demarcation point for the interesting non-red parts of the photo. Her shoes form a white streak that leads off to the left, as does the book sitting on her lap. This simultaneously a double exposure AND and long exposure!

Let’s close this experiment by taking one final shot. Still using your tripod, you point the camera straight down the aisle to the front window. Re-enable T-mode and set the focus to hyperfocal for maximum focus. CLICK!

Long Exposure, San Diego MTS, Bus

Take a look at those lights outside the window on the right. They’re doing that same wave-thing as the earlier shot. This is a visual record of the bus’ various rocking back and forth as it passed by the lights from store windows. Flashbacks to the Wonka boat-ride scene abound.

This is a 16-second exposure while the bus travels fairly-smooth streets, coming to a stop at a stop light for the last 5 seconds of the exposure. These factors, coupled with the fact that the tripod is essentially part of the bus, contribute to an overall sharpness in the bus’ interior. (Living) humans aren’t that great at remaining rigid for extended periods of time, so they’re a little fuzzy.

The light streaks outside the window are courtesy of the Pacific Beach business district. The bus’ pause at the stop light gave the buildings’ signs just long enough to register on the exposure too. CT Homes got some free promotion this evening.

Before you know it, you’re at your destination. It’s time to get off the bus and go make a blog post. 🙂

What’s The Difference Between T-Mode and B-Mode Exposures?

T mode stands for “Time Exposure” and it’s different from B mode, which stands for “Bulb Exposure”.

B means the shutter is open as long as your finger is holding the shutter button down.

T means the shutter opens when you first press the shutter and it stays open until you press the shutter once more.

T-mode is not commonly offered on most DSLRs, since it can be a huge drain on battery life to keep the shutter open for whole minutes at a time. Couple that with the fact that many digital cameras take a second, completely dark, equally-long exposure right after a T-mode shot (for noise reduction/ black magic purposes) and you can start to see why a digital camera manufacturer is likely to want to avoid making T-mode, lest their users think that they purchased a camera that can only shoot 5 exposures per battery.

Fun fact: Bulb exposure is so named because early photographers used a pneumatic shutter release cable that was triggered using a big, rubber ball that fit in the palm of your hand. It looked a bit like a flower bulb/ light bulb. Hence: Bulb exposure.

Bulb Shutter, Shutter release cable
You better squeeze hard; these don’t work nearly as well as wire-based shutter releases. 🙁