February 8, 2012

This Meta Goes To Eleven

Filed under: awesome,flickr,interfaces,life,lunacy,parenting,weird — mhoye @ 9:33 pm

Meta, Circular

I took this picture of Maya taking a picture of a Skype session with her grandfather, in which the camera on my computer embedded a picture of her in the corner of the picture his computer took of him holding up a picture of me from when I was 12 years old, holding a camera. While thinking to myself privately that Douglas Hofstadter was, on reflection, a bit of a simpleton.

It took me a few minutes to shake this moment off, let me tell you.

May 27, 2011

A Long Silence

Filed under: beauty,flickr,toys — mhoye @ 8:10 pm

More soon, more soon. So busy.



March 23, 2010

F/8 And Be There

Filed under: digital,flickr,interfaces,toys — mhoye @ 12:14 am

Nearing Sundown

I own a DSLR and take a lot of pictures, which makes me an authority on the subject of cameras and photography, and guarantees that every time my shutter snaps, magic happens. It said so right there on the receipt.

Now, that is obvious nonsense, but I get asked a lot of questions about cameras anyway. I carry around an SLR sometimes, so people ask me what camera should I buy or how do I take better pictures, just a bunch of stuff I don’t always have answers for. Honestly: my occasional hobby is buying cheap, weird old lenses and filters off Craigslist and seeing what kind of pictures I can take with them, because I think not knowing how things are going to turn out is fun, but that’s the extent of my qualifications.

I take a lot of pictures, go me, and some of them come out OK.


But this little rant was brought on when I saw someone just recently with obviously no idea what they were buying drop two grand on a camera they’ll likely never really use, much less take a decent picture with. The most cringeworthy bit was when the person asked which, of a prime or zoom lens, would “take better pictures”.

So I thought I should get this out there. Having done this in an amateur capacity for two or three years, here’s entirety of my thinking on buying and using cameras.

The first thing is: don’t buy a DSLR. Just don’t. Get yourself a competent point-and-shoot. Don’t skimp on the memory card; buy a large one from a reputable brand, but buying last year’s cameras on sale is a good idea. Don’t spend a lot of money; just learn to use it well enough that you can go from off and in your pocket to on and taking pictures in one motion with one hand. Fiddle around with the menus until you’ve turned off digital zoom and the flash, carry it with you wherever you go, and when you see something you’d like to take a picture of, take a picture of it.

Gate And Sky

Take lots and lots and lots of pictures. Don’t take the kind of pictures you think you should take; take pictures of the things you find interesting. You’re taking the whole picture, not just the subject; frame the subject in the shot. Move around, just for the change in perspective, and take more pictures.

You can expect to take a few dozen or hundred pictures for every one that’s even kind of good, and strangely as you get more experienced that number will get higher, not lower; the bar you set for yourself will get higher faster than you improve. But now that pictures are just about free that’s a good thing: failure is more informative than success when you’re just starting out. The Rule Of Thirds will get you a long way here, so keep it in mind.


So by and large what kind of pictures are you taking? What works well, what doesn’t? What is great, what isn’t and why? Are you zoomed all the way in most of the time, or all the way out? Are they mostly scenery, mostly people? Plants, cars? Are they mostly moving, or are they sitting still for you? With that information, do you still enjoy taking pictures?

Are you still interested in getting better at this? If so, and with all that information, consider buying yourself a DSLR, maybe.

You can blow up a 6 megapixel shot to a 20″x30″ print and they look great, so megapixels are an irrelevant metric. This is doubly true in this modern age where virtually all your picture-viewing happens on a screen; your top-of-the-line 1080p HDTV is a whopping two megapixels; extremely expensive computer monitors might go as high as three. All cameras, and indeed almost all lenses, have been better than that for a couple of years.

Buy used, if you have that option; expensive cameras do not promise good photos, and digital camera prices drop like a rock. I shoot Nikon, but from what I hear the rule of thumb is “If you shoot things that are mostly moving, Canon. If you’re shooting things that mostly aren’t, Nikon”. That said, when you see a guy winning a Pulitzer with a $30 piece-of-crap Holga, you’ve got to know that ultimately the technology is secondary. If you’ve had your point-and-shoot for a year and haven’t shot a few thousand pictures with it, looked at them and thought about them, don’t buy anything, why are you even doing this? If you don’t go places just to take pictures of whatever’s there, don’t waste your money; if you don’t take a lot of photos, having a lot of camera won’t help.


