Last August I decided to get serious about SEO/SEF and getting rid of bottlenecks in my site. A fast site gets indexed and just now in January am I getting the site close to what I want it to do. The gallery's are still a mess and I have some other issues I need to deal with (disqus comments still don't attach to the old articles) but I'm working on them. The Disqus problem will get taken care of in the coming weeks. The Galleries I'm not sure what I'll do about. I'd really like to move away from embedded Gallery2 but haven't found a Joomla gallery that was anything more than a lightbox showing photos in a folder. I really don't think that will work for 6000 photos.
Anyway here's the results of the work I've been putting into this. Let it be known that it took four years to get to my first million hits. Now I'm doing 200k - 250k per month.
I've always been a proponent of learning as much as you can about a subject before running off and buying more equipment and photography is no different. A lot of times people think they can't take great photos without having great equipment but I've found that you can do a great deal by KNOWING what you're doing first. Years ago when I skated we'd go to Woolworth's and buy a pair of Roller Derby Phantoms to which we'd replace the liner with a Reidel or Rollerblade version, replace the wheels and bearings then tear up the track. Whomever just got owned would always come up and ask what we were skating on which we'd respond with "Roller Derby Phantoms, I got them from Woolworths for $39". Perhaps this caused a few people to give up on their dreams and live out their days serving 7 layer burritos at Taco Bell if you believe in the Butterfly Effect - I don't know. Anyway my philosophy is this.
"Be as good as you can with what you have and only replace it when IT becomes the limitation"
I live this with my photography. Sure a DSLR will take better photos than a point and shoot, nobody's arguing that. However, if you can't aim a point and shoot at a subject and make art out of it then it's doubtful that something as complex as a DSLR will help you any. Most point and shoot cameras will take decent photos within context. That context usually has to do with lighting and depth of field. With a small sensor they just can't take in enough light so anything over about 200 ISO they're done. They also have a very wide depth of field and the recent trend of adding wide angle lenses to them has made this worse. It's nearly impossible to do those very dramatic narrow depth of field closeups using a point and shoot camera with a wide angle lens. Other issues they have depend on the make of the camera but I'll list the general ones and attack them one at a time
- Noise at any ISO above base
- Limited zoom
- Purple fringing
- Inaccurate white balance
- Color blowout
1. Noise: Because of their small sensors they struggle at taking photos in low light conditions so don't. That's right, just don't do it. If you have to then manually set your ISO as low as it will go then place the camera on a tripod and fire the shutter using a timer. My Jobi Gorillapod has allowed me to capture some great nighttime shots because it will stick to about anything. At least two of the shots in the gallery below would not have been possible without it.
2. Limited Zoom: get closer or take the cleanest shot possible and crop. That's really what it comes down to. A zoom provides optical magnification which your point and shoot may not have. Optical is always better than taking a large photo and cropping it because the magnification is being done in the lens thus leaving all your pixels to still take in light. If you take a photo and crop it to simulate a 4x zoom with a 10 MP photo you'll end up with a 2.5 MP photo that's not very sharp. This is the limitation so you'll have to live with it.
3. Color Fringing: There's not a lot you can do besides avoiding the types of photos where it's prevalent ie. leaves backed by sky. The photo to the right shows fringing around the leaves.
4. Inaccurate White Balance: Light metering in point and shoot cameras leaves a lot to be desired and has to do with the software in the camera more than anything else so two cameras using the same sensor may not be equal in this regard. There's a simple solution that most cameras allow. Take the whitest piece of paper you can find and hold that in front of the image you're wanting to photograph and select "Evaluate White Balance" in your settings. Even cheap point and shoot cameras usually have this. This will tell the camera to change settings so the sheet of paper is considered white. This works really really well and I can't recommend it enough. This is especially useful for taking indoor shots under artificial lights because they're all different. I recommend this setting over changing to the pre-configured Tungsten, Fluorescent or other settings. Just remember to change it back when you're move to a new lighting condition. You may even do this several times during shooting to let it recalculate.
