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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Cycling through Photos

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

I've been puzzling over how best to display photos from Flickr. On my home page, I show my most recent six photos, which helps keep things fresh for search engines and visitors. The problem is that I generally only upload a photoset every month or two, so the same six photos remain up for a couple months, before switching out for a new set of six photos. Furthermore, those final six photos are probably related to each other, so they won't generally represent the variety contained in the photostream. Here are the possibilities I'm considering:

  1. Display the last six photos. This is my current strategy, and has the disadvantages outlined above. Its main advantage is that it is simple, and requires no history.
  2. Display a random six photos from the last X photos. This has the advantage that it will keep changing, and will have a much greater chance of displaying all of the recent photos from time to time, especially if X is large. It is also quite simple. But the chaotic nature of randomness puts me off a little — a visitor can't know what to expect.
  3. Progressively work through new photos. Each is displayed for a period of time. This spreads the freshness out over a longer period of time, but it is quite complicated. It involves keeping track of all photos posted, and having some algorithm to decide when to move on.
  4. Hand-pick favorite photos from each photoset. This has the advantage of displaying a wider variety of photos, of higher quality, but has the disadvantage of not giving them each a chance. It also means I have to write infrastructure to keep track of favorites, or tie into Flickr's favorite mechanism.

Any thoughts?

Vancouver 2012

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

This year, instead of buying each other Christmas presents, Sarah and I decided to plan a trip to Vancouver. We found a Groupon for a nice hotel, and bought round-trip train tickets, and the night before leaving, we packed. The train up was lovely. It was an overcast morning, with all manner of birds out the window: ducks, seagulls and crows, and a few bald eagles. The ducks were my favorite. You'd see a solitary duck sitting serenely on the waters, and then, like magic, it would be a pair of ducks. When they dove there was some warning, the flip of a tail and a flash of feet, followed by a slight ripple; but when they returned it was as if they rose like sudden bubbles from deep underwater. Each time it happened I had to laugh. Soon I was trying to watch all the ducks at once to see them re-emerge — a losing proposition. Altogether it was quite a pleasant ride, with islands across the water and mountains in the distance.

When we got to Vancouver we went to The Chinese Tea Shop, which sells excellent Chinese teas. Daniel, the proprietor, had us try a few: a Liuan tea, a raw puerh from 2005, and a 20-year aged roasted tieguanyin. The tieguanyin was fantastic, and had considerable life to it, so we bought a couple ounces. We also bought some Liuan, since it was new to us and we wanted to share some with our tea friends. I have decided that I need to start my own personal tea glossary to define the various tea terms that I come across. That way, if I mention something that might be unfamiliar, I can just link to my own definition of the term.

My favorite new experiences from this trip were wandering through Gastown, a charming district of small shops and restaurants; taking pictures of the float planes taking off and landing, the floating Chevron station and the mountains behind them; and seeing a little bit of Stanley Park, the enormous park in the Northwest end of the downtown peninsula.

Here is a rundown of our food experience in Vancouver. On Friday we got Dim Sum at Jade Dynasty, a place we discovered on our honeymoon. It was good, though their Xiao Long Bao wasn't as contained as it should have been. That night we ate at the Alibi Room, a great little pub/bistro in Gastown. Both mornings we got croissants (and other delicacies) from Cho Pain, a French bakery near our hotel. On Saturday we took a train ride down to Richmond to have a late lunch at Kirin, which we'd heard was better than their location in downtown Vancouver, but from what we ordered it seemed pretty comparable (the pot stickers weren't quite as amazing, but the Chinese broccoli was perfection). Richmond itself was suburban and a bit bland, crammed with malls both large and small. That night, after wandering around looking at various possibilities, we ate at Hapa Izakaya. An izakaya is a Japanese-style bar with lots of small plates; the West End is simply packed with them. Afterwards we went to Market for dessert. We were a tad underdressed, but the crackling key lime pie was amazing. Crackling in this case means sprinkling pop rocks on top, which makes for an interesting experience if you're not expecting it. The next day, on our meandering way to Stanley Park, we ate lunch at Kingyo Izakaya — their special bento is excellent. I didn't recognize half of the items, but I enjoyed all of them.

We resolved next trip to spend less time at restaurants.

Snow in Seattle

Friday, January 20th, 2012

I had almost despaired of getting any good snow this winter. Saturday teased us with a brief flurry in Wallingford, which dropped about an inch on the plastic chairs outside of Irwin's Bakery. Monday sent more snow at us, and for a day the tantalizing possibility of "Snowmageddon" hung in the air, before being downgraded. But after the snow began to fall early Wednesday morning, it just didn't want to stop. Here in Fremont it never reached a full-on blizzard, but the snow remained steady most of the day.

Sarah and I walked around the neighborhood that afternoon, taking pictures and enjoying the change of pace. There were only a few cars on the streets; people brought out whatever makeshift sleds they could find — we saw garbage can lids, plastic bags — even a cookie sheet was pressed into service. People were friendly, perhaps because the only ones out wandering the streets were those who were determined to enjoy it. We devoted the rest of our day to drinking tea, and watching the snow accumulate outside our windows. After night fell it grew even more peaceful. The snowflakes fell past the streetlights in endless succession.

Early Thursday morning the freezing rain hit. This is hardly a positive thing from a practical standpoint — a snowy road merely wants to impede your uphill progress, whereas an icy road actively tries to kill you. It causes power outages and property damage from ice-clad tree limbs breaking. However, from a photographic perspective, the thin layer of ice adds a new vibrancy to everything, refracting light at the edges of all the plants, preserving the delicate forms in clear amber. Against the white of the snow, and the shadows of trees and buildings, it's perfectly irresistible.

So I went on a meandering walk to our local tea haunt, Teahouse Kuan Yin. On the way there, I stood beneath a large cedar tree, trying to find a picture of ice on its leaves. At the time, the major precipitation was small, light ice pellets instead of snow, and I noticed that the tree gave no protection against them. Unlike rain and snow, which change their character as they fall against a tree, accumulating on the edges, or coalescing into bigger drops, the ice pellets just bounced through it like a giant rain stick. They made a sound, too, a light rattle, a little like falling grains of sand. I thought of the tree as an hourglass, slowing time for the ice crystals on their way toward the ground, and it was strange and otherworldly.

The one thing I regret is that I didn't have skis. When I walked up near Fremont Peak Park, I felt that the most amazing thing would be to ski the backstreets of Upper Fremont, to glide past parked cars and around the traffic circles, and then fly down the slopes of Fremont's ridgeline. I hope I'm prepared the next time we get snow like this.

Halloween 2009

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Halloween was pretty awesome this year. We went to a farm to get apples, which we made into juice upon our return. On the drive back we saw a bunch of kids in crazy costumes. Little ladybugs, princesses, and giraffes. The highlight was two parents who dressed up as bunny rabbits; the kid who sat on his dad's shoulder was a little carrot.

Aaron, Cami, Sarah, Paff and I carved awesome pumpkins: a crazy face, a kitty, a spider, a zombie turnip, and a velociraptor, respectively. Soren, Alice and Austin came over to watch Evil Dead II with us. Then we all went home and slept.

Next year's pumpkin: Escherinspired.

Early Seattle Photosets

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Pictures have finally arrived! Two photosets: one from moving and getting settled; the other from a picnic to Gas Works Park. They are taken with my lovely new Nikon d90. After a long time drooling over DSLR cameras, now I finally have one. So I may post more pictures than usual.