Making the Shot: Election Night in Berkeley, Part 3

So the last and final installment here is all about my third and last trip out to cover the election story, which finally resulted in the little image that ended up gracing the cover of the next day’s special Elections issue:

Cover - Daily Cal Elections special issue

Cover - Daily Cal Elections special issue

As the clock struck midnight and November 5th dawned, I was just headed out of the office after dropping off the rest of my photos from the massive crowd that had gathered down on the streets outside at Bancroft & Telegraph.  The photo editors Anna and Victoria were still in the office (and would be through to the morning) sorting through photos and compiling the photospread (.pdf, 7.2mb, pg 7-8)  that would appear in the next day’s paper, for which the Daily Cal photo staff had already collectively compiled a few hundred photos.

At this point I would say I was pretty content but not particularly happy with the photos I had come back with.  The shots from the viewing party were good – slideshow or photospread worthy – but I wasn’t particularly fond of any of the crowd photos from the celebration on the streets.  Sure they covered the event, but photos like this or this aren’t really going to rock anyone’s socks. Read the rest of this entry »

For the Love of Code – Hackathon 2009

That last Election post is coming… for now here’s a quick link to a slideshow I worked on over the long and lonely Valentine’s weekend, documenting the Hackathon competition, which is an all-night coding marathon that EECS participate in instead of Valentine’s Day.

Making the Shot: Election Night in Berkeley, Part 2

So when I originally planned this article, it was a couple days after the November 4th election and all the craziness that ensued.  So I suppose, more than a week after the actual inauguration, this isn’t exactly the most relevant anymore, but I’d like to hope that these photos (and whatever lessons gleamed from them) are somewhat timeless.

For the Daily Cal’s election night coverage, I was initially assigned to cover the results watching party held at the Institute of Government Studies (IGS) Library at Moses Hall.  After I had gotten back to the office and was in the midst of sorting through and cutting down my images, we started hearing a crowd gathering outside.  So most of the people in the office went over to the Bancroft-facing windows and found this:

Part II: Berkeley Street Celebration

Election night crowd on Bancroft

Election night crowd on Bancroft

Like any good photojournalist, the next thing I did was to hop in the elevator and leap down into the fray. Read the rest of this entry »

Spring 2009 Digital Photo Decal, Daily Cal photo department applications

Eee, guess I didn’t stick to my end-of-semester resolution to start posting like a madman to keep up with all the news I missed.  Maybe I’ll have a bit of free time and a sudden rush of creativity.

But some news items that may be of interest to readers of this blog:

Spring 2009 Digital Photography Decal

Regular class: Thursdays 5-7pm, 293 Cory
New more advanced class: Thursdays 7-9pm, 293 Cory
Mandatory intro meeting: Thursday 2009 January 29 6pm, 293 Cory (email if you can’t make it)

I’ll be teaching my Digital Photo Decal class once again.  It’s now running into its fourth semester, and as always there are a handful of tweaks and changes.  I’ll be reverting to a format similar to the second version of this class taught in Spring 2008 – both the photo review and lecture parts will be combined into one big two hour block that I’ll teach, rather than splitting up into a big lecture + multiple smaller discussions led by others.  Hopefully I’ll get to know the students a lot better than I did last semester, and I think I’ll also be able to offer a much more technical (rather than aesthetic or artistic) analysis of the students’ photos, which is probably one of the unique things about this course that students won’t get elsewhere.

In addition, I’m also adding a new course, which I’ve titled “Advanced Applications” (the old “Advanced” course is retitled “Advanced Theory”).  It’s meant as sort of the next step beyond the original course, and will be much more student-driven.  The format’s partially based on an E24 freshman seminar I took with Professor Jeffrey Bokor, where each week the lecture will be a student presentation on a topic of their choosing.  E24 was all about consumer electronics technology (guess what type of device I did my presentation on? =D).  So what we end up learning/discussing will largely depend on the students, but we’ll definitely end up covering topics such as cataloging/processing workflow, usage of ultrawide lenses, image equivalency across formats.

Anyhow, the regular (“Advanced Theory”) class will be held Thursdays 5-7pm in 293 Cory.  The new, more advanced class will be Thursdays 7-9pm in 293 Cory (I’ll play around with the format – this may end up finishing by 8:30 most nights).  If you’re interested, shoot me an email, or otherwise come to the mandatory introductory meeting on Thursday 2009 January 29 at 6pm in 293 Cory.

