Chicago Design

I was bored on my flight to Vancouver…

…so I painted the beautiful weirdo who awkwardly cosplays as Pikachu outside of Wrigley Field.

You can see he is holding the blue cooler where he keeps the cash he charges people to pose with him.

Illustration created in Procreate using the Apple Pencil on my 2016 iPad Pro.

Focal points Photography

The Photographer’s Holiday Gift Guide 2010

Friends, Black Friday is upon us and if you’re like me you would prefer to avoid the stores altogether and shop online. With that in mind I thought I’d give you some ideas for hot holiday gifts for the photographers in your life, be they hobbyist or pro. Many of these I own myself and use nearly every day but if I didn’t have these I’d likely be asking for them myself.

Canon 50mm f1.8 Lens
To start with we have the “nifty 50” a great lens at a great price. The Canon 50mm f1.8 Lens is a phenomenal prime lines for less than $100. This is the #1 lens I recommend to people who are looking to be a photographer and really want to learn how to use their camera. It’s what we call a prime lens. Which means it doesn’t zoom. It has a very shallow depth of field making it great for beginner portraits and amazing in low light. You can see some shots using this lens on Flickr.

If you want to spend a little bit more ($300ish) you can step up to the Canon 50mm f1.4 Lens which is not only faster, but made of metal (instead of plastic) making it quieter and more durable than the 1.8. I’ve owned both of these lenses and cannot speak highly enough about them.

Nikon shooters can find comparable lenses for around the same prices. Here is the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 and their Nikkor 50mm f1.4. I’m not a Nikon shooter but I hear great things about them.

Eye-Fi Pro X2 8gb
Flash memory is a must have for every shooter. With that in mind the coolest memory cards on the market right now have got to be the Eye-Fi Pro X2. Fro around $100 it’s an 8gb memory card that will mark the location all of your photos as you shoot them and show them to you on a map on both Mac and PC. Not just that it allows you to wirelessly upload your photos to many different sites and your computer! I use an older model of this myself for my day to day shooting and it’s amazing.

Thing is about the Eye-Fi is they only come in the SD Card format but that’s okay, there is a company called Digigear who make a SD to Compact Flash adaptor so that you can use this in professional level cameras as well. Best part? It’s only $16. I have not tried this myself however it’s reviews say it works great with the Eye-Fi.

Panasonic Lumix GF1
In the market for a new camera? The Panasonic Lumix GF1 is my personal best-buy. With interchangeable lenses a 12mp sensor and the ability to shoot beautiful HD video you can’t go wrong. I shoot with this myself here on Focal Points and it’s probably my favorite camera I have ever owned.

It should be noted that Panasonic has just announced the Lumix GF2 which is smaller and shoots “True HD” however it gives up the traditional dials in favor of an integrated touch screen. No American release date has been announced yet. That said I still recommend the GF1 as the announcement of the GF2 has caused it to dramatically drop in price (from around $900 to around $600) and it really offers better control despite the advancements of the GF2.

Gorillapod SLR-Zoom
Next up we have the GorillaPod SLR-Zoom by Joby. For a little more than $30 this little tripod is extremely flexible and can go with you just about anywhere and work in any environment. Seriously, I’ve attached my camera to signs and fences with it. It’s amazing.

Lastly we have my favorite toy and an accessory for it.

iPad Camera Connection Kit
The Apple iPad has caused me and Oprah to agree on something for the first time in a while. This is absolutely my favorite thing ever. The battery life is amazing and with the abundance of apps available I find myself using this now than I do my laptop. Combine it with the iPad Camera Connection kit and it’s the perfect tool for the photographer in your life.

Good luck everyone and enjoy your turkey sandwiches!


Flash Free: The Way to Be

Not long ago I removed Adobe Flash Player from my iMac. Despite all the political things between Apple and Adobe I did this mostly for performance reasons. I am often working on photos in Aperture while having a browser window open and I find that Flash just running ads in Safari use a ton of resources. Since disabling it I see a noticeable gain in speed and responsiveness on my machine in general.