5. Color Blowout: What I mean by this is some cameras prefer certain colors over others. This is a designed in feature of the camera manufacturer to satisfy the point and shoot market. Manufacturers of cameras designed for the common non-photographer folks like to make cameras that output bright over-sharpened photos with punchy colors because this is what consumers want. However, seasoned photographers know this isn't a good base to start your post processing with. It's better to have an image closer to raw so you can do the processing yourself.
Just keep this in mind when you take photos. The photo of a rose to the right was taken by my Canon S90 which is one of the best point and shoot cameras you can but. The rose is really peach colored so you can see how bad the camera mangled it.
6. Overexposure: This is a real problem on a point and shoot because their sensors are so small and have very limited dynamic range. If your camera has auto-exposure bracketing (not likely) then turn it on. This takes three photos every time you press the shutter button at different exposures. This will allow you to choose the right one later or possibly even combine them in HDR software to make one High Dynamic Range image. If your camera doesn't have auto-exposure bracketing you might want to see if you can assign exposure settings to a hot button (ie. on Canon it's the print button) so you can take a photo, adjust exposure and take another quickly. In more cases than not you'll be adjusting down and not up. I take most of my point and shoot photos at -2/3 exposure. Experiment and take lots of photos with different settings to see what works. You can always decide later what to keep.
With all of that in mind you can take decent photos with your point and shoot. I've had photos published in magazines that were taken with a 3.2 MP point and shoot camera with a 2x zoom. It IS possible.
Why not just go to a DSLR?
I still carry around a point and shoot camera although a higher end one - Canon S90 because I can get it in my pocket. A camera that I have on me is a camera I'll take photos with. A bulky DSLR left at home will never get used. I will probably be replacing the S90 with an S100 or doing more research on the Canon G1X even though it pushes my envelope of what I want to carry around.
The moral of the story is learn how to use all the features of your camera and don't be afraid to experiment. The photo at the beginning of this article was taken using the gorillapod, a two second shutter and the exposure on the pre-configured Fireworks setting.
Point and Shoot Photo Gallery: click for lightbox
I was working on putting my Moussaka recipe back up on the new site and took one look at the photo I had on file for it and knew I couldn't do it. It's amazing how much of a difference just knowing a bit about what you're doing makes in many things. In this case it's both cooking and photography. My current camera is a bit better than my old one in that it takes better low light photos. However because of the wide angle lens it has a wider depth of field making it hard to get those really dramatic close-up images with the foreground and the background blurred out. However, how I took the new Moussaka photo I could have taken with the old camera too. I also don't have any more of a food photography studio than I ever did. One hundred percent of the difference between the two photos below is knowledge and nothing more. I'm still using a point and shoot camera, I'm still taking photos under fluorescent lights, I'm still using a couple of books and a $3.99 tripod from an outlet store, and I still don't have any flash, props, umbrellas or any of that jazz. So look at the photos below and see the difference. If you're one to run out and buy better equipment because you want to take great photos you may want to just get really good with what you have first THEN go buy new gear.
Obviously the plate is different. I bought the one on the right for $6.99 for four at TJ-Maxx. The ones on the left cost the same per plate a an Import store. The recipe is of course different and I spent more time making the Bechamel sauce thicker (whipped egg whites then folded them in) but the real difference is lighting, subtle backgrounds and matching up colors with dramatic patterns lacking in color. You don't have to spent a lot on the background either. I layed a group of fake grapes and grape leaves back there and you can see something but it doesn't draw attention. It has a presence but doesn't introduce itself to you. The photo on the left is bland and plain. I'm too zoomed out, the food looks sad, the plate looks empty and alone. It's just blah.
I was going back through recipes from my old site to put up here and I was shocked at how poor my food photography was so I made Moussaka for the sole purpose of taking new photos. That and Fred Meyer had Aubergine for $1 each which is pretty good.
