500px

For anyone enjoying my photography, I’m maintaining my favorite photos on 500px.

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Why They Make Magenta Filters

Breaking Dawn SMWell, not really. But this is really cool. This is what a magenta filter can do for your landscape photo; same time of day as the blue dawn photo, but now given a gorgeous purple and orange cast. Of course, the lighthouse’s beam was added as an embellishment. The filter won’t do that, sorry. Unfortunately, the Portland Head Light does not appear to have an actual rotating light – or it was burned out when I visited. The lighthouse employs a high powered horn, which sounds every few seconds, to warn ships of the rocks. The horn sounds continuously all day, regardless of the weather. The neighbors must love that.

Two Lights

 

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Dawn and Dusk Photography

Blue Morning SM
Dawn and dusk provide two unique styles of light that not only look amazing, but can also distinguish your photography when shooting popular landmarks. The Portland Head Light, in Cape Elizabeth ME, is the most overshot lighthouse in the United States. While I find Canada’s Swallowtail Lighthouse far more beautiful, the Head Light is a great challenge for a few reasons. First, it’s surrounded by dangerous cliffs and is fenced off, forcing photographers to have to work to get a unique shot. Most people simply take the walkup shot at one of a few good angles along the fence line. There are a few relatively safe places to go off-piste, however, and get a chance to walk down to shore. If you’re brave enough to make this journey, you still have to be careful not to slip on the algae covered rocks and have to constantly watch the tide as it creeps up on you. In the shot above, I had just barely made it down to the beach, and had the great opportunity to include this giant boulder in the foreground of the shot.

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Local: Bedford NH Middle School Survey Update

Federal law requires that public schools obtain written consent from parents prior to giving a child a survey containing questions on sexual behavior or attitudes, mental or psychological problems of the student or student’s family, self-incriminating behavior, and religious practices. All of these questions, and more, were present in a survey recently given to my child without my consent, and without parental notification.

This is a brief summary of my involvement as a parent in what’s been going on with Bedford NH’s middle school survey. Please feel free to pass this along to other parents or attorneys or groups interested in helping.
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Local: How My Local Middle School is Abusing Power and Federal Law

Copy of my letter to the editor of the Union Leader (NH)
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Stealing the Ocean

Intrepid Waters SM

The Cape Neddick Lighthouse (also known as the Nubble Lighthouse) has stood at the edge of York, ME on its own island (Nubble Island) since 1879. As an iconic lighthouse, it is also one of the most overshot lighthouses in the United States. So popular, in fact, that the Voyager spacecraft even includes a photo of it (presumably to show off to aliens). So how do you get a unique shot of a place like this? My solution was to go HDR, wide, and slow shutter. Nubble Island is only 100 yards from land, so scale isn’t too difficult to manage with a wide. As a result you can pull in some of the environment and ocean around you.

It’s a very touristy area, and most folks tend to shoot the lighthouse with a telephoto lens to zoom in nice and close. Then you lose all the beautiful foreground of the rocks (that you have to climb on) and the ocean tide (that you have to avoid being killed by). Without trespassing, and at rising tide right around sunset, you can walk out onto the rocks to the right of the parking lot and get some incredible shots, if you know how to capture the ocean – and smart enough not to die.

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Why You Should Uninstall Firefox and do Some Soul Searching

Today, I uninstalled Firefox from my computer. There was no fanfare, or large protest, or media coverage of the event. In fact, I’m sure many have recently sworn off Firefox lately, but unlike the rest of those who did, my reasons had nothing to do with whether I support or don’t support gay marriage, proposition 8, or whatever. Nor did they have anything to do with my opinion on whether Brendan Eich was fit to be CEO, or whether I thought he was anti-gay. In fact, I would have uninstalled Firefox today regardless of what my position is on the gay marriage issue, or any other political issue for that matter. Instead, I uninstalled Firefox today for one simple reason: in the tendering of Eich’s resignation, Mozilla crossed over from a company that had previously taken a neutral, non-participatory approach to politics, to an organization that has demonstrated that it will now make vital business decisions based on the whim of popular opinion. By changing Mozilla’s direction to pander to the political and social pressure ignited by a small subset of activists, Mozilla has now joined the ranks of many large organizations in adopting what once was, and should be considered taboo: lack of corporate neutrality. It doesn’t matter what those positions are, or what the popular opinion is, Mozilla has violated its ethical responsibility to, as an organization, remain neutral to such topics. Unfortunately, this country is now owned by businesses that violate this same ethical responsibility.

