Sunday, May 29, 2016

Two "topazed" shots from my HDR folder - a blast from the past

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I was going through my photo archives (and I have thousands of photos from shooting digital and film the last 9 years) and came across a folder marked "Topazed". This was when HDR photography was a newly discovered technique used to "jazz" up contrast and saturation of a shot. I had downloaded a trial version of the software from Topaz Labs and added it to the Lightroom to experiment with it. To achieve an HDR effect, one brackets the shot, +1, 0 and -1 or +2, 0 and -2 as intended, it is important that the camera is on a tripod, a good sturdy tripod, otherwise the results would not be very pleasing. Today HDR photography is a thing of the past, replaced by smart photo filters that can correct, alter, render more beautiful than real one's images in a thousand ways. I am exaggerating, but you get the point.

Both of these shots are HDR images. I like the fact that they were not taken to extreme, that the images closely represent what I saw and wanted to capture with my camera. The black and white landscape image below was of a park in Palo Alto late afternoon, shooting into the sun intentionally for the effect. Three bracketed shots taken in succession were then combined and converted into gray scale in Lightroom.

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The picture below of the Baskin-Robbins joint in San Jose at the corner of The Alameda and Race Street was a HDR in color. This iconic Baskin-Robbins hang out was somewhat out of place because its diner looking neon lit facade did not quite fit this part of San Jose. a mile long at best, The Alameda had a little of everything, the new and the old, a church, a Chinese take out, a fancy Thai restaurant, New York Pizza, offices and Starbucks strategically located from Coffee Bean, yes, two nemesis, diagonally from each other, separated only by the only street. A little out of place to me, I remember wondering when it might give way to something more popular with the Gen Y, or the Gen X and the Millennials, perhaps a Pinkberry. Well, it did finally give way to a burger joint - a popular joint named Five Guys Burgers and Fries that serves up finger licking good burgers, grilled fresh, variety of ways one could order one's salad, beers and sodas. Its interior decor hints of a no frills college town eatery with a hint of a pub. On most nights, parking is hard to find with patrons trying for a spot on nearby residential streets. Looking at this picture of Baskin-Robbins basking in its old glory brings back a little nostalgia, a little sadness. I feel for an iconic eatery whose time has come to pass.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I love New York, A City That Truly Never Sleeps

Time and again, I am drawn back to a particular set of photos in my collection - a set of some 30 or so photos I had curated into a special folder, all taken on a day trip to New York City a couple of years ago. If you love street photography this story may sound familiar. It was one of those days that you know you will cherish. A day you clicked the shutter away because there were so many photo ops at every street corner, every alley. A day like any other day, tourists and locals out in force to sample the city's eclectic facade, have tea and lattes at sidewalk cafes. Yellow cabs, cyclists, pizza delivery man, cops, homeless people make up familiar Big Apple landscape. On that day I had a 35mm film camera and a dSLR, one with a medium telephone lens and the other a wide angle. I shot a roll of black and white and may be 100 or so frames on my dSLR. As the day went on, I became more excited as I knew I had many shots in my cameras I would cherish for a long time. I did not exactly stake out at street corner or city bench, I was seeing the city through my lens and took the shots when the image moved me. I walked a great deal, spending the entire day in the city on foot. When dusk set in, I hurried to Grand Central Station to catch the bus for the return journey home.

IT was a journey I started out the same way I returned, I took the daily commuter bus early morning. When I arrived at Grand Central Station and stepped off the bus, the air felt dense, mist descending on my nose. I was exhilarated, happy to finally be able to spend a day in the city with my cameras. As I walked the streets, I stepped in and out of the long shadows cast by the morning light on the towering skyscrapers, stopping from time to time to take a picture. The view in front of my eyes was a scene reminiscences of the black and white photography of New York city, minus the horse carriages of Alfred Stieglitz and André Kertész.

See more of my NYC photos in a photo montage video I created for Youtube

Sunday, January 3, 2016

How to get a replacement copy of the free Canon Solutions Disk Software (DPP, EOS Viewer Utility, Zoom Browser...)

You might have noticed that if you bought a Canon DSLR from someone who did not pass you the Canon Solutions Disk with the EOS Viewer, the Digital Photo Professional Software (DPP) or the PhotoStitch software you like so much, you are out of luck and will have to pay for a copy on ebay. It is a free software available to all Canon DSLR owners (well if you are the first owner that is). Similarly if you bought a new computer and do not have the original Canon Solutions Disk, you are also out of luck as it seems Canon is now providing a link on their website for an Updater instead which requires that you first have the original software installed for the Updater to work. That does not solve the problem for most clearly.