If you’re buying the camera as a kit, as entry-level DSLRs are often sold, you will often have the option to upgrade to a slightly better zoom lens. Did your point and shoot spend all its time zoomed all the way in, while you took pictures of stuff a ways away? If so, and if you have the means, spring for the longer lens. If not, save your money and in a couple of weeks or months buy the cheapest prime lens you can find.

Paint Over Concrete

You now have more camera than you’ll likely ever need. You can learn a lot about the bells and whistles that modern cameras provide, but my advice is to the same as it was for the point-and-shoot; set it to JPEG-Fine and no-flash and take lots and lots more pictures. Keep your point-and-shoot in your pocket anyway; as always, the best camera you can get is the one that will be in your hand when the shot comes along.

If anyone has any other advice, I’d love to hear it. That’s all I have.

August 18, 2008

And An Ominous Portent For Dessert

Filed under: flickr,food,lunacy,weird — mhoye @ 10:08 pm


My wife and I went out for dinner at the Danforth Dragon who, somewhat silly website aside, make very good and interesting food. They would have my unqualified endorsement if it weren’t for the fact that, to wrap up the meal, they gave my wife a fortune cookie with not one but two fortunes in it, one of which read “You will make many changes before settling down happily” and the other reading “You will take a chance in the near future”.

Mine, for completeness sake, was something entirely pedestrian about friends being important. True! But not relevant to the problem at hand, if you see what I mean.

So, ominous! And no combination of arbitrary in-bed or pants-related subordinate clauses have allayed my suspicions. I was thinking about this in the subway the next day, a conveyance whose windows are 1/4″ thick; not something you’d normally notice, but it does give you a barely discernible and slightly offset reflection. Just enough to make my reflection look like it was wearing two identical wedding rings.

Everything is fine, you know? We’re good! I’m totally happy! But that was weird, seemingly all at once like that, the sort of thing that tips the more precariously off-kilter all the way over. Lucky for me, I’m completely sane. So, listen, it’s completely OK go eat at the Danforth Dragon, the food’s great, but if you catch them conspiring with the TTC to screw up your relationship, just leave a decent tip and get the rest of the meal to go.

August 16, 2008

Guy Vs. Guy

Filed under: flickr,lunacy,music,weird — mhoye @ 4:41 pm

East From Spadina

Like alcoholism and pyromania, in moderation paranoia can be a lot of fun. So if you’re interested in making your commute just a little bit surreal or add a certain cold war East-Berlin-chic to your next get together, I have quite a treat for you.

Numbers Stations are shortwave radio stations that transmit seemingly-random sets of numbers, repeated in sequence, on some arbitrary schedule; they’re guaranteed not to mean anything to anyone except for the shadowy figure with the right one-time pad, for whom those numbers will magically become their next marching orders through the magic of crypto.

But since it’s shortwave, anyone with a shortwave radio can tune in, and the Conet Project has collected several CDs worth of transmissions from all over the world. And if you grew up reading John Le Carré these crackling synthesized tones and strange recitations will speak to you through a code that means nothing; they will make you think of dimly-lit meetings in the cold alleys of East Berlin, of dead drops, safe houses, microfilm and old men with old secrets.

The Conet Project isn’t selling the CDs anymore, but they’re all downloadable, so put it on shuffle and head to work, looking over your shoulder the entire time. That woman with the loose suit-jacket? She’s wired. That guy with the moustache? He’s an informant, guaranteed. Don’t look him in the eye. Those two guys on the train with you, who were were on the streetcar too?

They’re on to you, man. You’re blown.


July 29, 2008

Under A Blood Red Sky

Filed under: beauty,flickr,weird — mhoye @ 3:17 am

Under A Blood Red Sky

This looked like a thin crescent moon against a cloudless, nighttime background to my simple human eyes. I took it outside my second-floor window through a screen at a quarter to four in the morning.

I can’t sleep. And it came out a half-moon under a rusted-out alien sky, the one hydro line across the shot turning into the light trail of some imagined passing vessel.

A little surprising, but pleasantly. I still love you, D40.