Corporations have rapidly stepped up lobbying and funneling money into their favorite political vices over the past decade. This radicalization of corporate America climaxed in 2010, when what was left of the Tillman Act (a law passed in 1907 to restrict corporate campaign contributions), was essentially destroyed, virtually unrestricting the corporate world from holding politicians in their back pocket through financial contributions. Shortly before, and since then, America has seen a massive spike in the amount of public, overt political lobbying – not by people, not by voters, but by faceless organizations (without voting rights). What used to be a filthy act often associated with lowlife companies such as tobacco manufacturers has now become a standard mechanism for manipulating politics. In 2008, Apple donated $100,000 to fight proposition 8, making a rather public fanfare out of it, while Eich spent 1% of that out of his own pocket to quietly support it (mind you, without fanfare, and without using Mozilla as clout). Starbucks has more recently, and very rudely, informed its customers that they don’t want their business if they don’t support gay marriage, or if they are gun owners. This very day, 36 large corporations, including some that have no offices in Oregon, are rallying in support of gay marriage in Oregon. The CEO of Whole Foods has come out publicly in protest of ObamaCare. Whatever the hot political topic of the day is, it has now become accepted that corporate America can – and should – be involved. Unless, of course, you don’t agree with their position…

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The man who went looking for freedom

Take the time to read this piece, about a man tortured and imprisoned, family surveilled and their every word recorded for years by the government. Decades later, the transcripts of their surveillance found. “This is the side of heroism no-one likes to talk about, not even him.”

Sadly, my initial thoughts? This could happen in our country, if we keep allowing government so much power to rule over us. Surveillance is enslavement, and only ever exists to protect a system. Consider that your typewriter has already been registered with our government.

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The Importance of Forensic Tools Validation

I recently finished consulting on a rather high profile case, and once again found myself spending almost as much time correcting reports from third party forensic tools vendors as I did analyzing actual evidence. It’s even sadder that I charged less for my services than these tools manufacturers charge for a single license of their buggy software. I don’t say high profile to sound important, I say it because these types of cases are generally of great importance themselves, and you absolutely need the evidence to be accurate. Many in the law enforcement community have learned to “trust the tools”, citing scientific method and all that. The problem I’ve found throughout my entire career in forensics, however, has shown me quite the opposite. When it comes to forensic software, the judge should not automatically trust the forensic tools as part of the scientific process, and neither should the forensic examiners using them. Let me explain why…

In forensics, we often misplace our trust in tools that, unlike tried and true scientific methods, are usually closed source. While true scientific process relies on making our findings repeatable and verifiable, the methods to analyze data are sometimes patented, and almost always considered trade secrets. This is the complete opposite of the scientific method, where methods are fully explained and documented. In the software industry, repeatable is exactly what you don’t want your methods to be – especially by your competitors. The nature of secrecy in the software industry doesn’t rub well against the open scientific nature that you’d expect to find in forensic, or other scientific disciplines.As such, “software” is not scientific in nature, and should not be trusted using the same rules as science. Sure, we have some validation experts out there. NIST does a good job of validating logical data acquired from a number of devices and has struck some good and interesting results that have helped the industry. Even still, such tests are only a single data point on an ever evolving software manufacturing process riddled with regression bugs and programming errors that only show up in certain specific data sets.

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Book Review: Sketching Light by Joe McNally

2012-04-10-sketching-light

Joe McNally is a name you may have never heard, but you’ve most likely seen and been touched by his work. I guess the best compliment you could give to a photographer like Joe is this; that his work has touched you. McNally’s internationally celebrated career has spanned 30 years and over 50 countries; you’ve likely seen his work on the covers of TIME, Newsweek, and others, or been awed by his many photographs in National Geographic without even knowing it. Joe also created the well known 9/11 “Faces of Ground Zero” project, which went on tour a year after 9/11, and generated around $2 million for relief efforts. You’d think such an accomplished photographer would want to keep his 30-years of knowledge close to the vest, but to the contrary, Joe openly and generously shares some of his best techniques in Sketching Light, and also spreads a lot of inspiration.

Joe has a number of books about photography, but Sketching Light (2011) is one that has dramatically changed my own photography, not just because of the instruction found in this book, but also because of the meaning and depth Joe’s career has inspired me through. Sketching Light, at face value, is a book about both studio and on-location lighting techniques for portraits. If those words sound cold and uninteresting, it seemed that way to me as well when I initially picked up the book. I was previously only interested in landscape and commercial photography, and had no interest in portraits. In my mind, I wasn’t interested at all in snapping some snobby bride’s photos or doing mall portraits for the family dog. What McNally offered me, though, in addition to some great instruction, was also inspiration – something I had completely lacked in this area of photography. This book walks you through parts of Joe’s professional life in portraits, the stories behind them, the meaning many of them have to both him and his subjects, and only consequently also explains – in full detail – how he masterly lit them. You learn that there are portraits that have meaning, value, and depth. You get instruction and, almost contagiously, the inspiration to go and seek out this kind of storytelling in your own work. Since reading his book, I now seek out meaningful photography projects, particularly of the environmental portrait variety. Better than lighting, Sketching Light has instilled a sense of storytelling in me; that magic drive that you commonly see so prevalent in the work of legends. And he does all of this without even trying.

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Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Lens

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I’m not going to give you a long spiel about how pixel #9132 looks compared to the Nikon or Canon 35mm lenses. Instead, I’m just going to post a photo I took for a commercial project this week. You can download the raw file here. All I’ll say is this lens is super sharp, makes great pictures, and should be twice the price given its performance. If you haven’t looked at Sigma’s new art lens lineup, you should. FYI, this was shot hand-held.

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