There have been other solutions suggested online (here is one Some folks who are tech savvy have been able to work around it and get the Updater to install as a complete software. The work around requires editing the registry to "fool" the Updater thinking that the original software is "installed" in your laptop as apparently the Updater is indeed a full suite but won't install unless you have the original version on your computer. I did try the method suggested on but my initial efforts were not successful. I was also apprehensive about having to edit my HKEYs and was concerned I may end up messing up the Registry if I have another go at it. So I looked around the web for an alternate solution which I found which I explained below.

I am a Canon user and have DPP and Canon EOS utilities on my old laptops but I recently added a third laptop to my line up. I bought this third laptop off ebay from a reseller and of course it did not have the Canon EOS Utilities bundled installed. In the past I have been able to download the full DPP software suite directly from Canon USA onto all my other computers. Things changed obviously at Canon Support desk and they decided to rein the free software in. With that change links to the full suite of image processing software were nowhere to be found. Instead what you see are links to "Updater software" only. Without the original DPP software on my new laptop, the Updater file I downloaded just will not install. A site I came across DSLR Film Noob dot Com's posting had some helpful info. After much poking around Canon USA home page ( and other Canon International home page I found a link to the EOS Solutions Disk installer zip file hidden among the many Updater software links. The Canon Solutions Disk package is listed on the software page as the installer package for those who were not able to install originally from the bundled CD. To download the installer package you need a serial no and I used 0330113672. This was the number mentioned in the blog from DSLR Film Noob that had worked and the software pack downloaded quickly.
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Interestingly the same serial number is good for many downloads and worked each time no matter which model I selected, Canon 6D, or 50D or 60D, it did not seem to matter. I said this because I had initially downloaded DPPW 4.3.1 which installed fine but refused to launch greeting me with a message saying I need to reduce the display size of my screen to Small (100%) for it to work. Mine is set to Medium 150% (Control Panel - Display- Screen Resolution). I uninstalled it and went back to the same Canon site and downloaded the EOS Solutions Disk Software instead. That proved to be the better decision as in the Solutions Disk Software package are the DPP (v3), EOS Utility, Zoom Browser, PhotoStitch etc the whole suite of Canon utilities. Once unzipped, all the packages installed 100% on my laptop running Windows 7 64bit and they all work fine. They are essentially a copy of the Canon CD that is supplied with a new Canon DSLR.
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Now to get to the software download link you have to go to Canon USA or Canon Europe, or Australia or Singapore homepage, click Drivers and Software link on the top right corner, then user Product Finder, pick your model of Canon DSLR EOS. On the next page when a Recommended List pops up, select the Software tab. Find the Canon EOS Solutions Disk (towards the bottom of the page), and hit SELECT. You will prompted to enter a serial number before download begins. The file is fairly large (100M for the Solutions Disk) and 184M for DPPW 4.3.1 and may take some time depending on your internet speed.

Hope this helps some of you who face the same dilemma as I did. Cheers

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Carillon Point Marina, Kirkland, Washington

We treated ourselves to a nice New Year's Day brunch at the Beach Cafe at Carillon Point Marina in Kirkland, Washington. I had Chicken Wrap with sweet potato fries and they were delicious. It was a beautiful sunny winter day and it felt more like 40s although the temp was in mid 30s. Folks were out walking their dogs, families with kids having leisurely stroll by the waterfront. There is a beautiful pier stretching into the lake. For $99, the pilot will take folks on a ride on his sea plane offering a bird's eye view of Lake Washington. It was indeed a lovely place to usher in 2016.

The panorama image was a crop of another image taken on the Motorola Luge phone. The original image had more of the pier. In addition, I had put the original image through an Aviary photo filter. Part art, part photography, this far from perfect picture has the look of a watercolor painting and I love it.

Below are two unedited images of Carillon Point Marina with Aviary digital frame added.

Whenever I am not able to lug my Canon DSLR and lenses on a trip with me, the camera on my phone comes to the rescue. I am a late adopter of the latest and newer technology anyway, one of those 3G phone holdouts. My old 3G phone had a pullout qwerty keyboard which I sorely miss today. To force my hands, one day Verizon simply decided that it no longer wants to support 3G, simple web pages that used to load and offer just the right amount of news and updates stopped loading. They succeeded frustrating the hell of me and begrudgingly I ordered a 4G Lite smartphone. I stuck to the prepaid plan with no contract. Since then this cheap smartphone has served me well and has become a second eye in many an occasion

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Today is Saturday and I am feeling nostalgia......

Up in the state of Washington for a few months now and I am definitely missing the California beaches. Going through my beach photography collection a little while ago and I picked out a few photos from the album.
On a typical Saturday morning at this hour, I would already be in Santa Monica checking out the scenery and having the best R&R money cannot buy.

and on every Veterans Day the scene in Santa Monica beach

I will be back.... just not soon enough.