Applications for the Daily Californian photo department

With every semester comes a bit of turnover, so the Daily Cal does in fact hire for the spring semester as well.  You can find the application page for the Daily Cal at

For any of you even mildly interested in improving your photography, I’d highly recommend applying to join the Daily Cal.  If nothing else, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get yourself out there shooting on a regular basis, which is really the best and only way to improve.  In addition, working for a paper, you end up getting sent out on assignment to cover events or subjects you’d never hear or think of (like, admittedly, 2008 election night results party and aftermath), or never have access to (like getting close enough to touch Natalie Portman!), which in the long run will help you build a much more diverse and photogenic portfolio than if you spend your days choosing your own photo adventures and end up with hundreds of street photography hoboes, portraits of friends, and various travel landscapes.

You also get a chance to use some of the higher end equipment (big telephotos, fast sports bodies, and flashes) that most people probably wouldn’t get a chance to play around with otherwise.  Most of all, it’s a great place to meet other photographers, many of whom are superbly talented, knowledgeable, and willing to teach.

The recruitment meeting for Spring 2009 will be taking place this Friday at 4pm on the 6th floor in Eshleman Hall (that building on Lower Sproul Plaza that has “DAILY CALIFORNIAN” on the windows.

The application for editorial positions (photogs, writers, designers, etc.) can be found here:

You’ll basically need a cover letter, resume, and some sample photos for the application, which is due the second Friday of classes (January 30th).

DPReview’s ultracompacts test

Interesting thing that DPReview is doing for this holiday season – large “group” head-to-head tests.  I’m not so sure I like the format necessarilly – I miss the in-depth reviews of each camera that also analyzed things such as shutter lag, autofocus, and styling/controls.  Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see them looking at compacts again, which the site has basically ignored for the last year+.

Some interesting results – these aren’t really the cameras I would have looked at, but perhaps they can tell you about the quality and image processing from other cameras of the same manufacturer.

The main thought I have on this is that Panasonic has come a long, long way from being a small bit player in the market.  They’ve long dominated in featureset, and they do so again here, with the only 25-125mm camera in the set (the only camera wider than 33mm even). Interestingly enough they’ve seem to be addressing their Acchile’s Heel – low-light high-ISO performance – fairly well these days.  To me, the ISO1600 outdoor night shots are a bit above Sony’s and right behind Canon’s, and in the indoor case it actually exceeds Canon is arguably the best.  Interestingly enough, the daytime tests are way below best-in-class for Panasonic, which seems to say either the lens isn’t that good (which would mark a pretty big drop off from previous cameras) or the sensor isn’t great, as it’s always been, but some software wizardry is going on which is what gives us the improved noise performance.

Making the Shot: Election Night in Berkeley, Part 1

By now many of you have probably seen the Daily Cal photos and slideshows, as well as the election issue front cover.  Election night was an all streetlamp-lit night photography affair, which is pretty much the pinnacle of low-light difficulty (unless you were to cover news by moonlight, I suppose).  Combined with all of the fast-paced action, it made for one of the more challenging shoots in my favorite specialty area.

Members of the public watch a broadcast of Senator Barack Obama's victory speech at the IGS Library in Moses Hall

Members of the public watch a broadcast of Senator Barack Obama's victory speech at the IGS Library in Moses Hall

Part 1: Results Viewing at Moses Hall

I had classes throughout the day on Tuesday, so the first event I caught was the viewing party for members of the public (mostly Cal Dems) at the Institute of Government Studies (IGS) at Moses Hall.  There was a large screen set up inside the IGS library, where a crowd of mostly tepid adults were watching.  I stayed here for a few minutes, but it quickly became apparent that this was probably the least energetic group of election results viewers in the entire city – the entire crowd sat throughout the broadcast in absolutely silence, without a single cheer or handclap as each of the states in the presidential race were called.  Meanwhile, the group of students watching under an outdoor tent set up in the courtyard between Moses and Stephens Hall were letting out whoops and hollers that could be heard through the windows, so I decided to head out there in hopes of catching a little more enthusiasm.