Moussaka is one of my favorite Greek dishes to make even though I'm definitely not in the eggplant lovers club. The way I feel about eggplant is that if you could tenderize a slug but keep the sliminess you'd have an eggplant. However, the meat and flavorings in Moussaka are nice enough to overpower any anti-eggplant reactions I may have. My favorite part though is the Béchamel Sauce poured over the top. The recipe calls for parmigiana and feta cheeses but I did parmigiana and a cave aged Gruyère which worked out nicely. I also like Moussake with potatoes in it which I didn't have (and was snowed in) so that went. For meat lamb is best, 50/50 lamb beef is next and just beef being last. However, beef is still enjoyable because of the spices and red wine in it. I used a Ste. Michelle soft red blend that I had uncorked already. My favorite wine for this dish is a Côtes du Rhône blend of Granache and Syrah. If you don't put wine in it you'll definitely notice but I'm not sure the type of wine is as big a deal as in other recipes. I see recipes that use white wine though and I'm not so sure about that. This is a hearty dish with hearty flavors, red seems to go better.
For those of you who haven't heard of SOPA it's an act in Congress designed to stop piracy. This is a good thing however, it's designed in a way that will result in sensorship without review. For instance, if you have a business all a competing company has to do is accuse you of piracy and your web hosting company will have to drop your account. There is NO review process. This by far the wrong way to accomplish this. If you feel the need to speak out against SOPA you might want to consider signing Google's takeaction site.
If you want to know more about SOPA check wikipedia. Be aware that today January 18th wikipedia will go off the air against SOPA. So check back tomorrow.
I've been working on an article about the various Sweet Potatoes and the differences and it occurred to me how humorous the situation is. Anyone in food knows that what is called a Yam in most cases is actually a sweet potato. This is fairly common knowledge but digging further it only gets worse and it isn't just sweet potatoes who are violated in the arbitrary naming process of food.
Rest assured there is a plant called a Yam and it is edible but most American's have probably not even seen one let alone eaten it. <big word alert> The Yam is native to Africa and Asia and belongs to the monocot family Dioscoreaceae. Monocots are one of two major groups of flowering plants (or angiosperms) that are traditionally recognized, the other beingdicotyledons, or dicots. Monocot seedlings typically have one cotyledon (seed-leaf), in contrast to the two cotyledons typical of dicots. So in short a Yam is a monocot and a Sweet Potato is a dicot - not even botanically related at very base level of flowering plants. So what you see in the grocery store called Yam is actually a Sweet Potato no matter what color it is. There are yellow Sweet Potatoes labeled as such, there are orange Sweet Potatoes labeled as Yams and there are purple Sweet Potatoes labeled however the person wanted who put up the sign. It gets worse.
In addition to a "grocery store Yam" being in fact a Sweet Potato it's not even a potato at all. The potato's scientific name - Solanum tuberosum reflects that it belongs to the Solanaceae family whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. That's right, you say potato, I say tomato! Potatoes are related to tomatoes and eggplants. There are over 100 varieties of edible potatoes and the Sweet Potato isn't even related because it belongs to the Convolvulaceae plant family and is known by the scientific name of Ipomoea batatas. What's interesting about all of this is the genus is ipomoea and the species for Sweet Potato is batatas ie. phonetically potato which tells you how far back the confusion goes. Anyone who's seen a Sweet Potato flower may recognize it as another close relative in the same botanical family is the "Morning Glory" flower. <end of big word alert>
- Yams are Sweet Potatoes
- Yams are not yams
- Sweet Potatoes are not potatoes
- "Sweet" Potatoes have a lower Glycemic Index than potatoes
- Potatoes are related to eggplants
- Eggplants do not make eggs (irrelevant)
- Sweet Potatoes are related to Morning Glory
- Real Yams do exist and they're not from Miami (you'll understand in a minute)
So Yams aren't yams, they're sweet potatoes which aren't potatoes and aren't sweet? Pretty much. How did this happen?
The history of the Sweet Potato in my own words:
- 750 BC an unknown Peruvian digs up a root and starts gnawing on it. Sweet Potatoes become a big hit spawning massive population growth, a couple of ruthless rulers, a box with a diseased feather and some really unruly metal clad illegal immigrants who have very little respect for local customs of ownership but I'm getting ahead of myself.