Now I’m not entirely without it, I have Google Chrome installed as my secondary browser which has Flash built in, so when I want to watch Hulu it’s still possible. However I’ve started to notice that most websites offer HTML5 video options and I got an excellent extension for Safari to make most sites default to it.

John Gruber wrote an excellent piece on how to do this and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

That said there are two things that annoy me right now.

  1. Google Analytics relies on Flash for it’s charts… which is unnecessary… it could all be done in HTML5
  2. Boing Boing….

I’ve mentioned before that Boing Boing uses a ton of Flash, when I called the hypocritical Cory Doctorow a hypocrite (well he is).

Well it turns out, this is what happens when you visit the main page in safari without Flash installed:

Forcing my computer to auto-download useless SWF files? Good job gentlemen. You suck again.

Noticeably this does not occur when you read their site through a RSS reader. Maybe they should just stop being hypocrites and stop running Flash ads?  Are you listening Cory? Probably not.

Photography Travels

And We’re Off! – Thailand Part 1

I am typing this on my brand new iPad while sitting on a Cathay Pacific flight to Vancouver. From there, I’ll be off to Hong Kong, then straight on to Bangkok. I’ll be meeting up with a good friend Christine in Bangkok, where the agenda is pretty much unwritten. The only thing set in stone is that I need to be back in Bangkok on April 12th so that I can begin my voyage home with a quick 26-hour layover in Tokyo.

So you’re probably wondering, what is the reason for the trip? My answer, of course, is the trip is the reason for the trip. I’m planning to continue the travel photography and social media adventures that I’ve grown to love so much.

I had hoped to be able to post my photos nightly throughout the trip, but the iPad camera adaptor wasn’t available in time for my departure, and since we’ll be backpacking most of the time, I have opted to leave my 7 lbs MacBook Pro at home. However, I did pay for the international data plan on my iPhone, so I’ll probably snap a few photos on there and post them to Flickr as I go as a preview of the final images to come when I arrive home, and I’ll retroactively add photos to these posts later for posterity.

For this trip, I’ve packed extremely light. Since I tend to have lots of bad luck with airport security, I’ve learned how to pack light and only bring what I can carry.

On this trip, for example, I have one bag, my camera bag/backpack, which contains the following:

  • Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105mm f/4.0 kit lens
  • 4 Canon LP-E6 batteries
  • 4 Compact Flash cards (1 32GB and 3 16GB)
  • Canon 50mm f/1.4
  • Canon 28mm f/2.8
  • Apple iPad 64GB WiFi
  • 6 Pairs of socks
  • 6 Pairs of underwear
  • 5 Shirts
  • 1 Pair of jeans
  • 1 Bathing suit
  • 2 Field Notes notebooks
  • 2 Pens
  • 1 Deck of playing cards
  • Assorted wires and chargers

Aside from a few sparse things I’m bringing one way to Christine, the clothes on my back and my iPhone in my pocket, that’s it. As I mentioned before, I’ve paid for 50MB of international data, but I’ve also paid for 50 outgoing text messages (Incoming are apparently free), and I plan to buy a prepaid phone over there to be able to stay in touch with Christine.

I’ll be active on Twitter, FourSquare, Flickr, and Facebook throughout the week, and hopefully blogging every night (assuming I can find WiFi to post from,) so feel free to follow along.

Truthfully, I plan to take it one step further than that; As it stands right now, I have no agenda for Tokyo, only a few suggestions. Similar to my day in Paris before this, I know no one in Japan, and I don’t speak a word of Japanese. I plan to crowdsource my day.

I’ve got 26 hours in Tokyo: Where should I go, what should I do? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know how you think I should spend my day. I’ll do it, photograph it, and write about it right here!

Stay tuned dear readers!


Practicing What You Preach

There has been a large amount of smart commentary on this today, but I’d like to beg one question:

If Cory Doctorow is so opposed to closed systems owned by large corporations, why does Boing Boing use Adobe Flash for its advertising and video?

He’ll criticize others for their use of proprietary tech meanwhile profiting from another? As an editor and public face of Boing Boing, this seems a tad hypocritical.