Read the rest of this entry »

Believe It

Daily Cal Special Elections Cover

Daily Cal Special Elections Cover

Haven’t updated this in awhile – I’ve been fairly busy with work and school.  A couple of nights ago was the United States 2008 election, which resulted in a fair bit of excitement here in Berkeley.  I covered a portion of it, mostly the results viewing and reaction later on in the night.

Some interesting “Making the Shot” posts to come, including on the front page photo here, which was a mess color and noise-wise previous to processing.

But with the right tools, photos can still end up looking fantastic despite being shot at IS6400 and cropped to 6MP.

In the meantime, check out some of the slideshows on the Daily Cal website for more photos by our fine photography staff.

Football Photography X’s and O’s, Part 4: Equipment Analysis 2

Last time I left off, I had finished shooting my first football game and was left partially satisfied with most of my setup, yet wanting a bit more, especially on the very long end. For my second game the very next week, I traveled out with the team to Palouse, Washington, for an away game against the Washington State Cougars.

Clear skies in Palouse, WA at Washington State's Martin Stadium

Clear skies in Palouse, WA at Washington State

Since the wide and mid-range setup worked just fine, I decided to stick with that, but on the long end I brought a Nikon D200 and Nikon 400mm f/2.8 non-VR lens (Nikon, yucky!).

Long range: Nikon D200 with 400 f/2.8 (35mm equivalent: 600mm f/4.2)
Midrange:  Canon 1D Mark II with 70-200 f/2.8 IS (35mm equivalent: 91-260mm f/3.6)
Wide: Canon 5D with 24-70 f/2.8 (35mm equivalent: 24-70mm f/2.8)
Ultrawide: Canon 5D with 12-24 f/4.5-5.6 (35mm equivalent: 12-24 f/4.5-5.6

Handling the 600mm Beast

Compared to the Canon 40D with 1.4x teleconverter and 70-200 f/2.8 IS I had last time, the D200 equipped with a big prime like the 400 f/2.8 was a very different kind of beast.  To start off, the setup was far more clunky – while a 70-200 and 40D can easily sling over your shoulder or around your neck, and can be handheld without a problem, the 400mm is heavy and on top of that really needs to be used with a monopod.  This is problematic in a few ways:

Read the rest of this entry »

Vincent Laforet’s 5D Mark II video “Reverie” reposted

As some of you might have noticed, Canon had to take down Vincent Laforet’s sample 5D Mark II video Reverie after an enormous amount of traffic.  Vincent’s recently reposted the video up, now hosted on SmugMug.  You can find the link here:

There’s also a behind-the-scenes video you can check out here:

Some comments on the video from a previous post:


With the recent announcements of the D90 and perhaps more prominently the 5D Mark II (since it actually has the features to make video usable… like AF and external mic jack), photography circles have been alight with excitement (and a fair amount of naysayer criticism) about video on SLRs.


It’s probably no secret where I stand on video capabilities for still cameras.  While we’ve seen only boring tripod-mounted sample videos so far, Canon’s just put out a short film, Reverie, made by Vincent Laforet:

Image quality is absolutely stunning, but I have to admit, the 30fps just kills me while I’m watching it – the level of immersion is just not the same.  The video world needs 24fps (or better yet, variable fps to any number!).  PLEASE.

JuzaPhoto’s Super-tele test

The Canon Superteles 

The Canon Superteles

As with all the other manufacturers, the pride and joy and “flagship” lenses of a lens manufacturer are its supertelephotos.  Say what you will about the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 or Canon’s 50mm f/1.2 – when it comes down to it, it’s the 300 f/2.8 IS’s or 400 f/2.8 VR’s of the world (or maybe the 200-500 f/2.8’s in Sigma’s case) that companies tout and wear on their chests like badges of honor.

A dpreview forum member, Juza_EA, who runs, a fantastic site with great technical insights and some sweet nature photography, recently posted up a lens test comparing the great Canon telephotos extended to the ultra-telephoto range (he tests 800mm, 1200mm, and 1600mm on a Canon 1Ds Mark III).

Direct test link here.

Lenses tested:

Canon 200 f/1.8
Canon 300 f/2.8 IS
Canon 400 f/2.8 IS
Canon 400 f/4 DO IS
Canon 600 f/4 IS
Canon 800 f/5.6 IS 

The lenses were combined with appropriate mix of 1.4x and 2x teleconverters to come up with the 800, 1200, and 1600mm focal lengths.
Read the rest of this entry »