- A man from Italy wants to go boating but doesn't have the means to purchase one so he turns to begging which proves successful. He immediately gets lost in his new boat and about a month later runs it into a mound of dirt. Hungry he digs up a root and gnaws on it to much delight.
- The local Taino people who were of course overjoyed to have been finally discovered told the Italian boater that the root was called batatas.
- Not having heard of a batatas and having a slight hearing and/or comprehension problem he erroneously called it patata (you know from the rhyme potato, patata). Since the nice couple who loaned him their boat were Spanish this became the Spanish name for batatas.
- Later the English not paying much attention to anything on the stranded side of the English Channel renamed it potato. Keep in mind there wasn't such a thing yet so you have to give them some credit for their originality.
- One hundred years later another man (who due to his lack of accomplishments remains unknown) dug up another root in South Columbia (I mean America, don't get me started) drags another tuber back to Europe. It resembled the batatas but generally lacked flavor or any other discernible value so it was given to the Irish and named potato.
- Since people then named things by shape nobody noticed that the tasty batatas and the untasty potatoes were not in fact related nor did it matter - they were similar in shape so too should be similar in name.
- One hundred years later some well meaning folks needed to get some shit done and since it was a bit early in the timeline to run by Home Depot for good hard working laborers they asked the Portuguese if they knew of anyone who might want a job where pay wasn't an object. They did and offered to provide the transportation.
- The newly arrived people were famished and upon taking into their site the aforementioned roots responded with the Wolof word "nyam" loosely translated as "If you don't give me something to eat I'm going to open up a can of Chris Rock on you". As a side note the same people used to say nyam back home followed by feverish gnawing on roots as well. Food is once again named by shape. Do not confuse nyam with Miami which although has a similar amount of dirt and clingy things attached to it differs in shape on the southern end.
- Zoom forward another 100 years (thankfully history happens in nice round numbers) to the deep south when orange colored sweet potatoes were introduced. The folks there didn't want to confuse anyone by competing fairly so they decided to rename orange sweet potatoes to "If you don't give me something to eat I'm going to open a can of Chris Rock on you" but that was voted down in favor of Yam, an Anglicized version of the Wolof word nyam. Miami doesn't factor in here so we'll skip it for now.
- Fast forward to another nice round number in history and you have the USDA whom with good intentions tries to rectify the naming situation and passes regulations to force everyone to put the name Sweet Potato on every box of Yams. They failed to define the size of the text thus a new industry was born for super small typesetters.
You might say I have a long distro history so I'll add my 1.7 cents (it was 2 cents before the recession).
- Both had very easy to use but powerful administration tools.
- Wonderful menu structure
- Looked good
- Excellent hardware discovery. It could load the drivers for your blender if you could plug it in.
- Package management from the Gods when mortal man was painting on cave walls.
- unstable repositories. Software was constantly broken.
- Tons of software packages
- Gnome2 became usable for bipedal primates with large frontal lobes.
- Install process so easy a baby stuck in a mineshaft could do it.
- Everything just works and when it stops shaking a rubber chicken seems to help. If it doesn't work on Ubuntu it probably doesn't work on anything that runs Linux including orbiting brain lasers and fembots with a penchant for evil.
- Software packages broken.... sounds familiar.
- Got tired of looking at desktop color themes best reserved for a 1970s kitchen with accompanying man cave with wall to wall shag carpet.
- Moved to the Unity desktop which is targeted at a branch of hominids possessing much smaller brain functionality that have been extinct for roughly 4 million years. Possibly as a result of a poor market study with limited subject availability to question and those who they could dig up didn't have much to say.
- Including the word Ubuntu in my online dating profile has not improved love matches. In addition translating the original Swahili meaning to English only leaves me looking a bit creepy.
- Ubuntu sounds like something my kids used to say when they were a year old and needed changed. Looks like it too.
- Based on Debian so the software packages may actually work
- Uses the XFCE desktop so any sane human should feel comfortable with it.