I’m so tired.

July 20, 2008

You Can’t Have Too Much Buddha

Filed under: awesome,beauty,flickr,travel — mhoye @ 10:13 pm

I’ve filtered out a few more of my very-late-now Hong Kong photos, and dumped a set from my trip to Lantau Island on Flickr.

The trip to Lantau was great, starting with another reminder of how backwards Toronto’s public transit system is; the trip was fast, fast and simple, all public transit and a cable car ride, in clean, air-conditioned comfort.

Did you know that subways don’t necessarily have to be filthy, decaying cold-war relics that can’t slow to a stop without screaming like a gut-shot banshee? That public transit doesn’t have to smell like a wet dog? It doesn’t need to be like that, and it’s amazing what a difference it makes. This town needs an Octopus Card in the worst way.

The Wire

Big Buddha at Lantau is a cable car ride away from one end of the Hong Kong subway system, and while I claim no broad experience in the field it’s definitely the longest cable car ride I’ve ever been on, about half an hour, and the views are spectacular and occasionally a little bit terrifying. I hope you’re OK with wide-open spaces and heights, if you’re going to take this ride, because you’re going to get those two things in spades.


More Airport

It’s probably the best view of the immense Hong Kong International Airport that your casual tourist is likely to get, and gives you a sense of the immense scope of that project when you realize that’s all reclaimed land. Then the ride goes over a long series of hills and valleys, every one making you think that OK, that’s enough, this must be the last one before you cross the ridge and see the cars trailing away over the next hill again.

The Long Road

There’s a path that runs the length of the ride. You can follow it winding away beneath you, and if I ever go back to Lantau, I’m going to do that hike on foot.

Buddha And Sky

The approach to the Buddha his own bad self is impressive, and only gets more impressive the closer you get to it. He’s on his own little summit, surrounded by some very nicely-crafted statues of supplicants bringing various gifts, and when you’ve climbed the up to see him, he only gets more impressive. Oddly, the gates they have to keep the tourists in the right lineups all have swastikas on them; it was a traditional Buddhist symbol long before the Nazis got hold of it, of course, but still a little jarring to those of us raised on a steady diet of Allied-propaganda history classes.

A Floral Offering

The Gate


Apparently that’s two hundred and fifty tons of Buddha right there.

The rest of the town around it is a little touristy. There’s a both a Shaolin monastery and a Starbucks within two hundred meters of it, which I’m sure is indicative of something or symbolic of something else, but that mostly just makes me a little sad. And there were no swastika-barriers in front of either of them, which also made me a little sad, but at least the mental image of Ninja Monk Nazis lining up to get their caffeine fix at Der Staarbuckener was amusing.

But it occurred to me that, way back before the tourists, the cable car ride and the Big Buddha, this must have been a beautiful, secluded place. Take away all that convenience and this is the absolute middle of nowhere, an isolated outpost hidden in the mountains on the uninhabited part of the island, a significant ordeal to even get to, much less actually live there.

But I suppose that modulo “all that convenience”, a lot of the world is like that.

Talk To The Hand

July 9, 2008

Libid Zyla 2: Zyla Harder

Filed under: awesome,beauty,flickr,life,travel — mhoye @ 9:34 pm

I know I still owe you some Hong Kong photos, internets, but I’ve just finished triaging the photos from Libid and Randy’s wedding.


The rest of the photoset is here, not all of the bride and groom. I spent a lot of time photographing the guests, and some of them came out pretty well.

Let Me Out

That’s not strictly a Wedding Photo, but it’s still a hell of a photo, you know? But I promise, there are more at the other end of the link.

Creepy Hydrant Wants To Love You

Filed under: beauty,flickr,travel,weird — mhoye @ 12:34 pm

Creepy Hydrant Wants To Love You

Taken in Winnipeg.

July 3, 2008

It’s Saturday, Oooh, Oooh.

Filed under: awesome,flickr — mhoye @ 5:59 pm

It's Saturday

This might not make a ton of sense if you’ve never heard of Ludacris, but I’ve been meaning to do this for a while.

(Also, a slightly-related funny I stumbled upon, this made me laugh. “You remember that hot tub? I filled it up with all women instead of water. Saved a hundred and fifty gallons.”)

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