- A bit rough
- A bit ugly
- Linux Mint DE with a port scanner vs. Clint Eastwood with a Bowie knife would be a good fight.
- Having the same name as another distribution that has broken packages gives me the shivers.
- So far every single package in the repository works. Ex Mandrake developers who must have learned their lesson.
- Doesn't talk to me like I'm a baby
- Only two packages in the repository.
- Just when I learned to pronounce Ubuntu this comes along.
There's a restaurant in Kirkland WA called Cafe Veloce thats a pretty cool place with old Italian racing motorcycles placed sporadically around the restaurant and the walls plastered with racing memorabilia. It also serves some decent food including one not so Italian dish - BBQ Chicken Pasta. I skimmed over that menu item quite a few times without ordering it because I'm in an Italian restaurant and I'm pretty sure that Kansas City is nowhere near Rome so the idea of putting BBQ sauce on pasta makes little sense. However, one day I did my normal routine and asked the Waitress to just bring me her absolutely favorite thing on the menu and this is what showed up. She was spot on the money. Considering that BBQ sauce is just tomato sauce with a little molasses added the Italians only missed it by that >< much. Had they thought a bit more about this (and a few other situations in the last 100 years, namely a couple of wars) they could have been on the winning team.
I suppose a shout out should got to the Mexicans since most great foods in the world require ingredients originating from that area which gained global distribution soon after their illegal immigrant problems got really bad (1521). If it were not for them the Italians would still be eating wheat porridge three times a day and tomatoes - the Italian Love Apples would still be unknown.
I'm not sure why people (myself included) are so against BBQ Chicken Pasta because we'll rip apart a BBQ Chicken Pizza and then when there's nothing left snort the crumbs with a straw to get our fix. I'm to the point that I don't eat pizza unless it has BBQ Chicken on it, why would I? Tomato sauce and pepperoni? Can you get more boring?
I don't have a recipe for BBQ Chicken Pasta even though it's a favorite in our house and I make it often just because I'm not happy with it yet. For the most part you just swap out one starch - bread for another - pasta. However, I've found the sauce to be a much pickier thing with the pasta because there's so much more of it. You don't want a smokey/tart/hot or very sweet sauce with this dish which leaves me experimenting on it. I've come to the conclusion that excessive heat is out and so is the amount of vinegar that a lot of BBQ sauces have. I lean more to a honey BBQ sauce with the dominant flavor being tomatoes and a hint of molasses. As soon as I'm satisfied I'll be uploading the recipe.
The other components are grilled chicken breasts, onions and sweet peppers grilled until caramelized and cilantro. I serve this with either a Penne or Farfalle noodle because both hold the sauce well. Four cups of sauce, two onions, two red bell peppers and 1 lb of chicken works well for 1 lb of pasta as a general rule.
Note: Updated for XCP 1.5b/1.6
- Network boot
- Access to Internet
- Working DHCP server
- Working DNS name resolution
This tutorial was written in the spirit of my CentOS 6 virtual machine (32 bit) installation on Xen howto which was based on the CentOS 5 version of the same. In those tutorials I created a disk, downloaded a kernel, kickstart file plus a xen config file which installed CentOS using the kickstart file. This has proven very popular since you can't install a paravirtualized domain using an install disk. This has been a very nice installation howto because you don't have to download any install CD/DVDs and you could create VMs using nothing more than a commandline login. It's also very nice because it can be mirrored locally if you're doing a bunch of them just by rsyncing a CentOS mirror locally then downloading my files and editing them.
I've recently migrated a lot of my XEN systems to Xen Cloud Platform and it's a very different animal indeed. However, I still needed a system of creating CentOS Virtual Machines in that same manner. I didn't want to download a CentOS install DVD or need a graphical login to install the OS thus this tutorial was born.
It uses the very same CentOS 6 kickstart file from my site as the Xen tutorial. It also uses the very same CentOS 6 repositories on the Internet so in a lot aspects it IS the same tutorial crafted for XCP but will be a bit shorter.
More after the jump.